Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

December 28, 2010

"Critique of Pure Relationships: On Consent and Compulsory Monogamy"

Organization for a Free Society

Poly activist Angi Becker Stevens and Alex Upham examine autonomy in sex, gender, and family formation for the anarcho-left-libertarian Organization for a Free Society ("to break down all systems of inequality and injustice and to create a participatory, democratic, and egalitarian society").

This is a narrow niche as media go, but I think their "Critique of Pure Relationships" (a play on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason) is worth attention.

Within feminist circles, there has been a movement in recent years to reframe our notion of consent, moving away from a passive “no means no” model wherein consent is a lack of resistance, toward a “yes means yes” model of active, empowered consent. Proponents of this model of consent offer invaluable insights into how our personal relationships can be transformed... but they often fail to articulate a broader vision and strategy for deconstructing the coercive forces at work in our society. We propose that in order to realize a truly liberated sexuality, the model of active consent must be applied not only to our personal interactions, but to our interactions with society as well. A truly liberated sexuality is one in which all aspects of our sexual identities... are a result of active consent, not a result of passive submission to coercive structures....

The word “choice” appears frequently in debates about sexuality, as if our desires can exist only on the extreme ends of a continuum between purely biological inborn traits and frivolous choices. We believe this absolutist notion of biology vs. choice is a false dichotomy.... Applying a model of consent offers a way out of the choice vs. biology debate, offering instead a model for valuing and respecting a variety of sexualities regardless of their origins.

...Any institution that upholds any particular form of sexuality as ideal, and privileges it as such, in turn acts as a coercive force, pressing individuals to comply with that ideal.... We can hardly be said to be actively consenting when only one option is considered valid, ideal, or “good.” In order to better understand consent it is important to look at some of the systemic roots of coercion in our lives. In this essay we will be exploring the way these coercive forces act to create a culture of compulsory monogamy. While we have chosen to focus on this specific issue, however, we hope this example offers a model of consent which can be applied to all aspects of sexuality.

The section headings are

● Compulsory Monogamy and the Nuclear Family
● Upholding Traditional Gender Roles
● Love and Marriage?
● Jealousy
● Community
● The Economics and Politics of Compulsory Monogamy
● Toward a Non-Coercive Sexuality

Read on (Dec. 11, 2010).

P.S., added later: This is from a classic anarchist-poly article a few years ago by Dean Spade:

For Lovers and Fighters

...Sometimes while I ride the subway I try to look at each person and imagine what they look like to someone who is totally in love with them. I think everyone has had someone look at them that way, whether it was a lover, or a parent, or a friend, whether they know it or not. It's a wonderful thing, to look at someone to whom I would never be attracted and think about what looking at them feels like to someone who is devouring every part of their image, who has invisible strings that are connected to this person tied to every part of their body. I think this fun pastime is a way of cultivating compassion. It feels good to think about people that way, and to use that part of my mind that I think is traditionally reserved for a tiny portion of people I'll meet in my life to appreciate the general public. I wish I thought about people like this more often. I think it's the opposite of what our culture teaches us to do. We prefer to pick people apart to find their flaws. Cultivating these feelings of love or appreciation for random people, and even for people I don't like, makes me a more forgiving and appreciative person toward myself and people I love....

Here's the whole article.


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Blogger Ken Haslam said...

This is one of the finest essays I have ever read on non monogamy. I love the term "Compulsory Monogamy". This is a classic piece and should be read by everyone entering the arena of Polyamory.

Ken Haslam

January 04, 2011 11:40 AM  

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