Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

April 9, 2011

Poly as a subset of self-determination

Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Longtime polyactivist Barry Smiler has placed an article in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (published by the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality), arguing that the way forward for polyamory acceptance is to understand it as part of a broader principle. What he's talking about is the principle of individual self-determination — the assumption that you actively construct your own life, rather than automatically following a life laid out for you. This has been the widening trend across most of the world for several centuries. In fact, it's the defining characteristic of modernism.

There's No Such Thing As Polyamory

By Barry Smiler ©

An attempt to reframe polyamory and place it in the context of larger social issues in a way that retains all of its power, yet makes it culturally acceptable in terms even John Wayne could support.

What Polyamory Isn't, What Polyamory Is

It's a truism that there as many definitions of polyamory as there are people that do it. Why is that? It has seemed to me for some time that polyamory isn't about how many relationships one has; I know many people who call themselves poly yet who have just one partner, or no partner at all. And it isn't what one does within those relationships; there are as many poly structures as there are people doing them.

So what's left? The way I've expressed it for the last several years is, if you feel without reservation that the person who gets to choose how to structure your relationships is you, then no matter what choice you ultimately make, you're poly....
You get to decide how your relationship life looks. Not your mother, not your culture, not your government ... you.

Recently, though, I've come to feel that this is just a smaller restatement of a wider context, and not something that exists by itself. In these terms polyamory is merely an example, or special case, of the much larger principle of self-determination.

The Evolution Of Self-Determination

Looking back through history, the evolution of self-determination is clear.... I feel [this is] perhaps the most valid and honest way at looking at the poly experience, and it explains a lot....

[For instance:] What distinguishes polyamory from other movements it is often lumped in with by mainstream observers [such as swinging and polygamy]? And what does this indicate about the self-determination framing I propose?

...All this is why I offer the reframing that there's no such thing as polyamory. Instead, I suggest that polyamory might well be presented as simply a special case of the larger social ideal of self-determination, a trend that has for hundreds of years been irresistibly moving our society towards individual empowerment and away from cultural/societal strictures, towards everyone's right to manage their own lives in their own way. Reframing polyamory in this way reveals common ground with other social movements, which could well be advantageous for all....

Read the article (April 7, 2011).

I have a secret mathematician in me that's always on the lookout for breakthrough generalizations. Seems like Barry thinks the same way.


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Anonymous Walter said...

John Stuart Mill is smiling in his grave.

April 09, 2011 5:04 PM  
Blogger David Stodolsky said...

A reference to the the well respected Self Determination Theory would be useful.

April 12, 2011 7:29 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

> ...Self Determination Theory...


But it sounds like you have something specific in mind to add?


April 12, 2011 8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, like, people didn't make choices hundreds of years ago? The medieval world, and its insurrections and heretical movements, would be surprised to hear that.

I'd use more examples, and contemporary ones, but really, that should be enough. The "progress" interpretation of history is really past its time to die.

Yes, self-determination is great, but if that's your love, it's capitalism that's ultimately got to go. And self-righteous attitudes about how people who don't live like you choose to must not possess free will somehow.

April 12, 2011 11:56 AM  

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