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

September 20, 2011

"Suddenly, It Was Everywhere"

The polyamory-awareness movement, such as it is (in the U.S. this means mainly Loving More, the Polyamory Leadership Network [PLN], and a whole raft of independent people and groups) has in the last few years settled pretty firmly on a name for its core purpose: "Relationship Choice."

This is shorthand for telling the world that you can create your own relationship structures, based on how well they work for all concerned. In particular, it's about spreading the revelation that loving, ethical multi-relationships exist, do work, and can be a genuine choice for three or more good-hearted people of integrity. For some, anyway, if they know what they're doing, and if they take care to be good at it. As in communicating, communicating, communicating.

The other side of "relationship choice" is knowing that you can choose monogamy without apology, and declare it a requirement for any partner you seek, as a conscious decision about your own needs and nature. But it should not be an unthinking default that you assume everyone has to do because it's the only thing that works. Nor should you unwarily assume that a partner of yours will also automatically think and feel the same way.

Accordingly, a vision that we discussed at the last PLN summit was bringing about the day when everyone grows up knowing that having open or closed relationships is a choice that you deliberately think about and make, rather than monogamy being the assumed necessity. In this vision, whenever two people start getting serious about each other they'll have the mono-or-poly discussion right alongside the other discussions that are crucial to serious relationships in this day and age, such as whether you want children or expect a partner to share your religion.

Those questions too used to go undiscussed because "yes" was the only right answer.

The poly movement a generation ago tended to be wilder and more utopian. Our founders often saw polyamory as a revelation about the next stage of all human evolution. Thirty years of practical experience (and ruthless snarking) have brought such attitudes more down to earth. Although, I have a hunch that a poly-normative 22nd century will look back on our early radical visionaries more kindly than we sometimes do now.

So, who could object to the ideal of relationship choice? Or the need to discuss your poly or mono proclivities with a new person right off the bat?

Well, life gets complicated. Nowadays there are enough poly-normative communities that the inevitable downsides of a new social norm are starting to be visible.

For instance, a while back I noted a complaint published at York University in Toronto:

Once I was part of a discussion with a pair of female friends bemoaning the increasing number of polyamorous women these days who were "ruining it" for women looking to settle down with one man....

Arguably... the acceptance of polyamory in certain social circles is creating an environment that is increasingly inhospitable for those bent on cultivating a monogamous relationship. This is because there is greater social pressure to accept polyamory.... A thorough critical analysis of polyamory would include an examination of the broader social issues at play if and when such relationships become more mainstream.

Portland, Oregon, is such a place already, at least if you're young. At Reed College in Portland, Lucy Bellwood is a comix artist-in-training who, when she fell hard for a guy, ran right up against the local poly-vs-mono dating culture.

Her beau, like the PLN's model of the good poly person of the future, informed her right away of his relationship beliefs and preferences.

She has just posted an auto-
biographical comic of what came next as she encountered this world. Click for the whole thing full-size (Sept. 13, 2011).

She's good. This is clearly just the start of an unfolding story. I hope she keeps going. Leave a comment on her blog.

(A week later she posted this followup sketch.)

Elsewhere, a monogamist in another very poly setting describes how she navigates:

Alternative Alternative Relationship Models

By Bianca James

Recently I went and saw a workshop presented by Dossie Easton, co-author of The Ethical Slut....Polyamory is wildly popular in the queer and kink communities, to the point that people who prefer monogamy get sometimes funny looks.

I dabbled in polyamory in my youth (when I actually had the time and energy for multiple relationships) and while I respect it as a valid lifestyle for others, it's not a relationship model that works for me at this point....

So what do you do when you're not really up for polyamory but are too unconventional for traditional committed monogamy? You come up with alternatives to alternative relationship models.

Unrequited Polyamory: Although I cannot handle IRL polyamory, I am a champion at unrequited polyamory. This is when you are secretly "in love with" (read: doomed crush) multiple unavailable people.... The difference between unrequited polyamory vs. normal unrequited love is the sincere belief that all twelve of these people could be the love of your life, simultaneously, if they'd just give you a chance.

Casual Monogamy: One of the best parts of being in an ongoing relationship is (hopefully) you are having lots of fantastic sex with someone who gets to know your sexual ins and outs (teehee) well enough to get you off every time. But you know what the best part of monogamy really is? LOTS AND LOTS OF BAREBACKING (assuming you're both STI-free).... Sometimes you can't handle being in a real relationship, but you miss that unlimited sexual freedom to fuck without a condom/ dental dam/ whatever. And that's where casual monogamy comes in.

When I first moved to Chicago, I spent six months in a non-committed relationship with a much older divorced man I nicknamed my "casual husband."...

Platonic Boyfriend/ Girlfriend/ Genderqueerfriend: This is sort of the inverse of casual monogamy. You are clearly in an ongoing, emotional involved relationship with a person, and you do stuff like cook dinner and go to IKEA together, but sex is off the table....

Read the whole article at the Huffington Post (Sept. 19, 2011).


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Blogger Anita Wagner said...

Last year at a kink event I talked with a woman who is a widely known leather title holder about her frustrations with feeling like she and other monogamists are being marginalized within their community because they don't want to jump on the poly bandwagon. Her experience was that she heard the most from tops/doms who wanted to play with her who seemed to be using polyamory as an excuse for getting all the play they could get, *not* as something based on love and commitment with multiple long-term partnerships.

I found this to be beyond disconcerting. Relationship choice is definitely what it's all about, not which choice is "better", and not what calling ourselves polyamorous is likely to get us.

September 20, 2011 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am poly but for me it's not a relationship "choice." I don't choose to be poly, I simply am. By saying poly is a choice, for some of us it's like saying a person chooses to be gay, when we know that's not the truth. I don't control that I can and do have feelings for multiple people at a time, it just happens. It's not something I think about, not something I have any choice in, it simply is. So calling it a "choice" doesn't really work in my books. Something similar to the sexuality terms, "Sexual Preference" or "Sexual Orientation" would be more suiting to the cause. Why not "Relationship Preference" or "Relationship Orientation"? Poly isn't a choice for everyone, for some of us it's who we are. So while it may be a choice for some, it isn't for all poly people. Please don't imply that it is by using the word "choice" and making the assumption that all poly persons had to choose to be poly.

For those that would debate it being a choice, here's my story. I grew up never knowing about poly, never knowing the word, never knowing it existed, I was raised in a monogamous household and monogamy was the societal norm, there was never any question or thought that there could be anything else, other than monogamy, and having more than one partner meant you were cheating. I've had several relationships and during those relationships I always found myself attracted to and having crushes on other people in my life. Largely I ignored them, but I couldn't help the way I felt. I didn't act on those feelings because it was "wrong" to do so because I was already in a relationship. Well, I was almost married to a monogamous individual when I realized I was head over heels in love with another person simultaneously. This individual revealed their feelings for me first and I couldn't hide it anymore. They told me the term poly, I researched it and found a community of poly people in my city. After meeting with them I knew I wasn't crazy, knew in my heart I was poly and had to tell my fiancee the truth. Sadly we agreed the marriage wouldn’t work, but my now ex-fiancee and I are still friends, and the ex appreciates my honesty. I am now with another individual and we are both poly and both have multiple relationships. It has been incredibly freeing to learn the truth about who I am and I am alot happier now living a natural (for me) poly life, than I was trying to fit into a mold of monogamy that I was never born to fit.

So, for me, it was never a choice. And I am sure there are others out there like me that don't feel poly is a "choice" for them either,

September 22, 2011 3:08 AM  
Blogger Jeni said...

I have a very similar history, Anonymous, but a very different point of view.

I am a polyamorous person by nature, but up until recently, I was in monogamous relationships. Those relationships were my choice. Just as a bisexual person can choose to only be in relationships with women, or a gay person can choose to be celibate, the relationships we choose to engage in do not necessarily define who we are, or vice versa. Many poly people have been choosing to be in monogamous relationships for a long time due to fear, shame, or social unacceptance. Now many of those same people are choosing to be in the poly relationships that better suit their natures, but if they choose to be in monogamous relationships that will not mean that they are no longer polyamorous people.

Who we are may not be a choice, but how we act is. Including our relationships.

September 22, 2011 10:23 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

And for me it was a deliberate philosophical choice. I'm a poly-mono switch. If I hadn't lucked into a bunch of starry-eyed group lovers long ago, I probably would have gone through life monogamously without much problem.

Alan M.

September 24, 2011 1:01 PM  

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