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

October 30, 2013

In which our side knocks a nasty pitch out of the park.

HuffPost/ Politics

Here I am sitting on the couch watching our Red Sox build a 5-run lead in WIN the World Series (!!!). So pardon a fractured baseball metaphor: A professional conservative throws a nasty curveball, our team confers in the Polyamory Leadership Network dugout, and from there, Angi Becker Stevens steps up to the plate and knocks it over the wall.

Eli Lehrer has been a career conservative for Koch- and Sun Myung Moon-funded organizations and is currently the president of R Street Institute. On Huffington Post/ Politics, he threw an almost progressive-sounding curve equating polyamory with patriarchal polygamy: Gay Marriage: Good, Polyamory: Bad. Maybe it was a deliberate fake, maybe he just misread the signs.

Gay Marriage: Good; Polyamory: Bad.

By Eli Lehrer

Walter Olson has a top-notch blog post over at Independent Gay Forum that describes why increased acceptance of same-sex marriage isn't going to lead to acceptance of polyamory.

I agree with all of his arguments and I'd add one. Gay marriage is, at the very worst, neutral for society while polyamory is pretty clearly harmful to society. The obvious harms of polyamory are likely to prevent its widespread acceptance.

The facts about gay marriage should come first. Now that we've had almost a decade of legal gay marriage, it seems reasonably safe to say that it has no detectable negative social impacts.... Meanwhile, only about 3.5 percent of the population identifies as gay indicating (no surprise) that increasing social acceptance of homosexuality is not exploding the number of people who identify as LGBT....

On the other hand, a long social experience with polyamory indicates that the social results are awful. If they're patriarchal and primarily polygamous and limit the economic roles that women can take (as almost all known polygamous societies do) they will doom a lot of people to living in poverty. Self-described "fundamentalist Mormons" and the handful of backward Muslims that Olson mentions almost all live in poverty surviving off of government transfer payments and even crime. Polyamorous societies will, by definition, never have enough mates to go around....

And legitimizing polyamory would increase the number who practice it. Unlike being gay -- which, overwhelming evidence suggests, is not a choice -- polyamory clearly is. Its legitimacy would increase its prevalence.

If any major modern society ever moves towards legitimizing polyamory or anything like it, the social results are likely to be an unmitigated disaster in the short term. And this will create a very strong warning to anyone going down the same path. Gay marriage is increasingly accepted precisely because its results, to date, have been good for society. Polyamory on a large scale would have negative short-term results and that's a good reason to think it's just not going to happen.

Read the whole article (Oct. 28, 2013).

That was worth batting right down. Long story short: with pats on the back, Angi goes and knocks on the HuffPost/ Politics manager's door, and they let her step into the batter's box:

Polyamory: Not Harmful to Society

By Angi Becker Stevens

...As a polyamorous feminist who is firmly committed to all varieties of social justice, it's important to me to refute what Lehrer sees as the "obvious harms" brought on society by families like my own.

Though Lehrer uses the term "polyamory" throughout his piece, the only form of multi-partner relationships he addresses are those of a fundamentalist, patriarchal variety.... Polyamorous relationships do not adhere to a patriarchal, heterosexual "one husband, many wives" model, but instead include every imaginable combination of genders and sexual orientations. Many polyamorous women, like myself, are in loving, committed relationships with multiple men. And a large number of us -- from my observation, seemingly a larger percentage than of the general population -- consider feminist values to be central to our relationships.

...Given the reality of modern, egalitarian polyamorous relationship configurations that include one woman with several men, three or more men or women all in a relationship together, quads made up of two men and two women, and many more, it is difficult to imagine how polyamory can create a scarcity of available partners of one gender or the other.

It is of course true that granting legal recognition to polyamorous families would also have the effect of granting legal recognition to patriarchal polygamous families as well. But the unfortunate reality is that many women still live in oppressive, fundamentalist monogamous marriages, and we do not use that as an excuse to eschew marriage altogether. The problem is patriarchy itself, not the particular form relationships take....

Though I am living in a life-committed relationship with two men myself, I am not particularly interested in arguing for the legal recognition of polyamorous marriages anytime soon. Like the vast majority of polyamorous activists, I am much more interested in simply increasing social awareness and acceptance of families like mine.

Lehrer might be correct that increased acceptance of polyamory would lead more people to live polyamorously, but this is only something to fear if one accepts the premise that polyamory is in fact harmful to society.... If we're going to discuss what's harmful to society, I'd argue that things like racism and sexism and heterosexism and every other form of oppression we live with are far larger threats to the common good than my two partners, my daughter, and I, who have the audacity to live in a modest home in the suburbs together, where we regularly commit such scandalous acts as playing board games, watching Netflix, and cuddling with dachshunds. But ordinary, loving families like mine certainly do suffer when people like Lehrer choose to perpetuate misunderstandings about who and what we are.

Read the whole article (Oct. 30, 2013)

All that said, remember my longstanding warning: We poly activists may indeed end up turning a bad thing loose on society if, as it moves from an alternative niche thing to a mainstream cool thing, "polyamory" dumbs down into just a trendy excuse for crappy behavior. We're living in a time when social ideas are fluid, and open to influence. It's up to us — you readers — to call out degradations of what we're about when we see them, and to speak loud and clear for the good values that make loving, caring multi-relationships work.


Meanwhile, other influential conservatives have been taking more note in the last few days following the big CNN article. From heavy hitter Robert P. George at Princeton:

“Loving, committed multiple partner families”

The logic of the sexual revolution continues to play itself out in exactly the way defenders of “traditional” marriage and norms of sexual morality saw (and said) that it would. When I and many others noted that the abandonment of the idea of marriage as a conjugal union and its replacement with a conception of “marriage” as sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership would swiftly be followed by the mainstreaming of polyamory and eventually demands for the legal recognition of “poly” partnerships and families, we were accused of “scare mongering” and making illicit “slippery slope” arguments.

...Today, fewer and fewer people on the liberal side of questions of marriage and sexual ethics are even pretending to have moral objections to polyamorous sexual relationships or their recognition. Increasingly, the pretense is not regarded as politically necessary. “Poly” groups no longer need to be pushed into the closet in order to depict redefining marriage as a “conservative” cause; “polys” are now even welcome to march in pride parades and the like. Polyamory is swiftly becoming one more hue in the multi-colored flag. We now even have the “conservative” argument for polyamory: these are people in “loving, committed multi-partner relationships.” They have jobs and homes and mortgages and kids — just like everybody else. Moral objections to their ”identity” and the sexual expression of their love is condemned as mere “prejudice.” We must, we are told, fight the “bigots” who are stigmatizing them and “harming their children.” When you have a script that works, I guess you keep using it.

CNN is about as mainstream as you get, right? Here are some passages from CNN’s non-judgmental and, indeed, quite sympathetic treatment of polyamory and polyamorists....

Read the whole article (Oct. 26, 2013).


Rod Dreher at The American Conservative:

Up Next: Polyamory

Robert P. George points to evidence that polyamory is moving toward mainstream approval, though it’s far from it at the present moment. It’s significant, he says, that the LGBT movement is embracing polyamorists. Notice also, he says, the media framing of reporting on polyamory. It’s following the same script they followed on SSM. Once you give up the idea that marriage is founded on conjugal principle, you have no strong moral grounds from which to condemn polyamorist arrangements among consenting adults, says George. How do you tell them that they cannot have what they desire, if sexual and emotional desire itself is sufficient basis for expanding marriage rights....

...Nobody has a good answer to this, at least none that I’ve seen. They just say, “That will never happen,” or, dismissively, “Slippery slope!”, as if there were no such thing as slippery slopes.

Whole article (Oct. 29, 2013).

Slippery slopes do exist — but some social movements are actually stairways up.




Blogger Keith Pullman said...

I should come here to the comments and say it more often: THANK YOU for your awesome work.

October 31, 2013 7:37 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

This is collecting a bunch of comments at reddit/r/polyamory:


November 01, 2013 10:17 AM  

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