Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

October 23, 2013

"What Will the Land of Liberty Make of Polyamory?"

HuffPost Lifestyle / U.K.

The writer, husband, and children in Sweden
Louisa Leontiades, raised in the U.K. and living in Sweden with her husband and child, is emerging as a forceful and prolific poly writer. In the last three months she has published 13 notable pieces on Huffington Post/ U.K. (crossposted to her online magazine MultipleMatch.com). Her book The Husband Swap (2012) narrates the tumultuous story of the failed quad that set her and her husband onto their current poly path.

Her latest piece declares the radical potential of poly, describes social defenses against this potential that have accreted around the parts of the poly world closest to the mainstream, and looks at the movement's place in American sociology — though from a foreign viewpoint.

What Will the Land of Liberty Make of Polyamory?

All of a sudden, polyamory is everywhere.

Articles flood the internet, many of them opinion pieces written by people who (so far) identify as monogamous. One of the reasons this is happening is to keep the news cycle churning now that gay marriage seems to be approaching normalcy. The clue is in the name; news is characterized by an obsession with the "new".

But in the process of giving polyamory a makeover that everyone can identify with, the only truly radical thing about the ideology is completely lost. To sugar-coat an unspoken truth; polyamory seeks to upend a many-thousand-year-old narrative about ownership. We don't own our daughter's virginity. Husbands don't own their wives. Wives don't own their husbands. We may seek to avoid hurting those we love -- any healthy person (poly or otherwise) with a conscience does -- but we do not own one another, and at the end of the day, our decisions, and our lives, are our own.

[But] the prevalent made-over polyamory picture for the mainstream is of a hetero-normative couple that likes to swing on the weekends....

In recognizing that we cannot own others, we give up our claim on other's bodies, but at the same time gain a new claim on our own freedom. The radical potential of polyamory is actually what might shift our entire societal structure. Because with polyamory, our lives will no longer be lived out in a linear fashion of birth, marriage, children-rearing and death.

...In nature, organisms rearrange, collapse and reform both deterministically (innate programming) and voluntarily (as a response to outward stimuli). The idealism of polyamory demands that we do the same. This is a surprising and terrifying challenge for us, and is what is potentially radical about polyamory. Otherwise, it is simply a revision to the old dating guidebook....

Polyamory as Counterculture

...Countercultural reaction against the mainstream is not so much an isolated incident as part of the very nature of American culture. In their own way, many of the first settlers were a counter-culture, even if their ideals were not those of the 60s hippie movement. We can also see a more familiar, if less popular counterculture in the Transcendental movement, which included many attempts at communal living and -- in some cases -- "free love".

Though none of things are unique to the United States, [it] is nevertheless a unique sort of hot-house for... reactionary conservatism on the one hand and idealistic utopianism on the other.

Looking at them as a whole, what can we say identifies the ideology of such counter-cultures?

● A recognition of the failures of the mainstream culture.

● An attempt at using that analysis to create a "new way".

● A sort of stubborn individualism only rivaled by their mirror-image opposites, (such as Libertarianism.)

● A movement that is most strongly peopled not by the truly disenfranchised, but rather by those [fairly privileged] that are instead peripheral to the mainstream....

(Co-written with author and blogger James Curcio, manager of Modern Mythology and cross-posted at Multiple Match.com.)

Read on (Oct. 22, 2013).

There's a lot here that I can agree with, but in a couple of places her distance from America made me cringe: her assumption that the Polyamory: Married & Dating series was about couples who just "like to swing on the weekends," and her statement that polygamy "is practiced to this day by many Mormons" (actually less than 1% of Mormons by the usual counts).




Blogger Unknown said...

>in a couple of places her distance from America made me cringe

Her 'distance from America' was the reason she had someone who lives within the States write that piece, whereas she focused more on giving input and editorial. (I've traveled extensively within them but actually not yet had the opportunity to leave.)

>her assumption that the Polyamory: Married & Dating series was about couples who just "like to swing on the weekends,"

The problem of being kept to under a 1000 word count. The point wasn't that the only thing covered by the SHO series is that narrative so much as that it helps support that narrative within the mainstream media. (If you look at most of the US mainstream press on polyamory, it tends to follow from this narrative because it's one that most people can at least understand.)

>her statement that polygamy "is practiced to this day by many Mormons" (actually less than 1% of Mormons by the usual counts).

The main intent in bringing up polygamy at all was to demonstrate the cultural (if not conceptual) difference between polygamy and polyamory in most instances. When you mention "polyamory" to most people unfamiliar with the term the first response is "you mean polygamy?" So I wanted to demonstrate the cultural roots in the US at any rate reside more in the counter-culture than polygamy at all.

Again, the varied forms of polygamy could be given in a longer piece but I thought it better to focus on the main point: providing some kind of cultural context for those unfamiliar with the subject in the first place. That polygamy is far less common amongst Mormons today is fairly incidental in that regard.

October 23, 2013 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really? Polyamorists "mirror-image opposites" are libertarians? I strongly disagree

October 23, 2013 9:08 PM  

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