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

January 14, 2014

Cathy Young's anti-poly panics, and Jenny Block's rejoinder

Newspaper columnist Cathy Young is a contributing editor to the libertarian magazine Reason, which is ironic twice over in light of her panicky fear of poly freedom and her resulting logic convolutions in New York's Newsday yesterday:

Polyamory pushes the bounds of relationships

By Cathy Young

In a free society, multi-partner relationships should not be criminalized. But neither should they lose their stigma in the name of tolerance.

While 2013 was a year of major victories for same-sex marriage in America, a controversial court ruling at the end of the year addressed another thorny marriage question: a federal judge in Utah struck down a portion of the state's polygamy ban.... [This] highlights a push for the acceptance of non-monogamous relationships that could change marriage -- and not for the better.

...The Utah case represents a traditional, patriarchal version of polygamy. But there are also egalitarian, socially liberal subcultures in this country that embrace alternatives to monogamy: open marriage and polyamory (multiple intimate relationships with everyone's consent). These lifestyles have been gaining visibility, thanks in part to the discussions of same-sex marriage and new frontiers of tolerance.

Credit: iStock 
Last August, Salon.com published an article titled "My Two Husbands," whose author -- living with her longtime husband and her boyfriend -- lamented widespread prejudice against families such as hers. A month later, Slate.com ran a pseudonymous piece by a man bemoaning the hardships of "the polyamory closet."

While the polyamorists often liken their cause to gay rights, the parallel fails in key ways.

First, in seeking marriage equality, gays could make a strong case that they simply wanted the same thing as heterosexuals....

The non-monogamists mostly want cultural acceptance rather than legal reform. But even that is fraught with problems.

Same-sex marriage, as its proponents have pointed out, does not directly change or affect heterosexual marriage: It's extremely unlikely that a previously straight, married person will suddenly decide to get a divorce and marry someone of the same sex just because it's now legal. But a person in a monogamous marriage may well decide to renegotiate the "forsaking all others" part if non-monogamy gains cultural approval.

...If monogamy becomes merely one valid option -- a preference rather than a norm -- it will be much harder for people who want a sexually exclusive marriage to insist on one.

In a free society, multi-partner relationships should not be criminalized. But neither should they lose their stigma in the name of tolerance.

So one party should have the right to ask for the relationship structure they want, but the other's right to ask should be suppressed? See the whole article (Jan. 13, 2013).

I won't go further to take apart the logic, since many smart people are already doing that in a comments thread on reddit/r/polyamory.

The article is a remake of one that Young published in the Boston Globe last July 21st:

The real threat to marriage, gay or straight

By Cathy Young
With same-sex marriage gaining legal victories and public acceptance, a new debate is percolating: Will the change in marriage rights lead to change in the nature of marriage — such as a reassessment of monogamy?...

Last month, an article in Gawker, a left-leaning website, focused on same-sex marriages that allow extramarital sex....

Some who are monogamous, such as Cathy Marino-Thomas, a lesbian activist quoted in Gawker, still praise gay culture’s sexual openness and suggest that more heterosexual “honesty” on the subject would reduce “the stigma around sexual freedom.”

But would lifting this stigma do more harm than good? Some respond with, “Don’t like open marriage? Don’t have one” — a variant on similar statements about gay marriage.

Yet the analogy fails. Your heterosexual marriage cannot suddenly turn gay; your monogamous marriage can turn non-monogamous. Yes, open marriages require mutual consent — but with cultural strictures removed, spouses who want exclusivity will have far less leverage to demand it.

The case for marriage equality has been so compelling in part because opponents could never coherently explain how same-sex unions would damage or cheapen marriage. Acceptance of non-monogamy would do both — in a way that old-fashioned “dishonest” adultery cannot, since it doesn’t challenge the ideal of sexual exclusivity as an essential marriage feature....

But there is a visible media trend of sympathetic coverage for non-monogamous relationships — and, at least judging by discussions on liberal websites, a growing number of people who feel that being “judgmental’’ toward open or multipartner relationships is intolerant.

This trend should be opposed by everyone who cares about marriage.... No one wants to stone adulterers. But if there’s anyone who belongs in the closet, it’s people, gay or straight, who want to enjoy the social privileges of marriage and keep their “sexual freedom” too.

Yay cheating and closets. Here's the whole article (July 21, 2013).

To which Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, published a rejoinder on PolicyMic:

More Than Half Of Americans Have Cheated, So Why Aren't We Talking About Open Marriages?

Cathy Young penned an op-ed for the Boston Globe titled "The real threat to marriage, gay or straight," where she seems to imply that extra-marital affairs are equal parts rare and harmful to people and their relationships. Her confusion is as obvious and naïve as it is familar, so I hope to clear things up.

Young suggests that open relationships, or non-monogamy, are the "real threat" to marriage, when in fact the true threat is the current structure of the institution itself.

...If you need cultural strictures in place to give you the leverage to coerce your spouse to be monogamous because you want exclusivity, you have a serious problem. A couple should be monogamous because that is the relationship style they both choose, not because "everyone else is doing it."...

Young says that, "Eventually, monogamists may be chided … for being so fixated on sexual fidelity" as a means of arguing against non-monogamy. But I think it's time people were "chided" for following the band instead of thinking for themselves. Monogamy is a perfectly valid choice — to be thoughtfully chosen and carefully adhered to. Otherwise it is simply a mockery of itself.

Sexual exclusivity is not an essential marriage feature.... Marriages can exist without sexual exclusivity because they do exist without sexual exclusivity.

...All of this prudery and Puritanism makes people think they have to cheat in order to have the non-monogamous marriage they desire, all because judgmental people like Young and others are waiting in the wings....

...The logic that Young and others like her lay claim to is anything but. Her words and ideas are hurtful, archaic, and infantile. But more than anything, they are dangerous, particularly these:

"But if there's anyone who belongs in the closet, it's people, gay or straight, who want to enjoy the social privileges of marriage and keep their 'sexual freedom' too."

No one belongs in the closet. So I want to offer these words to anyone that Young and others like her have hurt with their thoughtless ramblings.

Don't listen to them. Be who you are. Love who you love. Live how you would live if there were no Cathy Young, oppressive religion, or Disney movie telling you how to live....

The whole article (July 30, 2013). It also appeared in the Las Vegas Sun Jan 18.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the problem with being tolerant of polyamory is that other people may decide they want to be polyamorous?

The horror!


January 15, 2014 12:34 AM  

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