"The Mass Exodus of Polyamorous People Towards Relationship Anarchy"
The Husband Swap. The profile was prompted by the book's publicity campaign. The paper ran the story with the attractive family picture at left. Here's the article: The polyamorist’s diary: why I agreed to a ménage à quatre (April 27, 2015).
Louisa has been stewing about something ever since, and yesterday she wrote about it:
The Mass Exodus of Polyamorous People Towards Relationship Anarchy
A piece in The Times reviewed my book. It started,
“Imagine sitting on your sofa on a Sunday afternoon hearing a couple upstairs having boisterous sex. The person making the headboard rattle is your husband with another woman, but that’s OK: there is no deceit or recrimination here. Because alongside you on the sofa is said woman’s husband with whom, for several months, you too have been having an ebulliently sexual, loving relationship.”
Before I read the piece, I was overjoyed at the prospect of being featured in The Times. But I don’t know how the journalist came to this conclusion. I mentioned nothing of the sort. I do nothing of the sort. I don’t particularly want to imagine my partner and his partner having sex boisterously upstairs. Or, indeed anyone having sex boisterously within my hearing. I love sex, but I put it in the same category as Wagner: I have to be in the right mood for it. It’s not the soundtrack to my life I want on a Sunday afternoon.... But no, the media, even The Times, prefer to cast me in their Deep Throat scenarios and there’s not much I can do about it.
Despite the fact the polyamorous community says it over and over again — polyamory is ‘not just about sex’ — the monogamously inclined media (and indeed anyone who learns about polyamory for the first time) cannot get past the fact that sex is a potential component in several relationships. Yet polyamory is by definition ‘many loves’. Sex might be a component and it also might not be. So what?
Mainstream media perception and focus on sex as the principle driver of polyamorous relationships, is not only incorrect, but it has damaged the real meaning of polyamory to such a extent that I don’t know whether we can recover the word. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many previously self-defined ‘polyamorous’ folk are adopting the term ‘relationship anarchist’ instead, which we feel allows us the freedom – for the moment untainted by media misconception – to build intimate relationships and potentially a community where sex is only one of many forms of connection…. It’s a pity. Because for many this was the original intent behind the definition of polyamory in the first place.
...I have loving relationships with several friends and am developing a loving relationship with my new metamour (partner of my partner). I have a deeply loving relationship with my partner of eight years, the father of my children. I have a deeply loving relationship with my boyfriend of two years. And when I say loving, I (mostly) don’t mean sexual.
But people — even supposed friends of mine — can’t let it go…
‘We are together,’ I say, ‘because right now, we choose to be together.’
But apparently my response is not acceptable. I am not allowed to choose. The validity of my intimate relationships is only judged according to the presence or absence of sex. Here’s the thing. Polyamory might not ‘just be about the sex’, but apparently that’s all the monogamous mainstream cares about.
Go read her whole article (October 5, 2015).
This comes in the midst of a discussion in the Polyamory Leadership Network (actually a re-re-discussion) about exactly what precise definition of polyamory most of us might want to offer the public. A lot of this centers on how to say — briefly — that poly relationships are often sexual and also often not primarily sexual, in a way most people can grasp.
The thing is, most people only have one mental model where those two things are not a contradiction, and that's marriage. So, that's the model a lot of the media immediately glom onto.
But group marriages are far from the most common poly structure. And open marriages, which are almost necessarily hierarchical, are very open to mess-ups and abuses of third parties unless the couple are willing to examine and shed a lot of unspoken monogamous culture, and to study up on the hard-won poly-community wisdom on this topic. (The long-version book I recommend to people is More Than Two. The short versions are morethantwo.com and Cunning Minx's Eight Things I Wish I'd Known About Polyamory (Before I Tried It and Frakked It Up).)
Louisa comments about her piece above,
Over here in Sweden, relationship anarchy (for Relationship Anarchists) does not ‘fit inside’ polyamory. Rather, polyamory fits inside RA, given that RA does not prescribe monogamy (emotional or sexual) or polyamory (emotional or sexual). You can be a swinger and/or polyamorous and/or monogamous and any point on the LGBTQIA and Cis spectrum and still be RA. In Sweden, this movement is supportive towards less polarisation of poly vs mono and more ‘any-configuration’ living regardless of your sexual and relationship orientation. It is neutral.
It may be that Sweden is unique in this regard, but it is interesting nevertheless that this is the predominant thinking here, which is also the official (albeit not philosophical perhaps) birthplace of RA.
In my participation in the [Swedish] polyamory association, I’d say most if not all of those who attend the meetups prefer to self-define as RA.1 Our banner when we walk at Pride is "Polyamory & Relationship Anarchy" (and it’s important for many that they're separate).
Update November 3: A well-thought rebuttal, by Unquiet Pirate: Relationship Anarchy is Not Post-Polyamory.
Update November 6: Leona just posted a followup, The Appropriation of Relationship Anarchy by Non-Anarchists. She discusses whether RA is a misappropriation of the political term "anarchist," partly in response to the rebuttal above: Relationship Anarchy is Not Post-Polyamory.
1. The formulator of RA is widely taken to be Andie Nordgren in Sweden. Here's her revised definitional statement: The short instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy (July 6, 2012).