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

April 7, 2016

"Polyamory commands intimacy, not just a fling." And, how to steer our bandwagon?

I'm writing my keynote speech that will kick off the Rocky Mountain Poly Living convention in Denver a week from tomorrow, on April 15. It will be about where the poly movement is heading, now that large swaths of the public are hearing about the concept favorably and many seem eager to try it. Perhaps too eager, knowing too little and bringing wrong assumptions.

The multi-love bandwagon that we worked for years to barely budge is gaining speed and beginning to outrun us. Is it rolling where we intended? Where, and how, should we try to steer it? I'm wrestling with the talk and I'd like your thoughts.

Please don't wade into the definition-of-polyamory swamp. What course corrections do you think the movement needs? Post in the comments below or write me at alan7388 (at) gmail.com. Tell me if it's OK to quote you by name in the talk, which will go online.


Here's one person with strong thoughts that I mostly agree with, writing at Luna Luna magazine a couple days ago:

Polyamory commands intimacy, not just a fling

Elias Goldensky, 'Portrait of Three Women,' ca. 1915
By Ghia Vitale

...And suddenly, the mainstream dating world knows about polyamory.

...One of my biggest hang-ups about poly dating is the same issue other experienced poly people struggle with: the risk of becoming collateral damage in someone else’s quest for self-discovery, novelty, freedom, and most importantly, love. A recent spike in popularity has saturated the poly community with widespread interest.... Many newbies embark upon their poly journey with pure intentions; others mistake our permanent lifestyle for whatever they wish would fulfill their temporary and misguided desires.

How do I know their desires are misguided? I know because I’ve been directly implicated in these personal quests for self-fulfillment that end in nothing except breakups.

...While people are more than happy to enjoy my company as a fling, the idea of having multiple significant others that are actually significant is beyond most people’s comprehension, and it seeps through their behavior. Once I let them know there’s zero chance of a monogamous future happening (or even a monogamish one), the tone of our interaction changes drastically. All of the sudden, our relationship is no longer headed in any kind of committal direction and I lose my viability as a “serious” partner.... Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about free love and I believe each relationship being a unique expression of love. But even though we’ll both claim we want poly relationships, I’m the only person who means it. What they actually mean is that they want to indulge in multiple relationships at once without strings attached. That’s fine, but that’s not polyamory.

It’s always different variations of the same scenario: I meet someone who claims to be poly-curious, poly-friendly, or “open to being with a poly partner.” Then they realize they’re not as poly as they thought they were, that they just wanted to date around and explore before meeting a monogamous partner. Whether or not I consented to [that] never mattered, so I’ve learned how to recognize [early] the unique smell of this trainwreck smoke....

Even educating these people about poly doesn’t seem to make them go back into the hookup culture that better suits their yearnings.

Polyamory is about maintaining multiple relationships, not just the freedom to have as many flings. Too many people enter polyamory with the “playing the field” mindset.... They only see polyamory as a situational means to their temporary ends. Yes, polyamory absolves you from having to choose 1 person over another, but there’s so much more to it than that. Polyamory is far more about building and maintaining connections than it is about drive-by romances and hooking up....

The whole article (April 4, 2016).

My thoughts? You can certainly be poly and be looking for flings. But polyamory is not the word for Tinder swipes or old-fashioned dating around, as too much of the wider world is assuming. It's not even the same as open relationships, though there's a lot of overlap. Polyamory involves something more: loving relationships (-amory) that encompass more than two people where there's at least an assumption of respect and concern for everyone all around. Even if some of you have never met, or maybe even dislike each other. "Polyamory" implies a recognition that "We're all in this together."

That feeling may be enthusiastic or minimalist, but it's there. The broader categories of "open relationships" or "consensual non-monogamy" or "dating around" do not carry that implication.

Why does this matter? Because if, as the word goes more public, polyamory comes to mean random hookup culture or ordinary dating the field and this goes unchallenged, we will no longer have a word for our great concept, or even a way to find each other.


The Poly Living conferences are run by the Loving More nonprofit, the closest thing this sprawling movement has to a central organization. Ideas at these conventions matter. Come help steer the bandwagon.


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Blogger Unknown said...

Alan, my thoughts on steering the bandwagon is that we should all have the same map. We need to work together as different organizations and individuals. If we all have different maps its hard to get to the same destination. If we all have a shared roadmap, then even if we take different roads, and we will because we all have a different route to the destination coming from so many different places in the community, we will all make it there . NOt at the same time.. But this isn't a race to see who gets there first, its a long slow jog, to make sure we all get there.

So as others ask us for directions to that place, we should all, with different voices, have the same general statements (directions if you will). A common voice shows our community united. Many voices shouting int he wind show us as a fractured, splintered, unorganized band of wayward travelers.

I am not suggesting that any one organization take the reins... but at least we should all be saying similar things in a way that makes our community appear cohesive, connected, and committed to each other. This could be through shared / joint press releases, colaboration in research and outreach etc.

Best of luck in Denver,

April 07, 2016 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Timbuck Too said...

I think you're right-on with YOUR definition of poly here. Steering the bandwagon? Please everybody keep stressing the ETHICAL non-monogamy bit. To my mind that's what distinguishes us. That's what makes the poly kind of nonmonogamy so special.

Come to think of it, respecting other people and caring for their well-being is just what ethics just IS. So is seeing all people as being "all in this together."

April 07, 2016 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can think of is keep calling out misconceptions and wrong ideas about poly whenever you see them.

April 08, 2016 9:44 AM  
Blogger Stentor said...

I don't agree that the most important boundary that we need to defend is long-term intimate relationships vs casual hookups. I don't want the narrative of polyamory to be (or be perceived as) "we have real relationships, not like those sluts on Tinder." Respectability politics is no good for feminism, it's no good for people of color, and it's no good for LGBT people -- so I don't see why it's a good idea for polyamory. There are people who have respectful short-term hookups and people who selfishly use others for decades -- don't assume those things correlate with length or intimacy.

I have three long-term intimate relationships. What makes them important is that we respect and care for each other as equal people, and that we find the relationship model that works best for us rather than being confined to what society offers off-the-shelf. The same is true for shorter-term and more casual relationships I've had. But if polyamory "commands" intimacy, then count me not polyamorous.

April 08, 2016 11:17 AM  
Blogger John U said...

Of course you can use my name.

1. Leading with "what polyamory isn't, especially pejorative references to other styles of ethical non-monogamies, e. g. swinging, flings, sex work, hookups, etc is a really bad idea. It takes focus from what one wants to say about poly and alienates people who may be doing those things, maybe along with poly. For example, any statement of poly is not just... is pejorative. Poly has no moral high ground.

2. Those who identify as poly recognize that they can have long lasting, sexual, loving relationships where everyone involved is informed and happy with the choices they are making.

3. There is no poly cabal that is going to steer the bandwagon. Whining about newbies, the clueless, "misuse" of the polyamory label, are all a waste of time. In Seattle, at least, the enthusiastically ethically non-monogamous younger people are adopting the label Relationship Anarchy because they are tired of the whining and poly defination carping and want to actually do something.

4. As individuals, whatever we call ourselves, we can speak up about our polyamorous lives, we can create art that informs people about poly experiences, we can comment on blogs, we can learn how to be interviewed effectively. We can do what we can, one on one, to dispel prejudice and bigotry about polyamory.

5. If polyamory is "headed" anywhere, it is probably toward a discussion about how to be as protected and entitled as legally married folk. Here the discussion is between poly rights, especially poly marriage, and those of us, like myself, who see our energy better spent assisting the unmarried equality movement. I support the latter because it has a huge base, over 50% of the adult US public, and should get polys all or most of what they want by promoting individual rights and taking marriage away from government.

April 08, 2016 2:19 PM  
Blogger Janice Eagan said...

I have always been Polyamorous in my heart but I lived a restricted lifestyle and crammed my heart into the monogamous box that society built for me for nearly my entire life. I recently learned that it was ok to love more than one person at a time and have been busy coming clean with the people I love and rebuilding my relationship structures to fit better for everyone involved. In the past I have cheated, been cheated on and was burned pretty hard by irresponsible people incorrectly wearing Polyamorous labels. I believe that Honesty, Respect, Transparency, Communication (a lot of communication) and Ethics are foundation stones to Polyamory no matter how long the relationship(s) last. These qualities, in my opinion, differentiate Polyamory from other relationship forms, despite any overlap with hook ups, swinging & BDSM. I once read the following definition of polyamory and it really hit home with me, "The ability to love more than one person with the knowledge and consent of ALL involved." In my opinion, I am not living a Polyamorous Lifestyle without Truth, Honesty and Transparency and the consent of ALL involved in ALL of my relationships. I also believe that everyone should be free to express themselves sexually in whatever form brings them yummy, juicy, pleasure BUT in order to truly label ourselves Polyamorous I personally believe that being upfront and honest with our partners (ALL of them) is what truly defines us as Polyamorous.
I am open about my lifestyle so please feel free to use my name if you choose to quote me.

April 09, 2016 7:48 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Dave, thanks for the wakeup from a different perspective. You'll probably be quoted. And Janice, you too.


April 09, 2016 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

+1 to John U's comment


April 10, 2016 12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest building a coalition of non-monogamous people (of all stripes and ages) to fight discrimination in housing, employment, health care, and family. Young people becoming more open to non-monogamy is a key moment and an opportunity for social change. Regardless of whether we agree with one another in personal approach to non-monogamy, what we can all fight for together is that one's choices in personal relationships should not be the basis of discriminatory treatment. It's important to not alienate potential allies or to lose an opportunity for those of all ages to join together in fighting for what really matters.

April 10, 2016 1:16 AM  

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