Speaking up for poly, under attack at Israeli university
Now a rational voice is in the news amid the furor at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, where the psychology department is set to hold a polyamory conference for therapists (see my last post). Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper with a liberal bent, ran this column today:
Who's Afraid of Polyamory?
For people who can’t find themselves in monogamy, polyamory offers alternative frameworks for their relationships based on commitment, sincerity, good will and love
By Lihi Rothschild
Polyamory is a lifestyle involving a number of simultaneous romantic and or/sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all involved. In recent years it has become increasingly popular in Israeli society, with many people experimenting with various forms of non-monogamous ties. Opposition to the conference is based on a distorted presentation of polyamory. Contrary to the claims by opponents of the conference, this lifestyle does not involve unfaithfulness but rather an open and conscious choice of non-exclusive sexual or emotional relationships.
The accusation that polyamory is responsible for the destruction of the monogamous family is also exaggerated. The normative couple does not fall apart because of polyamory, but rather because monogamy is a framework marketed as a glove that fits every hand, but like most one-size-fits-all garments, many people find that it isn’t the best fit for them. For people who can’t find themselves in monogamy, polyamory offers alternative frameworks for their relationships based on commitment, sincerity, good will and love.
When a polyamorous man or woman enters psychological treatment, they sometimes find themselves in a complex situation. Sometimes they have to spend the first session, or even several sessions, explaining what polyamory is, how it works exactly and how their life relationships work. In more difficult cases they encounter scorn over their lifestyle choice, or face all sorts of stereotypes which assume that non-monogamous relationships are unhealthy, unstable and even deviant.
Sometimes instead of the treatment that focuses on resolving the patient’s problems, it mistakenly assumes that polyamory is the source of those problems, and tries to correct it. Such therapy not only doesn’t help, it can be very harmful. ...
...The American Psychological Association has recently recognized the need to expand knowledge and awareness about polyamory among professionals, and over the past year established a committee to study the subject and establish guidelines for treatment. The Israel Psychological Association held a conference last March on the subject entitled “Polyamory – are there rules for love?”
Such research groups and conferences like the one to take place on Monday at Bar-Ilan can help start dealing with the lack of understanding, the stigma and ignorance in this area. However, it would be better in the future if greater efforts were made to bring in spokesmen and spokeswomen from the polyamorous community and therapists who have undergone training in this area.
In conclusion, a few words about academic freedom. The essence of academic life is to ask questions about social structures and phenomena. It is meant to track changes and developments in a critical manner. It is meant to make new knowledge accessible and encourage critical thinking about the world. The demand to make knowledge and academic discourse subservient to codes of Jewish law goes against the essence of the academic world.
It is regrettable that Bar-Ilan University has given in to pressure and restricted entry to the conference to professionals in the field. This is a decision that harms the purpose of the conference in that it creates the impression that this issue must be hidden from the public eye and restricted to researchers in the field, and this limits academic discourse. However, the rector, and the head of Bar-Ilan’s school of social work, Prof. Nehami Baum, are to be given full support for their insistence on holding the conference, even in its limited form, considering the objections.
Lihi Rothschild is a Ph.D. candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her area of research is polyamorous and queer families in society and law.
The original (February 3, 2019. Registration wall.)