Queer Youth Radio on Polyamory May 9, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
Tags: LGBT, monogamy, polyamory, relationships, Sex education, Youth
I ran into this today:
I saw it on a blog called Youth Media for Building Healthy Commnities, which I just discovered today.
It’s a fairly good, and short introduction to polyamory intended for young people, specifically in the Long Beach, CA area. I’m glad to see that resources for young people are inclusive enough, and aware enough, to include polyamory into it’s programming. The video is pretty low tech, and I don’t know what kind of reach it has, but seeing it’s existence is at least encouraging to me.
I noticed that the video made the claim that polyamory fits under the umbrella of “Queer,” and thus LGBTQ generally, which is an idea which is not universally accepted by all poly people or by all LGBTQ members and allies. That the struggles which poly people endure are comparable to those of the traditional LGBTQ community is a tough sale, even if in some philosophical sense there is an affinity between the two groups. There is a sense that poly people are queer, and perhaps the relationship is more obvious to younger people than it is to me. I’d be interested to hear from younger people about how they think about that relationship.
I believe that the LGBTQ community should be generally informed about polyamory, especially because there is a natural affinity between minority groups who are struggling for understanding, rights, and community. We have things to teach one-another, and projects like this video, and the blog with which it is associated, are good positive steps in the right direction. Also, I would very much like to see a future when comprehensive sex education includes the basic concepts of polyamory as a possibility for people to explore, especially since it will be preferable and more healthy for many people (at least). We need young people, for the sake of our future world to be a more sex-positive place, to have understanding about their sexuality, possibilities for relationships, and all things related to those two.
I also noticed that they said, near the end, that ”monogamy is an equally valid lifestyle choice, just as polyamory is a great fit for others.” Putting polyamory on equal footing with monogamy is an improvement over the usual view that polyamory might merely be right for some people, which seems to imply it’s a weird thing that weird people do (well, it is that often too). I might be willing to go further, and say that polyamory is superior (with the appropriate caveats, of course), but i appreciate the equal footing here.
More of this, please!
Tags: Christian, homosexuality, LGBT, parody, relationships, religion, YouTube
Wait…have you seen this?
So, I found this today via the Friendly Atheist, and I really thought this was a parody. I simply cannot believe that real people, trying to make a real point, could be so unaware.
Wait, yes I can. But it hurts to think about it, because I really want to like our species, but find so many reasons not to.
So, a man admits his infidelity (his “adultery”) to his wife, with his accomplice at hand, and offers the argument that if she loves him, she has to love his adultery. And she accepts it, even so far as to write up some placards to support this publicly. Of course, the primary analogy is between accepting of the sin (of homosexuality/adultery) of the sinners we should love. You know, “love the sinner hate the sin” and other hilariously stupid ideas derived from the absurdity of Christian theology.
But also, this video is hilarious (unintentionally) while simultaneously frustrating. And, of course, the first thing I thought (when deciding whether it was a parody) was that this was a poly triad making a video mocking Christians. But since this seems legit I’m just going to have to pose the question of whether poly people should take offense at this video or not. I mean, this is clearly in the wheelhouse of the argument that homosexual marriage will lead to thing like group marriage, sex with alpacas, and whatever else Christians fantasize about when denying that their worldview is as crazy as a pack of rabid hyenas on coke. But are the Christians who made this even aware of the overt similarity to polyamory here in this video? Is it making fun of us?
Perhaps, but I don’t think any offense should be taken, and I think what Hemant said in response to it is the reason why:
This is the sort of video you would expect an LGBT group to make to mock Christians’ narrow-minded thinking on the subject… Instead, the Christians here went ahead and did the work for them. They’re proving to the world how badly they don’t get it.
They are mocking themselves, without being aware of it.
See, what a video like this does is exposes the lack of self-awareness of people who make it. Think of it this way; could we here at polyskeptic have made this exact video (with us in it, of course), and had it be a parody? Could we have written it much better to make the point of the absurdity of the conservative Christian worldview in relation to such issues as homosexuality? No, I don’t think so.
The nonchalance of the wife in this video, in reaction to her husband admitting adultery while holding hands with another woman is done for the sake of comedy. The tension here is between an obviously not-acceptable situation of direct, in-your-face cheating along side the subsequent calm acceptance, tolerance, and ultimate capitulation to it. Of course nobody is going to respond calmly to such a situation. Of course these things are sinful and wrong. Of course this is comedy gold. Just not for the reasons they intended.
The English idiom “of course” here is also telling. It implies following the expected (mainstream) set of behaviors. Except the “of course” used above is said mockingly, because that set of expectations only occurs within the rigid bounds of a monogamous (Christian, in this case) world. My hope is that the fact that this video misses the point about homosexuality and the standard tropes about monogamy are equally understood by people. I hope that this video is not just absurd because of the stupid analogy between “sins,” but because it teases itself where monogamy lies.
Because my worry is that for many people the calmness and acceptance of the quasi-polyamorous circumstance portrayed here will be missed. That the effect of the joke will be at being offended by the effectiveness of the analogy. The video is saying that just like the idea that your wife would calmly accept your “adultery” is absurd, so is the idea that we should accept homosexuality. And the problem is that, for many people, this will land. I am willing to bet that the producers of this video would be gobsmacked if they saw people who would accept what they would deem as “adultery” with calmness. Granted, the actual act in the video is not polyamory, but the tension of the joke is embedded in the idea that no woman (or man, especially in a patriarchal system) would accept their spouse having another lover. Without that “of course,” the joke cannot land, and we are left with the presentation of the equal acceptability of homosexuality and sexual non-exclusivity.
Sounds about right to me.
When I watched it all I saw was a hilarious pseudo-advertisement for polyamory via unintentional self-parody. I saw the absurdity of having an issue with homosexuality compared to the absurdity of jealousy, exclusiveness, and monogamy. And not only am I not offended but I have a wry and mischievous smile on my face. I love it when Christians do the work for me, I only wish they could understand it.
Tags: Alternative lifestyle, dating, happiness, monogamy, relationships
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I’m happy with my relationships. Not directly related to this, however, is the fact that I’m not looking to meet anyone right now. That is, I’m not actively seeking new partners right now, but its not merely because I’m happy.
There are women I’m interested in, to varying degrees, with whom I interact somewhat frequently but I either do not have any reason to believe my interest is reciprocated, or I know that this interest is not, in fact, reciprocated. But I’m OK with that, because I’m not really looking anyway. That may change at some point, but right now I’m content with the number of relationships I have.
Yesterday I was reflecting on this happiness and this contentment and it occurred to me that this was a feeling I had had while monogamous, in the past. There were times, when exclusively committed to a girlfriend, where I had periods of genuine happiness with my life and contentedness with the nature of my relationship. And this, in context to where I am now, made me realize two things about some of the reactions I hear from monogamous people upon being confronted with the possibility of polyamory.
The first is that that sense of happiness, when in a monogamous relationship, does not imply that a person is built for monogamy, necessarily. That would be mis-attributing the source of the happiness to the structure, rather than the contents, of their relationship. Such a person, being happy and content with their monogamous relationship, could still pursue polyamory and be equally (and possibly more) satisfied with that alternative to sexual and romantic exclusivity. The feeling of contentment with one’s relationships does not have to mean that one must merely tread the cultural water of mono-normativity, because perhaps being content, or even happy, is not always enough to stop the pursuit of each. There are many potentialities in life which too many people miss because they are merely content where they are. Perhaps they are capable of more, and don’t pursue more because they are merely ‘content’ or ‘happy enough.’
I call ‘bullshit’ on that.
A monogamous person who is happy with their partner may, in other words, be interested in other people but much like with other aspects of our lives (such as where faith comes in), be subject to confirmation bias when it comes to attributing that contentment to their exclusive relationship per se. That is, they remember all the great aspect of the commitment they have (remember, commitment does not imply exclusivity), but forget all the times they have desires to love—erotically, romantically, etc—another person. They feel a general contentment but may be mis-appropriating that contentment to the nature of the relationship, rather than the person they are with. And being with other people does not (necessarily) take anything away from that great relationship, now does it?
If you answered yes, you are delusional. Exclusivity does not a better relationship make, and loving two (or more) people does not necessarily diminish the love you have for any one of them. If you really believe that then I will file you next to the creationists in terms of being un-attached to reality.
While I’m not actively pursuing anyone right now, or even feel a strong impulse to do so, I may in the future. Hell, I might start doing so tomorrow, for all I know. And this does not necessarily mean that my relationships are broken or that I’m lacking anything from my current partners, it just may mean that I might meet someone really awesome (as I did when I met Gina) or that variety in itself may be valuable to me (it is, just not all the time).
In short, I’m open to the fact that what I may want, need, etc will probably change throughout my life, and I want to keep my life open to all those possibilities out there (and, more importantly, I want to keep those opportunities open for those close to me). And if someone else, say some monogamous person I’m explaining polyamory to, were to take their contentment at any given time as a sign that the structure of their relationship is the cause of that contentment, then they are making a leap in logic which is not warranted.
The awesomeness of people bring us happiness and contentment, not how many of them you are romantically/sexually involved with. How can adding more awesome people to your life be anything but, well, awesome?
I am not content because I’m polyamorous (again, per se), I’m content because the people I’m closest to are amazing, beautiful, and satisfying people. In my case there just happen to be two of them who are willing to share me, but if their happened to just be one (or three) that would be awesome and contentment-inspiring. But if I were monogamous, perhaps still married to Ginny, knowing and being around someone like Gina and wanting her constantly would NOT be a position of contentment for me. And if I were monogamous thusly and intended to stay that way, I would therefore have to avoid being around someone like Gina (who I just can’t help but love) if I wanted to maintain the illusion of perpetual contentment with my hypothetical monogamy.
And this is what I think many monogamous people are doing; they are content often (perhaps very often), attribute that contentment to the exclusivity itself (hopefully tying it to the awesomeness of their partner), and ignoring or pretending that their extra-relationship desires don’t exist or would destroy that contentment by some magic unknown to me. So they go on convincing themselves that monogamy is better for them, that polyamory would not work for them, etc while the truth very well may be that they would be happier being polyamorous if they were just willing to do the work.
This is why polyamory is superior. Not because being with more than one person is better per se, but because being polyamorous, even while only involved with one person at any given time, allows open-ended pursuits of happiness and contentment rather than keeping us deluded that we are content in circumstances where we are unnecessarily limited, romantically and sexually.
Are you content with your monogamous relationship? Fine, what does that have to do with polyamory?
Previews of Our America episode next week! February 27, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: Lisa Ling, media, Oprah Winfrey Network, Our America, polyamory, relationships, television
Here is a couple of previews to next week’s episode which includes us here at polyskeptic!
(the embed codes don’t seem to be working with wordpress, sorry)
Polyskeptic is about to OWN you! February 15, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
Tags: ducumentary, Lisa Ling, Oprah Winfrey Network, relationships, television
1 comment so far
edit; The show has been moved up to the 5th of March, rather than the 12th.
We here at polyskeptic have been involved, over the last few months, with a project that will hit reality in just a few weeks. Over a few days, separated by some weeks, there were cameras, a camera crew, and even a person whose name you might recognize–Lisa Ling–in our home in order to ask us questions about being polyamorous. And so on Tuesday, March 12th 2013 at 10pm (EST), on Oprah Winfrey’s Network (OWN), our family will be one of three families featured in an episode of Our America, with Lisa Ling.
We have not written about this yet. In the beginning, it was because we were not allowed to do so, but now that the current season is in progress and the website has already given us a glimpse of what’s coming, I have decided that I can write about it, and have been putting it off for no good reason at all. Some people close to us already know about it, and a few other people have contacted me (mostly through facebook) after seeing the TV ad for the coming season, which included most of our faces.
In the video below, if you pay attention at around 16 seconds and then 30 seconds, you may see some people you recognize:
Now, we have no way of knowing what kind of response we will get from friends and family or the polyamorous community itself. We will have an opportunity to find out what some of the polyamorous community has to say right after it airs, as the weekend after it airs we will be in Atlanta for the Atlanta Poly Weekend conference March 15-17. Whether we will be minor celebrities, run out of town with flaming torches and pitchforks, or merely treated as a few schmucks who were on TV once is yet to be seen. My guess is that we will be world-famous, wealthy, and more awesome than we already are overnight.
I may be biased.
I got a chance to meet Kamala Devi and Michael McClure from last year’s Showtime series at the Poly Living Conference. Robyn Trask, who is the head of Loving More and who I also got to meet last weekend, will also be featured along with her family in the OWN documentary (along with a third family I know little about). My recent experience in interacting with these people, as well as those around them at the conference, has made it clear how many polyamorous people appreciate the exposure of this lifestyle, as coming out as polyamorous can be a real concern for many people. We, here at polyskeptic, have not hid our identities and now that we are about to be on television (even if only on a cable channel many people don’t watch) we will have little choice about being out to the world. This privilege of ours is not universal, and for the same reasons atheists need to be out of the closet when they can, the same is true for polyamorous people.
I hope that you all watch, and I would be interested in feedback about the episode, which we have not seen yet.
Show: Our America: with Lisa Ling
Channel: Oprah Winfrey Network
Episode Title: “I Love You & You…& You” (4.8)
Air Date: Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Relationship Agnosticism: process over teleology February 8, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, dating, desire, monoamory, monogamy, relationships, sex, society
In conversations with people over the years, I have been asked, in a myriad of ways, if I think that polyamory is better than monoamory. Do I think that being polyamorous is better (necessarily or generally) than monoamory?
I’ve dealt with the question before (As has Wes), but I want to take a different approach–a different perspective–on the question today. I don’t think that polyamory, per se, is better. I do think many of the skills and lessons that being polyamorous has taught me are superior, but those same lessons could, potentially, be learned while being monoamorous. What I have come to see as superior is not the ends–not how many romantic, sexual, etc partners one has–but the process of how we get to those ends.
Process over teleology, in short. Let me explain.
I’ve talked a fair bit about my annoyance that being with one person, even if that monoamory is not the short-term goal, is the mainstream default ultimate goal. While young and dating, many people will date two or more people within the same time-frame, but the ultimate goal in our culture is to find one person to either settle with or to convince yourself that this one person is all that you need romantically and sexually. And sometimes it ends up being true, whether for several years or a lifetime, but this model of relationships is not universally ideal.
The problem here is that this approach to relationships is teleological, which means it’s concerned with the ends, rather than the means or the process. It views the purpose of relationships as being concerned with a set goal (or set of goals) which all current relationships should aspire to. We should be tying to find a single life-partner, because that’s what real love is or something. If you are not interested in that, then you might not find happiness, or you may even be doing something wrong.
Let’s take a couple of basic examples; Let’s say that you have been with someone for 5 years and are not married yet, and not considering marriage. For many people you are doing something wrong, the relationship is a dead end, and you may need to find someone else you are ready to be serious with. Marriage, monogamy really, is the goal for many people, and if that ring doesn’t present itself, then move on (that’s the wisdom, anyway). Or maybe you don’t have a single partner for very long, whether serially monogamous or you keep dating more than one person simultaneously. In this case, the common wisdom says that you might have commitment issues (which may be true), because if you were ready to commit you would stop playing the field and finally become an adult, or something. In short, if you are not in a monogamous marriage, in a relationship moving towards monogamy, or even looking for that, then you are doing it wrong.
The problem here is not that finding one person to spend your life with is bad per se. The issue is not about where you end up, the issue is how you were thinking about your desires, emotional and physical needs, and whether you were getting what you actually want from relationships rather than thinking about a default and expected end.
Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. But there were also husbands, wives, lovers. There were also monogamy and romance.
“Though you probably don’t know what those are,” said Mustapha Mond.
They shook their heads.
Family, monogamy, romance. Everywhere exclusiveness, a narrow channelling of impulse and energy.
“But every one belongs to every one else,” he concluded, citing the hypnopædic proverb.
The students nodded, emphatically agreeing with a statement which upwards of sixty-two thousand repetitions in the dark had made them accept, not merely as true, but as axiomatic, self-evident, utterly indisputable.
“But after all,” Lenina was protesting, “it’s only about four months now since I’ve been having Henry.”
“Only four months! I like that. And what’s more,” Fanny went on, pointing an accusing finger, “there’s been nobody else except Henry all that time. Has there?”
Lenina blushed scarlet; but her eyes, the tone of her voice remained defiant. “No, there hasn’t been any one else,” she answered almost truculently. “And I jolly well don’t see why there should have been.”
“Oh, she jolly well doesn’t see why there should have been,” Fanny repeated, as though to an invisible listener behind Lenina’s left shoulder. Then, with a sudden change of tone, “But seriously,” she said, “I really do think you ought to be careful. It’s such horribly bad form to go on and on like this with one man. At forty, or thirty-five, it wouldn’t be so bad. But at your age, Lenina! No, it really won’t do. And you know how strongly the D.H.C. objects to anything intense or long-drawn. Four months of Henry Foster, without having another man–why, he’d be furious if he knew …”
Some may think that this is the polyamorous ideal (and for some it may be), but this, as a societal norm, is equally problematic because it discounts the possibility that some people, few or many as they are, may not want more than one person (or anyone at all, for that matter). This commits the same error as our current culture as being more concerned with the goal than how one gets to where we get.
What do you want?
I mean, what do you desire?
This may not be as easy a question as you think it is. The reason is that many of our wants are a result of the acculturation we receive as we grow up. We are guided towards the social and cultural ideals of the world we live in, if not out-right trained or programmed (in some extreme cases), which informs the kinds of answers that come to mind when asked what we want. When I ask you what you want, here, I’m not asking you what your long term goals are, what you hope to achieve, and especially not what you think you should want. No, in this case I’m asking what you desire, generally and right now, from people around you.
What types of interactions do you desire with people?
What we actually desire may conflict with the cultural norms around us, and when those things conflict we may find that we automatically, or possibly feel compelled to, lean towards the norm rather than the desire (and for many the opposite is true as well, but that’s an error I’ll not address right now). People who find themselves attracted to their own gender may pretend otherwise, especially if they are bisexual, due to religious or cultural expectations which devalue homosexuality and bisexuality (especially for men).
If you find yourself desiring two or more people, in our culture the appropriate thing to do is to spend time with all of them, in order to determine which one you will pick, or to simply decide which to pursue so as to avoid conflicts or jealousy. But this is absurd from a point of view where one is agnostic concerning where one ends up.
If you are not very concerned about what is expected of you from your culture, and you rather follow what you actually desire, then there is no reason to openly, un-apologetically, and unabashedly pursue all of the people whom interest you. And you should then stay with the people with whom you share some mutually-pleasurable relationship, whether it be purely physical, purely romantic, purely friendly, or any combination thereof. You should not be concerned about what expectations there are whether from your culture, society, religion, or family. You should pursue what you want with concern only for the people with whom you have relationships.
In short, love each person as you actually love them, no more and no less.
And wherever that takes you, whether monoamoryy, polyamory, or some other non-monoamorous option, that’s fine. If you end up being with one person for the rest of your life, then fine (that’s what I call “Accidental monoamory/ monogamy“) and if you end up being with 25 people (to varying degrees or not), that’s fine too. The point is not to be perpetually strategizing what type of lifestyle you will have, but to simply allow your relationships to go where they naturally lead according to the desires that everyone involved has.
Of course, you should be transparent about this; you should not claim to be exclusive while not being exclusive, for example. You need to pursue your desires with care and consideration for the people with whom you have relationships.
To sum up, polyamory is not better per se, although I think that what people can learn from polyamory might raise our cultural consciousness about the nature of desire and relationship possibilities which most people don’t consider. I don’t necessarily want everyone to be polyamorous, but I think everyone should be aware that monoamory is not the only healthy option. If we allow our actual desires to fuel our pursuit of love and sex, I think many more people will find options more like polyamory, rather than automatically and unthinkingly choose monoamory out of cultural habit.
Naked Skepticism and the new polynormativity February 1, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory, Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: monoamory, monogamy, polynormativity, relationships, sex positivity
One of my motivations for writing this blog is a general sense that there is an important issue which needs to be addressed by, well, all of us. Our culture does not have a healthy view about sex and relationships. The mainstream view is not ideal, even where aspects of non-mnogamy and kink enter into it. 50 Shades of Grey; need I say more? And where polyamory gets introduced to the mainstream (and I will be writing more about that in the next week or so), it is portrayed in the light least offensive to that mainstream, much like how accommodationists present atheism to the mainstream.
Atheists tends not to be polyamorous, poly people tend not to be atheists, and skeptics just aren’t implementing their tools at all they should be. Philosophically, I primarily identify as a skeptic. But for similar reasons as PZ Myers (link above) and Jen McCreight have trouble with the skeptic community, I identify first as an atheist because I prefer the way that the new atheists have addressed religion in our culture. I think something similar needs to be done for polyamory. Let’s called it the new polyamory, or perhaps something less awkward.
In essence, we need to talk about sex. Oh, and relationships, desires, social expectations, etc. We need, in short, to apply skepticism to how we think about such things, and I think if we do so then polyamory will be much more prevalent, because I think that polyamory (or at least accidental monogamy through polyamory) will be the result if we do apply skepticism to our sexual and romantic lives.
I have said that skepticism, properly applied, necessarily leads to atheism. With polyamory, I am willing to say something similar. Skepticism, properly applied, leads to a new paradigm of relationships, including sex-positivity and the non-default status of monoamory. If we think critically, as a culture, about relationships, we should arrive at a place very much like the polyamorous world (only better, because their skeptics too).
A good skeptic learns to strip away, as much as cognitively possible, the assumptions and biases which lead us towards irrational conclusions. Nobody can do it completely, but it should be a goal for all of us to aspire to; deconstructing the worldviews we hold about all of the important aspects of our lives. Skepticism implies that we require sufficient* evidence in order to believe something. Something which is merely logically possible cannot be said, reasonably, to be true on those merits alone. Rather, there should be some empirical evidence in order to lend weight to a proposition. The proposition that a “god” exists, for example, does not survive this test and so any skeptic worth their salt should not accept the proposition that a god exists until good evidence presents itself (I know of none), and therefore a skeptic should be an atheist.
But more than that, a skeptic should be willing to strip away their assumptions, the foundations to their worldview, as much as they can. Why do we seek one romantic partner? Why is monogamy the goal? Why is sex often considered dirty, or at least somehow less than pure? Why don’t we start with the bare facts of our desires?
Part of the reason is related to religion, especially when it is tied to traditional gender roles and such, but that is only part of the answer. Religion is a symptom of this problem, in most cases, and the fundamental problem is the tendency towards jealousy, sex negativity, and perhaps some evolutionary psychological reasons having to do with things such as men wanting to make sure that our children are really theirs, and not those of the mailman (but evolutionary psychology is less reliable, in many cases). Traditional family values, conservatism, and patriarchy, in other words, are at fault.
So, what can we do about it? We can start by asking ourselves questions like
1) what do we really want sexually and in terms of relationships in general?
2) what are we afraid of, jealous of, and why?
3) what do the people in our lives want?
But in order to get there, we need to strip away the layers of moral, cultural, and often religious thinking about these issues. We need to be able to apply the best that skepticism, science, and soul searching has to offer us. We need to challenge assumptions and apply skepticism to our relationships with people, but first we need to apply them to our own worldview so that we can be sure that the answers we give are actually true answers.
Towards a new polynormativity
Recently, the Sex Geek wrote an interesting post called the problem with polynormativity, which is well worth the read. And while I thought that the post was good and made some excellent points, I think it missed an opportunity; one I wish to tackle here. The post in question addresses how polyamory is depicted in the media and to the mainstream in general. The Sex Geek says this:
The problem—and it’s hardly surprising—is that the form of poly that’s getting by far the most airtime is the one that’s as similar to traditional monogamy as possible, because that’s the least threatening to the dominant social order.
This is undoubtedly true. In my experience with the media, I have noticed that the questions, framing, etc seem to imply a couple-centered view which misses much of the point. The Sex Geek addresses this and more quite well, so I will encourage you to read the whole post. So, after that brief thesis, the post continues and eventually goes on to list four norms that make up “polynormativity,” which I will simply list and hope that you will read the full post for the full effect.
1. Polyamory starts with a couple.
2. Polyamory is hierarchical.
3. Polyamory requires a lot of rules.
4. Polyamory is heterosexual(-ish). Also, cute and young and white. Also new and exciting and sexy!
The observations therein are good, and I am in general agreement, but where I think Sex Geek dropped the ball was the opportunity to define what polynormativity could be, rather than what it is. Because what we are faced with in our Western culture is a hetero-monamorous-normality which is not particularly healthy for many of us, although many manage to tweak it enough to work for them. And that’s part of the problem. We are often forced to tweak a set of values about sex and relationships which do not match up with our desires, but which seem ubiquitous, rather than throw out the framework altogether.
So, if we were to claim the term polynormativity to mean something other than a tweaked hetero-normativity, what would it look like? Well, allow me the boldness to try and sketch out a few pieces of that potential puzzle.
1. Polynormativity would be sex positive. Sex would be what we wanted it to be. It would be fun, it would be recreational, and it would not be restricted to just our serious partners (hell, if we wanted we could be non-sexual with our serious partners and slut up the rest of the town!). We would not be ashamed about our desires, we would seek to satisfy them consensually (and hopefully enthusiastically), and we would be transparent about it. It wouldn’t quite be Brave New World (which was refreshing to read because it turned our current model on it’s head, even if that is not our goal here), but it would erase the idea that sex is reserved for just one person, or one person at a time, and even that it’s not OK to have with friends.
2. Relationships would be agreed upon. All relationships structures should occur through overt agreement, or possibly organic growth from actual needs, and not by default or assumption. Currently, for mainstream society relationships may not start as exclusive, but they tend to assume the default ideal goal of monoamory, often monogamy. Dating is not assumed, at least in cosmopolitan culture, to be exclusive by many of us young people (especially those even younger than I am). But the goal for most people is to find one person to make a “commitment,” as if commitment ever necessarily implied exclusivity. The idea currently is that real love, a relationship of real depth and meaning, must be an exclusive club. You may be able to have two lovers, but you can’t truly be serious with more than one at a time, because we rationalize our jealousy into a culture of possessiveness through the Disney-esque romanticism of the princess and her prince.
3) We would start with our desires, and build up our relationships upon them. All too often, we fit our desires into the mold of our relationships, rather than the other way around. We may really like that person we met at the party, but we have a relationship already so that desire either gets suppressed or we act on it surreptitiously. We decide that a desire, whether it be homosexual, non-monogamous, or kinky in nature, is not acceptable to our lifestyle, so we grin and go along with the status quo. How many people are in the closet, either as homosexual or bisexual? How many people repress desires for people they care about because they are in a relationship? How many people have fantasies they never explore because they think it is wrong, dirty, or it might make people judge them as a ‘pervert’?
What the hell is wrong with being a pervert? So what if someone gets of on being tickled? Who cares if what Bob really wants is to get peed on? Why do you care if what I want for my birthday is to have hot sex with two or three beautiful women after drinking some fine Belgian ale? (I’m really not that kinky, am I?) We need to have the strength to admit what we really want, and try and find ways to have it if it’s possible (and moral. If your kink is to murder people, well you might be out of luck).
If we were to follow basic guidelines such as those three above (and the list is not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive), then I think that most people would land on something like polyamory, assuming they are willing to do the work it takes to maintain the relationships they want. And the more people that do it the less weird it becomes, and people can stop using the excuse that they don’t want people to find out because it’s weird and they might lose their job or someshit. If everyone’s doing it, it become the new normal—hence the new polynormativity!
Love each person as you actually love them. No less and no more.
I’m ready for it. Are you?
*And what is sufficient will depend on many factors, which go beyond the scope of this post. But I’ve always liked the maxim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That is, the strength of your evidence should be proportional to the audacity of your claim. Of course, what is audacious to one may not be so audacious to another, leading to a spiral which I choose not to follow at present, mostly to maintain my sanity.
That moment when you realize that you are really into that single but not-polyamorous girl… January 30, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: crushing, dating, monoamory, monogamy, relationships, sex positive
So, you know that trope about the guy who is into the straight guy (or girl who is into the straight girl)?
So, people who are not really familiar or comfortable with polyamory, or who explicitly say they don’t think they can or want to get involved with polyamory themselves (whether their reasons are well articulated or not), are perhaps the kind of people in whom it might not be smart to become interested. Especially if you have any reason to believe that if you were not polyamorous, and you were single, they would potentially be into you. Also if you are really attracted to them, and you somehow cannot help but keep talking with them knowing all that is the case. You know, because we are always rational and wise beings, with our ability to control of motivations, who we’re into, and all that jazz.
You see, sometimes when you are in such a predicament, you get to that point where you realize that you are being sucked into that hole; you know that hole where under any reasonable set of circumstances you would feel happy, elated, giddy even. Except in this case, rather than cutesy giddiness you end up feeling like the only response that makes sense is to stare blankly at the wall (or computer monitor or whatever) and say to yourself “well, shit, this is going to suck,” while you secretly, deep down, hope that it will not.
You know, that delusional part of you deep down where neither love, lust, nor respect are ever unrequited.
But also in there, perhaps deeper or perhaps of similar depth but like to the side or something (my knowledge of depth psychology is obviously not, ahem, deep) you know it probably is just going to end up with a (figurative, hopefully) kick in the stomach. You know that it’s probably a terrible idea to keep hope alive for any romantic, sexual, or even heavy-make-out-esque relationship, but you also know ridding yourself of such hope will be quite difficult and painful.
You, of course, have already made it clear what your goals and desires are, and they have respectfully rejected the proposition and you move on to talk about other things. Other non-romantic or sexy things. You have told them that you are attracted to them, you talk about polyamory a little and they are uncertain (at best) about it, and then you go on and have a friendly conversation with them. Because you really do like talking with them and you can have a good time as platonic, non-sexual, friends with them…or something.
Because you totally can just pretend that you don’t find them very sexually attractive and just be friends. Because you are a decent person who doesn’t need to have sex with someone just because that’s what you want…like what you really, really want…and be just a friend to them because you like them and they are a god person and because you have stuff in common and because that’s the decent thing to do, dammit!
So, Wes wrote about being friendzoned recently, and I agree with what he said pretty much, but this situation is different than what he explained there. This is a situation where the intentions of both parties are clearly stated, but still one finds himself (it is me we’re talking about, after all) with a friend, and not a lover. And while I am happy to be friends, there is that moment when I realize that the attraction is a little bit more than merely physical, and there is nothing I can do about it.
It’s one of the things that really sucks about being polyamorous in a monoamorous-dominant world. Because it’s one thing for someone to not be into you, but it’s quite another when they might be into you, but it does not matter because you have other women (or men, or both) in your life. It makes one ponder what the world would be if we all were polyamorous, or at least poly friendly. It makes me, specifically, yearn for a world where polyamory was not so strange, so uncomfortable, so radical.
Then there is that little voice that, in the back of your mind, whispers little things to you like “just wait, she’ll change her mind” or “she really is into you, she’s just not sure about the poly thing; she’ll get over it!” But, that’s a tricky road to navigate, because it’s probably a delusional little voice. While that voice might keep that flame alive, that flame might just burn you as well as a potential friendship unnecessarily.
Then there is the other voice, the one that says “dude, you are just infatuated. Even if she changed her mind you would have like a month of really hot sex, and then what? Can you expect a monoamorous girl to first get involved with you then accept the potential role of being your close friend who you used to have sex with a lot? perhaps even still do occasionally? That’s a lot to transition to from a monoamorous worldview.” And that voice, while possibly also wrong (because who knows? she might end up being a long term girlfriend!), has a point. Because a friend who I have sex with is not a stretch of the imagination for me; a polyamorous, sex-positive, slut. But for someone who has a different set of experiences, that might be destructive, hurtful, and it might preclude the possibility of a friendship continuing.
It’s so much easier when all you’re interested in is sex, because in that case when the rejection comes you can just move on and not worry about it.
So, what to do? What do you do when you realize that being platonic friends with someone may be too hard for you, even if the friendship itself will almost certainly be rewarding in itself? I mean, I know monogamorous people deal with this all the time (and for them, I advise them to just get over it already and be polyamorous, knowing most won’t), but monoamorous people are generally used to suppressing such desires. That’s why cheating is so rare. Right.
Ugh…. Having a conscience sucks sometimes.
It sucks because in such situations you really do want to be friends with them, but you also know that the attraction will sit there between you the whole time. You can try and keep it away from your conversations with them, but it will poke it’s head out now and then to remind you, and possibly her, that it’s still there.
Of course, then you realize that you’ve had a couple of drinks and you are tired, and that is potentially skewing how you feel. So maybe you should just sleep on it. Perhaps tomorrow you’ll feel differently.
Yeah, that’ll work!
Well, good night then.
Emotion, Memory, and Quality January 23, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: emotion, love, memory, relationships
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I met my wife just over 3 years ago. On the anniversary itself, which was just a couple of weeks ago or so, she reminded me that it had been 3 years since, and we shared a nice moment between us and I reflected on how much I appreciate having met her. Of course, we met at almost the same time as an event which shook me to my core, leaving me more depressed and emotionally raw then I have probably ever been, and which had stuck with me for many months (and to some extent, years) afterwards.
I have written about the events in question previously, and even had a now non-existent post about the event itself a few days after, but I found further evidence, just now, for how much emotion affects one’s perception of reality. I made a video, about 3 years ago now, that was intended for an ex girlfriend of mine to see (I don’t know if she ever saw it). It was a video which was created in a fever of creative energy based upon a dream I had woken up from. The creation was an extremely emotional event, and was cathartic in many ways, even though I didn’t understand it then. No, I will not embed that video here.
Upon finishing this video, I saw it as a sort of great achievement; it moved my deeply and I was unable to delete it from my hard drive even long after it was clear to me that the lost relationship was never to be restored. The video involved a song–which was part of the dream–in the background, and ever since then that song has had an important emotional affect on me. In a sense, this video was a great achievement, as it was the first step I took in healing from this loss, and it was not long after that Ginny and I were quite obviously moving towards being together as a couple. She is a woman who saw me at my worst and helped carry me out of the darkness.
So, tonight while sitting around Polybar Galactica with Gina having some drinks and talking about quantum mechanics, chemistry, and relativity (like you do), the song in question comes up on my computer, which is randomly playing music for u while we pretended to know what we were talking about. The song, as soon as I notice it, punched me in the stomach (figuratively), and I used my phone to skip to the next song (because Polybar Galactica exists in the future where you can control your computer with your phone) so I could allow the emotional tumult to pass by not listening to that beautiful but painfully mnemonical song (a link just in case you just have to know what song it is).
But then, right after Gina went to bed (because she has a job that involves getting up early and shit) I have this intellectual curiosity to watch this video, which is still on my hard drive. I wanted to see if I would still feel as vulnerable and sad watching it now as the last time I watched it, which may have been 2 years ago or so. I was prepared to be emotionally ruined for a few minutes, reminded of the pain that engulfed my life 3 years ago, but that’s not what happened.
So, here’s what did happen. I smiled and even laughed. Not comically, like at the gross inadequacy of the video-editing skills (although they are mediocre at best), but because the images in the video reminded me of good times. I remember having fun with and loving this girl who tore my heart out so long ago. I remember her fondly, despite all that happened, and I was able to watch this video without the pain I prepared for. And I was able to reminisce about some times long gone, with only a tough of bittersweet (which I think is appropriate).
But, perhaps more interestingly, I noticed how not-awesome the video was. It made me grossly aware that my previous opinion of the quality of this video was intricately and intimately tied to the emotions involved with it. Emotions which have changed, faded, and perhaps forgotten. Emotions have a real affect on both memory and perception, and now that the raw emotions have faded away, the quality of the video was perceived, tonight, as appropriately mediocre (at best).
But what has not faded over time, but rather grown, is the other thing that happened 3 years ago. Ginny, I love you dearly, and I am happy that you are my wife. Thank you for all you have done for me, and all you continue to do. I live a charmed life.
And thank you, Gina, for sitting with my at Polybar Galactica while talking about things we have no idea about while I make you chocolate martinis. Also, for being awesome and stuff.
I want to leave with a direct quote from what is on my Google calendar from the date that the event happened. I don’t remember when I added this note, but it is true, even for this heathen:
Saturday, January 16th, 2010:
All hell falls upon me…and an angel was there to catch me before i fell into its depths
Also, if you missed this previously, you need to read this post (which also mentions the evil Seana event, which is why I was reminded of it right now), because it is me channeling Gina’s hilariousness in a way that I am not sure I can replicate again. I made myself laugh. Wait, i do that all the time.
You know what? Never-fucking-mind!
Loving Authentically January 22, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: authenticity, desire, love, relationships, sex, sexuality
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We should love the people in our lives as we actually desire to do so. We should not unnaturally inflate or deflate our feelings for anyone. We, speakers of English, suffer from the poverty of words to express the varieties of love. The Greeks knew better, having multiple words for the various kinds of love we feel for people, and perhaps there is a lesson here. Not all love is erotic. Not all love is adoring. Not all love is brotherly. Sometimes we will only feel brotherly (or sisterly) towards a person, while other times we may feel the hot coal of Eros burning within us to touch, savor, and embrace another (or many others) with pure passion. Sometimes we will feel a deep sense of attachment and affection for a person, such that we could not imagine being without them in our lives. Sometimes you have a little (or a lot) of each.
Whether we are monoamorous, monogamish (a term I’m somewhat annoyed with, personally), “exclusive” but cheating, or polyamorous we can experience a phenomenon of either inflating or deflating the nature of a relationship based upon social or personal expectations. This happens because how we actually feel for people around us may not fit the categories our culture has for relationships, at least mainstream culture. In recent decades we have invented new categories, such as friends with benefits, asexuality, etc, but there is still room for better defining what kind of relationships we want from people.
Having been in a number of relationships (and most of the examples below has an analog in my experience), I have noticed that many people will artificially inflate or deflate the nature of that relationship in the name of having that relationship fit into the social context we are used to, or possibly to try and make the relationship look appropriate. That is, the reality of a relationship may not always mach what it appears to be from the outside, often at the fault of those displaying their relationship. This phenomenon, of falsely displaying our relationship one way or another, is inauthentic.
What I want to explore here are the implications of this phenomenon on a set of relationships, in order to start thinking about how and why we define our relationships the way that we do and how we might do better.
Monoamory,* in some cases, will force us to inflate how we care for someone unnecessarily and unnaturally. Because people are insecure or afraid, we may have to overcompensate for moments when we may show interest in other activities, other people, and even other potential loves. If we err by having an affair, we try to soften the damage by saying things like “she/he means nothing to me” or “I only want to be with you, nobody else” which are obviously not true in many cases. Except in rare cases, monoamory is based upon a lie, or if not a lie then an inauthentic approach to who we love. We try to convince ourselves, and often we tell our partner, that we only want one person, and that we are happy only with them. We create a mythology of happiness and fulfillment in exclusivity, when the actual behavior–cheating is rampant–says otherwise.
The result is that we try and inflate our partner to being all that we need, everything to us, and the object of all of our romantic and erotic desires. Now, there may in fact be cases where this is actually true, but I suspect that in most cases such claims are an exaggeration of the truth. We may, in fact, have a substantial amount of affection, respect, and attraction to our monoamorous partner, but there is always room to have similar affections, respect, and attraction to other people. To claim to not have such feelings for others is to either deceive or to be a very rare case, if not an unhealthy one. There are times of course, when we do not lie about our other desires, but for various reasons agree to not pursue them. This is not as inauthentic, but is perhaps absurd and an accommodation to our fears and insecurities.
When we are single, taking steps into the wilds of polyamory outside of our existing relationship(s), or even when we are in the beginnings of what might become an illicit affair, we may end up either inflating or deflating how we feel for someone. There are times when the way we care for someone is mostly physical. We may actually like the person, rather than hate or be annoyed by them them, but here the primary connection is sexual, sensual, and erotic. For a number of reasons, we may feel that this base desire is insufficient, disrespectful, or possibly immoral in terms of continuing a purely physical, but not emotional or “spiritual” (whatever that means) relationship with them. In such times, we may feel compelled to communicate a feeling of love and try to make more out of the relationship than which actually exists.
This inflation may result in a relationship that walks and talks like a serious relationship, but it does not feel that way inside, perhaps for either of you. You may call the other person your partner, you may be exclusive with them, but the relationship lacks an emotional, intellectual, etc depth that one of both of you may crave. Now, there is no necessary reason to discontinue the physical relationship because of this, because all you need to do is find someone with whom you share the other things you desire in a relationship. So long as the sexual connection lives and is reciprocated, then there is no reason to stop it, but there is also no reason you should pretend the relationship is more than what it is. There is nothing wrong with having acquaintances, friends, or even people with who you have no emotional connection to as a lover, so long as the arrangement benefits both people.
When we are polyamorous, something similar may happen. We may have an ideal that all of our partners should be of similar seriousness, that we should try and develop an emotional depth with all of our lovers or else a relationship will be inferior or unworthy. We may feel, in short, like promoting sex partners to the rank of full romantic partners, when what the two people want from each other is a good time now and then. We need to love the people we love as we actually desire to love them, even if that love is solely erotic in nature, or solely romantic in nature for that matter.
In short, no matter how many relationships we have some or all of them may be presented to the world as more than they feel like inside. We may do so for all sorts of reasons having to do with the society in which we live, but all of those reasons are inauthentic. We need to be honest with ourselves, our partners, and the world around us (insofar as it is their business) about what our relationships are, and not inflate them unnecessarily.
Let’s say you’ve been committed, for some substantial amount of time, to a wonderful person with whom you share a deep affinity, share many enjoyable days and nights with, and with whom you share a healthy and active sexual relationship. You have decided to remain exclusive, whether overtly or by mere assumption or accident (based on cultural norms and such), and are happy with your partner.
Let’s say that through work, social circles, or merely by mere chance you happen to meet a person with whom you develop a healthy rapport, you become friends and find that not only do you respect and care for them, you are very attracted to them (or perhaps you are only attracted to them sexually. If so, the following is equally true). This relationship is a threat to that exclusivity, and in many cases an affair will happen in such cases, often damaging or destroying the primary relationship. But an affair and damage are not the only options.
In some such cases something different happens. Whether you and your new friend admit an existing attraction or not, it exists but it is suppressed, pushed away, and ignored. You decide to remain platonic friends (or to avoid one-another), despite the reciprocated desire for more. You deflate the appearance of the relationship from what it feels like, inside. You are pretending not to love them in a way that you very much want to love them, so you try and redirect that erotic love into brotherly or sisterly love or to a lack of any relationship at all.
Why do we do such things? The feelings already exist, why do we lie to ourselves about them? Is that love, which already exists, going to do more damage if actually acted on? Yes, you should be honest about your feelings, not only to your new friend but to your partner with whom you have had, perhaps up until then, an agreement to exclusivity. It is such circumstances which support my belief that the vast majority of humans have the inclinations towards polyamory within us already, we just need to be honest about them. Thus, another option here is to explore non-monoamorous solutions, whether swinging, polyamory, or mere monogamishness. One does not merely have the choice of either suppressing the desire or cheating, in such circumstances.
Of course, this does not happen only to people involved in a relationship. Single people deflate as well. Some people may have insecurities, fears, or etc which affect their ability to pursue their desires. We may have strong feelings for a person, but not communicate them out of fear of rejection. We may do so because they are not seen as good enough or socially appropriate for us, especially in view of peers or family. They may be single and interested in somebody who is already polyamorous, and be unsure about their ability to handle the emotional consequences of pursuing someone they have to share.
Non-monoamorous people can do something similar as well, especially when they are relatively new to polyamory, or who are involved in the swinging community. Poly people who pursue others may deflate how they feel for a partner in order to protect the feelings of others they are with; to defend jealousies. Jealousies need to be addressed, not merely accommodated to or coddled. We should not pretend that our new love is merely a mild interest, or that our mild interest is merely a friend. Be direct about what what people mean to you, and encourage them to do the same for you.
Swingers, in some cases, ignore or avoid romantic feelings for sexual partners because most swingers become so because they are seeking, primarily, new sex partners and not romantic partners. They may realize that an emotional connection might be destructive to their primary relationship. There are some people inthe swinger community who, if they start to have feelings for their sex partners, stop hanging out with those people. They may decide to suppress those feelings, much like the hypothetical you did above with your new friend, except in this case it is the romantic love which is suppressed, rather than the erotic.
In short (again), no matter how many relationships we have some or all of them may be presented to the world as more than they feel like inside. We may do so for all sorts of reasons having to do with the society in which we live, but all of those reasons are inauthentic. We need to be honest with ourselves, our partners, and the world around us (insofar as it is their business) about what our relationships are, and not inflate them unnecessarily.
I encourage all of us, especially myself (as I struggle with this phenomenon as well), to have the courage to admit how we really feel, or to allow ourselves to find how we really feel about the people around us. We may be suppressing feelings without being aware of it, leading us to miss out on a relationship or to remain in one we may not wish to continue.
If the way you feel about a person is erotic, let that attraction be known. If you feel an abiding reverence, deep affection, or romantic impulse for someone, then express that as well. If you see someone as like a brother or sister to you, and while you may not be attracted to them you want them as part of your life, your family, etc, then let that relationship grow as well. And if you feel all of these things, whether in abundance or not, let that relationships—let those relationships—be what they are, informed by your desire and authentically pursued..
Love each person according to your reciprocated desires, and do not artificially inflate or deflate that love out of respect for any cultural, religious, or psychological expectation. In short, love authentically.
*I use the term ‘momoamory’ and the correlating ‘non-monoamorous’ in the interest of being aware that not all relationships are marriages. Monogamy is an exclusive marriage, technically, and while it is applied to cover all exclusive relationships between two people, I prefer to be more precise and inclusive with my terminology.