Normalizing polyamory August 29, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
Tags: BBC, Non-monogamy, relationships, Sexual revolution, Wesley J. Smith
A while back, I ran into this:
You knew it was coming. Scientific American — which often pushes cultural agendas as much as scientific ideas — has an article informing us that polyamorous people have so much to teach the rest of us about life. From “The New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good For You“
Follow the link for the rest (it’s short).
Then today, some follow up, which links to this article by the BBC about how a polyamorous relationship between four people works. From that BBC article:
“We have a generation of people coming up who are saying, we also want stability and committed relationships and safety and security, but we also want individual fulfilment. Let us see if we can negotiate monogamy or non-monogamy in a consensual way that prevents a lot of the destructions and pains of infidelity.”
At first glance, the writer could seem (if you are unfamiliar with who he is) to be supporting or criticizing this process of normalization, but then we see that he writes very similar articles about pedophilia:
Decadence is on the march! And now, a defense of pedophilia as just another “sexual orientation” has been published in the mainstream left wing UK newspaperThe Guardian. From, “Paedophilia: Bringing Dark Desires Into the Light:”
I have written about this before. In our growing hedonistic culture, pedophilia is in the process of being normalized, downgraded by some from a severe sexual perversion into a mere ”orientation.”
Follow the links if you want to see more, but the bottom line is that Wesley J. Smith doesn’t like any kind of pervert, polyamorous nor pedophile. I am not very familiar with his writing, aside from what I just linked to above, but I would not call him an ally. I would say that in terms of the goals and values that Mr. Smith seems to endorse and the goals and values that I endorse, we are opponents. I’m sure I have more than one opponent in that sense.
The interesting thing is that reading the articles about polyamory could be read as positive, at first glance, because while the conclusions (“Normalization today. Group marriage tomorrow.”) seem dire to the writer, they seem right to many of us. I guess we’re just perverts. No difference between consenting adults who decide to not be exclusive and having sex with children (sorry about your sarcasm meter…).
I’ve thought a lot about, and even written about, how the same information, with the same tone, can look very different to people with different worldviews. Our worldviews are not primarily about having different data, they are about having different values and thus different lenses or filters in the way we interpret and judge the world. The differences between liberals and conservatives, for example, have more to do with morality than information. The differnece between Mr. Smith and myself are more about values, and so when he writes “”Normalization today. Group marriage tomorrow,” he means something different that I would, using the same words.
As I have written before, I look forward to a new kind of polynormativity. But this is not just about making the polyamorous world better, but it is also about being a model for relationships for the world. Wesley J. Smith’s reaction to a basic response to jealousy, and talking about compersion, is to say “Oh, if we could only all be so enlightened.” This could be read as being in agreement, as if to say that the author does wish that everyone could be so enlightened, but by now we know better. This alternative interpretation, of actually wishing for universal enlightenment of this type, would have been in a tone many people,are not comfortable with. However, it’s certainly not a tone that has not been conveyed (by myself, in some cases…wait for it….).
But yes, if only we could all be so enlightened. It’s not that all polyamorous people are wiser and better at relationships than all monogamous people. It’s not even that polyamory is always superior to monogamy. It’s that because we poly people think about relationships more, experience more of them, and because we are forced to deal with relationship skills of higher complexity and more frequency, that we tend to have insights that many non-poly people don’t have. I mean, just look at how poorly non-poly advice columnists deal with questions concerning polyamory–and that’s what they do for a living!
It’s also that we have a community of people who have these experiences who talk to each other about relationships–practically, philosophically, politically, legally, etc–such that we have created a set of resources which have a lot to teach a lot of people, whether monogamous or not, about relationship skills. Put concisely, the polyamorous community may have created the single most powerful resource for understanding sexual and romantic relationships which exists anywhere. We are the experts.
Now, if only we could make ourselves better, as individuals and as a community, we might actually be the enlightened people who could help lead the various societies and cultures all over the world into a better way of loving one another, creating healthy relationships, and having the sex we want.
No pressure though.