This article was published 10 years ago. My views have probably evolved muchly since.
This article was published recently advocating, in its simple view, that the whole polyamory movement isn’t doing much for the sexual revolution or women’s rights. Here is a rebuttal.
First off, since this is my first post on polyamory on this blog, let’s start with a definition. The word derives from poly meaning many and amor meaning love, so literally many loves. It describes relationships that ethically have more than one partner, which means two or more people in intimate relationship with each other, usually in a variety of configurations.
Ethically means all partners know of and consent to the existence of each other. This is not infidelity, this is a choice made by everybody in the relationship. Franklin Veaux created an insightful Diagram of Non-Monogamy to help differentiate the different relationship styles. It’s quite fun to find where you sit on the diagram:
The only real difference between what is considered normal in society (monogamy) and polyamorous relationships is that there are more than two people having an intimate and usually romantic relationship. However, this simple fact stirs so many emotions and challenges so many accepted beliefs and social and religious rules that people get very up in arms that such a thing could even exist. I’m guessing very much in the same way as White Europeans may have felt when it was brought to light that other races were on equal standing to them. And when it became more public that women could have sex with women. Anything that challenges accepted practices gets shunned first as a knee-jerk reaction before anyone bothers to stop and think about, or better yet, to just accept its existence and move on without feeling the need to be attacked by it.
The author of the article mentioned above is coming from an outsider’s viewpoint. She has clearly not researched the topic, not spoken to people who are engaged in successful multi-partner romances, and certainly not experienced it for herself. So what gives her the right to lay judgement as she does? The simple fact that she’s a human with opinions, and she has a platform to write about those very opinions. She also rambles without giving solid evidence to support her claim, which is that these relationships don’t bring about sexual equality. And by sexual equality, I take it she means gender equality from the context of the article.
Let’s be straight. Polyamory doesn’t bring about gender equality. And neither does monogamy. If the people engaging with each other are themselves not in a mindset that allows for gender equality, it doesn’t matter what relationship configuration they put themselves in, the configuration itself is not going to enforce equality. Polyamorous relationships, however, do allow more opportunity to equal out simply because there are so many relationship orientations one could find oneself in.
A further problem with the article is that the author seems to have associated polyamory with its subset polygamy. Polygamy (or more specifically polygyny) is the practice of a single male having relationships with multiple females, traditionally in terms of marriage. The opposite to polygyny is polyandry, where a single female is married to multiple males. Both are types of polyamorous relationships but do not define polyamory itself.
Polygamy has traditionally played the role of suppressing women so it is easy to see how polyamory can be dismissed as anti-feminist if one isn’t adequately educated on what polyamory is.
Refer to the diagram mentioned above again and to these articles here and here for more detail.
In a polyamorous scenario, a woman could ethically have four or more boyfriends. Is that not empowering for female-kind?
Another presumption that needs to be dispelled, especially after mentioning a woman with four beaus, is that at least one person in a poly-relationship needs to be bisexual. A many partner romance can easily encompass all straight people. A woman can have her four male lovers who never engage with each other. They may never even meet each other. They just know that the other partners exist and are all in relationship with their girlfriend.
Take a moment to reread that last sentence. Most people newly introduced to this seemingly radical lifestyle find their brains doing a wobble.
Constant exposure, however, allows us to accept the reality and eventually it becomes accepted as normal. I will put forward here that it’s always been normal.
I prefer to live in a world and society that does not have judgements on the way other people live their lives. The author states that she has no problem with how many partners someone else chooses to have. Her judgement is in that this relationship dynamic isn’t bringing about a revolution. It would seem that she has expectations from it. She sees it as a male-dominated practice. It isn’t; I know some very empowered women in multi-partner relationships.
The relationship style offers a platform to transcend the issues we have with sexual power over gender but it, as a choice, isn’t the solution nor does it promote inequality. There’s a much greater discussion that needs to be entered into with your various partners if gender or sexual inequality is the issue. It’s far too easy to jump on the bandwagon and have expectations of what’s considered a new movement. That’s shirking responsibility and projecting on a system instead of accepting that it’s people who make the system what it is. To this author, I say, do what you can to revolutionise sex if that’s what you want and stop finding fault where fault doesn’t actually exist.