Tuesday, June 26, 2007

So the polyamorist says to the monogamist “POLYAMORY IS NOT BETTER THAN MONOGAMY.”

Someone who wished to remain anonymous recently sent me a response to my June 7 post, Identity Poly-tics in which they accused polyamorists in general of "trying to foist their opinions on other people." This person, who I’ll call Jo (gender neutral) said, “In another blog post, dated June 7th, Anita compared polyamory, once again, to gay marriage.”

I’m a bit confused, since I said nothing in that post about gay marriage. Jo went on to say,

“ I am so, so sick of hearing this. It really makes me mad. You aren't gay, so quit comparing yourself to people who are.”

Does being bisexual count? (Small grin.)

“The other day, I attended a gay rally, and a goth girl showed up wearing a collar with spikes 2 inches long. She was riding a bike (I wonder if you know her?) “

Wait! Is this one of those assumptions people make along the lines of, "Hey, you're from Tennessee? (Population 6,000,000) My uncle lives in Tennessee - do you know him???"

The visible polyamory community is pretty small and incredibly far flung, so I very much doubt that I do. Also, many people live poly lives whose social circles do not encompass the polyamory community itself, especially polys who are gay, lesbian and/or kinky. Some of their communities make space for them as poly people and as a community subset, and they are content with that.

“On one side was a sign that read, ‘Lesbian bed death - in your face – Polyamory’ and the other side read, ‘Queer as f* - High Femme - Kiss my a**’ It ticked me off, but it was nothing I hadn't seen before!”

“When polyamorists direct such offensive language to 'monogamists' as you label those of us who believe in two-person relationships- the first time I've ever actually been offended by a label- can you guess what the reaction is?”

How horrid of me! How dare I?!?! (Sorry, but I just can't help poking a little fun at Jo's assumptions - s/he speaks as if s/he really believes that all polyamorists are determined to make sure same sex couples can't marry.)

As to the term "monogamist", Microsoft Word’s spellcheck doesn’t even blink at it – I think that means it’s a common term and mine was fair use of it. Mirriam-Webster agrees:

mo•nog•a•mist
Function: noun
Date: 1651 : one who practices or upholds monogamy

“Can you guess what I wanted to scrawl on her sign with the cans of spray paint sitting so temptingly nearby? It's incredibly offensive, and 'lesbian bed death' is also completely untrue. It makes me mad. I don't know why 'polyamorous bed death', 3 or 4 people who are bored with each other, isn't an equally possible scenario, or how poly is somehow a 'cure' to a bad 2-person relationship. It's utterly ridiculous.”

No poly activist I know says anything remotely like what is assumed here, i.e. that polyamory can be a cure for a troubled dyadic relationship. I would never and have never recommended such a thing. I've never heard of poly bed death, but I expect that it exists for some poly people, just like it does for the rest of the population, gay, bi, trans and straight.

I did use the term “monogamist” in the Identity Poly-tics post, in which I was discussing how some polyamorists don’t want to be referred to as such. I said that *to me* the term “polyamorist” is a simple term which I use to describe one of the two sorts of people who engage in long-term, committed intimate relationships. The others are indeed monogamists, and the dictionaries clearly agree. I didn’t imply that one is better than the other, but that’s what Jo heard nevertheless. And Jo is certainly not the first person I’ve encountered who gets hot under the collar at the perception that someone is trying to label them.

What I don’t think I said but will happily say now is that I do not consider polyamory to be any better than monogamy – it’s just different. Monogamy works for many people, and so does polyamory.

“To my mind, this little goth girl's definition of polyamory is polygamy, or "swinging". I'm sort of thinking it is your definition, too.”

I've not had much luck with trying to get an accurate impression of someone's personal definition of polyamory as they practice it by reading their t-shirt and noting their style of dress. And though I don't identify as a swinger, I fully support swinging as a legitimate form of sexual expression, and I've spent enough time socializing with swingers to have a pretty good idea that there aren't too many goth girls hanging out with them. Neither have I noticed signs of goth culture invading mormon polygamous compounds - if it has, it's their secret! We do see a bit of gothness here and there in the polyamory community, and lots more of it in the BDSM/kink community, where there are also lots of polyfolk.

I do make references to being sex-positive in my 6 June post, which some people hear as code for promiscuous. For the record, I do not identify as a polygamist nor a swinger. I support polygamists (when all partners are adults and have equal power of choice) and as I said above, I also support swingers as well, each in their preferred method of partnering. I believe that theirs are valid forms of intimate relationships, too.

“Anyway, everyone in the Universe now except for most gays is lumping polyamory in with gay marriage, and it has me steamed. Do me a favor and quit trying to tie yourself to me and drag down my chances of getting gay marriages formally recognized in the US as they should be under our Constitution.”

Ah, so now we get to the heart of the matter and what has Jo so steamed. In my next post I’ll elaborate on the history of the conflation of same sex-marriage and polyamory, by whom, and how hostility between same-sex marriage proponents and polyamorists is exactly what the enemies we share hope will happen.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK, I got the date wrong. I finally found it. It was the one dated May 23rd. You wrote, "Marriage laws - For all the same reasons that same-sex couples are also discriminated against, only in this instance polyfolk in relationship with two or more partners are condemned by those who embrace same-sex monogamy." I'd say that's lumping the gay marriage issue in with polyamory.

Also, May 7th, you wrote "Domestic partnerships of many kinds would be recognized, and the same benefits granted now to a more narrow definition of families would become available to all intentional families. A plan along these lines has already been put forth by a group of activists, writers and academics in 2006, a group called Beyond Same-Sex Marriage"

The reason for the title "Beyond Same Sex Marriage" is to weaken support for same sex marriage in the gay community, or "move beyond it"-not merely to open up additional options.

On June 26th, you said, "How horrid of me! How dare I?!?! (Sorry, but I just can't help poking a little fun at Jo's assumptions - s/he speaks as if s/he really believes that all polyamorists are determined to make sure same sex couples can't marry.)"

I never said that. I was trying to relate a personal experience. However, I would add that in attempts to further your cause, you unintentionally but very substantially undermine the cause of same-sex marriage. It is most unfair, too. You would have to be the first to agree that gayness and polyamory are two totally different things. You don't even want marriage rights.

"As to the term "monogamist", Microsoft Word’s spellcheck doesn’t even blink at it – I think that means it’s a common term and mine was fair use of it. Mirriam-Webster agrees:

mo•nog•a•mist
Function: noun
Date: 1651 : one who practices or upholds monogamy"

Thanks a lot for the definition. You are still slapping labels on people. (I never heard of a computer that "blinked" at a spellcheck or definition!)

"No poly activist I know says anything remotely like what is assumed here, i.e. that polyamory can be a cure for a troubled dyadic relationship."

No one you know personally, but again, this goth girl was one of many such individuals. Since it was an observable fact, it isn't an assumption at all.

"I did use the term “monogamist” in the Identity Poly-tics post, in which I was discussing how some polyamorists don’t want to be referred to as such."

Then you can understand why I wouldn't want to be referred to as a "monogamist". I'm tired of labels. You follow this up with, "The others are indeed monogamists, and the dictionaries clearly agree." Again, labels. Apparently, it is ok to slap labels on "monogamists", but not sensitive-souled polyamorists?

"Does being bisexual count? (Small grin.)"

So maybe it's not so farfetched that you might know her after all, especially as she is such a highly visible individual-and your community, as you said yourself, is so small.

"In my next post I’ll elaborate on the history of the conflation of same sex-marriage and polyamory, by whom, and how hostility between same-sex marriage proponents and polyamorists is exactly what the enemies we share hope will happen."

Do we share a common cause? I don't think so. As for enemies, anyone who lumps me in with polyamorists, polygamists, paedophiles, bestiality etc. is clearly stupid and definitely an "enemy". (I have seen this same classification online.) That doesn't mean I share a common cause with you, nor that I would take up your cause. If we have enemies in common, it is a sign of the universal stupidity of those individuals, not a sign that I need to support polyamory.

Anita Wagner said...

Well, anonymous, what you seem to be basically saying is that by our very existence, poly people are spoiling the party for same sex partners who wish to marry. Surely you don't really believe it's fair to ask us to reject who we are in favor of who *you* are. In doing so you are guilty of doing to us exactly what has been done to you that you fight to change.

I believe we are going to have to agree to disagree here, because I am not willing to give up my rights in favor of yours, just as I don't expect you to give up yours for me. Just as you aren't willing to be silenced, neither are we. I'd much prefer that we be allies, but that's not feasible as long as you are determined to paint poly people as the bad guys.

I am entitled to my point of view just as much as you are yours. I am continually amazed at how sexual minority groups who have been treated as second class citizens insist on doing the same thing to other sexual minorities. Your position here is a perfect example of it.

If you are willing to keep an open mind and approach this with a bit less emotion and a bit more reason, keep an eye out for that next post - I'll get to it in the next few days. It will explain a lot about how anti-same-sex marriage activists are responsible for our being in this oppositional position.

As to the labeling issue, all I can say is that I have no intent to label you or anyone else - what you are missing is that language is necessary to convey concepts. Yes, instead of saying you are a monogamist, which in fact you are, I could have used more words and said that you are someone who prefers a closed relationship with one other partner only. Accurate, but much more cumbersome. Again, something we'll have to agree to disagree about.

Angela H said...

I read this post and re-read this post and hung my head. I know that this post is over 4 years old but I felt like I needed to give my two cents as this is a subject that has been weighing on me for some time.

We cannot expect equal rights if we are not willing to give equal rights. I in the lesbian and poly community both have seen this. I get more grief for being poly from the glbt community than I do from my mormom mother for being gay. Until we can all learn to unite as one how can we ever expect to win anything? Being a lesbian and having gone to rallies and prides the main focus has always seemed to be about stopping the hate. Yet there is so much hate in the GLBT community as a whole. I think we need to do a little of what we preach.
I know lots of gothic, spike wearing poly bi-sexuals. That does not mean they are all tied to a secret group or that I know every gothic poly girl out there. I do not get where one gets this idea.
I have said many times before that if we want equal rights we need to show that we want them. We preach hate against that which is different such as polyamory and yet during our prides we walk around topless covering only what the law says we need to cover. We drink as much as we can and throw massive parties. In the end it all comes down to the same thing. Everyone has a right to do as they please. I deserve the right to marry my partner and I deserve the right to love as many people as I choose be it one or many. My business is just that, Mine!
I also do not get how poly people suddenly got classified in the same group as pedophiles and beastiality, my loving more than one HUMAN ADULT suddenly makes me the same as a pedophile? I feel people really need to educate themselves before they start pointing the fingers.