Friday, June 15, 2007

Whole Lotta Love in Salon.com

I am delighted with the article on polyamory published on Salon.com yesterday entitled "Whole Lotta Love". As it happens, I and several other polyamory spokespeople have been working with the journalist who wrote it for several months. (I am quoted in the beginning of the article.) She did a wonderful, even-handed job with it, something we haven't always gotten from the media. In the bad old days, mostly we were sensationalized via the open sexual component of polyamory, which is just one of the aspects of it that bear examination in order to fully understand the concept of polyamory. So to Liz Langley and the folks at Salon.com, I again say a big thank you!

The comments following the article are very interesting. There is a lot of harsh negativity, some more tolerant voices, and then there are the polyfolk who are doing an excellent job of explaining in detail the more subtle but no less vital parts of the polyamory concept that are impossible to convey in an article in soundbites. And then there's the emotional underpinning that I believe is largely responsible for the strongest and more defensive negative reactions. Here is the response I posted.

When polyamory is the subject of a news article, certain assertions are invariably quickly made, i.e. that polyamory is just an excuse for cheating, it's bad for the kids, it's bound to result in the spread of STDs, and so forth. Polyamory as a concept clearly evokes fear in some folks. This is understandable. It scares we polyamorists, too, sometimes, and we want it, so it isn’t difficult to imagine how someone not so inclined might feel if their partner came home one day and said “Honey, I’m interested in polyamory, would you consider giving it a try?”

We are all subject to the fear of loss those words inspire because we’ve all been marinated in the same culture that has told us since we were born that love is scarce and must be hoarded. When you add to that the anthropological fact that possessiveness was once a useful behavior for perpetuating the species, the urge for which still exists in the reptilian part of the brain called the amigdula, no wonder the idea is very unsettling.

What there wasn't room to elaborate about is that though we polyamorists sometimes feel the same fear of loss and so forth, we choose to work through those emotions, be great poly parents, etc. In other words, we work hard to transcend the challenging parts because we know others who have done it, that we can succeed at this and in doing so satsify both the human need to pair bond as well as the human need for sexual variety.

One of the posters expressed resentment at their perception that polyamorists give the impression that they believe they are more highly evolved than monogamists. Over the course of eleven years I've only heard a small number of comments from polyfolk I would consider to rise to the level of snottyness being perceived, so I'm a bit bemused by how often I encounter this accusation from non-polys. Some of it comes from general resentment toward us over what they perceive is our shaking up their seemingly safe monogamous world. I also wonder whether to mono folk it seems that when we talk about what we have to do to deal with our emotions and other challenges of being good at polyamory, we are automatically perceived by some to be raising the bar without their consent in terms of relationship skills required to be competent relationship partners of any sort. I'm definitely going to make further inquiries about this as I'm always looking for better ways to craft our public message so that it resonates and doesn't put people off. Comments on this especially welcome.

2 comments:

Curvaceous Dee said...

A very interesting article - thank you for discussing it, and providing some of the comments as well.

...always looking for better ways to craft our public message so that it resonates and doesn't put people off. I find that's one of the main challenges - people often have a whiplash reaction to the term Polyamory, and are unwilling to hear how it works for us, and why I'm not trying to foist it on them!

xx Dee

Anonymous said...

Dee said, "people often have a whiplash reaction to the term Polyamory, and are unwilling to hear how it works for us, and why I'm not trying to foist it on them!" What she doesn't realize is that there are many polyamorists trying to foist their opinions on other people.

In another blog post, dated June 7th, Anita compared polyamory, once again, to gay marriage. 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.

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?) 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? 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.

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.

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.