Sunday, February 6, 2011

Terminology Fundamentalism

About a week ago, I read an article on The Swingset about Evolution - Open Marriage, Swinging & Polyamory. It made me reflect on how Anna and I are doing with our non-monogamous "Lifestyle" and in a larger sense the fragmentation among non-monogamists.

There is something inherently hypocritical about in-fighting over who is "doing it the best way" in a community that originated in an escape from a one-size-fits-all monogamous philosophy. I am not quite sure though that I agree with Cooper that they should organise so that they can stand strong against their "common enemy", the monogamists. That's like saying Christians and Muslims should stop their bickering so they can face their common enemy the atheists. It isn't elevating anyone, it's just changing the battle.

Surely we should all be making the argument together that everyone should feel free to choose to fill-in their relationships in whatever way suits them best. And in that context monogamy is a valid choice as well. And so is every combination of elements that doesn't even have a proper name.

Which brings me to my other point. I have absolutely no idea what we ought to call ourselves. There is a certain appeal in being part of a closed "tribe", but does that mean we have to call ourselves Polyamorous? I don't think so! Are we swingers? Definitely not! Heck, we don't even have an open relationship, because we don't go on dates without each other. We don't quite fit in any of these groups, but we kinda overlap them in places. I'm sure there are people for whom the pre-made sweaters are a perfect fit, but all of them chafe us in one way or another.

The solution isn't to keep dividing and specialising further and further. We don't need a new movement of people that love the people they sleep with, but don't feel the need to turn it into a full relationship. That way madness lies... and further fragmentation... and further in-fighting over who is wrong and who is right... and our non-monogamous landscape would become littered with so much specialist terminology that we won't even understand each other anymore.

I think the problem with ill-fitting philosophies is that it turns a lot of people away from non-monogamy when they could have found something that works for them. I believe the solution is to look for the greater whole rather than cutting out ever smaller portions for ourselves. The one thing that unifies everybody in the non-monogamous community is that they have made a conscious choice to live their lives a specific way. And there is no reason that couldn't unify us with monogamists as well. And within that larger whole, who cares if we have a fancy word for our little corner of the playground... we can respect our neighbors for their own choices and interact with them when our games allow for it. And otherwise we give everyone the dignity of their own choices.

That would be a movement I can get behind. That would be something I'd volunteer to promote. That's something we should be able to proclaim in any company, because it ought to be the least controversial position when push comes to shove... your choice might not be for me, but if it doesn't affect me, who am I to argue?

I love the choices we have made so far. And I do not feel any need to slap a label on it. It is what it is, and it's wonderful in its own right.

If you are new to this blog and would like to read some more, I would suggest the following recent(-ish) posts in particular as a starting point:
There is plenty more on a variety of topics, including our personal lives, so by all means have a browse around.


Kit O'Connell said...

Labels are always interesting. What is it about the label 'polyamorous' which you reject? How would you define 'polyamory' in a way which doesn't include your particular relationship?

Lust and Confused said...

Both my reasons have a little bit of a caveat to them, but I'll try my best to explain.

Firstly, polyamory to me implies a certain level of independence of the relationships involved. But in our situation Anna and I do not actually interact independently with Delilah. This line isn't as hard-and-fast as that makes it sound, but most if not all of the significant interactions are always as a couple.

Secondly, I do not personally believe that a relationship is merely a friendship with sex thrown in... no matter how good that friendship is. I cannot exactly define that extra quality that a relationship has that sets it apart, but it is quite tangible in my mind. I could say it has something to do with shared burdens, or love, or a deep connection... but all those feel like manifestations of something more fundamental that I cannot quite put a name to. Sorry if this one has to be a bit hand-wavey, but
"that's all I got" ;)

We are actually struggling a bit with this distinction, because the connection with Delilah seems to at times skirt awfully close to those blurry lines. Maybe at some point we'll just have to throw up our hands and admit that maybe we are polyamorous and we're just in denial about the whole thing... at which point you can surely expect a blog post about that.

But at this point neither of us is anywhere near convinced this is the case, even if we wish we had a nice strong and concrete reason packaged up and ready to point to.

- Arthur

Advizor54 said...

as an outsider to the polyamory (sp?) movement, the in-fighting reminds me a lot of the battle to see who can be gayest, or the fights between gay men, lesbians, the trans-gender crowd, and the straights (from whom I play). The arguing is pointless, harmful, and keeps the cause from being taken seriously. This post was great for pointing that out. And, as for a name for the group? How about 'The Happy Squad'?

Lust and Confused said...

Not sure if The Happy Squad would be taken seriously enough, but the point is valid enough. There's plenty of room for everyone to have whatever sex they enjoy, as long as the right safety precautions are taken at all times.

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