A very important and interesting post came out on sexgeek’s blog this week entitled the problem with polynormativity. She makes the point that as polyamory becomes mainstream, acceptable way of doing poly is the one ‘least threatening to the current social order. ‘ i.e.
- Starts with a couple
- Is hierarchical
- Contains rules
- Is cute and mainly heterosexual
That means there’s a risk of yet more prison walls clanking around what we all want to be a free, consciously loving and unfettered configuration of relationships. If you’ve ever read blogs on here like Why Unicorn Hunting is exercising Couple Privilege or How to treat a new person entering your existing relationship then you’ll know that many polyamorous people in the Multiple Match community have the same issues with the vision of polyamory constructed by the mainstream, as sexgeek does. If you’ve ever looked at our membership profiles, you’ll also know that polyamory is also characterised by gender diversity. That means transgender, lesbian, gay, homoflexible, heteroflexible… (well, you guys all know the lists). As one dives deeper into challenging the label and norm of monogamy, so one realises that ANY stereotype is like the proverbial applecart. Just ripe for upsetting.
Anarchy, begets anarchy.
And from my point of view, almost 7 years into a polyamorous lifestyle (a relative newbie myself) I do understand the polytics. I’ve made my own journey from a hetero idealised quad relationship which fell apart because of hierarchy and rules and know that these teachings are valid. My point is only this. You cannot start polyamory with 7 years (0r 10 years or 15 years) experience. Your first encounters with polyamory will be as a baby. With your baby issues of control, insecurity and (in many cases) the seeking to render your existing ‘couple’ relationship more satisfying (no matter what sexual orientation that may have). I’m not undermining the validity of sexgeek’s blog, or indeed our own posts. But I do want to remind everyone how amazing, exciting and yet sometimes vomit-inducingly scary breaking the monogamous taboo is.
The real problem with normalizing polyamory …is that practioners forget how scared they felt in the beginning and difficult the new world was. They lose their compassion for those seeking to break those same boundaries in the first place. Time and time again on mailing lists and in forums, I’ve seen ‘well-meant’ advice and judgement from dab-hands to those seeking advice as newcomers. Strong criticism from ‘those who consider they know’ towards those seeking only solace and comfort. The bottom line is this. If you think you know best …you don’t. Compassion takes its energy from a position of acceptance and understanding, not a position of right and wrong.
Because believing in the philosophy of polyamory is one thing, practising it against the backlash of society, family and friends is quite another.
“This letter is not to pass judgment….but what you are doing is wrong.”
“We’ve seen it all before – wife-swapping is the unfancy term for it.”
“You have opened yourself up to an unimaginable world of hurt.”
“How could you be so selfish and immature as to shame your family this way?”
“As a Christian I believe in the sanctity of marriage and the blessing of that sacred union with children. I can never accept the path you have chosen.”
“No one of any consequence is interested in what goes on in your sex life.”
With all my childhood issues of rejection and abandonment my family’s reactions were the catalyst for hurt (yes, we might choose our emotions but struggling out of the traditional pattern of playing victim-persecutor is a difficult battle in itself and one that we all face at one point or another). It takes enormous courage to forge your own path and sometimes the backlashes are severe in more than personally emotional terms; it can take it’s toll on your family, your children and even their relationships. Is it any wonder that some people retreat into a configuration of what is slowly becoming poly-normal? How much persecution can anyone really take? Most of us have our limits… and whilst some have the energy and remain poly-activists all their lives, most of us like to settle down far away from drama at some point. Those who are beginning their journey will go through their own painful battles and realizations. And despite any well-meaning advice, nobody can travel anyone else’s path.
If Multiple Match creates genuine value for you and helps you to think differently, please consider donating a small amount. Being supported by my readers enables me to give my creative output (articles, interviews and newsletters) to the public domain, so it isn’t copyrighted. Please share it freely so that others may benefit from it.