Polyamory is Racist and Classist? Really?

via “Polyamory is for Rich, Pretty People”

Seriously? There are people that think this way?  I’m not just talking about the subject of the post, here.  I’m also talking about the fact that the writer, while attempting to persuade others that the concept is ridiculous, unfortunately undermines her basic premise in the whole article.

Let’s do what she tried to do first.  No, polyamory is not just for “pretty, rich, white people.”  Polyamory is for anyone who feels that it is the right way to live.  That means it is not just for the rich, but the poor and the middle class.  Not just for the pretty or pretty and thin, but also for those of any shape or size.  It’s not just for white people, but people of any ethnicity.

Look, I have been polyamorous since before I even knew what it was. I came across a non-monogamous concept in some of the books I read as a teen, and the concept resonated with me strongly.  I have always been taught that loyalty to family is a basic principle, and for me that also includes chosen family (i.e. family who is tied by mutual love and respect, rather than by blood).  So, I can honestly say I have been polyamorous since puberty.

I’m poor, and have been all of my life, except for a brief interlude as lower middle class in my young childhood.  Yes, I’m I’m white, but I’m dating someone with Filipino blood, and I have numerous poly friends of many different colors and ethnicities (yes, African-American, Latino, Native American, Polynesian, etc.). And, I have been fat my entire life, and have had over 60 lovers, some of whom were attractive and some of whom were not – and only ONE who ever said that I was an unsatisfying lover.

In fact, this is a rather NEW concept being projected on the poly community.  In my experience as a poly woman, and a large poly woman at that, I have more often been told that I’m only poly because it is the “only way I can keep a man.”  And it is not just women who are told that, I have heard it being said about larger poly men as well (i.e. being told it is the only way to keep a partner).  In essence, the people are saying that:

  1. As a fat person, the only way to keep a romantic partner is to allow that partner to “cheat” on you, because you’re obviously not sexually attractive enough to satisfy your partner.
  2. Monogamy is the “natural order and anything that differs is always a lack of self-worth/self-respect.

Implying that a person – of whatever size, shape, sexual orientation or ethnicity – cannot “keep” a partner without special circumstances is more of a statement of your OWN insecurity.  It basically says that because the person saying it is unsure of their ability to “keep” a partner, anyone to whom they feel superior must accept unreasonable expectations in order to keep their own partners.  I may have my own insecurities about romance, but I do my best to NOT project my insecurities on the motivations of others.

In fact, when I communicate my insecurities to those I love, it is NOT about blaming them for my insecurity, but simply communicating that I have an emotional issue, and requesting only understanding while I work through whatever issue is triggering that insecurity.  For example, I was unable to reach my boyfriend for approximately a day and a half (we try to communicate every day).  The logical assumption is that he was very busy (especially during the holidays).  But, the emotional insecurity – particularly encouraged by the behaviors of my ex – said he was angry at me for something (not that I had any reason to believe it, just my own habitual response to my ex).  When I finally reached him, and admitted the insecurity, his response was – not surprisingly – “But I’m not your ex!”  That’s not being unsupportive, that is being honest.  He isn’t my ex-husband, nor is he similar in his relationship with me.  It is only MY internal emotional habits that are triggering that insecurity.  And, because I’m aware of those habits, it is one of the main primary foci of my therapy.  Your insecurities are yours to be responsible for.

And the other issue?  That some how monogamy or non-monogamy are somehow part of the “natural order?”  Look, all it takes is a little bit of historical research and biological research to show that not only have different cultures had multiple different definitions of the “natural order of romance,” but that the animal kingdom ALSO has multiple different ways to express the mating urge – ranging from lifelong mating, to multiple mates (either serially or consecutively), to completely asexual, to homicidal (usually the female eating the male to provide sustenance for the pregnancy).

OK, now for the other side of the issues I have with the article.

I think she should have spent a bit more time working through her argument.  Maybe that sounds elitist coming from someone who writes in a “stream of consciousness” fashion, but the exact reason I write in that fashion is because my NORMAL writing style – in other words, business or more ‘formal’ writing – is far too structured, and sadly less persuasive.  I spend too much time evaluating research sources, and structuring my argument.  In other words, my more formal writing style is pretty damned stodgy and boring.

Her premise is fairly decent, but her arguments seem to work more for the “other side” (i.e. monogamy).  For example, her ideas that a poor person would avoid polyamory because of the implied danger of death and disease (and the accompanying lack of healthcare) with multiple partners.  In my own experience (and that of many other poly people I know) the fact that there are multiple partners means that it is also possible to spread the financial burden of life over a larger group of people (particularly if the poly partners choose to live collectively).

Her points on “inequality of access” don’t quite support that premise.  Her comments on the proselytizing (or evangelizing) are important, but they are not necessarily a situation of accessibility.  Sadly, most “recent converts” to anything go through a zealot phase (not just spiritual converts here, but lifestyle converts or philosophy converts or any other kind of convert).  Their own personal excitement of this “new option” leads them to think if it’s good for them, then it must be good for everyone.  Thankfully, most people grow out of that phase – but those who do not have seemed to garner the limelight far too often.

Her last item is also a problem.  Not everyone is capable of or willing to be an activist – for anything.  Parents whose lives are pretty much focused on their kids (poly or monogamous doesn’t matter) rarely have time or energy left over for activism, and they should NOT be penalized for that priority.

The ONLY point that makes sense to her “inequality of access” is an issue that is a problem in BOTH monogamous relationships AND polyamorous ones.  One should NEVER create economies of scarcity for one’s partner(s).  In any relationship, this is the partner who somehow always has an excuse for why you can’t go out without them, or why you can’t spend time with friends and even family.  It is the partner who wants to be the gatekeeper for your interaction with society.  It’s the partner who emotionally manipulates to keep you focused on their needs, and avoiding/ignoring the needs of others.  It’s the partner who creates emergencies to keep your attention on them or on the relationship.  It’s the partner who plays yoyo with your emotions.

And equating polyamory with “healthy living?” Although she attempts to do it as a metaphor for relationships, she comes off unfortunately as if poly is somehow better or superior to monogamy.  Most of my family are monogamous.  And I have a superior set of role-models in my parents, because they have been married since 1960 (55 years this August).  In this world, that kind of commitment is difficult to find.

But they are only superior” in the fact that they have stayed committed that long.  They’ve had their healthy times and their unhealthy times.  And while they taught me commitment, I failed to learn HEALTHY commitment (i.e. if the other partner(s) aren’t doing their part in the relationship, no amount of commitment on your part is ever going to make them do so).

So, is polyamory a healthy choice?  For some of us.  Is monogamy a healthy choice? Again, for some of us.

What matters is not how we define our relationships, but how we WORK on our relationships.

 

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