[…]

There’s a post on Regina Lynn’s Sex Drive on the rise in awareness of polyamory in recent years, due to the availability of information on the internet and selection of online communities out there. Sadly, I’m not sure how far the concept has been “injected into mainstream consciousness” but I’ve certainly noticed that net geeks who have been using the web way longer than the average person tend to be somewhat more likely to have an interest in ethical non-monogamy than the average person I meet. It doesn’t surprise me that the internet is such a prime outlet for reflection and support for people whose ideas about monogamy don’t fit with convention:

“Geeks have not traditionally been viewed as relationship experts, yet as a subculture, we are open to alternative ways of life. We immerse ourselves in science fiction and fantasy, imagining other cultures and experiencing relationships not necessarily bound by puritanical traditions.”

Unfortunately, I think women, in particular, are often held back from even questioning monogamy because of the popular male gender stereotype of the cheating man spreading his seed because he-is-after-all-a-man. It particularly pisses me off when some traditionally minded guy disingenuously implies that the traditional notion of commitment is somehow “better” for women than men when, actually, it seems startlingly obvious to me that the most obvious function of monogamy is in its roots in patriarchy. Even as I type this (admittedly in a relationship that is currently very happily monogamous), there’s no doubt that I continue to have some real issues with monogamy as a theory. Meanwhile, monogamy’s favourite villain, the cheater, pays lip-service to monogamy whilst actually not practising it. (Quite literally, cheating is surely monogamy in theory but not in practice.) Something is definitely up but we’re still stuck in the same old traditions and that’s why a growing body of info on the net is so vital. As Regina Lynn says:

“A lot of people are trying [polyamory], but we don’t have any models for this kind of relating,” says Anita Wagner, author of the Practical Polyamory blog. “There’s a tremendous demand for resources, information, guidance, help.”

The trickiest thing for me when I was considering saying goodbye to monogamy was the fact that most people do not openly embrace the idea that it is okay to have more than one sexual relationship at a time. Knowledge of this makes polyamory far easier said than done. Yes, it is arguably becoming more acceptable to have one-night-stands or “see” people very casually as “fuck buddies” but you’d better keep it cold because, if you don’t, that person will assume that you have become exclusive. Forget love without ownership! It seems to me that monogamy is accepted as the default when, actually, it should be something that is only taken on if everyone concerned agrees to it. This poor state of affairs meant I was aware that I was “free” to be poly but would need to be prepared to be the one left out in the cold if a primary partner’s new love insisted on monogamy (which they probably would because that’s the position society encourages in us all).

If you want to see an example of the subtle way that monogamy-as-the-norm acts as a form of social control, just take a look at the gossip column Dirty Laundry’s reporting on actress Tilda Swinton‘s relationship status as the hinge partner in a vee (or V). A commenter picks up on the discreetly snidey tone and gets the response:

“I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to this new-fangled form of entertainment journalism called the gossip column. It appears you are not familiar with the format. What happens is, we take the behaviors of famous people that are outside of the norms of, oh, pretty much any normal person, and mock such behaviors in a satirical take on the cult of celebrity…”

Though the writer hides behind the gossip column format, I think the part highlighted in bold tells us all we need to know (i.e it isn’t normal so it deserves to be mocked).

In my view, we have everything to gain from questioning monogamy, even if we’re amongst those who practice it. For example, there’s no room for sexist double standards on cheating when the habitual cheater of either gender is encouraged to take an honest look at themselves, consider that monogamy may not be for them and then seek out partners who want freedom from monogamy as much as they do.

Photo by myelectricsheep, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.