Why I’m No Longer “Poly”

Up until a very short period of time ago, I identified as “polyamorous”, but have since then changed my mind about that label for a variety of reasons. I want to share them partly as a way to express a variety of frustrations that I have with this particular label and the issues with the community surrounding it.

I wrote an article on a polyamorous political website when I identified as polyamorous that described the practice of polyamory as a privilege, mostly due to the amount of time it takes to develop and cultivate relationships – time being something that economically disenfranchised people do not have. Many people were (unsurprisingly) lax to describe practicing polyamory as a privilege and told me that if I believed that the practice of polyamory was a privilege, then I’d have to believe that having a relationship in general is a privilege. At first, I wasn’t willing to admit that.

Stranded in the middle of the Delta Quadrant, Captain Janeway doesn't have much hope for relationship options amongst her crew. Anyone she gets romantically involved with she will be their superior of, which creates a huge issue for her when they are facing being stranded for most of their natural lives.

Stranded in the middle of the Delta Quadrant, Captain Janeway doesn’t have much hope for relationship options amongst her crew. Anyone she gets romantically involved with she will be their superior of, which creates a huge issue for her when they are facing being stranded for most of their natural lives.

Relationships as a privilege

But now, as I examine it, having a relationship is a privilege in more than one way. It’s a privilege that many people have been denied. For years, queer people were not allowed to publicly be in a relationship or show any signs of a relationship. Because being queer was so stigmatised, relationships were damn near impossible to make or cultivate, and that’s even true today for many queer kids who are the only queer people in their small towns. Interracial couples have been consistently denied rights due to their relationships or have avoided making their relationship public for fear of retribution.

When black Americans were enslaved, the freedom to have relationships with each other was certainly not equal to the freedom given to whites. And women, due to being unable to support themselves in a society that gives them equal rights, have had to choose “relationships” based on factors other than love or their feelings. Disabled people “safeguarded” by caregivers and ableist institutions may be prohibited from having relationships either through physical obstacles or people’s infantilisation and assumption that disabled people cannot be sexual or cannot love in the same way others can. Relationships, having one, cultivating one, and having it out in the open is a privilege in many ways.

But the time to devote toward non-monogamy is without doubt a privilege, one that I’ve not had in the past. Before I moved to London I was working almost constantly. I had little to no transportation access outside of my parents or people from work driving me places. I was in a conservative area where it was not safe to divulge all of who I was, even among people I trusted and liked. Non-monogamy was not possible there. And I’m wondering if non-monogamy is seriously possible for people who are economically disenfranchised or people who blatantly don’t have the time to devote away from work, children, and other social responsibilities to give to other partners. And I wonder now, as I try and create a balance between work, blogging, writing fiction, working out, and all of the other things I have to do if, when I do decide to adopt children, I’ll have the time to devote to more romantic partners.

Most of the people I’ve had contact with in the polyamory community have been economically privileged, most of them don’t have kids, some of them don’t have jobs or subsist by borrowing or, for lack of a better term, mooching off of the people that they date. (To clarify, this does not mean people who live off of benefits, unemployment or any other government assistance. But, specifically, to people who are class privileged because of who they date and choose to subsist off of their partner’s monetary wealth.) I wonder, as I try and take relationship advice from these people, if their experience is really so applicable to mine.

Being an immigrant, I don’t have the benefit of social supports a lot of people do. I don’t have parents who can bail me out. And I will never feel comfortable with relying on my partners to provide for me economically and am lucky to be in a place where I don’t need to. Yet, most poly people refuse to acknowledge their privileges in this context or they give relationship advice or talk about polyamory as if this is all a given when it isn’t. And it gives people unrealistic expectations.

In the TNG episode "In Theory", android Data attempts to start an argument with Jeanna D'Sora, who he's attempting to have a romantic relationship with. He says typical things like "You are not my mother!" to mimic the arguments people in relationships have because of his expectation that this is normal, even though the argument doesn't actually help his relationship or bring him closer to humanity.

In the TNG episode “In Theory”, android Data attempts to start an argument with Jeanna D’Sora, who he’s attempting to have a romantic relationship with. He says typical things like “You are not my mother!” to mimic the arguments people in relationships have because of his expectation that this is normal, even though the argument doesn’t actually help his relationship or bring him closer to humanity.

Appropriation in poly communities

The second huge problem I’ve run into within the poly communities is the massive amounts of all sorts of horrible appropriation going on. Most of the community I’ve run into is predominantly white and while I’ve been lucky to come across a queerer subsection of a poly community, a lot of the poly communities I see online are dominated by straight people. In both of these cases, there’s a massive amount of appropriation going on.

I get sick to death of seeing white people in polyamory communities reference a tribe or a culture outside their own, putting white names to their practices, and using them to validate their relationship style or choice. I get sick and tired of the “Ooh”ing and “Aah”ing over appropriated concepts of tantra, chakras, chi, and whatever I’ve seen white people mix together in a fruit salad of whatever cultures they want to build their ignorant burrito out of to try and make their polyamory practice more “exotic” and “sacred”. You shouldn’t have to justify your relationship choice via bigotry. When you act like your polyamory is valid because it’s made of “tiny bubbles of imperfections as proof that it was crafted by the simple, hard-working, indigenous peoples of wherever”** you’re being a colonialist jerk.

And to compile ignorance on top of ignorance, I cannot count how many times in many poly communities I’ve come across the ever fun figure of the Poly Patriarch. A white, economically privileged male “ally” of “the gays” who appropriates queer struggles, queer blood, queer death, and queer hatred because if he tells his mean ex-wife about having two girlfriends in their 20s, she might go all harpy on him and tell the courts and he *could* lose custody. While I won’t deny that there are real threats that non-monogamous people face due to slut shaming, misogyny, and general heterosexist cispatriarchical bullshit, I seriously doubt that Poly Patriarch who snorts at mentions of feminism and who probably has never got shit for who he loves in his life is going to be one of the first ones that the hammer falls on.

I’m sick to death of “allies” telling me that they have a right to call themselves queer just because they date more than one person, especially when they have key parties in middle class suburbia while queer kids are forced into homelessness, nonconsensual sex work, and death. I’ll feel more sympathy for Poly Patriarch not being able to marry all of his concubines when trans people can get married without having to worry about going to jail for fraud.

In "Hero Worship", Timothy loses both of his parents and seeks to emulate Data because Data has no emotion. It is his way trying to avoid dealing with the emotions of his parents' death. While emulation or identifying with something different may make you feel temporarily safe or understood, being yourself and comfortable with that is preferable, especially since, for example, Timothy has no concept of what being an android is like.

In “Hero Worship”, Timothy loses both of his parents and seeks to emulate Data because Data has no emotion. It is his way trying to avoid dealing with the emotions of his parents’ death. While emulation or identifying with something different may make you feel temporarily safe or understood, being yourself and comfortable with that is preferable, especially since, for example, Timothy has no concept of what being an android is like.

Abuse in poly communities

The third huge problem that I’ve run into is something that I see in a lot of communities: the perpetuation of abuse and abusers. This is a similar problem to what I’ve run into with the BDSM community, where people swear up and down that abusers are eliminated by some sort of Darwinistic natural selection within communities – that no one of course would put up with that sort of awful behaviour! And I run across a similar sort of sentiment within poly, except there’s little to no actual acknowledgement about how poly is kind of ideal for abusers, whereas, at least within the BDSM community there are efforts like Consent Culture to acknowledge that there are actually people who use BDSM as an extenuation of their abuse.

But within poly communities, no such dialogue exists, even though polyamory is a perfect choice for a lot of abusers, especially ones that don’t want to be caught. If you’re an abuser trying to sucker someone into your snares, it makes perfect sense to treat them lovely at first. Then eventually, entrap them, make them feel worse and worse, until they tolerate some of your more toxic behaviours. That approach involves two people being around each other all of the time and monogamy can be used easily to perpetuate abuse, but equally polyamory can provide protection.

When you’re a non-monogamous person who sees someone occasionally, you don’t have to spend quite so much time suckering someone into your snares. You can be casually abusive in a way that people may dismiss in between the times they see you. And if you lose one person who refuses to put up with even your casual abuse or witnesses you being abusive to another partner, you can just get another one. And if that person dares to say anything about you and your behaviour, they look like a bad ex.

Not to mention, it becomes really hard to identify abusers when everyone’s boning them and no one seems to think about accountability. There’s so much focus in the poly community about not controlling who your partner dates, that people put up with an astounding amount of shitty behaviour from others and let their partners treat other people in astoundingly shitty ways all just so they don’t be “controlling”. Because nothing could be worse than that. If I’m dating Tom and Tom is treating his boyfriend Phil like dirt, I can’t possibly tell Tom that I’ll break up with him or I can’t sit by and watch him treating Phil like dirt. Because then I’m being controlling, jealous, and manipulative.

I’m stuck in a trap where I have to put up with abusive shit all for the sake of not exercising the dreaded veto. And then if Tom’s also dating Jane and casually seeing Alex and both of them have no problem with Tom’s behaviour, you’re outnumbered and you look even more jealous and controlling. If you thought abusers were harder to identify and ban when everyone’s beating each other, imagine how hard it is when everyone’s boning each other – and boning the abusive people too! And they don’t seem to care all that much because they don’t have to live with the abusers all the time and, hey, they’re getting their rocks off.

Even though it's only depicted in the film once, Dolores Umbridge actually has Harry write with her "special quill" several times. He constantly refuses to tell anyone but Ron and Hermoine, and even avoided telling them until he had to. He's insistant that telling or complaining would be letting Umbridge win. And in many cases, silence is an effective weapons abuser's wield, especially when just complaining about the abuse represents it defeating you.

Even though it’s only depicted in the film once, Dolores Umbridge actually has Harry write with her “special quill” several times. He constantly refuses to tell anyone but Ron and Hermoine, and even avoided telling them until he had to. He’s insistant that telling or complaining would be letting Umbridge win. And in many cases, silence is an effective weapons abuser’s wield, especially when just complaining about the abuse represents it defeating you.

There are people making efforts to fix the concept of Darwinism of abusers within BDSM. There are people still willing to realise that, as fun and as exciting as some kinky scenarios can be, they can also provide fodder and attraction to abusive mindsets and behaviours. Until poly people stop demonising things like “veto power” and start talking and taking seriously how polyamory can work well for abusers, I have a hard time taking on the label — especially when some of the most prominent people in the community I frequent are people who have told me they are “natural sadists” when I questioned how the treated their partners or people who have told me “emotional abuse doesn’t exist” and that I didn’t have the right to have a problem with the way someone treated their partner because I wasn’t a psychologist. Needless to say, I don’t have much optimism that things are going to change.

Superior attitude of poly people

My fourth huge problem puts the cherry on top of the shit cake: the superiority. I know not all poly people think they are superior and I’m more than willing to acknowledge that going against a dominant monogamous narrative exposes you to a lot of relationship obstacles that monogamous people may never really tackle, but I’ve run across enough superiority to be annoyed by it. While many poly people acknowledge that “Relationship broke, add people” probably isn’t the best solution, just as many people act like polyamory is the solution for anyone’s relationship problems, or they look down on silly monogamous people who feel things like jealousy and fear (because, you know, non-monogamous people never feel that).

Some poly people are so Regina George. They’ll tell monogamous people to their face how pretty their skirt/relationship style is and how much they love it and appreciate it, but then within their own communities and behind the backs of monogamous people will act like monogamy is some sort of subaltern caveman state of being that people only resort to because they just don’t know any better.

In the episode "Prime Factors", Gath and the other Sikarians attempt to make the crew of Voyager stay on their planet under the pretence of making their lives more enjoyable. What the Sikarians value more than anything is pleasure and joyousness and Janeway discovers they have no interest in helping Voyager get home and when she expresses this desire repeatedly to Gath, he takes personal offense to it. Gath and the Sikarians are a good example of when the belief of one's own superior values gets in the way of helping others.

In the episode “Prime Factors”, Gath and the other Sikarians attempt to make the crew of Voyager stay on their planet under the pretence of making their lives more enjoyable. What the Sikarians value more than anything is pleasure and joyousness and Janeway discovers they have no interest in helping Voyager get home and when she expresses this desire repeatedly to Gath, he takes personal offense to it. Gath and the Sikarians are a good example of when the belief of one’s own superior values gets in the way of helping others.

It’s even worse when this superiority is combined with appropriation. Not only are they superior because they’re polyamorous, but it’s in their true nature to be so, it’s their “orientation”, just like being queer! And that’s why they’ve cheated so much and hurt people when they were monogamous. Instead of holding themselves accountable and realising that a broken commitment is a broken commitment, whether it’s to one person or many, they’ve Calypso-ed their way into a different relationship style that allows them to shrug and say “It Wasn’t Me” to anyone who points out that, actually, breaking someone’s heart is a pretty crap thing to do and just because you find yourself doing it frequently doesn’t necessarily mean that non-monogamy is your orientation, especially when it seems like being an asshole is more likely what your orientation is.

Which is not say I’m questioning whether people feel more comfortable with a non-monogamous approach in their lives or invalidating people who have felt much more free under the more patriarchal confining aspects of culturally encouraged monogamy. Monogamy is encouraged by Eurocentric societies and quite often reinforces sex shaming, misogyny and all sorts of lovely bigotries. It’s not surprising that freeing yourself from that feels better. But being a cheater, asshole, or commitment-phobe doesn’t mean you have a poly orientation and the people who seem most adamant about declaring poly as their “orientation” and comparing it constantly to queerness, at least from what I’ve seen, have been doing so to shirk responsibility either for their own privilege or for the crap behaviour towards partners.

Social anxiety and polyamory

And lastly, as I’ve examined myself and my needs more and more, I’m realising that polyamory does in fact mean “many loves” and “love” itself is a pretty varied personal concept. I’ve had many discussions in poly communities about the line between “friend” and “lover”. In many cases people don’t seem to have a line and they like it that way. That has never been my experience. Whether due to having social anxiety, being on the spectrum, or (possibly, still investigating this concept) being demisexual, I know clearly the difference between friends, lovers, and acquaintances. New people are extraordinarily exhausting and difficult to deal with. Friends I can be around for a long time before I reach my peak. And lovers I can be around constantly without any drain. All of that takes time. I have to get used to people, get to know people. Often I find myself not attracted to any one or only attracted after having learnt more about them, having frequent contact with them, etc.

While their relationship was brief and not of huge significance to Yar, it is clear that the their relationship has some meaning for Data. Perhaps not the same meaning it may have to other humans, but I like the way he says he had become accustomed to her presence even more so than others. He explains friendships to Yar by saying: "As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The input is eventually anticipated, and even missed when absent." It sort of mirrors the way I develop friendships and relationships.

While their relationship was brief and not of huge significance to Yar, it is clear that the their relationship has some meaning for Data. Perhaps not the same meaning it may have to other humans, but I like the way he says he had become accustomed to her presence even more so than others. He explains friendships to Yar by saying: “As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The input is eventually anticipated, and even missed when absent.” It sort of mirrors the way I develop friendships and relationships.

But people don’t seem to have these requirements or don’t seem to define a relationship in the same way I do. One of the reasons I chose to identify as polyamorous in the first place was because of it’s emphasis on love as opposed to swinging which seemed more about casual sex. Except, to be blunt, a lot of polyamorous people are doing exactly the same thing swingers are doing physically, they just call it love. And while I’m not going to tell people who they do and don’t love, I can’t pretend like there isn’t a huge gap in between my needs to cultivate a relationship and other people’s needs. While that’s less of a community problem and more a personal problem, it’s still another reason I’ve chosen to change how I identify.

Every community has some of these issues. There are simply some things that others will tolerate in exchange for what the label brings to their life vs. some of the downsides. I make that sacrifice for the label of “feminist”, but I don’t feel I get much in exchange for the label of “polyamorous” for what it has to mean and the communities I have to interact with. It would be interesting to see how things change, but until then, I prefer to approach things from a simple non-monogamous perspective.

** That’s a reference to the film Fight Club where the narrator is satirising material possessions sold to middle class white people.

This article was published in September 2012 and last updated in September 2014.

46 Comments

  1. I appreciate how you highlight the privilege of relationships. I was dating 2 people at once for a while, at the same time as I was going to work and school both full time. What a recipe for disaster! I didn’t intend to pile all that on my plate, but I really did love both of them as partners. And I simply could not sustain that arrangement as a single person with a 24-hour day.

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  2. Well, I feel neutral on most of this (not enough experience to comment) but I’m with you on the privilege of practicing poly. Also, I don’t think you needed to prove it’s a privilege to have any relationship. I agree with the points you made about that. I’d also like to point out that I’ve long thought that having a marriage-like relationship makes you more privileged. There is societal approval of these kinds of relationships and definitely financial advantages. These advantages *may* mean you’re more able to pay to visit a partner but they also mean you’re probably working full-time and don’t have time for an additional relationship.

    I’ve thought about the issue of kids as well as I picture having them in five years if I continue to desire them more with time. Most poly people I know don’t have kids and I know more poly dads than poly moms. The fact that moms are more likely to have more parental responsibility whether parents are together or split up, means it’s easier for dads to be poly. I’m not saying this is inevitable but I think people who want to have kids and stay poly need to talk about division of responsibility very carefully.

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    1. Oh definitely having a marriage like relationship helps, specifically if you’re straight! I mean there are a lot of ways that relationships and their types can be seen as privileged or not and society definitely signs off on monogamy far more than non-monogamy, but I feel like who the hammer falls on when it comes to discrimination against non-monogamous people depends on a lot. I think a woman getting custody for her kids is more likely than not going to have non-monogamy work against her due to sex shaming and misogyny. A man? Probably not as much. People don’t know enough about non-monogamy to have a system of entitlements and benefits specifically set against or for non-monogamy. What often ends up happening is that, when non-monogamy does become a problem, it becomes a problem in conjunction with other forms of discrimination.

      And I definitely hear you about the children thing. I quite often wonder if, due to the nature of who I date, no matter how many partners I have, I’m very likely going to be a “single parent” in that I am probably going to be the only one who values my child over their own fun, work, and hobbies. And the more I see poly people demonise relationship hierarchies the more convinced I am that I won’t find someone who’s committed to ensuring that children are the top priority.

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    2. As a bisexual cis-woman married to a bisexual cis-man…we’ve been poly from day one. We also have multiple children. And Yes! We had LOTS of conversations about who does what and when. For us, like many poly people…Google calendar is what saves the day! We work around our schedules and we have other partners who are understanding about our time limits. (And in my case wedge me into their insane schedules) They understand that our children are our top priority. Now, while our children were little, we were (mostly) not active in dating others….now that they are getting bigger and no longer need us as intensively as they did when they were babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, we are exploring and dating. And we talk. And talk. And talk some more. It’s doable…but it does take strong co-parenting commitment and a willingness to believe your partner when they call bullshit.

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      1. Not to take away from your story or your feedback but… I think it also takes money. Being middle class probably has a lot to do with the “success” of many Poly families.

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  3. This is really valuable writing. I have somewhat removed myself from the poly community because of an ex who was somewhat abusive to me and has shown a complete inability to respect boundaries and I can’t even approach anyone about it. It’s hard – I can’t think of poly as a queer identity (I am queer but for other reasons) but can be part of LGBT+++ organisations validly as it does carry some of the same issues I think. The one thing I would say that was slightly triggering to me: while some poly people do live off partners so do many mono people – this may well be more true of poly people at least is some areas – and there are a lot of people who are unemployed due to illness or disability. Currently (in the UK at least) the government is running a concerted campaign to make disabled benefit claimants be perceived as spongers and frauds – it was therefore quite difficult to see this not stated as a possibility and unemployment linked to sponging (and also disabled people who are unemployed may have more time they are often have less between treatment and exhaustion and campaigning plus we will often find it harder to get out to see people or not have the money to travel). I could have dealt with one of these – I do not object at all to pointing out that people may subsist off their partners (though some may be too ill to work and unable to get benefits) but I did find that statement without any reference to disabled people unable to work and for that matter people who can’t find work (and may be forced to take unpaid positions depending on their benefits – benefits that are often not enough to live on without further support). It’s hard, I don’t think that if someone has a partner who is well paid then if they make the decision to e.g. give up on benefits after the nth successful appeal is immediately followed by a requirement to reclaim and live and care for their partner (this describes several people I know) as regarded as sponging – sometimes they keep house for their partner in exchange or whatever. So, um, just be mindful about that subject area because it’s somewhere where a lot of mainstream attitude and governmental policy is extremely hurtful in that situation.

    On the gray line between friends and partners (did you mean lovers or do you mean partners? Lover can be an unhelpful term for asexual people) – yeah, I see it can be unhelpful and a way of not having relationship discussions, I do have that but this is because I am mostly asexual (an identity that I hold but with care as this was not always the case) and I become very close to people and love them very easily, I have a number of very close friends who I love dearly, often snuggle and kiss and absolutely have relationship potential but we are not there because any number of circumstances. I do define before a relationship becomes a relationship but at the same time they are definitely not just friends – certainly not friends with benefits almost the opposite – partners without benefits or something – so I think I’d need a further category, the categories being fairly well defined. Hmm, needs thought. But, yeah, I do think it can be problematic when it means people use it to not take responsibility for what they are doing to others which I’ve seen happen.

    I wish there was this conversation more, I just don’t feel able to start it for many reasons including the person mentioned above.

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    1. I get what you’re saying about “mooching”, but I think you’re forgetting the context of who I am and where I am. I’m American, and while I live in the UK, I don’t really think in terms of “benefit scroungers” or any of the class issues that are going on in the UK or the attitudes of the UK government. Yeah, in America we have “welfare queens” and people who supposedly use food stamps to buy lobsters, but none of American unemployment benefits or help for the poor is anywhere near as good as it is in the UK, so it would be and is laughable for anyone to suggest that people can subsist off of gov’t assistance in the US. It’s just not possible. Whereas, in the UK, it is possible to live, maybe not well, but decently with the help of benefits.

      When I’m referring to people mooching, I’m not talking at all about government benefits. I wouldn’t describe people who rely on any sort of benefits as “moochers”. Actually, the people I have in mind who I would describe as “mooching” aren’t even “unemployed” as it were. These people are “employed” but are so by their partners and, in normal circumstances, wouldn’t have that job or that salary and only do so and have hordes of other benefits because of the people they are with. I’m talking about people who attain class privilege through the benefit of their partner’s class privilege, not people who live off of benefits or disability. It’s HARDLY the high life living on any form of benefit. Even though the UK is decent enough to give people more help than the US offers, it’s by no means “mooching”. They’re entitled to some help.

      Hopefully that clears it up because the very LAST thing I support is anyone in the UK who thinks that people who live off of benefits or need that assistance are lesser than anyone else. As a person who’s only alive due to charity donations, food banks, welfare, and other government forms of assistance, I never support that type of crap. And anyone who does should vacate this blog, ASAP and play this game –> http://playspent.org/ And see how fun it is to need help.

      In terms of “lover” and “partner”, I’m not going to define “lover” and “partner” because, as I said, “love” is really a subjective thing to define in the first place. For me, partner/lover are the same thing. I’m not asexual. So when I was referencing my own experience, those two can be interchangable.

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  4. More Than Nuclear September 12, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Very interesting post!

    The point about children is an interesting one, because I definitely consider having a child to be a privilege! Especially for me, considering the fact that my daughter was conceived without medical intervention. A lot of people have to jump through complicated and stressful hoops to become parents, but it was easy and straightforward for us.

    Being a parent has made polyamory more challenging. But polyamory has actually also made many aspects of parenting easier (which I’ve blogged about before). More than one partner meant more than one person to go with me to stressful medical appointments when I was pregnant, and extra support when we were struggling with a newborn. Relationships are more than just a time-suck, and when you’re a parent, the extra support, both emotional and practical, can make your life easier.

    So yes, I consider being in a relationship to be a privilege, but also, no, someone with more than one relationship need not be someone with more more time and resources on their hands. I found having one long distance relationship more difficult, more expensive, and more emotionally taxing than the two relationships I have now combined, and I wasn’t a parent then!

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    1. I think generally people who have more than one relationship DO have more time and resources on their hands. Just because you don’t NEED to be someone who has a lot of time and resources doesn’t mean that having those time and resources open up a lot of doors for you. Whether you need it or not, it doesn’t negate that in many cases the practice of polyamory is a privilege that is most often based on the amount of time people have. I mean seriously, there’s only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. Philosophise as much as you’d like about the intrinsic nature of love and space, but there’s only so much time you can devote to an individual or a task.

      I’m not negating that multiple parents can be useful. They can. But you also don’t need to be polyamorous to have that benefit. A lot of poor families have had to rely on parents, grandparents, and other sources of parenting because of other privileges they lacked. Poly people aren’t the first nor are they the only people to think that nuclear families aren’t the only way to go. In fact, it kind of proves my point that so many poly people are usually class privileged people that they assume that the nuclear family structure is so commonplace that they are outcasted. The nuclear family structure is commonplace perhaps in middle class areas and in certain, usually White dominated, cultures. But it certainly isn’t the norm for poor people.

      And being polyamorous is no guarantee that you are going to have multiple, stable and reliable parents. My two biological parents did not have a relationship with each other, but maintained the presence of having an open relationship. They maintained girlfriends outside of their relationship, but none of their partners have been suitable parents, save for my mother’s current partner now. Adding more people to a family does not guarantee it’s stability and indeed my life has consistently proven to me that, while no child needs “a mother and a father” to thrive, it is incredibly damaging and painful for a child to have people step in and out of their lives, pretending to take on a parental role when in fact they have little to no interest in being a stable figure in a child’s life. And the more I hear some poly people talk about “Relationship Anarchy” and about how evil and bad hierarchies are, the more I’m lax to believe they will make suitable parents for any child. Having more than one person involved does not mean they will be a decent parent. No relationship style will guarantee that.

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  5. 100% agree with you on the way you define the differences between acquaintances, friends and lovers, I never thought about it like that but that’s exactly how it is for me. Although like you I’ve been tossing up the idea of being demisexual – I don’t think I’ve ever been attracted to anyone without knowing them quite well – but it’s really hard to say for sure.

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    1. Yeah, I need to do more reading about “demisexuality”. The way I understood it at first was that you’re only attracted to people you have an emotional bond to and at first I thought, no that couldn’t be me. Because I have huge crushes and attractions on celebrities who I have no emotional bonds with. But then, I’ve recently heard it described more as you’re just very rarely attracted to anyone. And I could easily reframe my thinking and say, well actually I DO have an emotional bond with celebrities, it’s just not reciprical. And the nature of the way I crush on celebs and people tends to be that they are completely neutral attraction wise to start off with, but then as I learn more about them or spend time with them, the attraction grows very strongly. I’m only ever attracted to someone within seconds of seeing them if they remind me of someone I’m already attracted to.

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  6. More Than Nuclear September 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Of course you don’t have to be polyamorous to have the benefit of a non-nuclear family. Sorry if I suggested that! I was convinced of the benefits of extended family support and a “more than nuclear” approach to parenting long before I became non-monogamous, based on my positive experiences growing up. Poly is just one way that dovetails nicely with our approach.

    But multiple *romantic* relationships need not be a time sink any more than multiple close friendships, or multiply family members. All these relationships take time and emotional investment, but also (hopefully) make our lives better in some way. Any loving, supportive relationship is a privilege, whether sex is involved or not. Anyone (especially parents) who has access to love and support outside of their home is privileged.

    If multiple romantic relationships are a privilege, large, stable families are a privilege, and so are friendships. A lot of poor families could really use an extended network and don’t have access to one. I can’t see romantic relationships, and therefore poly, as being a special case in terms of time or privilege.

    (And I didn’t mean to refer to more than two parents – my daughter has two parents, and our additional partners function in her life pretty much like her grandparents, aunts and uncles do.)

    Reply

    1. “But multiple *romantic* relationships need not be a time sink any more than multiple close friendships, or multiply family members. ”

      That’s where you’re not getting it. Relationships tax different resources of different people. I have social anxiety and I’m introverted. People, family members, friends, and potential partners – all people – tax my reserves and my energy. They make me anxious. It takes time for me to get used to people. Just because they NEED not be, doesn’t mean they aren’t for certain people. Hence, for people that form relationships easily or don’t have the same sort of blockades that not having time, spoons, etc. for is a privilege.

      “If multiple romantic relationships are a privilege, large, stable families are a privilege, and so are friendships. ”

      Indeed they are. Stable families are a HUGE privilege. Having stable, mentally healthy, non-abusive adults in your life to help you grow, learn, and build self confidence are resources that are incredibly important that so many people do not have. I did not have the benefit of stable, mentally healthy individuals to raise me. Having friendships, the capacity to form friendships, the access to friendships, and not being isolated from your peers is also a privilege. Many disabled people who are safeguarded and infantilised do not have the privilege of making friends in the same way abled people are. Many people who are on the spectrum or have mental illnesses find it incredibly difficult to form stable friendships.

      And in terms of “benefitting” from a non-nuclear family, having a “non-traditional” family hasn’t been a “benefit” for poor people. It’s been a necessity. There’s a huge difference between a couple of economically privileged individuals combining to support children under one household vs. a poor family that has grandparents living with them because they can’t afford childcare. For poor people, having a “non-traditional” family has not been a source of positivity and has actually, at least in the US, has been the subject of a lot of stigma. My point in highlighting that is to say that a lot of poly people can look at what their doing as “alternative parenting” because they come from positions of economic power where two parent, stable nuclear families are the norm, whereas poor people have been doing “alternative parenting” because they have had no other alternatives.

      Reply

  7. For a lot of reasons, my community involvement has been online only, which means I’ve been spared a lot of the bullshit, and can easily walk away when I get tired of it. I haven’t seen everything you describe, though I have seen some of it.

    For me, IDing as polyamorous is about how I choose to live and form relationships, not about how other people do. The same way I wouldn’t expect a Christian to stop calling themselves Christ followers b/c some Christians are assholes, I don’t stop calling myself poly because some poly-folk are assholes. But you need to do what is right for you. And more power to you, that you know what that is.

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    1. For me, identities are mostly about what you get out of them. Whatever inclinations or lifestyle I choose to have, I will have. But for me, establishing myself with a named label has to have a purpose. I choose to ID as queer for a lot of reasons. I choose to ID as genderqueer for a lot of reasons. There are a lot of other ways I could choose to describe myself, but I choose certain labels with a purpose. And I chose “polyamory” specifically for a purpose, and since then found it has failed to add anything positive to my life or identity as a label. Being “polyamorous” by definition means nothing more than being “non-monogamous” and in fact, I prefer “non-monogamous” because it isn’t associated with the polyamory community. So for me, it’s less about not being poly or not doing non-monogamy because of what other people do and more about realising that calling myself polyamorous adds nothing positive to my life.

      And honestly, I wish more Christians examined their religious convictions or identification as Christians because of the behaviour of other Christians. There might be a lot less assholery going around if that were the case.

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  8. More Than Nuclear September 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    “Relationships tax different resources of different people.” Ah, then we agree, because that was pretty much my point. That’s why I said “need not” rather than “are not”. I’m trying to make the point that having two romantic relationships is not *necessarily* time consuming in the way you describe in your post. I have more time and freedom than I would do if I was a single parent, for example.

    “Indeed they are huge privileges. Stable families are a HUGE privilege. Having stable, mentally healthy, non-abusive adults in your life to help you grow, learn, and build self confidence are all huge privileges.”
    Yes, very clearly! But we are saying here that multiple relationships of any sort GIVE you privilege (which is undeniable, I think), whereas you said in your post that they require privilege to have/keep, which is different Would you really say to someone with two loving parents: “wow, you must have a lot of time on your hands!”? I don’t see the logic in singling out polyamory for special criticism here, when most of the people with this privilege are not polyamorous.

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    1. The point you’re trying to make in saying the NEED NOT be time consuming is to deny privilege. It is irrelevant that you don’t find it taxing. Some people may have anxiety disorder and not find it taxing. That does not make it any easier for me nor does it make people without mental illnesses any less privileged.

      Of course you have more time than a single parent. That does not mean that every other person who practices polyamory also has that time. And how, I wonder, do you expect single parents to do what you do? That’s my point. You have the time. You have the resources. And most of that is due to privilege. I’d challenge you to find time to date multiple people as a single parent working 50 hours a week to keep your head above the water on your monthly bills. My guess is you wouldn’t have time for yourself, let alone for others.

      “Yes, very clearly! But we are saying here that multiple relationships of any sort GIVE you privilege (which is undeniable, I think),”

      Nope, we’re not saying that. I said STABLE individuals. Multiple =/= stable.

      “…whereas you said in your post that they require privilege to have/keep, which is different Would you really say to someone with two loving parents: “wow, you must have a lot of time on your hands!”? I don’t see the logic in singling out polyamory for special criticism here, when most of the people with this privilege are not polyamorous.”

      Your assumption is that people who are polyamorous are 1. interested in families or 2. all have partners willing to contribute towards one large *stable* family. Polyamory could give you the privilege of maybe having more help, but that’s not a guarantee nor it is inherent toward having multiple relationships. In fact, if you have seen people who believe in “Relationship Anarchy”, or not valuing any of their relationships over one another, I don’t see how they would value your family or your child over any other thing going on in their life. I said having a stable family is a privilege. But a large family does not make a stable one nor is a guarantee of childcare. Having more than one individual for childcare is not a privilege polyamory gives you. And having more than one individual to take care of a child means something very difficult when it’s a bunch of middle class surburban people dating each other than it does when a single mother working 50 hours a week has to get her elderly grandmother to watch her four year old because the father’s absent and she has to work until 11 PM. Those two instances are cases where people have more than one individual to look after a child and in those cases the context is what’s important. You’re misunderstanding what I’m reading.

      It is perfectly possible for something to require privilege to maintain but also give you privileges. In fact, it’s quite often the case that when you are privileged, you have a greater access to benefits. Rich people tend to pay less for food than poor people do because they can afford to buy things in bulk quantities or have access to lower priced food resources and don’t have to deal with food deserts or transportation difficulties poor people face. Your suggestion that a person may have more parental resources due to polyamory does not make the practice of polyamory not a privilege.

      Why am I singling out polyamory? Precisely because of this conversation here. Time and time again, this is what I see in the poly community. People with an astounding amount of privilege telling me that practicing polyamory isn’t a privilege. That in order for me to consider it a privilege, I have to consider x, y, and z a privilege. I’m singling it out because I see an enormous amount of denial going on.

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  9. More Than Nuclear September 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    And in terms of “benefitting” from a non-nuclear family, having a “non-traditional” family hasn’t been a “benefit” for poor people. It’s been a necessity.

    No. It is still a privilege that many poor people do not have. My mother is a refugee who sought asylum in this country with her mother and no one else. They had no one else to rely on, and like most refugees, had few resources to lean on. Having an extended family network to rely on is a privilege that not everyone has.

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    1. No shit it’s been a privilege many poor people do not have. My mother is a survivor of sexual, mental, physical, emotional, and psychological abuse from her father, stepfather, and mother. And I was disowned by my own father. I’m pretty well aware that family networks aren’t things people have.

      But poor people struggling to take care of their families is not analogous to a bunch of middle class non-monogamous people who have CHOSEN their “alternative” lifestyle. That was my point. Your “alternative” lifestyle is only an “alternative” lifestyle within the contexts of socioeconomic privilege.

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  10. More Than Nuclear September 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    (Sorry, meant to put your words above in quotes!)

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  11. More Than Nuclear September 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    “The point you’re trying to make in saying the NEED NOT be time consuming is to deny privilege. It is irrelevant that you don’t find it taxing.” This is not a denial of privilege. Your claim that ALL relationships are taxing and time consuming is incorrect, and I pointed that out. I am not denying that it is time consuming and taxing for some, and I am not denying that *not* finding it time consuming or taxing isn’t a privilege. I agree that it *is* a privilege. We do not disagree on this point.

    I never said that my position was indicative of polyamorous people or families as a whole, or that my experience applies to “every polyamorous parent” as you claim I think it does. I’m just pointing out that SOME situations, including mine, contradict some of your points, (which do make assumptions about *all* polyamorous relationships.) I’m not arguing that more relationships = more benefit as you say I am, I’m saying that it *can* be the case. I’m not saying that larger families are always better, or that two parents are always better than one, or that extra relationships always equals extra benefit.

    “And how, I wonder, do you expect single parents to do what you do? That’s my point.” No – that was *my* point. Why are you so keen to twist my points to oppose yours? I brought up single parents to make the point that relationships do not NECESSARILY cause a drain on your time, as you seem to think. The opposite can be true. (Please note – I said “can be true” not “is true”.) As it happens, I do know some polyamorous single parents, which is how I know how much easier it is for me. I know that being partnered with my child’s other parent privileges me.

    “It is perfectly possible for something to require privilege to maintain but also give you privileges.” Agreed. But there is nothing about the privilege gained from relationships in your original post, so I was pointing out that it exists, and you seem to agree with me. That’s all.

    “Why am I singling out polyamory? Precisely because of this conversation here. Time and time again, this is what I see in the poly community. People with an astounding amount of privilege telling me that practicing polyamory isn’t a privilege.” Hang on. I have said MANY MANY times that I do consider my two partners to be an incredible privilege. So if you somehow manage to read my ACKNOWLEDGEMENT of privilege as a denial of it, then yes, I can see how you see privilege denial going on everywhere.

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    1. “I never said that my position was indicative of polyamorous people or families as a whole, or that my experience applies to “every polyamorous parent” as you claim I think it does. ”

      Then why are you trying to use it as a way to prove polyamorous practices are not a result of privilege. Again, your personal acedata does not make it not a privilege. If other people have no problem juggling work and mental illness, it does not mean others don’t or that not having a mental illness is not a privilege.

      “I have said MANY MANY times that I do consider my two partners to be an incredible privilege.”

      Yet you blatantly said: “I can’t see romantic relationships, and therefore poly, as being a special case in terms of time or privilege.”

      You’ve said: “But we are saying here that multiple relationships of any sort GIVE you privilege (which is undeniable, I think), whereas you said in your post that they require privilege to have/keep, which is different”

      You continue to argue, AGAIN AND AGAIN, that practicing polyamory is not a privileged state or at least, you’re trying to bring up the multitude of ways other people can be privileged, seemingly in an attempt to either downgrade poly practices as privileges or derail from the conversation.

      I don’t care if a green assed alien with a time turner has 50 partners, 20 mental disorders, 18 children, and manages it all with a flick of the wrist — practicing polyamory is a privilege.

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  12. More Than Nuclear September 17, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    “But poor people struggling to take care of their families is not analogous to a bunch of middle class non-monogamous people who have CHOSEN their “alternative” lifestyle.” Then why did you make the analogy? You’re the one who compared the two, not me. As soon as I agree with you, you attack me because the two are “not analogous”.

    First of all you said that poor people benefited from the non-nuclear family long before the polyamarous did. When I agreed with you, you said that an extended family network was a necessity, *not* a “benefit” for poor families. Now you are back to agreeing with me that being able to rely on people outside the nuclear family *is* a privilege for poor people, but attacking me for comparing that privilege to the privilege that polyamorous parents have, when *you’re* the one that made the comparison in the first place. You’re so keen to disagree with me that you’re contradicting yourself.

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    1. Um, no. You don’t understand the concept of privilege. I didn’t make that comparison. What I said was that there was nothing special snowflakey about poly people not being nuclear families because poor people have had no other alternative to do that for centuries. Not wasn’t for their “benefit” in the same way that your multiple partners may or may not give you benefits in raising children. It is a NECESSITY. Now, poor people who don’t have access to those structures, shit they’re VERY fucked. And poor people who do have access to family that can help them with children, they are privileged in that regard. But that privilege is not bloody comparable to a group of middle class people raising a family in suburbia. Relying on family because you have no other options, no other economic resources, and no other ability to afford childcare is not the same as relying on partners in a lifestyle you all chose and agreed to. There is a huge difference there. And if you don’t understand that difference, you need to pull your head out of your bum.

      I’m not attacking you. I’m refusing to let you sit here and act like the practice of polyamory is not a privilege. Or at least “not a bad” in comparison to every other ways people can be privileged. I’m tired of you derailing the original point and THIS, this right here? This is why I’m sick and tired of poly communities.

      Blatant denial. Derailing. Bullshit. The fact that you think that having a stable family or having a network of friends isn’t also a privilege is astounding and speaks for itself.

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  13. I’m not arguing that polyamory doesn’t require privilege and I agree that practising polyamory is a privilege. But (as you’ve already agreed) *all* happy, supportive relationships are a privilege, including friendships, so the vast majority of people in the UK who have this privilege are *not* polyamorous. The polyamorous are a tiny subset of those who benefit in this way, so I don’t see the logic in attacking them. That’s not to say that there aren’t other privileges that are endemic in the polyamorous community. But this one is more of a pandemic.

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    1. I’m not “attacking” polyamory or polyamorists. This is about me and why I choose not to identify within the community. It’s not just about poly being a privilege – it’s about the denial and the superiority. A lot of supportive relationships can be a privilege to have, but not all supportive relationships are equal. Familial relationships are not the same as friendships. Romantic relationships are not the same as work relationships. Of course everyone is privileged next to someone who’s been locked in a closet for most of their life – but it does not negate the privileges and marginalisations that people have. THAT is why you are denying privilege, because you’re seeing it as a zero sum game, as if it doesn’t intersect, as if – if one thing is privileged – then another isn’t. And the fact that you think that calling out that privilege and naming it is an “attack”. It’s not an attack. And unless you are assimilating cultures, the Poly Patriarch, or someone who thinks they’re superior by virtue of being poly – this article does not personally attack you at all.

      You continuously sit and act like romantic relationships, because they apparently don’t take up time and energy for you, must not be privileged due to time and energy. Honestly, I really would like you to sit here and tell me that relationships, specifically romantic ones, and the pursuit of them do not take up that much time and energy and that someone without much time and energy, due to economic and other marginalisations, has as much access and ability to form relationships as you do. Please, tell me that a single mother with 2 kids and 40 hour work week, and a $13k a year income has the exact same access and abilities to form multiple relationships as you do. Because that’s bloody rich.

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  14. “The fact that you think that having a stable family or having a network of friends isn’t also a privilege is astounding and speaks for itself.” Okay, now you are just trolling me. Not only have I claimed repeatedly that having a stable family and/or a network of great friends gives someone tremendous privilege, it is really the cornerstone of most of my points. I have no idea why you are convinced my beliefs are the opposite of what I’m saying they are, nor do I know why you are claiming not to have said something which is still in print on this page, but it does explain why this exchange isn’t going anywhere. Good bye, and I hope you enjoy non-monogamy.

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    1. I apologise. The way you’re stating these things previously sounds like you’re saying, “Well if one relationship is a privilege, then a stable family must be too!” in some sort of sardonic, sarcastic way. As another way of denying that practicing poly is a privilege.

      I’m convinced that you’re denying the privilege inherent in polyamorous practices because you seem so apt to point out all of the other different ways which people can be privileged. That’s derailing. And it’s missing the broader point. Having a stable family =/= practicing polyamory. Having a lot of friends =/= practicing polyamory. All of the ways in which you’re so apt to describe people as privileged because they have access to does not make polyamory as a practice any less privileged, nor does it mean that it shouldn’t be pointed out.

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  15. Thank you for this article.

    13 years ago I read “Ethical Slut” and was amazed and reassured that there were words for some things that I felt, and ways that I wanted to live.

    I made the mistake – as many others did – of thinking it was a manual of how I “should” live a non-monogamous life, and ruined some really good relationships as a result. Then I said “screw that”, and just started listening to myself and my partners instead.

    I never deeply entered the “poly community” because I quickly perceived the same problems you elaborate in this article. Certainly not as clearly, not right away, but strongly enough that the sense of something not quite right kept me from joining the crowd.

    I still labeled myself as poly for a time, but gradually realized that the term itself was binding me to the people whose practices I couldn’t support, for many of the reasons you state.

    You raise very important and sensitive issues here, and I can’t say you state them too strongly. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how many people who need to read and reflect on what you have to say will actually do so. That said, even if no one listens it is valuable to state your truth, and I salute you for doing so. Thank you.

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  16. Okay, this makes a bit more sense to me now. I didn’t at all mean to be sarcastic in anything I’ve posted.

    “You continuously sit and act like romantic relationships, because they apparently don’t take up time and energy for you, must not be privileged due to time and energy.”
    No, I’m saying that they aren’t inherently privileged over and above relationships that do not involve romance. (For time and energy, at least.)

    “I’m convinced that you’re denying the privilege inherent in polyamorous practices because you seem so apt to point out all of the other different ways which people can be privileged.” That’s not my intention, because I don’t see them as “different ways”. It seems like the same privilege to me, and just the relationships which are different. You might find that your romantic relationships take up more of your time and energy than your family relationships, but plenty of people find family far more draining. You might find that a romantic partner offers fantastic emotional support in tough times, but someone else might have a close friend that they lean on more. Some people get more support and love from one friendship than another person gets from three or four combined. It’s easy to separate out our relationships into different categories, but that doesn’t mean that the privilege required to form and maintain them or the privilege we gain by having them is going to be different.

    Friendships aren’t the same as romantic relationships, but no two friendships are the same, either. Relationships are *all* different. What is required by and gained from *my* relationships varies hugely, and if I packaged up all the romantic ones, all the sexual ones, all the friendships and all the biological family ones, there would be a lot of overlap there. If yours don’t overlap, then I can see why you think you can separate them out like this and just dismiss the privilege involved in the others as “different”. But I don’t think you should assume that your experiences are indicative of everyone else’s.

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    1. “No, I’m saying that they aren’t inherently privileged over and above relationships that do not involve romance. (For time and energy, at least.)”

      And there’s where we disagree. Family and friends are completely different social relationships to romance. Many people, even socially taxed people like myself, grow up with family or with people they interact with every day whom they would call “friends”. Now, we can quibble over the extent to which you can develop these relationships, or how shitty and terrible they can be, but the fact of the matter is that it’s quite normalised for most of the population to develop familial and friendship relations. In fact, it’s so normalised that people feel required to maintain contact with family or friends they don’t even really like, because that is imbued and expected in our culture.

      And to a certain extent, having a relationship is an expectation, which is where discrimination against asexual people comes into play. Because at a certain age it becomes abnormal and wrong for a person (especially a read woman) to not have a relationships.

      Multiple relationships? No one expects a person to enter to that. And quite often people have to go out of their way to form poly relationships. Not only do they have to find the time, resources, and energy to date, but they have to have the time, energy, and resources to date people open to open relationships and to manage the relationships they already have. Not all relationships are the same, nor do they require the same energy.

      “It seems like the same privilege to me, and just the relationships which are different.”

      No, it isn’t. Because quite often the ability to access these things is dependant upon multiple privileges. It’s not the same privilege.

      Again, I really, really encourage you to work a 50 hour work week, on a £12k salary, with two kids and then tell me how easy it is to date. I really, really want to hear that the privilege to form new romantic relationships, especially with people outside of your immediate social circle, is analogous to you having a sister you confide in who you’ve known from birth.

      “But I don’t think you should assume that your experiences are indicative of everyone else’s.”

      Pretty sure that I didn’t write this article, nor did I even frame it with the assumption that relationships take everyone the same time and energy as they take mine. In fact, if you read it again, I specifically point out that this is a personal issue. And regardless of how much time and energy it takes, that doesn’t excuse the rest of the problematic aspects of the poly community that have me frustrated. The appropriation, the superiority, etc. All of that. It sounds like you read some bits about privilege, got defensive, and didn’t bother to read the rest.

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  17. Hi – I am the Managing Director of the futurist/transhumanist think tank Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology and I’d like to post your writing on our site, or link to it. I really love what you’re writing about and we’d like to have a relationship with you – I’d like to have you join our team of public intellectuals. If interested, contact me at hankp@ieet.org

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  18. Thanks for directing me this way. You pretty much list all the reasons I also do not identify as poly. I tend to sum it up as poly just means too push to swing. There are thousands of working class people having non monogamous relationships throughout Britain, I quickly discovered the poly “community” did not count them. Middle class assumptions and Class privilege screamed out of the attitudes I encountered.
    Which is not to say swinging is a utopia, far from it, but there are different reasons I do not identify as a swinger (mainly around slut shaming)
    Your analysis of one of the biggest problems with BDSM is spot on. Why on earth the fact someone is kinky should make them a good person constantly astounds us over at Hobby (Our blatherings) and you might like this on that very point.http://itsjustahobby.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/flame-wars-and-fire-fighting/

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    1. I appreciate that so many people are talking about the sort of Darwinistic expectation in the BDSM community of weeding out abusers. I really wish this sort of attitude would apply to poly circles or if people could explore the ways in which poly could be ideal for some abusers. Oyye. Maybe one day.

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  19. I love this post and all the points are valuable.

    I still find the poly label handy however when encountering the world outside of my alternative/queer/kinky/poly/whatever community where one needs not to explain. Polyamory just sounds like more of a *thing* (it has a name so it must be real?) —more than non-monogamy—to people who have never even heard of anything else but maybe swinging. As subjective the concept of “love” is, the word itself has a positive connotation.
    And since I am parenting in a hetero, middle class. mostly 2 parent family community, (albeit in a tolerant metropolis) getting people on board with the fact that my family is some kind of OK is important, so polyamory has been a marketing word for me.

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    1. Ah. Generally speaking I’m trans* and have the experience of being raised in a queer family. My family was never “some kind of OK” from the start so perhaps I feel less pressured to take on “polyamory” as opposed to “non-monogamy” to explain myself. I wouldn’t be accepted probably in a lot of cis hetero middle class circles just on my own, let alone non-monogamy being an issue. They’d have an issue with my gender identity more than they would my non-monogamy.

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  20. the way i see it is if you’re attracted romantically to more than one person at the same time, you are poly, no matter how else matters are. can you be? are you open to the possibility? would you have a romantic relationship with more than one person? if so, what the poly community does or believes should not necessarily be a big issue with how you identify yourself. you may not agree with the community, you may not identify yourself as being with the community, you may even run away from them and never look back and damn them for the rest of your life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot be ‘poly’. similarly, you do not need to be in that kind of relationship to identify as ‘poly’.

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    1. I think you’re missing the point. Labels are things we choose for ourselves. I would describe myself as “non-monogamous”, not “poly” and for me, the distinction is important to make. I put a label on myself for specific purposes and if I feel like there’s more cons than pros toward taking on a label, then I’ll not take it on. What that label means does have a huge impact on me and I don’t want to associate myself with a community that I feel doesn’t represent me.

      I’m aware that I can physically do anything I like and that the actions of the poly community don’t affect my own personal inclinations of what I want to do. The point is that there is a power in names and in labels. Just as I choose to call myself “queer”, I choose to call myself “non-monogamous” rather than “poly”.

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  21. [...] I’m still strongly opposed a culture of compulsory monogamy but, for a variety of personal and political reasons, I no longer (or very rarely) describe myself as “polyamorous”. I have also, to [...]

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  22. [...] Boldly Go: Why I’m No Longer “Poly” [...]

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  23. Thank you for this.
    I know this is an old post, but it really helps me get my thoughts in order about the problems I’ve experienced with polyamory, at least from a political perspective.  In my own life, I am shifting from poly to monogamous, but I fear that I’m abandoning some of my principles.  This helps me look at poly in a new context, and it is enormously helpful for me.

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  24. Just a thought that one of the advantages of polyamory (though I prefer Relationship Anarchy) for me is exactly the oposite of your problem about time constraints. People who have other ‘primary’ partners are happy to have meaningful relationships with me even though I don’t have the time to see them more than once every few months, which means that although I spend most of my time alone, I still have several significant others who I can contact when I need emotional support. Even though I see them very infrequently they don’t feel like I’m not meeting their needs.

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    1. I don’t see why this also couldn’t be possible within monogamy. There’s plenty of people who are introverted and prefer alone time who can also be monogamous. Personally, I have a higher threshold of contact required for me to have a “meaningful relationship” with someone. But I guess a lot of this is up to how you define “meaningful relationship”. For me, part of what makes a relationship a relationship vs. just a friendship is that the person becomes someone I can rely on and count on, someone who is supportive to me, and someone who is interested in my day to day life. Otherwise, the person is just a friend who I can sleep with. Other people don’t have or want lines between friendship and relationship, but I personally do. Especially if I’m going to have a family. I’m going to have to have people who are willing to commit to being part of a child’s life, regardless of the status of our current romantic inclinations. And if I don’t have that commitment, I don’t have the time or emotional energy to expend on people who only want to see me one or two months.

      I don’t really like “Relationship Anarchy” either. I find it just as problematic and eyeroll-worthy as white anarchists are in real life.

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      1. Fair enough. I’ll probably change my mind later on.

        Reply

  25. Interesting perspective. As a poor, Black Pansexual, I’m not changing my mind about being Polyamorous but it’s good to hear a difference of opinion on these matters.

    I wish you the best.

    Do you mind if I share this with a Black and Poly group I’m a member of?

    Reply

    1. Sure. Absolutely.

      Reply

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