Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

The first step February 21, 2008

Filed under: Bisexuality,Monogamy — Araliya @ 11:48 am
Tags: ,

Pinning down what this is about is proving a bit difficult, mainly because I’m not entirely sure myself. So I thought I’d start at one kind of beginning and go from there.

When we were about six years old, my best friend and I told our parents that we wanted to get married to each other when we grew up. It made perfect sense to us because we couldn’t see why girls could only go out with boys when boys were so smelly and noisy. We were promptly ‘separated’, which was a bit stupid considering we went to school together, but it did mean that we could no longer run over to the other’s house when we wanted to play and that, after we were allowed to see each other again – shortly before I moved away – our mothers always hovered nearby, as if waiting for something to happen. What, exactly, was never explained to us but we understood somehow that touching each other would be a bad idea; ‘bad’ not because we thought there was anything wrong with it, but because other people would not like it and might punish and separate us again. And by touching, I mean holding hands and kissing a bit, which we discovered was quite a pleasant thing to do, but not something I would call sexual at all. We were six. It felt nice. That was it.

I wonder if it would have been better or worse for me if I had told them that, honorable intentions towards my little girlfriend aside, I also had crushes on a few boys. Older boys, of course, since most of the hygiene-challenged creatures my age were my friends and didn’t look like anything one was supposed to have crushes on. But talking about boys – even just friends – was another taboo, so I kept quiet.

That pattern has remained pretty constant since then. There are certain kinds of men who make my knees go all wobbly, but my interest in them is purely sexual and I have no desire to get to know them (other than biblically, as it were). There are others that I have very loving, intimate friendships with, but with whom I don’t want the hassle and politics of a sexual relationship. Basically, with men, sex is sex, love is love and while it’s wonderful when the two coincide, it’s not necessary. I’ve never actively looked for a man to fuck or love or be friends with either. It just happens. All the bloody time.

Women, on the other hand, are a more complicated proposition mainly because I can’t switch off the emotional attachment in favor of the sexual. That doesn’t mean I don’t have purely platonic relationships with women – in fact, I have almost nothing but. The few relationships that have been anything like sexual have been extremely intense and wonderful but largely unfruitful because ultimately the risk, both personal and social, of going there, has been too huge.

So I’ve dithered.

And while dithering, I have landed myself not just in another straight relationship, but in a marriage. A wonderful, warm, loving, intense, committed, non-restrictive, happy marriage, yes, but also one that is entirely monogamous. If you would like to virtually whack me upside the head, please feel free to do so.

It’s not that I have a problem with commitment – I have no desire to end my relationship with my husband (henceforth H). But I do have a problem with monogamy. I think it’s too much to ask of a person to be all things to another. And, like it or not, we do all go outside our primary relationships for something, be it intellectual stimulation, fun, emotional support, or whatever, so why the restriction on sex? Neither of us wants children, so there are no potential paternity, pregnancy or child-rearing issues and no social fallout for potential children to worry about. We’re not possessive or jealous – we are both very comfortably with members of the opposite sex, sometimes more so than with our own, and nobody has a problem with that. We’re both all about safe sex and contraception, so infections are not an issue. We’re both quite private and, beyond basic updates on activities, don’t discuss our relationship or each other even with our parents and siblings, so it’s not like we’ll have to deal with their judgment. So then what?

I don’t know. It’s not that I’m confused. I know exactly what I want. The question is, is it workable?


3 Responses to “The first step”

  1. angrylemming Says:

    First off: I’ve stumbled across your blog, via a post to a chort of mine, and have been enthralled by its content. Your articulation is admirable.
    Second: It warms my little black heart to know somebody out there knows how to properly use “platonic”. I’d given up trying to give people the actual background of the word when they’d use it merely, solely, for friendship between members of opposing sex.
    Thirdly: I’d be interested in your exact reasoning regarding polyamory. Specifically I have in mind the four “aspects”, if you will, of a “loving” relationship: 1) Existential care (“letting beings be”; 2) Respect (“act so that the maxim of your action can be made a universal law of nature you yourself were a part”); 3) Desire for Knowledge (“the cyclical desire to know all which can be known of a given object of inquiry”); 4) Responsibility (“the inducement of actions by way of knowledge and informed judgment”); in that order of course. While these may be grounded further (via Kant, Ponty and Fromm), I’ve boiled-down the best possible paraphrase I can in quotations. The aspects of a loving relationship can and often are heteronomously determined by other factors in execution, the universal ideal remains unscathed in all the research for and since my thesis on the idea of the ens realissimum as love. All that said, in so far as polyamory is concerned, I have found significant problems in the rendering of a basic principle by which it can overcome or meet these aspects. Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual relationships can all fall within these borders under the monogamous, or pseudo-monogamous (bisexual-active), relationship structures. But polyamory always ends up the polyglot: very fluent in multiple languages, but ends up confused and “babbling” under pressure and within strife. And as these aspects inveritably lead to a pressed reciprocity, then polyamory fails to test faithful to such universals. If you feel these universals need adjustment and could offer ground for those changes please do. I’m always looking for more information and new perspectives. Explicitly, I’m wondering how “love” can be applicable to a polyamorous relationship. The poly and amor do not seem to intersect at the agapic level, which is assumed in the English “love”, as used in the marital sense. I do conceed, to be clear, that the eros and philios (or abstractly amor) can be satisfied within polyamory. (I know, I’m agreeing that poly-amor is possible, but functioning within an English fluency, I’m trying to get at agape as the primary form of “love” – which you must also feel free to disagree with.)
    Sorry if this come across rather satanic (in the Hebraic, adversarial, sense), but that is the role I’m used to playing and your blog has touched that nerve of academic and human interest in me. Please do respond soon.

  2. Araliya Says:

    Personal philosophies are seldom worthy of the name. They tend to be riddled with holes, oversights, outright errors and judgments that seemed right at the time but prove to have been rather stupid in retrospect.
    I say all of this because I don’t know if I can answer your question about agapic vs. philial and erotic love in a polyamorous context. Not objectively at least. Not honestly. Not yet.
    I will say that I see love as more fluid than divisions in to agape, philia and eros make it out to be and that it needn’t be a one-or-the-other proposition. Polyamory, too, is something that takes different forms or models and I think these have something to do with how the individual participants perceive their relationships and their needs within it. Not having practiced it myself yet, I can’t comment on what works or why. And judging from the conversations I have had with polyamorous individuals, there isn’t a single answer, at least on the face of it. For example, I know of one individual who has two lifetime commitments, one with their spouse and one with a same-sex partner who is also married. While the latter couple cannot legally be married, they intend to make it ‘unofficially official’ anyway. From the outside, both these relationships seem to fall into agape. At the same time, all involved have other relationships as well that fall into the other two categories.
    Another example is a couple where one partner has multiple relationships but is clear that the spouse is their primary partner and that all others would be cut off if necessary. Their involvement with their other partners, while intense, are sometimes purely emotional and sometimes purely sexual. To my knowledge, there is no other commitment – the marriage remains central.
    I cite these examples because they all seem to work for everyone involved – these are people who have been married and partnered for over a decade and who seem to be doing fine. Not being privy to the inner workings of their relationships though, I cannot offer a more thorough analysis.
    Perhaps, with more data, it would be possible to come to some sort of conclusion regarding the types of love that are to be found in polyamorous relationships.
    This non-answer notwithstanding, you are welcome to come play satan here anytime you like. I don’t like it when I get placid and even self-congratulatory because it usually means I’m being lazy. A good kick in the pants is always welcome.

  3. angrylemming Says:

    I appreciate the permit, most people don’t seem to like dissenters or questioning – I’ve never understood that. Like you said, “a good kick in the pants” is what keeps us alive and evolving. Why would anyone choose to be lazy? It’s no fun.

    In defense of the Hellenics, eros leads to and is a part of philios, while eros and philios are prerequisite and part of agape. The three ideas of love are fluid, which I probably should have clarified above. The dynamic nature of the Hellenic understanding of love and of relationships from the personal to the political makes it easier to see why their society was more open to bisexuality and heterosexual exploration into carnal realms outside of the norm – still, they regarded purely homosexual males as worthy of the death penalty, so win some lose some. In the English speaking world, we use “love” to designate many different things and tend to think in terms of divisive concepts and one-or-the-other. I blame the heavy influence of JS Mill and the Objectivist movement (ironically founded by a polyamorist, Ayn Rand). I hope that helps to clarify my rather loose use of structural language. I’ve rusted my Italian, Greek and Latin to near uselessness and English is very limiting in respect to abstract concepts which are also dynamically real.
    I agree on arm-chair philosophies, they seldom turn out anything worthwhile. A certain critical habit and thoroughness in research just doesn’t occur without dialog and equal or better critics ripping down anything soft they can find.
    I’ll be keeping an eye on things here and will be particularly interested how this ends up working (or not) for you.

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