First things first. I have not yet read this book. It’s on my list and I will get to it eventually, but I have way too much on my plate at the moment.
However, I’ve been hearing about it for the better part of this year and it has piqued my curiosity. Today, I came across a post by Emily Nagoski on the subject, which is why it’s in my head. Her post was interesting, as always (go read it), and I’m writing this post mostly because I liked her negative take on it (seriously, go read it) and because I wanted to record my comment here.
[snip]I’m polyamorous and quite a few people I know have been telling me this book is fantastic because it ‘proves’ that we were ‘meant’ to be polyamorous. I haven’t had the time to read it myself yet, but statements like that set off my BS sensors.
I agree with the statement above (actually I agree with all of them) that this is the good old appeal-to-authority fallacy in action. If it’s ‘natural’ then we can’t help it, which means we are not the “bad” people that flouting convention makes us. Way to get yourselves off the hook.
Personally, I’d rather take active responsibility for my life and choices.
The breathless buzz about this book, specially in poly circles, irks me. It suggests that people are desperately hungry for justification and validation and that their own ability to reason isn’t good enough. Now, everyone has a different level of confidence in themselves and a lack of confidence is not really the worst thing ever. I can have all the confidence in the world and still make a stupid decision – it’s not about that. What pisses me off is that people aren’t prepared to own their decisions.
I think that polyamory is right for me. I made the choice to be polyamorous after a lot of thought and a lot of discussion with H. We decided that it sounded reasonable and was worth trying. Then we read some more and talked to more people and got to know the community and kept checking in with each other to make sure it was still ok. Now, years later, I can say that it worked. I’m happy, H is happy, my other partners are happy. There have been ups and downs, of course, and not all my relationships have lasted, but that’s life.
But I also know that for all that effort and reasoning and care, I may yet fall flat on my face. Knowing what I do and knowing myself, I can only say that I don’t think that will happen, but I have no guarantee. And that’s ok. I’m doing the best I can to the best of my knowledge. I don’t need someone to pat me on the head and tell me that I’m doing what I’m ‘programmed’ to do (unless that happens to be reasoning, thinking and acting responsibly. And even then, you pat my head at your own risk.). That is patronizing and deeply offensive. But more importantly, this kind of biological determinism is also potentially harmful because it effectively absolves us of responsibility for our actions. It suggests that we can’t help doing these things and that we have no control over our own lives and inclinations. From where I sit, that’s a whole lot of hooey.
(To be updated once I’ve read the book. Probably next year.)