Wednesday 9 November 2011

Polyamourous Ideology – How Monogamy enslaved the West

 We live in an idealistically Monogamous (but commonly serially monogamous) culture, which evolved out of the city States systems in classical civilisations, adopted by early Roman Christianity and spread out from there, taken up by Ashkenazi Jews in the Middle Ages and during the Ages of Conquest and Imperialism, the “West” (Protestant England and Catholic France and Spain) forced Monogamy as a Christian virtue to the peoples of the Americas, Asia and Africa.

So, for the past few thousand years Monogamy was seen as a hallmark of civilisation, Polygamous cultures being backwards, less evolved.  You still see evidence of this mindset with comments suggesting women who choose non monogamous family structures are badly educated, weak willed or bad mothers, doing a disservice to themselves and/or their families.

Those of us who choose non-monogamy for ourselves often like to appeal to the romantic libertarianism of the mainstream “Look, what effect does my life have on you”? we ask “We just want the right to live and love as we please”.

It is a tactic that has served the gay community very well these last few decades but I am going to address a different point, the point that yes, Monogamy is the current standard, but it is a standard that has been cultured and put forward as the One True Way, not because it is easier or even because it is more stable but because it was a form of social control.  Entrusting that a family was smaller with less breadwinners available meant that a man was more likely to be tied to providing for his family regardless of whether he was being exploited, the family was more mobile, moving from place to place, breaking old tribal ties, women were removed from working outside the home by virtue of having sole responsibility of raising and bearing the children of the family.

City States controlled who was entitled to become a member of their society, citizenship allowing a certain amount of wealth creation.  If citizenship is denied to non legitimatised children, it allowed the State to control who had access to citizenry and therefore restricting wealth creation and political power to a privileged few, those who had the permission from the State.

  The Industrial revolution furthered the rot, ensuring that the nuclear family became the norm, so the extended family structure became obsolete as young families moved to the Industrial heartlands, this meant the last Western intra-family support systems were lost and we became a culture that required institutionalised or paid child and Geriatric care for the less able members of our family, again, allowing the State to administer to our families and therefore control us.

I think it is ironic that familial structures designed to ensure the prosperity and well being of the Family have continually been eroded to the greater benefit of the State whilst a very unnatural and isolating (and very unsustainable without very strong social sanctions, as evidenced by our divorce rates) family structure (the Nuclear family aka the heterosexual State sanctioned dyad) has become a social and romantic ideal to the extent that anything outside of this ideal is seen as perverse, lacking, unromantic, infantilising, backwards and abusive,  depending on the particular non standard family structure.    It is important, to learn of and be aware of, the fact that the Western ideal is just that, an ideal, that very few members of this society of the world, can or have partook in.  Most of us will fail at Monogamy, serial Monogamy being the real standard of our culture.  Trading people in for a new model because the old one just is not exactly what you want forever…..broken hearts and families being the norm as if it is the ‘evolved’ way, since we only get one at a time, we had better make sure that one is perfect!  Meaning of course, no one can ever live up to the expectation of perfection.

In today’s multicultural, post Sexual Revolution West, where many more people are accepting of the different forms of family, Single, blended, gay, extended.  Poly families have remained on the margins, staying below the radar because of social sanctions (Polyamory and the fear of female sexual empowerment paradigm) or legal ones (Polygamy, Muslims and Mormons and fear of the ‘other’ paradigm).  Poly families had to form their own social networks or face the same sort of isolation and lack of support that these forms of families were designed to counteract. 

Going into the 21st century, we face an uncertain economic and social future, gone are the days when a single modest level breadwinner can keep a 2.4 family in all of today’s modern essentials.  The young are priced out of the housing market and staying at home to raise your child is a luxury many women can’t afford to choose.  The State demand that Mothers work and so, more and more early childcare providers are created, ensuring that the cycle of consumerism is self maintained while the state collects the VAT, income taxes and all other tax revenues. 

I still don’t believe that Poly living is for everyone, mostly because, despite what we may want, we are conditioned into being selfish and not communal.  Sharing has been socialised out of us, women fear losing their spouse, men suffer from ownership issues left over from Patriarchy  and overall there is a great amount of selfish traits being cultured in our society, meaning many adults remain in suspended adolescence long after their teenage years have ended.   

However, I do believe that now is the time when we start to put away childish things, realise that we have been and are still being manipulated by the Romantic Myth, in a post industrial society, will we try to struggle to maintain a Status Quo that benefits the State and not our family? Like The Matrix, we could take the blue pill and continue to aim for the white picket fence or we could take the red pill, see the manipulation for what it is, and work towards a more fulfilling and emotionally honest life.  The real world is hard yes, but in the Matrix, we will always feel that something is not quite right.


  1. Gah! I wish you didn't make so much sense. Not sure I agree with everything 100% but the results of the situation you outline are spot on. One of the major appeals of polyamory for me is the ability have a real extended family, that can support each other throughout their lives together. So someone is always able to take care of children, and there are resources and hands to help our elders, and we can have enough income to live reasonably without destroying our health and sanity in the rat race.

  2. One Love Natja,

    I love this post. I wish that you'd write a book. By the way what do you think of the new book "Love Times Three"? I really enjoyed it. I have studied Social Science for yearss since High School and through graduate school and this is one of the best critique of the private property argument that I have read to date. Many Western feminists have stayed away from critiquing the Christian doctrine on monogamy because of the internalized racism in the thinking. On the other hand, Alice Walker's theory about the Womanist showed promised because it opened up space for women of color and specifically black women to articulate their experiences with love and life in theory. I have not come across any contemporary black womanist or feminists who discuss plural marriage or polyamory. All of my black feminists professors are stuck on monogamy as the norm and the ideal and this is so stiffling in the academic community that's already cancerous and deadly. They don't live any room for love especially the bi-sexual kind. In that world one is either homosexual or heterosexual.
    I hope that you write a book about this topic soon. You have my best regards in that endeavor.
    Jah love.

  3. Thank you Jessica, this post was inspired by seeing people I love struggle to cope with greater demands on them financially as the economic situation starts to really bite and realising that from a purely practical standpoint, Poly can ease many of our difficulties. Of course it creates a whole new set of problems, but I think many of these problems are caused by our expectations of relationships and what constitutes commitment, rather than Poly living in itself. If we try to unlearn the concept of 'possession' in our relationships, I think we and future generations have a greater chance of happiness within Poly families than we have now, frankly it is a struggle unlearning that behaviour of 'mine'.

  4. Thank you Marijannayeti, Yes, I also am quite perplexed by the lack of discourse regarding non-monogamy within the black community and in some places the concept of Sisterhood is getting increasingly lost as many women compete for one 'good' man, all other (at least single) women are seen as a threat, fractionating the black community even more.

    Yes, I read 'Love times three' and I found it very useful in reminding me how much love and strength there can be in a Poly home.

    I do believe Dr. Patricia Dixon has made the case for Polygyny in the black community in her book "We Want for Our Sisters What We Want for Ourselves, Polygyny~Copartnering: A Relationship, Marriage and Family Alternative" but I have yet to see anyone advocating the case for egalitarianism or queerness. Thank you for the compliment, I really appreciate it.

  5. This is excellent! I'll be bookmarking this for future reference when people have questions about polyamory!

  6. Great post! It is so often assumed that monogamy is somehow natural, and therefore polyamory cannot work. If we were raised with different ideals, then I believe that poly relationships would feel just as normal to us.

    What would be ideal would be if everyone could choose the relationship style that suits them best, rather than defaulting to monogamy and assuming that other options are simply not workable.

  7. Beautiful Love you Sharing and glad I stumbled onto your blog..
    Keep it coming I will be sharing it with many. Thank You

  8. I love your blog. But my question is..... How does polyamory differ from cheating?

  9. Hello Pokerface, thank you for your comment.
    It is quite simple, cheating implies lack of consent, that means a person either sees either one or more other people without their partner's knowledge or even 'with' their knowledge but without their consent.
    i.e. "I will do what I damn well please and if you don't like it you can leave"

    In Polyamory everyone must be in agreement, that does not mean it is easy (it isn't) or that you won't feel jealous (you probably will) but as long as you know and you decide to deal with your own feelings, Polyamory can be very rewarding lifestyle.

  10. Amazing! I am floored right now, literally. You state in such clear, logical language a point I only flailingly whine about. I am living in polygyny, although as a Muslim, so it's a little different (better? worse? not sure...) anyway, I am a follower of this blog now for sure! check mine out:

  11. Thank you Um Dayo, I have actually written a little about Islamic Polygyny with regards to a book review by Dr. Patricia Dixon on my personal blog. I would be grateful if you read it and can tell me whether anything resonates with you? I will check out your blog thanks, I love hearing about functioning Poly relationships/families.