We have been discussing the trouble with triads so far, from a relationship point of view, how difficult they are, how much work they take and how the assumptions people make about them (that they are balancing or take less time management or less liable to cause jealousy issues* ) are flawed, yet I don’t think we have touched on why they are unpopular in Politically aware Poly communities.
Despite the Triads unusually high failure rate (even by Poly standards) there is always a steady stream of couples entering into the Poly community looking for a third to join them. A recent quick survey of new couples advertising on a popular Polygamous site showed a massive 51% of couples explicitly requesting a bisexual woman, compare that to the only 10% of single women who identified as such, since there is only one single woman, bi or straight, to four couples to begin with, these couples are very much limiting their options, so why does the fantasy persist?
Part of the reason for its popularity is simply down to pornography – a permanent hawt (but loving) threesome is a fantasy for many men and bisexual women. Another is the fact that female bisexuality is (relatively) socially acceptable so many more women are coming out to their husbands and no longer suppressing this aspect of themselves.
You just never see that level of female acceptance of male bisexuality.
In the small secular/non denominational Polygamous community people tend to be more mainstream and unaware of alternative socio-political analysis, their only exposure to non monogamy tends to come from a more religious model like HBO’s Big Love or TLC’s Sisterwives and they wish to adapt that model and be inclusive of their sexuality. Even those who have previously explored Polyamory by having short lived triad or female secondary relationships tend to see their desire for a permanent triad as an extension of their dyadic marriage, rather than a radical re-thinking of the standard narrative/paradigm.
There is a small crossover between the secular/liberal and the devout/Biblical members of this community which means that there is some controversy with seeking a “bisexual sisterwife” usually these are in the forms of Biblical objections to Homosexuality, often countered with the injunctions being male specific, therefore the unicorn seekers get a fairly comfortable ride in this community.
As I alluded to previously, I think the term bisexual sisterwife is a unfortunate neologism, using terms picked from one source, combined with their sexuality to create…the perfect Frankenstein’s Poly Bride, one that can be joined with, shared, enjoyed, played with, had, and slept with by "both of us"*.
The blatant objectifying of this unknown bisexual female seems to miss these couples.
The Polyamory community being LGBT friendly and women focused makes it a natural place for bisexual women to gravitate towards. However the community has been wary of couples seeking a third "to complete them"* for traditionally two main reasons, the well examined Male privilege and the particular to Polyamory neologism Couple privilege (both of which are well- and humorously - illustrated here.)
A good Poly community will explain their objections and advise seekers to be more flexible and let relationships grow organically, a bad community will just mock them, not explain their objections to Unicorn hunting and run them off the site. Recently, the terms, Unicorn or HBB have the ability to cause such flame wars that many communities now have taken on an 'ignore and maybe it will go away tactic' preferring for people to discover why triads rarely work...the hard way.
Male privilege, as in the traditionally Polygynous societies, is simply that a man will need to be assured that his is the only penis in the relationships (AKA OPP one penis policy) this male need not challenge any preconceived, unenlightened notions of female ownership, female submission and female promiscuity, since he is a man, he need not feel threatened by the female/female relationship since it is inherently inferior. For these men, entering Poly can give the illusion of being progressive whilst still avoiding the fact that he is limiting his partner’s freedom of choice. By claiming, that because they are limited by gender (by virtue of being a straight man) their partner has the same limitation, is ignoring the fact of their partners possible ability to bond with both genders and is thereby evoking male privilege.
Couple Privilege is when a couple, for all intents and purposes work as a single unit to preserve and enhance their primary dyad above all things. This is the main purpose of the hierarchical primary/secondary forms of Polyamory . However, many couples who seek a triad do not realise that their actual seeking of a bisexual female is a form of couple privilege at work.
Question: Well isn’t asking for a bisexual female stating a preference that would suit your family, like asking for someone who likes outdoor leisure pursuits because we are outdoorsy or someone who likes kids because we have five??
Answer: That appears to be a valid point until you realise that pointing out that you are outdoorsy and have many children has as much to do with her happiness and comfort as it does yours and your family. If she hates country pursuits she may be unhappy. If she dislikes children not only will she be unhappy but she may, by extension make your children stressed and uncomfortable by her presence. It is a description of who you are and she needs to know you. However, asking for her to be ‘bisexual’ you are making a request that would make YOU happy. You have jointly decided that this is this is the form of relationship you want and it is the only type of woman who will fit the bill is someone who has the appropriate sexuality.
The assumption is then made that because she is bisexual, she will be sexually interested in both members of the couple. This is actually a heteronormative biphobic assumption that bisexuals are not discriminating, that anything goes. Therefore if a man is offering up his wife a sexual partner than naturally she will take it, since she will want to have sex with the woman by virtue of her being attached to the man she wants. Not because she is independently sexually attracted to her, alternatively since her role is to be a wife for him also, if her leanings are more geared towards the female of the relationship she will not be fulfilling her obligation to him. Either way, she is expected to be sexually available to both partners since they made it a condition of their relationship.
Question: Ok, so that does not pertain to us, we only pointed out that “the wife is bisexual so it is ok if she is too” how is that wrong?
Answer: Well first of all by stating that you are still indicating an expectation that bisexual = sexually available for the wife. Is it so unbelievable to that there may have two bisexual women in a room and neither one may want to have sex with the other?
Language is important, why state your/your wife's sexuality unless it will open up the possibility of a sexual relationship?
Question: My wife is bisexual, we only looked into this lifestyle so she can get her needs fulfilled.
Answer: This is a very common experience but I am frankly confused as to why you would then look for a woman to love both of you (super hard) then just her alone (relatively easy)? Looking for a woman to be a part of your relationship in the capacity of partner to you both means her status is dependent only on her continuing active bisexuality. If one of her relationships is not working for her, her other relationship is threatened. Imagine being told "Sleep with him or I will dump you"and you have the most obvious problem with this mindset. It may not be explicitly stated but it is the underlying threat. There is a vaguely sexually coercive tactic to entering into a relationship with the unenlightened non flexible unicorn hunters and it is not reasonable, it is not egalitarian and yes, it is couple privilege. This is also part of the 'if I am involved too I won't be jealous' assumption which is a pernicious mistake about the triad structure which sadly has too few working triads around to kill off completely.
Stating that you are seeking a unicorn is akin to a single man claiming he wants to marry a flight attendant, and a single woman stating she will only date doctors, it may seem reasonable, it may seem like free choice but it is still objectifying, classifying people by an arbitrary role, rather than who they are. It can be insecure and destabilising for the unicorn and if the couple are not examining their relative privilege the unicorns role will not be an equal partner, just a equal plaything.
* All terms have been used in seeking posts/profiles by actively seeking couples.
Useful links on this topic
Wonderful blog post concerning the OPP
Bi Poly Kinky's feelings about dating a couple.