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.

Saturday 11 June 2011


A by-product of seeking and finding is the high expectation placed on the person found.  We all have expectations of course, we may be influenced by the positive aspects of the Poly relationships we see on TV, who doesn’t want the love, support and community in their lives as shown by the large Polygamists families (real) Brown and (fictional) Henrickson?  Problems occur when we do not let go of these expectations and  allow our families to develop the way they are going to develop, free of any person in the relationship trying to mould it into an ideal vision of what they think a successful Poly family entails .

For example, how many women have advertised that they want a woman who will be their best friend, but what if she isn’t?  Does this devalue her ‘rightness’ for your family?  I will illustrate my thoughts with an example I wish to call the ‘Janelle Brown effect aka JBE'.  Janelle, second wife in a long standing and successful Polygamous Brown family from the Sisterwives programme, 

She is a direct counter to the best friends forever!!!! mindset littering seeking ads written by wives and I will break down the most common requirements for Sisterwife BFFs.

BFF:  Someone to go shopping with.
JBE: Janelle has stated once that she doesn’t want to shop with Meri, Robin and Christine because they spend so much time mucking around instead of shopping.

BFF: Someone to cook with
JBE : Janelle is quite happy to let Christine be the domestic Goddess of the wives.

BFF: Someone to clean with.
JBE: Note Janelle’s face when confronted with the chaos of the cabin in episode 7, series 2.

BFF: Someone to talk to when husband is out at work all day.
JBE: Janelle is the first person up and out of the Brown home in the morning and usually does not return until 7pm.

BFF: Girl time!!!!
JBE: Alone time!!!!!

Janelle doesn’t fit in with the sisterwife expectations and yet she fits in perfectly well in her family because she is allowed to be who she is with her own strengths and weaknesses. Some sisterwives will not be BFFs but they will be friends and/or sisters, some will end up as partners

We can only have strong lasting relationships when we allow them to develop naturally, who is to say that daily mani-pedi gossip sessions are more valuable to your family than a woman who knows how to sort out your finances, do the plumbing or run the family business?   

Wednesday 6 April 2011

The impenetrable fortress

There is no doubt that a couple must have a strong and healthy relationship before they think of opening up, they must be prepared for the changes a Poly life will bring to their relationship (well, as prepared as one can be)and their family and even when you expect it, still allow for it being even harder than that!  Because long term monogamy allows you to get to know a person so well, to have habits and some unspoken communications and if you happen to have very good open communication and a no secrets policy with each other also, well that makes for a pretty good base to start with.

To an outsider just meeting you, this strength is encouraging, it communicates that this isn’t a desire borne out of lack of satisfaction with each other, seeing how well a couple communicate with each other proves that they have learnt the skills for good communication, for the person interested but not emotionally invested, this is a good thing.

Fast forward some time and this strength seems less a strong admirable thing, but that outsider now wants to be inside this circle of strength and it feels a bit more like an impenetrable fortress.  When does this happen?  At what point do these issues start to arise?  Well who knows?  It, like everything varies between people but it is an important thing to be aware of. A new partner might at one point feel proud and secure when s/he tells antagonists that ‘No, they have a wonderful relationship, nothing was wrong with them et al’ but months later, when emotions are invested and these people are all living together, the habits a couple have together can mean the newbie can be an after thought or forgotten accidentally.  The unspoken communication can feel like a secret language that you are not and might never have, the no secrets policy between them as well as shared history and shared confidences can feel like a depressing obstruction to getting to know them as well as they know each other
There is no way to prevent this from happening but being aware that this can occur means you can open a dialogue, recognise where the pain comes from and find inclusion strategies to help.

Friday 25 February 2011

It's all about sex - The trouble with triads 4

One of the great problems with sexual practises outside heteronormative standards is the fact that we all know that they have already been sexualised in pornography.  A common theme in the Pornographic film is the 'Threesome' scene, usually FMF(bisexual females), though occasionally MFM  (heterosexual males) the sexual orientation distinction being made due to the overwhelmingly male heterosexual audience in pornography.

Is it unsurprising that people in general lack respect for triad relationships when their only cultural trope is the 'porno threesome scene' ?  When was the last time you saw a triad relationship that had nothing to do with sex in our culture? We see the triad through the prism of sex. Generally, three people in a romantic sense is called a 'love triangle' and  is a source of conflict. It is a romantic 'vee' two people both fighting for the attention of a hinge.

Even though the threesome is a common scene in pornography, the popular media is no stranger to this trope, I have seen suggestions of a threesome in comedy, dramas and even television advertisements for men care products.  The overwhelming message we get is 'this is fun if you are young, free and single however if you are mature, it is a big, threatening mistake but you can get past it, because it is only sex'  the idea that three people might LOVE each other and that sex is secondary to the relationship is alien to heteronormative dyadic society.

With triads, more so than with Poly Vees (because Poly Vees already have a less sexualised cultural standard with Polygamy) it is up to the politically motivated of us in triadic relationships to at the very least, reclaim our relationships from the Pornographic sphere, bring the notion of romantic love, mutual commitment and friendship and extend it to triadic relationships.  It is an extension of our Polyamorous standards anyway, if we acknowledge and put forth the notion that our polyamorous relationships in general are not about sex, why do we find it so hard to break the stronghold of 'threesome' sex from the cultural norms of general society?

When you say you have a triad the first thing people think is 'threesome sex' but when someone states that they are in a monogamous relationship, sex isn't usually the first thing they think about, they think love and romance, friendship and companionship.