Thursday 2 August 2012

Taking the red Pill - How Poly Families can free the West

In my previous post, I examined how monogamy developed as a means of control, ensuring that the State had a better control of the populace. I talked of “taking the red pill” and stepping away from our assigned roles in society and relationships and making decisions free from cultural expectations.
I concentrated a lot more on expanded cultural norms but we do not go into relationships for the benefit of society so I think it is worthwhile examining the small private benefits to individuals who feel called to adopt a Poly lifestyle.  So whereas my previous post was collectivist, this post is more individualist but as with anything to do with Poly, the benefits to the individual only comes through the collective.  .
By family I mean any two or more people living together.

A note about exclusions

 Normally my posts are relevant to all sets of non monogamous lifestylers, however, many of these things may be excluded from Polygamous individuals because I concentrate on liberties mostly gained through egalitarianism, independence, freedom and security, which not all Polygamous people have. Similarly, open couples who have casual or hierarchically structured dyad protecting relationships will also not gain all the benefits.

This is about expanded families, whether you live together or not, this is about people who have created Intentional Families for the purposes of love and support.
You may have heard these popular phrases “United we stand, divided we fall” “Divide and conquer” “Many hands make light work” and similar. In a biological sense, this alludes to biological altruism an aspect of  ‘Evolutionary Game Theory’ which is concerned with strategic decision making amongst a group, cooperative behaviour ensures the survival of the group as a whole, which seems to be at odds with Darwinian (survival of the fittest/Competitive) theory.

Regardless of the science behind it, it is clear that there is strength in numbers, if one is vulnerable, two is less so, three is stronger still and so on and so forth, and yet romantic woo-woo, with a side order of social convention has meant that for the purposes of family, romantic and sexual partnership only comes in twos.

And we, very often, sacrifice a great part of our being to become one of two, in a way we would not have to as one of four or five.  As a single person, it is important for you to take care of all your needs, to earn money to pay all your bills, to feed yourself, clothe yourself and take care of yourself when you are sick. As one half of a couple, you make an exchange, I will take care of some of your needs if you will take care of some of mine.  

So, what is wrong with this model?  Admittedly, many people are 1) Satisfied with their lives as Lone Wolves, they do not need anyone, nor do they want anyone complicating their lives and 2) The pair bond strategy, when it works is very efficient, providing  there is ample room for self actualising within the partnership. Bearing in mind the heavily socialised gender roles of yester year, in a world where your only expectation was to be a wife and mother or being able to earn enough money to keep your wife and offspring healthy and happy, well there may have been little room to explore other aspect of your personalities and/or passions.

But times have changed, many of us are over burdened by the pressures of just existing within this social framework. Till Death do us Part was easy when life expectancy was 40.  Juggling the pressures of modern life and trying to be a whole person is exhausting, but carving up some of the demands of this modern life means we may have the opportunity to be who we need to be, whether that is being able to become an overseas volunteer, march against some injustice, spend a few months as a contemplative on a mountaintop or even just to have a career that takes a lot of time, these things are often incompatible with a fulfilling family life, having and raising children are seen as sacrifices to which you must put all other needs aside until they are grown. To do otherwise is selfish.
 But is this a necessity of child rearing in itself, or just a by-product of the system? It is my belief that it is system that needs changing not people. Depending on how many children you have and how they are spaced out, you can spend thirty or forty years of your lifespan raising children to adulthood. What if children were able to benefit from their parents being more fulfilled and enriched rather than stressed out guardians?  What would the nature of adulthood look like if we did not need to take a sabbatical from self actualising until middle age?

This is a good idea, why isn’t everyone doing it?

Because the form that has persevered through social tradition, is maintained by Woo-Woo romance.  What do I mean by Woo-woo romance?
Our popular Sex and the City era terms such as ‘The one’ ‘Your Soul mate’ ‘your other half’ are exactly such mystical romantic WooWoo.  With the great power of woo, two people are destined to be together and will each fill each others needs so completely that it is clear that they need to be together to the exclusion of all others.  It is that strong belief in romantic Woo which earns millions of revenue for Hollywood’s Rom-Com Industry.  Woo makes people believe that Passion is synonymous with Jealousy and if a man is really possessive, he must love you even more.  Monogamy is completely and totally reinforced by the idea that there is One True Love out there for everyone and if you have two beaux, one of them is definitely not true and, at some point, he will let you down by being immoral, stupid or passionless…..Welcome to the WooWoo world of black and white romantic relationships.  As we know, life is not really like that, falling in love with someone whilst already in one romantic relationship does not mean you no longer love your partner and many hearts and relationships have been broken and many people have been wracked by guilt at being the heartless bugger who caused it.  Yet, it persists and many of us who accept Polyamory have an uphill battle to re-condition ourselves away from WooWoo romance and towards healthy functional relationships that rely less on mysticism and more on communication and yes, jolly hard work.

So why bother? 

Because serial monogamy is very destructive,  to society, to families and to individuals, it creates a sense of failure and insecurity and when the person expected to be your “one and only” and breaks faith with you, by not living up to your expectations the resulting pain and resentment can last years and effect future generations.

Is it possible to be an uncritical and unexamined Poly? 

Yes, very much so, especially if you may consider yourself Polyamorous without actually having a practical experience of living as such. Or, if you are still working within the framework of existing gender and social norms.  Poly, like any other lifestyle can be entered into selfishly with little care or regard in creating healthy, functional relationships. When entered into with an open mindset and with the best intentions of making your Poly relationships work for everyone, there will not only be physical practical benefits but also personal benefits which are rewarding pay offs for all the hard work you have put into it..

And when it is done well?

Living any kind of functional Poly is like working towards a Master’s in Communication Skills, at the very least you will grow into a person who will be able to make themselves heard in relationships, who will let go of dysfunctional passive-aggressive communication and become self assertive in getting their own needs met.
Sharing the pain, the additional support of other partners means never having to say you’re “fine” when you are not "fine" because your single other partner in a dyad may have a greater need than you.
Becoming a whole person and fulfilling your potential should be at the forefront of our personal path but instead we have been brainwashed into believing that we ought to be responsible to society first and we have been bound into it by our responsibilities and our over reliance on existing familial structures. 

 In conclusion, I feel that living in Poly Families can enable not only strength in the unit, but allow for a great deal of growth for the individuals within it, not just the kind of growth one gains from being in a larger or more complex family, but also the sort of personal growth which comes with learning complex communication skills and with working towards your personal goals, some of which may never be obtained due to the stress of modern life and socially imposed productivity.

*Privilege Check
Some people never meet one person they want to share their lives with, some dyads never expand to include more. Some Poly families can not take advantage of these benefits due to personal limitations of specific special needs.Not every person who wants to receive these benefits will get a chance to, but as always it is something to consider as we look into expanding our families to include more partners than social norms allocates us.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Why Unicorn Hunting is exercising Couple Privilege - The trouble with triads

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.