Polyamory – identity? lifestyle?

polynormativity

 

There is a debate about whether Polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation (SO). A sexual orientation is defined as the quality that determines one’s romantic and/or sexual interests. Socially we treat sexual orientations as permanent states of being, meaning once one identifies with a particular orientation, their sexual and romantic behaviors follow suit. Now with sexual identities such as “Queer” “Pansexual” and “Pomosexual,” there is a formal rejection of the idea of limiting sexual and romantic behaviors to specific identities. Queer is a catch-all to indicate some level of non-normativity, Pansexuality means being romantically and sexually attracted to specific individuals – not their genders and Pomosexuality is short for “post-modern sexuality,” which idicates a refusal to be categorized and limited by labels.

The pro-SO side explains that Polyamory is a philosophical identity, much like Pomosexuality, Pansexuality and Queer that is present regardless of relationship status. The anti-SO side says that once Polyamory is considered an identity, it loses the freedom and fluidity that makes it so great.

Sex Geek’s The Problem with Polynormativity highlights the anti-SO concerns and discusses several myths that are portrayed in the media. Now that Polyamory has been given some air-time, it seems that there isn’t much flexibility in how Polyamory is portrayed: hierarchies, strict rules, white-centric, young, etc. There is excessive weight put on to open relationships as opposed to other relationship forms that exist within Polyamory.

Note: Not everyone who is Polyamorous or connected to Polyamory in any way agrees with this article. Check out Scott from Sexpressed’s thoughts on it. What are your thoughts? about Polyamory as a sexual orientation or about either of the articles?

3 thoughts on “Polyamory – identity? lifestyle?

  1. I found Sex Geek’s article highly inspirational, and in many ways a much-distilled equivalent of Jamie Heckert’s very long and complex research project on resisting the very notion of a sexual orientation: http://sexualorientation.info/index.html.

    Scott’s response reeks of a cynical, pessimistically pragmatic tone, all too easily laying claim to ostensibly simple and self-evident truths about the nature of human relationships and how the world works. While I get his frustration with the largely theoretical and somewhat inaccessible form of Sex Geek’s writing, it also feels like he just doesn’t get the point of the article (which is, incidentally, perhaps indicative of just how inaccessible it is). Articulating polyamory as a set of practices and relations has drastically different implications than claiming it to simply be a different way of navigating the world as-is – and perhaps as a philosophical approach to intimacy in human relationships, it is just as much about trying to create and prefigure different social relations, based upon values of trust, openness, honesty, and mutual understanding. More practical and “common-sense” approaches seem rather depressing to me – love should be crazy, experimental, and always pushing some edge, always seeking to create something new and different, and embrace the uncertainties and discomforts that arise from people sharing themselves so deeply with others.

    1. I partially agree with you Ian, thank you for your post. I read Scott’s response a bit differently. I felt that his frustration was more about ‘competitive queerness,’ i.e. your way is not really queer/ queer enough.

      I appreciate the fluidity and freedom that is permitted within polyamory and recognize the threat of “publicizing” it, but is there room for “normative polyamory” within the big umbrella? I believe that there is room for both social constructivist and pragmatic ideologies, all it requires is respect.

  2. As the writer of the article in question (I run http://www.sexpressed.com) I am very glad to see that Rachel has hit the nail on the head in regards to what I was trying to get across. What’s funny to me is that Ian’s comment does exactly what my article was trying to say is a bad thing: Ian says that polyamory should be *this* way and if it isn’t *this* way then he doesn’t think that’s giving it the proper credit. My argument is that there is no *this* way, there is only EVERY way. If the polyamory elitists want to hold on to their word with all their might and only let certain individuals with certain principles and certain formations of relationships use it, that’s their burden to bear. But to me, polyamory (or simply non-monogamy) is about structuring your relationships the way you want to, outside the box of monogamy. Once we start saying “this is the way and there is no other way” we start to do the very thing that we say we’re fighting against: trying to put love in a box.

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