Got an interesting one in my mailbox this morning:
How is Polyamory different from being in an open relationship?
I got into an argument with someone about it, I think it’s an unrealistic idea for most people.
I personally believe that “polyamory” for many people is an intellectual validation/ politically correct term for “promiscuity” or “being in an open relationship,” that feels less dirty for people due to it at least superficially being about “love.”
I use the terms polyamory and open relationship nearly interchangeably myself. Many poly writers don’t. And yes, if a differentiation is made, the definition revolves around love and commitment. But, ya know, I’m not going to run down love and commitment. Those are good things.
I even agree that some people use a lot of contortions to use terms to differentiate themselves in the mainstream’s eyes from those other dirty, dirty sluts.
However, there are a couple of premises upon which we disagree. I think having lots of sex partners is okay. I think consensual sex among adults is totally fine. I’m pretty indifferent to being perceived as a slut. Since the worst treatment and gossip about my sexuality I ever got was when I was in high school and still a virgin, it always seemed that letting other people’s perceptions of my sexuality drive my behavior and choices was mostly self-defeating. For some people, my high school experience might have made them skittish and ashamed. It just burned out my give-a-damn.
I also disagree that polyamory is unrealistic for most people. I don’t think it is. I think tastes vary. I think there are people who will be happy poly, and I think there are people who are not. I think that our culture is set up to support the One True Love idea so strongly, however, that you do have to unpack a great deal of cultural baggage before polyamory is an intelligent or realistic choice.
Sometimes I think that there is this fear that polyamory is going to turn the world into a 21st Century Fuckfest.* I think this mostly comes from this idea that if there weren’t powerful restraints against it, all people would do is spend their time pursuing sex.
Even if this wouldn’t be the worst thing I could think of, I think it’s inaccurate and the perception comes from seeing the behavior of some outliers. Are there people whose main hobby seems to be sex and its pursuit? Of course. I know several. Is it bad? I don’t think so. Can it be done unethically? Yep. You can say the same for making lots of money or going into politics. I’m not willing to separate the ethics of sex from the ethics of any other pursuit.
Even if sex as one’s main hobby were a bad thing, it would still be an anomaly. Sex is awesome, but so is building gadgets, writing books, going to the beach with your kids, learning a new language, making a movie, climbing a mountain, hanging out with friends or any of a number of other things people do. Being poly doesn’t really change having a full human life. In fact, I’d say that there is a fair proportion of poly people who do have their multiple relationships, but spend an enormous amount of time on family, community and other project.
You know, just like normal people do.
* Presuming this would somehow be a bad thing. I don’t see it that way.