I had the opportunity recently to sit down with some non-monogamous friends to discuss the unique circumstances of their relationships. At the table were wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, all interconnected. Some of them were parents. I’ve had many conversations like this (especially since working on Inviting Desire, The Dawn of Sex) and a couple of questions routinely come up: 1. What is polyamory? 2. Have people come out to their friends, family, kids? There are a couple of routine answers. Someone always states what polyamory is not.
“It’s not a fuck fest,” they say.
They, meaning almost everyone I’ve ever talked to about this.
When I first went to Burning Man someone suggested I check-out Poly Village. I was scared. I didn’t want to wander into a place where people assumed my presence meant I was willing to have sex with them. So I stayed away, far far away. But through the years I’ve begun to understand that there exists as many variations of sex, love, and marriage as one can imagine. What sets polyamory apart is the intention of all parties involved to be honest and open with one another, for all parties to consent to their unique agreements, and for the possibility of meaningful relationships to occur. It falls miles away from the monogamy model that most of us grew up with. It’s a lot to wrap our minds around, I know.
Another common theme in these discussions is that nearly everyone I’ve spoken with has been judged harshly for their lifestyle. Wives, husbands, lovers alike have all at some point been portrayed as the villain or the victim. Some have lost friends. Some have been ostracized by their parents or in-laws or siblings. Some have had friends distance themselves because they didn’t want to be associated with a person who identifies as poly for fear that they’d be identified as poly themselves. (Take out the word poly and insert the word gay, black, Jewish, Muslim, etc., and see if that changes anything.) If you know me then you know I’m a person who listens. You know that people tell me things they’ve never told another human being in their entire lives. When I say that the vast majority of non-monogamous people I’ve spoken with have been shamed in some way, you know I speak the truth.
I have never understood why what takes place in a person’s bedroom or in a person’s personal life is reason to judge or shun or shame that person. Where consensual adults are concerned I simply can’t fathom what would justify one human judging the head or heart of another. If you’re one who enjoys sex please consider your fantasies, think about the touch that brings you pleasure, think about all the intensely private moments you’ve shared with your spouse, your lover, your friend… is it really our place to judge such personal information? Should we have the power to decide what’s right and what’s wrong for all people? Straight, gay, bi, transgender, monogamous, poly, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist. Consent. Free choice. Acceptance. Love. Isn’t that what’s important?
Anyway, there’s this rad poly-friendly apartment complex in New York City (I’ve linked the piece below) and here are a few choice quotes I pulled from the report. You’ll have to watch the video to see who said what. I grabbed what I could while my kids were demanding more mac n’cheese.
– “Polyamory is not sleeping with whomever. It’s having relationships with more than one person.”
– “It bums me out that I have to be anonymous because I’d be happy to share it with everyone. It’s really important for people to understand what polyamory is…”
– “…as long as everybody involved knows and consents.”
– “…you don’t have to be polyamorous to live in the apartment complex, you simply have to be respectful of other people’s life choices.”
– “Being in open, consensual relationships forces you to be much more communicative, much more in touch with who you are, what you want.”
Here’s to the pioneers who are mapping out a more loving and respectful road for all of us to travel on.