Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Framing Polyamory Within Non-Monogamy

Polyamory exists in an oddball place among non-monogamous arrangements, such as open relationships, swinging and especially cheating. Ritchie (2010) identifies views around fidelity and love as being a key distinction between polyamory and many other non-monogamies. Polyamorists "focus on the role of romantic relationships over sexual encounters" in contrast to swingers and those in open relationships.
This is, however, a highly debatable topic as Anapol (2010) and Easton & Hardy (2009) would argue that among swingers and open relationshippers are those that explore non-monogamous romantic relationships, and that there are polyamorists who are focusing on sexual encounters in their non-monogamy. The tendency seems to be for the latter however, as Frank & Delamater (2010) have identified that the majority of non-monogamous couples have rules that limit the amount of intimacy that is allowed to develop outside their relationship. Additionally in a study of gay men, Adam (2010) identifies that most gay men take non-monogamy as being under a "two-plus-one" model, where the main partnership was to take prescedence, and polyamorous arrangements were fleeting. However Adam also identified that the lesbian community was more receptive to polyamory.
To say nothing else, the placement of polyamory within the realm of non-monogamy is conflicted, but some themes do arise among all of the aforementioned authors. The identification that polyamory isn't just about sexual relationships, but that love is also a factor in their non-monogamous interactions is the most defining point.

Moving beyond the academic analysis for a moment, my personal opinion is conflicted here. I can see two legitimate ways of structuring non-monogamy, and polyamory's place in it. Firstly, I can take an approach similar to Anapol and Easton & Hardy, where polyamory is situated as all forms of consensual non-monogamy, including swinging, open relationships, etc. However this creates a void for people like myself who approach polyamory as multiple love relationships without hierarchy. Swinging implies sex only, open relationship implies a primary/secondary dynamic, other terms (fluid relationship, for example) are too general to really apply.

Then I could take Ritchie's perspective, where polyamory is separate from these other forms of non-monogamy precisely because it doesn't imply sex only, or hierarchy. This strikes me as problematic too, as it's clear that not all polyamorists take this approach, and not all non-polyamorists are outside of those conditions.

Choices choices... I really don't know where to fall on this issue.
Adam, B. (2010). Relationship innovation in male couples. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 55-69). New York, NY: Routledge.
Anapol, D. (2010). Polyamory in the 21st century: Love and intimacy with multiple partners. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Easton, D. & Hardy, J. (2009). The ethical slut: A practical guide to polyamory, open relationships & other adventures. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
Frank, K. & DeLamater, J. (2010). Deconstructing monogamy: Boundaries, identities, and fluidities across relationships. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 9-20). New York, NY: Routledge.
Ritchie, A. (2010). Discursive constructions of polyamory in mono-normative media culture. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 46-51). New York, NY: Routledge.

1 comment:

  1. Where I fall: Polyamory has a definition that include the words "loving relationships" or "romantic relationships". I see a lot of poly people who have no interest in romantic relationships and who assume I feel the same way and I'm going to be honest, it irritates me. I am contacted by people looking for a hook-up when I make it clear on my pages I am not. I am fine with people doing that, but I don't. So I think there can be overlap but I appreciate using the right words. I don't say "I want to date you" when I mean "I want to hook-up regularly but don't call me your significant other in any way" but I've had people do that to me. People use the word polyamory but are interested in multiple LOVES ever (sometimes it's a temporary dis-interest and that's fine), are a pet-peeve of mine.

    The reason I love being poly is because I can be open and honest about my romantic inclinations without stigma within in my own relationship(s). So others should also have an accurate word for what they are if not polyamorous. I've heard the word polysexual to mean multiple sexual partners but it can also mean multisexual (sexual interest in multiple, but not all, genders) so that gets confusing. I can't come up with a word as someone outside of that community but I wish there was one. And if there is on, I wish is was more utilized.