Thursday, April 21, 2011

Politicizing Polyamory

What if polyamory were a political ideology? What if non-monogamy was a civil and human liberty? How would polyamorous people act, in regards to their partners, their government, their families, and themselves? What would be the challenges, the losses and the victories that would happen?
This is a hard question to get an answer for, and one that the polyamory community is reluctant to step in to. Polyamory has been sold as a 'personal development' trend, de-politicized and about the self. Polyamorous people tend to favor a 'get the state out of my hair, I'll handle it myself' approach, looking to minimize the spotlight cast on them (Wilkinson, 2010; Aviram, 2010). When poly families have children this is over-emphasized to the point of sometimes deceiving and hiding their lifestyle from their children (Pallota-Chiarolli, 2010).
Yet the vitalness of political involvement is growing, as more people take an overt approach to being polyamorous (Pallota-Chiarolli, 2010),and as academic scrutiny on this badly neglected topic begins to rise (Barker & Langdridge, 2010; Frank & DeLamater, 2010; Anapol, 2009; Easton & Hardy, 2010) the political ramifications are unavoidable. Counter-political opinion is beginning to strongly come forward (Kurtz, 2003) and will need to be responded to. Polyamory is becoming political whether the community likes it or not.
This doesn't have to be a contentious move however, and indeed the possibilities for migrating polyamory from just being a personal development philosophy and practice, to being a political ideology, and even a larger ethical philosophy, has tremendous benefits. Firstly, there is an opportunity to really dialog on the mono-normativity that underpinns our relationships. There's ample evidence out there showing how monogamy is *not* a human predisposition but instead a statistical rarity (Ryan & Jetha, 2010; Walsh, 2006). Additionally there's ample evidence that polyamorous families are more economically viable and provide more resources for raising children (Sheff, 2010; Pallotta-Chiarolli, 2010; Riggs, 2010). With the state of the world economy in the kind of crisis it is, for economic reasons alone polyamory makes sense. Why then, truly, is our society holding on to this monogamous norm? Bringing polyamory in to the political sphere allows for a discussion on that very thing.
And indeed, in Canada the discussion has begun. On April 13, 2011, attorney John Ince, representing the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, delivered closing arguments to the supreme court of British Columbia in the case testing Canada's anti-polygamy law. This presents a historical breakthrough in challenging the validity of law built around mono-normativity.
Yet, it's still a terrifying thing to truly consider the full range of consequences that could come of public action. One doesn't have to look far into the past to see the layers of persecution that the civil rights, feminist, and LGBT movements have suffered from in order to get the rights they have. I would challenge those fears however. For as long as polyamorists remain de-politicised we run the risk of having our liberty taken from us and our families. Situations such as the Divlbliss's case (Melby, 2007) run the risk of being rampant.
Polyamorists have a long, hard road towards equity, however in embracing the now-growing political nature of polyamory there remains the possibility of social transformation and the redefinition of a core social value (monogamy) to something more egalitarian.
References: (Author side-note. If anyone can double-check my APA here, it would be appreciated.)
Anapol, D. (2010). Polyamory in the 21st century: Love and intimacy with multiple partners. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Aviram, H. (2010). Geeks, goddesses, and green eggs: Political mobilization and the cultural locus of the polyamorous community in the San Francisco bay area. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 87-93). New York, NY: Routledge.
Barker, M. & Langdridge, D. (2010). Introduction. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 3-8). New York, NY: Routledge.
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.
Kurtz, S. (2003). Beyond gay marriage: The road to polyamory. The Weekly Standard, 8(45). Retrieved April 21, 2011, from LexisNexis Academic.
Melby, T. (2007). Open relationships, open lives. Contemporary Sexuality, 41(1), 1, 4-6.
Pallotta-Chiarolli, M. (2010). 'To pass, border or pollute': Polyfamilies go to school. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 182-187). New York, NY: Routledge.
Riggs, D. (2010). 'Developing a 'responsible' foster care praxis: Poly as a framework for examining power and propriety in family contexts. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 188-198). New York, NY: Routledge.
Ryan, A. & Jetha, C. (2010). Sex at dawn: The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Sheff, E. (2010). Strategies in polyamorous parenting. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 169-181). New York, NY: Routledge.
Walsh, A. (2006). Polygyny. In E. J. Haeberle, V. L. Bullough & B. Bullough (Eds.) Human sexuality: An encyclopedia (pp. 468-469). New York, NY: Garland Publishing, Inc.
Wilkinson, E. (2010). What's queer about non-monogamy now?. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 243-254). New York, NY: Routledge.

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