Monday, April 2, 2012

Review 7c: Border Sexualities, Border Families in Schools, Chapter 4 (Polluting)

Review 7c:
Pallotta-Chiarolli, M. (2010). Border sexualities, border families in schools. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Fourth Chapter: "Messing up the Couples Cabinet": Multisexual and Polyamorous Families in Schools. (subsection: polluting) Pp. 195-220.

The polluting model is fairly straightforward at first, you're out, you don't conform, you identify completely as being polyamorous. The drawback/benefit list is a little surprising though:


  • Poly parents and children often feel the need to present themselves as almost super-human. The ambition is for perfection, not reality, as such positive traits/side-effects/attributes of poly families can be overemphasized, and the negative can be de-emphasized. This creates a very odd sort of polluting/passing, where the family *is* polluting, in that they're out, but passing, in that they're trying to appear to be 'better than normal' because of their lifestyle.
  • Because polyamory isn't generally recognised, it can be a barrier to services that monogamous families would have, such as adoption services. Though it's possible to have access to these services through a passing or a bordering model, a polluting model would have a great deal of difficulty in being accepted as a foster family.
  • Because a polluting family is 'out,' there's a lot of scrutiny on them. Public exposure is a given.

  • The psychological drawbacks of passing aren't present because the family isn't trying to shelter or hide their identity.
  • Polluting can include making oneself too invaluable to one's community to be targeted. If your family is involved and supporting several community events, having your family 'weeded out' harms the community. A highly effective defense mechanism.
  • Polluting also can serve as an impetus for institutional change. Since the polyfamily can't be 'covered over', like a family using the passing or bordering model could, institutions are forced to acknowledged the existence of the polyfamily, and, depending on the policies in place, need to provide them services.


Personally, I'm very supportive of a polluting approach, I do it myself, and it's my personal opinion that society should strive towards allowing and supporting polyfamilies to adopt this strategy, of 'I'm here!'

From a more academic perspective, it's interesting to look at how there's a weird mix of passing in polluting, and vice versa. Whereas passers can create spaces within their family that polluting behaviors are safe, polluters will sometimes adopt passing behaviors to defend against scrutiny. A strange blend.

Probably the key policy aspect here is what happens when a polluting family goes through the system? Since they have full exposure, they don't hide their polyamory, it allows for a full understanding of the 'kinks' and 'leeways' in the system in regards to polyfamilies. Whereas passing was more about how could a polyfamily cloak themselves using existing labels, polluting is more about how will the labels try to attach to the polyfamily, and what happens with the parts that won't fit?

- Jason

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