Friday, April 6, 2012

Review 8: Swinging in America, Chapter 6 (monogamy)

Review 8:
Bergstrand, C. R. & Sinski, J. B. (2010). Swinging in america: Love, sex, and marriage in the 21st century. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Chapter 4: The Social Construction of Monogamy.
Sub-Section: What is Monogamy? (pp. 82-3)

This will be a little different than I usually do for these reviews, as I'm going over something I've already read. The focus here is to narrow down on something I've already covered and refine it into another tool to use for policy analysis. This time I'm re-visiting the Swinger/Open/Polyamory/Polyfidelity (S/O/PA/PF) model I used in my senior paper, and mixing it with the monogamy model used in this book.

For the curious, this is an amazing book. Ignore the title, there's material in here that covers all forms of non-monogamy.

To summarize the model that Bergstrand & Sinski work with in their book, there's three dimensions that monogamy is looked at, sexual, emotional and practical. Sexual is dyadic sexual paring, a pretty easy one to understand. Emotional is dyadic emotional bonding, usually confined only to being in love. Practical is dyadic life bonding, where you only share the regular routine of life (chores, movies, paying bills, etc.) dyadicly.

This is a phenomenally useful tool in analyzing non-monogamous relationships, as it overlaps very nicely both with the existing models I use, and with the category divisions found within U.S. laws. I will be making a minor revision to one of the criteria: I will be defining practical monogamy as dyadic family structure, and practical non-monogamy as a non-dyadic family structure. This is a policy-related adjustment, to add a higher degree of precision to the term, and to better make it fit with policy/legal analysis. With that, let me see if I can summarize the overlaps here, starting with how the three dimensions of monogamy mix with the S/O/PA/PF model:

Monogamy (traditional or serial): Monogamous across all three dimensions, sexual, emotional and practical. Not really the focus here, but it's what the normative ideal is, so I might as well mention it. Traditional (lifetime) monogamy and serial monogamy are lumped together here as policy and law (by and large) only look at how many partners you have at this moment, not over a lifetime.

Swinging (Also includes gay men): Sexually non-monogamous, emotionally and practically monogamous. Swingers tend to view themselves as only having a dyadic relationship with their partner, despite the sexual activity outside of that relationship. Gay men tend to have similar views, but I'll be using the term swingers to encompass both.

Open Relationships: Sexually and emotionally non-monogamous, practically monogamous. Though this could be classified as a form of polyamory, I separate it for policy/legal purposes. Open relationships can be thought of as a primary/secondary model, with a dyadic primary. Sexual and emotional connections are open, but the act of living one's life is only shared with one person, the primary.

Polyamory: Sexual, emotional and practical non-monogamy. This would be your multi-partner outside relationships O.K. style of non-monogamy. Also the most complex style, as connections exist all over the place (Anyone remember Spaceballs? :-). Though this can have a primary/secondary model, the distinguishing feature of polyamory is that the primary isn't exclusively dyadic.

Polyfidelity (includes religious polygamy): Sexual and emotional monogamy, practical non-monogamy. These are your 'closed' poly relationships, where you have 3 or more people who are in a poly relationship, but are exclusive within that relationship for their sexual and emotional connections. This includes religious polygamy (FLDS, for example) as well, despite the vast cultural differences between the two. From a policy perspective there really isn't much of a difference.

Please keep in mind that, like with all categories, there's more variation within groups than between groups. These are general assessments about general categories, not hard-and-fast rules. Swingers *generally* fit within the above description, but it's not an exclusive category. Open and PA (polyamorous) people *generally* fit into the above descriptions, but as anyone in an active poly community knows, there's a TON of grey area between the two. Same with PF (polyfidelitous) people.

So, now the abridged legal/policy assessment based on the monogamy dimensions, overlapped with the S/O/PA/PF categories:

Sexual Monogamy: Largely in the purview of the adultery and fornication laws. Since these laws control who you can have sex with, outside of a marriage relationship, anyone who's sexually non-monogamous is potentially open to liability here (things get complicated w/ PF relationships, bear with me).

Emotional Monogamy: Under criminal laws there's really nothing covering emotional monogamy. There is alienation of affection covered in civil laws, but that's beyond the scope of this particular piece of work. It's something I'l revisit later, which is why I keep the category around. As criminal law goes though, this category can be eliminated, so Swinger and Open relationships largely suffer the same afflictions.

Practical Monogamy: The primary barrier here is the bigamy laws, preventing a legal non-monogamous marriage, and (depending on the state) criminalizing multi-partner cohabitation. As always, bigamy and adultery/fornication laws interact with each other to treat PA and PF relationships basically the same, despite very different external behaviors. Because there is exclusivity in some of the dimensions, and potential civil law issues, I retain the division between PA and PF.

Well there you go, folks. This sums up the literature review. I've completed the final step in this legal assessment, and all that's left is for me to actually write the damn paper (-: This is going to be a major project, and it's not going to require me to interact with the blog much, so expect me to drop out for awhile. I'm targeting a drop-dead-must-have-done-by-date of June 15. Two months and change to finish this. I give myself some extra time as I'll be writing it legal bluebook format, which I've never done before, and this will be the single largest paper I have ever worked on.

Feel free to drop me a line anytime to check on the status, I welcome correspondence: Feedback, advice, etc is always welcome too.

See ya'll in a few months!

- Jason

P.S. Yes, I will post the details about grad school here, as soon as I finalize them (-:

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