I’ve been remiss in not linking to this beyond-excellent article written by bisexual activist and friend of Poly Weekly, PepperMint. Truly, he’s an asset to the movement (if there in fact is a poly “movement”), and anyone who has been wondering about where poly fits in to our society today should run and read his article now.
I was nodding along with nearly all of his points, but his comments on sex-negativity in particular hit me, since I’ve been considering several adult sites as possible sponsors for Poly Weekly, and I do fear that we will lost some listeners because of those types of sponsorships. He says:
This means that polyamory’s most crucial departure from monogamy is in the area of sexual fidelity. While polyamory is about many other things as well (multiple romantic attachments, economies of abundance, triad or group dynamics, rethinking the role of relationships in structuring our lives), polyamory’s primary point of resistance to power is in its refusal to adhere to the cultural rules of sexual fidelity.
Bearing this in mind, the danger of sex-negativity becomes clear. The purpose of sex-negativity is basically less sex, and poly people who have less sex have trouble practicing polyamory. Poly people having trouble means less poly people, which means less of a movement. I know this seems very vague, so let us look at the solid example of less-involved (aka “secondary”) relationships. Less-involved relationships are crucial to polyamory, both on their own and as starting points for more-involved relationships that are simultaneous with one or more established relationships. However, admitting a sex-negative attitude can make it difficult to hold down these relationships, since they are easily dismissed as transient, as one person using another, as slutting around, as “just sex”, and so on. Overall my sense is that poly people have more trouble with these less-involved relationships than with more-involved (aka “primary”) relationships, and one reason for this is the culture’s sex-negativity.
What I am getting at here is that sex-negativity is not a neutral phenomenon. Sex-negativity tends to not address sex that is non-deviant, heterosexual, and monogamous. Instead, the sex that people are negative about tends to be that which is deviant, queer, and/or nonmonogamous. Sex-negativity is a political project, one that attempts to push people into sexual conformity. As such, it is directly opposed to the practice of polyamory, and we self-limit our movement (and our poly practice) to the extent that we adhere to sex-negative codes.
This is not to say that we should all go have orgies on television tomorrow. What I am saying is that we should promote a balanced approach, one where we mix a sex-positive message with our poly-positive message. There is a place for downplaying sex (in particular, talk shows, which are purposefully created to be sexual spectacles) in our presentation. But it should be balanced with sex-positivity in other forums. The sex we have is not a liability; it is one of our primary strengths. Our primary successes will be those where we strike a balance, being pro-sex (and therefore sexy) while still including all the other powerful aspects of polyamory.
With Poly Weekly, it is a weekly struggle to walk the line between a sex podcaster/blogger (sorta, but not really) and a “clean” podcaster (turns out that way a lot, but not really). Thing is, for most of us, relationships don’t exist without sex and the intimacy that comes from sexual and emotional contact. Pretending like sex isn’t there or that we’re too enlightened to talk about that filthy, dirty part of relationships doesn’t really do us or polyamory justice. We do love. We also have sex. Being sex-negative or even downplaying our sexual proclivities is dishonest and doesn’t help us.
PepperMint said it much better than I am, but I’m with him on this. No, it’s not all about the sex, but sex is a wonderful thing not to be avoided.