PW 281: Infidelity will keep us together

What do you think of Dan Savage’s NYT article on non-monogamy?

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2:45 Book review

PW book reviewer Kurt review’s Kathy Labriola’s Love in Abudance, a Counselor’s Guide to Opening Relationships The book deals with poly effects on current relationships, including dealing with demotion, displacement and intrusion.

8:20 Poly movie review: La Belle Epoque

PW film reviewer Joreth reviews the 1992 Spanish poly-ish film, la Belle Epoque.

15:30 Topic: Dan Savage’s take on infidelity

Discussing the huge, seven-page article in the New York Times exploring Dan Savage’s take on infidelity and the role it plays in keeping monogamous relationships together.

32:45 Feedback

  • John from Lacy responds to 276, “Okay” is a four-letter word, claiming responsibility for communication falls on all parties
  • Emily calls in from a smallish Midwestern college town and asks about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in her relationship. If she isn’t comfortable with it, what should she do?

Josh calls in to muse on the question of why we get married to begin with. What is your reason?

45:15 Wrap-up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email and attach an audio comment or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. Friend us on Twitter or Facebook, leave a comment here or discuss your own topics at the forums. Check out PolyWeekly podcasts at Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review! Want Poly Weekly for your very own? Get the Best of Poly Weekly collection from Our intro and outro music is courtesy of Pacemaker Jane, “Good Suspicions.”

3 comments to PW 281: Infidelity will keep us together

  • Spectre

    First, thank you so much. If not for your podcast, I don’t know how I’d have handled my wife wanting to open our marriage. We’re still together and doing the work.

    I really wish the article didn’t use the term “infidelity” as that usually denotes unfaithfulness or breaching established boundaries. I tend to cringe at articles with titles like “Can cheating help your relationship?” No, it can’t. Cheating (and I tend to lump infidelity with) severely damages trust, which is needed for any healthy relationship. Some couples recover into a stronger form of the relationship but that’s due to communication and empathy more than cheating.

    The title just seemed to feed into the ‘mainstream’ idea of “If it’s not two people forsaking ALL other FOREVER, then it’s cheating and Evil.” Polyamory isn’t an ethical form of non-monogamy, it’s just another type of lying and cheating.

  • While I thought that on the whole the article was rather positive, I take serious issue with the use of the term “infidelity.” (In)fidelity comes from the Latin word “fides,” meaning trust. Thus, infidelity is characterized by a breach of trust. If all parties involved fully consent to non-monogamy, then there is no breach of trust, and by definition, no infidelity. By equating sexual exclusivity with fidelity, one implies that people who are not monogamous are not trustworthy.

    Given that a variety of forms of consensual non-monogamy have been getting a lot of mainstream media attention lately, I think it would be worthwhile to make a concerted effort towards changing the vocabulary the mainstream media uses. Words have incredible power to shape reality. If the mainstream media refers to polyamory as infidelity, the general public will likely perceive polyamorous people as being untrustworthy. This will only serve to perpetuate discrimination. Why should we let the rest of society shape our reality in that way?

  • I agree with the comments of the above posters as to the need to carefully use language when formulating something that has not yet become part of mainstream discourse.
    I want, however, to respond to the criticisms of Savage that were reinforced (uncritically) in the podcast review, specifically as to how polyamory and nonmonogamy affect women unfairly as described by Spring and Doyle in the NYT piece. They both, upon even a light reading, reveal themselves to be apologists for women’s own actions and their consequences in relationships.
    The quote from Spring shows her evident bias.
    “If you are scared of losing your partner, you may say yes to anything she asks, including permission for an affair that will wound you deeply. “The problem is that with many of these couples, one partner wants it, and the other says yes because she’s afraid that he will leave her,” ”
    We can notice how she switches pronouns, perhaps sloppily, but it is clear that she regards the woman in a couple as the victim in waiting. In her own direct quote she starts out gender neutral but then she identifies the roles which override her previous use of ‘one partner’ and ‘the other’. She plays upon the stereotype that it is men who abandon women in relationships.
    I included the first part of the NYT piece because it appears that the journalist has paraphrased Spring’s ideas with contrarily gendered language in the interest of balance, which has merit but, I believe, makes Spring’s opinions less accurate and more evenhanded than the subsequent quotation would have us infer.
    Following up the input from Spring, the journalist introduces “Sady Doyle, a feminist blogger”, which gives her as much credibility as her opinions likely merit. Her presence in the article seem to be there simply to give the journalist a defensible appearance that he provided balance in the piece, which is to say that there plenty of negative things to report about Savage. This must have been quite difficult to do because Doyle begins by agreeing with Savage, yet she wants to speak up and draw a distinction for women. She is quoted: “But I think sometimes it’s much harder for women to say, ‘I’m not into that,’ or ‘Please, I don’t want to do that, let’s do something else,’ than it is to say, ‘Sure.’ Putting all the onus on the person who doesn’t have that fetish or desire, particularly if the person who doesn’t have that desire is the woman, really reproduces a lot of old structures and means of oppression for women.”
    Does Doyle truly want to say that women have a harder time being honest with their partners? I must say, being a blogger and equally credentialed with Doyle, that the women whom I have known have never had any difficulty saying no to me. In fact, they said it easily and often. I would have happily listened to a more qualified response such as: ‘I’m not into that’ or ‘Let’s do something else.’ Both statements imply some agency and can lead to detours, not simply creating roadblocks. ‘Sure’ in this situation is, in fact, a real four lettered word just as ‘Okey’ represents in other situations where it is simply a nonresponsive answer.
    She then pulls out her trump card, which is indeed indicative of the weakness of her criticism: oppression. Is it now reasonable for women to claim that they are oppressed when they must express clearly their lack of interest in a specific kind of sexual activity? I’ll repeat that in my experience, it has never seemed that women have a harder time saying: ‘I’m not into that.’ If anything, the easiest answer is to say no at first to anything that is new or unknown.
    I can explain the inverse description of what is claimed to be the female experience as a way for Doyle to distance herself from her true bias which is similar to the motive of Spring. Both women want to preserve the prerogative of women to have women’s veto power unquestioned with sexual relationships. The main presumption that underlies their thinking is that as much as they agree that the sexes are equal, women must be given more protections (from broken relationships caused by men, from having to state their ideas clearly) in order for there to be fairness.

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