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.
OK, OK, I know it’s just a reprint of PepperMint’s fabulous article, but I’m still fan-girl silly over this!
Hi, guys! I got this email from a Brit looking to do a documentary on poly folks:
Put simply, this film seeks to explore poly relationships through the real-life stories of those who are involved in them – it is a broadly observational approach, requiring the participation of people for whom plural relationships are a real life choice. To this end, I am looking for people who might be willing to take part in the film. Ideally, they would be people who are in long terms polyamorous relationships involving three or possibly more individuals, of any gender and sexualities. The key is that they would be willing to be filmed (interviews, day to day life) for a television documentary to be shown in the UK.
If you are comfortable talking about your relationships on camera, please contact Kathryn.Taylor@fireflyproductions.tv. IF YOU DO CHOOSE TO PARTICIPATE, PLEASE CONTACT Susan Wright at the NCSF at (410) 539-4824 to get some basic media training first!
Hoorah to the ever-fabulous and sexy Rachel Kramer Bussel for writing a fun little exploration into polyamory in The Case for Open Relationships.
Know what I like about this article? She doesn’t come across as dissing monogamy at all. She says, “for many people, monogamy works just fine” and “if you are in a monogamous relationship, I encourage you to stay within the rules of your relationship, or speak to your partner, rather than simply cheat.” But she also quotes Betty Dodson (and how jealous am I that Rachel got to meet her!) as saying, “America practices serial monogamy with cheating on the side. It’s never acknowledged and it’s lied about.”
So true. If monogamy worked for everyone, then Jerry Springer wouldn’t have a talk show.
But it still always amazes me than anyone writing an article saying basically, “Hey, monogamy is fine if you like it, but here’s another option” still get ridiculously uninformed comments such as “I suppose you can make the case that sleeping around openly is preferable to swearing monogamy but cheating on the side. Well, maybe. Robbery is preferable to murder, too, I guess.”
Wha-huh? Someone needs to take a class in logic, methinks. But a lot of people did engage in some good discourse in the comments, so I encourage you to read them as well.
Friend of Polyamory Weekly PepperMint has written a comprehensive analysis of mainstream media’s attitude and coverage of polyamory, comparing it to coverage of swinging, BDSM and other alternative cultures. If you want to get caught up on how we’ve been portrayed over the last few years, read this article and click on his links–you’ll be debriefed.
PepperMint maintains that polyamory is usually portrayed with a certain credibility in the press, even a type of tolerance, for a few reasons. He posits that because poly is seen as “new(ish),” “theoretically disconnected from sex” (is this why there is alway some amount of opposition whenever I mention sex? hmmm), “queer- and woman-friendly,” and “the opposite of monogamy.”
I encourage you to read his thoughtful article in its entirety and comment at his blog. Let’s get the conversation going, people!
The new Polyamory Weekly #131: What are they saying? is up! Direct download is at Poly Weekly #130
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0:00 Introduction and host chat
Intro, under-18 warning and re-direction to www.scarleteen.com; friend me on Twitter and answer questions about what you want on the show, call 206-202-POLY with comments.
1:00 Introduction: Alan, Poly Weekly’s new Poly in the New correspondent
Meet Alan, creator and writer for the Polyamorous Percolations blog, Poly in the News. He has
3:00 Topics: Poly in the Media
Alan and Minx discuss three of the hottest poly in the media news stories:
Other articles covered in the Polyamory in the Media blog:
Mistress Matisse’ latest article in The Stranger on possible poly rules
Trans/queer triad goes public
Religion and poly
Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? Check out PolyWeekly at polyweekly.libsyn.com. Thanks for listening!
Are you opinionated? Do you have a microphone? Do you have HBO and enjoy watching Tell Me You Love Me? Or are you at least yelling at the people in the TV while you’re watching it?
Poly Weekly is looking for one or more poly folks to review this new HBO program about marriage, relationships, communication and infidelity. If you have an opinion about the show and the technological expertise (a microphone, a recording program, and the ability to convert and send an mp3 file), email cunningminx at gmail dot com with the subject line: Tell Me HBO. Thanks!
A response, courtesy of Jack Elfrink of KinkyRopes.com, on the idea from Poly Weekly #118: Geeks in Love that organized people don’t have fun. (Yes, it’s an IKEA commercial!)
Here’s something we don’t often hear about: the dangers of going to polyamory from swinging, addressing the very real issue for swingers of falling in love with playmates and forming long-term romantic attachments.
Truly, though, this can happen to anyone. Love and relationships are very sneaky–they can come and go on schedules that don’t match ours and thumb their noses at our carefully-defined lifestyles and rules. In truth, I think what this article nails right on the head is the old broken-record motto of poly:
It all comes down to communication. It’s critical to ask your partner how they feel and to share your feelings. The absolute worst thing that you can do is to hold your feelings inside – what you really want – because you’re afraid your partner may not understand. You have to talk about what you both want from the relationship and what boundaries you’re comfortable with. And in some circumstances, you may find out that you want different things. If this is the case, you’ll have to decide if you are willing to compromise or go your separate ways.
It doesn’t matter if you’re single, coupled, monogamous, married for 30 years, swingers or poly–at some point, you’ll probably find yourself falling for someone that you didn’t intend or expect to. It’s happened to me when I was single. It’s happened to me when I was in a monogamous relationship. It’s happened to me when I was in a poly relationship. And really, the only wrong action in any of these cases was to pretend that I didn’t feel that way. In every case, I told someone important. When I was single, I told a girlfriend. When I was monogamous, I told my boyfriend (with shame, but fortunately he understood). When I was poly, I told that boyfriend the second I recognized the strong feelings.
So please, whatever your relationship structure, recognize that this will be a possibility. Acknowledge it when it happens. Then communicate and figure it out.
Thanks to Amy Gahran for passing along this gem, just as my Google news alert discovered it as well. Ten Zen Monkeys reports on the top 20 taboos for presidential candidates, including, of course, polyamory.
The #1 taboo for candidates is–you guessed it–“Sexual Non-Conformism,” which the monkeys define as:
Presidential candidates can’t be openly gay or transsexual. They can’t have open marriages and relationships or practice polyfidelity or polyamory. They can’t openly enjoy orgies, consensual gangbangs, or pornography. They can’t even be real swingin’ bachelors or bachelorettes. During the ’90s, we made it to: “I don’t care if he got a blow job, as long as he does a good job.” Now we need to get to: “I don’t care if he’s going to move his pet sheep Sweetiecakes into the White House and post videos of their long nights of passion on YouTube. If his policies could save millions of lives, what’s more important?”
First, why can’t we go two seconds discussing alternative sexuality and relationship lifestyles without mentioning sheep and goats? What is America’s obsession with bestiality, really? Are there really that many people in the bestiality forums, pining away to be accepted? Or is that just the embodiment of Middle America’s biggest fear–that gays, polys and people who enjoy porn are all secretly lusting after pet goats, horses and sheep?
The #2 taboo is more disturbing and quite sad:
No presidential candidate can advocate sex-positive attitudes including open marriages and relationships; they can’t be pro-porn, positive about teen sexuality, or generally advocate the sophisticated notion that eroticism is life’s greatest gift.
[sigh] I’d argue, but it’s true. Somehow, we’re all supposed to believe that sex is bad and our leader don’t have any despite the obvious presence of children. Or perhaps we’re supposed to believe they had it two or three times for procreation, but they never enjoyed it. I do live for the day when adults can sit down and talk about sex rationally, without “morals” and religion getting in the way. Fact is, our bodies are built the way they are for a biological reason, and to me it just makes sense to acknowledge that like a grown-up instead of sniggering over the girl with the giant hoo-ha’s walking down the street.
In short, I’m pretty sure whatever president we choose will have a penis. (Hillary may keep hers in a drawer, but I’m counting that). And I’m pretty sure that he will have used it once or twice. And he might even have enjoyed it.