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"What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory"
June 15, 2010 1:06 PM   Subscribe

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom presents "What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory". [PDF]

The NCSF "is committed to creating a political, legal and social environment in the US that advances equal rights for consenting adults who engage in alternative sexual and relationship expressions."

They also offer a service called Kink Aware Professionals (KAP), providing referrals to therapists, doctors, and lawyers who are kink-friendly.

For more, see the NCSF's recommended reading list from their document library.
posted by Faust Gray (133 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I realized this was stuff at the level of "How To Come Out Of The Wardrobe As An Otherkin" the moment I saw the Helvetica font and the description of the "now-classic" The Ethical Slut. I have a feeling that in most cases psychology professionals find out a lot of other things about these people.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 1:10 PM on June 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


I realized this was stuff at the level of "How To Come Out Of The Wardrobe As An Otherkin" the moment I saw the Helvetica font and the description of the "now-classic" The Ethical Slut. I have a feeling that in most cases psychology professionals find out a lot of other things about these people.

Well, aren't you presumptuous.
posted by kmz at 1:16 PM on June 15, 2010 [15 favorites]


This will be an interesting read. Thanks.
posted by rtha at 1:17 PM on June 15, 2010


Visitor: "Hello. We're from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom."
Homeowner: *blank look*
Visitor: "You know. The Clusterfuckers."
Homeowner: "Oh! Come on in!"
posted by pracowity at 1:17 PM on June 15, 2010 [15 favorites]


i just googled Otherkin. oh my.
posted by sio42 at 1:17 PM on June 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


KAP has been around for a good, long time, though it's nice to see that they actually brought the site design into the 21st century.

thelastenglishmajor: for some reason, poly threads always tend to bring out the worst in people; I see that still holds true. Thank you, drive through.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:18 PM on June 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


...the description of the "now-classic" The Ethical Slut.

Yeah, I don't think you can use the irony-quotes here, considering that book comes up about thirty seconds after someone has a question about polyamory in Ask.
posted by griphus at 1:21 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


This probably isn't going to go well, but I love you thelastenglishmajor, and I laughed pretty hard.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:24 PM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, wanting to have multiple life partners is on par to thinking you're a spirit-dragon.
posted by boo_radley at 1:27 PM on June 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


I'm glad these documents exist. From my brief skim-through, it looks like a well-composed and -cited mega-pamphlet about the lifestyle, written by a professional. Therapists needs to learn to properly address any and all alternative lifestyles they encounter. Relationships evolve and we need to learn to treat people as people and evaluate the harmfulness/harmlessness of the relationships they create. We can't make pariahs out of the people who decide to do something we find inconceivable, but don't hurt anything outside of our own egos, I'm looking directly at you, thelastenglishmajor. And fuck it, if I identified as an otherkin, I'd want to be treated respectfully by the person upon whom I depend for mental health.

The therapist giving disapproval-via-ignorance to the polyamorous couple today is the therapist who was giving shit to the transgendered and homosexual individual yesterday is the doctor giving shit to the woman who enjoyed sex a century ago.
posted by griphus at 1:28 PM on June 15, 2010 [56 favorites]


I know the author of this paper. She's been a therapist to several of my friends. Cool for her!
posted by markkraft at 1:28 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I realized this was stuff at the level of "How To Come Out Of The Wardrobe As An Otherkin"

holy crap this is a real thing
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:29 PM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the reason most people don't do polyamory is because it's just a lot more complicated. As soon as you start adding another person to the mix there's a whole new dimension in terms of the problems people run up against in relationships- who's paying too much attention to whom, et cetera. The problem for people from a lot of cultures is that we just don't have the built-in cultural institutions to deal with that sort of thing and have to fly by the seat of our pants.

On the other hand, if people want to give that a shot and think they can make it work, that's great for them. I'm going to read the article now.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:30 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why did we have to bring otherkin into this? This is already a topic MeFi doesn't do well without bringing loonies into it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:32 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to imagine the pick-up lines at the Otherkin convention bar.

"So, what server is your clan on? Icecrown, huh? Rowr!"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:37 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm not poly, but I did date a poly person once, and she was good people. What the fuck is wrong with consenting adults doing whatever the fuck they want to each other?

Bedroom morality policing (assuming consenting adults) is shitty, period.
posted by kmz at 1:37 PM on June 15, 2010 [14 favorites]


As long as there is someone, anyone, lower than you in the pecking order, there is hope.

We owe the furries, etc, a debt of gratitude.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:45 PM on June 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


[comment removed - listen folks, I'm sorry this started out with the stupid derail that everyone responded to but if you'd maybe skip the LULZ OTHERKIN or just the general LULZ OTHERS it might be nice.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:46 PM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


That PDF was the most offensive thing I've seen on the internet in some time. It's spelled "foreword," not "forward!" Jeez, people, show some decency!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:47 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


oh i see what theegnlishmajordid...that was lost on me not having any clue what otherkin was till i googled.

does not seem similar to polyamory at all.

i've only known a few poly folks and they were of the type to possible think they were elves, but i think i had sample size problem.

dunkadunc's right tho - other cultures do seem to have this worked out a bit more than we do.

i really do hope that by the 51st century we have all collectively gotten over all the stigma of sex. (sorry)

it might not be the same as being gay (unless you are born to want to a poly relationship - not judging, just saying cause i have no idea about it), but it's still a choice that consenting adults make and should be respected by whoever they are getting therapy from.
posted by sio42 at 1:49 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


eek. sorry didn't preview. i'm really not trying to be LOLotherkin. i am actually serious about the people i knew.

delete if deemed necessary.
posted by sio42 at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The otherkin OMGWTF mockery sucks. People have silly ideas that you don't share, let's point and laugh, is a junior high school level response to people being different. How about we just let people be who might have lifestyles we consider weird or silly or stupid, unless they're trying to impose their views on us?

I think it's great that there are professionals out there who don't treat deviation from the norm as de facto pathological, whether that deviation is somebody thinking they'll be happier outside of a monogamous relationship or thinking they've got the soul of a dragon/tiger/lemur/Sonic the Hedgehog/etc. It seems to me that the respectful treatment of both of those, until a harmful pathology presents itself, represents real progress in the practice of therapy and counseling.
posted by hackwolf at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2010 [14 favorites]


What's with the hating on The Ethical Slut? It's an excellent primer anda solid answer to the question "So where can my partner and I learn about this poly thing?"

And not that it's relevent to this thread, but if you want to identify as a dragon in a human body, rock on with your fine otherkin self. What difference does it make to anyone else?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:55 PM on June 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


As long as there is someone, anyone, lower than you in the pecking order, there is hope.

We owe the furries, etc, a debt of gratitude.


This is just shameful and sad. Yes, let's all LOLFURRIES to make ourselves feel better about our own crippling self-esteem issues. Repost this saying "We owe the [YOUR MINORITY RACE OF CHOICE HERE] a debt of gratitude for our superior position in the pecking order," I dare you.
posted by xedrik at 2:01 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I suppose someone should come in here and "HURF DURF 'poly-' is Greek 'amor' is Latin HURF DURF HURF DURF maybe 'polyanthropy' HURF DURF..."


Pleas stop hitting me. Just take my lunch money and go.
posted by el_lupino at 2:06 PM on June 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


I suppose someone should come in here and "HURF DURF 'poly-' is Greek 'amor' is Latin HURF DURF HURF DURF maybe 'polyanthropy' HURF DURF..."

Just relax in front of the television.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:09 PM on June 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


xedrik, I was reading Joe Beese's comment as a bleak dark dig at precisely this sort of othering, making explicit the fact that there is shit and some (even here) are looking for any direction vaguely downhill toward which to kick it. Stating it so starkly is to make the LOLabuse impossible to miss, as you note yourself.

But Mr. Beese, if such was not in fact your intent, by all means let me know. I'll remove my favorite. It's just as easy to see irony where it isn't as to miss it where it is, these days.
posted by kipmanley at 2:11 PM on June 15, 2010


I'm going to ask my SO if she's cool with a POLY (me)/MONO (her) arrangement. I don't see the problem?

But really: whatever gets you through the night . . .
posted by eggman at 2:13 PM on June 15, 2010


Polyamory is one sign that humans are getting a little smarter about their survival, even if altruism isn't what's driving it. Like the article said, polyamory is really beneficial pragmatically. More people happily living in less space with less costs and less kids = far fewer resources consumed while personal freedom increases. More open polyamory relationships also means less quibbling about who's sticking what into who - and on a political, legal and personal level, this would be tremendously beneficial. Heck, I'd even bet that if everyone had a little more sexual excitement/variety in their lives, people would be nicer, happier, more patient and peaceful in general.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:14 PM on June 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


I realized this was stuff at the level of "How To Come Out Of The Wardrobe As An Otherkin"

I've known a couple of people who had affairs that were pretty much open secrets (they were discrete but the other partner knew). I'm guessing this is much more the typical polyamorist setup. Most people don't psychoanalyze things and just do with whatever works.
posted by geoff. at 2:15 PM on June 15, 2010


I'm going to ask my SO if she's cool with a POLY (me)/MONO (her) arrangement.

You're getting yourself cloned?


I've known a couple of people who had affairs that were pretty much open secrets (they were discrete but the other partner knew). I'm guessing this is much more the typical polyamorist setup.

Polyamory is not the same thing as having affairs.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:23 PM on June 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


"I think the reason most people don't do polyamory is because it's just a lot more complicated. As soon as you start adding another person to the mix there's a whole new dimension in terms of the problems people run up against in relationships."

As someone who is polyamorous and who has lived with multiple partners in the same house for many years, I would argue that while it's more complicated in the sense that it adds another person or more to the dynamic, and another person whose feelings need to be taken into consideration, I think a lot of the skills involved already have their basis in our society, how you handle multiple friends, best friends, etc... as well as basic relationship concepts such as openness, honesty, trust, responsibility, talking out issues, making sure to have quality time, not going to bed angry, etc. A lot of basic things, really.

It's not like I was always polyamorous, even though it was always my tendency to have feelings for multiple people. I lived monogamously --somewhat badly -- for many years, and my relationship skills -- the ones that applied just as well to monogamous relationships -- suffered as a result of *not* being polyamorous.

It's really easy for monogamous partnerships to fall into easy, comfortable patterns, oftentimes to the detriment of both partners. Things go by the wayside, conflict is patched over, etc.

Yes, it's harder to keep two relationships stable over time... much like it's harder to keep two or more friendships close over time. That, however, is not a good argument against having multiple friends, nor does it mean that having an active yet well-balanced, healthy social life isn't likely to change you and your life in positive ways.

So, when kmz says "I did date a poly person once, and she was good people.", I can completely understand why that could be. I would fully suspect that she was both very loving, very responsible, and a very good communicator of her thoughts and feelings, whereas so often within the monogamous community, you see people who are very fearful of intimacy. Not as much in the poly community though... in part because love doesn't have to be as much of a burden or as exclusive of a commitment. Love is allowed to just be love, to the limits that both partners are comfortable with.

I am a better person in many ways for having exercised my relationships abilities, rather than expecting one person in life to be my everything. That's a lovely romantic concept, perhaps, but it's also a helluva burden to put on anyone, and a likely source of disappointment.

"we just don't have the built-in cultural institutions to deal with that sort of thing and have to fly by the seat of our pants"

There are many books out there to help provide that kind of structure, and even religious organizations that are very accepting of polyamory. The structure and community is there. There's probably a different local social event I could go to for any particular day that is poly-oriented or friendly...

The fact of the matter is that people have been doing this successfully for quite a long time in the BDSM community, where it has been commonplace for people to have multiple BDSM partners and negotiated relationships for many, many decades. It's no surprise that a lot of the first authors on polyamory came out of the BDSM community, as scene negotiation skills obviously influenced several aspects of polyamorous, "negotiated" relationships. Probably about 3/4ths of those I know in the BDSM community are polyamorous, and increasingly identify as both kinky and poly.

So no... a lot of what people could learn from polyamory is already out there, already basic in many respects. Just because people in our culture aren't used to sharing the affection and time of their close partners, that hardly means that they are any better than a kid who never had to share their toys with others. It's a skill that can largely be learned, like a muscle, in a way... you have to exercise it in order to better use it... and if you don't exercise it, it will be weaker and probably hurt more when you do use it.
posted by markkraft at 2:23 PM on June 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


Most people don't psychoanalyze things and just do with whatever works.

Oh, bullshit. In my experience, more-or-less confirmed by the divorce rate and the"Human Relations" section of Ask, people tend to go with whatever works to satisfy their momentary lust and desire for convenience, without thinking of the long-term consequences. Which leads to things like open affairs, which tend to go over like lead balloons in the long run. Which is why we need therapists with proper training to help guide people into functional relationships.
posted by griphus at 2:25 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not at all sold that we should all go poly, Lutoslawski, but I'm fine with consenting adults making their own relationship choices.

I do think this all gets much more difficult when children are involved, as they are so often when we are talking about sex. Maybe that explains this comment in the .pdf article:

A study by Watson and Watson (1982) found that while 75% of polyamorous
survey respondents wanted their children to know of their lifestyle, only 21%
had actually informed their children of the full extent of their involvements with
other partners. “Some incorporate their children with them in the company of
their secondary partners, and indicate that they enjoy the process of modeling
an alternative for their children. Other parents feel that sharing the news of
their lifestyle would be too upsetting for their children, or would not be understood, or would be shared openly with neighbors and school friends.” A 2000 survey of
polyamorous individuals showed that nearly two decades later, 45% still were not “out” to their own children. (Weber, 2002)


I'm wondering if anyone has done any studies of children of polyamorous relationships to see if there are other consequences besides children not knowing their parents' lifestyle, and perhaps not all of their own genetic heritage. Maybe that is not feasible given how many different behaviors fall under the label polyamory.
posted by bearwife at 2:26 PM on June 15, 2010


bearwife, poly people have in the past had their kids taken away for it, so it's not surprising that many keep their kids in the dark.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:31 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish more people respected the right to point and laugh at other people's sexual practices without doing anything whatsoever to interfere with them on the internet. Religion is out, Class is out, Race is WAY out... If we can't mock each other about sex, what's left to mock?
posted by tehloki at 2:34 PM on June 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


what's left to mock?

Spelling and grammar. Good times.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:37 PM on June 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


"A study by Watson and Watson (1982) found that while 75% of polyamorous
survey respondents wanted their children to know of their lifestyle, only 21%
had actually informed their children of the full extent of their involvements with
other partners"


1982? The Ethical Slut didn't even come out until 1997, and social acceptance has changed greatly since then. It's a bit like saying that many gay couples raising a kid in the late '50s didn't come out to their children. *shrugs*

The vast majority of poly parents I know are very honest with their kids, and their kids seem incredibly well-balanced and intelligent. Having a poly relationship necessitates thinking much more about how best to raise a kid in such a situation, so most of the ones I have seen have been raised all the way up to around kindergarden age by their parents working together. They aren't daycare kids. Many are home schooled in a non-religious way, and oftentimes you get small pods of poly families supporting each other, taking the kids out on regular field trips, etc.

I have no doubt that a lot of these kids are going to grow up to be bright and very well adjusted. It's not just the parents that get to have their cake and eat it too.
posted by markkraft at 2:39 PM on June 15, 2010


> what's left to mock?

People whose nicknames contain misspellings, that's who. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, loki.
posted by Fraxas at 2:40 PM on June 15, 2010


> what's left to mock?

Bad cosplay. And celebrity cosmetic surgery.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:41 PM on June 15, 2010


Have you considered that it's not the class, race, or sexual practices that are the problem, but the fact that you are mocking another human being, who is worthy of basic respect?
posted by Nothing at 2:41 PM on June 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm not at all sold that we should all go poly, Lutoslawski, but I'm fine with consenting adults making their own relationship choices.

Oh, I'm not suggesting it's something we should all have an imperative to do or whatever, but openly moving away from couplism only is a good thing, imo, from a species survival point of view.

As far as the kids thing goes, my guess would be, like the whole "children of lesbian couples turn out fine, maybe better" that they're just fine. I've only known two people raised in a poly house, and they're way less screwed up and well adjusted than myself, who was raised in the most traditional home you might imagine. And besides, lots of successful cultures in the past have communally raised their children with great success (e.g. Sparta!)
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:41 PM on June 15, 2010


Hello, thelastenglishmajor. I'm Clay. I'm one of "these people." I'd like to know what it is, exactly, that psychology professionals will be finding out about me (and my like minded friends)? See, I'm in my late thirties and if it's taken them this long, I have no idea how much longer it might be. I could still be waiting at age 50. If you could go ahead and tell us now what they're going to find, it could save us all a lot of time.

In all seriousness, though, it's been my experience that poly relationships are indeed more complex than monos. The thing is, I don't think that's a bad thing, exactly. I mean, it's not a good thing exactly, either. A computer is more complicated than a rotary dial phone and if your intention is just to get in touch with one person who also has a phone, that added complexity is a hindrance. But if you want to place a VOIP call to the person and look at porn while checking the weather report and reading news articles, then the complexity gets a thumbs-up. It all depends on your needs.

And my own personal needs are definitely of the more complex variety. I didn't ask to be this way, I just am. Specifically, I'm a sadomasochistic switch with polyamorous inclinations. So I have some relationships where I'm on the bottom and some where I'm on the top. Added to that, there are different ways of being on the top or on the bottom (different "kinks," is how we usually put it), so it's not unheard of for me to have, say, two different tops at one time; one for one set of kinks and one for another. Right now, I have two occasional tops and a bottom who's experimenting with topping.

The poly aspect can create problems, certainly. But of all the things I do that tend to create problems (and there are many), having multiple partners is one of the least troublesome. Believe it or not.
posted by Clay201 at 2:43 PM on June 15, 2010 [10 favorites]


bearwife, how many people *really* know "their own genetic heritage"?
posted by Surfurrus at 2:47 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


i think it's worth mentioning that not only is Dr. Joy Davidson a contributor to "What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory" she is also a leading Joss Whedon theorist.

sadly my insurance probably doesn't cover individual sex therapy sessions.
posted by Hammond Rye at 2:48 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


yes, i am explicitly mocking published Joss Whedon experts.
posted by Hammond Rye at 2:49 PM on June 15, 2010


what's left to mock?

Font choices.
posted by rtha at 2:50 PM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


now if you'll excuse me, Dr. Davidson's guide to male multiple orgasms seems pretty long and after that i plan on watching her thoughts on the subject of sex magick.
posted by Hammond Rye at 3:02 PM on June 15, 2010


Gotta make my first post in some thread...

bearwife, I'm going to pick on you, but it's not personal. :-) Some of the assumptions I think I see in your post are really common ones that need to be answered in general. In my experience, most people who have those assumptions just haven't thought about the issue that much, which isn't very surprising, since it's not really part of most people's everyday lives.

First thing: you say "... when we are talking about sex". If this were a post about monogamy, would you say that we were "talking about sex"? Would that be the first thing on your mind? Sex is an important part of people's intimate relationships, but you can't reduce any relationship structure to a question of sex alone.

I do agree that polyamory issues are more difficult for some people when children are involved... but I think it's important to keep track of the reasons why.

Poly people are concerned about their kids getting teased in school... or looked askance at by adults. Poly people are concerned about their kids being put through social services hell, or taken away. Poly people are concerned about their kids "leaking information", because, well, kids talk, and that can bring down ostracism on the whole family. And poly people are concerned about the effect on their kids from being taught that their families are something to hide... or, as you say, from always suspecting that their parents are hiding something from them.

In my experience, most poly people are not concerned about their kids turning out immoral, or slutty, or screwed up, or whatever, because of their "bad" example. I don't know your specific concerns, and I may be way off base with respect to you, personally, but the way you talk about "consequences" sets off all my "I'm about to be pathologized" alarms. As a poly person, I often hear what sounds to me like "What you do is OK of course..." with an unspoken, and sometimes spoken "... as long as your kids don't turn out to be freaks like you".

Obviously, that may not be what you have in mind... so what "consequences" would you think might happen, and why? And how many of those consequences would come from the parents' polyamorous relationships themselves, versus how many from rotten treatment from outside?

For what it's worth, I'm a poly parent nowadays (much to my own surprise). My family is completely out to everybody we know. We're lucky enough to live in a liberal area in a big, cosmopolitan city, and to work in liberal companies in liberal industries... and we actually don't get rotten treatment. People are interested, or amused, or indifferent... but if they're fearful or disapproving, they keep it to themselves, and they definitely don't take it out on our kid. Part of the reason for that may be that we present our lifestyle as normal, we don't have chips on our shoulders, and we project an expectation of proper treatment.

Yeah, eventually something will happen, but at this point it's not looking like our daughter isn't going to get any more trouble than every kid gets... the other kids will always find something.

By the way, I've never heard of poly parents who were not 100 percent sure of the biological parentage of all their children. Even if you can't count the days, in this day and age there's genetic testing... but I've never heard of anybody really needing it.
posted by Hizonner at 3:04 PM on June 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


... and this is starting to look like there's a bit of a pile-on. Sorry to contribute to that.
posted by Hizonner at 3:07 PM on June 15, 2010


Eh, that is fine and all, but I am waiting for "What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Cleveland Amory"
posted by FrankBlack at 3:08 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


what i mean to say is i don't think we're mocking poly lifestyle so much as we're questioning the treatment of the subject in this guide TO professionals.
posted by Hammond Rye at 3:11 PM on June 15, 2010


I would be so glad if my more annoying in-laws were just furries, otherkin, or polyamorous, instead of being chronic liars and gamblers.
posted by benzenedream at 3:14 PM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I somehow knew this was going to degenerate into a LOLpoly thread. It's a shame. There's a lot to be learned about human interaction by overcoming the emotional black hole of jealousy and insecurity during attempting a poly relationship / household. Learning that a lot of the base of negative relationship emotions stem from one's self and inability to confront one of the two basic fears of humans (fear of abandonment, fear of rejection), and discovering the path beyond those fears in one's own psyche is a growth experience which I would not trade for the world.

That said, my own efforts with polyamory were massive failures. It takes very insightful and healthy people, or at least people who are willing to work through their own bullshit, to make such things work. It's really not something to attempt with fragile souls or insecure egos, which I found through direct experience over a decade ago.

If you find the idea is something which you want but would never let your partner do, you're probably not suited for it. Likewise if you tend to have a lot of drama in your life due to interpersonal misunderstandings, etc. But for those who are drawn to it and who can "do the work", it can be quite rewarding.
posted by hippybear at 3:17 PM on June 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Polyamory sounds massively tiring to me.
posted by gurple at 3:25 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm really going to go out on a limb here, but the fact this is addressed to Psychology Professionals rather than the populous in general tells me that there is a decent percentage of this subgroup that has been referred to a pyschologist/psychiatrist, and they have visited one or two (whether voluntarily or otherwise, it would be irresponsible to jecture), so draw your own conclusions. I think socially, the acceptance has to be there because it is from that pool the psychologists are drawn. Sometimes they are considered the more liberal demo (mine wore socks with sandals for christsakes), but not all of them went to Brown.

That being said, I've never had a problem with polyamory, and I consider it a perfectly valid predisposition to have. You could say there is an evolutionary benefit to it.

HOWEVER...

In the day and age of diseases that can be passed during said practices (some of which can permeate condoms, I understand... though I really would like to see more data on this), I would encourage those in this group to make "safety" the numero uno priority. I have been to these websites and I had an ex who frequented several "forums for the initiated", and I see it is often mentioned, but there are several writings in which people lament the fact that certain necessary precautions hamper other satisfactions.

I agree that psychologists should be aware of the legitimacy of the movement, but I think your primary care physician should be just as up on your activities as your shrink.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:28 PM on June 15, 2010


I think the reason most people don't do polyamory is because it's just a lot more complicated.

Um, no. The reason most people don't do polyamory is, without making any value judgements one way or the other, it's just not a lifestyle for us. We're happy with one romantic partner.* You're (you=poly folk) aren't. Okay.

But there are a few problems with the poly movement that may (i have no idea) be addressed internally within the community, but those of us outside or on the fringes of it don't see being discussed. I know that anecdote is not the singular form of data, but I have seen quite a bunch of poly groupings through my life, and a lot of them break down to any or all (oh god, that was a clusterfuck) of the following:

- Men who want harems
- Women who think they can't find a man to love them, so they take what they can get
- Thundering amounts of passive-aggressive behaviour
- An outward committment to communication, openness, and honesty which really is just an excuse for indulging in the previous

Now, before I get shat on from a very great height, I do know personally two poly groupings that do actually work. One is rather large and nicknamed the Borg, the other is a long-term stable smaller group in California. Their success has largely relied on not using 'calling you on your bullshit' as a way to score points.

They are, it seems, in the minority of poly people. Or at least among older poly people, as the younger folk I know (early 20's) seem to do it a lot better. Perhaps it's a function of not engaging in as many toxic relationships before making this choice? I'm not sure.

The other major problem with the people who practice polyamory is a very, very broad smug attitude that they are somehow better or more evolved than us poor deluded monogamous folk. This grates. You are not superior; we are not superior. You're just making different choices that work for you.

*I am making a distinction between nonmonogamy in a sexual sense, and nonmonogamy in a romantic sense; the latter is I feel more of what polyamory is about

If we can't mock each other about sex, what's left to mock?

Your awful hair?

<3
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:29 PM on June 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


Polyamory sounds massively tiring to me.

It's a great ab workout, though.

Bah dum bump, khssss. Thanks, I'll be here all week. We have T-shirts for sale in the back.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:32 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, dirtynumbangelboy, I know several that aren't any of those things. Do my anecdotes trump yours?

Furthermore, are all mono relationships composed of perfectly healthy people making the best choices they can make with all the information available to them?
posted by lumpenprole at 3:35 PM on June 15, 2010


I think it's ridiculous and childish watching the extent to which people are willing to attack this paper.

Dr. Geri Weitzman wrote the core of this paper a decade ago. I have met her a few times. She's a really good person who has significantly helped some of my friends, and is a very active, in-demand psychologist who is greatly appreciated by her patients.

Mocking simply doesn't make any sense, really.
posted by markkraft at 3:36 PM on June 15, 2010


Between the "Born Slippy" reference and the thoughtful posts that say exactly what I'm thinking (only with less snark and more empathy), I'm liking you more and more, DNAB.

tl/dr: FAVORITED DIRTYNUMBANGELBOY'S POST ONE MILLION TIMES
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:40 PM on June 15, 2010


lumpenprole, chill out. I said myself they are just anecdotes, but it's been a fairly consistent trend.

And the difference between fucked up poly groupings and fucked up mono pairs is that the latter rarely (right wing christists aside, yes) present themselves as some sort of evolutionary step forward that is better than the alternative.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:41 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


less snark?

me?

who hacked my account?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:42 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Less snark than me, is all. I've had a lot of things to say in this thread, and I've deleted them all without posting.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:44 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and lumpenprole, lest you think I'm some sort of monogamy fascist, this may be of use to you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:48 PM on June 15, 2010


the younger folk I know (early 20's) seem to do it a lot better. Perhaps it's a function of not engaging in as many toxic relationships before making this choice?

I suspect people in their early 20s may end up looking back at their poly experiments as some of the toxic relationships in their past. There's certainly not a lot of years to base one's relationship experience on until you're about 30, I think.
posted by hippybear at 3:51 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


the fact this is addressed to Psychology Professionals rather than the populous in general tells me that there is a decent percentage of this subgroup that has been referred to a pyschologist/psychiatrist, and they have visited one or two (whether voluntarily or otherwise, it would be irresponsible to jecture), so draw your own conclusions.

what

Regarding STDs and condom use: genital herpes and HPV can both live on areas of skin not covered by condoms, and can therefore be transmitted even when condoms are used regularly and correctly.
posted by rtha at 3:52 PM on June 15, 2010


I suspect people in their early 20s may end up looking back at their poly experiments as some of the toxic relationships in their past. There's certainly not a lot of years to base one's relationship experience on until you're about 30, I think.

An excellent point. Or maybe not so much 'toxic' as 'what the fuck was I thinking', which is pretty characteristic of relationships in your early 20s, no matter what the genders or number of people involved is.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:57 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Poly works for some people and doesn't work for others. I've seen an awful lot more toxic monogamous relationships than I've seen toxic poly relationships, but then I've seen a lot more monogamous relationships than poly relationships.

At any rate, given that monogamous relationships are very rarely lifelong, and that the divorce rate of marriages- which are one-to-one- is around 50%, I'd say that people who want to slag poly as unhealthy or toxic or crazy or whatever should possibly spend some time working on their own plank.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:05 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fuckin' polyamory, how does that work?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:05 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


dirtynumbangelboy, I've seen huge amounts of everything you describe in monogamy, as well as in polyamory... except, of course, for men who want harems, which is sort of intrinsically a poly thing.

By "men who want harems", I take you to mean, more or less, men who a bunch of women exclusively devoted to them. These women should ideally satisfy their every whim, especially sexually, should never question them in any very important way, and probably never themselves look at another person except maybe in a purely sexual context for the gratification of the harem-haver. In other words, such a man wants women who exist for that man, rather than for themselves.

Such men do exist. Their natural prey are the women you mention who are "settling for what they can get" because of low self-esteem. There are also, by the way, a certain number of women who want harems, and a certain number of men who settle.

However, the polyamorous community isn't a very good hunting ground for them, even though they often think it will be when they first arrive. They may use polyamorous rhetoric, but they don't fit well with community values, and if they engage themselves with the community, they're likely to find, first, that most of the people they meet have very well developed senses of their own needs and desires, and, second, that the community isn't very supportive of their ambitions. They stop getting invited to things. People warn potential victims away from them. People talk about them as "that creepy guy". That sort of thing. Sometimes, although it may surprise you, people even manage to call their attention to their own attitudes and behavior... and they improve. It happens. Not always.

I think we do get a fair number of people with "issues" showing up around poly circles... maybe because if ordinary things aren't working very well for somebody, that person is naturally more likely to try something out of the ordinary.

We get people with self-esteem issues who are trying to validate themselves by collecting sexual partners. They come in all genders, although the outward manifestations are often different depending on gender. Sometimes they get over it, especially if they're still young. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they even end up happily promiscuous for many years. Some people ignore them, some people avoid them, some people try to "fix" them (in more and less productive ways), some people gossip about them, and some people, frankly, have sex with them for the fun of it... which sometimes makes their issues better, sometimes makes their issues worse, and probably most often has no effect either way. What I think the poly community tends to do well is to identify them, and in fact to help them to identify themselves. It's not that nobody's delusional about what's going on, but there are norms that really do encourage you to examine yourself and others.

We get people with broken social skills. Sometimes the community accepts them and/or they learn. Sometimes the community rejects them and/or they don't learn. Pretty much what would happen with a monogamous community.

We get people with idealistic delusions about human nature. Usually they grow out of it eventually. Sometimes they end up bitter. Sort of like the rest of the world.
posted by Hizonner at 4:07 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


- Men who want harems who find themselves physically and emotionally attracted to multiple partners, in accordance with what we know of human evolution and that of many of our closest ancestors.

- Women who think they can't find a man to love them, so they take what they can get are attracted to their partners for similar reasons, including all those who want the kind of relationship that allows them to fully express their sexuality in ways that are entirely consistent with evolution.

Corrected that for you.
posted by markkraft at 4:09 PM on June 15, 2010


No, markkraft, you did not in fact correct anything for me there, and I will thank you to not do so in the future.

I am talking about people who are broken in very specific ways. What Hizonner said was an expansion of my point. Thanks for trying, though.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:15 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You do realize that when people do FTFY kinds of comments, they aren't actually talking TO YOU about their corrections, and are making a new comment based on their own observations, using your previous comment as a springboard, right?

I think you're taking this all a bit too personally.
posted by hippybear at 4:23 PM on June 15, 2010


I am well aware, hippybear. I am also well aware of everything markkraft is linking to, and none of it applies to what I am saying. It would be like saying our evolutionary heritage is why people go out and stab each other and therefore that's okay.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:27 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just don't get your "I will thank you not to do so in the future" thing. It smacks of an attitude of personalization which never leads to good discussion on the blue. If you wanted to make your point, you could have done so without that. I'm trying to figure out how to wash out the bad taste it left in my mouth now. /derail
posted by hippybear at 4:29 PM on June 15, 2010


It would be like saying our evolutionary heritage is why people go out and stab each other and therefore that's okay

Are there lots of consenting pairs of people who want to stab people and be stabbed?
posted by betaray at 4:33 PM on June 15, 2010


No, I really did fix it for you. Really. All the evidence, both DNA and our closest ancestors, show that your ancestors were non-monogamous and screwed around, well... like bonobos. They *liked* sex. And they had a lot of it, unashamedly... and raised families together.

As for claiming that Hizonner expanded your point, well... yes he did, in a way.

For instance, regarding your generalization that most poly men were only interested in forming harems, he said:

"Such men do exist.. . However, the polyamorous community isn't a very good hunting ground for them, even though they often think it will be when they first arrive."

So yes, if you mean he expanded upon your points in such a way as to shoot holes in them, well... I agree.

And yet this *still* doesn't mean that wanting to sleep with lots of women is pathological, as opposed to say, in accordance with our nature. If you heard someone say "bonobo males try to form harems", would you want to psychoanalyze an ape?

If these people are messed up, then couldn't it just as easily be claimed that they got that way from trying to live life in a monogamous society, even though they are, by nature, not monogamous creatures? Do we accuse homosexual males of being pathological, just because they have higher rates of suicide and casual sex anymore?

I'm sorry, but your basing your core criticisms on a non-scientific world that simply doesn't exist. It's like trying to argue astronomy with someone who has spent their whole life believing that the earth is at the center of the universe.

What do you want me to say? That I'm sorry that from your perspective, which excludes the basic science and DNA evidence, the universe looks that way to you?
posted by markkraft at 4:34 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


- Men who want harems
- Women who think they can't find a man to love them, so they take what they can get
- Thundering amounts of passive-aggressive behaviour
- An outward committment to communication, openness, and honesty which really is just an excuse for indulging in the previous


I'm sorry so many of the poly people you've met have fallen into these criteria. I admit, there's a part of me that's tempted to wonder if you're making assumptions about their motivations (harems, desperation) that may not be accurate. But I think my best option is to assume you're not and assume this is an accurate description of what so many of the poly people you know are like.

For what it's worth, the poly people I've met and spent time with have been like everybody else, which is to say that some of them are great and some of them are not so great, and they all have relationship problems just like everyone else does. I suppose this is because the ones I know are actual people, instead of broad brush generalizations, which is kinda the point of the article, no?
posted by shmegegge at 4:37 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do we accuse homosexual males of being pathological, just because they have higher rates of suicide and casual sex anymore?

Not too many years ago, yes, we did.

It would be like saying our evolutionary heritage is why people go out and stab each other and therefore that's okay.

Reminds me of the time I was sitting in a rancher / railroad worker bar and ended up coming out to someone as gay, and his response was "well, I guess I can live with that. It's not like you murdered anyone or something."
posted by hippybear at 4:39 PM on June 15, 2010


speaking more generally to everybody, I should mention I'm new to the poly thing myself. In describing what's up to friends, I get the fairly predictable responses and when I get the typical "so you can fuck whoever you want? that's awesome," instead of going into great detail about the intricacies and difficulties I've found the easiest response is "so can she." which for most of them is less awesome. and that kinda makes all the difference to me. I can't speak for anyone else, but the description of poly I now tend to use is "it's not about getting to fuck other people, it's about being okay with someone else doing that."
posted by shmegegge at 4:40 PM on June 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


And yet this *still* doesn't mean that wanting to sleep with lots of women is pathological

Where did I say that? Right, I didn't. What Hizonner expanded on was:
By "men who want harems", I take you to mean, more or less, men who a bunch of women exclusively devoted to them. These women should ideally satisfy their every whim, especially sexually, should never question them in any very important way, and probably never themselves look at another person except maybe in a purely sexual context for the gratification of the harem-haver. In other words, such a man wants women who exist for that man, rather than for themselves.
Your strawman is on fire. Might want to put him out.

And my experience of knowing poly groupings doesn't really bear out the assertion that the poly community weeds them out.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:44 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Being a biology and chemistry teacher, I tend to look at the world through those lenses and I tend to classify relationships I see based upon their apparent 'ionic' (take and attract) vice 'covalent' (share and resonate) character. In 40 yrs, I can say i've seen very few relationships that were highly 'ionic' in character in a light that made me feel that they were 'healthy' for both individuals.

I am not anti-poly, but I would counsel my nearing-adulthood children against it as a choice, especially based on this reading. I feel that the possibilities for my child being involved in at least one poly-relationship of strongly 'ionic' character to be higher than that if they just nurtured a single mono- relationship. But this might also be me as an (over) protective parent.

As an aside, I always worry more about the relationship woes of my acquaintances who are poly than those who are monogamous. It feels too chaotic for me to internalize.
posted by Fuka at 4:46 PM on June 15, 2010


schmegegge: That sounds like a confusing conflation between an "open relationship" and "polyamory", which are not always the same thing. I've been in an open relationship for nearly 17 years, but only spent a few of those years actively pursuing a polyamorous relationship with other men. Fucking != relationship, poly != sleeping around, etc etc etc. In my experience (or perhaps in my mind?) an open relationship is about being able to fuck whomever you want as long as you maintain your primary relationship. Polyamory is about trying to establish primary relationship which exist in more complicated formations than merely a dyad. A lot of poly relationships are open, but not a lot of open relationships are poly.
posted by hippybear at 4:47 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


markkraft: If these people are messed up, then couldn't it just as easily be claimed that they got that way from trying to live life in a monogamous society, even though they are, by nature, not monogamous creatures?

Oh please, not this again. I'm staying out of the main debate here, but basing your argument on "what we are by nature", along with the implication that "what we are by nature" has some moral value (that it is normal, or that a negative "messed up"-ness results from not conforming to it) doesn't lend it credibility. There's a vast, decades-old literature picking apart the problems with this way of thinking. Perhaps you have been reading too many pop evolutionary psychology books, many of which are full of claptrap.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 4:51 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


hippybear, I guess I should clarify that I was trying to put things in terms that make it clear to my friends that what I get to do with other people is not the point, and that what they see as an awesome "shmegegge gets to fuck whoever he wants" thing is not the way they're thinking of it. The relationship I'm in is poly, and not just open, but I've found that the first thing I need to do when discussing it with friends is dispel the "I get to fuck whoever" thing, and then the complexities can be talked about. Most especially I think it's important to explain that this is not just me wanting my cake and eating it, too, which is why I mention that it's about being ok with someone else fucking other people.

there is certainly more to it than that, but that's a good starting point when I have these discussions with people. sorry if I wasn't more clear about that.
posted by shmegegge at 4:53 PM on June 15, 2010


regarding your generalization that most poly men were only interested in forming harems

Yeah, he didn't say that.
posted by nath at 4:59 PM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


And my experience of knowing poly groupings doesn't really bear out the assertion that the poly community weeds them out.

Well, sorry to hear that. That's not mine or other people's here, obviously. I've known some people who were screwing themselves up trying to do it, but usually everyone else backs away from them slowly.

But again, that's your experience and mine. The science on this stuff isn't great, in part because of the stigma this subject of this post is attempting (with arguable success) to overcome. That being said, it doesn't look like the divorce rate among the poly community is greater than the average, and in some studies it looks considerably lower. You can check wikipedia for all the relevant cites if you're interested.

I'm sorry if this feels like a pile-on (and I'm attempting to chill out, as suggested), but I think a lot of us feel like you're making assumptions about everyone who's made this choice based on some negative experiences in your social circle. That's actually pretty valid. But we're here telling you that with those of us in it that's not necessarily the case.

So maybe listen a bit, eh.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:06 PM on June 15, 2010


It's got to be tough to separate the social mores one was raised with from psychological work. It should be do-able I'd think. Analysis of other kinds can be done without prejudice.
Of course, there are some terrible therapists out there.

As a poly person, I often hear what sounds to me like "What you do is OK of course..." with an unspoken, and sometimes spoken "... as long as your kids don't turn out to be freaks like you".

It often sounds to me that there’s an unspoken “you can’t handle it because you’re the jealous type” or “you have an insecure ego” from poly people towards monogamous folks (as dirtynumbangelboy alluded to. And that’s generally speaking. I’m not saying you’re saying that.)
As someone else's relationship(s) doesn’t require my involvement in any way I have zero issues with it.
I myself am monogamous because that’s just how I’m wired. So I assume that's how it is for other folks (wiring = gay, straight, polygamous, monogamous, etc).
In this case, rarely have I ever had a problem with doing whatever it is I want to do and putting in the time and effort to accomplish it. If I was polygamous, I would be in that kind of relationship.
So it’s not some sort of lack in my life that I don’t have a poly relationship or some character flaw or laziness or because I don’t understand it.
Respect is a two way street.

As it is, as with many things that experience friction within a more dominant society, this (the 'evolutionary step' sort of thing) may perhaps be the result of group or self-assertion and not an actual belief in the superiority of the relationship or thing in itself.
‘Black power’ was self-assertion. As is/was Gay Pride. Etc. So a sort of less equitable overcompensation may be internally necessary to overcome resistance and misunderstanding and ridicule, etc.
I’d like to think some folks get exempted from those kinds of confrontations, given they demonstrate a basic human respect sort of ethic.
But *shrug* shit happens. When I stop making mistakes I'll start holding people to the same standard.

Once we get telepathy I’m sure we’ll be rid of most of these kinds of misunderstandings. Of course, by 2015 the mind-worm parasites will … but I digress.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:11 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It would be like saying our evolutionary heritage is why people go out and stab each other and therefore that's okay."

You're conflating evolutionary, pleasurable reproductive behavior with murder? You're one sick puppy. That's an incredibly offbase statement, but I'll take it on anyway.

First off, I'm glad that in our modern society humans don't kill each other any more. I'm sure that's of great comfort to about a million Iraqis who would gladly breathe a sigh of relief, if they were still able to do so.

Your assumption seems to be that our earliest ancestors loved killing each other.... much more so than they like killing each other or going to war today. That, to me, seems like ridiculous speculation, just because they made primitive hunting weapons.

That said, how often do you hear anthropologists talking about pygmies or Amazon tribesmen killing each other? How often do you hear them talking about the relatively non-violent methods so many "primitive" cultures have developed to resolve differences?

The short answer is, it was probably not that common, except when different groups were fighting over control of limited resources. Even in the case of humanity's migration into Europe, there is very little to suggest that mankind attacked and killed off -- or attempted to breed with or enslave -- the neanderthals. The most popular current theories are of climatic change, and of increased competition over scarce resources *without* much in the way of actual direct confrontation!

Culture and conflict, not nature, seems to be at the heart of most human-on-human death. More often than not, it helps to turn a potential into an actuality.
posted by markkraft at 5:18 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't object to polyamory on any moral grounds. It just seems like too much effort.
posted by jonmc at 5:33 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Where did I say that? Right, I didn't."

Did I say you said "pathological? Right, I didn't.

You did, however, say that you viewed such "harem" quests as "a fairly consistent trend", as a subset of "fucked up poly groupings", that "a lot (of the various poly groupings you saw) break down to any or all" of the causes you mentioned... and you compared the natural desire for love and sex as expressed by humanity throughout its evolution to the desire to stab someone.

Just sayin'.
posted by markkraft at 5:39 PM on June 15, 2010


thanks to everyone for keeping this relatively sane and respectful, it's been quite a good read and i think most of the LOLSEXFREAKSitude has been used for Teachable Moments. that first comment, though, WHOA
posted by jtron at 5:44 PM on June 15, 2010


"And my experience of knowing poly groupings doesn't really bear out the assertion that the poly community weeds them out."

So, you're saying we should defer to your experience of something you aren't particularly experienced with, as opposed to those here who are more familiar with it and who ?

The basic rules apply: idiots weed themselves out. The kind of person you describe sounds like the textbook definition of a unicorn hunter. We generally laugh at these people, because, well... they're not poly, and basically they're doing it wrong. They're monogamous adventure seekers more often than not.

But of course, you would know this, given your vast experience with the poly community.
posted by markkraft at 5:47 PM on June 15, 2010


But we're here telling you that with those of us in it that's not necessarily the case.

So maybe listen a bit, eh.


There is a bitter irony in you saying that when I very clearly and umabiguously stated it was anecdotal, and that indeed I have seen very successful and stable poly groups.

So maybe listen a bit, eh.

You're conflating evolutionary, pleasurable reproductive behavior with murder? You're one sick puppy.

And you're no longer worth paying the slightest lick of attention to, as you'd prefer to insult me for a comparison that was merely looking at your basic premise--that evolutionary history makes modern day behaviour both acceptable and, apparently, morally superior than actually discuss. Or, for that matter, pay attention to anything I've actually written.

This is a tiresome trend on Metafilter in general and in regards to me in particular; how about you read what I have actually written instead of reading what you have decided I wrote, and respond accordingly?

So, you're saying we should defer to your experience of something you aren't particularly experienced with, as opposed to those here who are more familiar with it and who ?

I'm stating my own experiences across a fairly wide variety of poly people throughout North America. As are you. The fact that you are so savagely defensive and refuse to accept there is any truth to what I am saying is quite telling.

Poly identities, much like queer identities, are the sort that people invest a lot in. When you come out as gay, for example, you are--or were when I came out; it's changing a little bit--expected to be GAY!!!!! The difficulty of coming to terms with such an identity guarantees that you are expected/pressured to assume the most extreme version of that identity. I'm gay in the sense that I am emotionally attracted only to men, but you know what? There are some gorgeous girls out there and a roll in the hay could be fun. The reactions I have gotten from my gay friends are hilarious, to say the least, and often involve something insulting about vaginas. Adopting/accepting a countercultural (in the sense of counter-mainstream) identity, particularly when sex is wrapped up in the picture, carries with it a need to be really invested in that identity, as it can be so hard to hold on to otherwise. Which often means wearing rose-coloured glasses when it comes to seeing the problems in your new community.

At no point have I said that all poly people are fucked up. At no point whatsoever. What I have said is that in my experience there seems to be a greater degree of fuckedupitude in the poly community than outside of it. In many of the same ways, and in some cases for many of the same reasons, that there is a greater degree of fuckedupitude in gay romantic relationships than in heterosexual ones. This isn't a value judgement on you as a person; you have made your choices and presumably they work for you, and not only would I not stand in your way I would happily defend your right to have them.

That does not mean I have to swallow the bullshit that so often comes along with polyness, and it certainly doesn't mean I have to swallow the absurd notion that somehow being poly is 'better' because on an 'evolutionary' basis it's perfectly natural. FYI, evolutionary psychology is complete and utter garbage.

And it certainly does not mean I have to take any more of your shit, mischaracterizing what I have said and in at least a couple of cases shoving strawmen into my mouth so hard I gagged.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:10 PM on June 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


And it certainly does not mean I have to take any more of your shit

Again, you're taking this too personally. Why not take a walk, or shut the window or tab with this discussion in it, and consider your piece as having been stated?
posted by hippybear at 6:30 PM on June 15, 2010


I do tend to take things personally when I'm called sick, and when yet another MeFi dick decides it's a better idea to put words in my mouth than to actually pay attention to what I've said. I'm funny that way.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:35 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can we just agree that different things work for different people?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:42 PM on June 15, 2010


Yup. Which I have said many times. 'course, that would get in the way of people getting their digs in, so it tends to be ignored.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:49 PM on June 15, 2010


You did kind of create an equivalency earlier between people pursuing poly relationships and mass stabbings. I know I'm not the only one who took it that way. If that's not some kind of negative equivalency, then I obviously have the wrong impression of what you mean by "stab".
posted by hippybear at 6:49 PM on June 15, 2010


"your basic premise--that evolutionary history makes modern day behaviour both acceptable and, apparently, morally superior"

Morally superior?! That's a *HUGE* leap. I never brought morality into this issue, because it has nothing to do with it! People who are truly polyamorous do their best to be ethical in their sexual dealings... not moral.

Who brought morality into this? You did, ironically enough, when you brought up the issue, and when you started talking about "acceptable" behavior. Stabbing people... not acceptable. Polyamory... not necessarily acceptable?!

From a poly perspective, ethical behavior is what determines what is acceptable behavior... and there's a *big* difference between morality and ethics.

And does natural human behavior -- such as homosexuality or a desire for multiple partners -- make behavior acceptable? For many, no, due to their moral beliefs. It does, however, make it natural and completely understandable, from the standpoint of human behavior. The only other questions to be asked, really, are whether that behavior is ethical and consensual.

The tendency towards multiple loves, partners, and relationships is every bit as natural as homosexality. Again, it's the ethics, not someone else's morality, that should matter.

"At no point have I said that all poly people are fucked up."

Most, not all. As I mentioned, you previously said:
"a fairly consistent trend". . . "fucked up poly groupings", etc.

You have stepped that back to "more than average"... and yet you seem to view that as a failing of the individuals involved and of the polyamorous community as a whole, as opposed to anything else, right?

Likewise, the same can be statistically shown to be the case about gay men, right? More suicide? More alcoholism, tobacco, and drug addiction? Shorter relationships, on average.

You do think it's fair to say that gay people are generally more fucked up than those who choose to be monogamous without paying much attention to why that might be the case, right? Clearly, it's *all* because of gay culture...?!

In short, there are a *LOT* of very fucked up things about the current heteronormative mainstream culture that can have a negative effect on both those who are gay and those who are polyamorous.

"it certainly doesn't mean I have to swallow the absurd notion that somehow being poly is 'better' because on an 'evolutionary' basis it's perfectly natural."

1> I never said that being poly was better for others.
2> By your standard, I shouldn't have to "swallow the absurd notion" that homosexuality is 'better" -- or as you previously questioned about polyamory, even 'acceptable'. Homosexuality could be as natural as stabbing people, right?
3> That said, I clearly don't believe #2. When it comes to personal matters such as sexuality, consensual behavior should determine what is legal, and ethical behavior should determine what is proper, period.
posted by markkraft at 7:01 PM on June 15, 2010


I'd say that people who want to slag poly as unhealthy or toxic or crazy or whatever should possibly spend some time working on their own plank.

Working on your own plank is a different kind of relationship. I have a great deal of experience on this topic from adolescence onward.

in accordance with what we know of human evolution …even though they are, by nature, not monogamous creatures?
Science proves I’m unnatural for being monogamous. Hmn. It was my understanding that human beings were highly complex creatures with a variety of sexual natures. But apparently we must make the world safe for intolerance again whatever the form.

How often do you hear them talking about the relatively non-violent methods so many "primitive" cultures have developed to resolve differences?
what

(My apologies for the digression)
The Aztecs used non-lethal weapons in order to take prisoners and slaves to burn their hearts on altars.
The Andamanese were known for their ferocity and xenophobia.
The Bayaka have some of the strongest monogamous bonds in any society.

A lot of the Amazon basin was an intertribal brawl-o-rama. (Closer to to the topic – that’s where they used to shrink heads as war totems, the Shuar were not exactly peaceful)

The Yanomamo were polygamous. Pretty warlike though (whether one argues it's because of western contact or points to the internecine conflict going on the past 10,000 years). The

The Huaorani as well, marry their cousins, pretty ferocious folks from way back. Although western contact did quell some conflict there. Of course, now they're being screwed by oil companies (but who isn't?)

Plenty of endemic war among tribal groups.

- I don’t see any way to make a general statement there about any of that. Other than ‘societies are different.’ (Lots more to be said about different types of societies, hunter-gatherers vs. farmers, male/female population ratios, etc. etc. I'll spare everyone that).

But there are masses of evidence for Paleolithic and Neolithic warfare. F’ing chimps go to war. Goodall documented the Four-Year War of the Gombe chimps.

Humans are a cultural animal. Culture and ritualization often deflects warfare or it's more lethal aspects. It is a breakdown of and in society when war occurs. Such a breakdown is often very complex in its origins and transcend anything that could be said about biology.
We've got big genitalia compared to other animals. We've got big adrenal glands. We get more turned on than many creatures and we get more pissed off than a lot of them.
Beyond that, it gets pretty complex.

The flaw in your 'against nature' argument is that it has the same kind of basis in form, in its appeal to authority, as violence being natural or as prejudice against homosexuals for being against nature (or in this case poly folks) – not that it is somehow akin to either of them in subject.

I won’t accept that I’m heterosexual and monogamous as some kind of flaw in nature and I won’t accept that in someone else’s sexuality either. (There's always the implication that there's some 'right' way that eschews diversity)

I thought that was a big facet of the FPP. Straightening out psychologists that polyamory does not equal neurosis or maladjustment, etc., because apparently their scientific assumptions were wrong.
Attempting to assert the reverse, that monogamous relationships are maladjusted - contrary to evolution, seems counterproductive to that endeavor.

One would think, just generally, greater tolerance for diversity whatever the biology would be sort of a key component to furthering a strategy based on acceptance and understanding.
Seems to work for conflict resolution in some cases anyway.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:01 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh hi fellow polyamorists!

This "some poly people, somewhere, think they're more evolved!!" thing comes up a lot.

"It often sounds to me that there’s an unspoken “you can’t handle it because you’re the jealous type” or “you have an insecure ego” from poly people towards monogamous folks "

Unspoken. Hmm. Is it really worth it to get defensive because you think I might be thinking something critical about you? Then again, I know how you feel. Sometimes it's uncomfortable to know that people find some of your most deeply held ideals to be, well, less than ideal.

I was at a barbecue this weekend and ended up talking to someone about how people react to the polyamory thing. One option was "silent disapproval". She asked if that weren't better than the alternative--open disapproval. I don't think it is better. I would rather have people come out and ask questions or tell me what assumptions they're making about me so we can talk about them. It really does have to be a two-way street, and they have to be open to learning more about it.

In that spirit, let's talk about some of the issues and criticisms that have been raised. The "I know so many jacked up polyamorous people!" one is pretty common. Disapproval, fear of custody issues, job loss, shaming, family fights, are all scary things. So the more reticent or cautious among us--the people who probably drive sensible cars and don't tell everyone about how much sex they have or when they got in a fight and threw some plates around--also tend to be quiet and low-profile, because that's just who they are.

The people who are less practical-car, and more like me, end up being more prominent representatives of polyamory (no offense, me!). People who are out tend to be louder, more impulsive, less private, more risk-taking, or just overall not-so-great at blending in. I don't know that these are horrible qualities to have, but I'm sure they contribute to the stereotype of the wild, chaotic, dramatic polyamorous life.

Of course the same thing happens in monogamous couples--you know the Gores got divorced with nary a peep about their marital troubles beforehand--and then some couples resemble Whitney and Bobby. My point is that the polyamorous Whitney and Bobby are more likely to be out, and they're more likely to attract attention from a lot of people. You know, think about it, and about other reasons why you might know some wacky polyamorists.

So back to polyamorists and our thoughts about monogamy. I am completely happy and cool with monogamous people. Not to be all "my best friend is monogamous!'' but...

...my best friend (and husband) is monogamous. He's in a polyamorous relationship, because I have a boyfriend, but he is just a chill, not-too-jealous monogamous dude.

So, you're saying, how does that work? Well, monogamy is his thing that he wants to do, so he does it, and I do my thing with his blessing. I occasionally say "oh hey go date a hottie" but he just isn't into it. HAREM BUILDER?? DESPERATE LOW-SELF ESTEEM MAN?? Naw, not really, we just happened to fall in love with each other and we make it work. Mostly it isn't even work, except the scheduling. We don't do don't-ask-don't-tell, we sometimes hang out with my boyfriend (who, in fact, bought us lunch and gave us a much-needed break from NYC during the most recent stressful Russian stuff.)

So yeah. My best friend is monogamous! Truce!

(Not so much a truce if I don't stop tying and go watch Breaking Bad with him!)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:23 PM on June 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Science proves I’m unnatural for being monogamous. Hmn"

I wouldn't say that at all. It's more that monogamy appears not to have really started catching on until fairly late into human evolution. My best guess would be that as we evolved and started developing more complex cultures, it grew out of belief systems and possibly the desire to better control things from the top down.

It's also quite likely as societies started competing against others for scarce resources, an organized warrior class was formed which men were most suited evolutionarily for combat. That led to their dominance, and to women generally absorbing a secondary role... in some cases, property. In that context, marriage equated roughly to ownership.

In other words, it probably has a lot to do with culture, and a lesser amount to do with evolution. But hey, if it feels right for you, then by all means knock yourself out...!
posted by markkraft at 7:30 PM on June 15, 2010


When it comes to personal matters such as sexuality, consensual behavior should determine what is legal, and ethical behavior should determine what is proper, period.
Yeah, I agree. I think most people (here) do.

‘That said, I clearly don't believe #2.’

The misunderstanding seems to occur when you say things like: ‘evolutionary, pleasurable reproductive behavior’ ‘I'm sorry that from your perspective, which excludes the basic science and DNA evidence, the universe looks that way to you?
‘your basing your core criticisms on a non-scientific world that simply doesn't exist’ and asserting that people are by nature, not monogamous creatures, ‘in accordance with evolution’ and the whole parents that get to have their cake and eat it too thing.

When you say things like that it appears you’re saying that science supports polyamory and that monogamy is socially contrived and backward and inferior, and, conflated with what dirtynumbangelboy said, that (put simply) monogamy is not ok - because of our evolutionary heritage.

What he appeared to be referencing was the concept that violence is inherent in the human species (which many people have said) as an invalid concept. And that what you were saying was akin to that in form because you appear to be using science as a stalking horse as people who have made the 'people are naturally violent animals' have made.

It appears you are not saying that though (despite the noble savage twist). And of course, the discussion went though further iterations and digressed.

Correct me if I’m wrong – you’re defending polyamory as a valid human relationship that has social and biological ties and so, rejection of it on that basis is wrong.
And that sexual exploitation, of the kind dirtynumbangelboy is talking about, is not the norm in polyamorous communities?

Because I think that’s uncontested (here).
posted by Smedleyman at 7:30 PM on June 15, 2010


(by tying I mean typing...at least this time)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:30 PM on June 15, 2010


Preview is mightly slow.

I wouldn't say that at all.
Ok. We might disagree on certain details. But nothing worth wasting time on if we're agreed on the 'if it feels right for you' idea.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:34 PM on June 15, 2010


Clay: But if you want to place a VOIP call to the person and look at porn while checking the weather report and reading news articles, then the complexity gets a thumbs-up. It all depends on your needs.

So PolyAmory is not too much different than multitasking?!

Neat. I think I can multi-task simultaneously with different sets of boobies and other female naughty bits....in a multi-taskly way...



You know those FPP's where the comedic potential is so thick, you begin sweating and getting short of breath from the sheer giddiness of wanting to partake in the fun. Yes. THIS is one of those, but I'm going to back out slowly now, before I get beat up by an over-amorous pixie or somethin'....
posted by Skygazer at 7:38 PM on June 15, 2010


"Humans are a cultural animal. Culture and ritualization often deflects warfare or it's more lethal aspects. "

I'm quite aware that ancient tribes fought... as I mentioned, though, it was usually driven in cultural conflicts over limited resources... or basically because they wanted something. (Land, food, slaves, etc.

I was actually referring more to such primitive cultures as they exist today. They aren't more violent than civilians in our culture. Considerably less, in fact. They aren't really competing much for resources, and they do have old traditions that help to keep the peace. If I wanted to talk about cultures in the past as being peaceful, though, pygmies and Amazon cultures are hardly the ones I would cite. They are basically about as good as we can get as far as a modern comparison to what cultures were like before they came into conflict.

"I won’t accept that I’m heterosexual and monogamous as some kind of flaw in nature"

As I've said previously, you shouldn't. Even if monogamy is 99% culture -- which may be a considerable overstatement -- the fact is, culture is incredibly important.

But still, keep in mind that monogamy doesn't work for well over 50% of marriages. Most people are serial monogamists, moving from partner to partner throughout their lives. I was that way myself, and in many ways, still am. I just don't see the need for the dishonesty, or for leaving a great partner, just because I also care for another person(s). The difference between monogamous and polyamorous really doesn't need to be that big.
posted by markkraft at 8:07 PM on June 15, 2010


"and asserting that people are by nature, not monogamous creatures"

Well... the facts are that most monogamists are non-monogamous creatures.

Serial monogamy where people hook up, someone leaves or meets someone secretly and then leaves.... over and over again until they meet "the right one"... who they have only a 50% chance of staying with until someone dies... and then perhaps they start back at step one, if they still have the desire...

Well, that's not exactly monogamy. It's not even always a guarantee of one partner at a time. And that, of course, assumes that most people do try to make their relationships work, and try to be faithful to their partners, which I think is essentially correct.

But really, if monogamy effortlessly, happily, beautifully works for you, congrats. You're arguably one of the lucky ones in our culture. It very well could be in your nature, but I most certainly wouldn't assume or expect that for others, even amongst other "monogamous" people you know.
posted by markkraft at 8:17 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"In my experience (or perhaps in my mind?) an open relationship is about being able to fuck whomever you want as long as you maintain your primary relationship. Polyamory is about trying to establish primary relationship which exist in more complicated formations than merely a dyad."

I see what you're saying, but I think you're using the term primary differently than most polyamorous people use it. Lots of people have one primary and that's it. To use better-known terms, I have a husband and a boyfriend, not two husbands, but it is still poly.

There are two major differences between open relationships and polyamorous relationships, although they overlap and there are a lot of open polyamorous relationships:

--Polyamory welcomes the formation of ongoing affectionate bonds, open relationships sometimes do not
--Open relationships allow sexual partners outside of the existing relationship(s), polyamorous relationships sometimes do not

You can have a closed polyamorous relationship. If my husband and boyfriend and I all agreed that we would not pursue other partners, we would still be in a polyamorous relationship, but it would be closed.

It's easier to just tell people you're in an open relationship, though, if you're going for something quick.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:34 PM on June 15, 2010


"Neat. I think I can multi-task simultaneously with different sets of boobies and other female naughty bits....in a multi-taskly way..."

Cool! I am sure that there will be man bits there as well! Yay, bits!

(Serious response: not all polyamorous people are into group sex)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:36 PM on June 15, 2010


SO I came into the thread with a few pre-conceived notions, but I found the Weitzman pamphlet to be pretty informative (though the citations could use some updating). Page 8 was a real eye-opener for me and helped dispel a couple of the aforementioned notions, so I'm going to reproduce it below for y'all:
In 1976, Knapp administered a battery of standardized psychological assessment measures to a sample of polyamorous couples (Knapp, 1976). No significant differences were found between the couples in her sample and the general population norms. “That is, neither group was particularly neurotic, immature, promiscuous, maladjusted, pathological, or sexually inadequate... The response patterns suggested a modal type of individual in a sexually open marriage who was individualistic, an academic achiever, creative, nonconforming, stimulated by complexity and chaos, inventive, relatively unconventional and indifferent to what others said, concerned abut his/her own personal values and ethical systems, and willing to take risks to explore possibilities”. Watson (1981) gave the California Psychological Inventory (Gough, 1957, cited in Watson, 1981) to 38 sexually open individuals, and these subjects also scored within normal bounds.

Twitchell (1971, 1974) applied the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) to several samples of persons with high degrees of involvement in nontraditional sexual relationships and control groups, and found no significant differences between the “sexually liberal” group and the controls.

Additional work has been done in the area of marital adjustment. Buunk (1980) found that couples with open marriages in the Netherlands were normal in terms of marriage satisfaction, self-esteem, and neuroticism. Spanier’s (1976) Dyadic Adjustment Scale was used to compare sexually open couples with sexually exclusive ones (Rubin, 1982), and no differences were found in adjustment or happiness between the two groups. “Nothing in this data argues for the view that sexual openness or exclusivity, in and of themselves, make a difference in the overall adjustment of a married couple.”

A follow-up study (Rubin & Adams, 1986) found that after several years, there was no significant difference in marital stability (i.e. breaking up vs. staying together) between those couples who had been polyamorous versus those whose marriages had been exclusive. Similar proportions of each group reported happiness versus unhappiness, compared to the earlier sample. Additionally, “the reasons given for breakup were almost never related to extramarital sex.” When polyamorous relationships ended, common reasons given included growing apart in general interests, feeling unequal levels of attraction to one another, and dealing with the stresses of long-distance (Ramey, 1975). - Weitzman, Davidson, and Phillips, 2009
tl;dr: studies found poly people to be no more mentally fucked up than regular folks, not significantly different personality-wise, no less happy in their marriages, and no more likely to separate.

So hey, if they're happy and it's scientifically-proven to not be hurting them,* I don't see why anyone needs to drop language on anyone else. Could I do it? Probably not-- I'm fiercely jealous and too egotistical to consider the possibility that I might not be able to provide 100% satisfaction in every area of my significant other's life. It just isn't me. But I'm an empiricist and a public health nut: show me a behavior that doesn't significantly increase or decrease your chances of developing an illness, and I'll show you my best impression of me not giving a fuck about it.

*checked pubmed and google scholar for epidemiological studies on polyamory but it turns out that there aren't any-- I would like to see data on rate ratios of STI transmission between poly and general populations, though. Simultaneous sexual relationships, no matter how well-protected and openly-discussed, are riskier behaviors than serial monogamy.
posted by The White Hat at 8:39 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The response patterns suggested a modal type of individual in a sexually open marriage who was individualistic, an academic achiever, creative, nonconforming, stimulated by complexity and chaos, inventive, relatively unconventional and indifferent to what others said, concerned abut his/her own personal values and ethical systems, and willing to take risks to explore possibilities”

FWIW, this is the polyamorous community I know. Lots of very bright people who care little for societal norms, and who do some pretty creative things, although usually not directly in the glare of the spotlight. They usually aren't workaholics, but many of them take on the kind of jobs and projects that others only dream of, because their more loosely-knit relationships make it possible to take several months and work on that interesting non-profit initiative, or study over in Japan, or do science with an Arctic research team.

I can say with some experience that there is a more-than-causal link between polyamory and NASA employees, for example. ;-)
posted by markkraft at 8:58 PM on June 15, 2010


I wish my relationships were loosely knit. Maybe it's because I'm the hinge of a V, but I can't take a trip to the corner store without an appointment. Much less the Arctic.

(We do all love chaos though)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:45 PM on June 15, 2010


I was very poly-positive until I started meeting poly people like markkraft.
posted by Snyder at 10:12 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


*checked pubmed and google scholar for epidemiological studies on polyamory but it turns out that there aren't any-- I would like to see data on rate ratios of STI transmission between poly and general populations, though. Simultaneous sexual relationships, no matter how well-protected and openly-discussed, are riskier behaviors than serial monogamy.

Maybe. But anyone who's out as poly is spending a lot more time analyzing this (also it seems to work best among somewhat analytical people in my experience.) So going through testing before having unprotected sex is somewhat of a rite of passage, really. In theory, polyamorous relationships should be less sexually risky, because of the negotiation required to navigate them and the ability to openly have multiple partners rather than cheat. (Yes, this I know this isn't always the case.)

I know that lots and lots of people who are in monogamous relationships (including myself) would never put their partner at risk for STDs by cheating...but we also all know that infidelity is incredibly commonplace. I wonder how much denial encourages people in ostensibly monogamous relationships to engage in riskier behavior.

I bet that it is about even in practice.
posted by desuetude at 10:13 PM on June 15, 2010


People are generally shitty at keeping their commitments is not a legitimate argument that the underlying logic behind the commitments is valid. For example, the planet would be a healthier place if every nation followed Kyoto: the fact that the biggest polluters haven't signed on doesn't make Kyoto a shitty idea.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:16 PM on June 15, 2010


To expand, now I'm just poly-neutral. The people who tend to be really wrapped up in their identities as poly make me want to stay away from the whole scene and avoid the topic altogether. Similar reasons as why, as someone who plays role-playing games, I dislike and avoid most people who advertise themselves as gamers and the whole rpg gamer "scene" that exists.
posted by Snyder at 10:19 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hopefully not too great a derail, but I wanted to briefly address the point markkraft was making about violence in 'primitive' cultures i.e. that they are less violent than modern ones. This is untrue historically, as has been discussed above, and is untrue today. See here for a discussion of a paper describing the causes of death among contemporary hunter-gatherer tribal societies, including the Hiwi of Colombia and the Aché of Paraguay, and finding that violence accounts for 30-40% of all adult deaths.

Slightly off-topic because I know it's not a point that was being made, but an interesting book about violence in precivilisation, if you wanna read about that kind of thing, is "War Before Civilization" by L.H. Keeley (wiki, google preview).
posted by Dim Siawns at 12:41 AM on June 16, 2010


"People are generally shitty at keeping their commitments is not a legitimate argument that the underlying logic behind the commitments is valid."

Just because the War on Drugs doesn't really stop the flow of drugs, and often causes more problems than it solves at considerable expense, that's not a legitimate argument that the underlying logic behind the War on Drugs is valid, right?!

Alternately, you could stop criminalizing drugs, and adopt harm reduction policies that actually help reduce / alleviate the worst problems related to drug use.

Similarly, those who find that monogamous commitments do not work for them can adopt an ethical code of responsible non-monogamy, thereby reducing / alleviating the worst problems associated with cheating.
posted by markkraft at 1:26 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


- Men who want harems
- Women who think they can't find a man to love them, so they take what they can get


Funny, my anecdata is all gender swapped on your anecdata.

The difference is I don't presume to speak for "us".

Oh, and I don't insist that all poly people somehow have an obligation to measure up to "our" standards, which is even more offensive and clueless. Kind of like citing bug chasing as something all gay men have a responsibility to address to the satisfaction of lesbians and hetereosexuals.

that the divorce rate of marriages- which are one-to-one- is around 50%,

Wasn't there a MeTa discussing that - something to the effect that it's much lower for first marriages, and goes through the roof for second, third, etc marriages? IIRC there's a superplurality of succesful marriages if you look at first marriage, and a bunch of people who keep remarrying.

Corrected that for you.

Mods have asked for people to quit engaging in this particularly discussion-toxic dickwittery.

And if you're going to indulge in naturalistic fallacies, I assume you'll be happy for someone to murder you, your offspring, and take your women into bondage? Because that's pretty "natural" too.

(And Smedleyman has already answered your wishful thinking on the innately peaceful nature of man.)

In any case, making sure psych-care types don't make things worse though abject cluelessness WRT their clients is a worthwhile objective; it's unfortunate poly relationships have become the dread spectre (along with dog-fucking) for anti-gay types to wave around as the next destination on the slippery slope if we let THE GAYS MARRY OH NOES, since it's probably made things worse-not-better for poly folks.
posted by rodgerd at 2:36 AM on June 16, 2010


There are definitely some people who want polyamorous marriage

There are some people who create an LLC for their family! With shares and everything!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:45 AM on June 16, 2010


markkraft: "Just because the War on Drugs doesn't really stop the flow of drugs, and often causes more problems than it solves at considerable expense, that's not a legitimate argument that the underlying logic behind the War on Drugs is valid, right?!

Alternately, you could stop criminalizing drugs, and adopt harm reduction policies that actually help reduce / alleviate the worst problems related to drug use.
"

Both are strategies which attempt to get at the same outcome: getting people to stop abusing drugs. One fails because it promotes violence and the degradation of persons, the other succeeds because it attempts to seek every individual's best interests. This is the same difference between the model of marriage which was wide-spread prior to feminism (and still widespread in communities where feminism has not made a significant impact), and the kinds of marriages being practiced today by people who grew up with feminist parents or inculcated those values by another means. Harm reduction policies still compel people to adopt a societal norm, albeit in a more humane way. Even with harm reduction policies, plenty of people will fail to live up to the societal norm. Negative consequences will result.

A more apt comparison would have been between the War on Drugs mentality and the argument that using drugs is an importantly eye-opening spiritual experience. If that's true, than the debate we're having really is whether monogamy or polyamory should be considered a societal norm, and both sides should give up the pretense that they're having a discussion just about what works for them.

TL;DR: Societal norms exist regardless of whether breaking those norms is illegal or punished by violent force.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:27 AM on June 16, 2010


Fraxas wrote: "People whose nicknames contain misspellings, that's who. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, loki."

Oh dear.
posted by wierdo at 6:53 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


In any case, making sure psych-care types don't make things worse though abject cluelessness WRT their clients is a worthwhile objective;

Yep, this is really the most important thing. A whole lot of people in alternative relationship models don't seek counseling for all manner of issues because they are scared of/tired of their therapists getting bogged down in the poly thing.
posted by desuetude at 7:27 AM on June 16, 2010


Evolution is also the reason why we feel jealous and hurt when our partners fuck around.

Any ancestors that sat in the living room while their partners boned the neighbours, saying "my, isn't this lovely, I feel great!" aren't our ancestors. From that perspective, feeling jealous when your partner is "in the field" is perfectly natural.

In other words, that you might feel that way has nothing to do with "your bullshit", and "calling you on it" isn't going to make the feeling go away, either.

Having seen more than a few times the human wreckage that polyamory can leave in its wake, I sum it up this way. It is the consequence of a society that has reached the limits of consumerism: people who want their cake, and eat it, too. "Poo on opportunity cost! I'd really like to diddle all the sweet tail that crosses my path, but being alone sucks ass, and being in a relationship improves my odds."

Maintaining a functional partnership is difficult enough. Grown-ups only, please. Sadly, the proportion of grown-ups in society seems to be shrinking.

The huge irony is that, for a philosophy supposedly built on complete openness and a set of shared rules, all the polyamorous constellations I know of that failed (namely, all of them) flew apart when one or more participants stopped being honest with the others and broke the very rules they themselves helped set. That usually happened within the first six months.

So much for real love.
posted by rhombus at 11:12 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Other is funny. Except when they are frightening.

There was this one time when they were funny and frightening, but my counsel has asked that I not elaborate.
posted by everichon at 11:19 AM on June 16, 2010


What does the cake stand for? Not trying to be obtuse, I just never quite got it. I also wonder why it matters what I do with my cake as long as I'm not trying to put it in your fridge.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:53 AM on June 16, 2010


The huge irony is that, for a philosophy supposedly built on complete openness and a set of shared rules, all the polyamorous constellations I know of that failed (namely, all of them) flew apart when one or more participants stopped being honest with the others and broke the very rules they themselves helped set. That usually happened within the first six months.

I really don't think that's ironic at all. My own experiences with polyamory taught me that a person's ego/self is a very strong thing, and even despite best intentions, some are simply unable to sublimate it into a greater whole, despite their own wishes to do so.

I want to make it clear -- in my earlier comment about how I'm glad for the lessons I learned from my experiences, I didn't mean to imply that I believe that poly relationships are the only way to learn these lessons. They were merely the path which I went down, and what I learned was not just the expected things (ego, jealousy, secrecy etc are bad for relationships), but also a lot of unexpected lessons. Such as my own capacity for relationship mediation, which I had never known before. Or where my own lines lie for acceptance and forgiveness, which had never been truly tested in any serious way before.

There are plenty of other ways to learn these lessons, although I suspect that they remain unexplored by a large portion of the population, regardless of the context in which they might be confronted. At this point in my life (just over 40 years old), I think the biggest lesson I've learned about other people is that generally they are uncurious about their own psychological functions, and clueless about how to go about changing ingrained patterns of behavior, and mostly operate on autopilot in the world. For some reason, I'm wired to agree with Socrates when he claimed that an unexamined life is not worth living. But my testimony here is this: that is a minority position. And I'm sure a good number of people in relationships, whether dyads or poly, fall into the majority which are content without reflection.

I don't think this makes me better or worse, just different. If anything, it means that I have a tendency toward internalization of outwardly chaotic moments (because surely they must mean something and reflect on me), and this can be a handicap instead of a benefit.
posted by hippybear at 11:53 AM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The huge irony is that, for a philosophy supposedly built on complete openness and a set of shared rules, all the polyamorous constellations I know of that failed (namely, all of them) flew apart when one or more participants stopped being honest with the others and broke the very rules they themselves helped set. That usually happened within the first six months.

Yeah, I see the same HUGE IRONY with a lot of marriages. Despite proclaiming their shared rules in front of all of their family and friends!
posted by desuetude at 1:43 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


That said, how often do you hear anthropologists talking about pygmies or Amazon tribesmen killing each other?
&
If I wanted to talk about cultures in the past as being peaceful, though, pygmies and Amazon cultures are hardly the ones I would cite

…ok

It very well could be in your nature, but I most certainly wouldn't assume or expect that for others, even amongst other "monogamous" people you know

Hey, I’m just trying to agree with you man. I expect nothing from anyone else. Other than my assumption that whatever drives them is similar to whatever it is that drives me be equally accorded.

What would have been surprising for me to read in sex studies would be that I didn’t have some sort of other end of the bell curve counterpart who is exclusively homosexual and/or polyamorous. If my extreme heterosexuality were some kind of norm, it’d be weird. About 90% of the guys I talk to seem effete or affected. Doubtlessly I seem hypermacho. I get a kick out of this ‘don’t cheat on your wife’ taboo that exists in society. I was watching the Sopranos a bit back and everyone is put out of kilter that Tony Soprano is cheating on his wife. Oh, extortion, murder, beatings, that’s ok, but sleeping around – whoa, that’s out of line.

Yeah, I see the same HUGE IRONY with a lot of marriage

Yeah, there seems to be a lot of affectation in monogamy as well. I'm monogamous because, well, I am. It does seem like a lot of folks are, simply because its expected of them.
I like being in the woods, hunting, fighting, jumping out of planes, manly things. Running with bulls seems like something people do to show they're manly. Doing the whole marriage ceremony - same deal: "hey, look how committed I am!"
I don't really need social pressure not to sleep around. I just don't want to. I want my wife. I love her very intensely and I like exploring that depth with her. As with going to dukes, I like to be rather than seem. Watching MMA, etc. on t.v. bores me. Being in a ring, training, being in the field, gets all my attention.

Doubtlessly there are people trying to BE in a world that demands they seem a certain way.
That sucks.
Been judged that way myself, so I know the taste. Not, obviously, to the extent that other folks can attest to. But I can say it does suck for people to have expectations of you just for being yourself. (Wow, look at how Smed guts that deer! He is so bad ass! Lookit, he's making deer chili and grilling the meat. Goddamn, what a badass! Not like that faggot there working on the computer.
Smed: 'That's Roland. He's doing my taxes because I'm terrible with money ...did you just call him a faggot?'
...uh...well, he's not a real man like, uh, us, Smed
Smed: He is a male. And he is gay. Kind of tough growing up bakla in Quezon City. Probably why he's a senior instructor in sayoc kali and did all that Muay Thai ... did you want to ask him to step outside? You can settle what's 'real' out there. I'll give you my sticks?
uh....no...etc.etc.)

My own experiences with polyamory taught me that a person's ego/self is a very strong thing, and even despite best intentions, some are simply unable to sublimate it into a greater whole, despite their own wishes to do so.

I’ve been in a kind of group marriage. You can get pretty close to the people you’re with in the military. And you develop and keep trust and set boundaries. I suspect that would be what a good polyamorous marriage would be like.
At least as far as a group of men who don't have sex goes.
But those relationships haven’t ended. We still rely on each other for mutual support and pretty much all the benefits cited in the fpp. Not sex of course. But there are other things in serious relationships.
That might be the thing. Universally. A lot of people just focus on the physical aspects of a relationship when they're new to them and later plug in to the other elements.
If they're still focused on their own gratification (of whatever kind), they're not going to do well in any relationship.
I've considered polyamory in the abstract as a good way to have overlapping support for raising kids.
Wasn't it the guy who invented Wonder Woman who had his wife and another woman?

I suspect though it would be easier to solve child rearing problems in the U.S. if both parents didn't *have* to work, if land use was more equitable, if there wasn't such the huge disparity in socioeconomic levels, if housing and jobs weren't so distant thanks to the goofy automobile centered infrastructure developed for a (now outdated) need for military mobility and off our oil based economy, and if families weren't scattered by economic necessity and screwy real estate planning we seem to have.

A good case can be made for those kinds of social reasons undermining any sort of relationship. Not just polygamy or monogamy.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:01 PM on June 17, 2010


Wasn't it the guy who invented Wonder Woman who had his wife and another woman?

Yes, I he had two wives and a passel of kids and they all lived together.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:42 PM on June 17, 2010


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