A lot of people think that there’s some definition of polyamory that’s the final word on the subject. I’d like to address that a little. Technically, this article should be about three words long:
“There isn’t one.”
Once you get past the concept of “willing to have more than one sexual/romantic partner”, you start getting into a lot of debates about what polyamory is or isn’t. All of us do tend to quote our favorite literature on the subject, and that’s okay.
Back when there were one or two writers on the subject you still got a level of disagreement. Now?
There’s a lot of poly writers out there. A whole bunch. Off the top of my head1 and in no particular order, lemme name some poly writers:
- Debrah Anapol
- Catherine Liszt and Dossie Easton
- Ryam Nearing
- Morning Glory Ravenheart-Zell
- Franklin Veaux
- Anita Wagner
- Noel Figart
This list is hardly even a sample, and many of my readers will probably slap their foreheads, say, “She missed Book X and Blog Y. My God, how could she have neglected to mention that writer!”
You’ll find that these people all have their own views and are unlikely to agree on everything, or even a majority of ideas. That’s okay. Multiple points of view are really useful when exploring a complex topic like polyamory and the more literature we have on the subject, the better. Every one of these writers probably has had readers at some point or another think they’re total whackjobs who have no business contaminating the purity of poly literature with their ill-thought-out and foolish ideas as well.
That’s okay, too.
When you’re going to read about polyamory, I really encourage you to read widely. Don’t take your whole philosophy from a single writer. Hell, don’t take your own point of view from literature only in any case. Test ’em against your life. What works, what doesn’t? Why?
And don’t say that “The Polyamory Community thinks X”. Defining what the polyamory community is would be hard enough. I assure you that other than the fact we mostly think non-monogamy is okay, you’re going to find such a range of opinions. I often wonder if part of the reason polyamory is unlikely to “catch on” is merely because marketing to the “polyamory community” would be a non-trivial problem at best. You can’t break it down to a useful consumer demographic. My bet is that the media will likely ignore us except as a curiosity for for the fun of scandal.
But the real point here is that there isn’t a final word on polyamory. There can’t be. Oh sure, I’d love to think that my writing is the ultimate in what practical, sensible polyamory life and living is.
But it’s not, and I know it.
And neither is anyone else’s.
1If I left you out, please understand that this is a list off the top of my head with no real thinking involved, not because I think your work doesn’t count. Do feel free to add yourself and a link to your work in the comments. I hope you will, as I need to work on my blogroll.
13 thoughts on “The Final Word on Polyamory”
Sometimes the article idea just HANDS itself to you 🙂
I think you meant Catherine Liszt.
I sure did, David. Thanks so much! I’ll correct that.
Not only isn’t there one, but it’s kind of funny to watch folks in the poly community when they get into the “Well we’re not one of THOSE people.” when referring to whatever subsection they aren’t a part of. As if to say, “They’re weird and we do it better.” And hey, mea culpa. I fully admit there are philosophies and life choices contained within this loose community of people (who really sometimes have little in common other than what they’re choosing to call their brand of non monogamy) that make me shudder and think, “Oh. God. No. Just… no.” and that’s okay. They get to do their thing, I get to NOT do their thing, we’re all happy.
Beyond “non monogamy is okay.” I don’t really think we *need* a unifying philosophy or mission statement that brings us all together into a cohesive whole. I don’t think I’d want that. If there was one, I think I’d probably run and find another thing to call what I was doing. There’s a reason I don’t belong to any organized religion, you know? If we’re a community then someone is gonna decide we need “leaders” and no thanks, I don’t want to be led.
So yeah, totally, right on with that sentiment. Read everything you can get your hands on and then think about it logically and rationally and apply what works to your life as you are living it. And then live it. But don’t think ti’s the only true or right way, cos it ain’t.
Actually? I know what the final word on polyamory should be. I think I have it. The mission statement. The new ideal behind the poly community. It is something to aspire to, work towards, LIVE for.
“Don’t be an asshole.”
We could have tee shirts.
Well, Rainy, I’m in the process of designing a cafe press site for Misanthrope stuff. (I HAVE a coffee mug I’m not entirely satisfied with. I think if you search on Polyamorous Misanthrope you’d find it).
If you design a “Don’t be an Asshole” graphic that would go well on a t-shirt, I’ll put it on the site and hawk it and you can have the proceeds from that shirt.
> I think you meant Catherine Liszt.
“Catherine A. Liszt” was a pen name for Janet Hardy before she came out. (“Cat A. Liszt” ==> Catalyst).
There do seem to be a few fairly well established “camps” though when it comes to the final word(s) on poly…
Hippie poly – free love
Kinky poly – multiple play partners
Newage poly – harmonica virgins
Tantric poly – multiple chakras
Pagan poly – sex magick
Geeky poly – Heinlein fans
And there are probably a dozen more that don’t come readily to mind….
Within each of these (depending on how you define them) though, there does seem to be a “final word” or two. And I’ve found that the poly “community” is really more of a loose association of people in various camps, and each potluck or party or discussion group seems to lean more toward one or another of them.
The final word on tight-ass definitions comes from Princess Leia: “The tighter your grip, the more systems slip through your fingers.”
Keeping in mind that most of the philosophers that we study ssleouiry aren’t that modern, many supported polygamy, at least ideally (I’m thinking about Plato’s Republic), and beyond that, also homosexuality (again, Plato and parts of Plutarch’s lives discuss this). However, this polygamy and homosexuality also was common in the time. I’ve read a bit of philosophy, but not enough to say that no one argued for love of one person. However, I would certainly affirm the statement that religious doctrines often dictate one marriage partner. But if you think about it, aren’t we in effect polygamous today as well? We may only marry one person at a time, but how many people get divorced and remarried many times? And have affairs? Is it really that different? Another consideration is how deeply you can love more than one person in the same way it isn’t even possibly to have philos in the same magnitude towards more than about 4 people. It does wear thin, I think.
Ask six people who practice Polyamory to explain how it works and you will get 13 answers, as they tell you how they do it as well as how a friend of theirs does it.
There is no right way, there are just many ways that are not right for us.
““Catherine A. Liszt” was a pen name for Janet Hardy before she came out.”
Actually, it was her pen name while her children were under 18. She was fully out in her public life, but she didn’t publish under her legal name while it could affect her children’s stability.
I just wanted to let you know that I have a book coming out on this very subject on June 1 from Seal Press. It’s titled, “Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage.”
Here’s what Janet W. Hardy (“Catherine A. Liszt”), co-author of The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities, had to say about it:
“Alternative relationship structures are no longer the domain of free-love refugees and counterculture dropouts. “Open” shows that even the most normal-seeming relationship can challenge the conventions of monogamy and survive, joyously.”
Wishing you all the best,
I believe you mean “Deborah Anapol” and you have a doubled “for” in “…as a curiosity for for the fun of scandal.”
And I also happen to think I have the final word(s) on polyamory: “However you and those with whom you have relationships agree.” 🙂