The Privilege of Not Defending Oneself
I've lately felt an unfortunate pressure to defend polyamory again (with apologies to etymologists). I usually ignore the judgments of the uninformed, but then there's the friend of a friend who may or may not have been joking when she scoffed that she'd never let me near her boyfriend. And the polyamory-focused indie film that's actually all about how it's kooky and doomed. And the absolutist, all-caps-laced rant on the usually sex-positive The Stranger blog with profound metaphors like "such idiotic bullshit" and questions like, "Ever wonder why they all will fuck any damn thing that will hold still long enough?" So I could use my blog to paraphrase all the same points of The Ethical Slut, Opening Up, and Polyamory Weekly. But they're already making the crafted argument/explanation pretty well. My personal version is mostly sentimental: I love two people.
And I remember one poly-book-club meeting where someone suggested we all go around the table and tell everyone "why" we're poly. It irritated me, because it had nothing to do with the book we'd read, and do monogamous people ever go around a table explaining why they're monogamous? I politely listened to the chain of people paraphrasing The Ethical Slut, and I didn't disagree with any of it, except that I had to wonder about the poly community's talking-about-our-feelings fetish. When it got to me, I simply stated, "I'm in love with two people. I don't want to lie to either of them. ...That's it, really."
I was introduced to the concept of polyamory through the BDSM community, which I went looking for because I wanted to be spanked and I was tired of men reacting with concern for my "psychological issues." When I learned that people in the BDSM community don't necessarily assume monogamy, the alternative struck me too as strange and scary at first. But the individuals I was meeting all seemed intelligent and happy, so I figured it must work for some people, if not for me. (I think this is where most of my friends are now, which is fine.) I started occasionally listening to Polyamory Weekly because I respected Cunning Minx as a friend, and some part of me found the concept fascinating.
What made me actually want to try it was not any of my new poly friends' arguments. My epiphany came about a year and a half into dating the man I've since married, sitting on a porch with an old, dear friend, when I realized that I was deeply in love with both of them. Then polyamory suddenly made perfect sense. I'd learned in college that cheating behind people's backs really does destroy relationships, so I wasn't willing to do that again. But then there was this other ideology that said I could be with both of them without lying. Score! I went home and started the conversation with my now-husband by asking what our exact boundaries were, I bought my copy of The Ethical Slut and read it in one or two sittings, and then I lent it to my friend with the porch.
Three and a half years later, we've all learned more about how to actually make it work. There's been the occasional drama, as in any three-and-a-half-years of any relationship. But what I come back to is: I love my husband; I love my boyfriend. They have great taste in women, so I'm happy to have their other lovers in my life as acquaintances.
It's a strange concept for many, so I'm usually fine with questions. But there's a difference between questions of respectful curiosity and freak-gawking. And I may be more sensitive to implications that I'm crazy, that I'm evil, or that my relationships are doomed, because I get that kind of a lot.
In order to get more general acceptance, someone probably has to go back out to the mainstream and explain again and again and yet again that we're not crazy and we're not evil. So I'm relieved that Jenny Block appears to be doing that, even on FoxNews. I'm losing patience for doing it myself.