Adopting Poly Values: A Good Thing?

Today is Earth Day, and for some reason that reminded me of this article on Psychology Today by Deborah Anapol: “A Message in a Bottle.” Alan at Poly in the News commented briefly about it a couple weeks ago (saying, “I can’t agree with Deborah Anapol’s argument…that the mainstreaming of poly ideas into conventional relationships only helps to perpetuate a failing, patriarchy-derived world.”), and his comments inspired me to read her full article; overall, I agree with Alan.

Anapol finds no comfort in the idea of “mainstream” relationships benefiting from polyamorous or open relationship values. She sees “traditional” “monogamous” relationships coopting these values as a means of perpetuating a broken system of relationships and families. What she really wants is a complete break from the traditional system, and a completely new culutre around love, family, and relationships. She comments:

The ancient Chinese understood that the family is the building block of the culture. Hence it follows – change the family, change the culture. This was my reasoning anyway. But going from monogamous couples to non-monogamous couples preserves the structure of the family. As does polygamy. This is precisely why what was once considered sinful is now being promoted in some very strange places. I am not against families, but my life experience tells me that nothing less than a radical break with the past is what’s called for now, and I don’t believe creating a bigger comfort zone when what we need to do is step outside of our comfort zones, is going to get us out of our current dilemma before ecological disaster does us in.

[I think what must have been the link in my brain between Earth Day and her article is that last line that includes the phrase “ecological disaster.” Also, I know I have read elsewhere about the link between ecological consciousness/awareness, sexuality, and relationships. There has been, in fact, a continuing conversation among some sex-positive folks in the area about “ecological sexuality.” I think it is pretty fascinating to make a link among sexuality and relationships and the Earth’s health. It makes a lot of sense to me that people ascribing to sacred sexuality, including paganism and other earth-based spiritualities, also find meaning in the polyamorous and open relationship philosophies, and vice versa.]

Anyway, I can understand where Anapol is coming from (when you have been at the forefront of the poly movement and have thus witnessed its mainstreaming and acceptance and awareness among a larger population, you probably feel a little tired of always being the “radical” and really just want radical change, and you may feel fearful that the movement you have worked so hard for is being undermined by traditional values of monogamy), but I also think that cultural values and norms change slowly. Maybe one day our culture around love and control and relationships and family will look radically different from today, but as things change, I don’t see the harm in having “traditional” relationships benefit from the values inherent in open relationships. In fact, I can’t really think of a better thing: my younger sister may want a monogamous relationship right now, but I know at least my conversations with her about my relationship have allowed her to make that choice consciously, and I am sure have allowed her to think more critically about her own needs and desires. What is wrong about more people thinking more consciously about what they want and then communicating with their partners (whether dating, friends with benefits, married, poly, etc)? I think it’s better than unconsciously ascribing to societal norms about love, relationships, and family.

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