I used the power of Reddit to address the recent post I wrote on social justice and polyamory (and dancing). Luckily for all of us, there are smart people out there on the interwebs…
Some excellent points made were:
-Polyamory is a Western framing of ethical nonmonogamy. I remember reading Sex at Dawn and being amazed at the descriptions of cultures where people aren’t sexual property of others, where children are raised communally, and where patriarchy doesn’t dictate women’s bodies. Ethical nonmonogamy has and does exist among many different human cultures, although it may go by different names, have different motivations, and have different forms and practices. Polyamory, though, is a relatively new and certainly Western concept, and thus will fail to capture people in the US and around the world who practice something similar and do not call it the same thing.
[An aside: I also think the term "polyamory," its definition, and its history still try to subvert mainstream meaning by tying "love" to "sex." "Well yes, we can have multiple sexual relationships but these relationships are also about love." Inherently, this discourse shows the attempts in Western history of separating body from heart, of separating dirty sex from pure love, and tries to placate the Puritans still alive that we polyamorists do indeed have love in mind in having multiple relationships.]
-Perhaps the reason that the polyamorous culture looks so homogenous in terms of class and race is because the people that can afford to be out are those with the most privilege (white, middle to upper class)- thus, people engaging in multiple, intimate relationships who are also minorities in other ways (race, class, etc) may be far less able to come out to their families, employers/employees/coworkers, neighbors, and broader communities. I think this is an excellent point (and in fact reminds me of some reading I did recently in which it was mentioned that for many LGBTQ individuals with multiple minority identities, it is sometimes a better approach to not come out as LGBTQ, in order to protect the relationships and communities they already have. I think the same could certainly apply to people with open/ethically nonmonogamous/polyamorous relationships. In fact, conversations in the Facebook group I am part of has shown the diversity in opinions on this topic, and depicts how coming out is a very individual decision dependent on many factors, including diverse community identification and cultural ties.)
-I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read this article (The privilege of perversities: race, class and education among polyamorists and kinksters), but it looks pretty delicious. Thank you to the redditor who posted it. I am excited to read it!