Poly Ideas in “Ecotopia”

I was assigned to read a novel for a class next semester (assuming I am still in school). The class is called Introduction to Ecopsychology, the book Ecotopia. The book itself is a little dorky, the writing okay, some presentations of gender and race off (it was written in 1975), but the ideas inherent in the story are thought-provoking (that an ecologically sound country would totally revolutionize school, the work week would be 20 hours, women run the government, cars are left behind in favor of bikes and high speed rail, etc.).

I loved reading the following passages, too, that hint at values within ethical nonmonogamy and polyamory and a societal structure of relationship that echoes how I could see relationships operating if polyamory were the norm instead of the exception to the rule:

…It turns out she [Marissa, the main character’s newfound lover in Ecotopia] has a regular lover in the camp. But has somehow arranged it so she can be with me during my stay. Lover is blond, shy, blushes a lot about other things but doesn’t seem at all jealous about his woman having made love with me. Evidently there are other women he can console himself with! Wasn’t sure till nightfall who would sleep with whom. But she came to the little cabin I’m assigned to, quite unanxious about the whole situation.

…It’s as if the whole American psychodrama of mutual suspicion between the sexes, demands and counterdemands and our desperate working at sex like a problem to be solved, has left my head. Everything comes from our feelings…” (p. 58-9).

and

I don’t see, when I look at Ecotopian love relationships, or marriages, that awful sense of constriction that we felt, the impact of a rigid sterotyped set of expectations- that this was the way we were going to relate to each other forever, that we had to, in order to somehow survive in a hostile universe. Ecotopians’ marriages shade off more gradually into extended family connections, into friendships with both sexes. Individuals don’t perhaps stand out as sharply as we do; they don’t present themselves as problems or gifts to each other, more as companions. Nobody is was essential (or as expendable) here as with us. It is all fearfully complex and dense to me, yet I can see that it’s the density that sustains them- there are always good solid alternatives to any relationship, however intense. Thus they don’t have our terrible agonizing worries when a relationship is rocky. This saddens me somehow- it seems terribly unromantic. It’s their usual goddamned realism: they are taking care of themselves, of each other. Yet I can see too that it’s that very realism that allows them to be silly and irresponsible sometimes, because they know they can afford it; mistakes are never irreparable, they are never going to be cast out alone, no matter what they do… And perhaps this even makes marriages last better- they have lower expectations than we do, in some ways. A marriage is a less central fact of a person’s life, and therefore it is not so crucial that it be altogether satisfying (as if anything or anybody was ever altogether satisfying.) …” (p 117-8).

Cheers!

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