SDS Womyn's Caucus Blog

Polyamory in activist communities, issues with existing relationship models, and the lack of a middle ground

Posted on: January 8, 2010


6 Responses to "Polyamory in activist communities, issues with existing relationship models, and the lack of a middle ground"

[…] reblogging this post from the SdS Womyn’s Caucus Blog. It is written by a fellow student at UMD, Aliya, who also happens to be a member of our new […]

Thanks for posting this Aliya. The theories you put forth really ring true for me. I think sometimes when we’re creating new, radical models for doing things we forget that we all bring our baggage from the fucked up culture we’ve been socialized in into the new models.

I think a big problem I’ve seen is women’s socialization tells them, as you said, “that they should aspire for only heterosexual, monogamous relationships inevitably leading to marriage and children.” We’re also taught that we are responsible for men’s emotions as well as responsible for maintaining men’s happiness in our relationships with them, i.e. we need to please men or they will dump us. (Not to limit the discussion to only hetero relationships, just stating what the heteronormative messages we receive are.)

In general, no matter what kind of relationship it is, I think men feel less responsible for maintaining the relationship emotionally, and also face fewer consequences if the relationship dissolves. Women are taught that it is their failure to please the man that has caused the relationship to end, and historically have depended on male partnership for financial stability, though that is less of an issue for some women now.

In my relationships and my friends’, I think we sometimes feel like our rational, political selves who want to be poly are fighting with our socialized conciousness that tells us we need to “keep” our partner, please them, and that we are in competition with other women they show interest in or who show interest in them.

Anyway…thanks for posting this! It’s a tricky topic.


so I definitely agree with a good deal with what robin said and i’m really glad that more people are writing for the blog!! in the interest of full disclosure, i’m kind of sick of defending monogamy to dismissive poly people as well as defending polyamory to dismissive monogz people. i’m generally supportive of whatever works for individuals while still being critical of how socialization shapes us to want certain things/act certain ways. I have a couple things:

“Why, if someone is not wanting a serious relationship, is into casual sex and dating, and supports alternative relationship models, does polyamory still feel uncomfortable at times?”

The way i read this, it seems like not wanting a serious relationship is being equated with polyamory. i guess my conception of what polyamory is is more about all relationships being considered serious from our best friends to partners to people we’ve just met. i guess this also just brings up the idea that polyamory itself is a really expansive idea and it would be worth defining what exactly you mean by it.

In general, I feel like the article is stating a lot of problems that people experience in relationships of all kinds. I think they’re certainly right on, but all of them happen in both poly and monogz relationships, don’t they? Isn’t seeing these dynamics as only a part of poly relationships a bit disingenuous? Are there specifics about poly relationships that could perhaps illuminate the criticism of polyamory specifically? the only thing that i can find that is specifically differentiated between poly and monogamous relationships is the following:

“Men and the patriarchy often make it their aim to define and exploit female sexuality for their own gain. By equating polyamory with female sexual liberation and equating anything else (whether it be monogamy or something in between monogamy and polyamory) with being anti-sexuality and sex-negative, exploiters continue to define female sexuality for their own purposes and benefit.”

This point seems especially problematic to me. the way i read it, it’s saying that men/patriarchy are responsible for advancing the idea that polyamory is liberating because it benefits them. if i’m incorrect, kindly disregard these thoughts. if this is the case, my real question is “How?” It seems that there’s some sort of implicit values judgment here that sees polyamorous relationships so inherently beneficial to men or the conservation of patriarchal power that they must be promoted by these people/forces. This seems hard to believe considering the free love movement (a precrusor to modern polyamory i would say) in the United States was and is still seen as the disgusting perverted wing of the feminist movement in contrast to the brave and valiant racist/classist suffragettes who were their contemporaries.

I guess I just feel like this article should be put forth as “the pitfalls of polyamory within heterosexual activist circles,” as it really doesn’t speak to my queer experience of polyamory in any way.

You have done it again. Superb read!

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