Share and critique: “Polyamorous relationships may be the future of love”

Andy Lawshare and critiqueLeave a Comment

Melissa Hogenboom writes Polyamorous relationships may be the future of love, a potentially controversial headline and one with which I’m largely inclined to agree. A good article on the whole – reasonably broad and thorough, and providing much-needed visibility for poly people. What follows are a couple of short highlights and a number of critical comments on the content.

A few key statements:

This all points to the fact that there is an intense “pressure to pair”. Monogamy is surrounded by a glowing halo and anyone who deviates from this norm seems to be viewed negatively”[.]

[…] mainstream media almost accept affairs as a social norm. “But when it comes to ethical non-monogamous relationships… this is considered [abnormal].”

A number of critical comments on the article:

  • Same-sex marriage is mislabelled “gay marriage”.
  • There’s erasure of non-binary identities when discussing classifying polyamory as a sexual(/romantic) orientation.
  • I’m unsure if polyamory is most commonly defined among the community as the capacity to love more than one person at a time (and therefore an involuntary identity – my own assumption) or the maintenance of simultaneous romantic relationships (and therefore an act). The author occasionally seems to assume the latter, implying polyamory is a choice, though towards the end it does recognise the possibility of two distinct conceptualisations:
  • However, even poly people say it is not clear cut. In [a] small 2005 survey Meg-John Barker of the Open University in the UK, asked 30 polyamorous people how they identify to find that about half saw it as “a fairly fixed identity”, while the other half saw [it] as a choice, as “an ethical alternative to infidelity”. Eve and Franklin also suggest it can be a bit of both.

  • There is mention of multi-party marriage but not of multiple marriages, as in removing the limit of one marriage per person (irrespective of the number of participants in any one marriage). It does however state “implementing poly marriage would be complicated, in part because there are so many different types of poly relationships”.
  • Whilst opening up marriage to accommodate poly people (and not force them to pick one person with whom to pair legally) is of course very important, the article doesn’t really offer any critique of the role marriage itself (and, critically, its glorification/romanticisation) plays in contributing to the state in which “there is an intense “pressure to pair””, and therefore the stigmatisation of poly people.
  • The author suggests/mentions suggestion of classing polyamory as a sexual(/romantic) orientation. This makes some sense, though it’s important to be clear that it’s an orientation in terms of number (of simultaneous attractions) rather than limitations/tendencies by gender (side note: orientations do indeed go way beyond limitations/tendencies by gender), and therefore should not be conflated with or pitched as an alternative to being ace, bi, demi, gay, queer, pan, straight etc – it operates on an entirely separate but concurrent dimension.