Poly Means Many: From within

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com. This month’s topic is misconceptions and judgments

One of the main reasons I write about my love life on a monthly basis is because I’m aware by society’s standards it’s a little on the unusual side, and I sort of want to demystify it. This month, the Poly Means Many project is revisiting the idea of misconceptions and judgments that people tend to make. Last time, I wrote about the overlap between this and biphobia.

This time, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the stuff that goes on within our own community and the gross oversimplifications that often pop out of our mouths when we’re defending ourselves, and the side of our community that is presented to the public.

Polynormativity” was a term I found really useful when I learned it: an umbrella term for the media-sanctioned brand of polyamory that you’ll generally see in the lifestyle sections of the paper. It’s the kind straight-man-bi-women arrangement with built-in hierarchies, where everyone’s cute and white and it’s definitely not all about the sex because they are going to have babies and a nice house. When your average non-poly person thinks of poly, this is kind of thing that springs to mind, and it’s a nice thing to present because very few people are going to have much of a problem with it, as it maps on to the generally socially-accepted life trajectories.

Now, it’s not like these relationships don’t exist. Hell, they do, in buckets. And it’s why a lot of the time I don’t get on well with poly men, who will often want to crowbar me, sooner or later, into that sort of arrangement. This isn’t necessarily just how poly relationships are presented, this is how a lot of people expect and want them to work, and because it’s so normalised, it’s sometimes not even negotiated. That is absolutely and categorically not OK. We as a community need to just as aware–if not more so–as mainstream mono society of the dangers of assumptions and avoid making them. 

I definitely feel like sometimes I get judged from within the community for my rejection of a lot of polynormative values. As I wrote last month, I reject the relationship escalator, which means the babies and the nice house are something to which I definitely do not aspire. And for me, a lot of it is about the sex. I am a powerfully sexual person. I like sex. I love sex. I love having sex with lots of beautiful and amazing people, sometimes all at the same time. I have literally been accused of commitment phobia from poly people for how I conduct my relationships.

The poly umbrella is a diverse community, and because of this, we need to avoid making judgments about how others within our community live. This can be hard: we are all, after all, unlearning all the wrong things we were taught about love and sex and relationships. And we’re getting good at how they apply to ourselves as individuals, but not so much when we meet someone who does things differently. The thing is, there’s enough judgment coming from outside our community. This is not the fault of those of us who fail to meet up to mainstream society’s definition of almost-normal.

One thought on “Poly Means Many: From within”

  1. Great thoughts. The recognition of the hierarchy as a problem is especially relevant. The requirement enforced by many upon poly relationships of a partner that is “before anyone else” not only enforces typical heterosexual power dynamics but seems in some ways go against the very philosophy of polyamory. Perhaps I am biased considering my preference to treat all partners equally, but it does seem to do the orientation injustice to impose such a hierarchy.

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