There’s a deliberation going on in the sex-positive community, and sadly, it underscores just how much work needs to be done to advance the concept of sexual freedom. I’m speaking of polyamory vs. monogamy and the question of whether one form of sexualove relating is more ‘advanced’ than another. To help frame the solution, few have demonstrated more compassion, clarity and tolerance than a polyamorous pagan who scribed Monogamy IS natural.
Airen has two long-term male partners and children from both. She’s also an advocate of marriage fidelity, and took issue with efforts to undermine our age-old convention, calling on lovers from all embraces to accept the myriad of choices available to us all.
“While it can be said that monogamy in nature is relatively rare, it can also be said that when it is found it is highly successful. Pair bonding is a wonderful adaptation, and aren’t we lucky to have it at our disposal?” She pointed out what on further reflection seems so, so obvious.
Arguing, implying or insisting that polyamory is more natural or the next step in sexual-evolution, as I have observed in both private and public discourse, takes us down the same sort of rabbit hole that derails discussions about same-sex marriage. Hierarchical debate ultimately leads nowhere; it’s an exercise in ego, not of Eros, and perpetuates sexual wounding. While love knows no boundaries, as I’ve oft asserted, sometimes we learn best by setting limits on the number of relationships we have, and sometimes we don’t.
Airen deftly defends her own relationship. “Polyamory is also found in nature and is also highly successful. Choosing a mate for a time, rearing children, and then choosing another is a wonderful adaptation we have at our disposal. Another form of poly living is the group wherein breeders breed and then raise the offspring communally, another highly successful form of bonding.”
Her voice reveals her understanding of historical precedence as well. What we call serial monogamy today, i.e., long-term relationships with one person, one at a time, was actually once called serial polyamory. Monogamy, in its original meaning, was one partner for life. Given this, most people reading this are polyamorists in heart and in practice.
What differentiates us from previous generations is that we now have a conscious choice, and if all goes well, society will get on board with accepting broader definitions of relationships between consenting adults that do no harm. (If all does not go well, I shudder at the thought). That process gets delayed, however, as long as those with varying opinions about what works best for them assumes they know what is best for others.
“As a polyamorous Pagan I want to be accepted,” writes Airen, “but I cannot be accepted by denigrating others. Ideally, one’s heirarchy of love, if we must have one, is to put ourselves first, particularly women and mothers, the nurturing backbone of any vital society.
Throughout her blog, written over a year ago, one senses a deep consciousness at work, a gentle hand working to bridge a divide between groups who fundamentally want the same thing: Love. By defending monogamy from the position of one who does not practice, she’s helped me breathe a little easier in my own explorations of marriage, commitment and long term partnership.
“To be fair it is my belief that to be in any form of love relationship makes you an evolved human,” she concludes. Nor are we ‘totally driven by our hormones.’ Humanity’s sexuality evolved over eons and under many dynamic pressures, some of which science is just coming to grips with. Sex At Dawn, the seminal tome to explore our ancestral procreative practices, is a gripping narrative of that evolution, and while the authors point to the overwhelming evidence that suggest sharing, not possessiveness, was the norm, pair bonding is a function of conscious choice as it is up evolutionary pressures.
“We CAN make a choice of who to love and HOW to love them. Whether we offer love to all and sundry or save [it] for one special someone is a CHOICE. Making that choice is what makes a person human, that is to say: making that choice, regardless of personal reasons, is what makes a person spiritually evolved and natural.”
From this perspective, we see the futility of arguing which is the superior way of relating. It really doesn’t matter which came first, the chicken or the egg, monogamy or polyamory or any other form of attachment: they are all here, and likely to inform relationships well past current discussions of which is more normal, natural, most beneficial or advanced.
It’s also my understanding that at least one of the pioneers who advocated the poly lifestyle, Deborah Anapol, recognizes that what is manifested today is somewhat askew to her original intention. Rather than being anti-monogamous, which shuts doors, her goal was to open the possibilities to expose the value in certain sexualove practices, currently out of favor with convention, but rooted in historical precedence.
Another long-time member of the community, Shelly Lion, has expressed frustration with what she calls the lack of wholesomeness in some circles of the poly community. To illustrate this point, she describes how as the number of people who entertain and play alternatively has grown, so too as a lack of respect for personal boundaries – never mind the judgment she’s felt for choosing monogamy.
Since I originally wrote an earlier version of this article, segments of mainstream culture are opening up, becoming receptive to what were once sexual taboos. Recently, Anderson Cooper interviewed one outspoken sex-positive Diva, Jaiya, who lives with two men and has a baby with one of them. If Jaiya’s New World Sex Education platform is airing on the national press (I’ll toot my horn here for writing about her work more than once over the past few years) we know that more than alternative-leaning lovers are perking up to the variety of lovestyles at humanity’s disposal.
How ordinary folks respond to these sorts of stories depends on part on how carefully envelopes are pushed. The challenge for sex-positivity, therefore, is to not allow blinders to derail tolerance for conventionality too. Squabbles between what is better – monogamy vs. polyamory – detract from the important work ahead: building a more just, shameless and pleasurable society, one that uses consent between adults rather than number of lovers as the rudder for what constitutes right relationship.
©2010-2011 www.TinamarieBernard.com; PARTIAL reposts only permitted with link back to original article.