A few thoughts on Polyamoury & its Community

How Polyamoury is supposed to work:
“Hi, I’m Terry, and I love Chris. I also love Pat. We also fuck, sometimes all together, but usually not. We’re all cool with that, and it would be nice if you were, too. Maybe it’s neurological, or maybe just idealogical, but this is how our relationship works. If monogamy works for you and your relationships, that’s cool, too, even if I don’t personally understand.”

How Polyamoury usually works:
“Hi, I’m Terry, and I love Chris. I also really like Pat. I have sex with both Chris and Pat, but never together, even though they know about each-other and are cool with it.”

-or-

“Hi, I’m Terry, and this is my lover/spouse Pat. To me, sex is like a handshake, it’s just another level of physical intimacy I engage in with all or most of my friends, or that I may eventually. When I feel super-close to people, ideally, my preference is that it lead to sex, though I kinda-sorta understand that’s not always how it works out. Some people just have so many hang-ups about sex/their bodies/being totally intimate!1

-or-

“Hi, I’m Terry, and I’m married to Chris. Ten years after Chris and I got married, I fell in love with Pat. I still really like Chris, though I’m not really in love with him, or all that sexually attracted to him anymore, but he and I see no reason to divorce; we’re still best friends, and then there’s the kid, and really, in this economy, who wants to lose those benefits? Chris and Terry both know about each-other, and they’re cool with that, and Terry’s even moving in with us. Chris is also seeing Lindsay, and both Lindsay and I know and are cool with that, and Linday might eventually move in.”

-or-

“Hi, I’m Terry, and I’m in love with Chris we are engaged to be married, but I also fuck Pat. To absolve myself of guilty feelings, cos I’m a pagan, not a Catholic, I suggested to Chris that we open our relationship and be polyamorous. Chris wasn’t down with that at first, but eventually, I wore them down. In theory, I’m cool with Chris ‘loving’ (by which I mean ‘fucking’) other people, but I try not to think about it, cos I’m the most important person in this relationship.”

-or-

“Hi, I’m Terry, and I love Chris. And Lindsay. And Pat. No, it’s not just about sex, it’s POLY-AMOURY, not POLY-FUCKERY2. Sex is amoral unless you’re in love, and since I never really outgrew my Christian upbringing, I’m very militant about the idea that I am IN LOVE with everybody I sleep with. I also might start ranting at you about how polyamoury is morally superior to monogamy, because it’s about TRUE LOVE, not SLAVERY! I conflate the Free Love movement, which was simply a Victorian-era First Wave feminist anti-marriage movement, with having all the lovers I want, and mistakenly believe that marriage in the ancient Upper Classes was about love, rather than politics, and use that as ‘historical evidence’ that polyamoury works. I might also say really bizarre things like ‘there really is only one kind of love’3, unaware of how sick and abusive that makes me and my family sound.”

-or-

“Hi, I’m PJ, and this is my partner, Stevie.”
“Hi, I’m Terry, and these are my partners, Chris, Pat, and Lindsay.”
“Oh, you’re seeing three people? And they’re all cool with that? I’m only asking cos it’s unusual, if they do, and I somehow didn’t/couldn’t discern from the context that they probably are cool with that.”
“STOP OPPRESSING ME!!!!!!”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend (by which I probably mean ‘my mistake’, but I have trouble admitting my own mistakes to myself, much less some-one I just met).”
“This is JUST LIKE NAZI GERMANY!!!”

-or-

“Hi, I’m Terry, and I will fuck anything that moves. I’m polyamorous!”

-or-

“Hi, I’m Terry. Have you read The Ethical Slut? You haven’t? Why not? That’s the ultimate guide to life! It’s the most perfect philosophy on love and sex, ever!”


1: Yes, this is something that people actually say.
2: Also something that people actually say.
3: Thankfully, I’ve only heard one person say that, but really now….

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for almost a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros most of that time. He also paints, makes music, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival subculture of the early 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.
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2 Responses to A few thoughts on Polyamoury & its Community

  1. Kullervo says:

    Oh man, I knew some people who were example 3 down to every detail. When word got out to the neighborhood, there was this hilarious range of reactions from people falling over themselves to show how cool with it they were to people who basically forbade their kids to go over to that house anymore (oh yeah, the couple had 4 kids too, and their plan was to just, not ever tell the kids). My reaction was a sure conviction that we were all going to be watching a messy divorce within a year.
    Oh, surprise, we all watched a messy divorce within a year.

    • I’m very single-partner oriented, but from a combination of Internet and somehow just coincidentally knowing a lot of people who are into the whole polyamoury thing (it’s kind of unavoidable amongst pagans, I’ve learned), so that’s how I’ve picked up on all this —cos really, the polyamourous person who’ll be this upfront and blunt about how that community works seems pretty rare. Even when things end in a messy divorce, or at least the worst break-up ever (because often enough, there’s one person who wants to get married and quit the poly- scene, while the other is very insistent that they’re fine just as they are), the party line is still invariably “polyamoury works, when you do it right, it always works”.

      The reality is that polyamoury only seldom works. Whether it’s due to hardwiring or just circumstances, more often than not, multiple relationships just don’t work. When even Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, who’s very often cited amongst the BiPolyPaganGeek crowd, even admits that “serial monogamy … may just be the human default”, in addition to pointing out that loving someone and making the relationship work, any relationship, is going to require a lot of hard work, that means something. That’s important. Most people just don’t want to do the work, and frankly, while there are a lot of people who agree with polyamoury ideologically, or for convenience, it just very seldom works out.

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