OpenCon 2013 – Normativity


I was at OpenCon last year, but didn’t really engage much due to my circumstances at the time. Still, I did meet some wonderful people, including Victoria Rosa, who through Umbrella Coaching (now also with Open and Awesome teleseminars) played a critical role in my introspection and remodeling of my life to be more healthy and fulfilling. I can’t thank her enough for her help through the most difficult part of my life.

This year, I was not only able to engage fully, but at the last minute I decided to host a workshop myself on solo poly that I really identify with as well as a concept that I had very recently discovered: Relationship Anarchy.

I was completely overwhelmed by the interest and feedback as well as the stories, opinions and general sharing that all the participants contributed. One major thing that I took away from the workshop is that there are a lot of people who style their relationships in a solo or anarchic way without knowing that terms have been invented for it and often didn’t understand why a separate term would be needed for it.
This leads me to believe that polynormativity, as portrayed in the media is actually far worse than I thought it was. Far worse because it’s not even representative! Now I have the impression that media has cherry-picked models of polyamory that are easy to show and understand, typically also with demographic groups that fit neatly with pop culture stardom.
I think this is far worse because it is the equivalent of the only image of university students being Beverly Hills 90210. It’s a completely skewed perspective of what is “normal” (in this case median) and glamorizes the stress, drama and difficulty of having multiple partners and the need to enforce rules and veto rights to keep the primary partners together.

Anyway, I know my sample set was really small. The best information I could find about this was simply an estimate given by Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont to LiveScience magazine that only about 30% of polyamorous practitioners have a primary relationship. If anyone knows of any studies or surveys done counting the practitioners of different relationship styles, please let me know. I’d appreciate it very much.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Quillivet says:

    Interesting to read it reported (since I was in the workshop). All I would add is that clearly it’s far from always the case that a primary relationship necessarily involves enforcing rules or vetoing rights. I remember feelng more structure was necessary like that in the beginning, years ago, but not now. We simply explain the situation at the start, and then things are fluid and responsive around that. My gut feeling is that yes, about a third of poly folk I know have a primar – or two…!

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    1. polyhydra says:

      I didn’t mean to give that impression. I was more ranting about how big media portray poly and of course for ratings you have to have conflict. Happy, happy, cuddly constellations don’t seem to sell. What a weird world we live in that prefers conflict to love.

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      1. Quillivet says:

        I’m still inclined to protest you know! – clearly I too prefer conflict. The articles I have read in the newspapers about poly have all been longish pieces about established, successful triads. Their members are indeed always asked about jealousy etc, but the general tone is usually positive. The articles were in – if I remember rightly – The Telegraph and The Sun. The Sun’s was very fair-minded. I think solo-poly would probably be condemned as sounding like too much fun to be true though!

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      2. polyhydra says:

        I must read more European articles then!
        By the America-centric virtue of the Internet, I get most of my media view from that far-off land.
        Although it is indeed overall positive, I have found that they tend to glamorize the conflict and the make-up sex afterwards.
        Give me some links and I’ll be very happy to read them! 🙂

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