Monoamory -> Polyamory

Something that I’ve noticed reading books, articles and research on polyamory and non-monoamory (I’m replacing the word monogamy here because we’re really talking about loving relationships and not marriage):
It’s always coming from the position of transitioning from monoamory to polyamory (and sometimes back again).

Phrases and book titles like “opening up” both implicitly suggest that first you’re monoamorous, then you transition to polyamory. I would suggest that for most of us, that is precisely what happens – at the very least in practice. Since our society is so strongly monoamorous and monogamous – legally, in the media and amongst our peers – even those who might identify as polyamorous by orientation are most likely to never hear of it until later in their sexually active lives.

Let’s take that situation to a parallel. Imagine that you are homosexual by orientation – in other words it’s not a choice you make, simply how you feel and which gender you desire. Now imagine living in a world like this one, but with one difference – in the public eye, homosexuality is unheard of. It’s illegal. You can’t marry someone of the same gender. All films, sitcoms and news articles only show those of opposite gender having relationships – with the only exception that when portrayed, it’s a big mistake – a disaster that warrants violent behavior between partners, lawsuits, ridicule and disgust from friends, family and colleagues. It’s a tough world if you happen to be born that way and can’t change it.

It’s actually not that long ago that homosexuals lived in that world – within living memory in fact. Even today, in some places, it’s still like that.

In Tennessee, you can be happily married with kids and living with another partner and can still be reported to the authorities, lose custody of your children and have them forcefully removed [1]. Not to mention that you can be fired from your job on that ground. That’s not just state-sponsored monogamy, that’s state-enforced monogamy.
In such an environment, it’s no wonder that monoamory is the only known way of loving.

Despite what is touted by the media in general, monogamy is rare. The Atlas of World Cultures reports that in human societies, only 17% of 560 examined cultures are monogamous [2].
In the animal kingdom, the figures look even lower – at about 5% for mammals… that are “mostly” monogamous [3].
Even the monogamy poster child for the American religious right – the Emperor Penguin – is only “monogamous” for a single season. They pair with a different penguin the following season. That’s what we commonly call “serial monogamy”.
Animals aside, given the numbers and the historical perspective, I would even argue that we’re not even really socially monogamous creatures. I would argue that the current concept of monogamy is recent – very recent. I would argue that it really began with the religious stranglehold on society and government in Europe during the Dark Ages and blossomed during the post-war era with relative wealth and technological advance allowing a single-income nuclear family to be plausible along with McCarthy attempting to define societal and moral traits to mark a clear difference between communism and democracy/capitalism. Only since then – the 50’s – within living memory – that strict monogamy has become the default in Western society.
Of course since then, society, economy and technology has changed – more so than in the previous few centuries.
I think that it’s time to accept that this concept is outdated and no longer plausible for the majority of the population – neither by nature nor by circumstance.

Of course, there is already a term for the kind of default monoamorous thinking that I outlined above: monogamous privilege.
It unfortunately still exists and is still a part of the polyamorous community.

One thing is for sure, now that this aspect is clear for me, I will be watching my words and reflecting on my thoughts to purge this default frame of thinking from my mind.

[1] Divilbiss case

[2] Monogamy – A variable relationship

[3] Love for life?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Gul says:

    Nice post!

    My only worry is constant comparison to animal kingdom, as if they are the benchmark for living our lives. We use heating, hot water, cook our food and wear clothes; no animals do that! Or are we saying that it is okay to eat our own children, sex with children, eat other humans etc. The point I am trying to make here is that we do live in a society and like to live in one. We have to play by ‘their/ some’ rules & get into mainstream too like ‘acceptance’ of gay. The question is how!

    Your ardent reader :-*


    1. polyhydra says:

      You’re absolutely right. We are animals, but to compare to species that are way different from us such as penguins is really irrelevant, especially since it isn’t even true. That was really my only reason for mentioning it – it seems a popular tactic to cherry pick an animal and hold it up as a paragon of how we should behave. It’s probably using the connection a lot of people have of “natural=good” to strengthen the impact of their message.


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