Anarchy! (Um . . . Relationship Anarchy, that is.)

Becca

Member
So maybe it's a complete coincidence, but a lot of folks who practice RA also identify as anarchists in other facets of their lives. Examine the rules you follow, the rules you might impose on others, and determine for yourself whether they really support your values. Question authority, including your own. :)
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
I would have thought RA was the absolute absence of rules. Boundaries yes, rules no?
 

YouAreHere

Well-known member
Okay, I admit, I do plenty of reading on this forum. But that's different. I have an addiction. I can't help myself.

It's okay, Kevin. I'm with ya... ;)
Let's find some nachos and read the board.
 

YouAreHere

Well-known member
Nomnomnom...
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
I can't decide what to devour first, the nachos or the board. :)
 
I'd like to speak up and say D'Souza is a horribly unbalanced source. I've read a book of his, America: Imagine a World Without Her and it was full of horrible logical leaps and really unethical things like associating homosexuality with pedophilia.

He's plead guilty to illegal campaign contribution as well. Someone willing to do unethical things with their financial power is not someone I trust to talk about how finances and economy should work.

Thanks for posting this MusicalRose. I'm finding that the notion of a person who is as you describe D'Souza being held up as a good resource in support of the current way of doing things very funny. I can't stop thinking "Well, of course - have bad sources to support a bad situation." It is really making me laugh. Thanks for the morning giggles. :D
 

FallenAngelina

Well-known member
Some clips of an interesting debate between D'Souza (an interesting perspective despite the dumbed down caricature in this discussion) and Libertarian Michael Shermer.
http://www.michaelshermer.com/2007/02/dinesh-shermer-debate3/

BTW, if anyone cares, I'm a life long Democrat, but the far left fear mongers have really dragged the party into embarrassing tin foil hat territory. Running an entrepreneurial business, I've come to appreciate what the economic freedoms of this and other Western countries really mean and why they engender true freedom in all other aspects of our society. If you want to see real corruption and horrific treatment of humans, especially women, spend some time in countries where capitalism and democracy do not exist.
 
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xxii

New member
So I just went through this whole thread and a few other in the forum that have to do with relationship anarchy. The reasons for this are varied, first and foremost, after reading the introducing posts, it helped me make sense of a mode of approaching relationships that at some points became prevalent in my last relationship, in which the proposal to open up was eventually discussed in the process of a break-up, and the way my ex seemed to approach it sometimes had similarities to RA. On the other hand, the more I read, the more it made sense to me, which was odd and unexpected. Finally, because I have been interested in anarchy as a political theory and practice, amongst other left-wing ways to approach the world, and because I have often wondered about the political dimension of relationship building, it made sense to go through it all.

I guess that I post this in hopes of re-kindling the discussion, and that this will help bring to the table points which I probably thought about as I was reading this and which I have forgotten.

Interestingly enough, I kinda followed a dialectic process whereby I would oscillate between the proponents and critics of RA throughout the thread.

I largely agree that relationships should be defined by those who are in them and that assuming foreign relationship structures carries the risk repressing people's desires, wishes, hopes, and potentially causing a lot of discomfort.

However, there are a bunch of issues that give reason to pause and doubt, and I wish to list them here and hope that people might dialogue with me on them:

- On the negative regarding establishing hierarchies of value between different relationships on the basis of them being labeled friendships/romances/partnerships I would immediately reply that it is inevitable for us to hold some relationships as more valuable to us in terms of how intimate they are, and this has to do with the fact that the more intimate a relationship is, the more time, energy, emotional and affective resources you spend on them. Also, intimate relationships tend to be the biggest contributors to our well-being, and as such, in so far as we value our well being we tend to ascribe more value to people who contribute more to our well-being. I see no reason to get bent out of shape because some people are more important than others, and I believe that recognizing and honoring those differences is key to having healthy relationships with ourselves and them!

- On the negative notion of rules and authority: Talking to a friend a couple of weeks ago, on the subject of procedures and agreements internal to a political collective, he said that it was not because of these explicit, formal agreements that an organization was truly democratic but in virtue of them that it was not authoritarian. Let's see if I can convey this adequately: If things are decided spontaneously, it is more likely that they are decided without the full consent of those involved, because they either lack the information or the chance to make a decision. It is in those cases that the relationship truly becomes arbitrary or authoritative. So I think that the fact that anarchists, be they of the relationship or political variant, by eschewing structure, organization and procedural rules (I know this is not always the case) can end up fomenting authoritative practices, and that this rests on an equivocation regarding the political nature of relationships, be they "personal" or "political" (which is a false dichotomy, IMO)

- I see a really fundamental problem with relationship anarchy in so far as it seems really naive in terms of its anthropology. By this I mean how it understand the workings of human beings. Bear with me, I'm not about to say that it is immature, or something to that effect. I guess what I see is that, coming from a background in philosophical training, we are historical beings, whose ways of making sense of the world, of navigating it, of structuring as something that makes sense, cannot be found only in us, but in the social structures, in our language, in the ideological discourses that constitute us as people and as subjects. We are also not transparent to ourselves, by which I mean that, in lieu of psychoanalysis, there are entire realms, of desire, of affection, of meaning, that are inaccesible to us, or they are accessible only in really restricted and distorted ways.

So while we may think that we are eschewing structure, hierarchy, implicit or explicit expectations, power dynamics, the truth is that in all likelyhood we will reproduce all those things. At the same time, the reasons for why we act as we do, the choices we make, we don't make them as free individuals, entirely transparent to ourselves. Sure, this happens in every relationship, and any mode of relationship, but the problem with RA, as far as I see it, is that it seems more likely, on the basis of its ideological principles, to be reflective regarding those issues.


Also, and finally, and in the interest of transparency, I just had a really bad experience trying to explore non-monogamy for the first time and my partner invoking discursively elements which I associate with RA as a way to be shitty, to avoid having conversations that needed being having regarding how things were going down, and as a way of not owning up to previous agreements, explicit and implicit, that we had. Of course, I broke up with her, so I guess that is something in favor of the Asshole interpretation iterated in this thread haha.


Edit: Also I feel that either you have to acknowledge that you do differentiate relationships on a categorical basis, rather than on a case by case, or you acknowledge that expectations are legitimate. Because it seems to me that in many other relationships where there are loving bonds it would be generally recognized that expectations are in order. In the case of a parent/child relationship, the child would be correct in expecting the parent to deliver a basic quality of living, at least. Or if you are living with a partner, you would be correct in expecting that person to behave in such a way that they will not run out on their financial obligations, or the care for the household. It seems reasonable to me to affirm that we have expectations from people, and that these are neither illegitimate nor unfounded, and that they are not detrimental. I am not too sure why RA has such a negative view regarding expectations.
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi xxii,

Can any two relationships exist on exactly the same elevation? Probably not, despite our best efforts. But in many cases we can come close.

And I take it you submit the idea that without explicit rules, maybe we end up with arbitrary, unannounced rules. (Well, we don't have explicit rules in *every* area of life. How do we manage without them, and where do you draw the line?)

And in general you see in humans a drive to create structure, hierarchy, etc., even when we try to do away with those things? Kind of like M.C. Escher's "Dragon" (1952) where a drawing of a dragon seems to be pushing off the page into three-dimensional space ... only to remain, a two-dimensional object on the page.

Anyway those are my initial thoughts.
Regards,
Kevin T.
 

xxii

New member
I think that there is no need to think that holding some relationships to be more important than others is detrimental in any way. I mean, our behavior already proves that this is the case. What I think is important is that how you come to value relationships is as autonomous as possible. I think that it is beautiful to think that friendship, philia (as Aristotle thought about it and as another poster mentioned in this thread), can be just as or more important than romantic relationships, or that partnered relationships; that is, that the criteria for what constitutes an important relationship is flexible and ultimately, up to us.

I don't suscribe to the view that there is something inherent to humans regarding how we behave. That is, ther eis no human nature. We are cultural beings, and how we structure the world symbolically accounts for how we act, what we do, what we want, etc. And symbolic structures are inter-subjective, so that we are all, in some degree, an expression of the world, of the culture we inhabit, etc. We are all ideologically structured, i.e. there is no 'outside' of ideology. I think that structure is inevitable just because structure is a feature of the world, and of us as part of the world. Even change is structured. Only quantum phenomena show any signs of 'randomness', but complex phenomena all show some internal logic or structure. So the issue, it seems for me, is developing the skills to understand how we are structured, the internal logic to the ways in which we change, in which we become. I do not mean to say that everything is subject to reason, because it is not; our subconscious is not subject to reason, the real world, which we translate to ourselves in symbolic ways, is not subject to reason. But I do think that we have the capacity to interrogate ourselves and others through reason (and reason does not mean lack of emotion!).

I think that explicit rules/agreements tend to offer more democratic, informed, consensual modes of relating, because the fact that you don't make them explicit doesn't mean that they are not there. The effort to make assumptions, agreements, expectations clear is a service to others, it allows them to make informed decisions, to approach situations with true consent. The effort to reflect on implicit power structures is beautiful, I believe, because it recognizes that because of a plethora of reasons, power structures to arise. Anarchism, the political variety, is not the negation that power structures arise, it is both the desire to avoid them as much as it is possible and the recognition that they will arise, and that therefore you have to be always on the lookout for them.

We might not have explicit rules for every area of our lives, but the world is structured symbolically, as I've oft repeated, and because of that we have, more or less, a notion of how to interact with each other, what kind of reasonable expectations we might have of people, etc. There is nothing wrong with that. And there are many, many situations where we do expect things, where me make demand things, where we invoke duty, and none of those seem illegitimate. We demand the state to care for its citizens, to offer some basic social security (at least where I live in), we think that, having been a reasonable parent, children have duties to the elderly, or younger people in a community have a duty with regards to the elderly, and the sick, don't we? We don't think it odd when a marginalized social group demands its rights, and expects of a state to assure them that their freedom of expression, of thought, of religion, will be guaranteed. We normally invoke expectations in terms of parenting, like when a child reasonably expects their caretakers to assure a basic quality of life for them, and we wouldn't think it strange if, failing to do that, the child experiences anger or disappointment.

So it seems to me that in very many areas of life, we draw distinctions, we have explicit and covert expectations, we believe we make demands legitimately, etc. We establish rules, not always because there is an authority which is drawing the rules, but because as equals we establish rules so as to protect our autonomy, to assure that we are informed, that we can consent to things that matter, to make sure that the way we interact is democratic. Now then, why is it that when it comes to "personal" relationships, these things do not hold? I simply don't understand.
 

MusicalRose

Member
I'll try to address some of xxii's points with the disclaimer that I'm kind of tired and on the mend from an illness, so if I muck this up, please ask for clarification and I'll try to respond in a timely manner, but I don't want to lose track of this topic, so I do want to write a little bit of it right now.

I do identify as RA, but I cannot speak for all people who identify this way. Therefore, I expect others that hold that identity to potentially disagree with me on many of these points and I would like to make clear that I am speaking for myself and my own RA identity and how it works for me.

I will also use a lot of second-person address in this post. It is intended as a general "you" rather than a specific "you" aimed at xxii.

I do believe it is inevitable that some relationships become more important to us than others, and my own RA philosophy does not preclude this. It does, however, take away the cookie cutter methods by which most of society decides which relationships are the most important. Setting aside monogamy for a second, we still have ideas that sexual and romantic relationships must innately take priority over other types of intimacy and friendship, and that behaviors like child-rearing and cohabitation must take place with sexual and romantic partners. It takes away the notion that just because someone has been intimately connected with me for a longer period of time that they are entitled to demand line item priority over every other relationship in my life. RA, to me, means the ability to use my own agency and autonomy to make choices about who I relate to and how. My decisions about how to engage intimately with others might be informed by outside influence, but should never be controlled by it.

The point about implicit rules popping up, while a legitimate concern, would not discourage me from pursuing an RA philosophy. It would encourage me to be more vigilant about paying attention to those kinds of structures popping up if they aren't being consciously and explicitly addressed.

I am not sure how the argument about us not being transparent to ourselves is an argument against RA. People in positions of authority are no more transparent to themselves and maybe even less so in some cases. Structure and authority doesn't necessarily give us more insight into ourselves, or at least I haven't observed it to do so in any kind of meaningful way.

As to expectations, I think the healthy and conscious setting of expectations is wonderful and should continue, and I would venture to guess that many people who self-identify as RA would agree. The expectations that are negatively viewed are those implicitly carried by our cultural ideas of how a relationship "should" work. This also applies to one-sided expectations, where one person creates an expectation for themselves that was never agreed to by the other party. For instance, if you expect me to stay home every time you get upset that I have a date and you don't, when that is not something we've explicitly negotiated, then you're going to be setting yourself up for disappointment.

This can get complicated in relationships that are already established with their own complex sets of implicit expectations, habits, and power dynamics. It's really hard to de-structure a pre-existing relationship, in my experience. I have run into a lot of snags with that in the past, and haven't had it go successfully. However, every relationship that I have started from an RA perspective and kept that way has gone much better and much less drama-filled throughout their entire life-cycles, than any of my prior relationships.

I notice that you mention having a bad experience with someone using RA to break a lot of agreements. This can happen in a few ways, some more ethical than others. If someone tries to renegotiate an agreement that is no longer working for them, I think they should have the right to do that without being called shitty. People grow and change, and no one should ever be punished for being honest with you that they want something different from you going forward. Now if they weren't communicating and clearly explaining what wasn't working for them and their rationale for not holding that agreement anymore, or even lying about it, that is shitty behavior. They both feel shitty to someone who expects that they will always have the same level of expectation in a relationship, but it is my strong opinion that only one of those constitutes actually BEING shitty.

At its bottom line, RA for me is about consent. Any hierarchies that exist are role playing, just like a D/s or M/s relationship. People are negotiating away their agency for the sake of a relationship. But just like these role-playing power exchange relationships, when someone says a safe word, or suddenly wants to opt out, it doesn't matter what they've agreed to. If the other person keeps pushing them when they say no, that is a violation of consent. We are NEVER entitled to intimacy from another person they don't want to give.

And even in the case of shitty people, I am happy that shitty people show me their colors. It gives me the information I need to set boundaries for myself. If I notice someone lying, I don't trust them. They aren't entitled to my trust, and they aren't entitled to be close to me. But me not trusting them is a choice I make for myself. I don't accomplish anything by punishing them and trying to force them to be honest. Someone who doesn't want to change won't. By doing something like that, I am most likely just going to create a better and more creative liar, and why the hell would I want to cultivate that in my life? I can just avoid them and go find someone who has a better track record of telling the truth. They are out there.

In the same vein, if someone I deeply love and spend every day with suddenly goes off into NRE la-la-land with someone else, that might hurt me and suck a lot, but I'm not entitled to their affections or time. They are showing me their true colors. This other thing is more important to them than maintaining a bond with me. Rather than control them and try to guilt or force them into spending more time with me, I should find another way to fill my time, and make a choice about whether I will welcome them back if they feel they've been in error.

If I need certain levels of safety to feel comfortable fluid-bonding with someone, it is up to me to enforce those. If my long-time sexual partner doesn't want to observe those standards, then it is up to me to use protection in that relationship, not to control them to change how they have sex with others to make me more comfortable. I'm not entitled to fluid-bonding with them and forcing them to behave in a way that makes me comfortable doing so.

RA is not necessarily an easier way to do relationships. It requires incredible amounts of personal responsibility. You can actually do whatever you want in relationships (within the bounds of consent), but you should fully expect people to stop intimately relating to you if you treat them like shit. And I fully advocate for you to leave someone who treats you like shit!

People policing each other gets old to me, and hierarchical relationships feel like just a way to police each other, trade off bits of our autonomy to make other people not have to deal with uncomfortable feelings. And I'm not saying that you need to confront your discomfort (although I'd very much love if more of the world would), but what I am saying is that if you don't like discomfort, then I am probably a very bad fit for you, and it is good for us to establish that incompatibility up front so that we can seek things that work for us.

Someone who uses RA to justify asshat behavior is probably going to lose out in the long run. I don't associate with asshats. Or at least, the types of asshats I will associate with are very specific in nature and I only let them get within a certain range of emotional closeness to me. I consider myself a high-quality person, and my standards for letting other people into my intimate domain are very high. People who want to engage in low-grade behavior like dishonesty, making promises they can't keep, being hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another, and violating my consent in various ways are not the kind of people I want to keep in my life, and I do my best to root them out. I would advise you do the same.

There are people out there who will exploit every system. For me, RA is the only system thus far that explicitly empowers me to use my own judgment and make choices about the people I connect to. Making myself as difficult to exploit as possible is one of the things I have done with my choices, and it has made RA very successful for me. I also do my best to avoid exploiting others because I want whole and autonomous human beings close to me. I don't want disciples or automatons.

Probably waxing a bit long for this late at night, but hopefully this at least starts addressing some of your points. The philosophy that leads me to RA is fairly abstract and complex, and can be difficult to communicate in writing, especially for someone that I haven't have enough experience to learn how you use language, but I am open to more dialogue for sure. I love geeking out about relationship theory.
 
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FallenAngelina

Well-known member
...... I associate with RA as a way to be shitty, to avoid having conversations that needed being having regarding how things were going down, and as a way of not owning up to previous agreements, explicit and implicit, that we had.

Shitty is as shitty does - has zero to do with the relationship model. If a person is inclined to "avoid having conversations regarding how things are going down as a way of not owning up to previous agreements, explicit and implicit," then a person is inclined to "avoid having conversations regarding how things are going down as a way of not owning up to previous agreements, explicit and implicit." You can analyze relationship models all you want, but it always comes down to the individuals involved. If you're with a shitty avoider, you're with a shitty avoider, no matter what style of relationship y'all call it. I think we all know plenty of monogamous shitty avoiders.


And....
Relationship anarchy in the poly sense has absolutely nothing to do with political anarchy. yes, there are people into both, but the theory of relationship anarchy as it pertains to poly has no genesis or association with the folks who advocate eradicating government. It's perhaps fun to talk about the similarities, but they are not a package deal.
 
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opalescent

Active member
I still can't figure the difference between non-hierarchical polyamory and relationship anarchy. They seem to be quite similar, if not different words for the same thing.
 

Spork

New member
I love labels and terms, because I feel that language is a bunch of symbols and tools that we can use to make sense of things that could otherwise be confusing, and facilitate ease of communication of our ideas amongst ourselves. I do not think that anarchy necessarily means complete chaos, and so I don't think that there's anything wrong with using the terminology. I like how Marcus described this whole thing what...a couple of years ago?

It's debundling a lot of the assumed standards, rules, obligations, boundaries, expectations, etc and approaching each relationship and potential relationship (and I'm defining "relationship" in the loosest possible sense as more than one person interacting)...as a different thing that should get its own set of stuff, or no stuff, or whatever the people involved are able to agree to.

It is separate from polyamory. They aren't the same. Neither is a subset of the other, in my opinion.

To some extent I think I have RA habits...though in declaring myself "non-escalator" or "solo-poly" and placing those overarching personal rules that govern any/all relationships I get into, might compromise my openness to "whatever happens" that seems to be part of RA.

I don't think that one is necessarily mono or poly by nature...I think that one is able to consider and do poly, or one is not. I can do poly and be happy. It does not mean that I HAVE TO. I think that there's an element of RA in being open to the concept that I'm living my life, accepting my relationships as gifts from the cosmos or something, and letting them go in whatever direction feels natural. Right now I have what I have, and it's polyamory. Six months from now, the Analyst may go work a lucrative job in DC or Antarctica for all I know, the Sensualists might run off to join the Free State Project and I might be left with only Zen and me. And I may decide that the comfortable thing to do, that I wish to do and I'm prepared to agree to in that time, is to be monogamous to him. But I'd do that with the full knowledge that he might have to go to another state to care for his aging father, that I might change my mind, either upon meeting someone new or simply because I need something he doesn't bring to the table, or who knows? And I obligate myself to honesty with my partners because I want to, not because they demand it of me or will punish me with anger or guilt if I don't. It makes me feel good and safe to be honest with my partners. It makes me feel honest with myself to acknowledge that people do come and go, relationships fluctuate, feelings change, I change, etc.

I get the sense that giving oneself the freedom to be adaptable...to define one's relationships as they come, and one's lifestyle as one lives it...is a big part of RA. Yet at the same time I nearly feel as though I must create my own "government of one" with my own sort of bill of rights...

"I reserve the right to develop feelings for anyone I'm sexually active with at any time. I do not request, require or demand that they be reciprocated, nor do such feelings trigger desires to logistically escalate the relationship ever."

"I reserve the right to be non-monogamous with full disclosure and if necessary, negotiation, with any existing partners. I will disclose before I believe that sex may occur with a new partner, as well as once it has."

"I reserve the right to live alone. New partners need to be aware that I need my own space to dwell in. Lack of cohabitation or plans thereof do not indicate lack of emotional investment."

...etc. But these "rules" or "rights" are just things that I come up with for myself because I think that new partners should be aware of them. No one has imposed them upon me, they are things I've learned that I need for my happiness.

I am a very lawful person in life and in love...I love structure and dislike chaos...which seems to be in opposition to the concept of anarchy. It raises the question, is RA really doing rules-free relationships, or merely relationships where each of us is free to craft our own set of rules...?
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Re (from opalescent):
"I still can't figure the difference between non-hierarchical polyamory and relationship anarchy."

Maybe it's that RA eschews explicit rules? I'm not sure.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Re (from Spork):
"Is RA really doing rules-free relationships, or merely relationships where each of us is free to craft our own set of rules ...?"

I'm not sure ...
 

MusicalRose

Member
For my RA, it never precludes structure. It just gives no one else power over me. I am the ultimate authority of myself.

Now, many people who choose RA do so because they do not want to enter into a lot of agreements that it is assumed they will make based on starting a romantic or sexual relationship, and I at least hope they'd be up front about that.

I myself am open to making agreements, as long as I can craft them on my terms and make sure they are openly and explicitly negotiated. For instance, I may agree to share the cost of a living place with people in my life someday (romantic partners or no). I may agree to observe quiet times in a house when someone I live with is sleeping because I otherwise value being able to have peace and harmony there over my ability to be loud whenever I damn well please.

Agreements can be made. But no one is ever entitled to get what they want just because they want it, just because they are in a relationship with me, or just because of the nature of our relationship to one another.

Even though I will make agreements, I enter into them carefully, consciously, and rarely. The worlds "always" and "never" shouldn't enter into them, because I cannot consent for the future, only for the present. For this reason, I am also incredibly wary of people that try to extract agreements for "always" and "never" or who give promises of such without being asked. These are people that are either lying, or do not have enough knowledge of themselves or other human beings to fully grasp that people change and that such an agreement will most likely become coercive.

The primary differences between RA and non-hierarchical polyamory are these:
1) Non-hierarchical polyamory still recognizes romantic relationships to take priority over non-romantic friendships in some inherent fashion. It does not do away with the idea that romantic relationships are somehow innately superior to other relationships or should be automatically prioritized.
2) RA is something that anyone can practice, even someone who only desires to have one (or none) sexual or romantic relationship. Therefore, it is not an inherently polyamorous philosophy, although I imagine the vast majority of people who practice or identify as RA probably do self-ID as polyamorous as well. Someone who is asexual or aromantic can be RA.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Re:
"The primary differences between RA and non-hierarchical polyamory are these ..."

Thanks for laying that out MusicalRose. I'm not good at complex philosophy so the simple explanations help me the most.

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 
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