Excellent Blog Post - The Problem with "The Problem with Polynormativity"


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Excellent blog post, recommended reading for all.

The Problem with "The Problem with Polynormativity"

Oct. 17th, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Normally I agree with a lot of what Andrea Zanin and Franklin Veaux (tacit) have to say about alternative lifestyles and how to make them work, but last winter I became aware of a growing trend among the "popular" poly writers to adopt what was coming across to me, at least, as a kind of dismissiveness or denigrative attitude toward those people in the poly community who apparently aren't doin' it right: the people who do need hierarchy or who do need security based in rules and predictable expectations because trust (for whatever reason) isn't solid enough or communications practices aren't robust enough, to more fluidly and gracefully adapt-on-the-fly to the inevitable relational issues that pop up no matter what kind of relationships we have.
Third time I've tried to read that. It's just a load of emotional rambling. What I can make out is that the author claims some people need things like couple privilege because they have issues, attachment issues. I agree but I think progress, personal growth, is admitting why you need it and learning not to need it. I think people get nasty about couple privilege because they know how they'd be mistreated. It's best when people are forthcoming about it and don't pretend it doesn't exist in their relationship. It's brilliant if they also know why it exists and own that too:

"We've betrayed each other in the past and so there are trust issues. We cannot be happy and monogamous so we allow way other outside relationships with restrictions. Those restrictions are to replace the trust we should have in each other, but don't, because of our history."
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if you are really having trouble comprehending

the jist of it could be said as this:

Essentially the author is telling the reader, that all the bullshit that happens online

*someone tells you why what works for your relationships is not OK and your dynamic of poly is wrong

* specifically the system commonly referred to as hierarchal or hieracrhy wherein for the sake of simplicity, explaining the model of your dynamic to people online your partners may be referred to as primaries, and ones not as involved in the daily responsibilities and obligations in life may be called secondaries

She is essentially saying that nobody has the right to tell you how to practice non-monogamy. If you found a way that works for you works for you, go ahead and distance yourself from any online or real life community that tries to impose their standards on you and your relationships.

Essential saying that many (several? specifically makes mention of three) "popular" poly themed authors seem to not understand why relationships they are not involved in is not there place to decide what is their choice to consent to.

I certainly agree with the author on all points, although my thoughts were much more harsh and would have included many many more expletives
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As I've said before, someone can have a rule that is in place because of insecurities and is the only reason non monogamy works for that person at all. That doesn't remove the fact that it's due to insecurity and it doesn't mean that it cannot be something that's worked on. Some people might not want to do the work and that's fine. It doesn't take away three fact that the couple have trust issues.
for the most part I agree

and I wouldn't be in a relationship with someone whom I had to make my bare minimum requirements like respect and honesty a rule that I had to keep track of. The thing is, everyone has those minimum standards and it doesn't make any difference to me if people I am not involved with have to write it out in a bill of rights.

Everyone has standards and while I'll admit that contracts are a little weird outside of some sort of written submission, what do I care if someone's rules have to be stated?

About eight years ago it wasn't the couples who were the bad guys it was the third wheel, but back then they weren't hot bi-babes they were cowgirls, and I've witnessed a lot of fucked up shit done to people in the name or "protecting" polyamory from this practicers of the wrong poly.

Instead of swinging to the other extreme, most days I just wish they would shut the fuck up and let people be whoever they want to be and choose any type of relationship they feel like with whoever willing excepts it

and the whole bickering in forums is pointless, as most of the terminology that people get hung up on isn't even used among actually partners, it's just the way that works to explain it online. And when the motivation to bicker is only because some author can't have anything contradict their proprietary method of poly my patience wears thin real quick

I don't know, fuck all that noise anyway, it's pointless to let it get to me
Without going into specifics, I'm a firm believer in the notion that the only people who get a vote in how a relationship works are the people in that relationship.

There are an infinite number of reasons some might choose hierarchical relationships and they're not all about insecurity.

Working on trust issues isn't as simple as deciding you're going to start trusting someone. If they've shown untrustworthy behaviour in the past, then that trust has to be earned back. If you keep stealing coffee money from my desk drawer, I'm going to develop a trust issue sharing an office with you. It doesn't mean I have an innate trust issue about keeping money in my drawer, it means this one specific person has forced my hand. I would be a fool to just keep putting my coffee money in that drawer and come to work every day believing that you're not going to steal it. I could report you, but you're really good at your job and you make mine easier. I don't want you to get fired. So I start locking my drawer.

In other words, trust issues aren't always a matter of the untrusting person being insecure. Sometimes people do things that legitimately make you stop trusting them, and only a moron would ignore that. But maybe you still love that person even though they violate your trust, and you're not willing to throw them out over it. No one's perfect and maybe they're trying to work on their behavioural issues and you've made a commitment to stand beside them and help them through life's difficult times. But you can't do it blindly. So you have to put mechanisms in place to protect yourself against their behaviour. That's not insecurity, it's pragmatism.
and the whole bickering in forums is pointless, as most of the terminology that people get hung up on isn't even used among actually partners, it's just the way that works to explain it online. And when the motivation to bicker is only because some author can't have anything contradict their proprietary method of poly my patience wears thin real quick

This is so true. The only time I use "poly lingo" is on here and in my bi group, and then only when I'm in "educate the newbies" mode. When I'm out and about actually being poly, I just do stuff. We talk about specific behaviours or situations on a case-by-case basis. We don't use lingo because it just confuses matters, makes you spend more time defining terminology than actually addressing issues.
In other words, trust issues aren't always a matter of the untrusting person being insecure. Sometimes people do things that legitimately make you stop trusting them, and only a moron would ignore that.

Absolutely true, and that's why I say couple privilegey, strict hierarchy arrangements present red flags for that couple. The insecurity might just be there with just cause and when it exists in a metamour, it might mean my potential/new partner isn't trustworthy. Insecure metamour vs Untrustworthy partner is not much of a choice for me. Both are undesirable. What I'm saying is that it doesnt matter why its there, it only matters that it exists at all. When it exists and you know it exists and still choose to play it down, deny it and bring people into your lives knowing that its existance will negatively impact on others, that's simply selfish.
In regards to those situations

I've just never seen any examples of "strict" hierarchy where couples privileges plays true, it's more like being responsible for jury duty, my girlfriend -- whom I never refer to as a secondary excepting here -- would not appreciate a phone call asking her to leave work because my child is sick and needs to be picked up from school. She doesn't want to share responsibility and certain obligations, she chooses a relationship with me that for the sake of simplicity and ease of explaining it as a dynamic, her place in the model has a generic name of "secondary"

Most psychologist/behavioral/sociology/whatever specialists understand that in daily life people are just people in a relationship. What a nitwitted grammarian blogger calls "couples privilege" in daily life is just referred to as an asshole. The blogger in question, which the linked post in this thread, links to (a "secondary" link among the hierarchy of polyamory.com =) has another post on communication and negotiating rules and discusses "unconscious" manipulation. There too, I don't differentiate between unconscious manipulation and manipulation the same way I don't differentiate unconscious assholes from assholes. A person that manipulates another is an asshole and I don't know any assholes who don't meet resistance from their lovers when they behave that way.

Typically their partners protest or attempt to speak out, but they get shut down, explained why they are wrong and why it will continue and why the manipulator is right.

That's not unconscious, it's intentional

A person who is unconsciously being an asshole, stops dead in there tracks at the first mention of their behavior, they apologize and they mean it, as being sorry means a willingness to change the behavior.

As far as insecurities go, there is a big difference between needing a little reassurance about some specific topics, and needing to enact every rule except being monogamous. Personally, I found that the difference between those two polar extremes is who they are in relationships with.

I can either be respectful of the women I become involved with and if I listen, it only takes a little reassurance when and where they'd appreciate a little help,


I can be a manipulative asshole, which would require every rule possible besides becoming monogamous which would only end in two very pathetic unhappy adults in a relationship

but it wouldn't be because of a partner's insecurities, it would be by practicing FPP (french proprietary poly);)
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The insecurity might just be there with just cause and when it exists in a metamour, it might mean my potential/new partner isn't trustworthy. What I'm saying is that it doesnt matter why its there, it only matters that it exists at all.

Please define what you mean by "insecurity."

I see insecurity as a personal trait, something inherent in a person irregardless of their surroundings and external stimuli. I cannot be insecure because of what someone else has done, I can only be insecure in spite of what anyone else does. If I am insecure, I must deal with it in myself. There are no changes that my partner could make to address my hypothetical insecurity.

That's completely different from having rational apprehensions explicitly caused by an external source.

I am not an insecure person. That doesn't make me immune to fear about what Stephen Harper is doing to Canada. Nothing I could "fix" in myself would make him into a responsible citizen. My mistrust in his leadership does not equate to insecurity.

However, from the way you talk, the fact that I'm afraid of what my government is doing means that I'm insecure and that I need to address my fear as a personal issue. I say that's bullshit.

So please define what "insecurity" means to you, such that it can be caused by another person.
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Insecurity just means inability to trust, really, to believe. Eg the inability to believe your partner wants to continue to maintain your relationship and not replace our displace it. This might be because you have low self esteem, it might be because your partner has s history of betraying you.
I have no idea about Stephen, but from the sound of it you can absolutely be insecure about your future given this untrustworthy person has some control over it. If you know he is planningstuff that will make your life worse, of course that it's going to cause insecurity. Just not much you can do about it other than move.
the post is more about the new "polynormative" and how any trend is BS

It's less about what style or dynamic = correct practice of polyamory and more about not becoming a victim of the newest enforced opinion of a society.

One the biggest problems polyamorists face, is the pressure to conform their intimate relationships to the dynamic that society says is "correct" and those who don't face affliction so they feel the need to hide parts of their life.

Essentially the author is speaking out against these "popular" poly-authors who have decided that poly communities -- whether online or in real life -- need to have set templates which people need to conform to, or else suffer the consequences. In the authors defense, it may be less about controlling or governing poly communities and more about cashing in on the increasingly public as opposed to underground, alternative way of life.

Personally, I don't give a rat's ass what the reason is, I staunchly oppose any attempt to create another society blind to their own acts of injustice. If there is anything in the way people choose to live their lives that doesn't affect anyone else but themselves, it's the dynamic of their intimate relationships. Nobody has the right to make another feel less than for having the courage to structure their intimate relationships how they choose.

The funniest (and saddest) part about some of those authors is that they more than anyone else should fully understand what a crock of horse shit it is take up any "right or wrong" banner and parade it around. Anyone who has even stuck one toe into BDSM waters knows damn well the only line that separates right from wrong or abuse from acceptable behavior is explicit consent from knowledgeable adults.

The reason I have such a hard time with the "popular" authors in question, is not the horse shit opinions, but rather what comes down to the plain old unspoken bullshit and drama that goes hand in hand with the digital world. The subtle and extremely childish ways to engage in pissing contests of any kind or clicky ways one can fuck with another's head or make another person feel less than for not conforming to the popular trend, or heaven forbid, embarrassing some idiot who makes his living by always appearing right, by making others appear wrong, which the digital era of online personna and anonymity plays a large role.

Attitudes like those are the reason why people often feel the need to denounce affiliation with anything identifying as "polyamorous"

It sounded more like the author of the posts was just reminding those who have come to feel marginalized, to not worry about what some idiot on the web posts, no matter how popular it appears online. The web does not always correlate well with real life and what what happens in real life, is not always how it appears online

Marketing and commercialization these days is completely different, there are no longer 15-20 second advertisements depicting fake, plastic people in an artificial environment created to highlight some illusion as if it were reality. Now days, it is longer than a quarter minute of fallacy, it is entire online lives. Those authors can ho humm that which is a polite way of informing them where they can stick rules for qualifying as acceptable polyamory. Polyamory is about openess, honesty and consent between all involved, and that means whatever those involved decide and agree on
Ok, let's take OPP's. The reason lots of people believe they are wrong is because many men employ them because of sexist beliefs. They believe that a woman doesn't pose the same threat as a man in terms of replacement or displacement as lesbian sex isn't "real sex" and even someone bisexual wouldnt choose a "girl" over a man. Now, if you have two people in a relationship who actively consents to a OPP, you can't question the ethics of that particular relationship, but you can condemn the sexist beliefs that prompted the guy (and sometimes the woman) to go for that configuration. You aren't condemning OPP's or MFF triads, you're speaking out against sexism.
Don't get me wrong

there is nothing worse for any relationship then a man who refuses to respect a person he does not lust after. Because I truly believe that when there is no love or lust (and many people confuse the two as it is anyway) that all relationships are destined to fail when there is no respect.

And if they don't fail, sometimes it's worse as the entire life is lived in misery all while making someone else miserable

and yes, males have a lot more trouble with respect than females do because in their testosterone poisoned view respect means submission, and so they never give respect without their -- often unspoken and extremely subtle -- self-appointed governor status. In other words men only respect when they are in the position of power and don't really have to respect anyone, that it is a matter of choice as opposed to mandatory if the relationship is going to work.

I'll speak out against it, but I don't think it sexism when a male won't respect something he doesn't lust after -- it's simple stupidity -- it's the mistake that men make confusing all three emotions (love, lust, and respect) where as most women may confuse lust and love it doesn't make for the much more confusing situation of confusing both of those with respect.

So personally I see it as an idiot male's inability to respect other males, and not that they see females as less of a threat

There are many dynamics I would be miserable attempting that style of relationships, but the crap he posts might as well be explaining why physical abuse is bad (which nobody has a problem understanding) but then jackass takes it too far by what would amount to condemning masochists for entering a relationship that works for them and then attacking sadists whom are pretty much the only people certain masochists would be happy with

In full disclosure, one author in particular I have a very low opinion of -- essential view him and his opinions on poly as being that of a over privileged punk. Employing subtleties to show your love of admiration for another is honorable and appropriate, employing subtleties to show you disgust for another is mind-fucking, it's cowardly, and it's why some people say if you can't say anything nice about someone, do not say anything at all, however my view is if you've got a problem don't tip toe and make it worse. Tip-toeing is only when you must first walk through china closets, china cabinets, or china shops. Once you are clear of the delicate delegates, I don't have a problem with grabbing that fucker by the horns and throwing him where he belongs, with every other man who refuses to respect boundaries when they think they won't be held accountable for it if they do not.

ETA: Personally, it makes more sense from a purely sexual side of relationships for a MFM configuration, but people only seem to take the poly community enforced stance against FMF. My problem is not that I don't agree with certain dynamics that don't work for me, it is a severe disgust with enforcing any relationship dynamic amongst a community, as that is no longer a community, it is a state or country, and frankly one I would never be a part of although I would volunteer to lead a revolution against should they continue to not respect boundaries.

For example, I view most of the past replies on this forum, to those who claim they are seeking a triad, to be the type of response that is a perfect example of a community enforced ban on triads, which is fine until they through in the plausible denial of "except those that happen organically"

As if a grammarian can wrap their tiny, yet thick skull around an accurate definition of "organic" or even more of a stretch "evolution" or any from of the word "evolve". All that does in my view is take a person whom I didn't agree with, but was able to respect and due to the lying and not respecting the truth -- no matter how you define specific words -- leaves me not only disagreeing with grammarians, but disagreeing with and not respecting grammarian "polyamorists" although it has nothing to do with grammarians nor poly that I cannot respect. It is more the bigotry that seems to go hand in hand with the two groups becoming one. Erudites don't piss me off, so much as anyone who has trouble defining bigotry as unrecognized bigotry is essentially unrecognized hatred, and while unrecognized hatred may not necessarily mean a person is evil at heart, but it is responsible for the worst crimes against the world and against the humanity that colonized this world.

which I readily admit being alien to
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I liked the article. A lot.
I think it approaches an important reminder that gets lost in all of the shuffle.

We may be working towards utopia. But we don't freaking live there.
We are all working on a path towards making our own lives work and what works for us, may not work for someone else.
That doesn't make it wrong.

Like-I like to write stuff down. Because in a family of 5 ADD people, if it's not written down, it won't get remembered. Period.
So we write it down. We don't expect other people to read it. We don't have a "signed in blood contract" but we do have a written understanding of expectations for certain situations.
BECAUSE we each have our own natural ways to respond-but we agreed to a cOMMON way to respond to certain circumstances that we agreed was best for the GROUP though it isn't how we as individuals would respond if we were single.
We're NOT single.
Gotta keep our poly tiers in mind.
A plague on both their houses: these two authors are simply in yet another pissing contest over who can use the world "privileged" the most.

It's honestly disturbing how intellectually lazy the currently-fashionable insults "privilege" or "privileged" have allowed authors to become.
It's honestly disturbing how intellectually lazy the currently-fashionable insults "privilege" or "privileged" have allowed authors to become.

I rarely see them intended as an insult.

Privilege and spouting ignorant bullshit out of your ass from a position of privilege are very real phenomena, and pointing it out is not inherently insulting. Whether someone chooses to be insulted by observations of facts is their own problem.

Or are you one of those delusional people who believe everyone has equal opportunities just by virtue of being born human?
Sound more to me like Shipwrecked

has no problem understanding the difference between intentionally interfering with another's life who in living their's in no way infringes upon your rights, you you make a choice to infringe upon their's, even if it is only done by wrongful discrimination

and you know, SchrodingersCat & kdt, it really can be boiled down simple failure to recognize the difference between truth and lies or love and hate

or in some cases both

but it only takes failure to distinguish one from the other and it may be the one question wherein which one was it, or why, really doesn't matter much, does it?