Polyamory is/is not a feminist movement

Magdlyn

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From another thread:

LoveBunny said:

All due respect @Magdyn, I consider myself a feminist & I'm having issue with this sentence: "Monogamy is a part of the patriarchal system..."

Marriage as bondage, yes. Man as head-of-household, women as property, sure.

That was my point. So we agree. Prior to "civilization" as we know it, "marriage" was quite different. Of course, monogamy in late antiquity meant the woman was mono. The man could own as many women as he could afford. (And surely there was male/male and female/female... umm, bonding, in several cultures, as well, since the sexes often lived very separate lives. This was officially frowned on in some cultures, but mainstream in others. Men would have male lovers, but also wives for breeding.)

Here is just my stream of consciousness on this topic. Feel free to add your thoughts.

As evidenced in the Hebrew Bible, there was no marriage ceremony in the BCE Mediterranean region other than the couple having vaginal intercourse. (Hosting a feast with their friends and family was an option, if desired.) Nowadays, in most religions, you need a pastor, priest, rabbi, etc., to say certain magic words over the couple, and the couple vowing to be faithful for life.

I've been to some same-sex weddings, however, paganish, or even with Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests or Protestant pastors present, where the couple has vowed to stay together only as long as they both make each other happy. Why promise forever, when half of all marriages end in divorce? That makes vows meaningless. "That which God has joined, let no man put asunder." Meaningless.

But humans (& many other primates) pair-bond, often long-term. Otherwise, how would you account for those who seem to be, by orientation, monogamous? I agree that it's great that nomo is now no longer the dominion of males, women can choose multiple partners if that's what resonates for them.

I am not sure what "nomo" means. Non-monogamous? Is nomo an abbreviation for that now? Anyway...

Obviously some humans and other animals "pair bond." But long-term DNA studies of many hundreds of animal species have shown that there is promiscuity going on in every group, with no exceptions. Even in say, gorilla families, where the alpha males are very big, strong and scary, "their" females secretly find other mates and have offspring by them. There have been no exceptions found, even in animals where we've long assumed that there is monogamous mating (such as swans). Sure, a pair will raise offspring together, build nests, feed the young until they are independent, and just hang out together in general. But the females of all species give birth to young that are not related to their so-called long-term male mate. Pair-bonding can happen between animals of the same sex, too, who can then adopt eggs or babies.

I can't speak for other animals, but humans can seem to be monogamous sometimes, depending on how you define monogamous. But true monogamy would mean you only have one mate in your entire life, even if your mate dies. You don't date several people in a row as a young person. You are completely single, until you magically find one mate who rings your bell (your one and only), and you then stay with them until it's over (death or maybe divorce) and you never mate with anyone else, ever again.

Monogamy would also mean you never enjoy media that depicts the romantic love or sex of others, because you would not be able to relate to anyone else's love or sex, so wouldn't bother to read or watch or listen to their stories... Perhaps if you were truly mono, you'd be able to enjoy the occasional story wherein the characters were completely mono, and very similar to you and your mate in other ways. But to enjoy their love completely, you'd have to be something of a voyeur, and if you're mono, you could not be a voyeur (or an exhibitionist). That would feel like cheating, wouldn't it?

You would also never masturbate and fantasize about anyone besides your mate.

Being monogamous means bonding to one person for life. If the relationship ended by breaking up, divorce or death, you'd never bond with another. Or do you include serial monogamy in the definition of monogamy? If so, how much turnover can there be before you just call these types NRE junkies?

I know some history of matriarchal, pre-xtian societies, extensively studied Minoan Greece (pre-1625 BCE) specifically. But people pair-bonded back then too, though perhaps they ran out into the fields to have orgies during festivals. I'd argue the r'ship structures in that particular matriarchal society was closer to what we call monogam-ish than poly.

Have you found solid evidence of monogamists in pre-patriarchal Minoan Greece or Crete? Can you share that?

Of course they had promiscuous sex during holidays. It was great for the gene pool to have people from multiple villages/tribes get together for sex/breeding on a regular basis. (The mythological story of the Hebrews escaping from Egypt depicts this kind of ritual being celebrated when Moses disappears up the mountain to talk to his strange new god. Or at least it is adult "revelry," "play," or "sport..." the debate goes on.)

Ancient rabbis have written about the men's courts and women's courts surrounding the Hebrew Temple (House of Yahweh) of old. First they put the women's court closer to the Holy of Holies. But the men would invade the court during high holy days to have orgies with the women. So then they put the women's court outside the men's court. The women would invade the men's court to have orgies during the high holy days. (heh. My point is, this wasn't just happening "out in the fields" in pagan society. It happened everywhere, even when it was supposedly against the law and not officially part of the religion. Get a bunch of strangers together at a festival, in their best cutest clothes, hair done, feeling fine, feasting on "sacrifices" and wine, and they're gonna hit on each other, claimed/married or not. And remember, what we would called underage children, even prepubescent, were fair game back then too.)

Polyamory is a newer term. It is based on feminism. In earlier eras, we had monogamy, we had promiscuity, we probably had what would pass for group marriages, we had orgies, we had polygyny, we had polyandry, we had courtesans, we had sex slaves, we had eunuchs (or maybe what we would call transpersons today), who sexually serviced both men and women, and we had tribal longhouses with separate rooms off the side, with private entrances, where women could go when ovulating to welcome any men they desired to enter through the private door to mate with them. Sex at Dawn goes into these realms pretty thoroughly. I don't want to retrofit the modern (portmanteau) term of polyamory to past eras of human history.

Anyway, I bring this up only because I want to be careful of not suggesting to a man who is grieving the loss of his mono r'ship that poly is more evolved way of relating, or a more natural way, or a more feminist way that is better for society. Nah.

I don't want to imply polyamory is "better." I think monogamy is fine. Do your thing. I just don't think it should be the accepted default. I don't think people should feel forced to "choose" one beloved partner over another. How many books have been written and movies made around the painful outcomes of this concept?

I don't think we need to make jealousy and possessiveness seem like positive attributes that "prove" we are in love. This makes acting on these feelings, the fights, violence, stalking, etc., into positives too. There can be violence between mates, and violence between two people competing for the love of one they both love or desire, stemming from jealousy, based on the concept of ownership.

As long as one person doesn't think they own the other person, there's nothing wrong with monogamy. But that kind of possessiveness is pretty common, in both/all sexes, even in same-sex pairings.
 
As usual, I'll give some mostly on/off topic rambling.

I agree with both of you on how monogamy is historically patriarchal.

I used to think polyamory was a more feminist way to live. Especially for heterosexual couples. However, what I see is those patriarchal dynamics replicated across multiple relationships, instead.

When it comes to queer people, I think it is somewhat easier to circumvent those norms, particularly where the Queer people are gender non-conforming. Queer relationships aren't immune to heteronormativity, though, so these tropes can still play out.

Furthermore, when it comes to feminism, I don't think enough polyamorists actually live by feminist ideals for it to be classed as being feminist in essence. I actually speculate that the cis men who were supportive of their female partners having multiple partners did so because they got sexual gratification from "sharing" their partners and emotional gratification from the enhanced intimacy that comes from having a partner who fulfils your needs to that totality.

We know now that a lot of the "free love" we witnessed in the 60s and 70s was actually littered with sexual coercion, often of minors, and a different standard of consent. I'm sure in many ways polyamorists were more evolved in that there was some structure and expectations around autonomy, but I hazard a guess that the finer points of coercion weren't acknowledged. Yes women could divorce unsatisfactory partners, so in theory, nobody could be poly under duress (they could just leave), but women were still very dependent on men. More so than now.

I guess I think polyamory and polyamorists can have "feminist motivations", but there is a lot you actually have to do to make your polyamory "feminist". You have to be proactive about it. It's not just as simple as being an "egalitarian polyamorists" or even "solo poly".

I think that for heterosexual people, it's potentially easier to have one exclusive relationship where you work on dismantling the patriarchal influences that create an inherent imbalance in the relationship. Although men are more likely to wield the power in a relationship, it takes both parties to continually work at ensuring neither of them allow heteronormativity to have undue control. It's a lot of labour. But it really might be easier to have a more "feminist" straight relationship if you're monogamous.
 
Just to give an example. I see a lot of cis solo poly women state that they're sick of being the default host for their male partners. Particularly those who are highly partnered.

Even when there is financial input, they still have a lot of practical labour that comes from having the "free house".

I don't see cis solo poly men saying the same thing. Why? I suspect because they fall into two groups - the "put together" men who can keep a bachelor pad so readily host a guest to a fairly high standard or at least pay for hotels, and the "ex-frat bachelor" who has a stream of women (including his mother) who do a lot of his home maintenance for him. They host him in his home. And then of course some of these guys do just expect their female partners to host them and they're partly who the solo women mean.

Side note: don't be fooled by the "put together" guy. What you see in "bachelor mode" doesn't always carry over as well in "family mode". It's easy to keep a apartment clean when you live alone and socialise a lot. It's easy to cook "grown up meals" for two. Fun even.
 
Thank you for moving this to a new thread! I did want to go deeper but not in someone else's thread. My answers are in bold:

"I am not sure what "nomo" means. Non-monogamous? Is nomo an abbreviation for that now? Anyway..."

I made it up, lol. NOMO short for nonmonogamous and I like that it sounds like "FOMO." :)

"Polyamory is a newer term. It is based on feminism. "
What do you mean "based on feminism?" It's just a term meaning the opposite of monogamy. I know the term came into being in the early 90's. Incidentally, that's when I was at the height of my being poly, none of us had ever heard the term. Plenty of poly r'ships existed in times that predate "feminism:" King Arthur Lancelot Guinivere, Simone deBouvior & Satre & their lovers, Anais Nin & Henry Miller with their third, etc.) I don't see how feminism can claim polyamory.

"But true monogamy would mean you only have one mate in your entire life, even if your mate dies."

That is not the definition of monogamy. This is:
adjective

  1. involving marriage to one person at a time.
    "under Canadian law all marriages must be monogamous"

    • having a sexual relationship with only one partner at a time.
      "she admits that she has never been strictly monogamous"
    • ZOOLOGY
      having only one mate at a time.
      "penguins form monogamous couples for breeding purposes"

I'm not implying humans are meant to stay with the person they love at 18 for the rest of their lives. Yes, serial monogamy is still monogamy. In this case where we're discussing poly and mono as a sexual or relationship orientation, I think we can simply define it as wanting only 1 partner at a time vs wanting multiple.

"If so, how much turnover can there be before you just call these types NRE junkies?"
Same question re: poly, is it really polyamory if you take a new partner when the old one gets dull, and now you're still technically with the old partner but most of your bandwidth goes to the new? You're not really "loving" more than one person...

"Monogamy would also mean you never enjoy media that depicts the romantic love or sex of others, because you would not be able to relate to anyone else's love or sex, so wouldn't bother to read or watch or listen to their stories..."
What?! Where are you coming up with that idea?

"I don't think we need to make jealousy and possessiveness seem like positive attributes that "prove" we are in love."
I think they're biological reactions to feeling your r'ship threatened by an outsider. That's not to say those feelings need dissolve into violence or holding another hostage.

Sex at Dawn goes into these realms pretty thoroughly. "
Sex at Dawn also received some fairly compelling criticism among anthropologists, scientists, etc as to how the author's cherry picked info to fit their theory.

Have you found solid evidence of monogamists in pre-patriarchal Minoan Greece or Crete?
Well, it's generally accepted that marriage existed, and it was pair-bonds, there's no evidence of polyandry/polygamy in the myths passed down to later civilizations, or in anything visual (frescos, paintings on decorative urns, etc.) Nothing points towards women taking multiple husbands, which you'd think would be the norm if matriarchy & polyamory were synonymous.

I don't think people should feel forced to "choose" one beloved partner over another. How many books have been written and movies made around the painful outcomes of this concept?
This shows much sympathy for the person who is capable of loving 2 people, and assumes they have the time/energy/bandwith to be satisfying to 2 people. Is the pain of having to choose between 2 loves worse than the pain of having someone you're giving everything to going outside the relationship? Countless books/movies have been written around that concept too....

I don't want to imply polyamory is "better." I think monogamy is fine. Do your thing. I just don't think it should be the accepted default.
Agreed!!!!! I do feel as if you often imply on this forum that poly is the more feminist relationship structure.

I have at many times felt pressure to be poly as a queer feminist, in fact my awful ex tried to tell me I might as well be a CONSERVATIVE because I didn't want him toggling between me and another woman.

Have your ead COME AS YOU ARE about women's sexuality?

Things like the freelove movement of the 60's, and modern "hookup culture", these movements have assumed women want what men want sexually, which typically (not all men/women of course) involves novelty & autonomy, while women (again, not all) get off more on trust and intimacy.

Look at the difference between how gay men vs gay women (again, not all) generally have r'ships: having casual sex outside their primary r'ships has been largely accepted in gay male culture forever, while lesbians, for reasons biological and probably societal, are busy UHAULing and being far more monogamous.

Thank you for this discourse, much respect.
 
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I see polyamory largely as an outgrowth of the free love movement. That of course doesn't mean that it isn't instructive that MFM combinations tend to work better than MFF combinations.
 
Thank you for moving this to a new thread! I did want to go deeper but not in someone else's thread. My answers are in bold:

"I am not sure what "nomo" means. Non-monogamous? Is nomo an abbreviation for that now? Anyway..."

I made it up, lol. NOMO short for non-monogamous and I like that it sounds like "FOMO."
Ah, no wonder I never heard it before. haha



"Polyamory is a newer term. It is based on feminism. "
What do you mean "based on feminism?" It's just a term meaning the opposite of monogamy.
I wrote my "essay" in haste. Sorry for the confusion. I meant the concept is based on feminism, that is, women having rights equal to men's. And lets add in rights for queers, non-gender-conforming people, gay people, etc.

Asexuals do suffer more in terms of establishing and maintaining mono or poly r'ships still, as we've seen in posts here. So that's another area that needs attention.
I know the term came into being in the early 90's. Incidentally, that's when I was at the height of my being poly, none of us had ever heard the term. Plenty of poly r'ships existed in times that predate "feminism:" King Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere,
A typical "love triangle," as in Cleopatra/Caesar/Marc Antony, which involve noblewomen with much more than the usual amount of power.
Simone deBouvior & Satre & their lovers, Anais Nin & Henry Miller with their third, etc.) I don't see how feminism can claim polyamory.
In my opinion, feminism began in the 18th century, during the Enlightenment. It's not a 20th century concept, much less a 21st. Once science and world exploration began to debunk Christian beliefs, the patriarchy began to crumble.
"But true monogamy would mean you only have one mate in your entire life, even if your mate dies."

That is not the definition of monogamy. This is:
adjective

  1. involving marriage to one person at a time.
    "under Canadian law all marriages must be monogamous"

    • having a sexual relationship with only one partner at a time.
      "she admits that she has never been strictly monogamous"
    • ZOOLOGY
      having only one mate at a time.
      "penguins form monogamous couples for breeding purposes"

I'm not implying humans are meant to stay with the person they love at 18 for the rest of their lives. Yes, serial monogamy is still monogamy. In this case where we're discussing poly and mono as a sexual or relationship orientation, I think we can simply define it as wanting only 1 partner at a time vs wanting multiple.
I'm having a hard time with your format. Grrr... We are not using "monogamy" here to imply legal Western marriage, of course. We are meaning long-term two-person romantic adult relationships.

I have to say I question the idea of a person being "monogamous" if they can freely move from one person to another.

"If so, how much turnover can there be before you just call these types NRE junkies?"
Same question re: poly, is it really polyamory if you take a new partner when the old one gets dull, and now you're still technically with the old partner but most of your bandwidth goes to the new? You're not really "loving" more than one person...
Ah, ah, don't skirt the issue by asserting "but in poly!" If you don't have the "bandwidth" to love more than one person at a time, how do you have the ability to easily move from one person to the next? Maybe you just haven't had enough practice.

Some monogamists do NOT date after their mate/spouse dies or divorces them. They remain in love with their late or missing lover, and can NOT love again. They remain loyal. This I would call a true monogamist. They had a "one true love," and that's that.

"Monogamy would also mean you never enjoy media that depicts the romantic love or sex of others, because you would not be able to relate to anyone else's love or sex, so wouldn't bother to read or watch or listen to their stories..."
What?! Where are you coming up with that idea?
From my brain haha. My point is, if you are so fully satisfied with your one lover/spouse, why would you "need" other romantic or sexual outlets from the media? If you claim to be monogamous, and not have the "bandwidth" to love/fuck more than one, how can you have the bandwidth for reading spicy romance novels, or enjoying porn on a regular basis? You know some/many religious mono people despise their partner's porn use. They consider it cheating. Sometimes those most vocal "mono" people are the most frequent users of porn. Male gay porn is more popular in the Bible Belt than in more progressive cities.
"I don't think we need to make jealousy and possessiveness seem like positive attributes that "prove" we are in love."
I think they're biological reactions to feeling your r'ship threatened by an outsider. That's not to say those feelings need dissolve into violence or holding another hostage.
Hmm, I don't have a "biological" reaction to fearing my partner(s) will leave me if they become attracted to another. So, is it biological or brainwashing, to assume you must equate love with jealousy? I posit it's brainwashing.
Sex at Dawn goes into these realms pretty thoroughly. "
Sex at Dawn also received some fairly compelling criticism among anthropologists, scientists, etc as to how the author's cherry picked info to fit their theory.
Huh, I read the book that claimed to debunk Sex at Dawn... It was Christian conservative claptrap.
Have you found solid evidence of monogamists in pre-patriarchal Minoan Greece or Crete?
Well, it's generally accepted that marriage existed, and it was pair-bonds, there's no evidence of polyandry/polygamy in the myths passed down to later civilizations, or in anything visual (frescos, paintings on decorative urns, etc.) Nothing points towards women taking multiple husbands, which you'd think would be the norm if matriarchy & polyamory were synonymous.
Venus and Diana were famous for having multiple lovers! So was Zeus. I am not a huge expert on Greek myth, so I can't say these goddesses/gods were having multiple lovers at once, during the same period, but I think it did happen. Greek gods and goddesses were a pretty promiscuous bunch.
 
I don't think people should feel forced to "choose" one beloved partner over another. How many books have been written and movies made around the painful outcomes of this concept?
This shows much sympathy for the person who is capable of loving 2 people, and assumes they have the time/energy/bandwidth to be satisfying to 2 people. Is the pain of having to choose between 2 loves worse than the pain of having someone you're giving everything to going outside the relationship? Countless books/movies have been written around that concept too...
Yes, I have sympathy for those people who can love more than one, of course. haha, I'm poly and I've spoken to countless other polyamorists. As for your second point, I would suggest it isn't healthy to give everything to one person, and expect the same, and not have other resources and support.

Now, I won't deny there are those who may be mono by nature. When my ex-husband and I began to explore poly in 1999, he fell out of love with me when he fell in love with the new and shiny woman. They're still together, 25 years later. But his "emotional quotient" is pretty low. And he has low self-esteem, so he needs to cling to one loyal woman to make himself feel safe. So I honestly don't think his mono nature comes from a healthy place.

I don't want to imply polyamory is "better." I think monogamy is fine. Do your thing. I just don't think it should be the accepted default.
Agreed!!!!! I do feel as if you often imply on this forum that poly is the more feminist relationship structure.
I do say it's feminist. If that implies "better" to you, so be it.
You can be a feminist (whether you're male, female or other) and choose to be mono. Maybe you're too busy with your job or kids or other things to juggle more than one romantic r'ship. But what if the kids are grown? I didn't have time to practice poly when my 3 kids, born in 5 years, were little. I didn't practice it until they were teenagers/early 20s. What if your job isn't overly demanding, or you're retired, etc., but you're still healthy? Would there be more room in your bandwidth?

I have at many times felt pressure to be poly as a queer feminist, in fact my awful ex tried to tell me I might as well be a CONSERVATIVE because I didn't want him toggling between me and another woman.

Have you read COME AS YOU ARE, about women's sexuality?
I'm not sure. If I did, I don't remember.
The free love movement of the '60s, and modern "hookup culture," have assumed that women want what men want sexually, which typically (not all men/women of course) involves novelty & autonomy, while women (again, not all) get off more on trust and intimacy.
Yeah, that's pretty sexist. Women seek trust and intimacy because they have the ability to get pregnant. This makes them economically disadvantaged and vulnerable. Monogamy doesn't really solve the problem, because husbands cheat and leave. Women could enjoy the novelty and autonomy if we had a more polyamorous society with more built-in support for pregnant women and mothers. We are tending in this direction. And women in the past, in the strict patriarchy displayed in the Bible, were highly disadvantaged, sharing one man with several other wives, being able to be sent away by their husband just saying, "I divorce you." That often meant extreme poverty and often even death for the woman and her kids. She was unmarriageable, and finding a well-enough-paying job was incredibly difficult.
Look at the difference between how gay men vs gay women (again, not all) generally have r'ships: having casual sex outside their primary r'ships has been largely accepted in gay male culture forever, while lesbians, for reasons biological and probably societal, are busy UHAULing and being far more monogamous.
That's a whole other discussion. First of all, gay men are men. They benefit from the patriarchy. They are less likely to have children to support. They can't get pregnant. They are wealthier. So they have more freedom to go and play, fuck, have group sex, drink, dance, party on Fire Island, etc. Also, I do believe that men are just hornier, by and large, because of the bigger doses of testosterone. Women's libidos fluctuate through their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, lactation, menopause.

I am thinking that younger lesbians (current 20-somethings) are not as traditionally "UHaul" as lesbians of the past, as feminism advances and women's rights increase.

Of course, women's sexuality "doesn't matter" as much as men's sexuality, traditionally. It's invisible. Women are allowed to be more affectionate with each other than men are. Their intimacy was just thought to be cute, or quirky, but not actually sexual.

130 years or so ago, in the Victorian era, women weren't even supposed to have libidos! They were dead down there, or like children; they were not told how their bodies worked. They were averse to sex, and only did it to please their men to earn their keep, and to get pregnant, which was their only allowable life goal. Of course, sometimes their sexuality did bubble up. They were then called hysterical, and locked up in institutions, and eventually, drugged and lobotomized. (See Rosemary Kennedy, for a famous example.) Meanwhile, Victorian men made good use of sex workers. Ugh. What a system.

Lesbians might have tried heterosexuality and may have children to support. Traditionally women were less educated, had lower incomes. They just didn't have as much time or money or freedom to play. Gay men might also have tried to act straight, get with women, marry, have kids, but usually custody goes to the mother when a marriage ends, and gay or straight men can be deadbeats.

This is a big topic and would take a lot of time to go into.
Thank you for this discourse, much respect.
Back atcha.
 
So we've got monogamy as a social structure, which we agree should not be the default. I also agree with you that we weren't meant to have sex with just one person for the whole of our lives, if that's our definition of monogamy.

Personally, I think you're underestimating our drive to pair-bond. Even the Greek gods got married. And pair-bonding makes sense given how long it takes to raise our offspring.

When I first discovered poly, I was sure people who were monogamous were brainwashed. But now, I've encountered enough people who are open to ENM or tried it and just aren't feeling it. It's like a straight leaning person trying to have sex with a same-sex partner, it doesn't fit. I am seriously shocked to learn that this is me. I believed, deep down, we all were inherently poly, and I just had to deprogram. Now I've accepted my own reasons personal, spiritual, physical for wanting one partner who wants only me, and I believe I fall closer to mono-by-orientation on a monogamous-polyamorous spectrum.

Now, I don't doubt that anti-poly factions used the backlash against Sex At Dawn for their own purposes, but you're dismissing all the scientists/sociologists/etc. who disagreed with it. A quick internet search shows it's not just one, or two, or even three...It's a lot. I read that book and the rebuttal, but it was a while back.

If in the neolithic sex was a shared resource, I can't imagine that benefited pregnant females. The males would neglect the already pregnant or child-rearing women and use their resources to bang not-pregnant ones.

Objectively, males produce more vassopressin/testosterone during courtship & sex, females more oxytocin/estrogen, it's not sexist to point out that the experience, then, might feel different for both. Though I agree with you that we have to take account how much women are allowed to enjoy variety, how much men are allowed to enjoy closeness....

So how to separate monogamy from the patriarchy, or can you? Only date other women? Straight women don't have that option. Go poly? But, as @SEASONEDpolyAgain hints, perhaps as long as we're in a patriarchy, men as hinges to multiple women partners don't pull their weight, and/or women who are hinges to men end up doing emotional labor for multiple partners.

I would suggest it isn't healthy to give everything to one person, and expect the same, and not have other resources and support.

I don't mean you don't have friends, family, community. You don't need to carry on a full romantic r'ship to have support from others. Wouldn't it be likely people in ancient societies got more support from their multi-generational, extended families than from multiple sex partners?

Anyway, this is probably my last post on this thread, I don't want or need the last word, if y'all have more to say. Thanks for the interesting historical stuff and the food for thought!
 
So we've got monogamy as a social structure, which we agree should not be the default. I also agree with you that we weren't meant to have sex with just one person for the whole of our lives, if that's our definition of monogamy.
I'm glad you came back and I don't see why this should be your last post. This discussion is making me think and learn.
Personally, I think you're underestimating our drive to pair-bond. Even the Greek gods got married.
What was marriage then? Why was there marriage amongst the gods? For breeding purposes. In Greek culture, men bonded with men. They took a wife for breeding purposes. I'm sure you know how in Sparta, a new wife shaved her head and met her new husband in a darkened room for coitus. He was used to having sex with men and it was assumed he'd only be able to breed with her ("get it up") if she made herself as male as possible.
And pair-bonding makes sense given how long it takes to raise our offspring.
That assumes the nuclear family is needed for child-rearing. In tribal cultures, the village raises the children. Even in our culture, we seem to shunt the kids off to daycare asap, even before weaning! And we live in a fragmented culture. Imagine life thousands of years ago...
When I first discovered poly, I was sure people who were monogamous were brainwashed. But now, I've encountered enough people who are open to ENM or tried it and just aren't feeling it. It's like a straight leaning person trying to have sex with a same-sex partner, it doesn't fit. I am seriously shocked to learn that this is me. I believed, deep down, we all were inherently poly, and I just had to deprogram. Now I've accepted my own reasons personal, spiritual, physical for wanting one partner who wants only me, and I believe I fall closer to mono-by-orientation on a monogamous-polyamorous spectrum.
That's fine. That's your own personal comfort level, given your background, nature, interest in change, energy for multi-tasking, etc. I remember my late sister used to wonder at me being poly. She barely had energy to be married to one guy. And she didn't actually passionately love him! She said she could see wanting a variety of partners for sex, but for actual emotions, she had no interest. (We were very different, heh.)
Now, I don't doubt that anti-poly factions used the backlash against Sex At Dawn for their own purposes, but you're dismissing all the scientists/sociologists/etc. who disagreed with it. A quick internet search shows it's not just one, or two, or even three...It's a lot. I read that book and the rebuttal, but it was a while back.
I'll look that up. I'm no anthropology expert.
If in the neolithic sex was a shared resource, I can't imagine that benefited pregnant females. The males would neglect the already pregnant or child-rearing women and use their resources to bang not-pregnant ones.
Why? Don't some men find pregnant women extremely sexy? Heck, the earliest goddess statues were hugely pregnant. Sex is a form of worship.

Anyway, I just did a quick read of the Neolithic wiki entry. We can't make generalizations about "Neolithic" life. It differed from region to region in many aspects. Social structures varied, as far as wealth, and I can assume, as far as gender roles too. I just went to an Iroquois Museum (upstate NY) and found that the nations there had only stone tools until Europeans came in the 1600s, but they had highly developed cultures, and men and women had different roles, but both had equal degrees of power. It wasn't a patriarchy or a matriarchy across the board. I'd have to look into this more, but it was different in the Levant because of the development of large herds of cattle and sheep causing differing degrees of wealth and oppression.
Objectively, males produce more vassopressin/testosterone during courtship & sex, females more oxytocin/estrogen, it's not sexist to point out that the experience, then, might feel different for both. Though I agree with you that we have to take account how much women are allowed to enjoy variety, how much men are allowed to enjoy closeness....

So how to separate monogamy from the patriarchy, or can you? Only date other women? Straight women don't have that option. Go poly? But, as @SEASONEDpolyAgain hints, perhaps as long as we're in a patriarchy, men as hinges to multiple women partners don't pull their weight, and/or women who are hinges to men end up doing emotional labor for multiple partners.
I'm in a relationship with both a man and a woman and I don't do emotional labor for either. They both have other partners, and they don't take on fully their other partners emotional labor. What's wrong with being adults, and helping each other, but not overdoing it? Helping others help themselves, but not taking it all on? We often talk here about figuring out what emotional work belongs to whom.
I would suggest it isn't healthy to give everything to one person, and expect the same, and not have other resources and support.

I don't mean you don't have friends, family, community. You don't need to carry on a full romantic r'ship to have support from others. Wouldn't it be likely people in ancient societies got more support from their multi-generational, extended families than from multiple sex partners?
Why not both? I am sure it could have varied from area to area, even in "neolithic" times. I think our current US/European Western society is hypocritical. We can use the resources of one partner, or more than one, as well as outer social supports such as extended family, schools, community groups, etc. The concept of nuclear families at all is really a 20th century concept brought about by the ease of transportation (trains, cars, busses, street cars, planes, fast ships), and telecommunications. We used to be firmly entrenched in our birth cultures, but now we all get up and move around a lot. If our nuclear family moves to a new state, where we have no friends or family in place, we become unhealthily dependent on our spouse (at least at first), for friendship and support and coparenting.
Anyway, this is probably my last post on this thread, I don't want or need the last word, if y'all have more to say. Thanks for the interesting historical stuff and the food for thought!
I don't need the last word either. There is always so much to learn and explore.
 
As usual, I'll give some mostly on/off topic rambling.

I agree with both of you on how monogamy is historically patriarchal.

I used to think polyamory was a more feminist way to live. Especially for heterosexual couples. However, what I see is those patriarchal dynamics replicated across multiple relationships, instead.

When it comes to queer people, I think it is somewhat easier to circumvent those norms, particularly where the queer people are gender non-conforming. Queer relationships aren't immune to heteronormativity, though, so these tropes can still play out.

Furthermore, when it comes to feminism, I don't think enough polyamorists actually live by feminist ideals for it to be classed as being feminist in essence. I actually speculate that the cis men who were supportive of their female partners having multiple partners did so because they got sexual gratification from "sharing" their partners and emotional gratification from the enhanced intimacy that comes from having a partner who fulfils your needs to that totality.

We know now that a lot of the "free love" we witnessed in the 60s and 70s was actually littered with sexual coercion, often of minors, and a different standard of consent. I'm sure in many ways polyamorists were more evolved in that there was some structure and expectations around autonomy, but I hazard a guess that the finer points of coercion weren't acknowledged. Yes women could divorce unsatisfactory partners, so in theory, nobody could be poly under duress (they could just leave), but women were still very dependent on men. More so than now.

I guess I think polyamory and polyamorists can have "feminist motivations", but there is a lot you actually have to do to make your polyamory "feminist". You have to be proactive about it. It's not just as simple as being an "egalitarian polyamorists" or even "solo poly".

I think that for heterosexual people, it's potentially easier to have one exclusive relationship where you work on dismantling the patriarchal influences that create an inherent imbalance in the relationship. Although men are more likely to wield the power in a relationship, it takes both parties to continually work at ensuring neither of them allow heteronormativity to have undue control. It's a lot of labour. But it really might be easier to have a more "feminist" straight relationship if you're monogamous.
I agree that queer relationships can and often do circumvent patriarchal norms. I guess I made that point in my prior post, when I mentioned my own set up, with both a male and female partner, who also have other partners.

But I have met staunchly mono lesbian couples. They find polyamory even outright disgusting or scary, I guess thinking it's entirely disrespectful to one's "primary" partner to entertain another partner. Or maybe they think being a lesbian is hard enough in our culture, so let's not get even "weirder"! If you're getting negative social attention already for being gay, why risk more abuse?

Since I'm queer, and most of my irl friends are, I don't know too many straight poly couples! I've dated a few (ostensibly) straight guys who were poly, but I'm not sure to what extent they've busted patriarchal norms.

By the way, I think you're defining "feminist/feminism" too narrowly here:

I don't think enough polyamorists actually live by feminist ideals for it to be classed as being feminist in essence. I actually speculate that the cis men who were supportive of their female partners having multiple partners did so because they got sexual gratification from "sharing" their partners and emotional gratification from the enhanced intimacy that comes from having a partner who fulfils your needs to that totality.

What are the "feminist ideals" you refer to?

And are you saying the men got sexual gratification from the women being poly because said men are into cuckoldry, or hoping for threesomes, or what? Somehow they are involved in their female partner's sex life with others to the extent that it gets them off?
 
But I have met staunchly mono lesbian couples. They find polyamory even outright disgusting or scary, I guess thinking it's entirely disrespectful to one's "primary" partner to entertain another partner.
Okay, so they are mono, but does that make them victims of the patriarchy?

What are the "feminist ideals" you refer to?

I don't think they actually do anything to proactively dismantle the sexism in their relationships. There is a lot of talk and little purposeful action.

And are you saying the men got sexual gratification from the women being poly because said men are into cuckoldry, or hoping for threesomes, or what? Somehow they are involved in their female partner's sex life with others to the extent that it gets them off?

Essentially, yes. When you look at literature from those old-guard polyamorists, its all KTP/poly-fi oriented, with an emphasis on female bisexuality.
 
Okay, so they are mono, but does that make them victims of the patriarchy?
Of course lesbians are victims of the patriarchy. All women are. (All men are too, except for the richest, whitest top 2%, as well.)
I don't think they actually do anything to proactively dismantle the sexism in their relationships. There is a lot of talk and little purposeful action.
I think you're somehow talking about poly couples from the mid-20th century? Surely there are plenty of feminist poly MF couples today. I am talking about the contemporary polyamory of this century, the movement which was first reflected in The Ethical Slut (1998).

I asked what you meant by "feminist ideals." My list would go like this: The right to vote. Equal pay for equal work. The ownership of self (not owned by a man). Bodily autonomy in general. The right to proper health care. The right to choose our own love/sex partners. The right to obtain birth control and abortion. The right to obtain help with childcare if needed. The right to education and to work outside the home. The right to drive a car. The right to take someone to court for raping them (even their husband). The right to choose our own clothing style, for goodness sake.

Are you saying 21st century MF poly couples do not hold to these principles and support them?

People today forget what feminism is, and what the work done by feminists of the past has meant for our quality of life. Younger people just take it all for granted. They act grossed out by feminism while enjoying rights hard won by feminists. It's kinda funny/sad.

If you want to go deeper into the weeds, of course, some poly women might feel forced to have open relationships, feel forced into having sex with people (of any gender) in group sex situations that are more her male partner's idea of what is desirable than her own. But in my opinion, polyamory does not mean group sex, so that area is moot. Women could, should and are becoming more assertive, more firm about boundaries, more decisive in what they will and will not put up with sexually.

When you look at literature from those old-guard polyamorists, its all KTP/poly-fi oriented, with an emphasis on female bisexuality.

We've come a long way since Heinlein's fantasies about group marriage and the early communistic "polyamory" of the 1960s and '70s, imo. Heinlein objectified women so much. It's really rather disgusting, but that was the norm back in those days. Look at ads in magazines from the 1950s-'70s. It's pretty shocking how women were viewed then, as compared to present-day standards.
 
Are you saying 21st century MF poly couples do not hold to these principles and support them?
I think they are very basic ideals you listed. I think feminism is way past there.

I am thinking more about men arranging their working life to ensure their female partner doesnt carry the load of childcare responsibilities. Taking off time when the kid is sick. Trying to make it so the perils of wider sexism in society has limited influence on her career progression. Choosing partners with a better understanding of how social status and power can make relationships unethical. Understanding why a female partner/metamour may say yes to something because they dont know they could/should say no. Understanding why all of this means that sometimes, not proceeding with a person or even polyamory is more feminist than the illusion of an ethically non-monogamous relationship with equal autonomy.

There is much more I could list, but no, I dont think modern poly couples consisently promote feminist ideals. They just talk about them.
 
I'm cleaning out my basement and I'm coming across all these old books from the 1970s with titles like "The looks men love" and "How to dress to impress a man" etc. (n):poop::cautious::LOL::rolleyes:😣😑
 
I just come across another example on reddit, and this is something i have been guilty of myself.

When a female meta requests inordinate control over the relationships that she is not in, modern polyamory says she is the one with the unreasonable expectations. Generally, on poly forums, the male hinge is tasked with maintaining boundaries to allow the newer relationship to grow in a way that doesnt objectify the new female partner.

What is often forgotten is that the women arguably most likely to experience unequal treatment when her male spouse gets a new female partner is the wife. She is likely to be older with more familial commitments than the newer partner. She is often less financially independent, too, even if she appears to have more concrete assets. She is more likely to be under duress than a unicorn, or at least as likely. And with dependents.

Yet we encourage the male spouse (who likely puts in way less emotional and physical labour into his current relationship) to put a stop to his wife trying to draw her own boundaries. We tell him that he is equally or even more obliged (due to couple's privilege) to consider the evolving needs of a new partner than his wife. You can almost see how polyamory played out like that isnt so far removed from a guy leaving his first family to create a second one with a new, younger wife greatly decreasing the quality of life for his existing kids.

My point with this is that even when polyamory seems like it is "feminist", you will still find that it is actually promoting values that suit the loudest voices. At the moment, the loudest voices are white cis women (single, solo, and otherwise) seeking male poly partners. That is why anything that seems to limit their ability to get what they expect from their chosen partners is condemned.

Dont get me wrong, there are definitely problematic poly women. They arent doing any kind of feminism either. Ive seen trafficking, abuse and exploitation from poly women over the years. In one case, a cult.

I just dont think youre automatically doing something feminist just by agreeing to or with polyamory.
 
I think they are very basic ideals you listed. I think feminism is way past there.
LOL you proved my point. You take those "very basic ideals" for granted. We don't even have them all yet, in the US. In fact, the ability to obtain an abortion is no longer federally guaranteed here. Maybe you heard about that.

We don't have the guaranteed right to equal pay for equal work.

We don't have the expectation we can choose our partners. How many women here talk about going along with "throuples" with women they don't desire, but their male partner does?

As for clothing choice: in some corporations/offices, there are different dress codes for men and women. While men can wear long pants and flat shoes, women need to wear skirts, pantyhose and high heels (even a 2" heel is high and makes women less mobile and comfortable). A woman in a suit with pants and low heels is not considered to look "professional." (Of course, men decide what is "professional looking.") Women's sports teams: the demand that certain Olympic female beach volleyball team players wear tiny bikini bottoms instead of more modest and practical full briefs or shorts-- this was a big scandal recently.

Not to mention men in power regularly assaulting/raping women over whom they have power. Remember the #metoo movement? Women put up with sexual harassment and assault for YEARS to keep their jobs.

Black women, even extremely powerful ones (like, famously, Serena Williams), get much worse health care than white women do, when giving birth. And even white women aren't treated particularly well by obstetricians. The whole area of reproductive rights has been tackled by women and forward-thinking, humble men. Male doctors arrogantly took this area over from women and midwives a couple centuries ago. Oh, don't get me started.
I am thinking more about men arranging their working life to ensure their female partner doesn't carry the load of childcare responsibilities. Taking off time when the kid is sick. Trying to make it so the perils of wider sexism in society has limited influence on her career progression. Choosing partners with a better understanding of how social status and power can make relationships unethical. Understanding why a female partner/metamour may say yes to something because they don't know they could/should say no. Understanding why all of this means that sometimes, not proceeding with a person or even polyamory is more feminist than the illusion of an ethically non-monogamous relationship with equal autonomy.

There is much more I could list. No, I don't think modern poly couples consistently promote feminist ideals. They just talk about them.
I guess there's a spectrum.

Understanding women should have equal rights to men.
Understanding women need to feel safe.
Understanding no woman should stay with a man who treats her badly just to survive economically or appear socially proper.
Talking about this, consistently.
Acting on it/giving it more than lip service.
Enforcing women's rights with laws.
Ostracizing/fining/imprisoning people who don't go along with these ideals.

I think you spend a lot of time on reddit, where people aren't known for their high standards... I still hold that well-done poly is a feminist, female-empowerment movement, and couldn't exist if it wasn't. People do do poly badly, or define it too widely and incorrectly. Maybe that's the problem. It only works if the women (and non-gender conforming people, and people of color) have equal power to the men.

If you're just saying that (most/all) men are trying to hold onto their power, even "poly" men, and limit their female partners' rights around dating others, I mean, I guess you could be right. How sad is that? That still doesn't disprove my point that polyamory IS a modern feminist idea that can only succeed if women hold as much power, and enjoy equal rights to men. It just shows that men think modern polyamory is a male fantasy of two hot bi babes in bed with him. (Or some other fantasy, like, bang 'em, knock 'em up, leave 'em.) Just because they think that, doesn't mean it's correct, and I spend untold hours here telling new members that is why they are so unhappy in their relationships.
 
You take those "very basic ideals" for granted. We don't even have them all yet, in the US. In fact, the ability to obtain an abortion is no longer federally guaranteed here. Maybe you heard about that.

I agree that not everyone has them. And certainly not everyone has equal access to them. What I meant by moving past those basic ideals is that intersectional feminism acknowledges that achieving just those ideals would not result in equality.

Furthermore, it questions whether they are actually more important than some other social issues that affect women. Especially social issues that would require self reflection from women themselves.
How many women here talk about going along with "throuples" with women they don't desire, but their male partner does?

Thats why i am saying that polyamory isnt a feminist movement. You can be polyamorous and a feminist, but being polyamorous isnt feminist in itself.

The other examples you talk about are actually examples of what I mean. Feminism requires knowledge and action towards equality in those areas. Not just a relationship agreement where your female partner can theoretically have partners and children with other men.

I still hold that well-done poly is a feminist, female-empowerment movement,

Well thats a different standard because youve added "well done". That, I can pretty much agree with. I just dont think that being poly is enough to constitute feminism.

If you're just saying that (most/all) men are trying to hold onto their power, even "poly" men, and limit their female partners' rights around dating others, I mean, I guess you could be right.

I dont think they are necessarily "trying to", more that I think they just "do" unless they actively "try not to".

That still doesn't disprove my point that polyamory IS a modern feminist idea that can only succeed if women hold as much power, and enjoy equal rights to men.

I think "success" is a subjective term. A woman happily in a OPP polyfi harem might see her life as a success because she has the things she aspired to. But as for "successfully" achieving a feminist ideal is debatable. Is it as simple as her making an autonomous choice to be there? I genuinely go back on forth on that - I suspect it might be a case by case thing
 
I agree that not everyone has them. And certainly not everyone has equal access to them. What I meant by moving past those basic ideals is that intersectional feminism acknowledges that achieving just those ideals would not result in equality.

Furthermore, it questions whether they are actually more important than some other social issues that affect women. Especially social issues that would require self reflection from women themselves.


Thats why i am saying that polyamory isnt a feminist movement. You can be polyamorous and a feminist, but being polyamorous isn't feminist in itself.
On the face of it, I disagree, but I think this statement lacks nuance. But you do go on.
The other examples you talk about are actually examples of what I mean. Feminism requires knowledge and action towards equality in those areas, not just a relationship agreement where your female partner can theoretically have partners and children with other men.
Of course. lol. Polyamory is not the only feminist issue out there; it's just one of them.
Well that's a different standard because you've added "well done". That, I can pretty much agree with. I just don't think that being poly is enough to constitute feminism.
Again, nowhere did I say that. And of course I am talking about polyamory where everyone is happy, and it's sustainable. Poly done badly hurts everyone, and those relationships are either torture, or they end. And they don't work because the women are not empowered, they do not understand their rights, and their male partners do not agree that their female partners have a right to bodily autonomy, etc.

Modern, current, 21st century polyamory is a feminist issue because there has to be full autonomy for women, or it's just a male sex fantasy. And it's not meant to be a male sex fantasy. And men (and women) who think that's all poly is are just wrong.
I don't think they are necessarily "trying to," more that I think they just "do," unless they actively "try not to."



I think "success" is a subjective term. A woman happily in a OPP poly-fi harem might see her life as a success because she has the things she aspired to. But as for "successfully" achieving a feminist ideal is debatable. Is it as simple as her making an autonomous choice to be there? I genuinely go back on forth on that - I suspect it might be a case-by-case thing
A woman in a OPP poly-fi harem is not a feminist woman. Or, if she is a feminist, and she chooses this, it's probably a Ds kink that she enjoys for reasons of her own. If she can leave the harem when she's outgrown it, fine. If she feels she CAN'T leave out of fear of bodily harm, economic hardship, social ostracization, loss of her children, or death, it's not modern poly-- it's probably a cult (or a very strict, 14th-century style, feudal, pre-feminist country's culture).

I know personally of a woman who has three sub men and one bull. Those men can, of course, leave when they want. The subs enjoy being her subs. The bull enjoys giving her what the other men can't, or don't want to do. No one is coerced to be with her by social expectations or because they lack actual social power as men. (I wouldn't call these relationships polyamorous, however. It's just a kink set-up. There is "service," there is probably "worship," there is enjoyable humiliation, etc.)
 
This thread lacks any thesis so my understanding of the argument at this point goes something like this:

“Polyamory is a feminist movement because monogamy is a product of the patriarchy”.
Is that about, right?

Does polyamory do enough for women’s issues to qualify as a feminist movement? It doesn't automatically challenge or dismantle patriarchal structures or systems of oppression. It doesn't inherently address broad issues of gender inequality or power dynamics within relationships. Unequal distribution of emotional labor, domestic responsibilities, or decision-making power is still common. Poly does nothing to specifically target and deconstruct the notion that women should be nurturing and accommodating regardless of whether multiple partners are involved.

Maybe poly can still be central to an individual’s expression of feminism. And I think an argument can be made that some forms of poly are a product of feminism. Specifically forms that empower women’s sexual agency, deconstructs ownership, advocates for equal relationship freedoms, ect. But none of those ideas are included in the definition of polyamory, and many poly relationships structures don’t even prioritize those ideas.

The broadest understanding of Poly as far as the masses are concerned is the throuple. Thanks to tiktok and reality TV! Polyamory represents those relationship ideals to the same degree of accuracy as any other. We can’t make the definition mean more than it does.
 
It doesn't automatically challenge or dismantle patriarchal structures or systems of oppression. It doesn't inherently address broad issues of gender inequality or power dynamics within relationships. Unequal distribution of emotional labor, domestic responsibilities, or decision-making power is still common. Poly does nothing to specifically target and deconstruct the notion that women should be nurturing and accommodating regardless of whether multiple partners are involved.

Maybe poly can still be central to an individual’s expression of feminism. And I think an argument can be made that some forms of poly are a product of feminism. Specifically forms that empower women’s sexual agency, deconstructs ownership, advocates for equal relationship freedoms, ect. But none of those ideas are included in the definition of polyamory, and many poly relationships structures don’t even prioritize those ideas.

This is essentially all of my posts concisely summarised.
 
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