Strangely enough, the first thing I saw when I woke up and did my ritual foggy and slightly grumpy morning Facebook scroll was an article asking if “Psychedelics can make you polyamorous”. Whether or not you subscribe to this arguably peculiar theory, there is no doubt that alongside recent gender-spectrum and bi/pansexuality discussions in the media, talking about poly has been taken along for the ride.
Within the term poly, I include open relationships and “FWB”, because let’s face it – life is shades of grey (thankfully not the book – ew, Christian Grey). We’ve all been doing this stuff for millennia but we just haven’t talked about it. Many people tell me that – just like polyamory and transsexuality/genderfluidity – bisexuality is a “new trend”. As someone currently doing a PhD on a bisexual high priestess from Mesopotamia circa 2300 BCE – who was rather keen on her male temple attendants wearing female attire and wrote fruity poetry to a goddess – I think the “modern trend” thread is dead in the Euphrates (the river running past where she lived, now modern-day Iraq).
Having lived in a closed triad of three women myself, including a trans woman (which caused even more of a ruckus when various very small-minded people found out), I have to say it wasn’t all swinging from chandeliers and PVC. Most of the time it was your typical comfortable relationship, where people take turns to go and buy the bog roll and eat their boiled eggs together in the morning. I won’t lie: I miss them like crazy, although we are all still solid friends. I think we broke up because I felt out of my depth joining a married couple – I was jealous and worried I was being something of a gooseberry. While most of my friends had been married in their mid-20s and now had three kids, here I was. I was ashamed and wanted to be “normal”.
Vaat is a performing artist. He came out three years ago. “I think I’ve always known, though,” Vaat tells OutNewsGlobal. “Right now being polyamorous is a necessity for me.” Vaat’s views of typical media portrayal of polyamory? “Mostly ignorant, superficial and negative.” Vaat is currently seeing “one long-term partner, seeing others separately, but working on a form of Relationship Anarchy, ultimately”. His comment is most interesting. Is there a relationship war going on? The trads and the not-so-trads? How deep does it go? Perhaps we are fighting about more than it seems on the surface. Maybe Skin was right – “Everything’s fucking political!” Incidentally I interviewed her once and she is so not as scary as she seems. I was however freaking everyone out for days before the interview because I was so excited.
“PME”’s introduction to poly was quite different. She says: “I was brought up traditional poly – so what I mean by this is I am a third generation black woman and I brought up with the idea of a man having more than one wife.” PME grew up happy and loved, and says she “didn’t see anything wrong with it”. She is now “pretty much out to everyone”. As a lesbian, she had to “come out twice” as it were. The “idea of me being lesbian was more shocking to my family than it was that I was poly!” she laughs. “The people I work with know about the poly thing, my friends know. In terms of poly, I’d never agree to be with just one person. I’ve experienced so much jealousy in other relationships. My ex-wife decided that entering a monogamous relationship would solve all our relationship problems. But it just made it worse. There’s a lot of bad press around jealousy and poly. The problem with monogamy is that it’s turned jealousy into some kind of beast to be avoided.”
Many people would consider some of the above comments about polygamy to be a little shocking and outdated. I for one am happier with the idea of a man having multiple wives if I also see lots of women running around with multiple husbands/other non-female spectrum folk. But as long as nothing is too “traditional” (read “forced”) and doesn’t frighten the horses I’m happy. However, your typical modern poly relationship is generally very much a matter of choice, despite the many sad cases of people having to break up for fear of upsetting friends, family and sometimes colleagues (if they are obliged to divulge that kind of information). Poly comes with kink, with closed groups, with open relationships, with openness, with subterfuge. For something that generally involves consenting adults and is really only the business of the people involved in the relationship it sure gets lot of flack.
And consent is a key discussion point here. If one relationship participant feels that they love another too much not to consent to their desire for a polyamorous arrangement, that is a recipe for disaster. Far better to leave, nurse your heart and try to move on if your partner cannot deal with a monogamous relationship. Nobody wants to end up in a threesome with a stranger they don’t feel attracted to and don’t want to have sex with just because they are so enamoured of another person. Better to be single for a bit than do something impulsive that haunts you for months and years.
I know a number of very happy poly friends. My pal Jennifer tells me “I never felt myself until I had three other partners. We live apart, and with Corona we can’t meet, but just knowing they love me and I love them feels like three times the extra love you’d get from a mono relationship – and that is just my opinion, other people feel different emotions! People have different friends because they appreciate their different qualities. Most choose to leave it at platonic friendship but some of us don’t see a problem in taking it further. Consent is Queen/King!