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Poly Orientated

December 5, 2012

Sometimes I kick the proverbial hornet's nest intentionally—"bullshit in the Bible," for instance—and sometimes I kick the hornet's nest accidentally. I honestly didn't expect the outraged response I got after I wrote that poly wasn't a sexual identity in the "sexual orientation" sense of the term. Some people identify as poly, of course, just as some people identify as, say, dominant or submissive. While I recognize that poly (or D/s) can be central to someone's sexual identity, I've never viewed it as a sexual orientation and I didn't think this was a controversial point of view.

Many poly people disagree. I've received a ton of impassioned e-mails from polyamorous readers, most of whom see themselves as poly-oriented, not just poly-identified. And while some seem confused—I've never denied the existence of polyamorous people, I never said that people couldn't or shouldn't identify as polyamorous—I'm turning the rest of this week's column over to the polyoutraged.


I've been poly all my life, since well before I knew there was such a possibility. As far back as grade school, I've generally had a crush on more than one boy/guy/man, and as an adult, I can't imagine a life where I'm limited to one man, even though I love my husband deeply. When I was with someone before I knew about polyamory, I'd cheat. I wouldn't want to, but sooner or later I'd meet someone else and fall in love so hard that I had to be with the other person, too. I hated cheating. I hated dishonesty. I hated myself. Reading Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy's book The Ethical Slut changed my life. I finally understood the person I had been my whole life. I'm poly. I'm not monogamous and I can't choose to be monogamous. I will always have the capacity to love more than one person and the incapacity to keep myself from falling in love with others—the way you will always have the capacity to love men romantically and no capacity to love women. It's a choice whether I act on that capacity, just like it's a choice whether you act on your attraction to men, but it's not a choice whether I fall in love with more than one person at a time. Some people might just flirt with the lifestyle, but some of us are built to love more than one person at a time.

Poly Of Long Years

To enshrine the homosexuality/heterosexuality spectrum as the one sexual motivator around which individuals can choose an identity seems strange to me. I'm a hetero-identified man, but I could be in a homosexual relationship if a situation forced me to choose a partner from outside of my preferred sexual-gender-orientation. (Jail, for example.) It wouldn't change how I identify, but it would change the relationship I'm in. However, the fact that closeted homosexual men operate in hetero relationships and fuck their wives, or hetero guys fuck other hetero guys in jail or submarines doesn't make the identities of gay and straight any less valid.

Thinking Straight

I believe sexuality exists on spectrums. Not just one spectrum from gay to straight with bi in the middle, but several spectrums. One spectrum is how sexual you are, from those with little to no sex drive to people who have very active sex drives. There is also, perhaps, a spectrum from monogamous to polyamorous. You say that monogamy and polyamory are things people do, not things people are. However, I feel some people can be innately one or the other. My husband and I decided to have a three-way. My husband could barely keep his dick hard when fucking our third. He couldn't get into it until I got involved directly, and even then it didn't really do much for him. (Believe me, our third was any straight guy's dream. The only reason he wasn't into that is because he's really only into me.) When he's in love with someone, all he wants is that person. He's very one-person-and-one-person-only oriented. In contrast, although he satisfies me and I love him, I want other partners. I feel that I'm polyamorous innately. I feel I am wired to be like this. I didn't choose it. Likewise, my husband couldn't choose to be polyamorous. He can practice polyamory, and he has for my sake, but naturally he's a monogamous person. I appreciate that you advocate nonmonogamy. I credit you with helping to save my marriage. We married as virgins and were clueless about sex. But my husband and I have a great sex life—and I'm free to pursue people on the side—because we read your column.

I Am How I Am

Hetero/poly guy here. I'm part of a live-in quad, and we all raise our kids together, so I'm pretty far down the polyamory rabbit hole. Figured I'd add my two cents to the discussion. I don't think that polyamory can really be defined as an "orientation," because that's an improper way to describe what polyamory is. I can still be attracted to monogamous people, and being poly doesn't change or alter that fact. I do, however, think that polyamory—or, by contrast, monogamy—can be defined as a sexual identity, and that's where I think your advice to PP went astray. Consider: A gay man can be attracted to a straight man, correct? Similarly, I can be attracted to people who identify as monogamous. But that attraction doesn't separate individuals from their identity. Gay men tend to date other gay men and would generally be advised not to go chasing after straight men. In the same way, I try my best to stick to other people who identify as poly. Poly is very much an identity, Dan, and poly people form communities around that identity. We face some unique challenges (how do you raise kids in this environment? How do you balance time between partners?), while some other life challenges are made easier (four parents makes getting kids to soccer easier). I'm not saying that we need to add a "P" to LGBTQQIA, but I don't think we can just be written off, either.

Poly Identified E-mailer

I'm a bisexual, polyamorous 24-year-old woman. From the very first time I was faced with a cute boy who wanted to date me, I knew that I couldn't be in a closed/exclusive relationship. I knew it as instinctively as I knew that I found women attractive as well as men. I had never heard of open relationships or polyamory. I was a virgin, so it wasn't about sex. I didn't have anyone else on the horizon and I really liked the boy, so it wasn't about keeping my options open. And yet I knew—I knew—that I couldn't agree to be his girlfriend without the freedom to date, flirt, sleep with, and love other people. Six years later, I started dating someone I think might turn out to be the love of my life. He's a match for me intellectually, sexually, and emotionally. We make each other so happy, it's silly. Even so, even in the best relationship I can possibly imagine, I know monogamy is not for me. Incredibly, he feels the same way. Maybe there are very few people like me—I think most people fall somewhere in the middle, with probably more oriented toward monogamy than not—but poly people like me exist.

Poly Like Me

Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.

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Comments (277) RSS

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1
I agree with you that it's not a sexual identity like gay or straight.
Posted by alyssa0987 on December 4, 2012 at 5:57 PM · Report this
2
Dan : there is no such word as orientated. The word you were looking to use is oriented. I hope you now have the correct orientation. Apologies foe being a pedant.

Which reminds me of your bizarre pronunciation of 'vaginal' which some how you get as VAG-in-al [with accent on the first part the VAG just like the word seminal] whereas everyone I know pronounces it va-GIN-al [with the accent on the second part - the GIN] = the same as Vagina is pronounced va-GIN-a.

Anyway, love you work - greetings from Sydney Australia :)
Posted by Tom Cat on December 4, 2012 at 6:01 PM · Report this
3
Dan : there is no such word as orientated. The word you were looking to use is oriented. I hope you now have the correct orientation. Apologies foe being a pedant.

Which reminds me of your bizarre pronunciation of 'vaginal' which some how you get as VAG-in-al [with accent on the first part the VAG just like the word seminal] whereas everyone I know pronounces it va-GIN-al [with the accent on the second part - the GIN] = the same as Vagina is pronounced va-GIN-a.

Anyway, love you work - greetings from Sydney Australia :)
Posted by Tom Cat on December 4, 2012 at 6:05 PM · Report this
4
Actually, Gore Vidal once wrote that there are no gay people, only gay acts. This seems to me exactly analogous to how Dan described poly. In the end, I think it just comes down to semantics.
Posted by Jonny on the Cape on December 4, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this
5
Orientate is a perfectly correct alternative to orient. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionar…

VAG-inal is also a perfectly correct pronunciation, even though my preference is also for vaGINal.
http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/a…
Posted by girldetectiveagency on December 4, 2012 at 6:24 PM · Report this
6
Those links have been cut off, probably because it looks like spam to be adding links to a comment, but you can google it for yourself Tom Cat. Which it's generally a good idea to do before you correct someone anyway.
Posted by girldetectiveagency on December 4, 2012 at 6:28 PM · Report this
7
I'd sleep around except I'm a social conformist, it would piss off my wife, and I have no game. I lived in a country where everyone fucked around but it wasn't a nation of poly people... They just liked to fuck a lot.
Posted by Steeeeverino on December 4, 2012 at 6:30 PM · Report this
8
To pick on one part of the first letter: I can understand the position that someone wants multiple intimate romantic relationships at once, and is not happy without that option. I can't understand putting a lot of effort into developing a secondary romantic relationship while lying to your primary partner as something you just can't avoid doing because you're wired that way. Nor falling in love: it takes some effort and time to fall in love with people. It's not cupid's arrow, bam, deep relationship with the guy delivering the Poland Spring blooms out of a single glance with no active decisions along the way from anyone.

Posted by IPJ on December 4, 2012 at 6:32 PM · Report this
9
I think the mid-pack letter about how people can be A but practice not-A in an environment where it's not-A or nothing makes a good point. We're highly adaptive to a great variety of social models: the difference with modern life is that we have a lot more sense of choosing the social model, rather than working with the one into which we're born.

To follow up on a point I think Seandr was making last time around: there is no pure model of how humans are supposed to interact with each other. Find a hunter gatherer group or ancient people or ape pack doing one thing, and you'll find a dozen not doing that thing. Picking out the group with the model you like and claiming it's natural is not the slam-dunk argument the "everyone who doesn't think like me just isn't rational about things" people imagine it to be.
Posted by IPJ on December 4, 2012 at 6:39 PM · Report this
Tim Horton 10
So let's define Poly by the first letter - in a relationship but 1) still have the ability to fall in love 2) deep desire to fuck other people, sometimes get into deep despair that we can't and 3) end up cheating even though I know its wrong.

Conclusion - vast majority of people are poly. I have never known a man who wasn't.
Posted by Tim Horton on December 4, 2012 at 6:40 PM · Report this
11
Enough!!! Next week please leave this subject behind. The horse is dead, leave it the fuck alone.
Posted by frogangel on December 4, 2012 at 6:50 PM · Report this
12
Enough!!! Please leave this subject behind next week. The horse is dead, leave it the fuck alone.
Posted by frogangel on December 4, 2012 at 6:54 PM · Report this
13
Oh Dan, don't hedge your bet by publishing letters from cry-babies. Acknowledge the hornets nest and get back to work. If I want diatribe I'll read the comments.
Posted by Never rong on December 4, 2012 at 7:00 PM · Report this
14
Good choice of letters.

Prior to reading them, I was inclined to agree with Dan that poly was not a sexual identity in the same sense that gay, straight, and bi are, but I think I've been persuaded otherwise.

The notion that sexual identity should be confined exclusively to the gay/bi/straight spectrum seems too limiting to me now. If sexuality really is a series of spectra, or spectrums (as I Am How I Am asserted), then the suggestion that poly/mono is a sexual spectrum that can be as equivalently identifying as gay, bi or straight, makes sense. It doesn't have to be viewed as merely an example of "me-too, I want a whole identity for my specific kink" syndrome.

It is pretty cool to have a new example of the notion that I'm open to evidence and argument based persuasion.
Posted by Functional Atheist on December 4, 2012 at 7:03 PM · Report this
15
I'm with frogangel. Fresh topic please.
Posted by bibliomystic on December 4, 2012 at 7:07 PM · Report this
16
Tim@10, you've never known a man who didn't end up cheating? Or did you mean "1, 2 or 3"?
Posted by EricaP on December 4, 2012 at 7:33 PM · Report this
17
When I read the initial letter last week, my reaction was "oh, terminology confusion". I agree a person can be 'wired' for poly/monogamy. The trouble is, 'sexual orientation' is a very, very narrow definition---of what physical sex you're attracted to. That's it, game over. Trouble is, I have no idea what to call the poly/monogamy thing, since obviously for a significant amount of people there's not a whole lot of choice involved. Thoughts, anybody? Or am I totally incorrect and babbling like a moron?
Posted by Teagan on December 4, 2012 at 8:02 PM · Report this
18
Hmmm. Interesting column, letters, and responses.
However, since I'm neither poly-oriented nor poly-identified,
and therefore don't really fit anywhere in this week's Savage Love topic, I'll humbly try again next Tuesday.
I have, on occasion, been poly-outraged----but about other matters entirely. So unfortunately, I really have nothing much to add. Sorry. Sigh.

And, NO--I am not being sarcastic here, just honest.
Have a great week, and this crazy lady will catch everyone back here Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.
Happy Holidays and time for more Bailey's spiked hot chocolate!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 4, 2012 at 8:04 PM · Report this
mydriasis 19
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Posted by mydriasis on December 4, 2012 at 8:12 PM · Report this
20
This reminds me of the asexual parade. Somebody cook the polys a motherfucking brisket, already.
Posted by Scarlett on December 4, 2012 at 8:37 PM · Report this
21
@Scarlett

What does it mean to suggest someone cook a brisket for someone? Aside from that said group deserves a delicious meal -- ha... (Sorry, legitimately ignorant.)
Posted by Hyacinth on December 4, 2012 at 8:50 PM · Report this
shurenka 22
Terminology aside, the only question is, should we afford equal consideration and protection to all sexual minorities. And my thought is we should; although legally working out "poly marriages" would be something indeed. But this is boring. Fights over terminology inherently are. Let's move on.
Posted by shurenka on December 4, 2012 at 8:55 PM · Report this
23
@shurenka

Yeah, fights over terminology do get pretty boring rsther quickly. I don't think poly marriages (even though I personally am not even remotely interested in that) would be a stretch though; they would be similar to corporations.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 4, 2012 at 9:00 PM · Report this
24
God that one troll that was always going on about polygamy must be in 7th heaven right now. The rest of us are just incredibly bored.
Posted by chi_type on December 4, 2012 at 9:07 PM · Report this
25
I'm a fat. Ever since I was a kid, I've known that when someone asked me if I would like the chocolate cake OR the ice cream, my answer would be "yes please." I like food more than skinnies, obviously, and I am miserable when I have to limit my choices. Let me be the happy fat that I want to be. Let me express myself as a fat-identified person. I could diet my way into the skinny world but I don't want to. Don't make me conform to the skinnies. Recognize my orientation, please.
Posted by justme123 on December 4, 2012 at 9:10 PM · Report this
26
VAG-inal is the standard US pronunciation, as I suspect Tom Cat knows.
Posted by Eirene on December 4, 2012 at 9:23 PM · Report this
27
Never in my life have I heard someone say "va-GIN-al."
Posted by spikele on December 4, 2012 at 10:05 PM · Report this
ean 28
This reminds me of when Dan made fun of Germans, and some German guy got all bent out of shape about racism against Germans. As if German was a "race".

I think there is a difference between who you are, and what you'd like to see happen if you could swing it.

Don't get me wrong: I also think you should be in exactly as many relationships as you want, and if you and your squad of hot poly partners are happy and hitting it, then YOU ROCK. I am fist bumping you over the internet as I type this.

Back to earth, friends: every guy on the planet (aside from the questionably extant Mr. "not into 3-ways" above, apparently) would like to have more than one partner. That doesn't mean that society has forced your life into an empty sham if you only manage to accrue one (gasp) measly partner. It just means you were lucky enough to find someone, and we can't all get what we want all the time.

What's next, sympathy for CEOs that have to make 50 times the average worker's salary because they're just big spenders "innately", or just can't be satisfied with one Lexus?

Don't be greedy, get everything you want, AND self righteous about it too. The outrage rings false.
Posted by ean on December 4, 2012 at 10:08 PM · Report this
anitawagnerillig 29
What moving words in all three of those letters. And pride. Those are excellent examples of the complexity that is identity to polyamorous people, and its further complicated for people who are LGBTQ *and* polyamorous and questioning it all. I know many polyamorists who cross multiple community lines, including sexual activities like BDSM and swinging, and spiritual practices like body modification, paganism, tantra, and liberal mainstream churches like the Unitarian Universalists and the UCC. It's a great joy to be free to find out who we are in that way, and to have the freedom to live a life that is authentic to who we are. But I know you know that. Thanks, Dan, for being such a classy guy.
Posted by anitawagnerillig http://www.practicalpolyamory.com on December 4, 2012 at 10:24 PM · Report this
anitawagnerillig 30
#17, teagan, I refer to it as a relationship orientation. When I speak publicly and use the term, No one blinks an eye, or at least they haven't yet. I like to think that's because they understand what sexual orientation means and can make the leap to getting what a relationship orientation might be, given that five years ago very few people had ever heard of polyamory, and everyone else had zero awareness of any other acceptable option. But the media in all its beautiful forms has propelled the polyamory movement forward faster than anyone really anticipated, and here we are, discussing relationship orientation with Dan Savage. Life is good.
Posted by anitawagnerillig http://www.practicalpolyamory.com on December 4, 2012 at 10:32 PM · Report this
anitawagnerillig 31
What moving words in all of those letters. And pride. Those are excellent examples of the complexity that is identity to polyamorous people, and its further complicated for people who are LGBTQ *and* polyamorous and questioning it all. I know many polyamorists who cross multiple community lines, including sexual activities like BDSM and swinging, and spiritual practices like body modification, paganism, tantra, and liberal mainstream churches like the Unitarian Universalists and the UCC. It's a great joy to be free to find out who we are in that way, and to have that freedom to live a life that is authentic to who we are. But I know you know that. Thanks, Dan, for being classy with this.

(If this is a duplicate my apologies, what I thought I posted doesn't seem to be here.)
Posted by anitawagnerillig http://www.practicalpolyamory.com on December 4, 2012 at 10:45 PM · Report this
32
Dan isn't saying that poly isn't an *identity,* but that it's not an orientation. He isn't denying that poly people exist at all.
Posted by Admiral Obvious on December 4, 2012 at 10:59 PM · Report this
33
I'm Australian and I too pronounce it VAG-inal, as does everyone I know. Never heard it pronounced va-GIN-al before.
Posted by rinnaaaa066 on December 4, 2012 at 11:40 PM · Report this
34
Who the heck says "va-GI-nal"? I've always heard "VA-gi-nal". New Englander here.

Anyway, all this mental masturbation about polyamory seems excessive. But I'll throw in my two cents:

Polyamory is an identity because society makes a big deal out of it, because it sets people apart. That's what identity and labels are all about: noting the separation between one thing and another thing. A straight white man who is attracted to young big-breasted blonde women does not have an identity. Someone who showers after dinner every night does not have an identity. Someone who eats meat every day does not have an identity.

Identity is not about what you do, it's about how one interacts with society, and how society interacts and tends to view oneself. It's all relative.

Being attracted to fat people may be a little abnormal, but that's not an identity either because no one ever got tied up and dragged to death by a pickup truck because they liked fat chicks.
Posted by vanilla on December 4, 2012 at 11:48 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 35
Wow, we're still talking about this. We've come a long way from when I posted that NYT interview w/ Dan on non-monogamy on the FB, & the haters, whoo, they crawled outta nowhere.

Ya know how in general, the scale of sexual orientation is pictured as a straight line? The Kinsey scale, 0-6. Imagine that, but then with a line intersecting it, smack in the center, a monogamy scale. Thus I picture the whole orientation thing as an X-Y axis or coordinate plane.

As a society we're all just kinda getting our heads around the rights of gays to marry, & in general accepting homosexuality or heterosexuality (or wherever in between) as how someone happens to be wired. Asexuality & non-monogamy are pushing their way into the conversation, fast. & there's also a general awareness of the fluidity of gender happening. Exciting times. But people are culturally taught to be jealous of their mates. I think it'll be awhile yet before someone being poly or mono becomes easier to discuss.

On the Wiki page for sexual orientation, they don't say that polyamory is an orientation, but do suggest "polysexual" or pansexual is a term people use. Polyamory is loving, building relationships with, multiple partners, so, this is also a language issue. If you're saying that 'more than one partner' is part of your hardwiring, then what you are saying is that you are polysexual, just as homosexual = those who primarily sexually attracted to members of the same gender, & heterosexual, the opposite.

I've been in both monogamous & open relationships. Don't feel wired too much one way or another. Has varied between partners. As long as it's an open-minded situation where outside attraction can at least be discussed, & things are happenin' at home, both situations have merit.

IDK, my eight cents...

More...
Posted by Eva Hopkins http://www.lunamusestudios.com on December 5, 2012 at 12:05 AM · Report this
36
I think once again this is an argument about pure semantics brought on my Dan's glib wording (I love the man, but I can't help rolling my eyes when he makes a very oversimplified statement that past writing indicates he doesn't really believe in the first place -- and the whole internet explodes once again...)
I mean Dan has said repeatedly that people who don't want to or can't keep a monogamous committment should just find someone whose views are compatible and then be as open or poly as they want.
While Dan apparently doesn't call that a poly orientation, he seems completly fine and supportive of the concept and isn't that the important part?
Posted by InkCube on December 5, 2012 at 3:12 AM · Report this
37
Said it last week, will say it again...have never met anyone poly, never heard of anyone poly in my family or among family n friends of friends. Refuse to believe it's common. Have known of lots of people who divorce due to cheating. Seems most people are not ok w the whole multiple partner thing. I think the chance of someone who wants multiple partners finding someone else who is ok w that is actually pretty rare. For most people I think saying "I'm poly and I can't help it, it's the only way I'll be happy" is just viewed as an excuse to cheat. Must be a hidden thing, can't see this getting societal acceptance in our lifetime. Feel sorry for kids raised this way...most people in the 'burbs would freak out if their kids were playing w someone w multiple parents...just outside most people's comfort zone.
Posted by bookaday on December 5, 2012 at 4:26 AM · Report this
38
@37: All you established, last week and this, is that you don't know anyone who is out about being poly. Which is hardly surprising. Picture it in more old-fashioned terms, like the guy whose wife is okay with a mistress if he's discreet. Read some history not okayed for the school textbooks, like Joseph Needham, the guy who brought history of science in China to the west, living his open marriage back in early (then mid, then late) 20th century England. Most discussions of his work don't talk about who he was screwing with whose knowledge because, you know, not relevant. Or Anais Nin's love life. Doesn't mean it wasn't happening.

With the exception of a few "I'm a guy and would like extra women so all men or people are exactly like me" posters, I don't think people are arguing that polyamory is common. Plenty of calm poly people argue for it being a lifestyle that probably wouldn't work for most people, but does for them. There are not a lot of gay people, either, but it doesn't mean they don't exist. Even if there are those who claim never to have met a gay person and have none in their family or community, gay people still exist.
Posted by IPJ on December 5, 2012 at 5:07 AM · Report this
39
To I Am Who I Am: it's 'spectra,' not 'spectrums.'
Posted by Kitttens on December 5, 2012 at 5:10 AM · Report this
40
To clarify @38, I mean there are not that many glb people as a percent of population. In actual numbers there are a lot. Similarly, poly are probably a very small percentage of the population. (Poly = wanting multiple romantic connections at the same time. Not desiring, or having, sex with anyone hot and willing.)

And just as the fact that one identifies as gay doesn't mean everyone is probably secretly gay and just oppressed by society not to realize it, being polyamorous or monogamous or monogamish or wherever one falls doesn't mean everyone works that way.
Posted by IPJ on December 5, 2012 at 5:41 AM · Report this
41
@IPJ

That's a great point. Even if there's only one in five hundred happy non-monogamous couples/triads/moresomes in which all parties are aware of this fact and cool with it in the U.S. (for instance), that still leaves hundreds of thousands of them in the country. And I think that's an absurdly low estimate. 
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 6:09 AM · Report this
42
Oh, and when I say "hundreds of thousands of them" I don't mean that would be the number of groupings, but rather that that would be how many individuals are in such groupings.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 6:22 AM · Report this
43
All these terms are giving me a headache! What about everyone just being sexual or non-sexual? For instance, a sexual person can have a sexual relationship with anyONE, or multiple partners, and a non-sexual just does not have sex? All these labels are not really helping.
Posted by Jon Doe on December 5, 2012 at 6:24 AM · Report this
44
ean nailed it. We done now.
Posted by JTffA on December 5, 2012 at 6:32 AM · Report this
45
@43

The problem with that is that wanting sex isn't a thing you ARE -- it's a thing you DO.

(Note the sarcasm, which isn't directed at you, John Doe, but rather at a bunch of others in this and last week's discussion.)
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 6:38 AM · Report this
Tim Horton 46
@16 EricaP - I am sure there are lots of men do not cheat. I am also sure that virtually every man has the desire to. Dan covered this: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Savag…

Apparently, the LW "I am how I am" married the lone exception to the rule.

For the record, you will never meet a more "live and let live" person than me. I think it’s great self-identified poly people are honest and brave enough to know what they want and actively seek it, sometimes at the expense of societal expectations. Go forth, be happy.

To the extent labels/orientations matter, you would have to define Poly first. If Poly = desire to love and sleep with people other than your wife, all men are poly (exceptions are statistically insignificant). The snarky comment @25 is a crude but good analogy: Everyone likes food, some are better at controlling the amount they consume than others. If a fat person told a skinny they were just born to love food more, they would get an eyeroll.

If Poly means that you are wired in such a way to feel no jealousy at your partner also having multiple sexual/romantic partners, now you are talking about something more unique.

Posted by Tim Horton on December 5, 2012 at 6:41 AM · Report this
47
@Tim Horton

I actually agree that wanting to have sex with multiple people is not poly, if the person would then freak out if their partner did the same.

I also think it's not insanely uncommon (though maybe I'm way off-base) for men to want only one sex partner. My last serious relationship before my current partner -- even though he had my full "permission" to have sex or form relationships with other women, he never took me up on it and always seemed bored by the concept. I remember I once asked him which famous women he found most attractive/most crush-worthy, and he was stumped. I don't think he was lying, because I was actually slightly confused and frustrated that he couldn't come up with a single name. Finally he said, "Maybe Kat Dennings? She reminds me of you."

Ha... 

(He was okay with me sleeping with other women but not other men. I unhappily agreed to that compromise because we have a child together and wanted to make it work. Our relationship dissolved for unrelated reasons though.)
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 7:03 AM · Report this
48
@Tim Horton

I forgot to mention that your last paragraph is indeed how I'm wired.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 7:04 AM · Report this
AFinch 49
@10 FTW! Yeah, I have a friend - someone I otherwise consider thoughtful, reasonable and intelligent - who loves to hate on Dan for his views on Poly. I'm gonna have to ask her what she thinks of all this.

I'm in line with Dan's original thinking - as a man whose tried monogamy and poly (from whence I know my above-referenced female friend) - first, the desire to fuck many people and the ability to have a powerful emotional connection to them is not the same thing as having a physical attraction to them. I think orientation is properly understood as physical attraction - lust.

I discovered that I'm not poly - I will nearly always gravitate to having a single primary emotional bond - even if I'm OK with sharing that person and with having fun on the side myself, that primary bond is really important to me and I need for it to be as important to my partner. Ultimately, a sexually-exclusive (despite the ongoing powerful attraction to random women) relationship is where I just wind up. And all of this is entirely orthogonal to attraction.

I suppose this may be male myopia: that is, purportedly women are less about physical appearance (and by extension genitals or gender expression) and more about emotional bonding (show me a man who makes this claim and I'll show you a liar, as any transman on T can attest). In the most pure expression of this, I suppose one could claim their attraction - devoid of any physical element - is entirely a question of one or many.

But I honestly think it's just a matrix, not a polar spectrum: that there are people who are physically attracted to "male" (gender or genitals) or female or both AND, in an entirely different dimension, prefer to be paired to just one person or NOT.
More...
Posted by AFinch on December 5, 2012 at 7:14 AM · Report this
50
Whether or not you want to hair split over the word "orientation", there is no question that this is something I've always felt from a young age and that it is different than other people felt. It's not about sex.

I actually have barely scratched the surface (my only experience being dating a girl who was also dating a guy, and not me being the one with multiple partners) but it was the most right and natural feeling in the world.

No question that it is something innate and not chosen for very many of us.
Posted by sweet g on December 5, 2012 at 7:46 AM · Report this
51
Oh god not this shit again. I was looking forward to a new column. I once believed I was "oriented" poly too. Until I found someone who actually loved me and fucked me properly. Yeah I thought I had before as well. Did I change or did my circumstances? I don't know. Who cares? IME tho this poly orientation bullshit seems to be the way people (usually men) use to justify philandery to their spouse. How come it's considered gauche for a bisexual to say "I need to have sex with men AND women" and not commit to monogamy, but it's totally down for polys to not be able to commit? Double standard or what? I suppose maybe I'm still poly because I refuse to commit to not sleeping with other women, but I'm perfectly fine only being with one guy (ironically the husband does not think the gender matters, to me it's ENTIRELY different...and this is hy I just don't fit in with most bi folks).
Posted by wendykh on December 5, 2012 at 7:59 AM · Report this
52
yawn.
Posted by the new danger on December 5, 2012 at 8:00 AM · Report this
53
I don't know when I've been so bored w/a column.
Posted by wayne on December 5, 2012 at 8:01 AM · Report this
venomlash 54
SPECTRA, NOT SPECTRUMS.
Posted by venomlash on December 5, 2012 at 8:09 AM · Report this
55
[If Poly = desire to love and sleep with people other than your wife, all men are poly (exceptions are statistically insignificant).]

* "People" and "wife" don't go together; the combination gives the impression of someone who stayed half-awake during Inclusion 101.

* "Exceptions are statistically insignificant" might have been phrased so as not to ooze - if not privilege, something that wants to look like it.

* "All opposite-sex-loving men" - free fix required to go with "wife".

* I'll let one of the women opine about the nature of "other than" instead of "in addition to", although one could almost make something Austenian out of that - "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married man in possession of his full health and vigour must be in want of any mistress other than his wife."
Posted by vennominon on December 5, 2012 at 8:34 AM · Report this
56
@wendykh

I have no idea why you think polyamory=lack of commitment. That's like saying that having a second kid means you're not committed to the first one.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 8:44 AM · Report this
57
Gah, what the fuggin' hell?
Ok, so I personally am a heteroflexible man who has ever since adolescence pictured myself eventually in some poly style relationship. All of my serious relationships have involved a poly aspect with severely differing degrees of success. I am currently in a non-monogamous relationship with a woman I consider to be the love of my life whom I intend to marry (while still keeping things open to some degree).
I really really don't consider it an "orientation" in the way that GLBT's are. It is a spectrum of it's own that interacts in many different ways with the gay/straight spectrum, but it is not the same thing as a gay/straight identity. If I find someone attractive it's not necissary for me to have a potential 2nd person to be attracted to. My attraction and romantic decisions are not based on how many people I am or am not involved in.
It's not a requirement that I have 2 or more potential partners at any time. I know given my proclivities and personal desires that such a sittuation will likely arise, but it doesn't feel "wrong" for me to be involved with just one person for a period of time. Whereas it would likely feel "wrong" for a gay man to be in a romantic relationship with a woman.
I'm not quite sure what to classify the monogamy/poly scale as, but it doesn't strike me as being the same (or even similar) to the homo/hetero scale. They are each aspects of our sexuality we have to discover for ourselves.
Posted by MarquisDesMoines on December 5, 2012 at 8:48 AM · Report this
58
@wendykh

Sorry if the men in your life have abused your trust in a poly style relationship. Ok, now that that's out of the way, fuck right the fuck off.
So your non-monogamous relationships with women are toally cool, but when a man has non-monogamous relationships with other women it's automatically philandering?! Double standard much? Way to by into the false social narrative that people in a non-monogamous relationship are being "used." Don't let your own bad experiences with non-mongamy compleatly blind you to relationships that don't meet your pre-defined standards.
Posted by MarquisDesMoines on December 5, 2012 at 8:57 AM · Report this
59
Chimps And Bonobos:

Though very close in genetic relationship and virtually next-door neighbors, chimpanzees and a less-well-known species called bonobos in Zaire are socially poles apart. Only identified as a species separate from chimps in 1929, bonobos intrigue biologists with their easygoing ways, sexual equality, female bonding, and zeal for recreational sex.

How did bonobos, which live in humid forests south of the Zaire River, evolve such a different social structure from chimpanzees since the two species split about 2 million years ago? Male dominance plays a big role in chimp society. Disputes are often resolved by threatening displays or by fighting. Female chimps lead a life much more solitary than that their bonobo cousins, and are sometimes harassed by the much larger males. Sex is strictly about reproduction, and reproductive tactics can include infanticide -- the killing of offspring unrelated to a male chimp. Infanticidal individuals remove potential competitors to their own offspring, and the mother, without an infant to care for, will become available for mating again much sooner.

In contrast, bonobo society is marked by the strong bonds that develop between unrelated females and by almost constant sexual activity amongst all members of a group. Bonobos apparently use sex to reinforce bonds within the group and to resolve conflict. What evolutionary advantages do these behaviors offer?

Seeking the answer to that question, researchers noted that infanticide is almost unknown among bonobos. Their constant sexual activity obscures paternity, removing the incentive for infanticide, and the pervasive bonding of female bonobos, who form coalitions for mutual support and protection, removes the opportunity. Preventing infanticide is a huge evolutionary advantage for bonobo females, because more of their offspring will survive.

Why, then, have chimps not evolved this social structure? The answer may lie in the history of the habitats they occupy. Both species of primates live in tropical forests along the Zaire River -- chimps north of the river, bonobos to the south. Their environments seem to be quite similar today. But about 2.5 million years ago, there seems to have been a lengthy drought in southern Zaire that wiped out the preferred food plants of gorillas and sent the primates packing. After the drought ended, the forests returned, but the gorillas did not.

Chimpanzees in this environment south of the river had the forest to themselves, and could exploit the fiber foods that had previously been eaten by gorillas -- foods that are still eaten by gorillas to the north. With this additional food to tide them over between fruit trees, they could travel in larger, more stable parties, and form strong social bonds. They became bonobos.

On the north side of the river, the chimps had to share their niche with gorillas, which eat the fiber foods. The chimps have to compete for fruit, and occasionally meat, food resources that tend to be widely scattered. Female chimps disperse into the forest with their infants to find enough to eat, and cannot spend time together to forge strong bonds. The changes in social behavior that occurred in response to this environmental factor may be what led chimps down a different evolutionary path, toward a society more prone to violence.

A subtle difference in environment, it appears, had profound implications for their evolution. ~~ From the PBS website
More...
Posted by quinkygirl on December 5, 2012 at 9:04 AM · Report this
GymGoth 60
The letter writers have only confused the subject. There is a big difference between easily falling in love with someone, desiring multiple sex partners (one at a time), or enjoying group sex. Can poly apply to all three?

When coming out as a gay male the first two are pretty much given usually until you meet the "one" who feels the same about you or once you feel like you've had enough experience (I'm sure this applies to straights too). The third is a sexual activity some people prefer.

If I want to see multiple people until I feel seriously about one or I just want to hook up a lot because I'm not ready to be serious with anyone, that does not make me poly. It's called dating. Notice how many have a "primary" partner. If you were seriously poly no one would be labeled primary.

Dan was correct from the get go. Poly is not an orientation like gay/straight. And it is an identity only so far as your taste in music is.
Posted by GymGoth on December 5, 2012 at 9:05 AM · Report this
61
What an annoying storm in a teacup!

IAHIA has it right when she writes:
"I believe sexuality exists on spectrums. Not just one spectrum from gay to straight with bi in the middle, but several spectrums", and I would assume that Dan agrees. So the debate is whether the word "orientation" be used to describe the totality of these spectra, or just the homo/hetero spectrum specifically.

How does this matter?

Well, the LGBT community has done a great job of mainstreaming the word "orientation", and the poly- community would like to capitalize on that work. They want to say that the arguments put forward by LGBT advocates about how one's place on the homo/heterosexual spectrum has no bearing on one's intrinsic worth are equally valid when applied to the mono/polyamorous spectrum. And, for purely rhetorical reasons, this claim is easier to make if they can use the word "orientation".

There are presumably legal benefits too; many laws have already been put into place preventing discrimination on the grounds of "sexual orientation", and piggybacking on these would save the poly community a lot of time and effort striving to get additional laws passed preventing discrimination on the basis of one's place on the mono/polyamorous spectrum. (Although the first few test cases of this reading would still require some effective advocacy).

I don't disagree with these pragmatic lines of reasoning (not that anyone cares whether I agree with them anyway).

But... from the perspective of a logic nerd, I am not happy with the meaning of "sexual orientation" to mean "the set of spectra on which ones sexuality can be defined". After all, we have a word for that already: "sexuality". On the other hand, "sexual orientation" is the only word we have for discussion of the specific homo/heterosexual spectrum. If "orientation" ends up meaning the same thing as "sexuality", then it becomes harder to talk about the individual spectra making up sexuality. What is really needed is a specific word for mono/polyamorous spectrum: "sexual multiplicity" perhaps?

More...
Posted by Unwisdom on December 5, 2012 at 9:08 AM · Report this
62
Polyamory is wrong.
It can be multi-amory, or poly-philia, but mixing Greek and Latin roots is intollerable.

:-D
Posted by prak on December 5, 2012 at 9:11 AM · Report this
63
POLYAMORY IS WRONG!
It is either multiamory or polyphilia
but mixing Greek and Latin roots? WRONG!
Posted by Wisdom From A T-Shirt on December 5, 2012 at 9:21 AM · Report this
64
@prak

Ha, I think I like you a lot.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 9:26 AM · Report this
65
For me, and for many people who identify as bi, we are poly whether we like it or not.

Or maybe we're just bonobos. ;)

I posted that bonobo bullshit for an actual reason -- I believe that are likely differences in my brain that make me more likely to cooperate and empathize and not make a general nuisance of myself in relationships. There's just no other possible explanation. Notice I said in MY brain. I've seen plenty of "poly" people who acted more like chimps, lol.

I had simultaneous crushes on both a boy and a girl from 1st or 2nd grade. That sort of thing is often trotted out by gay people as "proof" that gayness is something we are born into. Why couldn't it also be proof of being born poly? Maybe, though, that little tidbit of personal history "proves" neither bi-ness or poly-ness. Then where are we?

I'd like to propose a radical idea -- it doesn't matter if we are born this way or not -- whether you're talking about gayness or polyness or whatever. The "born this way" argument has never been conclusively proven. Human brains are plastic. It has been an incredibly successful argument for gay rights groups, but are we selling ourselves short by making it?

As long as what I'm doing doesn't hurt another person, then I should have full rights and dignity to live my life in any way I see fit. That means that both my husband and my boyfriend or girlfriend should be able to see me in the hospital if I were ever in a horrible accident and some official shouldn't be able to deny my boy/girlfriend that right.

I threw my hands up years ago and gave up trying to explain what I am by any label, because none of them seem to fit me precisely. So, I sort of made up my own label. For years, I identified as queer, partly to be contrary and partly to make people ask for an explanation. A lot of interesting conversations were started that way. Maybe I didn't change anyone's mind, but I sure as shit made a person or two think of things in a slightly different way -- that's a victory in my book.

So, you go on Dan Savage -- tell me that who I am doesn't fit your neat little comfortable ideas of what "orientation" is. I don't really give a fuck. It don't make no nevermind WHAT you think of me and people like me. I'll see you at Q on Sunday, celebrating our hard-fought victory, and I won't hold it against you because you don't understand me.

I'll be here living and loving and fighting for the right of gay people to marry all over the country. And when poly people organize for the same rights, I'll hope that you'll be big enough to help us out. Because part of me wonders if part of your position doesn't come from not wanting your efforts to support gay marriage all over the country dragged down by the extra weight and burden of the slippery slope arguments always trotted out against it.

Either we are all free or none of us are.
More...
Posted by quinkygirl on December 5, 2012 at 9:33 AM · Report this
66
@47:

"I actually agree that wanting to have sex with multiple people is not poly, if the person would then freak out if their partner did the same."

Good point. So, in essence, everyone has to be on the same page enough, so no one needs to resort to flipping out or denying anyone anything they might desire too.

That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

Posted by kserasera on December 5, 2012 at 9:33 AM · Report this
67
@ 65: That's a great read. I just finished it. Thanks. Best to you and to everyone in here, by the way.
Posted by kserasera on December 5, 2012 at 9:35 AM · Report this
68
I'm sorry, but none of these letters mean that Dan is wrong. Just because someone feels like they can't be anything but poly does not mean that it is a sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is simply who you prefer sexually. Now I would agree that someone's sexual orientation alone may be incomplete in defining their sexual identity. In the one letter, the woman defined herself as bisexual poly. That is her sexual identity, but her sexual orientation is bisexual.
Posted by CJGUY96 on December 5, 2012 at 9:36 AM · Report this
69
The place where I think Dan really went astray was saying that "poly" had to be an adjective rather than a noun, and that this somehow excluded it as an identity descriptor. He's tried to backtrack a bit by saying that it's fine to identify strongly with it (while holding that it's not an orientation), and draws an analogy to D/s.

That analogy reveals the problem to me, since D/s has managed to serve both adjective AND noun duty for YEARS. (e.g., "I'm a bi dom and my partner is a hetero submissive.") Maybe Dan would read "dom" as shorthand for "dominant person", but the point is that anyone can identify so strongly with *something*, be it a sexual orientation or a kink or a relationship model, that it can be treated as a noun to represent an identity.

My guess is that he'd have angered fewer people if he'd made it more clear that anything can be an identity, and argued to limited the use of "orientation" to partner-preferences (vs. self-preferences).
Posted by the8ball on December 5, 2012 at 9:40 AM · Report this
70
This is the first time in all my years of reading Savage Love that I've not read the letters. Oh so boring. No more, please. Thank you for announcing they would all be from pissed off polys though, it was easy to just scroll right past them.

Also, why is it so damn easy to double post on this site? It happens to me all the time and I see it happened to many others above me in this string.
Posted by silent on December 5, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
71
@62 - I applaud your stance, but do you refuse to watch television on etymological grounds?
Posted by aserinsky on December 5, 2012 at 9:44 AM · Report this
72
There are few men I know that aren't poly. It's in our nature. Of course, lot's of them have the willpower to stop from doing it...or at least it seems that way. For women, I don't know how it is.
Posted by Tim87654 on December 5, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
73
yawn :0
pedantic
Posted by ribs on December 5, 2012 at 9:50 AM · Report this
74
Ridiculous discussion. Why don't we save some time and say, 'Hey Everyone! Fuck Anything!" and get rid of the labels already?
Posted by stopitalready on December 5, 2012 at 9:53 AM · Report this
75
@72 For the last time, wanting to stick your dick in anything with tits doesn't make you poly. That makes you what passes for a "man" in this society.

Loving and maintaining mutually sustaining and beneficial relationships with multiple women just might.

Go with flying spaghetti monster.
Posted by quinkygirl on December 5, 2012 at 9:57 AM · Report this
76
Apparently Pholyamorous is long for Pedant.
Posted by drjones on December 5, 2012 at 9:57 AM · Report this
smajor82 77
@73 - seriously. I stopped reading halfway through the first letter. Get upset over denial of rights or mistreatment, not the definition of a term.

Also, how many ways are there to misinterpret what Dan actually said? He distinguishes between preference for a type of person and preference for a type of relationship. Gasp!

Here's some logic - I can be gay and poly, but I can't be gay AND straight. Sounds like we're measuring two different things to me. Simpler example: my car is a sedan and is blue. Color and body style are both characteristics, important ones, of my car, but they get called different things because, well, they're different. Color isn't worse than body style or visa-versa, they're just different.
Posted by smajor82 on December 5, 2012 at 9:58 AM · Report this
78
Ms Wendy - I thought "gauche" and "(mal)adroit" had been added to the Naughty List as perpetrating discrimination against the left-handed?

The only context in which the expression of that need I've seen to come across as anything worse than an indication that two people aren't the best or a good match was illustrated in that recent retread letter from the woman who wanted an FF experience while refusing to agree to her boyfriend having another woman because she couldn't handle that, but trying to get away with claiming fairness because she was fine with his having MM experiences (in which he had no interest).
Posted by vennominon on December 5, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
79
@73 I'm trying to work out whether "pedant" is just part of my identity, or whether I am actually oriented towards pedantry.

(We pedants will soon have a schism of our own, over whether we prefer pedantry or pedanticalness.)
Posted by Unwisdom on December 5, 2012 at 10:01 AM · Report this
80
@65

That's awesome. I agree so much.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 10:02 AM · Report this
81
I'll tell you what poly people are oriented toward: TALKING ENDLESSLY ABOUT POLYAMORY. How many polyamorous people can fuck on the head of a pin? Hmmmmmm
Posted by Alec on December 5, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Report this
82
tl;dr yaaaaaawn

must everybody be in a persecuted minority these days?
Posted by not-anti-poly on December 5, 2012 at 10:19 AM · Report this
83
Sexual orientation is about object-identification, not situations. Same-sex oriented people locate desire in the object of somebody of the same sex -–they may or may not engage this desire in a sexual situation. Polyamory, in contrast, is about situations, not objects. Polyamorous people function best in non-monogamous sexual situations, regardless of their sexual orientation. These are two totally separate issues.
Posted by Rosseaux on December 5, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Arsenic7 84
I feel that, for myself, it's not so much an orientation as a mode of being. I guess that doesn't differentiate it much from an orientation and maybe that's the point. Whether something is chosen or not almost doesn't matter. What people do and how they behave towards others matters. Whether they spread love or hate.

I think a lot of experts would agree that pedophilia is actually a perverse sort of orientation but that doesn't make acting on it right. Similarly, homosexuality and polyamory CAN be chosen but they are generally used to spread joy and love so why would we care whether it is a choice or not?
Posted by Arsenic7 on December 5, 2012 at 10:26 AM · Report this
85
I think we're just quibbling over terms. If you define sexual orientation as "what gender you prefer to date/bone/whatever," then polyamory isn't a sexual orientation. If you define sexual orientation as "what characteristics you innately prefer in your sexual relationships," then polyamory is a sexual orientation. Either way, poly people deserve the same legal and societal respect that mono people get.
Posted by amtriska on December 5, 2012 at 10:29 AM · Report this
86
@47 This is an interesting claim: "I actually agree that wanting to have sex with multiple people is not poly, if the person would then freak out if their partner did the same."

This would seem to preclude possessive assholes from being poly. But there are gay possessive assholes and straight possessive assholes. There are monogamous possessive assholes. There are possessive assholes who are only attracted to blond(e)s, and possessive assholes who are only attracted to brun(ette)s.

Do you really think that being poly means that you don't feel jealousy when your partner has sex with someone else. That while a poly might be able to be an asshole, they genuinely can't be (sexually) possessive?

(And of course, one doesn't have to be a possessive asshole to be sexually possessive; one's possessiveness could also be a result of sexual insecurity.)

To be clear, I am not asserting that you are definitely overstating your case. I have no personal experience to draw on here, so I am open to possibility that you really meant what you wrote. But I want to highlight that your claim seems to imply that one must be quite mature and secure in order to be poly.

My guess is that a successful polyamorous relationship requires maturity and a sense of security from all its participants, but the ability to actually conduct a successful relationship is a different matter entirely from one's orientation or identity.
Posted by Unwisdom on December 5, 2012 at 10:32 AM · Report this
87
Anything can be part of an identity. “Blogger” could be part of my identity if I so chose. It still indicates something that I do. If I stop blogging, I cease to be a blogger, no matter what my self-conception is. To the extent Dan indicated otherwise (though I don’t necessarily think he did), I disagree. Yes, some people’s only route to happiness is through polyamory. They still have to choose to do it.

Some people can only be happy if they are acting in plays and movies. Those people do not have a career or lifestyle orientation. They have a thing that they need to do. We don’t use the word “orientation” to describe something that someone needs to be happy. We use the word “need” for that. In a sex & relationship context, the only thing that people use the word “orientation” for is to indicate a sexual orientation. People who call polyamory a “relationship orientation” or some other half-term are only doing so to attempt to draw parallels between polyamory and a sexual orientation, which I think is bullshit.

If you want to say that you were born poly, and you can’t be happy unless you’re poly, just say that. Don’t try to draw a false equivalence between your relationship style and other people’s sexual orientation. It’s not the same thing.

http://bit.ly/KCtutx
Posted by wfenza on December 5, 2012 at 10:36 AM · Report this
Registered European 88
@62
Polyamory is wrong.
It can be multi-amory, or poly-philia, but mixing Greek and Latin roots is intollerable.

Correct. Also, automobile is wrong. It should be either autokinetikon or ipsomobile.
Posted by Registered European on December 5, 2012 at 10:37 AM · Report this
89
@86

I don't think it's necessarily a maturity issue so much as a wiring issue. I was immature as a teenager but was still not sexually/romantically jealous. I may be wrong in my whole assessment of the thing though.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 10:37 AM · Report this
90
I view polyamory more as a practical alternative to monogamy. That is, monogamy never seems to work out well for me, and I think the problem is more with the concept of monogamy than with me.

So that makes it a political and social orientation, not a sexual one. But it's still an orientation.
Posted by cpkcpkcpk on December 5, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Report this
AFinch 91
Ok, I was wrong: @62 FTW
Posted by AFinch on December 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM · Report this
92
@Alec

I thought the endless discussion a couple weeks ago of that guy who wanted kicked in the balls was dreadfully tiresome, but I didn't whine that it was a discussion that shouldn't be had.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM · Report this
93
Number 37-- your comment just shows you're uninformed, not that the poly community is virtually non-existent as you seem to think. Refuse to believe it all you want, there are hundreds of us just in the Boston area alone (I know because I belong to a group of close to 200 poly or non-monogamous members). I know of another group with close to the same number of members in the Boston area. There are similar groups throughout the Northeast. Philly in particular has a very large poly commmunity. Yes, we are a minority, but that doesn't mean we don't exist. My husband and I found each other easily, and we've found our other serious partners with no difficulty either. Suggesting that poly people are virtually non-existent is absurd-- you just aren't aware of us because many of us aren't as vocal as other minority groups, but there are more of us than you realize.
Posted by Isis7400 on December 5, 2012 at 10:47 AM · Report this
94
@89:
"I was immature as a teenager but was still not sexually/romantically jealous."

Interesting - thanks for the reply.

As I said, I don't have any intuition for polyamory, so I don't know when I can and can't apply my knowledge of how I would feel in a given situation.

You don't feel sexual or romantic jealousy, and you didn't even when you were still young. But what about insecurity? If a partner was interested in someone much more attractive than you, have you have feelings of resentment?
Posted by Unwisdom on December 5, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Report this
95
Dan is right. 'Nuff said.
Posted by Kylere on December 5, 2012 at 10:52 AM · Report this
96
@unwisdom

No, not really. I'm mildly pretty but certainly not a stunner in any way, but I have seen people leave beautiful women for plain ones so many times that I don't really feel concerned about that since I think it's pretty random. Oddly enough, what I HAVE felt insecure about is people who are workaholics. I once had a boyfriend who, if he had to choose between discussing something with a colleague/employee or seeing me, would choose the other EVERY time, instead of half or even 3/4 of the time. I felt insecure about that and our relationship eventually unraveled because he'd forget important events and dates in favor of work. The fact is that a person can never compete with an obsession in life, so that's what I look out for. I like passionate people but not obsessed ones.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 11:00 AM · Report this
97
@ 62 - Most grammarians would agree with you... failing in the process to notice the irony of bearing that title.
Posted by Ricardo on December 5, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
seandr 98
Does being poly tend to mean you sometimes (or maybe often?) have sex with multiple people at the same time?

Or are poly and orgies orthogonal phenomena?
Posted by seandr on December 5, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Report this
99
For all this talk of a "mono/polyamorous spectrum", there seems to be a lot if dichotomous thinking going on. if it really is a spectrum (leaving aside the terminological issue of whether it is an "orientation") then it's not just a case of there being polys and monos; some people would be more polyamorous than others.

This doesn't seem unreasonable.

Someone who is right at the mono end of the spectrum is easy to visualize; they seek out a single partner, and have no interest in a romantic relationship outside of the twosome - no desire for an extra-marital affair, no desire for a threesome, no desire for a flirtation with a colleague at work.

As noted by any number of commenters, most people, even those who broadly identify as mono, are probably not quite at this extreme.

For me at least, it is harder to imagine what an extreme poly would look like. But my sense is that such a person would prefer to have a number of concurrent romantic relationships, with no need to privilege one over the others.

If this is correct, then, just as with the monos, it would seem from the (happily married) commenters writing here that the same pattern observed with the monos holds; most self-identifying polys are not quite at the pole and are, at least a little bit, mono.
Posted by Unwisdom on December 5, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
100
@seandr

That certainly happens, but I haven't observed it to be the case the majority of the time.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 11:09 AM · Report this
101
@Hyacinth: Thanks.
Posted by Unwisdom on December 5, 2012 at 11:11 AM · Report this
102
@unwisdom -- some poly people struggle with issues of jealousy and insecurity. I don't so much. I have insecurities, sure. Those emotions are for me to work with, though. Confronting them has led to great personal growth over the years. The insecurities I sometimes feel have nothing to do with my feeling insecure over hubby's bright and shiny new lover. Instead, they come from other places in my personal history.

Instead, imagine that it is possible to TAKE JOY in my husband's happiness that he has found not one, but TWO awesome, rockin' women to date. I know both of these women, and I fully approve. I don't feel a need to rush out and have a date of my own if he's with one of them. Instead, I use that time to pursue my own interests, like going dancing. I don't spend time wondering what he's doing with them or worrying about things being equal between us. He gets things from each of these women that he can't get from me. And to that, I say, "Yay!"

I want my man (actually, my "men") to be happy and fulfilled. That makes me very, very happy. I've been non-monogamous for almost 18 years now. That's all I have ever wanted for my partners. This taking joy in another's happiness is sometimes called "compersion" in poly circles. What a horribly inelegant word!

I love sex, but incidentally, poly isn't just about sex to me. I learn so much about myself from meeting and dating other people, all of whom are very different than my husband. I get things from them that he can't or won't give me, and that's just the way that it is.

Posted by quinkygirl on December 5, 2012 at 11:18 AM · Report this
103
@Unwisdom @99

Monogamy is a specific relationship structure with mandated limits. There are two. Two is the number of the counting, and one is the number of the fucking. To three shalt thou not count, to say nothing of five.

Here's where it gets difficult. There are types of polyamory which are just "super-sized" monogamy. In other words, it has all the features of monogamy except that it has a larger number of people in the relationship.

This form of polyamory (often called "polyfidelity") is much more like monogamy than it is like the form of polyamory where the number of partners is left an open question (and even 2 could be valid in the "open" form of polyamory, if the limits of the relationship were negotiable).

I'm opposed to monogamy because I think it's fundamentally incompatible with human sexual happiness, especially in a culture absent the oppressive enforcement of a norm towards monogamy. I think polyfidelity generally has everything wrong with it that monogamy has, and even more opportunities for failure, because there are more opportunities for conflict.

I think once you make this distinction, the "spectrum" argument you advance isn't really viable.
Posted by cpkcpkcpk on December 5, 2012 at 11:19 AM · Report this
104
There are many here who want to blatantly deny others the right to identify as poly. Those who claim it's just bad form or immoral or a way to justify cheating. I can imagine many on this thread saying "I love you, I just hate your lifestyle choices." Sound familiar?

I've spent a lifetime trying to fit into a monogamous world. I've dabbled in poly. For a long time, I assumed we must all be poly at the core, but that we're overrun by cultural norms.

But then I took a step back from it all. Clearly, a lot of people are oriented to monogamy, or it wouldn't be as dominant as it is.

That's not my orientation, and I now recognize that I am "other." It's not about cheating; I've been faithful in all of my monogamous relationships. I refuse to cheat, and have therefore decided that I can't be in such a relationship.

And, that decision hasn't been easy. As much as Dan would say "just find a compatible partner" the pool is tiny.

What I don't get is the desire to deny anyone their identity here; and if you're trying to deny that, you're the very problem that's being discussed. Those of you who think that monogamy is just morally superior, just because, are generally assholes on this thread.

But, Dan, what should I think of African Americans who would deny you the use of the term "civil rights" when discussing gay rights? Why do you feel the need to "own" the term orientation? What do you lose by expanding it rather than shrinking it.

We're all in the closet about something or other. Come out, come out, wherever you are. Today's battle is not the last to be fought.
Posted by Timothy http://www.moreperfect.org on December 5, 2012 at 11:22 AM · Report this
105
@quinkygirl @103

"I love sex, but incidentally, poly isn't just about sex to me."

I like the way you put this. The tendency for poly people to say "it's not about sex" drives me batshit. Were it not for sex, no one would care about how many people you had a "relationship" with, so long as you were only sharing physical intimacy to your "official" partner.

But, it's certainly not just about sex. This is why I advance the idea that poly is an orientation, just not a /sexual/ one.
Posted by cpkcpkcpk on December 5, 2012 at 11:22 AM · Report this
106
I would describe Polyamory and Monogamy as "Relationship Orientation." They are descriptors of relationship state and style, not sexual state and style.
Posted by movelikewater on December 5, 2012 at 11:24 AM · Report this
107
I am a thoroughly non-monogamous person, that's a definite part of my sexual behaviour and identity - and has always been - but I can only love one person at a time. I would therefore never categorize myself as poly. Most of these letters appear to describe a similar situation. (Besides, the whole primary/secondary thing intrinsically establishes an emotional distinction between the two levels... just like old-fashioned terms such as "spouse" and "lover").

I get the impression that the LWs just aren't really good at definitions. They only seem to use the term poly because it's become the acceptable way nowadays to explain and justify their non-monogamy... as if it needed explanation or justification.

I'm not saying that real polys don't exist, just that the most impassioned defenders of poly identity seem to be people who actually aren't.

Posted by Ricardo on December 5, 2012 at 11:27 AM · Report this
108
@Ricardo

I've been in love with more than one person at once. That's actually the case at this point in time, but the second person I'm in love with is neither a romantic nor sexual partner, and doesn't want to be one, so I'm having to let that go. (I fell in love over a long period of time as we became closer and closer friends.)
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 11:41 AM · Report this
109
Also, I view the "primary" issue as being like having many friends I love, but then one friend I'm closest to. It doesn't mean I only love that one friend though.

Unfortunately you see examples of uneven affection even when there most definitely shouldn't be, such as with parents or grandparents and their children/grandchildren. My ex's mother pretty clearly loves my daughter more than her cousin even though she loves them both. Unlike in adult friendships or romantic relationships, where uneven closeness can be okay, I don't think such unevenness is reasonable when it's about two very young grandchildren, and yet it happens. But it still disproved the idea that uneven closeness means some of the beloved group actually aren't loved.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
110
@cpkcpkcpk

I think I understand your point: you're arguing that polyamorous behavior, or polyamorous relationship models, can differ in kind as well as degree, and so it is an oversimplification to place it on a continuum. Is that right?

I'm sympathetic to the point, but I feel that matters are getting a bit confused; with your discussion of polyamory, polyfidelity, and monogamy, you are talking about behaviors rather than desires. But the whole "orientation" line of discussion has been about individuals' preferences and desires, rather than their actions.

I'd be open to a line of argument suggesting that this behavior/desire distinction is a false dichotomy, but I'm not sure that that is where you're going.

In fact, I suspect that you are fighting the wrong battle. When you write: "I'm opposed to monogamy because I think it's fundamentally incompatible with human sexual happiness", it seems to me that you are denying the idea that monogamy can be satisfying, and therefore denying that idea that it can be an orientation. And I don't see how polyamory can be an orientation if monogamy is not.

Rather, it seems to me that your goal is not the acceptance of a polyamorous orientation, but the recognition that no one is innately monogamous, and therefore that monogamous relationship models are intrinsically flawed.
Posted by Unwisdom on December 5, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
111
Some interesting analogies present on this thread…

"If gay people would just stop talking so much about sex all the time!"

"I just hate your lifestyle."

"Gay people are just over-sexualized."

"Sure, I dabbled in college, but that doesn't make me gay"

"What's next, marrying your pet?"

…and of course, there are the ever-present "thou doth protest too much" people on this thread. You know, those self-haters who work too hard to deny poly? As we've learned in the gay world, those who fight hardest…

;-)
Posted by Timothy http://www.moreperfect.org on December 5, 2012 at 11:47 AM · Report this
112
This is why I just identify as "me". There are so many subtleties to sexuality that it's difficult to put yourself in specific categories. I was having a conversation with several friends about poly/mono, gay/straight/bi/queer, etc. and it came up that there are so many different interpretations to terms that stating "I'm this" may mean one thing to you, and something entirely different to the person you're telling it it. I've found the closes terms to what I believe to be so that if it does come up I can explain it without having to spend 3 hours discussing it (ie "I'm heteroflexible with poly leanings") but while that gets most of the point across, that's not who I am. I'm just me.
Posted by KateRose on December 5, 2012 at 11:48 AM · Report this
artdyke 113
Here's the thing: pretty much EVERYONE is capable of being attracted to multiple people. It's just how humans are. Poly people have just decided to do something about it, have made a conscious choice to structure their relationships a certain way. So no, I would not consider that an orientation (and I do consider myself poly).
Posted by artdyke on December 5, 2012 at 12:00 PM · Report this
114
I'm a poly, poly doughnut lover love all types of doughnuts this subject is a load of BS it comes down to getting off or feeling wanted be it one, two, m/f. Hope next week is not boring like this week this was a total yawn-er.
Posted by flipx on December 5, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Report this
115
Regarding the notion of primaries and secondaries, I don't see how this can be avoided if a person is to have any fluidity in their relationships.

But surely the point is that a polyamorous person (or, if we accept the idea of a spectrum, a "mostly polyamorous person") would have a number of simultaneous romantic and/or sexual relationships, and that these relationships would take on their own characters and own trajectories. Some would be brief, some would be long lasting. Some would be more sexual, and some would be less so. And as the natures of these relationships change over time, both in absolute terms and relative to each other, the identification of the "closest relationship" would also change (possibly to the extent that the concept lost meaning).

Fitting such a life around the notion of marriage is difficult; marriage is an intrinsically monogamistic institution, and doesn't seem like a very good fit for the relationship model I mentioned above.

But again, if we accept the spectrum idea, it is quite believable that many polyamorous people are really midway on the spectrum, and that for such people it is possible to find a long term relationship which remains the "closest relationship" for an extended period. For such people, it would seem that marriage is compatible with polyamory.

And disputing that such people are truly polyamorous as @Ricardo (107) suggests, is a bit like saying that bisexuals aren't gay; it's sort of true in a narrow sense, but when viewed more pragmatically, it misses the point.
Posted by Unwisdom on December 5, 2012 at 12:07 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 116
@ ho-hum, new topic please.

I tend to judge people on their actions, so my definition of Poly is someone who loves to bitch about sexual identity online.

Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on December 5, 2012 at 12:08 PM · Report this
117
"Sexual orientation" is a politically powerful term for gays because it replaced "preference" and legitimized (for lack of a better term) same-sex desire and social recognition of gay relationships. Some gay people may view the poly community's use of the term as co-opting "sexual orientation" in their own search for social legitimacy.
Posted by Rosseaux on December 5, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
Tim Horton 118
@111 Timothy - who do you think is denying you rights/persecuting you, and why did you feel the need to make up accusations and put them in scare quotes?
Posted by Tim Horton on December 5, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
119
@116

So that would also include every other single person whose sexual identity is dismissed. Gay people, bi people, people intensely into BDSM, asexual people -- ALL of them complain mightily online when their identity is dismissed. Big surprise, people complain when they're told their identity isn't legitimate. Who would have guessed?
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
120
@Unwisdom @110

>>> Rather, it seems to me that your goal is not the acceptance of a polyamorous orientation, but the recognition that no one is innately monogamous, and therefore that monogamous relationship models are intrinsically flawed. <<<

Not exactly. There might well be people who /are/ innately and successfully monogamous. They may not be as susceptible to things like the "Coolidge Effect", or they may not consider sexual fulfillment the most important thing in their lives, or whatever.

What I am against is monogamy as a political and social norm, not as an option. In a political/social system where it was up to the participants to determine how many partners were in the relationship, people could still be operationally monogamous. But their relationship model wouldn't be coercively established as a norm in society.
Posted by cpkcpkcpk on December 5, 2012 at 12:29 PM · Report this
121
I was natural born wired to wear a lot of black clothing. Even if I hypothetically wasn't born with this orientation, it is me, I can't be brainwashed into wearing other colors, I don't want to wear other colors, I feel sick to my stomach when I try to wear other colors and I've come to realise screw people who think I should. I like it, it is what I want to do, it's what I WILL do. THAT IS ALL.
Posted by chalgato on December 5, 2012 at 12:34 PM · Report this
122
@chalgato

Though it's clear you meant to make fun of poly people, it's not actually that clever. All sorts of things can be in someone's wiring. Some people with neurological issues really are sensitive to various colors and textures... so if something so trivial can be a brain issue, I'm pretty sure that many other things can be as well.

Brains are weird. They do different things.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
123
Huh, now that I think of it, a study on brains of poly-identified people vs. mono-identified people would possibly be interesting...
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
124
@ 108/109 - Sorry if this is long-winded...

I don't think that you (personal and impersonal you) can't love two or more people at the same time; I merely stated that I can't. I do believe in a polyamorous identity - it's just that I haven't experienced it myself so far (which is why I describe my identity as non-monogamous). And since I also believe that people are born that way, it most likely won't.

My point is that people create categories (and words to describe them) that reveal the distinctions they themselves apply, simply because our moralistic culture is never far behind in the way we apprehend the world, no matter how much of a free-thinker we might think we are. So self-identifying polys who feel the need to label their love (primary/secundary) might unconsciously be transferring older notions to their new arrangements... which thus reveal themselves to not be so new after all.

To use your analogy: if you introduce your best friend as such to another friend, you are in effect making a distinction between the two, but it's a socially acceptable one (more so, I'll concede, than talking about your favorite grandson in front of the whole family). The same applies to polys when they talk about their primary and secondary/ies in such or similar terms. There is a distinction being made. And it appears to me rather close to the concept that we used to call "having lovers".

That doesn't mean that there is no love or affection in those relationships, but it is graded by the people involved themselves, perhaps in an unconscious attempt to conform to a culturally ingrained moral sense that they are supposedly rejecting. But if polyamory is just the equivalent of having lovers (without feeling guilty about it), then we already have the term "non-monogamy" to label it. Its definition is wide enough to encompass all sorts of sexual relationships of all different levels of affection.

Conclusion: If we need a term like polyamory because there is indeed a polyamorous identity that is different from non-monogamy (as I believe there is), then I think words and concepts like primary and secondary are not really useful, as they establish by their very nature an order of preference which other terms already describe quite well. It seems to me that polyamory and all its derived terms should be used instead to define the capacity to love different people at the same time, differently perhaps , but without involving a notion of degree.
More...
Posted by Ricardo on December 5, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
125
A thought exercise to illustrate the difference between Sexual orientation and Polyamory.

Imagine two people have been sent on a remote expedition to antarctica to study penguin farts (With the Green initiatives, we're looking for ANY form of alternative fuel). The two people will be there alone for a full year and because of the remoteness they will have no visitors or be able to communicate with the outside world. Both are single (The Penguin Fart game requires a lot of work hours, making dating tough).

If the two scientists are, for example, straight males, they will not fall in love, they will not date, and they will not have sex (is it possible horniness/loneliness would drive them to, say, blow each other sometime? Sure, but truly straight, non-closet-case straight men would probably stick to masturbation since it's only a year). The reason they wouldn't date/love/sex is that the other is not the thing that arouses a straight male - a female. Sexual orientation, at it's most basic definition, is about which gender arouses you - the same, the opposite, or both.

Now let's imagine the same scenario but with, just as an example, a straight man and a straight woman and both are poly. Not saying they definitely would, because they might not be attracted to each other, but over the course of the year, this couple COULD date/love/sex, despite there being no physical way for them to act on their polyamory (because, remember, no one else can/will be there). Despite being unable to act on their polyamory, they COULD still be aroused by each other, even though there is no chance of multiple partners.

To me that is the difference - sexual orientation is about physical arousal, while polyamory is about much more. A lot of this argument is about whether the word "orientation" should be used, but to me the trick word is "sex". Polyamory, as most poly's I think would agree with (I'm not one), is not strictly about sex. If it were, being polyamorous would mean one who could only be aroused by group sex. To me, perhaps a correct term would be to call polyamory a "love orientation". I still think "orientation" is proper, as I do believe polyamory is innate and compelling, just like sexual orientation, but Polyamory is about who/how you love more then it's strictly about who arouses you, which is what sexual orientation defines. Sex is a part of love, but it's not the whole thing (A non-manogomous person isn't necessarily poly and a poly doesn't have to be non-monogomous).

All of this is by no means intended to unsubstantiated being poly or say they deserve less respect or imply that it's a "choice". Fuck who you want, as many people as you want, how you want, and screw anyone that gives you flack for your choice.
More...
Posted by YUUUUUUUP on December 5, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
126
@ 115 - In my experience, in terms of identity, bisexuals are bisexuals, not gay. You might wish to view them pragmatically as gay, but in concrete terms, I find them rather different, just as I find lesbians different, and hetero males and females. In the end, our notion of identity is shaped by what differentiates us from a larger group, not about what we have in common with its members.
Posted by Ricardo on December 5, 2012 at 1:22 PM · Report this
127
@Ricardo

I don't think it's quite the same as having lovers. Even with a primary, all partners might be, say, introduced to one's parents. Sometimes there certainly might be "just" lovers, but all the partners are that -- partners. Even if there may be a bit of unevenness. And even when my partner had a primary and a non-primary before I met him, they were both mothers to his child. (I'd never call myself the child's mother, he's too old for that to ever be the case now, but the kid is in my will.)
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 2:44 PM · Report this
sanguisuga 128
@124 - I'm a mono het female currently dating a poly-minded man. This is something that he's just discovering about himself, and something that I'm struggling to come to terms with. As such, I need that "primary" label. I want the other people in his life to *know* that I am his main focus, and that if anything is going to happen with anyone else, it's with my full knowledge of the situation. Right now, that's my security blanket. Perhaps that label is something I'll be able to reject or not even care about in the future, but for right now, it's a very real part of our relationship.

I think too many people are trying to break it all down into simplistic terms, and it just doesn't work that way. Humans are complicated, and so are our relationships. What works (or doesn't work)for me isn't going to be the same thing that works for the couple down the street. Why do we need to label it at all?
Posted by sanguisuga on December 5, 2012 at 2:51 PM · Report this
129
For the love of all that is banging, can we move on to more interesting topics?

Disclaimer: I don't give a flying fuck about poly or mono or crackers or kissing disease. I want advice columns to be about ADVICE. I don't know what the fuck the past few poly columns have been about, but they sure as fuck aren't "advice columns" and they have the entertainment value of dog shit, which is to say, "none." (you scat lovers should all hide your faces anyway)
Posted by aquavit on December 5, 2012 at 3:06 PM · Report this
130
A sexual orientation defines who you are attracted to. A gay man is attracted to men, he doesn't not get turned on my the female form. Know people usually have a type that they find more attractive then others, like a friend of mine who won't date a man under 6ft tall. But if you live poly LIFESTYLE that doesn't mean that you can only become sexually aroused but groups of people, you just except the fact that people can be attracted to more then one person and that acting on those doesn't subtract from you feeling for any other person.
Posted by jbarker37 on December 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
131
@ 127 - I'm not discussing your experience. The real world is far more varied than the concepts we sometimes try to reduce it to. I'm talking about the words we use to this end, which often, as I believe is the case with primary/secondary, transform a distinct experience such as polyamory into something that better fits the general moral culture we live in, from which few people can truly escape. In this instance, the primacy of one relationship over others is valued, even in polyamorous arrangements. It's reductive (as Madonna would say), but it suits some people for a variety of reasons (see 128 for an example). It also makes it a lot closer conceptually to run-of-the-mill non-monogamy.

If, as in 128, the two partners are gamo-discordant (just made that word up), then I can see how this is useful. But if all partners are poly, to paraphrase sanguisuga : why do we need to label them at all? There will obviously be variations with time and according to the personalities involved, but comparing and ordering feelings hardly seems to be genuinely polyamorous in spirit, in my opinion.
Posted by Ricardo on December 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
132
I think this is all BS. People who want to cheat on their monogamous relationship by saying, "It's okay, I'm just POLY."

I think most human beings would like to date, fall in love with, and sleep with, anyone they happen to be attracted to. That ain't an orientation.

If you're going to pro-create, then monogamy has a very useful purpose of creating a stable environment for the young-uns to grow up in. It takes sacrifice, which means you can't run off and fall in love and sleep with all those other people out there that you are attracted to. Grow up.

Just my 2¢ worth.
Posted by Timmyjoe on December 5, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
133
@Timmyjoe

Do you think it's cheating if everyone is aware of what's going on? Because I am baffled by why people think poly is an excuse for cheating. Cheating involves dishonesty and lying. If my partner sleeps with someone else and I'm cool with that, do you think that's cheating? If it is, then the term "cheating" has apparently become meaningless.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 5, 2012 at 5:33 PM · Report this
Roma 134
Venomlash: SPECTRA, NOT SPECTRUMS.

SPECTRE, NOT SPECTRA
Posted by Roma on December 5, 2012 at 5:51 PM · Report this
135
It's all intollerable.

Posted by Hunter78 on December 5, 2012 at 5:56 PM · Report this
136
Wow... polyoutraged people sure are polite!
Posted by Polysaturated on December 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM · Report this
seandr 137
@Hyancinth:
Thanks, hon. I have to confess, I kind of already knew the answer to my question. I was just seeing if I could get a fresher and more salacious variation of this conversation started.
Posted by seandr on December 5, 2012 at 7:14 PM · Report this
138
Thank you, Mister Savage, for being gracious, clarifying your position, and giving some space for people with an alternate point of view to be heard. This is one of the reasons I enjoy you and your column.
Posted by CoyoteConscious on December 5, 2012 at 7:18 PM · Report this
139
10,000 comments on this last week and now I just have to read the same comments again as a column? Boring.
Posted by Luddiduddy on December 5, 2012 at 7:28 PM · Report this
seandr 140
@quinkygirl: tell me that who I am doesn't fit your neat little comfortable ideas of what "orientation" is.

As I see it, Dan (bravely) took at shot at sorting out the similarities/differences between poly and homosexuality, and then, having received some critical feedback, opened the floor to poly LWs and commenters to voice their views and experiences. I haven't seen anything from Dan to suggest he considers his word final, or that he's not open to influence.

Personally, I've gained a much more informed and refined understanding of poly, monogamy, and everything in between from the letters and comments of the past few weeks. If there's another forum besides Savage Love where you can find such a rich array of anecdotes and thoughtful discussions on this and so many other relatively unexplored areas human sexuality, please tell me where it is.

Thanks, Dan!
Posted by seandr on December 5, 2012 at 7:35 PM · Report this
141
The third letter sounds like someone who's been in jail, had someone get him/her get off or the other way around.
Now thinks this 'having no choice BUT because being in jail' doesn't mean anything.
Well it does. It means that there is this HUGE HUGE HUGE gray area when it comes to sexuality.
The Homo/Bi/Hetero is indeed one spectrum. These are fairly commonly recognized identities in that ONE spectrum.
There.are.so.so.many.others.it's.hard.to.explain.

Yes, getting yourself off in jail or a submarine (or wherever it is you are or imagine yourself to be) is in that same spectrum.
Go figure.
Posted by DutchButch on December 5, 2012 at 8:38 PM · Report this
142
Ms Hyacinth@133 - While I cannot speak for everyone who has mentioned cheating, some of them might be looking at it the other way round from you. It's not necessarily that they are looking at your arrangement and calling it just embellished cheating (and we have clear examples on hand of cheating within non-monogamous relationships, so that there's a clear framework for what that looks like and how that differs from yours). What some of them probably want is a framework in which a person caught cheating can't just play the Poly Card and skate on the grounds of its being discriminatory or bigoted to hold a poly person to a non-poly standard, even if (s)he agreed to that standard.

There's a similar possible explanation for having and eating cake, but my congestion appears to have receded just enough that I can finally get some sleep, and anyway I'm probably too exhausted to do that one justice now anyway. Dormez bien.
Posted by vennominon on December 5, 2012 at 9:18 PM · Report this
143
for anyone who skipped the letters, but somehow has read this far in tyre comments, the letter from hetero/poly guy is worth it.
Posted by EclecticEel on December 6, 2012 at 12:17 AM · Report this
144
Being monogamous is not about being oriented toward monogamy; it's about having the self-discipline to resist the natural and universal urge to engage in intimacy with anyone besides your committed partner.

I have no problem with open or poly relationships, and support poly marriage as soon as the legal angles can be sorted out.

I do have call out those individuals who insist that they have to cheat because they develop crushes on other people. Guess what? Everybody does!!! Acting on these feelings doesn't make you "poly-oriented," it simply makes you a cheater if your spouse isn't consenting.

If you're attracted to the opposite sex, you're hetero-oriented. If you're attracted to the same sex, you're homo-oriented. If you're attracted to both, you're bi-oriented. If you want to have relationships/sex with a number of people, you have one of the above orientations with a lack of desire for monogamy--not a separate orientation.
Posted by BeingABear on December 6, 2012 at 1:28 AM · Report this
sissoucat 145
@142 "What some of them probably want is a framework in which a person caught cheating can't just play the Poly Card and skate on the grounds of its being discriminatory or bigoted to hold a poly person to a non-poly standard, even if (s)he agreed to that standard."

OK. Once A agreed to a standard with B on which to base their relationship, whatever the standard was, cheating is breaking that standard while simultaneously preventing B from leaving the relationship. Common way : hiding and lying.

Polys can be cheated on, too. "Having sex" is not the ultimate cheating act. Cheating is not about an act, it's about unilateraly destroying what was the pre-agreed basis of the relationship.

Example : a poly person within a poly arrangement who suddenly elopes to be monogamous with an outsider is cheating.
Posted by sissoucat on December 6, 2012 at 4:16 AM · Report this
146
A man is born gay. That means he's attracted to having sex with men. If he's brought up in a culture that's accepting, he's attracted to men. If he's brought up in a culture that's not accepting, he might choose not to have sex with men (because he'd be put to death), but he's still attracted to men.

But I'm not sure that's the case with poly/mono. I can think of instances where a straight woman is attracted to a man who's not her husband but chooses not to act on that attraction because she knows she'll be put to death (or believes it's wrong, or will lose her social standing, or get thrown out of the house). But it would seem to me that her basic desires have a lot to do with what she's exposed to and how she's brought up.
Posted by Crinoline on December 6, 2012 at 5:08 AM · Report this
BadAnne 147
It seems like this whole column is a debate about semantics.
Posted by BadAnne on December 6, 2012 at 5:35 AM · Report this
148
@140 To be clear, I have absolutely zero problem with Dan Savage. The conversations that he's started over the years? They really needed to be started! The fact is that I greatly admire the work that he has done. That doesn't mean, though that I agree with every position he's taken over the years.

Incidentally, congratulations to Dan and his long-time partner Terry on their upcoming wedding in the state of Washington.

I had two points -- first of all, were any of us really "born" one way or another when it comes to our sexuality? That's a big unknown. We may have certain hormonal or genetic influences in our makeups, but we don't really know at what point someone becomes "gay" or "poly." It's kind of taken as a given in certain circles that someone is "born gay." Is that really true? We kind of skipped over scientific proof or consensus on this question, I do believe.

Does it matter? Not to me. It seems strange to me, though, that we are supposed to take the word of gay folk on the "born this way" issue but not take the word of poly people on the same question. With me, you are supposed to take my word on it that I was born bisexual, but call bullshit on my feelings of being born poly.

Whether I was born bi and poly or not, I should still have the right to live my life as I want to live it without State denial of the same rights everyone else (read straight, nominally monogamous America) has.

My other point was that there is an elephant in the room in this discussion, the (possibly) perceived attempt by poly people to ride on the coattails of gay activists into mainstream acceptance for our own way of living and loving. Are poly people attempting to co-opt "sexual orientation" in order to make it easier for us one day to get our own legal rights? I do think that this question probably feeds into Dan's original response and position and emotions on the issue. He FEELS that poly isn't an orientation. So, where does that emotion come from?
More...
Posted by quinkygirl on December 6, 2012 at 7:56 AM · Report this
santamonicatom 149
apples and oranges! monogamy/non-monogamy is not the same as hetero/homo/bi-sexual.
Posted by santamonicatom on December 6, 2012 at 8:05 AM · Report this
AFinch 150
I had two points -- first of all, were any of us really "born" one way or another when it comes to our sexuality?

Does it matter? Not to me.

Maybe not to you, and maybe not to a lot of people, but, in fact, it makes all the difference to a lot people. I work with a lot of otherwise somewhat progressive people - African Americans - in a political context who are strong on protecting civil liberties and economic justice until you run up against their reactionary religious beliefs, particularly regarding homosexuality. They will tell you that gay and inter-racial marriage have nothing in common at all, because the color of your skin is beyond your own control, while your sexuality is within your control. And lest you doubt the earnestness of this position, reflect on numbers who attempted to escape racial discrimination by "passing" - it's living in the color closet.

Really, what this leads to is an implicit assumption that ones chooses to be gay - if it is not intrinsic or inherent, then it something which can be altered - either by nurture or by free well (choice). So, all those straight gay-haters could simply choose to - as Dan says - "s*ck a d*ck", or would remember when they chose to be straight (this only works if they are intellectually honest).

And I think it's still a red herring to say that this question of 'inherent' or 'conditioned' has any bearing: perhaps being Poly is indeed a hard-wired trait for some people. It's still not a sexual orientation.
Posted by AFinch on December 6, 2012 at 8:15 AM · Report this
151
I feel pretty excited that this comment thread has been so intense. I've never done any neurological or cognitive research (or even thought to look for such research) in these issues before. It would be interesting to monitor brain activity during things like "Imagine your partner having sex with someone else" etc.

BTW, I think cheating is cheating. I don't always judge cheaters particularly harshly since I know humans are flawed, but I don't think being poly is a good excuse for cheating. I also don't think being a closeted gay man (or lesbian) in a hetero relationship in the U.S. (in Saudi Arabia it might be different) is a good excuse for cheating, though it's a damn good reason to break up. There are reasons for cheating that range from quite understandable to not very understandable, but grown ups shouldn't use excuses for any of their behavior, ever, unless maybe you had a brain tumor that caused you to not be yourself (or something equally uncontrollable). Reasons and excuses aren't the same. Reasons are just "This is why I did it" and excuses are "This is why you should be okay with the fact that I did it."
Posted by Hyacinth on December 6, 2012 at 8:26 AM · Report this
muzyqman 152
I believe that "poly" is neither an orientation nor an identity. I think it is a style of living one's life that one adopts or not. Many people in monogamous (or even monogamish) relationships fall for another but choose not to make a long-term triad or quad. Many people who like the variety may look for others who similarly like the variety to make groupings of more than two. But this is a choice of how to live one's life. A poly gay man still looks for other gay men to share his life. A poly straight man still looks for multiple women to share his life, or other women and men. It is how they choose to live their life and how to express their sexuality. But loving multiple people at once is not the same as loving same sex or loving opposite sex. It may be a WAY of loving others, but it is not the WHY.
Posted by muzyqman on December 6, 2012 at 8:37 AM · Report this
153
@Afinch

I know I'm an idealist. Guilty! But it SHOULDN'T matter. The world needs more love, not less. I respect your opinion, but it doesn't vibe with me that (only) one thing about our incredibly complex sexualities should receive the legitimization of being deemed "innate" -- namely which set of genital we're attracted to.
Posted by quinkygirl on December 6, 2012 at 8:48 AM · Report this
154
@153: Don't people feel that just about everything about their sexual desires is "innate"? I don't believe people who enjoy feet or bondage, to take two common kinks, experience that as a choice they make: "I think I'll start liking feet." And people for whom those are really unappealing don't experience it as "I could really enjoy being whipped, but I've decided to not enjoy it instead." Sexual desire, in all its variations, tends to feel pretty hard-wired and not a conscious choice.

There are things that people might decide they don't feel strongly pro or con and can make a case-by-case decision on whether it's included. Other things are a hard line, like the initial LW's girlfriend's very clear "monogamy is important, and if it's off the table then so am I." (Whereas his innate and undeniable identity turned out to be pretty flexible if it turned out he could get laid.)

I think 153 makes a good point about reasons versus excuses. Relatedly, desires can't usually be helped by sheer willpower. What you do about them, that we do expect adults to modulate using self-control. Is the object of your lust in your military chain of command? Your summer intern? A hundred other people off limits by some sort of social convention, whether societal or personal? Then you restrain yourself. If it's a personal convention (e.g. in a relationship considered monogamous) you can try and negotiate changes. (It's fair for partners to expect this to come up earlier rather than later.) Breaking the convention and then lying about it is wrong, and unilaterally changing the rules without giving the other people involved a choice is wrong. Explaining why your partner is supposed to be okay with it, to borrow Hyacinth's excellent wording, is just trying to shift blame.
More...
Posted by IPJ on December 6, 2012 at 9:30 AM · Report this
155
@hyacinth That sort of research has long been an interest of mine. If it hasn't been done, we'll get there eventually.

All I know is that a few months ago, I was sitting at a party in between my boyfriend and my hubby. My boyfriend's partner was there with HER boyfriend, and my hubby was there with his girlfriend. Nothing sexual about it. Just easy friendliness.

I had a moment of almost religious ecstasy -- there was no drama. No weirdness. Just lots of smiling faces. And I thought to myself

"Yes!"
Posted by quinkygirl on December 6, 2012 at 9:36 AM · Report this
156
@152

I think identity is a looser thing than you realize.

Maybe not though -- I mean, I'm a writer (in addition to the cog sci I mentioned), and if I were never allowed to have own or paper again, I guess I'd no longer be a writer, but I'd write in my head, and a part of who I am would become weak and painful. I started writing when I was five and it's actually been the only consistent thread in my entire life.

Yet people still aren't upset when I call myself a "writer" even though it's "only" a thing I do.

And I'd DTMFA if anyone ever asked me to stop writing.

I hope that analogy makes sense.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 6, 2012 at 9:40 AM · Report this
157
I appreciate the intelligent discourse that both Hyacinth and quinkygirl bring to the discussion. Others not so much. Some of you find the topic boring but I find it fascinating. I'm 60 and came of age in a time where a lot of people just fucked, male and female, and revelled in the freedom to do so guilt free ( not everyone, but a lot), and being a sexual liberationist I see forums such as this progress. I hate the word cheating, it sounds so puritanical. I do have to agree however, that if you are in a relationship where your partner is expecting fidelity and has a healthy appetite for sex you are being at the very least dishonest. So everyone should be honest and open. What I have been able to ascertain poly is emotional as well as physical. The concept that you can only love or emotionally bond with one person at a time always seemed absurd to me. That said, some people are wired(?) that way and if you aint and you're in a relationship with someone who is, there is going to be two(or more) unhappy campers.
Personally I've realised that I have always been poly just never practising. Like gays being able to come out and eventually marry(depending on where you live. I'm Canadian), these things happen in increments. I'm married and in a monogamous relationship. My wife is very old school, has had sexual trauma in her past and would be devastated if I did anything that was considered untoward. So if you are involved in the poly "lifestyle" go with it and in time hopefully there will be no need for forums such as this and for people such as myself to be closeted. Living in a small, conservative, military based community can do that to ya.
Posted by diz on December 6, 2012 at 9:55 AM · Report this
Godzilla1916 158
I couldn't even finish the column, what a bore. I'm poly,tuesday dick, wednesday clit, top, butt sensitive...blah, blah, blah.

Have fun with your pigeon holing and let me know when the sex begins.
Posted by Godzilla1916 on December 6, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
159
Hey -- I know it's off topic, but rumor has it that your getting LEGALLY MARRIED IN CALIF! Congrats! Please post wedding pix!
Posted by PerryG on December 6, 2012 at 10:23 AM · Report this
160
@145: "Example : a poly person within a poly arrangement who suddenly elopes to be monogamous with an outsider is cheating."

Really? I would call that "breaking up."
Posted by avast2006 on December 6, 2012 at 10:58 AM · Report this
AFinch 161
@153 But it SHOULDN'T matter.

No need to apologize, nor are you being an idealist: I concur completely. I'm just pointing out that the construct upon which "inalienable rights" are built is one of natural law and concepts like "innate" - that is, certain rights are innate to human beings. It really actually does matter under our system of law.

but it doesn't vibe with me that (only) one thing about our incredibly complex sexualities should receive the legitimization of being deemed "innate" -- namely which set of genital we're attracted to.

With whom and how many we have sex or a relationship, is, IMHO, an innate personal right, and I'm not really arguing with you about that. My quibble was with trying to equate "which set of genitals we're attracted to" with a conditioned, optional choice.

FWIW, as I said above: it is also pretty innate for men and women to be "innately" drawn to having sex with more than one person, just as humans (and some other primates) are hardwired to have sex for more than just procreation and not just when our monthly hormone cycles put us in heat.

I too think this is a quibble over semantics, but I appreciate clear meaning in concepts and I do not believe the poly<->mono spectrum is on the same axis as the hetero<->bi<->homo spectrum. They may both be innate characteristics, but they remain orthogonal.

Posted by AFinch on December 6, 2012 at 11:29 AM · Report this
162
I am just going to go ahead and mark the polyamorous alongside the transgendered as people I am not interested in hearing any more from. Both of these minor deviations from the statistical norm, get a fuck of lot of air play, and just like the Biebs, I've had enough already.
Posted by Sam the Man on December 6, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
163
@Sam the Man

Cladding transgendered people as those you don't want to hear from -- that really shows who you are. "Man, I just hate hearing from the oppressed -- wish they'd shut up already, they bore me."
Posted by Hyacinth on December 6, 2012 at 11:48 AM · Report this
164
I meant classifying* not cladding... Damn iPhone.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 6, 2012 at 11:50 AM · Report this
sissoucat 165
@160 You're right, of course. I'm a poly wannabe, not an actual poly, so I couldn't come up with plausible examples of cheating in the poly world.

As for the semantics, I agree with #161 : whom you're attracted to is orthogonal to how you're making relationships based on this attraction. There would also be a third orthogonal plane, describing what kind of sex acts and fetishes you're into - and one's sexual definition/identification/orientation could be plotted on this 3D space.

How amazing that what we've been culturally taught as normalcy is just a tiny point in this 3D space : monogamous, heterosexual, missionary PIV sex.

I dream of a more accepting society, where nobody's judged on what point(s) her/his sexuality occupies in this continuum of possibles. What happens in the bedroom between consenting adults should not be of interest to religious nor political forces.
Posted by sissoucat on December 6, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
166
@ 144: To quote you:

"Being monogamous is not about being oriented toward monogamy; it's about having the self-discipline to resist the natural and universal urge to engage in intimacy with anyone besides your committed partner."

Thank you. It's a choice.

Maybe some people don't tend to feel things that deeply or something.. Maybe some people could handle being in love (or 'in love') with more than one person at a time. Maybe some of these people have yet to encounter one of their lives' first great loves.. Finding that can change your whole world, or what you thought your world was before it happened to you..

It's a combination of choice and temperament, I think. Whether anyone is mono, poly or just an all-around clusterfuck comprised of many different variables, the important thing is knowing who you are, what you want, what you desire most and seeing it come to fruition with likeminded souls.

In a way, the polyspeak for some reason reminds me of someone who quits smoking then takes to the dais or pulpit and spouts off for eons about the hazards of smoking.. It's always something.

I do think it is about how you're wired, too. Some people cringe at the idea of a secondary romantic, etc. relationship: some lick their chops like a buzzard swooping down towards the gutwagon. It's all a matter of choice and personal preference.

I wouldn't rule out anything ever, but I barely have enough time to get one relationship sorted out and going well. Who TF would wanna take on additional drama? They best better make yer heart and loins flutter for all that duress!

To each their own, as the good saying goes.

:-)

Posted by kserasera on December 6, 2012 at 1:35 PM · Report this
167
Maybe because today is Dec 6, but it seems like the use of the term "orientation" is decidedly political, as a few people have mentioned. If you'll recall from the Savage vs Brown debate, homophobes use the slippery slope of gay marriage to polygamy as a way to persuade voters. Dan said that is BS logic, and that polygamy would need to be decided on its own merits.

The political problems of calling poly an orientation is that this attempts to (1) leapfrog the process of gaining social acceptance on its own merits, and (2) endangers the cause of gay marriage by essentially proving NOM right.

I think poly is a fine thing to be and do, but the debate on whether/how it interacts with society would need to happen, and trying to leapfrog it would (I strongly suspect) backfire politically, not just for the poly folk but for the LGBTQ folk as well. Proceed with caution.
Posted by wxPDX on December 6, 2012 at 3:28 PM · Report this
168
@166

"Maybe some of these people have yet to encounter one of their lives' first great loves.. Finding that can change your whole world, or what you thought your world was before it happened to you.."

I think this is sometimes true. Not always though, so I agree that it applies to only "some of these people." If someone claimed it applies to all of us, that would imply that our relationships are inferior and less passionate and loving. I know that's not what you claimed at all, but I thought I'd just point this out. 
Posted by Hyacinth on December 6, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this
169
not been posting, interesting to read, but feel i've said what i've got to offer...

however :-) for what it's worth, i really don't orient on genitals. not that i'm not interested, but it has no bearing on my attraction. and i don't think that makes me bi - it definitely doesn't make me pan-sexual, or anything like that. there are certain specific genders i find attractive, certain... energy/vibes. also, i'm not that interested in people i don't know, and know well. another thing - straight people just don't register as sexual beings on my radar - i'm only attracted to/notice queer folks.

so... i really don't buy that 'sexual orientation is the fundamental / underlying / unchangeable sexual wiring. being poly / building family is much more fundamental to my sexuality than what sex my lovers are, or what sex i am.

at the risk of being blunt (yay EricaP :-) ) i think of it as a cross-species issue. i try to only mate with my own tribe, other species are a bit... yuck? unappealing? how would that even occur to me...?
Posted by sappho on December 6, 2012 at 3:55 PM · Report this
170

I'm inclined to go with "it's not an orientation," but the multiple spectrums of sexuality idea brought up is intriguing. Ever heard of the vasopressin receptor gene?

http://www.bio.davidson.edu/Courses/geno…

There may be some legitimate scientific evidence supporting the notion that poly is a biologically-rooted identity.
Posted by Crackersnap on December 6, 2012 at 4:38 PM · Report this
mydriasis 171
@crackersnap

I'm familiar with it.
Virally induced monogamy. Interesting stuff.
Posted by mydriasis on December 6, 2012 at 6:13 PM · Report this
172
avast@160: It's not just breaking up if the person suddenly disappears without warning in order to be with someone else, which is what I took "elope" to imply. "Breaking up" implies that you have done some kind of discussion about the relationship(s) ending. Also, depending on the terms of the relationship(s), not previously having mentioned any connection with the person one was eloping with might be cheating.
Posted by Eirene on December 6, 2012 at 6:42 PM · Report this
173
sappho@169 thanks for the shout out :-)

But don't get me started on the ever expanding term "queer" -- didn't we have that discussion just a little while ago?
Posted by EricaP on December 6, 2012 at 6:42 PM · Report this
174
Yes, but one is not a vole.
Posted by Eirene on December 6, 2012 at 6:46 PM · Report this
175
@Eirene

Whether or not one is a vole has nothing to do with the genetic facts voles may suggest to us. We share a shitload of genes with bacteria, and a fucload more with voles. We are animals too. Genes in common can suggest ideas that turn out to be relevant.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 6, 2012 at 7:13 PM · Report this
176
Ms Sappho - That's quite a talent, not registering straight people on your radar. It reminds me of Wally's mentioning a friend in Loitering with Intent who got a job as a wine taster because drinking inferiour wine made her sneeze.

You should hire yourself out as an Orientation Prover. Nervous women or their concerned friends and families could introduce you into parties where you would meet doubt-inducing boyfriends/fiances/even husbands and you could provide the definitive Yea or Nay.

I can almost visualize the little flyers with the kind of spoof of bi/homophobic concerns you could distribute that some straight people take seriously. And, if you didn't like a particular client, you could tell her that her (really straight) significant other hadn't become aware of being attracted to men yet, and who could contradict you by proving a negative? (Unluckily that one wouldn't work the other way, but one can't have everything.)

I like this much better than the idea I once floated - not seriously - that Ms Erica (who quite rightly disliked the idea) flirt with gay men so that their boyfriends could be assured they weren't bi. There's much less of entrapment here, and anyway I'm less scrupulous about those who hold Straight Privilege. Besides, anyone who would take your word for it over her own instincts and judgment is ripe prey for someone. And it would give you interesting opportunities to put a finger on the scale - it's really almost like "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime".

I am so tempted to plot out a novel along this course. With any luck, I'll have forgotten the idea by morning.
Posted by vennominon on December 6, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this
Suzette 177
I first want to warn you Dan. The slate comment Nazi's have been out in force on the Dear Prudie comments. There has been a suggestion that we all just come here. If it happens be prepared for a drinking game and general silliness
Posted by Suzette on December 6, 2012 at 10:25 PM · Report this
178
Does this mean I'm poly-unsaturated?
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 6, 2012 at 10:37 PM · Report this
179
"I've never denied the existence of polyamorous people, I never said that people couldn't or shouldn't identify as polyamorous"

I have to disagree with Dan's assertion here, give that that is EXACTLY what he said in the column that started this (emphasis mine):

"You are not "a poly."

POLY IS NOT A SEXUAL IDENTITY, PP, it's not a sexual orientation. It's not something you are, it's something you do. There's no such thing as a person who is "a poly," just as there's no such thing as a person who is "a monogamous." Polyamorous and monogamous are adjectives, not nouns. There are only people—gay, straight, bi—and some people are in monogamous relationships, some are in open relationships, some are in polyamorous relationships, some are in monogamish relationships, some are in four-star-general relationships. These are relationship models, PP, not sexual identities."
Posted by EmilyTwist on December 6, 2012 at 10:42 PM · Report this
180
@172: It might be "dumping," or maybe even "abandoning," both of which are is variously odious flavors of "breaking up" -- but you can hardly be said to be "cheating" on a person with whom your relationship has been terminated.

"Cheating" is when you violate the established rules of a relationship without terminating it.
Posted by avast2006 on December 6, 2012 at 11:54 PM · Report this
181
@144: "Being monogamous is not about being oriented toward monogamy; it's about having the self-discipline to resist the natural and universal urge to engage in intimacy with anyone besides your committed partner."

Fweeeeeet! Penalty: begging the question. (How do you _know_ it's "universal?" You've assumed that conclusion in your proposition.) Five yards, take the down over.
Posted by avast2006 on December 7, 2012 at 12:15 AM · Report this
182
@144:
I am monogamous.
That doesn't mean I have any self-discipline. I don't.
It doesn't mean that I don't have crushes and lust for more than one person at a time. I do.

It just means that I am unable to handle more than one intimate relationship at a time.

In fact, I assume to do polyamory well you need MORE self-discipline than to do monogamy well.
Posted by migrationist on December 7, 2012 at 1:44 AM · Report this
183
@sappho:

When you write about your different relationships, why you need them, what you get out of them, etc., that sounds pretty much like the role my friends play in my life (apart from sex and co-parenting).
Posted by migrationist on December 7, 2012 at 1:48 AM · Report this
184
I agree with "I Am How I Am", that there are multiple spectra of sexual attraction, and that, like the Kinsey Scale for gender attraction, there's something similar for other forms of sexual expression.

I say that as someone who has experience at seeing her own personal spectra collide, and the difficulties it causes with expressing my sexual identity.

I am really only attracted to women. I think guys are gross, physically. They simply are not sexual beings to me. It's like contemplation sex with children. Kinda disgusting. So, I should identify as a lesbian, right?

Wrong. I have and do enjoy sex with men, under the correct circumstances. Because as a submissive, and a masochist, I don't really care who I'm fucking, as long as they're taking the power in the situation, and using it to tie me up and hurt me. Because if "0" is Dominant, then I am definitely a "6" submissive.

I've tried to say I'm not a lesbian, and I'm not bisexual, and I'm not straight. Because in the face of my D/s spectrum, those are meaningless to me. The D/s spectrum "trumps" my gender attraction. Does that mean that I am bisexual? I don't think so, because I'm *not* attracted to men. But am I a lesbian when I fuck men? Seems doubtful.

So, while I'm largely ambivalent towards the mono/poly spectrum, I can see how for some people, it'd be the most important part of their sexuality. (I prefer poly relationships, because I think they're healthier over all. It just seems to make sense to spread out one's needs, so no one person is too dependent on the relationship. However, I don't mind being in mono relationships - I'd probably be a firm "3" on this particular spectrum.)
Posted by DarthKelly on December 7, 2012 at 5:04 AM · Report this
185
@2 - "Orientated" is a word. It's the same as "oriented", but just used in a different dialect. I'm not sure about the rest of the English-speaking world, but the way it tends to break down between the US and the UK is that "orientated" is a USism, and "oriented" is a UKism. (Which is funny, because I use "oriented", but a friend of mine in the UK uses "orientated".)

Also, in most of the North American dialects, "vaginal" is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable.

@62 - That's an old and lame joke. Update your joke inventory.

--------------------

Fail pendants are fail.
Posted by DarthKelly on December 7, 2012 at 5:34 AM · Report this
186
@167, wxPDX, so we should not defend the rights of polygamous people because it would rock the boat for gay marriage? I despise that kind of argument. It is the same argument used by the people who want to keep drag queens away from Pride parades because they supposedly sully the non-threatening image we are supposed to project to the straight world, or by the people who want to exclude transgender people from gay rights laws.
Posted by cockyballsup on December 7, 2012 at 6:08 AM · Report this
AFinch 187
@170 - Yes, I've heard of it, and I think, whether we are voles or not, that it is pretty much evidence that mono/poly has a "hard-wired" (in our DNA) physiological basis, in much the same way orientation does (whether gender or genital - the former being a sort of proxy for the latter, allowing for chameleons). I also think it's what makes the holier-than-thou "self discipline" types absolutely insufferable: it's easy to preach self-control when certain behaviors come easy to you and demand no self-control of you.
Posted by AFinch on December 7, 2012 at 6:09 AM · Report this
mydriasis 188
"it's easy to preach self-control when certain behaviors come easy to you and demand no self-control of you"

Even if someone isn't naturally inclined towards monogamy, how fucking hard is it to break up with someone before fucking someone else? Literally all that not-cheating requires is phone call, or damn, a text if you're really heartless.
Posted by mydriasis on December 7, 2012 at 8:37 AM · Report this
189
@mydriasis:

If you've been married for 15 years, especially with kids, I think it is easier to cheat than to break up. The divorce attorney, splitting assets, visitation agreements: that's a lot of stuff to sort through.
Posted by migrationist on December 7, 2012 at 8:44 AM · Report this
mydriasis 190
Lots of things that are ethically wrong are easier than things that are ethically right.

Your point?
Posted by mydriasis on December 7, 2012 at 9:17 AM · Report this
191
I haven't read any of these comments, but I want to thank you all for your thoughts on this subject.

Posted by kungfujew on December 7, 2012 at 9:38 AM · Report this
AFinch 192
@188 - I'm not sure if you have a bee in your bonnet or what, but you seem to regularly find a reason to disagree with or be contrary about whatever I post - even when I am agreeing with you.

I didn't say word one about cheating - I said the drive to mate with a lot of other people and not pair bond in permanent monogamy might have a physiological basis. It's not a black and white thing, nor is it an excuse or get-out-of-jail-free-card for cheating, nor is it permission to give into every single urge that strikes.

What I said was, gee, it's very easy for someone who is straight to say to a gay person that they should just suck it up and sleep with someone of the opposite sex. I think it is similarly difficult for some people to contain their urge to have a lot of random sex - that doesn't mean it's OK to do it. Sanctimonious people often aren't similarly tempted, however, strike me as either incapable of empathy or insensitive.

It gets very complicated to just dump a partner every time you have the urge to have sex with someone different - it is often not nearly so trivial as simply saying "gee, I wanna go have sex with so-and-so, let's just call it all off". Having a quick romp, on the other hand, is much less complicated. That's not a justification, but your solution is facile.

There are things like divorce filings, leases or mortgages to be broken, houses sold, joint assets to divide, pet and child custody issues to sort out, and all the other associated collateral damage. Maybe it's changed since I got divorced a decade ago, but I seem to remember having to file shit at the courthouse - it was a good bit more involved than a heartless text message. IIRC, though, you are kind of young and probably haven't had the pleasure of this kind of experience yet, so I guess you don't have a clue. I similarly suspect that you didn't have the pleasure of having to actually live with your Borderline Boyfriend who you had wonderful feelings about - you weren't trapped in the same house with him and he didn't have access to your bank account.

Tell you what, let's just agree to pretend there is an "ignore" button and ignore one another from now on. When you're about twenty years older little girl, I'll buy you a drink and you can lecture me then.
More...
Posted by AFinch on December 7, 2012 at 9:45 AM · Report this
193
@mydriasis:
You were asking "how fucking hard can it be".
I answered how fucking hard it can be, that was my point.

I didn't comment on the ethics of it, even though they are not as clear-cut in every case as you seem to think.
Posted by migrationist on December 7, 2012 at 10:51 AM · Report this
194
The first letter is absolutely idiotic, and shows the LW's inability to get into the head of any other person in any way. The vast majority of people have the "ability" to love and fall in love with and be sexually attracted to multiple people. Most choose not to act on it. If "Poly" is a sexual orientation in the way the first LW described it, then nearly all people are at Poly. Most of us just don't act on it.

This isn't an indictment of the first LW's decision to act on it. If that's what makes him happy and he finds agreeable partners, that's totally what he should do. But the fact that he chooses to act on his polyamorous desires while many others do not does nothing to establish poly as an orientation.
Posted by ssball on December 7, 2012 at 11:04 AM · Report this
195
The first letter is absolutely idiotic, and shows the LW's inability to get into the head of any other person in any way. The vast majority of people have the "ability" to love and fall in love with and be sexually attracted to multiple people. Most choose not to act on it. If "Poly" is a sexual orientation in the way the first LW described it, then nearly all people are at Poly. Most of us just don't act on it.

This isn't an indictment of the first LW's decision to act on it. If that's what makes him happy and he finds agreeable partners, that's totally what he should do. But the fact that he chooses to act on his polyamorous desires while many others do not does nothing to establish poly as an orientation.
Posted by ssball on December 7, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
Holmes 196
@170: "There may be some legitimate scientific evidence supporting the notion that poly is a biologically-rooted identity."

Read "Sex At Dawn" by Ryan and Jetha. It supports your hypothesis of the biological basis.

@60: You make some good points. Multiple hooking up when one is single is called dating. You may find "the one" for a LTR, or move from one relationship to the next. Or you may even overlap relationships. This is what many refer to as polyamory.

However, there is also the possibility that you will dedicate all (or the bulk of) your emotional energy to that "one true love" but continue to hook up on the side*. Some refer to this as polyfuckery (I miss Mistress Madison's column). That avoids the inevitable circus of figuring out how much attention each partner owes the others and who ranks where in a group. The "primary" doesn't change (no more so than a divorce in a monogamous pair) and the needs of secondary hookups always defer to those of the primary.

*No cheating. I'm with Dan on his definition of cheating as having failed at poly-whatever.
Posted by Holmes on December 7, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
Holmes 197
@188: Why must there be a break up?

Most people invest quite a bit of time and energy into their 'primary' relationship. Houses, kids, circles of friends, etc. On the other hand, the novelty (some call New Relationship Energy) inevitably wears off. And there are some of us who have a need for that. So, why destroy years of companionship and investments that may still be quite satisfying just to get some 'strange'? Because society demands it? F* that. Society is run by some virgin Pope or whack job Imam and if they tell me that my wife has to wear a burqa, they are going to have to pick pieces of their holy book out of their nether regions.

People fool themselves into thinking that an entire relationship has to be over just because one part of it doesn't work the way it used to. The sex drive is a powerful thing and it plays tricks on one's mind in order to be satisfied. As long as I protect my marriage (or whatever) by being honest, negotiating terms and getting prior approval, I can put that urge to rest. And when I'm done, I can put the value of each kind of relationship (physical vs emotional) into perspective and not risk everything for what is in reality just a little recreation.
Posted by Holmes on December 7, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Report this
198
@ 168: Not to worry, I get what you're saying :-) .

It's like anything: some people are wired to be able to enjoy and entertain multiple relationships, some others aren't. That's neither a bad or a good thing: it just is what it is.

I guess what I was getting at is that sometimes love finds you, and it's a bit more than you ever imagined to be possible.. In light of that, what happens if you somehow found what you always were looking for and/or wanted and you never saw it coming? That's what I mean about the first great love thing..

I've learned a lot about polyamory through this site (Thanks to you all for that.) . I also realized that I tend to be monogamous by default: 1.) I'm really happy and in love with who I have in my life and... 2.) I feel no need to wish for or ask for anything more than that. My cup is fulleth, there :-) .

What matters most is knowing what makes you happiest and most fulfilled, I think. Some people need several different relationships, some people need only a primary one. It's all relative.

I love who I'm with enough to keep an open mind, but I've no need for anyone else. If he wants that, then all he would need to do is be upfront and honest with me. The truth is what people give a shit about. The truth heals. And all that good stuff ;-).
Posted by kserasera on December 7, 2012 at 12:02 PM · Report this
199
@ 197, to quote you, if I may:

"People fool themselves into thinking that an entire relationship has to be over just because one part of it doesn't work the way it used to. The sex drive is a powerful thing and it plays tricks on one's mind in order to be satisfied. As long as I protect my marriage (or whatever) by being honest, negotiating terms and getting prior approval, I can put that urge to rest. And when I'm done, I can put the value of each kind of relationship (physical vs emotional) into perspective and not risk everything for what is in reality just a little recreation."

Well said. I like your style. Peace!
Posted by kserasera on December 7, 2012 at 1:05 PM · Report this
200
so boring. who cares if you can't decide , don't want to choose, and want to have sex with whom ever you can bag. It's so much work doing that crap. My room mate was poly and she was on the phone 24/ keeping her relationships in order. I had to get my own phone.
Posted by rosecantina on December 7, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this
201
In the original column where this came up, the guy it referred to wanted to claim poly as an identity, but didn't believe his gf's monogamy deserved the same respect. You can't have it both ways - and he clearly was....
Posted by plap on December 7, 2012 at 1:30 PM · Report this
202
Everything is a choice. Weighing your options and what you have to gain and/or lose, depending on how you go about anything.

I get it that some people need and employ variety of partners out of individual necessity, or preference.

It's just as well I'm this side of monogamous: I don't have the need or the constitution really to open up my relationship to other people, but that's just me.

Whatever works for anybody, I'm cool with. As long as no one is being unduly dishonest, cruel or disrespectful to anyone else's feelings. Life's too short for that sort of thing.

It's not for everybody, polyamory is. The same can also be said for monogamy. Knowing who you are and what your truest wonts and desires are is crucial. That, and being on the level/upfront about it all, so no one is being deceptive about anything. Easier said than done sometimes, but there you go then :-) . Have a great weekend, everyone. Thanks for some good reads in here. Peace!

Posted by kserasera on December 7, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
203
"Cheating" is when you violate the established rules of a relationship without terminating it.

But that's exactly it. If I'm in a poly relationship with A and B, and WITHOUT TELLING THEM take up with C and make plans to elope with C to embark on a monogamous relationship with C, heck, yeah, that probably violates previously established rules of my relationships with A and B.

Basically any abandonment that involves dumping a partner or partners FOR SOMEONE ELSE implies that you were already cheating on them with the someone else, during the time when they at least thought that the relationship was still in force. Just because the older relationship SUBSEQUENTLY ended doesn't mean you didn't cheat.
Posted by Eirene on December 7, 2012 at 2:49 PM · Report this
204
I saw the "Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O'Neill theater last Saturday and it dwarfs all the polyamorous talk to microscopic bits! I would rather go to the theater than have sex but maybe after the theater it might be nice to fuck like bunnies!
Posted by Musclebearshowqueen! on December 7, 2012 at 4:04 PM · Report this
205
I've given up reading anything but short msgs.

Posted by Hunter78 on December 7, 2012 at 5:05 PM · Report this
206
Marriage has already been destroyed and redfined by prenups.

Posted by Hunter78 on December 7, 2012 at 5:11 PM · Report this
mydriasis 207
@AFinch

When I glanced and saw that your post included referring to me as a "little girl" (despite being an adult by every metric of adulthood I've ever heard of) I decided to skim it rather than read it.

So I only have this to say: I have no recollection of you as a poster so if I disagree with you all the time it's because I disagree with you each time on it's own merit with no connection to the last time. There aren't many posters here who I remember continuously from week to week, and you aren't one of them.

Although now that you made such an obnoxiously and unjustifiably condescending remark, you will be. Congrats?
Posted by mydriasis on December 7, 2012 at 6:09 PM · Report this
208
@rosecantina

I'm sure your roommate is an accurate representation of every poly person. "My roommate did such and such" really makes you an expert. Wow, having to get your own phone because your roommate has so many strong intimate connections is such a tragic problem.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 7, 2012 at 6:30 PM · Report this
209
@190 mydriasis

'Lots of things that are ethically wrong are easier than things that are ethically right.'

Thank you.
Posted by albeit on December 7, 2012 at 9:30 PM · Report this
210
@193 migrationist

'You were asking "how fucking hard can it be".
I answered how fucking hard it can be, that was my point.

I didn't comment on the ethics of it, even though they are not as clear-cut in every case as you seem to think.'

It is fucking hard. But clean up your mess before you start a new one.
Posted by albeit on December 7, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this
211
Are all poly people as screechingly pedantic and boring as the ones in this thread? Because I kind of like the idea of polyamory in theory but I'm starting to think that in practice, it's just a bunch of jerkoffs whose white middle-class lives leave them desperate to pigeonhole themselves into some sort of oppressed class or special-snowflake otherness.
Posted by Rip City Hustle on December 8, 2012 at 12:45 AM · Report this
sissoucat 212
@203 Eirene - I'd love to be able to write as well as you... You wrote exactly what I meant, thanks !

@211 You know what people who make character assumptions based on skin color are called, right ? You troll.

@202 kserasera "Whatever works for anybody, I'm cool with. As long as no one is being unduly dishonest, cruel or disrespectful to anyone else's feelings."

Exactly. We're not whining about being precious snowflakes exempt from the Normal Sex Rules edicted and enforced by Church and State. All of us (LGBT and others) are activists for both sexual freedom and social recognition of the relationships we've built. We want Church and State to stay the fuck away from our genitals and our ways to use them : they have no business edicting Sex Rules - although they have done it for thousands of years now !

Their only acceptable level of intrusion in our sexualities and relationships should be to check that everybody involved is a consenting adult. Anything more is unacceptable and IMMORAL.
Posted by sissoucat on December 8, 2012 at 2:58 AM · Report this
mydriasis 213
@migrationist

But you're missing my point.

The whole question was self-control. If poly people's need to fuck multiple people is so strong they can't possibly resist it, that's fine. But all they need to tack on is a phone call. A phone call is easy, what follows isn't.

But that's the point. If it's "my desire to do this in the moment is so strong I can't suppress it" then it's impulse control, that I get, but all it takes to stop that from being cheating is notifying the other partner.

But if you're saying "I want to do this, but I'm going to sit here and consciously consider the ramifications on my partner, how much it would hurt him or her and how much of a HASSLE it would be to do the right thing and I'm going to choose to just hide it instead"

That's not a self control issue, that's not acting on an impulse that you can't suppress, that's consciously making an incredibly selfish and hurtful decision.

That's two different things.

A natural poly goes into a situation where they meet someone else and either break up or propose poly.

A CPOS cheats.
Posted by mydriasis on December 8, 2012 at 5:22 AM · Report this
214
@mydriasis:
If 213 is what you wanted to say in 188, then yes, I completely missed your point.
Posted by migrationist on December 8, 2012 at 7:19 AM · Report this
sissoucat 215
@213 I agree with your post, but one thing seems a bit off : "A natural poly goes into a situation where they meet someone else and either break up or propose poly."

I think a natural poly, already aware of his/her poly-ness, would not agree to a mono relationship even for the time being, and wait until someone else came along to mention poly.

From what polys have already written, I feel that a lone poly would propose poly from starts to a prospective partner, and get that agreed on, before getting involved. When they chance upon someone more, the poly would check with the first partner, check that everything's fine, and proceed - or if the poly deal is reneged on, break up and proceed, still on a poly basis.

And for all -phobes out there :

How come everytime some of us expresses sexual interests outside of the cultural norm of "sex is male-centered, heterosexual, monogamous, PiV", there's you "normalcy advocates" ready to shout and demean us, to call us cheaters and sluts ? Sex police has to stop.

Different sexual choices don't mean we'll live them in an unethical way. We'll probably live them in a more ethical way than the last thousands of years of male-centered, church-approved and reproduction-oriented sex on record - when females were forced into being babies or sex dispensing furniture, and males who didn't fit the allowed framework were treated as females or worse. See the Allan Turing suicide.
Posted by sissoucat on December 8, 2012 at 7:48 AM · Report this
216
@215: But the original letter writer met someone who proposed (and drew a hard line at) mono, and looking at the choice before him--I could alter the very essence of my being and deny my true self and get laid right now, or I could say no--went with the "getting laid" option. And now he was mad because her clearly expressed lines for what would and wouldn't work for her actually meant something and she wouldn't change herself to be okay with what he wanted.

Your description might apply in some ideal world, but actual relationships seem to work much more messily. (And when they're messy, they write to Dan.) Poly people have plenty of opportunities to hurt their various partners, and do. (Just look at the various letters about threeways and other outside adventures, "I agreed to X with conditions A, B, C but my partner decided that destroyed their spontaneity in the moment and I should just be okay with whatever they wanted, and now I don't trust them.")
Posted by IPJ on December 8, 2012 at 8:15 AM · Report this
217
@IPJ: Those people aren't poly, they're mono-leaning folks who got bored.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 8, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this
218
@206: "Marriage has already been destroyed and redfined by prenups."

Hmmm, seems like the traditional marriage of the old days (as in the days of kings and queens and kingdoms) was, at root, a BUSINESS transaction. A way of consolidating power and kingdoms. And the prenuptual arrangements were typically very elaborate.

Even for those not in the upper/ruling classes, more often than not a marriage was preceded by an agreement to exchange goods as part of the deal (which often contained clauses nullifying or modifying the deal if certain conditions were not met, such as the woman being barren or adultery.)

Most in the farmer/working class married because they needed another body (and, in time, more bodies in the form of children) to work the fields/run the family business.

The concept of marriage for romantic love is a relatively new one (less than a few hundred years old) and one which REALLY "redefined" the institution from its traditional form to the one we know today in Western culture.

Regarding this week's column...oh for heaven's sake! This seemingly unending need to label and define ourselves and our sexuality grows tedious. "LGBTQIHPetc...." God forbid we should overlook someone/some possible aspect of human sexuality in our initialism!

I had no interest in reading all the arguments and life stories of those who took Dan to task on his classification of "poly"; was just disappointed not to get a Dan Savage column to read (though perhaps Dan appreciated the time off;)

Posted by AnastasiaBeaverhousen on December 8, 2012 at 12:06 PM · Report this
219
@AnastasiaBeaverhousen, I agree about the labeling. Everybody wants to be made a fuss over. I blame the helicopter parenting practices of the past 20 years, including the emphasis on instilling exaggerated self-esteem.
Posted by cockyballsup on December 8, 2012 at 12:34 PM · Report this
220
I'm not sure how assigning consonants and a definition to something means one wants a fuss to be made over it.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 8, 2012 at 12:41 PM · Report this
mydriasis 221
@cocky

Children of the last 20 years don't have "exaggerated" self esteem, they actually tend to have atrociously poor self esteem which they obsessively augment with false contingent self esteem - which, by the way, is what their parents were instilling them with all along.

Kids with intrinsic self esteem don't cut themselves when they get an A- instead of an A+, they don't kill themselves when they get teased at school, they don't starve themselves in an endless perfectionistic pursuit and fall apart at the tiniest whiff of failure.

The moral isn't "raise kids with less self-esteem" the moral is raise kids with true self-esteem instead of phony self-esteem.
Posted by mydriasis on December 8, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
222
"As far back as grade school, I've generally had a crush on more than one boy/guy/man"

Congrats, you're the same as every person, monogamous or straight.
Posted by come the fuck on now on December 8, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
223
Ms Hyacinth - While I entirely appreciate the desire to keep undesirables out of your club, are you reading Ms I's phrasing of "my partner" as indicating that every such letter concerned a monogamous relationship, asserting that No True Poly Person Ever [blanks], or something else?

You've explained your own strain of poly thoroughly and occasionally with eloquence, but perhaps have not clearly gotten across the difference between someone you would accept as poly though perhaps a practitioner of a strain of poly that wouldn't suit you, and someone who, as in post 217, you would say isn't poly at all. Can you flesh this out into a viable distinction? I think it could be useful.
Posted by vennominon on December 8, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
224
@178: Okay. I was once again trying---unsuccessfully---to be funny.
I'll try again next week. Happy holidays, everybody!
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 8, 2012 at 9:54 PM · Report this
225
Urgh, this is the worst Savage Love column EVER and I have read them all! It's basically just like reading the comments from the past few columns. I'm poly too and I still can't stand reading this whiny garbage. GET OVER YOURSELVES ALREADY.
Posted by jack chandelier on December 8, 2012 at 11:35 PM · Report this
226
Ugh. Everyone wants to be a victim. You're born with the gay. Poly is a lifestyle choice. There is nothing wrong with either.
Every human being on the planet, with few exceptions, likes to fuck and to fall in love. You are not the exception.
Is it liberating to feel butt-hurt?
Posted by LMNOP on December 9, 2012 at 12:28 AM · Report this
227
your sexual identity should really only matter to the people that hope to have sex with you--not the government, not your priest (one hopes), not your youth organization, and especially not your employer, (but
whether you can control impulses may be of concern).

let the first person come forward to throw a stone be the one who has only ever (romantically) loved a single person for their entire life. otherwise, dating or divorcing or "serial monogamy" are simply other forms of polyamory without the overlapping timeframe(s).

polyamory is not an "excuse to cheat"; it should be the opposite of cheating: honest and open communication about your desires. neither does polyamory preclude commitment. one can commit to many people. of course, that does not imply that it will be easy or conflict free, but then, monogamy is no different there.

somebody pointed out that nobody complains about loving multiple children that you have birthed--and society implies that love should be equal, but it isn't always.

i agree with hyacinth that you can call someone your "primary" like calling one friend your "best friend",
but that does not mean your love for any or all of your friends should or can be quantified or qualified.

it should really only matter to you (or your lovers or friends) what your priorities are. one main point of polyamory is that "love is not a scarce resource". however, time and energy are usually scarce, so conflicts are probably inevitable in any relationship, regardless of the number of people involved.

as far as marriage goes, i think it's a religious concept and should be completely separate from legal concerns. (in other words: ban all marriages under the separation of church and state idea.) if people want to enter into legal contracts for property or child-raising activities, that can be done without a religious ceremony, (which even a marriage at the local district magistrate, in pennsylvania at least, qualifies as, since a deity happens to be mentioned).

also, please stop whining about how boring this stuff is while simultaneously expanding its # of comments.
More...
Posted by Anonymous Musings on December 9, 2012 at 1:35 AM · Report this
228
your sexual identity should really only matter to the people that hope to have sex with you--not the government, not your priest (one hopes), not your youth organization, and especially not your employer, (but whether you can control impulses may be of concern).

let the first person come forward to throw a stone be the one who has only ever (romantically) loved a single person for their entire life. otherwise, dating or divorcing or "serial monogamy" are simply other forms of polyamory without the overlapping timeframe(s).

polyamory is not an "excuse to cheat"; it should be the opposite of cheating: honest and open communication about your desires. neither does polyamory preclude commitment. one can commit to many people. of course, that does not imply that it will be easy or conflict-free, but then, monogamy is no different there.

somebody pointed out that nobody complains about loving multiple children that you have birthed--and society implies that love should be equal, but it isn't always.

i agree with hyacinth that you can call someone your "primary" like calling one friend your "best friend", but that does not mean your love for any or all of your friends should or can be quantified or qualified.

it should really only matter to you (or your lovers or friends) what your priorities are. one main point of polyamory is that "love is not a scarce resource". however, time, energy and money are usually scarce, so conflicts are probably inevitable in any relationship, regardless of the number of people involved.

as far as marriage goes, i think it's a religious concept and should be completely separate from legal concerns. (in other words: ban all marriages under the separation of church and state idea.) if people want to enter into legal contracts for financial, child-raising, or social activities, that can be done without a religious ceremony, (which even a marriage at the local district magistrate, in pennsylvania at least, qualifies as, since a deity happens to be mentioned).

also, please stop whining about how boring this stuff is while simultaneously expanding its # of comments.
More...
Posted by Anonymous Musings on December 9, 2012 at 1:54 AM · Report this
229
grrr...double postings due to webpage timeouts suck. please ignore #227.
Posted by Anonymous Musings on December 9, 2012 at 1:57 AM · Report this
230
Anas,

I agree that historic marriages more clearly defined property and power relationships, but what lets call 20th c marriage established the idea of an equal union. Prenups take us backwards. The rich, like Donald Trump, can have their budget serial marriages. He's too cheap for a harem.
Posted by Hunter78 on December 9, 2012 at 4:49 AM · Report this
231
All of this is a sad commentary on the the condition of people in society today. The scales have tipped and the Godless have taken over the asylum. What makes it worse is that the Godless have become the new majority. To make something that is wrong become right all you have to do is get enough people doing it and walla another one bites the dust. Who needs God anyway right? We are better, smarter and everything can be explained through science. Who needs to believe we all have a soul and heaven is a real place and don't get me started on Hell. Who cares about some old book that instructs us to keep sex for marriage and between a man and a woman. It's just a sign of weakness to believe in a God who cares so much that he sent his Son to pay the price for us. Yes, I get it now the price is too great to believe in something so silly. What, it doesn't cost anything to have eternity? It's just a choice away?
Posted by Wisteria on December 9, 2012 at 5:20 AM · Report this
232
Wist,

You are already part of eternity, regardless your belief.
Posted by Hunter78 on December 9, 2012 at 6:56 AM · Report this
233
Poly-degenerates.
Posted by glezzery on December 9, 2012 at 10:33 AM · Report this
234
@ 176 - vennominon - actually, there is a real downside in that respect. i tend to not realise that closeted folks are closeted, either. i just see / relate to them as queer. can make for awkward.

@ 183 - migrationist - yes, i think that poly requires great discipline. the good of the whole, rather than just your own interests. and relationships tend to be conducted with the long view, even if it's a temporary arrangement... i know that round here, when there is a drama, the whole community is affected - by which i mean, you can hear about it at the school gates, or down at the cafe. so keeping things functional / civilised is in the vested interest of all.

i seriously challenge the 'impulse-control' concept. a few people have stated that it's about the 'new relationship smell', or a wandering eye. but my observation is that poly folks - whatever shape that is to them - very rarely do spur-of-the-moment affairs. even if you have a totally free reign, most people will check in with their other people before doing anything.
i personally do relationship first, sex later.... there's a standing joke, that i have a stand-down period of ten years. honestly, it's not that bad. i just don't like new people... at all.
Posted by sappho on December 9, 2012 at 12:06 PM · Report this
235
@186: of course, defend the rights of polygamists. I didn't say you shouldn't, I'm saying you should do so on honest grounds (e.g. referring to the merits of polygamy, not by drawing false equivalence between polygamy and gay marriage). Nice straw man though!
Posted by wxPDX on December 9, 2012 at 6:19 PM · Report this
236
These poly people are full of shit. How can poly be an "orientation" when you can be straight, hetero or bi AND poly at the same time ? Straight AND gay ? Nope... Bi AND gay ? Nope... BULLSHIT. You crazy Mormons get crazier all the time; and all of this whining and veiled accusations of being marginalized by not being allowed under the "orientation" (which you obviously aren't according to the definition of the word anyways) umbrella is ridiculous. LBGT covers it, go fall in love or whatever with many people and take off.
Posted by Original xam on December 9, 2012 at 8:38 PM · Report this
Nick Schneider 237
Whole buncha people being nailed to imaginary crosses.
Posted by Nick Schneider on December 9, 2012 at 8:51 PM · Report this
238
I agree with you. People are stupid. Poly or mono is a relationship designation. It is independent and separate from sexual orientation.

And, while I hate the word orientated, it actually is a word. I had the same reaction the first time I heard someone use it. LOL
Posted by Horseshit on December 9, 2012 at 8:54 PM · Report this
239
Dan, I think one very important thing that this discussion underscores and that all of your sagacious advice has convinced me is this: sexual preference - whom, how many, how often, doing what, where, etc - exists in an n-dimensional space. The point, line or subspace in which one's sexual preference lies might be considered someone's sexual "niche", if you will. Someone's sexual niche is determined by a uniquely individual suite of innate and environmental factors as well as that person's choices. No sexual niche is wrong, merely a different sexual niche than another person. Therefore, whenever someone wants advice, I think it is important to keep in mind what that person's sexual niche is and tailor your advice to his/her/their sexual niche. I also believe, however, that it is important for the advice seeker to understand the situation in the context of his/her/their partner(s)' sexual niche. 99.9% of the time, Dan, I think you do an excellent job of this. I really appreciate your honesty and openness in your column and your general respect for all sexual niches in niche-space. Your advice has certainly made me more perceptive of my partner's sexual niche, more in touch with my own sexuality and more committed to building a healthy and enjoyable sexual and emotional experience for both my partner and me. So while you may have gotten lambasted this week, I think overall you show deference for everyone's sexual niche and provide the best sex advice out there. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude for what your advice has done to enhance my sex life and my relationships.
Posted by Mahonia_aquafolium on December 10, 2012 at 12:52 AM · Report this
240
Dan, I think the whole problem stems from a view that sexual orientation is "better", more "intimate", than sexual identification. People want their sexual personas to be "deeply them", so they will choose the words that describe them as more deeply intertwined with their inner selves. And I can accept that--it feels in the end truer to me than the distinctino you're trying to make (more on this below). I end up agreeing with Mahonia_aquafolium above.

Your distinction is between "who you can love" and "how you love". But consider how the "who you can love" parameter doesn't really seem more important or fundamental than the "how you can love" parameter. After all, we all have sexual preferences -- brunettes vs. blondes, bears vs. twinks, whites vs. blacks... If I say I just cannot feel any lust for, say, Black women, does that mean that "white-only" is my sexual orientation? If I can't lust after women who are too skinny (like fashion models -- sigh!...), is this also part of my sexual orientation? And what about women who look like my grandmother?

In other words, "sexual orientation" shades gradually into "sexual preference" when you look at phenotypes (physical types). Wouldn't you agree?

As for BDSM or poly being "how you love", well... many an action or activity is better defined by "how" you do it than by "what object" you do it to. You can dance with a guy, a gal, a child, or by yourself -- and it's all dancing, because of how you do it. What makes sex different?

I think, deep inside, the classification you propose, Dan, is really about "what you can change" and "what you can't change". You've famously said you couldn't lust after a woman (that one butch lesbian you once mentioned excluded) even if you wanted to; so it's your sexual orientation, something you can do nothing about, just like heterosexuals can do nothing about theirs. Whereas things like BDSM or poly, at least to those who don't "live" them, look like preferences that could presumably change throughout life.

And I'm willing to bet there are people for whome these are preferences that will change, just as there are bi-curious people who may "experiment with gayness" and then decide it isn't strong enough in them to warrant a lifestyle change. I'm even willing to say there are more such people-whose-preferences-will-evolve in areas like BDSM and poly than there are among the bi-curious.

But still--once something sets in so much that, for all intents and purposes, you feel that you simply no longer have any power to change it -- at that stage, what is the difference?

In conclusion: "how" and "who" are not hierarchical with respect to each other, and they are often intertwined in ways that defy clear-cut classifications. Which means that the differentiation between "sexual orientation" and "sexual identification" is a matter of degree, in the end a case-by-case classification (with some cases much more frequent, granted, but still).

Or perhaps we should change the terms? Not distinguish "orientation" from "identification", but, say, "strong identification" from "weak identification" (leaving all the intermediate slots open for those who want them)?
More...
Posted by ankylosaur on December 10, 2012 at 2:24 AM · Report this
241
@231 -- it's not a sign of weakness per se, just like believing in Santa Claus is not a sign of weakness. It's just incorrect. That's a different thing.

I understand you don't like people trying to discuss happiness, what it means, and how to achieve it. So be it. But rest assured that your god, if he existed, would disagree with you. The Jesus you like so much would disagree with you. He was, you know, the welcoming type -- going around with prostitutes and stuff -- and always thought that people and their souls mattered more than mere sexual questions.

If the gates of paradise are closed to those who can't have sex the way you want them to, are they really the gates of paradise -- or are they the gates of another place?...
Posted by ankylosaur on December 10, 2012 at 2:32 AM · Report this
242
@221(mydriasis), I tend to agree on the topic of children's false self-esteem (though I would be less quick on the "wouldn't kill themselves when bullied" -- it's true, but it seems to imply a certain blame-the-victim attitude that I'm sure you didn't want to imply).

From what I can see, the problem is a lot of child-raising these days is based on some sort of feeling of guilt, with tenous but threatening "future consequences" in terms of likeability, group acceptability etc. if you don't do what is expected. Without other things ("values", "right and wrong", etc.) to get support from when one happens to be different from the others, these vague threats become too overwhelmingly important --hence the children cutting themselves because of an A-. Or getting the exaggerated but superficial self-esteem of little brats who think the world revolves around them -- but will collapse at any sight of this not being the case. (South Park's Cartman comes to mind.)

To love yourself, you should to enjoy spending time with yourself--no matter who, or in what situation, you are.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 10, 2012 at 2:46 AM · Report this
sissoucat 243
@239 Mahonia-aquafolium : Exactly.

Dan, you rock.
Posted by sissoucat on December 10, 2012 at 5:29 AM · Report this
244
@ 212: Sissoucat: Thanks for the shout-out applauding a line of mine you quoted. Thanks. Much appreciated!

I wonder though, about what fuels the polyamorous side of people. Is it indeed chasing that first flush of new love (i.e. "a fresh piece of strange") or is it really an accepted desire that no one person would be enough?

I doubt it's all quite that simple, but I guess I get it. I've been very, *very* fortunate in that who I've been in love with (for over seventeen_years :-) !) still gives me butterflies in my gut, a smile on my face and yet we share a history that I would never forsake for any outside thing. It's so difficult to find anyone you genuinely click with. I never thought I would still be in love this much for this long, but I am :-) ! I'm very lucky, blessed and fortunate. I wouldn't wanna start over having anyone getting to know me as well (and with as much detail:)) as my man does and has for a long time now.

I tell him this all of the time: 1 of You is 10,000,000 of anyone else (Very True :-) .) .

That's enough polyamory for me!

:-)
Posted by kserasera on December 10, 2012 at 7:38 AM · Report this
245
@ 242: anklyosaur, to kindly quote you:

"To love yourself, you should to enjoy spending time with yourself--no matter who, or in what situation, you are."

Well said! Exactly! It's so easy to get lost in the shuffle with day-to-day hectic activity. Sometimes you can't distinguish between what is other people's vibes and what is yours.. I'm a big advocate of setting aside daily time to meditate. But then, an excess of noisy environs jars my nerves sometimes.

I'm with you ankylosaur about appreciating and learning to enjoy spending time with yourself. Only You know how you are, and what you would like to attain in this life. No one can show you the way towards that other than yourself.. That, and it's awesome to establish discipline in taking time for yourself to check in with how you're doing. It's crucial, actually. That, and it gives you that much more of a boost to your nervous system, too. Besides: what good is anyone to anyone else if you aren't good (and kind) to yourself first?

All of the answers are there inside any one of us. It's just the matter of stopping all of the external stimuli long enough to check in and spot where those answers are :-) . Cheers, Everyone. Happy Holidays 2012.

:-)
Posted by kserasera on December 10, 2012 at 7:50 AM · Report this
246
@245(kserasera), thanks for your kind words. (And sorry for the grammar mistake in the sentence you quoted from my post...)

And yet I am fascinated by others, and the ways in which they differ from me. I suppose there is a balance to be found between accepting yourself and being welcoming to others (and their quirks), and finding it -- so that you're not unfair, neither to yourself nor to others -- is one of life's many growth routes leading to enlightenment (if that's the word you like for the kind of thing this leads us to).

Happy holidays to all here. All in all, you're an interesting bunch.

And now it's time to take the cat to the vet.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 10, 2012 at 8:59 AM · Report this
247
There are monogamous and non-monagamous people. This polyamory stuff is pure BS. Jebus, it's not even an actual word.
Posted by Lojasmo on December 10, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
248
Good luck with your cat, ankly! I have two myself. Cats rock!

:-)

Don't sweat the grammar thing. It's Monday ;-) .

Cheers & Happy Holidays, Everyone :-) .
Posted by kserasera on December 10, 2012 at 9:55 AM · Report this
AFinch 249
I wonder though, about what fuels the polyamorous side of people. Is it indeed chasing that first flush of new love (i.e. "a fresh piece of strange") or is it really an accepted desire that no one person would be enough?

Hard to say for sure, but I think it is more along the "no one person will be enough". All the poly people - serious self-identified not under-the-table CPOSes - I've met were very planful about it and bordered on the over-communication side. They'd all arrived at the point where they just could say to themselves and others that they could not be happy with just one person, or in a particular pairing. In some cases, it was because the marriage wasn't working, or in others because they recognized they just wanted and needed that new fresh feeling and excitement.

The former cases (marriage wasn't working) that I knew of involved couples where for some reason (change of orientation, physical illness, total loss of drive/interest) one of the pair just would not meeth the needs of the latter and set them loose. The other, much larger group, was the latter.

Where does the latter come from? Some people just crave that fresh excitement - love junkies of a sort - and others wanted physical variety. They were solid enough in their primary relationships (or not! and had become officially single before pursuing poly) to allow for this. It was like swinger 'dating' instead of just sex. The desire in a lot of cases was for the new relationship excitement and when a secondary person got to be 'old' they tended to be discarded or exchanged for a new secondary (new excitement) while the primary folks remained constant throughout.

I have to say: there was a lot of drama and I saw more than a few pairings explode or dissolve under the stress of trying to take care of everyone's feelings. I think the stress and drama increase as a function of the exponential power of the number of partners involved. There were clearly cases of mis-matches - a primary partner who wanted lots of poly partners, and the other primary who didn't want any.
More...
Posted by AFinch on December 10, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Report this
250
@246 anklosaur: Hey! Happy holidays--and all the best to you, your family, and your cat. Mine lived to 17 years and 8 months; I had to put him down due to old age. I agree with you and kserasera--cats rock!

Cheers,
Auntie Grizelda

Cheers and Happy holidays, 2013 & beyond!

:-)
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 10, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
251
@250(grizelda), hi! nice to see you here. Just back from the vet, where the cat (Main Coon, 3 1/2 months old, "official" name Cleopatra, "real" name kitty-kitty) got her second vaccination shots. The vet says we should de-worm her again (in case this is how you say it in English) just to be on the safe side. If my wife agrees, then perhaps we'll be doing that.

Cheers, merry Mayan end of the world to everybody, and a meow to the happy few! :-)
Posted by ankylosaur on December 10, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
252
@ 249, AFinch, thanks for the cited quote!

A touche' of my own, to quote you:

"I think the stress and drama increase as a function of the exponential power of the number of partners involved."

That's another reason why I would never be a natural for being poly: the more people that are involved, the more drama you will have, no matter how even-keeled anyone is. Some people get off on that kind of near-frantic activity, enjoying multiple relationships and stuff. Some people love being at the center of the action..

I just don't get it, but I respect anyone's choice to do what they wanna do. I love having one great thing and putting my best energies and time into that. I seriously lucked out in life to have found who I did. So much so that I honestly wouldn't jeopardize what we share for anything, or, anyone else in the world. The trippy thing is still being this happy and into him and it's been seventeen years.. I wouldn't trade that time in my life for anyone or any piece of strange. There's such a brilliant, almost in-jokey sort of rapport and chemistry. We're very close, and it would kill me to do anything to harm him, or what we've built together.

I used to think I was commitment-shy until I found love... So, it makes me wonder: is some polyamorous behavior due to an aversion to not wanting to face other troubling issues in one's life, or is it just not that complicated at all and that some people just need a few extra side-orders of tail?

Not that I know anything, but somehow I think it might be a combination of both: perhaps some troubling issues burbling underneath the more outward stance of being poly by choice..

More power to any of you polyamorous peeps, but how do you do it? How do you start over with someone else and bring them up to speed about who you are, what you like, etc.? It just sounds so exhausting, all of that activity..

I'm lucky, 'cos who I'm with is still delightful to be around and he keeps me on my toes, *yet* there's a very solid bond and a lot of love that keeps us around one another. I'd be the biggest ass on the planet if I threw that aside for anything, or, anyone else.

I never used to be able to seriously concentrate or focus on one person until I fell truly in love: seventeen++years ago.

:-)

@ 250, Auntie Grizelda: I wish my cat lived to be 17+. Mine too had to be put down at age 13 'cos of kidney trouble. Man, was that one devastating, exhausting day the day he was put down.. I was in the room the whole time: petting him throughout the whole process, providing as much comfort and solace as I could..

It was so sad not having a cat after that that I wound up adopting two cats that grew up together about 10 days after I had to put my cat down to sleep.

I feel bad for anyone who doesn't know, experience or appreciate the love of a cat.

Indeed: Happy Holidays To Everyone! I can't top what you wrote Auntie G., so I'll leave it as your word being the gospel!

:-)
More...
Posted by kserasera on December 10, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
253
@251 anklosaur: Happy holidays! I'm glad to hear that all appears well with Cleopatra. So she's a Maine Coon? Lovely! All the best your way. Three years later, I still miss Jay. He was a Turkish Van, and Master of the House (Captain of the Imperial Guard), but a lover, not a fighter. My home continues to reign as "Jay Turf".

Cheers and all the best and merry Mayan end of the world, and lots of meows!! :-)
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 10, 2012 at 1:35 PM · Report this
254
When, I saw Dan's statement I was like "wow, that's so off, I don't need to write in... He's nuked"
.
Glad to see I was right.
.
I've known some folks (like the one husband mentioned) that are mono - strong sex drive, just not interested in multi.

I've known others that pretty much screwed whatever came by. I tend to call them swingers (sorry if I stepped on your label).. Think glory holes.

But, polys are the ones that want to love (or at least get to know) their partners. With honesty.

Re the folks who think polly = horny. I know a polly marriage (polly fidelity group) where I don't think they have any more sex than most later middle aged folks. It's about fixing the kitchen light & why is that dog throwing up - not nightly (or weekly) orgies. I've been around these folks enough to be pretty sure: It's for family not for sex.

Yea, they wake up next to more than one person. Then they get ready and go to work while finding a Hello Kitty backpack and trying to get cereal out of their briefcase. Just like Mr. & Mrs. Vanilla down the street.

As to the labels vs identity thing: I think the letter above hit it "...polyamorous innately. I feel I am wired to be like this. I didn't choose it..." sound familiar? So I go with "identity".

That being said, it's all BS: There is no such thing as "gay" "straight" "polly" etc. It's all words. Dan Savage is Dan Savage, Sue Smith is Sue Smith. You may be / act / choose some set of things that earns the (human contrived) labels we find so significant. But whether by choice or a bump on the head next week you can be / act / choose some other set that will get you a whole new label. The label is not the object.

It's like that chunk of material out in space we call Pluto. It isn't any different because ape mouth noises changed from planet to dwarf planet. We may treat it different, we may treat each other different because of labels... But, it and we are not the labels.

More...
Posted by Ijustwanaleaveacommentusillygits on December 10, 2012 at 2:56 PM · Report this
255
When, I saw Dan's statement I was like "wow, that's so off, I don't need to write in... He's nuked"
.
Glad to see I was right.
.
I've known some folks (like the one husband mentioned) that are mono - strong sex drive, just not interested in multi.

I've known others that pretty much screwed whatever came by. I tend to call them swingers (sorry if I stepped on your label).. Think glory holes.

But, polys are the ones that want to love (or at least get to know) their partners. With honesty.

Re the folks who think polly = horny. I know a polly marriage (polly fidelity group) where I don't think they have any more sex than most later middle aged folks. It's about fixing the kitchen light & why is that dog throwing up - not nightly (or weekly) orgies. I've been around these folks enough to be pretty sure: It's for family not for sex.

Yea, they wake up next to more than one person. Then they get ready and go to work while finding a Hello Kitty backpack and trying to get cereal out of their briefcase. Just like Mr. & Mrs. Vanilla down the street.

As to the labels vs identity thing: I think the letter above hit it "...polyamorous innately. I feel I am wired to be like this. I didn't choose it..." sound familiar? So I go with "identity".

That being said, it's all BS: There is no such thing as "gay" "straight" "polly" etc. It's all words. Dan Savage is Dan Savage, Sue Smith is Sue Smith. You may be / act / choose some set of things that earns the (human contrived) labels we find so significant. But whether by choice or a bump on the head next week you can be / act / choose some other set that will get you a whole new label. The label is not the object.

It's like that chunk of material out in space we call Pluto. It isn't any different because ape mouth noises changed from planet to dwarf planet. We may treat it different, we may treat each other different because of labels... But, it and we are not the labels.

More...
Posted by Ijustwanaleaveacommentusillygitsnotnukes on December 10, 2012 at 3:10 PM · Report this
AFinch 256
@252 - I agree, there are some people who just thrive on that extra...energy. Drama is a little pejorative and while there were some people like that, I want to add: there were some very cool, very laid back people who were not drama queens. Almost all these folks were opting for an approach - not CPOS - of being honest with themselves and their partners and being very up front so that nobody took an uninformed risk. Of course, being informed doesn't eliminate the risk. I never got actually involved with anyone - a few friendly dates, but nothing that progressed to the physical - and left with a lot of nice friends. I think that is quite common: you just wind up making a lot of good friends. I'm not down on the poly thing at all, it just wasn't my style and I admire the folks who make it work.
Posted by AFinch on December 10, 2012 at 5:40 PM · Report this
xjuan 257
Can I be gaystraight or bigay or heterogay? Nope. Can I be gay and polyamorous? Yes! How about bi and monogamous? Sure! We've read those letters too. So, my 5 cents go like this:

Poly or Mono refers to the relationship, specifically the number of people involved in it. However, gay/bi/straight/trans/et al refers to the individual's identity, his/her personal idea of being and the kinds of individuals he or she feels attracted to.

How many individuals at a time? One, two, many, who’s counting? That doesn’t change the preference.

I understand that the number can be so important and intrinsical to some people, that it can become part of how they see themselves, of their sexual identity. However, I still don’t see it as something we have to move from its corresponding side of the dictionary. The number is not part of the orientation, unlike the kinds of persons one feels attracted to.

I agree with you, Dan.
Posted by xjuan on December 10, 2012 at 5:58 PM · Report this
xjuan 258
Can I be gaystraight or bigay or heterogay? Nope. Can I be gay and polyamorous? Yes! How about bi and monogamous? Sure! We've read those letters too. So, my 5 cents go like this:

Poly or Mono refers to the relationship, specifically the number of people involved in it. However, gay/bi/straight/trans/et al refers to the individual's identity, his/her personal idea of being and the kinds of individuals he or she feels attracted to.

How many individuals at a time? One, two, many, who’s counting? That doesn’t change the preference.

I understand that the number can be so important and intrinsical to some people, that it can become part of how they see themselves, of their sexual identity. However, I still don’t see it as something we have to move from its corresponding side of the dictionary. The number is not part of the orientation, unlike the kinds of persons one feels attracted to.

I agree with you, Dan.
Posted by xjuan on December 10, 2012 at 6:02 PM · Report this
xjuan 259
Sorry sorry for for the the double double posting posting..
Posted by xjuan on December 10, 2012 at 6:07 PM · Report this
260
RE #259 double posting: This site is like riding a unicycle in the grand canyon: Painful, difficult, and unnecessary ... Maybe it's my browser but it was waaay harder than it should be to just post.
Posted by Ijustwanaleaveacommentusillygits on December 10, 2012 at 6:39 PM · Report this
sissoucat 261
@kserasera - you're welcome.

To actual polys : how do you check that an unknown, presenting himself as poly, married guy is not a mono cheating on his wife ? It's a practical question I've asked before, and I've not had definite answers.

-- triggering --

@ankylosaur - so, does your renewed presence here mean that you have changed your mind on "sex being ethical between a child and an adult, as long as another adult is supervising" - aka advocacing pedophily ?

Other readers, sorry for this vomit-inducing reminder. Survivor of incest duty, kind of thing.
Posted by sissoucat on December 11, 2012 at 7:12 AM · Report this
AFinch 262
@261: you ask to meet their spouse/partner. I was single when I started meeting poly people - I met a poly woman on OKC who had a link to her husband's OKC profile...they were both right up front. We had a wild and crazy coffee date where I confessed to being a newb.

She invited me to and introduced me to a larger poly group in our area. It was super-duper sketchy: everyone had to arrange child care and brought hot-dish to the pot-luck! There I met her husband and her serious boyfriend.

I'm not saying everyone does it this way, but people who are being ethical are transparent and honest about it - even if they don't have a public dating profile, will be comfortable with you talking to spouse/partner - at least to confirm that they have permission to play. If someone won't do that for you, then just walk away.
Posted by AFinch on December 11, 2012 at 9:16 AM · Report this
263

I prefer monogamy, but it's possible I could be happy with polyamory too. However, there are some people who just can't be happy in a non-monogamous relationship, and there are some people who just can't be happy in a monogamous one. And many of those people are hard-wired to be the way they are.

That's not a sexual orientation, it's a relationship orientation.
***
Some bisexuals don't have a strong desire to be with someone of a particular sex--they can be happy with either. But some bisexuals (I think a minority) actually do have a strong desire to be with a person of EACH gender that they are attracted to. And that's fine too!
***
How do you know that someone presenting themselves as poly is not actually a cheating mono person? You say you want to talk to their other partner(s) before things go anywhere. Of course, a cheater could get people to lie for them, but this is true regardless of mono or poly.
Posted by LilaJ on December 11, 2012 at 9:41 AM · Report this
264
I prefer monogamy, but it's possible I could be happy with polyamory too. However, there are some people who just can't be happy in a non-monogamous relationship, and there are some people who just can't be happy in a monogamous one. And many of those people are hard-wired to be the way they are.

That's not a sexual orientation, it's a relationship orientation.
***
Some bisexuals don't have a strong desire to be with someone of a particular sex--they can be happy with either. But some bisexuals (I think a minority) actually do have a strong desire to be with a person of EACH gender that they are attracted to. And that's fine too!
***
How do you know that someone presenting themselves as poly is not actually a cheating mono person? You say you want to talk to their other partner(s) before things go anywhere. Of course, a cheater could get people to lie for them, but this is true regardless of mono or poly.
Posted by LilaJ on December 11, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
265
@ 265, Lilaj: To quote you:

"How do you know that someone presenting themselves as poly is not actually a cheating mono person?"

Good point. How does anyone really know it's just not fluffed-up b.s. dressed in nice clothing?

I can see your point, Lilaj: who's to say someone isn't using the poly rap to try to get in other people's pants dishonorably, but justifying it with an 'ism' attached to it?

I guess you can tell when someone can't tie themselves down to one particular person. You can spot those types easily. I dunno. I'm kinda burnt out on all the isms, buzzwords, catchphrases, yaddayaddayadda.

Pick a set of genitals and work with that. Don't be greedy ;) lol!

@ 261, sissoucat: Thanks :-) . And to Everyone, Peace & Happy Christmas, as John Lennon would say :-) .
Posted by kserasera on December 11, 2012 at 11:43 AM · Report this
266
So the general comments seem to be variants of the following themes.

"I'm not that, so this isn't important. Let's move on."

"I've never met any (that came out to me about their initiate lifestyle), so it isn't important. Let's move on."

"Quibbling over terminology, like we are actual experts on sexuality and entomology and human evolution. Now I'm bored. Let's move on."

"How dare those assholes say they are hard-wired for something and can't have a proper relationship without it! We all manage."

"It doesn't make any difference whether they have this identity or not. It only negatively affects their lives and families because they are pervs.."

"I can't imagine how that would work equitably and without harm. Therefore, it can't and must not be a good idea."

"I want to marry (an object, an animal, an idea.) Therefore, that's my sexual identity. I'm dismissing the entire idea with my unique cleverness. Let's move on."

You'll all notice, I trust, that each and every one of those arguments has been used to discredit the LBGT communities insistence on recognizing and legitimizing their sexual identities. And I say identities for a reason, because orientation doesn't apply to trans, which IS included. Those who self-identified as TS or TV are not required to be attracted to any gender in particular. It is entirely their *sexual identity* that is supported by the community.

The reason you are all getting so angry, or pretending to be bored in an attempt to suppress, even though you bothered to write in about it, is because you know that poly is a sexual identity. The letters prove it; the responses prove it. The same tired and invalid arguments are used against it, the same impotent and irrational anger at a lifestyle the posters claim not to even share but still need to be upset about, all the while knowing that other identifies are included in the Community that have nothing to do with whom one is attracted to.

Those of you who are in fact poly and felt forced into the mono culture around us have alot of anger, and much invested in the status quo. Like many of the homos in the last century, you need to lash out against those who are freely expressing that sexuality and rocking the boat in a way that you are jealous of and feel you can't have. And get them to shut the hel up and stop sticking it in your face. And why should they have any fun if you can't? Need proof? How about this theme running through the comments?

"Men need other partners, but we've been forced to accept only one in our society, so suck it up, buttercups. Let's move on."

Poly is an identity. We form communities, we raise our children, and we sometimes have to fight to keep all those. Yes, it's about relationships *and* sex and family, same as an orientation. Like LBGT orientations and trans-identities, or intersexed, we will be recognized, because it is justified, and our lives depend on it. We will do it all by ourselves if we have to, with or without your help, but we would prefer to have it. If we can't count on you, at least don't be piss on us like the rest of this culture. You, like them, will be on the wrong side of history.
More...
Posted by Treasach on December 11, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
sanguisuga 267
@266 - I don't think anyone has disagreed that poly is a sexual *identity*. They've disagreed that it's an *orientation*. So your well-rationed argument is for naught. I do agree with one thing. Let's move on, ffs.
Posted by sanguisuga on December 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
268
@267
Dan himself said that poly is not an identity. This is a direct quote from his response to the original letter writer (emphasis added):

"You are not "a poly."

POLY IS NOT A SEXUAL IDENTITY, PP, it's not a sexual orientation. It's not something you are, it's something you do. There's no such thing as a person who is "a poly," just as there's no such thing as a person who is "a monogamous." Polyamorous and monogamous are adjectives, not nouns. There are only people—gay, straight, bi—and some people are in monogamous relationships, some are in open relationships, some are in polyamorous relationships, some are in monogamish relationships, some are in four-star-general relationships. These are relationship models, PP, not sexual identities."
Posted by EmilyTwist on December 11, 2012 at 1:08 PM · Report this
269
"so suck it up, buttercups. Let's move on." @ 266

Man, does that sound like someone I know well ;-)!

Posted by kserasera on December 11, 2012 at 1:31 PM · Report this
270
@266: " Men need other partners, so suck it up, buttercups. Let's move on."
Thank you for providing one more reason why I'm so happily single, and have long since moved on.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 11, 2012 at 6:55 PM · Report this
271
@ Treasach Well said!

@252 It's not exhausting at all if you a.) Know yourself well and b.) Take time to get to know someone a little bit before sex clouds the issue. When I met my last lover, we dated for almost two months before consummating things. I dated a whole bunch of guys at that time without getting groiny with any of them. The one that I chose emerged as the clear winner. So far, over a year in, I'm realizing that I chose well.

In my humble opinion, the key things about being successfully poly are pretty much the same things that it takes to be successfully human:

Keep an open heart, act with compassion, and look out for those around you. Own it when you fuck up. And most of all -- KNOW THYSELF. Know and accept that you WILL get hurt. When that happens, don't seek revenge. Move on after grieving for an appropriate time.

Be secure in yourself. Work on those areas where you have insecurities. Ask for what you need. Really listen to others. Treat metamours (the other lovers of your lover) with warmth and compassion. Don't be a sneaky fuck. Be proactive about sexual health and honest about any issues that arise. Remember to develop interests outside the love-life.

Don't fear being alone sometimes.

Being whole-heartedly poly, like being whole-heartedly monogamous (or actually being whole-heartedly anyplace in between) is a great opportunity for personal growth. No matter if we chose this or didn't choose it (I obviously come down for me on the "didn't choose it" side), the key thing is to live our lives according to our own deepest inner truth(s), as long as we aren't hurting anyone else.
Posted by quinkygirl on December 12, 2012 at 10:05 AM · Report this
272
PS - I in no way meant to imply that ^^ is the ONLY way that poly can work without drama. For me, this is what works best. Hands down, even. :)
Posted by quinkygirl on December 12, 2012 at 12:33 PM · Report this
273
I think being poly is a sexual preference or identity but whether or not it is innate and something a person has no control over is where I disagree with the polys about their need to identify it as such. People are born gay straight or bisexual. nobody is born with some innate need to be in three four or even 34 person relationship. It is a want. They have every right to have it but there nothing biologically that would indicate it's an actual scientific fact of need. Maybe one in 25 million people could possible be hard wired that way from birth but I'm guess a lot of people identify because of choice and/or psychological factors. I honestly don't know why everybody wants to be added to the sexual orientation spectrum when their romantic choices are not sexual orientation.
Posted by Becker on December 12, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
274
To be successfully poly is more than an identity, it's an achievement... as is being successfully monogamous. It's a hell of a lot easier to be out as monogamous. It's even easier to be a self loathing, liar, than to be out, under most circumstances as poly; I'd fear of loosing my un-tenured position, if I brought two significants to the next faculty Christmas Party.
Posted by dinana on December 12, 2012 at 6:01 PM · Report this
275
This is STILL going on?
Poly-sigh.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 15, 2012 at 6:56 PM · Report this
276
I don't think you can compare being poly to being gay. A gay man cannot choose to be straight and make it stick, but poly people can and do go mono, especially as they get older and the effort required to sustain multiple relationships gets harder to keep up.

Poly people, of course, encounter plenty of bigotry and I understand why they want to compare themselves to gays in order to piggyback on the acceptance that the gay movement has achieved. But that doesn't make them identical, and it's not bigoted to point that out. Poly people aren't hurting anybody, and we should promote tolerance. But I don't think we should have to declarify the meaning of "orientation" to make that happen.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on April 30, 2013 at 7:19 AM · Report this
Dirtclustit 277
I love your sense of humor Dan, but offending a small group of young republicans who break the 100K per year barrier to present themselves as thousands of people and not half a dozen tech savy, how do you say "poly" in french? Poly Veaux?

Frankly, six guys and their girlfriends who get paid to pretend they are thousands online, to present the republican party online as a young, hip, opened minded majority of twenty and thirty somethings doesn't equal a hornets nest.

sex is sex, no matter what orientation you are, it doesn't matter if you are gay, straight or bi, it doesn't need to be written in your genes to finally claim your Constitutional Rights.

Thinking it does, is stuck in the 50s bigoted mind frame. And if Frankie understood how taking that position is a bigoted way to view the world, these arguments wouldn't take place. It's the way he thinks, he seems smart enough to understand what the definition of a bigot, but plays stupid, to be honest, I think it's paychecks from the right wing that influences what he posts. Everything that has to do with science, he uses references that are websites like "sciencedaily dot com, scientific american dot com, nature group dot com, all right wing magazines with the sole purpose of publishing bogus science results to make false political claims.

You should here what these idiots get from these tabloid science online rags, one site claimed that one nucleotide difference in a person's DNA can have drastic effects on that individuals sexual behavior, he is an idiot and doesn't understand science and sure as hell doesn't understand genetics. The same as fly ash being more dangerous and toxic than nuclear waste (oh he only said "more radioactive") it's just a bunch of semantics, a pseudo-grammarian that thinks he can tell any lie truthfully so long as the right words are chosen by the right word artist.

LOL more like right wing wingnut!

Keep speaking the truth Dan!

The world has come way to far to stop short of Truth, Freedom, Liberty and Justice for ALL!

Poly people whom it isn't their job to spread right wing propaganda will join the Equal Rights for ALL movement, because having equal rights is a good thing.

Bigots fear that homosexuals are after a piece of the over privileged pie that is theirs, and they will never understand why it's wrong to unjustly discriminate against anyone.

The ones who "awaken" and begin to understand the truth don't argue with and sling insults at you for speaking the truth.

They apologize with tears in eyes, and ask you what can they do to help. And they continue to help until at least the laws no longer sponsor bigotry.

You can't remove hatred from a man's heart

BUT YOU CAN SURE AS HELL REMOVE IT FROM UNITED STATES LAW

WE JUST NEED TO SAY IT LOUDER AND MORE OFTEN

It's not wrong for Poly People to claim non-monogamy is an orientation, it's wrong to step in NOW and sabotage the marriage equality movement and saying gee, did I do that?

Until we have online voting where we can get 90% voter turnout for all elections (possibly even 100%) Republicans can use scare tacits in attempt to derail LGBT rights that have been protected by the Constitution since day one. Those rights are being withheld, UNCONSTITUTIONALLY WITHHELD

No Poly or BDSM lifestyler who isn't a bigot wouldn't dare jeopardize all the work that's done because they realize that it doesn't fucking matter if your are genetically poly or genetically BDSM, the Constitution Protects your rights too. And Frankly making those claims is a little Dawkinsesk, Richard talks all kinds of shit that proves he doesn't understand the first thing about genetics, but that doesn't stop him from making a killing with seemingly logical books with theories based on fallacy

FUCK THAT SHIT

Carry ON DAN!

His Truth Will Carry On!

Can you here Johnny Cash singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic?

Don't quit, keep speaking, Liberty will prevail!
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Posted by Dirtclustit on June 4, 2013 at 4:09 AM · Report this

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