Savage Love

Poly Orientated


I agree with you that it's not a sexual identity like gay or straight.
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 :)
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 :)
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.
Orientate is a perfectly correct alternative to orient.…

VAG-inal is also a perfectly correct pronunciation, even though my preference is also for vaGINal.…
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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
Enough!!! Next week please leave this subject behind. The horse is dead, leave it the fuck alone.
Enough!!! Please leave this subject behind next week. The horse is dead, leave it the fuck alone.
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.
I'm with frogangel. Fresh topic please.
Tim@10, you've never known a man who didn't end up cheating? Or did you mean "1, 2 or 3"?
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?
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!!
This reminds me of the asexual parade. Somebody cook the polys a motherfucking brisket, already.

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.)
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.

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.
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.
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.
VAG-inal is the standard US pronunciation, as I suspect Tom Cat knows.
Never in my life have I heard someone say "va-GIN-al."
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.
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.
#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.
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.)
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.
I'm Australian and I too pronounce it VAG-inal, as does everyone I know. Never heard it pronounced va-GIN-al before.
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.
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...

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?
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.
@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.
To I Am Who I Am: it's 'spectra,' not 'spectrums.'
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.

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. 
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.
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.
ean nailed it. We done now.

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.)
@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:…

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.

@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."


(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.)
@Tim Horton

I forgot to mention that your last paragraph is indeed how I'm wired.
@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.
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.
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).
I don't know when I've been so bored w/a column.
[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."

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.
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.

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.
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
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.
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?

Polyamory is wrong.
It can be multi-amory, or poly-philia, but mixing Greek and Latin roots is intollerable.

It is either multiamory or polyphilia
but mixing Greek and Latin roots? WRONG!

Ha, I think I like you a lot.
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.

"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.

@ 65: That's a great read. I just finished it. Thanks. Best to you and to everyone in here, by the way.
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.
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).
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.
@62 - I applaud your stance, but do you refuse to watch television on etymological grounds?
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.
yawn :0
Ridiculous discussion. Why don't we save some time and say, 'Hey Everyone! Fuck Anything!" and get rid of the labels already?
@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.
Apparently Pholyamorous is long for Pedant.
@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.
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).
@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.)

That's awesome. I agree so much.
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
tl;dr yaaaaaawn

must everybody be in a persecuted minority these days?
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.
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?
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.
@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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
Ok, I was wrong: @62 FTW

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.
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.
"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?
Dan is right. 'Nuff said.

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.
@ 62 - Most grammarians would agree with you... failing in the process to notice the irony of bearing that title.
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?
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.

That certainly happens, but I haven't observed it to be the case the majority of the time.
@Hyacinth: Thanks.