Polyamoric Patterns

Commenter Tui posts some links to articles praising polyamory under my article on the same subject here, noting:

Once trans issues become passé, poly living will be the hot new fashion. Gotta keep the sexual revolution chugging along, after all.

Let’s take a look at the first article:

Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins and I have plans to meet her boyfriend for lunch…Her husband, Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, is out of town at a conference for the weekend

Before I traveled to meet her in Vancouver last June, she told me on the phone that most “mono” people misunderstand the challenges of polyamory — the practice of being openly involved romantically with more than one person at a time. “People ask, ‘Tell me about the downsides,’ ” Jenkins says. “They expect the answer to be that it’s so hard jealousy-wise. But the most common answer is timing and scheduling. I’m a fairly organized person, so I don’t find it super challenging.”

Okay, I’m seeing a pattern here. Every time I hear or read somebody explaining polyamory they stress that the main drawback is the logistical nightmare it represents in terms of scheduling, keeping everyone partnered-up, and presumably doing the laundry (although nobody ever mentions that). I have no doubt that this is true, that juggling multiple partners requires a lot of planning and organisation. But what I have noticed is this is usually thrust forward as the only drawback: issues such as jealousy, emotional stress, interpersonal conflicts, finances (who pays the rent?), communication, and adhering to the ground rules are rarely mentioned at all. Are we to believe these things – which exist aplenty in monogamous relationships – are not present and exacerbated in polyamorous ones? I’ve seen this gambit so many times that I am starting to believe it is thrown out there as a red herring: distract the readers with the “surprising” logistical problems and skirt around the rest.

“See,” says Jenkins, gesturing at the living room as she clips on Mezzo’s leash, “We’re a very boring and respectable couple!”

You see this a lot too: people in polyamorous relationships insist on telling everyone that their arrangement is perfectly normal and respectable. In my experience, such qualities in people do not need to be advertised and especially not by the individuals themselves.

Jenkins wrote about polyamory because she felt she had to: She and her husband were tired of living in the closet.

This is a common theme too: we live a normal, boring, respectable life but feel the need to go around with a megaphone telling everyone about it.

On the front porch are a swing and a coffee table with an ashtray on it. The ashtray is full, as if they have just had a party, or someone has been sitting out there, for a long time, thinking, while gazing into the street.

Or nobody has bothered doing any cleaning in a while.

Despite the personal clarity that she has gained on these points, socially the relationship has not been easy. Even in liberal settings, where people might not blink at the idea of a friend sleeping around or dating someone of the same gender, Jenkins says that “mononormativity” persists: The ruling assumption is that a person can be in love with only one other person at a time.

Hmmm. I’d like to hear what was actually said. I don’t think anyone has an issue with somebody loving two people at once: love triangles have been a staple of literature since quill was first put to parchment. What people find odd is the idea that you can sleep with someone you claim to be in love with one day, cheerfully wave them off the next in the full knowledge they will shag somebody else, and be happy about it.

She recalls a colleague becoming extremely discomfited recently at her husband’s birthday party, when Hsu introduced himself as “Carrie’s boyfriend.”

“Hey! We have unusual sleeping arrangements that we just spring on unsuspecting guests in the middle of a party! Look how edgy we are!”

Still, Jenkins believes that we are in urgent need of a more expansive concept of love.


Jenkins did not set out to become a love expert. After growing up in Wales…

What was I saying in my previous post about polyamorists often being people who have experienced severe childhood trauma? Speaking of stereotypes, here’s a photo of the happy three:

The second article:

When I met Emily Witt six years ago, I felt that touch of vertigo that comes when you realize you’re in the presence of a highly sophisticated and committed mind. Witt is an alumnus of Brown, the Columbia School of Journalism, and Cambridge. So she did not strike me as the sort of person who would get high and have sex in the “orgy dome” of Burning Man with a person she’d just met.

Ah yes, the Burning Man orgy dome.

We met for coffee last week in Brooklyn to talk about Future Sex and how to approach writing about female sexuality.

Brooklyn, eh? Now there’s a surprise!

In the book, you describe being on drugs in vivid detail, but you don’t describe actually having sex.

Drugs? More surprises!

You know, somebody could write a book about Burning Man, orgies, polyamory, and drug-taking and the sort of individual that emerges from the wreckage in middle-age. It could even be set in Brooklyn, at least in part. Thankfully for mankind I was born to shoulder this burden, but I’m beginning to worry that it’ll be irreparably clichéd by the time it’s finished.


10 thoughts on “Polyamoric Patterns

  1. Other than, Charlie Sheen (and that didn’t end well), have you found many alpha males involved in this stuff and, if so, what was the gender ratio?

  2. Other than, Charlie Sheen (and that didn’t end well), have you found many alpha males involved in this stuff and, if so, what was the gender ratio?

    No. The woman I knew in Paris was seeing a guy who was a tall, handsome chap who looked quite suave but when I saw his recent photos on social media he seemed to be vying for a high-ranking spot in the Richmond Game. So no.

  3. If I was her husband, I would be more than happy for some other chap to take over my sexual duties.

  4. “On a tangentially related note, this writer draws interesting parallels between the gender-identity craze and the ’60s LSD culture.”

    Yes they do have a lot in common and are created by the same think tanks for the same reasons.

  5. “If I was her husband, I would be more than happy for some other chap to take over my sexual duties.”

    I wouldn’t be able to share a house with someone that copulates with that thing standing on the left, so the mere thought of her sharing my bed would induce immediate vomiting.

  6. Tim,

    I wonder if we’ve hit upon a possible explanation then?

    It’s an unconscious axiom that men don’t really chat up women but, instead, respond to subtle queues from the woman signalling permission to flirt.

    We can pretend to ourselves that this isn’t true and that we’re the smoothest operator in town but a “get lost, creep” reply is usually a solid dead end.

    Therefore, the female is the one who really has the position of power in the creation of a relationship.

    Perhaps the fact that the polyamory cases you’ve found are exclusively in the ratio of one female to two males is simply a reflection of the leverage of this power dynamic?

  7. Perhaps the fact that the polyamory cases you’ve found are exclusively in the ratio of one female to two males is simply a reflection of the leverage of this power dynamic?

    Yes, to a point. From what I can tell there are two types of polyamorous relationships:

    1. Fairly attractive woman who is probably a bit messed up and has two Omega-male partners. The woman is doing it to address serious issues and/or because she can’t get an Alpha male. She doesn’t like by Betas but 2 Omegas > 1 Beta and boosts her self-esteem. Her men are just grateful for the sex/attention and they sure aren’t getting any elsewhere, ever.

    2. Reasonably attractive or simply plain woman who has two or more men. She is fucked up in the head and has a personality that would send most men running for the hills, hence she’s turned to polyamory. Their men are lesser Betas and Omegas at best, usually unattractive and middle aged, but they do shag a lot of other women. Does this make them Alphas? No, because they have absolutely no standards regarding who they will shag, and most of them the tide wouldn’t take out. Tattooed warpigs with green hair and appalling teeth a lot of them. Basically, it’s a free-for-all with no standards whatsoever and the only decent looking women who enter the fray have serious mental issues. It’s polyfuckery more than polyamory.

    No. 2 adequately describes my old acquaintance’s situation. No. 1 appears to be the template for getting an article in the paper or a TV show.

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