Several readers have asked me if I’ve watched Louis Theroux’s documentary on a polyamorous community, now showing on BBC Three. Alas I haven’t, mostly due to time constraints and the BBC is wise to my VPN, so I can’t hoodwink them into thinking I’m in Lampeter. But I’ll get around to it at some point. Meanwhile, a reader alerts me to this piece:
A few years ago, my then-wife and I decided to more openly embrace an element of our relationship that had been acknowledged since we got together in college: We liked seeing, and sleeping with, other people.
Polyamorists always cite this as if they’ve broken some sort of taboo. Damned near every married man, and probably quite a few women, have the desire to sleep with someone else but they don’t in order to preserve the integrity of the relationship and the benefits it brings.
At one point I was invited to a happy hour in Lower Manhattan for the local poly community.
I might have known all this would be happening in New York, a city seemingly stuffed full of people with meaningless lives. My only surprise is the party didn’t take place in Brooklyn, but I’d hazard a guess most of the attendees live there.
Don’t get me wrong, folks definitely got their flirt on, and plenty went home together. But the night drove home my intuition that there was nothing too radical in polyamory. If anything, it seemed to appeal to gentle, sensitive, somewhat geeky types — white-collar hipsters (myself included) of many pleasant backgrounds.
Misfits soy-boys, in other words.
This did not strike me as a group that faced significant oppression. No poly friend or partner of mine has noted a genuine hardship.
That’s because it’s generally practiced by the spoiled offspring of dysfunctional middle-class marriages. But this is a problem, because polyamorists want to be accepted into mainstream society and the best route to achieve that is to claim victimhood of some sort. Hence:
Whereas the poly people I’ve known personally just think of the lifestyle as an arrangement that works for them, the internet’s poly-vangelists are consumed with making it an identity, even claiming it as their sexual orientation, which, again, draws an improper comparison to the struggle for gay rights. They also continue to alienate monogamists, minorities, LGBTQ groups and their fellow polyamorists by indulging in fantasies of persecution.
In other words, the movement is largely formed from a bunch of weirdos inventing persecution complexes in order to gain attention.
The statement also curiously overlooks polyamorists of color.
Probably because polyamory is generally a white person’s pursuit, although I’ve noticed a few western-raised Asian women dabbling in it, probably as a result of identity confusion.
Anti-poly discrimination is “a very first-world problem to complain about,” says Sarah-Louise, a solo poly woman in New York.
For the uninitiated, solo poly is the term to describe someone who has several secondary partners but no primary one. I imagine the term has been invented in order that women can pretend this suits them, having entered polyamory out of desperation to find a partner with the hope they’d at least be someone’s primary. As I wrote in my book:
Despite saying they love each other equally, someone usually ends up being the number two partner of several people, but the number one of nobody.
If, as they often do, women get into polyamory due to low self-esteem, this can’t help very much.
She and I dated there, and she has the most poly connections of anyone I know.
That’s one way of putting it.
She once sublet a room in a Bushwick building expressly renovated for and rented to polyamorous tenants .
My book was partially set in Bushwick, a neighbourhood of Brooklyn. What a coincidence, eh?
Even so, certain poly individuals nurse a sense of victimhood surrounding their romantic life. I was guilty of this when my parents discovered — by an accident of gossip — that my wife and I existed in this mold. I fought with my family a lot, which was unusual, and imagined, for the first and only time, that Mom and Dad were old, recoiling conservatives.
Scratch a polyamorist and underneath you’ll find issues with Mum and Dad bursting to escape. And this tweet by the author – included in the article – made me laugh:
Poly is hard in the current culture, and isn’t for everyone. It requires unusually high IQ, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness, IMHO.
— Geoffrey Miller (@primalpoly) June 8, 2018
Because the profiles of the polyamorists I’ve written about on here just scream out unusually high intelligence and emotional stability, don’t they?
Some are chafed that non-poly acquaintances see them as oversexed. “Women are low-value sluts, men are misogynist harem builders, etc.,” as one redditor put it. As a result, poly promoters will go out of their way to defend what some would consider mere promiscuity.
I’ve yet to see this accusation successfully defended. When they try, they end up describing an ordinary life with the sole distinguishing feature being that of sex with multiple people. For instance:
Polyamorous things I do more of than have sex:
– Emotional processing
– Synchronzing Google calendars
– Making bulk purchases at outlet stores
– Taking pics of lost items to send to multiple partners searching for an owner#morethansex #Polyamory
— Poly Role Models (tinyurl.com/ForHireMag1) (@PolyRoleModels) August 21, 2018
With the exception of that last one, this is a description of any adult’s life. A serial killer is defined by his murdering people in succession, not by the fact that he also buys cornflakes and brushes his teeth. For some reason, polyamorists seem to think a list of mundane activities which everyone does is evidence their lifestyles are not defined purely by sex and promiscuity.
Nevertheless, she and many polyamorists point out one of the more severe repercussions of the lifestyle: In isolated cases, poly parents stand to lose custody of children, with their various partners taken into consideration of the home environment.
They have chosen to live a lifestyle which, by any sensible measure, is not a suitable environment in which to raise children. This gives any court charged with making a decision an indication as to where their priorities lie.
In the late 1990s, when a Memphis mom named April Divilbliss appeared on an MTV show that documented her polyamorist home, her young daughter’s paternal grandparents successfully filed for emergency custody of the kid. Back then, Divilbliss — a self-described Wiccan — said her religious and moral freedoms had been infringed. But years later, she had a much different view, writing that she hadn’t been able to materially care for her daughter, that “polyamory was never really the issue with my child’s custody,” and that the decision to leave her in the care of the grandparents was “the best I’ve ever made” as a parent.”
And more recently, judges have proven willing to assess polyamorist families as stable and loving units that deserve appropriate custody arrangements — even when divorce is involved.
Only in Canada, which is fast becoming a nation beyond parody. I wrote about this case here.
Then there are those who worry that being outed as poly could mean losing a job, especially if they work in a conservative area or industry. The fear is not unfounded; polyamory has made for career setbacks and obstacles, up to and including firing, and generally speaking, there are no legal protections against this.
I rather think it is those with conservative views who run the risk of getting hounded from their jobs by a Twitter mob.
In Australia, a poly woman’s lawsuit against the Catholic social services organization that sacked her was rejected by a federal judge who said the country’s Sex Discrimination Act applied no more to polyamory than to necrophilia or pedophilia — a rather unfair association.
Quite right too: polyamory is a coping mechanism masquerading as a lifestyle choice, but I wonder how long it’ll be before they’re granted protected class status. My guess is they won’t be, simply because of the long queue of grifters ahead of them campaigning for the same privilege.
“I know several people who really believe that they’ll lose their jobs in advertising/graphic design/whatever in NYC if people know they’re poly.”
Whereas in reality it’s probably a requirement. The polyamorist I knew worked for several years in graphic design in NYC. The research I did for my book would have been a lot harder were this movement not made up of walking stereotypes.
To make a long story incredibly short, I’m now separated from my wife and living with a partner I met during the marriage
Why, it’s almost as if the whole polyamory thing was to avoid you and your wife admitting the marriage had got boring and you both wanted out. Imagine my surprise.