Monday, March 07, 2005

Thoughts on Polygamy/Polyamory

Jason's got some thoughts up on polyamory (I'm going to say polyamory as opposed to polygamy, because I feel that polyamory implies that everyone involved is marrying *each other* as opposed to polyandry or polygmany, in which it's more along the lines of one person of one sex marrying a bunch of people of the other sex, and if we're gunning for equality, you've gotta get all the polys into one word).

I went through a couple years of serious thought about my sexuality, and about the time I came up with the realization that yea, boringly, I was mostly straight, I also realized I was boringly hardwired for monogamy, no matter how alluring the idea of polyamory was (I have a lot of fun playing with polyamory in my fiction). So I've done the research, looked around at places like alt.polyamory and had discussions with a woman who had an open marriage, read about other people's open marriages, and am always fascinated with finding out how other people negotiate their sexual pairings.

As somebody who's liberal-minded, I realize that what works for *me* obviously *doesn't* work for everyone (which, I think, is the typical conservative mindset - "If *I'm* a man who thinks that kissing a man is gross, *all* men must feel that way!"), so I'm really interested in what'll happen if people do start pushing multiple marriages in this country again (the polys not being anything new under the sun). So far, I don't have too much of an opinion on the matter, though I tend to think consenting adults should be allowed to enter into whatever pairing they wish.

However, my mind immediately turns to Heinlein and his massive political/financial marriages in Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Friday, just to name two. What you can do with marriages like these is wed not for emotional/sexual feeling but for consolidation of money and power, so all the heavy hitters keep the goods within one family.

If you think there's a huge rich/poor divide now, think of the day when multiple billionaires consolidate their funds into one huge family-corporation.

Heinlein saw it.

7 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I read Heinlein's Friday and other books when I was a teen-ager and was struck by the practicality of the'group' marriage concept. As I got older, I realized that Heinleins idea was just a modern revision of the extended family, in such, the adults band together - not for love or sex - but for financial security. It always seemed to me, that it was a good model and something that might develop in response to the rising cost of living. 

Posted by Moira

Anonymous said...

Interesting point and an aspect of poly I hadn't thought about before (I am, for the record, poly). Can you imagine the pre-nups for the proposed family-corporations? It's been a long time since I've read the two Heinlein books you mention; I'm more familiar with Time Enough For Love  (Lazarus Long wankfest that it is...), in which the group marriages are done not only for the sake of the family's long-term financial situation, but also to care for the children. Seems to me there's more of an emphasis on the kidlets in TEFL than the money, but it's been a long time since I've read it and I have found, alas, that I have become allergic to Heinlein (his women make me twitch).  

Posted by Natalie

Anonymous said...

I have great admiration for folks who can make poly relationships work. I'm not wired that way, but I know quite a number of people who are. They don't diapprove of my undeniable monogamy and I don't have problems with thier unique pairings (quadings? we need a new word....). I had a good friend in college who is from a country where polygamy is accepted, and whenever he joked about marrying me, I would say "sure, if I could be your only wife." He wouldn't agree to that (we weren't even dating anyway) but it turns out that when he got home and finally did get married, he found that he is monogamous. Just because someone has the legal ability to choose a poly life, doesn't mean they will - but that seems to be the big fear.

I see a definite connection between this post and the one on PP. A woman controlling her body is both powerful and, to some, frightening. People making decisions about the kinds of relationships that work for them is also scary, because it means that they have acknowledged the ability to choose how they live. I swear the next time some conservative preaches at me about how we're bringing "freedom" to the world, I'm going to ask if that includes the freedom to choose whether or when to reproduce and with whom, regardless of whether or not it fits "christian" beliefs. If the answer is no, then how the fuck can we give something away that we don't even have? 

Posted by Reba

Anonymous said...

Reba - and if, in "combating terrorism" they mean targeting the terrorists who terrorize women's health centers here at home.

Natalie - I'm totally with you about Heinlein's women. They drive me fucking nuts. They're just there to have sex with the male characters and talk about how great free lovin' is... without much talk about how they're avoiding pregancy and STDs in all their freedom... cardboard women. Alas. I can get about 2/3 through a Heinlein novel before I get bored even with the worldbuilding and have to toss it...


Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

I am polyamorous by nature and it has cost me three friendships, two of men I loved and one woman who was upset that I could love two men. Our society simply doesn't accept the concept. To me, sex and love are such that I could pretty much love anyone who was a complete, wonderful human being, with or without the sexual aspects.

I am now monogamous with my husband, but not really by choice, more by necessity, since he doesn't like my being polyamorous. I still love those I have always, loved, though, and always will, and will probably find more people to love, but not be able to act upon it. I accept that now as part of this relationship, but it doesn't make it any easier.

Yes, I read a lot of Heinline, love "Time enough for Love." I don't think Heinlein's women are all that bad, just don't think he really understood women all that well. He wrote from a very male perpective.

For me, polyamory is a dream, a great idea that will probably never be accewpted by society. I would love to live in a communal relationship, but our society really doesn't want to let people be wired that way. While I would enjoy it, and it would make life far easier (child care, illness, financial security, etc...), I don't expect to see it accepted in my lifetime. Perhaps when we all grow up alittle more, which I think is pretty much what Heinlein thought as well.


Posted by donna

Anonymous said...

What Heinlein may have been referring to are the Medieval court arrangements of unusual pairings and matings. (See again one of my favorite titles: 'The Royal Bastards', or even 'Twilight Of The Middle Ages' by Cantor). In Europe it was not uncommon to have a wife and several mistresses right up to the modern era. Wives too could have several lovers, if you were of a certain class and could avoid undue public scrunity. (They were of course more heavily sanctioned than males, and it would help if this companion was female.) So it's not been all that uncommon in western history, we've just forgotten it all.

I've always said that beyond all the usual complications who could keep up with all the paper work!? 

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. I'll give you an insider's perspective.

Polyamory works quite nicely for me. I've been with my wife for eight years and my husband for five. We have a three-year-old son, and I have to say, raising a kid with three adults around is the way to go!

We haven't gotten much flack from anyone, even the other parents at our co-op preschool, or my wife's and husband's co-workers (I stay at home). Everyone sees how...normal...we are, in most respects, and takes the polyamory in stride. We even had a friend jokingly say that we were the "most normal couple he knows."

Crap, is my family boring? I think it must be. That's okay.

As for the "polys with too much power" argument: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'll get back to you about being drunk with power when I have effin' health insurance. *sigh* I WISH we could all legally be married. I don't think the paperwork would be much more complicated, at least in our three-person situation. Adding people indefinitely could get messy, I suppose.

I haven't read Heinlein. Well, one book. I, like some of you, hate his female characters. They are yucky and I can't identify with a one of 'em.

Does that make me an even more lousy, boring poly? Yeah, probably. As I said, that's perfectly fine with me.

I just wish I could get insurance from my wife's or husband's job. That's all.  

Posted by Kate