Response to: “The War Against Monogamy is Bullshit”

Hugo Schwyzer wrote on Jezebel.com earlier this month speaking out for those who still desire monogamous relationships in the face of the current “War on Monogamy,” where books like Sex at Dawn and The Monogamy Gap encourage people to consider options like polyamory and other open relationship styles, supposedly because monogamy is an “unreasonable expectation.”

“The problem is that very few people are making the brief for monogamy (with or without state-sanctioned marriage) as just one among many equal goods. Either monogamy gets held up as an ideal to which all ought to aspire, or it gets denigrated as an “unhealthy” and “unreasonable” straitjacket that we would do well to avoid.”

I’m very curious as to whether Schwyzer has spent any time, at all whatsoever, among polyamorists. Like, even in an online context. Quite honestly, when I entered the online poly world, I was initially met with a lot of “You are welcome here, but do tread carefully. We encourage open, honest, exploration, but this is not for everybody.”

Now that I’ve stumbled my way through to finding how and why it is for me, I often give other people the same message. Most of my friends, after explaining what it means when I say I’m polyamorous, say, “There’s no way I could do that.” I reply with, “Then don’t. I don’t recommend it. I just recommend asking yourself what you truly want when it comes to relationships, outside of what media and our culture tell you you want. That’s all.” If that means that they reaffirm for themselves that they value monogamy, awesome for them.

I know that I do my best to make it clear that monogamy is exactly what Schwyzer says, “one among many equal goods.” I am saddened that he, and probably many other people, feel that monogamy is being “attacked.” I think it is important that in discussions about “alternative” relationship styles, we remind ourselves and those we are speaking with that monogamy is no demon. It is the default in our society, and that is unfortunate in that it makes it hard for people to consider all of the possibilities before entering relationships, but demonizing it is like demonizing white people while trying to overcome racism or demonizing men while trying to overcome sexism…it moves us backwards instead of forwards.

Monogamy is right for some people. That is okay. Let people decide for themselves what is right for them. This means making them aware of alternatives, but not advertising those alternatives as the “more correct choice.”

That is all. Be cool, friends.

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5 Comments

  1. I agree. I think it’s also ridiculous for someone to be making statements that make the poly world sound more accepted than it is. I love that there is an online community, and I love that there are a few people I know who are openly poly, but for the most part I still have to pretend like I’m someone else, even when talking to friends. Well ok, I don’t have to but let’s just say I’m not ready to tell them because I know what they think about things like that already.

    To me, sexuality is a personal preference. And I can’t help my preference, nor do I care about anyone else’s. I don’t suggest or push my views on my own personal sex life on anyone else, because I wouldn’t begin to assume that my sexual preferences would be right for someone else.

    Sorry for the long comment 🙂 Thanks for posting this!

    Reply
    • Long comments are always okay here; some of the things we’re talking about just aren’t simple enough to discuss in short comments.

      I see your point on the front of poly not necessarily being as accepted as the author makes it out to be. Truth be told, though, it is heading in that direction. I meet more people in day-to-day life now who know what polyamory is and who shrug their shoulders, as in, “it’s not for me, but whatever floats your boat…” It’s all over the media, compared to just a few years ago, and if you live in a metropolitan or liberal area, I wouldn’t be surprised if what the author is feeling/experiencing is happening to happy monogamists often.

      I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to “come out”, but it is worth remembering that not everyone can. Thank you for that reminder; I forgot for a moment what it was like to have to keep poly to myself.

      Reply
  2. This blog is a healthy Check-your-Language gauge Shannon. Thank you! I must tame my ‘passion’ sometimes when in defense of our lifestyles: the wisdom of picking your battles and when to calmly stay silent. I sometimes feel I have a gorilla going bananas inside me at those times. 😮

    After 20+ years though I’ve discovered that I’m really defending proactive honorable integrity — as I’ve mentioned here before that is the primary functional mechanism in ANY type of relationship. When I do have that ‘passion’ burst out, I’m actually attempting to reveal the bigotry, not degrade anyone. Sometimes easier said than done, huh?

    Reply
    • It can be a bit of a balancing act, especially if you’ve spent a lot of your time having to defend your choices. I remember catching myself early on in my journey speaking in tones that sounded like I was trying to convince those around me that what I was doing was “right”. Really, I was trying to convince myself. Over time, I have convinced myself not that what I do is “right,” and what others do is “wrong,” but that it all simply “is.” With that attitude, I can safely educate people about alternative relationship styles without them feeling like I’m trying to “convert” them.

      Reply

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