Thought of the Day

thoughtI’ve been thinking about “isms”. Specifically, “isms” that relate to discrimination. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism, ableism, etc.

I know that some types of discrimination don’t necessarily have “isms”. It’s “discrimination based on sexual orientation” to act on “homophobic” prejudices, for example. According to Wikipedia,“[t]wenty-one states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and sixteen states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression.”

That’s cool. I mean, I of course would like to see discrimination of that sort outlawed in all states, but that’s just me. I am grateful that many states have legally recognized and outlawed this type of discrimination, though.

What I’m thinking about now is Dan Savage’s claim that polyamory is not a sexual orientation, and the resulting backfire from polyamorous folk insisting that it is. I agree with all those arguing in favor of identifying polyamory as an “orientation,” but I can’t bring myself to call it a “sexual orientation,” because, as one person pointed out, “polyamory is not sexual.”

Discrimination based on relationship style, lovestyle, romantic preferences, etc. exists, but there is no name for it that I know of. People have had their kids removed from their custody for being polyamorous. Potential adoptive parents hide polyamory to avoid being refused the opportunity to adopt. Polyamorous people can still only legally marry one person. Polyamorous people are not protected under laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation, because it is not recognized as a sexual orientation, and I can kind of see why…but…

Is being an ethical slut a sexual orientation? Is identifying as sexually nonmonogamous a sexual orientation? It’s most certainly based on sex, and there’s definitely well-documented, historic levels of discrimination happening to promiscuous people. Can identified sexually nonmonogamous people be protected under the laws that protect others with “alternative” sexual orientations? Would it make a difference in the day-to-day slut shaming that occurs? Would it make a difference to polyamorists?

I’m currently reading a paper, “Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation,” published in 2010 by Ann E. Tweedy. I cheated and skipped to the conclusion:

“Because polyamory appears to be at least moderately embedded as an identity, because polyamorists face considerable discrimination, and because non-monogamy is an organizing principle of inequality in American culture, anti-discrimination protections for polyamorists are warranted. Moreover, polyamory shares some of the important attributes of sexual orientation as traditionally understood, so it makes conceptual sense for polyamory to be viewed as part of sexual orientation. On the other hand, however, some of our culture’s cherished myths about sexual orientation, especially in its unchangeableness, would have to be given up to make such a change.”

What kind of discrimination is it when we discriminate against someone for being nonmonogamous? Promiscuous? Slutty? Polyamorous? Asexual? Any other number of “identities” on the sexual spectrum that aren’t based in what gender you are and what gender you are attracted to? Can we fight this discrimination?

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  1. Ah, this may be the appropriate place to suggest those links on sexual-attraction, sexual-orientation, gender-ambiguity, you were interested in? These are by no means an exhausted listing! Please do your own homework if you wish to be truly objective.

    Neuroscience and Sexuality:

    Inter-sexed births and Gender ambiguity: (Intersex Society of North America)

    Also, did you catch the profound NatGeo documentary “The Genographic Project of the Human Family Tree” (or something like that)?

    Further findings of modern genetics, DNA, RNA, etc, are increasingly showing that ALL of us are related to an African group of 2,000 some 40,000 years ago! What does that imply about so many “isms”? 😉

    • Also, funny story, my step-father took part in the Nat Geo project and loved loved loved telling people he was of African descent, given how light-skinned he is.

      • I know, right! I’m so excited that I’m likely related to Michael Jordan, Don Juan, George Clooney, Mahatma Gandhi, Captain Morgan, Oscar Wilde…should I continue with my visions of grandeur? Seriously, beyond a shadow of doubt, I am indeed related to this Earth I share with my brothers, sisters, cousins. Gives me an entirely NEW sense of identity & responsibility! 🙂

    • Arelcits like this are an example of quick, helpful answers.

      • Hi Alexandra,

        I tried looking up the definition of “arelcits” but was surprisingly unable to find it. I’m guessing it has some reference to citations maybe? 🙂

        Wow, a good Word-of-the-Day!

  2. I find this post really interesting. I have always identified as bisexual and poly. For me it is my orientation, and not a choice. I simply cannot be anything else. And -for the most part- the people I know who are successfully polyamorous are the ones for whom it is who they are and not who they choose to be.

    I would love to see a world where we can all just be. Not be anything specific. Just to be and let other people be… That would be really nice.


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