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?

Diversity in Polyamory

Some thoughts on  Progressive Polyamory: Considering Issues of Diversity . (Funny how, even though it’s only been a few days since the passion of research overcame me in regards to polyamory and race, it’s faded just as quickly, and this post feels old and late. I am, however, still reading Is Marriage for White People? and find that there are entirely different things going on there than covered in the specific realm of polyamory.)

First off, Noël had a completely different approach to analyzing issues of diversity in polyamory than I did. I’m not just talking about the fact that she pulled out the books whereas I simply sat down and freewrote – I mean that we came in at completely different angles entirely. Here are my thoughts on her piece.

Noël asks a lot of questions which she does not answer. This bothers me, not because I was always told not to do that in high school (I’m a fan of breaking rules on writing here and there), but because I really, honestly do wonder if she has any answers to the suggestive questions she asks, or at least a way of attempting to answer them. Her argument is basically that, as middle class, white, educated, able-bodied Americans, authors of the few polyamorous texts that exist often use language and make assertions that can be exclusive to others that do not fit their demographic.

Well, firstly, many, many authors are guilty of that. That doesn’t make it right, but I feel the need to point that out, as it is not some isolated evil of polyamorous authors. (Perhaps I’m being defensive, but I guess my concern is that someone will inevitably point the issue out as a negative quality of polyamory when really, it’s a negative quality in society as a whole.) Secondly, and this may be due to my own white, middle-class, educated, able-bodied and American-tinted perspective, but the examples she cites seem a bit weak. She critiques the use of words like “tribe” and “jungle,” and the insinuations that polyamory is based on “non-Western” traditions, and asks, “how might a diversity of readers respond” to these things? Well, I don’t know, Noël. . . perhaps we should get a diversity of readers, sit them down with these books, and find out, eh?

Noël genuinely wants polyamory to be more inclusive; so much so, that it becomes an American norm. Homegirl did her homework, and found a piece by Lisa Duggan entitled “Holy Matrimony!” in which Duggan suggests moving from our marriage-based community plan (each household has a married couple = family = benefits) to a more “‘flexible menu of options’ that redistributes the ‘1,049 automatic federal and additional state protections’ to all persons, not just those who are heterosexually married.” Basically, let adults decide for themselves who and how many people they want to share their familial benefits with, and which benefits to share, whether those people are lovers, best friends, actual blood relatives, etc.

Apparently, in other countries, health care and other benefits are not extended to who you are married to, but who you live with. It’s all about the household: who shares a roof with you and is your “family”? If you’re willing to live with the person, you must like them enough to at least consider sharing benefits with them, right? I thought that was an interesting tidbit, and it’s stuck with me. I can’t help but think about how non-traditional families now outnumber traditional families, and according to Is Marriage For White People?, marriage is surprisingly uncommon in Sweden, where parents generally live together to raise their children, but aren’t “married.”

Interesting. A late review (my apologies), but interesting nonetheless.