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back to ba(sex): a foray into polyamory, part two

polyamory

FYI, polyamory is more than fucking… but a diverse sex life is all part of the fun. In this second instalment of Back to Ba(sex) on polyamory, we look at the challenges and benefits of this new relationship paradigm for women.

Female sexuality, as we feminists know, is rather taboo. Its castration in the West stems from the socially-imposed and often self-policed duty to appear to be chaste yet seductive, and often seems reduced to breeding when one is wed. Polyamory challenges the normative constraints of monogamy forced upon many women living without an alternative idea of how to ‘do’ relationships. For Amanda*, who is in her early 20s, polyamory presented a means to explore her sexuality: her style of loving, who she was attracted to (bisexuality was particularly pleasant to explore), and of course, what she enjoys.

Amanda says she does not practice hierarchical polyamory where there is a differentiation in the rank of partners. In spite of such a system working among some, many poly people dislike such labels as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’, due to the value judgement involved. ‘I classify myself as my Primary Partner,’ Amanda says. ‘I find that most poly people understand when I describe my relationship style this way… they get that I come first, and my other relationships come second.’

This does not mean Amanda’s needs are not met with consent from those involved, simply that she has solidified a commitment to her needs instead of obeying someone else’s at all costs (sorry-not-sorry, patriarchy.) In this sense, polyamory is the ‘freedom to put [yourself] first without being accused of being selfish’. It also seems polyamory is good for the sisterhood, if not broader human relations:  ‘everyone knows of everyone else’s intentions,’ Amanda says. ‘A [partner’s] mistress is a friend, you talk and you know each other’s boundaries.’ Polyamory also construes monogamy, gender and other sexual power structures as being man-made and can be highly inclusive of the queer community.

Amanda generally doesn’t feel the need to keep being poly a secret. ‘I guess that’s my age though… older poly people have told me about how afraid they were of coming out for fear of discrimination.’ Such fear is understandable but not ideal when it comes to creating awareness of polyamory. As a 20-something myself, it seems safe to say that with enough discussion, and enough research, young people would be as accepting of polyamory as they can be of different sexual identities. For someone of the baby-boomer generation, the fervent animosity directed at the sexually diverse LGBTIQ community during their youth and due to the breakaway from heteronormative monogamous unions polyamory poses, their apprehension is understandable.

The main issue bothering Amanda is some people unfamiliar with the dynamics of polyamory will stall discussion the lifestyle to fixate on Amanda’s number of partners. ‘I would like the conversation to progress past that, in a personal ideals or philosophical direction,’ Amanda laments. As we explored last time, with Jay, this isn’t uncommon regardless of gender. Given people (including females) are perplexed or averse to women having casual sex, it is – unfortunately – unsurprising that they experience similar conniptions at her revelations. (I mean gosh, women having a healthy sex life AND multiple loving connections, what is this?)

Look, if you’re still stuck on the partners bit, yes, Amanda might have more sex with more people. But it’s more meaningful: it’s all about choices, communication and consent. ‘I find that when I’m not just searching for “The One” – for prince charming to come riding in to save me – it puts responsibility back on myself and gives me opportunities to make my life how I want it,’ Amanda says. It means she is more active in forming connections, discerning and negotiating the terms of these, and is alert to what her partners need too. Amanda’s relationships can be platonic too – sex is, as she states, not implied in any polyamorous partnership, but instead something to be negotiated as well as the level of intimacy.

The benefits of polyamory extend to life decisions. One doesn’t have to settle down and have children regardless of their sexuality. But when polyamorous people do have children, Amanda says there’s no imperative to stop dating or having fun: ‘there’s a lot more babysitters on hand!’

For women unable to fathom practicing polyamory, Amanda says just having it as an option should be felt as liberating. ‘Don’t stop looking for the most fulfilling relationships you can find… [they’re] definitely out there, there are so many people in this world!’

Learn more about polyamory on Amanda’s blog (warning: some posts are NSFW).

* Much like Jay’s views in our previous look at poly lifestyles, this instalment’s go-to gal, Amanda acknowledges her beliefs aren’t indicative of the whole community. She does, however, share the widely-held view that poly differs from ‘other forms of non-monogamy such as swinging, [as] fulfilling and loving relationships with everyone involved are the goal, as opposed to casual sex’. 

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