Well, “polyamory”, if you want to be strict about English usage. And I have it on high authority, too – there’s an article in today’s Metro about it, although clearly the subject isn’t cool enough for their website, because I can’t seem to find it there to link to.
Strictly speaking, the article’s about people who openly claim to be polyamorous on dating sites, and concludes this is really the same as “looking for NSA sex…(with) added pretension.” That’s “No Strings Attached”, incidentally, not people who want to have sex with the (American) National Security Agency. Although there is probably someone out there with that fetish. However, it’s as good an excuse as any to
poke fun at seriously analyse this social trend.
The obvious response to anyone, who, like me, is not terribly taken with the concept of polyamory is “you’re just jealous of people who get more sex than you, you big non-sex having loser.” Which is, in general, absolutely true, but that only applies here insofar as polyamory really is just a way of people giving a shallow intellectual gloss to a string of one night stands. If polyamory for you means “I’m the James Bond of the suburbs”, then I’ll admit to a twinge of jealousy, but that’s not exactly an alternative lifestyle. After all, James Bond has been doing it for over fifty years.
However, whilst it may be no more that for some people, you don’t have to go further than the Wikipedia page to realise that others take seriously it as a model for loving relationships conducted with the consent of all parties. And that is where for me, it really falls down. Because instead of having just one man or woman’s quirks, neuroses and problems to deal with, now you have those of two (or more, if you’re a real swinger). You’re actively making your life more complicated and difficult, and what do you get in return?
More sex? Not if you’re serious about sustaining your multiple relationships. Like any relationship, the longer they last, the less sex tends to be involved anyway. More love? Not if you keep changing your partners to avoid that; it’s more likely to be more hate. And, in any case, I’m not sure trying to increase how loved you feel by increasing the number of people around you who claim to love you actually works. You generate love for yourself from within, you don’t draw it in from others.
There’s the jealousy, which the polyamory crowd seem a bit blasé about. “It comes with the territory.” OK, but being shot dead comes with the territory of being in a soldier, and dying in fires comes with the territory of being a firefighter, and that’s why I’m not either. You’re not doing a good job persuading me here, polyamorists.
And then, of course, there’s the question of how you explain your open and honest relationship to any children you have. Children are very conservative. They want their families to be like the idealised ones they read about or see on TV, they don’t want to be different from their friends and they honestly don’t care how advanced, cool and liberal you are being if it means other kids make fun of them at school. No doubt there are ways of dealing with this, but if polyamory ever does become popular and widespread, I can foresee it creating a generation of kids who resent their parents (or just even more adults who avoid the whole problem by never having kids).
And, what, I hear you ask, does God make of all this? Well, tough luck if you didn’t ask that, because I’m going to bring Him in on this whether you like it or not. Sadly, God is sticking to His current policy of not giving interviews, and multiple marriage is one area the Bible is not particularly clear on. It actually makes more definite statements on things like homosexuality (and exactly what it says about that is still hotly contested).
In the Old Testament, you’ll find laws that expressly recognise multiple marriage, and various Hebrew patriarchs and kings who clearly had multiple wives and don’t seem to have earned any divine condemnation for it. The New Testament seems to implicitly assume one wife and one husband per marriage, but nobody actually states this in so many words. Maybe God (horror of horrors) actually just wants us to develop our own views on the subject rather than acting as the regulator of human sexuality that churches have tended to turn him into. I know what I think the sensible view on this particular point is.