Science of Poly

Is Nonmonogamy an Orientation?

Until recently, Western culture in the United States only had room for males and females. They were only allowed to entangle sexually with the opposite sex. Once a ring was involved, they were stuck with each other for life. Thanks to the indoctrination of the church, any variation in sexual identification or relationship preference were punishable by brutal bullying, summer camps designed to scare you straight, or a life of poverty as a single mother.

In some parts of the country, despite the successful efforts of decades of fighting, these punishments still occur. Fortunately, there is a growing movement pushing for acceptance of different orientations. An interesting side effect of this movement has been how many orientations have since become recognized. To be completely honest, I had to do a quick search just now to make sure I got the nomenclature correct.

Right now, LGBTQIAPK is the acronym for the various orientations the progressive sex positivists recognize. I think it’s amazing that people who have had to spend decades pretending to be something they’re not can finally begin to find more safe spaces to express their true selves. There is much work to be done. Statistics clearly show transgender people still have to face disproportionate amounts of violence and discrimination compared to the rest of the population.  Suicide rates among LGB youth are four times higher than average. The fight is far from over.

Humans like labels. We use them to expedite thought processes so they do serve an important function. Some labels are straightforward. You won’t find many people confusing a cat for a plant. However, other labels can become ambiguous. The sex-positive community has been fighting to make people understand that gender is not a black and white concept. Sexual orientation is complicated.

I want to know more about how polyamory fits into this story. Despite the continued assertations of the right, sexual orientation is not a choice, it’s genetic. There are no studies to date that have looked for a polyamory gene. People have very strong opinions on the topic. Some claim polyamory is a lifestyle choice versus others who see it as a very part of their being.

Hopefully at some point, the genetic evidence will be available but for now, we have to use what is available. The ethical nonmonogamy crowd is still small. Doing any type of research with small numbers is difficult. There are still ways to make educated guesses. Now that academia is no longer only rich white males, we’ve learned a lot about sexuality. It’s clear there are LGBT individuals in all societies. However, relationship styles vary greatly from one culture to another. While some cultures allow for different arrangements about how families are formed, usually there are strict rules.

There is clearly a strong cultural component to adult mating relationships. I use the word mating versus love because love is not a universal part of adult relationships that lead to procreation and subsequent family units. Even when love is part of the equation, it doesn’t look the same in every culture. Variation and adaptability are the common threads. So maybe culture more so than biology is at play with ethical nonmonogamy.

Does it matter? If you spend any time on the poly forums, you know that is does. Like I said, labels are important. Sometimes there is a spouse trying to justify a lifetime of affairs. If nonmonogamy is an orientation, they can claim they didn’t have a choice in the matter. In another common scenario, you see a bitter spouse who has reluctantly consented to opening a marriage of 20 years even though they were fine with monogamy. They are heralded for their difficult choice to allow their partner to have the life they want. If nonmonogamy is a choice, they should be able to get over their reservations and accept that their spouse now loves other people. In both these scenarios, the question is less about vocabulary and more about struggling through unknown tumultuous territory.

An important point to note about polyamory is the philosophical shift it entails, especially in cultures immersed in monogamy. Embracing ethical nonmonogamy means overcoming years of indoctrination that’s told you love is only meant for two people at a time. Once that mental shift happened for me, there is no way I could go back to monogamy. I’ve started to notice how components of monogamy like jealousy were taught and can be overcome. Love is not something I want to capture then trap in a cage.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s