Dear Ms. Schorn,
Reading your blog post “Monogamy Is Not the Problem” made me feel quite frustrated, misunderstood and mocked.
I wholeheartedly agree that cheating is unacceptable behavior. What I don’t understand is your need to denigrate polyamory in order to celebrate your choice of monogamy. I certainly don’t denigrate monogamy in order to celebrate my choice of polyamory.
Based on your post, you seem to be under a number of misconceptions about polyamory and I hope that you will read this with an open mind.
1. Polyamory is not a sexual free-for-all. Poly does not mean daily orgies, as you suggest with your mocking comments about bonobos, swingers and shag carpeting (really?). Polyamory is about having multiple loving relationships. In many cases a polyamorous person may have multiple COMMITTED relationships.
2. Polyamory involves a tremendous amount of emotional bonding and commitment. I refer to your glib “If we ‘evolved’ to screw around…where’s all the talk about how unnatural it is to bond with people?” The emotional involvement in polyamorous relationships is not minimal – and that includes secondary relationships in the situation of a person having a primary spouse and a secondary partner. These “secondary” relationships aren’t just a chance to screw around, they are often filled with love, kindness, romance, friendship.
3. Polyamory is hard work! Having a healthy non-monogamous relationship requires a lot of communication, a lot of honest conversations. And yes, they can be hard. They may involve the acknowledgement of jealousy, the reassurance of commitment, the enforcing of agreed upon boundaries.
4. Polyamory is not cheating. I know that you know this. But your association of polyamory with cheating in your post can conflate things, so I am stating it for the record: we call it ETHICAL non-monogamy because it involves the known consent of all parties involved. None of my polyamorous friends would engage in any romantic or sexual activities with a cheater. Many of us wish to meet our partner’s partners and introduce our partners to each other.
Don’t feel the need to learn any more about polyamory than you wish – if it isn’t the lifestyle for you it’s not directly relevant to you. BUT if you wish to write about monogamy as compared to polyamory you have the burden of doing actual research into what you are writing about.
It is my hope that you will recognize the flippant manner in which polyamorists are treated in your post and add a note ameliorating that.
Thank you for fact checking my humor. You are entirely correct — I did no fact checking whatsoever on whether or not polyamorists prefer shag carpeting. For all I know, there are ethical polyamorists who enjoy wall-to-wall berber or Turkish throw rugs. This was a thoughtless oversight. I apologize.
I did fact check that bonobos and walruses are polyamorous. However, I don’t know if they’re ethical about it — introducing their partners to one another, acknowledging occasions of jealousy, reaffirming their commitments, etc. It could be that bonobos are promiscuous jerks and not creatures polyamorists would wish to be associated with.
My point was simply to illustrate that you both have a natural disinclination towards monogamy. There are many monogamists I find utterly repellent and wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Richard Nixon, by all accounts, was monogamous. I do not like Richard Nixon or find him ethical, and yet, I must concede, we are both monogamists. It’s a big tent, Kara.
You will note that I was equally mocking of monogamists — comparing them to squidgy middle-aged women who have dial up and churn butter. Really, Kara, I think you got the better deal with the shag carpeting and walrus jokes. No one in any hip demographic wants to be compared to a middle-aged woman.
You are confused if you believe I have conflated cheating with polyamory. On the contrary — if you read the article, 70s swinger humor aside, I said I have no problem with polyamory precisely because it IS above board. (“Use protection. Rock on with your bad selves.”) I went so far as to suggest to people who find themselves in troubled marriages CONSIDER polyamory OR divorce. For people who chose not to be monogamous, perhaps their spouse feels similarly or could be won over. By all means explore it with an honest conversation.
If anyone deserves to be bitchslapped for treating polyamorists flippantly, it’s cheaters. They disguise themselves as polyamorists all the time, telling their affair partners “Oh, I’m in an open marriage.” News to the chump, of course. I think your anger would be better directed at cheaters. That’s where my satire, and the focus of my article, was aimed. Not at polyamorists.
But you’re right Kara, monogamous love of my husband aside, I can’t relate to the polyamorist “lifestyle.” It’s all I can do to find time to color hair or file my taxes, let alone juggle the intricate considerations of a Special Friend or two. Do you have children or work a full time job? If so, how on earth do you manage? There’s not enough of most working moms to spread thinly on toast. Polyamory? I’d settle for an unloaded dishwasher.
You may have found the golden mean, Kara — balancing your relationships without jealously or acrimony, bonded and intimate, but not exclusive. But many of your fellow polyamorists are absolutely about the sexual free for all, the orgy, the fling, the no-strings attached hook up. Their “poly” goes much further than your single “secondary partner.” If I have to own Richard Nixon, Kara, you have to own the swingers. Not everyone in your community practices polyamory your way.
What distinguishes the polyamorists from the cheaters is honesty. It’s not monogamy vs. polyamory. It’s honest vs. dishonesty. I really don’t care what you do or how many people you do it with, if you do it on shag carpeting or vinyl floor tiles — what I care about is that you don’t dupe your partner. That you’re not predicating your sexual pleasure on another person’s chumpdom. That’s it. If polyamory works for you, I sincerely wish you all the best.
Thanks for writing, Kara.