- Mon, 01/16/2012 - 04:00
- 3 Comments about Can polyamory end oppression?
Dear Queer Radical,
Friends recently were chatting about strategies for combating oppression. It didn’t take long before someone proposed that the obvious solution to shutting down oppression was – drum roll – sexual liberation. In a few minutes it seemed like all heads were nodding that the best way to smash all forms of oppression was polyamory.
You’re poly. You’re radical. Help me understand. Is polyamory the path to abolishing oppression and securing liberation for all?
Pensively Pondering Polyamory and Progress
Dear Quadruple P,
In short, polyamory will not liberate us from oppression. Let me explain.
Few things irritate me more than essentialist identity politics. Identities are not radical. Just because Condoleezza Rice is a black woman, does not make her a part of a liberation struggle. Just because Roy Cohn slept with men, does not make him a warrior for the LGBTQ community. People from every background can and do have horribly oppressive politics.
Thus when people claim their identitiy - in this case polyamory - is the path to abolishing oppression, they are making a rash generalization and are out of touch with the horrific complexity of the human experience. Yes, people of color can be tyrannical, genocidal and even complicit with white supremacy, just like polyamorous people can be jealous, patriarchal, capitalist pigs.
One thing that irritates me more than identity politics is lifestyle evangelism. Some people treat their polyamory as a religion and proselytize worse than the most frothy-mouthed fundamentalist Christians.
Often, these goose-steppers’ yammering is a fool-hardy attempt at seduction: “Oh baby, I’ll turn you into an ethical slut.” In many cases, this is patriarchy in action.
Anybody prioritizing political principles over desire in a relationship risks amorous doom. I have watched more than a few poly relationships plagued by one or more partners attempting to enact some vision of liberation without actually feeling fully inclined towards polyamory. The end result is dissatisfaction and disillusionment. These relationships become the site of burnout, not dissimilar from that experienced by over-eager activists in any other realm.
Domestic violence, rape, verbal abuse, economic exploitation and inequity exist in monogamous and polyamorous relationships. Period.
Abolishing capitalism and patriarchy will take a lot more work than managing multiple love affairs. It will require an individual and collective transformation whose path will only be known retrospectively. No cookie-cutter sexuality exists to save us from oppression.