They’re still going round, these articles about how monogamy ain’t natural and quite frankly, I’m sick of them being used as a justification for open relationships and polyamory. Natural is one of those things that doesn’t seem to me to hold any superiority whatsoever. The human race has got where it is by doing things more or less against nature. We don’t live in burrows underground, we live in manmade housing. We rarely use our feet to reach far off places, instead we fly or sail in huge purpose built metal tanks. We use a social media site to tell people living half a world away how we’re feeling today. We’ve found ways to artificially create chemicals which combat illness and prolong life. None of it is natural, but it helps us survive (and thrive).
If anything, the construct of monogamy has over some centuries, proven its worth. It’s helped us to grow into the society we are today. But that’s not to say times aren’t changing. As we live longer, can identify paternity through tests and become increasingly distanced from our relatives (by travelling in those huge metal tanks to far off countries) building intentional families becomes necessary and even desirable. There’s a smorgasbord of options, some of them are non-monogamous.
One of my mother-in-laws once said, ‘there are many ways to build a family.’ Her son, me, my boyfriend and our two kids are building a family unit and hopefully more will integrate with us over time. There is a misconception around the word family, inherited from the ‘blood is thicker than water’ ethos. You cannot choose your family (they say). But we do so all the time and have done even under the auspices of monogamy. Adoption, fostering, guardianship, emancipation, marriage and divorce are all paradigms where we ‘choose’ (or choose away) family. Families in this regard are fluid. People die, become estranged, and leave. This has always been the case, and there is no reason why it should be any different, or why your chosen family should be seen as less valid when you build it in parallel through polyamory. It’s not sustainable, cry the naysayers. It’s as sustainable as any other configuration, we (polyamorists) say.
In Western Europe we speak less and less about ‘gay rights’ and more about human rights. Less about female equality, more about equality for all. As a polyamorous feminist living in Western Europe, I don’t have to fight for women’s rights more than I do about fighting for law changes which enable neutrality so that they protect all women, men and people in general. Gender neutral, sexuality neutral and relationship neutral. Want to create a community? Let’s see some laws which help that, whether or not sex and/or love is involved.
We don’t have to vilify one side, to right future wrongs. Nor should we create specific laws to enable certain configurations but still marginalize others. We do have a duty to create laws and structures which as far as we can tell, do not enable further privilege. I have no interest in creating a ‘one true way’ because we are all individuals. I am very interested in creating a neutral, flexible way which helps people make their consensual choices in safety, and without oppression.
I’m part of a group of authors who are consciously building resources to help people navigate the non-monogamous terrain in an ethical and consensual manner. Thinking of opening your relationship? Read Franklin Veaux’s essay on 7 Things you should know about open relationships. Want to muse upon whether polyamory is nature or nurture? Read Born to be Polyamorous? Not me. Want some solid defence about your non-monogamous choices? Read Keith Pullman’s comprehensive article covering How to Respond to Anti-Polyamory & Plural Marriage. But if you want to read why we should respect consenting adults’ freedom to be in polyamorous relationships at all, there’s no need to read Sex At Dawn or wave it as a banner of justification. You’d be better off re-reading and taking to heart the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Because life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as natural rights supersede any justification about whether monogamy is a natural inclination, or not.