In the age of changing attitudes and behaviors about sex, the idea of polyamory seems to come up more and more frequently. While I believe that sexual behaviors should be ultimately determined by consenting participants, here I explore what I believe the evidence shows is our true nature as humans.
Historically & Religiously
Raised in the Bible Belt and having lived in the city that CBN calls home, one can acquire some rather idealistic views of sex and proper sexual behavior. Historically, the Christian religion has heavily influenced peoples’ outward expression of sexuality. According to Reay Tannahill in Sex in History, monogamy was a social construct reinforced by early Christianity. Monogamy was then the only way to determine paternal lineage for the inheritance of property. Basically, polyamory was deep-sixed because men didn’t know who their sons were to give them their rightful land.
Raised in the 80’s as a product of the 70’s, I was going through puberty when George Michael was straight and implored us to view sex as being “best when it’s one-on-one” in his Top-40’s hit, “I Want Your Sex.” This propaganda was most born out of the then constant fear of AIDS; something that killed many people and was still largely misunderstood. The music video and song were widely controversial. Some radio stations went so far as to silence “sex” when the song played.
Now in the next century after AIDS is less scary, more and more people are exploring their sexuality in new ways and it is becoming more mainstream. I say with my tongue in my cheek that Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James brought BDSM from the fringes and into living rooms across America. While many of those in the BDSM community disagree with the discrepancies between actual BDSM practices and James’ book (particularly the recantation of consent), it did serve the function of opening many doors about sexual practices that were once very much hidden from public view. It seems cultural norms about sex are changing, as a result.
The further I travel down the spiritual path, the more I see the obstacles that I and others have built to love. From a spiritual and energetic standpoint monogamy seems based in lack both in its purported origin per Tannahill and in the stinginess beneath its thin veneer: “My companion does not have the capacity to love me enough, much less to love you, too. So I get to stay and you need to go away.” Polyamory, on the other hand, seems to support the idea that love is boundless and can be shared between many.
As a physical therapist, most of the clients I treat are women with pelvic pain. Regardless of the client’s diagnosis, I screen for pain, as it can inhibit outcomes when treating other pelvic floor conditions. This means I ask many women across the lifespan if they are sexually active, as some have constant pain and others only during intercourse.
In hearing many responses over the years, I am often saddened to hear when one of my clients is celibate either due to her partner’s medical conditions or sexual dysfunction, or because she has excruciating pain with sex. While it’s nice when I hear some women shyly whisper, “we have other ways of being intimate,”I cannot help but wonder if a polyamorous relationship would be more functional.
For myself, being faithful while in a monogamous relationship for half of my life, my eyes were never blind. Meaning that though I kept my body faithful, my eyes and mind certainly wandered. And I can tell you, I wasn’t the only one…
This reminds me of the question posited in the film “Eyes Wide Shut,” is the fantasy equivalent to the physical act of cheating? My next question is: what if the two had already agreed upon having a polyamorous relationship?
The clencher: who honestly does not have at least one sexual fantasy involving more than one sexual partner? or someone other than your current partner?
It’s Evolution, baby!
Just as ants from different colonies fight, sperm from different men fight when they meet. In fact, some sperm act as guards to fight against and attack another man’s sperm entering the cervix. Given the Darwinian concept of the survival of fitness, this makes me wonder if we are genetically making our species weaker by missing out on the epic battle of the gametes? (Now go watch the movie “Idiocracy.”)
While I can see the phallacy of monogamy from more than one perspective, my heels dig in when I think past fantasy to the ins and outs of polyamory. Perhaps it’s a vestige of chastity, which is ironic given that sexual promiscuity is generally much easier for women to obtain than men, yet women bear the shame.
While I have broken many of my mother’s rules for “what good girls don’t do,” practicing polyamory seems to be a challenge for me. Even while I’ve been in several non-committed relationships in the past year, I cannot seem to break through the idea of seeing them concurrently; weeks and months separate the time between different lovers.
For me to begin to be accepting of polyamory for myself, I need to feel far less vulnerable physically and sexually. Oppressive levels of vulnerability slow down my desire to express myself sexually in such an open way. Oh, and then behind vulnerability is the fear of being the only person left behind at the party: enter rejection.
Even with all of these areas that support polyamory, it seems that serial monogamy is where I am most comfortable. For now, I leave it as something for me to explore further. So the jury is hung, hopefully well.
Note: each pun and double entendre was indeed intentional.
Here is a great article written by a fellow blogger The New Sexy: Women Over 40. It gives some amazing insights into how women over 40 are, well, different.
Photo by t0zz at freedigitalphotos.net