The Case for Polyamory

by Lucas Witherspoon

Recently I found myself having a conversation with a friend, during which he revealed to me that he and his long-time partner had taken on a third person in their relationship about a year ago, but hadn’t told anyone because of fear it would diminish the legitimacy of their relationship in the minds of other people. Clearly he knows that’s not my mindset, which is why he felt comfortable confiding in me, but it did leave me baffled that anyone would feel the need to keep secret the details of their relationship from others out of fear of being persecuted.

Part of the taboo that surrounds polyamorous or non-monogamous relationships is a result of the avarice a majority of us have been heavily ingratiated with when it comes to what we think relationships should be. We’ve been taught that when we enter into a relationship, we automatically have a staked claim over our partner. This is why when a partner “cheats,” we feel emotional pain, because we’ve gone from recognizing ourselves as a singular entity to a pluralized unit. By adhering to such an impractical ideal, we’re depriving ourselves of innate biological fulfillment while subsequently abdicating our own sense of self. Most people desire monogamy because they view the concept as being synonymous with security.  That one person will be able to adequately fulfill your emotional and sexual needs and desires has become the romanticized model we’re taught to strive for, but is it really a rational ideology? From what we know in terms of biological factors and evolutionary psychology, the answer seems to be no.

The concept of non-monogamy isn’t particularly uncommon in the gay community or among men in general, as it’s always been the assumption that males are just inherently more sexually promiscuous beings than women, but there is new research that suggests it’s women in monogamous relationships who are more apt to tire of monogamy sooner. The idea that women are primarily interested in a relationship, and therefore monogamy, has historically acted as a means of social comfort in often intrinsically misogynistic cultures. While men were and are portrayed as ravenous sexual beasts, women were reduced to contented roles in society as a means of a sort of “social glue.” The pervasive belief was and still is that women seek out quality while men focus on quantity. Men often escape criticism for their carnality, the opposite of which holds true for women. Additionally, women have also been shown to be keener on sexual novelty and vicissitude than men, further imploding widespread female sexual stereotypes.

Monogamy as a concept is primarily seen as pertaining to sexuality because what we’ve attempted to do is turn a complex intellection into a simplistic and distorted philosophy. What all of this new research suggests, though, is that sexual monogamy is not what most of us congenitally want for ourselves, making our de rigueur approach to sex all the more perplexing. If we don’t want monogamy, why do we adhere to it?

I think what has to happen is expanded social consciousness about human relationships and sexuality as a whole. The irony within our society is that sex subconsciously plays an enormous role in our everyday lives, yet we continue to stifle ourselves. We’re no longer able to hide behind antiquated conventions, so why are we still participating in pleasure self-deprivation?