aqrima has a great post about polyamory today and since I wrote a while ago something about fidelity the subject has been in my mind for a while. Here’s what I think irks me about the discussions on polyamory (or any kind of model of interpersonal relationship with some kind of sexual component): whatever is discussed, it is still modeled after monogamy (even if it is by “opposition”). I am not referring to aqrima’s comments on her post but to Taormino’s “rules” which are quoted in it. The entire poly paradigm is still discussed and referred to in relation to a heteronormative notion of monogamy. For instance, Taormino poses a series of questions to determine if Polyamory would be a suitable form of relation and one of the questions posed is “What is the state of the relationship? Does it feel stable and secure?” and I have to counter ask: why does a relationship need to be stable and secure in order for a person to explore other alternatives? Could it be that, precisely because the relationship is neither stable nor secure someone would like to explore other ways of relating? Why are security and stability so valued? (Again, as I posed in my previous piece about fidelity, I contend this is part of the capitalist notions of production and social models permeating sexual matters). And again (and again), the entire discussion seems to be based on matters of “ownership”: Imagine your partner having a relationship with another person/ What feelings does that bring up?/ What would be your worst fear?. The implication being that we even have a “right” to imagine our partners in sexual encounters with other people just because our partners are our property and as such, we have to imagine how our property would feel in someone else’s hands. I know I am probably not articulating this very well, but I see my posts on the subject here as works in progress, mostly because there is something in the current mainstream discourse about polyamory that still bothers me.
I believe the other thing that sets the alarms off for me is the whole concept of “fidelity” and how it is automatically expected and desired. I insist that this pervasive notion of “fidelity as the only accepted good” is the one instrument of social control that we have assimilated from Abrahamic religions. We have, of course, naturalized it to the point that it is no longer questioned or presented as “open for debate”. All the “poly” discussions seem to assume that this fidelity (not necessarily in the sense of physical fidelity, as in not having sex with other people, but as in “owing full disclosure to another human being”) is the only acceptable way to build partnerships. I, on the other hand, believe (at least for now, I may change my mind at any point) that fidelity has become a matter of control and policing because, if we have to disclose every action to another human being, thus having to explain the rationale behind this action and all the matters surrounding it, we are, in fact, acknowledging that we are OK with being judged and being policed. Not only that we are OK with it, but we tacitly open ourselves for it. Come to think of it, it’s not so different from the Catholic concept of “confession”.
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