November 10, 2007

Poly Want Some Evidence?

Justin Katz

Well, whaddaya know:

Many speakers highlighted the fact that as polyamorists, they didn't see themselves as adulterers or swingers. Instead, polyamory involves several simultaneous committed physically intimate relationships. Also, unlike polygamy, made famous by HBO's "Big Love," both females and males may have multiple partners.

Polyamory NYC hosts monthly meetings at the LGBT Community Center averaging about 40 members, with more than 1,000 visiting their Yahoogroup. Members often belong to other local sexuality networks, including Body Temple, Sexy Spirits, One Taste, and various bondage groups. Religious commitments vary from Paganism to Judaism and Unitarianism.

Most members like Normal Ellis, 45, say that monogamy is not a natural state for relationships. After his divorce several years ago, he found himself in a monogamous romance headed toward a second marriage.

"I did some soul-searching and realized that I just wasn't wired that way," said Ellis. He started meeting polyamorous women online and has dated as many as four partners at a time.

Many polyamorous couples have a primary partner, whom they may be married to or live with. They may then form a triad with a third partner, or one partner may take on a second lover outside the relationship. Sometimes a triad will share a home in a "polyamorous V," or both partners will take on a boyfriend or girlfriend outside the relationship. ...

But the purpose of the pride weekend went beyond cuddling and coupling. For many, the politics of polyamory are fraught with discord. Justen Bennett-Maccubbin, the mohawked founder of Polyamorous NYC, said that there is sometimes friction between the gay and polyamorous communities.

"Polyamory is just as much an orientation as being gay," said Bennett-Maccubbin, who started his first polyamorous relationship when he fell in love with a gay couple at 19.

The thing that the SSM movement has to realize is that, when you create a template, people tend to follow it. And in this case, there's no rational basis to stop them from following it all the way to the end.

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Is monogamy of special importance to the formation and maintenance of same-sex relationships?

If yes, why?

Whatever its importance, same-sex monogamy would not provide contingency for responsible procreation. Nor would it integrate man and woman, obviously.

So its importance would be something different from that of monogamy within marriage, as I think these pro-poly people demonstrate.

Posted by: Chairm at November 11, 2007 4:06 AM

I'd buy this argument if polyamory was exclusively the province of homosexuals. But as we all know, that's not true.

Posted by: rhody at November 11, 2007 3:51 PM

The orientation of the polyamorists is irrelevant. If you read the article, you'll see that they aren't all gay.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 11, 2007 4:09 PM

I'll rephrase.

Sexual relations holds signifiance.

Monogamy holds heightened importance for responsible procreation. And it is very important to the integration of man and woman both at the intimate level in the private home and at the communal level in the broader society. This arises from the nature of human generativity, for example. There is public importance to the private aspect of sexual relations and, hence, to both-sexed monogamy.

What is the significance of sexual relations, in terms of polyamory?

What is the significance of sexual relations, in terms of SSM?

In both cases, it not about the nature of marriage, as the polyamorists illustrate -- and as SSM argumentation reminds us repeatedly.

What is the public importance of sexual relations in either case?

In what way, if any, would monogamy distinguish SSM from polyamory?

When we consider the basic combinations possible within polyamory, sexual orientation is highly relevant to the treatment of sexual relations.

Clearly, both-sexed polyamory crosses certain lines that the one-sexed version would not, in terms of integration of motherhood and fatherhood, for example.

Also, is not bisexuality a sexual orientation on par with homosexuality, in terms of SSM argumentation? If not, why not?

Bisexuality might be expressed in both-sexed-only polyamaory.

Likewise in a one-sexed-only arrangement.

But it is in the former, and not the latter, that there is public significance to sexual relations -- a significance which the polyamorists put aside, whether they lean toward same-sexed or both-sexed polyamory.

Do not SSMers also put aside that public significance even as they make a special pleading for same-sex sexual behavior?

Posted by: Chairm at November 11, 2007 8:15 PM

Dear Chairm,

Once again, as is usually the case, biology fails you.

Women can have multiple orgasms because nature does not believe in monogomy. Counting on this belief, nature has equipped males to be able to deliver more sperm when they've been away from their partner for a long time to counteract "invading" sperm.

Since can never get the science right, the rest is pointless. Beyond the science, there's no evidence in current law that says any of this matters either.

Once again, outside of a religous context, your points fail on an empirical testing ground. Please impose your version of morality on someone else.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 12, 2007 2:28 PM

Bobby, okay, so you concede your are wrong about marriage.

Posted by: Chairm at November 12, 2007 4:29 PM

Dear Chairm,

I'm not wrong; I'm able to separate church from state. Some of you seem to have a problem doing this.

If this were a religous or dogmatic conversation, I'd want grant most of the points you and Justin make. However, it's not and the Catechism (Justin, one of these days I'm sending you a copy) is not the ultimate authority here.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 12, 2007 5:16 PM


Do you agree that "Polyamory is just as much an orientation as being gay” or are you just pointing out that the SSM movement paves the way for legal acknowledgement of other alternative relationship forms – or both?

I do see similarities in the ‘moral’ arguments against granting SSM or polyamory. But otherwise, polyamory doesn’t actually change the definition of marriage like SSM. The exclusion of not being already married is not part of the traditional definition of marriage. Your argument applies to those SSMers who argue that any relationship form should be granted “marriage” status. But those are not a majority.

Also, I guess I do not see how allowing SSM inherently provides a rational basis path to allow polyamory or any alternative relationship form. To me, that is like saying that the war with Iraq provides a rational basis for the US going to war with China or Turkey. (and there are those who use that argument)

Posted by: msteven at November 12, 2007 7:54 PM

I don't believe polyamory to be an "orientation," in the way that we understand the term... except inasmuch as an increasing percentage of moderns are oriented against self-control and personal cognizance.

Your argument applies to those SSMers who argue that any relationship form should be granted "marriage" status. But those are not a majority.

I don't know about that. I seem to remember the following line from the MA SJC's Goodridge decision:

Whether and whom to marry, how to express sexual intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family--these are among the most basic of every individual's liberty and due process rights.

Ultimately, I don't think it matters what a majority of a particular movement members intend. (Isn't that kind of admitting, by the way, that they aren't making considered arguments — just fighting for a cause whatever the justification?) Plaintiffs for expanded causes will arise; some in the old cause will reconsider on their behalf. I suspect that one could have said, a decade ago, that a majority of folks who supported gay rights actions didn't support the redefinition of marriage as part of those actions.

To me, that is like saying that the war with Iraq provides a rational basis for the US going to war with China or Turkey.

Sorry; can't see that as anything other than a silly argument. Courts will treat equal rights claims differently than governments treat war claims.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 12, 2007 8:13 PM

That quote from Justice Marshall provides the basis for the questions I had easked earlier.

If we compare the significance of sexual relations, in terms of marriage, polyamory, and SSM, it seems the latter too have much more in common with each other than either has with the conjugal relationship.

Put another way, sexual relations serves a nonmarital purpose in the SSM idea as it does in the polyamory idea.

Monogamy serves the marital purpose.

Even where polygamy is allowed, each marriage in the series of marriages is between one man and one woman. But polyamory is a different kettle of fish. And is so for basically the same reason that SSM is not marriage.

Relevant to the point about the courts accomodating nonmarriage is the example of the Ontario court which granted co-equal parental status to three adults for one child. A similair case occured in Pennsylvania.

Both fit the quote that Justin cited from Justice Marshall's Goodridge opinion. Both fit, even more closely, the expansion of that opinion that Marshall wrote in her related advisory on civil union.

Posted by: Chairm at November 12, 2007 11:16 PM

I'm in the middle of reading Before The Dawn, an account of what we think we know about modern humans starting 50000 years ago, based on genetic/DNA research. According to the researchers cited, humanity didn't reach a finish line and stop evolving. The chapter on sociality is .... interesting. It has a lot to say about what the author terms the domestication of humans - by humans. One of the keystones of this (and relevant here) is the privatization of sex by humans versus the free for all approaches of our nearest genetic neighbors. Others include development of language, religion, settlement vs hunter gatherer.
Very interesting, but not always what you'd like to learn. For example, almost all people have a in-bred genetic resistance to diseases like kuru and other ritual cannibalism. Why do we have that?

Posted by: chuckR at November 13, 2007 9:59 AM


I think our differences are based on your points being intended towards those who support SSM as a constitutional right based on equal rights a la the Goodridge judicial decision.

I do not fit into that category.

My war analogy wasn’t meant as a practical application but one where the logic used in both arguments are similar. War opponents have used that logic just as SSMers, including the majority in the Goodridge case, have. I’m not defending it, just pointing out its use.

You are certainly right that in all movements, there are those who fight for or against the cause regardless of consideration of their arguments. I also agree that many who supported the effort to normalize homosexuality didn’t support the redefinition of marriage as part of it.

Posted by: msteven at November 13, 2007 12:55 PM
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