74 responses

  1. Matt
    February 15, 2010

    Only one commenter above (Regan) brought up the idea of sacrifice here.

    The argument about monogamy being unnatural, against nature, a kind of “oppression” is extremely popular. Why hold ourselves to a standard, why constrain ourselves, why control ourselves? Why not give ourselves what we want, when we want it? This seems to be the thought process of those who like open relationships.

    I understand this; I understand that sex is powerful, and certainly I want to have it, too, with (multiple) people. But monogamy is sacrifice; it is holding oneself to a standard; it is “unnatural.” You do it for the other person, you take a vow.

    I think there is a great value in that – you and your partner are sacrificing something for each other, you are entering into an arrangement that IS “unnatural,” you are doing something that is hard. I don’t want to be in a relationship where I’m not asking that of myself, and my boyfriend isn’t either. The distinctions between emotional and physical fidelity – as if the physical isn’t significant – leave me cold.

  2. Blake in ATL
    February 15, 2010

    I am flexible as to what kind of relationship I could be in. I could envision myself in a monogamous relationship, an open relationship, or a multiple-partner relationship. Because I’m open to the paradigm of relationships, I most often let the other person (or persons) involved in the relationship make up the rules. Whatever he wants is what I want. That being said, those rules must hold indefinitely.

    To me great relationships are built on mutual respect and trust, any attempt to change the rules governing a relationship would represent dissatisfaction in the current relationship and would be disrespectful to the other people in the relationship. If I were to feel disrespected and if I felt that either I or my partner was dissatisfied with the relationship as it was constructed I would end it rather than modify it. For example, if I was in a monogamous relationship and my partner suddenly wanted to open it, I would end it.

    That being said, if I was in an open relationship and my partner suddenly demanded fidelity from me I would certainly end it. If I were in a relationship with multiple partners, however, it would depend on the ground-rules laid out in such a complex situation (intra-monogamous, open, growing, etc.)but any attempt to change these ground-rules would be unaceptable to me.

    Currently I’m in a monogamous relationship and its lovely.

  3. anteros
    February 15, 2010

    …about types of relationships being judged as ‘unnatural’ or ‘against nature’…

    those sound like snippets taken from outdated sodomy laws from some backward country like Uganda or Malawi, being re-applied to monogamy.

    is it really possible for creatures of nature, such as homosexual human beings, to act ‘against the order of nature’? isnt nature defined by all of creation in its diversity? how do some creatures get to define what’s natural and what isnt? are we trying to suggest here that creation and all its creatures ought to follow the order of ‘nature’ as defined by the chosen few who know what’s ‘natural’ better than any other creature of nature?

  4. Amicus
    February 16, 2010

    anteros, there has to be a look through of some sort.

    Picture this: one guy from a monogamous partnership has sex with a guy from a non-monogamous relationship. On account of poor relationship skills, the first guy is there with a bundle of unresolved emotions about his relationship, which is currently careening between periods of high conflict, smothering, and smooth sailing. The second guy could probably be diagnosed as sex addicted, and is there not for the other guy as much as out of a compulsion.

    Now, I’m sure that might be the ‘natural outcome’ of their situations, but it would be hard to say it was a ‘natural order’ of things.

  5. anteros
    February 16, 2010

    That scenario and all its possible outcomes are totally natural… as natural as a miscarriage, an earthquake, famine, heartache… even murder and suicide, often not counted as ‘natural’ causes of death – they’re all part of nature. Cloning, artificial insemination, hearing aids – those are often considered unnatural, but there’s still room for debate on that.

    Perhaps ‘normal’ is the word to use, rather than ‘natural’… especially since it allows us to acknowledge how relative or subjective our evaluations may be. Most people would agree that what’s ‘normal’ for one person may not be ‘normal’ for a bunch of people… but ‘natural’ kinda implies something a lot more universal.

    Am I confused? Dont wanna stray 2 far off topic.

  6. Jason D
    February 16, 2010

    anteros, my understanding of “natural” is things that happen naturally — in other words, without the interference of man.

    Animals are said to be without higher brain function. Their actions are entirely fueled by instinct. Thus, in that way, they are “programmed” by nature to behave a certain way.

    In most respects when someone suggests or states that something is natural, they are saying that whatever it is would occur, behave, or exist if human beings didn’t.

  7. Désirée
    February 16, 2010

    I would agree with Jason D

    But of course, that leaves a lot of things open to being natural, including murder, polygamy, incest, war, using tools…

    and a lot of things as “unnatural” including setting a broken bone, eyeglasses, utensils, toilet paper, clothes, wanting privacy while defecating, preventing sexually mature children from procreating, getting an education, marriage ceremonies…

    The point being, “natural” is a terrible word to use to describe human behavior.

  8. anteros
    February 16, 2010

    Why would a bird’s nest or a spider’s web be more ‘natural’ than a man’s house, or a skyscraper? We’re not aliens – we belong here just as much as the bugs and the animals.

    Sure, the monogamous – non-monogamous relationship described above has it’s probable causes (such as sex addiction or whatever) and consequences (such as heartbreak) but guess what? The same reasoning could be applied to pollenation… need-based relationships… party A and party B each have distinct needs, for whatever reason… so they ‘use’ each other to meet those needs with varying consequences – from an entire field of corn being harvested by machines to an entire hive being raided by a bear. It’s all nature, and we’re part of it… fully. So what if we communicate over the internet, we havent figured out all the mysteries of our fellow creatures and how they communicate… bird migration?

    Again, I think ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ should replace ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ when describing certain things that involve personal evaluation… let’s allow ourselves to admit that the way we see things isnt as universal as the words ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ would imply, but rather as loaded with subjective evaluation as the word ‘normal’ suggests… we see the world through different ‘lenzes’ and… i’ve written too much.

  9. Jason D
    February 16, 2010

    “Why would a bird’s nest or a spider’s web be more ‘natural’ than a man’s house, or a skyscraper?”

    Because birds and spiders build their nests themselves using their own bodies (no tools) and do so from instinct, not creativity. Whereas houses and skyscrapers are built from creative thinking using tools and machines. Our brain is one thing we have that no other animal has.

    It’s not my fault if you don’t accept the conventional reasoning behind the usage of words like “natural”.

    And the words “normal” and “abnormal” are hardly a better option.

  10. Regan DuCasse
    February 16, 2010

    I have met non monogamous couples…
    and I wasn’t impressed. That’s all.

    I haven’t met ALL of them, no one can meet ALL of the people who are the matter of a discussion, and I don’t make assessments of situations lightly, nor unfairly.
    And I am a seriously analytical person.
    A pattern emerged from these non monogamous couples, gay AND straight and some things became very clear to me.

    I will not be convinced such situations give the sort of time and effort required to learn about oneself OR the people you’re involved with. Some folks are emotionally low maintenance, that’s true too.

    But this sort of arrangement still speaks to a form of detachment and selfishness that requires all the benefits, but NONE of the responsibilities or sacrifices required of a monogamous relationship.
    That IS a situation lacking in DEPTH.

    And those situations that involved children certainly DOES take away from their sense of security and who to trust and for how long. The limits of desire to be monogamous, is telling also about the limits of attachment, therefore abandonment is easier.
    There are people who don’t care about those things, nor want to…and for the most part, don’t HAVE to.
    It’s this last detail that are about freedom, but let’s not pretend there are no costs somewhere down the line.

  11. Priya Lynn
    February 16, 2010

    I wouldn’t want a non-monogamous couple around my man. If they have no boundaries in their relationship how could I expect them to respect the boundaries in ours and not attempt to tempt my man into an extramarital affair?

  12. Uki
    February 16, 2010

    I’m gonna have to agree with Regan. I have never impressed with how the non-monogamous couples I have seen so far.

    Their partners come and go, and no tears shed, no memories remain, there was no……intimacy. Just a ‘hi’, ‘okay’, and ‘goodbye’, and that’s all. While the monogamous couples I have seen have more intimacy, and have more wisdom.

    Yes, they tend to get more wrinkle than the non-monogamous. But for me, each wrinkles tells a story. And it was a story of hardships, and the struggle. Part of it, is the story on how they have overcome the ‘war’ on staying together.

    I think now I am beginning to understand why there are so many heterosexual divorce rate in America…….

  13. Uki
    February 16, 2010

    I am also agreeing with Blake in ATL. If I was in a certain relationship, and if my partner asked me to change the nature of the relationship. I wouldn’t agree. And would immediately dump him.

    It’s kinda like, our partner are not satisfied with the way the relationship are. And if he isn’t satisfied from the beginning, then even if we change the nature, it won’t change his dissatisfaction.

  14. Nevada Blue
    February 16, 2010

    I don’t hold any perspective on myself in stone. One thing I’ve learned about humans over the last 45 years is that they change over a lifetime. I just try to stay vigilant at staying open to new perspectives (with varying degrees of success). Oh, and straight, btw.

    I am monogamous when in a relationship, and have been for 17 years with two relationships over that span. I decided monogamy was for me when I experienced the pain of betrayal and when I betrayed someone. Neither pain was worth the practice. In my most recent relationship we talked about experimentation with others, but never made the leap.

    I know I have issues of esteem and experience jealousy, and I hold honesty in high regard. If I was attracted enough to a person (inside and out) I’d consider entering an open or poly relationship. If I was already in a monogamous relationship where my partner initiated negotiations for openness…I’d appreciate the honesty, and would at least give it serious consideration. But at this late date, I just don’t know if I’d be up to conquering my jealous feelings.

  15. Amicus
    February 16, 2010

    But one thing I do believe, is that monogamy is hard, and non-monogamy is easy.

    I want to put some pressure on this.

    This is not true as a general statement. For some, either choice is not hard. For some monogamists, anything different just ‘never entered their mind’. For some non-monogamists, monogamy is ‘absurd’ from the outset.

    Then, after those two groupings, of whatever size, there appears a big gray area.

    The somewhat alluring proposition that non-monogamy is like having your cake and eating it too is belied a bit from empirics.

    McWhirter and Mattison, for instance, report:

    “Although most of the couples [in their study] have some degree of sexual nonexclusivity, they have not reached these arrangements by the same routes, nor has it been easy for them. In fact, more than 85 percent of the couples report that their greatest relationship problems center on outside relationships, sexual and nonsexual.” p. 256

    The wonderful world of ‘free love’ is never as ideal as it seems.

    Take this hypothetical:

    Harvey is the ‘sensitive side’ of the relationship, but has trained himself to accept that his partner wants ‘freedom’ and he doesn’t want to be ‘a possessive’. One day, at the Piggly Wiggly, he comes past Steve, who his partner has been seeing on and off. Enthusiastically, he says “hello” and blurts out, “My husband says you’re fantastic.” Whether he said it the wrong way or whether Steve was just in an ugly mood that day, he quips, “He’s more my husband than yours, these days.” Stunned, Harvey bolts the PW in tears…

  16. Amicus
    February 16, 2010

    anteros, it is true that some people don’t think that ‘natural’ has much place in abstracting what might be a ‘natural order’ to things. The theory or language has a lot of intuitive purchase with things like putting people on a shift for 12 hours with no break or into an office cubical with nothing but florescent light. Those situations are ‘unnatural’, fabricated in harmful ways. Sometimes, it has purchase in terms of a higher or better self, as in, “that brought out his true nature” or “dressing is more natural than running nude through the streets”.

  17. Amicus
    February 16, 2010

    Regan, keep looking.

    Some of them do appear to be quite attached to their “primary partner” (for years) and prepared to make certain sacrifices. After all, they got partnered in the first place, when they didn’t have to.

    I don’t have a good grasp of all the reasons, in proportion, of why people choose non-monogamy. In fact, McWirter and Mattison suggest that _some_ couples who do make such an agreement end up being monogamous for long periods in practice, anyway.

    Without that, it doesn’t make much sense for one to offer a defeat of your perspective (i.e. typical stuff, the sacrifices that you are noting are not the ones that define “depth” and so on..).

  18. anteros
    February 16, 2010

    Let me admit, I’ve got baggage… carried over from sodomy laws that use ‘unnatural’ and ‘against the order of nature’ to disenfranchise perfectly natural LGBT relationships.

    Homophobes have used their concepts of what a ‘normal’ relationship means to them, to disenfranchise LGBT relationships as ‘unnatural’.

    Everybody has, and is entitled to, their own opinion on what a ‘normal’ or an ‘abnormal’ relationship means to them. But to stretch that opinion on what is normal or abnormal, however dominant it may be… to extrapolate it into defining relationships as ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’… I find that quite disenfranchising.

    If I were in an inter-racial, cross-generational, non-monogamous relationship, and someone questioned me about whether such a relationship is normal… I’d understand that ‘normal’ differs from person to person and that ‘normal’ in one community may not be ‘normal’ in another… it’s subjective and takes into account different worldviews. I would find such a question less disenfranchising and less offensive than being questioned about whether such a relationship is ‘natural’.

    In a world where people use strap-on dildos, I still find it difficult to understand how human beings can be involved in ‘unnatural’ relationships, but much easier to understand that certain types of human relationships can be seen as ‘abnormal’ or ‘atypical’ in different people’s opinions.

    That’s just my baggaged opinion.

  19. anteros
    February 16, 2010

    …i hold similar views on ‘illegal aliens’ vs ‘undocumented immigrants’.

    …off-topic, i know. i’m sorry.

  20. Jason D
    February 16, 2010

    anteros, I get that, but “normal” is just as loaded as people have the dividing line in this regard

    regular, safe, average, conforming to expectations, upstanding, familiar, moral, HEALTHY, wholesome, GOOD.

    rebellious, FREAKISH, foreign, unpredictable, dangerous, unreliable, dishonest, unhealthy, deformed, BAD

    It’s all subjective, of course. Not being normal doesn’t bother me, but being called “abnormal” does, as it implies there’s something wrong.

    I think “natural” is good for describing things that happen of their own accord, without human intervention — homosexuality is one of them, after all. But “natural” doesn’t always mean good. Weather is natural, and much of it can maim or kill you. Open heart surgery is unnatural, but I think most people would agree it’s a good thing.

    What makes something good or bad isn’t whether it’s natural or even normal, those are simply details that are really irrelevant to the “goodness” of something. What matters is it’s affect, it’s result. Cancer is bad because it kills you(even though it’s natural). It’s normal to feel hurt when betrayed, and normal to have violent thoughts of retribution, but it would be bad to to act on those perfectly normal feelings and thoughts.

  21. Amicus
    February 16, 2010

    anteros, I wouldn’t call it baggage. It’s a legit viewpoint that ‘nature’ doesn’t inform us, much, about ‘natural order’.

    For sodomy, I think people just misread nature to one-size fits all. I mean, sodomy is obviously natural if you’re gay.

  22. Uki
    February 17, 2010

    Here is in an interesting quote:

    “But while Swedish society has become more tolerant, there is also an increasing expectation that homosexuals live in monogamous couple relationships.
    Anonymous sex in public parks is not something that the general public finds appropriate, and legislation certainly reflects this attitude. This “normalization” of the gay and lesbian life style is deplored by many queer activists, arguing that multiple sexual relations and unorthodox sexual behavior are part of the queer culture.”

    Well, that does it. Monogamy for me. Because apparently, non-monogamy is only being done just for the sake of differentiate themselves from the crowd.

  23. Amicus
    February 17, 2010

    Uki, LOL.

    We debate these profound matters of sexuality and the wider culture is … well just google “pull your pants up” to find out where it’s at with the new pull your pants up movement.

  24. Uki
    February 17, 2010

    isn’t that just a movement to dress properly? What it has got to do with sexuality?

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