Why We Have an Open Relationship: A Dialogue on Queer Polyamory for Lesbians

LAUREN: You guys, I’m a real lesbian! I think U-Haul jokes are trite but true, I can’t help but make cooing sounds at babies and small animals, I love Tegan and Sara like whoa, and oh, right, I like girls. I’m just like any other lesbian – but I don’t believe in monogamy.

KATRINA: A lot of people right now are beginning to see a shift in the definition of what it means to be in a relationship, and that definition is no longer contingent upon monogamy. The concept of polyamory is nothing new, of course, but the concept of serious, loving, and functioning relationships that are also sexually open sometimes seems to be.

LAUREN: Because let’s face it, most of us can’t really seem to get down with the idea of a true, real, loving, and open relationship. I’ve been there! I used to be one of those preachers too: monogamy and self-control and don’t you ever think about cheating. What’s in your pants and what’s in your heart are intrinsically and irrevocably connected, because that’s what it means – and all it means – to love someone, right?

KATRINA: I get it, the idea of straying from monogamy is scary. I know that when Sara Quin first sang “I’m not unfaithful, but I’ll stray,” all of our lesbian hearts stopped as we resigned ourselves to believing that if Sara Quin didn’t believe in monogamy or happily ever after, then none of us ever had a chance at falling in love again. Ever!

It’s no surprise that we feel this way. “Monogamy” is most relationship’s #1 Rule. Straying from that is like falling down a slippery societal slope which eventually leads to women getting the right to vote and gays wanting to get married.

“Coming out as non-monogamous isn’t just about sexual freedom, it’s about sexual honesty. It’s important to us not just as queer women, but as WOMEN. Men have monopolized the idea of multiple sexual partnership for all of time…”

We are inclined to cling to monogamy as the defining factor of ‘serious relationships’ because society values it above all else. It’s more important than trust, honesty, stability, reliability, or emotional availability. But why do we prioritize ownership of our partner’s bodies/sexualities over the social & emotional tenets that construct a strong partnership?

LAUREN: My new outlook on relationships has been vague and life-changing, kinda like when I came out to myself as a non-hetero. ‘Monogamous’ is yet another mold I don’t fit into, and its one that I’ve been trained to see as wrong, immoral and just plain “unnatural.” And if you do do it I, you’ve gotta be a gay man, because they’re the only ones who can get away with it.

KATRINA: But our generation is on the cusp of breaking through a lot of the pre-supposed molds of gender binaries and sexualities. Sometimes it’s not “which gender you’d rather do it with” but “who shouldn’t you be able to do it with?”

LAUREN: In retrospect I think my feelings about non-monogamy were similar to the vitrolic feelings I had towards homos as a kid before figuring out I too was a little babygay. Sometimes it’s easier to hate from far away than it is to be honest with yourself and manifest that in your relationships.

KATRINA: Much like coming out to yourself as queer (I hear a lot of us around here have done that), coming out as non-monogamous isn’t just about sexual freedom, it’s about sexual honesty.

It’s important to us not just as queer women, but as WOMEN. Men have monopolized the idea of multiple sexual partnership for all of time: from the pre-feminist acceptance of men having mistresses to how lesbians have been repeatedly left out of same-sex couples’ polyamorous movement. We’re mired in ideas like “men want to fuck, woen don’t.” “Boys will be boys.” But it’s not fair to ignore this desire in women.

Sex does matter to us. It’s not an obligation and it’s not for procreation, and we do it for love, yeah, but we do it for fun too. ‘Cause it feels good, ’cause we wanna, and ’cause we can.

LAUREN: I find that many of my lesbian coupled friends become codependent on one another, because in lesboland it’s totally accepted and somewhat part of the culture. For lots of relationships that go that way and eventually end, having a more open relationship seems like an easy way to slowly let go while weirdly simultaneously hold on. It seems that a lot of lesbians think about open relationships like this, because they’ve either done it or seen others do it.


KATRINA: But we’re allowed to want things, and not just want them, but expect and even demand them in a partner, whether that partner be sexual, emotional, romantic, or anything between/beyond.

LAUREN: If you don’t fit into the box, it’s okay to let yourself out of it. And it’s okay to stay in the ‘box’ if that’s what makes you happy. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with monogamy; just that we’ve observed that the pressure put upon it makes room for some nasty things, like being overly possessive and jealousy.

It’s socially acceptable for women to feel jealous and consequently be possessive, especially of another woman. I’d rather not dictate to my partner who she should be attracted to.

KATRINA: By nature, monogamy is insistent upon jealousy and structured according to what we feel are unrealistic expectations of yourself and your partner. There’s more room to focus on building a secure, lasting relationship when it’s not bound by or founded on obligation or a denial of attraction.

Questioning monogamy is scary! It means you’re questioning what you feel about love and sex and how you feel about your body, your relationships and your desires, and how your partner feels about these things for themselves. in a relationship, questioning what you want means questioning if you’re wanted. It’s not just about my desires. It’s about her’s, and whether theres’a  double-standard at play. You have to be totally honest with not just your girlfriend but yourself. ‘Cause as much as you may not want to watch your girlfriend wanting someone else (or maybe you do), at some point I recognized that I wanted it to.

There’s a difference between expanding the borders of a relationship and using openness as an excuse to run (run, run).

“We finally had a conversation about how we both found the same girl attractive, and admitting this out loud to each other brought us closer, actually, rather than jealousy pulling us apart.”

LAUREN: I actually ended up in an open relationship on accident. Me and my partner let an elephant out of the room when we finally had a conversation about how we both found the same girl attractive, and admitting this out loud to each other brought us closer, actually, rather than jealousy pulling us apart.

Things opened up. We saw each other as people with independent sexualities instead of just each other’s girlfriends. Of course it was more comfortable to tell myself that she only wanted me, forever & ever, and that we’d live happily ever after, but that would be lying to myself about what I really wanted and about who she really is.

KATRINA: It’s not easy, obviously, to think about deviating from monogamy. Monogamy has its merits. It provides a lot of security, but that security can come from places other than sexual exclusivity when you’re focussed on building a comprehensive truth and trust in partnership.

Exploring polyamory for me is almost like exploring a new kind of queerness. It’s acknowledging that there’s more than one or even two ways to look at what a relationship can be. It’s not monogamy vs. polygamy just like it’s not gay vs. straight. It’s various personal experiences and interpretations of how we feel about love and sex and magic (baby).

Of course, there’s a difference between theory and execution. It’s easy to understand your partner’s attraction to someone else and to know how important you are to them and how much they love you, but it’s hard to see it happen and not feel jealousy. But let’s face it: the only good jealousy ever did anyone was to name Tegan and Sara’s fourth studio album.

So it’s okay to think that open relationships might be scary. Being scared of deviation from monogamy is like feeling like The L Word is a legitimately well-crafted show: at first you feel morbidly curious, then transfixed, then reflective upon your own sexuality, and finally you realize that most of what you were preoccupied with really didn’t make any sense anyway. See, it’s the same!

But the concept of an open relationship shouldn’t be scary. Because when it comes down to it, it’s nothing more than another interpretation of what a relationship could be like; it’s just another way to deviate from the norm – and we all know what that’s like, don’t we?

We shouldn’t expect to get non-monogamy right the first time we try to understand or execute it. We still might not get it the second time, or even the third. But maybe it’s not because monogamy is the only way that works, but because there are an infinite amount of ways for relationships to succeed or fail or rework themselves before it’s right.

We as a culture have evolved so many times in only the last 60 years, from the ultra-gendered heterosexuality of the 1950s to free love of the 60s and 70s to the androgynous sexuality (and cone-shaped bras) of the 80s. We act and feel as if this whole time there has only been one way to interpret relationships and sexuality, but in reality or perceptions are changing rapidly and regularly.

This is the generation in which it’s becoming possible to grow up gay. To be able to come out and live without alias or excuse. Maybe our sexual revolution is a revolution of exposure and presence. And although the ultimate goal that some chase is normalcy, we are in a period now where being out means that sex and sexuality are intrinsically tied to your identity, whether that’s the way you perceive it or the way others perceive you. Being gay forced us to honestly consider the possibilities of our sexualities; being non-monogamous forces us to honestly consider the possibilities of our sexualities as they relate to others and re-evaluate the forces that make our partnerships special and honest above all else.

It’s not the easiest choice to make, and it doesn’t make sense to everyone. But it’s something to consider…y’know, if you’re into that kinda thing.

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phoenix has written 64 articles for us.


  1. Thank you for this. I accepted polyamoury as a label after realising that’s just kinda how I work – I form all sorts of relationships and attachments with people, and just because I may or may not sleep with them doesn’t mean it’s not as intimate or close.

    (on another note: thanks for all the relationship-related posts, I do appreciate them. I just wish they would have come a few months EARLIER, because there’s some nutcase drama with Girl-Of-My-Dreams-Turning-Into-A-Nightmare-Situation and all of this is making me sad :( )

  2. uhm saving this forever because it speaks to me on about every single level of my soul. Amazing and simple way of putting it. Brilliant!

  3. I’ve been reflecting on the subject of polyamory since earlier this year and I’ve been interested in reading an argument that would punch me in the face, transform my skepticism into optimistic energy because I definitely believe in building trust, being open, non-possessive. Who wouldn’t. What I’m curious about is the conditions of polyamorous relationships. What exactly does it mean. How does each person negotiate jealousy. What happens if one person is monogamous but agrees to be in an open relationship with someone who is polyamorous and complications arise because they have not established any agreements. Where does manipulation factor in. What about eliminating the idea of open and closed relationships totally and just settling on this idea that relationships take work, that they are constantly opening AND closing. Do I know what I’m talking about. Not exactly. I’m thinking aloud in a blog comment.

    • “they are constantly opening AND closing”

      this is interesting, and pushes the whole thing out of another binary altogether. i will think about this and BE BACK ONCE MY BRAIN DOES STUFF

    • As someone whose been practicing non-monogamy for a few years I find that one of the first responses I get from people is questions. Question after question and then more questions.

      “What exactly does it mean.”
      Polyamorouy isn’t easily defined because it varies so widely from person to person and couple to couple (notice I self-defined as non-monogamous?).

      “How does each person negotiate jealousy.”
      Also very personal – some people don’t feel it in the same way a monogamous person does and some reflect on what’s causing their jealousy. Is it possessiveness? Is it fear?

      “What happens if one person is monogamous but agrees to be in an open relationship with someone who is polyamorous and complications arise because they have not established any agreements. Where does manipulation factor in. What about eliminating the idea of open and closed relationships totally and just settling on this idea that relationships take work, that they are constantly opening AND closing”
      Phew! There is such a thing as responsible non-monogamy just like there’s safe sex, being good to your girl friend, and looking both ways before you cross the street. In my personal experience there’s a lot of talking and regular checking in; and in some ways being open has forced us to be more honest about who we are and what we’ve been doing. …and when it comes to someone whose mono pairing up with someone whose poly and getting hurt – you have to set guidelines where everyone feels safe. If you don’t, someone’s going to get hurt – and just like trying to pull on socks that don’t fit, you’re just going to end up trying to force it and be all bunched up and in pain.

      • Darlene, thanks for the book recommendations and for answering each (semi-rhetorical) question. I have actually been reading up on polyamory all evening and I totally understand that there is a lot that is misunderstood on the subject.

        “As someone whose been practicing non-monogamy for a few years I find that one of the first responses I get from people is questions. Question after question and then more questions.”

        In response to that tone, when I was 13/14, I started to think I was a lesbian and one of the first questions I asked, on a message board, was, “What do lesbians do in bed?” (a-ha-ha) I mean, I’m embarrassed that I asked it, and I mean, sure you hate answering repetitive questions like that but what are you gonna do if the common person doesn’t know what polyamory is!

    • Relationships opening and closing is *exactly* why I decided to stop avoiding the option of polyamoury. I find it hard to sustain the same intensity of any relationship over time (platonic or romantic), and find that as time goes on, people change, but that doesn’t mean you need to dump them and call it a day. It means renegotiating and setting different parameters, recognizing that no one person can be all that you want all the time. I want *specific people* in my life, not just Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Best Friend/etc, and with each person I have a specialised, personal relationship of our own making. It’s hard work, but otherwise it’s just unlivable (for me).

      • “I want *specific people* in my life, not just Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Best Friend/etc, and with each person I have a specialised, personal relationship of our own making. ”

        Tiara that’s beautiful. And, agreed.

  4. Drats! Too bad I can’t delete my previous comment because often as soon as I say something, I find that I disagree with myself immediately. “/This/, yes. But also /that/. It’s not really disagreement, it’s more like turning a prism–to see something from another point of view.” -s.s.

  5. KATRINA AND LAUREN: this is AWESOME. Glad to see it came out amazing. Loved every pat of it, and, as you know, it touches a special part of my soul. ;)

  6. While you’ve received glowing comments above and let me pre-empt this with saying that i do believe everyone has the right to chose what’s right for them and their lifestyle. Polyamory to me is a lazy way of being in a relationship. yes, you would establish rules but really can’t we all just accept that we are going to have desires/attractions for other people. This would never be/could never be my lifestyle, not because of jealousy or possesiveness but sex is intimate and should not be shared with anyone but the one you love. Do not mistake this comment as being prudish but as only respect for your body and the intimacy you share with your partner. Whew! There I said it!

    • While I agree that everyone has a right to do what they’re gana do; I strongly disagree that there’s anything lazy about being open.

      Since opening with my long-term partner a few years ago we’ve had better communication and more intimate sexual interaction because that’s the being non-mono works for us. The trust is based on communication and honesty: “Sweetheart, I want to fuck that person and I’m not going to lie to you about it. Are you ok?”

      Most of the article and comments have been about non-loving relationships – but there’s another subset of people who feel that love is not singular…. and so to your comment about sharing sex with those you love, what if you love more than one person?

      You’re not a prude for saying what you feel and being the decenting voice – I’d say that makes you brave. ;)

    • Lazy!? Are you kidding!? It’s hard work maintaining one relationship well – try more than one! It’s not all just “casual fuckbuddy”. Right now I’m in the midst of trying to work out what went wrong with one budding relationship (the Dream-Girl-Turned-Nightmare situation I alluded to earlier) while also maintaining my side of my longer-term relationship, which has shown some strain. The polyamoury isn’t the problem; they’re both about their own separate issues.

      Sex isn’t even the most important issue here – it’s about trust, communication, honesty, boundaries, space. All of which are difficult things to deal with in the best of times. Love is love, and to me I find it *necessary* to be able to love more than one person however that love materialises. But it’s hard.

    • I was a bit hesitant to comment on this post, because this post needed to be written, and these girls really wrote about it from their hearts, and I didn’t want to be the person saying, “Hey, what about my monogamy that’s not being talked about in this ONE post?” because that’s not really necessary.

      That said, I’m a non-poly person who has poly friends, and I think monogamy and polyamory need to work together in the same world, just as queerness and hetero-ness do (Katrina mentioned this as well). I don’t think polyamory should be viewed as a “solution” to monogamy, just as another way of being that can co-exist alongside monogamous relationships, because while monogamy IS a big institution enforced by the patriarchy, it’s also a really positive thing for many people.

      clm2003, you’re not a prude. You’ve just identified what is important for YOU in a relationship, and that is awesome.

      However, I do think that there are some relationship issues – jealousy, clinginess, codependency, possessiveness, et al. – don’t arise solely because of being in a monogamous, and the “laziness” that clm2003 is referring to might be that opening a relationship isn’t a one-stop fix-all for relationship problems. I think it’s absolutely possible (and SUPER IMPORTANT) to be in a monogamous relationship and retain your own identity and independence. In the end, it’s all about honesty to yourself and others.

      I also think that opening up yourself to the idea of polyamory (either in yourself, your relationships or in your friends and their relationships) doesn’t erase the fact that cheating and being cheated on can be really, really damaging for people in monogamous relationships, and while that may be due to a polyamorous person not being able to be out, cheating is still incredibly hurtful.

      Polyamory’s a big topic that’s often misunderstood, and that’s why we should have LOTS AND LOTS MORE POSTS ON IT, amiright?

    • I have a lot of non-monogamous friends, and “lazy” is the last word I’d use to describe their relationships! Polyamory is a hell of a lot of work, from what I’ve seen.

    • I wanted to offer a perspective on what CLM2003 wrote, “sex is intimate and should not be shared with anyone but the one you love.”

      Implicit in your statement is the assumption that everyone can only love one person. This may be your experience, but it is not my experience. In fact, right at this very moment, I love two different women.

      If you think about it, it’s actually a common human experience to have romantic love for more than one person. What we generally call monogamy is often something more accurately referred to as “serial monogamy.” That is, two people fall in love and have a relationship for awhile, and then that relationship ends for whatever reason (breakup/divorce or death). Eventually, someone from the original relationship falls in love with someone else and has a long-term monogamous relationship with the new loved one. That person genuinely loved the first person (at least, for some period of time), and genuinely loves the second person. The pattern may actually repeat itself quite a few times over the years, so that by the end of life, this “monogamous” person has loved several people. Does it make any of the loves less real? To put it a different way, if a monogamous person experiences “true” love, does it mean they can never love again if that relationship ends/fails?

      A somewhat different analogy I hear among polyamorous folk involves being a parent to multiple children. We don’t question the idea that a parent can love multiple children — nor that the love in each case is a profound and committed love.

  7. I’ve been questioning monogamy myself, of late. What has helped with this questioning is this book I’m reading – “Sex at Dawn.” The authors argue that monogamy is not natural to humans, and that this is evidenced through biological factors and cultural factors of our evolutionarily closest “cousin”. It’s a very interesting read.

    • Yes! I’m reading this right now toooooo!

      (am I commenting too much? Maybe it’s because I’m super glad to see this here. hmmm)

      • As I’m reading in “Sex at Dawn” about how (in the authors’ supposition) the birth of agriculture led to marriage and monogamy as way to assure paternity, I’m beginning to think that polyamory may be another way to buck the patriarchal heteronormative hierarchy (getting fancy-sounding)

        • lol, now I’m reading thru all of the lower comments, and seeing that much of what I said has already been said. It makes sense that lesbians from the free love era have already tried this, and for similar reasons. I had no clue

  8. ok, ok so this is an excellent discussion of a serious topic and I enjoyed reading it. I am a bad person for mentioning this (I blame two English professors for parents) buuuut in the sort of subtitle-y/description at the top you say “monogamy and fidelity are not one in the same.” It’s totally “one AND the same”. I have problems. I can’t help it. It seriously haunted me reading through this whole thing. I promise to seek help.

    Otherwise, i non-monogamously love all of you.

    • I was going to come here and start quoting Savage Garden at you while debating monogamy vs fidelity…but then just realised you were making a grammar comment. DOH.

        • :D :D :D :D :D

          (although the other day someone asked Darren Hayes about that and the reasoning was “if you trust someone you’ll know they’ll be monogamous anyway”. BOO DARREN I THOUGHT YOU WERE A FELLOW PANSEXUAL POLYAMOURIST LIKE ME)

    • Oh man… don’t want to argue with English Prof. parents, but fidelity has multiple meanings – and typically people take it to mean faithfulness. What it means for someone to be faithful (or unfaithful) to a person changes from person to person and I think what Katrina & Lauren mean is that being monogamous and being faithful aren’t necessarily the same thing to everyone. Even after a few years of non-monogamy it’s still possible for my partner to ‘cheat’ on me….(thank the goddess they haven’t!)

      • First of all, thanks for not mercilessly making fun of me. I <3 you autostraddlers with the openness to weirdos.

        Second, you are the cutest in the world for considering my comment on a much more serious level than I intended it. That kind of deep interrogation of language and it's meanings/implications totally gets me going. So, yes, I have a crush on you now. However, I totally was just referring to the accepted idiom/phrase "one and the same" versus the often mistakenly used "one in the same" (which is what it sounds like when we American's slur our words). "One in the same" is non-nonsensical (one in the same… kind of what??? omg finish the sentence i'm dying to know?!) whereas "one and the same" is an accepted self contained idiom.

        Third, seriously you are all lovely and I promise to behave in the future.

        • hehe – us, poke fun? Never!

          2nd – yaaay for cuteness.

          Third for me: what a jerk I am for not reading your comment more carefully and just jumping on what I ASSUME your ragging on. Shame on ME.

          • Well if you don’t poke fun, what do ya poke? ;)

            Grammar cuteness is full of win.

            Oh don’t be silly! You’re an absolute darling! (GET IT?!)

            I know, I know lowest form of humor.

            xoxos for all!

          • Hey-ooo! If you wana know what I’m pokin, come on over & find out ;)

            Ya, I get it. & I <3 the lowest forms of humour.

  9. On a completely frivolous note, I would like to say that I am really happy with this article’s url.

  10. Are the two of you together in a non-monogamous relationship? Or are you both non-monogamous with other people and decided to co-write this? Either way I give you both kudos :)

  11. Autostraddle! Why are you so great? It is lovely to see this here.

    An aspect of polyamory that gets even less chat than polyamory itself is polyfidelity — where, instead of the situation Katrina and Lauren described above, the relationship is closed and no one’s sleeping with anyone else, but the (more than two) people within it are dating/sleeping with/love each other. I didn’t even know it existed til last month — I just knew we weren’t doing polyamory the ‘normal’ way.

    I’m just coming out of a polyfi triad that I got into completely by accident — like, I met these two girls, and I really liked both of them, and they really liked me, and they were going out with each other, and we just sort of…got together. In the beginning we mostly just didn’t think about what was happening because we had no vocabulary for it, and then I was reading about polyamory online and I was like, “Oh, /that’s/ what this is. This is a thing, people do this, we aren’t the only one” and honestly it was a little bit like the time (also online) I found out that girls could like girls. It was like naming or acknowledging a bit of me I hadn’t even known could exist.

    Now I’m moving into a new flat with these women, after living with them for a year (man, has it really been a whole year?). One of them has had intense destructive personal issues that have just been too, too much for me, and it has been really difficult and we aren’t going out anymore, but now she is getting help and we are getting back to being friends, at least. The other I am still dating and sleeping with and still love to pieces, and I thought about not living with them in case it all fell apart, but honestly, I don’t want to get through a day and not see her, and not be there when she is wandering about in boxers and a tshirt making tea, and she felt the same about me so I was like “fuck it, I have done a lot more stupid things for love”. So now we are still dating and she is still dating the other lady, but the other lady and I are not dating anymore, and it is all okay. Like Tiara said, I want these two women in my life, and we have each negotiated a relationship that works /for us/. If I’d tried to squish who I was into a monogamous mold we would all have missed out on a lot of happiness (and a lot of tears) and I think I would be a lot poorer for it.

    It’s just another way my life doesn’t fit into the narrative I was raised with, and like being queer it is a part of who I am and how I am in the world that I can’t squish without squishing important parts of me.

    Will I have poly relationships in the future? I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever have a relationship where you can’t kiss/fool around with other people if you’re communicating about it (nothing that would transfer diseases, is my rule) because people’s sexuality is such a vital part of them, and that feeling when you’re attracted to someone and you want to kiss them is so amazing and real, and the idea of never getting new kisses or new fun, or stopping someone I love from having those experiences…I can’t fathom it. Actual sex with other people is a different thing, partly because it is so much more intimate and partly (mostly, for me) because it can put me at risk of STDs and I am not all about that. I suppose, in the future, I will see.

    Sorry for the thesis, I just never get to talk about this. No one knows what to say except “Don’t you get jealous?” and “Do you have threesomes?”

    • Oh wow. Thank you for sharing your relationship story, especially how you renegotiated things after things got difficult. Gives me a bit of hope.

      (things like this make me wish there was an Autostraddle Open Thread for relationship advice. please?)

      • I like this story. Thank you for sharing.

        It brings to my mind that usually when you think of a mono-relationship, the whole marriage deal, there are a lot of ‘forevers’ involved. I don’t know what the hell love is, but it seems unfair to expect someone to love you forever and vice versa. I think your story is a good example of this idea that hey, you fall crazy in love with someone(s) and things change because that’s the only things that’s certain. You might not be in love with someone anymore, but that doesn’t take away the fact that you were, and it made life better. (If there are children involved in the relationship, it doesn’t mean they should only have one parent around now.) Some people only love one person so deeply at a time. Others love more than one. Lets be utilitarian here: whatever equals the most love goes.

        Love your story, thank you for sharing. It’s inspiring, I’ve learned something today thanks to you. So yeah, thanks.

        • The “forever and ever” thing was a massive factor into me reconsidering my view on relationships, which eventually led me into recognising myself as polyamorous/non-monogamous.

          And on a semi-related note: I just came back from a tour of a museum exhibition on queer life & history in Brisbane. One of the plaques talked about how back in the old days people formed romantic friendships – you wouldn’t necessarily call yourself gay or lesbian, but you had close companions and sworn friends who you were quite intimate with (maybe even sexually!) and when you died you were buried together. One couple, a former Premier of Queensland and the Attorney-General, even blended their names together to name their estate, which is now a suburb.

          I remember reading about romantic friendships a while back and this exhibition reminded me of it. Those are the kind of relationships I cherish a lot, having had a couple of friends that could really fit the label (not really sexual, but affectionate and romantic all the same). Heck even my connections with my performance friends can get quite intimate very quickly, simply because we deal with erotic and physical performance. If I had to conform to standard monogamy there’d be no way I’d feel comfortable enough to maintain such relationships and friendships – it’d be too close to cheating. instead I reconsidered my model of relationships and decided that it was more important for me to reinvent my own model – however unconventional it is – and maintain connections I treasured dearly.

          And on the final note: I would like to start a poly harem with Darlene, Cassandra, and eversayingnever, because *swoon!* ;)

          • IDK about a harem, but it would be nice to have some poly friends that I haven’t met through a dating-related-experience. Most of the people I know in that community aren’t my speed.

            Thoughts? Coffee? Support group? Meetup? Meh?

          • do you have a blog/website/profile somewhere? I’m likely halfway across the world from everyone else here, but that’s what the Internets is for :D

    • Oh wow, that’s both amazing and very interesting! And thank you for providing me with a new word – polyfidelity. I have heard of the word “triad” but I like the way that polyfidelity feels in my mouth better.

      That’s what I’m looking for, and I have been curious what happens after a .. polyfidelious (?) relationship breaks apart. Hence, your story is most interesting to me. How it works and all that.

  12. I couldn’t be in a relationship with somebody who wanted to fuck multiple people. Sorry, I’m just not into that. If my girlfriend told me she wanted to do that I would have to say peace and let them find somebody else who doesn’t mind sharing them with the world. Maybe that’s why Shane was always my least character on the L Word.

    And that brings me to the question of if you are poly and dating someone who is not and they aren’t interested in that are you going to try to guilt-trip them into feeling bad about themselves for not being as “enlightened” as you are?

    • If monogamy’s your thing, great. Just recognise that for some people – like myself – we cannot just stay with one person forever and ever amen, not even at a time. the pressure to stay monogamous culturally conflicted heavily with my philosophy on relationships; believe me, I’ve *tried* and it wasn’t good for my wellbeing. It wasn’t even about the *sex*, so far I’ve only ever had sex with one person, but the idea that you can have Only One Person be The One, instead of building your own model of relationships? No go.

      There are many ways to be polyamourous; not all of them involve “fucking multiple people”. This doesn’t give anyone the right to be an asshole – and certainly calling someone “less enlightened” because they’re not into polyamoury is assholish (and I’ve done that myself! bad tiara) – but neither does it give the right for whole swatches of relationships to be reduced to stereotypes.

      • If two people want to be poly together that’s fine. I guess what I’m trying to get at is: Are you upfront about that when you first start dating someone? Cause some people are interested in monogamy and it would be a real bitch to have the chick you’ve been for months suddenly spring on you that she wants to date/kiss/have sex with/whatever other girls. Or possibly is already. What if she’s not cool with that, then what? I really am asking because I’m curious not because I’m trying to be a bitch about it or anything.

        • I suppose that depends on the individual, and in my case it was halfway through my (first and current) relationship before I accepted polyamoury and a while before I actually managed to find someone that was an actual potential mate. She was a friend of my boyfriend’s from way back so she already knew about the poly situation. So in a way I’m a bad example due to lack of experience.

        • I would say that not telling someone when you know it of yourself would not fall under the definition of “responsible”. Echoing Tiara, it’s not an excuse to be an asshole – and just like if doing drugs is a red light for you, if non-monogamy isn’t your bad you walk away.

          Lieing in any relationship situation (and not telling whole truths is a lie, sorry ladies) isn’t playing like an adult.

        • You seem really concerned that someone’s going to pull a bait-and-switch on you. Given that the whole point of poly relationships is that they take a lot of communication and consideration to work, no I don’t think someone’s going to date you for months and then be like “by the way I’ve been poly this whole time!! haaahahaa!!!” Surely that sort of thing would come up when the two of you started talking about if you’re seeing anyone else, exclusivity, where this thing is going, etc. Anyone who lies to you about that stuff is a liar and you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship with them anyway. Being poly does not automatically make someone a liar or less trustworthy though, which is pretty much what you’re implying with the “What about this? Or this? Or if you try to put one over on me this way?” hypersuspicious questioning.

          You’re really defensive about this and you might want to think about why instead of projecting the problem onto us. I haven’t done anything to you.

          • Was I attacking YOU? No, I wasn’t. I was of the opinion that I was asking legitimate questions since I don’t know much about it. And I would think that if you are going to write an article about such a topic that you would expect people to comment on it.

          • Well, given that a) you addressed the question “are you going to try to guilt-trip them into feeling bad about themselves for not being as “enlightened” as you are?” to anyone who is poly, which includes me, and b) you think it’s a real possibility someone might date you for months and then suddenly tell you they were poly (and have maybe been seeing other people all the time), I would say that actually you were heavily implying that you think we’re likely to be manipulative, lying (by omission?) and/or untrustworthy.

            If you didn’t mean to do so then you need to think more about what you’re writing, because there is a difference between legitimate questioning and what you’re doing, which comes off as “I feel like it’s impossible to be poly without being a bad person. Justify yourself to me.”

          • I don’t believe I ever said being poly makes you a bad person! And in my second post I said that I was asking out of curiousity not to be bitchy about it yet I here I am being bitched at for asking so nevermind. I don’t think I was being defensive about it. I even said that I don’t care if that’s the way you choose to live. I don’t. I was only asking because I genuinely don’t know how you approach that subject with someone.

      • I do not care if other people are poly. What I am saying is do you date other people that are not and are you respectful of that? I’m not saying you’re wrong to live the way you do just that it’s not for me.

  13. I was very interested in poly relationships in my 20’s. By the way, poly relationships are not a new phenomenon for this generation. In the 70’s and 80’s a lot of women experimented with this as a way to not imitate patriarchal relationships. A lot of women (especially in the SF Bay Area) were into this and I thought it would be a way to have that one deep relationship and also be able to not deny attractions to other women. But in practice it is not for everyone. It physically made me sick (seriously I could not make love to 2 different women in one week) and confusion ensued for all involved. Sure at times it was fun and actually worked some times. But it changed the chemistry of my primary relationship. It made it very hard to actually leave my primary relationship when I did. It was too easy for my partner to say its ok to sleep with someone else but lets not break up, etc. I guess I was searching for passion. When I fell in love again and have been with my partner I actually enjoy us being monogamous and exclusive. It really does make it special. And when we did separate for a short time neither of us slept with anyone else, so when we got back together it made us both feel so special and good together. I have read here that it actually works for some women.I am definitely not knocking poly relationships if that is fulfilling for women but from personal experience, I guess I really did need to find that special person that I only wanted exclusive sex/romance/friendship with. So lets not knock those who want to find what they consider elusive: one and only true monogamous love.

    • I dont think anyone here is knocking monogamy – in the same way that not being hetero isn’t an affront to straight people. We’re just looking for community and acceptance – just like you.

    • No one is “knocking” monogamy. Like, this is one post saying “sometimes not everyone wants to be monogamous all the time, what are people’s feelings about this?” and people are all “!!111 WHY DO YOU HATE MONOGAMY? MUST DEFEND!”

      Like, I’m sorry this one thread in the whole world isn’t about the way you do relationships, but maybe you could let someone else have the floor for five minutes.

    • I’m sorry, this comment was meant in response to a different comment but seems to have ended up here, I don’t know what happened.

  14. I’d love to see the world as a tangled web of present ralitonships and not free-standing pairings. Where sex isn’t binding or excluding and love isn’t jelous.

    I don’t think I’m ready for that, though. I’m afraid my heart might explode.

  15. Great article, I do love how AS’s frequent (and massively important) reporting of the gay marriage cause is balanced by these stories and comments, showing the whopping diversity among the community.

    While on the subject of marriage…in no way trying to undermine Katrina et al’s youthful exuberance in moulding the plasticity of their relationships, I’d be really interested to hear from older people in really long-term relationships/marriages/would-be-marriages-if-only-they’d-fucking-let-us, and if/how polyamory has worked throughout for them.

    As Tiara said above, these relationships require no less effort, possibly more. To me, it sounds like professional drama management-level stuff. I can imagine having the appetite for it when your other responsibilities are relatively little, but what about when you’ve got kids? Can you manage the emotional needs of a plethora of lovers when you have to attend to the greater needs of little people? I don’t know, I just can’t imagine it’s all happy threesomes and school runs.

    Although I do think Polyamorous Soccer Mom would be a great name for a superhero/lifetime movie.

    • While I respect and understand where Katrina and Lauren are coming from (I’ve been there), I do have to point out that monogamy does not and should not be based on jealousy or codependence. That’s just an unhealthy relationship.

      Being in a relationship where you share intimacy in all forms as a couple and support each other’s individuality CAN and should move you past things like jealously. Monogamy to be is ALSO about more than just sex. Monogamy is never complaining about your partner to your friends. Its about working out your issues and going through bad times together as a family.

      That said, I totally respect other’s personal decisions about their own relationships. Whatever works for the couple, as long as they are being totally honest with each other and themselves, works for them and we should support that. But someone choosing to share their body with one person at a time or for life has nothing to do with the patriarchy or lack of enlightenment. There is a big difference between obligation and love.

      • I just wanted to say that I agree with you. Monogamy isn’t for everyone, but if you both want it, it can be incredible. Just like polyamory.

        • Yesss. I think my, like, final final relationship will probably be monogamous, and I know when it’s great it’s great.

          “But someone choosing to share their body with one person at a time or for life has nothing to do with the patriarchy or lack of enlightenment. There is a big difference between obligation and love.”

          I agree. But I think not knowing you have the option to do /otherwise/ than share your body with one person at a time or for life, or being shamed or judged for so doing, is patriarchal, which is why posts like this are important. There is a big difference between obligation and love, but also between obligation and choice. I 100% think people should choose monogamy if it is right for them. I just also think they should know they don’t /have/ to.

          Mmm, emphasis.

    • Polyamorous Soccer Mom, a great title indeed.

      We have been together in a Triad for 6 years in November. Is that long-term enough? As most polyamourists measure it, we are technically a V. My fiancee has a husband and I am not romantic with him. However, as he and I have been in such proximity for so long, it is inevitable that we have become close. Something more than friendship: family.

      There is so much more to marriage than sex.

      So, anyway, for the last 3 or 4 years now we call ourselves a triad, regardless of who is sleeping with whom.

      We have no littles, as yet, but they are in the near future for us. We know other relationships of various sizes that are working on rearing and it seems to work for them. As a fact, multiple parents for one or two children is a wonderful argument for Poly. If you can make it work, children have more adults to invest more love, time, and attention (and finances) in their growth and happiness.

      It does make custody arrangements in the event of break up a nightmare, and the community is full of tragic stories. (Always get your arrangements in writing and stick to them, keep the courts out of it at all turns) Like any divorce, it is hard on the kids. The families that stay together, however, share the load with more than two parents.

      There are economic advantages to Poly, as well. In a triad, three incomes contribute to the quality of life in a household. In tough economic times, where one or all three of us is underemployed, we make a little stretch a long way by pooling our efforts and we live way better than any of us could alone.

      So here is a weigh-in from an established poly relationship. It works, but it takes work. Like all things.

  16. Like gg above, I’m checking in here from the older generation, and I will corroborate that polyamory raged like a wildfire amongst lesbians 25 years ago. Myself, I’ve been monogamous for the last 10 years. My girlfriend is strictly monogamous and since she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I’m happy to oblige.

    Brietta makes a good point: polyamory should not be seen as the “solution” to monogamy, Dan Savage notwithstanding. I recently watched a friend, in her late 40s, cope with the dissolution of her polyamorous arrangement, in which she lost her house. She had built her workshop in the house, the loss of which has had a negative impact on her business/livelihood. She doesn’t anticipate being able to buy a house again. In our society, polyamorous divorce has consequences like monogamous divorce.

    This will seem like a leap, but I’ve thought about this a lot: Society in the u.s. is based on rigid notions regarding private property. The system of private property needs to be transformed so that our personal lives can be transformed.

      • Thanks for noticing. Can I call you T-bird?

        I will unilaterally decide that it’s fair game for me to construct arcane socio-politcal analyses to attract the attention of women on the internet, since I enjoy witnessing my girlfriend get flirted with in person. Take that monogamy!

    • your avatar, your thoughts, they are really great.
      please talk socio-politics to me all the time.

  17. Sounds like peer pressure to be poly. You guys weren’t honest. You didn’t list any cons, and there are cons, to poly relationships. And it ironically sounds like you’re scared of monogamy. I mean, who wouldn’t be with all the cons (and apparently no pros?) you listed. (Please, do not say no one’s knocking monogamy, ’cause you TOTALLY ARE.)

    There are risks and rewards in everything. There are pros and cons. And people should know all of them. The only way people can make autonomous decisions is if they have all the information. Never sell someone something without telling them the risks and only telling them the rewards.

    • Why would they need to list the pros of being monogamous? Our whole society and its view of life and love and relationships is set up for monogamy; it is seen as the good and right and default state.

      All these guys are doing is saying “Well actually, monogamy has its downsides, and some people prefer to go about things a different way”, and apparently this constitutes ‘peer pressure’? It isn’t. It’s a dialogue about an issue that often gets brushed under the carpet, and that people are trying to brush under the carpet in these comments right now!

      Of course there are downsides to poly relationships, like there are to any. It’s twice (or 3 or 4x) as much emotional involvement, feelings to negotiate, problems that can arise. I nearly ended up with nowhere to live two weeks ago because mine was going through a really rough patch. But the point is that poly relationships can also be wonderful and full of love and happiness and possibilities, like any relationship, and for some people being poly is a much better fit than monogamy, and people should at least know that it is an OPTION for heaven’s sake.

      I have no idea why this is so controversial. Are people so challenged by discussion that doesn’t privilege them and their relationship status? This really isn’t okay.

      • Oh, fine.

        I thought I’d rock the boat by slipping in a little punk-Bakunin-marxist-anarchist analysis, and no one bats an eye.

        But all GrrrlRomeo has to do is quibble with the degree of reality-based-ness of the article, and she gets some hot girl named Cassandra all jumping down her throat.

        Can I call you Cassie?

    • i’d suggest that the authors are not be “dishonest” and are rather speaking from their own definitions/personal experiences, which may in fact be overwhelmingly positive or entirely different than anyone else’s. i’m certain there was no ill intention.

    • I don’t think this post should be taken as an introduction to polyamory, and I don’t think it was written as one.

  18. “By nature, monogamy is insistent upon jealousy and structured according to what we feel are unrealistic expectations of yourself and your partner. There’s more room to focus on building a secure, lasting relationship when it’s not bound by or founded on obligation or a denial of attraction.”

    I see where you’re going with this, monogamy can foster jealousy, yes. But in my somewhat varied experiences, jealousy is a side effect not of the formal structure of a relationship, but of the dynamic of the people involved at any given moment. jealousy is infinitely complex, it’s a tool, it’s a cancer, it’s a million things and i’d been hard pressed to pin down a workable definition of it to begin with. in poly, just like mono relationships, jealously must be negotiated and diffused.

    something problematic: while polyamory in simplistic terms seems counter to this, it can be quite possible to cheat in a poly relationship too, by violating whatever set of workable rules have been decided upon (assuming there are some, like full disclosure, partner must be present, etc). unfortunately, in my experience, my friends with poly vs. non-poly relationships seem to have an equal rate of infidelity, under the working definition of “cheating” in either kind of relationship. and of course neither type of relationship is superior, but certainly both are equally complex.

    that’s the allure of cheating i suppose. doing what we ought not to do within any given set of parameters. til there’s a silver bullet to keep our hearts and eyes from wandering in increasingly creative ways.

    so, like people mentioned, neither type of a relationship is a solution, per se. you can’t simply cure your jealousy by opening your relationship just like you can’t cure it by closing it. these many different structures (there is no mono/poly binary, just like there’s not a gender binary, a sexual binary or an anything else binary) serve different people very differently at different times.

  19. i have such a love/awkward relationship with this site. while i appreciate the education it gives me on this new facet of my life, sometimes i feel incredibly excluded– this article being a great example of it. the article was fairly eloquent and diplomatic, but i couldn’t shake the feeling while i was reading it that i just wasn’t gay “enough” if i wasn’t considering polyamory. the line about how monogamous relationships are by nature based on jealousy was hurtful– just as i assume saying polyamorous relationships are based on sluttiness would be hurtful. they’re both wrong, they’re both assumptions that people make that maybe we shouldn’t be making. autostraddle in general seems to be about finding the next step to go to, “now you’re gay, okay here’s what you can be NEXT!” and while that’s exciting and useful and horizon expanding, blah blah blah, the assumption that that’s the right or enlightened thing to do has always bothered me. sometimes i think if i read “patriarchal” on this site one more time i’m going to scream. while i don’t think anyone has been so unkind as to really “knock” monogamy, it does feel like a lot of assumptions about monogamous relationships are being made. my monogamous relationship doesn’t mean i’m giving anything up, and i’m willing to go through periods of doldrums or temptation because monogamy is something i prize.

    • Thank you for this comment, you echo my sentiments upon reading this article PRECISELY.

      Being in a monogamous relationship doesn’t make me feel boring or patriarchal or quasi-hetero at all, quite the opposite. Jealousy isn’t what monogamous relationships are based on, it’s what bad relationships are fueled by. It’s a shame that this article — in many respects a trend piece — seemed to shame and alienate a lot of people, myself included.

      And I get it, not every article will be liked by everyone. But this one just seemed unnecessarily hurtful and confusing.

      • i don’t think i’ve posted on a website since i was a tiny little middle-schooler posting ill-advised religious arguments on teenink, so my heart was racing while i typed. i felt such a wave of acceptance and confidence when i got a reply from a cool person. ^_^

        • that would be me, too, back when i would argue with trolls in middle school on a dark angel message board, lol

          • dark angel as in the show?! ah! that show was so terrible but she was so HOT i couldn’t stop watching. obvi i didn’t know i was gay. why is everybody like that? why don’t we realize these things? weird.

      • the first draft of this article felt to me like it would inspire a defensive response. and then i felt that conflict — well, this isn’t about ME, this is somebody else’s opinion, so if they want to say it, can’t they say it here, of all places? — and I edited that down quite a bit (as katrina would attest) w/r/t the level of perceived judginess towards monogamy to ensure it seemed less like an explanation of a higher mode of being and more like an alternative. i’m interested, as an editor, in what places people felt like they were being judged for NOT choosing polyamory, and how much room we have to express opinions that may or may not express the opinion of a whole. for example, “i have a love/hate relationship with this site” — this site is not just me, or just anybody. we are not a unified body — as carly, robin and taylor’s comments on this post can attest. everyone has an opinion, and i find myself reluctant to post opinions that aren’t mine, or that i expect to receive backlash — but that shuts down important conversations. isn’t this discourse important? aren’t all these ideas equally valid and pertinent, even if they aren’t something everyone agrees with?

        i feel like nobody is going to answer this, but throwing it out there just the same.

        • When I read it I had a quick flashback to 2000, when everyone I knew was reading and suggesting I read The Ethical Slut. At the time, I had just entered into a relationship with my now wife, and we had lots of pressure on us to partake in polyamory. I guess since I was age 21 at the time, I always think of this issue as one for les/bi ladies in their early 20s, who have come out but are looking for more boundaries to push. In my crowd, there was lots of discussion about polyamory, open relationships, S/M, piercing and fisting.
          The discussion has been really interesting here, and I’m glad that some people are feeling happy to have finally found the words that describe how they feel.
          The article is exactly as promised by the title. It is a dialogue, not a guide to poly/open relationships. Just two people expounding on their experiences with a certain lifestyle. There’s room for everyone on AS!

        • i pulled some quotes i thought were problematic.

          “I’ve been there! I used to be one of those preachers too: monogamy and self-control and don’t you ever think about cheating. What’s in your pants and what’s in your heart are intrinsically and irrevocably connected, because that’s what it means – and all it means – to love someone, right?”

          combined with the passage about how hating polyamorous people is like being a self-hating gay (even in just the writer’s experience) this sounds like, “i’ve been there! i’ve been an unenlightened bigot too!” also, the reduction of monogamy to being “what’s in your pants” wasn’t my favorite either.

          “I get it, the idea of straying from monogamy is scary.”

          the number of times “scary” is used in this piece is just crazy. katrina uses it throughout, it’s “i was scared until i knew better”. it felt like i was being talked down to. if this was just a straight up piece analyzing how polyamorous relationships worked for some people it would be talking about THEM, not how scared WE (the reader) happen to be.

          “Straying from that is like falling down a slippery societal slope which eventually leads to women getting the right to vote and gays wanting to get married.”

          again, comparing people who are monogamous to unenlightened people. comparing us to the very people who hate us most. that was…real classy.

          “By nature, monogamy is insistent upon jealousy and structured according to what we feel are unrealistic expectations of yourself and your partner”

          this was the most offensive line to me, for obvious reasons.

          you’re always telling us that we’re lesbians and we have feelings, so i don’t feel guilty reading so much into this. i felt talked down to, belittled, and my beliefs were mocked as backwards and unworthy. if this was edited, i can’t imagine what it was like before.

          • yes! nailed it once again :)

            these were the passages I had problems with as well. I agree with Riese, we don’t all need to agree and it’s great to have this conversation started so there can be a discourse, etc etc.

            but personally for me, I’m not upset about the subject matter of the article, I was greatly put off by how the subject matter was conveyed. the tone was alienating and condescending. it’s just beating a dead horse if I go any further explaining, yer face got it all and i think i’ve already covered this in another comment.

            an op-ed piece is great, but i’d love to hear about monogamy/polyamoury from a more varied group of people than just katrina and lauren (no offense to either of you, where ever you are right now, since you don’t appear to be commenting on this at all, though maybe you are and there are just so! many! comments! that I missed something), maybe some folks who are older would be cool, a nice perspective on the whole thing.

            also i think the article confused polyamoury and open relationships a bit? maybe? that was confusing too.

            anyway, yeah. there should be room to express all kinds of opinions here, just maybe being more respectful of others’ opinions in the process.

          • “but personally for me, I’m not upset about the subject matter of the article, I was greatly put off by how the subject matter was conveyed. the tone was alienating and condescending.”

            yeah, i totally feel the same way

          • i might just be playing devil’s advocate here, but isn’t there something to be said for the fact that polyamory is routinely discredited as slutty, lazy, disgusting, disease-ridden, unsophisticated, immoral and unethical and a lesser mode of being every day in almost every article that’s ever written about relationships ever? I feel like as queers we should be sensitive to the fact that it’s a monogamy-normative world we live in, and having one article labeled as a “personal” where these two people do personally believe the things they say and the tables are turned … most of those statements are qualified with “what we feel” or “what we’ve observed”… and several times they state the fact that monogamy is good for some people but just not for them…

            i guess the equivalent would be if i wrote an article about how it’s a much higher level of being to be gay than straight and that straight is unenlightened. I guess I just described the lesbian feminist movement of the 70s/80s when the feminists said being a lesbian was the only way to break the patriarchal mode and be a real feminist. which is obviously not true. So I think I just made my argument and then my counter-argument… but then, if I ALSO said that I didn’t judge people who were straight and felt it was ok if it worked for them, it just wasn’t for me… oh words.

            LA LA LA

          • i’m of the opinion that if you’re routinely used to being discredited and made to feel small, as i agree with you that polyamory often is, then you should be hyper aware of when you’re doing it to others. there’s absolutely no reason not to be.
            it was a great subject. it just needed different word choices, tone, point of view, and focus.

          • THIS.
            I also think it’s that if you’re a)trying to explain something that not a lot of people are familiar with and b)hoping for other people to understand where you’re coming from, you might need to speak softly/slow and take baby steps. I learned about polyamory on the internet when I was 13, which is how/when I learned about everything sexy, and I don’t know what my reaction to this would be if I didn’t know poly people.

        • After I originally read this post, I sat down with a friend who had also read it and talked about monogamy, polyamory, open relationships, etc. for well over an hour. One thing I like about this article is that it incited so much conversation. I wanted to post a response immediately but it felt kinda weird because this is in an area of the site labeled personal. And that’s what it is, a personal account or two people’s opinions on the subject. It’s a snapshot of their feelings and experiences. So why would my comment be useful if I am just going to disagree with some points? Because it starts a dialogue.

          I’ve found that most of the open relationships I’ve witnessed differ widely on what is considered acceptable behavior by those involved. Questions like: ‘Is it okay to have strong emotional connections to someone other than my #1,’ ‘Is there a #1,’ ‘Should there be approval before we hook up with others,’ and ‘If the opportunity arises to make out with tegan, sara, or emily haines, is that okay?’ (i say YES).I think that just as polyamorous relationships are defined differently, monogamous relationships can also have variations. In response to “I used to be one of those preachers too: monogamy and self-control and don’t you ever think about cheating” I know several couples who define their relationship as monogamous who would not consider thinking about or admitting attraction to others as off limits. On the contrary, they recognize it as human. I would categorize this understanding as a variation of monogamy.

          Another statement from the article is “We are inclined to cling to monogamy as the defining factor of ‘serious relationships’ because society values it above all else.” I would definitely say that monogamy is a part of the ideology we accept from living in American culture; however, I find it difficult to think of anyone (gay, straight, or Biebian) I know in my age range (I’m a college lesbian) who hasn’t tried to have an open relationship both serious and not. I don’t think open relationships and polyamory are so far off the beaten path, and that after a little reflection one can see elements of either in their past experiences. If I consider divorce rates as well as the amount of ‘cheating’ I’ve experienced personally and know from others, societal standards of monogamy have been challenged for a while (even if not often expressly talked about in media). While polyamory or open relationships aren’t toted as the ideal, I definitely think society as a whole is more open to the idea now more than ever. Also, just because something like monogamy can be considered culturally constructed does not necessarily mean it has a negative connotation.

          Also stated above: “Coming out as non-monogamous isn’t just about sexual freedom, its about sexual honesty.” When I think of an open relationship, I think about those involved having open and honest conversations about what their love and relationships are like and what they expect out of the current relationship. This same kind of dialogue can occur within a monogamous relationship and I would say that sexual freedom and honesty can be found here as well. Knowing yourself and being in control of what you want sexually and with a partner whether it be monogamous, polygamous, open, w/e to me is sexual freedom/honesty. Coming out as a non-monogamous person after feeling oppressed and peer pressured into monogamy can be just as liberating as identifying that loving only one other person is the way you naturally operate. Different strokes for different folks, ya know.

          All Katrina and Lauren did were express their feelings on a section of the site labeled “personals.” To me that is perfectly acceptable even if others would disagree on a slight level to a serious level. It’s not like they said it was okay to rape and pillage. I enjoyed reading this article (despite whatever disagreements or issues I have) and discussing it with my friends. I could tell while reading this article that it was trying not to step on toes (even though it may have felt that way a bit) but still effectively communicate their feelings. I think that topics like these would make good roundtable topics because you would get more than one snapshot of people’s feelings on the issue. I was waiting and excited to see other people who contribute and write for the website with other experiences to chime in.

          • i think the article was a great conversation starter too, and a wonderful topic to bring up. also, i think katrina is super cute, and i have always loved her articles.

            which made it even worse when i felt like it wasn’t handled so well. the fact that it’s a wonderful topic to bring up does nothing to change the fact that there are points in the piece where it points at monogamous relationships (MY relationship) and says that it’s based on jealousy, it’s a step away from patriarchal, it’s driven by fear, and if only you knew better you’d see how much better something else could be.

            if it had really lived up to its “personals” tag, it would have focused on them, and their experiences, not what’s wrong with me.

            seriously though, katrina is so cute. damn, i’m monogamous.

          • I did feel generally the same way you described to the excerpts you pulled. And I agree that there is a way that it could have been handled better.

        • Riese,
          I experienced editorial cognitive dissonance between the billing of the piece as “Personal” and then there being almost nothing personal in it. “My new outlook on relationships has been vague and life-changing…” Does that mean something? I wasn’t able to find out.

          When my generation did this thing – it’s like chicken pox for lesbians, every generation gets it – the book we read at the time was full of practical information down to how polyamory would affect one’s finances and tips on how to deal with that. I didn’t find out anything about how the authors’ relationships are actually working.

    • Discourse is incredibly important, but I think part of discourse is making sure not to alienate the people you’d like to have discourse with. I felt like this article polarized monogamy and polyamory, and by linking monogamy to patriarchy, jealousy and co-dependence as a way to explain and advocate for polyamory, came off as a little bit hurtful. Monogamists aren’t cultural dupes.

      That said, I’m glad you published this article. It was an interesting read, and I wasn’t offended ONCE I decided to read it as two girls’ feelings about THEIR open relationship rather than as an introduction to polyamory.

  20. I’d be interested to hear how people define polyamory vs. an “open relationship”. I find the former much less common and more interesting. Perhaps I am the only one who thinks we could be conflating related terms?

    • Absolutely different – and just like saying “I’m bi” or “I’m a lesbian” might come with the weight of other people’s judgement/expectations/definitions, saying that you’re poly does as well.

      I find “non-monogamous” to be a better term for me personally because it’s truly what I am – and the problem with polyamorous is the flexibility of the word; much like “feminist” has come to mean too many things to too many people.

      • i think there are a few different dialogues going on here, maybe? i think the distinction between multiple sexual partners and multiple emotional partners can be a meaningful one. not that those are mutually exclusive things, by any means

        • It seems to be a spark for a discussion on the redefinition of relationships – what constitutes a lover, friend, romantic friend, partner, companion? How intimate can you be with someone, and can that change by circumstance? Are there clear rules or are the lines more blurred?

    • As gg alluded to in her post above, polyamory explores social and political issues as well as emotional ones. When you decide to investigate your abilities to love more than one person and to organize your life around it, you find that it affects the social structure around you. The implications can go quite far.

      Let’s use Dan Savage’s marriage as an example of an open relationship. They take additional sexual partners, but at the end of the day, Dan is married (legally in Canada) to his partner, with whom he enacts roles which are traditional for monogamy: breadwinner/homemaker. The relationship between the two is central.

      I would argue that this type of relationship fits into the traditional marriage model. Many people all over the world (usually men) consider engaging in sexual affairs to be acceptable behavior within marriage.

    • i think the definitions of ‘open relationship’ vs. ‘polyamory’ are very different. I read this whole article about polyamory with the understanding that it was probably something I would never do because I just couldn’t handle it. But that might be because I don’t think I have time to have sex with 1+ persons. Anyhow, so that’s how I read this article, and then I realized reading through the comments that I’ve generally preferred an ‘open relationship’ model and therefore possibly this is about something I would do. But then I thought but no, open relationships and polyamory are different. In some ways I feel the latter is more structured.

      I guess I’m in the camp where I think a long emotional conversation with someone you’re attracted to is way more damaging to a relationship than making out with a stranger at a bar. So for me, an ‘open relationship’ is one where you can kiss strangers at a bar, but if you keep talking to her on the phone every night after that, then we’ve got a problem. I don’t want to control anybody’s body, I think it’s pointless. Bodies want things, whatever. But I do want somebody’s mind to be all mine. Otherwise it’s webs of compromise and deceit. And that’s not healthy for anyone. (Webs = walls.) I think from that point forward, it boils down to what an individual is capable of w/r/t something being purely physical and nothing more. Brian Kinney says it’s possible. I guess it depends on the person, and Brian Kinney, ultimately, isn’t real.

    • Speaking of conflating related terms…I’ve been noticing a lot of people mentioning science in here and evolutionary biology and etc. What I’m noticing is that comparing monogamy vs. polyamory is problematic in a semantic/etymological sense. “Monogamy” refers to “one gamete” which literally means you are only spreading your sperm/eggs/whatever to only ONE other person’s eggs/sperm/whatever–it has implications on a parenthood/genetic level ensuring the offspring are your own. Polygamy is the true “opposite” of monogamy because it refers to one (usually male) spreading his seed to many (usually female) partners and having multiple offspring with them. Then there’s “polyandry” which literally means “many men” and refers to the much rarer practice of one woman having multiple male partners and having children with the same mother and multiple fathers.

      THEN there’s polyamory which literally means “many loves/lovers” SO…where was I going again? Oh right, I think it’s problematic to even compare these two terms against one another because the first one refers to having biological relation to your offspring and genetic attachment and is very offspring-centric in general while the latter refers only to the “loving” i.e. sexual and emotional parts of a relationship and does not have any real reference to children.

      P.s. a lot of the reason we have monogamy as a staple of society anyway is that whole “fear of the patriarchy” thing where men were in a perpetual state of worry that their “children” were not their own–clearly women do not have to wonder if the baby growing inside them is related to them or not–and so men did a lot of rule making to ensure they weren’t raising another man’s child–which then goes back to evolutionary fitness and blah blah la la la.

      Sorry if I totally lost you guys, all I’m saying is maybe we need to evolve these terms to be “monamory vs. polyamory” or “monogamy vs. polygamy vs. polyandry” ok i’m done!

      • Yes! Bang – bingo – awesome.

        Not to annoy you with my repetition (but I’m gana) – the book Sex at Dawn has some great info in this vein.

  21. My dad studies monogamy at Emory University. I study it in my head. We both think it’s silly. Human monogamy was born to keep some form of teamwork around until the children are okay to live by themselves.

    • and MY dad would probably say something horrific about how girl on girl sexuality was born because of a lack of dudes in an animal group.

      • :) Science!!!! Every morning I wake up and my partner is still happily next to me in bed I think, I’m sure glad we didn’t study with Leighannomg’s dad at Emory University.

    • This paradigm is debated – as suggested above, check out the book ‘Sex at Dawn’ which has some new research and hypotheses about our ancestors and how UNlikely it was that they were monogamous.

      Amen Yer Face – what does it matter what evolutionary psychologists say about what I do in my bedroom?

  22. I liked this very much! It’s good to see it from a human perspective and not some text in a book that I can’t figure out how to apply to my daily life.

  23. Sorry for the delay in my commenting…just to catch you up, I said that I felt polyamory was a lazy way of having relationships. I stick by my comment, I do feel it’s lazy. ANY relationship is hard work but what I have found over the years when my desires or emotions started turning to another person, I was seeking what I was missing in that relationship. Albeit, i was too young to realize these were really “emotional affairs” if you will but it always caused me to believe that my relationship was flawed because i now wanted something/someone else. After much soul searching and reading, I discovered that these desires were attempting to fulfill what was missing in my relationships. To me it’s like your body telling you that you need water or potassium, etc. somehow what’s missing, manifests in some other way in your body/cravings. While this may not be the best analogy of what i am trying to express, it’s feels the same to me. I know that no ONE person can be your everything (that’s why we have friends, family, etc) but they can be the ONLY one that I share myself with sexually and meeting the emotional and sexual needs is work, whether it’s one person or more in your circle. I feel that there is compromise that has to occur in every relationship. I stand by my comment that it’s lazy, i almost think it’s selfish. I hear people saying they can’t be monogamous but I think you should dig deeper and find out why you can’t. I don’t get the concept of sharing your body with multiple people at a time..someone said it’s not about sex, but it is. If it wasn’t about sex, it would just be a friendship (and there’s no polyamory with friendship). But with that being said, and its an opinion, not a judgement…I don’t believe in denying anyone the right to do anything they want (few caveats..nothing illegal,etc) But I guess the bottom line is if someone i was dating told me this was their lifestyle, i would know at that point that would be our last date. It should be on the dating checklist of things to know (everyone has one…we just have different things on it…no cats, no kids, must have’s, etc)

    • “I stand by my comment that it’s lazy, i almost think it’s selfish. I hear people saying they can’t be monogamous but I think you should dig deeper and find out why you can’t.”

      It’s very hard for me, in any context, to hear people making judgments about another person’s lifestyle (assuming it does nothing to harm the judger); for some reason, it’s even harder when that person if LBGTQ. (and yes, saying my lifestyle is lazy or selfish is a judgement)

      I don’t believe that humanity is pre-disposed to lifetime monogamy; or even long term monogamy (meaning more than a few years). I believe it to be cultural; just like disdain for non-hetero identity can be cultural. I’m not saying I “can’t” be monogamous; I’m saying I’m just not. That’s not the way I’m built…. in the same way that some men are built to love men and some women are built to love women and some people are built to love both. It doesn’t make a gay man selfish not to want to impregnate women; why does it make me “selfish” to not feel like my love is a limited commodity and I only have enough for one partner? Why does it matter to you or anyone else if I do?

      It’s hard for me not to take some of the more aggressive comments against poly personally. I would assume that most people on this site have experienced the search for community and the feeling of ‘otherness’ at some point in their lives. Can you relate to the feeling that you’re not trying to push your beliefs on someone else, you’re just trying to connect? And the feeling that someone else is pushing back because they ‘don’t get it’? Consider that you might be doing that to us now ~ can’t we just have our moment of support and connection and not have it labelled as “selfish” or “petty” or “lazy” (or make it about your potential dating experiences… seriously; most poly people don’t lie just to get into your pants).

      There are going to be enough people we encounter every day who tell us that what we’re doing is wrong or a sin or they don’t get it.

      • I define myself as an older monogamous bisexual, involved with a polyamorist activist who has chosen for the 13 months of our relationship to behave monogamously. I feel so sadly when members of our GLBTQ community do not keep open minds about life choices of others. Let us all just be aware that some folks choose monogamy and some choose polyamory. Some choose open relationships; some choose swinging. Just as I believe in sexual fluidity, I believe for some, monogamy works now but polyamory may work later, after which monogamy may be the choice. . . Could we not be accepting and respectful of others’ differences?

  24. I have so many feelings about this you guys. I just … i can’t even …

    *sigh* can I just leave this over here?

    Heroes live in the world as it should be, not as it is. AS is like a whole fucking team of my personal heroes.

  25. I don’t know that I can agree that wanting an open relationship/polyamory is always lazy, based purely off the fact that I have zero interest in the practice based purely on my own laziness. As far as the vetting process goes for applying it to my life, the whole concept doesn’t make it past the “Yeah, I just don’t feel like fucking with it” hurdle.

    That’s not to say I don’t imagine the pros and cons of such a situation, because I can entertain the idea as a mental exercise. Actual usage of it, though, just seems like inviting further complication into my already hectic life. I’m not a heavily emotional chick and I need and like having a focus to my affections, otherwise, I’ll feel like I’m romantically anemic.

    Beyond that, yeah, I have my own notions and ideas of open/poly life and what the pros and cons could be. I don’t think there’s any one-size-fits-all answer, and I believe it’s probably necessary for at least some people. I just don’t know that I can agree that most relationships would be better in this form.

  26. This was an interesting read and while it’s not perfect, i am glad it exists to start the discussion. although, i have to admit that at the moment my number 1 feeling is that it feels a bit like deciding whether to buy a private jet or a speedboat first when i win the lottery. like, i’m having enough trouble finding one girl who wants to date me and i want to date back, never mind a team of them. maybe i should go read the dating advice post again.

    • You know when people say “THIS” to proclaim firm agreement with something, I usually hate that, because, you know, there’s a reason whole sentences were created, and what is “this” anyway? Like a pronoun? What kind of crazy people just deposit a pronoun into an empty comment box and expect that to be reasonable?

      Anyway, in response to your comment, Lo:


      It’s a small miracle when I find one girl I like enough to want to sleep/discuss punctuation with. Finding more on a yearly/monthly/hourly basis? Simply impossible.

      • Ah, can I also just say, I am reader of your blog now. Magnificent. Haven’t added a blog to my daily wonderings/wanderings for months. Until now. Yay.

        • What, you mean me? I forgot I even made that! I feel privileged, unless you mistakenly commented here, in which case I feel delusional and privileged.

          I will post something tonight JUST FOR YOU.

          • Dude yes I meant you! What is on there will be enough even if no more gets added. LOL was committed by me several times while reading, which I never do, because I am repressed. Hoho.

            Just for meeeee. Now I feel privileged! But disbelieving.
            For the second time in a week I must now also proclaim: yay for sentences that start with a conjunction.

            Anyway, brilliant. Can’t wait.

          • Me too, glad everythingsayingnever said so first because now i don’t feel weird! Also, I love the Good Wife too!

  27. Hello everyone.

    I just wanted to say (type) that I really can’t see how a person expressing their views or opinions (contributors to article) can in any way impinge on the existence and continued existence of any other persons views or opinions on the same topic, no matter how far the original person’s views differ from one’s own or indeed from the norm. This means there is no forcing of anything on anyone, non?

    Ya get me?
    I don’t. I’ll be surprised if any of you do.
    But whatever, says I – my first post on this most scary of websites over and done. You all are some scary but cool people.
    Ah rubbish, felt compulsion to type youse. Regression to Aussie childhood. Should Aussie have a capital ‘A’? Don’t judge.


    P.S. (Ah my buddy, P.S.) What I meant to say is, it is just an article, not a veiled recruit attempt. No, that is not what I meant to say, actually. Bother. What I meant to say is, it’s just an article, not a giant arm reaching out through cyberspace to the insides of your brain to change your thoughts and subsequent actions. Nope, still not what I meant to say. Self expression down the drain.

    P.P.S. Please don’t censor my comment for its sheer idiocy. I shall try not to lower the tone like this in the future el-oh-el.

    P.P.S. You have all helped me most wonderfully on my path of realisation of certain ahem obvious things about myself in the very recent past. Merci beaucoup.

    • Hi! Welcome, so glad you could join us. Have some cake. We’re not scary, honest :D

      (just don’t look behind the shower curtain)

    • Hi, do I know you? You write just like someone I know (and care about deeply), and she’s Aussie too. You wouldn’t happen to be a redhead traveller drummer girl would you?

      [kinda hoping…]

      • OK well in that case, no, sorry.
        I am two of those things you mentioned though.
        It is a photo of me in that avatar wotsit.
        We have things in common but are not the same person unforch.
        I do hope you find your lady…
        Don’t lost touch with those special kinds of people!

        • aw. well 2 out of 4-5 isn’t too bad ;)

          I’m trying not to lose touch with the girl I thought you were but it’s difficult. (She’s the Dream-Girl-Turned-Nightmare-Scenario I alluded to earlier.) sigh, heartbreak.

          but hey, keep in touch, you seem cool yourself :)
          [me -at- themerchgirl -dot- net]

  28. An intensely pleasurable (and busy) period I experienced was when I was in love with 4 people simultaneously.

    Full disclosure, no ‘primary’ relationship, no interconnectivity (except through me) and everyone was cool.

    I count all 4 amongst my closest friends today.

  29. The whole concept is pretty ideal and it makes sense to a certain extent but I just personally wouldn’t be able to handle it. I know I’d become too attached and a relationship with one person and all its drama is about all I can take.

  30. So many judgments in a very small place on the internet. Lots and lots.

    Rather than post like a million times, I just wanted to put a few things here that stuck out to me.

    1) Polyamory is only lazy if you think that somehow monogamy is superior, just like being queer is lazy if you think being het is superior.

    2) To each their own. I’m happy in a monogamous relationship, but I didn’t always believe in monogamy. I doubted that I could ever find one person who made me as happy and fulfilled as my lady does today.

    3) That being said, this article is adorable, but it’s fluff. I would hope that with a topic as deep and layered as polyamory and open relationships (there’s a difference!) more care and attention would have been put into it. I could see liking this more if Autostraddle had covered this topic more seriously previously, but I’m furrowing my brow at how judgey the article is. I am dangerously close to Moff’s law, but jesus christ why are we even arguing about this.

  31. Hey everyone! Oh wow, this room got real full real fast, lots of great conversation and such. Just popping my head in to say hello to you and your thoughts and to respond to what a lot of yous have been saying.

    The purpose of this piece was to get the ball rolling on discussing open relationships by having a discussion with each other (and you). Lauren and I both drew from our own experiences to form our own conclusions and share this dialogue and engage you guys. Non-monogamy is something we wanted to explore as a topic because it is something that is so rarely discussed or accepted. So yes, we did put a lot of emphasis on the pros of being in a non-monogamous relationship because to delve into a list of cons or to try to break into the idea of monogamy would seem sort of redundant in the context of our society.

    This piece, I believe, is for the most part an argument made from personal experiences, not all of which have been wholly positive. By discussing the conclusions we had reached for our own lives, we weren’t trying to juxtapose monogamy/non-monogamy as unenlightened/enlightened (not my words!), we were telling our own stories, those of 19- and 20-year-olds coming across non-monogamy and really confronting and trying to handle it and define it and find out if there really is a definition after all. Just as many open relationships are ongoing conversations about what being non-monogamous means, we also wanted to hear what relationships – not just open relationships – meant to you (and to answer your question, yes, you did all just get roped into a polyamorous relationship with us/each other just by engaging).

    Because I think that that’s largely the point. There is no one way to have a relationship. And that doesn’t mean there are only two ways, either. It’s like the idea of relationships opening and closing; polyamory is not a ‘solution’ to monogamy, nor do the two have to exist in opposition to one another. People change, and I personally think that it’s the most realistic to accept that relationships will change along with them. That doesn’t always mean going between monogamy and non-monogamy, but it means a lot of discussion and compromise and making sure you and your partner want the same things.

    As for the line about monogamy fostering jealousy/possessiveness, offense was certainly not the intent, nor was it the point. The point was more about how jealousy, despite being a very negative, often destructive emotion, is just socially accepted. It was about how, because we (as a society, not as monogamous/non-monogamous people) accept jealousy, we also accept a lot of unrealistic expectations and regulations and ideas of ownership. I’m not saying that this exists in all monogamous relationships and certainly not that this doesn’t exist in non-monogamous relationships, but such negative effects are a result of a social acceptance and validation of jealousy, which is something that I feel should be questioned more.

    I’m not saying that open relationships/polyamory are easier or better for everyone, really. Especially since there really is a big gap between theory and execution. As in, just because I get it/want it, doesn’t mean I necessarily like it all the time. I don’t feel like I’ve come completely to terms with being a non-monogamous person yet. (To continue the simile), it’s like that part of your life where you’re gay, and you know you’re gay, and you’re out doing gay things, but you still sometimes feel like it’s this thing that has just been thrust upon you, and now it’s what you are, and it’s the way that you live and love and fuck and flirt (I am so the L Word theme song right now, ew).

    It’s true – monogamy is more than just sex; sometimes infidelity is an intimate conversation. But I think it’s up to first define it for ourselves and then to define it with our partners and then to create a solid relationship around what you, together, feel that to be. What makes you feel safe, what makes you feel special, that kinda thang.

    Also, thank you for being a big amazing group of thinking people. I know that we don’t always agree on things, but I guess that’s why we’re living our own lives instead of each others’, but it’s really really great to see so much discourse and dialogue in reaction not only to this piece, but largely to each other. Viva la Internet, no?

  32. I just want to say that I’ve seen some pretty disrespectful conversations around this subject (and bisexuality as well), and I think this was handled pretty fucking well.

    Loving is brave. It is. It kind of doesn’t matter, the rest of it, so long as you’re honest and love as hard as you possibly can.


    Ms. Pollyanna Femme

  33. I wish we had a forum that allowed for spinoff threads, that allowed threads to divide into different threads, separating the different points of a discussion. Frankly, I’m absolutely dizzy now, trying to keep track of what reply referst to what comment….

    Having said that, I”ll conclude my loving this article and loving AS in an almost-platonic way.

    • absolutely dizzy is right. what’s funny is that i subscribed to this thread from the start and have read 160+ comments and every few minutes for the last few days, my inbox would receive an update, which kept polyamory in my mind, and soon i realized that THERE IS NO WAY TO UNSUBSCRIBE. if i were to just enter these comments now, it’d be too overwhelming. but anyhow, i’m glad this subject is being discussed, despite a few cool tones and misunderstandings.

  34. Sort of off topic but I hope for a future where we can be implanted with chips that are activated when we are near someone who subscribes to the same sort of relationship philosophy. That way, gay, straight, monogamous, polyamorous, men, women, etc. people can coexist in the same spaces and when we cross paths with someone who we’re compatible with, little light bulbs will blink on top of our heads, like the Sims. Reading through all of these comments has further convinced me that dating is too difficult for me to even think about. I’m actually sleepier after reading these comments because they’ve tired me out. =P

    • Look carefully at people. Listen more carefully. You will be amazed how easy it is to find people of like mind. They are all around you. Looking for you, too. Look into their eyes; listen to what they say. Float topics of conversation, ever so casually, that have the potential to be revealing … But if you try it, you are amazed by the results.

  35. Monogamy was an invention by men to keep women in their proper place: As property. And to protect the Law of Primogeniture, to ensure the male heir inheriting the realm REALLY was the son … It … is … bullshit! (Pardon my bluntness and crudity.) We are NOT monogamous by nature. We shouldn’t be so insecure, so jealous, that we can’t share. Adventure is a good thing. Eroticism is a good thing. We should celebrate our sexuality, recognize it is only ONE side of our many faceted beings, and, hopefully, it is NOT the major reason our lovers have become involved with us. Jealous kills relationships. Lose it. Have better relationships.

    • Stream o’ consciousness to follow.

      “Monogamy was an invention by men to keep women in their proper place.” Customs and institutions change/morph over time – for example, universities excluded women a long time ago, so should women not get an education bc of that? The past is the past, homes.

      Some people are monogamous by nature. Others are not. Even others switch back and forth over time.

      The trick is to find people we’re compatible with. A polyamorous person would find me completely impossible to deal with, and vice versa. “The Patriarchy”(tm) didn’t make me inclined towards monogamy – it’s just how my brain functions. And polyamorous people should be free to conduct polyamorous relationships, because why the fuck not? I kept an open mind and tried polyamory, much like I tried horseback riding and Domino’s Pizza, and decided that it wasn’t for me.

      I don’t like sharing, and nothing short of mind-altering drugs or a head injury will change that or make me like Domino’s Pizza or equines.

    • Hmmm. No, women were turned to property regardless. Only in different cultures, you could ‘own’ more of them. I suspect monogomy/polyamory, patriarchy/matriachy, eroticism/stoicism (am I missing any binaries here?) are related to the topic, but they don’t affect one another. They’re (to remembered HS Chem) homogeneous, not chemically bound to one another.

      Having said that, Ursula LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed,” among other things, presents an interesting setting where patriarchy/matriarchy doesn’t exist. I don’t recall particular poly relationships (that wasn’t the main focus) but it does explore the idea of multiple vs. single sex partners and how relationships are built in a society of absolute personal freedom. (Homosexuality is taken in stride, something normal, what we’d wish for today). Interesting “brain experiment” of human society.

      So yeah, hope that wasn’t horribly off topic.

  36. Glad to see this article. I’m lesbian & in an 8-year relationship I would describe as polyamorous.

    I rarely run across other lesbians who give much thought to non-monogamy as an option. It may be my age (40) or my location (Texas). I do, however, participate in a pretty good online forum (“Polyamorous Percolations” — google it if you have an interest in such things), where I’ve seen a lot of good discussion on issues raised here, such as how people have defined their relationship agreements, how people respond to jealousy, how to treat your partners “other significant other(s),” whether polyamory implies a greater degree of enlightenment than monogamy, etc. I would love to see more polyamorous lesbians involved in those discussions.

    I think people’s knee jerk negative reaction to polyamory often grows out of their past hurtful experiences with lying, cheating “monogamous” partners. On some level, they may be interpreting polyamory as some version of “cheating but getting away with it,” or maybe just “giving up” on the attempt to be sexually faithful, and thus they can’t see beyond the dishonesty and bad power dynamic they assume goes hand in hand with having multiple sexual partners. But polyamory as I understand and practice it implies consent, honesty, and open communication among all the participating parties, not steamrolling a non-monogamous arrangement on someone who would rather not share.

    And as for the idea that polyamory is “lazy”…HAHAHAHA. Polyamory takes a lot of good old-fashioned hard work, but my partner & I have also found it to be well worth the effort. Whether or not we have other partners at any given moment, we benefit immensely from the communication, honesty, and respect that we have developed directly as a result of navigating a polyamorous relationship.

  37. Thank you for this dialogue! I just came across it now (months later) and find it very useful, because i do think a range of perspectives have been shared which is really important, not to mention a crucial piece to healthy, critical relationships, so thanks.

    I struggle with a lot of these questions regularly. One thing i struggle with is how easily we can fall into a trap of laying out a “prescription” for queer relationships, while sharing our models, drawing out lessons, and reflecting collectively often are such important pieces to community, transformation, and love. I think one thing that often happens is we lose sight of the function of monogamy and polyamory, what are they? what do they do? I see them as two (of many possible) styles or structures for relationships. In and of themselves they aren’t evil; neither one guarantees a happy or healthy relationship (not the same thing either).

    I think when critiquing hetero-normativty, we often lose sight of the fact of it being a tool within a much larger power structure. Hetero-normativity is partnered with racism to uphold and empower capitalism and the prison industrial complex. hetero-normativity is used to dehumanize people, and that’s the problem. the characteristics that we at this point in time (not static) are not necessarily problems, or violent by themselves, but they are used for a project of marginalization, alienation, isolation–in order to dehumanize people.

    The struggle for me is so many people, queer or not, treat each other like we’re disposable; like we’re replaceable. And that’s what we learn from capitalism. If our bosses lower our pay, and we say we’ll quit, they say they don’t give a fuck b/c there’s tons more people who need work who will work for less then what they ever paid us; we’re replaceable. If we fuck up; when we make mistakes, when we show all the many ways society has failed to create livable living conditions for us, we get locked up and thrown away. We’re disposable. Being replaceable and disposable is so deep in our society; and we’re all conditioned to it in different ways. It just especially breaks my heart to see queer folks treating each other this way.

    I think that this happens most often when polyamory becomes the goal of a relationship, as opposed to loving people; as opposed to giving and receiving all kinds of love from other human beings; as opposed to the goal of the relationship being to create a “healthy” relationship (which means whatever the people involved choose to define it).

    i think more spaces for people to explore what this all means to us, and to struggle for what we want and how we really want to live lives is so, so important, so thank you everyone for contributing.

    ** disclaimer: To be clear I’m not saying anyone was treating people as disposable or replaceable on this conversation, which is a major reason why i appreciate it so much.

    ** and last thing (i promise!): big shout out to the older ladies who spoke up and laid down some multi-generational knowledge. thank you for that, especially!

  38. Thank-you for this. Frankly, I am still trying to figure all of this stuff out. The thought of monogamy: a girl husband, dog and nice house is a fantasy that appeals to me. Perhaps I am a victim of the culture I live in.

    On the other hand I am an extremely loving person and feel like I have a lot to share with others. The various relationships each bring out something different in me and together form a more complete puzzle of who I am.

    The truly scary part for me is if I never get it figured out and am always torn.

  39. Ugh. Thank you. Where do you ladies live? And can we be friends? Lol

    I am all of these things- queer woman, poly, etc. Although, most of my adult life, I felt that “queer” was an identity that trumped “lesbian”… being such a fierce trans ally, and understanding the gender constructs can be just as debilitating as ones around sexuality, I resisted the term, “lesbian”… and so did my long-term woman partner. When we heard U-Haul jokes, we’d look at each other, laugh, and say, “uh… we’re not THAT gay”… we never moved in together through a 5 year (sometimes open) relationship. (altho, towards the end, I wanted to and she couldn’t afford it, but that’s a longer story).

    Anyway, I’ve been a raging Queer solo-polyamorist, and love it. Though since the end of my aforementioned relationship over a year ago, my life has been somewhat saturated with masculinity, and I’m craving femininity so badly, that I’ve recently admitted to myself, holy shit- I’m a lesbian. (Which is so much easier than explaining, “well, I’m queer, but all of my long-term relationships have been with women, and I anticipate future committed relationships only with women, but I play with people of any gender.” Or, “well, yes, I love women, but I prefer the term ‘gay’ instead of ‘lesbian’ because. . . “). So then I started googling- can I be a “Queer Lesbian”? Hmmm… sure, why not.

    But meeting lesbians who are also poly is very hard. Meeting lesbians who are not into hyper-speed-commitment is hard. Meeting lesbians who understand trans and gender queer issues is hard.

    Meeting lesbians who are all of the above and are also kinky or into bdsm is even harder. All this when you’re not living in a major metropolitan city. Sigh… time to move ;)

  40. Well, that was super rambly. I’m poly, and I think that jealousy can happen in all types of relationships. However, for me personally, poly has made dealing with jealousy much easier. For someone else, it might make it harder because it’s just not what they want. My last partner told me he was possessive. Although I did not like this, it wasn’t a major issue because we were poly. We just laid out the rules pretty clearly. I wish I had expressed my own needs a little more, but ultimately it never became a big deal. I find that when people are consensually poly, they tell you almost right away, “By the way, I have a fiancée.” But if someone is monogamous, it just never comes up unless I bring it up. They never say, “By the way, I’m monogamous. Is that okay?” Fortunately, after getting a late start to dating in my early twenties, and getting involved in the poly world, I now have virtually no shyness about bringing up polyamory. I also have past poly relationships to reference, so people have an idea I’m poly just from what I tell them about my past relationships.

    I definitely don’t think that there is inherently more communication in poly relationships, BUT I think communication across the board with regard to boundaries and relationships tends to be better.

  41. I just finally admitted to myself I imagine myself being with a woman in my committed male-female relationship. He’s okay with it, but I haven’t met a lesbian/bi girl willing to take my offer, so I was starting to think that lesbians don’t enjoy the idea of open relationships at all. Or is it because mine is with a man?

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