On coming out as NOT POLY:
I wrote a Facebook post last night on my desire to disassociate myself entirely from the poly orientation, then deleted (well, privatized) it this morning. I was writing from a place of anger and snark, and while there is room for anger and snark on Facebook, in hindsight I think my emotions undermined some of the valid points I was trying to make.
Here are some flaws I’m seeing in the behaviors of the poly community:
1. I’m really tired of the assumption that I’m available for whatever your relationship style is just because I’m single and a sex educator. Poly people will plow straight into flirtation with single people merely because both are available, with zero thought to whether they are able to meet their needs. These assumptions lead to mismanaged expectations and the idea that there is something wrong with the single person for not wanting to participate in something which is not designed to end in any satisfaction for them. I understand that poly people may be bucking against the heteronormative monogamy assumption in mainstream culture, but it’s not my job to adapt to your orientation either.
2. I have had multiple poly people assume without asking that my spending time with them was a date – one man asked if our dinner plans were a date halfway through dinner (which is half a dinner too late in my opinion), another referred to our afternoon together as a “third date” on instagram when I was not aware that any of the time we had spent together had been about dating, and a woman thought I was asking her on a date when I texted her asking if she wanted a spot on my guest list to a club (an assumption I had to awkwardly find out from a mutual friend). Stop this. Stop putting me into your narrative without my consent. The implication is that I’m only worth hanging out with you if there’s a chance you get to fuck me, and that’s fucking awful of you.
3. We’re not talking enough about how poly people overstretch their bandwidth and resources when taking on lovers. Our community has recently seen the damage that can occur when a person takes on more accountability for partners than they can handle, and yet I see more warnings about whether people are ready to own a pet than take on a new lover. If it seems like it shouldn’t be that difficult to interact with another autonomous human being, let me regale you about the poly lover who exposed me to bedbugs last year, and the other poly lover who mercilessly made fun of me at a dinner with mutual friends. These were both sex-positive people in sex-oriented communities. If you can’t take care of a single person, let alone refrain from physically or emotionally endangering them, don’t take them on as a lover.
4. The assumption that anyone in our community is up for “untethered intimacy” ignores the fact that many people have deep triggers around abandonment. Treating people like you can just seduce them without consequence is often to tell them that you feel they are disposable. I and most other single people don’t need that belief reinforced. You are hindering our healing in a death by a thousand papercuts. The continual offer of sex without attachment erodes a person’s feeling over time that they are worth getting attached to. Stop collectively implying that people are worth a fuck but not a relationship. You are reinforcing their abandonment triggers and killing their self-esteem.
5. When you are already in a poly relationship and you attempt to seduce or flirt with a single person, you are ignoring the enormous power inequality at play: that you have an emotional support system already in place that they likely don’t. If your lovership with them fails, you can theoretically receive support from your existing relationships while they cannot. Their risk is substantially greater than yours. Sometimes even the unspoken power balance is enough to trigger anxiety, or often the single person will just feel that you’re rubbing your abundance in their faces.
6. The assumption that a person is going to get anything out of casual sex with you is egoic in itself, but when you’re talking to a sex educator (hi) it’s doubly so. I have spent the past decade becoming fluent in all love languages, erotic blueprints, and kinks, so if sex is all that’s being offered to me it’s unlikely to be an even exchange. It reminds me of the music producer who complained to me once of people who came to him with a few shitty lines written on a piece of looseleaf and asked him to make it sound like a million-dollar Taylor Swift song that had a team of 12 people on it. If you really think a sexual experience with you will benefit me, then pitch me as a practitioner. I would far rather pay a somatic sexologist for that time/space container than fuck you for free.
7. I got (rightfully) called out in the comments last night for saying that I felt differently about girls, that with girls I still feel safe to be poly, which reinforces a toxic notion that lesbian relationships don’t count. I don’t believe that on a transpersonal level. What I mean is that my orientation doesn’t create the same attachments with women as with men, and that in most cases with women (excepting the one who mistook a guest list for a date), I have not felt that they were trying to escalate sexually before establishing trust and friendship. Therefore it’s been safer for me with girls to add sex on as an extension of friendship and not a potentially dangerous situation where sex and flirtation is jumped to without trust.
For these reasons, I will continue to identify as a primary-oriented non-monogamist (or “monogamish”), but I am completely disassociating myself from the orientation of polyamory.
Poly people, please check yourselves. Single people are not a buffet for you to pick from when you feel like trying something new. Stop treating our availability as consent when you cannot take responsibility for the feelings you create.