• Laura Boyle

Fuck Non-Monogamous Gatekeeping

There are a lot of varieties of gatekeeping in Ethically Non-Monogamous communities. A lot of them revolve around who is or isn’t polyamorous, and whether polyamory is the One Twue Way To ENM.


The one that has especially made my blood boil lately is the one that goes something like “Oh, Mary? She doesn’t build PARTNERSHIPS, she just SLEEPS AROUND and has a partner at home, THAT isn’t polyamory;” or “UGH I KNOW Mark’s in a triad and THAT’S polyamory but he and Sue just do swap-swinging outside of their relationship with George.” The anti-casual-sex gatekeeping. The anti-swinging gatekeeping. The gatekeeping that thinks that “Polyamory isn’t just about sex” means “polyamory can’t EVER be about sex” - second wave feminism polyamory that says that any sexual activity without love first must be violence against your own identification as polyamorous, as though only demisexuals are polyamorous, or sexuality isn’t potentially fun to explore, or people’s relationship agreements can’t make room for agreed upon amounts of casual sex.


My beef with these gatekeepers is essentially the same as the one I have with sex-negative feminism, that it removes freedom and agency of sexual expression from the people it claims to be helping - it claims to be more enlightened by insisting that love is the core of all polyamorous expression and so swingers are less than polyamorous folk and somehow toxic.



If all you do is swing, then yes, you aren’t polyamorous. You’re non-monogamous, and probably in a pretty ethical, upfront way. If you’re open to both swinging and new romantic connections, or you have multiple romantic connections, you’re polyamorous. If, on the way to making those new romantic connections, or once you have a couple, you’re saturated on romance, but your sexual saturation takes more sex than your current romantic partner(s) prefer, it’s perfectly ethical to seek out sexual connection elsewhere. So long as you’re honest that you’re looking for casual sex, or “friends with benefits,” or whatever term you prefer for “sex without romance,” you’re being perfectly ethical; and the gatekeepers who try to say this somehow invalidates that you’re also in or open to multiple romantic connections, and therefore polyamourous, can go suck a lemon or six.



The worst thing about this gatekeeping is that people buy into it. They decide, because of this rhetoric, “Well, I’m polyamorous, so I only do things with romance in them.” This doesn’t make them feel deep romantic love any more often, or make them feel sexual attraction any less often. But it makes them mistake limerence, that beautiful, obsessive, “I am attracted and I hope they want me back, I’m waiting by the phone” feeling, for deep love and instant connection, and it makes them express that obsession and New Relationship Energy infatuation as deep love so that they’re “doing polyamory right.” And that is toxic because it is essentially dishonest, even if it has become subconscious after enough time doing it. That mistaken "this is the only way to do this right" catches others up in your self-deception and creates additional pain when they realize that you didn't mean it the way they thought you did, as the NRE fades and you run for it. This theory creates the NRE junkie who excuses herself with "oh, I just love intensely and sometimes that scares people off," or "they weren't willing to work when it got hard" when in fact, the hard work hadn't begun yet.



If you’re caught in a loop of relationships that fizzle immediately after NRE fades, or if you find yourself rejecting people you find very attractive because they admit they mostly want sex, or if you really think swinging is less ‘evolved’ than polyamory because its relationship agreements are different, take a minute and look in the mirror and see if you’re one of the Ethical Non-Monogamy Should All be Polyamory gatekeepers.Then give yourself a slap for me, and give me back my right to enjoy sex with my friends without needing to have a grand romance, just like you can give the second wave feminists one for telling me I can’t enjoy bras or sex with men just because both were uncomfortable for them. You never need to have casual sex or swing yourself, to leave other people alone instead of shaming them for doing either one. It makes them no more or less ethical.

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