Help Me Fill In The Right Maps
This post goes the long way round to get where it's going; bear with me, there's a reason for every bit of it.
If you haven't noticed, nor paid attention to the list of links at the bottom of all the posts (because my shameless efforts to get you to subscribe, follow, pay me, etc, are neither as amusing as my witty posts, nor particularly exciting), you may not have realized that I have launched the Ready for Polyamory Podcast. It releases on Saturdays, and you can hear episode 0, explaining this whole dog and pony show here, and episode 1, Polyamory 101, here. My podcast host assures me that Apple podcasts will have picked it up any day now, Stitcher and Spotify already have it, and you can use it on a google player here to get updated on any new episodes, if you prefer their player for your android device. If you like what you hear, or, like me, have high hopes for the improvement of my sound mixing and editing skills with each progressive episode, please feel free to listen to my own-horn-tooting and support the project financially.
Now, my gentle readers, I bring you, this morning, the story of a theoretical discussion gone wrong that my partner Ken will later allege I treat him entirely unfairly in the retelling of. Last night, we got started because I couldn't remember if I'd said I was going to talk more about polyamory as an orientation and its intersection with pride events. I was hoping I hadn't because after thinking about it, I'd decided it wasn't my space or topic to give opinions on, as a it's-complicated-but-mostly-straight-and-definitely-not-leading-pride-events-in-years-we-can-have-them lady; regardless of my opinions on whether polyamory is an orientation, since for some it is, and since Pride is about being allowed to be seen for who you are (and since the big parades are sponsored by beer companies ffs), it probably doesn't matter anyway. (If you draw conclusions about my underlying opinions as a result of that and want to talk, please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll happily have the full conversation - it's a very nuanced opinion, compared to my summation.) This turned to a discussion of his logic and how, in order to be logically consistent, I might have just convinced him that polyamory MUST be an orientation, just that his position on it lay nearly exactly balanced between polyamory and monogamy; much as his sexual orientation as an out-for-25-years bisexual lays very neatly balanced near the center of a spectrum.
Him saying center section of a spectrum brought us around to the bit of conversation I actually want to talk to you about. I mention in the first episode of that podcast I reference above that I had him give me an answer to that same question as the other folks I talked to while recording the first season, "What is your personal definition of polyamory?" and I said that he'd given me an unusable answer. This is not, strictly speaking, true. He gave me an excellent and detailed definition.... of exactly the wrong term. Ken's answer was a beautiful, philosophical, theoretical definition of ethical non-monogamy. There were, for my using it in that episode, a couple of problems. First, that he handwaves polyamory virtually out of the two takes he emailed me, calling it essentially the more carefully boundaried subset of ethically non-monogamous relationships. Second, that he defines ethical non-monogamy as all but very extreme edge cases of ethical relationships... and that isn't the message I am sending with this blog and this podcast. You can't tell monogamists that a tiny subset of them are Doing it Right and expect to get any understanding from monogamous people. Third, I thought he meant "all relationships" at every step that he meant "all ethical relationships" and was doing the holier-than-thou poly person thing throughout and I noped out of that.
Starting the transition in conversation with that third one? Not how to start an effective conversation. Bringing up the second one by going "No, we're having two different conversations. I'm trying to talk about practical road maps and HOW to act ethically and you're saying there's one rule to making ethical relationships ethical - following agreements- and then trying to have a theoretical conversation about CLASSIFYING them is not helpful" is... also not helpful. So, it wasn't like we had a fight... but there was spirited debate.
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've noticed I like theory. I'm a geek about theory. BUT, I'm a geek about theory to the distance that it gets me to creating practical models and ROLE MODELS for relationship modes that don't have them. I'm not trying to write one handbook to do as I do; I'm trying to make an atlas instead of beautiful detailed maps for monogamy, smudgy old wrinkled maps with a quarter page missing for cheating, and for "well known" kinds of physical-only ENM like monogamish relationships and swinging, and then "HERE THERE BE DRAGONS" for the next 20 pages with maybe a singe mark across page 12. So, I get kind of annoyed at philosophy without attendant examples and anecdata and practical explication. Philosophy gets us "well ok we've figured out the world is actually round," pop culture taking us seriously enough will get us our own ahistorical tv specials instead of just me talking about Mary Shelley and boring you all to death for a week and our own fairy tales made into movies my parents see (Think the way kinky people view Secretary), but we have to make our own maps to help community build.
Once he realized that was what I was annoyed about - that I'm trying to introduce people enough to give them pages 1 and 2 of this atlas's intersection with monogamy in season 1 of the podcast, and more nuance on the blog, and in future seasons - the conversation chilled way the hell out. We've both spent a fair bit of time making relationship mistakes, and between us and our pretty big pile of non-monogamous friends know where the biggest mountains and rivers in the several pages moving closer to that singe mark on page 12 are. Our discussion then became - which of those aren't obvious? Which are, but theory to make people see why still helps people decide if they're climbing or going around is still helpful? We entirely disagreed on method - he says not only is my best writing on theory, but the personal writing is best when it's integrated with theory, I think my best writing is personal and no one will bother to read theory without personal interest - but the goal he agreed was a good one.
What do you think are the important topics to lay out? I want input. Send me your thoughts - in comments when I repost this or it's shared places, or at email@example.com. What topics would it have helped you to have maps of? What are you interested in, but want to know if you're going to have to float the wagon on the way? I want to know to help decide if I sketch in the pages you think are important but blank first, or the details on pages people think are almost complete first.