Another prejudice challenged

 I always assumed that people who were ‘swingers’ were in a bad relationship or sexually perverted or had serious psychological problems like untreated bipolar disorder. 

Then I found out that a friend is polyamorous.  And this is a person that I feel safe enough to let  watch my kids.

Ironically, I have a very sweet relative who adores small babies and animals that I do not feel safe to leave my kids with for an extended period of time.  More for her sake than for the kids, perhaps. 


So now I have to deal with having a polyamorous friend that I look up to.

I currently have two theories about polyamory.

One is that it is a symptom of our society which is obsessed with infatuation, romance and continual dopamine highs, and which devalues steady deep friendships.

(I’ve been reading 18th century literature, I think its influencing my writing 🙂

Mary Wollstonecraft vigorously argues that by training women to see romance as their only occupation in life, that society creates a league of adulteresses.  According to her, these women were taught that romance was a high ambition.  After marriage settled down the passion, only mystery and intrigue could keep the husband interested.  So, the wife flirted to make him jealous.  This is sort of like bringing in a third party to a intimate relationship.  Of course, it doesn’t fit the definition of polyamorous in which all parties must give enthusiastic consent.

I read a biography of an American woman who married into an elite Mexican family.  They all lived under the same roof.  When the marriage of her husband’s brother and his wife grew cool, the American felt that friendship and talking about it would resolve the issue. 

The mother-in-law scorned the thought of spouses being friends.  The mother-in-law’s solution was to slip one of her gloves into her son’s room.  His wife found a strange feminine glove with her husband’s things and flew into a jealous rage.  She went back home to her family and her husband had to woo her again.  Passions were revived.

With such an expectation for married love, I can understand that bringing another party in could ‘spice things up’.  In the movie 1940 “Too Many Husbands”, the wife is ignored by her husband until her previous husband, thought dead, turns up.  She loves the attention that she gets as they fight over her. 

There is another film, The Freebie, I heard about on the radio recently about a couple who can’t remember the last time they had sex.  So they decide to go out and have sex with other people.  I don’t know how it ends.

Ok.  That all sounds very sad to me.  It is placing the dopamine rush of new romance at a revered level.  I don’t think that is healthy, and can just lead to going from person to person in search of ‘happily ever after’. 

An unmarried friend of mine thinks marriage is endless romance.  She is in for a surprise!  How will she deal with flatulence and conflict when she is expecting flowers and candles?   Will she get bored too?

But, my non-monogamous friend tells me, she isn’t bored with her partner.  She just finds polyamory fun.  And says it has brought her closer to her partner.   And helped her grow as a person.

I’m guessing that she could have experienced this same growth doing any challenging activity with her partner.  Like mountain climbing or swimming with sharks. 

That is my second theory: it is a comfort-stretching activity.  

So, maybe there are many reasons for polyamory.  And maybe I was wrong.

4 thoughts on “Another prejudice challenged

  1. Astasia says:

    Polyamory and swinging are two different things altogether.

    I can much more easily understand polyamory (I was in a polyamorous relationship before) than I can understand swinging. Casual, just-for-fun sex seems bizarre to me – regardless if you have a partner or not. I can’t imagine not being emotionally invested in a relationship with someone I was having sex with.

    • prairienymph says:

      Thanks for the distinction between polyamory and swinging.
      I do understand the need for sexual release but I would choose a good vibrator over a stranger if I needed to 🙂
      I don’t think it is physiologically possible to have sex (rape is not sex) without oxytocin creating a bonding between those involved.

  2. Grace says:

    I don’t rule either out, but I can much more easily understand swinging than polyamory. Having more than one partner sounds like lot of work! For me partnership/marriage is about chosen family and building a life with someone. You can do that without having sex, and without being sexually exclusive, too. It really depends on the people involved.

    For a long time I felt guilty that I don’t experience sex as an expression of affection- like I was selfishly taking advantage of my husband for just pleasure. But I’m starting to accept that this is just how I am; sex is recreational, not emotional or relational for me. So I do understand why someone would swing, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it as long as everyone involved or affected is on the same page.

    Another reason – sex is such a huge part of the human experience. I think a lot of people are curious about what it’s like for other people, or what it would be like to be with another person. I know I am! Especially because I feel like my sexual expression was so artificially and arbitrarily limited due to how I was raised.

    A lot of swingers or poly people aren’t open about it because of widespread assumptions that people who choose those lifestyles pose a danger to children or can’t be good parents. Like in the case of Danielle Van Dam where the defense claimed her parents’ swinging exposed her to danger and one of the people at their swinging parties must have killed her.

    We don’t really know much about oxytocin yet; it’s hard to say in which situations it promotes bonding and to what degree.

    • prairienymph says:

      I’m not sure if my friend fits either category exclusively. She and her partner include people they know, but the rules are that she and her partner are the only ones with a romantic attachment to each other. Mostly, I think they include another couple that they are close friends with.
      Maybe swinging and polyamory only differ in the extremes: a romantic or emotional relationship larger than 2 that is not sexual, or in physical sex without emotional relations with the people involved. Otherwise, it looks like they have a lot of overlap- at least to someone who gets most of her info from wikipedia.

      Sex is most definitely ‘recreational’. But I think it is an experience that works best when you are with someone that you trust to the highest degree. I can’t imagine being free enough to pursue orgasm or other sexual pleasures without that high level of trust and mutuality. But maybe the trust issue is appealing in swinging? If you never see the person again, does it matter? I dunno.

      Maybe I should learn more about bonobos. They are more like humans than the common chimps in some ways and seem to decide to diffuse conflict with sexual contact. Under poor circumstances they can be as violent as the other chimps, but under ‘normal’ circumstances seem to have a really peaceful society. Maybe the high level of homoerotic acts has something to do with it? Isn’t that where ‘make love not war’ came from?

      Thanks for the article, Grace. Most of my info on oxytocin was related to lactation.

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