Understanding Opposition to Polyamory
By Black Eagle
Copyright 1997 - 2005 by the Polyamory Society, Inc.
RD100105

A: "The three of us are married."
B: "You can't live like that!"

Where does the opposition to polyamory come from? To me, it seems as natural as breathing. I love both my wives deeply and the love of both of them is more intense than it would be with just one. Our commitment to one another is actually stronger than it was with just one, and there is no sense of being "trapped" in a relationship. So why the anger?

Recently, one of my wives talked to her parents about our life together and got back the reply, "it isn't right for you to sleep together." She wouldn't even hear that we rarely did that, and when we did, it was more the nature of a slumber party than an orgy.

A man we know has had numerous affairs and thinks nothing of them. A man, he feels, can have sex with as many women as he can and, so long as the relationship is a cheating one, there is nothing wrong with it. Being honest, however, is so alien and disgusting to him that he cannot handle it.

I've talked with several people who were solidly monogamist and think I have a few answers. The first is envy. They feel that they would lose their lover or spouse if they were ever to admit to having sexual feelings about another person, let alone be caught having a sexual affair. They feel trapped by their feelings about what they believe their significant other (SO) feels and by their own insecurity.

When the envious person looks at what we are doing, they resent the fact that we can be so open and honest, yet remain in love and committed to one another, while they cannot. It is as if they were small children and one has been given a gift while they've been told they can't have any or were too late to take one. They resent that the other person has something they can't have.

These are the kinds of people who say, "Well, you are sleeping with two (men or women), just why in the hell won't you sleep with me?" It is a personal insult to these people that you are a slut, but reject them.

Another reason has to do with social obsession with an anti-sex cultural bias. If you have a sore tooth, you spend a lot of time thinking about it and your tongue seems automatically to go to it constantly. If your attitudes about sex run contrary to your natural desires and drives, it is a sore that you focus on and pay attention to even at the most peculiar times.

The sex-obsessed focus on the physical sex act and automatically assume it's repulsive, especially if there are more than two people involved. For these people, even if you have sex no more often than once a week, if you live with more than one person or have a lover that your spouse knows and accepts, you are sleazy, repellent and disgusting.

Such people automatically focus on whatever they imagine is going on, and, like the sore tooth example, can't seem to get their minds off the sexual play. These are the people who imagine that your life is nothing but one orgy after another. They are unable to focus on the fact that you go to work, you come home, do chores, pay bills, talk, watch television, enjoy your hobbies and, if you're not too tired, maybe go to bed with one of your lovers and actually have sex with him or her. They cannot see that, other than being so open and honest and loving, your life is not that different from other people's.

These are the people who, like my wife's mom, cannot see that the main reason we want to be married and not just lovers is that we want the caring, support and intimacy of a married life with those we love so much. The strange thing about such an attitude is that nothing you can say will take their minds off of d*cks in pu**ies, plus imagined psychic slime all over them.

A third reason for opposition to polyamory is guilt. People who have had or are having affairs often feel guilt. They are lying and deceiving their mates and, if they have any sense of moral obligation to them, feel guilty for acting on their natural impulses. For them, we are doing openly and honestly what they are doing by deception. We are rubbing their faces in their own sins and they resent it strongly.

A fourth reason is cultural blindness. These people cannot see or understand a form of behavior that is different from their own. They see people who eat with a fork in their right hand as wrong -- not just having a different custom.

These are the kinds of people who feel (perhaps -- depending on the subculture) that it is alright for a man to have an affair, but not for a woman. These are the kinds of people who simply don't understand what you mean when you tell them that they have just been disrespectful to a woman by cutting in front of them, although they would understand had it been a man. They are so rigid and set in their culture that any change is degrading. They see the youth of their own culture as misguided and corrupt, since they don't do things the "right" way.

A fifth reason, related to the last one, is misogyny and it's close relative, male chauvinism. For these people, a truly polyamorous relationship gives too much power and independence to women. A man should rule the roost, and, if he has more than one wife, should rule them with an iron hand. When such a person (could even be a woman) sees a poly family, the feeling is that the male(s) in the family has stepped on the toes of the rightful owners of the wife.

You may think that I am mistaken about this attitude, but I just ran into it with my wife's father. The woman belongs to the father, and, when married, belongs to the husband. For an outside male (which is the way it will be seen when the daughter becomes the second wife), to "take over," is an act of theft. All the other attitudes now step in to justify the reaction if the man is not able to clearly state his opposition to the new "owner."

I left religion to last, because it is often nothing more than a cover for the other reasons for opposition to polyamory. In some people's minds, God came down off his high mountain and ordered monogamy. They find justification in the Bible, and ignore contradictions in their arguments. The millenialists even see this as proof of the degradation of the "last days."

By living polyamorously, we are truly living in sin. These people talk a lot about Sodom and Gomorrah (although why God hasn't destroyed us all isn't made clear). "In for a penny, in for a pound," seems to be their motto. If we would do one evil, we must surely be guilty of all. If we have more than one lover, we must surely be fucking everyone we meet. It is obvious that we don't care about disease. It is obvious that we cannot have any spiritual life. They fear that we are not only hell-bound, but are dragging others in with us.

Most people who oppose polyamory jump from one reason to another, showing that they are not sure why they don't like it, but certain that they don't like it. Some opposition is just based on unfamiliarity, and, after exhausting their arguments, they go home and think about it. And most opposition is a jumbled mixture of several of the above sources.

If the monogamist will permit it, many of the above reasons for opposition to polyamory can be defeated by getting to know a poly family over a period of time. Others will require a growing cultural acceptance. A few can be rationally argued against. But some opposition will never be overcome without psychological counselling.

When the paradigms by which we live are threatened, it takes time for form new ones that incorporate something unexpected. Some of us go through that when we discover that we will never be close to our parents, again. We have to shift our expectations and our emotions to accommodate the new information and form a new comfort zone. It's not easy, and I don't think it can be done by getting "in your face" and demanding attention and acceptance.

I'm not saying that aggressive activism does not work with some people. Recent history with homosexuals shows that it does. However, with many, and especially if it is shoved down their throats, it actually increases opposition and resentment, even if it is quiet for the time being.

Most of our contacts are not going to be in a public forum. They will be with parents, relatives, friends, co-workers and others in small groups or one-on-one. It is nice to hear a monogamist who finally understands tell another, "Do you hear what you're saying? They don't have sex all the time. In fact, they hardly have sex any more than you do. Why are you so obsessed with sex? Are you afraid of it?"

It's nice to find unexpected friends and supporters, and that comes in small steps, one at a time, until the change is automatic and most people no longer have any problem with it.

My life with my wives is wonderful. Never have I felt so much love, so much intimacy and so much commitment. Other than the fact that I have two wives (and we all have outside lovers), our lives are pretty normal. And it's our normal, everyday life, that convinces others that we are not a threat -- slowly, one step at a time. And that seems the only long-term answer to the opposition.

Gays and lesbians gained because straight people discovered that many of the "normal" people they knew around them were homosexual, and otherwise normal, and they became more tolerant as a result. We can learn from that.