The 12 pillars of polyamory provide an insight into its characteristics and can help to explain why it may be a viable choice for some people.
- Gender equality
- Open communication
- Accepting of self-determination
- Sex positive
Kate Iselin, writer and former sex worker shares her experiences with polyamory and working out what is right for her in the moment
Often misunderstood as something between swinging and having an open relationship, polyamory has been regarded in mainstream society as having salacious even immoral implications, but in fact it is not just about sex. This stigmatisation is the reason many polyamorists have felt so hidden and recluse in their relationship experiences.
Sociologist at Macquarie University studying alternative relationship cultures specialising in polyamory, Dr. Niko Antalffy differentiates ethical polyamory as the consensual proclivity for or act of having multiple simultaneous romantic relationships. Antalffy explains that “polyamory is all about the full connection, just like any monogamous relationship would have a full spectrum of different aspects, intellectual, physical, emotional, sexual. Polyamorous relationships are the same but with more than one at a time.”
Antalffy says that “monogamy is deeply embedded in our culture, in all our stories, all our ideals, in our films books and literature and everyday conversation, it’s quite pervasive!”.
To be self-accepting enough come to terms with concepts of polyamory it takes time and figuring out who you are and what you want to undo this conditioning “especially in a climate of modern normativity where monogamy is kind of enforced invisibly on everyone, they’re born into it, that’s our cultural legacy really”.
This is why twenty-eight-year-old writer and former sex worker Kate Iselin’s story is a unique and unusual insight into a younger person’s self-discovery process and exploration of alternative relationship structures and possibilities. Kate doesn’t pretend to have all the answers but writes to share her experiences and raise discussion and acceptance of social issues. She adds “I think for me, writing about things and then kind of putting it out into the world is just how I deal with things”.
When Kate published articles about the traditionally underrepresented and tabooed topics of sex work and polyamory she received a multitude of responses from readers sharing similar stories. “So I definitely felt like I wasn’t the only one” she says confirming a shift in public sentiment towards gradually more inclusive understandings of what it means to be valid, valuable members of society. For Kate “It’s about showing up as your full self, not hiding anything, being radically honest to the point of changing or shaking someone’s beliefs. That’s what it’s all about!” she laughs. If we could all be so open, we may help others to not feel so alone.
With foundations in gender equality, openness and respect, polyamory possesses the underlying opportunity of empowerment for women to redefine the ways in which they wish to engage in meaningful relationships that best works for them.
However, Antalffy clarifies this independence isn’t shared by everyone. With unequal access and dissemination of information, the diverse versions of reality people from varying socio-cultural backgrounds experience are excluded in the construction of social norms. Antalffy notes that “polyamory tends to be a very urban, middle class, white phenomenon but there are people of all sorts of backgrounds going into polyamory, they just tend to be less visible, they’re less out”.
As polyamory is about the freedom from dictating societal norms and restrictions to explore non-traditional lifestyle options, it attracts alternative cultures and there is a “big sub population in the [polyamorous] community who are geeks, into sci fi and alternative things like sexual healing and tantra” says Antalffy. Non-monogamy has been openly practiced in the past and still is in non-western and subcultures.
Although as a hetero-normative western society, marginalised views, other ways of living, preferences and persuasions are expected to confine and conform to traditional value prescriptions. Historical prejudices towards ‘the other’ or unknown such as the discrimination experienced by the LGBTQIA community through the subversion of issues of equality and self-determination, is faced today by alternative relationship cultures including polyamory.