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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Monogamous multiplicity.


The other day I heard a concept I had never heard of before, the idea that someone can have multiple monogamous relationships.

The person putting forth this idea was a self-identified polyamorist and was using the term Multiple Monogamous Relationships to define their polyamorous lifestyle. Essentially this person was saying that their poly family was closed; a poly-fidelity type situation. Though I don't remember how many partners were involved in the poly family, I understood there to be only one legal marriage involved. The person elaborated a bit and indicated physical relationships within their poly family were one-on-one and some of the partners didn't interact with each other physically.

My first impulse was that the term Multiple Monogamous Relationships was contradictory to say the least. Ridiculous, was the first word that came to my mind. Monogamy is sexual exclusivity right?

Thinking about it some more I took a peek at my Definitions page here on this blog and remembered that the definition of Monogamy originally meant simply a single marriage or union. Using that definition as a litmus test, was the idea of Multiple Monogamous Relationships possible? If there is only one marriage involved then technically it sounds plausible.

The other part of the definition, or a newer concept if you will, is sexual exclusivity. Breaking down that concept led me to a simple realization; sexual exclusivity can be perspective based. That is to say there are a couple of ways to define sexual exclusivity:
1. Having only one sexual partner at a time or the idea that you are only having sex with someone whom you currently have a relationship with and that you only have one relationship at a time. This is the more commonly accepted theme of monogamy.
2. Only having sex with one person at a time. Or stated simply; no threesomes or moresomes. You literally only have sex with one person at a time making sex an exclusive act at that moment.

Based on definition #2 and that the person putting forth the concept has only one legal marriage the concept of Multiple Monogamous Relationships is a very real possibility.

My feeling is that this person was trying to come up with a term to uniquely identify themselves. Is the term technically possible? Sure. But wouldn't Polyamory or Poly-fidelity, two more commonly understood terms, just as easily provide the definition needed? Seriously, why confuse an already confusing landscape? Does the term Multiple Monogamous Relationships provide better definition for their situation? Not that I can see.

What it probably does do is provide a more socially acceptable term for use in certain situations. Monogamy is a term with which most everyone is familiar. It implies morality, stability, and normalcy for most people. At the same time most people probably wouldn't care enough to question the term, or wouldn't want to show their ignorance if they didn't understand it. And if questioned, it would be quite easy to present Multiple Monogamous Relationships as Serial Monogamy and avoid revelation of a polyamorous lifestyle.

So what do you think about the concept or term; Multiple Monogamous Relationships? Contradictory or brilliant? Plausible or ridiculous? Does it provide good definition of a specific situation or just add more confusion to an existing big pile of confusion?

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