Since the only two major non-mono groups in the 21st century whose interactions I am aware of are the asexual and polyamory communities, this post is going to be about how these two groups interact. That is not to say that interactions between other non-mono groups is unimportant, I am simply not sufficiently informed.
First of all, the article “Asexual Polyamory: Potential Challenges and Benefits” by Dan Copulsky is worth reading (note: I am one of the people who corresponded with the writers of the article).
*I* first learned about polyamory for real, as opposed to just casual mentions which I did not pay much attention to, through my participation in the asexual community. Thus, for me personally, polyamory is tied to asexuality in my mind since exploring asexual is how polyamory has been most relevant to my life. And generally, the aces I know know much more about polyamory than the non-ace people I know.
In the polyamory writing and materials I have read, I have also found more references and a better understanding of asexuality than I have in writing/materials about sex and romance in general. This is no doubt skewed by the fact that the polyamory writing/materials which I’m likely to find are more likely to be ace-friendly simply because I tend to be directed to them through the ace community. Nonetheless, my impression is that poly people are more likely to be informed about asexuality than the general population. That is not to say that poly people always get it *right* – they don’t – but ace people don’t always get poly right either.
The Poly Aces (and Poly Aros)
There are people who are both poly and ace. I am not one of them (I am ace, not poly). Fortunately, some people who are ace and poly have written about it. Here is a small sample of writing by poly aces about being poly and ace:
A confession and an announcement
Polyamory: Never a One-sided Deal, even in Mixed Relationships
My Ace Poly Manifesto
I don’t understand dating, so I’m getting married
I also want to throw in a couple of essays by people who are aromantic (albeit not ace) and poly:
What a Poly, Aromantic Relationship Looks Like
Promiscuous, unloving, and incapable of commitment
Poly as a Solution to Mixed Ace/Non-Ace relationships
When the topic of polyamory is brought up in the context of asexuality, the most common assumption is that it is a ‘solution’ for a mixed couple – that is, an asexual and a non-asexual who are a ‘couple – so that the non-asexual person in the couple can get sex without putting pressure on the asexual.
Sometimes, setting up a poly relationship so that the non-asexual person can have sex without breaking up with the asexual or pressuring the asexual for sex works. But as one of the essays linked above (“Polyamory: Never a One-sided Deal, even in Mixed Relationships”) states, *assuming* this framework places the needs and wants of the non-asexual above the needs and wants of the asexual. It’s one thing for two people to consider all of their options and conclude that this is the best option; it’s another thing for someone to assume that this needs to happen just because an asexual and a non-asexual person are having some kind of relationship which society expects to be sexual and monogamous.
However, I do think, as several of the essays which I have linked claimed, it does help for asexuals to have the *option* of mixed-relationship polyamory when dealing with relationships, even if we don’t ultimately choose that option, and that this is a major reason that asexuals have such a high level of interest in polyamory.
Common Features of Asexual, Aromantic, and Polyamory Communities
Some people, particularly people who are uninformed about asexuality, aromanticism, and polyamory, assume that asexuality and polyamory are opposites. This mistake is based on assumptions that polyamory is all about having lots of sex, or that asexuals are uninterested in close personal relationships, or something.
In fact, asexual, aromantic, and polyamory communities all have a lot in common, and I think that is the main reason there is an ‘alliance’ between them.
First of all, all three of these communities have ideals of open, honest, and detailed communication. All of them have created a bunch of new words (for example, demisexual, akoiromantic, and metamour) because words in mainstream use are not adequate for the ideas they want to discuss. All tend to have extended conversations about personal boundaries. And all tend to have high-word-count conversations about what they want from close personal relationships. Mind you, just because open, honest, and detailed communication is the *ideal* does not mean that people in these communities always put those ideals into practice. However, the fact that this is a commonly shared ideal helps them interact with each other.
However, I think the most important thing these communities have in common is that they are all striving to increase their freedom to engage in personal relationships which work for them, rather than forcing themselves to fit the relationship norms of mainstream society. I think that’s why certain polyamory blogs, such as SoloPoly, are popular with asexual and aromantic readers. This, more than anything else, is why I consider the asexual and aromantic communities to be natural allies of the polyamory community. We have the common goal of wanting to make close relationships other than sexually and romantically exclusive monogamous relationships a socially acceptable option.
NOTE: This post is scheduled to be published at a time I won’t have internet access. Therefore, it may take me a while to respond to comments.
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I really loved this series. Especially, I like the discussion of history and its relation to today. I’ve tried several times to look into non-mono stuff and have been disappointed every time. Because everything is the poly community, which I have very little interest in and, as far as I’ve seen from the outside, doesn’t offer a lot of different cultural styles of non-mono relationships. Or maybe there is, but since there’s already such a strong tradition of non-monogamy in Islam it would have to try a lot harder at diversity for me to think about joining it. So with all that, I loved seeing the diversity in the history (and today) of things beyond the poly community, since it’s so rarely acknowledged that polyamory does not encompass all non-monogamy.
Another group I think would be interesting to explore: modern Mormon polygamy. I also know there is current Muslim polygamy in the US, though I don’t think it’s all that common. And there’s the subject of history Muslim Americans (in the 19th c. and earlier)…but since that’s almost entirely in the context of slavery where sexual and religious autonomy would be difficult…that would probably be a different kind of subject. Or hmm, now that I remember there was also theosophy. An early (white) American convert to Islam was part of that movement. I don’t know if any kind of non-monogamy was involved there though.
Anyway. Great series!!! 8DDD
Yes, there is so much more to non-monogamy than the ‘polyamory’ community.
Another cultural tradition I did not look into was Chinese-American polygamy. Polygamy (mostly polygyny, but not always) was acceptable in Chinese societies until very recently, and I know some of that tradition was brought into the United States, but I do not know much about it.