Regina Lynn on Polyamory and the Internet

// 2 March 2008

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There’s a post on Regina Lynn’s Sex Drive on the rise in awareness of polyamory in recent years, due to the availability of information on the internet and selection of online communities out there. Sadly, I’m not sure how far the concept has been “injected into mainstream consciousness” but I’ve certainly noticed that net geeks who have been using the web way longer than the average person tend to be somewhat more likely to have an interest in ethical non-monogamy than the average person I meet. It doesn’t surprise me that the internet is such a prime outlet for reflection and support for people whose ideas about monogamy don’t fit with convention:

“Geeks have not traditionally been viewed as relationship experts, yet as a subculture, we are open to alternative ways of life. We immerse ourselves in science fiction and fantasy, imagining other cultures and experiencing relationships not necessarily bound by puritanical traditions.”

Unfortunately, I think women, in particular, are often held back from even questioning monogamy because of the popular male gender stereotype of the cheating man spreading his seed because he-is-after-all-a-man. It particularly pisses me off when some traditionally minded guy disingenuously implies that the traditional notion of commitment is somehow “better” for women than men when, actually, it seems startlingly obvious to me that the most obvious function of monogamy is in its roots in patriarchy. Even as I type this (admittedly in a relationship that is currently very happily monogamous), there’s no doubt that I continue to have some real issues with monogamy as a theory. Meanwhile, monogamy’s favourite villain, the cheater, pays lip-service to monogamy whilst actually not practising it. (Quite literally, cheating is surely monogamy in theory but not in practice.) Something is definitely up but we’re still stuck in the same old traditions and that’s why a growing body of info on the net is so vital. As Regina Lynn says:

“A lot of people are trying [polyamory], but we don’t have any models for this kind of relating,” says Anita Wagner, author of the Practical Polyamory blog. “There’s a tremendous demand for resources, information, guidance, help.”

The trickiest thing for me when I was considering saying goodbye to monogamy was the fact that most people do not openly embrace the idea that it is okay to have more than one sexual relationship at a time. Knowledge of this makes polyamory far easier said than done. Yes, it is arguably becoming more acceptable to have one-night-stands or “see” people very casually as “fuck buddies” but you’d better keep it cold because, if you don’t, that person will assume that you have become exclusive. Forget love without ownership! It seems to me that monogamy is accepted as the default when, actually, it should be something that is only taken on if everyone concerned agrees to it. This poor state of affairs meant I was aware that I was “free” to be poly but would need to be prepared to be the one left out in the cold if a primary partner’s new love insisted on monogamy (which they probably would because that’s the position society encourages in us all).

If you want to see an example of the subtle way that monogamy-as-the-norm acts as a form of social control, just take a look at the gossip column Dirty Laundry’s reporting on actress Tilda Swinton‘s relationship status as the hinge partner in a vee (or V). A commenter picks up on the discreetly snidey tone and gets the response:

“I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to this new-fangled form of entertainment journalism called the gossip column. It appears you are not familiar with the format. What happens is, we take the behaviors of famous people that are outside of the norms of, oh, pretty much any normal person, and mock such behaviors in a satirical take on the cult of celebrity…”

Though the writer hides behind the gossip column format, I think the part highlighted in bold tells us all we need to know (i.e it isn’t normal so it deserves to be mocked).

In my view, we have everything to gain from questioning monogamy, even if we’re amongst those who practice it. For example, there’s no room for sexist double standards on cheating when the habitual cheater of either gender is encouraged to take an honest look at themselves, consider that monogamy may not be for them and then seek out partners who want freedom from monogamy as much as they do.

Photo by myelectricsheep, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.

Comments From You

Jenny Block // Posted 3 March 2008 at 1:13 pm

Thank you so much for this. It’s great to have the support and understanding of a practicing monogamist. Too many people think polyamorists are anti-monogamy. Not so. Not for me, anyway. I think it is the wave of the future indeed and I think Regina Lynn is right – geeks are on the forefront. But wouldn’t that only make sense? That’s the definition of geek, really. Someone who isn’t interested in how everyone else in doing it (whatever “it” is) but, instead, how it might best be done.


Jenny Block

Holly Combe // Posted 3 March 2008 at 2:52 pm

Thanks Jenny. I wanted to make sure I did the topic justice so it’s great to get some feedback from a practicing polyamorist. Polyamory is something I seriously considered and I like to think what I learned will stay with me whatever happens in the future (which is, of course, a challenge in itself when you consider how ingrained monogamy-as-the-default is in society).

I do get a little rusty and lazy if I don’t check in on some poly-theory every once in a while but with some of it, there’s no going back. Certainly, I’ll never see jealousy in the same way ever again. Thankfully, my feminist radar scanned out possessive types and I never went crazy with the green-eyed monster myself but I definitely needed to learn about polyamory to really get a handle on that stuff. (That, of course, is not to say everyone does.)

Actually, I think it would be a great idea for monogamists suffering from particularly problematic jealousy or possessiveness to study polyamory. Even if they didn’t end up going poly, they’d surely end up seeing the error of their jealous ways. After all, you don’t have to actually say it’s okay for your partner to see other people to realise that, when all’s said and done, you don’t own each other. It seems to me that the mono-norm just encourages us to indulge our jealousy. Astoundingly, it’s the one emotional area where society completely endorses irrational reactions (i.e “let rip! You’ve been wronged!”)

Jenny Block // Posted 3 March 2008 at 8:13 pm

Exactly! If you want to dig a little deeper on the topic, (pardon the shameless self-promotion here) I have a book coming out on the subject June 1 from Seal Press which you can find out more about at my website. It’s called “Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage” and it’s something that I hope people in all kinds of relationships will read. Because, you’re right, in the end, we all deal with the same issues. The only question is – How will we deal with them?


Jenny Block

open-marriage.blogspot. com

Jenny // Posted 18 March 2008 at 10:49 pm

I’m an extremely open-minded woman, philosophically, sexually, and I find myself in a really bizarre situation.

My husband and I are currently in the process of divorcing. We are living separately. We are still in love with each other and still seeing each other, it’s just that neither of us is comfortable with the concept of “ownership” in marriage. While admittedly I am mourning the loss of the old relationship, we are feeling each other out to see how to proceed into this new chapter because neither of us wants it to be over – just different.

The thing is, I am having such a hard time letting go. We both want to move on and see what else is out there. The idea of him sleeping with others doesn’t bother me – it’s the idea of him engaging emotionally that eats me up inside. Any suggestions on where to find good reading on this type of thing? I feel like for this to work between us, it needs to be approached from more a place of logic, not emotion. And strength, on my part. I don’t want to lose him; nor do I want to compromise my own integrity out of desperation.

Holly Combe // Posted 19 March 2008 at 12:44 pm

I reckon the biggest hurdle you’ll find will be the expectations of others (i.e those who aren’t open to polyamory, even in theory) and that will be unhelpful when you’re finding it difficult but don’t want to compromise. That’s why I think the online community is so important. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend you subscribe to the UK Poly list at

It’s a great place to go if you want any advice on the sort of relationship issues that monocentric society doesn’t really acknowledge.

I haven’t read a lot of books on polyamory… I guess you’ve already read The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt?

Here are a couple of other suggestions.

Hope this helps and that it all works out well.

Holly Combe // Posted 19 March 2008 at 1:12 pm

While we’re on this subject again… There was a very positive article about polyamory in the Metro (!) last week.

Dw3t-Hthr // Posted 23 March 2008 at 1:37 am

You wrote:

This poor state of affairs meant I was aware that I was “free” to be poly but would need to be prepared to be the one left out in the cold if a primary partner’s new love insisted on monogamy (which they probably would because that’s the position society encourages in us all).

Heh. I have never had a monogamous relationship, and this has literally never come up. (Admittedly, I don’t do the “dating” thing and I’m not the most outgoing person around, but still.)

This is partly because I’m really heavy on the commitment (and I note I’m married to one of my primary partners and engaged to the other), so tend to select heavily for people who are willing and able to do long-term commitments. Who are less likely to go, “Oh, hey, the new shiny object wants monogamy, I guess that means I need to fuck over my established partner(s).” (This isn’t foolproof — I’ve seen it happen, though never to me or mine — but it strikes me as a significant factor.)

I’ve also not had any trouble finding partners, though that’s at least as much because “finding partners” is something that’s so far out of my kenning that the concept of having it as a goal makes my head hurt. ;)

I have, however, run into people who are convinced that there must have been Some Horrible Experience that disinclined me to monogamy, have said things like “so broken she doesn’t think she deserves it” about me, have called my nonmonogamous partners “pigs” simply because they are male and not monogamous (never mind the facts, like “It was me that introduced my husband to the concept”) … some really insidious crazy gender role stuff. And the occasional jerk who figures that a poly woman is necessarily going to fuck him, because being nonmonogamous means having no standards, y’know.


suecreark // Posted 23 May 2008 at 2:04 am

only a female would write a blog about a fuck buddy and mention “feelings” in every damn paragraph.

only a female would need to lay out fuck buddy rules. guys are born with these stenciled on the inside of our eyelids.

I move to have this post thrown out, your honor.

Untidy spam edited out but presence of the word “love” in the website advertised noted with interest

Holly Combe // Posted 23 May 2008 at 9:55 pm

I know I shouldn’t really pay attention to the words of spammers with a commercial site to plug but the message above did seem to be genuinely targeted at a woman writing about polyamory (I’m guessing either my post here or, possibly, this piece by Lisa Scott). I think it’s an interesting example of a commenter responding to the post they want to see rather than the post they are claiming to be responding to. I seriously think some people just see words on a page, written by a woman and arbitrarily process them as “emotional stuff.”

Firstly, Sue, the blog entry wasn’t about “a fuck buddy” and, secondly, I didn’t actually mention “feelings” at all (let alone in every paragraph)! I talked about the complications attached to being poly when most people are mono. I also appreciate that the mono-majority issue is likely to have an impact on plenty of people in non-mono situations (including swingers and fuck buddies, as well as those in long-term poly relationships).

There is a traditional ideology surrounding how relationships should be and its influence is far and wide. A stark example of this would be your advertising of a website containing the word “love,” despite your posture as some kind of expert on casual fucking.

I didn’t actually mention any “fuck buddy rules” and your comment about women needing to lay them out while men somehow just know them implies that men are the ones who know how casual sex should be done so women should just shut-up and let them lead the way. Apart from being sexist, this is disingenuous because it bypasses the seemingly radical idea that monogamy was not actually invented with women’s best interests at heart. Perhaps it would be more convenient for you if my article neatly fitted in with the gender stereotypes that you seem to hold so dear. Perhaps the idea of women actively having multiple partners on their own terms makes you uncomfortable.

Joreth // Posted 9 June 2008 at 3:40 am

suecreark said

guys are born with these stenciled on the inside of our eyelids.

Fascinating. So, then, does that mean every male I’ve ever dated who was threatened by the idea of non-monogamy and did everything in their power to try and get me to be monogamously committed in long-term relationships like marriage were really female?

I suppose the idea that men are not all inherently alike and women are not all exactly the same is a foreign concept to you and the concept that maybe, just maybe, we are all individuals with our own needs, desires, fears, and wants doesn’t exist in your world?

I bet you still think that women can’t do math and men are missing the gene for doing dishes and changing the baby’s diaper?

From the commenter who criticized Dirty Laundry // Posted 15 June 2008 at 5:16 am


I just wanted to drop a note and say I am pleased to see that someone else had the same reaction I had after reading the “opinion” of the now dead “bitching-gossiping” column (Dirty Laundry). I felt quite not welcomed when I criticized the judgmental attitude of the author of the gossip column and some of her readers.

I like what you write about polylove and non-possessive monolove. I like to read this written from a feminist point of view. Strangely, in my part of the world, feminism is more inclined to say that monogamy is a way to to keep men from not being distracted from commitment or from “playing in the back” of women. In such a vision, monogamy helps women to deepen a rich relationship and help them gain respect (by the fact their man doesn’t cheat on them).

Therefore, men who diverge from monogamy in practice (cheat or become actively poly) are automatically viewed as not commited to women or simply as pigs, like some other commenter said.

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