My self-love journey began this summer. I befriended two coworkers who both happen to identify as polyamorous. I found encouragement in the ways they described their open relationships. Since then, I’ve used literature on and conversations about polyamory to guide an exploration of my own sexual inclinations, my role within this patriarchy, my self-confidence, and my ability to love others.
This past fall, I took a course on Chinese conceptions of the body. Mid-way through the quarter, my professor said something along the lines of, “monogamous marriage is a way to give men power in a world where women have the natural upper hand in reproduction.” He was referring to the immediate connection women have to their babies, as opposed to the possible 9 month gap between a man’s involvement and the child’s birth. Monogamy ensures that a man knows he’s been reproduced. While I wasn’t totally convinced, my professor’s comment brought my mind back to my polyamory discussions from the summer. I began to ask myself if polyamory functions as a tool in the struggle against patriarchy. While I now believe that polyamory cannot be boiled down to an ideological decision, I do find it to be incredibly radical in that it can teach us lessons about fostering loving communities for ourselves – be they made up of family, friends, one lover, or many.
When you google polyamory, you come up with all sorts of sites. Some are dating sites, others advertise BDSM parties. Some are book reviews, and others give advice to monogamous partners of polyamorous people. Many do all of the above. And many, I was pleased to learn, provide honest human dialogue surrounding day-to-day relationship issues.
In response to some jealousy and pain I experienced with my ex in December, I sat down with my laptop and began to scrounge up as much as I could on the roots of jealousy and coping methods. I had never dedicated time to pondering jealousy, and was surprised when bloggers and sex therapists eloquently described jealousy as being rooted in specific insecurities, such as fear of abandonment. Jealousy is tied to other emotions. It’s up to the jealous individual to identify those root fears and express them. When the fears get discussed, they are either confirmed (but you’d rather know than be in the dark, right?) or, more typically, dispelled. Furthermore, my research emphasized something I’d already known – I need to love myself. I need to be crazy about myself: confident and happy. Oftentimes, we use relationships as crutches. I’d felt my relationship was proof that I was a lovable person, and I have friends who have based nearly if not all their happiness in their partnerships. I love teams and working alongside others, but, for now, my priority is to improve my own confidence. In order to contribute to a team, and to any relationship – with friend, fam, or lover – we each need to trust in our own abilities.
Of course, now that I’m writing this, I can’t find any of the websites that did me right. However, I can point to a couple resources. I’m finishing The Ethical Slut, a book by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. They describe their experiences with polyamory and suggest tangible approaches to what they call sluthood (which is inclusive of all sorts of people, including those who abstain from sex), such as setting boundaries, making lists of sex acts with which you’re comfortable, and managing time. Next, I hope to skim Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance, by Rosie Molinary, which provides tips for building self-confidence. Finally, this poly forum contains lengthy discussions about people’s real life experiences with polyamory.
Tonight was the Palo Alto Poly Social at Coupa but, with midterms, I couldn’t attend. Maybe next month!