I don't think anyone has asked you this before but I have a question about an identity that I've recently donned (its been a year) and I am probably the most passionate about, and I have a few identities that are different from your average cis-gendered north-American.
For example, I'm a furry, a therian, an animist, gender-queer, demisexual and probably the most controversial is identifying as a polyamorist, I understand that some people are a true monogamist, that there truly is only one person they've ever loved but most people are actually socially monogamous meaning they raise children with one person, and engage in sex with one person, and dedicate their whole lives to one person of choice at a time... or so we've been raised to believe, the reality is that people are naturally not monogamous, look at human tribes that live miles from civilization, what do their social groups look like? polygyny, one male having multiple females, look at groups of chimpanzees or gorillas they are polygynous as well, it doesn't make sense especially for a species who's history has been (and continues to be by all the never ending cheating) promiscuous, to be monogamous, how else does one male spread his genes? or how does a female ensure that her descendants aren't inbreeding?
Monogamous ways have only been around since agriculture has, how else would one determine what offspring inherits the farm? people make empty lies when they marry now, the divorce rate is FIFTY PERCENT! the evidence again and again shows that people aren't meant to be monogamous, and people who are supposedly dedicated can't keep their eyes or hands off another person, but even though cheating is 'shamed on' its accepted! even though marriage is sacred, you and your spouse having sex with another person is ok! when does the lying END?! I choose not to be sexual with people I am not in a relationship with, but I DO choose to be in multiple relationships, and I am hated for it, in Canada if you are 'caught' performing polygamous acts you and whomever else is being a part of or even witnessing you and your partners marrying whether religiously or not can be jailed for up to 5 years! I've never read about someone being caught in Canada, but in the states I think it was in the 50's a man was arrested for claiming 4 women to be his wife and getting their welfare money.
People are stereotyping polyamorists to be the same as polygamists and in societies eyes all polygamists are child rapists! They're all forcing their children to be married to old men and have orgies together! this is clearly not the case, but me and other people of the community are slapped with these claims anyways, that we can't decide, and that we need to find our 'one true love', love isn't black or white, it isn't a straight line, its colourful and fluid, how do I cope in a world that is obsessed with beautiful lies that will only end with pain, than being an adult and facing their feelings so that they can make the best outcome?
Make a long story short: I identify as non-monogamous, and I'm tired of being harassed for being honest than to be a liar wearing a mask.
Krazed Kaelan (age 19)
* * *
Actually, Papabear has had questions about polygamy and polyamory before. Just type either of those words in the Search box on my home page, and you’ll get some letters on the subject.
My personal position on polyamory is that it can work, but only if all parties involved are not jealous types and are 100% in agreement about it.
Is polyamory natural? Or polygamy? For the benefit of my readers, let’s define a few terms here, quickly.
1. Polygamy: one individual mating with two or more other individuals.
2. Polygyny: one male mating with two or more females.
3. Polyandry: one female mating with two or more males.
4. Polyamory: one person being in a loving relationship with two or more other people (does not necessarily involve sex).
Anthropologists, psychologists, and other scientists have studied polygyny in cultures pretty thoroughly over the years. In one recent study it appeared that about half of all people tend to favor polygamy (males slightly more than 50% and females slightly less), and the other half preferred being monogamous (this was in an anonymous survey, not something they declared publicly). That right there tells you that demanding all people be monogamous is imposing a social construct on half the population that they don’t want. Why does society do this, then?
If you ask Joe or Mary Public on an average American street, they would tell you that monogamy is more moral, approved by their religion, or just the right thing to do because it shows you love the other person faithfully. An evolutionist, on the other hand, would point out that there are certain advantages to being monogamous and certain advantages to being polygamous. This is why you see both models in the Natural Kingdom. Polygamy, as you noted, has the advantage that a male can spread its genetic code far more widely. But with monogamy, a family is formed to more closely protect the progeny, which gives them an advantage in surviving. These are both valid strategies and behavioral adaptations to help a species survive.
As humans went from a hunter-gatherer way of life to a domesticated one of raising crops and forming towns and cities, the monogamous model became the most practical. And, as any student of religion may know, many of the moral codes sent down by “God” actually were inspired by practicality (hence many of the food and farming codes set down in books such as Leviticus that don’t make much sense today).
Over time, such rules—including monogamous marriage—got set down in stone, passed along from generation to generation, until people no longer questioned it. It was God’s will. For a long time, marriages were arranged by families. People didn’t marry for love, they married for financial reasons, for reasons of power, for reasons of bringing two families or even nations together, etc. It’s not that people didn’t fall in love; they did, sometimes even with their spouses, but often with people outside the marriage. The king and queen would sleep in separate bedrooms, where they would lie down with their lovers. Likewise, social politics would often keep two people who loved each other apart (a la Romeo and Juliet). The ideas of romantic love really entered the human social consciousness in medieval time with literary works such as Tristan and Iseult.
So, now we have this paradigm that society accepts that what should happen is that two people (man and woman) fall romantically in love, get married, are monogamous, have children, get old and die together. That’s how the classic marriage vows are written, after all, and those who stray from it—whether that is gay marriage or polyamory or polygamy or whatever—are labeled outcasts, as you are.
Is it intrinsically wrong or immoral that you are polyamorous? No. You are suffering under the weight of an artificial social construct that is further imbedded in local and national laws. And, of course, anyone who believes that just because you are a polyamorist you are a child molester and indulge in orgies is flat-out wrong. That’s not even true with polygamists, let alone polyamorists. I suppose this weird notion came into the collective consciousness through dated cases of Mormons who married several women, sometimes very young women. I think a lot of Americans think about Mormons when the issue pops up (it’s no longer an accepted practice there, though the official position [as of 1890] is that monogamy is the norm, unless God asserts otherwise “to help establish the House of Israel,” which is how they justify early figures in the Bible having plural marriages).
So, what do you do as a polyamorist in a monogamous world? Unfortunately, Papabear can’t change the law for you (even thought that law is nonsensical and there’s really no reason for the State to get involved in people’s marriages), but I might point out that multiple marriages are legal in some countries—mostly in Africa, the Middle East, and some Asian nations. It is often accepted among Muslim and Hindu people and within indigenous cultures, such as the aborigines of Australia. I kind of doubt you’d be willing to move to one of these nations or convert to Islam, which allows polygyny but not polyandry, or Hinduism. Interestingly, Judaism also accepts multiple marriages in the Talmud (as I hinted earlier, people like Abraham and King Solomon had more than one spouse [Solomon had hundreds, the busy guy, and people said he was wise], though it is frowned upon these days). The Qur’an is the only holy text that specifically states it is okay to have more than one wife: “Marry woman of your choice in twos' threes' or fours' but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly, (with them), then only one.” [Al-Qur'an 4:3]
How to deal with this? Well, it might not be a huge comfort to you, but perhaps you can take courage in the fact that just because you aren’t accepted doesn’t mean you are wrong or a bad person. Society is often wrong (I give you 400 years of the accepted practice of slavery in America and the people who would tell you that was perfectly fine), and sometimes it amends those views. For example, in many U.S. states, it is now legal for gay or lesbian couples to marry.
You are a unique individual with a laundry list of traits that are generally regarded as “out there” by the mundane people of planet Earth. I should think, though, that as a furry you would find some acceptance within our sub-society of colorful misfits.
We, unhappily, often have to compromise ourselves as a matter of self-preservation in a neurotic and often psychotic society. You are a sane person in a madhouse, my furiend. My advice to you: don’t loudly espouse to the inmates that you are polyamorous. Keep your private life private, and open up only to those few whom you consider genuine friends and loving family. Until that day when life becomes a paradise of acceptance, that’s simply how reality is.
However! I would like to offer you something that might be of comfort. There’s one spiritual belief system I didn’t mention above: Wicca. Wiccans are not tied down by ridiculous, outdated notions of how people should love one another, and, therefore, polyamory is accepted. There is a ceremony practiced by many Wiccans called “handfasting” in which two people commit to one another in a loving way, and they can do so with more than one other person, if they choose.
As of around 2010, there are an estimated 135,000 Wiccans in the United States. So, if you don’t mind my being so bold, I would say you have a pre-made community for you right there to supplement your furry family.
While there are times you will be forced to wear a mask, communities such as furries and Wiccans can offer you a safe haven to be yourself.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.