A note about The Deviated Norm

This here is a low traffic blog on topics close to my heart. As such, comments and engagement on old posts are always welcome and will be responded to. Except! for comments on old posts telling me to lighten up, not take things so seriously, or let things go, 'cause that shit's just plain ironic. Those comments will get a suggestion to visit Derailing for Dummies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Poly People: One of these things Does Not Belong (One of these things is Different, so obviously Wrong)

Argh argh argh.

I know I shouldn't read these types of threads, but I always do.

I am, of course, referring to Jezebel's recent thread about triads.

So, let's do a take down of some of this frustrating, saddening, and bigoted stuff. Shall we?

"Next thing you know, people will be marrying their dogs!"
No. No they won't. You know why? Consent. Say it with me "consent pitches my tent". That's right folks, dogs can't consent (novel concept, no?), adult people can. So: any number of adult people should be able to get married.

I think a lot of feminists in particular are iffy about polygamous marriage because of its generally misogynistic underpinnings.
So how do you feel about the misogynistic underpinnings of heterosexuality? I mean, the vast majority of straight relationships are pretty much steeped in the misogynistic culture which surrounds us. If you want to argue this, then you'd better be willing to outlaw all straight marriages too.

I'm perfectly content being narrow-minded with regard to polygamy (which is the form most of this would take if legalized).
There's really nothing to respond to here other than to say that I suppose it's refreshing that you're so open about your bigotry? Good for you?

Same here! I don't support it at all. I support gay marriage because I basically believe people are born gay. I don't believe people are born to be romantically committed to two or more individuals.

And it goes against my romantic tendencies of there being this one person in the world whom you are committed to above all others.

And it's hard enough for two people to stay married...I can't imagine how hard it must be for 3 people to do it.
So, if gay people weren't born gay, they shouldn't be able to marry their partners? This is a perfect example of why the meme "but we were born that way" makes no sense. You know what, I don't know if I was born queer and trans or not (or, more accurately, born with a definite predisposition towards these identities), but I think I should have equal legitimacy in my identity even if I wasn't. You know why? 'Cause there's nothing wrong with being queer and there's nothing wrong with being trans. When you say shit like that, it makes it seem like you're saying that "gay is bad, but it's not their fault". I've said it before, I'll say it again, religion is a choice, but nevertheless people of faith should be allowed to get married. Also choices: love for NASCAR and olives (uck!). Olive lovers still deserve that right. They even deserve the right to eat olives. If they really really want.

And this: "it goes against my tendencies" bullshit? I hate olives, you know what I do? I don't. eat. them. Pretty simple actually. Same trick works with abortion and gay marriage and polygamy. Don't want to do it? Then DON'T.

Ok. So multi-person marriage would be difficult. I guess everything that's difficult should be verboten. We should definitely get out there and stop letting people become Bio-Chem majors, I've heard it's tough shit. Hey, here's an idea, instead of telling other people "that sounds hard, you shouldn't be allowed to do it", maybe we could tell people "that sounds hard, I guess we'd better help you figure it out". Just a thought.

If this is their thing, fine, do your thing, but it just seems kind of...greedy to me.
Greedy? Yeah. I guess it is greedy to want visitation rights to your loved ones. I guess it is greedy to want to have legal recognition on owning a home with the people you love. Really, think of the single people! (no really, do! read: "Singled Out" for a super interesting look at the way that single people are stigmatized in our society, and put at a social and economic disadvantage) If you go through life wanting to pool your resources with a second person, you're just being greedy compared with all the people who are single and therefore can only use their own resources. Outlaw Marriage! Or, maybe we could extend various benefits to people using something other than marriage. Just saying.

My question back to you is, if you can establish all of these legal items and marriage is so controlling, why do individuals in polyamorous relationships need a piece of paper to tell them that they are "married"?
Why indeed! Why do straight people need pieces of paper telling them they are married? Why do white people need pieces of paper telling them they are married? Here's a thought, I'll take away your right to get married (or tell you it never existed in the first place) and then tell you that if you want the protections of marriage you have to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees and hundreds of hours crafting legal work arounds (and even then, perhaps your spouse will be deported because ze isn't a legal citizen), and then you can skip along "tra la la" through the fields and that'll make perfect sense.

So, based on your argument, if I wanted to marry a dog, I should be able to?
This again? Yawn.

There is nothing preventing someone who is in a polyamorous relationship from marrying ONE PERSON that they love and receiving tax breaks, etc.
Yeah. I guess if there were three people in a totally equal relationship, it'd feel really awesome if two of them got married and the third was left out to dry. That'd totally feel wonderful. Oh, and so would being the sole person who didn't have health insurance, or who was about to be kicked out of the country because you aren't considered a legal citizen, or who was barred from seeing your ailing partner in the hospital. I mean, I guess the other two could legally adopt the third, but that might be a little creepy. Maybe the triad could decide which two should marry based on who needs it the most! YAY! And then they'll have awesome practice for when they later have to choose between which of their kids they can afford to send to college (sorry Ephraim, but you're just not cost effective enough, Oswald's gonna go instead).

People can enter polyamorous relationships all they want - they just are not given the financial breaks given to married couples.
This is from someone who repeatedly states ze is for gay marriage. The irony, it burns!

The whole point of marriage is to dedicate yourself to one person.

If you wanna have more mates, then don't get married...

Also, one must consider the effects of legalizing a 2+ marriage. How would spousal benefits work? Insurance benefactors? Child custody?
Indeed. The whole point of marriage is to dedicate yourself to one person. If you want to have children, don't get married. 'Cause then you'd need to divide your love!!!!

And seriously, a "Think of the CHILDREN." Anita Bryant, is that you?

I'm just confused as to why polyamorous folks want to marry anyway, why they're interested.
Maybe you could actually ask one? Instead of saying they shouldn't be able to get married because you say so?

I always took marriage to be "this is the one person I'm happy with, the one person I'm willing to dedicate myself to" and those that cannot limit themselves to one person, well, marriage isn't their fit then.
Oh, perhaps you can tell that to people who remarry, clearly if they didn't get it right the first time, they shouldn't be allowed to try again.

I would argue that polygamous (no idea about polyamorous so I can't speak to that) marriages are damaging/harmful to society.
And *I* would argue that asshats who talk out of their ass/hat are harmful to society. Here, you can be my sample size of 1. What's your statistically representative sample?

If a person has made the choice to be polyamorous, they've made the choice to exclude themselves from a group marriage, as it is illegal.
And everything that is illegal should be illegal for evermore. And maybe everything that at one time was illegal should continue being illegal. Ooh, I know! Restrictive gender norms and party hats for everyone!

Gay people
Black people
People w/ disabilities
People in romantic relationships with > 1 people at a time

One of these things is not like the others.
Religious people
Tea drinkers
Old People
People in romantic relationships with > 1 person at a time

One of these things is not like the others. Guess how? One of them means you aren't allowed to marry a person you love. They are all a choice though. Funny that.

Ok. I'm getting to be a broken record. But they are driving me to it!

Tomorrow: "Meet a Poly Person"


  1. For better or worse, I have to say expanding the definition of marriage to more than two people would drastically change the meaning of the word, in a way that just making it gender neutral doesn't.

    I'm all for abolishing the word "marriage" from the law altogether. Make legal civil unions gender- and number- blind; let "marriage" be under personal and/or spiritual jurisdiction.


  2. I am not poly, but as a person who tries to be open-minded, reading this kind of thoughtless, bigoted commentary is surprising. It's a bit shocking to me that people don't think out the implications of their opinions before posting them on the very public internet.

    It just goes to show that although social pressure has convinced people not to openly talk about certain types of bigotry, bigotry itself is far from dead.

  3. Er, I was referring to Jezebel's "thoughtless, bigoted commentary," not your own post, E. Sorry for not making that clear in my comment.

    Also, when will people stop trotting out that tired "next people will want to legalize marriage to animals!" business? Are they really equating the decision-making abilities of adult humans to those of dogs? It tempts me to make a comparison between their mental capabilities and those of dogs...

  4. No problem rumorofrain, there were enough clues in there to clearly indicate which commentary you were thinking of.

    A whole slew of the comments which I didn't post were about how poly people aren't discriminated against (and gay people are)... blah blah blah. As a few people on the thread repeatedly pointed out: if a liberal feminist blog hates on the poly people so much, (while simultaneously decrying discrimination of queers) how could that possibly mean that poly people aren't discriminated against.

    The dog argument is totally problematic, though hilariously one commenter did respond by saying: "sure, if a magical walking talking thinking dog comes along that we can all agree has the intellectual capabilities of an adult person, you can marry it. But since one isn't around it's a useless comparison" (paraphrase).

    One person on Shakesville (which recently had a mini-discussion about this as well, which I took quite a bit of a part in) basically asked: "well what do you want us to say then?"

    (with some editing) this is my response:
    Who cares? Poly relationships are equally deserving of rights and responsibilities as presumably monogamous. The only thing that matters for whether people should have the right to get married is whether they are able to consent to it. Equating consenting adults of any gender or number to animals and children is insulting and belies a lack of respect for the consenting adults, while simultaneously making already victimized youth (namely those who have been raped) subject to further minimalizing rhetoric. If child rape and gay marriage are of equal negative import to you, then clearly you have misguided goals when it comes to the protection of children.

  5. I tend to agree with BF; I think the word marriage should be removed from the law since it really originates in religious doctrine anyway. Let marriage be a religious/spiritual/personal statement, and call the legal process that gives partners special rights something different. Or maybe even get rid of it. Or at least take a closer look at which rights are strictly necessary; visitation rights are clearly vital, while tax exemptions are not.

    The point is, I think "marriage" is just a way for the government to control which types of relationships are societally acceptable. If we got rid of marriage, and replaced it with a few necessary legal rights that you could achieve with any type of partner, then I think we'd be much better off. In my thinking, single people could even gain these rights with close friends. It just doesn't seem fair to me that people in two-person relationships should get special legal rights while single people or people in relationships with more than one person can't get those rights.

  6. Your "liberal, feminist blog" isn't as liberal-feminist as you think:

    The Trouble With Jezebel

  7. Indeed. The whole point of marriage is to dedicate yourself to one person. If you want to have children, don't get married. 'Cause then you'd need to divide your love!!!!This has always been my understanding of the word marriage. It's a contract between two people. Change the number, and you change the entire nature of the contract. Now, I'm not polyphobic, so I understand that allowing monogamous people to marry while poly people can't is unfair, which is why I'm all about taking marriage out of the law entirely and setting up a system of contracts that afford all the legal benefits of marriage but are called something else, and would be available to any group of committed, cohabitating people.

    Your argument about children is ridiculous. If having children were like being in a polyamorous relationship, then only two of the people in a polyamorous relationship would need to get married anyway; the rest would be dependents. I don't think that's what you're trying to say.

    (The legal institution of marriage actually owes its origins to procreation: legal marriage's original purpose was to legitimize any offspring that might result from the partnership, and formalize inheritance.)


  8. I'm not sure what you part of my argument you think is ridiculous?

    I think it is ridiculous that people think that for love to be "real" it can't be had for multiple people. Children are a prime example of this, my parents don't love me less because they had my sister.

    Additionally, the idea of having one person in an equal relationship be a legal "dependent" of the others is creepy as hell, you really think I am advocating it?

  9. I believe I clearly stated that I don't think that's what you're trying to say. But one of the reasons your argument about children is ridiculous is that logically, it suggests that you do mean for one person in an equal relationship to be a legal dependent of the others!

    More importantly, though, is that nobody marries their children. Your statement was, "The whole point of marriage is to dedicate yourself to one person. If you want to have children, don't get married. 'Cause then you'd need to divide your love." Loving more than one person when those people are your children is very different from loving more than one person when those people are your spouses. Surely you don't think all love is the same?

    Anyway, I'm not actually trying to argue that people can love more than one person. I was just troubled by your rhetoric. You'll do a better job of proving your point if the arguments you use to do so actually make sense.


  10. BF, I'm not sure what definition of "dedication" you're using. I'm thinking in scenarios myself: if crazy people with guns pointed them at one's partner and one's children (let's say 2 of them) and one were the type to hypothetically jump in front of the bullet to save zer loved ones, there's only one loved one that a person can save, isn't there?

    And yeah, the whole point of that was the SNARK. As in, I think people *should* have children, and I also think people (if they so choose) should have multiple partners. But saying that somehow having a second one (or third or whatever) takes away one's dedication to the others, well... I say that having a child (or a second, or whatever) does an equal amount of breaking of the dedication.

    And to top it off with an anecdote, 'cause those are nice and even-handed *heh*

    The comedian Louis C.K. (whose work is so far as I can tell very uneven, some really good stuff, some creepy stuff) had a bit about how having kids DOES irreversibly change a relationship (paraphrase): "you love your spouse, but then you have this kid, and it's like your FLESH and BLOOD, and you look at your wife and you're like, who the hell are you? you're a stranger to me" So apparently someone out there with kids does indeed (if only humorously) view the addition of a child as a dividing thing when it comes to love and dedication.

  11. *should if they wish (hopefully obvious, but nevertheless)

    Also, way to read an entire post of mine showing the sheer shit ton of irrational and bigoted things that people write about people like me, and have your response be: "I was just troubled by your rhetoric. You'll do a better job of proving your point if the arguments you use to do so actually make sense."

    I'm not sorry my points in response to an entire thread showcasing people's bigotry about me and mine weren't nearly nuanced enough for you.

  12. E,

    I think that BF believes that you can be dedicated to more than one person (as spouses); ze simply has a problem with the argument you used. In general, people consider their relationships with their children to be different from their relationships with their spouses. While both might require dedication, the type of dedication is different.

    While I doubt you intended to do this, you logically implied a comparison between multiple spouses and children; BF was simply pointing out the fact that, if these two situations were equivalent (as you implied), it would be appropriate to simply take on the third (or fourth, or fifth, etc.) party as a dependent. I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant to say, but I think BF's point is still valid.


  13. Thanks, SE. That's exactly what I meant.

    And yeah, my phrasing about "rhetoric" was pretty bitchy, but what I meant by saying that is, you really do have to be careful about the arguments you use, especially when arguing for unpopular viewpoints. Your words are your weapons in the fight against prejudice. If you are sloppy with them, you'll do more harm than good.

    - BF


Comments that do not directly relate to points made in either the post itself or the comments of that post will be subject to deletion. So will comments that use an oppressed status as an insult (ie, racist comments, ableist comments, sexist comments, etc.)

If you have a problem with having your comment deleted, you may email me at thedeviatednorm@gmail.com
I make no promises on whether you will receive a response.

My house, my rules. Suck it up.