Articles/Essays From Pagans
December 1st. 2013 ...
A Pragmatic Look at Neo Paganism
Leaving a Pagan Group – Part 1: To Leave or to Stay?
The Tarot as a Tool for Raising Consciousness
November 24th. 2013 ...
The Pagan and the Papacy
The Groovy Aquarian Christ: Jesus From a Pagan Perspective
November 17th. 2013 ...
For Love of the God
Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca
A Threat to Religious Liberties?
November 10th. 2013 ...
Where did Aleister Crowley’s Influence on Wicca Go?
Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return
Nine Creeds: A Statement and Explanation of My Beliefs
The Celtic Tree Calendar
November 3rd. 2013 ...
The Mundane/Spiritual Mirror: What Does it Say About Your Life?
October 27th. 2013 ...
Thoughts On a Miley-Cyrus/ Robin-Thicke Society
On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice
Pagan Religious Communities in your Area: Connecting With and Creating Them
Banishing, Invocation and the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram
October 20th. 2013 ...
Weather Magick: Who is Responsible for the Weather?
Broom Closet: In or Out?
Bottle Spells and Magick in Hoodoo Tradition
On Coven and Claws
October 13th. 2013 ...
Destroying to Create: A Lesson from the Dead
Consume the Scorpion- Scorpion Energy Revisited
October 6th. 2013 ...
UPG and U: A Breakdown and Building Up of Unverified and Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis
Answering The Call from Spirit
Coping with the Loss of a Familiar
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 2 (The South)
September 29th. 2013 ...
Six Reasons Why Covens are Here to Stay
Priestessing and Titles: What's the Point?
Truth or Convenience? Questioning Motives for Spiritual Advancement
Speaking Up: The Conflict Between the Spiritualist and Our Human Experience
September 22nd. 2013 ...
Death of a Friendship within the Craft
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 1 (The Center)
September 15th. 2013 ...
Some Pagan Prayers
Lunar Insight Moon Musings: Bramble and Cerridwen
The Holocaust Survivor (Part II)
September 8th. 2013 ...
Introduction to the Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage
The Druidic Concept of Nwyfre
The Holocaust Survivor (Part 1)
Giving and Helping
September 1st. 2013 ...
Use a Flyswatter for a Fly: More on the Dark Arts
How Spells Work
Is It Really 'Energy'?
August 25th. 2013 ...
Mother Nature’s Way: Forging a Distinctly American Path
Healing Moon Ritual
Unconditional Love: The Paradox of Perfect Love
Earth to Soul/Sole
August 18th. 2013 ...
How Not to Fall in the Bunny Trap
Why Are You Like That? Thoughts on Hoodoo and Appropriation
Finding the Right Coven
The Knowledge Found in Silence
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances, Hazelnuts and Magick Wands
August 11th. 2013 ...
“I Survived a Weekend with Galina Krasskova”
The Charges of the Goddess and God with Commentary
August 4th. 2013 ...
Fair Weather Witches
Pagan Studies II: Modern Paganism in the Americas
Pagan Abbeys - A Practical Heritage for Spiritual Lay and Professional Cloistered Communities
July 28th. 2013 ...
Crystals 101: A Helpful Guide For Beginners
The More the Merrier? It’s not Only an Inaccuracy; it’s an All Out Farce!
My Pagan Manifesto
July 21st. 2013 ...
I'm a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations
Rethinking Community for Solitaries
13 Keys: The Beauty of Tiphareth
July 14th. 2013 ...
Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés We Use (Part II)
Pagan Humanism: A Tradition of Rational Religion
Moon/Planetary Musings: The Holly King and John Barleycorn
July 7th. 2013 ...
Coping With Depression: Learning to Dance with the Sacred Twins
Shamanic Healing of Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Humility and Community Service
H is for Hubris
June 30th. 2013 ...
How To Feel The Energy Around You
Planning A Ritual
Why Pagans Might Benefit from Counseling Techniques
The Weight of Contemplation: When the Silent Self Grows Louder
June 23rd. 2013 ...
Magick and Play
Tarot Spell for Protection
Moon Musings and Planetary Preponderances: RE-fuse, RE-duce, RE-use, RE-pair and RE-cycle
June 16th. 2013 ...
How To Stay Spiritual Amidst This Chaos?
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Article ID: 14736
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For better or for worse, "polyamory" has become entwined in the Modern Pagan movement. For those of you not in the know, polyamory means "many loves." Those who practice the lifestyle often simplify it by stating "I'm poly." I have difficulties defining polyamory, probably because the word love throws me off. Many who are poly probably think of the lifestyle in clinical terms. For them, it's defined as ethical or responsible non-monogamy. Ethical because there's no secret girlfriend in the corner, and responsible because safe sex techniques are practiced.
To me, polyamory has to be about more than just safe and truthful sex. It has to be about "loves." Being "in love" is not something that happens easily for me. In the last fifteen years I've been in love twice, and in each of those cases it took months, sometimes years, to "fall in love." Loving and being "in love" are two different animals. Love is something we feel when we care for someone, being "in love" means that your life now suddenly revolves another individual, that their well being is more important than your own. I love a lot of people, but I'm only in love with Ari, she's everything. This is where polyamory and I hit a brick wall.
The concept of responsible non-monogomy is very appealing, and reflects the reality in which we live. Over 50% of married individuals have sex outside of marriage. Having sex outside of marriage doesn't mean that you don't love your spouse, it means you give into biological urges, or perhaps there is some need not being met in your current marriage. While sex outside of marriage is still rather taboo in our society, it's also really common, and our programmed over reaction to it is rather laughable.
I don't have a problem with sex outside of marriage or relationship, as long as that sex outside of a coupling is an agreed upon aspect of the marriage or relationship. What I don't like is calling an "open relationship" polyamory. If polyamory truly means "many loves" than being in a polyamorous relationship should mean that you truly love the people are you with, and not just love for twenty minutes, but a very deep personal connection.
I went to a polyamory workshop at the Starwood Festival a few years ago and was rather shocked at how those in attendance seemed to define polyamory. I felt like I was at a swinger’s convention (not there's anything wrong with that) , not at a class about fostering deep loving relationships. There was a statement from one girl there that stood out to me. She was talking about how she had decided to take a second (or third or fourth, I have no idea) lover and that they were now in a polyamorous relationship. They had been out two or three times, and now they were "polyamorous" together. I don't know about you, but love takes longer to take root in my heart than that. If she had simply talked about dating the guy, or her obvious attraction to him, I wouldn't have batted an eye, but by using the term polyamorous she implied being in love, and I just didn't buy it. Why was he a poly relationship and not just a "boyfriend?"
I'd probably define myself as polyamorous, but a non-practitioner. I truly believe that you can be in love with more than one person at a time, and that it's possible to make such situations work. The thought that I might be "poly" first occurred to me several years ago when I realized that I was probably in love with my best friend. At the time I was in love with Ari, but this guy (yeah a guy) , and I were pretty close, and I felt like I could tell him anything, and I was probably "giddy" half the time when we were hanging out. Now our relationship wasn't sexual in anyway (other than holding hands once in the Castro down in San Francisco) , but I felt like I'd take a bullet for him, and that his happiness was just as important, if not more so, than my own. To me, that's what polyamory should be about.
A few years later I fell in love with a girl while being in love with Ari. That period is probably my most "polyamorous" especially because said girl and I used each other for emotional support. That's the real test in some ways: how much of your emotional well-being is tied together with the other person (s) ? When it's a certain percentage, that's a real, loving relationship, not a hook up or just a girlfriend. I found the situation untenable, as did both women involved. There were more tears than moments of joy, and the "second girl" was the one who truly broke everything off. It was impossible to be a solid source of emotional support for two people, and the two women involved didn't have their own relationship, perhaps if they had been friends before me, it might have been different, but I digress.
My dip into the pool of polyamory was probably not typical. I know many polyamorous couples or groups where everyone is truly known to each other. Two guys in a polyamorous relationship with the same girl might watch football together or something. That's really possible, and over the years I've seen several people navigate the chopping seas of polyamory with some success, but I've probably seen more failure than triumph.
For those of you outside of Paganism, this post has probably make you uncomfortable or maybe you are a bit shocked, but Pagan sexuality is generally not conventional. The majority of Pagans I know in relationships are monogamous, but instead of being a very large majority, they are more a plurality. Pagans just have a very open view of sex. It's not a sin; it's not a cosmic litmus test; it's also not something 100% associated with "love." I worship Pan, he's a randy fellow, and in his world sex and love don't collide at all. "Panic sexuality" is about lust and animal attraction; it's about giving into baser instincts and celebrating the impulses that make us human. I fully feel as if those impulses are there because we are meant to act on them, and in some ways that's true.
According to biologists our DNA is not made for monogamy. We have a natural impulse to seek out other partners. In this, we are a lot like most other animals on this planet, which aren't monogamous either. It's better for the gene pool if we spread our DNA around, which is why "panic sexuality" is so hard to control and why monogamy is so hard to be successful at. That's why I'm in favor of "open relationships" and "polyamory." It's not so much a fight against nature that way, and by being open and honest, a relationship is not pissed away because of a bad decision in Vegas.
I also worship Aphrodite, who does equate love with sex. Sex with someone you love is a different experience entirely, and some of my most transcendent moments have come when Ari and I have had our clothes off. It wasn't the growling snarling sex I've had in moments of panic sexuality; it was something all together different. Modern Pagans are often capable of separating the two.
That doesn't mean we all engage in orgies or have key parties; it generally means we are just better when it comes to talking about it. I think there's a perception that polyamory or even an open relationship is about strictly having as much sex with as many different people as possible. I don't think that's the case. Those types of relationships are more about managing emotions and urges, so that relationships can grow and prosper.
On paper, polyamory sounds like a winner, but in practice I think it probably fails more often than it succeeds. I think it fails more often than not because of jealousy, and a lack of balance in relationships. I've seen too many people, both male and female, engage in polyamory where one half a couple has several outside partners, while the other partner isn't allowed any. The problem, of course, isn't in the sex, it's that one person balancing the emotional needs of three other people is going to drop the ball now and again. Someone is going to get lost in the equation, and in those moments the jealousy issues creep in. Polyamory would probably work better if everyone who engaged in it had the same amount of boyfriends and girlfriends, just to keep the distribution of the emotional luggage a bit more even.
Polyamory probably works better when the concepts of "primary" and "secondary" partners is introduced. Instead of trying to pretend that everything is even, the categorization of a relationship as "secondary" removes a lot of the expectations. I love you, but I have a husband and kid, so we can have a thing, but it will not be my priority. That's a lot more honest than having five girlfriends and telling all of them that they will get an equal amount of attention. There just isn’t that many hours in a day.
Despite how this post sounds at points, I'm generally in favor of polyamory. The idea that we can't love more than one person is ridiculous, and the idea that we all should live in a monogamous state is one I disagree with. That being said, I think polyamory needs to be more about emotions than about sex. This is where I disagree with so many people who practice it today. One of the creators of the word*, Morning Glory Zell defined polyamory this way:
The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.
For me, polyamory is more about "having more than one loving emotional relationship at the same time." To me love is about more than sex; it is about emotional connections, not what my penis rubs up against. If I'm truly going to be polyamorous, and have many loves, it's the connection where someone's life becomes more important than my own that will define the experience. Ari having sex with someone else would not make me jealous, her no longer confiding in me would. I think my wife is gorgeous, but the primary connection in our relationship has to be emotional. A love is often someone I can have sex with, but it also needs to be someone into Led Zeppelin, superhero movies, and being OK with wearing a Steeler shirt on Sundays. Those things are hard to come by.
In practical terms, I don't think I'm in a place to practice polyamory currently. Perhaps a girlfriend on the side would work, but to be "in love" with that person? Ari is just the center of my world a little bit too much, and to throw the term polyamory into things would be extremely dishonest. I believe in many loves, but right now, I only have one.
*Morning Glory helped popularize the idea of polyamory in her essay "A Bouquet of Lovers, " published in the Pagan magazine Green Egg in 1990. The term was first used a year later in a usenet group created by Jennifer Wesp. The linked to version of "Bouquet" has had the word polyamory inserted into it, but was absent in its original form. The term "poly-amorous" was used by Zell, but I'm guessing Wesp came up with polyamory, a direct result of Zell's article.
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