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When Did it Become Unfashionable To Be Monogamous?

Author: Bronwen Forbes [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 25th. 2010
Times Viewed: 10,769

I recently returned from a major Midwest Pagan gathering where, much to my surprise, in just four short days I was propositioned, invited to an orgy, and given the opportunity to play Naked Twister. I say “much to my surprise” because as someone who is bespectacled, approaching 50, greying, and who could stand to lose about one-third of my body weight, I honestly don’t consider myself to be that much of a big deal, sexually speaking. Maybe I’m wrong.

I also say “much to my surprise” because, despite two rather obvious bands on my left ring finger and my continued protestations of “I’m monogamous; there is a line I cannot cross” to my propositioner (who, in all honestly, was a really fun person to hang out with; we had a lot of outside interests in common) did not, as I expected, spend his evenings at the bonfire (s) seeking out more willing and less restricted bed partners once I said no. Quite the opposite, in fact – he patiently introduced me to everyone he knew (and he knew just about everybody) and seemed to enjoy watching me delight in the fire spinning performances.

Old friends whom I’ve known most of my married life didn’t even blink when they saw us sitting together at one of the nightly concerts. One even mentioned that my escort was “cute.” It was almost as if it was expected of me to come to a Pagan gathering without my husband and daughter and hook up with someone else for the weekend. Which is weird, because the same old friends and I had a long discussion that Friday night about how we felt in the minority within the Pagan community at large because (among other reasons) we chose to be in a closed relationship with one other person.

Did I miss a memo? Did monogamy fall out of fashion and everyone forgot to tell me? Am I that horribly out of tune with the times?

It’s not that I’m a prude, really. Back when I was younger and single (eleven plus years ago) I would likely have – no, I WOULD have – said yes to the proposition, the orgy and even the Naked Twister. Funny thing is, my friends at the time (mostly married – some happily so, some not) would have censured me for doing so. In fact, when I was serially monogamous and casually dating within the local community, they DID censure me. One went so far as to call me a “slut” for staying out all night on a date the night before a coven holiday ritual. The ritual was in no way impacted; I was home in plenty of time to clean the house and make everything ready, but I’d be lying if I said I thought her comment wasn’t hurtful and unfair.

But eventually I got married. And part of getting married, for me and my husband, included vows to “forsake all others” – in other words, a monogamous marriage. We weren’t forced to say those vows, we wrote our own ritual. It’s what we both wanted then and still want today.

And even though I have no regrets about telling my festival friend “no, ” I still wonder if I’m horribly out of touch with the Pagan community. And I wonder why I feel that way. I’m not knocking polyamory as a life choice; I’ve given it a good try on more than one occasion and decided it’s not for me. Frankly, I’m an only child and way to selfish a person to share my life partner with anyone else. But if it works for some people, that’s fine. I’m not all that fond of beer, either, despite major efforts in college to make myself like it.

But sometimes it seems as if monogamy in the Pagan community is passé, and that all the “cool kids” are polyfidelious or “tribal” or whatever the catchphrase is at the moment to describe oneself as “attached but still open to other intimate relationships.”

Which, like I said, is fine – until it gets to the point where a monogamous person feels pressured to break sacred vows in order to follow a community standard. No, that didn’t happen to me at the festival but, when thinking about it afterwards, it occurred to me that had I not spelled out to my propositioner what that “line I cannot cross” was, I could easily have let myself be pushed into doing something that (by the definition of my own long-term relationship) was wrong.

It did seem, in retrospect, that had I chosen to cross a taboo line and accept the proposition, it would have been “no big deal.” Well, it would have been a very big deal to me – and also to my husband. Frankly, it would also have been a very big deal to the Gods who witnessed our vows at the wedding. Old-fashioned? Probably. Stuffy? No. Would the Gods have lost respect for me? Most likely.

My old friend even said during our late-night conversation that some people in the local Pagan community had actually shunned her and her partner because they chose to be in a mutually exclusive relationship. If we as Pagans allow our fellow community members and ourselves the freedom to worship the God (s) we choose in the manner of our own choosing, then we must extend that freedom to choose the fill our lives with the kinds of relationships we want.

You never know if someone is choosing to be polyamorous because, say, an ex-partner told them they were a horrible lover and they want to eradicate that emotional scar by proving the ex wrong by acquiring as many differing opinions as possible. You never know if someone has decided to be monogamous because, say, they were gang-raped and having more than one lover in their life at a time is just too uncomfortable. You don’t know; besides, it’s none of your business.

Either way, don’t judge. The community really is big enough for all of us, Naked Twister champions or no.


Bronwen Forbes

Location: Bloomington, Indiana


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