Why We Polyamorists Should Be Feminists


First of all I must establish here that polyamory is not inherently sexist. True, some polyamorous relationships are sexist, but then so are some monogamous relationships. As to the argument that polyamory means a woman being owned and shared as a possession between several men, that can be so but it need not be so, even in a poly relationship that involves one woman and several men (which does not include all poly relationships.) Indeed, one has only to look at how the opposite type of poly relationship is sometimes characterized – as a lone man with a harem of women to service him – to see that the gender with the smaller number of members in a poly relationship need not be put at a disadvantage or treated unfairly due to that. Likewise, the gender with the larger number of members need not be treated as a harem, and could even be treated in a superior way (as in the possession-owning model discussed above) or in an equal way. Equality of rights within polyamory need not be connected to equality of numbers – for example, a woman in a poly relationship with several men may be in love with and sincerely loved by each one of them, and women in a poly relationship with one man may each sincerely love and be loved by him, with no one seeing anyone as a possession or harem servant. Thus, while some feminists may say that polyamory is inherently anti-feminist, I disagree, and I encourage us polyamorists to be feminists not only because they are welcomed by some feminists and because I think everyone should be a feminist, but because I think polyamorists in particular can benefit from feminism in some important ways.

The first of these ways is, simply, due to the fact that feminism seeks to end slut-shaming, which often affects women involved in polyamory (in addition to other women). Some may say that this is due to an incorrect perception that a woman who is involved in polyamory must be so in order to have a lot of sex (and/or have it with a lot of different partners), but while this is not true in regard to all women who are involved in polyamory, it is true for some of them, and in any case it is nothing anyone ought to be shamed for.

The second of these ways is that feminism seeks to put an end to the idea that women belong to men. Now, I do not say that monogamy must be rejected in order to reject the idea that women belong to men. If a certain woman wishes to be monogamous and her partner agrees to be monogamous in return, that in itself is not treating the woman like property (since after all her partner is under the same restriction, and she has happily and freely agreed to it.) Yet I would say that objections to polyamory are often, though not always, rooted in the unfortunately still popular idea that a woman should be sexually faithful specifically as a sign that she belongs to the man she has sex with, often accompanied by other restrictions (she’s “not allowed” to go out with other men) and often accompanied by the idea that a woman’s infidelity is unforgiveable but a man’s infidelity is much more acceptable because “men have needs’ and in a man is not considered to belong to a woman as much as a woman is considered to belong to a man. Needless to say these ideas are sexist as they put the greater burden on the woman and see her as the man’s property while he is much more free, and is seen to “need” sex much more than she does. Therefore feminism is rightfully opposed to these ideas, and this is also a way in which feminism supports polyamory.

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