Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

Lauren PesinThursday,7 January 2016

Traditional, non-traditional, alternative, single-parent, same-sex parents, accidental, blended, broken, and intentional relationships make up merely a few forms families take on today. As the media, politicians, and the general population discuss the rights of same-sex couples and the needs that family units fulfill, there remains a great deal of unanswered and rarely-discussed complexities and implications of what are known as “polyamorous” families. You may ask, “what is polyamory?”

People may immediately think of Mormon fundamentalist polygamists (married to more than one person); compounds where unsavory acts involving 22 wives and child brides occur; or perhaps the unimpressive representative depicted on the show, “Sister Wives.” Those “families” do fall within the  polyamory community. However, polyamory, which is growing in popularity, is both more basic and more complex than the media shows. Although suspected of being heavily under-reported, more than a half-million polyamorous relationships were recorded, as of February 2015.

Polyamory is simply, “the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.” How subjective is that?  Polyamory is when you openly choose to love or have more than one partner in your family. That may (and often does) involve children, three or more adults, and sharing sex partners (but not necessarily bodily fluids). There are literally dozens and dozens of polyamory phrases: Fluid bonding, condom commitment, cowboy, dyad, hippie Hefner, blood, cuddle, and cupcake party are a few. I’m not sure if it sounds more like a horror movie, an orgy, or chaotic randomness.

There’s also the concept of “openness,” be-it “open marriage” or “open relationship,” and it has less to do with love and more to do with F-ing. Either way, openness refers to an open door policy on genitals involving sexual activity with anyone you want, whenever you want. Although polyamory may seem like an extreme culture, it’s on the rise. More and more people are adding people and privates to their families and beds.

So we have special polyamory lingo; symbols to show support and indicate what type of family you are (kind of like the stick family car window stickers, but with more adults and fewer cats); an established community with a network of resources; and related geometry to explain these new-fangled and sometimes confusing family structures. Is this the evolution of relationships and family? Are we ready for this? Whether or not we are on the party train, polyamory is happening.

Think about the hoopla surrounding same-sex unions. In addition to the legal definitions, our societal definitions of marriage and family are being expanded. While diversity and tolerance are being promoted by many people, there are also parts of the population that fight to uphold only conservative family constructs. For this reason, polyamory is likely to be a topic of contention in the coming years.

What emotions surface when you think about polyamorous families? How would you respond if your child, your child’s best friend, or your neighbors were polyamorous? Do you know any such families? In 30 years, what form do you think families will take? Will you help define what a family is in the future?

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Image Credit: Robert Ashworth on Flickr

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