Check Your Polyamorous Privilege

I agree that polyamory does indeed seem to be a largely white thing. Trader Joe’s, Rush-concert white. If there isn’t already an entry for it on Stuff White People Like there should be. I would also venture that it skews highly educated and liberal. Exactly the sort of people who are already predisposed to hand-wringing of the sort in the article linked above. (“Raising Awareness” is in fact a category on Stuff White People Like.) I will accept without further fact-checking the claim 90% of polyamorous people in a survey identified as white, and that some non-white women at poly events felt icikly exoticized. I don’t care about the former of those claims. I would be curious to read more about the experience of anyone in the latter situation, instead of just the paint-by-numbers privilege-checking here. Unlike other cultural phenomena that skew white, polyamory doesn’t doesn’t come with power, so I’m not particularly worried about any structural inequities it engenders. There are bigger fish to fry.

It’s interesting see how much this attack-from-the-left adopts the tropes of right-wing sensationalism. The focus on the most overt, organized, self-conscious side of what is for many people a quiet, personal thing. (You could imagine being similarly misled into thinking the gay “lifestyle” revolved around parades.) The sloppy conflation of media representation of a group with the group itself. (One of the injustices cited here is an underrepresentation of people of color on reality TV shows about polyamory, which sounds more like something to be grateful for.) The always-reliable ability to gin up generalized discomfort about sex into dislike of particular people. It’s the mirror image of the way the cultural right has adopted the language of marginalization and aggrievement. But why?

One thing I find hopeful is the way that the pointlessness of this stance is critiqued from the inside. Not by someone like myself–a cultural liberal merely by dint of birth and entitlement rather than any particular effort–but by people who talk the talk and walk the walk. The article here links to a blog post “Polyamory is for Rich, Pretty People”, which–beyond being the most untrue headline I have ever read–sounds like it would be more lazy point-scoring, but manages to frame statements about the folkways of privileged groups in a thoughtful way. That in turn links to “9 Strategies for Non-Oppressive Polyamory”, which sounds like it would make you want to bang your head against the wall but actually has some good advice about acting decent. The circular firing squad has some gaps.

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