African Polyandry

“In polyandry, the woman often initiates the relationships, and invites the husbands to join her union. Some pay the bride price, others opt to contribute to her livelihood. She has the power to remove a co-husband if she believes he is destabilising her other relationships.

Prof Machoko said love was the main reason the men he interviewed said they had agreed to be co-husbands. They did not want to risk losing their wife.

Some men also referred to the fact that they did not satisfy their wives sexually, agreeing to the suggestion of a co-husband to avoid divorce or affairs.

Another reason was infertility – some men consented to the wife taking another husband so that she could have children. In this way, the men ‘saved face’ in public and avoided being stigmatised as ’emasculated’.”

-Pumza Fihlani, “Outcry over South Africa’s multiple husbands proposal.” BBC. June 27, 2021

What’s good for the goose….

The basic idea is this: people should live as seems best to them. If that involves a man and a woman, two men, two women, or multiple men and/or women, who cares? Designate a family union as a contract, and any children born or adopted by parties to that contract are parents. It’s not difficult to implement, and it is clean conceptually. Further, the whole world doesn’t have to live by the ethics of pastoral people from the Middle East from 1500 years or more ago. We can create new family structures beyond the traditional ones, and in the case of polyamory, the fact that more people are involved even creates the possibility of more stable structures where when one person leaves, the union can possibly continue.

No. 1 Rule: Keep Your Shit to Yourself

“A day before I sent Malcolm the email saying I wanted to break up, I came across a term online: solo polyamory. It described a person who is romantically involved with many people but is not seeking a committed relationship with anyone. What makes this different from casual dating is that they’re not looking for a partner, and the relationship isn’t expected to escalate to long-term commitments, like marriage or children. More important, the relationship isn’t seen as wasted time or lacking significance because it doesn’t lead to those things.”

-Haili Blassingame, “My Choice Isn’t Marriage or Loneliness.” The New York Times. April 2, 2021.

It starts with an email that reads like a PR piece for an event. It has talking points. She’s trying to sell it.

This piece seems to be generating a lot of discussion on Twitter, to the point I’m hearing about it, and I don’t use Twitter. And, sure, it’s sophomoric and stupid. You don’t break up with people you are in relationships with over email. She’s adopted the passive voice of the corporation to try to spare herself, and perhaps this man, some pain.

The effort is inept, but I think the heart of it is kind. They graduated from college, and they lived on opposite coasts. This man was her first boyfriend. They’ve been together for five years. While there are a few exceptions to how this plays out, the normal course is a breakup, typically within a year. This is obvious to anyone with any life experience.

Another thing that becomes obvious to everyone over time is that relationships are defined by limits. She says:

“My entire girlhood had been consumed by fantasies that were force-fed to me. Love and relationships were presented as binary, and in this binary, the woman must get married or be lonely (or, in classic novels, die). The path to freedom and happiness was narrower still for Black women. Even in our extremely loving relationship, I had felt confined.

ibid.

To be in a relationship is to be confined. But, it is through constraints that we open up other kinds of freedom. Infinite options are just another kind of confinement. At some point, you choose or time chooses for you. Even in polyamorous relationships, there are limits. In fact, I’d wager that there are more limits in polyamorous relationships simply by virtue of the fact that there are more people involved, even if those limits may not apply all the time. But, there are limits because relationships imply limits.

It’s easy to crack on the naiveté of the author of this article. But, there’s an important lesson to be learned. When you learn something new about yourself – your needs, your wants, your desires, your thoughts about who you are – keep it to yourself and the people that care about you, at least for a few years. Integrating insights is hard work, and it takes time, particularly when they are part of the process of identity formation and how we define ourselves.

In general, it’s a good idea to work with the garage door up, to share your thoughts and processes in how you think about the world and how you do whatever it is that you do. But, your feelings, your sense of identity and your issues, and we all have issues, are not where you do it.

When you close the door to go to the bathroom, everyone knows what you are doing in there. There’s no need to throw open the door and put yourself on display. It isn’t doing anyone any favors, least of all yourself.

So, close the door. Keep that shit to yourself. Work it out. Flush when you’re done, and as a courtesy, light a candle or a match on the way out, so the person behind you can focus on their business and not yours.

Polyamorous Relationships

“More people than ever are pursuing polyamorous, open, or swinging relationships. With the growing number of polyamorous relationships, we need to get serious about analyzing the costs and benefits of polyamory—not just for individuals, but for families, cultures, and nations…

…Polyamory, at best, offers a new ethical vision of sexual relationships that prioritizes radical honesty, sexual sovereignty, freedom of association, and social networking.”

—Geoffrey Miller, “Polyamory Is Growing—And We Need To Get Serious About It.” Quillette. October 29, 2019.

So uncommon a term, polyamory wasn’t in my dictionary. On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. Trying to get most of our needs met by one person over time is a difficult proposition. But, on the other hand, more people means greater instability and more complex social dynamics. The result might very well be more people choosing to be alone.