by Alicia Wag
Polyamory seems like such a natural topic for contemporary erotica that I wonder I don’t see it portrayed more often. Oh, there are plenty of books and stories with characters in multiple relationships or having sex with multiple partners, but the nitty-gritty of a polyamorous lifestyle? That I don’t see too often.
In the liberal New England enclave in which I live, polyamory is still very much a fringe practice. It exists, but the mainstream has plenty of opinions about it. In my experience, people tend to be both ignorant and judgmental regarding polyamory, even in activist circles. For example, at a recent meeting of an LGBTQ+ advocacy group I attended, when someone remarked that they believe poly is a sexual identity in much the same way that gay, lesbian, bi, or asexual is, other attendees disagreed vehemently. Since whether to engage in sex with any given person (or people) is a choice, and being queer isn’t, how can poly be a sexual identity?
That argument doesn’t make much sense when you consider that whether to engage in sex is a choice for all people, regardless of their sexual identity. I tend to agree with the person who thinks poly is a sexual identity unto itself, not just a whim for selfish people who want to have fun at the expense of others.
For me, coming out as poly was as liberating as coming out as bisexual. Until then, every time I entered a relationship I had an uneasy feeling. I’m with this person I really care about, so why am I also attracted to other people, in a way that feels different from the normal “crushes” people talk about? Is there something wrong with me, that I can’t just be satisfied with one person?
Acknowledging that poly is who you are doesn’t mean it’s easy. In a culture built around monogamy, it’s tough terrain to navigate. A lot of poly people I know are also some form of queer, adding another layer of challenge in a straight obsessed society. Polyamory requires honesty and maturity, and can lend itself to more drama than most people want in their lives. Discussions and boundary setting are of paramount importance, yet at the same time there are no rules about what it can look like. Primaries, secondaries, triads, group marriages—the possibilities are many, and can be shaped in whatever way works for the people involved. Perhaps counter-intuitively for some, polyamory can be a liberating force for women, who played a big part in its resurgence in the 1990’s.
All those qualities make it great material for a fiction writer like me who loves exploring characters, particularly female characters, and their relationships. Polyamory can be a roller coaster ride, but it can also be fulfilling and stable. I’m interested in exploring both its benefits and its difficulties, and hope that readers walk away thinking that polyamory is as legitimate a lifestyle choice as monogamy.