Why I’ve Had It With Monogamy
I write as a queer woman who has lived as heterosexual. I’m not a sociologist: I’m just going to write about my own experiences here.
I’m tired of my self and my sexuality being non-consensually labelled, inaccurately interpreted, distorted and most of all commodified by mainstream monogamous culture.
My experiences with monogamous partnership involve ‘partner’ being a personal and social slot given over for just one person to fit, and fill, at a time. The time period can be minutes or years, and a certain group of physical and emotional interactions can, and will, be explored within that slot (and there only) in that time.
It is expected that partners will be sexual: after all, if partners do not have sex, what is there to distinguish them from friends? It is expected that sex is off-limits to all others: after all, if people have sex with friends, what is there to make partnership special? The same holds for emotional intimacy, and if these things are not shared between partners, there’s something wrong. (Of course, asexuality is ignored and the coercive pressures associated with these expectations are not acknowledged.)
Definitions of intimacy are broad and thorny. Many types of interaction (often unproblematic between unpartnered people) become limited to partners only, and deviations from various unspoken unnegotiated conventions suddenly constitute cheating.
When the ‘partner’ slot is filled, new boundaries appear across interactions with friends: these lines vary, and are intangible, and often blur or smudge, but their effects are very distinct. Suddenly, I must be careful – especially with straight male friends who could potentially be attracted to me and so constitute a threat to a partner. Close hugs, eye contact for slightly too long, a grasped hand crossing a road – these have strong meanings. Even if they convey no additional emotional involvement for me, the other person may read them as interest or even flirting; all should know that I’m partnered and off-limits. Leading people on isn’t okay, and ambiguity is dangerous.
This also holds true when single. My experience has been that a straight man need only to express an interest in me to make a claim: it is expected that interest will be reciprocated, so any rejection cannot be neutral. In a culture where straight men push and straight women yield, I’m a commodity: to be fought over, then fiercely kept.
And if I smile too much, dance too close, hug too long with another woman’s man – meaning, risk his becoming attracted to me – I’m a bitch, a slut, out to steal others’ partners and wreck relationships.
I think that there’s a great deal of fear associated with mainstream relationship models. People look around; they form hierarchies, build a system of leagues, wonder constantly: should I leave this person to chase that one? Can I upgrade, find a better model? Will this amazing person think about leaving me, so should I settle for less?
The only way for people to feel safe, to be assured their partners won’t leave, is to ‘settle’ for what they can ‘get’, keep a tight hold and eliminate the competition.
I’ve been warned off leading on predatory competitors by a possessive partner who was no better.
I’ve had my behaviour criticised and curtailed because of the risk of giving out inappropriate messages.
I’ve watched people leave their partners for other people, repeatedly, constantly looking around to see if they were missing something better.
I’ve flirted with men at parties who have turned frosty on seeing me enthusiastically greet other friends.
I am tired of being a commodity. I am tired of communicating in code. I’m going to do things differently.