There was polyamory before the word was coined in 1992. That must be understood first and foremost. But words are important; words shape both the discussion and label the players. On the other hand words are also used to obscure the truth and to distract from the truth.
Name calling, is the perfect example of how words are used to hide the truth under the power of the word itself. In the McCarthy era the name “Communist” was used to both silence critics and to hide the caller’s true agenda.
So we consider the word polyamory and its expressed and implicit meaning. Its expressed meaning is very inclusive. It is not a hostile word. It does not exclude any but includes all. It is almost breathtaking in its expansiveness. Love is not limited. We can love many people at once. And by the very word “amore” the term means not just familial love but we mean romantic and sexual love.
So, the conception is polyamory is that love need not be only bi-lateral. It can be tri-lateral or multi-lateral. All this is simple to understand; however, there is an undercurrent that polyamory does or should or is intended to mean something much more expansive.
There is an element who is aggressively attempting to shape the word polyamory to fit within the neo-Marxist framework of Critical Theory. I have seen it in any number of writings laced with the trite and overused accusations of; hegemony, oppression and normativity. Inevitably the writer is accusing someone of not doing polyamory the “right” way by not embracing their comprehensive doctrine. In the case of these writers, they fault others for not toeing the line of the comprehensive doctrine of Critical Theory.
For those of you who are not up on political philosophy, Critical Theory was devised after WW2 by the Germany Marxists who returned to Germany after the war only to find the proletariat would not ever rise the way Marx envisioned. So their Frankfort School developed a new brand of Marxism combining it with Freudian philosophy with a goal of uncovering latent oppressions of capitalism in the same way Freud used psychotherapy to uncover latent neurosis. And just like psychotherapy is really good at getting people to feel something’s wrong with them but doesn’t make people better, critical theory is really good at convincing people they are oppressed but doesn’t help society get better. Like in psychotherapy, the practitioner is the only one who benefits from the process.
So we come back to polyamory. The notion of freedom to pursue love as it comes to you is a liberal, not Marxian idea. Liberalism is founded in the primacy of ones right to pursue personal happiness over (and despite) the desires of the church, king or other powerful groups. Critical theorists, despite their rhetoric of espousing individual liberty, are fundamentally wedded to group identity. In critical theory, you are not an individual, but a member of a group and as such your rights come due to your group membership, not to you as the individual. That is why it is imperative to these people to control the discussion, to squelch descent by code words like hereto-normativity or any other new word they can coin to be a pejorative. An inclusive polyamory conception with few boundaries beyond the belief in the expansiveness of “amore” is of little use to them in the effort to create a new polyamory minority political block for which they can be the leaders and voice.
I am an unapologetic, un-reformed liberal. The ideals of the enlightenment are still a worthy goal in which to aspire.
I left the confines of the Christian community because of their need to tell me what love is and how I should express it; and their belief that I must believe in supernatural non-sense. I’ll be damned if I’m going to walk a back into another quazi-religious community who seeks to do the same thing. The critical theorist want to tell me the very same nonsense about reality not being real and that I must submit to their narrow view of the world and of love or be ostracized. I won’t do it. Nor will I link my view of polyamory to their world view.
If you are a critical polyamorist or a religious polyamorist, I’m not hostile but nor will I accept yours is the only way. In a pluralistic poly community we must embrace the core values of freedom to love and express love to whomever we want, without trying to put others into a religious or political box. We can all work together to give the larger population the opportunity to shed the shackles of mono-amory but we will never do so if we put a religious/political litmus test to being poly.