Compare and Contrast – Poly in Five Years – WaPo and Washingtonian

When it comes to social matters, I’m an optimist. Whatever happens in the present, the fact is that better communications have always driven a more liberal culture. Sometimes they drive a more repressive one first because a facet of new communications is often that a group of people who weren’t involved in broad cultural discourse before are drawn into it, and bring with them provincial attitudes (yes, I’m looking at you Red States).

The problem is that progress over years is glacially slow. In the course of reworking my Blog (welcome to the new Gordonsdrysin blog and Website…drastically improved), I came across this review of a Washington Post article on Polyamory, along with some other painful and forgettable ramblings that remind me just how much I’ve learned in five years.

I’d been meaning to blog about the Washingtonian’s article on Poly anyway. It’s not ideal, but it’s chic, it references Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up, and it reflects a poly world that feels slightly more like the one I know and slightly less like tittering at some weird people. I contrast it with the WaPo article, and it’s clear that in five years, public attitudes have changed a lot.

It’s clear that Poly is here to stay and people are picking up even more quickly than I’d expected that it’s the clear “next thing” in the wake of gay rights. Which still have a ways to go (glaring at you again Red States).

It’s heartening to see that things really do change with time. I don’t think the difference in seriousness of coverage and “oooooh” factor is just the Post’s wider readerbase and Washingtonian’s more erudite audience. It’s a clear change in cultural focus. Style is or was written largely to the same audience as Washingtonian. It’s not the Sports page. There’s a change in tone that’s significant and it’s definitely moving polyamory from the “gee whiz” phase.

Poly will meet a resistance that gay rights never did. In the end, if you aren’t gay the choice to endorse gay rights is about letting somebody else do something they want to. Poly is about endorsing a way of life that could mean that your partner or spouse wants to “open up.” For some of us that’s not a big deal, but for others it’s going to be a visceral threat to the core of their being and that’s going to make it a bigger fight than at first may appear.

The flip side is that we effectively already are poly. The end of laws against sex between consenting adults pulled the fangs from non-poly relationships. In the time I’ve known couples divorcing only one ever went to pains to conceal infidelities (there was badwill and some property on the line), and it’s highly unclear that made a damn bit of difference in final settlement.

Still there are hurdles. There are fears on the part of employers of endlessly extensible health coverage, or extra paperwork in benefits handling. Still…the hurdles aren’t that great and can largely be overcome with a few sane measures, moving us closer to a time when our personal needs, not law and custom, regulate our partnerships.