‘Polyamory’: the next civil rights movement?
Minneapolis, MN, October 29, 2012 (LifeSiteNews) – They used to call them “swingers.” Not anymore. These days, like most “alternative lifestyle” groups, they’ve adopted a new, more clinical-sounding description – polyamorist – and incorporated it into the names of a small but growing number of advocacy and social networking organizations.
As the battle over the true definition of marriage heats up nationwide, they want a place on the front line.
“Polyamorist” means “lover of many,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Polyamorists maintain more than one sexual relationship at a time, with the full consent and knowledge of all partners. Some are married to one partner but maintain a rotating stable of lovers. Others join together in more lasting unions between multiple partners – for example, a threesome or foursome (which they call ‘triads’ and ‘quads,’) wherein all parties enjoy sexual relations in various combinations – heterosexual, homosexual or both.
In the midst of Minnesota’s raging debate over gay ‘marriage,’ the Minneapolis-area City Pages recently featured two articles highlighting the polyamorist “lifestyle,” in which they interviewed some of its practitioners.
One such interview was with a mother of two young children, Julia Janousek. Julia, who has been married for 12 years to her husband, Jim, told the City Pages they decided to “open [their] marriage up” three years ago. She quickly met another man, Justin, and became sexually involved with him, a relationship that continues to this day.
Justin often spends nights at the couple’s house. At first, says Julia, they tried to hide the nature of the relationship from the children, claiming that Justin was just a “friend” who came for “breakfast,” but they soon gave up the charade.
“My kids get up way too early,” she said, “so I just couldn’t keep that up.”
“Jami,” a 31-year-old practitioner of ‘polyamory’ who asked the City Pages not to use her real name, blamed reality television for her interest in the lifestyle. “Back in college, I saw an MTV True Life special that was all about polyamory,” she said, “and I was like, ‘This is interesting,’” Later, fictional television would continue to shape her views. “Then I watched the show Big Love that was all about polygamy,” she explained, “and that got me thinking a lot more about my own life, even though it’s a little different.”
The Twin Cities, according to the City Pages, has an active polyamory scene. The paper described it in the intro to its coverage as “the metro community that believes love is too big for just two.”
Same-sex “marriage” advocates have been adamant in their denial that a redefinition of marriage to include homosexual couples could lead to a “slippery slope” of legalized polygamy or even bestiality. Polyamorists, however, appear to disagree. Those interviewed by the City Pages drew direct parallels between themselves and homosexuals, believing that their relationships are no less valid.
A member of the board of the Minnesota Polyamourous Network (MN Poly) who was interviewed under the pseudonym “Carrie” told the City Pages, “I remember once in the gay-marriage movement several years ago there was an opinion piece written in another local publication. The right-wing groups and talking heads were all saying things like, ‘We can’t support gay marriage because the next thing will be polyamorous marriages.’ I thought that was interesting because I had never heard polyamory mentioned in the media before,” she said.
She continued, “this publication wrote an op-ed piece where they said, ‘You don’t have to worry about polyamorous marriage because polyamory doesn’t exist.’ That really upset a lot of us,” she said, “because we felt like we were being marginalized.”
The group responded to the offense by organizing a letter-writing campaign. Carrie says the campaign raised the awareness of polyamory in the local community.
“It’s a lot different now that we have organized groups,” she said, “and I think because people have become so much more accepting of the GLBT community and other types of relationships, I think our group and our community is going to continue to grow.”
She predicted a bold future for the subculture. “I think that we are the next equal rights movement,” she said, “and that poly is going to continue to become increasingly accepted in the future.”