I was trying to write a post about something to do with my husband and I as a poly couple, so I looked for a picture to illustrate the idea. I Googled “polyamory,” and was really unhappy with what came up.
Nearly every image that appeared on my search was of a guy with two women!
Even the images that were not people somehow implied that polyamory means two woman and one man.
Google is portraying polyamory (loving several people of any gender) as synonymous with the type of polygamy (the term used for the men who marry several women) in Mormon and other cults.
This makes me angry because it is some sexist bullshit.
I disagree with Polygamy as it is practiced in cults like the FLDS, because I used to volunteer at a shelter for homeless teens. Over the years we got several young boys who had been run off the Mormon compound in Colorado City. They nearly all killed themselves because of the horror of being rejected by their cult, and because they were taught that they would be nothing in the after life unless they had several wives.
Why were these boys run off? Well obviously, that would be so fat old men could marry the girls their age.
Polygamy is always bad for boys from families without power, and bad for women overall. I base this on reading Under the Banner of Heaven and Escape in part. But I also base it on statistics and personal experiences. I have a lot of data that I have collected over the course of my life, and a lot of it relates to how Polygamy is the main cause of abuse and child abandonment everywhere it is practiced.
So to see my relationship orientation of Polyamory portrayed as a man with multiple women and nothing else in Google makes me sick. I actually felt physically ill scrolling through the pictures.
Not only did the search results conflate Polyamory with Polygamy as if they are the same, but I had another issue as well.
As a woman, I felt underrepresented.
Where are the pictures of women like me with our many boyfriends at our feet? Why was there no woman at the center of a bunch of men? Where were the pictures that accurately depicted my life?
Feeling angry, I did a Google search specifically for polyamory MMF (male-male-female) couples. Only then did I see a few images of a woman with two men.
I was disappointed that there were no women with a harem, but at least Google thinks a woman can date two men. (Although the default is a man with two women.)
And yet there was something even worse:
It was literally all pictures of three people. Just three. So apparently that’s all you get! My husband can date or I can date, but we cannot both date different people. And that cuts to the heart of it:
Polyamory is more than two.
I have boyfriends and girlfriends. My husband has boyfriends and girlfriends. Those people also date other people. So it is a lot more than two people involved.
Another important point:
Polyamory is not about orgies. I am sick to death of my husband and I saying we are poly, and guys turning to him and saying “You must get so much ass.” First, he really doesn’t because he is kind of a disaster of a person a lot of the time.
Second, it is not my job to “share” the people I date with him. I do not look for people to convince to join us. I look for people who want to date me by myself. So there are nearly no orgies and there are not even a lot of threesomes.
We date other people. But, the important point is: We do it separately.
See, it’s not about orgies or threesomes. It’s about how we love the feeling of falling in love. We love getting to know people in that way that you can only do in bed. We love variety, and we love learning new things about the world from new people.
For example: I have a thing for scientists and engineers. I love laying in bed and talking about experimental particle physics or aerospace engineering with the guy next to me. I love hearing about the latest in gene research from the girl in my bed. I love getting to hear their innermost thoughts on how our species is progressing.
And the thing I love the most about my husband is that he understands me, and he respects that I like to go off on tangents and explore things.
In fact, he likes that I come back with cool stories and facts. He enjoys my adventures from the perspective of a friend sharing exploits, and as a husband who likes to know that other men and women find his wife desirable.
From my perspective, I like him dating because he gets to be around girly girls who like makeup and hair. I will never be one of those girls, but I know he loves all of that. Plus I know he likes to be dominant in bed sometimes, and that is just not our dynamic. So, I like that he can have that with other people. And like him, I like knowing that the person I am mated to is desirable to others.
In other words: Polyamory is more than two people. That doesn’t mean three. It means more than two. (Sometimes lots more than two.)
And, in spite of the sexist bullshit, it can be just as rewarding for a woman as it can be for a man. I believe very strongly that this is my orientation, and that I have always felt differently about relationships than monogamous people. I don’t feel at a disadvantage as a poly woman. I don’t think the Google search results reflect my experience at all. And, I hope other women won’t be discouraged by the fact that cultural feelings about polyamory are widely sexist.
Views on us might be sexist, but we are not.
Note: And for the record, both my husband and I are feminists.