Sunday, July 01, 2007

More on key parties and polyamory

Since Louise has called me on this:

Sex can produce kids. And can transmit disease. And it often produces emotional connections that are painful to break, or at least immensely complicating to one's life.

I realize that I'm stating the obvious, but to me those are important points.

I do have a bias toward not sleeping with someone you wouldn't breed from and making sure as many kids as possible are born in stable situations.

So yeah, I'm not totally in love with the key party concept, thought I am pretty hip to consenting adults doing what they want.

I'm more OK with it now than I would have been in the 1970's, when I would have wondered to what degree some of the women really were consenting given the societal position of women at the time.

And yeah, even among sexual diagrams more complicated than my own, I have a bias toward commitment and stability. Key parties did break up quite a few marriages.

That said, I'm analyzing my own thinking on the cocktail party and I've gotten it down to two main points.

1. When I was a little more free with my own favors, I would have found it quite odd if someone thought they had to include anyone I might be sleeping with at the time in a social gathering they invited me to. To me the obvious thing to do would be to ask my friend what the ettiquette is as far as she was concerned.

2. The polyamory thing I'm used to. She's my friend. It's the ummm...elf thing. Anybody curious can write me a private email and I will send you the guy's website.
Suffice to say, the front page includes the quote:

Elven currents strike me as not being particularly of an object, but the spaces BETWEEN objects. Not the emitter of forces...but the area of interplay between much so that one could think of that space between being it's own force..

So he's an elf. And, I think, a postmodernist because postmodernists are the only people I know who talk like that.

Oh, and later in the page he describes himself as an "3lf," with no apparent irony.

Postmodernist elf who uses leetspeak.


I'll likely invite him anyway.



Robin Edgar said...

Sounds like asterisks may be a bit elven. . . ;-)

Joel Monka said...

If it makes you feel any better, CC, even within the Pagan community Otherkin- postmodern or not- are unusual, and make the average Pagan feel the way a Beltane celebration at a UU church makes the older UU members feel. On the other hand, they are often admired for their courage in saying such things publicly; if it's hard coming out of the broom closet, it's much harder declaring your non-human status to the world. It should be an interesting party.

PG said...

To be honest, this to me is a perfect example of the massive social/legal difference between homosexuality and polyamory. There isn't much in Miss Manners that doesn't apply reasonably well to same-sex couples, even though she's heteronormative. Having multiple partners at one time whom one expects all to be treated equally in all situations is a lot more complicated.

Does the friend have someone designated as a "primary"? That would seem to be the appropriate person to invite.

As for Louise's comparison to Mormons, if a workplace had a "take your child to work" day, I would have no problem with their limiting it to one child per parent, on the ground that they don't want to engender too much disruption. This "discriminates" against the norm (having multiple children) but for a good reason. As a parent in that situation, I'd take the oldest child (most likely to appreciate the experience) first and take each succeeding child in the following years. A polyamorous who (praiseworthily) doesn't want to have a hierarchy of primary, secondary etc. similarly could choose to take turns on which she brings to social occasions, or base it on who she thinks would enjoy the occasion most.

I think we should consider where a social norm came from before we declare it to have discriminatory intent against any group. If we have a social norm of putting "My Friend + 1 guest" on an invitation, I bet that it is because we are balancing between

1) the desire to ensure that MyFriend has someone to talk to in case she doesn't hit it off with other guests and the host is too busy to engage her. Hence this being a near-universal practice at weddings, where the hosts barely get a chance to talk to anyone and where social awkwardness seems to be particularly common.

2) the need to keep the occasion within practical bounds, particularly fiscal ones. A polyamorous person who is insulted when all of her lovers are not invited with her becomes an expensive friend to invite to an occasion. I can have either NonPolyFriend1 + his new boyfriend and NonPolyFriend2 + her adult son, or I can give those four slots to my one PolyFriend and her network of relationships.

Perhaps I'm just selfish, but I'd rather see more of the people I know and the people important to them than "lean into my discomfort" in order to get more strangers in my house. My fiance has a good friend who is polyamorous, and if we get married in NYC and invite her + 1 guest, I would expect her to bring either her longtime San Francisco based partner, or her NYC boyfriend, and would be indifferent as to which she brought, but would be annoyed if she RSVPed to bring both.

Louise said...

I suppose the right answer is to always ask the person in question what would feel respectful to them.

I don't know enough poly trios/quads/multis to assume that any given person has a "primary" partner or whether all are equals. My guess is that the dynamic is different in each case.

If I was poly, and had two emotionally equal partners, I would probably decline a wedding invitation that forced me to choose. Just as I would now RSVP "no" if I received one addressed to me and I couldn't bring my partner. To me, weddings are about honoring relationships, both brand new and existing.

Other venues, such as work-related functions, are a different story. A party in one's home may be different yet (though it seems more like a wedding than work, I would hope!) Bring only one child to "Take Your Child to Work Day" is very different than saying, "Bring only one child to our wedding." And of course, this is just MY response. Your Mileage May Vary.