Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Totalitarianism begins between two...

Well I guess it’s down to me to write the first post. A scary task. I think rather than do one big post I’m going to write little snippets here and there, so here’s the first (but probably rather lengthy) instalment.

I don’t think I’ve ever really done normative intimacy (whatever that might actually mean). I’ve mainly gone through my life ‘being’ non-monogamous. But as I got older my opinions about what counts as non-monogamy have begun to change. For example, at the times when I was celibate could I still label myself as non-monogamous? And my answer now, is well yes, of course I can. Non-monogamy is not necessarily about having multiple partners. To me, more than anything else, it’s about rejecting the norms that get bound up with monogamy.

I’m not sure if I can explain the reasons why I’ve always rejected monogamy, and nor do I really think it’s necessary to do so… there’s a fine line between explaining and excusing. After all, people aren’t forced to disclose the reasons why they’re coupled, and I don’t think people who practice non-monogamy owe anyone any answers. Though at the same time I do think my choices have been linked to my wider ‘politics’ and my way of being in the world. I’ve been inspired by feminism, by queer theory and politics, and more recently by anarchism and Buddhism. I live my intimate life in a way that I feel matches my hopes and visions for how I want society to be. I try (though certainly don’t always succeed) in having relationships that are not built upon rules or contracts, that people are free to enter in and out of when we choose, and that sex does not mark the end of friendship.

But aside from all this utopian dreaming I suppose there’s a slightly less pious reasoning behind my decisions... there's also anger and a good old bit of feminist rage. I hate the idea of being owned, of anyone being dependent upon me, or me being dependent upon anyone else. At times in the past when i've been in what appears to the outside world to be a ‘normal’ couple I've hated the expectations that are forced upon you- I hate the praise, the excitement, the anticipation that people shower you with... ‘what’s next- moving in, marriage, children?!’ I hate the way the world feels to close down upon you. You’re coupled now, you’ve made it, you don’t need anything else. It's like the Feminine Mystique was never written. It feels suffocating, and it terrifies me.

So to me normative coupledom was never something I wanted, it never made any sense, it filled me with horror. I don’t want to privilege new sexual partners over old friendships. I don’t want to have to compromise the ties and connections I already have. Love should be more open than that… I don’t want sexual / romantic love to be somehow seen as more important than other loves. I suppose I wouldn’t describe my encounters as ‘casual sex’ as I think that’s really the wrong term for it. The sex may indeed be casual and fleeting, or it may happen again… it doesn’t really matter as the friendship means something more. I don’t think we really have any good representations of this type of intimacy in the media- the term ‘fuck buddies’ makes me cringe.

When I was younger I always thought that when I grew up I’d somehow live in a vast old communal house- with friends / lovers / and those in-between. I still hold onto this dream- yet as I’m getting older I’ve noticed how my circle of queer ‘non-normative’ friends is slowly beginning to reduce. People are coupling off one by one… and I find it a little scary. Perhaps this is what happens when you get old, perhaps I should follow suit before it’s too late? After all, what if I’ve got it wrong, what if coupledom was the answer all along? These are the kind of fears I get- and if it’s coming from someone who spends her whole working day (and often night) deconstructing normative intimacy, then fuck knows what these pressures feel like for other people.


  1. Eleanor, thanks for the invitation to blog here.

    I'll share a little bit more about my story, and where I see myself at the moment in relation to (non-)monogamy soon. For now, I just have an observation; or a question, maybe...

    Do you think that just because more of you queer 'non-normative' friends are currently in couples they have completely (and forever) rejected their opposition to normative forms of relationship? Are they really trapped in normative coupledom now and forever? And, if they've made an informed choice to go there, rather than slipping into a taken-for-granted relationship norm, is that really such a problem for them (or for you)?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Ey up Eleanor, it's me! Thanks for the invite. I'm very glad to hear you have been influenced by Buddhism :)
    One of the things that struck me while reading your post and trying to reflect on my own experiences is your apparent lack of ambivalence... You seem very clear about what you want and what you don't want (and have never wanted).
    Whereas I always feel torn in different directions and in the past (e.g. ten minutes/‎years ago) I've wanted things that are very different to what I want now. God, I guess I'm just so......conflicted! How very post-modern.

  4. spacecake... yes the whole concept of loving without attachment was really interesting, i may try and post about it at a later date!

    Am glad I’ve fooled you into thinking i have some sort of clarity about these issues. I suppose in a blog post it's easy to make things sound a lot more straight-forward than they really are! I'm also sometimes torn in different directions- and I suppose that's what i was trying to bring up at the end of the post. I sometimes doubt whether I am doing to right thing and if I should just cave in and embrace the mononorms after all, and spend a happy life baking cupcakes for my other half.

    Ambivalent posts welcome, as I think there’s a lot to be said about the emotional dilemmas people are faced with about these sort of issues.