abolish monogamy

Submitted by willow in Queer

so i posted that Sophie Lewis article about sexuality under capitalism on Reddit the other day and there was a short discussion in the comments that got me thinking; basically someone felt very attacked because they were monogamous and didn't want to be forced into all this queery stuff.

many years ago, when i first heard people talking about "abolishing whiteness", it didn't make any sense to me. people can't help being born with white skin, i thought, so how does it make sense to abolish that. reading this person talking about their "immutable monogamy", how they were born, how they just are, reminded me of myself back then.

i'm not interested in trying to draw parallels between two different forms of oppression, but it made me wonder if simply opposing things like gay marriage and queers in the army is framing our position too much in liberalism and being afraid to talk more plainly about what we want.

i'm not monogamous, but when i talk about it, i'm always very careful to say something like, "people should be able to choose the sort of relationships they want, including monogamy", because i'm worried about invalidating people (who may be queer themselves) who identify with monogamy.

but now i think maybe i've been doing this all wrong. monogamy is an entrenched power structure, a privileged position, another thread in the twisted rope of hierarchy. instead of catering to monogamists, we should be talking about abolishing monogamy... right?

maybe i'm late to the party and everyone else already realised this ages ago, so i'd appreciate pointers to any other writing about this. (i'm familiar with relationship anarchy, but i've only ever seen it presented as one particular alternative to monogamy.)



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Nuktuk wrote

Nah you're completely right. Fire to all prisons, including the prison of monogamy.


lastfutures wrote

Monogamy at its best, when it isn't a result of power & survival, is a form of BDSM - wedding rings are collars we're all compelled to treat by power as not a fetish. If that were treated consciously the way the rest of us get into kink - a game of control we like to play with others from time to time - that'd be one thing. But monogamy as the result of power and survival that it is is very much not that. Monogamy as non-kink is the opposite of relationship anarchy, it's a set of rules for relationships that people accept - or are compelled by power to accept - that they did not create on their own. It's a normative system the participants didn't actively create for themselves, it's not a relationship clearly created out of consent & communication.

Relationship Anarchy Resources

Communities not Couples

The latter has a RAD 2019 zine with some funny direct action ideas in it for anti-monogamy action; couple-busting, strategic shaming of couples, not acknowledging people's precious relationship labels, etc.


_caspar_ wrote

wouldnt the main problem with monogamy be a must, obligation, or duty, which would be different than two people being together because they want, or desire, that formation, not because they must? monogamy seems also idealistic: viewing one's lover as an ideal, rather than who they actual are. and often times folks try to coerce lovers into how they think they should be. couldnt there be a distinction made between monogamy (out of duty, and under a contract) and a couple form (out of desire, and always subject to change)?

"shaming of couples"

is shaming really a good tactic to change peoples minds? I could be wrong, but usually it seems either folks double down on their worldview out of anger from being shamed, or change their behavior out of guilt from being shamed. either of those dont seem to be great results.


lastfutures wrote (edited )

People can desire their own repression & control of others - it's systematically pushed into people thru our entire monogamous, dominator, propertarian culture. I think that impulse needs to be severely critiqued. Isn't there a must implicit in the form? You must not let your desires wander too far, you must not engage in this or that activity with those outside of the couple, you must confine this type of love to your partner alone, you must maintain the contract at all times, etc. At some moments there might be no must, the honeymoon phase for example, but what about outside of that short period of time? It seems like there's a lot of must involved to me. Do they desire that formation at all times? I don't think so. The prevalence of cheating would indicate otherwise, the fact that commitment can be so difficult for people and that people still have fantasies of others while in a couple do too.

I'm not foreclosing on the idea that there could be a return to couple forms, at least for moments, but I think that comes after the destruction of it's normativity - after jealousy and ownership, after systemic barriers to non-monogamy, after the possibilities are unleashed & available, after we know & experience what else is possible - and that doesn't mean the impoverished non-monogamy available in our culture.

As for couple-shaming, they didn't expand on the suggestion in what I read. But I don't think the creation of sort of taboos in relationship anarchy circles around monogamy is totally non-productive in our context. Part of it is also the idea that your couple form doesn't just effect you, it's not only a closing off of possibility & love for the people in the relationship, but everyone else around you. You're not just walling yourselves in, but everyone else out - and contributing to the systemic norm.


_caspar_ wrote

I agree with you. I was just wondering if there was, or could be, a distinction between monogamy and a couple form not bound by musts. but maybe thats already relationship anarchy, or polyamory that just happens to be two lovers for whatever length of time.


An_Old_Big_Tree wrote (edited )

I usually just talk about abolishing compulsory monogamy. What I want to get rid of is any pressure to be monogamous, and any primacy given to monogamous relationships.

I have never been monogamous, but I can imagine that why some people might want to just commit to one person for some reason. Presumably some people are actually only interested in being with one person and having that feeling be mutual to get the most intensity out of that experience. I have none of that stuff but I just have to assume it exists because people say in good faith that it does. Same as my experience of people with fixed binary genders, and other such things.

Abolishing the nuclear family is definitely something I'm interested in though.


onymous wrote

Yay! More anti-monogamy in the world :D

My approach though is less "abolish monogamy because it's gained a privileged position above non-monogamous identities" (if that's what you're saying?) and more, "monogamy is an identity that is then given privileges (if any other identities are granted existence to reincorporate dissent) because it is useful in its abusiveness, abolish it." Or something.

The dynamics you describe are a big part of why I'm uncomfortable calling myself "polyamorous," or any identity like that, as opposed to just refusing monogamy: it's not that monogamy "isn't for me," and "live and let live," or whatever? It's that I think monogamy's gross just in itself and I want it to die. It's part of my indignation at the idea of someone having claiming that kind of control over what my relations with others I have, but not because of a personal preference or "orientation" or whatever, because I find that kind of relation abusive.

I don't want to consider myself any "alternative identity" in large part because they're designed to coexist alongside the mainstream ones and assimilate dissenters back into the citizenry, as one can see with how polyamorous arrangements often serve the same reproductive purpose as monogamous ones. (More and more so the more accessible such narratives become to reactionaries, the more they take on a pacifying respectability. Like how same-sex marriage can look so much like a patriotic couple with 2.5 well-behaved kids in the suburbs with a picket fence paying bills and getting to work on time.)

As for other writing, I think rolequeer theory has some analysis like this? I know the theorists would think it, or something like it. I can't find one essay in particular after a brief internet search, so it's possible what I'm thinking of is just that I applied those ideas to what I was already thinking about monogamy? Either way, I recommend it! While current me disagrees with some of the theorists about some things, like the desirability of holding on to identities of oppression, it has lots of fascinating and useful ideas, especially the "consent as a felt sense" idea.


celebratedrecluse wrote

monogamy has historically entrenched most of the hierarchies, especially but not limited to cisheteropatriarchy. it is very difficult to conceive of a predominantly non-monogamous world which has such inequities as ours, without monogamy, although i suppose in an alternative timeline it might be possible.


train wrote

Hmm, the biggest problems I see with monogamy are a product a capitalism. I believe a lot of people feel safer commiting their limited emotional, social, and financial resources to a relationships that have some level of certainty. Also marriage as a construct facilitates a kind of codependence that represents an island of limited stability under capitalism. So I think it's natural for people to gravitate towards our modern conceptions of monogamy.

However, this dependency can facilitate some very common and exploitive dynamics within relationships. People can become socially isolated and dependent on their abusive partner. Moral hierarchies of relationships can form that serve to strengthen this kind of exploitation. I think that's in part why heteronormative patriarchal conceptions of marriage are so common.

Now to me this means we need to abolish capitalism. Beyond capitalism though, I don't think monogamy is particular harmful. At least not more so than other kinds of social relationships. But that depends on ensuring that indivuals have community and stability outside of their monogamous relationship should they choose to partake in one. I think that may negate the need for problematic notions of commitment and dependency that we see today.