The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Love & Marriage… Don’t Go Together Like A Horse & Carriage

Posted by caitlinate on September 16, 2009

So, I know it’s lazy to just post a link and say ‘go look here’ but I think this piece by Catherine Deveny in the Sydney Morning Herald today is a worthy excuse for such an indolent act. I also think it’s a good kick off for a fun TDC discussion about marriage and it’s place and purpose in our current day and age.

The article begins:

I AM against gay marriage. I’m against straight marriage. I’m against marriage full stop. Why are we hanging on to this relic of an anachronistic system (which still reeks of misogyny and bigotry), established so men could own women to ensure their estates and titles were passed on to their kids – sorry, their sons? Time to ditch it.

Go read!

55 Responses to “Love & Marriage… Don’t Go Together Like A Horse & Carriage”

  1. Grace said

    What a load of self-righteous sophistry.

    Why not just be against marriage for YOURSELF, and let others decide what they want? Why the fascistic jackboot overtones?

    And marriage has done more good in this world than ill.

    I’ll bet you’re about 19 or so LOL You’ll grow up.

  2. Natasha said

    I think that Deveny makes a number of excellent points, particularly in relation to the historical context in which marraige has taken place. However, I think that blaming marraige for inequality in relationships (for example, that women still carry the major burden of unpaid domestic labour) is a little off the mark. I’d expect that those roles are negotiated within individual relationships, regardless of marital status.

    However I salute some her other points, such as a deep resentment at categories of Miss and Mrs, an over emphasis on a wedding and very little on the marraige itself, and I personally find the symbolism of engagement rings abhorrent. That said, I find the symbolism of wedding rings quite beautiful. And I think that strong relationships (everlasting or not) are deserving of celebration (whether it takes the form of a wedding or not).

    What I would like to see is for the outdated institution of marraige with all its baggage of historical ills against women to keep pace with the standards of society. Maybe it doesn’t have to be forever for it to be legitimate. And it should absolutely be accessible for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. And the changing of surnames can be taken or left as the individual wishes (after all, what are kids to do? – surnames are either patriarchal or matriarchal – either way is flawed and does anyone have a better option?).

    Perhaps we don’t have to ditch marraige, perhaps we should just change it to suit us.

  3. I love Catherine Deveny, but I think she is a little too heavy-handed with this issue.

    For me personally marriage is one of those take it or leave it kind of prospects, I don’t really relish the idea of a priest/celebrant/government official telling me I am married, I loathe to talk about my feelings other than to a very small group of friends, so standing in front of 100+ people and proclaiming my love is not high on my to do list, and I have no inclination to change my name or title so a traditional wedding and marriage seems irrelevant.

    On the other hand, should I find my soulmate/love of my life/whatever I don’t think that making some kind of personal gesture of commitment to them makes me “needy, insecure, deeply conservative” nor do I think it denotes my own abandonment issues.

    So while I agree that the traditional confines of marriage are useless and completely irrelevant for women, I think every woman would have their own unique view on marriage and commitment and their own reasons for wanting either.

    • caitlinate said

      I agree with you that Deveny is a little heavy handed with the “needy, insecure, deeply conservative” statement. I don’t agree with or support the institution of marriage but this is a little over the top – particularly when most people get married not for those reasons and generally for what they view as far more positive ones.

  4. Wow I love it. I’ve written very similar posts myself. I’m just surprised to see something so honest in the SMH.

  5. Olga said

    Woah! This woman has got a serious chip on her shoulder! I agree with Grace.

    I am married because I want to be. My husband and I have complete respect for each other. I have the same educational qualifications as him and at the moment I am a stay at home mom.

    And I have his surname, I was proud to change my name. (Oh horror!)

    It works for us and our kids are happy.

    The reason there is so much divorce is because it is too easy to get divorced. People get married, but they don’t believe in it. They don’t work on the marriage, don’t consider the impact it has on their kids and just break things off.

    I think it’s very sad.

    Marriage is not for everyone and I think it’s great that people don’t need to be married to be in happy relationships. But the same respect should be given to people who choose to enter into a union in a ceremony that does mark the beginning of something. For better or for worse.

  6. “The reason there is so much divorce is because it is too easy to get divorced”

    Not true at all, Olga. Divorce is hard, particularly on women who are more likely to end up impoverished after a divorce, than men. On the other hand, many people stay married because that is the easier option. That is the option that society supports, respects and privileges above the option to not be married or end a marriage.
    People like Deveny and myself hold a very minority viewpoint on this issue which is a long way from enjoying “respect” from the mainstream or the “beige majority” as Deveny refers to them.
    So when you demand respect for your “decision” well sorry, but you already have bucketloads of it – try respecting someone who has the courage to state the truth rather than go along with the crowd.

  7. Geek Anachronism said

    I read that piece yesterday. I was unimpressed – I didn’t get married to take his name (I didn’t), to have a party or any of that. I got married because I wanted to stand before my God and my family and my friends and proclaim that he is the one. He wanted the same (except the God bit). We reused rings, we had a reception in a bowls’ club, my grandfather wore denim.

    But none of that really matters – I’m just another dupe (apparently), needy and whiny and ever so ‘girly’ about it. Because that’s the undertone – people (women) who want to get married are portrayed as spectres of femininity – weak, useless, stupid and malleable. That isn’t to say marriage isn’t problematic. I wish there were far fewer people making spectacles of marriage and weddings and obvious consumerism. But tarring all women with the same brush? Beyond stupid.

  8. blu-k said

    What irritates me is her trawling out the ‘Divorce rate is 50% and climbing chestnut’ so often used by right-wing morals campaigners to show how immoral the world is.

    The divorce rate in Australia has been falling since 2001. See here:
    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3307.0.55.001

    And I’m not sure it’s ever been anywhere near 50 percent, I think in Aust. it’s about a third, in the US it may be closer to 50 per cent.

  9. Clem Bastow said

    I think many of the biggest problems emerge from the ever-expanding “wedding industry”; the immense amounts of pressure to spend spend spend and focus solely on the Big Day (TM) – not to mention “my day, my way” stances that effectively obliterate the groom and anyone else who might like to be involved because, you know, they have every right to be – is overwhelming. Having been engaged and planned a wedding in effect (the relationship didn’t work out), even teetering on the far, far edges of the wedding biz (i.e. small wedding, low-key reception, no bridal party) was alarming. Eventually I couldn’t bear the idea of being the centre of attention on My Big Day – and when I added that to the fact that I wasn’t changing my name, we had no real need to get married (other than as a show of love/support/celebration for each other), and that plenty of couples who’d like to marry can’t (i.e. “gay marriage”), plus the idea of being “someone’s wife” rather than my own person, I couldn’t come up with that many reasons why marriage was necessary. At least that was my personal experience.

  10. kt said

    Ah, Catherine Deveny. Always the go-to girl when you’re looking for intelligent, balanced, thorough commentary.

    Speaking of balanced: don’t take your husband’s name and then expect anyone to take you seriously as a feminist. I mean really.

  11. Dolores said

    I found the Deveny piece a bit heavy-handed and simplistic too (but that’s part of her charm, no?), but it is a fascinating topic. I’m married and glad to be — I love my husband dearly — but my experience of getting and being married made me realise how unsure I am about what it means philosophically and for me personally. We got married for boring practical reasons involving o/s travel. If not for these reasons, we probably would have carried on living together as we had already been for several years. Neither of us wanted a wedding (too much cringe-making attention; too expensive; neither we nor our families are religious; etc), so we just went to the registry. Neither of us changed our name. We both wear wedding rings.

    Funny thing is, once we were married, he embraced it much more whole-heartedly than I did. He loves referring to me as his wife, while I felt strange saying “my husband” and kept calling him my partner for ages until I realised that he was hurt by this — he thought it meant I was luke-warm about being married to him. I couldn’t and still can’t adequately explain my ambivalence about the language and accoutrements of marriage. I wasn’t ambivalent about him or our relationship. But without any religious or social reason to get married, all that’s left is the state — it felt a little like registering my sex life with a government department. Several years on, I’m much more comfortable with it than I was. Partly just because I’m older (I was 24 when we got married, and at that age nosy people feel free to express surprise, and sometimes disapproval, when they find out you’re married “so young”. Often they assume you must be religious!). But also I guess because I’m more confident in our ability, married or not, to shape our relationship on our own terms — I guess I don’t care so much how other people interpret the politics of our decisions.

    So, all good. But my ambivalence and reservations suggest that for those of us without strong religious or social reasons to prefer marriage to unmarried living together, the meaning of marriage is quite confused. The fact that my husband saw marriage as an uncomplicatedly good thing, while I wasn’t so sure, probably does reflect its origins as an institution designed with men’s insterests in mind. But that certainly isn’t to say that NOT getting married advances the sisterhood. I have plenty of female friends in de facto relationships who do more than their share of the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing etc — they’re not married, but their domestic lives are following very similar patterns to those of their mothers and grandmothers. These are problems that we all have to grapple with in our relationships, married or not.

    I do think it’s incredibly smug for a straight woman to tell gay couples that they shouldn’t want to get married (and Deveny has done this before). Heterosexuals have the luxury of being able to make a political statement by rejecting marriage if they choose to. Gay couples don’t have such a choice — they simply can’t get married, and the political message in that is a clear one: their relationships aren’t recognised as of equal worth or significance by the state. I have gay friends who would dearly love to get married, and others who couldn’t care less. The point is, it should be their decision to make.

  12. au revoir said

    I loved the article so much, I wanted to marry it.

  13. Pangur Ban said

    Perhaps I’m becoming a blog junkie, but I often find the comments underneath more interesting than the articles. I think this one, from a Mr jordojones, said it all:

    ‘There is nothing more pathetic than an unmarried woman, except for those women who think that a career will offer them sanctity.’

    If so, then I’m so glad I’ve been a happily ‘non-pathetic’ woman for 20 years AND managed to build a stimulating and reasonably well-paid ‘sanctity’ over that same time.

    And BTW, why on earth can’t we just introduce a simple naming system by which girl children take Mum’s surname and boy children take Dad’s? It’s logical and practical. It automatically continues both family lines (at least for families of different sex siblings). It’s also a far less contradictory solution than a woman keeping her father’s surname, only to have her kids take her husband’s surname. And it’s far less cumbersome than adopting a double-banger that starts getting overly long after a generation passes – especially if the kids marry other double-bangers.

    • Me and my boyfriend had a hypothetical discussion about what surname our kids would have if we ever had kids. Since neither of us would like to change our names and he is already the unappreciative recipient of a hyphenated surname we came to the conclusion we could combine them. Half his name half mine.

      I suppose that you would have to have compatible surnames for this to work out well, but I like the concept of combination.

      • caitlinate said

        I know people who have chosen a completely new surname for their kids. Something they both like but not either of their names.

      • Kat said

        I already refer to joint property as belonging to (what I think is) a hilarious combinations of our names. I couldn’t wish that on a child.

        Potential child 1 will have my last name if female and his if male (mostly because my last name can make a reasonable middle name for a male). If intersexed we’ll make it up as we go along. Neither of us will be offended if a name change is desired later in life. Any subsequent children will probably have alternating last names.

        My general response to someone who says they want our whole family to have the same name as a reason for changing their own with marriage is “do you really consider blended families or foster families to be lesser families?”

  14. Pangur Ban said

    After posting above, I’m concerned my quip about the jordojones quote may be taken literally. Just to make sure … I WAS being ironic!

  15. Linda Radfem said

    Dolores, I can’t speak for Deveny but I don’t think she is suggesting that getting legally married as opposed to living together, is the problem, or that the wedding ceremony/piece of paper makes any difference to the amount of domestic work that women get stuck with. Whether you’re in a de facto relationship, married or a single parent of grown up children, you do seem to get stuck with a lot of the work. She was just pointing out that the institution is fundamentally designed with that in mind, to extract the maximum amount of drudge work out of women, which frees men up to go about the proper paid work. This works just as well in de factos which is probably why the state recognises them now.

    Not co-habiting with men at all is probably the only way the sisterhood will ever be free of that particular shackle. Easier said that done, I know.

  16. Kat said

    Am I the only one who was a little shocked at the language at the top of After Marriage’s link?

    Aside from that, not co-habiting with men isn’t a life a lot of people wish to have. Choosing to interact with other people means we choose to engage with the patriarchy. Being exhausted from work, family, and general battles – hopefully the person that loves us the most won’t fight too hard at home to keep that social privilege at home.

    I personally am very lucky with my (non registered) partner and will continue to be vocal to him as it is too easy for comfort to slip into conformity.

  17. jenny said

    There was a good response to this in the letters section of the age the next day:

    “AS USUAL, I enjoyed reading Catherine Deveny’s column (Metropolis, 16/9). However, I couldn’t help thinking that it must have greatly pleased the bigots and homophobes who seek to maintain marriage as a heterosexual institution.

    Marriage is not going anywhere any time soon. It’s a key part of Australian society and fundamental to the way the vast majority of people view relationships. This means that the Marriage Act’s exclusion of same-sex couples is a potent expression of inequality, and a state-sanctioned one.

    Since I can’t see anyone successfully organising a campaign to abolish marriage, effectively encouraging feminists not to actively support the campaign for marriage equality is not exactly progressive.

    My friends go through enough torment trying to have their relationships accepted by their friends, family, colleagues, random people on public transport and wider society. Telling them ”don’t worry, marriage is a misogynistic anachronism” is not going to help them feel like an equal part of society.

    If you don’t like it, Catherine Deveny, don’t get married. But don’t, as a prominent feminist, stand in the way of a campaign to give me the equal right to either get married or meaningfully boycott it.”

    I like Catherine Deveny but she’s kind of a shock-jock. She doesn’t even try for a balanced approach, and I sort of dig that about her really, but I can’t totally agree with her. In the end I think why a lot of people get married, including non-religious feminists who are struggle with the political and philosophical implications of marriage, is tradition. I agree that marriage is/was a patriarchal institution, and I wouldn’t go for it myself, but really I think a lot of the time it’s more a fairly benign symbol of tradition than anything else.

    • caitlinate said

      This was an opinion piece so I guess by it’s very nature it’s going to be fairly biased… but do you think it’s possible for any reportage (on any topic) to be balanced?

      For me, reading an article discussing something in a different way/from a different perspective to that which it is generally presented in the ‘mainstream’ – in this case that marriage is good – is something I definitely dig. Even if I don’t agree with it all.

  18. It comes down to choice: if you want to get married then clearly you have a desire. I don’t know why she gets so angry, I have never been married but I personally would love to, yet I don’t feel we are spreading stereotypes. I actually am the breadwinner, he is the stay home cook. If people want to marry, let them do so, if not, then let them be and move on with your life.

  19. Linda Radfem said

    Oh yeah I forgot – if a woman dares to express an opinion clearly and unapologetically, then she must be angry.

  20. eilish said

    Catherine Deveny doesn’t mind a strong reaction to her articles. She often pops in phrases indicating her low opinion of people who engage in behaviour she doesn’t admire. I think it’s in her contract.I like mentally highlighting the phrases and identifying which group of people will feel alienated. “Unapologetic” isn’t the word I’d choose for Catherine Deveny. “Pot-stirrer” – yes indeedy. I’d admire her wholeheartedly if I didn’t have the sneaking suspicion it’s all a ploy by the Fairfax opinion editor to raise readership.
    Her article raises these questions for me: is marriage an anachronism? Should it be, or does it provide protections/priveleges that make it valuable?
    When I got married, I thought I was doing something that was of personal importance to me, but that was of no matter to anyone else. I was extremely surprised to find people sharing their personal approval of my choice. I felt as if I had just joined a club. Like Dolores, I was and am extremely uncomfortable using phrases like “my husband”, and didn’t know what to do with the ‘Successfully Achieved Heterosexual Privelege’ certificate I seemed to have thrust upon me. But I can well imagine that it would be nifty for gay couples.

    Marriage confers legal rights on women, now. It’s also no longer compulsory. Women spent many years fighting for those improvements: I don’t know that dumping marriage would be productive for us. I can imagine women’s rights being seriously eroded if it was. I’m all for those rights being available to everyone who wants to choose it.

    One solution is to remove the religious aspect, and make marriage purely a legal agreement. That puts paid to all the “one man, one woman”, “ordained by God” stuff that gets people so hot under the collar. It also might help get rid of the bridal hoopla, which I am in favour of banning.

  21. diva_boi said

    I liked this article and I have many problems with marriage (gay or straight). My main concern is, as Caitlin pointed out, that “so much privilege [is] granted to those that do get married”. The privileges obtained through marriage manifest themselves legally, culturally and socially. Thus marriage doesn’t only discriminate against queer couples, but also those of us who reject this “anachronistic system”, as Deveny puts it. A married woman/man has a different standing in society compared to a non-married woman/man. Marriage, as an cultural institution undeniably creates a power structure empowering some people and disempowering others. Moreover, the notion of ‘marriage’ is inextricably bound to heteronormative values; values that are deeply embedded in patriarchy; values that are sexually conservative and oppressive.

    Gay marriage has the power to be dangerously normalising. Throughout history, marriage has always existed as a (sexist) heterosexual institution with an enforced rule of monogamy. I am not against monogamy, if it works for you then that’s fine, but it should not be perpetuated as ‘normal’ or ‘natural’. Marriage does perpetuate this myth, thus polyamorous people are discriminated against (will same-sex marriage remedy this?). Nor am I against heterosexuality, but it shouldn’t be considered natural or normal, or the ‘default’ orientation, when contrasted against non-hetero sexualities. “Gay marriage”, to a certain degree, encourages this idea I think. Because the marriage is ‘gay’ as opposed to ‘straight’, a binary system of sexual orientation discursively created. Why anyone who identifies as non-heterosexual (and heterosexual for that matter) would even want marriage, I am not quite sure… But I can only speak for myself.

    Certainly, legal rights are definitely important, and so is challenging state-sanctioned homophobia. I want equal rights for queers, but not at the expense of succumbing to heterosexism. In other words, queer-liberation not hetero-assimilation? A comparison: can equality for women really be achieved in a white-supremacist-heteronormative-capitalist-patriarchy? Or is it not necessary to try and radically change such a system to create equality? Can equality for queers really be achieved in a white-supremacist heteronormative capitalist patriarchy? No. White middle class gays and lesbians who want to assimilate into a lifestyle of heteronormativity will no doubt benefit most from gay marriage.

    Personally, I would rather seek to challenge the many ways in which our society oppresses and discriminates against women, people of colour, poor people, queers etc. I agree that the ban on gay-marriage is most definitely homophobic, and I agree with Dolores that it is a big smug of Deveny who identifies (as far as we know)as heterosexual to tell queer people what is right for them. I don’t want to speak for all queer people, because most of them disagree with me… I just can’t bring myself to support marriage in any form, it is unacceptably conservative for the State to decree some relationships legitimate and others less so, especially regarding queer kinship and families. I would prefer it if the government stayed out of people’s relationships altogether.

    • kt said

      This is a really well-constructed argument, but it’s founded on quicksand. It’s fairly specious, as a queer-identified person, to reject marriage, because it’s not yours to accept or reject. Which is exactly the problem.

      Your opinion of marriage is a valid one, but I don’t share it. If I want to get married, then you and Deveny are no better qualified to tell me I shouldn’t than someone who thinks it’s only appropriate for heterosexual couples.

      I agree that patriarchal structures are dangerous, and think further that the last fifteen years has seen a frightening resurgence in their power, and a subsidence of resistance to them. But I disagree that marriage is problematic in and of itself, as opposed to, say, childcare as ‘a women’s issue’, or the embracing of porn and stripping as female empowerment, or the salary gap.

      Marriage is only a series of promises to be the best person and the best partner you can be, and the expectation that those promises will be kept. If people have abused this, then educate and inspire the people, rather than ascribing to the institution a whole raft of evils that don’t actually belong to it.

      • diva said

        As a “queer-identified” person, marriage is still very much mine to accept or reject. A part of my being queer is a total rejection of heteronormativity, so I think I am fully able to reject the institution of marriage.

        Your description of marriage as a “series of promises to be the best person and the best partner you can be” is nice, but it misses the point. The point is that marriage priveleges those who participate in it. I don’t want to tell you that you shouldn’t get married if you want to… But is it really fair for you to obtain privelege and power that others don’t obtain? So go to a church, exchange rings, have a party, do whatever you want… but I shouldn’t be disempowered because I opt to live outside of heterosexuality’s suffocating parametres.

      • kt said

        I think you have indeed missed MY point, Diva. You’re not choosing to live outside any parameters at all. You have no access to anything within those parameters, and I bemoan this because I support your right to reject it. If an institution privileges those who participate in it, and it is open to any who choose it, where exactly is the problem? Surely a rejection of the institution could then be said to indicate a lack of desire for its privileges.

  22. Linda Radfem said

    “In other words, queer-liberation not hetero-assimilation?”
    Very well put,Diva. I like the way you think.
    I guess, as a queer person, I didn’t take offence at Deveny “telling me what to do” because usually when straight people are telling me what to do they’re trying to tell me how much I need this “right” to get married, to join them in their heteronormative paradise so that I can have the honour of being Just Like Them. That’s so condescending to me. So I’m fine with a straight person not jumping on that bandwagon.

    • diva said

      Linda Radfem, I agree with you, I didn’t find Deveny’s comments to be offensive at all… but I can understand how it can be problematic for a person who has priveleges to speak for those who don’t have them. It’s like a man speaking on behalf of women without first acknowledging his male priveleged, or a white person speaking for a person of colour… But I didn’t think Deveny’s piece was offensive. Smug, yes, but that is also kind of what I liked about it. It would of been really annoying reading an article written by a straight person championing gay marriage, at least she had a fresh perspective.

  23. I totally agree with Devany on this, and when considered in relation to this it gets all the more amusing: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/why-should-polygamy-be-a-crime-20091002-gfdg.html

  24. eilish said

    Privelege exists because of exclusion. If we all share the same privelege, it’s not one anymore – it’s a common human right. Gay marriage erodes heteronormativity: hetero is no longer the norm. Let’s give everyone the right to reject marriage.

    As for the polygamy article,the answer is “to protect womens’ rights.” Do you think there’ll be an article on polyamory next week?

    • caitlinate said

      I’m not really sure what your point re poly relationships is?

    • kt said

      Yay for you, Eilish. That’s exactly what I was trying (not v clearly) to say.

      And you’re right: poly relationships and monogamous gay ones aren’t comparable.

      • kt said

        (Which means: of course open debate on legal protection for polyamorous relationships, but please not as some kind of adjunct to the fight for same-sex marriage.)

      • caitlinate said

        Poly and monogamous relationships aren’t really comparable full stop. Both deserve equal protection, it doesn’t matter whether the people in the relationship are queer or not.

        Debates on polyamory are really important in discussions on marriage… I don’t really believe we should just get rid of marriage, but I think it needs to change. If people want to get married then they should be able to. But the model of marriage being a wonderful monogamous institution of ‘one man, one woman’ and the most desirable outcome for any relationship (one which you’re rewarded for) needs to be ripped to shreds. Introducing poly relationships into the discussion and validating and protecting everyone’s relationship choices is a necessary part of this. Protecting and promoting only monogamous relationships (but allowing monogamous queers into this protective aura) isn’t really all that much in the way progress.

      • kt said

        Serious and genuine question: why can’t monogamy continue to be a prerequisite for marriage? Doesn’t the very desire for polyamory (as evidenced by the use of that word, instead of ‘polygamy’, which refers to marriage) indicate that a person is not interested in expanding the definition of marriage? And if, as my reading indicates, many poly groups are organised hierarchically, how can marriage (a relationship between equals) here apply? Please don’t shout at me! It’s hard for lots of feminists to get our heads around any version of polygamy as a genuinely safe option for women or children.

      • Kat said

        Marriage is not linked to “a relationship between equals” or a “genuinely safe option for women or children”

        There are people within that institution at vast ends of the spectrum (just like in the poly community)

      • kt said

        Of course. But logically, two people have a better chance of genuine equality than members of any larger grouping, wouldn’t you say?

      • caitlinate said

        I think that’s a somewhat flawed assumption and I’m not sure that logic is even relevant. The power dynamics in a group of three close friends are different to that of two close friends but not necessarily more extreme or more difficult. It’s about how the people involved are approaching the societal and interpersonal dynamics and power structures we exist within. If you take three people with equal levels of privilege of the same type and similar life experiences it’s about how they relate personally. If you’re striving for equality in your interactions then it shouldn’t be any harder because there are two or three or four people there, though perhaps it will be more complex.

        I think where you’re coming from is also about privileging certain relationships over others. No one says that I can only have valuable and meaningful friendships or professional relationships if I limit to having them with one person. If we’re talking about providing protection to all different types of relationships then we can’t say they have to be of a certain form or recognisable commitment level to deserve that.

        Some people who practice poly organise their relationships in a type of hierarchy, some not. If we’re talking hierarchy though it might be that your primary partner is your primary partner because they are the one who most gratifies ‘x’ and that is what is most important to you. Your secondary partner might not to do that but might provide ‘y’ and your relationship is based around that. For example… Person A is the co-parent of your children & you share financial security, Person B provides specific sexual gratification and emotional fulfilment, Person C creative stimulation & spiritual solace. Instead of expecting one person to fullfil all of your needs you build relationships around particular things. Your partners do the same with others in places that you are unable to or unavailable for. These are just off the top of my head examples. Most people who practice poly relationships structure them in relation to their needs and desires rather than to a set plan or structure. It’s about centering the individual AND collective needs and desires rather than fitting into a pre-ordained structure. Obviously people in monogamous relationships can work this out too and step outside of the socially constructed bounds where they see fit.

        With the marriage thing… in the above example Person A might be the one you’re married to because of the benefits it provides financially and to your children, but it doesn’t have to be monogamous to work as a relationship in a mutually beneficial and equal way. Additionally the elements provided by each person don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Am I making sense? I’m quite tired but trying my best to answer your questions!

      • kt said

        You’re making perfect sense. I’m not convinced that logic doesn’t apply, though!

  25. eilish said

    Polyamory will gain more acceptance in time. For someone monogamous, it’s hard to imagine maintaining fidelity and trust with more than one partner. As humans are horribly resistant to new ideas, people doing something different take flak. The more people live according to what’s important to them, and we talk about our choices, the less social coercion we all experience.
    Once marriage was compulsory, and single mothers didn’t participate in society. There are still people carrying “My Way or The Highway” signs on the subject, but we have a wide range of socially acceptable relationships,now. Societal mores will expand to include polyamory, eventually.

  26. Kat said

    So much of this comes down to are we discussing sex or relationships. Is there a reason for sexual relationships to be treated differently (legal protection, financial benefits AND/OR social approval) to other types of relationships?

  27. But why do we need legal or state recognition of relationships? It’s not necessary. We have property law for property and family law for parent’s responsibilities to their children. The legal recognition of marriage is just a taxation arrangement. Let’s get rid of it!

  28. caitlinate said

    I just came across this blog, Queer Kids of Queer Parents Against Gay Marriage! Great post about gay marriage that touches on a lot of the things discussed here.

    • Diva said

      ‘Queer Kids’: “It’s that sneaky thing about late liberal capitalism: its promise of formal rights over real restructuring.”

      Thanks for this link Caitlin, I’m really into it!

      This piece addressed something important that I don’t think was really touched on properly in this thread. There is an unacceptably conservative idea that I feel is implicitly perpetuated in the fight for same-sex marriage, the idea that kinship cannot legitimately exist outside of matrimony. i.e. married gay couples will no doubt have greater success adopting children as opposed to nonmarried gay couples; because their kinship has been legitimised by the State, it has received the heterosexual tick of approval. The ‘Queer Kids’ articulate this better than I: “parenthood and non-monogamy aren’t mutually exclusive… We won’t let the government decide what does and does not constitute a family.”

    • kt said

      That’s an amazing article, Caitlinate. Thanks so much for sharing the link.

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