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Learning from polyamorous relationships

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

Wed, 19 Dec 2012 16:18:21 GMT | Updated 4 years today

Looking for queer, female polyamorous role models in mainstream culture is akin to seeking out woman fronting FTSE 100 companies; they're few and far between. Why?


"Because poly is seen as socially freakish, without actually being that weird or illegal," says Bethany Rutter (23, one long-term partner, dating). While queer women continue to stake out positions of relative power in the mainstream, polyamorous women - those who love, and are loved by, a coterie of parters, lovers and/or spouses - are still considered taboo. Poly practice has been around for centuries, and yet monogamy, like heterosexuality, is still considered the default norm around the world. Monogamous lesbians may balk at the idea of an affinity with poly dykes, but our experiences echo each other's in many ways: both involve "coming out", both involve breaking with norms, both are subject to stereotypes and both, to some extent, offer women the freedom to explore their sexuality unfettered by society's nuclear family values.

"Poly goes against everything we're taught about relationships," explains Jess Dixon, (22, boyfriend of three years, girlfriend of two months, casually dating a male/female couple for three years). "Particularly for women. We grow up being told we'll meet the man of our dreams, marry and have children and live happily ever after. Polyamory is threatening to that whole narrative." Add queerness to the poly mix, and you have a veritable Molotov cocktail of radical identity politics, which goes some ways towards explaining why, even next to queerness, poly is deemed so transgressive.


"Queer relationships are almost less threatening to the status quo," says Emma Lewis (26, two partners, cohabiting with one, open to casual liaisons) "because they can be assimilated with marriage and adoption." But with the rise of poly lifestyles, and community-based organisations such as PolyDay and OpenCon, an increasing number of queer women are embracing poly, and exploring new ways to enjoy love and commitment. 

To read the rest of this feature, buy a copy of DIVA's January 2013 issue.


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