I like giving Newsweek a hard time, but I’m happy that the worst I can say about Jessica Bennett’s article is that it has a false sense of its own importance. Happy in a low expectations kind of way, but baby steps. The article focuses on one poly family in Seattle, Terisa, Scott and Larry with outer members Vera and Matt. Of course this representative example is made up only of straight, white rich people, but I’ll leave the narrative analysis for the thesis.
Bennett presents polyamory as if it had a kind of urgency. The article’s title “Polyamory: The Next Sexual Revolution?” indicates an imminence that I’m not sure exists. That said, it ends up reading as an honest attempt to grasp a different lifestyle. There’s not a lot of judging and it makes clear that dealing with jealousy is an ongoing project for everyone involved. The subjects seem like people – albeit artsy Seattle people – and not marginal deviants worth examining for anthropological purposes.
I also liked the way the article dealt with how the constricted focus of the marriage equality movement further marginalizes less “desirable” queers in an effort to win mainstream acceptence. While some gays and lesbians fight for the right to marry by making themselves look like straight couples with matching genitalia, poly couples, not to mention the rest of the less-acceptable community, are pushed further away from acceptance.
What the article doesn’t offer is any solutions. To me the answers seems pretty clear. An abolition of government-recognized marriage combined with widely defined domestic partnerships would take the government out of people’s bedroom(s). In a better U.S.A., polyamory would be a curiosity, in the same way that skydiving is – “that looks scary, hard and maybe awesome” – instead of being subject to legal restrictions based on an institution that fails half the time anyway.
I’m not saying I’m against marriage, spending your life with a person you love sounds great and I was lucky to grow up in a family with parents well-fitted to the institution. But there’s nothing that makes it any more legitimate than any other family structure. I don’t buy the “two-parent homes are best for children” argument. Homes without TV’s and cookies are better for children too, it doesn’t mean we get to make public policy restrictions concerning TV’s or cookies. I’ve marched for marriage equality because I think the proponents have a good argument and prejudicial government treatment makes me sick, but if it’s just for an expansion of the current limited conception of marriage and not a reevaluation of how the state polices love, then count me out.