Saturday, December 13, 2014

Intimacy, Relationships, and The Problems of Monogamy

What is intimacy?

Intimacy is the creation of genuine connections with people. Some people see that sexual intercourse is the only "real" form of intimacy. However, I think that this is a narrow-sighted view of what intimacy is.

There is a wide array of things that can create intimate connections with people. Simple gestures that convey a loving attitude are intimate. Sharing similar views on certain topics can be intimate. Being excited about an idea can be intimate. And sex for sure can be intimate.

And therefore, when monogamous people insist on the exclusivity of sex I see it as an indirect declaration that sex is the only thing that matters in a relationship. I think sex is important, but by far not the only thing that is important.

So, when we see that restricting sexual intercourse is an indirect attempt to restrict intimacy a large array of problems come into light.

If someone takes seriously the idea of restricting the intimate connections that their partner has with other people, there is far a lot more than just sex that needs to be restricted. A simple conversation can be intimate, and how are you going to control that? Are you going to prohibit your partner from having meaningful conversations with other people?

Let's say a couple had a rule that they are not allowed to have deep meaningful conversations with other people in order to restrict intimate connections. What is the definition of a "deep meaningful conversation"?

For example, you can sit with someone and talk about something mundane... Like say, the weather. Let's imagine the following conversation:

- "Hey, the weather is nice today."
- "Yes, it is a lovely day today."
- "Did you watch the news? Do you have any idea how the weather is going to be tomorrow?"
- "Yeah, it is going to have some light rain tomorrow!"
- "Yay, I love rainy weather!"
- "Me too. Why is it that you love rainy weather?"
- "I just love going out in the rain. The feel of rain drops splashing my face is fantastic!"
- "Oh wow... I have the same feeling too... It's just so liberating!!"
- "Liberating... That's exactly the word I would describe that feeling!"

Looking at the conversation above, it might seem to some people to be about two people just conversing about the weather - nothing intimate about it. However, this conversation can be seen by some as an intimate conversation where people are sharing how they feel. A simple conversation like that can be the start of a great relationship, if the two people felt connected at a deep level, and sharing that attitude towards the rain had deep significance to them.

So, if you were in a monogamous relationship, how would you feel about your partner having that conversation with someone else?!

What if the conversation took a deeper turn? Let's say the two people started talking about the weather, and ended up talking about their dreams and aspirations. Maybe they both were for example atheists, and created a connection when they both became honest about their views of something that goes deep into the human psyche like religion. Maybe even they shared stories of having to fight social pressure to conform to mainstream religion, and so they felt a deep intimate connection?!

What would you think of the following conversation:

- "Hey, the weather is nice today."
- "Yes, it is a lovely day today."
- "Did you watch the news? Do you have any idea how the weather is going to be tomorrow?"
- "Yeah, it is going to have some light rain tomorrow!"
- "Yay, I love rainy weather!"
- "Me too. Why is it that you love rainy weather?"
- "I just love going out in the rain. The feel of rain drops splashing my face is fantastic!"
- "Oh wow... I have the same feeling too... It's just so liberating!!"
- "Liberating... That's exactly the word I would describe that feeling!"
- "Do you know what else I find liberating?"
- "What?"
- "Being honest with other people."
- "I agree. And in that spirit, I want to share something with you about myself."
- "What is that?"
- "I am an atheist, and it plays a huge role in my views about life!"
- "I am not atheist, however I am an agnostic! But wow, that was a really brave thing to say, seeing how much atheists are frowned upon in our society. I face a lot of negative reactions about my agnosticism, to the point of being afraid to tell others that aspect of myself!"
- "I do too, however I felt a good connection with you, and so I felt at ease sharing that with you!"
- "Yes, me too. The feeling is mutual, I also feel ecstatic that we could share that about ourselves."

What do you think of THAT? Now imagine that instead of the conversation above, the following conversation happened:

- "Hey, the weather is nice today."
- "Yes, it is a lovely day today."
- "Did you watch the news? Do you have any idea how the weather is going to be tomorrow?"
- "Yeah, it is going to have some light rain tomorrow!"
- "Yay, I love rainy weather!"
- "Me too. Why is it that you love rainy weather?"
- "I just love going out in the rain. The feel of rain drops splashing my face is fantastic!"
- "Oh wow... I have the same feeling too... It's just so liberating!!"
- "Ouch, I am sorry. I have a girlfriend. I sense this conversation is becoming meaningful. I am not interested in any conversation that goes beyond 'That's a nice weather!'... I prefer to only have meaningful conversations with my girlfriend."

What do you think?

I personally would feel abhorred by such over-protective fear of human connections and intimacy, that people feel they have to sabotage any meaningful intimate connections with others.

In my view, sex is an advanced stage of such intimate connections. It's not much different than simply cutting of a conversation that have just become interesting and meaningful. Relationships by their nature advance as people become more accepting and in tune with the other person. So, whether you cut off the conversation just when it has become interesting, or cutting off a relationship just when you feel that sexual intimacy is just few inches away, it all about sabotaging and being afraid of intimate connections happening between people!!

It's just an arbitrary line drawn in the sand!!

Also, if you were a person in the business of disallowing their partner from intimate connections with other people. What is sufficient protection? Even a seemingly innocent conversation about the weather can turn out to have an intimate aspect to it. So, what are you going to do? Ban conversing altogether?!

So, it really does not make sense to think you can simply make a bunch of rules to restrict intimacy.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Human Core: Pansexuality, Polyamory, and Relationship Anarchy

There are three aspects of the human experience that exemplify it's core values: Love, sexuality, and relationships. In this post, I will address those most essential elements of the human experience.

Let's start with a few quick definitions before we delve into the subject.

Pansexuality is a term used to describe undiscriminating choice for sexual and\or romantic partners. Most people are familiar with the term "bisexuality", which includes both "homo" and "hetero" partners for sexual and\or romantic affairs. Pansexuality extends beyond bisexuality, to include the sexes that are usually referred to as "others", including -but not limited to- transsexuals (people who undergone a sex-change operation) and intersexes (people who don't fall in either male or female profiles). I have expressed my admiration for pansexuality in previous posts, like this one.

It is worth noting that pansexuals don't have to actually be attracted to that full spectrum. A pansexual might be someone who is in fact heterosexual, but refuses to identify with that label because they would not repress any attractions towards someone from the same sex (if it happened), although they realistically know that they may never feel such an attraction. The same logic also applies to homosexuals who may or may not experience heterosexual urges.

Relationship anarchy is the practice of forming relationships that are not bound by set rules. Relationship anarchy has strong connections with open relationships, although being distinct from open relationships. It differs from other relationship models by postulating that there need not be a formal distinction between different types of relationships. Relationship anarchists look at each relationship (romantic or otherwise) individually, as opposed to categorizing them according to societal norms such as 'just friends', 'in a relationship', 'in an open relationship', etc.

Polyamory is the belief that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time. I have addressed this topic on multiple occasions in this blog. What follows are three posts that discuss the concept of polyamory:
- Can You Love More Than One Person At The Same Time?
- Polyamory: The Ethical Problems of Monogamy
- Dissecting The Concept of Monogamy

The questions that are at the core of this post are: In what ways are those three concepts connected? What are the common values that those perspectives share? And why I believe that those three concepts work beautifully well together that there is a good chance that someone who subscribes to one is likely to subscribe to the others as well?

The first word that comes to mind to describe those three positions is fluidity! I believe that the common values go much deeper than that, but this is a good place to start. Pansexuality is about being fluid about your sexual preferences. A pansexual person is one who is not willing to limit his or her sexual preferences in a normative manner. This can to be contrasted with self-identified heterosexuals, who may have some homosexual urges, but choose to repress those urges in order to avoid a situation where they might have to question their sexual orientation. A pansexual would give themselves permission to act on their desire without feeling the need to question their attraction.

In a similar fashion, a relationship anarchist would not 'define' and consequently constrain their relationships with other people. They prefer to keep their relationships fluid, and hence lack the need to constrain themselves or others through rules, but even more importantly, roles!

And finally, let's address polyamory. Monogamy in this context can be seen as a limiting belief, that may cause a person to repress an emotional connection that is developing with another person, due to the fact that they believe that loving more than one person at the same time is somehow not 'real love'!! In the same way that a heterosexual might ignore feeling of attraction to someone of the same gender based on normative considerations, a monogamist might ignore an evolving emotional bond based on normative considerations of a similar nature.

Genuine Connectedness and Freedom of Expression:
In a very similar manner of understanding, those three concepts allow a person have have the freedom to express themselves, and allow others to express themselves openly and honestly. The outcome of an atmosphere of freedom is genuineness.

Since love, sexuality, and relationships are the most profound aspects of the human experience, the expression of those elements expresses the fundamental values of the personal identity. Our inner most values as humans are expressed through love, sex, and relationships. Any act that aims to censor or inhibit the free expression of those values hides away an aspect of our personal identify. The people we enter relationships with are a mirror to our inner most needs, desires, and values.

In order to maximize the genuineness of the interpersonal bonds with our fellow human beings, we need to maximize their ability to express their inner most selves genuinely without manipulation or censorship.

Pansexuality, polyamory, and relationship anarchy are effective tools to guarantee that yourself and others are free to express themselves in the most genuine manner...

Avoiding Self-Limiting Beliefs:
As has been explained in the previous section, adopting the social norms that create normative barriers to self-expression are self-limiting beliefs, that encourage the person holding those beliefs to not fully explore their inner-selves. It shuts down routes that may lead to experiencing life without any barriers.

However, it is my personal belief that the most gratifying relationships are with those who both are willing to be open and honest, and also have done the necessary self-reflection to actually know themselves deeply enough. After all, you cannot share your values if you have not done what is necessary to discover those values.

Acceptance and Celebrating Our Humanity:
Love, sex, and relationships are momentous experiences. Without them life would be dull, and frankly meaningless. When we experience love we feel joy. When we experience sex we feel joy. And when we have genuine relationships we feel joy. Any of those experiences calls for a celebration. It is a celebration that expresses our humanity. Humans are social creatures, and all those experiences exemplify the best aspects of our social selves.

Pansexuality, polyamory, and relationship anarchy demonstrates an acceptance and receptiveness to all those joys of life. It allows us to experience life to its fullest potential without having to feel guilt, shame, or internal conflict while expressing our values.

I shall quote from an article that expresses such concerns quite eloquently:
"[Monogamy] makes a person feel guilty about having a feeling that I consider to be one of the most important feelings of all. Our ability to connect with other people, to admire other people for their greatness, to be attracted to what we value (spiritually and physically), the ability to love – is probably our most vital characteristic in this life. Monogamy takes a somewhat controversial stance towards it – this property is considered wonderful in a person if he is single, but once he already has one romantic relationship, this very same property is labeled as extremely immoral and wrong. [...] So, basically, if you're in a monogamous relationship, and there's this other person that you realize is absolutely awesome, then you should feel somewhat guilty. You should reject this realization." (source)

And within this understanding, the goal is to celebrate our core human values without guilt or repression. To give ourselves and those we are in a relationship with the means to experience the joys of life.