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.