Andrea Zanin wrote a lovely article about polynormativity. It was as validating and refreshing for me as it was thought provoking.
I am positively delighted that there are intelligent, well-spoken, and outspoken educators and leaders that are tackling this topic — I have broached this topic on many an occasion within my own circles, but my priorities are such that my impact is minimal compared to Andrea’s.
I am in broad agreement with most of Andrea’s points. Additionally, in my experience, people do not subscribe to normativity because ignorance or oppression are exciting ways to lead life; people subscribe to normativity because they do not have the resources needed to go against the flow, buck the cultural norm, or speak out in unwelcoming circles.
That is, normativity, of every kind (that I have observed) either currently provides protection to those who subscribe to it, or it historically did so and now remains as a vestige.
For example, in a society whole survival fundamentally depends on its reproductive rate, I am hardly surprised to see emergence of heteronormativity — because heterosexual couples did (until less than a hundred years ago) have a profound reproductive advantage over homosexual couples. Fortunately, this teensy-weensy biological constraint is being dismantled with technology in all sorts of exciting and mind-blowing ways and foreseeably confusing ways, and most developed countries are having enough babies that they aren‘t worried about a reproductive collapse. Given that, I can only hope that it will take us less time to dismantle heteronormative social norms and legal barriers than it has to dismantle heterosexual reproductive privilege.
If I assume that a particular brand of normativity offers its adherents — whether they are conscious of it or not — some protection, my next question is: what protection? And in this particular case, how do poly-normative people benefit from following it?
My best guess is that deep introspection of personal relationships and non-adherence to prevalent relationship scripts requires a tremendous level of readily available mental health resources.
It’s — I think — fair to assume that anyone wishing to practice polyamory today would be automatically limiting their mental health resources. For one, many therapists are not poly-friendly, or even poly-aware.
Furthermore, religion has been a common source of therapy for many years; only recently has this been shifting to more science-based mental healthcare, and only among the more privileged. It has not been exactly poly-friendly either.
And if you don’t have a deep well of mental healthcare on hand, or you do not have the money to pay for it, or you don’t have the time to fit it into your life, or you have internalized shame about therapy… it’s just so much more attractive — and sane — to find a script, any script, that points in the right direction, than it is to attempt to figure it out on your own.
This also means — as far as I can tell — that the path to improvement rests precisely with internet celebrities, spiritual counselors, educators, and other community leaders. They have tremendous privilege with which they can offset others’ disprivilege. I believe Andrea is one of those people, and has been doing this; I hope that she continues to educate the world about kink and poly.
To the rest, I say: if you are too tired to deeply introspect the structure of your relationships and rewrite scripts that are being screamed at you every moment of your days, it’s OK. I hope you have the resources to better your lives and the lives of those around you.