Steering the polyamory bandwagon

You may have seen the link from here to Alan’s excellent Polyamory in the News blog. Last week Alan commented on a very interesting article in Wired by Regina Lynn, Internet Pushes Polyamory to Its ‘Tipping Point’. The Wired article suggested that the term polyamory has swept to mainstream acceptance. Alan makes an important point following on from this:

People who push hard for years to get a bandwagon rolling are usually unprepared for what to do when the bandwagon finally starts to move… Unless the people with the original vision stop just shoving the rear bumper and run up and grab the steering wheel, pretty soon the bandwagon outruns them and leaves them behind. And their elation turns to horror as it starts careening downhill unguided, in disastrous unintended directions. And then wrecks itself spectacularly in a ditch…

So maybe it’s time for we poly activists to pay less attention to pushing the polyamory-awareness movement, and more to steering it.

Alan says we should be taking every opportunity to save the word polyamory from being cheapened, and should in particular:

Insist on the part of the definition that stresses respect and the “full knowledge and consent of all involved”

This is well said and timely. I have visions of, say, a woman on a reality TV show boasting that she are ‘polyamorous’ because she has had sex with several men recently, conveniently forgetting about the need to tell each man about the others. And the same woman would no doubt be be horrified if one of these men told her he has another partner. Save us from polyamory becoming a cool word!

But I have a feeling that this is inevitable and that the word will be misused. Alan has in fact posted some examples of its misuse last year. Yes, we poly activists should keep insisting that it is used correctly, but as an editor I know you can’t control how a word evolves, even when thousands of pedants are devoted to keeping the original meaning.

Where Open Fidelity comes in

Am I helping or hindering this process with my new term open fidelity?

On the minus side, a few people have accused me of muddying the waters by using a new term when polyamory would do just as well for most of what I am saying.

On the plus side, the term open fidelity is more easily grasped on first hearing and doesn’t need explanation, whereas polyamory usually needs a definition before the penny drops. And I feel that as the various types of ethical non-monogamous relationships become more widely discussed, it is useful to make distinctions (see my previous post on the different definitions for more on this).

It is precisely because I don’t want to dilute the definition of polyamory that I have chosen a new term to describe something related – but not identical – to it.

The important thing is that, like many others, I am doing my bit to tell the world that being monogamous isn’t the only way to be faithful, and that honest open relationships and multiple loving relationships are possible. The more of us that do that, whatever terminology we use, the better.

What do you think? Which term do you use for your own relationship(s), and do you think having both terms is useful? And what can we do to keep the meanings of both terms clear?

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