The counterfeit ‘honesty’ of polyamory


Is it culturally permissible to date monogamously while also visiting sex workers to enjoy an “expressive sex life”?

An anonymous letter writer recently posed this question in Slate magazine

“If there’s anything I’d want my new partner to understand,” the missive reads, “it’s that I believe seeing a sex worker can make me a better partner. . . . Getting certain sexual needs taken care of elsewhere would allow me to better focus my attention and invest in our relationship.”

Of course, it’s not just anonymous letter writers advocating for loosening cultural chastity belts. Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller recently wrote favorably about a related, albeit slightly different, form of openness: “polyamory,” which, he argues, “is going mainstream, like it or not.” Assuming that such open arrangements are in fact growing (and it’s worth noting the strong disagreement about the scope of the phenomenon), Miller and others tout polyamory, or consensual non-monogamy, as allowing more honesty regarding our true desires.

Polyamory “is not defined by sex but rather honesty,” writes one polyamorist in USA Today. Miller, in fact, characterizes polyamory as “radical honesty,” claiming that it allows once impermissible desires to be articulated and pursued more openly and truthfully.

This is perhaps one of the main arguments advanced by advocates of polyamory and consensual non-monogamy. After millennia of deceiving ourselves and others, we’re told, polyamory finally permits us to say what we really think and to act as we really feel.

Not attracted to your spouse anymore? Polyamory gives you license to say so and begin the conversation about moving from monogamous to “monogamish.” Want two partners instead of one, or three instead of two? Polyamory lets you be honest about that desire and to act accordingly.

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