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November 9th, 2004


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07:16 pm - *gets on soapbox* "Now, I'm not trying to offend, but watch me say something wrong and regret it!"
Over the past 10 years, I've been exposed to some interesting things in Paganism. One of the results of this is that I can pretty well take any new development with relatively little non-plus.

Every so often, though, I'm a bit surprised at things. I'd like to address two of them, because they've been on my mind recently for various reasons.

**Note: No, this isn't directed at anyone. It's just some observation to hopefully help people understand what I mean.

Polyamoury

It bothers a lot of people that I just don't get it. I don't understand polyamoury or the dynamics that cause/contribute to it/make it work. This leads a lot of people to think that I'm against poly relationships for all manner of silly reasons.

Let me start like this: I'm not poly. I'm not going to be poly. Yes, that means that even if you ask me three times in one week, I'm still not going to be poly. By the same token, what you do with your life is entirely up to you, and I encourage you to use it as you see fit. Just not on me.

My problem with poly doesn't come from the lifestyle. It comes from the people I've encountered who claim the poly lifestyle as their own. Over the past two-three years, I've met some genuinely caring, good people who were poly. Before that, I hadn't met any people who were poly who I really liked (at least, no one who told me that they were poly; I'd probably met some and didn't know it).

The reason I didn't like the people I'd met before is that I was in a relationship, and they wouldn't take "no". "No" meant, to them, that I was not being considerate of their poly lifestyle. To me, repeated attempts to get me to become poly, or to explain polyamoury without me asking them first showed that they weren't considerate of my wish to be monogamous with my girlfriend.

One girl, after asking me three times if I'd date her because "Tina would be okay with it" (despite the fact that I'd never asked Tina, nor did I really want to), asked me if I would date her if I wasn't with Tina. My response was quick, harsh, and possibly the meanest thing I've ever said to a person: "No, because I don't find you attractive." It wasn't necessarily true, but I was so fed up with her persistence and downright obstinance that I had to do something, and being mean was the only thing I hadn't tried.

I'm very free with my flirtations, but that's only because they don't mean anything. I enjoy flirting, and I like innuendo.

I think that people who are cool with their sexuality rock. I think that people who can love lots of people are probably very good people. Actually, I think that people, especially women, who are free and open with their sexuality are generally very strong people. But I also see some of these people as painting a rosey picture where there's something rotten beneath.

Most of the people I've met who are poly are interested in one thing: sex. I watched several of them seek out and eventually damage people emotionally just because they were hot. I've seen people who, rather than being accepting of another person's monogamy, have called that person "stupid" or "dangerous" or "not really Pagan". I watched polyamoury rip a local Grove apart at the seams. I'm convinced that I once saved a girl who was receiving unwelcome advances from rape.

That's what I've dealt with for years. A lot of this was men who called themselves poly, but acted contrary to what I understand poly to be all about. A couple of people on my friends list have convinced me, over time and over experience with them, that there are positive aspects to being poly. I know that not all persons who are poly are like that now. But for the first 7 years of my experience as a Pagan, that's the kind of person I met.

So if you wonder, just for a moment, why I don't necessarily understand poly relationships, that's why.

Senior Druids and Grove Members:

A few months ago, there was some commotion on the ADF-SD list regarding Senior Druids and their dating habits. Someone had posed the question of whether it was proper for an SD to date members of their Grove, and I was a bit shocked that the overwhelming answer to this was "yes", and that some people actually encouraged it.

I didn't reply there, because I had to think it through. It was one of those things where the answer isn't immediately obvious, and to bring it up now would be old hat, and a rehash. So I'm going to try to outline my thought process here, instead.

After thinking it over, I don't think that relationships among leadership of a Grove is a good idea. I know it works for lots of Groves, and lots of study groups, and lots of covens, but I don't think it's wise.

Of course, an established couple, be they husband/wife or simply long-term relationship, is very different than a few hookups. Still, there are considerations that I just can't get past.

First, it makes the SD no longer impartial. If a dispute arises that affects the other person (or persons) in the relationship, the SD is not going to have a clear view of what's going on. That alone is dangerous.

Second, it makes it hard for a single person in the Grove to gain say in matters. This is especially the case in smaller Groves. If the SD is involved with one person, that's one less person you can go to if you have a problem with the SD. ADF Groves are rarely large, and the loss of one person you can talk to is huge.

A poly relationship could make this even worse. You might have all three officers in one relationship, which suddenly makes it very difficult for a person to gain a voice. The thing about relationships is that they tend to form blocks. People become "other" to the relationship, and their opinion doesn't count as much, either because the people in the relationship don't care, or because they constantly hear the side of their lover(s) more often. Plus, it's easier to give in to your lover than to fight them.

One of the most damaging things, though, is the fact that when officers act together, though, their motives become shaded in the eyes of the rest of the Grove. When officers in a relationship send a joint email, the critical (or hurt) party will automatically fall back on, "I'll bet that X got Y to send that because they're sleeping together!" Decisions that were discussed in depth are written off as one person controlling the other through sex. That reaction can cost you half your Grove, if you let it fester.

Third, there's the whole "trust" thing that priests are supposed to have. If you start sleeping with your congregants, you need to be very careful of a few things: Are you sleeping with people who are looking for spiritual help? Are you taking advantage of their need for help? Does the person have the ability to say no to you? Will you still retain their trust after you've slept with them? Will you still retain the Grove's trust?

Fourth, you have to worry about driving people away after a messy breakup. If your SO is an ADF member, and you break up with them in such a way that they feel like they can't come back to your Grove, then they're stuck being solitary. Nothing is worse than suddenly not belonging, and if you can't return to your religion, something people should find solace in, then what can you turn to?

Finally, though, there's the danger that you'll get starfuckers. There are people out there who want to sleep with high-ranking people in any organization. Those people may or may not be looking for the power that comes along with that, but you need to watch for them. Starfuckers cause more burnout than anything outside of Pagan politics.

No one thinks that they're violating any rules when they do things that are fun, but I really think that, if I had to look for a new girlfriend, I would continue to look outside ADF, and certainly outside my Grove. My Grove trusts me, I hope, and I wouldn't want to damage that trust. I'm very much afraid that, if I did sleep with a Grove member, or even another person in ADF, I'd lose that trust.
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[User Picture]
From:aicerno
Date:November 9th, 2004 09:17 pm (UTC)
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One thing I've found in interacting with members of the poly community, and having a polyamorous relationship myself; is that like monogomy, it is not for everyone, and good communication skills are necessary in order to make it work. And even then you aren't going to guarantee yourself a stress-free relationship; but when the bumps and grinds do hit, it will make the transition through that period "relatively" easier. The problem with flirtation and innuendo is that sometimes the other party will want you to follow through with it; and what can seem to be innocuous flirting at the time could have profound consequences later. Though that's not to say that if one enjoys flirting that they should be discouraged; just some food for thought.

At polymatchmakers, an online group and connection service for members of the poly community that I belong to, I've counted no less than seven or ten different interpretations of what "poly" is... are you referring to polyfidelity, polyamory, or polygamy (and its internal offshoots: polyandry and polygyny)? And I've also noticed that what one person feels is giving a bad name to poly, another person feels that what they are experiencing are well within the established parameters. So, your mileage may vary.

As far as polyarmory goes; as a strict definition, it means "many loves," and the consensus I've picked up on (though I could be wrong) is that it applies equally to non-sexual love, as it does to sexual love. As a random question, how many times do you say "I love you" to a friend, family member, or lover? If so, on a technical/semantical level, then you're already engaging in polyamory; it's just a degree of intrepretation and association.

*Chuckling* Also from what I've noticed reading through the message boards at PMM, as well as through the discussion listings of ADF, and the boards at ACOD, and OBOD; the consensus of what poly is or isn't is almost if not as varied as what it means to be a Druid.

However, one thing most polys are agreed on, is that "no" means exactly that--with the minor exception some very bizarre S&M groups that have some other safe-word or action established to indicate the same concept. And anything that steps over bounds of that "no" is unethical behaviour. If one is trying to maintain good relationships, as well as communication, making someone do something that they are not amenable or agreeable towards is not going to help matters--if anything, it will only succede in deepening suspicions, hurts, angers, and keep wounds festering.

Regarding Clergy, romantic interludes, and grove membership: I would take the view that such should be treated in a like manner to intra-office romances. Although looking at some members of various protestant branches of the Christian tree, quite a few of their ministers establish long-lasting relationships from within the area that their congregation comes from and seem to have no ill result from it--granted I must make the plea that I do not know when or where those clergy who are married met their wives, but at the same time, it is not implausible for someone of such position (unless they're catholic) to marry someone from the congregation.

From a Celtic reconstructionist perspective, such a union would be good as it is making ties and bonding with the community that one has chosen to serve (although not necessarily a requirement). And instead of causing a divide, it can provide a pillar of strength.

And even with the best and most sound judgement, one will occassionally, if not often, miss the signs until review at a later time. Hindsight is after all twenty-twenty. In the interim, one must continually live in as forthright manner as they can, and do what needs to be done in observance and honoring the family, friends, lover/s, the tribe, the community, the ancestors, the spirits of place and nature, and the deities. We are not perfect, though we strive for perfection.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 12th, 2004 02:13 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I think that there are always things that will happen, and you're right: Protestents seem to do just fine with clergy having relationships with congregants. I do wonder, though, if part of that isn't due to them having more options: if you're uncomfortable going to the Zion UCC, you can go to the 4th Street UCC down the street. I don't know if Pagans have a similar option, really. Plus, there's the size of the congregation, and the ability to get lost in it, as well as the inability to claim your own spiritual authority and take half the church with you.

But I may be over-stating the case, too.

The more poly people I meet, the more I think I just ran into lots and lots of bad apples. :)

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