Feminism Friday: Non-traditional relationships

When I dare to venture outside of the bubble I live in with my awesome open-minded friends – both on and offline – the amount of misogyny that crops up can be pretty baffling. We’re living in the twenty-first century now, yet some of these people act like it’s still 1950 and they don’t even realise they’re doing it. Seemingly small assumptions, remarks and actions can have a massive effect, even if it’s just to make you look like a douchebag. That’s why it’s always important for anyone who identifies as feminist to highlight any bullshit sexism they see/hear and make people think about it.

This week, the discussion of polyamory has been on my mind again, as the lovely Amanda has done a little bit more to increase awareness of non-traditional relationships by speaking to 4thought about her views on poly. Pondering what the reactions might be from people who watch it reminded me of the comments on This Morning when the topic was discussed, and the reaction to the Guardian piece that our photo accompanied… which has led me to a bit of a feminist rant.

Why is it that, if a woman is in a non-traditional relationship set-up where there is at least one male partner, many people assume that she’s being taken advantage of? We can explain until we’re blue in the face that this is all consensual, but these folk still assume that we’re deluding ourselves. Apparently, the man is getting all his needs fulfilled while us girls are secretly in tears that he’s shagging around. I guess it’s leftover from the classic idea that only men cheat in monogamous relationships (untrue) and that a heterosexual partnership automatically means that the man’s in charge.

Forgetting about gender for a second, do you really think that someone who says to the entire nation “this is how I live my life and it completely works for me” is lying? If a man said it, would you assume that he was telling the truth? If so, I would like to call you on your bullshit sexism. Now go to your room and think about what you’ve done.

Main image via Robert Ashworth‘s Flickr photostream. Photo of me taken by D of Delightfully Queer.

7 thoughts on “Feminism Friday: Non-traditional relationships

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  1. Yes. Yes. Yes.
    For *so many* reasons, YES!

    You're wonderful, lady. Thanks for posting (and thanks for the shout-out!)

    *proceeds to share this EVERYWHERE*

  2. Yes!! It's a bit like what seems to happen with some mainstream coverage of non-monogamous relationships, especially online newspaper articles (ahem). Reading the comments is a sad insight into a lot of people's instinctive reactions (all together now: Never Read The Comments).

    A fairly consistent one seems to be 'ah, but if anything goes wrong, if you get ill, you won't see these men for dust'. I feel genuinely sad for people for whom this is their first response to non-monogamous relationships – it suggests that they haven't had much experience with trustworthy friends or maybe even family. For the first thought that comes into your head to be 'they're going to screw you over in the end' – that suggests some pretty bad experiences with being let down 🙁

    Also it's a perfect example of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'. The article I'm thinking of, the interviewees all speak very candidly about their relationships, and included information about challenges they'd faced and how they'd overcome them – just as *anyone* in an established relationship of many years has stories about when it all went a bit sideways, and how they fixed it. And then a lot of commenters spoke glowingly of their own experiences of poly/open relationships/swinging/etc.

    And yet, the honesty shown by the women interviewed in particular was interpreted by many as 'proving' that these relationships don't really work, at the same time as the happy stories given by other commenters also 'proved' that they were lying and had something to hide, and were fooling themselves.

    And that's before we even get near the cod-evo-psych trotted out to 'prove' that all men just want to sleep around, and all women just want a rich and strong provider to help them raise babies. It's just biology, ladies, why fight it? *eyeroll*

  3. @closeenoughtoread

    Well put! I have to say, there were repeated attempts to steer my 4thought interview into those various traps but I think (hope!!) I managed to avoid them. It comes down to a matter of opinion vs prejudice. You can change someone's opinion with facts, time and experience – because opinions are rational. Prejudice is wholly irrational and based on an illogical circular argument that cannot, therefore, be broken by any amount of patient logic.
    It's sad, and difficult, but for these people: women are weak, men are bastards, and non monogamy highlights the worse of it. You might *think* you're happy – but you know he's just manipulated you to believe that so he can sleep around as well. Don't believe me? Tisk! Poor deluded little thing, you wait. It'll all end in tears.

    @Lori Yes, even you! 13 years you say? Longer than the average UK marriage, you say? .. Uh, yes, well.. keep waiting.. it WILL go horribly wrong. You looked a bit sad for a minute yesterday, that's PROOF it's a disaster really..


  4. Thanks for all the lovely comments so far, and the interesting discussion. I completely agree that it's sad when people's first reaction is that the relationship(s) will fail, as that's no way to live your life. Surely no one gets married thinking “I'll be divorced soon”, starts dating thinking “but he's just going to die one day” or moves in with a partner thinking “she's going to run off and leave me”? Where's the optimism, people?

    @Amanda – “You can change someone's opinion with facts, time and experience – because opinions are rational. Prejudice is wholly irrational and based on an illogical circular argument that cannot, therefore, be broken by any amount of patient logic” – So true, sadly.

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