I completely agree that getting to have this real exchange of ideas and perspectives is incredibly valuable and enjoyable to me as well. These are the kinds of conversations I love to have and don’t often get to. I hope that you won’t mind that I’m taking excerpts out of it to create a stand-alone story. Writing all of this out helped me to get further clarity around some of my positions and I wanted to put them together more cohesively. I’ve paraphrased some of the things you’ve said in response and referred to you as T. If you’d rather I quote directly and name you, I can certainly do that. Please let me know what you prefer.

And I thank you for further exposition about how you have gotten to the places that you have. I work in personal growth as a coach and have done so for close to 15 years, so I do understand quite well the things you’ve said about placing your focus, taking responsibility for your self, etc. But I also have a background in sociology and so that informs much of my point of view as well. Most people operate fairly unconsciously. For example, most racism and sexism is not overt — but it’s destructive none-the-less because it’s so insidiously hanging out in our subconscious minds, playing us like puppets from behind the scenes. Even people like me who have made it my business to examine my thoughts and points of view on a daily basis did not understand how many cultural narratives I/we were acting out related to marriage until we had to get a lot more intentional because there was no more road map.

You have mentioned that there have been times when you were acting out a certain role without you even noticing. I also take from your writings so far that you have never been married, and as was pointed out in the first study that I cited, way back at the beginning of this conversation, dating relationships don’t have the same level of societal baggage that marriage does. This is why non-marital break-ups are about 50/50 but women are overwhelmingly the ones to initiate divorce.

The beauty of no road map for us was in having to co-create our own path (yes, that term implies both parties actively participating) was we had to get a lot more vulnerable with each other, and to really take things to a new level of honesty. As I said, we had always been close and open with each other but none-the-less we told each other things we hadn’t in the past 20+ years, things that were kind of off the table due to the “rules” of marriage — rules that we had never consciously agreed to, but were bought into anyway. Of course beliefs can change. My husband and I are living testaments to that, but it’s very clear to me that our individual beliefs were informed by the society we grew up in. The US is a highly patriarchal society in many ways still (the stats I quoted before about lord and master views, for example). But more than the men over women aspect is the part that says that we must always be jousting with others for position and place. Once I saw how that infuses absolutely every aspect of our society and is the root of all of our social ills, it’s impossible not to unsee it. It’s what racism is about; it’s what sexual harassment is, etc.

This only coalesced for me in the past year or so after reading Riane Eisler’s book Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth and the Politics of the Body. I had read her classic, The Chalice and The Blade years ago, but this newer book built on that. Since then, other reading and study has further reinforced by beliefs.

“From Sumer to ancient Athens and Rome, medieval Europe, the Islamic world and traditional China, rigidly male-dominated societies, argues feminist historian Eisler (The Chalice and the Blade), relied on pain or the fear of it to maintain hierarchical relations of dominance and submission. Patriarchy, she believes, represses sexuality, distorts the natural bonds of erotic pleasure and love between men and women and diminishes women’s status. Drawing on archaeological evidence and Paleolithic and Neolithic art, Eisler argues that prehistoric societies were relatively free of the domination, exploitation and misogyny that have marked Western societies up to the present. She emphasizes that Christianity’s hostility toward sex and, particularly, women’s sexuality has conditioned men and women to accept coercion and repression. Discussing abusive child-rearing practices, genital mutilation, natural childbirth, abortion, sex education, the men’s movement, AIDS and much else, Eisler outlines a new sexual ethic that aligns pleasure with our capacity to feel and act empathically. Her visionary, passionate scholarship is a revealing psychosexual exploration of love and power relations.”

We cannot escape or remake our socialization, our habits, or our unconscious beliefs unless we do that intentionally and actively. And, it’s my belief that polyamory is a paradigm that encourages people to do that — mostly because each relationships is unique and so there are no preset rules to rely upon. Mainstream society is built around following the herd and even those of us who don’t think we are really doing that are probably doing it a lot more than we realize.

I’m not interested in being seen as right; I’m always open to new perspectives, but the one I currently hold has been honed over the past several years out of both scholarly works and personal experience, so unless someone can truly present something that demonstrates how I’ve erroneously synthesized all of that, I’m not likely to change. But as I said above, I’m very much enjoying getting to have this kind of thoughtful discussion, so in the end, it’s all good!

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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