chapter  26
12 Pages

Love without Borders? Intimacy, Identity and the State of Compulsory Monogamy


Throughout my life somebody has always tried to set the boundaries of who and what I will be allowed to be [ . . . ]. What is common to these boundary lines is that their most destructive power lies in what I can be persuaded to do to myself-the walls of fear, shame, and guilt I can be encouraged to build in my own mind. [ . . . ] I am to hide myself, and hate myself, and never risk exposing what might be true about my life. I have learned through great sorrow that all systems of oppression feed on public silence and private terrorization. [ . . . ] For all of us, it is the public expression of desire that is embattled, any deviation from what we are supposed to want and be, how we are supposed to behave. (Dorothy Allison, 1995: p. 116-117)

The state is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently. (Gustav Landauer, 2005: p.165)

For some, non-monogamy or polyamory might be lifestyle choices, alternative sexual identities added to a growing list of sexual minorities: a proud, beautiful diversity or a range of shameful immoralities, depending on the eyes of the beholder. I can appreciate the appeal of political strategies based on stable identities: they fi t into dominant political structures and patterns of relationships; they offer an obvious route for expressing desires for dignity and understanding. I can even understand the temptation to label immoral the practices of others that I don’t understand, that I fi nd painful to witness. I’ve done it. My concern here is less to do with right or wrong and more about the placing of borders around the imagination.