"The Strange Credibility of Polyamory"
This site is named Polyamory in the News, so I haven't been calling attention to blogs. I'm making an exception for a major, thought-provoking essay by San Francisco queer activist and theorist Pepper Mint (his actual name). He just put it up on his freaksexual blog:
The Strange Credibility of Polyamory
Polyamory has a certain credibility these days. Media outlets interview poly people and actually present it with a positive spin.... While coming out as polyamorous can still lose you friends, often people turn out to be surprising supportive.... Moreover, the idea of polyamory seems to be hitting a cultural tipping point, where people are simply expected to know the word and the ideas behind it, with zero explanation....
I want to point out that the current credibility of polyamory is in fact odd.... We live in a culture that is still puritanical, where mere positive mention of masturbation is enough to have you removed from the Surgeon General’s office, where infidelity is grounds for impeachment....
Since polyamory is a basic rethinking of some primary structures in relationships and culture, you would think it would not be so readily accepted. We should be be getting more flak, more backlash, more hostility, more attempts to make us invisible. The fairly rapid spread of polyamorous ideology, and the relatively positive media and cultural responses to polyamory, are all a bit surprising to me.
The positive shine to polyamory does not seem to apply to other mixed-gender nonmonogamy movements, like communal marriage, swinging, open relationships, or BDSM-based nonmonogamy. The wide media exposure of polyamory does not seem to make sense, given that the actual numbers of practicing poly people are likely somewhat less than these other movements, and polyamory is not nearly as well-entrenched in the culture....
He analyzes several reasons for this "strange credibility," how we can use them to our benefit, and how we could lose them in the future. Read his whole article (Nov. 27, 2007).
Here are two additional explanations of my own:
1) “All the world loves a lover” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Romantic love brings out warm feelings in onlookers, including journalists, and we spend a lot of time talking about love with earnestness and idealism.
2) “Character is everything” (Andrew Carnegie and others). The poly movement and its spokespeople put great emphasis on honesty, responsible behavior, high ethical standards, self-improvement through hard relationship work, self-discipline in hard situations, owning your own shit, and the need to “Choose the difficult right over the easy wrong” (US Marine Corps).
This creates, or self-selects, a movement of high-quality people. Those who violate these standards hear about it from the community (brutally so when the discussion is online!); they find themselves left out of the community when their reputation gets around; and in any case they tend to fail at polyamory and hence disappear on their own.
The straight world notices these signs of good character in our movement and spokespeople, and tends to be at least grudgingly impressed.