We talk about a lot of different kinds of relationships on this site but we’ve never really spent much time talking about polyamory. We have recced fanfics and there have been OT3s on our Valentines lists, but we have never focused our attention on polyamory or polyamorous relationships. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
Polyamory is something that people, at least in the Western world, seem hesitant to discuss or even mention. There are a couple different reasons for this.
Since Christianity became the dominant power in the Western world, monogamy has been the hard and fast rule. Not that other religions don’t support or demand monogamy, but the rules and morality of Christianity govern Western society in many ways. In Christianity, marriage is only seen as licit when it is between one man and one woman, so the idea of being with multiple people is seen as sinful. Now, obviously this wasn’t always the case. The Bible particularly provides us of many examples of different marriages, many of which involve multiple people, but that in part, is also why people are uncomfortable with polyamory.
Marriages and relationships between more than two people have historically been shown as unpleasant. Whether it’s one person cheating on two people, or several women and one man (polygamy), and even occasionally one woman and several men (polyandry), these institutions, much like traditional (one man/one woman) marriages, often have problems with sexism. Perhaps they have been wrongly judged as more sexist than traditional marriage, after all it’s not like women in monogamous marriages weren’t controlled and even owned by their husbands, but it is true that historically marriages involving more than one person tend to favor men more than anything. And of course, being in a relationship with multiple people without their consent or the knowledge of the others is incredibly problematic. But it is important to know that this is not polyamory.
Polyamory is consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy. It is a relationship between one person and two or more people. It’s different from the above relationships because all parties involved know about each other and each person has full autonomy and equality in the relationship. A polyamorous relationship can be one that is an open one, or it can be a committed relationship between three or more people. Furthermore, such relationships can be between multiple men and women, or only men, or only women, unlike polygamy or polyandry.
I think perhaps that is why people are so unlikely to discuss or represent polyamory in media. If polyamory can be done in a way that is ethical and consensual, then it is really no different from and no better or worse than traditional monogamous relationships. Monogamy isn’t the only option people have, and while I think that scares some people and maybe makes others uncomfortable, it is a legitimate life choice no different or worse than any other.
Now, we know some of the cultural reasons why we never see polyamory in the media, but it seems to me that pop culture could benefit from more polyamory. Sex sells, as people often like to say, and while I hate how sexualized everything is in our current media, you would think the more attractive people having sex the better, right? But much like with other issues of equality and representation, part of the problem isn’t just prejudice, but tropes and other predictable plotlines. What is the most predictable plotline? The love triangle. If three people in a love triangle just end up all together and happy, that might seem like a let-down and even lessen the tension if two of the people in the love triangle don’t hate each other.
But especially with so little representation for people in polyamorous relationships, I think the love triangle could be improved upon. Imagine seeing yet another annoying love triangle and having all kinds of tension between the three characters, only to have them all end up together at the end. At the very least, it could be unexpected and different.
Even besides love triangles, having more polyamorous relationships would allow writers to explore different relationship dynamics, romances, and problems. Imagine how some of your favorite OT3s would look if they were actually allowed to exist. Instead of the weird tension between Scott, Isaac, and Allison from Teen Wolf, what if they were just able to all start dating? It would create so many interesting conflicts. Think about what Chris Argent would have to say about his daughter dating not one but two werewolves, or Stiles making annoyed comments about how he has no one but Scott has two people, or Isaac finally feeling like he has a family in Scott and Allison. Really, when you think about it, any headcanon you might have for an OT3 is probably not that much different from any you have for an OTP. While an OT3 relationship may have some different issues or problems to confront in the relationship, at the end of the day, people in polyamorous relationships are no different than people in monogamous ones. People in polyamorous relationships exist and deserve representation, and if it’s accurately represented and makes for interesting storytelling, then why shouldn’t there be more?