(Click on the diagram to enlarge)
Hang on tight, kids. This is a long post.
Recently, blogger Franklin Veaux created a “Map of Non-Monogamy” which has been circulating around the internet and gaining popularity. Personally, I like it. Visual representations of complex concepts are always helpful. But that said, I do have some criticisms, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
First of all, I just want to say that I am a huge fan of Franklin Veaux, and have been for some time. His Map of Human Sexuality is, I think, one of the great achievements in sex education. I love his humorous writing style and I love that he puts his ideas out, even while he is still developing them, in order to get feedback and input from people.
Because I am such a big supporter, here are several links to some of his work:
All of that is really my way of showing that everything I am about to say is in no way reflective of anything but admiration and respect for a wonderful educator and brilliant man.
…Now having said that…
There are a few issues that I have with his map. If you haven’t looked at it up close yet, click here to do so.
The first thing that jumped out at me was how difficult is was to really tell where the boxes were. When the colors overlap, it becomes difficult to distinguish the borders. This wasn’t true of his early draft of the map, which you can find, along with his original thoughts here. When he attempted to define the borders better, he actually made it harder to read.
His choice to put the quotes around the edge was interesting, but again, it makes it difficult to read. In his Map of Human Sexuality, all of the labels were actually on the particular zone. It was simple to read and understand. I think he should have done something similar with this one.
Since the borders are hard to make out and the quotes are on the edge, it often makes it difficult to tell which label fits into which category. I had to make myself a little excel spreadsheet before writing this to be sure that I was looking at it all the right way.
Which leads me to the next issue…
The “Polyamorous Relationships” block and the “Swinging” block both have subsections, but the way they are labeled, makes the subsections seem separate somehow. For instance, any example which is in the Poly block, but not the “Open Relationships” block, falls into “Polyfidelity”. This creates other problems, but I’ll talk about that in a second.
He created some blocks that I really don’t think were necessary. I really don’t think it was necessary to have a “Unicorn Polyamory” section or a “Con Sex” section. The former is insulting and the latter seems like an inside joke. One of the quotes in the unicorn section is “We are looking for a third to complete our family.” I know a triad. They exist. Therefore it is not a “unicorn”. The con sex section seems to be limited to two jokes about “Dragon*Con” which describes itself as “the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!” Dragon*Con is noted for having a LOT of sex going on. In fact, whole web pages are devoted to helping people learn how to hook up there. But I don’t see how that is somehow different from the “Casual Sex” block.
For the most part, I think this is pretty accurate. But here’s a few of the things I would have placed differently:
“I’m bisexual, so I get one of each”
You will notice that this is the ONLY point that is purely under the polyfidelity category, implying that this quote is the definition of polyfidelity. But actually, I don’t think it even qualifies as polyfidelity on its own. Instead, I would have written, “In addition to each other, we each have one additional long-term relationship.” or something similar to distinguish that polyfidelity means multiple committed, serious relationships in a closed system (everyone knows everyone’s partners). That’s my definition anyway.
Which leads back to my problem about how polyfidelity is separated from polyamory. I don’t feel that there is any real distinction between the “open relationship” block and the “casual sex” block. In the former is the quote, “We can have sex with other people, as long as it’s just sex, no love” while in the casual sex block is the quote, “My wife and I like to hook up at raves.” Both of which indicate non-committed sex outside of the relationship. What’s more, the only real difference I see between swingers and casual sex is that you have a partner present for the former. So why not just make swinging a sub set of casual sex?
What’s more, I believe that casual-sex/swinging is diametrically opposed to polyamory. I don’t think there should be any overlap between the two. Veaux himself defines polyamory as “A polyamorous relationship is a romantic relationship that involves more than two people.” So how can he cross that with swinging, ever, when he also says, “Swingers focus on recreational sex, though friendships and deeper bonds may develop. With polyamory, deep relationships are the focus, though the sex is often fun.”
So basically, he says that Polyamory is defined by being “relationship focused” while swinging is defined as being “sex focused”. And while both may lead to the same destination, they are, by his own definitions, different. To put it another way, the two are separated by what they are willing to live without. A swinger is perfectly content to not have any romantic or emotional involvement with their partner, while a poly person is not. And a poly person may be willing to have a relationship without sex (like me), even if only for a while (think of dating before the sex barrier is breached), but a swinger would not.
Now you might say, “But Cross, couldn’t a person require both relationship AND sex from their partner.” Sure, but one or the other is the priority. A good way to know the difference is to ask yourself, if my partner was paralyzed tomorrow and we could never have sex again, would I stay with them. If you answered yes, then the relationship is your priority, if no, then sex is your priority. And that, if in reference to a secondary relationship, also determines whether you are more likely to identify as a poly person or a swinger.
This brings me to my last point on this subject, I feel that the quote “We’ve been swinging with Alice and Bob for 15 years. They almost feel like family” is misleading. Veaux, with this example, seems to imply that the way a relationship starts determines what it is forever. I disagree. Even if two couple start off swinging, it is possible that they could develop to a point where the relationship actually takes priority over the sex. At this point, in my opinion, it stops being swinging, and becomes poly. Again, see my definition above. And while each couple may also continue swinging with others, the relationship that the four of them have with each other is something different. And I am now going to move on from this point before I piss even more people off.
Next things I think was misplaced: “Cuckhold Fetish, need I say more?”
Where it is place, as hard as it is to tell exactly, is within the BDSM Play and D/s non-monogamy block, and nothing else. Making it one of the four pure definitions of this block on his map. But my question is this: How is that not an open relationship? The man has consented to a style of relationship in which his wife is allowed to have sex with others. For those of you who don’t know (and/or can’t google), a Cuckhold relationship is where the woman is dissatisfied with her husband’s performance in bed (or pretends that she is) and forces him to watch a “real man” have sex with her while he husband is deprived, often with chastity devices. Occasionally, the man is even forced to assist, either by finding the “real man” or by participating in the sex in ways other than intercourse. So, while that is unmistakably a D/s relationship, how is it somehow removed from being anything else on the grid? The same question goes for the other three x’s in the same area.
On last misplacement example: There is a block on the left side labeled “dating around” but the only example in it is also in the “cheating” block. The quote is “I never specifically said we weren’t exclusive. Never said we were, either.” To me, that is so vague that is becomes misleading. It almost seems to imply that anyone who has not strictly defined the parameters of their relationship is cheating. And I guess I really don’t have much else to say about that.
All in All
Overall, I like the map. I really do. It’s a cool idea and will help some people better understand, if nothing else, the complexity and variations that exist within the choice to waive monogamy. However, I believe that Veaux made the vital mistake of trying to define some zones by what people in that relationship style are allowed to do and others by what they aren’t allowed to do, and he defined some areas by intention alone, as opposed to restrictions or rules. As a result, the whole thing became much more complicated than it needed to be, and what is there, seems to be a bit off.
But that’s just my take on it. I am sure that other’s feel differently. But again, I can’t stress enough how much respect I have for him, and how thankful I am that he took on this project. Even though I think it’s flawed, it’s still a lot better than nothing, which is all we had before.