Monday, February 13, 2012

Dan Savage on Monogamy: A Valentine's Day Toast in Honor of Slapstick Monogamy

I'm taking a break from cramming for the Quantitative-Hell sections of the GREs (since I will be taking the test next Monday as the final, sinister, portion in my process of applying to grad school) to comment on Dan Savage's Big Think video, "Why Monogamy is Ridiculous." Of course I began making comments below the video containing a bunch of nowhere questions - questions that will be neither read, considered nor answered. Then I thought, "Hey, why am I writing to THIS nowhere, when I have a very lovely Cunt Nowhere from and in which to write." So here I am, with you, in Cunt Nowhere. If you are reading this, then you are living proof that Cunt Nowhere is the place to be on Valentine's Day (kinda like a Camp Nowhere, in the Camp of V).

I went into it (the video, not Camp V) expecting to agree, philosophically, with Dan. I was actually surprised when, in the hours that followed, I was having some sort of visceral response to parts of his message. It was bothering me that it was bothering me. I wanted to be on board Dan Savage's bus with my "Monogamy is Malarkey" sign - because I do think honesty and openness are only really possible in an environment in which the fear wrought by possession and possessiveness are not present and I do think that monogamy is an institution largely destined to one of two results: impossibly grotesque layers and layers of omission and deception -OR- a whole lot of overcomplicated and repetitious cycles of wavering between indecision, unknowing and inaction. Destination Indecision is not so bad. Many lives have been lived and many great loves have been had in a state of unknowing.

As a matter of fiction (why ever claim fact?), we're always, whether or not in a monogamous relationship, in a state of perpetual unknowing. That's kind of the one thing we all know we have in common: that we don't know! Dan Savage's message neither addressed monogamy nor polyamory in a way that suited me; and I think that may be, ahem and gosh darn it, because of a sex difference. Maybe that's it. Maybe his message just didn't jibe with me because he was talking about it from a male perspective and I am (whoa, steady yourselves...) not a male. I cannot claim that Dan and I share divergent opinions on monogamy based on a sex difference, can I? I don't have a well-designed study in the works or completed to validate anything I am about to say. And I certainly do not want to claim that I represent ALL or ANY women OR ALL or ANY lesbians. I don't. I just represent Jess. But Jess represents Jess, and Jess has something to say! (When does Jess NOT have something to say? Please, Lawd, tell us when that day will come.)

Dan, I agree: monogamy is ridiculous. But, Dan, I have something else to say: SO IS Polyamory. For any monogamous relationship, even a rocky one with its occasional must-have indiscretion, to last forever -THAT, my friends, is pure shit (no, major diarrhea squirting out) directly from the anus of the bull. There is no forever. So what is it that monogamous partners intend when they "make a deal?" Is there a set time limit or expected time limit involved? In order for someone to say, "We did it. We had a successful monogamous relationship," does it have to end in naturally caused (aka non-homicidal) DEATH? What is a successful monogamous relationship? Is a monogamous relationship that lasts as long as Kim Kardashian's marriage to Kris Humphries lasted a successful monogamous relationship, or is it a slapstick monogamous relationship? Is it a failure because it ended after seventy-two days? Wait just a minute, now. Give those two kids a chance. Maybe the first fifty-five days were pure Hump-and-dash-ian bliss. Maybe they were the KKK (Kim Kardashian and Kris) Days of Euphoria. (I should inform you that I don't actually know one thing about these two individuals, except that they were married seventy-two days, thanks to the Google Gods.) Okay, forget Ms. Kardashian and her ex-husband and her ex-communication with THAT particular monogamy trial.

Instead, do this. Consider an imaginary nobody named Sam who met the (first and only) love of her life, Carol, at a refurbished soda fountain in Boston, a day before she had to be stationed in Uranus. Carol and Sam spent twenty four hours together in perfect bliss on the bench outside of the soda fountain. They shared root beer floats and sucked the cherries off of their stems on the bench at dusk; they made love on the bench in silence under Carol's Space Suit in the dark; they slept for an hour -ankle on ankle, hand in hand- with the cool air on their once-burning upper lips and the dew from the patch of grass in front of them on their toes at dawn. And then, without saying goodbye or commencing the union, Sam watched Carol march up into a spaceship. She watched the spaceship be propelled into the white abyss from a pyrotechnic mess below. Carol was gone. For good. She never returned from Uranus. She never heard from Sam and Sam never heard from her. They could not write each other across the universe.

Carol lived a celibate life on Uranus, and thought of Sam from time to time, until she died there of boredom. Sam visited the bench in front of the soda fountain every day for the rest of her life. She planted a pot of annuals in front of the bench and watched them, year after year, at each stage of their life-cycle. She kept a collection of hundreds of cherry stems inside an unusable vintage telescope that sat secure in its stand in front of her bedroom window. She watched the sky, from their bench and from bedroom window and from anywhere from which she could view the sky, and waited for Uranus to fall down from the screen of Night-and-Day, carrying Carol in its balloon of helium. Sam never married, never dated, never looked at another human being as anything at all. Sam thought of Carol. Sam thought of Carol, only. Loved Carol. Was devoted to Carol. Kept Carol close at night. Kept Carol close in morning. Sam was with Carol more than anyone could be with anyone else. Sam felt Carol. Sam yearned for Carol, and remained faithful to Carol for the entirety of her life - until Sam died of old, old, oooooold age. And when Sam died, she was thinking of Carol (no she didn't end up losing her memory from age-related diseases, her monogamy was so strong that it dis-empowered dementia).

Were Sam and Carol monogamous? Were they successfully monogamous? Were they eternally monogamous? Was Carol monogamous, by default? Was Sam more monogamous than Carol by virtue of the actions of her body or her heart or her mind? If Carol had been physically monogamous to Sam but had, again, fallen in love with a Uranus-born martian named Sal who did not return her human love; would Carol still have been monogamous to Sam? Would their lifelong monogamy have existed if Carol had not had to leave for Uranus? Is it monogamy if they don't do it while they are living together in the same house, let alone on the same planet? What is monogamy? Is it a clean slate? A record of only having one sexual partner? What about porn and fantasy? Can those exist in monogamy? If they can, then what else can exist within monogamy without it becoming something else.

For Dan Savage, monogamy can (and, perhaps, should) include the occasional misstep. Of course. Everyone trips over the very attractive hypocrisy dick in the middle of the road sometimes. In all seriousness, though, I want to ask Dan a few (dozen) questions. Is any occasional misstep (misfuck) okay? How many missteps are allowable? Where is the line? Where is the limit? Where is the line between monogamy and non-monogamy? I would say that what Dan describes as monogamy isn't really monogamy. And I'm not AGAINST in any way what Dan describes. I'm with Dan on the fact that monogamy is ridiculous. But if monogamy is having one sexual partner and a person, at ANY time, has more than one sexual partner - then it would seem logical to me to say that she or he is no longer monogamous. If that person is you, then you have a lot to think about. What do you do, if the cat's out of the bag and both you and your partner are aware of the transformation away from the original state of monogamy? I guess you start again, after the hiatus from monogamy, and again "try" to be monogamous until you, what, make the same mistake again?

It would seem to me that once you made THAT kind of mistake, then to make a similar one and another similar one would be decreasingly acceptable within the confines of one so-called monogamous relationship. When I say acceptable, I don't mean that it's less and less acceptable to the other partner (although there is THAT) but that it's less and less acceptable to monogamy itself. It's less and less MONOGAMY. It just isn't monogamy. I'm just not buying into the whole "it's not perfect, but it's still monogamy" stream of thought. So maybe Dan can keep trying to be monogamous while he "desperately wants to fuck the shit out of other people" and occasionally DOES fuck the shit out of other people; but I think instead of trying to broaden the definition of monogamy itself (the practice or state of being in a relationship with only one partner), Dan and his (actually very intelligent) ideas about monogamy should aim to create new language and constructs for relationships. Perhaps Dan should create a NEW kind of polyamory rather than trying to change the definition of monogamy. Because, as much as I agree with and like what Dan has to say, he is describing a polyamorous way of being.

Now, that having been said, I want to also say that, as a woman and a lesbian (not just any lesbian, The Jess Mason McFadden Lesbian), I just do NOT relate to the desire to fuck OR the language of fucking. I don't want ANYONE to fuck me. I don't want to FUCK anyone. Fuck is such an awful, violent sounding word. I only use it when I'm stressed or agitated - when I'm lashing out in a fit of rebellion. (Unlike "Cunt" which is a reclaimed word that is all about the Power Region of Power Put to Good Use.) All I can say is THANK GODDESS I have the freedom to never in my life be fucked. I would like to hear others within the feminist and lesbian communities respond to Dan's video and, more generically, to the subjects of monogamy and polyamory. I want to hear from the lesbian community about how lesbians feel about monogamy - do they feel it's as ridiculous as Dan feels it is. How do others, particularly members of the gay community, feel? It's time to talk about this. I want to hear feminist opinions on monogamy. I want to hear opinions on monogamy, period. Why do I always feel I am an island of sound surrounded by an ocean of silence?

Since I am here and available and carrying a cunt diatribe in my carrier bag, I'll briefly say a few cunt-felt words. I think of sexual expression as being one part of a larger picture of erotic and romantic love. If I were to fantasize the way Dan describes fantasizing, it would not involve wanting to fuck the shit out of anyone. It would involve tenderness, deeply felt love and caring. Erotic love, to me, is relating at an intense level. It's experiencing intimacy at an intense level with one or more others. Sex is not just sex, it's an act of nurturing and tenderness. I want to ask Dan: When you refer to wanting to fuck the shit out of other people, do you mean you want to find intimacy with them as well? Or you do you simply want a fucking experience in which erotic love and intimate sensuality have no part? If I went out and fucked the shit out of another person, I would only be doing it if there was shared tenderness involved. I guess I'm just not a fucker.

Are tenderness and caring antithetical to what Dan calls fucking? I think they are. To me, the word implies a kind of violence and hostility. Maybe that's why a fuck-up (a slip-up...of fucking) works in Dan's relationship - because it can be separated from the deep love and sharing of the main, intense "monogamous" relationship between the "monogamous" couple. If monogamy, for Dan, is the practice or state of having an EMOTIONAL relationship with one person - then perhaps he is truly monogamous (according to that definition). Maybe Dan should make another video in which he talks about emotional versus sexual monogamy. Maybe it will work for Dan and his partner to be emotionally monogamous but sexually polyamorous. And I do feel polyamory is not an accurate way of describing purely sexual relationships because the word, "polyamory," itself implies that some form of LOVE is involved.

I think even if Dan (and I) make a distinction between emotional and sexual/physical monogamy, we're still going to go down a slippery (!) slope together (well, not -together- but, you know...). What if you are emotionally monogamous with your partner and enjoying a wild night of shit-splitting fucking with another person - and you ...uhhhh, accidentally, happen to blurt out, "Oh my god, I love you so much" during the ins and outs of the fucking. What if you are fucking and saying things like "Oh yeah, oh yeah, go deeper, go deeper" and you ACCIDENTALLY follow it with, "You are the sexiest fucking guy I've ever fucked. Oh, oh, Baby, FUCK THE SHIT OUT OF ME. You're amazing. You're the best fuck ever. You. Oh. You. You. You. I love you." Is that all just part of the moment of fucking? Is it acceptable? Does it stay within the realm of sexual monogamy or is it infringing on the emotional monogamy? Would Dan's partner be okay with silence and screams during fucking but not with Fucking's verbal overtures and vocal accompaniments? I wonder. Somethings, I think, have to be all or nothing. I think monogamy might be one of those things. Either be monogamous and call it monogamy or be polyamorous and call it polyamory. Oh wait, that's equally as difficult. I guess, according to the definition, you can fantasize all you want -as long as you don't act on it- and still be monogamous. But that just doesn't sit right with me. I guess everything that leads up to the sexual act itself can be negotiated between the couple.

Once the sexual act with an "outsider" is commenced, monogamy is over. It sounds far too strict and ridiculous, I know. But, like Dan says, monogamy is Ridiculous (with a capital R). Every thing any human has ever come up with is, to someone at some time or another, ridiculous. Monogamy works until it no longer works for a couple - even if it is a lie, even if it is a guise, even if it doesn't fit (remember: it never fits). Polyamory, while also ridiculous (with a lowercase r) because it comes from the terribly flawed institution of monogamy and from the terribly flawed race of human beings, is the lesser of the two evils. It is, according to my good friend, Wikipedia, the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Monogamy fits into polyamory without dismantling it. I'm afraid I cannot say the same is true for polyamory. It cannot fit into monogamy without dismantling it. I do not believe any of us is, by nature, monogamous.

Monogamy is NOT a nature. It's a form of relating, a man-made institution that was created, as Dan alluded to in his video, to control women and prevent them from assuming equal roles with men. Polyamory is also a system, and it speaks to part of human nature - the part that makes it possible for each of us to feel love for more than one person in our lifetimes and to experience different forms of love for different people. Polyamory is no more of a Utopia than is monogamy because humans are SO imperfect. What about jealously and possessiveness? Will polyamory eradicate them? I do doubt it. It may make them significantly less prevalent. It will undoubtedly make honesty more possible. But we still have to deal with the one thing we just cannot avoid: ourselves. While I enjoy engaging in critical thought as a result of Dan Savage's poignant and thought-provoking and incredibly honest commentary on the Cause that Never Was (monogamy), I recognize, more than anything else, that it isn't what we say that matters - it's how we live. So, cheers, Dan. And cheers to you, your lovers and your fuckers (and to me, my lovers and my mothers). Cheers to my cunt, too. Cheers all around. The toast has been made, the sip has been swallowed. At the end of the day, we all give up the discourse and give ourselves to our dreams - in which monogamy can neither construct nor deconstruct us. Go to your dreams and be whoever you are there, fuck whomever you want there, love whomever you love there. Meet someone you least expect there. Go there, and be free from all of this. All of this impossible nonsense. Experience love in the moment, just as it was meant to be, without interpretation. I can only hope for the same for myself.

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