Role of Privilege in Polyamorous Relationship Structures. [Image: Venn diagram. Male and couple privileges overlap as “We have a one-penis policy. My partners can have other women but not other men.” Male privilege overlaps with entitlement as “I get to have a harem, but none of my women can have anyone else.” Couple privilege and entitlement overlap as “We have veto power, because our relationship always comes first.” All three overlap as “We’re looking for an attractive bisexual woman to move in with us and to be with both of us exclusively. She will be lucky to share in all the love we have to offer her!”]
I was in a relationship once where my partner instituted a single-penis rule. I should have instituted a single-vagina rule, but instead I simply told him he was full of shit and promptly ignored his “rule”. I refuse to allow someone to tell me to discriminate against others based on body parts or gender identity (which is why that circle really should read “cis male privilege”).
Do bisexual men, pansexual masculine-identified people, or even anyone who isn’t a straight cis man or a bisexual cis woman - do any of these people even exist in poly communities? Or do we simply embrace what can seem “hot” and “normal” in a misguided attempt to fit in with mainstream culture. I get that it helps to look “normal” when trying to get civil rights owed us. Atheists have to constantly prove that we have morals. Latin@s have to constantly fight against looking undocumented (whatever that even looks like). Oppression sucks and “othering” stereotypes suck. But to establish a hierarchy of who holds rank within the poly community at large will lead to its own internal oppression and othering.
What bothers me most about the role of privilege in poly relationships, though, is how much ownership there is. There’s a clear hierarchy of who gets to tell whom what to do, be it man over woman, man over women, couple over woman, or any other examples that weren’t included in the chart. I’m not saying that people can’t establish a system of ownership that works for them. I am saying that people shouldn’t have a de facto system of ownership* with the notion that if they never write it down or discuss it then it doesn’t exist, and they can be Elite Independent Hierarchy-Free Enlightened Poly People! Ignoring your couple privilege makes you a Privilege Denying Dude, and if you don’t know what’s wrong with that, then you have much to learn, my padawan.
*(Do you own property together? You in effect own shares of stock in each other’s lives. Are you married? Look out, you REALLY own each other! If you can’t drop the other person today and walk away without a financial or social fall-out, you have a degree of ownership in each other’s lives. Again, this is okay if it’s what you want. Just acknowledge it for what it is instead of ignoring it, so that you can make more effective relationship decisions.)