Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Sex with Parrots

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  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    I'm not even going to go into the fact that we don't assess hetero couples on their probability of happiness before allowing them to marry

    See, I wasn't going to go into the whole implication that I don't "really" love my partners. But this? This is the absolute essence. This is requiring that poly people undergo a marriage test (whether that's "sufficient affection" or "sufficient time/attention") that monogamous people don't. People might disapprove of loveless marriages, but they're not illegal. The spouse of a friend of mine spends half the year in Brazil. No-one told them they couldn't get married.

    Also. Both my marriage and my civil union have been non-monogamous. According to Stephen's graphs, therefore I surely shouldn't be allowed them, right?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    I know our marriage license would have been denied if I'd had to sit a test for it. 18? Pregnant? Together less than a year? Sorry sir, ma'am, come back when you've grown up.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    I'm not saying that I'm personally ready to see the list of forbidden marriages done away with altogether. But it could do with a revisit, and could perhaps allow for exceptions, perhaps via judicial order.

    Yeah, at least. For example, a couple in this situation should be allowed to marry.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1122 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Steve Parks,

    Yes, that's exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of.

    As far as the Glaister piece goes, say what now? Glaister's excuse for subjecting poly-marriage to greater tests than mono-marriage is that mono-marriage has a chance to succeed but poly-marriage just doesn't. This excuse is erroneous on its own, but also wrong because his arguments as to why poly-marriage doesn't have a chance don't wash. Quite apart from the assumption that a poly relationship would have only a single member of one gender, it also continues mono-assumptions about intimacy and relationships -i.e. the "dance-card" analogy, which carries the implicit assumption that you can only dance with one person at once; that intimacy can only occur or be fulfilling on a one-to-one basis. My extremely limited experience and/or observation (no, not intimate observation) of poly relationships and/or intimacy doesn't suggest either of these to be the case; and that at least some poly people might argue for the right to marry on the basis that for them, one-to-one intimacy is less emotionally fulfilling.

    Glaister glosses over this possiblity by stating that "there are reasons to doubt that many [cases of 'shared time'] exist", and glosses over what cases there may be as divisable into shorter periods of one-to-one time. At this point, if it wasn't before, I think it's pretty clear that he probably just doesn't understand poly relationships, so there doesn't seem much point in reading any further.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 225 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Glaister, in reply to James Butler,

    Thanks for your comments/queries, but my arguments have nothing to do with probability or with empirical rates of failure, rather I cast everything strictly at the level of logically and mathematically necessary features. See Section 2.4 of the Intrins Probs paper for discussion of this (and I return to the point from slightly different angles throughout the paper - see esp, the end of Section 4.2). And see Section 1 of the Ratios paper to catch me making exactly your kind of objection against people making the sort of argument you wrongly claim I am making. At any rate, I'd encourage you to take a look at my various attempts to anticipate and answer objections. I think you'll find yourself represented there, I hope fairly. I could say a lot more at this point but, really, it's all there in black and white, better than I can off-the-cuff paraphrase it. And until you're up to speed on my actual line of reasoning rather than shadow-boxing with stuff I specifically, repeatedly disavow, there'd be little point in my putting further machinery on the table.

    Would the availability of PA marriage change the probability of PARs forming, or of existing PARs ending in unfavourable (ie. societally costly) circumstances?

    Probably not (in both cases), but who knows? Certainly, in countries like NZ, where lots of law applies by default in de facto multi-partner situations, there shouldn't be huge practical differences +ve or -ve.

    Do formalized vs. informal PARs have different probabilities of being fulfilling? Are the costs to society of a formalized PAR ending in divorce any greater than those for an informal PAR, and even if so, is the difference in cost greater on average than the benefits of allowing PA marriage?

    The principal cost of allowing poly-marriage is conceptual: it wouldn't be true in that case that every marriage is an in principle locus for (has the potential to host) high-bandwidth fulfillment and intimacy for all parties to the arrangement. (Marriage extended to poly cases would be well on the way to being dissolved into a much looser category of caretaker relations and networks - which is what a lot of radicals want, of course! ) I don't think that there's any mechanical way to weigh conceptual costs and benefits - the costs and benefits of specific sorts of social intelligibility - against all other conceivable personal and practical costs and benefits. Compare: NZ's policy of allowing non-citizen, permanent residents to vote in national elections (but not to be representatives) is a huge conceptual loss for the country: NZ literally makes far less sense than it otherwise would (see my paper on that here). Doubtless there are a range of benefits to various people from the current policy, but they're hard to commensurate with the principled/conceptual difficulties that are characteristically my concern.

    Since Nov 2006 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Stephen Glaister,

    it wouldn't be true in that case that every marriage is an in principle locus for (has the potential to host) high-bandwidth fulfillment and intimacy for all parties to the arrangement.

    The section of your paper you refer us to, (2.4), includes the phrase "Our reasoning about these concepts will, however, be strongly informed by our understanding of basic facts about how the world, including the human world, actually works (e.g. that no one can be in two places at once, etc.)". I would argue that your understanding of how the human world works is limited, perhaps by your experience, but certainly by your assumptions (e.g. that it is necessary for someone to be in two places at once for PA marriage to work).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 225 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Stephen Glaister,

    Thanks for your comments/queries, but my arguments have nothing to do with probability or with empirical rates of failure, rather I cast everything strictly at the level of logically and mathematically necessary features.

    Instead of - bear with me, this is a bit of a leap - examining people's actual experiences of poly relationships, historical and current? I feel that sociology has just a wee bit more to offer here than mathematics.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Stephen Glaister,

    NZ’s policy of allowing non-citizen, permanent residents to vote in national elections (but not to be representatives) is a huge conceptual loss for the country

    The first 30 years of my life are a huge conceptual loss for New Zealand! Bummer.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    This is probably in Mono
    but has all the Stereotypes...

    Too soon?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4202 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    No, no, Lucy, I think you'll find that human relationships can in fact all be reduced to mathematics, especially geometry. And building inspectors, apparently. Though I did 'specially like the bit where it said that polygamous marriage could theoretically work if (basically) one spouse was dominant and all the others subordinate. But not otherwise. I think I might have to stop engaging with this guy now before I descend into ERASPO (Exhausted Rage at Stupid People Online).

    Incidentally, and entirely off-topic, did you also get Lucy Two-Shoes? Lucy Lastic? You picked a fine time to leave me loose-wheel? And of course "Lucy in the sky with diamonds"? The last one got particularly dull, but I quite liked Lucy Two-Shoes.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 225 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Stephen Glaister,

    which is what a lot of radicals want, of course!

    please explain

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15716 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Incidentally, and entirely off-topic, did you also get Lucy Two-Shoes? Lucy Lastic? You picked a fine time to leave me loose-wheel? And of course "Lucy in the sky with diamonds"? The last one got particularly dull, but I quite liked Lucy Two-Shoes.

    None of those; I think because a) my middle name was far more mock-worthy and b) there were enough other Lucys that it wasn't perceived as an unusual name. Also I probably wasn't paying attention. But one of my mother's friends did persist in calling me "Lucinda", which irked me greatly.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Stephen: I shouldn't really comment, since I haven't read your articles, and I'm the last one to complain about over-intellectualising or seeing everything as mathematics. But I'm pretty sure that phrases such as "logically and mathematically necessary features", "conceptual costs and benefits" and "an in principle locus for (has the potential to host) high-bandwidth fulfillment" are not the most useful way to talk about loving and fucking.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1037 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    but certainly by your assumptions (e.g. that it is necessary for someone to be in two places at once for PA marriage to work).

    Yeah. Only being able to be in one place at once does NOT equal only being able to be with one partner at a time. My first poly relationship, we initially worked on a schedule, but after a while we shifted to all cohabiting, and occasionally co-sleeping. I had a very dear net-friend who was in a genuinely triangular relationship with two other men. They all always slept together. Time spent with one was not time taken from another. It's not necessarily a zero-sum game. And it'd be my assumption that the kind of people who want a group marriage are the kind who are, for instance, already all cohabiting, and living their lives jointly.

    Poly people are really aware of the demands and delicacy of trying to share time and attention. Love is infinite, time is not. I think they're more aware of it, generally, than people who find themselves pushed juggling their monogamous relationship and their job, or their kids, or their other commitments.

    But one of my mother's friends did persist in calling me "Lucinda", which irked me greatly.

    One of my mother's friends persistently called me Emma-Jane. That's not my name.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Right, deep breath. I've gone all the way through your "Intrinsic Problems" article, Stephen, and while the graph theory is intriguing (it's been a long time since I studied, and only to about stage 3, so I probably missed some subtleties), I think the whole argument is fundamentally flawed by your basic assumptions.

    It starts with a "background conception of what marriage is - preeminently that it's a voluntary love relationship with high degrees of personal fulfillment and intimacy as its normal aspiration". That's not a definition of marriage, it's a definition of love. "Marriage" is a legal construct that extends a range of rights and responsibilities to (a subset of) people who enter into such voluntary love relationship (VLRs), should they so choose. While you rightly say that in all but fraudulent cases (such as marriages purely for immigration or student loan purposes), people who get married have a VLR, not everyone in a VLR chooses the rights and responsibilities of marriage (presuming they are allowed), for instance because they're not interested in sharing property or having children. Also, your definition includes brief but intense flings as well as platonic friendships and familial relationships.

    So, the rest of the article constitutes not of an argument against poly marriage per se, but against the possibility that VLRs can deliver "high degrees of personal fulfillment and intimacy". You consider this a prerequisite for a "marriage-like" relationship, and that thus relationships structurally incapable of delivering this fulfillment should not be given the legal status of marriage - a highly debatable point in itself, but one I won't go into. The core of your graph-theoretical analysis aims to show that any relationship where n>2 cannot deliver the "high degrees of personal fulfillment and intimacy" that can occur when n=2.

    The vital assumption behind this is in 3.1, where you write "their normal expectations for fulfillment and intimacy, analyzed in the first instance just in terms of time elapsed ... are guaranteed to go unmet". As far as I could see, all of your analysis uses time elapsed as a proxy for fulfillment and intimacy, and there seems to be no "second instance" where you seriously examine any other dimensions. And equating fulfillment and intimacy with time spent is just utterly, stonkingly, face-palmingly wrong. There's a strong correlation in most cases, but it's so far from a clean linear relationship that the clean algebra of your argument becomes useless. And that's even assuming that intimacy can be quantified, which I doubt.

    Another flaw is the underlying assumption of equivalence; the idea of "normal expectations". Whose normal expectations? Yours? Everyone has different expectations of the quantity and (vitally important) the qualities of their interactions with their intimate partners. All of your calculations and decimal labelling ignore this.

    Despite the veneer of mathematical rigour, your arguments often come down to personal preferences, prejudice or flat-out denial. You claim that "significant irreducible shared time is impossible" based upon the statement "it's very hard to believe that two or more relationships with the depth of marriages can be conducted substantially, let alone exclusively in parallel time and in a shared space". That's not an argument, it's an admission of your lack of imagination. If you don't believe in hyper-edges and shared time, I've some RedTube links I could give you. You follow Neitzsche's comparison of a marriage to a conversation, then state that any conversation with more than two people must have "less depth". Boy, you must be a riot at dinner parties.

    All this would be fine if it were just ethico-mathematical sophistry for the sake of it; a diverting game of arguing about how many angels can get married on the head of a pin. But you seem to be making a serious argument, and suggesting that legal rights should be denied to certain people on this basis, in which case your dismissal of empiricism at the expense of "conceptual" costs and benefits is unforgivable. If you want to construct a mathematical argument for a legal position, make sure you get your axioms right. And if your axioms are about "personal fulfillment and intimacy" for people who might want a poly marriage, then you can bloody well start by asking some poly people what fulfillment and intimacy mean to them.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1037 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    It would be really interesting to hear from a New Zealander who's currently in a polyamorous relationship, especially a long-term one.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1822 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Tom Beard,

    I'd like to say I'm in a bit of a voluntary love relationship with Tom Beard's post of 2.43pm. Purely platonic, of course.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1122 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    It would be really interesting to hear from a New Zealander who's currently in a polyamorous relationship, especially a long-term one.

    I have just linked to this comment thread from a discussion on polyamory on a NZ-specific board at FetLife. I think the people with appropriate experience here have opened up about as far as they can.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Steve Parks,

    Thank you. My post is open to many voluntary love relationships, though of course the more people that love it, the less fulfillment and intimacy each of you will feel.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1037 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Beard,

    You follow Neitzsche's comparison of a marriage to a conversation, then state that any conversation with more than two people must have "less depth". Boy, you must be a riot at dinner parties.

    Tom, I, too, have feelings for your post.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17941 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Tom, I, too, have feelings for your post.

    We have wood!
    Bugger decorum,
    we have a quorum,
    a splinter group
    perhaps?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4202 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    I would like to pursue a VLR with Tom's newly-coined term "VLR".

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to James Butler,

    Tom's newly-coined term "VLR"

    Also with added vowels
    it could fly as Volare
    or soar as Valuer

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4202 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to James Butler,

    meta

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15716 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Bob also seems to be woefully underinformed about the actual state of spousal law in Canada. He keeps citing the polygamy case in British Columbia brought by that province against Bountiful, a schismatic "Mormon" polygamist sect that broke away from the main Latter Day Saints back in 1890 over guess what. Anyway, the BC Supreme Court evaluated whether the anti-polygamy Section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code was unconstitutional according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Given that Bountiful had major problems with spousal violence and child marriage/pedophilia, they decided against upsetting that particular kettle of fish and upheld the legitimacy of Section 293.

    They also distinguished polyamory from polygamy, stating that polyamory was at least egalitarian, consensual and non-institutionalised, unlike its evil counterpart polygynous polygamy. Therefore, polyamory is legal in Canada. For more information about Canadian polyamory...

    http://www.polyadvocacy.ca

    Craig Y

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 354 posts Report Reply

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