Polyamory as a solution to society’s bowling alone problem

“I feel the familiar wash of anxiety about to launch me into the low-level panic typical of a graduate student in her dissertation year. Except I am no typical graduate student—I am a 56-year-old sex therapist turned cognitive neuroscientist whose day job is to study the human sexual response, and my dissertation is on genital stimulation and female orgasm.”

Donating Orgasms to Science

I like To be young and polyamorous in the age of OkCupid. It kind of illustrates how polyamory is a solution to society’s bowling alone problem. “Fine,” poly people say. “I’m supposed to believe that relationships with fucking are more important and meaningful than relationships without fucking? I’ll just fuck all my friends.”

The great thing about fucking your friends is that it belies that sex makes relationships special or special relationships make sex.

I am far less lonely when I’m dating less and friending more. Some of my friends I have sex with. I call some of the people I regularly bang my boyfriends because that’s a term people understand (even if they don’t get the plural). But it’s misleading as well, because it indicates that these relationships are different from friendship. They’re not.

Sex doesn’t put these people in a higher echelon of friends. There are people I have sex with who aren’t my boyfriends, and there are people I care about on the same level as my boyfriends who I don’t fuck. All “boyfriend” means is that it’s someone I’m fucking regularly who I am invested in emotionally.

I’m less lonely making friends than dating because dating, for me, was a lonely, disappointing endeavor. Dating was evaluating someone for something else. We take the sub-textual question “Is he relationship material?” for granted. It’s a trope. Is there an interaction which can be improved by adding the pressure to determine whether someone is worth investing in?

Dating was thinking about someone all the time but not texting them because interest equals lonely and lonely equals undesirable. Dating was trying to prove to someone I was worthy of their investment.

Friending, for me, has been a deeply fulfilling, connecting endeavor. Friending is accepting someone for who they are right now. Friending is providing value immediately in an effort to form bonds.

The difference, for me, between dating and friending isn’t sex. It’s goals and expectations.

I’m not saying dating is bad! If you’ve got dating figured out please spare me your comments about what an idiot I am and move the fuck on because my confessions are not for you. Clearly I was doing it wrong. But I do think that the percentage of people who complain about dating indicates I’m not the only one doing it wrong. Further, I’d even go as far as to say that people, on net, invest way too much time into dating and way too little time into deepening their friendships.

Is poly the solution to loneliness? Is beating someone unconscious a solution to overtalking?

One Comment

  1. Michael

    Nice take on a possible solution to the neurotic behaviors brought on by dating. You make a solid argument but it doesn’t have to be for poly but more so the differences in those relationships; dating vs friending. My takeaway is to just be friendlier and let the rest work itself out. I think living deliberately such as this is healtier for us and those we meet.

    I think that is the key. But poly it up if it makes you happy.

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