I wish poly people would get off of this one too…

A quick summary of a recent Dan Savage podcast (Starting around 34:20):

A guy met a woman who he really likes; he’s ready to settle down and feels like they have a good connection. He had a relationship with her really good friend (and ex-roommate) about four years prior – it was totally a FWB relationship on both sides, that ended amicably. Turns out, the place that Current Datey Lady lives is the same apartment that Ex-Roommate FWB Lady and this guy banged together in. It seems that this is a weird situation that Current Datey Lady feels odd about. The caller wants to know what to do.

I love that Dan starts out with “You be like gay people about it”, meaning, as he says (to paraphrase) “The gay community is so small that there aren’t these rules about not being able to have relationships and/or sex with previous lovers and/or friends of previous lovers. You can’t demand that it’s a violation of your friendship because you rubbed genitals with someone that a friend dated first. There aren’t enough people around to call former squeezes ‘off limits'”.

Yes, yes, YES. Can we do this too? Like, everybody? Straight people, bi people, trans people, queer people, poly people, all the people? Can we please please please please please get off this idea that we have some kind of ownership over past partners and current friends that gives us a right to police their relationships? Because that’s what it is. It’s a form of ownership. It’s a form of control. It’s coercive. It’s gross. It’s objectifying. It turns people into things.

Dictating to our friends who they can and cannot date based on whether or not we have dated that person first is, to me, one of the most arrogant and controlling behaviors that is non-nonchalantly conformed to by much of society. I still vividly remember my first exposure to it – I didn’t really date in high school, so I had no exposure there. In college, our college was so small that my friend group didn’t have that rule either (I don’t think they were inclined by nature to be OK with that kind of bullshit either). But once I got out into the wider world and found out that this was one of those (largely unspoken) rules that friends understood, I was floored. Especially since the woman who clued me in on this rule was someone I’d previously believed to be a wonderful feminist who had excellent boundaries and would try to force a coercive behavior onto a friend.  And you know, she believed all of those things about herself too. When I protested, her attitude was very much that of an older sister cluing me in on the realities of life. Because, ya know, when you grow up, it’s a fact of life that one should just accept that friends and past lovers have the right to make decisions about who you’re permitted to date, amirite?

Prove me wrong, world. Really. All gang up on me and prove me wrong on that one. Please.

It’s a regret of mine that I didn’t strongly call her bullshit and see where the chips fell after that. But I was still pretty young (early twenties), and she was one of the few friends that I had in the area that was now living in (the area I still live in, but this happened shortly after I moved there). Also, being younger, I hadn’t yet mulled over various moral and coercive concerns to the degree that I have now, so I didn’t have the courage of my convictions that I have today.

Today, I call this relationship policing bullshit when I see it. It’s one of the reasons one of my past dating experiences ended without getting to know the person further. I’ve lost a few potential friends and romantic interests by making it clear that I have zero tolerance for relationship policing. To be clear, if someone came to me with concerns about me dating (or being friends with) a particular person, because that person had a history of abuse, or allegations of abuse, that would be a totally different matter, and a place where I would proceed with extreme caution (that kind of situation deserves a post of its own, to in far greater detail). But if the issue is simply that someone believes that part of being a good friend (or lover) means having any ability to police the relationships in my life, then we should part ways early on – I will not tolerate that kind of behavior in my life. And I will call it for what it is – controlling, coercive, and potentially abusive.


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polyamorist, cat-lover, hopeless optimist when I'm not being a firm realist.

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