What Does Polyamory Look Like?: Polydiverse Patterns of Loving and Living in Modern Polyamorous Relationships
By: Mim Chapman, PhD
iUniverse, 139 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4502-2008-8 (pbk)
Yesterday I bought and read the eBook: What Does Polyamory Look Like? by Mim Chapman, the co-author of G-Spot and published in August of 2010. It is a relatively small book but packed with interesting and possibly useful information for the new-comer to Polyamory or the seasoned Polyamorous person seeking a refresher or some deeper understanding of the complexities of the Life. ( I hesitate to say “Lifestyle” as it is used so often by the Swinging community. Not that there is anything wrong with that!)
The book is broken up into a Forward, Introduction and 9 chapters. While a light read it is informative and well written. It is not as in-depth as The Ethical Slut or some other books on the subject but it covers some different ground not normally seen.
The premise of the book is to look at the different ways that Polyamory manifests itself in today’s Society. Chapman has broken down these forms in to five “types” of Polyamory and has used the acronym P.O.L.Y.S. to describe each. I will summarize each below. Each chapter on the individual forms of Poly is equipped with sections on Pros and Cons, Etiquette (mostly dealing with crucial communication issues), Contracts, and how each can morph into another form of Poly.
P: Plural Poly Pairs
The analogy here is of a Pair of individuals represented as two Porcupines (possibly another reference to the “P”) joined at the nose. The Pair is bonded and possibly started out Monogamous but are opening up their relationship to new interests. Each quill of the Porcupines represents an individual relationship outside of the pair. These individual interests may or may not know each other but, as with all honest Poly relationships, at least know of each other. Usually there is no interaction between the other outside Loves and they come and go as things progress. But the core is the original Pair. Mim discusses, as in each chapter, the pros and cons of this form of Poly as well as the etiquette required to sustain this Life. It is noted that this is usually how most Poly manifestations start as an intro into Polyamory.
O: Old Fashioned GROK
GROK is a term originating in the height of the Free Love Age where it references a Sensuous grouping of several people in a common goal or lifestyle (oops I said the word…) In the “O” form of Poly several, at least 4 people, or a Quad, are intimately linked together usually within the same house of self-made community. They may run a farm together or a Commune-like system. Each has a role within the grouping and the lines of relationships are blurred. Children are raised communally and resources are shared. New members are brought in through consensus. Usually there is little outside relationships.
L: The Loving Triad
While the most loosely associated letter in the group as it does not really graphically or alphabetically represent this form of Poly, the form, nonetheless is apt. She makes the observation that this grouping is normally referred to as a “V”, however makes the distinction that the “V” does not accurately represent the bond between the two ends of the “V”. This bond may or may not be sexual. In the Loving Triad all three are bonded in a union that loves and respects each other. They may live together and share the responsibilities of child rearing and household duties. (This is the form of Poly that our family is currently in.) The Loving Triad may easily morph into an “O” or split back into a “P” but is normally considered the most stable of forms of Poly.
Y: Yikes – Lots of Poly
This form is also referred to as a “Web” or “Network” whereby each partner(s) has another partner who has another partner(s) starting out as a “Y” formation. Graphically is resembles more of a tree or a Family Tree of relationships in which the Network all know of each other and may socialize together and usually have a core person or person that the whole “Tree” revolves around or who keeps track of the “Family Tree”. This form is usually spread across large distances and has the most free flowing interactions.
S: Sensuous Poly Snakes
Often referred to as a “Chain”, this is a linear form of Poly in which a couple each have a partner who has a partner and so on. Normally the ends of the “S” do not have partners but are open to the possibility. If this happens then the “S” just gets longer. As with other forms of Poly this relationship can morph into other forms such as a “Y” or, if all members of the “S” are close knit, it could change into an “O”. Also, if the end partners join then it could be referred to, in her words, as a “Daisy Chain” of relationships.
The final two chapters deal with the goals of a Poly person and in choosing which form above would be their ultimate relationship model. The last chapter deals with having fun and the need for Celebration and Joy to offset the amount of “work” it takes to maintain a successful Poly relationship.
Apart from the weak use of the letter “L” there are not many issues I have with this book. I do take exception to her definition of Polygamy, however, where she makes the assertion that all Polygamous forms are based on Patriarchal Control of the partners. Not only is this a misunderstanding of the definition of Polygamy (Many Spouses) it negates the value of a Polygamous relationship based upon Equality and Love that separates those practitioners from the often Religious and highly profiled cases of harmful Polygyny (Many Wives).
As a light read and a relatively informative take on Polyamory, this is a useful little book.