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If you venture into the polyamory community for long enough, eventually you will encounter someone who says "Polyamory is good because no one person can meet all of your needs. With poly, I can find different people who meet different needs, and so be happier."

That line of reasoning has always bugged the hell out of me. It seems to me that there is something deeply, profoundly wrong with this argument, but I've never really been able to articulate what.

Today, while pondering an entirely different question, it occurred to me. We are, through biology or socialization or both, prone to viewing romantic partners as need fulfillment machines. When we have a need, be it for companionship or for sex or for someone to process with or for someone to (God help us) go bowling with, we look to our partners to meet those needs.

Which is fine, as far as it goes. Indeed, one of the greatest things about being in a romantic relationship is having someone to turn to, someone to co-create with and to be inspired by, someone who will help us as we build our lives.

But it gets a little messed up, I think, when we start with the assumption that our partners are obligated to meet our needs--that that's what they are there for, and if our needs aren't being met, our partners have done something wrong.




A lot of folks say that you can never truly be friends with members of the opposite sex. In addition to being extremely heteronormative (does that mean a gay man can't ever truly be friends with another gay man? That a bisexual woman can't truly be friends with anyone?), it speaks, I think, to the notion that we tend to view folks through the lens of need fulfillment objects. For instance, there is a common (and misogynistic) narrative that says driving need of men is sex; any man who befriends a woman is, somewhere in his mind, doing so with the expectation that at some point he can get her to fill that need. I could write a book on how profoundly twisted that idea is, but that will have to wait for another time.

I think there are also signs of this objectification in the expectations for the way people behave after a romantic breakup. When a relationship--especially a sexual relationship--ends, there's a social expectation that the people involved will revile each other; ex-partners who are on good terms with one another tend to be treated as something of an aberrant curiosity, like something we should be looking at from behind a roped-off area in a circus sideshow somewhere. Part of that is certainly that the ending of a relationship can be painful, and we are not really taught how to process emotional pain well; but part of it does point to the notion that if we break up with someone, it's because that person failed in his or her duties to meet our needs, and why would we want to keep them around? After all, isn't that a bit like hanging on to a broken toaster or something?

It seems obvious to me how a partner who is treated as a human being rather than a need fulfillment machine is still valuable even if one's needs aren't currently being serviced, but it also feels to me like this is something of a minority opinion.

The tacit view of a partner as a need fulfillment machine explains the way people often deal with problems in a relationship. Many relationships are predicated on the notion that if Alice is involved with Bob, and Bob needs something (particularly if Bob has an emotional need), it is perfectly acceptable for Bob to not only ask for it from Alice but to demand it--and pitch a fit if he doesn't get it.

The need-based argument for poly ("one person can't really meet all my needs, so I have more than one!") is a direct statement of the notion that partners are need fulfillment machines. It assumes as a subtext that getting someone to meet your needs for you is the entire purpose of a romantic relationship, and if one romantic relationship isn't enough, you turn to more than one.




My sweetie zaiah says that kids who go to sex-segregated schools are more likely to treat people of the opposite sex as a kind of faceless, undifferentiated Other than kids who don't. I don't know if that's true or not, but it does seem that adults who see members of the opposite sex as The Other also seem more likely to treat their partners as need fulfillment machines than adults who don't. Bookstore shelves are groaning under the weight of books that try to paint members of the opposite sex as The Other, some strange alien that you interface with in order to get your needs met, but who aren't really fully individuated human beings. The Game, The Rules, Why Men Love Bitches...people are drawn to these books to help them puzzle out the mysteries of the user interfaces on these strange, otherworldly things that the can't understand but nevertheless feel like they need. And from my perspective, it all feels more than a little fucked up.

Now, we don't talk about it directly, oh no. We pretend that objectification is bad--the notion that objectification is wrong is writ into most of the arguments against pornography, for example--yet at the same time we are strongly conditioned to do the most objectification right where it's closest to home, in our own romantic relationships. "I am in this relationship because I have needs. It is my partner's job to meet those needs. A partner who doesn't fulfill my needs is as useless as a broken toaster."




This happens to some extent in a wide variety of interpersonal relationships, but it seems especially acute in romantic relationships. If we need to go bowling and for whatever reason our friend isn't available, that isn't likely to get the same kind of response that we might have if we need something from a partner and the partner isn't available. For whatever reason, it seems that we are socially more predisposed to see our friends as fully and individually human than we are our partners.

In polyamorous relationships, the extent to which many folks seem to want to give their partners any measure of freedom only in direct proportion to how quickly we can yank the leash back if they aren't doing their job fulfilling our needs. I've seen people place all sorts of limits on their partners' behavior that seem calculated to make sure that all these external, secondary relationships do not ever impinge on our partner's utility as a need fulfillment machine; the instant some external relationship comes between one's need and the ability of one's partner to fill that need immediately, look out.

I call this the Magic Genital Effect--the notion that sex changes the game in such a way that the person we're having sex with is somehow less human, less deserving of autonomy, less able to negotiate around complexities, or otherwise less worthy of being treated as an individual human being an someone whose genitals we aren't rubbing.




I recently saw a brilliant example of the Magic Genital Effect in a poly forum I sometimes read. A person in that forum argued that a big problem with polyamory is that the secondary will eventually want to be recognized as an equal partner, and that's bad because it might cause disruption in the "primary couple" and in the primary couple's social circle if they have friends who aren't poly. He argued that an existing couple has a history together, and anything that might cause disruption to that is bad and must be avoided.

My take on that is that disruption is a part of life. Nobody ever has a relationship in which everything works with 100% smoothness 100% of the time. There are many, many stressors that can cause disruption in a relationship: losing a job, moving, being promoted, an illness or accident, anything. We develop skills for dealing with disruption, we talk about things when we feel out of kilter, we work together with our partner to get through difficulties or changes in the relationship--this is what makes a partnership.

And I asked the question, would you feel that it was bad for a couple who had a child to have another? After all, the existing child already has a history; the arrival of a new child can and quite likely will cause disruption. Things will change. Dynamics will shift. The old way will be disrupted. Why is that bad? What would we think of someone who says you should never have two children because it might disrupt things for the first child?

The answer, perhaps predictably, was "Primary and Secondary lovers cannot be compared to first born, second born because the love shared is not the same."

This is fascinating to me. It's the Magic Genitals Effect writ large; changes in one's family life are not the same if we aren't rubbing genitals. The notion that we might change the family dynamic and trust that we can deal with, work through, and communicate about disruption that occurs is totally taken off the table as soon as the genitals come out.




This goes back to the idea of partners as need fulfillment machines, I think. What makes the genitals special? We tend, rightly or wrongly, to think of rubbing genitals in the context of romantic relationships. Why do we assume that disruption is automatically bad in cases that involve genital-rubbing than in cases that don't? Because the genital-rubbing part is one of the key pieces of seeing a partner as a machine for fulfilling our needs. In addition to their other utility in serving other needs, our partners are primarily objects for meeting our sexual needs, and if they aren't doing that (for whatever reason) they are broken. Something is wrong. You don't negotiate with your toaster if it isn't toasting bread correctly; it would be absurd even to think that you and your toaster have a relationship in which a disruption in toast-making is something that you each work through through mutual conversation. Why does the "but that's different" argument work when the magic genitals come out? Because we tend, I think, to be predisposed to seeing sex partners as need fulfillment machines, and to believe that if they aren't filling our needs, they're doing something wrong.

That's the problem, at least as I see it. I'm not sure what the solution is.


Comments

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much_ado
Jul. 5th, 2012 12:04 am (UTC)
This...

This... is...

This is so fucking brilliant I... have no words.
mellyjc
Jul. 5th, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
Perhaps it's my rationalization talking, but I think there's a fine line between acknowledgment that "I have needs" that I prefer another human fulfill and "my partner is required to meet my needs". Certainly it's easy to fall into the granted-taking of partners that they are frequently there for that. I've actually observed, I think, granted-taking as the desirable piece in a relationship for some, and there was all this offense taken when a request was made. Not that he didn't want to meet the request, just offense that partner felt the need to ask for it.

There's the functional piece of needs that need to get met somehow, and perhaps a view of gratitude of having places to meet those needs, that, I like to think, doesn't necessarily make the partner a need-fulfilling machine. Yes, not good to see people that way, but how much worse is it to not even acknowledge one's needs and still make those demands?

Given, I'm of the crowd that's baffled by the idea of NOT being friends with exes after breakup, because clearly they had value in my life besides genitals for me to go out with them. The majority of my friends are also of the opposite sex, and even in talking with them I struggle to not be offended by men who, once they learn I'm monogamously committed, suddenly lose interest in being just friends. To me that means they really only had interest in my genitals in the first place AND lied about it.

In such a materialistic society I think the reason we complain rather than simply throw out the 'broken machine'...as well as get so upset about it, is because of the perception of intentionality. That the machine chooses to be broken. It CAN serve its function, but "if you really loved me, you'd want to do this to make me happy.." Certainly a broken machine who may have desire to fulfill its purpose even if it no longer can, is sometimes perceived differently.
bminstrel
Jul. 5th, 2012 09:15 am (UTC)
I think we also suffer from the bad workman blaming his tools effect. If the relationship didn't work it must be because they were faulty, otherwise we might have to accept some sort of responsibility for it in ourselves and find some way to learn, change and improve. And that's daunting.

Better to buy a new toaster and rant at our friends about how every one of our toasters has burst into the flames if we forget to empty the crumb tray.
(no subject) - mellyjc - Jul. 5th, 2012 06:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidlnoble - Jul. 7th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mellyjc - Jul. 7th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Jul. 9th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mellyjc - Jul. 9th, 2012 09:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Jul. 5th, 2012 02:41 am (UTC)
Then why have a partner?
So if we don't have partners to fulfill needs, why do we have them?
horsetraveller
Jul. 5th, 2012 11:53 am (UTC)
Re: Then why have a partner?
When you've had a break-up and are living by yourself for a while, you come up with an answer for that.
Re: Then why have a partner? - stevenredd - Jul. 5th, 2012 09:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Then why have a partner? - benndragon - Jul. 6th, 2012 02:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Then why have a partner? - (Anonymous) - Jul. 12th, 2012 12:43 am (UTC) - Expand
lastmx
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:25 am (UTC)
Good essay
Interesting take on things. I'm not poly, but you've given me a new lens to look at my relationships (past and present) through.
bminstrel
Jul. 5th, 2012 09:06 am (UTC)
Needs and Obligations
I'm going to start by defending the "one partner can't meet all my needs," line, which I admit I sometimes use as a clumsy shorthand. Simply put, I don't think any of my partners are obligated to meet my needs any more than this glass of water is obligated to quench my thirst.

I do have needs¹, but it's up to me to find a situation in which they're being met. It's not something I parcel up into little chunks of responsibility for other people.

Actually, as it happens, I am lucky enough to have people who want to meet my various needs and conveniently I also want to help meet theirs. That's because we're human beings, not just selfish need-machines. There is a difference between what we want or are prepared to give and what we are expected to give, but I don't think it nullifies the (admittedly badly worded) "No single person can meet all of my needs," line of reasoning.

¹ Or wants, desires, dreams... lots of vague labels.


On much of the rest of this, I agree (and could do verbosely but won't). I'll just say that the problem with genital-rubbing is that society has made it special and almost sacred, when it really isn't. Our conventions strangle our feelings and instincts and we end up in a confused muddle, but the attachment of aspects of morality to it makes it hard to talk about. And when you don't talk, you don't learn, and when you don't learn, you stand every chance of being an idiot ;)

vconaway
Jul. 6th, 2012 12:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Needs and Obligations
I really like your water metaphor.
Re: Needs and Obligations - tacit - Jul. 9th, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
nleseul
Jul. 5th, 2012 03:46 pm (UTC)
I think I'm obliged to point out that some people do have romantic relationships that don't involve genital-rubbing, and those relationships are just as prone to the fallacies you're talking about as those that do.

Really, I'd be more inclined to call this the "Magic Romance Effect," since romance actually is the magic undefinable element that, for most people, seems to inexplicably move relationships into the realm of Different™. The idea of rubbing genitals with multiple people seems to have gained some measure of acceptability today (see: swingers, friends-with-benefits), but those same people are still prone to freaking out when the possibility of being romantic with multiple people gets introduced.
mellyjc
Jul. 5th, 2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
Good point. This is true even of nonpoly, though, where a perfectly good FWB relationship falls to pieces when the idea of romance is suggested.
(no subject) - tacit - Jul. 9th, 2012 09:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
lifemovingfwd
Jul. 5th, 2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure that there's a real issue with the "magic genitals" as much as there is a deeper issue with the way we approach relationships. The magic genitals effect seems to appear after sex because that's when everything is "official" somehow... based on social standards.

Socially we are taught that we go into a relationship to get something out of it. It doesn't matter what the relationship is, be it a job, a romantic involvement, a one night stand, or child-rearing. It's actually terribly co-dependent in nature, to expect anyone to meet any need without explicit agreement.

If your partner says to you, "I will be there when you need me most" and then fails to appear when your favorite relative dies, then they have failed not only to meet your need, but to fulfill their promise and obligation. Yes, we have a responsibility, an obligation, to provide our support to our partners. That's called being a good partner. However, if your partner says to you, "I'll be here for you, but please don't ever ask me to go to a hospital because I can't stand them." Then you shouldn't have an expectation that your partner will be there at the hospital with you.

What I've witnessed over time is that in many cases, we don't listen to our partners. She says, "I don't like jewelry that much." He says, "I really want to watch a game on Sundays." She says, "I can never give up my career, it's too important." He says, "I never want to get married." He goes off and buys her rings and bracelets and such. She gets mad when he spends Sundays watching the game. He expects her to turn into a housewife, she expects him to have a big church wedding and sign the papers. It's like we want toasters but we're just not willing to listen when the targeted toaster says "I'm a blender!" Then we blame the other person instead of admitting that we were being a bit dense and not accepting that we didn't get what we wanted because we didn't pick what we wanted. I think this is really what's happening, far more than objectification of our partners. I think what's really happening is that we're expecting people to be what we decided they are (known in psych as projection) and then having the gall to feel hurt when they are still themselves instead of who we decided that they are.

Here's what I think a piece of the solution is. First, sort yourself out. Get therapy if you need to, but get a grip on yourself and your mind/heart. Understand what you want. Develop the ability to accept people AS THEY ARE. You're not going to change them! Accept yourself AS YOU ARE. I think that has to be a big part of the solution. If you're in a place like that, people who're objectifying their partners won't really have much chance with you, and you won't be prone to objectifying them.
radiantbaby
Jul. 9th, 2012 09:20 am (UTC)
What I've witnessed over time is that in many cases, we don't listen to our partners. She says, "I don't like jewelry that much." He says, "I really want to watch a game on Sundays." She says, "I can never give up my career, it's too important." He says, "I never want to get married." He goes off and buys her rings and bracelets and such. She gets mad when he spends Sundays watching the game. He expects her to turn into a housewife, she expects him to have a big church wedding and sign the papers. It's like we want toasters but we're just not willing to listen when the targeted toaster says "I'm a blender!" Then we blame the other person instead of admitting that we were being a bit dense and not accepting that we didn't get what we wanted because we didn't pick what we wanted. I think this is really what's happening, far more than objectification of our partners. I think what's really happening is that we're expecting people to be what we decided they are (known in psych as projection) and then having the gall to feel hurt when they are still themselves instead of who we decided that they are.

This encapsulates my thoughts perfectly on the subject. Yes!
kitwench
Jul. 5th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
"The answer, perhaps predictably, was "Primary and Secondary lovers cannot be compared to first born, second born because the love shared is not the same."

This is fascinating to me. It's the Magic Genitals Effect writ large; changes in one's family life are not the same if we aren't rubbing genitals. "

It's love that's the problem.
The love shared ?
No, no no.
Power.
The *power* shared is not the same.

1 kid or 5, they don't get a say in the primary relationship unless permitted and no one is surprised that the primary couple makes all of the decisions including what decisions the children can or can't make.

But a third functioning adult ?
Well- that's not a love issue, that's a power issue.
serina_ds
Jul. 6th, 2012 11:16 am (UTC)
That's a really good point, and one I'd not thought about in that way before. You put it well - when I've used the 'you can love multiple children, why can't you love multiple people?' question, they just say 'children are different' without explaining why.

This will really help me work it out in my head. Thank you.
(no subject) - davidlnoble - Jul. 7th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
luminescnece
Jul. 5th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
Need fulfilment machines yes thank you for that concept.
I feel strongly about the idea of partners as need fulfilment machines because that simple term puts words to an... ethos I have sort of been taught by my parents and come to on my own, that is for some reason, not comprehensible to all people around me.

All people on this planet perceive it in their own way. They take in stimulus from the world around them (which is given to many people at once usually) and filter it through their own perceptions and come to their understanding of it. They filter their understanding through their way of communicating to get it out into the world.

Others filter a person's communication/expression/action through their own perceptions and come to an understanding of what they were meant to perceive. They then filter that through their own way of communicating back to the world around them to be perceived.

What amazes me in all this is that any of us in this disjointed, bass ackwards, multiply disadvantaged, isolated, overcrowded, deafened and hyperstimulated society can understand each other in any way. But I've gone off topic a little.

Because we're all doing this at every given moment and usually it works out ok, we don't always seem to be actively aware that all the other cogs we're interacting with think that they too are cranks in the steampunk mechanical civilization analogy I've just made.

Every other person in the world is trying to get out of it what they want for themselves. If they want to help others, they're super nice... but most of them want to help themselves in one way or another, usually without the intent to harm. We are all our own need fulfilment machines and some of us work better than others, some of us are better at getting others to think we are need fulfilment machines for them.

I think that people are always searching for need fulfilment machines in whatever capacity they find them. The last year of my life has basically been all about how to avoid and catch when someone is trying to make you their need fulfilment machine.

Being someone's need fulfilment machine is ... delightful. I think that's what draws me to poly most because I'm damned good at being a need fulfilment machine. I am clever, empathetic, understanding and super fun. I am also super messed up and have a self image so poor it flies in the face of what I empirically know about myself. I'm about half way through healing from the damage of bullying most severe in school plus some other things that weren't helped by having no stable personal foundation to draw strength from.

I desire the feeling I get from helping people understand things about themselves, come to terms with things and be stronger, happier and more healthy because of it. I crave the feeling I get from being the one people rely on and look to. When I can help someone when no one else can or will I fly over the moon on elation.

Tl;Dr (on the above paragraph because its silly). Its addictive on both sides. Having someone that will dedicate themselves to your cause makes your life way easier and its fun.

Where I come into trouble is that I can do too much for too many people and have extremely poor boundaries meaning that I end up experiencing too much need at once way too often. Then people who have gotten used to me as their need fulfilment machine start getting angry at me that I am not their need fulfilment machine.

I try as hard as I can to keep my commitments but there are times when I'm not available for new ones. Getting angry at me for not being available to you because I'm doing something for someone else I love dearly is kind of ... My relationships don't last through that level of disregard for me. And I'm not talking about partners. I'm talking about friends. I was bullied and the effect for me was that friends are psychotically important to me. I don't really have casual friendships by choice (thanks facebook). Effectively I have many relationships but only one of them is of the genital rubbing persuasion.
luminescnece
Jul. 5th, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
Holy crows, character limits!
Well now.

Basically I approach all my relationships with the intent that if I feel a person fits with me and my other friends they are worthy of the attention I would lavish on those I love. The people that remain in my life understand that I can't be everything for everyone all the time and that in addition to my own issues I have lots of folks in my life.

The only thing I truly have control over is myself, and where I chose to put my considerable ability and what I chose to do with it is my free choice. I go where I am needed and where I need to go. Sometimes I go where my problems force me and sometimes I go where I am forced, but not for long.
kawakiisakazuki
Jul. 5th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
It's not a lie that "no one person can meet all of your needs" nor that "different people can meet different needs" nor that "one can be happier by having more needs met". But unless "needs" in this context refers strictly to a set of sexual kinks so diverse that no one person could possibly satisfy them all, it seems dubious whether there's added benefit for the people one might turn to for those different relationship needs to also be fuckbuddies.

I agree with you that it's creepy to think of a partner as "kink-number-5-fulfilling machine", but on another level I also have a feeling that one could phrase anything and everything in term of "needs" and then cast everything in life - and life itself - as a needs-fulfilling machine and make it sound all cynical and reductionist...
dreamsinanime
Jul. 5th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
SO many messed up things you dug up but this one takes the cake:

"A person in that forum argued that a big problem with polyamory is that the secondary will eventually want to be recognized as an equal partner, and that's bad because it might cause disruption in the "primary couple"... "

*raises eyebrow* HOW is this different from monogamy again? This sounds like the beginning of a line of reasoning to explain why polyamory is wrong. This person is undermining their own core beliefs but doesn't know it yet.
sweh
Jul. 5th, 2012 09:40 pm (UTC)
I don't know what posting or discussion prompted this; I can only respond to your words as written. Within the scope of these words I think you've got the wrong end of the stick. This is not about "need fulfilment machine". In my mind this maps to almost exactly the opposite.

I have needs and desires. You (generic third party "you") have needs and desires. Where these align we can mutually satisfy those needs.

That need might be companionship; it might be someone to go down the pub with; it might be a jogging partner; it might be sexual; it might be a debating challenger; it might be someone to discuss films with; it might be...

Why should I expect one person to do all these things? I have no right to demand from you which you are not willing to offer. I'm happy to go down the pub and drink beer and talk crap, but I'm sure not going on a 5 mile jog.

Anywhere else we would call these people "friends". There is very little considered wrong with having multiple friends.

Note that only once, so far, have I even gone near "sex" (however you define it). This isn't a sexual concept; it applies to mutual happiness across a range of activities.

So why should we consider "sex" and "sexual partner" differently? Why should we consider "relationship partner" differently?

To me, the concept "[p]olyamory is good because no one person can meet all of your needs. With poly, I can find different people who meet different needs, and so be happier" is simply an acknowledgement that not one person can be expected to match mutual needs across a complete spectrum.

The problem isn't_ that _this_ concept reduces people to "need fulfilment machines"; the problem is that the opposite expectation (one partner can meet all needs) fails to take into account the multi-faceted nature of humans.
tacit
Jul. 9th, 2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
To me, the concept "[p]olyamory is good because no one person can meet all of your needs. With poly, I can find different people who meet different needs, and so be happier" is simply an acknowledgement that not one person can be expected to match mutual needs across a complete spectrum.

The problem isn't_ that _this_ concept reduces people to "need fulfilment machines"; the problem is that the opposite expectation (one partner can meet all needs) fails to take into account the multi-faceted nature of humans.


The bugaboo comes down to expectation. While I think it is absolutely reasonable to say that people are complex and have many needs, and even to some extent1 say "I can negotiate with many different people to have as wide a range of my needs as possible be met," the bits I'm talking about--the idea of a "need fulfillment machine"--is the expectation that if I am in a romantic relationship with someone, it is somehow that person's job to meet my needs.

Now, if we negotiate mutually to take on roles to help meet one another's needs because that's what we want to do and that's what makes our relationships happy and vibrant, then that's awesome! That's what treating a partner as a person looks like to me.

But often, it seems to me that people start a romantic relationship and then expect the other person to meet their needs, without actually talking about it, and react if their needs aren't met as though the other person has done something wrong. That's where things go off the rails, I think.

1 I say 'to some extent' because in my experience, many--perhaps most--needs aren't transitive. If I need something from Alice and I get it from Betty, that doesn't necessarily mean I don't still need it from Alice.
khall
Jul. 5th, 2012 09:52 pm (UTC)
I think, once you start talking about primary and secondary partners, in anything other than a...reality of physical time spent together...you've already lost, because you're back in monogamy land. I have an SO who is married. Who I see once every other week. The idea that she's secondary, or that I'm her secondary is...subjectively true. But...objectively...it diminishes and...under-values the relationship in a way that I don't see or feel at all. It's just a relationship. And it means the world to me.

K.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 5th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Disclaimer... I am not currently poly, though I am certainly not averse to the idea (nor inexperienced at it for that matter, I lived a poly lifestyle quite happily for over a decade, and may return to it someday if the factors causing me to choose a different lifestyle ever change).

In any case, a number of poly friends linked this article today, and on reading it I found I wanted to comment and ask for a bit of clarification. While I agree with much of what you're saying on objectification, I think there is at least one oversight/omission, and I wouldn't mind hearing your thoughts on that if you're so inclined.

You're absolutely right in that I wouldn't expect a partner or combination of partners to take responsibility for fulfilling my needs. I can (and quite frankly prefer to) do that myself. What I don't see covered, and I wish was included, is scenarios where partners try to tell you *how* you can meet your needs (and by your comments on freedom and leashes I know you know that this does occasionally occur in the real world).

Taking magic genitals out of the picture... if I have a need to, say, go bowling once a week, and you are not interested in bowling with me, that's absolutely fine with me. I don't expect you to bowl with me if you don't want to, frankly when I'm with you I'd rather do things we will BOTH enjoy. However, if you tell me that you're not only not interested in bowling with me, but that you are ALSO not ok with me going bowling on my own or with other friends, that begins to become an issue. A disruption, as you say.

So when this disruption occurs, because I value our other interactions enough to want to find a resolution, we will talk and try to figure out the origin of that concern and see we can find a way to diffuse that concern, and/or whether there is a middle ground we can both live with. Why? Because you are NOT a broken toaster, you aren't required to like bowling, and I don't want you to bowl with me if you wouldn't enjoy it.

However, if that resolution or common ground can't be found, I may, in fact, end up concluding that you're the wrong amperage toaster for me (or pick whatever other toaster feature metaphor you like). And I don't think it's objectification, or treating a partner as a need-fulfillment machine, to come to that conclusion. You aren't required to meet my needs. You are, however, required to allow me to do so or you are not a suitable partner for me. I guess this is the critical point that I felt was lacking in the writeup (or maybe it was there and I just didn't grok it on first or second reading?).

Of course, having said all this, there's a flip side to this logic as well, and lots of grey areas. The toaster metaphor definitely becomes a bit more complex in areas where personal safety (real or perceived) comes into the picture, such as for example if one partner's "bowling" is something like "unprotected sex". (Ooh magic genitals! heh) I don't think it's unreasonable for a partner to consider something that could potentially risk their life or health to be a deal-breaker.

So I guess the toaster extension of the preceding para would be something like "you can run your toaster underwater if you want to, and if it shorts out I'm content to let that be your issue to deal with, but in order to continue toasting your bread in my house and as part of my life, we need to find a way to make sure your underwater toasting doesn't burn down my house"?

Ok my brain hurts now so I'll shut up. :)
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