Labels can give us quick information and orient us as to what someone’s sexual lifestyle is but they also can limit freedom and fluidity. While I recognize that it is necessary to have titles for different states, I prefer to think of myself as “sexual”. If people want to know how I set up my love life, they can sit and talk to me for five minutes. But I know this isn’t always realistic so I do sometimes resort to the labels. The usefulness of labels is that you can make quick assumptions about people without asking lots of questions. But this is also the problem of labels– they allow for quick sound bites that may or may not be accurate.
The other hazard of labels is that people start changing their behavior to fit the labels so that they can still get the support of that particular community. This is the most hazardous aspect of labeling our lifestyles’. In my opinion there isn’t a superior way of doing relationship; monogamy and polyamory are both great places to be. No one way of doing things works the best for everyone. I am wary of the rigidly hip of polyamory—who believe it is a superior state and who feel that it must be rigidly defined. They use definitions to decipher being in the club or out of the club. This rigidly hip attitude runs on the assumption that there is a “correct” way to set things up and we must find that way and adhere to it.
But the conversation about sexuality and our choices is so much more nuanced. When I set up a duplex situation with my husband of twenty five years, (he lived next door with his new girlfriend, I lived on the other side of the house with my new lover) some people said it wasn’t poly because my husband and I were no longer sexual. But what we labeled our situation was much less important than the situation itself. It was a brilliant creative solution, allowing us to co-parent together while creating chosen family. To my mind it was polyamorous, which by its direct translation is about the choice to “love many”. But frankly I didn’t care what we called it—I was just excited to find a unique set up that worked.
When we become rigid in our definitions and thinking about our sexuality we start to lose fluidity—and that is my greatest interest in this world of innovative relationships. If we approach “loving many” with the same rigidity that people have historically defined marriage—we are at risk of losing our openness to what works best for each of us, our inspired ideas, and our creativity and curiosity.