Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at http://www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Cheating”.
Cheating is a bit of a funny topic. I hear ‘cheating’ and think of that kid on my maths table copying my answers on the quiz. It’s such a common theme within monogamy, most people instantly think of sexual or romantic infidelity. There are two questions non-monogamous folk are frequently asked. One is: ‘Isn’t being polyamorous cheating?’. The obvious answer to that is ‘no’, but think again. Polyamory just means loving more than one, and plenty of people do that.
If we take a look at the recent Ashley Madison scandal, where over 32 million people’s data were made public, it’s pretty safe to say that lots of people love more than one person in a romantic or sexual way. So many people in relationships find themselves in love or lust with someone not in that relationship. That’s actually polyamory – technically. That view may be unpopular, but tough shit. Many of the folks in those situations may wish they or their partners were ‘truly’ polyamorous, but many are in long-standing monogamous relationships, and the consensus seems to be that their partners either wouldn’t or won’t consider opening up. Instead of being honest and open about it, and potentially losing their relationship, they stay quiet, cheat and, erm, potentially lose their relationship. Pretty shit logic, really.
For those (presumably millions, if not billions) of people who do cheat on their partner with another, I think they could legitimately say they are polyamorous. They love more than one. They desire non-exclusive relationships. They just aren’t being very ethical about it, which is why I often use the term ‘ethical non-monogamy’ to refer to my relationship structure. Anyone can fall in love. Anyone can cheat. Not everyone can do multiple relationships ethically.
The second question I’m often asked is: ‘can polyamorous people cheat’. Of course they can! Many people seem to think that non-monogamous folks are immune from cheating. Sadly not. All relationships involve some form of agreement, boundaries or rules, and when someone acts outside of those rules, they are cheating. Cheating is not exclusive to monogamy, by any stretch of the imagination. A poly person can cheat by not being honest about dating someone, or breaking a safer sex rule, or by doing an act that had been agreed to not be done. All one needs to do to cheat is to act in a dishonest fashion for one’s own ends, and that’s hardly something difficult. The difference for non-monogamous folk is that cheating (as in, an intentional breaking of a rule, rather than the act of fucking someone else) is a lot more difficult to explain, because there’s no bloody need to do so. The pain of a broken rule hurts, whether you’re poly or not.
Whilst dishonesty and cheating your loved ones is pretty crappy behaviour within any relationship, I know that people in the full throes of lust and NRE are easily swayed into acting out of character. I do wish that people who want to be polyamorous would just come out and say it to their partners, rather than cheat, but I’m not in their situation, so perhaps they can’t. Perhaps one day sites like Ashley Madison wouldn’t need to exist, and we could all ethically play and love and fuck others.
Til then, take a note from my old pal Kant, who says you cannot lie, ever, for any reason. He also says an action is only ethical if it’s morally permissible for everyone to do all of the time. So that rules out cheating on both grounds, and my work here is done.