This edition, we explore polyamory – a different type of loving relationship.
The idea of polyamory – being romantically involved with more than one person at the same time – is one that conjures all kinds of connotations, many of which are wrong.
When I meet Alba, Lois, and María, three of the coordinators behind the Poliamor Bogotá collective, I’m brimming with questions as this is a whole new world to me, and one I am very curious to explore. They discussed love, polyamory, the collective, and shared their views on the movement and this way of living relationships.
Perhaps the best place to start would be to debunk a few of the myths. Poliamor Bogotá is not about adultery or infidelity. It’s not some kind of sex cult, nor is it some kind of forum for group orgies.
Alba explains that, “the definition of polyamory, which comes from a new paradigm, can be seen from a macro perspective: the ideal of what you think a relationship should be.”
She continues, “It should be ethical, that means, something you think is right. It is consensual. In other words, that the people involved agree or have flexible agreements about the dynamics of the relationship and what is going to happen. These types of relationships are honest, meaning there is agreed and informed consent – you can’t give consent if you don’t know what you are agreeing to. And it needs to be responsible, both physically and emotionally, to yourself and towards others.”
An additional element that Poliamor Bogotá has added is that the relationship should be non-possessive, that means setting up agreements that do not go against other people’s freedoms.
This brings us neatly to more discussion about what polyamory is not, especially to debunk a few myths about it. Lois says defining it from what it is not might be a difficult exercise to do. Alba chimes in to claim that some folk would think zoophilia or bestiality, for example, is polyamory, which is wrong. Last year, there was a story about a throuple (a term for a polyamorous relationship) in Medellín in the headlines, Alba recalls that many people were saying ‘This now! What will be next? Marrying animals?’ When you think about it, animals have nothing to do with polyamory. In fact, animals go against one of the key tenets – namely that the relationship should be consensual. Lois adds that “swinger practices are not polyamory either as these are merely sexual exchanges.” Lois adds, “Infidelity, for example, is not polyamory; some people come tell us a story and define themselves as polyamorous, but say their partner doesn’t know…”
It was interesting to sit with three young professional women – a lawyer, a journalist and a psychologist – who work actively in this collective which seeks to raise the visibility and normalise the philosophy and practice of loving various people at the same time in a consensual, responsible, honest, and non-possessive way.
Alba first approached the Poliamor Madrid collective after telling a friend about a new polyamorous relationship she was in. When she came to Bogotá, she looked for a similar collective and after much research found there was no such thing. So she decided to start one herself on Facebook, and invite a few people. A year later and their page has reached 1,500 likes, and they have offered workshops which host some 80 people each time. María came to the collective because she was exploring her own sexuality and wondering whether she was the only person who thinks the way she does. Lois was one of Alba’s first invitees to like the page and was also on a journey to exploring her own relationships and different dynamics to living them.
The group meet up for Politinto sessions one Saturday every month. A politinto is the name the collective gives to the workshops, which discuss many aspects of polyamory and relationships in general over a relaxed coffee or beer. Lois admits that the first time she went, it took her a lot of courage to show up. She finally mustered the courage at the third politinto. She had started reading about polyamory, mostly from the ALA website (Amor Libre Argentina). “It was the first time in my life I felt I belonged; there were also other people who were wondering about the same issues, people who were living the same or who were searching for something similar; this has been a process of personal and collective construction which has been super important in my life.”
I’m pretty sure that Lois is not alone, so I ask how we can find out more about polyamory without going to a meeting. They recommend their webpage first and foremost. The page – poliamorbogota.weebly.com – has over 200 references that Alba has been collecting. The articles, which cover a range of topics, are all in Spanish, some are translations that people in the community have collaborated with.
There is extensive literature available elsewhere in English. The trio eagerly mention Terri Conley, a psychologist who has devoted her research to consensual non-monogamy; Norma Mogrovejo, a researcher who has also played a role in the development of a discourse around sexual diversity; and – best known to Colombians – sexologist Flavia Dos Santos. Alba wraps up her answer by saying it is of the utmost importance for them to collect all this material, and also to have a record of everything that is collectively discussed and constructed in the politintos. “Society has made us believe the love of a partner – one that is unique and exclusive – is the most important love there is. But it is important to recognise that love can take many forms, and to learn how to take care of all those loves, for your family, for your partner(s), without labelling them into artificial hierarchies” she adds.
I asked them about a typical politinto and what would happen in it. María and Lois, the coordinators in charge of the latest sessions, give me a summary, but I wanted to see for myself so I went to La REDada Miscelánea Cultural at Calle 17 #2-51.
It started with the normal introductions and presentations. But you don’t have to give your real name if you don’t want to, and there is a central topic to each session. This time: jealousy. A few of us shared stories about feeling jealous and how we have dealt with it.
It was interesting to be at the table with people from many different backgrounds, all sharing their stories and views, aided by, in this case, a professional guide to understanding jealousy. The professional guide made people feel safe to open up and share ideas about relationships they wouldn’t otherwise open up about. It was a very enriching experience and Alba, María, and other collaborators make sure participants feel at ease during the session.
Like the relationships themselves, there are some ground rules to the sessions: Politintos are not an opportunity to, as they said in this particular session, ‘fish’ for a partner/s, pictures are not allowed as the most important thing is to have a safe place to talk, discuss and learn about these topics, and all ideas are shared respecting the personal space of others.
So, there you have it, Poliamor Bogotá, a space for the collective construction of knowledge around polyamory, and love in all its shapes, and all it brings with it.