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-   -   one Quaker's view of Polyamory (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13502)

trueRiver 08-16-2011 06:27 AM

one Quaker's view of Polyamory
firstly, I must make clear that this is by no means an official view, it is just the view of this one Quaker.
secondly, for those who do not know us, Quakers are organised into so called 'Yearly Meetings' or 'YMs' which are autonomous, and which vary in theology and style of worship. The majority of Quakers worldwide are in evangelical YMs and may find what I say below more challenging than those from theologically liberal YMs like mine: Britain Yearly Meeting.
You may already know that we use Friend (capital F) to describe ourselves and each other. The original name for our denomination was The Society of Friends of Truth, and this reflects a key difference with both Catholics and Protestants in the 17th Century. Catholics took as their supreme authority the teaching of their hierarchical structure, with the Pope the ultimate authority. Protestants took Scripture as their ultimate authority.
17thC Friends relied on the Inner Light, an inner relationship with Truth, for personal guidance, and on the united feeling of a gathered meeting for worship for their corporate policy and decisions.
Nowadays my YM recognises five core Quaker Testimonies, of equal importance in our spritual lives. They are
- Truth
- Equality
- Peace
- Simplicity
- Care of the Planet
When I see polyamory's focus on integrity and honesty and the keeping of committments made, I am sure these rest firmly on the foundation that my faith group calls Truth.
When I see the welcome shown by polys to people with minority sexual desires / needs / practices, I affirm them as rooted in the values that my faith group calls Equality.
Polys leave it to the couple / group to negotiate the boundaries that are right for them, rather than using social rules that (in human terms) ultimately derive from Abraham and other Bronze age prophets. Quakers do the same in our choice of ethics, morality, and theology. Polys and Quakers have in common a refusal to adopt, without careful thought, ideas simply because they have a long, venerable history.
It is also worth noting that monogamy and homophobia both seem to have entered our culture through that same Bronze age search for God that founded the three major monotheistic religions.
One night in April 1985 I gave up:-
- a Fundamentalist view of the Christian Bible
- monogamy
- homophobia
- loneliness
I have not regretted that decision, and have always since seen homophobia and imposed monogamy as being two faces of the same evil.
(if you haven't spotted the spiritual relevance of the fourth item on that list, just think for the word I have said we use for fellow Quakers)
In my opinion, imposed monogamy is an evil, rather than monogamy in general. When a couple decide together that each of the two of them will flourish best if they commit to and keep to monogamy, that is a beautiful thing, for them, in their situation. Where friends achieve a long happy monogamous marriage, or same sex partnership, I share their joy.
I don't think many polys would disagree. Most would say 'we agree, poly is not for everyone'.
I prefer to express this rather differently.
I re-interpret the 'poly-' in 'polyamorous' to mean 'any number' rather than 'more than one'. So, by my Inner Light, our freelymonogamous couple are also polyamorous, because for them one is the right number. Will anybody tell me that one is no good as a number? Then they are polyamorously monogamous, in my terms.
I've recently been pondering how my medium term state of celibacy sits with my claim to polyamory as an identity. Then a few days ago, a poly friend Ellie, (small f, she's not a Quaker) put me right on that: sometimes, she said, zero is a perfect number as well.
So for now, till I am ready for my next sexual relationship, I count myself as being polyamorously celibate ;)
For me, you don't have to have two or more partners to be poly, just have to be willing to trust the Inner Light in setting the number of partners. The people who are not poly, according to my view, are those who uncritically adopt monogamy imposed from outside their soul. Or worse: try to impose it on others.
By the way, I am also polyaffectionate. I need lots of hugs in my life, and I find I need even more to be giving lots of hugs; whatever the state of my sexlife. The last message I reject from the mainstream culture is this bizarre idea that to hug outside the sexual relationship(s) is being unfaithful.
A couple more points before I stop: the uniquely poly virtue, and some 20thC Quaker history to complement the 17thC that I started with.
The poly virtue of compersion seems to me the virtue of allowing one's partner to flourish even if that needs to be without me, to enjoy the partner flourishing over my own immediate gratification. This is consistent with Friends' views on Equality: his/her needs are equally important/valid as mine. It is also consistent with the views we have formed in the last 45 years, thinking (mainly) about same sex relationships.
In 1963, Quaker Home Service published Towards a Quaker View of Sex, by David Blamires. This contained the then astonishing religious assertion that any relationship could be godly in so far as it manifested selfless love and all statements on morality had to be qualified by this.
Shortly after, in 1964, a new edition of Quaker Advices said No relationship can be a right one which makes use of another person through selfish desire.
This is a warning to us not to selfishly insist on multiple relationships, at our partners' expense. Equally, it can be taken as an exhortation not to limit our partner to monogamy if they need something else. Where the partners needs differ: here, as in every other part of life, the answer is found in honest negotiation between equals, not in a revered body of writing that imposes the same solutions on all personal situations.
I could say more, and hope to add to this thread at a later date, but this is enough to lay out my personal Quaker view of sex, and to show it as totally congruent with poly. I am glad of this, as the p and the q in my pq identity get on well together and don't fight each other.

trueRiver 08-21-2011 06:10 PM

The BBC's webpage about Quakers provides a good introduction to British Friends. Please note we are a minority of Quakers worldwide, and some of the details about beliefs and style of worship are different in other parts of the world

BlackUnicorn 08-30-2011 01:19 PM

One thing your post reminded me of, especially the part regarding compersion, is that if the Christian Thing To Do is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, then even when you are unable to achieve much compersion to speak of, it's important to remember that were you the one in the throes of NRE, you would appreciate compassion from your partner.

nycindie 08-31-2011 07:37 AM


Originally Posted by trueRiver (Post 97485)
. . . to hug outside the sexual relationship(s) is being unfaithful.

Wow, what culture believes this? I've not heard of that.

trueRiver 08-31-2011 01:47 PM


Originally Posted by nycindie (Post 99929)
Wow, what culture believes this? I've not heard of that.

Lots of married British women feel unable to accept a hug from anyone except their husband (and by 'married' I include some live-together LTRs).

For example, I was in the cafe where I often have lunch, and L was there, an attractive married woman who is definitely mono. This day she was looking really haggard and about 20 years older than usual. 'Would you appreciate a hug?' I said; 'River, you know I am not allowed' she says. So it is time to stick to the previously negotiated boundary: one hand on her nearest shoulder. 'What's up?'.

Later on, I said to her 'you need to explain to a certain someone that huggin ain't shaggin'. She laughed, saw it as a jokey flirt but not as a literal truth. Thing is, I really don't think husband would mind, it is that L would *feel* unfaithful accepting a hug from me, even in a bereavement situation.

I admire her fidelity to her own standards, at the same time as feeling her own standards are daft.

Second example, poly woman, M, several bfs + gfs. Hugs other friends 'hello' or 'goodbye' but will not sit snuggled up with someone who is not a partner or she hopes will be one soon: huggy friendships don't make sense to her.

In both cases, what these very different women share is the idea that hugs imply 'we are on the way to a sexual encounter' and therefore belong only in that context.

Maybe this is a specifically Brit thing?

Quath 09-01-2011 12:51 AM

That is funny because I just saw an article on kissing in the Bible. It quotes a few verses like Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14 and 2 Corinthians 13:11-12. One example of the quote is

"Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss." — 2 Corinthians 13:11-12

So it seems that kissing other people outside the relationship should be ok. I would think a hug is milder in comparison.

nycindie 09-01-2011 01:23 AM

I'm from a huggy family - we hug everyone in greeting, to give comfort, and to show affection. In general, in most situations, at least in the Northeast US, my neck of the woods, most people I know hug and it's never considered something sexual unless certain conditions point to that. It's just considered friendly, caring, warm. With family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, whatever. Except for Italian-Americans from Brooklyn, it seems. They kiss. My ex's family, a bunch of kissers. Even if their mouths were full, they had to kiss me. I hated it. I prefer hugging. But I'm not the type to roll around and cuddle with platonic friends unless in special circumstances (there is a whole thread about that here: Cuddling With Friends - & Non-sexual Intimacy).

TL4everu2 09-01-2011 01:54 AM

I'm not a touchy feely type person...my wife, however, is. I will greet someone who I have spoken to online only, with a handshake.....while she will greet them with a hug. Same with saying goodbye. I am content with a handshake.....even with people who I've been intimate with for YEARS....while my wife insists on a hug and possibly a kiss after the first meeting. But for us, it's not about religion. It's about comfort levels.

Also to note: I'm not comfortable in large crowds....while my wife couldn't care less. Weird.

trueRiver 09-01-2011 06:23 AM


Originally Posted by Quath (Post 100076)
"Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss." 2 Corinthians 13:11-12

So it seems that kissing other people outside the relationship should be ok. I would think a hug is milder in comparison.

For those who base their morals on a literal interpreation of scripture, yes. But in fact both the people I mentioned would identify as non-christians, so the issue is not for them about scripture but about their cultural view of what makes a sexual relationship.

What is interesting for polys is that I have read the Bible cover to cover more than once (I regard it as 'inspiring' but not 'inspired') and the only verse that would give polys a problem, even taking everything literally, only applies to bishops. So why are fundamentalists so anti poly?

As you say, friend, it's funny.

JnR 09-02-2011 11:15 PM

Thanks True river, I found your post to be very interesting, not having any Quaker exposure or knowledge :) I like to read and learn about new things, beliefs and ideas

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