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Old 04-26-2012, 01:57 AM
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DevotedGeek DevotedGeek is offline
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Posts: 22

Originally Posted by redpepper View Post
In cults people are coerced and manipulated into not leaving for various reasons and in various ways. Members are often not treated as equals. There is usually a pecking order of some kind. If someone steps out of line they are moved down that line or ostracized. [...] I see *some* Primary/Secondary relationships people undertake as coming from a "cult" mentality. [...] In functioning some vees, triads, constellations, tribes... etc. where there is someone that wields the power over all the others it can look like a cult.
I agree. Some couples may abuse the "primary/secondary" nomenclature to assert unfair authority within a poly family, such as abandoning a secondary arbitrarily and without protections. Common law protects married couples via alimony and (in some states) community property, thus ensuring a partner that sacrifices career over family isn't suddenly destitute after a divorce. Unfortunately, no such protections exist for polyamory. To the contrary, some states (e.g. Virginia's Marshall-Newman Amendment) go so far as to make it invalid to approximate the protections of marriage via written contract. What jerks!

But I assume you're talking about a different type of abuse, primaries yielding power similar to a cult leader over their flock. Ok, so what is a cult? According to the Great Wikipedia (all hail the Wikipedia!), a cult is a group in which coercion is used to recruit and maintain members and typically includes:
  1. Mind control
  2. Potential for harm
  3. Brainwashing
  4. Charismatic leader
Therefore, if primaries use coercion and manipulation to control a secondary and possibly put him/her in harm's way, then that's akin to cult-like behavior. Or more specifically, they're jerks.

But does the "primary/secondary" approach itself inherently encourage cult-like behavior, or is it merely a tool for un-scrupulous jerks to use in coercing their victims? And in the hands of a scrupulous poly, could it be a tool for managing open, loving relationships? Here's some real-world "primary/secondary" scenarios that (IMHO) don't resemble cults:
  1. Two married couples want to form a quad but keep their respective marriages as their primary relationship.
  2. An open couple only wants private, pair-bonded relationships (as opposed to forming a triad/quad/V/N/W/etc.) and maintains their original relationship as primary.
  3. A spouse wants to join another couple, but both couples want to keep their original relationships as primary.
  4. A partner from one poly group (a triad/quad/V/N/W/etc.) wants a private pair-bonded relationship with a partner from another poly group, but each wants their respective "group affiliation" to be primary. Or perhaps they want their "group affiliation" to be secondary to their pair-bonded relationship together?
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the "primary/secondary" nomenclature is that it enables partners that want this type of relationship to clearly articulate it up-front. Otherwise, different partners have different expectations, and jealousy and hurt feelings ensue.

Originally Posted by redpepper View Post
I see it in the D/s community most often. As an example: Master/Mistress has her favourites (usually a husband or a wife) and then has "toys" to play with that are yayed or nayed at their discretion. Everyone obeys Master or Mistress and they are the leaders of all. Much like a cult leader is. This is enjoyable and safe for some people. Provided they are not forced to stay in the situation.
D/s is completely outside my area of expertise. I'm told that a good Master/Mistress respects their sub, boundaries and informed consent are established ahead of time, play is structured (clear transitions in and out of role), safe words (and for new subs, a silent alarm partner) may be used, etc. Without this level of respect and negotiation, and especially if negotiation is coerced, then it could be akin to cult-like behavior (mind control, potential for harm, etc.), or worse.

Originally Posted by redpepper View Post
In Poly I have seen and heard of similar behaviour when people look for a woman (or man) to "join" them as in a "unicorn hunting" sceanrio. That person is to be a secondary and take on the role subscribed to them. They are not to make a move without being told or without it being passed by the couple. If they are not working out and behaving as the couple thinks they should then they manipulated to achieve what the couple expects. Or they are dumped.
That kind of unicorn hunter sucks. I want to protect all those unicorns and provide them a loving environment to live and flourish. And I agree that equals/co-primaries is a WAY better approach for triad or V type relationships... that's what we did for our little poly family. But I'm also open to being a secondary with an OSO if that makes more sense for her situation and it's what we agree to up-front.

Originally Posted by opalescent View Post
The behaviors RP describes are abusive and not to be tolerated. But put those same people in a non-hierarchal structure, and guess what - still abusive behavior. We've seen people be treated horribly in non-primary/secondary structures. If someone, or a couple, is capable of treating someone with respect, care and love, then they will do so regardless of structure. [...] Many people make primary/secondary relationship work well for all involved.
Damn... I feel pwn3d. Opalescent stated exactly how I feel, but so much more succinctly.

  • The term "cult" fell out of favor with social scientists by the late 1980s because they generally felt the theory of mind control doesn't have scientific merit when describing religious movements. The modern, value-neutral term for "cult" is "new religious movement".
  • It's interesting to note that many considered the Kerista Commune in the early 1970s to 1990s to be a cult. They supposedly functioned similar to a religious order, proposed a world plan to establish a utopian society, had a charismatic leader (John "Bro Jud" Presmont) with his own TV broadcast, and required all adult males to have vasectomies. This was also the birthplace of the terms "polyfidelity" and "compersion", but I digress.
Me: 45 y/o straight male geek, Wife: hinge geek, Metamour: also a geek ;-)

Last edited by DevotedGeek; 04-26-2012 at 10:32 AM.
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