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Old 11-21-2011, 11:38 AM
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rory rory is offline
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Default OPP, unicorns, and derogatory poly terminology

I've been thinking of writing about some poly terminology. One penis policy (OPP) and unicorn are, specifically, concepts that have been on my mind. I think language is important in how people see the world. I understand where these terms are coming from, and I agree that there are certain issues of possible double standards and co-dependency in relation to them. However, I also find the terms somewhat derogatory, condesending and problematic.

I see the usage of these terms often coming from a feminist standpoint. I the case of the unicorn, there is a concern for the unsuspecting bisexual woman, who enters into a poly-fidelious partnership with a man and a woman in a co-dependent relationship. Also, there are issues with lack of possibility of independent dating, or for the woman/women to have additional heterosexual relationships. In the case of OPP, there is a heterosexual relationship with a double standard, where man is allowed have sexual/romantic relationships with persons of the opposite sex, while the woman is only allowed to have them with women.

I definitely think double standards, co-dependence, and many other related aspects, do often deserve some critique and questioning. But lumping all situations and relationships together within one concept ignores the individual circumstances of the people involved. Also, because the terms are condesending and derogatory, if they are used, the valid message intended is easily lost because people are triggered into defense mode.

Moreover, as a bisexual woman nearly exclusively interested in women, I am insulted by the underlying assumption that what all bisexually-identified women most want is lots and lots of penises. In the case of "one penis policy", one can see the assumption pretty clearly even from the name. When talking about couples looking for unicorns, the assumption often can be read in between the lines: there the man is seen to have the priviledge, in that he has the possibility for "the first price", the Additional Heterosexual Relationship, while the woman has to settle for the second best thing, i.e. a same-sex-relationship.

Last edited by rory; 11-21-2011 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 11-21-2011, 12:45 PM
zylya zylya is offline
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When people say OPP it's usually THEIR reaction to the idea of being with only one man. They frame is as derogatory and "man-induced" because they wouldn't accept a situation like that themselves. What they seem to forget is that, more often than not, it's a JOINT negotiation.

Take a fictional couple who are monogamous (and let's say married so we know that they've promised monogamy to each other) and throughout the course of the marriage, the wife has come to realise that she's bisexual and would like the opportunity to explore that side of her. Now, she might go to her husband and say "I think I'm bisexual, or at the least I'm curious in being with a woman, but I love you loads and I wouldn't want to do anything without your blessing." Now, if this same woman came onto these forums, she'd have her detractors shouting "ONE PENIS POLICY!" when really she's got exactly what she wanted.

Same sort of thing with unicorns - there's a lot of couples out there who would genuinely be interested in a three-way relationship, but because this doesn't match up to other people's experiences of things, they're derided for being hunters etc etc.

Now, I will say that there are people out there who "deserve" the criticism - I'm talking about the kind of person who hasn't really examined themselves, hasn't really communicated with their partners and just thinks "I don't want another guy sticking it to my wife" or "A partner that loves us both equally would be great" without any real desire there. However, there's also people out there who have communicated and have worked on their various issues and built a relationship which they want, and STILL want something like a OPP or a triad relationship.

Using my own relationship as an example, we're essentially in a completely open relationship - the only rules are practise safe sex and no close friends/family members of other partners. Those two rules are simply to protect our bodies (stds etc) and our lives (since not everyone knows/would approve etc). Now, despite the fact that are rules are very few, we both would still like to form a triad relationship. She's bisexual, likes threesomes and has always imagined a relationship with three people. Who is anyone on this forum to deride her preferences by coming out with a snarky "unicorn-hunter" comment?

A lot of people are very quick to jump on the "OPP", for example a post in another topic said:

Quote:
I wonder what the limits are he imposed on you? OPP?
The problem with that is that it INSTANTLY portrays the woman as the victim and the man as a controlling decision maker. If there's one thing I've learnt from poly relationships it's that limits are MUTUALLY AGREED. There is no way I would ever be able to get my primary to agree to a OPP unless it is EXACTLY WHAT SHE WANTED AS WELL. I cannot IMPOSE a limit, since the other person can simply not agree to follow it.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's still a lot of "my poly is better than your poly" going on, where people react based on THEIR situation rather than the situation of the person posting. If we follow that logic, then any time I see anyone with any rule that isn't "be safe and don't out me" I should tell them that they're doing it wrong, and that my polyamory is far superior for our lack of rules. Except that's not how it works, because everyone wants something different, and I don't think it's too much to ask that people show enough respect for each others' choices, even if they wouldn't make the same choices themselves.

EDIT:
Just to note, this isn't a specific accusation at any one person (although I understand that by quoting someone it could appear that way). The quote was intended as an example rather than as an attack. My point is that, as a community, we need to keep this a safe space where people can come and be free of judgement. There's enough judgement out in the world simply for BEING poly that this should be the place where we don't judge each other for the decisions we make WITHIN poly. As long as someone can say that they've made an informed decision with their partner(s) then tbh they should be free to do as they please.

Last edited by zylya; 11-21-2011 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 11-21-2011, 03:15 PM
MichelleZed MichelleZed is offline
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I think the term "unicorn" is important for one reason: it points out the unrealistic expectations of some couples diving into what they think is poly.

I actually think we should appropriate the term for childcare! I've been looking at ads for nannies and there are so many families who want a nanny to come live in their house and do on-call nannying and housework at the family's whim, but be paid nothing except room and board. They want the person to already have a college degree and not be in school anymore. They want the person to be able to commit for years into the future. They want the person to be from their community and not just moving to the country. Etc. etc. etc.

Who would take that job? A very rare person... a unicorn. Why? Because everything about their arrangement is unfair. Nannies are people too and need established hours and duties, and, if they are doing this as a career (and not just for a place to stay while going through school, etc.), they need a living wage.

Same thing with "secondaries". They're people too, and it is a rare person indeed who would be able to accomodate every fantasy of an established couple. It's probably good that couples know that.
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Old 11-21-2011, 03:23 PM
dingedheart dingedheart is offline
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The terms Opp, Ovp, unicorn seemed to be used to describe situations. This seems very similar to the primary/ secondary word battle. For me I have no emotional attachment to any of them. I think the "One-policy" situation has an element of unfairness built in and that unfairness is generating the negative or condescending image ... and thus the term ...and for those that have such policies in place are reminded of it and have emotional reaction to the situation or being judged by others for the situation which is probably worse.

As for unicorn's I sort of gather that because of the structure of that relationship dynamic, the demands, needs, and all the other variables that its so, so very difficult to achieve or find it's like finding the mythic beast. People can hunt all they want for Big foot, Sasquatch, Nessy, or unicorns doesn't mean they're going to find them #1 and if they do, good for them.
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Old 11-21-2011, 05:50 PM
AutumnalTone AutumnalTone is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zylya View Post
A lot of people are very quick to jump on the "OPP", for example a post in another topic said:

Quote:
"I wonder what the limits are he imposed on you? OPP?"

The problem with that is that it INSTANTLY portrays the woman as the victim and the man as a controlling decision maker. If there's one thing I've learnt from poly relationships it's that limits are MUTUALLY AGREED.
You'll find that a lot of such agreements, particularly among those new to practicing polyamory, are not so much mutually agreed upon as one party inflicting a rule upon the other, with the other acquiescing rather than walking away. So, in a great many OPP situations, it *is* one partner inflicting an unreasonable deman on the other.

The example you quote is quoted without context, which is necessary to tell if the question was reasonable. Based solely on the wording of the comment--"...limits he imposed..."--suggest that the discussion was about one partner imposing limits on the other, and those limits not being fully agreeable nor necessarily what the other truly wants.

The negative connotation that attaches to the term is there rightly, I believe. If the one partner only desires the single P (whether penis or pussy), then no need for such a policy exists. My wife has no real interest in finding a male lover, for example, although she's free to do so--there's no need for a OPP for her to limit herself to only one male lover. A one-penis policy only crops up when one partner desires multiple penises, much to the chagrin of the other; the only reason we could have for a OPP is if I were insecure and didn't want her fucking other men.

An OPP speaks to one partner simply not trusting the other and the existing relationship. It speaks to a negative relationship dynamic. It speaks to *bad things* and I think it good that it has a negative connotation.
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Old 11-21-2011, 06:05 PM
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When my ex and I opened our marriage back in 1999, we had a certain unicorn we decided to pursue. Since I am bi and my ex is not, he at first wanted an OPP. He is a jealous guy, and his entire motivation at first, for polyamory, was to fuck 2 women at once. Since I'd never had a longterm relationship with a woman, he figured an OPP would suit our needs. His for hot 3ways, mine for exploring my bisexuality.

I was clueless at first, and didnt have time for dating, looking for guys, being a busy full time homeschooling mom. So, the OPP didn't really impact my life.

However, ironically, it was our unicorn that pointed out the hypocrisy of this policy, its inherent sexism. My ex saw the light when it came from her, and we did away with the policy.
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Old 11-21-2011, 07:42 PM
zylya zylya is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AutumnalTone View Post
You'll find that a lot of such agreements, particularly among those new to practicing polyamory, are not so much mutually agreed upon as one party inflicting a rule upon the other, with the other acquiescing rather than walking away. So, in a great many OPP situations, it *is* one partner inflicting an unreasonable deman on the other.

The example you quote is quoted without context, which is necessary to tell if the question was reasonable. Based solely on the wording of the comment--"...limits he imposed..."--suggest that the discussion was about one partner imposing limits on the other, and those limits not being fully agreeable nor necessarily what the other truly wants.
If we take the context, it was rory, who's been active on this forum for a long time, and started opening up her relationship 4 years ago (all info from the topic). Hardly "new to polyamory" really. She also mentioned that she was more interested in girls than guys. Yet the implication was still that it was HIM forcing HER. I actually read the discussion and at no point in rory's post was it suggested that it was his decision that she accepted, and indeed in a later post in the same topic she confirmed as much directly. A link has been posted in this topic, but I probably should've posted the link myself. The topic was right below this one when I posted though so I didn't really think about it. In addition, a demand is only unreasonable, if the person being demanded feels it's unreasonable.

Quote:
The negative connotation that attaches to the term is there rightly, I believe. If the one partner only desires the single P (whether penis or pussy), then no need for such a policy exists. My wife has no real interest in finding a male lover, for example, although she's free to do so--there's no need for a OPP for her to limit herself to only one male lover. A one-penis policy only crops up when one partner desires multiple penises, much to the chagrin of the other; the only reason we could have for a OPP is if I were insecure and didn't want her fucking other men.

An OPP speaks to one partner simply not trusting the other and the existing relationship. It speaks to a negative relationship dynamic. It speaks to *bad things* and I think it good that it has a negative connotation.
In the case of a monogamous relationship that's opening up, I completely disagree - if someone was married and monogamous, and their partner told them they were bisexual and wanted to explore a relationship with someone of the same sex, then I don't think it's entirely unreasonable for someone in that situation to want "OPP" because it's as close to the relationship that they originally signed up for. If someone was going through the effort to open up a monogamous relationship for me to explore my poly then I'd be a bit of a dick to insist that it was totally open when I've already turned their world upside down by dropping the polybomb on them. An OPP is almost a compromise between "true" polyamory and the monogamy they went in for.

Also if you're going to claim that OPP is negative because of lack of trust, then surely monogamy is also negative for the same reason - in that case there's an even BIGGER group of people that you don't want them to have sex/form relationships with. But we don't view monogamy as unhealthy in and of itself, it is the application of the monogamy, or the one penis/pussy policy that is either healthy or unhealthy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mya View Post
This is precisely what's wrong with the term when used in all situations where there's only one penis involved. It gives the impression that the woman had little to do with that agreement and that's not the case every time. If someone says "You have OPP" about another persons situation it makes the assumption that the woman didn't have much say in that. It makes the woman a victim, not an active decision-maker.
This is what I was trying to say before - by talking about how a guy IMPOSES it on a woman, it suggests that women aren't able to make decisions in their relationships. Let's be clear here, if you are in a relationship and your partner suggests a OPP and you don't want to go along with it, but you do anyway, for the sake of the relationship, then you have noone to blame but yourself. If it is important to you that there is no OPP then DO NOT BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE WHO INSISTS UPON IT.

In my relationship with my primary, she doesn't want to get pregnant or catch STDs, yet we still have a "practise safe sex" rule. Surely this rule is unnecessary? Yet we still have it because it makes us feel more secure and that we're in agreement. Any rules that people make are to protect themselves - if someone is jealous, that is a very real emotion. If a OPP made ME feel better and it was something that she was happy with anyway, then why exactly is it a bad thing? Yes jealousy can be negative and unhealthy, but that doesn't mean we'll never experience it. Surely if both people are happy with the OPP and it is benefitting the relationship then it is a good thing?
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:44 PM
PipeDreamer PipeDreamer is offline
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Here comes a male, not-yet-practicing polynewbie to chime in... I have to say that after reading the glossary, I have found these terms to be a bit condescending. Condescending talk makes my blood boil, but that's my personal problem I suppose. Anyway, I became aware of polyamory about a year ago and would like to pursue it. My poly-curious wife isn't interested in finding any male partners right now. We talked a lot about how things might be and for simplicity's sake we both would prefer to find a single woman who would be interested in joining us in some way or another. In fact, I mentioned to her that it would be probably be unlikely that we would find such a person because anyone we find who knows anything about polyamory will probably already have partners. She still wants to try to find someone single.

I do tend to get a vibe that since I am a man and I identify as polyamorous and my wife doesn't want to pursue it for herself at this time that I will get this kind of snobby scoffing response because of both our newbieness and the way we would like to try to make it happen. There is no OPP for us. It just looks that way, at least in theory.

I think when it comes to other newbies, it might not be a bad idea to just let them sort the unicorn/OPP part out by themselves. I think they will realize the rarity/unfairness aspects soon enough once they start looking around/talking about it. If they find another partner, that person will no doubt enlighten them. Since I am a newbie, are there really so many experienced poly types that keep an OPP or are actual unicorn hunters? My guess is no. So there is no need to slap labels on the newbie at such an early stage, is there?

On the side: I think the term noob is also derogatory.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zylya View Post
In the case of a monogamous relationship that's opening up, I completely disagree - if someone was married and monogamous, and their partner told them they were bisexual and wanted to explore a relationship with someone of the same sex, then I don't think it's entirely unreasonable for someone in that situation to want "OPP" because it's as close to the relationship that they originally signed up for. If someone was going through the effort to open up a monogamous relationship for me to explore my poly then I'd be a bit of a dick to insist that it was totally open when I've already turned their world upside down by dropping the polybomb on them. An OPP is almost a compromise between "true" polyamory and the monogamy they went in for.
This sounds good. While I feel I was EXTREMELY lucky with poly kind of coming to my wife and me organically i.e. no polybomb, I did mention the idea of dating and pursuing multiple women in the beginning so that I could get an idea of who would really be a good potential serious partner. I don't think she was or is ready for that yet. I can understand that. Maybe for us there is an OOEPP (Only one extra pussy policy) enforced on me. I am not offended by that and I agree to it with no feeling of pressure.
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Old 11-22-2011, 07:57 AM
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Sorry, I hope this doesn't come across as picking on you for your newness. This is not my intent just so you know but
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interested in joining us in some way or another.
this makes MY blood boil.... this to me is all the difference between unicorn hunting and searching for a triad opportunity. The woman doesn't *join* anything. You become three. Look at it the other way around, you are *joining* her also. I find this explanation the key to the issue. People in triads are not a couple and their other, they are all three independent and autonomous people. The fact that two are married becomes irrelevant and a triffle in the end. This is what is not understood most of the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PipeDreamer View Post
I think when it comes to other newbies, it might not be a bad idea to just let them sort the unicorn/OPP part out by themselves. I think they will realize the rarity/unfairness aspects soon enough once they start looking around/talking about it.
This is a forum. On forums we talk about stuff, push each others boundaries of knowledge and understanding, and hopefully do that with a bit of caring and consideration for the person struggling. If a person comes here and tells their story expecting that they will just have it read and not responded to that is ludicrous and they likely shouldn't be here. If they don't like the response they get then its usually because they were hoping everyone would agree with them and are struggling with the FACT that not everyone does and sometimes no one does...

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Originally Posted by PipeDreamer View Post
On the side: I think the term noob is also derogatory.
I agree. I have never liked that term.
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Old 11-22-2011, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by zylya View Post



Also if you're going to claim that OPP is negative because of lack of trust, then surely monogamy is also negative for the same reason - in that case there's an even BIGGER group of people that you don't want them to have sex/form relationships with. But we don't view monogamy as unhealthy in and of itself, it is the application of the monogamy, or the one penis/pussy policy that is either healthy or unhealthy.


I love the respect and genuine understanding you show in this comment. I also like the fact that you don't portray monogamy as unhealthy.
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