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Old 08-16-2011, 06:27 AM
trueRiver trueRiver is offline
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Manchester, England & Tain, Scotland
Posts: 85
Default 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.

Last edited by trueRiver; 08-16-2011 at 02:02 PM. Reason: Redrafted some of it for clarity, added 20thC history
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