Imagine A World Without Amatonormativity

{This was originally posted on tumblr here, and this crosspost has been backdated to the original posting date, 27 June 2019. Some of the hypothetical questions edge into “what if we had a history without amatonormativity” territory that may overlap with how some people imagine far into a post-amatonormative future rather than addressing present day concerns.}

Carnival of Aros – June 2019 – Imagine a world without amatonormativity from @kaikiky​ [link to Call for Submissions].

I first encountered discussions of amatonormativity in relation to polyamory and types of ethical non-monogamy, so I must admit that there’s a somewhat cautious part of me that does not view getting rid of society level amatonormativity as creating some sort of happy utopia. The basis of who should have priority would shift (similar to how some polyam people cling to the primary/secondary hierarchy), but that’s a rather glass half-empty approach to this prompt.

Not to sound like that radical horror story your conservative family members would have nightmares over, but having a thriving orbit of friends, peers, colleagues, partners, etc. that can support each other emotionally, physically, financially, and in other community level care taking ways will also take reimagining and/or dismantling some other society level shit:

– It’s certainly a step forward if you can visit any member of your polycule in the hospital instead of needing to be a spouse, but eventually we’ll have to address the health insurance / access to healthcare elephant in the room beyond claiming non-partners on your individual plan.

– Changing rental and zoning particulars so that more than two non-married adults can live in one house and more than one house can be built on a property would be beneficial, but eventually we’ll have to address the inability to afford housing, especially housing that meets your accessibility needs.

– It’ll be cool to have more than one legal spouse or civil partner and to let non-romantic partners access various benefits currently only afforded to legally recognized marriages, but eventually we’ll have to address the loss in government benefits that anyone reliant upon SSI faces if they marry.

– Generally speaking, it would help alloromantic and aro-spec people alike to build up a network of non-partner relationships so that romantic partners don’t bear the brunt of emotional support, but eventually we’ll have to admit that we can’t friendship our way out of crippling student loan debt, inability to access college, getting stuck in underpaid and overworked “part-time” jobs, and other not-so-fun aspects of our current economy.

– Not facing negative social consequences for a platonic life partner, multiple spouses, etc. would certainly be a benefit to many people, but to indulge some selfish pessimism, that’s not going to do much to help me when people still connect sex and gender in ways that make society hard to navigate. (Gender {woman, man} is different from sex {female, male} despite our system currently calling sex markers “legal gender”.)

This is not an exclusive or exhaustive list, btw. Just some examples of how waving a wand to get rid of amatonormativity will not fix everything about how I am not prioritized compared to a romantic partner. Most of my friends are struggling to hold themselves together mentally (mental health issues) and physically (chronic illnesses) while working and finishing school to work the jobs they actually want. Leveling the playing field with romantic partners in terms of time and attention given to me is virtually useless when they’re too tired and sick for online communication and can’t afford gas money or other travel expenses to meet in person.

But that’s still rather glass half-empty. So, actual things I could look forward to:

1. Terminology that would be considered mainstream and common knowledge (instead of terms primarily known by aro-spec people).

Would we still feel a need to define QPRs and QPPs? Would we have a word for ‘friends with benefits’ without calling it fwb? Would a mainstream religiously backed history of polygamy mean we have separate words for different spouses (numerically or by different roles)? Would a heteronormative and sexist alternate history prioritize men with wives over women with husbands and queer partners still had to fight for same-sex marriage? Would we have more words in English for different levels of familiarity, closeness, and longevity in friendships instead of acquaintance/friend/best friend?

2. Tweak to how relationships are talked about in subcultures that already face ‘respectability’ issues. This example will specifically focus on kink / BDSM, play partners, and D/s partners, but this sentiment can also be applied to other communities.

I can’t say this is universal online and offline, but in my “I don’t have access to an irl community” state so I’m stuck with whatever website communities I can find experience, a lot of people assume that kink = power dynamic that will be 1) romantic, 2) sexual, and 3) aspire to a 24/7 live-in arrangement because they tend to assume kink is being added to a vanilla dating/spouse relationship, which assumes cohabitation or that as a goal.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to find non-monogamous sexual relationships or poly dynamics now, but waving this magic wand at amatonormativity would mean the default, 101 level information wouldn’t take a cisheteronormative ‘my bf/gf wants to try [fill in the blank’ or ‘I want to try [fill in the blank] with my husband/wife’ point of view. Fantasies of being loaned out to individuals or shared with a group might give some people the impression that sexual compatibility is a higher priority, but the emphasis that D/s and kink are about relationship styles means that there’s loads of romantic assumptions once you get past the ‘how to use this instrument’ articles.

Tweaking out the amatonormativity wouldn’t get rid of sexually (and romantically) monogamous dynamics. You can still do the possessive talk and wanting to keep someone for yourself thing. However, it would mean that actually helpful advice – how to communicate with your play partner, how to negotiate activities in the play partnership you’re uncomfortable/comfortable with, consent, having safewords not just limited to sexual situations, etc – isn’t buried beneath the assumed dating and marriage aspects. <sarcasm>It’s like communication skills are useful for non-romantic relationships, too.</s>

tl;dr I can’t blame every instance of not being prioritized in my friendships and non-romantic partnerships on amatonormativity, so imagining a world without it requires addressing other reasons for insufficient interpersonal relationships. Glass half-full thoughts around such a world include aro-spec terms going mainstream and becoming common knowledge and tweaking how non-mainstream relationships are talked about.

Loki’s temple; June 2016 (Virtual Temple Project)

While I am aware that this post is several years old by the time I’m reblogging it, it’s easier to listen to Someone’s prodding.

The Road, the Walker, and What Comes Next

The June video of Loki’s temple space has been uploaded to YouTube and can now be viewed, shared, and embedded. Please enjoy this as a tool for worship, meditation, spell work, and contemplation. Feel inspired to participate in the Virtual Temple Project by creating your own polytheist worship spaces and sharing them online.

As this is a project offered to the community, transparency should be exercised. Here’s the financial record for this month’s video.

  • Costs
    Incense: $5
    Candles: $3
    Flowers: $5
    Pomegranate juice $4
  • Income
    Donations: none

Thank you everyone for the kind support you’ve shown this project. If you would like to sponsor offerings of candles, incense, or flowers these are just $10 and you receive a portion of that month’s offerings for your own devotional work. The money covers the price of the item and the cost of shipping goods to you (US shipping is currently only available)…

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