Sunday, February 5, 2012

What about only on Tuesdays?

So I laid it out in my previous post, I made the assertion that monogamy was more skillful than polygamy or polyandry. And I asked if anyone disagreed to challenge my assertion.

And someone did. And it was successful. At least I cannot see any legitimate retort.

The counter argument came from Shane Hennesey, who authors Zenfant’s Home for Dirty Dharma. If you haven’t read his blog, you ought to. The brother is a righteous writer. But Shane’s rebuttal wasn’t on his blog. He’s still working out the details for that. Rather, his retort was posted as a comment on this blog’s Facebook page. And here’s what he said in part:

“first off, i disagree that a monogamous situation is better than a multiple partner situation. they are both just situations, neither good or bad. they both have their stories we give them and they are just that…stories. Both situations can be done with skillful means on in unskillful ways. People can thrive in these situations or crater or something in between. One is not better than the other. Why be limited by these two situations? What about celibacy by choice? What about only sex with toys and only on Tuesdays?”

Shane is very persuasive here. Because if I’m honest in my self-evaluation – and what does Buddhism teach if not to evaluate what is self? – I must recognize that my preference for monogamy may be a form of rejection of my own behavior of going through multiple partners to “find the one.” By stating that monogamy is better, am I not merely trying to prettify my own life, to rationalize how I go through other guys ostensibly to find the perfect partner? And what if it is? What’s wrong with that? And if I feel uncomfortable with that, isn’t that discomfort coming from within me rather than from the rubric of multiple partners in and of itself?

However, I also acknowledge this line of thinking does lend itself to a slippery slope. There must be legitimate consent involved here. But by and large, where consent is involved and all those participating are granting informed consent, sex is sex, whether with one or many, all at once or one at a time. After all, I have to admit that I met a couple one time involved in a happily monogamous and committed relationship that had gone on for years, and you know where they met? In a bathhouse. At least that's what they told me, and I have no reason to disbelieve them.

I do want monogamy for myself. But that doesn’t make it superior to anyone else’s situation or preferences. And for me to assert that was pretty damned arrogant.

Regardless of what you do, it’s about skillfulness. It’s about not doing harm. And I’d be a liar if I were to say I’ve never harmed someone through living a “superior” lifestyle.

Thanks Shane for setting me “straight.” Now would you get on with writing your freaking blog?


  1. "Regardless of what you do, it’s about skillfulness." This is a very important point. I have been wrestling with these issues a lot lately myself. I have always preferred monogamy, but have been questioning the ways in which monogamous relationships tend to get structured. Specifically, the ways in which possessiveness of one's partner often goes unquestioned, and is even lauded as a sign of love - which I don't think it is at all.

    It strikes me though, that most of us seem to think about this kind of thing in terms of number of partners. The majority opting for one partner, while a minority chooses more than one. And yet, what seems to happen from my point of view is that possessiveness and it's attendant emotions (like jealousy) usually get punted around. In unskillful poly situations, everything remains on the surface level, and so possessiveness is never really faced. Whereas in unskillful monogamous relationships, possessiveness collapses love into attachment, and greed and fear rule the relationship.

  2. Excellent point Nathan. Just shows that regardless of number, unskillfullness manifested in some form of clingling or aversion is a root cause of problems connected with interpersonal relationships. Which also lends support to the Buddha's dictum of total abstinence for monks.