The Ultimate Meetup: Polyamory in Second Life

March 8, 2008 at 4:17 pm (dishonesty, Guilt, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

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Let’s just say the cat is out of the proverbial bag. Recent events and media stories have thrust the polyamorous lifestyle back into the limelight. Oh it’s not entirely out of the smoky shadows and dark closets [I love that even the software I’m using to write this doesn’t recognize the word “polyamorous” and tries to spell correct.] But people are talking about it. And I think this is only the beginning.

One recent full-length article in the Washington Post featured stories from polyamorous couples, triads, etc. as they and their families attended a two-day conference in Pennsylvania. Although only 100 people attended the conference, the sponsor boasts a mailing list of over 15,000. Think about that. These are 15,000 people who, in the glaring spotlight of our often pious, puritanical culture–at least in the red-state, religious right-dominated US–have come to terms with the idea of polyamory enough to sign up for a mailing list. For each of them I bet there are thousands more of us who dabble with the idea; many of us sitting “safely” in the comfortable soft glow of our computer screens.

As Regina Lynn pointed out in her recent discussion of polyamory in Wired, the internet has done much to connect like-minded folks who venture online seeking an accepting community of their peers, polys included. But I’d go one step further and assert that Second Life has done more to bring the lifestyle into the mainstream, whether it’s consensual or still framed in the participants’–and their unsuspecting spouses or partners–minds as “cheating.”

The problem with where we are today is that we are experiencing–leading perhaps, if I might be so bold–a cultural shift in the way we deal with relationships. Whereas years ago the folks pursuing poly lifestyles often fit the sensitive ponytail man stereotype, people today who stumble upon these adventures are often what most of us would consider “normal.” Because we are the same people who have come to SL for business or curiosity and were blown away when we accidentally experienced intense attraction–and love–toward other amazing individuals we met there.

As barriers to “meeting up” continue to diminish in this new era of community and connection, and as the divorce rate continues to skyrocket (it is greater than 50% in the US), many of us look around and realize something’s gotta give. And I don’t really see any other option than to redefine how we experience love and relationships moving forward. Self-admitted poly Anita Wagner, as quoted by author Monica Hesse in the Washington Post article, puts it in context below: (sorry for the long quote, but it says it all):

“‘Many of us tried to make monogamy work,’ Wagner says. But monogamy, she says, often seemed to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. Its practitioners would break off ‘perfectly good relationships’ just because of intellectual incompatibility, for example, or because one partner liked ballet and the other liked bowling. Doesn’t it make more sense, polys ask, to keep the good parts of a relationship, and find another boyfriend who likes ‘Swan Lake’?

The compartmentalization of affection: It’s completely at odds with today’s Disney Princess/Coldplay-lyric view of marriage, in which your spouse is your lover, best friend, therapist and Wii buddy, and you also have identical taste in movies.

But as people are increasingly expected to self-actualize clear to the grave, what are the chances that they’ll pair up with someone who is on the exact same path of discovery?”

Thought: Maybe you can have it all. You just can’t get it all from the same person.

In my view Second Life provides a unique opportunity for us to test the waters of polyamory before actually diving into the deep end. In theory we can experience love and compatibility with new friends without bringing the baggage that comes with connections in the physical realm (read “multiple sex partners”). That’s not to say it won’t upset the marital apple cart. But perhaps that cart is rolling down a rocky road anyway.

I realize this is new territory. And, like most attempts to chart new terrain, there exist few maps and guidebooks to point out the pitfalls on the journey. By writing honestly and openly about these experiences–although that could be debated as I’m still writing under a pseudonym–I’m attempting to help us at least come clean and start talking about how it feels to meet someone new who brings something to our lives that our current partner may not. And also how it feels to be the lover of one who is loved by another.

So consider this an invitation to join the dialogue. What have been your experiences with polyamory and Second Life? Is your partner aware of your actions? Have you set up successful parameters that allow you–and perhaps your partner as well–to partake in the previously forbidden waters of multiple romantic relationships?

See my previous post about how my husband and I came to discover polyamory in Second Life.

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Is Second Life a guilty pleasure?

July 25, 2007 at 1:22 am (Guilt, Second Life)

Let me state upfront that I find guilt utterly useless as an emotion. That’s not to say I don’t feel it. I just fail to see its value. So today, when I asked a friend to describe a guilty pleasure and he said Second Life, I felt somewhat defensive. A guilty pleasure to me meant eating an entire 1/2 lb. bag of M&Ms (no, I’d never do that) or my answer, buttered popcorn. But someone close to me to considering Second Life a guilty pleasure elicited a knee-jerk reaction akin to goosebumps from a swim in the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest.

So what’s so guilty about enjoying Second Life? Is it that we can say “Five more minutes, honey” with complete confidence and turn around 4 hours later wondering where our night went? Is it the stirring of dormant emotions prompted by enticing relationships with various men and women we may have just met?

My friend said it was about spending so much time on something so frivolous. But must we really spend all our time productively? I often ask that of myself as a parent when my son, who has been working productively at school all day long, asks to watch tv or play on the computer. Can a little downtime really hurt?

Being an extrovert–meaning that I get my energy from other people–I  look at some of my time on Second Life as a welcome opportunity to pump a little extra energy into my reserves. But mostly I just really enjoy it. I feel like a better person learning the things I do from other people or exploring a part of myself that might have gone unchartered.

So I think my problem goes back to the word “guilty.” It serves no purpose and, I argue, should be stricken from the English language. So should the word pathetic, in my opinion, but we’ll save that for another day.

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