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Privilege is as deeply intertwined with polyamory as it is with almost everything else in modern society. Even when it comes to relationships in general: “having one, cultivating one, and having it out in the open is a privilege in many ways” (1). People often take the privilege of relationships, polyamorous or not, for granted. While having two sources of income definitely helps with finances, but people often forget about the time aspect of being intimate with another person. One could argue that “the most privileged people in the world are those who have the TIME for human connection and self-exploration” (2). Of course those with this privilege often fill their time by trying to obtain more money instead of enriching their emotional lives but the statement remains true regardless. When polyamory comes into play, people need double (or more) the spare time to stay connected with all of their partners and “ it’s a lot easier to participate in those communities if you aren’t already laboring beneath the burden of poverty and racism” (3). When you are working two jobs already you do not have the time to entertain more than one person. Even if you can manage to drop one of the jobs for more free time, “scarce funds can deter people with low incomes from participating in some kink and poly community events” (298).
Another consideration of privilege in polyamory is the aspect of social reputation. When a person comes out as polyamorous there are “increased potential risks… for sexual nonconformity” (298) in regards to social status which affects which opportunities given to you. One polyamorous women expressed her concerns for being out amongst her coworkers, ”I got the impression that the were already not comfortable with me being a person of color. To throw in the other stuff that I did may confirm their stereotypes about Black people or they may have just thought she’s the weirdest shit on the planet” (299). People, especially those who are already oppressed for other identities face judgment for their sexual preferences and often choose to keep that aspect of their lives private to avoid any negative consequences. Being in an environment which you face little to no social consequence for “sexual deviance” is a privilege and “you are goddamn lucky to be able to be in a place (physically, socially, financially) where you can love freely” (4).
Finally, I wanted to discuss privilege within polyamorous relationships via couple privilege. Couple privilege are the benefits people in dyad relationships enjoy and the assumptions these people make about relationships in general. Couple privilege can present itself through “‘external’ privileges–social privileges you get without even necessarily asking for them. Some of them are ‘internal’ privileges–privileges that make your relationship feel safer and more secure by placing it on a different plane from any ‘third’ or ‘outside’ relationships” (5). External couple privileges include being able to get married and having the upper hand in child custody cases among many other things. Internal couple privileges are all the privileges two people enjoy when they were together first and then opened their relationship to include other people. Often internal couple privileges occurs when the original couple are seen as hierarchically more important in the new relationship formation. Couple privilege is embedded in every institution and will take many years of work to unpack and resolve.
Sheff, Elisabeth, and Corie Hammers. “The privilege of perversities: Race, class and education among polyamorists and kinksters.” Psychology & Sexuality 2.3, (2011): 198-223. Reprinted by permission of the publisher Taylor & Francis Ltd., http://www.tandfonline.com