Jul. 3rd, 2015

queerbychoice: (Default)
The full recognition of same-sex marriage across the United States has made it less politically fraught to discuss the possibility of recognizing plural marriage, and Politico has taken advantage of the moment to publish two articles voicing opposing view on the topic: It's Time to Legalize Polygamy: Why Group Marriage Is the Next Horizon of Social Liberalism" by Fredrik deBoer and "No, Polygamy Isn’t the Next Gay Marriage: Group Marriage Is the Past—Not the Future—of Matrimony" by Jonathan Rauch. Both articles frustrate me, because neither article actually addresses the points made by the other article. Fredrik deBoer's article basically just states that being deprived of the right to marry hurts people, and asserts that there is no justification for this. Jonathan Rauch points out, correctly, that Fredrick deBoer's article does not in any way address the evidence that polygamous societies, historically and cross-culturally, have tended to leave large numbers of low-status males unable to find wives and thus prone to engaging in antisocial behavior. Fair enough: some attempt does need to be made to address this and find ways of taking precautions against that potential problem. However, Jonathan Rauch's article frustrates me because it basically changes the subject from the type of modern, liberal polyamory that Fredrik deBoer's article was discussing to a more ancient, conservative polygynous system and pretends, in the absence of any real evidence, that an ancient, conservative, polygynous system is what we would end up with if we tried to recognize plural marriage in the modern United States. I mean, it might be what we would end up with! But I think it really depends a lot on how we would choose to write any potential laws for potential plural marriages.

Historically, monogamy has served many different purposes. Some of those purposes are now obsolete. For example, one major purpose of monogamy historically was to let men know which children were genetically theirs. Nowadays we have paternity tests that can establish this without monogamy. But monogamy continues to serve other purposes that are not obsolete. If practiced honestly, monogamy is helpful for preventing STD transmission. Monogamy can create a different emotional dynamic in a relationship, which may either increase or decrease the stability of the relationship, depending on the relationship needs of the individual people. Many people seem to feel that monogamy provides a greater sense of security, possibly at the expense of some loss of excitement. These assertions are debatable; monogamy means different things to different people. But the alternatives to monogamy tend to look significantly different in modern, liberal cultures or subcultures than in ancient, conservative ones.

Modern, liberal polyamory encompasses many different forms of plural relationships, but relationships approximating polygyny do not appear to me to be an especially common form. The most common form I see is more along the lines of "free love," with everyone in the relationship considered free to form relationships with anyone else they want to, which does not appear to lend itself to creating an underclass of men who can't find spouses. I'm not sure, though, how many of these sorts of poly people would actually want to get married; it appears to me that for many of them, an absence of formal commitment is part of the appeal of polyamory. But this could also have been said of some gay people, and I think the question of how many polyamorous people actually want to get married should not be considered relevant to the question of what right we have to deprive polyamorous people who do want to marry from doing so.

Granting legal recognition to plural marriages is much more complicated than granting legal recognition to same-sex marriages, because plural marriages raise a lot more issues that aren't addressed in existing marriage law, that we would have to figure out how to address. Just to name a few: Should married people need their spouses' permission to marry again? What should be the default legal relationship, if any, that your spouses' spouses should be considered to have with you for purposes such as inheritance and medical decision-making, in the absence of a will or a living will? You cannot be compelled to testify in court against your own spouse; should it be possible to compel you to testify against your spouse's spouse? Should the spousal Social Security benefits of a person with multiple spouses be divided evenly among the spouses and thus reduced from the amount that a monogamous person's one spouse would receive?

No movement for legal recognition of plural marriages is likely to be able to gather much momentum until a fairly clear consensus is formed about how to answer these sorts of questions. How can people decide to enthusiastically fight for something until they have a fairly clear idea of what the thing they're fighting for is likely to look like? So this is a conversation that poly people need to start having, if poly people care about marriage rights. And the way in which poly people decide to answer these sorts of questions can help either validate or address and resolve Jonathan Rauch's concerns.

Personally, having been deprived for gender-based reasons of the right to marry, I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of depriving anyone of the right to marry for numbers-based reasons. I am, I suppose, a big-government liberal: I tend to think that government regulation is valuable. Of course, the government can and often does regulate many things badly, and the government's previous restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples was an example of the government regulating marriage badly. (Also of course, I am not advocating rushing people into marriage against their will; I am advocating that people should be allowed to choose when and whether to invite the government to regulate their relationships.) Still, I do not think that a deregulated, anarchist appoarch to marriage is ideal. Government regulation helps mediate the division of assets in hostile divorces and hostile inheritance situations. Government regulation helps homemakers who've sacrificed their career prospects for their spouses' sakes receive some compensation. Government regulation helps, in general, to somewhat protect the interests of the most vulnerable people whose interests might be more thoroughly trampled on in the absence of government regulation. So I would really like to see the poly community take an interest in pushing for marriage rights and deciding on what those marriage rights should look like.

But I am not poly, so I am not in a good position to lead this discussion. I just want to say that I hope some good leaders show up who do start this discussion soon, because if the poly community sorts out what it wants and presents a clear vision of what poly marriage rights should look like, I hope to be able to support them.
queerbychoice: (Default)
I made a firm decision to get out of the house this holiday weekend, picked a place or two to go to, started packing, and then discovered that the hydration reservoir on my hiking backpack has broken irreparably (an important piece of plastic broke off). Since I live in the middle of nowhere, traveling to buy a new one before the weekend is over would mean traveling significantly in the opposite direction from wilderness, which would cut into my wilderness time quite inconveniently.

However, I adapted to this news by deciding to swim rather than hike. I drove today to a swimming hole on Dry Creek in Spenceville State Wildlife Area, the same place I went last year and various previous years. First, though, I thoroughly sunscreened the entry hall of my house. Can someone please invent a sunscreen for single people that can be easily sprayed onto hard-to-reach spots on one's back? I have a spray-on sunscreen that I thought would do the trick, but the sprayer is awkward to grip, and becomes all the more so once my fingers are slippery from sunscreen; I found that I needed two hands to make it spray, and the need to use two hands really interfered with my ability to aim it. The result was that it took me twenty minutes to apply sunscreen to myself, and by the end of it, I had also applied large quantities of sunscreen to the mirror, the tile floor, an area rug, the wall-to-wall carpeting, a potted plant, my front door, and a chair. Then it took me fifteen more minutes to clean up the mess. I guess my entry hall will not get sunburned anytime soon. The good news is that I also do not seem to have gotten sunburned, so it seems I managed not to miss any spots.

The drive is 45 minutes long, of which the last 13 minutes or so are on a rough gravel road that it feels somewhat foolhardy of me to take on in my eleven-year-old Nissan Sentra without the benefit of four-wheel-drive. I take some comfort, however, from the fact that even if I lost control of the car, there's really not much I could possibly crash into. As long as I could manage to miss the occasional oak tree, it's just miles of dead annual grasses. Anyway, I did not lose control of the car, so it wasn't an issue. I arrived safely. And I always forget how beautiful this place is! I never feel that I can safely bring my camera with me, because my camera is expensive and came with warnings that I should not leave it sitting in a hot car because parts of it might melt. And if I didn't leave it sitting in a hot car I'd have to leave it unguarded on the bank of the creek, where it might fall into the water or get stolen or, again, simply melt in the heat. So I leave it at home. But this means I can't properly show you how beautiful the place is. I will just have to describe it for you as best I can.

The first glimpse that always gets to me is the sight of the deergrasses lining the entire bank of the creek: huge, fluffy, bright green grasses, native grasses that I grow at home in my garden, but they're a brighter green when growing on the bank of a creek. Seeing them lining the entire bank of the creek makes me think I've wandered into one of those Dr. Seuss books in which characters are transported to strange landscapes full of billowing pillows everywhere.

I always enter the creek at the first place I come to, directly under the bridge that I park next to. For some reason, no one else ever enters the creek here. Everyone else walks downstream to a wider spot in the creek, where the water is a bit deeper and there's a rope swing that many people jump from. But at the spot where I enter, the water is deep enough that my feet occasionally can't touch the bottom, and even when they can touch the bottom, I can choose not to let them and swim up and down the creek for a bit farther than the length of most backyard swimming pools. I descended the bank, which was dotted here and there with California poppies, and hung my car keys on a dead tree branch, and placed my sunscreen at the foot of the tree; I'd locked all my belongings in my car except for these. Then I walked into the water. The water was not particularly cold; in fact, in a few places it was shockingly warm, to the point that I could have sworn it was heated. It wasn't that warm where I first got in, but it wasn't cold enough to be at all difficult to get used to. Immediately I saw fish swimming around me, fish about the length of my hand, greyish in color but with white outlines around the edges of their fins. They were shaped like sunfish, but I don't know what species they were. There were two of them; they seemed to stay in a very small area in the shade of the bridge at all times, because whenever I looked for them, they were always still there. Above me, the underside of the bridge was covered with cliff swallow nests, and I could see a few cliff swallows poking their heads out of their nests to look at me. All the birds I saw seemed less afraid of letting me come close to them than birds usually are; I had the impression that when I was submerged in water except for my head, the birds perceived me as a much smaller creature, only the size of my head. In addition to the cliff swallows, I saw several dark-eyed juncos and some house finches. I also saw dragonflies and damselflies galore, and quite a number of monarch and swallowtail butterflies visiting the buttonbushes blooming along the creek. I also saw a Pacific tree frog sunning itself on a leaf. And I glimpsed a lizard between some rocks, though I didn't get a good enough look at it to be able to identify it.

Eventually I made my way downstream, wading in the creek, toward the wider and deeper spot in the creek where everyone else always congregates. It would be much quicker and easier to get out of the creek and walk on the bank; the creek bottom is uneven and painful to walk on in thin-soled water shoes, and I always fall down a few times. But it always feels like more of an adventure to wade in the creek than to walk on the bank, and anyway, I'm pretty sure that walking on uneven rocks is good for strengthening the arches of my feet, which is considered important for preventing plantar fasciitis, which I've had quite enough of in the past and would not like to encounter again. So I wade in the creek. Much of the distance from the place I enter to the larger swimming hole is too shallow to actually swim in, so I have no choice but to wade. Along the way, I help myself to the invasive Himalayan blackberries, which have crowded out the native Pacific blackberries that ought to be there, and I admire the remaining native plants: field mint, mugwort, rosillas, ragweed, common horsetail, California grape, white alders. I've grown most of these in my garden - everything but the ragweed (too ugly and weedy), the horsetail (too impossible to control), and the alders (water-guzzling trees that I don't want to allocate adequate space and water to). There's something amazing about seeing a wilderness area in which nearly all the plants present are the same plants I'm growing at home.

Eventually I emerged through some minor rapids into the main swimming hole. I stayed and swam around there for a while, but the rope swing had been commandeered today by a group of teenage boys and young men probably in their early twenties who had very little sense of caution; they were riding the swing two or even three at a time, trying to do simultaneous backflips within inches of one another, and this made me increasingly uncomfortable. I felt that by increasing the size of their audience I might be partly responsible if one of them got maimed for life, so I decided not to stay there any longer; I crossed to the opposite side of the swimming hole and continued to follow the creek further downstream until I reached an impassible barrier: at a particularly shallow spot in the creek, all manner of large branches and small twigs had piled up across the full width of a creek. It looked like a beaver dam at first, but on closer inspection I wasn't so sure; perhaps the current had piled eeverything up on its own. Anyway, there was no good way to get out of the water there and go around the barrier, so instead I turned around, waded back to and through the main swimming hole, and returned to my original spot under the bridge until the sun set.

On the gravel road in and out, I noticed signs for Camp Far West Lake, which reminded me that I've never been there yet. I'm resolving that next time I go swimming, that's where I'll go.


queerbychoice: (Default)

September 2017

345 6789

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 06:13 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios