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Non-monogamy and nerdiness in BC Poly Camp


Non-monogamy and nerdiness in BC Poly Camp

Why are these poly people drawn to sci-fi?
“Comic book heroes have origin stories,” Esha says. “So what is your origin story? What is” — she looks up and smiles — “your radioactive spider?”

At Poly Camp, on the windy northern tip of Salt Spring Island, talking about superheroes is normal. By “radioactive spider,” Esha means the moment when a polyamorous person realizes his or her or their own identity. She’s also revealing a curious fact about polyamorous culture: non-monogamy, fantasy and science fiction often go hand in hand. That’s what brought Esha to polyamory herself.

“Mine is science fiction and fantasy books,” she continues.

Esha is sitting by the muddy-green pond in the orchard of Neptune Farm. Fourteen polyamorous people are sitting around her in the shade of the tent or the long grass, or tucked into the dragonfly-infested bulrushes.

Like most people at Poly Camp, Esha isn’t comfortable seeing her full name in print. For her, it’s her parents who don’t know about her three boyfriends. For Josh and his wife, on the other side of the circle, it’s their friends.

Esha is drawing on her legs in glaring orange highlighter as she goes on.         

“Science fiction and fantasy books brought me up, largely. Maybe people want to write about alternative relationships . . .  And if you put it in a setting that’s odd and weird, it’s non-threatening.”

An English graduate student from Victoria chips in: “That’s how Star Trek got away with dealing with a lot of topics in the '60s.”

“Give it a couple of light years removed and we’re all good,” laughs Eli, one of Esha’s boyfriends.

These poly people came from Victoria, Duncan, Vancouver and Seattle to camp for a weekend under the apple and pear trees, branches hanging heavy in the late summer. There are men and women, some still in school and some already retired, a scientist and a graphic designer. But as they talk, it becomes clear that Esha is far from the only one influenced by science fiction novels.

One poly woman from Victoria mentions sci-fi author Robert A Heinlein, who described polyamorous relationships in his novels. A chorus of warm assent bursts from the circle. No fewer than five people credit Heinlein with drawing them to polyamory.
But why do poly and science fiction overlap? Why are the people at Poly Camp, regardless of age or nationality, so comfortable discussing the latest Joss Whedon series or the evolution of superhero comics?

“Poly people are nerds,” Scott Campbell answers simply.

Campbell is as far out of the closet as a poly person can be. He’s been in a polyamorous relationship for 15 years, and he and his partner have been mentioned in The Seattle Times and Newsweek and are the inspiration for the web series Family. Campbell notices that the poly community collects an odd number of software engineers and fantasy-fiction fans. The Society for Creative Anachronism is full of poly relationships, he says. Fantasy and sci-fi conventions have polyamory panel discussions. 

And sure enough, look around Poly Camp and the nerd culture is unmistakable. Two of the camp organizers — one naked and one clothed — play Magic: The Gathering while their mutual girlfriend lazes in the shade and keeps score. Josh and Scott admire another man’s intricate homemade chainmail kilt. Another sings songs from Dr Horrible, accompanying himself on the mandolin.

Campbell thinks that non-monogamy and nerdiness appear connected because only certain people choose to call themselves polyamorous. Nerds, he says, like to identify with titles and definitions. That means that nerdy polyamorous people draw all the attention.

“There are a lot of other people leading what we might call a poly lifestyle, but they don’t call themselves that,” he says. “And the geeks do because maybe they’re the ones who came up with the term in the first place, or maybe they just like to define things.”

Esha also thinks that poly people give special attention to definitions and titles.

“I think poly is about recognizing you can decide what your relationship looks like, so instead of relying on a default, you have to use your words,” she says. “And it helps a lot if you know what those words mean. I think it’s very basic to doing poly.”

Following Esha, everyone tells a radioactive spider story. A husband and wife with a crush on a mutual friend. Falling for a college roommate’s girlfriend. Waking up the morning after and making breakfast for three. The circle nods and smiles and laughs knowingly, conspiratorially, as if they share the best hobby on earth.

A 1976 study by psychologist Jacquelyn Knapp found that polyamorous people do indeed have character traits in common. They tend to be individualistic, academic, nonconformist and stimulated by complexity. They like endless communication. They enjoy picking over every subject in dizzying detail. Polyamorous people are the nerds of love.

Sitting by the pond, the poly circle is trying to describe what poly people are like. “Alternative.” “Critical.” “We love discussion.” “We don’t take things for granted.” “We like grey areas.”

Most of all, they want to reject the old and commonplace and look for the new and uncharted. They try not to mind what other people think. They feel just a little bit superior. They see themselves as the ultimate outsiders — boldly going where no relationship has gone before.

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Why do we want to label everything?
Swinging, polyamory, non-monogamy. Why is it that we all want to define and label the way people behave. Some people choose and enjoy, for a variety of different reasons, sex with more than one partner with s consensual understanding. Lets not be bogged down with naming it and just enjoy ourselves! Xx
Swinging vs Polyamory
Polyamory and swinging are quite different even if they seem the same at first glance. Polyamory is just what the word means, basically multiple loves. People have multiple partners, each of whom they have emotional attachments to beyond friendship. They can be gay/straight/bi whatever is normal for them, sometimes mixed sexualities overlap within poly relationships. It isn't my thing, but I fall into the swingers group.
Swingers tend to form monogamous emotional attachments while having numerous sexual partners, it is also what I consider an open relationship although many singles "swing" as well. Swinging does tend to be more of a heterosexual thing with a higher number of bisexual women, but it is not strictly that, bi sexual men as well as homosexuals do also participate from time to time.
I think it is important to differentiate between swingers and poly people so that more people understand the character of each group.
Both have their merits as well as detriments, and what puts you in each group is fairly different as well even if there is a basic overlap of shared partners.
We aren't all geeks.
When the "gay movement" was young you'd think that most gay people were into leather and S&M. People on the fringe for other reasons seem to be more likely to come out because they are already out there anyway.
My impressions
I went to this Salt Spring camp because I am new to polyamory, and I wanted to check out what it is like. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of sex for recreation only, but this turned out to be completely different. Yes, I am quite a nerd, and I enjoy discussing science, sex life, and other things; but I enjoyed it much more in THIS company. I loved the evening fire, baking potatoes, roasting marshmallows. Nights so bright that one could read by the moonlight. An unforgettable good-night hug that was as sensual as it was romantic. Most of all, I loved to be with a group of congenial people, whom I hope to keep as friends for life. Am I coming back? You betcha!
Swinging? In the 60s?
Swinging is something a little different. Polyamory emphasizes relationships and, as I understand it, sex as part of a relationship. Swinging plays down relationships in favour of sex exclusively for recreation. I think at least some Poly people would not be caught dead at a swingers' party.
het swingers! ya gotta luv em
It is joyous to see heterosexual penis-vagina practitioners open up to group sex and bi-female proclivities. Like the world from day 1, having sex with a group of people is as common as jerking off (Het on het except for the women of course). So glad these het nerds have finally discovered this. It was called swinging in the 60s -- now they call it poly. Perhaps Polly would be more apropos.
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