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TheFangirl

The Fangirl

Long time geek, fangirl, mother, and reader. I've got a lot to say, you might not like it all, but it will be honest and hopefully helpful.

Fixing the Problematic Legacy of Romance/Erotica: Polyamory is NOT Cheating

I just finished two fantastic books featuring bisexuality and polyamory, while also having a central f/m couple as the focus of the love story. The books are Alisha Rai’s A Gentleman in the Street and Kit Rocha’s Beyond Shame. They are fantastic and I highly recommend them both.

 

While I’ve been browsing through what other readers have said about these book I found a review for one that was essentially a huge trigger warning for “cheating.” I understand why this person felt compelled to post this review, but it doesn’t lessen the sting of someone mischaracterization your sexuality as an act of betrayal.

 

So let’s just address this right here and right now. Just as heterosexuality isn’t the default for everyone in the world, neither should it be in stories about love and sex. Likewise monogamy is not the default for everyone in the world. Nor should it be presumed to be the ideal in stories about love and sex.

 

Consensual sex between multiple adults is not cheating, whether or not everyone is participating in the touching or sexual intercourse. It’s just sex. And in the case of these two books it is polyamory.

 

“Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.” [source]

 

Beyond the wikipedia definition, polyamory isn’t just a relationships status. It’s an aspect of many people’s sexuality, whether or not they are actively in a polyamorous relationships in real life. Human sexuality is far more diverse than the simple boy meets girl narrative that dominates romance and erotica.

 

“What about properly labeling/shelving books? Isn’t this like marking BDSM, f/f, m/m, etc?” Shouldn’t people who could see it as cheating be warned?”

 

Just because monogamous people have the privilege of being portrayed as the norm in most romance and erotic doesn’t mean they should be catered to in ALL books, especially in books that aren’t about them.

 

This is a big problem we all need to discuss in every genre of literature. Just because the literary landscape has been dominated by a small group of people (heterosexual, white men) does NOT mean that every book written must take their perspective into account. That’s not diversity, that’s the exact opposite.

 

While labeling poly, bisexuality, homosexuality, people of color, etc as a subgenres in Romance/Erotica is a practice often totted as a helpful distinction, a way to to spotlight diverse stories. That can be true. However the execution of that labeling is deeply problematic.

 

Namely that there are no cis, vanilla, heterosexual or monogamous subgenre labels in any genre of literature. 

 

More often than not these subgenre distinctions are meant to slot diverse stories as “other.” To call them out as different, and not “the norm.” Which implies that cis, vanilla, heterosexual, monogamy is the default or ideal way to love and have sex. This is bullshit, and a subtle form of erasure.

 

Erotica and Romance are not genres restricted to just stories about cis, vanilla, heterosexual people in monogamous relationships. Bisexual people, trans people, gay people, polyamorous couples, interracial/multicultural relationships are all part of these genres. We deserve to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in real life, and our stories deserve to be shelved right along side yours in book stores and libraries, not pushed off into shadowy corners like dirty secrets.

 

My sexuality is NOT your kink. While you might enjoy the idea of bisexuality and polyamory as a fun, sexy fantasy that does not give you a right to define my sexuality as wrong just because it makes you uncomfortable. Even more important do not contribute to damaging bigotry in order to accommodate other people's ignorance. Doing so values their ignorance over my dignity.

 

You wouldn’t put trigger warnings a m/m romance because two men kiss, because you understand that there is nothing wrong with the act of two men kissing. So too there is nothing wrong with consenting adults having sex whether their a couple or a group. Consent is the important distinction, even if the sexual intercourse is happening between a husband and another man. If his partner is aware and consents it’s not cheating.

 

Whether you agree with it or not, it is not your place to define or judge someone else's sexuality.

 

Polyamory isn’t ugly or wrong, it is simply different than monogamy. It is no less beautiful or resonant for MANY people, whether or not they are polyamorous themselves. Love and sex takes all kinds of amazing shapes.

 

Don’t you dare put yourself in a place of judgement upon other people's sexuality. Even if it’s strange to you. Stay in your fucking lane and out my sexuality.