A few years ago, I spent some time writing answers to all of the polyamory-related questions I could find on Yahoo! Answers. I kept copies of some of those, since I felt they represented pretty good answers to some commonly asked questions about poly. Here’s one of them, for your reading pleasure. Feel free to comment or ask questions!
why do we as a culture view polyamory as bad/wrong?
I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong or bad about polyamory. However, I can tell you what other people have said as to why they believe polyamory is bad/wrong. Most people who object seem to do so because it conflicts with their own beliefs, and/or moral framework. I’ve also heard people object on the grounds that they believe it to be:
[In my experience, polyamory is usually quite egalitarian, based on the belief that everyone has a right to get their needs met. Most of the early proponents of “modern polyamory” have in fact been women.]
[This has always puzzled me, since a polyamorous person is absolutely not “keeping all the good ones to themselves”–the whole idea is that we share, and include MORE!]
c) bad for children
[Children raised in polyamorous families have a greater amount of support, more people to love them, and more financial stability. It’s another way of creating the “village” that it takes to raise a child.]
d) too complicated
[This has some validity, because it does take extra work and organization to do well. But just because it wouldn’t work for one person, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for anyone.]
e) “doomed” to fail because of jealousy
[Jealousy is a marker for issues needing to be dealt with. Mature individuals can often learn to understand these feelings and not be overwhelmed by them.]
f) sexually unsafe
[In fact, most polyamorous people I know are extremely careful of their own and their partners’ safety, taking strict precautions and getting tested regularly to catch anything that might slip by those precautions. It’s far more dangerous for people to THINK that they are monogamous and then discover that in fact their partner has been cheating on them (which is sadly common–not universal, of course, but more common than many think or wish to believe). The openness and honesty promoted by polyamory actually increases safety through increasing awareness.]
g) against the “natural order”
[In fact, over all of history, far more cultures have been non-monogamous than monogamous, and many of the world’s current cultures are non-monogamous. We are also finding more and more evidence that very few in the animal kingdom are truly monogamous either (i.e., mate with only one partner for a lifetime).]
Addressing your second question requires looking not only at the things people are conscious of (all those above), but those of which they are UNconscious. It’s my experience that many people in our culture reject the idea of polyamory because they have been carefully trained to think that monogamy is the only correct way to engage in relationship. This happens through enculturation and conditioning, largely through the media. Many TV shows and movies have plots that revolve around a classic “love triangle” for instance, which assumes that only two people can be in a relationship and anything else is doomed.
Additionally, much of the media, and much of our cultural and social systems (e.g., political) are controlled by–directly or indirectly–by conservative groups who have a strong belief in their particular morality, as defined by the interpretation by their “moral leaders” of the particular translation of hundreds-of-years-old documents (such as the Bible) that these leaders accept as literal truth. In other words, those in power truly believe their way to be the only right way (which is a bit of hubris, IMO, since it assumes that it’s not possible to be a moral or good person without believing in that particular system), and they fund government agencies, research, and systems which enshrine their beliefs as the “right”way. It becomes a self-perpetuating system: “It’s wrong because we say it’s wrong.”
Social disapproval, even more than legal sanctions, also keeps people from stepping outside of the norms very far. Since we are social creatures, it’s not easy to “go against the grain,” enduring possible verbal harassment, denigration, social shunning, and even monetary consequences. (It is still quite legal to discriminate against a polyamorous person in the workplace, or in the courtroom, for instance.) Since it’s hard/dangerous for people to speak up about or question it, then the prevailing belief that “everyone knows” that it’s wrong gets tacitly supported.
There’s also a predisposition to competition in our culture, over cooperation. Therefore, it’s difficult for people to understand a relationship system that’s based in cooperation. The unconscious assumption is that such people must have ulterior motives and are really trying to take things away from everyone else, or create some unfair situation in which others lose and they win. Again, in my experience this is far from true.
Most polyamorous people I know just want the ability to live their lives in peace, without harassment, or legal or financial difficulties not faced by mono-amorous people. They’re looking for equality, in other words.
I imagine that this was a bit more of an answer than you were anticipating. :^) I hope that it has given you some food for thought, and been helpful at addressing your questions.
Long personal experience and many conversations with polyamorous and mono-amorous people. Also see these websites (and the books, articles, websites, etc cited within) for more information: