I was reading a message board lately and saw someone talking about “open poly versus closed poly.” And I thought: what is the point of that term? It really baffles me.
“Closed polyamory,” as I understand it, is: more than two people in a sexual/romantic relationship who do not have sex or become romantically involved with anyone else outside their group.
If that’s how the people involved want to do their poly, that’s completely and utterly fine with me. But - why is it necessary to stick the word closed on the front of it? I do not see that system of poly as being somehow so different than other systems that it needs a discrete category. It just sounds like the speaker is trying to minimize the situation. “Okay, so we’re not monogamous. But we’re like monogamy + one. We opened up our relationship and let just this one other person in (or just these two other people, or however many). And then we closed the door again, boom! So we’re not like those other poly people, all open and stuff.”
Well, the people in the original dyad had to be open at least long enough to find another person, didn’t they? And let’s be realistic, most relationships – both mono and poly - end. So what happens when one of them does? Do the people remaining in a relationship switch over to being open again until they meet someone else, and then go back to being closed? If the relationship can be opened, then what is the advantage of designating it as closed in the first place? It’s not like people are taxis, and have to turn the light on the roof off and on.
I have no quarrel with words like triad, quad, or group marriage. I think those are clear, useful terms. And I'm mostly okay with the term polyfidelity, although it always reminds me of the movie High Fidelity with John Cusack.
As I said, people get to do poly however they want. If you want to have a designated group of people who have sex only amongst themselves, more power to you. But when phrases seem designed to minimize something, or distance the reality of a situation, then those phrases bother me. They remind me of chicks who have girlfriends but say, “Oh, I’m not really a lesbian, I just love her.” I have never met any homophobes who gave out The First Pussy Is Free! exemptions, so why bother with the limp denials? Likewise, I have never met an anti-poly person who would say, "Well, if you're just non-monogamous with these few people, that's all right."
I could channel John Cleese in the Bring Out Your Dead scene from Monty Python and The Holy Grail. “You’re not fooling anyone, you know.” In my opinion, you got the name, you might as well play the game.