- Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities by Mimi Schippers
In Beyond Monogamy, Mimi Schippers takes the reader on an exploration of how race, ethnicity, class, and gender intersect at the crossroads of poly (involving more than two people) relationships. In particular, she examines how power infiltrates relationships via the racial, gender, and class hierarchies inherent to hegemonic relationships. Grounded in sociological, feminist, queer, and critical race theory, the author builds on the work of Stevi Jackson and Sue Scott, Adrienne Rich, Eve Sedgwick, and Marjorie Garber by establishing a theoretical framework that explains how poly sexualities can redefine constructed notions of monogamy. Not ignoring the feminist perspective of how monogamy can be a site of oppression for women in heterosexual relationships, Schippers focuses on “theorizing monogamy as an institutionalized feature of social structure” (11) that perpetuates inequalities and hierarchical binaries of race and gender. Schippers pushes past the current literature that positions compulsory monogamy at the heart of sexual normalcy as it relates to heteronormativity, homonormativity, and power relations, exploring how nonmonogamies can foster what she refers to as potentialities within a relationship that will allow for a different perspective on the social and cultural scripts, norms, and narratives dictated by monogamy. The author seeks to disrupt several structures of normalcy, dominance, and superiority endemic to relationships such as heteromasculinity, mononormativity (monogamy as a normalizing sexual structure), and homonormativity by delving into the effects of poly relationships, not only on an individual level for those parties involved, but on a social level as well.
Despite the more common configuration associated with polyamorous relationships (one cisgender heterosexual man and two cisgender women), Schippers is meticulously deliberate in her decision to explore sex and relationships that include one cisgender woman and two heterosexually identified cisgender men (WMM). She justifies using this particular nondyadic relationship triangulation for several reasons. First, she examines the WMM poly [End Page 200] relationship to keep her work focused, as there are an infinite number of ways to depict poly sexualities and relationships. The author’s goal is to draw the reader’s attention to a conversation about compulsory monogamy and mononormativity, as opposed to a dialogue about the varying gender, race, class, and power dynamics that exist in varying forms of plural relationships, such as the more common one cisgender heterosexual man and two cisgender women (MWW) threesome that positions the male as dominant, or the expectation of the women engaging in bisexual practices. Second, she steers away from the MWW threesome to not only give voice to the less-accepted polyamorous WMM configuration but also to challenge the heteromasculine privilege and dominance that exists with the more popular MWW configuration. Social and cultural norms typically support the idea of a threesome when a cisgender heterosexual male is with two cisgender females, which is part of the heterosexual imaginary that limits the exploration of homosocial desires. Lastly, the author builds on Eve Sedgwick’s “foundational queer text Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire” (33) by introducing polyamory into Sedgwick’s analysis of the WMM triangulation, which allows for an analysis of homosocial desire between men as it relates to compulsory monogamy. Unlike the MWW configuration where male dominance and female bisexual tendency is the norm, the WMM triangulation provides a context to, for example, interrogate what happens when two heterosexual men are confronted with only one woman and another man, and how this challenges the expected or forced notion of monogamy.
In her analysis, Schippers brilliantly employs the use of fictional and nonfictional narratives to illustrate her analysis. The book begins with four vignettes that portray the heterosexual couple being disrupted by infidelity, which spark a discussion about what the author refers to as potentialities. She then considers her positionality as a queer woman, sharing her own experience of being involved in a love triangle and demonstrating how narratives of “cheating” simply feed into and sustain normative expectations for masculinity and femininity.
It was refreshing to see an author use themselves as...