I’m preparing a presentation on the misconceptions surrounding polyamory, which honestly requires some care to prevent from cascading into a series of presentations. The natural place to start is the cultural misconception that such a practice, orientation, lifestyle, or philosophy of intimate relationships does not exist at all, or exists only in relation to a monogamous baseline, for this mononormative quality of our culture is the genesis for many (and the catalyst for all) of the misconceptions that follow—including those internal to the internal poly dialogue.
The most obvious variety (strategy, if you will) of marginalization is erasure. The relative invisibility of poly people and of polyamory as a type of relationship testifies to the youth of our collective culture and identity, and certainly of our movement. For the most part, responsible non-monogamous relationships play no role in popular narratives and do not even factor into the general awareness. This exchange from “The Mask” provides a nice illustration:
Peggy: You’re Mr. Nice Guy?
Peggy: Oh, Stanley, do you realize how much mail we got about that letter? I mean, there are literally hundreds of women out there looking for a guy just like you.
Peggy: Yeah. Do you know how hard it is to find a decent man in this town? Most of them think monogamy is some kind of wood.
In the (in this respect, pretty accurate) universe of the story, monogamy is so equated with ethical relationship practices that the word itself goes largely unrecognized.* Monogamy has certainly come into question in the decades since dialogue like this went essentially unchallenged, and in light of the increasing recognition of open and “monogamish” relationships it likely wouldn’t today. There remains a reticence to depart in any enduring way from dyads (and when non-dyadic relationship structures do appear they still tend to be contextualized by crime).