After a short conversation at the bar last night, I started to reformulate, and shorten, something I’ve already said.
It seems that monogamist logic leads to ethical aporia. It goes something like:
“I want this (monogamy).”
Don’t you require another individual with whom to form a couple?
“Yes, I want this (monogamy) with a person (who can complete the wished for relationship).”
Shouldn’t you decide on the nature and form of the relationship together?
“If the person doesn’t want what I want, then they are not worth having a relationship with.”
So the relationship is for yourself, regardless of the needs and wants of the other?
“I want this (monogamy) with another person in so far as their needs and wants match my own (and their wants and needs should match my own since I want this [monogamy]).”
The person has value and worth when their views match yours only (or are forced to match yours)?
“No, but… I want…”
Non-monogamist logic is aware of this idea of One perspective (on a world that should otherwise be understood and experienced as containing multiple and oftentimes conflicting perspectives). This logic can be understood as:
“I don’t know what you want (and you don’t know what I want), and neither of us knows what we want from each other), so the structure of the romance should parallel these changing modes of desires and needs.”
There is something more ethical in this logic; it recognizes and attempts to negotiate the ambiguity of existence.
I would claim that monogamy is logically impossible if we hold the latter as an ethical principle. A claim to a static form of wants and needs makes an effort to predict, and perhaps negate (although not always – how dramatic and exciting are the affairs!), future encounters. The shape of an encounter, logically, cannot be stated in advance; or, if it can, it cannot logically (fully) consider the other participant in the encounter because they have not yet been encountered and therefore, the formulations about ourselves and the other person are unnecessary and incorrect abstractions.
In different words, even if two participants agree upon monogamy in perfect harmony, this is something of a false consciousness: you can’t agree on a future encounter, i.e., the same monogamist logic will play itself out when new intellectual, emotional, romantic, and sexual encounters take place. This is why serial monogamy is the dominant practice today. What is implied, therefore, is the flux of desires and needs. Non-monogamist logic thus works alongside this ambiguity as a principle based on ethically encountering other individuals, not the solipsist logic of personal happiness at any cost. (Is it surprising that monogamy and the capitalist ethos follow a similar logic? Both suggest that what matters first and foremost is the individual prior to encounter with the other: e.g., I want monogamy and will do whatever I can to achieve it; I will be successful in the marketplace and will do whatever I can to achieve it.)
Non-monogamy is communist love, and I think this is something Alain Badiou wanted to say in In Praise of Love, but he lacked the courage to name it. I agree with the monogamists’ uncritical dismissal of non-monogamy then: it is a good theory and difficult to implement in practice. (Monogamy, on the other hand, is an unethical theory and the repercussions have been extremely violent.) Being a good person is hard work. We should try to oust ourselves, and our partners, from the false consciousness of monogamy. It is not enough to say that we can be ethical within a poorly structured arrangement. As Duane Rousselle frequently writes, although with reference to capitalism and via Badiou, we need a radical change and should not be satisfied with incremental change. Non-monogamy is for communists; if we agree with leftist principles, why do we our radical politics stop before love?