The research areas that interest me most are gender identity, bisexuality, polyamory and pornography. As much as this year is kicking my ass in my health and personal life, I have to admit I’m really happy about the work I’ve been doing academically.*
Earlier this year I submitted a proposal related to gender identity to DH 2013 with a colleague (we won’t hear about that until January) and another related to pornography to the SU Undergraduate Research Symposium (accepted, presented, awarded!). My first research paper of this semester was a bisexual reading of Coleridge’s Christabel and my professor thinks that it might be publishable (with lots of work, of course.) And yesterday I submitted (along with three brilliant colleagues), a panel abstract along with individual paper abstracts related to polyamory to the Sexuality Studies Association call for sessions for Congress 2013! That’s all my areas of interest, covered. I am really proud of this work, and thankful for the support of my community.
In all cases, I had significant help not only from my professors and academic colleagues but also from my extended network (many of whom are not academics). I am constantly blown away by the insight and wisdom that my community has to offer.
Anyway, I’m really proud of what we came up with for this last submission. If we aren’t accept by the SSA for Congress this year, we’ll shop the idea around. One of my favourite things about it is that we are all co-authoring each other’s papers. It’s a really collaborative approach to academic writing, and I love it! Here’s what we submitted:
Centering the Periphery: Finding Space for Polyamory’s Marginalized Identities
This panel explores inclusions and exclusions within polyamorous communities and texts. In particular, we focus on how polyamorous communities and texts marginalize contributions from individuals whose identities and practices diverge from the dominant discourse of the ‘good poly person.’ We demonstrate that differentially privileging identities and practices marginalizes those ‘others’ who contradict or problematize the norm. Acceptable polyamorous identities and practices are reinforced and welcomed while identities and practices that challenge this model are found along the edges of polyamory, often invisible and frequently silenced. Our goal is to challenge existing power relations and find space for marginalized identities and practices, offering a ‘way in’ to the center where their contributions can be recognized, legitimized and valued. This work draws on personal experience and existing academic work such as the 2006 Sexualities special issue on polyamory, and the 2010 anthology Understanding Non-Monogamies edited by Meg Barker and Darren Langdridge.
Individual Paper Abstracts:
De-Prioritizing Individualism: A Call for Poly Feminism
In their introduction to the 2006 Sexualities special issue on polyamory, the editors argue that extant poly literature fails to fully examine power relations and how multiply-positioned subjects negotiate relationships. Additionally, critiques of polyamorous self-help literature problematize assumptions of a neutral subject whose positioning along lines of race, class, orientation, gender, sex, and ability are obscured. We will further explore the disjuncture between polyamorous texts and intersectional feminist texts. This critique is informed by the authors’ own practices of polyamory and feminism and calls for a renewed poly-feminism, an intersectional feminist approach to polyamory that challenges polyamory’s dominant discourse of individualism, a discourse which may enable oppressive practices.
(Un)Fractured Identities: Facilitating the Holistic Expression of Self in Online Communities
Online communities provide the opportunity to establish and maintain multiple identities, some dramatically unique from one another, and others with some measure of overlap. While individuals may carefully construct their online identities to meet the expectations of a particular community, those with membership in multiple communities may find themselves selectively taking up the acceptable “good [insert kink, poly, swinger, etc.] person” identity, rather than expressing a holistic identity that includes open membership in multiple communities, some of which are oppositionally positioned. In this paper, we discuss the challenges associated with managing numerous, fractured online identities, and propose a set of practices that aim to find space for holistic self-expression.
The Rise of the ‘Newcomer’: Reimagining Communities of Relationship
As poly comes of age, equity, significance, and on-going consent are emerging as clarion calls for single newcomers to poly arrangements. The dominant poly narrative tends to place and privilege ‘the existing’ at the center, as more important. This design places the ‘newcomer’ implicitly at risk — ‘the existing’ arrangement sublimates the needs, wants, and authentic personhood of the individual being ‘added’ and all parties accept the premise that this is how poly ‘is done.’ Deconstructing, challenging, refining, and innovating this mindset is essential to the creation of sustainable, safe and caring communities of relationship and to the advancement of polyamory as a valid relationship choice.
“Don’t Stick Your Hand in the Crazy”: Challenging the Positioning of Mental Health Problems as a Barrier to Successful Poly
This paper problematizes the conflation of bad behaviour with emotional instability, emotional wounding, or other euphemisms for mental health struggles. Setting perfect mental health as a prerequisite for successful poly is both unrealistic given the pervasiveness and frequency of mental health struggles, and harmful given the systemic stigmatization faced by those who struggle with their mental health. We also challenge the assumption that polyamory is ‘more’ difficult than monogamy, and claim that while the difficulties faced by various relationship orientations are different, there is not a hierarchy of difficulty.
 Haritaworn, J., Chin-ju, L., & Klesse, C. (2006). Poly/logue: A critical introduction to polyamory. Sexualities, 9(5), 515-529.
 Barker, M., & Langdridge, D. (Eds.). (2010). Understanding non-monogamies. New York: Routledge.
Haritaworn, J., Chin-ju, L., & Klesse, C. (2006). Poly/logue: A critical introduction to polyamory. Sexualities, 9(5), 515-529.
Noël, M.J. (2006). Progressive polyamory: Considering issues of diversity. Sexualities, 9(5), 602-620.
* Aside from having to defer my two research papers for this term. But… I am confident that the deferrals will not result in poor work, and they weren’t pursued lightly. I know that I can do a good job with both papers – I’ll probably post my progress here – and I also know that the deferrals really were necessary. There has just been too much going on, and it doesn’t look like it’ll ease up this month.