October 31, 2013 by aggiesez
This week the popular Kimchi Cuddles poly webcomic posted a followup cartoon on solo polyamory. (Here’s the first one.)
It’s great that this webcomic is addressing this topic — but this particular cartoon seems to equate having a general sense of autonomy with being solo poly. And that misses the mark.
Why I’m lukewarm on this comic: For many people, being solo poly is about having a paramount commitment to personal autonomy. However, anyone can have a strong commitment to personal autonomy — even people who are involved in deeply life-entangled primary-style (or primary-track) partnerships.
I’ve spoken to many, many people who consider themselves solo poly. It seems like the strongest commonality among them is their relationship preference or status.
That is: most people who consider themselves solo poly don’t currently have (and may not want, or at least are not seeking) a life-entangled primary-style partnership. Solo polyamory appears to be mainly about a particular way to step off the standard social relationship escalator.
This takes into account that many people arrive at being solo poly by choice or by happenstance; it’s not all about a personal commitment to autonomy. In fact, many solo poly people only discover their personal commitment to autonomy well after they end up living solo poly against their wishes (such as after the loss of a treasured primary-style relationship).
Also, many people (poly and otherwise) have partners whom they consider primary, yet they don’t live together (and don’t plan to), or they don’t exhibit other traditional markers of primary relationships — for instance, they may choose to coparent with others, but not with each other.
Conversely, there are plenty of people who are in very strong, life-entangled primary-style relationships — even monogamous couples — who also value their personal autonomy and avoid submerging their individuality into a hydra-headed we-unit. Yes, you CAN be “coupled up” (tripled up, whatever) and still maintain a rather soloish mindset and approach to your relationships. This all exists on a spectrum.
So: It’s great that Kimchi Cuddles is addressing this topic. And generally: Yay autonomy! Still, I hope that there will be further episodes of this webcomic that get more into the logistical implications of being solo poly — situations like dealing with couple privilege, or partners who have escalator-style expectations, or people assuming you’re “just single.”
And, in the big picture, the artist behind this comic is just one person, with their own views. And I’m just one person, with my own views. There are many varying definitions and shades of solo polyamory. I’m not claiming to have the last word. But I do think that portraying solo polyamory as being just about a sense of autonomy is a little like saying someone who likes taking public transit is car-free.