Love, Sex & Alienation in Manchester

I heard about the Manchester Spring through Facebook (via Josh R) of all places. I guess he saw the topic (Love, Sex & Alienation) and decided I would be interested.

What are relationships? Why do we seek them out, and how can they enrich our lives? Spring invites you to a thoughtful matinee discussion on the borders and nuances of human interaction. From anthropological, biological, social and philosophical perspectives this event will explore the sticky and personal terrain of love, sex and alienation. What do human relationships have the potential to be? What do they look like when they’re going well?

The speakers were… Rosie Wilby and Don Milligan

It was the first time I had ever been to a spring and to be honest first time I had really heard of them. The subject reminded me of geekstalksexy event we put on years ago. Rosie talked about her experience and feelings about non-monogamy, as she did for BBC Radio 4 and elsewhere a while ago.

This view point on non-monogamy didn’t go down quite as smoothly as I thought it would with quite a left leaning audience. To be fair the spectrum of non-monogamy was boiled down to pretty much cheating or poly (we all know theres so much more to this field). The conflict was moved up a level when someone suggested that there was no way you could get the same level of love from multiple people and that you maybe poly people might be wasting their lives trying.

This was seriously upsetting and as a non-poly person, even I was slightly shocked at this. Thankfully a lady passionately responded and made the person rethink their narrow view.

Rosie then made the excellent point that even if you don’t think its for you, we must be supportive of peoples choices. She compared it to what people said in the 80’s and 90’s about queer people and the feminism movement right now. And she was dead right!

We must support peoples rights to make well informed decisions about what works for them. If that be serial monogamy, non-monogamy or anything else. As long as its not harmful to others and everybody involved are giving informed consent (something we talked a lot about on LoveGrumps yesterday which you unfortunately won’t ever hear due to the bandwidth issues we experienced).

Rosie was full of good points and she made one about communication and having the confidence ask for what you want and don’t want. I was going to make the point that its usually a relationship break up when the people involved stop communicating.

Then the talk turned to children, logical families, emotional faithfulness, assumptions about relationships and what we learn from media about relationships. A lot of ground was covered and likewise Manchester Spring looks like a interesting place for these types of conversations.

Who Cares?

Something Rosie said stuck with me long afterwards. It was the nature of love affair friendships. She made the point that she has a friend who she only watches films with, a close friend she goes out with, another one she knows is really into something she loves, etc, etc. The instant answer is… “yes but those don’t involve having sex/sleeping with them?” But is a relationship not complete without sex? Who are you to say the relationship I have with my friends and family doesn’t count? Point is, could it unrealistic to expect one person to fill all those roles. Maybe Helen Fisher is right? lust, attraction and attachment can be/is better achieved by multiple people?

I am personally not poly, into open relationships or anything on the map of non-monogamy but know quite a few people who are and considered what it would be like for myself personally. Could I really cope, would I end up jealous and twisted, do I have the maturity to really say what I want? Its a interesting one. Maybe we are more non-monogamous than we actually think?

One thing for sure is I wanted to talk about what a interesting weekend I had, but found it difficult to talk about it in a frank and open way. The idea of non-monogamy is still cast in the murky world of the unknown, maybe its time to be honest with ourselves and stop living the hollywood dream. Maybe we’ll feel so much better for doing so?

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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