Published May 24, 2023
For fearmongering hicks, conservative Christians are remarkably prescient. Our latest prophetic triumph is seen in another New York Times puff piece pushing legal recognition for polygamy. Correction — another New York Times puff piece pushing legal recognition for polyamory. The difference is that while polygamy traditionally consisted of a man having more than one wife, polyamory consists of a group of men and/or women all having each other in various permutations.
Once again, we have gone from “you’re a bigot for suggesting that this will ever happen” to “you’re a bigot for not supporting this.” The subject of the Times piece is Somerville, a city in Massachusetts that has spent the past few years creating new legal rights for polyamorous partner groups.
As the Times notes, “Interest in nonmonogamy seems to be on the rise across the country.” Once again, the conservative Christian alarmists were right. And they were right for precisely the reasons they gave at the time. The poly movement’s champions see their cause as a natural extension of the LGBT movement, which has been all-conquering in Massachusetts.
Thus, the NYT describes how “Somerville is alive with events like Indecent, a fetish- and kink-positive party, and Boudoir, a queer underground dance party. There are polyamorous speed-dating evenings, drag shows at the venue Crystal Ballroom and a gender-neutral CrossFit gym.” If that is not clear enough, the Times reports, “There is a significant crossover between those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and pansexual and those who practice nonmonogamy, according to multiple studies.”
Apparently, the math is more complicated than those equal-sign bumper stickers made it seem. On the one hand, there is marriage as one man and one woman, which unites the two halves of the human race and provides a stable basis for begetting and raising the next generations. On the other hand, there are relational webs such that of one “Mr. Malone, who … currently has a nesting partner, a long-term partner, two long-distance partners and a kink-based relationship with another person.” I guess that love is love is love is a kink-based relationship.
The article does report mournfully that “people in nonmonogamous relationships are still often perceived and represented negatively.” Good. But though some liberals may be uncomfortable with this, they’ll fall in line, just like they do every time. They always insist that the obvious next step in the sexual revolution is just conservative fearmongering that will never happen — right up until they enthusiastically embrace it. We saw this with same-sex marriage and now see it with the rush to affirm “transgender toddlers” and medically transition children. And polyamory appears to be next, with a steady supply of favorable coverage in the media outlets that rule leftist opinion.
Conservatives saw this coming because we recognize the left views all safeguards and limits on the sovereign sexual desires of adults as illegitimate. The only limit that leftism’s consent-based sexual ethics recognizes is actual rape. That’s it. There is no vision of what good or healthy relationships and sexuality look like beyond agreement to have them. That is why this latest NYT piece offered no positive examples of the benefits of polyamory, except for people wanting it.
This does provide another demonstration of how it is liberal sexual morals that are based on prejudice, whereas it is traditional Christians whose beliefs are principled. The leftist shift from “how dare you suggest that same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy” to “we must endorse polygamy (rebranded as polyamory) as the next step in the LGBT rights revolution” demonstrates that left-wing morality is purely conventional, rooted in nothing more than feelings shaped by what public opinion is willing to accept.
It is liberals’ prejudices that prevent them from seeing more than a step or two down the road of the sexual revolution, even as their general principles impel them further than they ever intended to go — just look at Andrew Sullivan wondering how the movement he dedicated himself to didn’t stop when he wanted it to. This is why, with regard to the sexual revolution, the slippery slope has been more prophetic than fallacious.
Conservative Christians predicted this because we have a perspective outside of modern liberalism and the liberation of sexual desire it encourages. In contrast to this, Christianity teaches discipline based on a love of God and others. This self-control is often difficult and sacrificial, yet it directs us toward genuine well-being and fulfillment.
Not even the most intense pleasures are able to satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. Only love can do that. But a completely self-giving romantic love must be specific, and therefore committed and exclusive. It cannot flit from person to person. Thus, polyamory is a particularly apt illustration of how the sexual revolution encourages us to try to have our cake and eat it too — to have not just pleasure, but also the joys of love, while keeping our options open and never really giving all of ourselves to anyone. This is also why it is so destructive.
Liberals have lost the ability to say no to anything demanded in the name of sexual liberation, and they’re running out of norms to violate — so what is coming after polyamory is mainstreamed? Whatever it is, only a rediscovery of the truth, discipline, and blessings of Christianity can stop it.
Nathanael Blake is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Nathanael Blake, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His primary research interests are American political theory, Christian political thought, and the intersection of natural law and philosophical hermeneutics. His published scholarship has included work on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alasdair MacIntyre, Russell Kirk and J.R.R. Tolkien. He is currently working on a study of Kierkegaard and labor. As a cultural observer and commentator, he is also fascinated at how our secularizing culture develops substitutes for the loss of religious symbols, meaning and order.