Whether you’re an avid reader or just a dabbler, understanding the essence of polyamory and its portrayal in literature can add depth and authenticity to your reading journey. In this week’s Crazy Book Genre article, we’ll dive into the world of polyamorous relationships, exploring what it means, how it’s viewed in fiction, and how you can explore it through the books you read.
What is Polyamory?
Polyamory is all about non-monogamous relationships, where individuals engage in multiple emotional and/or sexual connections at the same time. Polyamory comes in different forms; it can look like triads, vees, or networks, but it’s so more than that.
The word polyamory literally breaks down into: many loves. While some say that polyamory is consensual non-monogamy, polyamory is not always consensual for all parties involved. For example, the girlfriend and the wife of a man may have no idea about the other woman, but he loves them both. By expanding our understanding of the word polyamory, we can explore other instances of non-monogamous relationships in literature.
Polyamory has been around for a long time. It’s not just a modern concept. Cultures throughout history, like the Greek and Roman cultures of the ancient world, have embraced it, and that gives us solid material for storytelling. When authors dive into those cultural and historical perspectives, they can spice up their portrayal of polyamory in fiction. It’s like unlocking a treasure chest of diverse relationship structures, societal norms, and expectations. By bringing those perspectives into their stories, they add depth and flavor.
Authentic representation in literature is vital, and as polyamory gains visibility, authors are embracing the opportunity to depict diverse characters and relationships. Authentic representation matters because it allows readers to see themselves and their experiences reflected in the stories they consume. It creates a sense of validation, fosters empathy, and promotes an understanding of alternative relationship dynamics. When literature authentically portrays polyamory, readers are provided with nuanced insights into the complexities of non-monogamous relationships, enhancing their reading experience by offering a more inclusive and realistic portrayal of human connections and love.
Now, that we’ve got some background and understand what polyamory is, let’s talk about some texts that showcase polyamory or plural love in early literature.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Many readers don’t think of The Canterbury Tales when polyamory is mentioned, but there are definitely instances of non-monogamous relationships in many of the stories. “The Wife of Bath” and “The Miller’s Tale” both delve into plural romantic relationships and non-monogamous desires.
The Arcadia by Sir Phillip Sidney
A pastoral romance that explores love, desire, and complex relationships, including instances of unrequited love, love triangles, and emotional entanglements. This more idealized and fluid world allows the reader to explore alternative relationship dynamics.
There were definitely instances of complex relationship dynamics in early literature, but the visibility has expanded a bit over the years. Now, we have a dedicated genre just for lovers of non-monogamous relationships.
What the Heart Wants by Nikki Ash
Nikki Ash gives us a look at what a vee looks like in fiction. In this novel, our protagonist is looking for love after losing her husband. She finds and falls in love with two brothers. She doesn’t want to choose between them. To her surprise, they’re keen on sharing her.
Pucking Around by Emily Rath
While Ash’s novel gave us a look at a vee polyamorous relationship, Emily Rath’s hockey romance embraces polyamory as a network. In a polyamorous network, there is often an anchor or a starting point. Our female protagonist, Rachel, is the anchor for her network; while Rachel is involved with three men in the relationship, two of them are in a queer relationship with another. The other is only interested in Rachel. If you like spice, check out the book that doesn’t believe in just one love.
Wild Like Us by Becca and Kristie Ritchie
Within the spectrum of polyamory sits polyfidelity or faithfulness to the members of your polycule. In this novel by the Ritchie twins, an Olympian asks her bodyguards to take her virginity. They all start out as friends. Do they stay that way? Only one way to find out!
Four Ever by Sloane Kennedy
Another kind of polyfidelity relationship is the quad which, as the word suggests, is a fidelis group of four members. Kennedy’s novel is not just about two separate couples sharing each other physically; it is a four-person group that is emotionally attached.
As polyamory gains recognition, its portrayal in fiction becomes increasingly important. By understanding the nuances of polyamorous relationships and embracing authentic representation in the books you read, you contribute to a more inclusive and vibrant literary landscape.
How about power dynamics in fiction? Here’s an article!
Interested in books with queer polyamorous characters? Check this out!