This dynamic could shift as the polyamorous

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This dynamic could shift as the polyamorous population ages andelderly polyamorous women potentially outnumber their male counter-parts. Such numerical imbalance might empower the relatively fewermen choosing from a comparatively larger pool of female partners(Guttentag and Secord 1983). In the tradition of Weinberg, Williams,and Pryor’s (2001) extended research into bisexuality, longitudinalresearch into polyamorous relationships could offer additional insightinto the gendered power dynamics of these relationships. Useful ave-nues for future research could also include a more concentrated investi-gation of polyamorous men and an examination of people in same-sexpolyamorous relationships.Though numerous women in my sample reported feelings ofempowerment, they simultaneously discussed experiences that leftthem feeling disempowered in their own relationships or larger,monogamous society through the impacts of stigma. Sexuality remainsa contested region, and women who challenge it often do so at a cost.The promise of sexual freedom, which theoretically accompanied thesexual revolution beginning in the 1960s, translated into increased sex-ual freedom for men, but not for women. Feminist theorists hypothesizethat it “released” women’s sexual appetites in the service of male sexualdesire and retained an androcentric focal point (Jeffreys 1990). Manypolyamorous women experienced the lingering affects of this stalledsexual liberation when they felt periodically objectified as sex toys.Others grated at the assumption that they would perform the majority ofemotional management in an extremely high-maintenance relationalstyle (Hochschild 1983). While polyamorous women offered newvisions of expanded sexual subjectivity and alternative roles forwomen, many continued to struggle under the yoke of an androcentricsociety that demands that women’s sexuality function in the service of30JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY ETHNOGRAPHY / MONTH XXXX
men. Even though they reported varying degrees of success in theirattempts to create new roles and power dynamics within their own rela-tionships, they continued to live with the impacts of stigma attributedby a monogamous society that views their actions as deviant. In bothcases, they were unable to completely reform power dynamics in eithertheir own relationships or society at large.Lorde (1984, 53) eloquently links oppression with sexual systemsdesigned to suppress women’s erotic selves and silence women’sauthentic sexual spirit:In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distortthose various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed thatcan provide energy for change. For women, this has meant suppressionof the erotic as a considered source of power and information within ourlives.Erasure of women’s erotic power has deleterious affects on other areasof their lives as well (Collins 1990; Tolman 2002; L. Rubin 1990a; seealso L. Rubin 1990b). While polyamorous women created an incom-plete and flawed liberation from androcentric definitions of sexuality,they nonetheless attempted to redefine sexuality on their own terms.

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