An interview with Graham Nicholls the founder of Polyamory.org.uk
What personally drew you to polyamory?
I think I've always been polyamorous really, since at least 17 years old when I had my first experiences with what we now call a triad. It seemed perfectly natural to me, I couldn't quite understand why people were so obsessed with monogamy. I have tended to have relationships with bisexual women as well, so it started as a way of letting them engage with the bisexual aspect of their personalities. More recently when a long term relationship ended, I wanted to explore the spiritual challenges of my own jealousy and my own needs to have some kind of ownership or control over another person. The experiences I've had mean far more to me than simply the exploration of my sexuality, they represent a genuine liberation from the need to control and limit another person. It soon became clear that beginning to liberate myself from restricting ideas was one of the most powerful things I could do; and is one of the things I am really drawn to about polyamory.
Yes that is a powerful idea, ownership and control seem to be so much a part of our culture, how do you find others react to your views on polyamory?
Some scoff, as they see it as simply too crazy or that for them it could
only ever be about sex, they can't understand how you could love more than
one person at a time. Others seem to just see it as unworkable. Sadly I
don't meet that many people who are open to the idea, unless they are already
involved in some form of non-monogamy or would like to be. It is also rare
to find people who are 'out' as it were, most seem concerned about the effect
it could have on their jobs etc.
How do you think the new site could play a part in changing that?
On a philosophical level, by consciousness raising, showing that polyamory is not odd or negative and that it is in fact very progressive and transformative. On a more practical level I think the site will impact people by using approaches that are not being used on other sites, such as pod-casts with a UK/European focus, video interviews, stories from normal poly people, and lots of photography, as well as information and events so people can meet each other. An event is one of my goals for the future of the site. I also think that by involving people in the creation of the site it's going to cover issues that I either don't know about or haven't thought of. I want people to make it their own, it's for everyone who would like to share with others.
So are you planning some kind of event later in the year, something like Polyday?
I'm very interested in the possibility of something along those lines, I'm thinking of something with a pride-day feel, as well as lectures and workshops etc. Something along the lines of the NYC Poly Pride Weekend. But I would need to get a solid team together before that could happen. I think it's a case of watch this space for now.
I understand that you have a spiritual philosophy behind your polyamory, do you feel there are a lot of people who share this take on polyamory?
Sure, I know of a few pagans especially who see polyamory as an extension
of their spiritual understanding. For me it is about not wanting to control
or dominate another person, it's about being compassionate and aware of
the needs of others as well as yourself. It's an extension of a non-violent
philosophy for me, which I draw from Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, Marshall
Rosenberg and Petra Kelly, to name a few. This attitude is at the core of
my spirituality and has also drawn me away from areas like consumer culture
and television, it also lead me to become vegan.
Veganism means you exclude all animal products from your life correct? Are there a lot of vegans interested in polyamory?
Yes, it means you seek to remove all animal products, both from your diet and clothing, as most vegans see the use of non-human animals as unnecessary, exploitative and immoral. There does seem to be quite a few vegans in the poly community, it's about living the most integral lifestyle I think, so that's why there are more and more vegans or politically radical people becoming poly. The poly people I have been in contact with generally have quite a radical view of society and sexuality, I want to embrace the whole range of what that means, polyamory is not just about having more than one partner for me.
So you want the site to look directly at issues of sexuality, politics and society, not just new relationship models?
Yeah, I see sexuality, feminism and social justice as all issues that are of importance to the poly community. Anyone identifying as non-monogamous will have to explore the political issues if they want to gain any depth of understanding within their lifestyle. Marriage and monogamy have a deep history in the patriarchal society in which we live, if there was a more equal society these attitudes and relationship models would be far less prevalent in my view.
In many ways it's already starting to become more common; not as much in the heterosexual world, but many of my gay and bisexual friends have been living in a polyamorous way for sometime, the term is just not that widely accepted yet. That will change. I can really see polyamory growing very fast as a movement over the next ten years, it just makes sense in our changing society. In more recent years more and more books have been coming out looking at the issues around polyamory and how to make non-monogamy work. I think when I first read Ethical Slut I was really inspired by a book with such a sex positive attitude. I'm not a big fan of reclaimed words like 'slut', but somehow that book makes the ideas accessible to anyone, I would really recommend it to anyone interested in polyamory.
It does seem that attitudes towards many areas of sexuality and relationships have changed, I'm not sure this has all been for the better, would you agree?
Yes, as sex has become more and more commodified through television and other media I think this has had an impact on the attitudes of many in our society. For me polyamory is about being conscious, open and above all communicative about our sexuality and interactions with others. Media culture seems to encourage the opposite; sex used almost self-destructively. But in my view the issues impacting relationships and sexuality actually have more to do with larger more complex problems with our society as a whole.
How has polyamory changed you personally? I understand you grew up in a London council tower block and were surrounded by some quite negative people, how do you think you were able to avoid being drawn into that?
Well for a time in my teens I think I was drawn into it. It was my growing interest in spirituality and ideas like that that really opened me to other ways of looking at the world. My influences if you like began to expand, I could see that there were many different avenues through life not just living to work, get married and get a mortgage. That way of life is fine for some people, but I could see a link with many of the problems around me and people not consciously questioning what they were doing with their lives. I began to meet people from many different walks of life through my interests; I began to explore as many possibilities for living a fulfilled life as I could. Polyamory has personally made me as happy as I've ever been. The times I have been monogamous have failed to make me truly happy, where as polyamory has opened me to a sense of freedom and real love without the need to limit another person. I used to live in fear; I would think, I can't let this person go near someone else as they might like that person more and I'll lose them. But if we have to control someone because we fear they might be happier with someone else that seems very very sad to me. Polyamory seems to begin the process of liberating us from fear.
Thank-you so much for a fascinating conversation
To find out more about Graham Nicholls please visit his website: www.grahamnicholls.com where you can find articles, reviews and information about his writings, art and spiritual worldview.