Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN23_07: Interrogating monogamy
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Ana-Cristina Santos, Centre for Social Studies - UC
Location: BS.3.24
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

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Bisexual Feminism, Anti-Monogamy and the Politics of Erotic Autonomy

Christian Klesse

Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom

Feminist anti-monogamy arguments signify a longer-standing endorsement of the value of erotic autonomy within feminist politics. Different currents within North American and European feminist movements presented vocal critiques of monogamy as an integral part of hetero-patriarchal gender relationships. This paper focuses on bifeminist rejections of monogamy from the 1970s onwards. Drawing own and other people’s research, I highlight the prevalence of distinctively feminist voices in debates on non/monogamy in bisexual activist circles. An analysis of core texts within the bisexual non/monogamy debates shows bifeminist anti-monogamy critiques share some of the core assumptions prevalent within other identity-related feminist currents (such as lesbian feminism and heterosexual feminism). Arguments have been oscillating between radical, liberal and queer-feminist positions (without being limited to them) but there is a convergence with regard to a shared focus on the value of erotic autonomy. Bifeminist critiques tend to articulate this endorsement from a particular perspective or standpoint.

Compulsary Monogamy in the Law and in the Courthouse

Leehee Rothschild

Manchester Metropolitan University, Israel

The law plays a vital role in the construction of social conceptions of intimacy and kinship. It dictates what types of relationships receive social legitimacy and acknowledgement. My presentation will examine the role that the legal system plays in the construction of monogamy as a social institution. I will do so through a critical socio-legal textual analysis of Israeli law and court decisions, using feminist and queer theories. I will start by showing how the monogamous couple is the only familial unit (not based on blood-ties) to receive legal acknowledgment and how even with the expansion of the legal system towards same-sex couple monogamy remained mandatory. I shall note how this limits the other types of intimacies and familialities.

Following that I will look at the Israeli family law and show how it also constructs a gendered double standard around monogamy for man and women, and how this double standard is rooted in traditional conceptions of ownership over women’s bodies and sexualities. Then I will move to examine the criminal law and see how these same ownership-based conceptions that view woman as man’s property within a romantic relationship on the one hand and the woman who is sexually active outside the monogamous dyad as an open pray, are also manifested in court decisions on rape cases. To conclude, I will note the uniqueness of the Israeli legal systems in terms of the blending of civil and religious law and how my conclusions relate to the legal situation in Western countries.

Many Loves, New Challenges? Exploring Affective Consensual Non-Monogamies in Italy.

Nicole Braida1,2

1Università degli studi di Torino, Italy; 2Università degli studi di Milano, Italy

The paper will present the theoretical premises and some results of my PhD project, that focuses on the qualitative exploration of affective consensual non-monogamies in Italy.

In particular, the question that will guide the presentation will be: to what extent can the theories and practices of my interviewees challenge the conservative and essentialist definitions of family that are taking root again in Italy? And to what extent these theories and practices can contribute to redefine the subjects who are legitimate or obliged to lend and receive care, also in material terms?

To (partially) answer to this question, I will focus on the different degrees of political commitment of my respondents and of their communities of reference, making a (blurred and not dichotomous) distinction between radical critical non-monogamy and apolitical non-monogamy, as well as between individualistic approach and network approach. I will also present an overview of the gaps and contradictions between theories and practices, concluding with a reflection on the need to overcome the dichotomy between emotions and rationality, daughter of a blind modernist trust.

Alternative Family Life in Canada: Case Studies of Five Polyamorous Families

Charity Smith

Alice Salomon Hochschule, Berlin Germany

Alternative Family Life in Canada: The Lived Experiences of Polyamorous Families in the Fringes of Legality is the first qualitative study of polyamorous life in Canada, focusing on the narratives of five polyamorous families. The study explores the link between the polyamorous lifestyle and how family structures are formed. The families in this study include a long-term, stable triad in which two children were raised, a co-parenting family with numerous adults raising three children, and three additional families without children who maintain their own unique structures. Sexuality and the right to sexual expression were frequently cited when participants were asked about their decision to challenge the norm of monogamy, with participants primarily identifying as bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. Participants see polyamory as a way to live their sexuality and maintain connection, kinship, health, and happiness. Each family rejects traditional norms around monogamy, although some still use marriage as a means of attaining legal protections. This research indicates that these families are well-equipped to support the development of their children by offering multiple adults who can provide care. Multiple potential caregivers also led to positive outcomes for participants suffering from mental health issues as well. By showcasing the diversity within polyamorous family structures it becomes possible to investigate the critical role sexuality plays in redefining kinship networks.

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