Cross-posted on Postmodern Woman
Why is it so damn hard for mainstream non-monogamy to conceive of relationships that aren’t monogamy +? Even for those for whom poly is their orientation rather than the result of a transition often fall into the same traps.
It’s so much more common to claim ownership of a person rather than exercise full autonomy. And even most solo poly groups fall into the trap of assuming that every two humans that get together cannot escape the dreaded “couple privilege” possibility.
Honestly, I’m sick and tired of it. I’d much rather do what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years: which is writing about polyamory and non-monogamy that doesn’t assume love is ownership, that doesn’t begin with a couple “opening up”, and that is fully representative of aros, aces, and people whose poly is their orientation.
What does that look like?
Well, in the cuilverse, just as in my life, there are no defaults. The beginnings of relationships, and the work of maintaining them, look more like BDSM negotiations than traditionally done romance. Yet that lack of communication is so ingrained that many are still incredibly confused about why my characters talk so much.
It’s because they don’t play that stupid shit.
You won’t find any unicorn hunters in the cuilverse. Those individuals who are susceptible to couple privilege are called on it. Each relationship is formed the way relationship anarchists, aros, and aces form relationships. The emphasis is on building and nurturing the solution that works rather than trying to shoehorn some random person into the cookie cutter shape.
This is what sets The Cuil Effect Project apart from nearly everything that’s been written before, whether it includes non-monogamy or not. It is not your typical romance. It is inherently intersectional. That’s why it’s cuil; it’s so far removed and abstracted from the reality that so many people practice.
The assumption that rousing conflict can only arise from drama and immaturity is a limiting one that I’ve never had patience for. People still assume that the category “teenager” is an immutable truth, and that all people are magically and necessarily fucking idiots until they’ve fucked up in their journey to the truth that only seems to appear in middle age.
What closed worlds our literature and media have given us so far. Is it any wonder then, that conceiving of a world that works outside of dysfunction is so elusive? People still inevitably fall back on the status quo so many times within their own lives, never questioning those assumptions that arise and are taught by the same defective systems that they claim to be trying to overcome or escape.
So all of our romance novels are filled with issues that require the main characters to be idiots, that require them to lack self-intimacy, that require them to assume that love is ownership. Until recently, there was no such thing as consensual erotica. It’s not even agreed upon; assumptions are the default. Most people are terrified of or misunderstand kink and BDSM, yet vanilla dating is beyond ill-advised and dangerous.
But this is the way! they tend to sputter.
And so it’s gone with non-monogamy. Partners must be ranked. Friendship must be devoid of commitment and value. And above all, polyamory must be, on the surface, as far removed from sex as possible!
Because just think of the chaos that would ensue should there be no hard and fast rules to rely on. God forbid we approach relationships with as much logic as emotion. And of course, having healthy relationships depicted in books can’t possibly include anything remotely interesting, right?
How sad it is that people have been groomed to lose who they are to become part of a “couple”. How awful that they are made to feel less than whole. How pathetic that our literature and media is centered around those who connect for all the wrong reasons in all the wrong ways.
We live in a world where cheating, ranking, ownership, slut shaming, and gambling on the chance of abuse and sexual assault are normalized.
I could never make sense of anyone who claimed to want to be normal. Because it seemed so clear to me all the ways in which “normal” killed the spirit.
So I went my own way, as I always did. I created a multiverse in which variation, introspection, and trauma were acknowledged as the realities they are rather than the theoreticals everyone wished they were.
It’s so surreal because the default for our cultures is dysfunction. I have to call it cuil, as in abstract and liminal, because there is yet to exist a sizable group of people that can operate outside of it. I had to better understand humans through using aliens because other humans failed to understand themselves.
I’m tired of seeing the same easily avoidable mistakes being repeated and hailed as a necessary course of human development. I’m searching for those writers, those creators, whose work grows not through bifurcation, but through intersection. In a way, these queer and/or exceptional artists are all part of the cuilverse. Because the cuilverse is not exclusionary.
Not like the dominant cultures. Not like the mainstream non-monogamy cultures. Not like all these shit self-help books or romance novels.
The cuilverse is my refuge in a dearth of healthy culture. Who else is building their heavens here on Earth? It’s past time our voices were made available.