Widespread Belief #1: Married Equals Monogamous
Here's a soundbite from every physical I've gotten since getting hitched:
Doctor: Okay, and you're married, so we don't need to do an STD screening.?!?!?!??!?!!!!!
What the fucking fuck America. Even if you do assume that my marital status means that I profess monogamy, why would any medical professional with access to the research presume that my marital status means I practice monogamy? Or that my partner practices monogamy, regardless of what s/he might tell me? Non-monogamy is growing as a lifestyle choice, and "infidelity" -- a word I loathe -- is both presently and historically widespread. Every married person in America needs to be screened routinely to maintain his or her physical health and fertility. This should be standard practice.
Widespread Belief #2: Non-Monogamous Relationships Make You A Pariah
Here's an excerpt from a commenter on Glenn Greenwald's reverse-scold piece on internet scolds and Ashley Madison:
My SO knows about my AM membership.... But because of this hack and the attitudes of people who are so locked into your very narrow line of thinking and lacking of so little empathy I will most likely end up loosing [sic] possibly friendships at work and in my personal life and most likely will have to find another job.First of all, who the fuck is firing you over this? Do you work for the Archdiocese of Squaresville? Even if you do, and they do fire you, fuck 'em. Sue 'em. They're probably looking for an excuse to fire you anyway because they're still trying to cover the costs of the legal judgments they're paying out to all the little kids they abused. And if you're just talking about being so uncomfortable at work you decide to find another job so you can start over under a pseudonym at a place where you can pretend to be monogamous again, then your problem is you. If your friends don't support your perfectly reasonable choice to pursue sex outside of your marriage with a person who has become physically incapable of sex, with your spouse's permission, then your friends are narrow-minded fucking assholes.
Let me be clear: the closet is, very often (but obviously not always), a privilege. It's often a place where you pleasantly pretend to conform to the status quo while other people live out the consequences of the public scorn for the activities that you yourself consciously and repeatedly engage in. If you do drugs, you should talk about it publicly, and you should at the very least vote for the decriminalization of drugs, because there are Americans in prison right now for doing what you -- that is, what we -- routinely do.
Many of the think-pieces out there seek to differentiate the public hypocrites from the private hypocrites. By this line of thinking, Josh Duggar deserves what he gets because he shits on gay people, but some person who is in a consensual open marriage does not deserve to have her life "ruined" by this leak. But what are you standing by and tolerating as a condition of your special secret life? Have other coworkers of yours been fired for non-monogamy? Has your friend group shunned other people for engaging in consensual non-monogamy? If so, you're kind of a coward. You're letting others take hard falls for making the same choices you've made. That's a hypocrisy that I'm not going to cry too hard for you about.
Widespread Belief #3: Love Equals Monogamy Equals Love
The vast majority of the people on Ashley Madison, presumably, do not have consensual open relationships. They are cheating. But instead of feeling a collective schadenfreude at their exposure, maybe we should instead question our demonstrably false equation of sexual monogamy and marital love.
Sexuality is a drive. For most of us, it's a pretty gripping force. It motivates us to act against our better judgment at least a few times in our lives. And considering that our species is not monogamous, and that our sexual connections to our lifetime partners inevitably wax and wane and get out of sync, perhaps we should stop expecting 5+ decades of pair coupling as the general baseline.
If you love being monogamous, great. Go with that. Have fun. But the default setting is not ideal for many, many millions of Americans. If you're truly happy being with one person sexually forever, then you don't need to feel threatened by allowing space for others to do what feels best for them.
Here's a crazy idea: try telling the people you love the truth. Try being open and honest. Most people are actually pretty receptive to new ideas and alternative ways of constructing a life. Ask for permission rather than forgiveness. That takes courage. And courage is exactly what we need if we're going to dismantle the dehumanizing aspects of a social convention -- in this case, lifelong monogamous marriage -- that fails to work for far too many people.