It's Valentine's Day — that magical time of year when the media is quick to remind us that we should all be head-over-heels in love with "the one," and (of course) that we should all be either giving or receiving a lot of chocolate and diamonds. Rather than being a day to celebrate love in all its forms, V-Day (and the month of advertising leading up to it) seems to be all about reinforcing normative ideas of what the ideal romantic love should be: two people, living happily and monogamously together for all eternity. But does this one fairy-tale concept of love really belong so high up on a pedestal?
David Blankenthorn, who once opposed same-sex marriage and appeared as a witness in opposition to California’s Proposition 8, has since changed his tune. He announced last June that he wished to join forces with same-sex marriage advocates “to build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same.” And his recent “Call for a New Conversation on Marriage” — with its claim that “this hollowing out of marriage in mainstream America is among the most consequential social facts of our era” — has been signed by both gay and straight activists and thinkers from across the political spectrum.
Even the president, in his initial statement of support for marriage equality last year, held up traditional values he witnessed in same-sex relationships (particularly monogamy) as the reasoning behind his support.
But relationships like mine do exist, happily, and we want the same thing anyone wants: to have our choice of partners recognized and accepted by the world we live in. And of all the arguments I have heard against the ethics of relationships like mine, I have yet to hear any that do not rely on the same kind of "defending traditional values" reasoning that has so long been invoked against gay marriage.
I believe that marriage, monogamy, and lifelong commitments should be seen as choices that are no more or less worthy of respect than the many alternatives. And I’d like to echo the words of Senthouran Raj, writing in response to the recently formed "Monogamous Gay Australia":
"Monogamy is neither better nor worse than any other relationship arrangement. Whether you want one spouse for life, practice polyamory, or remain single, the ethics of intimacy cannot be measured in quantitative terms. You only need to see the appalling instances of sexual violence in various romanticised ‘traditional’ relationships to see why there is no inherent virtue in any one sort of intimate practice.”
That would be a view of love worth celebrating.