Autonomy and Hierarchy: Sucking dick for Freedom

If you do it right it’s better than heroin

I’ve been reflecting on relationship anarchism for the last year or so. As I’ve moved through relationships and developed as a person, I’ve come to reflect on the most tangible and important aspects of relationship anarchism as it’s relevant to my life.

Autonomy and Hierarchy

In relationship anarchism I want my relationships to be as horizontal, egalitarian, and non coercive as possible. I want them to be lack hierarchy as much as is feasible. In polyamory it’s not weird to grow closer to one person or another, in the context of multiple partners this is often categorized into an implicit or explicit hierarchy. Traditionally that might be distinctions between married/unmarried, casual, committed, steady relationships.

While natural inclinations towards and away from people is not harmful I think if we allow our desires to exist without awareness and mindfulness we can let them give form to harmful hierarchies. Hierarchies that create layers of exclusion and isolation within polyamorous communities (groups?). These hierarchies can exacerbate attitudes of greater or lesser importance of individuals, rather than evaluating them in the present we can pre-assign their value to us in a way that becomes rigid in our cultural context. By dismantling the hierarchical labels used in relationships and resorting to more generalized labels with specified context we give sharper focus to the realities of our connections. Might it take more words? Yes, there’s great value in explanation. This is meant as a change that is reflected both in language and in the formulas in our head. Relationship anarchism starts in your own head, dispelling the delusions of control, coercion and assignment to embrace reality in its own context.

I can direct my attention to my desires and approach them with awareness. Knowing I might rather spend time with such and such or so and so, I also remain aware that desires shift inevitably and that I don’t need to craft a present desire into an eternal relief. I can approach my relationships with greater autonomy by dissolving a solidified hierarchy and approaching my desires in relation to an acceptance of the present and future. As in i can engage fully in the present moment with a given partner, accept and be aware of my desires as they change, and shift fluidly within multiple relationships.

Buoyed by direct communication, we create a culture of no-categorization that tries to simplify relationships in the abstract to allow them to grow in complexity in the specific. Meaning reducing to labels of human, friend, partner or others, whatever works best for the community and people lands pertain to. Focusing instead on the actual complexity of material reality and allowing that reality to exist without compartmentalization.

While the dissolution of hierarchy is a boon to autonomy, autonomy must also become a cultivated perception. In viewing our partners as entirely autonomous and seeking to give them the most autonomy. We try to hold in mind, even if we don’t like it, that our partners deserve to exist in as much of themselves as possible without coercion towards being or acting in a certain way.

I remember years ago someone I knew trying to marry someone so that they could benefit materially. It would’ve been a long term commitment of energy and cohabitation. I objected and gave an ultimatum. I infringed on their autonomy to the, at the time, detriment of the person needing the material support. Reflecting now I would seek to not try to shape the person to be someone and do something different than was their desire. A desire which would cause no material harm to me or others. In trying to control our partners we cheat ourselves out of our own individuality and expression, as well as repressing theirs.

This is not to say you might not voice your view at the right time as to your feelings. Maybe you know you need a circular saw not a jigsaw for the project and would try to correct a potential purchasing error if someone were going for the jig and not the circular.

As I’ve traveled the entire US, I’ve felt these two considerations in my relationships become crucially important to maintaining personal existence, my own freedom, and not cheating myself out of my desires and dreams. By seeking to always be in connection with my genuine feelings and thoughts I can embrace vulnerability with my partners and we can use a foundation of mutual aid to ground our relationships, whether vulnerability leads to cum or commiseration.

Effectively, this means that Relationship Anarchist praxis is not a retrospective philosophical explanation but an active practice. We cannot be relationship anarchists in name only, we have to practice RA because we have been raised in a hierarchical, monogamous, domineering society. A society that says not only do we play favorites, but that’s it’s good we do. Our society stokes twin fires of fears of abandonment and jealousy. America whispers to us that if we don’t dominate our partners, make them ours, they will leave us. The premise itself is fake, people don’t leave because they’re enjoying time with another, with themselves or in community. We have to disabuse ourselves of any notion of control or ownership over humans, whether we fuck them or not. This links naturally to jealousy, which is a social emotion that communicates to us when we feel that an important relationship is threatened or in danger. We have to both realize and trust that if our partners do care for us, we don’t have to coerce them into maintaining the relationship. We can remember to communicate directly and honestly when we feel we need something, disregarding puritanical notions of desire as sin to more completely connect as humans. Further, even if this egalitarian, horizontal relationship style does result in someone drifting from you or you from them, it is an expression of their own autonomy and at the end of the day that means taking a deep breath and letting those we love be themselves most genuinely, even in separation.

Anyway, hail anarchy or whatever. Who brought the condoms?