Thanks for posting this, Steady!
I agree that the reasons people give for being anti-poly and those they give for being anti-LGBT are very similar, and I agree that non-monogamy has a biological basis, and that it exists on a sliding scale.
The prevalence of infidelity in supposedly mono relationships, and the prevalence of infidelity and painful love triangles as plotlines in so much of our popular media is an indication that we are well aware that many people are not naturally monogamous. The requirement of a vow during a wedding to ‘keep thee only unto him/her as long as ye both shall live’ is also a clear indication that monogamy does not come naturally – otherwise, why require a vow to seal the bargain?
Some people find it more difficult to be monogamous than others. Some people have higher sex drives than others. Some people are more easily sexually attracted to new people than others. But it’s all a matter of degree, from people who literally have no interest in anybody other than their mate, to others who become frustrated if they don’t frequently meet and have sex with new people, and including all those in between.
Social prejudice against a practice doesn’t make it an orientation. Most of us don’t want to sit opposite a stranger with his hands down his pants, even though, in itself, it doesn’t cause us any particular harm. That doesn’t mean that ‘hands-in-pants’ is his sexual orientation.
Defensiveness about non-monogamy
Some people are anti all forms of non-monogamy because they immediately apply it to their own situation, and fear that they will be unable to find a partner who will be monogamous with them. They do not want non-monogamy to become common practice, because they fear its inclusion in their own relationship.
Some people are (or say they are) monogamous because they want their partners to be monogamous, and they know that this is the price.
I agree that some infidelity is due to people knowing that being non-monogamous is unacceptable, so they stay in the closet, as it were. So infidelity can be the result of pretending to be monogamous when you are not and trying to stick to it, or of saying that you are in order to force your partner to be mono while you have no intention of being so.
Personally, I have gone back and forth on whether non-monogamy is an actual orientation in the same way that being LGB is. I think there is a natural tendency to non-monogamy in much of the human race, but also that it crosses orientations. One can be gay or bi and monogamous, or gay or bi and non-monogamous; straight and monogamous or straight and non-monogamous. In the same way, one can be trans* and monogamous or non-monogamous; trans* and gay or bi, or trans* and straight.
If we regard ‘orientation’ to be purely the gender one is attracted to, then clearly, non-monogamy is not an orientation. That is not to say that it does not have a biological basis. But I think the confusion arises precisely because the prejudices against LGB people, trans* people and poly people come from the same social place, and those who are prejudiced use much the same rhetoric against us all. We fight the same battles, though some of us are more privileged in those battles than others (those who can ‘pass’ and fit in without anybody noticing their differences from the socially dictated norm in gender expression or sexual practice).
I suspect the similarities in our battles has a lot to do with our culture’s generalised social discomfort and anxiety over sex, sexuality and the naked human body, rather than any shared orientation between us all. This certainly should put all gender and sexual minorities on the same side, as we are fighting the same battles against the same people. But the fact that we have this in common, does not mean that we share an ‘orientation’, just that we share a battle against a particular form of narrow-minded ignorance.