Love beyond monogamy: Brigitte Vasallo

That love and respect may last, I would have unions rare and impermanent. That life may grow, I would have men and women remain separate personalities. Have no common possessions with your lover more than you might freely have with one not your lover. Because I believe that marriage stales love, brings respect into contempt, outrages all the privacies and limits the growth of both parties, I believe that “they who marry do ill.”

Voltairine de Cleyre

In here own words, Brigitte Vasallo is an occasional journalist, an anti-racist feminist (for her, the two are inseparable), with special concern for gender based islamophobia and non-monogamous and inclusive relations as a form of political resistance.  It is with this last concern in mind that we share, in translation, a reflection by Vasallo on the need to contest monogamous love as part of a broader political project of autonomy.  Further information on Vasallo’s work can be had at her blog: perderelnorte.

#Occupy Love: for a revolution of the emotions

Periódico Diagonal (02/05/2014)

In an epoch that is especially intense in demands, resistances, dissidences and debates, monogamy is also being put on the table.  Even though it may seem to be a minor evil when we are confronting Evil itself in capital letters – from savage capitalism to the ultimate precariousness of life, from the destruction of the planet to the rise of fascism -, the system of monogamy is an extraordinary tool of social control that confiscates our sexuality and our emotions, and determines the way in which we construct the new worlds to which we aspire.  And we construct them infected with the very seed of the structures that we want to combat.

At the foundation of the appropriation is a romantic ideal that we have completely naturalised.  Bombarded since birth, even by means of all of the children’s’ stories, all of the films, all of the music, all of the literature, that was incapable of questioning the model, which have instead dedicated themselves to narrating its consequences, all of our cultural production is impregnated with monogamy, patriarchy and heteronormativity.  Love and hate are the same in the end.  And we go on naturalising the melodrama as the only way out, the only response, the only way to live love.

“Disney loves”

But that love is a completely interested construction.  Allow me to reject the term “romantic love” and substitute it by “Disney loves”.  To introduce the word “romantic” carries us directly to images of scenes with little candles and weekends curled up together in front of the fireplace.  And in our new worlds, we all want little candles and erotic moments.  Remain calm: the poison is not there, but in the next step, in the transformation of this into a “Disney love”.  Disney love is an eternal love, unique and exclusive.  A fairy tale that nevertheless renders us immune to love.  What should be good news, because a world of people immune to love would be a hell far greater than the one in which we live, is bad news because it is in contradiction with what we have learned to call love.  In real life, we fall in love, love and continue to fall in love despite other people; we continue to feel the lash of passion, of desires, of curiosity, we continue crossing paths with beings who move us.  And it is there that we are seized, where we deny ourselves, where we prohibit ourselves to feel.  Or we prohibit others to do so.

If such a system did not explode by itself, it is because like a good pressure cooker, it has escape valves.  There are two principal ones: the lie (or half truths) and separation. Adultery throughout life, endured in many different ways, undoubtedly helps us to live, but it does little more than sustain the system, preventing us from confronting it.  We speak less about separation, but it is terribly harmful, because it attends to our impulses and passions, denying them their ties, transforming those with whom we have relations into mere objects of satisfaction: using and throwing away.  It is the savage capitalism of the emotions.  Free love, that was born as resistance to the institution of marriage, has continued to de-politicise itself to become the sowing of emotional cadavers that have more in common with neoliberal freedom than with love.

How to imagine love outside of this system of appropriation?  Perhaps we should start by defining love itself.  It is the first question that I ask in the #Occupy Love workshops and the answers are always similar: love is happiness, fullness, generosity, complicity, good sex, affection, understanding, care.  If love is all of this, we are one step away from overburdening the system of monogamy, because none of this takes us necessarily to monogamy.  None of these qualities includes exclusivity, rage, pain, suspicion, insecurity, control or possession.  Love is plenitude, abundance … pain and everything else arrive before the fear of losing this fullness.  The latter threaten it.

In the system of monogamous thought, loves exclude some from others.  Moreover, the emotions are hierarchised, such that exclusive love and its “natural” derivations (the couple, the family) have a superior status to other emotions, such as friendship.  And at the cusp of this hierarchy, there is only one solitary space.  If we take down the hierarchy and propose a horizontal schema, where emotions are not hierarchised and loves are not substituted, the threat disappears.

Networks against monopolies

To think love, loves, from the perspective of a framework of affective networks, networks that aspire to the rhizomes that Deleuze proposed, the infinite fields of potatoes as a substitute for trees (genealogical?), completely changes the approach to our lives.  To think of loves on the basis of the inclusive leads us to think the world from the inclusive: difference from the vantage point of the inclusive, the convivial, of combination and not subtraction, of cooperation.  In such a schema, there are no hierarchies: the affective nuclei change and vary with intensity, frequency, strength, yet they are all interconnected, feed each other.  In the networks, loves are not cast aside or substituted, but rather transform themselves, change place or configuration, as life itself changes.  They remain however a part of an ensemble, a part of what we are.  People, the loves of those we love, real or potential, are not a threat.  Why would they be if they are not called upon to replace us?  Love, so conceived, is constructed with every step.  Love is not the bolt of lightening that severs you, it is not Cupid’s arrow.  That is attraction.  An attraction that can be converted into an infinite variety of relations and which is relieved of any obligation or necessity to be “the best”.  There is no contest, no competition.  There is no war.  If we are capable of creating this idea from that which is most fragile in us, our emotions, then carrying this into all the other aspects of our lives should not be so difficult.

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2 Responses to Love beyond monogamy: Brigitte Vasallo

  1. Mono poli says:

    New translation of a lengthier piece by Brigitte Vasallo on the same theme: http://wire.novaramedia.com/2016/07/breaking-up-with-monogamy-a-political-project/

  2. Julius Gavroche says:

    Thanks very much!

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