“So you are a polyamorous community?’
In the late 1970’s the utility which would become Dominion Resources proposed to build four nuclear reactors less than 15 miles from Twin Oaks community. The members of the community were upset with this decision and decided to host activists who were opposing the project. An action camp was set up and protesters flooded in.
The tactics and positions of the protesters did not quite match that of the community and, long after the protesters left, locals, who viewed these protesters as representative of the community, were still upset with Twin Oaks. The community, which values local relationships highly, decided that it would not do this again. We officially adopted a position of neutrality on political issues in the future. Twin Oaks as an entity does not take political stands.
The community also decided that we were an “embrace diversity” community. As much as possible we do not tell members what to do (as long as it doesn’t impact other members). For example, we do not tell members that they need to be vegetarian or that they have to home school their kids or that they have to stop smoking cigarettes or follow a particular spiritual path or avoid all spiritual paths, etc.
One of the places we are most clear is that we don’t tell people what to do with their love lives. Which means we attract all manner of exotic romantic relationship models, including a number which obviously won’t fly. And this falling in love business is dangerous on the best days.
One of my personal favorite types of relationships is open polyamory. This is a form of open relationship that is the poly subset of relationship anarchy. Relationship anarchy is the practice of forming relationships that are not bound by rules aside from what the people involved mutually agree on. This type of arrangement plays to the strengths of community. It requires you to think about what you are doing and be intentional about the agreements you make with your partners.
And while this philosophy has been extremely important in my life, it is certainly not what all of my diverse community is doing. The 90 plus adult members cover the spectrum of relationships models from quirky alone to poly to monogamous and back around towards celibacy. Add to this that the community after many years of not being able to hold onto trans members actually has an important trans subculture now.
Twin Oaks will turn 50 in three months. We have not been the same way the whole time. In the very early days we were coming off of the free love revolution, which swept the nation in the late 60s and 70s, and open relationships were common in the community. When Hawina and i arrived almost 20 years ago now, there was a very small minority of poly people living here and the poly dinners often had more outsiders than members. Currently my personal estimate is the majority of the community is involved in some form of open relationship, especially if we include things like party agreements.
So we are not a polyamorous community and that question increasingly making less sense to ask. Relationship models inside of highly intentional communities are often becoming more dynamic and less willing to be tacked down with labels.
Which turns out to mean