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On relationship anarchy in the age of covid-19

A lot of people are talking about the shelter-in-place directive as "emergent monogamy" or something to that effect. Although we are being compelled to restrict our physical movements and, in many cases, to make choices about who to live with, we absolutely should not understand social distancing as a reassertion of default monogamous values.


Because of covid-19, we are in a state of having to limit how many people we are in physical contact with. For a lot of RA folks, this has been very difficult — being able to maintain relationships has up to now felt dependent on our ability to be with people in different places. Now we’re sheltering in place, most of us are likely living with only our domestic partners, with housemates, or by ourselves.


Many of us are self-isolating in living situations that look like monogamous couples, because capitalism makes this kind of living situation financially advantageous. It’s more expensive to live alone, and co-living has its own challenges. Making choices because the default world is structured to promote them is very different from making them because we’re suspending relationship anarchy and “going back” to monogamy. We don’t have any obligation to make our choices according to what straight, monogamous society would expect.

In fact, choosing to prioritize our relationships with and obligations towards our community over our romantic or sexual desires is 100% RA. Relationship anarchists have been making these kinds of choices consciously and intentionally this whole time.

Relationship anarchists already have a lot of conceptual tools that can help us adapt to the new reality. We already know that there are many different modes of intimacy. We know that the people we share the most physical space with don’t have to be the ones who meet all our physical, emotional, or sexual needs. We understand that relationships are flexible and open to renegotiation, and that expectations should be talked about openly when situations change. The need to share these ways of thinking with monogamous society is more pressing than ever because they can help in the fight against isolation and interpersonal stress.

Anarchism also gives us tools to come together in solidarity with people who are suffering financial hardship through mutual aid and other grassroots action. RA is not a luxury that we have to (temporarily?) suspend for the public good, it's a way of thinking about the public good that allows us to make it a priority within our web of connections and values, and work with others who are doing the same thing. Now is the time for relationship anarchists to realize that we can’t ignore the need for political revolution. The pandemic is illustrating what many of us already know — love cannot achieve liberation under capitalist oppression, and that we can only address problems within and between people by changing the way society is structured.


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