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Edition #8
Conflict and Context
Lauren Bulla
Edited by Lizzie Rose
Digital Idealizations:
Polyamory & Natural Wine have More in Common than you’d Think

Let me paint a picture; we all know at least one natural wine boy who only wears vintage designer clothes and somehow knows every reference on the ‘Real Housewives of Clapton’ Instagram meme account. He often DJs on the side and doesn’t respond to his Hinge messages because he’s got tens - if not hundreds of potential suitors. Well, he’s got an affinity for natty orange, an ear piercing, and patchwork tattoos… can you blame him? 

 

All jokes aside, please make no mistake - I am not one for shaming peoples’ dating pursuits or tendencies. However, I want to highlight how online dating has opened many people up to different relationship types for the first time. In today’s very digital world, you often meet someone to spend time with romantically who already has their dedicated primary partner. Unfortunately, based on how our social expectations of online dating are established, dating apps necessitate an environment where people can subconsciously or intentionally be cast aside for the next shiny new thing. Considering this phenomenon in context with the fact that many of us struggle with clear communication - we often find ourselves in a difficult position.

 

Alexandra Jones gives an anecdotal example of just that in her article. Jones expresses that her friend was dating a polyamorous man who presented as an honest and direct communicator - his relationship dynamic was made very clear from the outset. Though this is the case - crisis struck after the second date - when they went home together, he expressed that he and his partner have a rule that they don’t stay the night at their dates’ houses. She had not been made privy to this stipulation before asking him to return to hers (Jones, 2022). Though this rule may be acceptable on paper, it wasn’t expressed clearly. It restricted her ability to make a fully informed choice. When you add the layer of non-monogamy to this high-speed, low-communication landscape, you often find people who quite honestly have nothing to lose and, therefore, an unearthing of poor behavior. 

 

At this point, you’re probably wondering how in the world I’m going to draw parallels from natural wine to polyamory. Well, let me connect some dots for you; often, those who operate non-monogamously tend to lean toward a ‘natty’ wine date to set off the sparks. How do I know this? Well, because I’m one of the primary culprits… ‘Natural wine’ is, of course, featured on my dating apps and even my ‘spare room’ bio (which is actually how I got my flat). Many do not consider how both of these areas of intrigue have been misrepresented via social media trends and, therefore, improperly understood. 

 

This is not an article where I will break down the difference between organic, biodynamic, etc., blah blah types of natural wine. Instead I hope to express that dating apps, and a larger trend in people dating more than one partner, can often create an uncomfortable environment when communication is lacking. This isn’t to say monogamy is the only path; as a primarily non-monogamous person myself, I certainly do not subscribe to this idea. Instead, I wanted to break down this occurrence that many solo non-monogamous-leaning daters find themselves experiencing. 

 

One of the biggest things to note is that non-monogamy, if appropriately practiced - looks a whole lot like monogamy, which, after discussing with some of my friends, seems to be news to many. Leanna Yau runs Poly Philia and has been a practicing non-monogamist since she was 17. In her perspective, “[i]n non-monogamy, all you’re doing [differently] is doing romantic or sexual things with more than one person” (Rosa, 2022). I think it’s interesting that Rosa also mentions, “non-monogamous people are very rarely interested in replacing monogamy, but in imagining a society beyond compulsory monogamy” (Ibid.). It may very well be that non-monogamous relationship types are what works for you. Still, we need to make sure that in the process of self-discovery - we avoid disrespecting other peoples’ autonomy as collateral. 

 

A chronically online culture has created a near on-call abundance that can damage one’s ability to navigate otherwise healthily fluid connections. Jones expresses this in her article. “we are more liberated than ever before from the old structures of monogamy - but we’re not evolved enough to know what to do with, or how to act in our freedom” (Jones, 2022). We’ve stepped away from rigid relationship structures. Still, in understanding what else exists, we’ve forgotten that people are not merely swipe-able profiles on a screen and that even strangers deserve a bit of context. This revelation is built upon another quote by Michelle Goldberg, “what passes for sex positivity is a culture of masochism disguised as hedonism. It’s what you get when you liberate sex without liberating women” (Goldberg, 2022). Though I do not agree with many of her other sentiments, I found this quote particularly striking. 

 

Please, do not get it twisted - I am not sitting here ready to exclusively call out poetry-writing, tote-bag-wearing, emotional, straight boys, no. I’ve also experienced this with other queer people. Unfortunately, I’m sure I’ve also been part of the problem. When you have consistent access to an overflowing of options - there’s not much stress that comes with the territory. Eh, you may find someone particularly intriguing, but if you get off the apps and come back to them, you’ll have ten other people you’d be interested in, too. It all makes it challenging to keep up with and get serious about building connections. 

 

Someone once told me that they don't feel like a real person until they actually meet a ‘match’ in real life. Alas - the detriment social media and dating via apps have inflicted upon us. Now we are no more than a curated profile, never mind a human with a beating heart. Susanna Schrobsdorff, who reviewed Christine Emba’s work, touches on this in her article, “[since] the people we meet on apps are not in our social circles, we feel we have the freedom to do what we want without consequence, even if it's hurtful” (Schrobsdorff, 2022). You’re meant to design your image to be as exciting and aloof as possible because, well - if you care too much, it's ‘cringe,’ but if you don’t care enough, you’ll never go on a date. This builds off of Christine Emba’s take on casual sex, who discusses dating apps and their capitalist framework, which create avenues to treat sexual partners “casually and, at worst, cruelly”. (Emba, 2022). 

 

I call all of this into question primarily to discuss how polyamory has been misunderstood, and those who are actively participating have been caught in the crossfire. The term polyamorous “has only existed since the 1970s,” but since the twenty-first century, it’s gained popularity due to “the internet and dating applications making it easier to network with like-minded people and to learn about the lifestyle” (Britannica, Eldridge, 2023). Much like polyamory’s seemingly swift rise to social acknowledgement, natural wine has experienced a similar phenomenon. Due to an increasingly online world that is algorithmically targeted to us - a lot of the history, detail, and proper understanding has been lost in the shuffle toward what’s ‘trending.’ Similar to polyamory being coined as a term in the 1970s, natural wine “is recently trendy [but] it is not new: people have been making fermented grape juice without additives for thousands of years (Bull, 2019). 

 

Similar to polyamory - which is full of nuances, boundaries, and differentiates depending upon those who practice it, “natural wine is more of a concept than a well-defined category with agreed-upon characteristics. In its purest form, it is wine made from unadulterated fermented grape juice and nothing else” (Ibid). I joke about ‘natty wine dates’ as it's’ a signifier in my Hinge profile… yes I, too, have been afflicted by the trends. ALTHOUGH - I’ll let you know I was drinking natural wine in 2017 when I worked my first bar job. I think the words my ignorant twenty-one-year-old self uttered were that it tasted “how baby diapers smell”. This goes without saying, but the industry professionals I worked alongside were less than pleased by my conclusions. Please, I beg! Don’t hold it against me - I am much better versed in this area of intrigue these days. Although my tasting notes were less than elegant, this did, in fact, have some merit; sommeliers call this ‘barnyard’, alongside other aromas such as ‘horsey, manure, animal, etc.” (Wine Spectrum, 2016). 

 

The biggest issues in presenting comprehensive and attractive alternatives to the complete standard of monogamy, or additive-regulated wines, lie in the fact that dating apps and social media fixations create a one-way ticket to newness. With this comes a simultaneous dismissal of individual worth. Throw this into the mixer with non-monogamy and a lack of communication skills prompted by digital dependencies; well, you may end up with a not-so-fulfilling dating life. 

 

All trends aside, you can certainly have your primary partner, see other people, and, hell, enjoy all the natural wine you like while doing so. The secret is explicitly communicating your expectations and dynamics to the people you’re seeing. Otherwise, we risk needlessly making others feel bad and creating a toxic cycle where we just as easily meet someone new as quickly as we can toss out the last. For anyone who knows ANYTHING about natural wine, you just can’t do that at those nuanced tasting notes.

 

I think non-monogamy, polyamory, and other relationship types can all quite nicely coexist alongside those who want to practice monogamy and otherwise. Much like a biodynamic chilled red can accompany a natty pinot gris in the same cellar. Just guide communication to the forefront, double-check that the wine fridge is set to the right temperature, and, dear god, ensure the proper glassware is in use.

Source List:

 

Wine Spectrum August 15, 2016 Tasting Notes: Word of the Week “Barnyard?”

https://www.winespectrum.com/tasting-notes-word-of-the-week-barnyard/#:~:text=You%20will%20often%20hear%20people,tasters%20of%20well%2C%20a%20barn.

 

https://novaramedia.com/2022/02/17/challenging-monogamy-is-a-political-act/

Challenging Monogamy Is a Political Act

By Sophie K Rosa 

17 Feb 2022

 

https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/polyamory

When Did Calling yourself polyamorous become an excuse for terrible behavior? 

By: Alexandra Jones, 26 October 2022 

 

A manifesto against sex positivity

Michelle Goldberg

March 21 2022

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/21/opinion/manifesto-against-sex-positivity.html

 

Christine Emba 

Rethinking Sex… A Provocation. 

March 22, 2022

-

https://www.britannica.com/topic/polyamory#:~:text=In%20“parallel”%20polyamory%2C%20partners,identity%20has%20a%20longer%20history.

Britannica 

Alison Eldridge 

Nov, 3 2023 

 

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/6/10/18650601/natural-wine-sulfites-organic

Natural wine, explained

Marian Bull

June 10, 2019

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