REVIEW: Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful
While trying to catch up on listening to Polyamory Weekly (I am horribly behind, still working through 2007), I heard a discussion of Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful by Anthony Ravenscroft. Those involved in the discussion seemed to be put off by the author, but still found a decent number of helpful tidbits throughout.
I have to say, I agree. Ravenscroft is sharp, and has clearly spent a lot of time observing people and relationships. His commentary on poly dynamics is really dead on; I found countless situations that I've experienced or witnessed reflected in his writing. There is no campaigning for polyamory, no sweeping the difficult aspects under the carpet. He presents polyamory as another valid relationship option, not a superior one, and fully acknowledges (almost obsessively) the tricky dynamics that can be involved. Ravenscroft encourages his readers to take the time to think about the possibilities that aren't pleasant, the negative consequences, the potential pitfalls, etc… While this can feel pretty depressing, I think it is a good suggestion to help prevent being blindsided when a relationship doesn't go quite as planned. (And really, how often do relationships follow our happy little scripts?) He is blunt to a fault, and this line pretty much sums up his writing:"I prefer prickly honesty over the ticking time bomb of dishonest comfort." He doesn't pull any punches, and that's rather refreshing!
As with most books, I don't agree with him on everything. His perspective on safer sex/condom use doesn't match my experience at all - to him, trust in a partner should be enough that we shouldn't need to specifically lay out our safer sex plans, to the point where he categorizes people who make a big deal about safer sex (condom usage specifically) as fear mongers using their superior ethics to get more partners while not actually being any more likely to strictly practice what they preach. This may be because my primary experience has been within the BDSM and queer communities, but that part of the book did not ring true at all.
At the beginning of the book, Ravenscroft admits to his blatant bias: he's a heterosexual white guy, and that's the only perspective he knows. You will not find much if any discussion of same-sex relationships (other than girlfriends of his female partners) or race/class issues. Despite this, there are a ton of good ideas and they are written in a very down-to-earth style. I especially appreciate his emphasis on not "trying out" poly because it's different or cool, and on taking the time before you jump into poly to develop your relationship skills and good, deep friendships.
Be forewarned, however: the author's ego is readily apparent throughout the book. By the end, you'll be very aware of how good his communication skills are and how well he satisfies his partners in bed. Every once in a while I had to put the book down to get away from the self-aggrandizement. This, and the unbelievably tiny print, were why it took me so long to make it all the way through. If your eyesight isn't great, get out the reading glasses, a magnifying glass, or campaign for a digital version so you can increase the font size.
All in all, I would recommend this to anyone who is tired of the fluff written about "alternative" relationship styles and who tends towards the snarky side of life. This is definitely one to add to any collection of books on nonmonogamy and polyamory, just prepare to stifle your gag reflex when the author waxes on about himself.