These writings contain my experiences and opinions. The opinions are personal in nature, not professional. I am not a professional; I have no degree. These are the insights I have gleaned from living four years in a polyamorous relationship.

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Defining Morality

Morality is a very apropos subject for me today, as I’ve just had to renew my contract for next year, and in that contract is a “morality clause.” I go through this mental discourse every year about this time, because I loathe the morality clause.

Merriam-Webster OnLine has this to say about morality:

1 a: a moral discourse, statement, or lesson b : a literary or other imaginative work teaching a moral lesson2 a : a doctrine or system of moral conduct b plural : particular moral principles or rules of conduct3 : conformity to ideals of right human conduct

For all intents and purposes, definition number three is the one that concerns us, the people who live an “alternative lifestyle.” That’s the one that concerns me, anyway, because that’s to what my contractual morality clause refers. I must conform to the ideals of right human conduct. I must conduct myself in a moral manner.

Merriam-Webster has this to say about moral:

1 a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ETHICAL [moral judgments] b : expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior [a moral poem] c : conforming to a standard of right behavior d : sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment [a moral obligation] e : capable of right and wrong action [a moral agent]

Once again the definition refers to what’s right and what’s wrong, to what’s ethical and what’s not. Society tells me that how I’m living my life is wrong. The government tells me that how I’m living my life is wrong. Many religions tell me that how I’m living my life is wrong. The truth of the matter is, if we go strictly according to dictionary definition, the way I’m currently living my life is not moral. It does not conform to society’s ideals of human conduct.

Here’s where the slope gets pretty slippery for me. I have a real problem with people/institutions re-defining things in order to suit a particular purpose. I was outraged when the government wanted to change the definition of “marriage” to make it illegal for same sex couples to marry. That served no purpose other than to carry out the very right-wing agenda of denying equal rights to gay couples. I was just as outraged when our government re-defined “death.” That certainly served a purpose. They did this in order to make our American war casualties, in Iraq, appear far less than they truly are. Under the new definition of “death”, one has to have died on Iraqi soil to be considered and counted as dead. If one were to die in a German hospital, or in route to another hospital, that person is not counted as a war casualty.

It makes me very angry when people want to redefine things to suit a personal agenda, and that brings me back to my slippery slope, because re-defining “morality” is exactly what I want to do, and yes, I want to do it to suit my own agenda. Does that make me a hypocrite, or does it just make me human? I think the answer is probably a little bit of both.

So every year, I sign the morality clause knowing good and well, that in the eyes of society in general, and the school board in specific, I’m lying. If I were ever outed to the wrong people, I would most definitely lose my job. Every year I engage in ceaseless mental masturbation that gets me basically nowhere. I know that the fact that I’ve got both a husband and a wife will in no way aversely effect the children with whom I work. I know that the fact that I have both a husband and a wife will in no way aversely effect my own job performance. I know that the fact that, in the eyes of society, I’m committing adultery, will in no way aversely effect anyone in my work environment. I know these facts to be absolutely true, beyond a shadow of a doubt. So, I’ve re-defined morality, and my definition is better, right? However, if I can re-define morality, just because I want to, then what stops other people from doing so? What stops terrorists and pedophiles, and spouse abuses, etc. etc. from redefining morality to suit their own needs?

This year, I’ve actually got an answer to all of my questions. This year I actually sat down and seriously thought all of this out before I went and signed that all important piece of paper. My answer is this: you simply cannot re-define something finite. Dead is dead, no matter where or how you die. Once you are dead, beyond the point of being revived and brought back, you are not going to get up and live again. Marriage is marriage. It is the institution whereby individuals are joined in a consensual and contractual relationship. That’s it.

However, the concept of morality is ever changing. Not that many years ago, it would have been immoral for me to vote or for me to marry someone not of my race or to marry someone not of my religious background. Not all that long ago, it was moral for a man to beat his wife if she disobeyed him, ditto his children. Not all that long ago, we taught our children that masturbation was immoral and would get them a one-way ticket straight to hell. I grew up “knowing” that pre-marital sex was one of the most immoral actions I could commit, and I’d be doomed if I even so much as entertained the idea.

Morality really is ever changing. Now I can vote; I can marry a black man or a Hispanic man or a Jewish man. These days, if a husband were to beat his wife or his children, he’d land squarely in jail. Now we teach our children that masturbation is a normal, healthy activity, nothing more and nothing less. Pre-marital sex is actually encouraged these days—live with him/her before you get married just to see if you can do it.

And the reason I can re-define morality and the terrorist/rapist/pedophile/etc. cannot is easily answered as well. Evil actions, actions that hurt another living being, are immoral actions. If I marched across the street and launched a Molotov cocktail in the window of my very annoying neighbor, that would be an immoral action, but the immorality would be based in the fact that I was doing grievous harm to a living creature, not in the fact that I’ve got more than one spouse.

So my conclusion is this: you’ve got to decide on your own definition of what is moral and what is not. The guidelines now seem very simple to me. If I’m not causing harm to the children, to anyone or anything at all, then it’s not immoral. If I am consciously hurting someone else, then the action is immoral. It’s as simple as that, in my mind, and for the first time in four years, I’ve signed the morality clause in my contract without telling a lie.

PolyAnna; July 12, 2005

PolyAnna is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

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