In the Flesh: Talking About Relationship Anarchy in Vancouver and Beyond

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The non-monogamous scene in Vancouver continues to thrive.

Recently, Kale Gōsen launched a website and Facebook Group to spread the word about Relationship Anarchy (abbreviated as RA). After the success of her site and group, she worked with Chelsey Blair to host the first Vancouver Relationship Anarchy Discussion Night. I was lucky enough to pick both of their brains on behalf of Erotic Vancouver to get the lowdown on relationship anarchy, the group, the event, and how it all plugs into Vancouver’s scene.

First of all, can you explain what relationship anarchy is for anyone who is not aware?

Kale: Relationship anarchy is a a way of practicing relationships. Like polyamory there is a focus on consent, openness and honesty, but there is also a strong focus on autonomy. A relationship anarchist rejects the need to have rules and hierarchies, and they also approach each of their relationships independently of their others. What this means that when they meet someone, that relationship is allowed to grow and develop organically. It is not constrained by what other types of relationships you already have.

Another defining feature of RA  is that not only do RAs not have hierarchies in their romantic circles, they don’t have them in their social circles either. They don’t differentiate between their romantic, sexual or platonic relationships. Sex is not the defining feature of who is important to them, who they spend their time with, and who they build their lives with.

Chelsey: There is an expectation for some that romantic or sexual relationships will become the primary focus for an individual, and RA is focused on dismantling that expectation. Also, when people are designing their connections with intent and consideration of each individual involved instead of based on the structures and labels expected, everyone has a lot more agency within the relationship. They are able to express themselves and participate in a way where they are actively consenting.

Some people have been known to bristle at the use of the term anarchy. What would you tell them to help them better understand?

Kale:  People have a lot of negative associations when they think of anarchy. They think of chaos and violence, and can’t imagine how that would beKale Gosen Relationship Anarchy a good thing inside their relationships. If you dig a little deeper, you can find the ideas that brought forth the principles of RA. Anarchists reject authority and hierarchies. They highly value autonomy and personal liberty. You can see how this might appeal to people who want to make their own decisions, design their own relationships, and live according to their own desires rather than society’s.

How does RA fit into the non-monogamous umbrella?

Kale: I would say that RA is partially covered by the non-monogamous umbrella, and partially not. It is because RA is about consent and communication, and building your relationships outside of societal norms. But while it seems as though most people who identify as RAs are likely non-monogamous, there are also monogamous folks who identify as an RA. There is space in relationship anarchy for everyone who values autonomy and is questioning how they want to structure their relationships.

Chelsey: I think that detail of sexually or romantically monogamous people being able to fall into the category of relationship anarchist is a definitive contrast between it and polyamory, since in order to be poly, one generally is non-monogamous.

Kale, your site and videos were a quick hit. Can you tell us about the inspiration for your site and videos? Did you expect such a response?

Kale: I was so surprised! It’s kind of something I fell into.

My first non-monogamous relationships were fairly hierarchical, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing! After a few years of that I felt so constrained, and was really struggling. Right as a big relationship in my life was imploding, I was asked Have you ever heard of relationship anarchy? I hadn’t, and I took my usual approach to learning new things – I read every single thing I could get my hands on. The more I read about RA, the more it appealed to me. It completely changed the trajectory of that relationship, and my life really.

As I delved into learning about RA, I scoured the internet to find everything I could. Which was not much. I’m actually currently dealing with a chronic illness, and have been unable to work much in the past year. A zillion hours of Netflix later and I was looking for something, anything to occupy my brain that I could do from home, preferably lying down. I decided I wanted to learn how to build a website, which was way out of left field for me. I started gathering all the info on RA that I could, and used that as a project to build my website. Everything, doing book reviews, making videos, doing the RA meetup, has all spawned from there.

Chelsey, can you tell us how and why you became involved in this RA project?Chelsey Blair

Chelsey: I became interested in the concepts behind RA personally at the end of last year, as I went through some pretty emotionally strenuous relationship structural shifts of my own. I also already had some social capital traction to leverage in the poly community for organizing some social events. I wanted to see discussions around RA happen as a standalone series, so I contacted Kale to talk about getting that off the ground. We agreed that we would both enjoy a broader discourse with other people who are curious or practicing.  With my practice in wrangling humans and Kale’s expertise on the subject, we executed a pretty successful event, I would say.

How did your first meet-up go? Were there any take-aways from the meeting?

Chelsey: We had some aspirations around streaming the event that we decided to forgo in the name of thinking more about methods and choosing something that would allow people to feel like it was a safe space still; safe space, in this case, meaning that people’s stories would remain confidential within the discussion. We are very concerned with making sure everyone feels comfortable sharing within the space, that their confidence will be upheld and their stories will not be retold without permission. We still need to hammer out some details of what that would look like. I’m tempted to simply take good notes, leave out identifying details, and post them to the group. However, that may not be sufficient. There is a lot of things to think about regarding consent and privacy in order for any sort of recorded data to work for everyone participating.

I know that barely days have passed since the first meeting, but do you have plans for the next?

Chelsey:  Our intent is to have the discussions occur once a month at the Tipper. Their back room space is great, and hopefully that will work on a reliable, long term basis. And we have our next discussion planned for June 7th at 6:30pm!

Why does RA matter in the Vancouver dating pool? 

Kale: While there are sites like OKCupid that have a lot of poly members, I still find that so many profiles are couples where one person is seeking another person to date casually. I struggle on there to write what I am looking for. If I read a person’s profile and it said they were an RA, I would instantly know that how we approach relationships is aligned. I would love a more nuanced dating pool, where it’s not just Monogamous or Poly.

Chelsey: I have to agree with Kale on this front: I want to see more nuanced and deliberate conversations about the how’s and why’s behind connections formed between people. The more we think about what we’re doing when we engage other people on any level, the clearer we can articulate where we are at and how we would like to operate. That, to me, translates into better treatment of the people that are important to us and more possibilities of what we can be to each other.

And finally, why should our Erotic Vancouver readers care about RA? 

Kale: What I keep hearing from people is: This fits so well with how I want to live my life, but I never knew there was a term for it. I think a lot of people will find the ideas behind relationship anarchy appealing, but they have never been introduced to it. That’s one reason I wanted to make videos, to reach more people. So thank you for helping with that!

Chelsey: A friend of mine looked at me sideways not too long ago and said “Chels, I don’t think you’re poly; I think you’re RA”, and at first I was all hand gestures and “Shhhhhhh!! The poly community doesn’t know I’m an imposter!!” as a joke. I then unpacked that a bit and realized it had to do with what we highlighted earlier in this interview: the perception of anarchy meaning chaos. I’m not all that chaotic by nature, although sometimes it may look that way from the outside; I strive (hopefully successfully) to be intentional and accountable. I bet that’s an aspiration of or resonates with a lot of people curious about non-monogamous frameworks. So, y’all, here is another model to contemplate. 🙂

Interested in knowing more? Visit the RA site at relationship-anarchy.com  and join the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/RelationshipAnarchy/ to be in the know about upcoming events and to join the discussion.

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