What Is ‘Compersion’?

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Love’s RefractionLove’s Refraction: Jealousy and Compersion in Queer Women’s Polyamorous Relationships
by Jillian Deri
University of Toronto Press. 168 pages, $21.95

 

 

JILLIAN DERI introduces this book by explaining that “for my research, I spoke with polyamorous queer, lesbian, and bisexual women in Vancouver, Canada, about how and why they practise polyamory.” Specifically, the interview subjects were asked about jealousy: did it arise in their relationships, and if so, how did they manage it? A friend of mine who grew up in Vancouver jokingly speculated that all the women quoted in this book probably live on one street, Commercial Drive. But despite the apparently narrow focus of her research, Deri’s analysis shows a breadth of thought about the phenomenon of multiple sexual relationships.

The word “compersion” means the opposite of jealousy, or a feeling of shared delight in the compatibility of one’s lover with someone else. The women interviewed use it so frequently that it stops sounding odd. Juicier language might have been more suitable to the juicy subject-matter, but

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