Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

September 20, 2014

The New Yorker on Wonder Woman's utopian feminist poly roots

Made plastic. (New Yorker / Grant Cornett)
The New Yorker often does deep journalism on out-of-the-way topics. Now that Wonder Women is about to make her first (and still only partial) debut into the movies, the magazine digs into her real-life origins deeper than I've seen before.

You may know that she was created (in 1941) by William Moulton Marston, part of a lifelong FFM poly triad, in order to promote his vision that powerful, liberated women would save humanity. He modeled per partly on his two partners and also, it turns out, on the aunt of one of them: birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger. His grand ideas about open love and the liberating power of bondage were even more troublesome back in those days. They may be part of why Wonder Woman has had such an awkward and disjointed history, and conflicting character treatments, ever since Marston's death in 1947.

The Last Amazon

Wonder Woman returns.

By Jill Lepore

...A press release explained, “ ‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men” — because “the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity.” Marston put it this way: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

...To the consternation of Wonder Woman fans, there has never been a Wonder Woman film. This is about to change. Last December, Warner Bros. announced that Wonder Woman would have a role in an upcoming Superman-and-Batman film, and that, in a three-movie deal, Gal Gadot, a lithe Israeli model, had signed on to play the part. There followed a flurry of comments about her anatomical insufficiency for the role.... One critic tweeted this suggestion for a title: “BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN WITH ALSO SOME WONDER WOMAN IN THERE SO SIT DOWN LADIES WE’RE TREATING YOU FINE: THE MOVIE.” Warner Bros. has yet to dispel this impression....

The much cited difficulties regarding putting Wonder Woman on film... aren’t chiefly about Wonder Woman, or comic books, or superheroes, or movies. They’re about politics. Superman owes a debt to science fiction, Batman to the hardboiled detective. Wonder Woman’s debt is to feminism. She’s the missing link in a chain of events that begins with the woman-suffrage campaigns of the nineteen-tens and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later. Wonder Woman is so hard to put on film because the fight for women’s rights has gone so badly....

Wonder Woman’s origin story comes straight out of feminist utopian fiction. In the nineteenth century, suffragists, following the work of anthropologists, believed that something like the Amazons of Greek myth had once existed, a matriarchy that predated the rise of patriarchy. “The period of woman’s supremacy lasted through many centuries,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in 1891. In the nineteen-tens, this idea became a staple of feminist thought. The word “feminism,” hardly ever used in the United States before 1910, was everywhere by 1913....

In 1917, when motion pictures were still a novelty and the United States had only just entered the First World War, Sanger starred in a silent film called “Birth Control”; it was banned. A century of warfare, feminism, and cinema later, superhero movies — adaptations and updates of mid-twentieth-century comic books whose plots revolve around anxieties about mad scientists, organized crime, tyrannical super-states, alien invaders, misunderstood mutants, and world-ending weapons — are the super-blockbusters of the last superpower left standing. No one knows how Wonder Woman will fare onscreen: there’s hardly ever been a big-budget superhero movie starring a female superhero. But more of the mystery lies in the fact that Wonder Woman’s origins have been, for so long, so unknown. It isn’t only that Wonder Woman’s backstory is taken from feminist utopian fiction. It’s that, in creating Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston was profoundly influenced by early-twentieth-century suffragists, feminists, and birth-control advocates and that, shockingly, Wonder Woman was inspired by Margaret Sanger, who, hidden from the world, was a member of Marston’s family.

Marston with Elizabeth Holloway (seated) and Olive Byrne.
...In 1926, Olive Byrne, then twenty-two, moved in with Marston and Holloway; they lived as a threesome, “with love making for all,” as Holloway later said. Olive Byrne is the mother of two of Marston’s four children; the children had three parents. “Both Mommies and poor old Dad” is how Marston put it.

Holloway said that Marston, Holloway, and Byrne’s living arrangements began as an idea: “A new way of living has to exist in the minds of men before it can be realized in actual form.” It had something to do with Sanger’s “Woman and the New Race.” Holloway tried to explain what she’d taken away from reading it: “The new race will have a far greater love capacity than the current one and I mean physical love as well as other forms.” And it had something to do with what Havelock Ellis, a British doctor who was one of Margaret Sanger’s lovers, called “the erotic rights of women.” Ellis argued that the evolution of marriage as an institution had resulted in the prohibiting of female sexual pleasure, which was derided as wanton and abnormal. Erotic equality, he insisted in 1918, was no less important than political equality, if more difficult to achieve. “The right to joy cannot be claimed in the same way as one claims the right to put a voting paper in a ballot box,” he wrote. “That is why the erotic rights of women have been the last of all to be attained.”

But there was more to it. For Holloway, the arrangement solved what, in the era of the New Woman, was known as the “woman’s dilemma”: hardly a magazine was sold, in those years, that didn’t feature an article that asked, “Can a Woman Run a Home and a Job, Too?”...

Read the whole fascinating article, nearly 8,000 words (issue date Sept. 22, 2014).

Past Wonder Woman post, with links to other articles and old WW comics.



September 18, 2014

Video: poly in Sydney, Australia

I'm noting this documentary video by a journalism student in Sydney, Australia, because at some point it took off, with 39,000 views so far. It's 28 minutes long and pretty good. By Simon Anderson. Enjoy.

Some more videos.


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September 17, 2014

Eve and Franklin's response to "Jealous of What?"

Salon / Peopleimages via iStock
Remember "Jealous of What? Solving polyamory’s jealousy problem" in Salon a couple months ago? A social-science researcher in a successful, long-term MFM triad argued that we need to shed the "individualism" of mainstream culture for poly to be secure and jealousy-free. It was controversial — a lot of people criticized her for an attitude of superiority and the howler that jealousy came into the human condition only with capitalism. I noted that Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert were preparing a response article for Salon and we could "expect a humdinger." Individual autonomy is at the core of their book More Than Two.

Now Eve just wrote, "So, Salon sat on our response for two months before we finally pulled it from their consideration and ran it on our own blog. You can read it here.


Emotional outsourcing: Why structural approaches to jealousy management fail

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
—Proverbs 27:4

Elizabeth Stern has hit the polyamory jackpot. She has two loving, secure partners who are highly compatible not just with her, but with each other. The two loves of her life like each other, share interests, and are actively supportive of each other’s relationship with her. And none of the trio has ever felt jealous.

...Like someone who’s never suffered depression giving advice to someone who has, or someone who’s never encountered economic hardship critiquing the moral shortcomings of the poor, Stern looks to her own happiness and tries to decide what she’s doing right and others are doing wrong — because obviously, if everyone else would just do what she’s doing, they’d be as happy as she is. Like many people with unchecked privilege, she scoffs at those who must actually work at the things that come to her naturally....

...Jealousy is often the fear of being replaced. It starts in us so young because it is, arguably, the first and purest expression of the ego. We cannot outsource the taming of our own egos; we cannot export the job of facing our own insecurity. Jealousy is not a one-size-fits-all problem, so a mass-produced, one-size-fits-all solution won’t succeed.

Stern’s conclusions about the roots of jealousy are naive, because she believes that since she and her partners have never experienced jealousy, it means they never will. They’re arrogant, because she believes that her single four-year polyfidelitous relationship with two men can serve as a model for all poly relationships.

But her assertions are also dangerous... because often people feel jealous when no one is doing anything wrong. Treating jealousy as a purely social issue (and we’ve seen it done) can lead to an endless circle of judgment, recrimination and accusation. It’s the ultimate in outsourcing: the outsourcing of emotional responsibility. True jealousy management involves listening to the jealousy to find out what it’s trying to tell you, and communicating with your partners (and metamours) to discover whether there is truth behind your fears — and if not, to get the reassurance you need....

But Stern’s conclusion is dangerous for another, more insidious reason....

Read their whole piece (Sept. 16, 2014).



September 16, 2014

Brazilian baby registered with three parents

BBC Latin America

Remember the judge in Brazil who granted a three-person certificate of civil union two years ago? Now a different judge has registered a baby to three parents:

Brazilian baby registered with three parents

For the first time in Brazil, a judge in southern Rio Grande do Sul state has permitted a baby to be registered with two mothers and a father.

The judge said the baby's biological parents and the mother's female partner had requested the baby's birth certificate be changed.

The women married two months ago and the father was a male friend.

The judge, Rafael Pagnon Cunha, said his decision would open up legal precedents all over Brazil.

The two women had been in a four-year relationship before the birth and had asked their male friend to help them have a child.

He had agreed, but had asked in return to be recognised as the father of the baby girl, who was born on 27 August.

Judge Cunha said that all three parents had been involved during the pregnancy in the preparations for the arrival of the child.

"Being a father and a mother is above all about taking care and fulfilling tasks. I feel sure that for this child the possibility of happiness will be very great," the judge said.

The baby's birth certificate bears the name of two mothers, a father and six grandparents.

Original article (Sept. 13, 2014).

It's unclear whether they're a poly family or, as often happens, the male friend of the two married women (Brazil recognized same-sex marriage in 2013) merely served as the sperm donor and pledges to help them raise the child. Sounds like a family either way.

That previous story from Brazil blew up worldwide because of the BBC, and now this one is going around the world too.


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September 15, 2014

"When your boyfriend loses his lover"


Passionate poly writer Louisa Leontiades got a piece published in Salon yesterday. It's her first appearance there.

When your boyfriend loses his lover

We've been in an open relationship for years now. But some things aren't taught in the polyamory manuals.

I sit with him. His head is bowed, and he looks tired and sad. If tears could leak out of his eyes, they would. But my boyfriend has been trained not to cry, although I’m not privy to what he does when he’s alone, listening to his favorite love songs. It’s heartbreaking when someone who is so optimistic, so full of boundless positivity and who brings such joy to lives through his music is in a pit of numbed nothingness. But it’s not my heartbreak I’m concerned with, it’s his.

In an open relationship, you have experiences that are a rarity in other people’s lives. You welcome jealousy as a teacher. You challenge what a relationship really means.... But there are some situations the polyamorous literature rarely covers. What to do when your boyfriend is grieving the loss of his lover?

Of course, I’m projecting about his heartbreak, as I always do. He’s a “coper,” one of the reasons I love him. When we met, I told him about my baggage, and he said, “Don’t worry, darling, I can handle heavy.”...

...He speaks of her. Of memories. Of what ifs. Of his confusion. I try my best not to think guiltily about my own lover, my other significant other, sleeping in the bedroom. This heartbreak is his alone.

But I miss her, too. We are still friends, supposedly. And yet everything has changed. She’s not coming over every other day. Her laughter doesn’t sound in the kitchen anymore....

Read on (Sept. 14, 2014).


September 13, 2014

"A Counselor's First Experience Working with a Poly Family"

A therapist writes about a professional-growth experience, at the website of the (mostly kink-oriented) National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Excerpts:

Guest blog: A Counselor's First Experience Working with a Poly Family

By Eric Jett, NCC, LPC

...During the first intake, we had gone over the typical counseling questions and discussed the importance of family counseling that we [would] start after a couple of individual sessions between me and their son. Mom and Dad were extremely cordial about the process, extremely concerned about their son, and you could see their investment in helping him grow and survive this situation; yet something was still off. There was something mom and dad were holding back....

...The parents asked me was what I was required to report to the state about child abuse.... My direct approach was to ask “Do you believe your son has been physical, sexually, or emotionally abused in some way?” The mom and dad instantly went to denying any occurrence of abuse, and I admittedly told them I was a little confused about their concern on the child abuse reporting laws for our state.

Dads’ response was, “We are polyamorous.”... For the remainder of the hour, we talked about their amazing family which included six adults, who their son and other 3 children got to refer to as parents. Mom and dad’s greatest fear was that as a professional, this would be reportable....

[In] our next family session all 6 adults attended, and it became very apparent to me as a counselor the opportunities we had to work really as an amazing support structure for this teen and help him through this difficult time of his life.

This [was] my beginning experience working with poly families, which I have continued over the past several years.... However as a counselor it was an important learning experience to remind me of the fear and concern which can often be with individuals because of societal expectations.... This family had lived as a family unit, with their ups and downs like every relationship, for over 20 years before stepping into my office.

...I worked with the family for over a year and during that course of time they educated me on not only their family but resources, books, articles, and even polyamorous meetups in the area with other families and individuals interested in relationships.

...I have been pleased and amazed to be able to present this particular client case to colleagues [who are] in the beginning struggle with the idea of working with a poly family, and often I see skewed views of what this means for the family and children. However, after we talk about and demonstrate the work we were able to do in family therapy and how the family having multiple parents actually strengthened my work with the teen, colleagues often leave with a changed view....

See his whole article (Aug. 30, 2014).


● Remember, if you need to educate a therapist about poly (on their time, not yours), you can point them to the NCSF's 36-page booklet What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory.

● Here's a one-page version at GoodTherapy.org (last updated May 2014).

● If you're looking for a poly-aware therapist or coach, one place you can start is at Tristan Taormino's Open List, organized by state and internationally, on the website of her book Opening Up. It also links to other lists. If you're a professional who should be on this list, it tells at the bottom how to get on.

● Check the NCSF's famous Kink-Aware Professionals (KAP) directory, which also includes doctors, lawyers, and others.

● And the long-running Poly Friendly Professionals directory at polychromatic.com is finally back up again (after being down due to a corrupted data file).


On the subject of therapists, last February the Washington Blade (“the newspaper of record for the LGBT community”) interviewed Tamara Pincus, a DC bi and poly awareness activist and community organizer:

Queery: Tamara Pincus

By Joey DiGuglielmo

Tamara Pincus has been out as bi since she was a teen. It took her many more years, though, to embrace her polyamorous side.

She and husband Eric have been married 11 years but she’s also had relationships with women. She also has a partner named James she’s been with two years. Eric has another partner as well.

Pincus, 37, was born in Seattle but grew up in Massachusetts and New York. She’s in private practice as a psychotherapist and sex therapist (tamarapincus.com) and also leads a monthly poly discussion group at the D.C. Center. It usually meets on the third Thursday of each month....

She says the LGBT movement should be open to less “heteronormativity.”

“I understand why the gay marriage movement has tried to make it look like we’re all just like you with two very normal looking white men with this happy little family, but we also need to be accepting of people who are different too,” she says. “You silence a lot of voices when you say, ‘We’re all just like you.’”

Pincus has two sons, ages 5 and 7 and lives in Alexandria. She enjoys board games and spending time with her family in her free time.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out as bi at 16 and as poly three years ago. The hardest people to tell were definitely parents of my kids’ friends, one of whom ran into my husband when he was on a date with someone else. It hasn’t really been hard to tell people I’m bi....

And from there it turns unserious. Read the whole article (Feb. 26, 2014).

Here's an earlier, less frivolous interview with Pincus at HuffPost Women:

The Polyamorist On The Couch: Q&A With Tamara Pincus On What Therapists Should Know About Big Love

...Currently, there is not a lot out there for social workers about polyamory. A lot of them have never heard of it or think that it only happens when a couple is not doing well but not ready to break up. They don't understand the concept of poly identity and why people choose polyamory aside from a desire to have sex with more than one person.

This can lead to marginalization. A lot of poly clients in therapy don't come out to their therapists which means they don't work on a lot of the issues that come up. Also often when they do come out they feel judged by their therapists or misunderstood.

Often even the most well-meaning therapists will not understand polyamory so clients will end up spending their time educating their therapists which is not a service they should necessarily have to pay for....

The whole interview (Dec. 12, 2013).


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