Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

July 21, 2014

Ozy: "The Rise of Polyamory"

Ozy magazine, which calls itself "the go-to daily news and culture site for the Change Generation" (164,000 daily subscribers), presents a Poly 101 article and 6-minute video.

The article seems kinda thrown together, but it gets the concept out. I'm amazed at how many people still haven't heard of it.

The Rise of Polyamory

By Melissa Pandika

Why you should care: Because polyamory’s growth in popularity could shake up the dating world.

Jen Day and her boyfriend of 11 years, Pepper Mint (yes, that’s his real name), live together with their cat in a whitewashed house on a narrow, leafy street in Berkeley, Calif. They kiss and nuzzle and have date nights, like any other couple.

Just not always with each other.

...Large-scale studies tracking the number of polyamorous (aka “poly”) individuals don’t exist, but evidence from polyamory groups, relationship therapists and dating websites suggests that figure is rising fast. University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley estimates that 5 percent of Americans are involved in consensual non-monogamous relationships....

“There’s a shaken belief [in monogamy]” leading to “more openness to seeing what works rather than believing in some tradition,” says San Francisco clinical psychologist Deborah Anapol. And, in general, people have grown more open to alternative lifestyles.

Poly triad graphicOf course, it’s also possible that interest in polyamory has remained stable — but people just have more opportunity to take part. Thanks, Internet!

Still, the poly-curious should think hard before making the leap. Polyamory might sound like free love, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Maintaining multiple healthy relationships takes McKinseyian time-management skills and grace dealing with jealousy. Skeptics worry about the welfare of children in polyamorous families. The stigma hasn’t quite worn off, either.

“A lot of people get into this relationship style and don’t really have the tools to do it ethically, so people get hurt,” says Michael (last name not given), who organizes polyamory events in the San Francisco Peninsula and South Bay Area, Calif. “People are like, ‘I dated this guy who was poly and was a sleazebag.’ It gives the lifestyle a bad name.”

...“If you ask one person what their definition of polyamory is, it will be totally different from somebody else’s,” says Maryland-based sex and kink educator Cassie Fuller.

To wit: Fuller and her husband practice polyfidelity, in which all members are considered equal partners who remain faithful to one another. Mint and Day form intimate networks, labeling their lovers as “primary,” “secondary” and “tertiary” depending on the level of commitment. Michael and Yi-Ling (last name not given) practice relationship anarchy, participating in open relationships without ranking partners....

...Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests an upswing. Local poly organizations have experienced a surge in membership, while sex and relationship therapists have noticed a rise in poly clients.

“All signs point to an upward trend,” says Niko Antallfy, a sociology lecturer at Macquarie University.

The real trend is toward more tolerance and acceptance of diversity....

Oh but the critics! There are many. Some, predictably, consider polyamory amoral. Others blame a shift toward a “me-me” culture....

Read the whole article (July 17, 2014).


July 15, 2014

"Jealous of what? Solving polyamory’s jealousy problem"


Quite an interesting societal perspective here. A social-science researcher living in a long-term MFM triad describes her situation. She contends that poly that breaks away from the individualism of mainstream culture tends to be more secure and jealousy-free.

Jealous of what? Solving polyamory’s jealousy problem

Everyone asks my polyamorous family how we handle the jealousy. It's easy, because that's not how it works.

By Elizabeth Stern [Pseudonym]

The first question people ask my polyamorous family is “How do you handle the jealousy?” Befuddled, we answer, “What jealousy?”

I am lucky; I live with the two loves of my life. I am smitten with my husband of 16 years, and adore my partner of four. The three of us depend upon and nurture each other; we are a family. When my partner and I hadn’t had a date in a while, my husband encouraged us to take a holiday at the art museum, knowing how the visual connects us. When my husband and I hit an emotional snag in discussing our issues, my partner helped us to sort it out and come together. And when I was picking out Christmas presents, I gave the foodies in my life some bonding time over a Japanese small-plates cooking class.

The existing polyamory advice literature pushes individualistic solutions to jealousy. Polyamory gurus such as Dossie Easton (“The Ethical Slut”), Deborah Anapol (“Love Without Limits”) and, more recently, Franklin Veaux (“More Than Two”) advocate personal responsibility as the solution to insecurity. You must “work through” your jealousy, making sure to not “control” your partner, all the while viewing the experience of jealousy through a lens of personal growth. My family has never needed to rely on these individualistic methods because jealousy is a social problem, not an individual one, and so are the solutions.

Prescribing of individualistic methods for management of jealousy is nothing new.... Polyamory advice on jealousy is not radical when held up to this light; it is simply part of the larger 20th century context....

I think back on my life of four years ago as we first formed our polyamorous family. My new boyfriend was surprised that he felt no jealousy of my 14-year relationship with my husband. He felt supported and welcomed into our lives, and longed to make a commitment to us, but the absence of jealousy was perplexing to him. Doesn’t jealousy naturally emerge from a partner having another partner, he wondered? He waited for over a year before he made a commitment, just in case jealousy would emerge. He was waiting for Godot.


Eric Widmer, a sociologist at the University of Geneva shows that trust in any dyadic (two-person) relationship is influenced by the density of the larger social configuration in which it is embedded. Research indicates that people feel more comfortable when those persons they are close to are also close to one another, which is termed transitivity. This leads over time to dense networks, where the number of actual connections between members comes close to or equals the number of potential connections.

In my polyamory family there were three potential dyadic relationships and all have been realized either through a love relationship (my partners and I) or a close friendship (between my partners). A dense, socially cohesive network allows for a greater degree of trust between any two members. [Emphasis mine –Ed.] My family’s wider social network of friends and family varies in its transitivity with us. But the cohesiveness within our immediate family alone begins to account for the seemingly surprising lack of jealousy....

Most of the polyamory advice literature does not advocate for dense interdependent networks over a lifetime anyway. Their brand of polyamory is individual freedom rooted in personal responsibility and self-actualization, which fits much better into our current neoliberal opportunity structure.... As one polyamory advice website states succinctly, “polyamory encourages, allows, and almost demands that you be an individual first and foremost.”

...My hypothesis is that the more shifts that occur within a polyamory network, the more jealousy that occurs, which then requires higher degrees of individualistic emotion management. In other words, individual freedom in relationships has an evil twin of individual constraint of emotion.


...The common denominator is social rather than personal responsibility. Seeing ourselves as part of a larger system (whether of three or 300 people) leads to taking social responsibility for the health of that system. Can we solve polyamory’s jealousy problem? Perhaps, perhaps not. But what we can do is stop pretending that we don’t know where jealousy comes from.

Elizabeth Stern is the pseudonym of a PhD social scientist and freelance writer living on the East Coast.

The whole article (July 13, 2014) is well worth a read.

As it happens, I am typing this in the lodge during the Network for a New Culture's annual Summer Camp East — which is all about creating an intimate, transitive-network culture in a modern context. We find it a better way to live.

And maybe Stern's article explains why, of the 80 people here, at least half are actively poly and yet there's practically no drama about it at all. Jealousy sometimes, hurt sometimes, but handled in a spirit of "empathetic conflict." The ethos here is an interesting blend of radical self-responsibility/ individualism, something utterly modern and Western, leading to radical tribal communitarianism.

Eve Rickert says that she and Franklin Veaux are preparing a rebuttal to the Salon piece. Expect a hum-dinger.


Labels: ,

July 10, 2014

*The Week*: "Why Facebook should embrace polyamory"

For years polyfolks have been agitating for Facebook to let users choose "polyamorous" as their relationship status, rather than having to pick from a list of statuses that are not really correct. Recently a Change.org petition got off the ground asking Facebook "to allow poly people to list who they love":

Facebook currently allows people to name one person they're in a relationship with despite the growing numbers of polyamorous and non-monogamous members. Some people identify as loving more than one person or as being "many loving." We appreciate and thank Facebook for their recent change in allowing all people to put their own gender identities. We ask that they have the same respect for people of all relationship types. They deserve the basic right to be honest about who they care about. Please sign this petition to allow those in open relationships to name their partners truthfully as everybody else does.

This long-simmering discontent bubbled out into mainstream attention this morning, with an opinion piece in The Week — a prestigious newsmagazine with a print circulation of 560,000 and 1.3 million web visits per week. Its readers, it tells advertisers, are "affluent, powerful opinion leaders" with a median household income of $160,000. Its claimed mission: "By analyzing and curating thousands of media sources from around the globe, The Week distills a worldly and balanced, concise view of the issues that matter most."

With that buildup, read on:

Why Facebook should embrace polyamory

The social network can go further than its 49 gender identities

By Cathy Reisenwitz

Facebook relationship statuses

Facebook raised eyebrows earlier this year by unveiling 49 new gender options for users. Hopefully that's just the start of the ubiquitous social network's social boundary-pushing ways.

The next frontier? Unconventional relationship options. Instead of multiple options for relationships with just one other user, Facebook should allow users to be in relationships with multiple users. There's even a Change.org petition demanding as much....

Now let's face it: Facebook is unlikely to make this change anytime soon. But it should.

American social mores are changing. Support for gay marriage is rocketing upwards. Also increasing is our acceptance of trans-identified individuals.

But society's approval of multi-partner relationships is still low.... For the vast majority of Americans, there are two options: monogamy, or cheating.

But many people are living out a third option, such as polyamorous writer Lauren Rumpler: ethical non-monogamy. "People assume that to be faithful, you have to be monogamous," Rumpler explained in a recent interview with me. "To be faithful, you have to be honest....

...Polyamory, a subset of ethical non-monogamy, refers to multiple concurrent sexual relationships, and is generally differentiated from open relationships by long-term, emotionally involved, and/or committed "secondary" relationships. Some poly relationships involve hierarchy, with primary, secondary, (and so on) relationships. And some are non-hierarchical, with no partner being more important than the other. In some poly relationships, "metamours," as partners of partners call each other, have romantic relationships. In others, partners either don't know about each other (Don't Ask; Don't Tell) or remain friendly but not romantically involved.

And woohoo! I'm in it:

The site Polyamory in the News documents the growing coverage this "alternative lifestyle" has received in recent years....

...In the end, the main benefit of ethical non-monogamy is that it helps people who feel unsuited to monogamy enjoy their relationships. It also accepts that no one person is capable of meeting all of your needs. Acceptance of and education around ethical non-monogamy is important because too many people end up in monogamous relationships not because they enjoy monogamy, but because it's the default position, and they never consider other options.

This is where Facebook comes in. Of course, Facebook doesn't exactly grant rights or set policy. But can you imagine how many more people would consider and accept polyamory as a viable and ethical life choice if Facebook gave polyamory its imprimatur?

Cathy Reisenwitz is an editor at Young Voices and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. She is editor-in-chief of Sex and the State, a columnist at Townhall.com, and a writer for Bitcoin Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, and The Daily Beast, and she has appeared on Fox News and Al Jazeera America. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the Center for a Stateless Society.

Read the whole article (July 10, 2014). It's getting picked up and remarked upon by various other sites.



July 8, 2014

HuffPost Live video show this afternoon (July 8)

Update: Well so HuffPost Live ran a different poly segment in this time slot — featuring Leon Feingold, Robyn Trask, and Eli Sheff instead. They did an excellent job as spokespeople — watch how they do it — but I wonder what happened to the three who were supposed to be scheduled?

Answer: Franklin just posted, "Well, hmm. Apparently I won't be on HuffPo Live today after all. Received an email from the producer about a family crisis, and that's it."

But HuffPo Live rounded up three other people on short notice. Watch here:


Earlier: This in from Angi Becker Stevens:

"Just a heads up, I'm doing a segment on poly on HuffPost Live tomorrow [Tuesday July 8th] at 5:40 [eastern time], hope a lot of you can tune in!"

And from Franklin Veaux: "I've just been invited to participate, and I'm in a small town in Alaska where Internet access is a bit iffy. I'm trying to figure out how to make it happen."

And from Anita Wagner: "I'm in, too."


July 7, 2014

Elisabeth Sheff on her monogamous "poly-affective" life, final installment

Sociologist Elisabeth Sheff published her book The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families last November. A month ago I posted a pointer to the first two installments of her personal story ("Why I am not polyamorous, but you might want to be") at her ongoing blog at Psychology Today magazine's site.

She just posted the tale's final installment. She's the inventor of the term "polyaffective" for relationships that are nonsexual but something more than friendships.

...Together for almost three years, Kira and I have rarely availed ourselves of our relationship flexibility.... We have rarely tested the boundaries of our agreement and are waiting to see how things evolve. So far, making relationship decisions in response to shifting circumstances is working great for us, in sharp contrast to the endless discussions I had with Rick making rules for imagined situations that turned out completely differently in real life.

...Polyaffective relationships are connected by emotional intimacy but not sexuality, either because they have never been sexually engaged or because the sexual portion of the relationship has waned and they remain emotionally intimate.... One common polyaffective configuration is a woman with two male partners who are emotionally close but not lovers. A quieter version of poly identity, polyaffectivity can be more durable and flexible than its romantic counterpart — often able to supersede, coexist with, and outlast sexual interaction.

While Rick and I are no longer in a romantic relationship, we are still in each other’s lives because we co-parent our children. “Splitting up” romantically helped to lessen some of our tension, and over the last eight years that we have been separated I have come to like him a lot better again. Things have not always been smooth, and during several rough patches we have argued over what happened in the past and sometimes money – much like other couples who split up. A big difference for us is that we followed the poly breakup method that entailed lots of communication and trying diligently to work out our problems.... Now we can have a congenial dinner together, chat about the kids, and share holidays together. Rick and Kira get along great, and the kids have three adults in two households who love them, and whom they can count on....

Read the whole piece (July 6, 2014).


Also: here's a real-time online discussion with Sheff that was sponsored last April by the science-geek site io9 (slogan: "We come from the future". The longtime editor-in-chief of io9, Annalee Newitz, wrote an important popular article about polyamory in New Scientist magazine back in 2006 before the current wave of public interest took hold.)



July 6, 2014

No Season 3 of "Polyamory: Married & Dating"

For those who've been asking, Showtime is not doing a Season 3 of its series Polyamory: Married & Dating.

Director Natalia Garcia writes, "We are thrilled that Showtime supported this series for as long as they did. And thanks to the fans who tuned in every week and those of you who supported me throughout this journey."

From Kamala Devi, a central figure in both seasons: "Thank you fans and friends who supported us through this controversial and groundbreaking project, and special thanks to Creator/Director Natalia Garcia for showing the world that monogamy is not the only option. Having two solid seasons on a well-known cable network like Showtime is a HUGE win for humanity."

Here's the San Diego family's continuing Facebook page with news from Kamala and others.

If you're a Showtime subscriber, you can still watch any episodes on demand or on a computer or other device until April 7, 2015.

My coverage of Season 1 and Season 2.

And here's an interview with director Natalia Garcia last fall by Heather McGuire of Mindchaotica. Two bits:

What were your motivations and goals for making the show?

I wanted to do something that was sex positive and empowered women sexually – it’s ok for women to be sexually active if they’re ethical about it. Men tend to be the “studs” and women are viewed as whores if they sleep with multiple people. Anyone who does any research or reading knows that women are more sexual than men and I wanted to turn the tables around and show the women as “studs.” Also, the catalyst for me wanting to make this show was when Prop 8 was upheld in California in 2009, it was and is very upsetting to me that the government thinks they can define what our family looks like and tell my gay brothers and sisters that it’s wrong for them to love each other.... So Polyamory: Married & Dating was my answer to both those issues. I wanted to make a show that addressed women’s freedom of choice in relationships and love styles.


Do you feel the show accurately represents the Polyamorous community and lifestyle?

Well, yes and no. There are a million ways to do poly, just like there are a million ways to be gay, to raise kids, or to eat spaghetti. Really. These are the families who put their lives on display so on that level, yes, this is a good representation for people who had no idea about Polyamory. I think my series is an excellent introduction to people who had no exposure to alternative love styles. I didn’t make this show for the poly community, they know what poly is. I made this show for monogamous, mainstream, people who are in traditional relationships and didn’t know they had options aside from cheating or breaking up/divorce.