"I got you, you, you, you and you, babe"
The Times of London today (March 4, 2007) has a great big feature article in its Sunday magazine on the rise of polyamory in the U.K. Excerpts:
...Over nine months, I talked to more than 50 polyamorists also known as ethical non-monogamists who have become part of a burgeoning global phenomenon. “As a new relationship style, there’s that fantastic freedom of making your own map,” says Elizabeth Barner, 34, an academic researcher at De Montfort University in Leicester. “By the age of eight, I knew I was never going to grow up and get married. I also thought two people weren’t enough to raise a child. I had this very set idea that I would live in a family of five adults.” Similarly, her boyfriend Grant Denkinson, 35, has never considered monogamy. “Aside from the simplicity, I hadn’t really seen the advantage.”...
When Grant isn’t working as a systems analyst, he is Britain’s foremost polyactivist. Last October he staged “Polyday”, attracting about 200 non-monogamists to a series of support groups, discussions and seminars, culminating in a party in London.
There is no way of knowing how many people are practising polyamorists in the UK, but 1,000 Britons are registered among the online polyamorous communities that Grant moderates. Many of those involved work in the computing field or have what could be viewed as tribal affiliations they might be goths or neo-pagans, or come from strict religious backgrounds. My own research indicates that there are upwards of 5,000 people practising polyamory in the UK.
“It’s threatening, it’s exciting, it’s complicated, and it always is,” says Andrew Smith, 39. He met 36-year-old Anna Sharman an unpretentious woman with a wry northern wit at a house party in 1995.... At the time, neither had heard of the word polyamory, but both were aware from the beginning of their nine-year relationship that they did not want monogamy.
That said, at first she found it difficult to cope with the thought of him seeing other women. “The first couple of times when we were out and he was flirting with other people, I felt quite iffy; jealous isn’t the right word?”
...The seeds of Anna’s new book, Open Fidelity an A-Z Guide, were sown as a teenager. “I saw several family friends in very unhappy marriages blossom when they left their partners. Often, when I spoke to people who had affairs, I found myself sympathising not just with those discovering passion after years of boredom, but with their partners who’d been lied to.”
...The concept of sharing lovers is not without precedent. In George P Murdock’s seminal Ethnographic Atlas, a database of research on world cultures between 1962 and ’80, the marital composition of 1,167 global societies was charted. One-sixth were monogamous, close to one-third had occasional polygyny (one husband sharing multiple wives), and half had frequent polygyny, while four had polyandry (one woman enjoying multiple husbands).
...“This movement amounts to an increasing recognition of the fact that humans aren’t cut out for monogamy,” says Dr Glenn Wilson of King’s College London....
The phenomenon of polyamory is gaining increasing attention in the academic field, and Dr [Christian] Klesse [of Manchester Metropolitan University]. Klesse, who is polyamorous himself, has just co-edited the first academic journal on polyamory....
...Today, open communication, rules and honesty are seen as fundamental to polyamory’s success. “It fits the man’s lifestyle but with women’s rules,” says Elizabeth, Grant’s girlfriend. They negotiate rules as their relationship progresses, though have a couple of unchanging safe-sex arrangements.
“You have agreements that everyone sticks to, and one of those might be a veto if you really think that someone might be destructive,” says Anna’s current boyfriend, 33-year-old Vince Scott, an IT consultant. He, Anna and [Joe; pseudonym] stipulate the importance of meeting their metamours people they share a lover in common with during the initial stages of a relationship, while Grant, Elizabeth and Andrew don’t. “I had established that [Joe] was essentially a decent bloke; I didn’t have an emotional need to meet him,” Andrew says.
Dr Lyndsey Moon, a chartered counselling psychologist and research fellow in sexuality and emotion at Warwick University, says: “People are no longer feeling so restricted in what they can do sexually, and this enables the language we use during sex to be talked about more beyond the bedroom. As a species, we need to generate new ideas on gender and sexuality in order to survive.
“In the aftermath of marriage, sexual and gender reappraisal, we are experiencing a crisis. Everything is in place for a relationship revolution of some kind.” Moon is ambivalent about polyamory, however: “In theory, I think the concept is great, but I’m not sure whether, as humans, we’ve evolved enough to deal with it.”
...“It’s a learning experience for a lot of men to conduct this level of communication,” says Grant. “If Elizabeth asks what I’m feeling or how I am, I can’t start negotiating with her until I know what I want myself.” His influence is having a positive effect on his monogamous friends. “It’s opening up the communication channels. They’re starting to say things like, ‘Is it okay if I have a massage from a friend? Is it okay if we sleep in the same bed but don’t do anything? Is a hug okay?’ They’re starting to talk about what’s comfortable and what’s not, and what that means.”
...One of the most resounding similarities between the 40 polyamorists Anna has interviewed is their ability to maintain friendships after separation. Oh yes, and that the sex never seems to tail off.
Read the whole article. If it disappears from the newspaper's site, you can read it here.