"Whole lotta love"
Salon, a widely read and highly respected general-interest online magazine, is just out with an excellent overview of polyamory and what it's about. It starts with scenes from the recent Florida Poly Retreat. As one reader comments, in the letters that are fast piling in about the article, "Wow! A nonsensationalist article on poly! Thanks Salon and the author for writing an article that pretty much describes a lot of the folks I know in the poly community."
By Liz Langley
June 14, 2007 | You may have seen a bumper sticker around town that says "Marriage =" and then, as if it was an elementary equation, silhouettes of a man and a woman. Traipsing through the wooded parking lot of the Pines Retreat Center in Brooksville, Fla., I notice a car with a different version of this bumper sticker: Instead of one male and one female, this one has three of each.
"As I'm fond of saying, polyamory ain't for sissies," says Anita Wagner, a 54-year-old legal secretary and poly activist in the Washington, D.C., area, whom I spoke to on the phone before the retreat. Anita has a primary partner with whom she's in a long-term committed relationship; she also has another boyfriend and a girlfriend; her partner has two other girlfriends. As far as being able to sort out the details of their relationships without acrimony, Anita tells me, "I'm very proud of us."
The four-day retreat includes workshops such as "Coming Out as Poly," "Poly and BDSM," "Poly and Christianity," "STD Update and Fun Safer Sex," and a roundtable event that I moderated called "Meet the Press," set up by organizer and poly activist Cherie Ve Ard.
..."There is no poly lifestyle," Franklin [Veaux] says at the roundtable when I use the term. "That's like 'the monogamous lifestyle.'"
...As for who practices poly, Robyn Trask of Loving More, a polyamorist association and magazine, offers me a survey her magazine did in 2002 of 1,000 poly practitioners (who, given their lifestyle, could conceivably be speaking for another 4,000). The survey found the following: 40 percent of the poly population have graduate degrees or higher (as opposed to 8 percent of the general population). Most were raised Christian (87 percent) but [many] identified as pagan (30 percent). One-fifth had never married; one-fifth had been divorced. And only 49 percent were sexually involved with someone they described as a love interest.
That last figure would seem to undercut the easy assumption that polyamory is all about sex.
...A recent St. Petersburg Times story featuring Cherie Ve Ard reported that when she finds a new romantic interest "she sends him a 'sexual history disclosure spreadsheet,' complete with names of partners, the types of sexual contact they had and the results of tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Ve Ard expects the same in return."
This is the part where some people start to think, "This sounds like a lot of work."
..."In the monogamous world," Cherie tells me, "jealousy is usually handled at the trigger point. It's assumed that your partner isn't going to flirt with other people." Poly people don't get the luxury of being on romantic autopilot if a partner's flirtations upset them, they have to think about why. It means a lot of self-assessment.
Read the whole article. (You may have to click past ads. If you can't get the second page, you can read the full text here).
This is definitely one to bookmark and send to people who need help understanding what we're all about.
Here is Cherie's own backstory about her difficult decision to allow this reporter into the Florida Poly Retreat, and how pleased she is with the outcome.