"Tangled Up In You and You and You"
The city magazine of Portland, Oregon, runs a long feature article introducing local polys, their lives and loves:
Tangled Up In You and You and You
Brian is married to April, but he also likes Maggie. April loves Brian, but occasionally snuggles with Bill. And no one is jealous.
By Bart Blasengame | April 2008
BRIAN LIFTS A PINT of beer from the table with both hands and slowly pulls it to his mouth as though it were a super-sized sippy cup. Convulsing from relentless bouts of giggling, giddiness and grinning, he has to forcefully lasso his lips into the requisite “O” shape just to manage a swallow.
Sip. Swallow. Giggle. Grin. Sip. Swallow. Giggle. Grin. When finally he does manage to speak, what comes billowing across the table of our tiny booth at the Virginia Café is a contrail of heart-shaped platitudes. “She’s got these sparkly eyes, a cute little laugh,” he gushes, eyes blinking off somewhere into space. “I totally have a crush on her.”
Tall and meaty, with soft features and longish brown hair, Brian (he asked that we not use his last name) has a date tonight. But the “she” he is drooling over is most definitely not his wife. Nope. While the 38-year-old computer data analyst is here trying to calm his pre-date nerves with alcohol, his wife, April, is back at their East Side home whipping him up a couple of vegetarian herbed cutlets. These Brian will eat later, with his date, down in the basement, while April stays upstairs. And after Brian and his date are done eating, they’ll settle in for a little one-on-one.
My puritanical mind—which was raised on the Good Book back in Arkansas—hurls mental stones across the table: Cheater. Adulterer. Pervert. But apparently that’s just me being a narrow-minded monogamist. Because for April and Brian, sleeping with somebody else isn’t lying. It’s a lifestyle—specifically, polyamory, a word that derives from the Greek word poly, meaning “many,” and amor, the Latin word for love. Last fall, even as they took their vows in front of friends and family, Brian and April knew (though most of their guests didn’t) the unique rules of their arrangement. Both would be allowed to pursue romantic or sexual relationships with multiple people simultaneously, as long as they had permission from one another and were honest about their intentions, and as long as neither objected to the other’s chosen partner… till death do us part....
Some might call them weird. Others might call them amoral. Just please — don’t call them “swingers.” For unlike those who stray from the marriage bed purely for sex, polys (as polyamorists are known for short) profess to be a higher-minded lot, in hot pursuit not just of orgasm but of intimacy. What they want are multiple respectful, nurturing, long-term relationships — a kind of Dr. Phil-inspired emotional approach to love that in recent years has helped move polyamory away from the edges of the sexual fringe and attracted more people to its ranks.
...Few places boast a poly community as robust in numbers and enthusiasm as does Portland, which is home to a thriving and complex social network of polys who are eager to meet up with other polys — Brian estimates about 1,500 alone are signed up for the local Yahoo poly chat rooms he moderates alone.
...As it has with most things once regarded as taboo, the Internet has acted like a dinner bell for anyone with even a passing interest in polyamory. Locally, the hottest address for the poly-curious is www.lovetribe.org.... Click. Just like that, an entire underworld materialized beneath my fingers. I could also access a social calendar that sounded like something out of Penthouse Forum. There’s a “Men’s Spirit Pajama Party” on Thursday, in which I could engage in massage circles and something called a “puppy pile.” A clothing-optional hot-tub party/baby shower on Friday. Or the “Rapture” on Saturday, a sexually charged dance party that promised to end in one of two ways—in the Snuggle Den, a room that’s meant for clothes-on touching, or in the Play Space, where sex was A-OK. There, the only rule, other than safe sex, was that you couldn’t expose your genitals on the dance floor — at least, not until midnight.... then I saw something more my speed: the First Thursday Art Snuggle. The description promised a fully clothed group groping amid poetry readings and lightly strummed music....
...The puppy pile is just one of many gateway drugs that feed a polyamorist’s need for nonsexual connection....
It doesn’t always work.
Erin (who also requested her last name not be used), a 28-year-old counselor, thought she was ready when she and her boyfriend of one year decided to explore polyamory. “We thought we were really radical and that monogamy was totally oppressive, boring and not cool,” she says with a roll of her eyes. “Obviously that was a bunch of crap.” Three years into the experiment, poorly handled encounters led to resentment and anger. Or as Erin bluntly puts it: “He was into it more for the booty than the politics.”
Now in a long-term relationship with a woman, Erin says the only thing polyamory enhances is a couple’s odds of breaking up. “The theory that you can share your partner without some sort of backlash almost always works better than the practice,” she insists. “You can talk about having an open relationship, but the second one of you actually acts on it, the shit hits the fan.”
“Polyamory can be a mess,” admits Avena, the Ashland-based therapist. “It sounds revolutionary, and to have that much love and support in your life is astounding. But there can be a lot of conflict, and if the core relationship isn’t solid enough to handle it? People can get hurt really badly.”
Read the whole article (April 2008 issue). Here it is all on one page with fewer ads.