Poly Realism on Florida's Sun Coast
For its cover story this week, an alternative newsweekly on Florida's west coast presents a long, realistic article about polyamory, with three sidebars profiling local characters who are doing it.
A missus, a mister and their mistress
Polyamorous lovers keep their options — and their relationships — open.
By Justin Richards
When Vance's girlfriend meets someone she likes, there are things she has to explain before it goes any further.
The new guy has to appreciate her relationship with Vance. If he's a dominant, sexually, he needs to know that Vance's orders come first during a submission-domination sex scene. Oh, and they can only spend the night together as often as Vance can tolerate.
...It's an especially structured sort, but what this Sarasota couple is explicitly and consensually engaged in is a polyamorous relationship. In order to challenge one of society's most rooted institutions the one-at-a-time rule for relationships people like Vance and his partner have created an institution of their own.
In the mainstream, monogamy has been a cultural assumption on par with monotheism, air conditioning and covered sex parts. There have been strains of resistance throughout the 20th century swingers, lesbian collectives, polyfidelitous communes but the term "polyamory" didn't appear until the 1990s....
For many open-minded people, our sources stipulated, monogamy remains the most satisfying option. But they did argue for certain advantages afforded by polyamory. Of course, certain difficulties arise as well. We'll start with the most obvious of those.
Enough to go around?
Time, care and libido become a lot scarcer when several partners are clamoring for them. And how these resources are parceled out can cause jealousy, which polyamorous people are not immune to....
Vance has put his girlfriend and her secondary boyfriend on hiatus for the time being, he says, because she had kinky sex with the guy without telling Vance beforehand.
Although this seems like an issue of sexual jealousy, Vance says it's not that way. "If somebody starts developing a whole separate set of personality cues and a whole different lifestyle," he says, "you guys are going to drift apart.... There's a lot of that in monogamous relationships, too. It just gets more complicated when you're polyamorous."
...[Tristan] Taormino sees polyamory as a new frontier in equality. A polyamorist is unprotected against discrimination, and Taormino writes in Opening Up that coming out as polyamorous can be risky. She spoke with two people, in researching her book, who lost custody of their children due to polyamory.
...Lilian's parents know about her boyfriends, but they never allow her to bring both to the same gathering. So she brings one of them to Thanksgiving, for example, and the other to Christmas. That way, she says, "They can pretend really hard."...
Read the whole article (July 23, 2008). And leave a comment there.
Here are the three sidebars:
Michael: the Pioneer
Michael Rosen-Pyros is one of the early ones, a sort of a prototype. When he and a group of leftist post-beatnik intellectuals started exploring nonmonogamy in the 1960s, they didn't have much to go on.
The friends he was living with, in a commune on Long Island, studied thinkers like Karl Marx, Wilhelm Reich and Emma Goldman. As the youngest, 19-year-old Rosen-Pyros was something of an outsider.... "They were interesting people, they were my heroes, they were wonderful, and they were dealing with the most dangerous of all things, which was possession of each other's loved ones."
..."They talked about it, like good old lefties, for about a year before they ever did anything. 'Cause everybody wants to make sure that whatever they do is in the line of the central committee."...
Vance: the Alpha
Vance went on his first date when he was 20 years old, and he's been loving in multitude ever since.... One day, Vance and his girlfriend were at a party, where they met a third girl. Vance hit it off, so all three of them went back to the new girl's place. And so it went. It was the start of a dating collective that, kind of like The Cure, has been gaining and losing members ever since, with Vance as its perpetual Robert Smith.
...Now, Fay is Vance's only primary, and vice versa. Fay has a secondary boyfriend, though, whom she normally visits for one day every month. That day is really hard on Vance. When Fay comes home, the first thing they do is cuddle, as he needs to be comforted. Then he asks her to tell him everything their activities during the day and all the way through the night.
The situation may be hard on Vance, but what about the other guy?
"We both really want him to get another girlfriend," Vance says.
Lilian: the Analytic
"Your identity gets collapsed into this other person," Lilian says of typical monogamous life, "and there are cultural myths that you're supposed to exist for this other person, that blinding obsessive jealousy is somehow normal....
Lilian kind of stumbled through her first few attempts at polyamory, like most do. She and her lovers hadn't studied any precedents like those outlined in The Ethical Slut (the polyamory bible, to some). They didn't lay out ground rules in advance (Some polyamorists even draw up contracts.). Pain and confusion ensued.
Much forethought and structuring often go into a polyamorous relationship, and Lilian says that monogamous couples would do well to learn from that.... Today, Lilian and her two boyfriends have things laid out pretty clearly.
...Her dream, Lilian says, is to live in a big house full of her partners. Some of them will have families and children. She will remain the "crazy aunt."
It seems an odd model for romantic fulfillment. But to ask why it seems odd is to examine the traditional model and to wonder why one should expect it to satisfy everybody.