Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan



May 8, 2009

"Threesome Marriages"

The Daily Beast

A few days ago, writer Abby Ellin went asking around for triads to interview. It didn't take her long. See the piece below. Despite a few false notes it gets the picture overall.

Ellin regularly writes the "Vows" column for the New York Times. The Daily Beast (the news site published by Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker) is moderately prestigious in its own right, and maybe Ellin will find a way to mention the poly option somewhere in the Times' marriage coverage.


First came traditional marriage. Then, gay marriage. Now, there's a movement combining both — simultaneously. Abby Ellin visits the next frontier of nuptials: the "triad."

Less than 18 months ago, Sasha Lessin and Janet Kira Lessin gathered before their friends near their home in Maui, and proclaimed their love for one another. Nothing unusual about that — Sasha, 68, and Janet, 55 — were legally married in 2000. Rather, this public commitment ceremony was designed to also bind them to Shivaya, their new 60-something "husband." Says Sasha: “I want to walk down the street hand in hand in hand in hand and live together openly and proclaim our relationship. But also to have all those survivor and visitation rights and tax breaks and everything like that.”

...Unlike open marriages and the swinger days of the 1960s and 1970s, these unions are not about sex with multiple outside partners. Nor are they relationships where one person is involved with two others, who are not involved with each other, a la actress Tilda Swinton. That's closer to bigamy. Instead, triads — "triangular triads," to use precise polyamorous jargon — demand that all three parties have full relationships, including sexual, with each other. In the Lessins case, that can be varying pairs but, as Sasha, a psychologist, puts it, "Janet loves it when she gets a double decker." In a triad, there would be no doubt in Elizabeth Edwards’ mind whether her husband fathered a baby out of wedlock; she likely would have participated in it....

There are no statistics or studies out there, but according to Robyn Trask, the executive director of Loving More, a nonprofit organization in Loveland (yes, really), Colorado, dedicated to poly-education and support, about 25 percent of the estimated 50,000 self-identified polyamorists in the U.S. live together in semi-wedded bliss. A disproportionate number of them are baby boomers. (Paging Timothy Leary: Janet Lessin claims on her Web site that she's able to travel astrally.)...

...Valerie White, executive director of the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund, a legal-defense fund for people with alternative sexual expression in Sharon, Massachusetts, says she believes that triads are actually a great way to raise a family. "Years ago, children didn’t get raised in dyads, they got raised with grandparents and aunts and uncles — it was much looser and more village-like," says White. "I think a lot more people are finding that polyamory is a way to recapture that kind of support.”

...Doug Carr, Robert Hill, and Paul Wilson have been a happy threesome for 29 years. The three men, who live outside Austin, Texas, share a bed, a checking account, and joint real-estate properties in each of their names — “a left-handed form of cementing the relationship in a legal context,” says Hill, 69, a retired financier (because of their arrangement, they, too, requested I use pseudonyms).... They held a commitment ceremony in 1984 for 20 friends, and then a reception for 200 in their house, where we “introduced ourselves to the world as a triad,” says Carr....


Read the whole article (May 7, 2009). I've always had a problem with the Lessins calling themselves the "World" Polyamory Association (and pushing ridiculous woo woo), and Ellin could have done a little more reading up in other regards, but these are nitpicks.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Anita Wagner said...

Alan, my friend, I'll have to disagree with you about the nitpicks. I howled out loud to read "Paging Timothy Leary: Janet Lessin claims on her Web site that she's able to travel astrally." This is a seriously harmful image for polyamory, one I've always feared WPA's insistence on connecting polyamory with such practices would create, and here it is, in a high-profile article. If this doesn't illustrate the need for a more effective means of responding to media requests for interviews, I don't know what does. Thanksfully a new project is in the works thanks to Joreth, http://joreth.livejournal.com.

May 08, 2009 2:18 PM  
Blogger DawnD said...

Yeah, I was quite surprised to find a direct link to our website in this article. eep! (I made sure to slap up some stuff about the Poly Living West conference as soon as I found out!) As you say, very iffy to be connecting poly and astral travel, but not much we can do about it, sadly. People will be who they are. Lots of monos are into astral travel as well. ;^)

May 08, 2009 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I don't know that I agree with this article's concept of what a "true" poly relationship is. It describes a class "Vee" (one in which one person is involved with 2 others who are not involved with each other) as something closer to bigamy. I'm certain there are many who are in a "Vee" relationship whether the hinge or a leg that would be greatly offended by this, myself include.
All poly relationships are NOT triangles, it's just one form of a poly relationship.

May 09, 2009 12:52 AM  
Blogger rosephase said...

I don't know if we should regulate how we look to others. Who gets to deiced what is "clean cut good poly" and what is a "seriously harmful image" People are honest about who they are. I don't think we should have to edit ourselves to look better for others. I know we can end up looking like wack jobs, that is because there are a lot of wack jobs who are poly. There is a pull for outsiders in our community and I think that is fine.

Should I not talk to the press because I go to burning man? Because I practices lucid dreaming? Because I use recreational drugs? Or used to be a stripper? And who gets to decide which face "we" show.

If people want to think we are wackos they will find a way.

Otherwise I think it is only fare to let anyone who wants speak use there own voice no matter what that sounds like. We are as diverse (if not more so) as any group. And yes sometimes it can seem embarrassing, but isn’t poly all about honesty?

May 09, 2009 7:44 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I agree about the equal triad being only one variety of legit poly relationships. I believe in being fairly open about the possibilities, but also very critical of situation where it at least appears that someone is being abused in one way or another.

I also in some ways like the Lassins and thier willingness to be "out there," but I have problems with them as the poster children for polyamory. My main issue is that they have several times put themselves forward in the media with their new life partners, often people they have only recently gotten together with. These relationships have not lasted.

I don't have a problem with them falling in love or having the intention of ongoing relationship, but the repeated publicity of brand new relationships as rock solid has turned me off.

May 11, 2009 2:34 AM  
Blogger Anita Wagner said...

Rosephase, certainly it's still a free country and anyone who gets the chance can speak to the media about polyamory as they see it. That doesn't mean that they can't do more harm than good with the message they deliver.

Choosing effective spokespeople who can speak about polyamory in ways that others can hear and understand is crucial to moving the poly movement forward. Accomplishing that, and all the benefits that come with awareness and tolerance, means crafting messages that avoid distracting the listener with mental images of seemingly-bizare, non-related practices so their mind will be as open to us as possible. It's about leveraging the messaging.

This is public relations 101. You can be assured that (as in this instance) certainly *someone* is going to be speaking for us, whether we are happy about that or not. Perhaps you might take a step back and look at this from a bigger picture perspective - then it might make more sense why good or at least neutral first impressions matter.

May 15, 2009 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Trace said...

I saw a lecture by Abby Ellin tonight in NYC, and had the opportunity to ask her about the prominence of the Lessins in the article and the reference to astral travel, as well as the comparison of V triads and bigamy. Abby apologized; turns out that Abby's editor was responsible for all these. Highlights Anita's point that we need to find speakers who won't confuse our message with things that are taken out of context, and also make those speakers very accessible to those creating the media pieces on us. Abby had 3 days to write the article, and grasped at any triads she could find; perhaps she didn't look that hard, but she said she would have loved to have known about some of the people and resources I mentioned. Her talk itself was overwhelmingly positive about polyamory, and well received by the crowd who was open minded but didn't otherwise know much about it.

July 19, 2009 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Sasha Lessin, Ph.D. said...

Evidentally Alan enjoys dissing that which differs from his own limited interests. But polys can have many, many diverse perspectives, including what Alan dismisses as New Age Woo Woo--a loving perspective that might mellow his vituperation, disparegement of what he fails to understand and ceaseless pandering to his organization

December 10, 2011 7:55 AM  
Anonymous Sasha Lessin, Ph.D. said...

Obviously you fear publishing my rebuttals to your rudeness. I dare you to publish my rebuttal comments.

December 10, 2011 7:57 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Sasha, I don't know what rebuttal comments you mean. The two above are the only comments from you this post has received. If there's another you're welcome to try resending it here (4000 characters maximum), or if that doesn't work, email it to me (alan7388 AT gmail.com) and I'll put it up.

December 10, 2011 9:26 AM  

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