Deborah Anapol's Polyamory in the 21st Century
Anapol was one of the founding mothers of the modern polyamory movement in the 1980s and 1990s (along with Ryam Nearing; see my history of Loving More). Her 1992 book Love Without Limits, expanded in 1997 as Polyamory: the New Love Without Limits, was often called the movement's bible. For a while it was practically the movement's only book. If you've wondered why so many poly movers and shakers today are women, or why the community has a strong feminist character, or why it contains a strong subcurrent of New Age concepts, sacred sexuality, and tantra, you're seeing a sociological founder effect stemming in part from Anapol.1
Her enthusiastic book, articles, talks, media appearances, and workshops inspired countless people to embrace a poly life. Others were browned off. If you wonder why emotional reactions erupt in the poly world when someone mentions that they think poly is "more evolved," or against people in the movement making "woo woo" New Age health claims, you're seeing a reaction to things Anapol helped set in motion.
During the last decade she largely withdrew from the poly scene, turning to larger topics of spiritual philosophy and the relevance of wider models of love to humanity's survival and future. She moved to Hawaii, raised coffee, continued to lead occasional personal-development retreats, and published the small book The Seven Natural Laws of Love (2005).
Now she is back — older, wiser, and more detached, even skeptical. Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners takes a careful, sociologist's view of the movement that she helped create, recognizing the ways that it has and has not lived up to her initial hopes. The book may surprise her critics with its level-headed academic approach; she cannot be accused of woo-woo here.
In a blurb I wrote for the publisher, I called the book
an insightful examination of the growing polyamory movement and the people in it — their ideals, motivations, backgrounds, and actual practices.... Anapol draws on her nearly 30 years at the heart of the movement, including her experience counseling thousands of poly and would-be-poly clients and her many discussions with the movement's movers and shakers. She also examines how poly people and families deal with such issues as jealousy, time management, child rearing, and how closeted or out to be in a sometimes hostile world.
Anapol provides a straightforward examination of polyamory's costs and benefits, as well as the personality traits and good-relationship practices that have proven most likely to lead to a successful poly life. And she looks ahead to where the movement may be going, and to the benefits that this wider paradigm of loving may yet have for the future of humanity.
Recommended... both for scholars of the polyamory movement and for would-be polys seeking a good look at what they hope to join.
Click to read the book's introduction, table of contents, and part of Chapter 1.
Here's the book's Facebook page.
Here's Anapol's new "Love Without Limits" blog at Psychology Today.
Here are four short videos (2 to 5 minutes) of her speaking at the book launch about the biological basis of monogamy and polyamory, the shadow side of polyamory, polyamory and community, and poly and the next generation.
1 If you've also wondered why polyamory and neopaganism seem to go together so often, you're seeing another founder effect: from Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and friends. They advocated for polyamory starting about 40 years ago (and co-invented the word 20 years ago) while also doing much to create and shape the Neo-Pagan religious movement with their Stranger in a Strange Land-inspired Church of All Worlds.
And, do you ever wonder why the poly world is so full of computer geeks and IT professionals? One of the reasons, I'm sure, is a third founder effect: from the Kerista community in San Francisco in the 1980s, the utopian polyamorous commune that invented the words polyfidelity and compersion. Kerista inspired many key people in the West Coast social network that originated today's poly movement, including Ryam Nearing — while building a booming business selling and servicing those newfangled Apple computer thingies. At its height, reports Wired magazine, Kerista's computer business Abacus
generated $35 million in sales, employed 125 people, and serviced dozens of blue-chip corporations like Pacific Gas & Electric, United Airlines and Pacific Bell. The company ran a pair of plush training centers in San Francisco's financial district and in Santa Clara. It operated three big repair facilities and a giant warehouse. It had consulting divisions for networking and publishing, and even ran a computer temp agency.
"It was a fascinating company that people couldn't put their fingers on, for good reason," said a former commune member who asked to be referred to by his commune name, Love. "It was run by flamboyant, hippie types, who tended to be young and good looking. But they were very good at evangelizing the Mac."
...right alongside evangelizing for Keristan group marriage, even while visiting corporate workplaces. (The company's motto: "A vision with a business.") For a while Kerista was the largest Macintosh dealer in northern California and was featured three years running in Inc. magazine. As a result, utopian polys and the new breed of computer geeks intersected heavily at this formative time and place for each. A social historian would surely say this is partly why, when you talk to someone at a meetup who's brand-new to poly and may have barely been born in Kerista's time, he or she is likely to tell you, "I work in IT." Today's oaks stand where acorns once fell.