"Love the Ones You're With"
Washington University Student Life
Syracuse Daily Orange
UCLA Daily Bruin
An independent student newspaper at the University of California, Santa Cruz, takes an expansive view for Valentine's week.
Love the Ones You’re With
Polyamory, or relationships with multiple consenting partners, attracts a high profile
By Julie Eng
...[Dawn] Davidson is one of the estimated half a million Americans who identify as polyamorous. Polyamory is having romantic relationships with two or more individuals simultaneously.... In Santa Cruz alone, 238 people participate in an online group that meets regularly to discuss polyamory.
In recent years these numbers have received significant media attention — notably, Newsweek described polyamory as “the next sexual revolution.”... As polls show younger generations growing more accepting of all lifestyles and non-hetero-normative relationships are in and out of federal courtrooms, polyamory is becoming more high-profile.
The poly community has received some negative attention. Conservative groups like Focus on the Family have publicly denounced polyamory as immoral, and a threat to the current federal marriage laws. A pamphlet released by the Family Research Council describes a polyamorous home as “a frat house with revolving doors.”
“This nebulous, free-for-all model of the family looms ahead for our society unless a bulwark is created in the form of a constitutional amendment protecting marriage,” according to the pamphlet.
Davidson said people in polyamorous relationships have similar motivations as those in monogamous ones, and they face similar challenges, just in greater numbers. As the number of members within a relationship increases, so does the potential for common dating and familial problems.
“Socially, it’s very similar,” she said. “We still have to negotiate around who gets to see whom, Thanksgiving and Christmas, ‘Are we driving to so-and-so’s this year? Are we getting together, and is there a big enough place to hold us all?’ It’s not an uncommon discussion. It’s just in a very different context.”
Many conservative groups wouldn’t agree with Davidson. Publications on the Family Research Council website warn that “the rising polyamorous culture is out to get your children.” Stigmas like this drive many poly people to keep their relationships relatively private.
Santa Cruz County resident Steve Jones* said he is openly polyamorous around his friends, but he chose to remain anonymous in this story to avoid becoming the subject of “malicious gossip.”
“A lot of families are doing polyamory-style relating,” she said. “We just call it divorce and remarriage. There are a lot of people who have two moms and two dads.”
...“I would actually say that the context of monogamy tends to generate some really strong jealousy behaviors,” Davidson said. “Again, it’s condoned and even supported by our culture — ‘A real man will protect his woman’ kind of thing, and it gets into that patriarchal property kind of stuff. Or conversely, you’ll hear about women using jealousy to get their man to pay more attention to them. It’s my take on it that at least the ideals of the polyamorous community, based on openness and honesty, everybody really has to be on board with what’s going on.”
...While some might assume polyamory and cheating are the same, members of the poly community are quick to differentiate between the two.
Polyamorous relationships usually include primary and secondary partners. Primary partners often function in a spousal role, and there is less expectation for serious commitment and partnership in secondary relationships.
The differences between what some poly people see as undefined polyamory in monogamous relationships and open polyamory in multi-person partnerships can come down to semantics.
“There are a lot of cases where two people, often close friends, have mutual attraction but don’t act on it because of their agreement of monogamy with their primary relationship,” Larry Colen, a Santa Cruz County resident and long-time polyamorist, said in an e-mail. “These people are often lovers in everything but the sexual consummation. Since polyamory is, in theory, more about the emotional attachment rather than the physical expression, one could argue that these are, in reality, polyamorous relationships.”
...While many people interested in polyamory seek out local and online groups, Jones guesses there are many more people who are not active in the community.... “I know a lot of people of a younger generation who just don’t identify it as polyamory,” Davidson said. “But if you ask them if they are monogamous, they’d say no. They might call it responsible non-monogamy. They might call it open relationships … One group I used to know used to say their relationships are ‘in the flow.’ ”
...Though polyamory may not be mainstream, the community is not small.
Pure Pleasure co-owner Janis Baldwin said Davidson’s classes have met a need for many Santa Cruzans, who used to drive to San Francisco for poly classes and resources.
“No one was teaching classes like that,” Smith said of Davidson’s poly workshops. “The last class was standing-room only.”
...One of the most important things to take away from investigating polyamory, Davidson said, is that love is the same, regardless of how many people are involved.
“Honestly, poly relationships are just relationships,” she said. “We just have more of them.”
Read the whole long article (Feb. 10, 2011).
Also on campus for Valentine's week, the independent student newspaper at Washington University in St. Louis explains polyamory in covering a talk on BDSM by sex educator Lee Harrington.
“It is not Poly[amory] if you have seven boyfriends and haven’t told any of them about the other ones. It’s the notion in kinky sex that what we’re doing is agreed upon by all parties involved.”
Whole article (Feb. 14, 2011).
In the Syracuse University Daily Orange, there's a brief mention that assumes readers know what it's talking about:
Today a large segment of the Syracuse population may be experiencing the Valentine's Day hangover.... Some may have woken up today jaded by the fact that their significant others really thought the value pack of strawberry air fresheners was a great gift. And others may not have been so thrilled at proposals of polyamorous relationships with the logic that the more love, the better....
And on a more serious note, from the UCLA Daily Bruin:
Exploring different types of relationships can open up new possibilities for finding happiness
By ITAK MORADI
One true love? The days of that myth are crumbling like the Valentine cookie in my backpack, and trust me – we’re all better off. Pink frosting is gross.
Your mother may incessantly ask you who that “friend” really is, but the answer to that question has simply come to have less credence with our generation, and with sound reason.
Some cultural pundits, as one might say, mourn our loss of regard for the traditional relationship and what it can come to mean for a happy marriage filled with runts tugging on our hems.
And such grief is based on the fact that the divorce rate is at about 50 percent, casually cohabiting couples are more common than ever, and child-rearing without marriage is an occurrence for which my generation does not double take.
But I wonder – couldn’t there be an advantage in feeling comfortable with less traditional modes of romance-seeking? Aren’t we, as we move toward labeling less and exploring more, giving ourselves more possibility for finding happiness?
...Our current social condition has piloted the freedom for people to weigh their options. We are more disposed to sampling alternative forms of relationships, whether it be a monogamous, polyamorous, or casual one – but above all, ideally a life-altering one.
...Perhaps we’re moving toward an environment wherein we truly believe in the plausibility of several successful relationships. A broken heart is easier to deal with if we aren’t living under the threaded belief that we will encounter one real love in one real lifetime.
Whatever your opinion, these changes are happening and are thus inevitable. Opposing the tide doesn’t allow for victory – rather, you’re simply in for a slower loss. To embrace our fluidity toward relationships is to also embrace the grander trend – that societal norms are molded from the changes we see in the human condition, not the other way around.
So, in the spirit of Hallmark holidays, embrace your relationship for what it is – certainly not what it “should be.”