"Three in marriage bed more of a good thing"
Australians woke up this morning to a major conservative newspaper profiling polyactive folks — in the context of Australia's gay-marriage politics — and go to bed tonight with a one-hour documentary about polyfamilies airing on cable. Neither presentation might be quite what we want, but still.
Three in marriage bed more of a good thing
By Ean Higgins
Photo: Victor de Bruijn with brides Mirjam and Bianca at The Netherlands' first trio wedding.
FOR weeks, Sydneysiders and Melburnians who believe menages-a-trois and other polyamorous relationships can be just as committed, loving and valid as marriage between a man and a woman, slaved away together to earn their place in the sun.
They drew up plans, sawed wood, hammered nails.
Finally, in early March, it was ready: the first float celebrating polyamory to join the colourful flotilla in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. [Photo; more about the event.]
For psychologist Nina Melksham, it marked the moment when the poly community, like gays and lesbians a generation ago, had come out of the closet to stand up and be counted.
"The polyamory community has always been supportive of the values of equality and acceptance," Melksham told Inquirer this week.
"Participating in the Mardi Gras was a natural way for us to affirm these values."
Boosted by this success, Melksham and her polyamorous friends are planning an even bigger show for next year's festival.
The polyamorous community has a further cause for celebration.
They believe last weekend's vote by the ALP [Australian Labour Party] national conference to change the party platform to legalise same-sex marriage is a base on which they can build.
The agenda now is to seek recognition and the removal of prejudice against multiple-partner relationships, perhaps legislation to grant them civil unions and even legalised polyamorous marriage.
"My personal view is that any change that moves us towards a more loving, open and accepting society can only be a positive," Melksham says.
...The polyamorous community in Australia is a broad church, with the slogan of its very active website being "ethical non-monogamy".
It is increasingly prominent, with organised groups in most capital cities that hold regular discussion sessions and social nights.
...Such was the argument of 46-year-old Victor de Bruijn and his 31-year-old wife of eight years, Bianca, when they were formally united in 2005 in a small Dutch town with Mirjam Geven, a recently divorced 35-year-old whom they'd met several years earlier.
Although Dutch law bans polygamy, because there was no actual marriage in the technical sense, just a common law civil contract, the trio's union was allowed.
Two court cases, one in Canada last month and one in Australia earlier in the year, show that while British-based law remains resolute against multiple partner marriage, it accepts that a common law threesome is not illegal or even necessarily family-unfriendly.
In the Canadian case, British Columbia Chief Justice Robert Bauman upheld Canada's anti-polygamy law, but left polyamorous families free from sanction if they do not commit an overt act of multiple marriage.
The Australian case involved a man whose wife had left him for another man and a woman, and taken the children. When the trio set up house together, mingled their respective offspring, and shared the same bedroom, the jilted husband applied to the court seeking an urgent order that the children be removed from the "immoral" household.
But magistrate Philip Burchardt rejected the application, saying the threesome seemed to be "thoroughly decent and honest people" and "I do not regard the relationship . . . as being damaging to the children."
...For those who fought the battle last week at the ALP national conference in support of the change of the party platform, the emergence of "poly pride" is a dangerous development.
Inquirer this week contacted some of the most vocal supporters within the ALP caucus for legalising gay marriage: Finance Minister Penny Wong, Schools Minister Peter Garrett, Social Inclusion Minister Tanya Plibersek, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, left convener Doug Cameron and Stephen Jones, who plans to introduce a same-sex marriage bill.
Inquirer asked them: "Do you, given your deep commitment to the topic, believe that at the next ALP national conference the platform should be further amended to legalise marriage among polyfidelist triads?"
Not one would speak to Inquirer on the topic, and most did not reply....
...The polyamorous marriage concept has indeed given conservatives such as NSW upper house MP Fred Nile more ammunition following the ALP national conference vote. "I warned people this would be the next stage," Nile tells Inquirer.
"You'd get threesomes, foursomes, fivesomes, wanting the same rights. Some people even say they want to marry their pet animal."
...The polyamorist community includes a large component of tertiary-educated professionals and academics because, they say, they are able to assimilate the intellectual sophistication of the polyamory thesis.
"We now know that sexual monogamy is neither natural nor common and has never been," [Nikó] Antalffy says.
"The institution of marriage and cultural assumptions of monogamy arrived with agriculture and property ownership. In the last four to five decades everything has changed, though: religion has lost its grip on life, we are rich in material goods as well as opportunities, we have greater choices in lifestyles, there's more equality and equality of opportunity, women can make do without having to be married to a man who keeps her.
"And this brings out human desire, which is multifarious to say the least. Polyamory is the sweet result of modernity."
A glossary of poly lingo follows. Read the whole article (Dec. 10, 2011).
Nikó, quoted in the article, writes:
The overall argument isn't necessarily in our favour at all, but I thought the three of us brought meaning, insight and humour to the subject matter. What’s more, the article finished on my lines and I’m quite proud of these!
It was obvious that the journalist was pushing for the line that poly people want plural marriage recognition, when in reality most of poly folk know that it’s at best a far fetched ideal and worst an opportunity to advance the slippery slope and attempt to bring down gay marriage rights.
The result however is quite ambiguous: some conservative lines, the slippery slope that can be interpreted in various ways, and lots of good poly lines from the three of us. The poly glossary at the end further spreads poly ideas and in my eyes legitimizes our existence.
The Australian poly community is mostly in favour of the article, though most recognise that the picture on the cover (unattractive looking Dutch man with clone looking brides, no disrespect to the Dutch triad) was offputting and that the paper wanted to advance the slippery slope argument to some degree. A few have voiced concerns about pandering to the conservative press, but none of us in the article think we’ve been used and all are pleased with our lines and publicity.
I thought we turned a conservative-ish article around and the conclusion was clear, progressive and in favour of poly as the sweet liberating success of modernity.. see what you think.
Next, this evening (and later in reruns), Australians can watch the five-year-old Liz Friend/ Firecracker Films documentary "Polyamory: I Love You. and You. and You" on the "Lifestyle You" cable channel. It was controversial among polys for its ambushy treatment, especially after it first aired on the U.K.'s creepy "Tainted Love" series (July 2006); the filmmakers, when asked, had denied that it was for "Tainted Love." The Polyamory Media Association formed two years later partly to give polyfolks the tools to avoid being tricked into such setups (and to present themselves well in any situation). So far I don't think it's happened again.