"Modern lovers: The ‘sexual body warriors’ and pioneers transforming 21st-century relationships"
The Independent is the closest thing Great Britain has to a national newspaper of record, after the venerable, two-centuries-old Times of London was bought and wrecked by Rupert Murdoch. Or so says my wife Sparkle Moose, who lived there for eight years.
Last week the Sunday Independent published a major article on the changing forms of relationships in 21st-century society. Polyamory gets lengthy treatment.
Modern lovers: The ‘sexual body warriors’ and pioneers transforming 21st-century relationships
By Sarah Morrison
You probably should not ask psychotherapists to divulge what they believe is meant by the term "modern love". The response you get may be enough to set you pining for a Mills & Boon.... "Modern love has become more complicated," argues the psycho-therapist and bestselling author Susie Orbach, "but it has also become much more interesting."
A quick glimpse at the statistics tells us why.... Marriages are at the lowest rate since 1895.... But our thirst for desire, romance and life-changing relationships is more prominent than ever before, the experts say.
...As Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim wrote in The Normal Chaos of Love: "Love is becoming a blank that lovers must fill in themselves."...
...Orbach wants to dispel the myth that traditional love has been replaced with a lust-fuelled array of casual relationships.... "Attachment is important. My experience still tells me that people, most people, want somebody who is there for them."
...In psychology lecturer Dr Meg Barker's new book, Rewriting the Rules, due out this year, she cites research showing that up to 60 per cent of married people have affairs.... As Barker asserts, "some of the radical ways people challenge love doesn't necessarily involve swinging from chandeliers". [Barker has long been a leading researcher of the poly community.]
...In fact, the "new monogamy" as it is called, involves fewer labels and definitions and largely avoids categories at all. There is "friendship with benefits", a "hook-up culture", and "polyamory", the notion that people can have multiple relationships that may be emotionally close and sexual in nature. This term first entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. Dr Christine Campbell, senior lecturer in psychology at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, who is carrying out studies on jealousy in polyamorous relationships, says: "The worst label you can call a polyamorist is a 'swinger'; they are very clear that it is not just about sex, but also emotional connections."
There may be an absence of quantitative research into the number of people who define themselves as "poly", but few will deny that the growth of the internet has enabled the community to become more vocal. Sites such as Facebook and OkCupid.com, one of the largest American dating websites, now allow users the chance to define themselves as in an "open relationship". OkCupid estimates that around 6 per cent of all its members fall into this group....
The article goes on to profile four people and groups representing interesting types: A gay " ’appy singleton" relying on his iPhone's find-a-hookup app, a "sexual body warrior" couple ("sexual healers, using intimate bodywork and therapy to empower people sexually"), a genderqueer longterm polyamorous family (photo above), and a "cyber couple" who met on SingleMuslim.com.
Here is the polyfamily profile. A different photo of them leads the original article.
DK Green, 45, and his wives, Rachel Green, 49, and Luisa Green, 47 – affectionately dubbed the "tripod" – have lived together for more than a decade in a committed polyamorous relationship. They have raised three children and, like most other married couples, they share one bed – albeit 7ft in size – in their home in Chesterfield.
Only, they are not married – and will never be allowed to be under British law. DK Green, self-defined "daddy of the house", is biologically a woman and the mother to all three children – Kirsty, 25, Tony, 22, and Lina, 14 – as well as five step-grandchildren. His two wives were married to him and each other via a pagan ceremony known as handfasting. They have brought other partners into their home, on the condition of mutual consent, but say they view their marriage as "sacrosanct".
DK, who has been in a heterosexual marriage before, says: "We all met online in 1999, within two weeks of each other. The three of us are loyal to each other; nobody does anything without the others' consent. If it's honest, open and hurts no one, it is not cheating. We respect each other as wives, although I am head of the household. The response has been varied. Lina, our youngest, has had the hardest time, but that's as much to do with the fact that her parents are gay as that she has three mums.
"Some of the children's fathers are still very much part of their lives. There is a tribal kind of feel to our family and our children always have someone to go to. If they want advice or a cuddle, they come to me. If they want a laugh, they go to Luisa, the American, and if they want to know something, they go to Rachel, because she's a genius. We all have things to offer them. Then there are the practical things: three of us were able to buy a house together; one of us [alone] couldn't. We are traditional in a non-traditional sense. We have children, grandchildren, mortgages and bills; there just happens to be three of us.
"For all the benefits, there is three times as much to deal with. We are talking about six relationships between us, but we probably work at it harder than the average couple. People absolutely believe that you fall head over heels with someone and can't possibly see someone else, but my love for Luisa doesn't change the fact that my love for Rachel is deep and abiding. Just like a parent can love more than one child, so too can you love more than one partner. Your heart doesn't split in half, it doubles; there is an endless supply of love."
Read the whole article (Feb. 12, 2012).
On the subject of redefining relationships in the 21st century, writer and activist Angi Becker Stevens recently published a notable article, "Polyamory: Rebooting our Definitions of Love and Family," at the online magazine Role/Reboot ("providing the best writing on culture and gender roles"):
...It says a great deal about our society’s rigid definition of romantic love that people are able to somewhat easily accept the concept of sexually open relationships — and even dishonest infidelity — while insisting that it cannot be possible to actually love multiple partners simultaneously. Frustratingly, I have been told on more than one occasion that what I share with my partners cannot, by definition, be love, as if anyone can define for others what love is and what it is not. These attitudes strike me as incredibly reminiscent of a society that — 30 years ago — viewed same-sex relationships only as a deviant sexual behavior. And yet dismissal and disapproval of my relationships often comes from those who support LGBTQ equality, who claim to be open-minded and progressive.
Currently, I am in two relationships, both of which I consider myself committed to for life. My husband and I will be celebrating 10 years of marriage — 15 total years as a couple — this year, and we have an 8-year-old daughter together. My boyfriend doesn’t live with us yet, but we have plans to all live together in the not-so-distant future, and there’s been much talk of adding more children to our family as well. My daughter is well aware of the nature of my relationships, which I do not keep hidden from anyone.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people raise concerns about the well-being of children in polyamorous families. Some seem concerned that the kids in these situations are growing up with inappropriate ethics, which is a lot like warning same-sex couples that their children will grown up thinking it’s OK to be gay....
From my perspective, being in a polyamorous family has a lot to offer both children and parents. Children benefit from having additional trusted adults who care for them, parents benefit from sharing the burdens of parenting among more than just two people. And while I would make no claims that polyamory is inherently and necessarily revolutionary with regard to gender roles, there is something to be said for the possibilities it opens up in that respect. When we shift away from families with one mother and one father, it can become easier to also shake up the roles and expectations associated with those labels. I believe in the sentiment that it takes a village to raise a child, particularly if women are to function as equals in society while also caring for young children. Multi-parent households are certainly not the only way of more equitably dividing parental tasks, but they do offer one model for doing so....
Read the whole article. (Feb. 8, 2012).