Polyactive triad in South Africa gets profiled
Independent Newspapers Ltd.
A newspaper chain in South Africa splashes a feature story about people in a poly vee, including a longtime SA poly organizer ("Kate"), across several of its papers. Names are changed.
Openly loving more than one person (headlines vary)
Noor-Jehan Yoro Badat speaks to a man and two women who are open about their polyamory — an alternative lifestyle they says has enriched their lives emotionally.
JOHANNESBURG — Mark and Kate have been together for 13 years. And Mark and his lover, Alice, have been a couple for a year. Kate, too, has another lover, Nathan, with whom she’s been involved for five months.
Confused? These people follow a polyamorous lifestyle. Polyamory literally “many loves” and is the practice of having more than one intimate, sexual relationship at a time, with the full consent and knowledge of those involved.
A scene from Woody Allen's 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which has a polyamorous theme involving an artist, his ex-wife, and an American visitor to Barcelona.
Before I met Mark, Kate and Alice at a Joburg restaurant, I learnt that they are considered the “poster children” of polyamory in South Africa. That is why, says Mark, they try to present a positive image to their community, despite some people’s disapproval of their unconventional bond.
The three have nothing against monogamy – they all started out that way. But Kate says she was “never very good” at committing to her partners. No matter how much she felt for her partner, it didn’t stop her from developing feelings for someone else. “I didn’t have a word for it. I only discovered the term ‘polyamory’ years later,” says Kate.
...The women got on well. Alice was shy but slowly came out of her shell. They enjoyed each other’s company and skinder (gossip) sessions.
Alice may be the “new kid on the block”, but she plays an important role in their lives. “She’s very much a member of the family,” says Mark.
Alice appreciates the comment and reaches across the table to intertwine her fingers with Mark.
Softly-spoken, she admits that in the beginning she was jealous of Mark and Kate’s relationship.
“But that’s my own insecurity, because of past experiences. I’m a person who doesn’t adjust well to change. But because of Mark, I got a lot of reassurances,” says Alice.
“Mark is an excellent communicator,” agrees Kate.
...Kate believes that each of their relationships stands on its own. Mark relates differently to her and to Alice, just as she relates differently to Nathan.
“I have objections to the concept that love is finite. I believe you can love someone differently. If you had two children, would you ask which child you loved more?” argues Kate.
...The subject of sex eventually crops up during our interview.
“Most people say that polyamory is about sex,” says Mark, “but they’re taking a shallow view of it… you may as well be swinging. Certainly not all hedonism is about kinky threesomes.”
Have they had a threesome? I ask him.
“Yes,” he smiles. One night the three of them were huddled on the bed with a male friend, Dave.
“Alice got frisky, Dave left, and so we had a threesome. It happened naturally, it didn’t feel strange.”
He adds with a laugh: “It also wasn’t a once-off, but a twice-off. The last one was the five of us, three guys and two girls.”
The women say they ensure that they all practise safe sex.
“You have to have a safe sex agreement with all partners. Otherwise, if you’re not careful, you can introduce a whole chain of things,” says Kate.
Alice says that she didn’t feel awkward about their intimacy with one another.
“I am by nature an affectionate person,” she says.
...Looking fondly at the two, Kate explains they openly communicate their feelings to one another.
“It doesn’t mean that we don’t get upset. We figure it out in everyone’s interest. I don’t own Mark, he doesn’t own me.”
...For more info on polyamory, visit www.polyamory.co.za
Isn’t it just swinging with a fancier name?
Polyamory isn’t swinging, says sex educator Avri Spilka.
Swingers engage in purely sexual activities with other partners for reasons that include adding variety to their sex lives.
“I see an unwritten rule in swinging,” says Spilka. “You don’t fall in love. It’s physical, even affectionate, but it’s not seen as emotional.
“And that’s the difference with polyamory – it has an emotional aspect. Swinging is more sensory,” says Spilka, who herself is in a polyamorous relationship....
People discussing the story in South Africa's poly community think the writer was sincere about doing a good job, and though she made some cringey oversimplifications and odd juxtapositions, overall the story came out well. Its central people got to see proofs of the article before it was printed. (Always ask for this!) The person quoted in the short sidebar on swinging was concerned that she came off sounding judgmental, but someone sought out a woman who owns a major swing organization and she said she had no problem with it.
Read the whole article online (March 20, 2013), and help out the members of the SA poly community who are bravely carrying the flag in the comments.
They've put up PDFs of the pages as published in Pretoria News, The Star, and Star Africa. (March 19, 2013).
Labels: South Africa