Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

July 28, 2021

ABC-TV News: "Polyamory Increases in Popularity as Record Numbers Flock to Dating Apps"

As the pandemic receded among the vaxxed and people were getting more social again, ABC News last week presented a long (6-minute) report on polyamory and ethical non-monogamy becoming a hot new "post-pandemic trend" for online dating: Polyamory increases in popularity as record numbers flock to dating apps (July 21).

Here's the whole video:

A partial transcript:

You may have heard the term "hot vax summer"? Well as more Americans get vaccinated they are eager to get back on the dating scene.... As Elwyn Lopez reports, increasingly singles are not looking for one person to meet. They try to make up for lost time apparently and find two partners to meet at the same time.

Rev Rucifer has found love, but is still looking for love, in search of a second match to add to her existing one. "I'm looking for Saturday night orgies and white picket fences. [Laughing]

Rev Rucifer

"So right now I am in a polyamorous relationship. I have an amazing partner I love so much. We've been together just over two years. It's polyamorous, and he's married, and has a family and has two children."

After being cooped up quarantining, many Americans are ready to get out and mingle. ... Throughout the pandemic, the number of users on dating apps hit an all-time high.... with one option seeing a wild surge.

[One of three huddling:] "We had a threesome, and I just never left."

...The app Feeld says that between 2020 and 2021 it has seen a 670% increase in singles listing threesomes at the top of their wish list. ...

[Feeld founder:] "There has just been a desire to be honest. I think we're just, especially younger generations, we're just fed up with lies?"

It's referred to as ethical nonmonogamy.... But these types of relationships go way back to pre-pandemic times. ...

The segment spotlights a gay male triad known on social media as X9X26X: 

...Now with Ray on board they have taken off on social media, with hopes that all throuples will be less side-eyed.  

"So now I feel like we have the power to let the world know that polyamory -- being poly -- it's actually [being] normalized, it's happening in 2021."

It closes with Rev:

"We live in a society in which a monogamous, heteronormative lifestyle is the norm. It is what we are conditioned to believe is the only way. But there are other ways that are natural, that do feel good, that can be supportive, that bring more love, more understanding, more respect -- and that is what I think poly is about.

Maybe not perfect, but this piece is a big deal because

1.  If it's right, we really have succeeded in mainstreaming "the polyamorous possibility" — Elisabeth Sheff's term for knowing that happy multi-relationships with everyone onboard are even possible. (For some people, at least: those genuinely motivated for it and willing to learn what's required to make it work for everyone. Hint: We're talking habits of skilled, heartfelt communication with fearless good will. And, it sure helps to be a big-hearted person with a secure attachment style, especially to yourself.)

Fifteen years ago, nearly everyone you met dismissed the concept as obviously impossible, "against human nature." I thought it would take till 2030 or 2040 to get where we are now.

2.  Such a super-positive news report on mainstream network TV helps keep spreading this knowledge. You still meet people who haven't heard of the idea or who don't expect to see it working happily among good, decent people.

Now, if only we could shame the bullshit artists out of misusing "polyamory" as bafflegab for their crappy behavior! We're not out of the woods yet. Just out this morning is another of many, many fine articles explaining the difference: What Ethical Non-Monogamy Is and Isn't (July 28). It's on Psych Central, an authoritative mental-wellness site. "Ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, and open relationships are gaining popularity. But what exactly are they and how do you practice them?"

I can't tell for sure if the ABC report aired on TV or is only on ABC's website. When networks put this much time and effort into a report they usually broadcast it. Anyone see it?

●  Another story on the same theme, just out today: The Couple Who Opened Their Relationship Up When the Country Opened Up (GQ, July 28). "How a pandemic rough patch turned into a post-pandemic dive into ethical non-monogamy."


●  Meanwhile, the British tabloids and their worldwide reprinters continue their flood of (mostly) happy polyfamily profiles. The tabs discovered some years ago that amazement, positivity, and envy sell better than shock and outrage, their original reaction to us. But don't imagine that those rags are on our side; they're just ratings-driven. New in The Sun: We’ve dated 20 other people SINCE getting hitched – we’re open with our kids, it’s the secret to a happy marriage (July 22)

Jessica Levity, 35 and Joseph Daylover, 40, were monogamous for years until a pal mentioned polyamory -- having multiple partners.

Eight years on, producer Jessica and university lecturer Joseph said it's the "best decision" they ever made -- and they even go on double dates.

...The couple from Reno in Nevada, USA, who have two children, Azlan, three, and Lucius, four months, said they can't imagine being monogamous ever again and consider dating others "a form of self care".

Jessica [at left, rear] said: “I had no idea what polyamory was until a friend mentioned it -- but as soon as I learned it was a thing, I realised it was exactly what I had been looking for. ... Our more serious partners very much become part of our family and we are happy to make room for that -- it all contributes to a more harmonious family life.”

[Jessica] said: “Discovering polyamory lit a fire in me. It felt like I’d discovered an important part of my identity and gave me a new zest for life. Everything felt like it made sense all of a sudden.”

...[Joseph] said: “At first I wouldn’t want to know details of what Jessica was doing, but our relationship developed into what is known as a ‘kitchen table’ style.

“What that means is that we're friendly with each other's partners -- they’ll come over for dinner or help with childcare. It’s a very communal lifestyle and it contributes to a harmonious family life.”

...Jessica said they're very open with their young children about when they go on dates and their other partners, and will continue to be as they grow up.

She said: "We want to teach our kids how to communicate, draw clear boundaries, advocate for what you want in a relationship, and how to recognise when a relationship has run its course, like you might have to with a friend, for example.

...Jessica insists their polyamorous model actually makes it easier to raise their youngsters -- saying: "I don't know how people survive in a nuclear family -- it's one of the hardest types of family I have experienced."...

...The pair now host a podcast, Remodeled, about polyamory, which they use to educate others. ...

Jessica: "Whoever said you can’t ‘have your cake and eat it’ clearly didn’t have enough cake!"

In response to all this, conservative commentators have been moaning that they've lost another culture war.

But I still have my fingers crossed that we don't blow it. Stay proudly ethical, folks; be excellent to others and lead by example.

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July 25, 2021

A New Standard Polyamory Flag: The committee is forming up. Want to join?

The PolyamProud people continue their bold initiative to institute a new and better polyamory flag. As I posted a couple weeks ago, they plan to launch a new flag only when one design has gained a broad consensus in the interested poly community worldwide.

There's already much consensus that the old red, black & blue poly flag with its confusing letter pi (some math society?) is serving us poorly. It declares no recognizable message or meaning, and many say it looks dark and foreboding. When a volunteer drew it up in 1995 — deliberately making it obscure because so many people at the time were closeted  the then-small community adopted it by default. We've been stuck with it ever since.

People have offered up dozens of replacement polyamory flags over the years. Here are 25 of them.

So how might one really effective, popular design gain traction as the clear declaration to the world of our pride and identity in the 21st century? Like the rainbow Pride Flag became for all things LGBT?

The PolyamProud group intends to

1.  Recruit a large committee of graphic designers and poly activists from around the world, with maximum diversity across nationalities, orientations, identities and cultures;

2.   Ask the committee to create and/or select excellent designs, using known principles of effective flag design to convey our presence clearly and boldly with just the right mood and attitude, and then to narrow the designs to a list of finalists; 

3.  Hold a worldwide poly-community vote on the finalists this November;

4.  Announce the winning flag with maximum public fanfare on Polyamory Day, November 23;

5.  And then work to inspire poly activists, groups, bloggers, podcasters, other opinion leaders, as well as merchandise makers, to take it up and make it fly.

"Polyamory" here means the ideal of consensual, ethical non-monogamy with the full knowledge, agreement, and mutual good will among all involved.

They've just announced that the committee is forming, and you're invited to nominate applicants, maybe yourself. Again, people outside North America and outside dominant cultural majorities are urged in particular to make nominations or to consider applying.

To help get this rolling, Sarah Flury and Kristian Einstman have put up an Instagram slide show. They write,

We’ve already begun the process of assembling a committee to represent us in choosing the designs for the new, official polyamorous pride flag.

We have a shortlist of candidates (a couple of whom you might recognize) but we really need your help to find leaders who you feel represent YOU.

Our website is currently under construction but will soon feature information about chosen committee members. We’ll announce [the site] when it’s up and running.

Important note: We (polyamproud) are NOT the committee, nor will we be represented on the committee.

From their Instagram slides about this:


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July 21, 2021

Polyamory in the news all over

Many goings-on worldwide:

●  Marriage Is Going to Look Different After the Pandemic, says a long article in the major women's fashion magazine InStyle (May 20). They don't, however, provide a lot of support for that bold claim.  

The pandemic exposed the pitfalls of traditional marriage, and some couples [sic] are turning to polyamory to meet their needs. 

...Post-pandemic, ethical non-monogamy could be getting a long-overdue pop-culture rebrand. ... The past year of quarantine has only accelerated this mainstreaming of non-monogamy. ...

...It would seem, then, that polyamory is a modern solution for a modern world, a world in which we're conditioned to believe that our partners should be our everything — not just our lovers, but our co-parents, best friends, travel buddies, therapists, intellectual equals, and more. Acting on attraction outside of monogamous relationships, [Dr. Tammy Nelson] continues, "will be seen as more normal, more reasonable, more legit."...

Not that "turning to polyamory to meet your needs" as a couple has a great track record or reputation in the community. In the UK's Independent, ‘It put us in a pressure cooker’ (July 1): "From shifting into polyamory to rediscovering solace in a home base, lockdown has been a sink or swim period for some couples." From one newly opening couple: "He reacted defensively at first, but eventually came around, and we agreed that we’d decide on alternate partners together, and be completely open, always.” Tl;dr: It didn't work.

●  More on South Africa's national polyandry proposalwhich if enacted (in 2023 or 2024) would legalize and recognize group marriages regardless of gender — not just traditional male-centered polygamy, which is legal there already. Polyamory, polyandry remain hot topics as discussion on new marriage proposals wraps up (The Cape Argus, Cape Town, July 6):

By Mwangi Githahu

...Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsolaledi has said the main purpose of the hotly debated green paper on marriage was to start a national dialogue.

Aaron Motsolaledi

Wrapping up public comment on the issue at a national colloquium on the marriage policy, Motsoaledi said: “Since we gazetted it on May 4, the green paper has sparked a lot of debate causing most of us to confront long-standing beliefs, sometimes in an uncomfortable manner.”

...“The proposed marriage policy must aim to eradicate all forms of discrimination, and uphold the constitutional obligations in pursuit of equality in various communities that have been sidelined or prejudiced,” said Motsoaledi.

The department will now start the process of consolidating all the proposals received from citizens into a white paper which sets out proposals for legislative changes.

...He said that South Africa needs a new marriage policy based on three of the pillars of its Constitution, equality, non-discrimination and human dignity was “incontestible”. ... 

By Pumza Fihlani
BBC News, Johannesburg

A proposal by the South African government to legalise polyandry — when a woman has more than one husband at the same time — has led to howls of protest from conservative quarters.

This does not surprise Professor Collis Machoko, a renowned academic on the topic.

The objections are "about control," he told the BBC. "African societies are not ready for true equality. We don't know what to do with women we cannot control." ...

Prof Machoko researched polyandry in his country of birth — neighbouring Zimbabwe. He spoke to 20 women and 45 co-husbands who practised it, even though such marriages are socially taboo and not legally recognised.

"Polyandry, because it is shunned by parts of society, has been forced underground. The secrecy is similar to the one found in freemasons," he said.

"When confronted by somebody whom they do not trust or do not know, they even deny that such a marriage exists. All this is because of fear of reprisals and persecution."

...Prof Machoko said polyandry was once practised in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, and it is still practised in Gabon, where the law allows it.

"With the arrival of Christianity and colonisation the role of the woman became diminished. They were no longer equal. Marriage became one of the tools used to establish hierarchy." ...

Elsewhere around the world,  

●  Russia will not outlaw discussion of polyamory after all. In March a proposal to do so was mentioned in world news. But Olga Kvi writes to us from Russia (May 18),

Thank you for your website! It was a great pleasure for me to find a place I could read the news about polyamory from different parts of our world.
1)  On the first days of March 2021, [at] a round table discussion organized by a deputy of our State Duma [parliament], it was suggested to ban “the polyamorous propaganda” and some other things. [See Moscow Times, March 5: Russia’s Ruling Party Campaigns to Ban 'Propaganda' of Polyamory, Bisexuality – Reports]. Polyamorous people from Russia had a lot of fear, but some days later our State Duma told it was a personal opinion of this deputy and no more.
2)  On 24-28 of March we had a book fair where it was possible to find books about polyamory. The books are in Russian and from Russian authors. Some polyamorous people in Russia didn’t like them (in their opinion these books have some controversial pages), but it is a great progress for polyamory in our country.

Meanwhile, also from Russia: Russia Beyond is a state-sponsored public-relations paper in English and other languages for foreigners. It bubbled with enthusiasm presenting this: There is polygamy in Russia, and here is how it works (June 15). Talk of gender-neutral polyamory may seem to threaten the state, but authorities were happy to spotlight this:

There are over a dozen Russian-speaking communities on VKontakte and Instagram dedicated to polygamous marriages. There, men and women discuss and promote the ideas of group relationships, and look for second and third wives to join their families. Interestingly, ads for additional wives are posted not only by men, but also by their ‘first’ wives.

...The bulk of the group are Orthodox Russians. They believe that polygamy is an ancient Slavic custom that should be observed to this day. ...

● From Ireland: Polyamory in Ireland, it’s not “having your cake and eating it” (April 29). "Reducing the mystery and stigma around polyamory. We hear from Psychotherapist Ruth Crean, who facilitates polyamory support groups in Ireland. It’s about “Multiple loving relationships but openly and consensually between all parties." Six-minute radio interview. Listen here:

And a roundup of items closer to home:

●  Forbes covers two academic items recently out: Love And Sex With Many: Research On The Health And Wellness Of Consensual Non-Monogamy (July 13). One is a new survey of relationship satisfaction in CNM vs. monogamy. The other reviews the poly lives of some famous figures in the arts and sciences of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: 

 Forbes's takeaway from the first:

In the rated measures of satisfaction in sex and love, people in CNM relationships generally outscored people in monogamous relationships. Perhaps not incidentally, people practicing CNM reported using positive problem-solving with their intimate partners, while those practicing monogamy more often reported that they emotionally withdraw from conflict with their relationship partner.

Here's the paper itself: The Vices and Virtues of Consensual Non-Monogamy: A Relational Dimension Investigation by Thomas R. Brooks, Jennifer Shaw, Stephen Reysen, and Tracy B. Henley, in Psychology and Sexuality (online Mar. 28, 2021).

 The other paper Forbes describes is "Storming then Performing": Historical Non-Monogamy and Metamour Collaboration by Brian M. Watson and Sarah Stein Lubrano, in Archives of Sexual Behavior (online May 24, 2021). It recognizes the key fact that polyamory, as opposed to other consensual non-monogamy, can be defined by the significance of metamour relations. From the paper's abstract:

We present the results of an investigation into the biographies, letters, and archives of approximately 50 well-known figures in Western intellectual and artistic history in the post-Enlightenment era. In this article, in the interest of space, we have limited our remarks to the biographies and partners of Virginia Woolf, Frida Kahlo, Max Weber, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Moulton Marston, Erwin Schrodinger, and Victor Hugo.

While some of these non-monogamous relationships are well known, some of the evidence of their existence has been ignored, misrecognized, or intentionally obscured. The results of this survey demonstrate that contemporary patterns of non-monogamies are deeply rooted in historical precedence. 

●  More research: The title of a recent study from Canada is “It’s a Little Bit Tricky”: Results from the POLYamorous Childbearing and Birth Experiences Study (POLYBABES) by Samantha Landry, Erika Arseneau & Elizabeth K. Darling, Archives of Sexual Behavior (online June 1, 2021). From the abstract:

...Four primary themes were identified: deliberately planning families, more is more, presenting polyamory, and living in a mononormative world. ... By exploring the pregnancy and birth experiences of polyamorous families and focusing on participant voices, this research adds to the limited research on polyamorous families and contributes to the process of breaking down stigma associated with alternative family structures.

● The Dallas Observer, the city's large, thriving alternative weekly paper, presented Conscious Throupling: Poly People Give Tips on Making It Work (May 11)

Martin Meyer/ Getty
By Alex Gonzalez

...Kam was in a relationship with a woman for eight years before a mutual friend of his and his then-girlfriend's expressed interest in having a more “active role” within their dynamic. He describes the experience as “liberating” and says there was never a lack of “sexually charged energy.”

Although he admits they could’ve done better when splitting their time fairly.

“Honestly, we didn’t do a great job of [managing time], and I think that’s why there were a lot of trust issues that developed,” Kam says. “I'm not quite sure if we accepted the fact that we were all in a relationship together. Expectations weren't defined as far as how much time they needed for themselves.”

...Certainly, the idea of having three pairs of hands in the home sounds ideal for household chores, which Kam says came naturally. ...

While the idea of polyamory relationships may seem appealing as a way to share expenses, Kam says that most of their time was spent talking with each other or going “out and about.”

...While some throuples choose to focus on the individual pairings within the three-person dynamic, Kam says all three of them spent most of their time together. He says he enjoyed the non-sexual side of the relationship, and there was less pressure “to be everything to one person.”

When two parties got into an argument or had a disagreement, Kam says having someone to offer objectivity helped alleviate tensions.

“If all of your eggs are in one basket, sometimes the lows and the downs can feel really low and down,” Kam says, “because you're giving everything to this particular relationship. With three people in a relationship, there tends to be one person who can meditate, or at least reflect in a more credible way, what's being said.”

...“Living in a place with three people is a big undertaking,” Kam says. “You have to set those norms based upon everybody's preferences. And no secrets. Secrets will kill you.”

●  In the Advocate, "the oldest and largest LGBT publication in the United States," 21 Tips for Opening Up Your Relationship (May 26). Good, thoughtful advice for anyone.

●  5 Myths About Polyamorous Relationships You Should Stop Believing In, from the women's life and fashion mag Femina (July 15). The myths still circulate and continue to need you activists to take them apart when you see them; this article is a pretty good model.

They Have Commitment Issues
It’s Just A Phase!
It’s All About Sex
It is Synonymous to Cheating
There Is No Happy Ending

●  At PopSugar, Being Black and Polyamorous: Love as Liberation (May 14).

By Safiya Osei

...Receiving so much love and care from Black people (specifically gender-oppressed Black people; read: not men) opened my mind and heart to the joys one can get from Black love. ... Here I want to share the way that I currently practice polyamory. 

...I was dating someone I met while studying abroad in Ghana. ... It was through that experience that I found out that I had the capacity to love multiple people very deeply at the same time. When I was in Ghana, many of the Black people in my study-abroad program were also queer and went to small liberal arts schools in New England that had done a lot of damage to us mentally and emotionally. Being Black and queer on a predominately white campus is never ideal when you want to be held by someone who knows exactly what it means to grow up as a Black person in the United States on top of your other intersecting identities. Getting to be in a community with so many beautiful and insightful beings, as we all experienced Ghana together, helped settle in my mind that love can be found in so many places, not just whomever you happen to be romantically dating at the time. ...

...Being Black in the US is such a unique experience that Black people globally don't always get until they come here and live it themselves. ... The resilience and knowledge passed down through generations has kept us alive this long, so who am I to deny the security I feel in the arms of another Black person?

...Polyamory isn't for everyone, but whenever I see Black people I love and care for being happy, building bonds, and being in community with each other, my heart is full from the joy that a deep and meaningful love like that radiates. ...

●  In Newsweek, 'I've Had Three Long-Term Polyamorous Relationships' (May 23). Author Gillian Myhill is building audience for her Bare Dating site in the works. 

The author
By Gillian Myhill

...I met the couple for drinks and we hit it off immediately; there was very clear chemistry straight away. ... But the chemistry was just as emotional as it was sexual. When I say I felt completely whole, a lot of that comes from the emotional side; it comes from feeling like I was being heard and felt. The connection between the three of us was wonderful and I saw them again and again.

...All three of us, myself and the couple, had a moment where we understood the relationship was more serious. I think that happens a lot at around the three-month point.

We always thought it would run its course after a little while, but we ended up being together for three and a half years. It was great and incredibly intense. ... Within the relationship, sometimes I would sleep with just the wife and sometimes just the husband, but mostly it was all three of us. And there was never any jealousy. The word polyamory comes from the Greek word for "many" and Latin word for "love" and I believe you're meant to feel safe and secure within that arrangement of many loves. ...

But with polyamory, like with any relationship....

rawpixel.com / Unsplash
●  Lastly: Want a thoughtful model reply for well-meaning unicorn-hunting newbies? You really ought to have one on tap, and IMO you couldn't do better than to model yours on this, from reddit user jsulliv1.

That person helps make the whole reddit/r/polyfamilies subreddit look good. Which is, by and large, a known haven for kind, thoughtful people amid the larger wilds of reddit. With exceptions of course; it has 22,000 members. There's also reddit/r/polyamory, also a generally nice place but a little less intimate with 212,000 members.

Also to keep on tap to share out: To Unicorn Hunters, from an Ex-Unicorn by Jesse Dagger. Who also recommends, for greater length and depth, So Someone Called You a Unicorn Hunter by David Noble.

That's all for now! Coming next: How to get on that volunteer international committee for a new and better polyamory flag. 

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July 4, 2021

Folks get serious about a new and better polyamory flag

The old one

A year ago I published a screed titled The Polyamory Flag is a Grim, Confusing Failure. Let's Do Better. Repeating many other people, I said its colors are harsh and foreboding and its central letter pi only prompts a huh? (Some math or engineering society?) The flag "fails to declare for us, fails to inspire, fails to do a flag's job."  I posted some of the alternative flags that people have created, and gave some history of the early poly movement and its symbology.

That article struck a chord. It became my most-read post of the last 12 months, and its hit rate has been increasing. It's now averaging 500 new reads a week, mostly through Google searches for "polyamorous flag", "poly flag" and so on.

Dozens of people's new polyamory flags are floating around. A few have gained some traction. But no consensus has formed up around any design — one that will display poly presence, pride, and attitude with clarity and verve, in a way that both we and the world will instantly recognize.

Why do we need that? Look at the social power of the rainbow Pride Flag, which the LGBT world grabbed up almost from the moment Gilbert Baker created it 1978. It did a lot for the visibility and normalizing of LGBT, and it still does. 

And, look at the recent explosion of other new identity-pride flags: trans, ace, pan, genderfluid, bi, and more. These have won hearts in their communities and a lot of favorable mainstream-media notice for those things (even for instance in the white-picket-fence Reader's Digest).


Now folks are launching an initiative to see if the polyamory community is ready to coalesce around some new design that will stir us to make it our proud standard.

Sarah "Mack" Flury and Kristian Einstman, based in Chicago, are going about this project from the ground up, showing smarts about how such an effort might actually work in this disparate, independent-minded herd of cats we call the poly movement.

Their first goal, they say, is "to create a committee of some of the most influential voices in the community, networking worldwide." They explicitly want to keep this from becoming an American-centered project. "Our goal," says Einstman, "is to create a flag that is recognizable and representative worldwide.

"We have collectively formed @PolyamProud, a volunteer coalition dedicated to establishing a definitive and representative visual identity for the polyamorous community."

They hope to launch a worldwide discussion among all who want us to have "a definitive and representative visual identity," as Einstman tells us. The eventual committee may create and offer designs of its own guided by known principles of vexillology (flag study), and it may consider design entries by additional people. He continues,

We have no intention of trashing the old flag and its history and its role in getting us as far as we've gotten. But there is a real, pressing need in the community to have a single flag that serves us all well.

A flag is a way of proclaiming visibility, so that people who are not yet out can see where there is a place they can go, can see that there are other people like them. 

"We want to make it clear that we are not the committee and none of our team will be on it," says Einstman;

We’ll be releasing information about committee member qualifications on our site within the next month or so, but our main goals are to have the committee members represent a wide range of socioeconomic, racial, cultural, and non-monogamous backgrounds, as well as varied levels of education and areas of expertise.

Our plan is to present designs to a small committee of (no more than 12) representatives from polyamorous communities worldwide. The committee will review options and select two to four designs to be presented to the public for the final vote.

Flury and Einstman say they want to announce the winner of the public vote with full social-media fanfare on November 23rd, Polyamory Day. "We also want to get it into the hands of merchants" who manufacture flags, shirts, stickers, coffee mugs, all the usual stuff. They hope to recruit publicists who will build media interest as the day nears.


Want to help make this happen? Do you have skills, expertise, or time & energy to contribute? Once again: @PolyamProud on Instagram. They're also on Twitter. Their GoFundMe.

Here are slides from an early presentation they've worked up.


I'll keep reporting on the project as it advances.

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June 12, 2021

South Africa may become the first country to recognize full polyamorous marriage

South Africa has been abuzz for the past month over a government proposal, now out for public comment, to make polyamorous group marriages fully legal and recognized without regard to the members' sexes or genders. 

The proposal grows out of South Africa's existing recognition of traditional polygynous marriage — one man with several wives — which has deep cultural roots in the region. (For instance, the previous South African president Jacob Zuma has four wives.) Now the government is considering, among other marriage reforms to accommodate cultural and religious minorities, a proposal to recognize polyandry, group marriage with more than one man, based on the national principle of gender equality.

The proposal, in the Green Paper on Marriages in South Africa (PDF download), is open for public comment through June 30. Reaction has been intense.

South Africa's small but energetic polyamory community has suddenly found itself the center of media attention, and polyamory spokespeople have been interviewed all over.

Let's start with the thorough article I Do, to You and You Too in the Sunday Tribune, owned by South Africa's largest print-news publisher (May 16):

By Tshego Lepule and Nkululeko Nene

...A proposed change to the country’s marriage laws is flipping the script on patriarchy and proposing that women be allowed to wed more than one partner too.

The possible recognition of polyandrous marriages in South Africa has sparked widespread and vigorous debate.

Last month, the Department of Home Affairs published discussion documents that outline policy proposals to the country’s marriage regime that, if adopted, would see a host of unions that are not currently recognised become legal.

Currently, the country has three marriage laws: the Marriage Act 25 of 1961, that recognises Christian monogamous unions; the Recognition of Customary Marriages of 1998, that deals with cultural marriages; and the Civil Unions Act of 2006, which deals with same-sex marriage.

All three pieces of legislation have been criticised, however, for loopholes that exclude the recognition of Hindu, Muslim and other customary marriages in the Khoi and San communities.

This week, politicians weighed in with their views on the proposals, particularly when it came to recognising polyandrous marriages that allow women to marry more than one husband, as currently the country’s law only recognises polygamy – where a man can have more than one wife.

The paper makes provisions for different options that could be adopted in recognising different marriages. One speaks about religious and cultural neutral marriages, and another that is gender-neutral and allows for all marriages, monogamous or polygamous, to be conducted regardless of sexual orientation, allowing both polygamy and polyandry.

President of the South African National Christian Forum (SANCF) Bishop Marothi Mashashane said: “According to the bible, polyandry is considered a sexual immorality, and so is the marriage between people of the same sex, and we shall by no means bless such relationship as a marriage.

“This proposal is nothing but a disgrace and a mockery to both our religion and our African cultures. We oppose and condemn it in all terms.”

Both Al Jama-ah and the African Christian Democratic Party have also voiced their disapproval of the proposal.

Polygamist [sic] Erich Viedge [of Polyamory South Africa] said despite polygamy being legal in the country, there were still some citizens who could not enter into marriages.

“I have two partners, one of which I’m not allowed to marry because the law says I have to register a traditional marriage, which I cannot as a white, middle-aged man. This means some citizens are allowed privileges that some cannot access, and these are some of the problems this green paper is trying to solve,” he said.

“With polygamy, women have always got the short end of the stick, as they were not always protected under law if their marriages were not recognised. And now, more than ever, women are expressing their sexual selves more as society becomes more equal.

“People don’t need to keep (partners) hidden; they can introduce them to their existing partners, and as consenting adults they can form relationships that suit them. This green paper means if either of them wishes to enter into marriages, they can do so freely. I’m currently living with both partners, but I’m not allowed to marry both of them,” Viedge said.

“Polyandry does exist in this country; the reason we don’t see it as often as we see polygamy, is because of stigma and toxic masculinity where men are threatened by there being more than one penis in the relationship.”

Samantha*, 42, who is polyamorous, says the stigma around females having more than one partner, particularly if they are both male, is still rife.

“I have been married to my husband for 10 years and we have two children together. We have an open marriage where we are free to date other people,” she said.

“Stigma is still a big thing in society around women openly dating more than one partner without being called nasty names. I don’t know if one day this proposal becomes law if I would want to walk down the aisle and take another husband, but it is a step in the right direction.”

Siphiwe Sithole says while much stigma is attached to non-monogamous relationships, a shift in legislation would go a long way in helping change mindsets, particularly in the black communities.

“I support the idea of legally recognising non-monogamous relationships, and in this case, the idea that women, in particular, can marry more than one husband, is a step in the right direction and an indication of a transformative democracy,” he said.

“Polyamory certainly challenges a lot of norms and ideas we all grew up with; this doesn’t, however, necessarily make it wrong. But we lack a platform and safe space as a nation to talk about these issues, hence many people who practice non-monogamous relationships live in hiding, particularly fearing stigmatisation.

“Marriage is a construct rooted in patriarchy and this is slowly changing. I, as a black polyamorous person, is in full support of the green paper by the government to re-examine the entire institution of marriage. I believe it is a significant step in not only changing our mindset as a nation around marriage alone, but also a great effort in trying to dismantle patriarchy,” Sithole said.

Cultural activists and religious leaders have rubbished the discussion on polyandry, which sparked a heated debate in Parliament recently. ...

In publishing their Green Paper for public comment, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said: “This is the beginning of a crucial public discourse that will redefine the concept of marriage in South Africa.”

Motsoaledi said the next step to implementing the marriage policy would include submitting it to the Cabinet for approval by March 31 next year.

This would be followed by submitting the Marriage Bill to the Cabinet for approval by the end of March 2023 and, finally, taking the Marriage Bill to Parliament for approval by March 31, 2024.

Here's just one more article out of a great many: a news piece (with 10-minute audio) on Cape Talk Radio: SA govt considers new marriage law that recognises women with multiple husbands (May 11). An excerpt:

By Qama Qukula

...Elizabeth Retief, a member of PolyamorySA, has welcomed the proposal as a move in the right direction.

According to Retief, the department’s proposals are a step closer towards the acceptance of non-monogamy in South Africa.

However, she explains that the laws are still focused on polyandry and polygyny, which are both forms of polygamous marriages.

Polygamous marriages are primarily based on traditional value systems, cultural beliefs, heteronormativity, and static gender roles, she argues.

Retief says greater advocacy is still needed for polyamorous relationships, which are more fluid, progressive, open, and accepting of different sexualities and gender identities. ...

From the homepage FAQ of Polyamory South Africa. Click to enlarge. 

Greenfizzpops, longtime organizer of the older ZAPoly discussion list ("the umbrella mailing list for polyamory in South Africa") and its website, sent us this (May 19):

It has been a week hey. If you do this google search you will see the tip of the iceberg. 

There are some bright lights.... [But] a few thoughts/observations: 

1. The misogyny and sexism brought to light by this debate is pretty sickening. It points out very firmly that we live in a patriarchy and most people don't even realise it.

2. In our legal system, marriage is clearly primarily about property rights.

3.The amount of incoming media requests by journalists who don't know the difference between polyamory and polygamy/polygyny/polyandry is overwhelming.

4. There are opportunities here to benefit polyamorous people. The Department of Home Affairs is inviting comment on their green paper.

Polyamory is hardly new to the South African media and public. For many years Greenfizzpops has been logging South African articles and broadcasts on the website of ZAPoly, where she includes 67 from 2003 to 2019, with links. (Click "media" in the sidebar there.)

Erich Viedge of Polyamory South Africa, a newer group (Facebook page), writes to us,

South Africa has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world. They were the fifth country in the world to legalize same sex marriage when their constitution was adopted.

Or are they?

Marriage law in South Africa is a mess.

The racially-segregated Apartheid regime had one marriage law for Whites and another regime for Blacks. 

After the fall of Apartheid in 1994, the new government was keen to adopt a very liberal constitution which recognised the basic humanity of all people, Black, White, gay, trans and straight as well as differently-abled.

Rather than repeal the racist marriage legislation, the new government quickly patched up the deficiencies as best they could. They introduced the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act which gave legal recognition to the traditional polygamous marriages that indigenous peoples were conducting anyway.

The new government also introduced the Civil Unions act, which was a marriage-in-everything-but-name for gay couples.

But legal marriage remains reserved for one man.

There are lots of legal and practical problems with this.

For instance, if you're trans and married, and transition while you're married, your marriage is no longer recognised. You have to get divorced.

If you belong to an ethnic group whose traditional leaders are not recognised by government, then your marriage to multiple women is not legally recognised. Ironically, this excludes the San and Khoe peoples who were the original inhabitants of the country.

Because Apartheid was conceived as a Christian theocracy, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim marriages are not recognised. This is ironic in a country that recognises polygamy for some people and not for others.

And of course, only Christian clerics can apply to be marriage officers. So if you're gay and want to marry, you need to find a sympathetic church (good luck with that). And if you go to get married at the City Hall, the government officials are allowed to object on grounds of conscience.

Finally the government wants to harmonise this hodge-podge of legislation in line with the principles of the constitution.

They want one marriage regime for gays and straights. They want to recognise marriages conducted in religions outside Christianity (Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Rastafarian among others). 

And they want to keep traditional polygamy on the books, and extend it to other groups who might want it. Think the Khoe and San people, Muslims, and... Well, and polyamorists.

It hardly seems fair that you have to be a man, born into a certain ethnic and linguistic group, before you're allowed to marry more than one woman.

And it hardly seems constitutional that if you're a woman, you don't have the same rights as a man to marry more than one spouse.

...Predictably, this has caused heads to explode all over this conservative country on the southern tip of Africa. Christians are against polygamy and gay marriage (even though some polygamists justify polygamy on Christian grounds). Muslims are against polyandry -- the idea that women can marry more than one man, on their religious grounds. Traditional leaders are also against empowering women, and of course they make it about "the children." How will the children know who their father is? Culturally, the lineage is important because it ties children to their ancestors. Certain traditional ceremonies require knowing who your ancestors are.

Polyandry is not new to Africa. The Maasai of Kenya practice occasional polyandry, and polyandry is not criminalised in Kenyan law. The Himba and Herero of neighbouring Namibia also practice polyandry, as does Queen Modjadji of the Babedu people, a kingdom of 100 or so villages in northern South Africa.

All this has caused a flurry of media excitement.

Caught up in all this are secular polyamorists who find themselves in a strange situation. Suddenly, after accepting that the relationship escalator is simply not available to the polyamorous community, the South African government has introduced [that possibility]. Just like for monogamous folk, the idea of Love, Marriage and Baby Carriage (in that order) may soon become the law of the land.


ANNOUNCEMENT:  "Join a Global Live Event hosted by Poly Pages on White Supremacy in Polyamory. Join our facilitator All of El in discussion with Dr Justin Clardy, Michelle Hy and Marjani Lane. This event will run on Juneteenth, 19th June 2021, at 9am Hawaii, 12pm PST, 3pm EST."  Paid online event, modest price, sliding scale. All welcome.

"White Supremacy is everywhere -- polyamorous people and communities are not immune. Academic research excludes and erases the non-monogamous experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), play parties privilege and protect white experiences at the expense of BIPOC bodies, and media representations of consensual non-monogamy often centre exclusively white relationships. The work deconstructing systemic structures of white supremacy must begin with critical discussion about the ways these structures shape our relationships with others and with ourselves."

ANNOUNCEMENT:  An initiative for a new and better polyamory flag and other symbology. Sarah at PolyamProud writes,

I recently read your article on your distaste for the polyamory pride flag [The Polyamory Flag is a Grim, Confusing Failure. Let's Do Better, July 27, 2020, my most-read post of the last 12 months  --Ed.]. I noticed that you have seen the reddit post by TheGreyBandit and his new ideas on the Polyam flag. I am currently working with him and several other Polyam people who all agree with you. We have collectively formed @PolyamProud, a volunteer coalition dedicated to establishing a definitive and representative visual identity for the polyamorous community.

Have an announcement that might belong here? Write to me at alan7388 (at) gmail.com

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