Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.



May 22, 2024

And another city! Berkeley just banned discrimination for "family or relationship structure"

Berkeley City Hall: Massive office building in yellow light of a low sun.
Berkeley City Hall (City of Berkeley photo)




Last night Berkeley, California, joined three other US cities in prohibiting landlords, employers or "any person or agent or employee thereof to discriminate against an individual on the basis of that individual’s family or relationship structure."

The Berkeley version applies to,  and defines, five areas for this: housing, business establishments, educational institutions, and city and city-supported facilities and services. It also specifies a few exceptions. Here is the law's full text (starts on page 6).  

For decades this kind of discrimination has plagued people in polyamorous relationships, costing them jobs, housing, and other things as found in surveys of the poly community. Berkeley joins neighboring Oakland as well as Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in enacting measures similar to this one in just the last 14 months. 

The Berkeley group PolyActive had tried to pass something like this starting seven years. City Council member Terry Taplin, the bill's author, said PolyActive "played a pivotal role in the advocacy for the initial 2017 bill and continued to support the current efforts. Their local insight and community mobilization efforts underscored the immediate need for legal protections within Berkeley."

17 people, mostly middle ages and older, gather behind a polyamory infinity-heart flag outdoors in a park
Members of PolyActive on July 15, 2023, OPEN's first international Day of Visibility




















But the big credit goes to the legal and policy whizzes at the national Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition (PLAC), who crafted the law. In addition, the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy (OPEN) helped PolyActive to mobilize the local community. The groups worked proactively with the Berkeley City Attorney's office to ensure that there were no legal glitches. The City Council approved the bill unanimously on "first reading" May 7th, then again on "second reading" May 21st, thus enacting it into law.

In December 2017 PolyActive got a similar measure past first reading in Berkeley — it would have been the first in the country — but it didn't make it to second reading. This time, with experience and PLAC's expert legal work, the ducks were in a row.

Where will be next? Contact PLAC if you'd like to try to get this measure passed in your city or town.

------------------------------------------

As it happens, Sparkle Moose and I attended a reception put on by PLAC at Harvard Law School last Saturday evening. The six PLAC principals were just off their second annual high-intensity, in-person planning retreat, hosted by Harvard Law's LGBTQ+ Legal Advocacy Clinic. They were full of plans and ideas — for non-discrimination ordinances in more cities, involvement in other areas of the legal system, recruiting more lawyers and volunteers for various projects, building out their anemic social media presence and website, and hiring office staff to help keep up. They are beating the bushes trying to fundraise for all this.

Five PLAC principals celebrating outside the Somerville, MA, City Council chamber
on March 23, 2023. From left: Kimberly Rhoten, Heath Schechinger, Alexander
Chen, Diana Adams, and Andy Izenson.  (Matthew J. Lee/ Boston Globe)




















The larger picture here goes beyond polyamory and non-monogamy. The ordinances also protect traditional multigenerational families living under one roof, single-parent families, platonic co-op households of mutual support, and others. With housing in cities becoming ever pricier and in shorter supply, and with the isolated husband-wife-kids home becoming an ever smaller fraction of reality, alternatives must be allowed to grow. Polyfolks have kick-started these legal initiatives but will be a minority of those who benefit.

A new force in this direction will be the Modern Family Institute, a project of Heath Schechinger and others that seeks to raise $5 million for research and policy efforts over the next three years. It is explicitly about this larger picture:


Modern Family Institute logo: Graphic of a tree with roots and spreading leaves
MFI logo

Families and relationships come in all shapes and sizes.

But our society is not designed to support how people are structuring their families and relationships today. 

Our laws, built environment, and cultural norms were established to support a monogamous nuclear family structure that does not reflect the needs of families and relationships today. Families that don’t center two married adults often face significant infrastructural, legal, and financial hurdles, as well as stigma and discrimination.

The Modern Family Institute seeks to bring about a world where families and relationships are defined by their function, not their form. 

Our vision is to improve relational, mental, and physical wellbeing by ensuring everyone has access to resources and systems of care supporting their unique family and relationship structures. Our research drives systemic changes in legal, financial, housing, and social systems through supporting media representation, policy reform, and professional practices that help people build and sustain flourishing communities of care. 



------------------------------------------

●  OPEN just put out a press release:


The good news just keeps coming! ...

Our gratitude to Berkeley Councilmember Terry Taplin, who sponsored the bill, and to our friends at the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, which drafted the ordinance. Coalition partners also included PolyActive... The Modern Family Institute, Chosen Family Law Center, Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Legal Advocacy Clinic, and Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, and the many community members who added their voice.

...There can be no doubt that this is our moment, and that the future of this growing movement is bright.

But let's be clear: the population of these four cities represent a fraction of a percent of the total US population. The unfortunate fact is that most people are still not protected from stigma and discrimination on the basis of their non-monogamous identity or their family structure. There is much more work to do...

And we're here to do that work. OPEN is collaborating with coalition partners to develop new tools and resources to help community members like you bring these protections to your city or town. We're speaking with community leaders and elected officials in multiple cities to keep the momentum going. We're talking with the media to spotlight this issue and the growing power of our movement.  ...


And they too need money.


●  Slate, in anticipation of the Berkeley law passing, published a look at the larger polylegal picture:  L G B T… P?  (May 6)


Polyamory is everywhere these days—except protected under the law. But some advocates have an idea about how to change that.

 Slate/ Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash/ Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty
















By Abigail Moss

In case you hadn’t noticed, polyamory is all the rage right now. ... And, lest you think all this hubbub is some ginned-up PR campaign, consider that 4 to 5 percent of people in the U.S. are in consensually nonmonogamous relationships (not always the same thing as polyamory, but pointing in a similar direction), which is comparable to the number that identify as LGBTQ+. Research from the Kinsey Institute shows that as many as 1 in 6 people are interested in exploring polyamory.

For polyamorous folks like myself (I’m in a throuple), there’s definitely a feeling that the tide is changing. ...

Yet, despite all this social progress, the law hasn’t been as quick to catch up with the rise of these kinds of “nontraditional” relationships. And that’s a big problem, because major, negative misconceptions persist among the non-poly public, most of them stemming from the reduction of these relationships to a sexual kink. This, in turn, leads to the belief, for example, that a polyamorous environment is not a safe one for a child, or that a poly relationship is not a serious or valid family structure. For those on the outside, polyamory can still seem like a wild and irresponsible lifestyle—and unfortunately, it’s people on the outside who are making laws and policy for the rest of us.

Indeed, legally, we polyamorous people find ourselves on very shaky ground. ... Depending on where they live, a polyamorous person could be evicted from their home or denied housing because of their relationship style—I know firsthand that private landlords may be less likely to want to rent to a throuple, for example, than a monogamous married couple because of false assumptions that a polyamorous group will be inherently unstable and unreliable. And a poly person could be fired or denied promotions at work due to bias against polyamory (whether that’s the stated reason or not) —without the company facing the same legal ramifications they likely would if they terminated someone’s employment on, say, the basis of sexuality.

Which raises an interesting question: Should polyamory be recognized as a sexuality under the law? And what might be gained, or lost, by such a recognition? There is a lot of debate in the polyamorous and LGBTQAI+ community as to whether poly should “count” in this way. But with so many poly folks believing that their polyamory is not something they chose, but rather an innate part of themselves, running a legal gauntlet on an everyday basis can feel exhausting and more than a little censorious. 

...Dr. Eli Sheff is a sociologist and expert witness on cases involving families who have unconventional setups, including polyamorous ones. She explains that while the legal changes happening at a local level are an important step in the right direction, there are limits to how much they’re impacting polyamorous people’s lives nationally:  “The changes in Somerville, for example, only apply to city employees. Somerville can’t legislate that a national corporation must recognize your polyamorous relationship. So poly people remain extremely vulnerable.... On the national level, it’s wholly inadequate.”

Andy Izenson knows firsthand how this feels. “It’s been an expensive year,” they say, referencing medical bills that they and their two partners have all had to deal with after suffering different illnesses. They faced limitations on how much they could claim from their insurance companies because they are not in a more traditional relationship. Izenson, the senior legal director at the Chosen Family Law Center, is an attorney and mediator specializing in representing queer families, including polyamorous ones, and transgender people. I asked how polyamorous people might begin to advocate for themselves. Izenson explains that often, dealing with situations in a personal, one-to-one way is best. “For example, if three parents need to be able to pick their kid up from school, going to the school, speaking to the principal, trying to work things out that way is sometimes the best. You have to think about what systems in society you really need to be interacting with.”

...[In states ] such as Florida and Alabama, polyamory is effectively criminalized through bigamy statutes. And considering cases of parents losing custody battles because of their polyamorous relationships, a person might rightly think very carefully before coming out to a school principal, boss, or co-worker.

This is a shame, because we really don’t have anything to hide. Dr. Heath Schechinger, co-founder of the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition... [asked] 175 people engaged in nonmonogamous relationships to list the benefits of their relationship structure. Responses included gaining a greater social and support network, fostering greater honesty in their relationships, and having greater autonomy and independence in their lives. Sex-related benefits ranked as only the eighth most-cited reason. Polyamorous people such as myself already know this—my partners and I argue over what to watch on Netflix and remind each other to feed our cats, just like any married couple. But while these misconceptions persist, they’re a major blocker to legal reform.

Schechinger says that although it may not be possible for everyone, visibility is a vital first step in improving rights for polyamorous people: “I think if you have the privilege of being able to come out as polyamorous, it’s important to consider doing so,” he says. “We are in an era where we’re on a precipice of significant change.”

...Schechinger feels that the dam is about to break. “We are putting together a packet that people can take to their city councilperson and advocate for similar policies to be taken up in their city,” he said. These materials will form a toolkit that will be available in the coming months, and have been created in collaboration with the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy, Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, Harvard Law LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, and the Chosen Family Law Center. The toolkit will include relevant research and educational information, case examples, legal insights, and advocacy strategies.

...“It’s comparable to where LGBTQ advocacy was in perhaps the early ’90s,” says Schechinger. And people are getting behind this advocacy in droves.

“One of the problems, one of the beautiful problems, that my colleagues and I have right now is that there are countless numbers of people reaching out and asking how they can get involved and asking how they can offer support. Up until now, a huge part of their lives and their identities was going unrecognized. Finally, now there’s hope for progress. It’s only a matter of time before we see this start to scale.” And after all, what is poly if not the belief that things like understanding and love are capable of growth?



●  Also in anticipation, Yahoo News 360 rounded up opinions pro and con: Should the law recognize polyamorous relationships? (last updated May 20)


triad of legal scales graphic
(Cute graphic, but how does this thing work?)















By Mike Bebernes

People in polyamorous relationships could soon have new legal protections in the San Francisco Bay Area if a bill currently under consideration by the city council in Berkeley, Calif. is passed. ...

Why there’s debate

The words “family” or “partnership” can mean myriad things to people colloquially, but when it comes to the law, they have very specific definitions that typically only allow for two adults in a relationship.

Poly advocates argue that laws limiting a family or domestic partnership in this way leaves those outside that mold vulnerable to discrimination. Nearly everywhere in America right now, there's nothing to stop a polyamorous person from being fired, denied housing, or blocked from receiving certain benefits — like health care — because of their relationship structure. There are also examples of poly people missing out on inheritance or even losing custody of children.

...Though public perception of polyamory does appear to be shifting, that same YouGov poll found that a majority of people still believe polyamory is morally wrong and oppose legal recognition for poly relationships. Opponents frequently suggest that poly relationships are inherently unstable and may be especially turbulent for children in multi-partner households. Many also argue that recognition of polyamorous relationships in things like housing law would be merely the first step of a larger campaign to expand marriage beyond two-person couples.

Perspectives

The question of poly rights is too important to be ignored

“Limited definitions of family are all over the legal system. Laws for domestic violence, rent control, insurance, and … inheritance rely on narrow understandings of the term, which often prioritize biological and marital relationships, and relegate other kinds of relationships.”  — Michael Waters, The Atlantic

The law is built around harmful misconceptions about how poly relationships actually work

“For those on the outside, polyamory can still seem like a wild and irresponsible lifestyle—and unfortunately, it’s people on the outside who are making laws and policy for the rest of us.”  — Abigail Moss, Slate

Society doesn’t have to legitimize every relationship style people conjure up

“Polyamory’s proponents censure those who remain unconvinced that mainstreaming such sexual perversions serves the public interest. We must celebrate each and every sexual aberration green-lighted by the academy, but condemn and exclude any whom the gatekeepers declare persona non grata for their sins against wokeness.”  — Casey Chalk, American Conservative

Denying poly people rights isn’t going to make them go away

“I think it's just important for mainstream audiences to recognize that just because you don't understand it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. There are people who are capable of having multiple romantic connections at the same time, and that is just a thing that is always going to exist, whether you like it or not.”  — Leanne Yau, polyamory educator, to USA Today

Polyamory poses a very real threat to traditional two-person relationships

“We are at risk — culturally and legally — of monogamy becoming a continuously negotiated agreement between partners rather than a universally understood axiom of marriage. When that happens, monogamy gets harder for everyone to ask for and expect; it gets easier to question and devalue. Marital monogamy will recede along with the benefits it offers families and society. That’s a price we don’t want to pay.”  — Alan Hawkins and Daniel Frost, Deseret News

All poly people want is to legitimize the commitments they’ve already made

“If people want to take legal responsibility for each other, that’s a good thing.”  — Alexander Chen, lecturer on LGBTQ+ civil rights at Harvard Law School, to Boston Globe

Without legal protections, polyamorous people have to hide who they really are

“This lack of social and legal acceptance has compelled many polyamorous people to hide their true identity from their coworkers, family, and even closest friends. The danger of living openly means that … polyamory hasn’t found a foothold in mainstream culture, which in turn has created a cascade of confusion about it that needs to be corrected.”  — Caroline Rose Giuliani, Vanity Fair

Poly relationships are fundamentally unstable

“Jealousy is not an emotion invented by men in the 1950s or 1800s to control women. Both men and women are jealous creatures, especially about romantic partners, and we have been since the beginning of recorded history. … This is why every polyamorous community throughout history … has failed. Polyamory just doesn’t work.” — Conn Carroll, Washington Examiner





"...In 2018, three unmarried adults in Newfoundland and Labrador were declared the legal parents of a child born within their polyamorous family — a legal first in Canada, CBC News reported. Then in 2021, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered that all three members of a polyamorous triad should be registered as parents of the boy they were raising together as a family.

"Put bluntly, the legislature did not contemplate polyamorous families [in designing current law]," Justice Sandra Wilkinson said in the decision. ..."



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May 9, 2024

Berkeley poly-rights law nears passage. "Challengers" movie: poly or not, it's a thing. Book publishers hope polyamory is "the new bonkbuster." A ruling class fad? OPEN fires back. And more.


●  Poly news of the week: Berkeley, California, is now a short step away from enacting protections against anti-poly discrimination — bigotry due to family or relationship structure — in housing, employment, and other areas. The proposal adds "family and relationship structure" to the list of protected categories, alongside race, religion, national origin, and others. It covers not only polyfolks and other non-monogamists but also multi-generational, single-parent, and platonic co-op families. Berkeley would join neighboring Oakland, as well as Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in enacting similar measures. 

"John Owens speaks with his partners Emily Savage (left) and Alejandra Bravo Ducey at
a celebration party at the East Bay Community Space in Oakland on April 16, after a bill prohibiting discrimination of non-monogamous families passed." (KQED)





















On Tuesday, May 7th, the measure passed the Berkeley City Council unanimously on "first reading." If it passes at "second reading" on May 14th 21st, it becomes law.

That's virtually certain. Berkeley's PolyActive group worked alongside the legal whizzes of the national Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition (PLAC), activists in the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy (OPEN), and in particular the Berkeley City Attorney's office to iron out any potential glitches and legal bugs in advance. The City Attorney scrutinizes proposed ordinances for potential conflicts with existing law. They agree that all's good. 

We're not shooting off the fireworks quite yet (watch us on Wednesday the 22nd). But KQED in the Bay Area treats the measure as a done deal: Berkeley Passes Legal Protections for Polyamory, Joining Oakland (May 8).

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●  Did you have hopes for the hot, buzzy new "polyamory" movie Challengers? Now that it's out, poly opinions are mixed at best. I'll go with "Sigh, not there yet."

In the online New York Sun, ‘Challengers’ Is Almost the First Great Polyamory Movie (May 1, registration-walled)


The three "Challengers" co-stars. Nope, not a triad.
The famous opening scene that promises too much

By A. R. Hoffman

...A Gen-Z remix of sports film and romantic comedy, it is less a scandal than the suggestion of one. ...

“Challengers” centers on a tennis prodigy, Tashi Duncan (Zendaya).... During her time on the amateur tour, sparks flew with the doubles team of Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor). They go by “Fire and Ice,” and bunked together at boarding school. At the beginning, they want her as well as each other.

The trio quickly becomes a duo and a remainder, as Duncan and Donaldson end up marrying. ... Titles follow, but the slog to the athletic apex is a joyless one, all twitchy anxiety and soulless hotel suites. ...They are a power couple, but their power appears to be in making each other miserable.

Zweig immediately jumps to the professional [tennis] ranks... at the fringes of the tour. He ranks 271st, sleeps in his car, mooches breakfast sandwiches, and arranges dates on Tinder with wealthy women so he has a place to lay his head. ... He lingers at the outskirts of Duncan’s marriage, a tempting troublemaker. 

...If “Battle of the Sexes” — its subject was the match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs — captures one sexual revolution, “Challengers” feints to another, defined by growing eclecticism of attraction (nearly 30 percent of Gen Z identifies as “queer”) and greater openness to non-monogamous romantic arrangements. ... “Challengers” volleys with these trends, but avoids the risk of hunting an ace. It relaxes into a conventional love triangle rather than exploring more exotic shapes of desire. ...



●  A wildly opposite opinion: "Challengers" is the best thing that could happen to polyamory (Vox, May 2). It's written (and photocaptioned) from a gay sensibility.


The relationship style has been the topic of talky articles and books. Finally, it’s the sexiest element of the year’s sexiest movie.

By Alex Abad-Santos

...Just when you thought that the entire idea of being communally entangled felt too examined, too picked over to ever be sexy again, Luca Guadagnino’s "Challengers" comes swooping in. Sun-drenched and sweat-soaked, the film demystifies polyamory into something blazingly simple: being in love — physically and emotionally — with two people and being loved back can make a person as happy as they’ve ever been or ever will be.

[Spoilers below]

The three are part of an intricate, ball-bashing love triangle, and it’s no accident that every corner is so acutely hot. Zendaya in particular knows how to wear an old-money sweater. Faist and O’Connor spend a lot of time arching their backs, whether they’re wearing tiny shorts or not.

Perhaps most important, this is a triangle where, as screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes told NBC, “all sides needed to touch” — and they do.

"Imagine if it was you that Josh O’Connor (right) was gesturing this to!"
 


















That’s crystal clear when they first meet, as teens at the Junior US Open. Art and Patrick are attracted to Tashi for completely different, at times murky, reasons. ... The boys invite her to their room, and the great American tennis hope shows up. “I don’t want to be a homewrecker,” Tashi tells them. On the surface, it comes off as a joke. Their closeness and intimacy could be seen as something that’s a little funny for two men who aren’t explicitly gay. But the comment also functions as something truthful. Minutes later, during their three-way kiss, Tashi cocks her head back in a devious, ecstatic grin not because, as one might assume, Art and Patrick are paying her attention — but because Art and Patrick are kissing each other, lost in the moment.

...What she really wants is to see them up their [tennis] game. She tells the boys that whoever wins their face-off match the next day can have her number. ...


Somewhat later in their lives, 


Not unlike the way Tashi was miserable with Patrick when they weren’t talking about Art, Tashi is miserable being married to Art without Patrick. Though Guadagnino and Kuritzkes wrap the couple in plenty of material success — luxury endorsements, high-end clothes, lush hotels, and six grand slam wins — Art and Tashi are not happy as “the Donaldsons.” They have everything they ever wanted, winning tennis’s biggest tournaments and having the money to do anything, but it can’t spark excitement in their lives.

...In [the movie's] closing [tennis game], Patrick changes up his service routine and places the ball in the neck of his racket. This is his secret code to Art that he slept with Tashi, a gesture the two created together as teens without Tashi’s knowledge. Art snaps. He goes into a catatonic, post-marriage state. He lets a couple points pass, and by losing them, plunges Patrick and himself into a tiebreak — a race to seven points. ...

We don’t see who wins because all the camera’s focus is on Tashi, who growls — a carnal howl — in pleasure. The only other time we’ve seen her this happy was when all three of them were together, with all their desires for each other and with each other out in the open. And they’ve found that again, finally.



●  A more realistic take IMO: in the Washington Examiner, Challengers isn’t about polyamory — or anything else (May 7)


What follows throughout the rest of the film [after that three-on-a-bed opening] is not a story about polyamory. It’s a story about drive, perfectionism, and what happens when excellent cinematography is paired with a disharmonious soundtrack. But ultimately, it isn’t a story about much.

...Tashi finds herself picking and repicking the winner and the loser between her “little white boys.”... Challengers seems really to be about two men who are in love but can’t admit it to themselves and the beautiful but ruthless woman who controls them. ... The film’s unwavering focus on its protagonists makes it seem as if there’s more going on among the three of them than there actually is. For Tashi’s part, sex is leverage, a way to bargain with the men to get what she wants, which is “to watch some good f***ing tennis.”

Whether you want to say Challengers is about sex or power or something else, the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t about much. The New Yorker’s Tyler Foggatt rightly calls it “a shot of dopamine that doesn’t really argue anything.” Challengers leaves you with no one to root for and substitutes an incongruous EDM soundtrack for real emotional turbulence.

In the final scene, Art and Patrick are facing each other in a tennis match after years of fighting over the same woman. The last, dramatic moment ends with Art lurching to hit the ball and landing in Patrick’s arms. We’re not sure who won the match, but the good thing is we’ve been given no reason to care.



●  Nevertheless, the movie is having cultural fallout. From KQED in San Francisco, ‘Challengers’ Has Ignited ‘Throuple’ Discourse — One Polyamorous Couple Weighs In (May 2). The tl;dr: they say it's bad poly but makes a good movie. 


...Mary: It’s not a rule book for how to date, but it’s a very good fantasy. I love that it was a movie that purported to be about a relationship, but really was about winning.

Izzy: ...Patrick doesn’t demonize Art for being jealous, even when he’s low-key sabotaging Patrick’s relationship. He’s turned on by it. He’s like, ‘You little snake, I see what you’re doing.’ They both fulfill each character’s competitive spirit and drive.

Mary: That’s what makes the movie hot. It’s kinky. There’s a certain amount of ambiguity around consent because, of course, cheating and infidelity is bad. But then there’s this question: Is anything fair game if it’s in the service of tennis?

Mary: It sells itself as being a film about a throuple. But this is not how throuples work in ethical ways. ... I mean, there’s no communication. So from that perspective, I would want to draw that line. But I think it’s a fantasy, and it’s a really effective fantasy.

...Mary: When I’ve experienced a situation with more than one person, there are all of these side conversations to check around consent, and what is and isn’t okay. I think that kind of awkward conversation, and allowing for the stumbling and the awkwardness, and not being sure what is going to happen or if everyone is attracted to everyone else, [is] really sweet. 

...Izzy: This movie just reminds me of also being young and inexperienced. ...


●  Deadline, an entertainment-business site, says (May 2)


Challengers is establishing itself as a Gen Z "date movie," with a 75% female audience, mostly under the age of 24. Its high-powered social media campaign triggered a $25 million opening weekend globally, defying the pre-summer box office torpor.




Some fans have expressed their desire for their own “Challengers summer”. Forget hot girl summer, it’s time to explore being in a throuple.

“Two guys walking past me just said I look good. Challengers summer starts now,” wrote one viewer on X....


------------------------------------

●  From films to books:  The Sunday Times of the UK asks Is polyamory the new bonkbuster? Publishers certainly hope so"There’s a growing pile of books about open marriages and relationships involving multiple partners." (April 28, paywalled.)


By Phoebe Luckhurst

From Jilly Cooper to Danielle Steel, bonkbusters have always been big business for publishers, but these bestsellers increasingly feel rather dated.

While strapping polo players and heteronormative dynamics used to sell vast numbers of books, the only number that matters now is three. Partners, that is. Sometimes more.

Publishing is experimenting with polyamory, with a stack of new books about non-monogamous relationships raising pulses and questions at book clubs, in libraries and on the 8.03am from Guildford to London Waterloo. ...


------------------------------------



(Getty stock photo)
















By Eric W. Dolan

A recent study provides insight into the predictors of compersion, revealing that
–  emotional closeness with a partner’s other intimate connections,
–  clear communication about these relationships, and
–  reduced feelings of jealousy
are key facilitators. The findings have been published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

...The researchers collected data through comprehensive surveys filled out by 255 participants, who were recruited from online communities that focus on polyamory and other forms of consensual non-monogamy. The survey included the COMPERSe questionnaire, which assesses three subtypes of compersion: positive feelings toward a partner’s metamour, excitement about a partner forming new intimate connections, and sexual arousal related to thinking about one’s partner and metamour together.

“The factors most predictive of compersion differ depending on the subtype of compersion we look at,” Flicker told PsyPost. “Far and away, the strongest predictors of compersion towards one’s partner’s relationship with an established metamour (an intimate partner of one’s intimate partner) was how one feels about their metamour.

“In contrast, the strongest predictors of an individual’s response to a partner’s new flirtation or budding intimate connection were jealousy and attachment anxiety; in other words, feeling less secure about their relationship with their partner meant lower levels of compersion.”

“Interestingly... intrapersonal factors, such as self-esteem and personality traits, were not strongly related to the experience of compersion,” Flicker noted. ...



------------------------------------

●  Remember that hostile Atlantic piece, Polyamory, the Ruling Class’s Latest Fad, reacting to last winter's poly-in-the-media wave? Tyler Austin Harper argued that polyamory is a narcissistic fad of the power elite, and they're foisting it on the unwashed masses who can't handle it. I couldn't tell if Harper was coming from the far left or right or both. It was full of sweeping philosophy based on factual ignorance.

Now comes a point-by-point rebuttal. It's from the director of our most able and productive activist group, the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-Monogamy (OPEN), the same folks who helped craft the Berkeley and Oakland legislation. It's on their website for your perusal after the Atlantic wouldn't put it on theirs. Excerpts:


By Brett Chamberlin
Executive Director, OPEN

A recent article in The Atlantic titled “Polyamory, the Ruling Class’s Latest Fad” ...ultimately delivers a deeply incurious, consistently sour, and occasionally downright contemptuous critique which betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of contemporary American polyamory. 

...Is polyamory indeed a fad of the ruling class? The question has been asked and answered: more than one in five American adults have practiced some form of consensual non-monogamy throughout their life, and this proportion remained constant across age, education level, income, religion, region, political affiliation, and race. If only participation in the ruling class were as evenly distributed as polyamory is!

...Polyamory is certainly having its moment in the media spotlight.... Yet stepping back, we find more evidence of a rising tide than of a passing wave. 

A recent article in TIME magazine noted that American “polyamory’s roots reach back at least a century to the Progressive Era, if not further,” while the term “polyamory” itself was coined in the early 1990’s. Two new books, American Poly: A History and Fifty Years of Polyamory in America each offer glimpses into the rich history of the movement. ... 

...It is true that much of the recent coverage of polyamory has centered individuals with privileged identities and class position. In large part, this is more a reflection of access to media representation than of the underlying demographics of polyamory.

...Polyamory––and non-monogamy overall––is a marginalized practice.... Various studies and surveys have found that about half of non-monogamous individuals reported experiencing prejudice or discrimination on the basis of their non-monogamous identity across a range of areas including employment, housing, healthcare, mental healthcare, immigration proceedings, and custody disputes, not to mention family and community acceptance. ... This lack of protection and its resultant risks are perhaps why public visibility is largely reserved for those who have achieved a degree of economic security and do not hold intersecting marginalized identities.


On another theme of the Atlantic article, that polyamory is based on capitalistic, self-centered individualism,


Polyamory is an expression of political values which place cooperation over competition, connection over consumption, egalitarianism over individualism, and which elevate compassion, communication, and consent. ... Networks of polyamorous relationships––and the broader communities that surround them––are fertile ground for the establishment of the social connections [being lost in American life].
In this way, non-monogamy represents a return to humanity’s true “oldest institution,” which the article’s author misidentifies as being the “monogamous marriage.” No, our oldest social institution is the community, the tribe, the village, the family defined not by blood but by limitless love. Polyamory is a turn away from our atomized and commodified paradigm and a return to an indigenous understanding that everything is in constant relationship with everything else.

So no, polyamory is not an expression of the ruling class’s desire to “have their cake and eat it too.” It is far better understood as an emergent response to the austerity politics of the ruling class which for decades has little more to offer us than “let them eat cake.” 



●  We now have a thorough, well-researched article that examines all that survey data you have seen about us: Nonmonogamy by the Numbers. One clear conclusion: "Polyamory isn't just for wealthy people." It's in Slate (May 5), by science journalist Tim Requarth. 

Bookmark it for where to find the most scientifically trustworthy numbers when you're asked for them.


●  Speaking of OPEN — which we can't help but do these days because it has so many irons in the fire — go take its third annual Non-monogamy Community Survey to help set its next directions:



This survey is an important way to gather information about the identities, experiences, and needs of the global non-monogamous population. Those data help to steer and support OPEN's work in important ways. Your feedback about our programs and priorities helps us measure our impact and focus our work. Your stories, particularly around experiences of stigma and discrimination, provide important evidentiary support for our advocacy work. Finally, this snapshot of a vibrant global community helps to shape a more authentic and inclusive understanding of non-monogamy in the mainstream cultural conversation. Add your voice!

Last year, we collected around 2,500 responses from 48 countries and 51 US states and territories. This year, we're aiming for 4,000 total responses. ...


Here's OPEN on Instagram, where they do much of their posting.


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Meanwhile, looking wider...







    
Aid for Ukraine made it through Congress  hopefully not too late to save a free and promising society from genocidal extinction, but too late for thousands of pro-democracy defenders and civilians   after six months of blockage in Washington by the pro-Putin half of the Republican Party. The list of shame.

Here is why I've been ending posts to this polyamory news site with the Ukraine situation: I've seen too many progressive movements die out, or get wiped out, because they failed to scan the wider world accurately and understand their position in it strategically.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Increasingly powerful people call us a threat to society — because by living successfully outside of their worldview, we expose its incompleteness.

Our freedom to choose our relationship structures, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives, to access facts, and to speak of what they know.

Such a society is possible only where people have reasonably good power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to guarantee the rights of all.

Vote for Ukraine Aid protest signs outside the US Capitol
Innovative people, communities, and societies who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal rights that enable them to do so safely, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States. Now with direct mutual support, which is increasingly unhidden.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to choose their lives — by intimidation, repressive laws, inflammatory disinformation and public incitement, weaponizing police abuse and stacking the courts, or eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, Polyamory in the News received more pagereads from pre-invasion Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in eastern Europe.

You can donate to Ukraine relief through this list of vetted organizations (last updated Oct. 2023). We're giving to a big one, Razom, and to a little informal one, Pizza for Ukraine in Kharkiv, the project of an old friend of my wife.

But that is only the start. For those of us born since World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetime. Because we have entered another time when calculating fascism, at home and abroad, is rising and sees freedom and liberalism and social tolerance as weak, degenerate, delusional  inviting easy pushovers. As Russia thought it saw in Ukraine. The whole world is watching what we will do about it.


The coming times may require hard things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we find ourselves born into. We do get to choose how we respond to it. 

Need a little help bucking up? Play thisAnother version. More? Some people on the eastern front trying to hold onto an open society. (TW: war is awful.) Maybe your granddad did this from a trench against Hitler's tanks— for you, and us, because a world fascist movement was successfully defeated that time, opening the way for the rest of the 20th century.

But the outcome didn't look good for a couple of years then, either. Popular history remembers the 1945 victory over the Nazis and the joyous homecoming. Less remembered are the defeats and grim prospects from 1941 through early 1943.

Remember, these people say they are doing it for us too. They are correct. The global struggle between a free, open future and a fearful revival of the dark past that's shaping up, including in our own country, is still in its early stages. It's likely to get worse before it gets better. The outcome is again uncertain, and it will determine the 21st century and the handling of all its other problems.

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PS: Ukraine should not be idealized as the paragon of an open democratic society. For instance, see If Ukraine Wants To Stand for Liberty and Democracy, It Should Rethink Some of Its Wartime Policies. And it has quite the history of being run by corrupt oligarchs — leading to the Maidan Uprising of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and Zelensky's overwhelming election in 2019 as the anti-corruption candidate. So they're working on that. And they're also stamping hard on the old culture of everyday, petty corruption.  More on that.  More; "Ukraine shows that real development happens when people believe they have an ownership stake in their own societies."

Now, writes US war correspondent George Packer in The Atlantic, 


Here was a country with a tragic history that had at last begun to build, with great effort, a better society. What made Ukraine different from any other country I had ever seen—certainly from my own—was its spirit of constant self-improvement, which included frank self-criticism. For example, there’s no cult of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine—a number of Ukrainians told me that he had made mistakes, that they’d vote against him after the war was won. Maxim Prykupenko, a hospital director in Lviv, called Ukraine “a free country aspiring to be better all the time.” The Russians, he added, “are destroying a beautiful country for no logical reason to do it. Maybe they are destroying us just because we have a better life.”


They have a word there, with a deep history, for the horizontal, self-organized, mutual get-it-done that grows from community social trusthromada. Learn that word. It's been keeping them going  to the extent they've been able. We polyfolks often dream of creating something like that community spirit in miniature, in our polycules and networks. Occasionally we succeed.

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Social attitudes in Ukraine are mostly traditional, rooted in a thousand years of the Orthodox Church. But not bitterly so like often in the US; in the last generation the ideal of modern European civil society has become widely treasured, and social progressivism has room to thrive. The status of women has fast advanced, especially post-invasion. More than 43,000 women volunteer in the armed forces, flooding traditionally male bastions — including as combat officers, artillery gunners, tankers, battlefield medics, snipers, and infantry. (Intimidating video: "Thus the Witch has Said".) Ukraine has more women volunteering in combat positions than any other armed force in the world.
  
Some LGBT folx in the armed forces display symbols of LGBT pride on their uniforms, with official approval, whereas in Russia it's a prison-worthy crime for even a civilian to show a rainbow pin or "say gay." A report on Ukraine's LGBT+ and feminist acceptance revolutionsAnotherAnotherAnother. War changes things.

And in December 2022, Russia made it a crime not just to speak for LGBT recognition in Russia or occupied Ukraine, but to speak for "non-traditional sexual relations." Belarus, a Russia subject state, has followed suit. Pre-invasion, Russia had a visible polyamory education and awareness movement.

Polyfolks are like one ten-thousandth of what's at stake globally. Ukraine must have our full material backing for as long as it takes them to win their security, freedom, and future. Continue to speak up for it.
                                     
A Russian writer grieves: "My country has fallen out of time."


Ukrainian women soldiers in dense undergrowth
Women defenders near the eastern front

PPS:  U.S. authori-tarians, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, are saying that allowing women in front-line roles is a woke plot to weaken America's armed forces. Ukraine puts that shit to bed. Do you have a relative who talks like that? Send them this video link to Vidma, who commands a mortar platoon, recounting the story of one of their battles near Bakhmut.

Update April 22, 2024: A year and a half later Vidma is still alive, still with her mortar unit, and posting TikToks. They are now at the front in, it looks like, the battle for Chasiv Yar, a strategic hilltop town west of Bakhmut that will soon, unfortunately, be in world news. A young girl who looks high-school age showed up to join themAnother. Their lives, and their promising society, depend on us. 

And maybe our own? Says Maine's independent Senator Angus King (Jan. 31, 2024),


Whenever people write to my office [asking why we are supporting Ukraine,] I answer, 'Google Sudetenland, 1938.' We could have stopped a murderous dictator who was bent on geographic expansion…at a relatively low cost. The result of not doing so was 55 million deaths.


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