Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

December 26, 2005

"Here Come the Brides"

The Weekly Standard

Let's have no more pretending that we can live beneath the radar of the Right. The December 26, 2005, cover story of The Weekly Standard, one of the premier organs of American conservatism, is "Here Come the Brides: Plural marriage is waiting in the wings." Complete with a cover photo of a joyous poly union ceremony.

The author is anti-gay-marriage writer Stanley Kurtz, a fellow of the Hudson Institute, whom readers will recognize as author of a 2003 Weekly Standard article arguing that gay marriage will inevitably lead to poly marriage and societal ruin.

In his new article, Kurtz picks up on the Dutch triad that registered a cohabitation contract last September and held a poly wedding ceremony amid a local media circus. Kurtz warns that lurking behind the gay marriage movement, but keeping itself strategically hidden for now, is a poly marriage movement that is destined to "shatter" the American family. This movement is led by, among others, stealthy activists in liberal churches and legal advocates for bisexuals; he describes bisexuals as a secretive population that's far larger than either the straight or gay worlds acknowledge (probably true). The result will be ever more lost and confused children:

The fundamental purpose of marriage is to encourage mothers and fathers to stay bound as a family for the sake of their children. Our liberalized modern marriage system is far from perfect, and certainly doesn't always succeed in keeping parents together while their children are young. Yet often it does. Unfortunately, once we radically redefine marriage in an effort to solve the problems of adults, the institution is destined to be shattered by a cacophony of grown-up demands.

The De Bruijn trio, Koen Brand, the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, the legal arguments of Elizabeth Emens and Kenji Yoshino, and the bisexual/polyamory movement in general have been launched into action by the successes of the campaign for gay marriage. In a sense, though, these innovators have jumped too soon. They've shown us today — well before same-sex marriage has triumphed nationwide — what would emerge in its aftermath.

Liberals may now put behind-the-scenes pressure on the Dutch government to keep the lid on legalized polyamory for as long as the matter of gay marriage is still unsettled. The Unitarian polyamorists, already conflicted about how much recognition to demand while the gay marriage battle is unresolved, may be driven further underground. But let there be no mistake about what will happen should same-sex marriage be fully legalized in the United States. At that point, if bisexual activists haven't already launched a serious campaign for legalized polyamory, they will go public. It took four years after the full legalization of gay marriage in the Netherlands for the first polyamory test case to emerge. With a far larger and more organized polyamory movement in America, it might not take even that long after the nationalization of gay marriage in the United States.

It's easy to imagine that, in a world where gay marriage was common and fully accepted, a serious campaign to legalize polyamorous unions would succeed — especially a campaign spearheaded by an organized bisexual-rights movement. Yet win or lose, the culture of marriage will be battered for years by the debate. Just as we're now continually reminded that not all married couples have children, we'll someday be endlessly told that not all marriages are monogamous (nor all monogamists married). For a second time, the fuzziness and imperfection found in every real-world social institution will be contorted into a rationale for reforming marriage out of existence.

Read the whole article.

In reality, my experience is that when poly activists discuss the possibility of legal group marriages, the discussion immediately runs up on the rocks of how extraordinarily complicated any state recognition/regulation of poly marriages would be. Gay couples fit exactly into the legal mold that exists for straight couples. But how would the law mandate, for instance, property rights and responsibilities in partial poly divorces? What about the rights and benefits of marriages that merge into pre-existing marriages? Setting default laws for multiple inheritance in the absence of a will... splitting of pension benefits... it goes on. And with so many different basic kinds of poly relationships existing, compared to only one basic kind of couple marriage, each would need its own legal regime — and we know how good the state is at regulating complicated personal matters.

In addition, I've heard it argued that opportunities would abound for unscrupulous people to game the system in ways the law couldn't easily address: for people to pretend that they're in poly relationships when they're not, or that their relationship is a different kind than it really is.

The discussions quickly come around to business-partnership models instead, such as subchapter-S corporations or LLC's. These are well developed to handle a variety of complex contractual agreements between several people. (So maybe our real agenda is to shatter society's small-business law [grin].)

Of course, the poly awareness movement is actually about something very different: spreading the overwhelming, radical discovery that it is possible to live and love deeply as threesomes and more — given people who have extraordinary hearts, deep honesty, excellent communication skills, self-security, self-sacrifice, kindness... or readiness to work on themselves enough to develop these things. Most of what we are up to is just trying to discover each other. That, and hopefully gaining reasonable understanding from the world at large, decent treatment, and fair application of the law.

The Right clearly sees that we're here, we're growing, and we're not going to go away. Nor are they; so I'd say it's high time we do become a little better organized to defend ourselves.

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December 17, 2005

"Three of Hearts" movie

Interview on NPR

As many readers know, Susan Kaplan's documentary film Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family (2005) follows a 13-year MMF triad for eight of its years. On the National Public Radio program "Day to Day" for December 16, 2005, Madeleine Brand interviewed one of the two gay (or bi? hmmm...) partners of the threesome. Listen to the audio file.

Also, here is the movie's official web site, including a video trailer, production notes, viewer comments and a place to leave your own, and theater and ticket information (it's making the indie circuit as of January 2006). The movie will be out on DVD in March 2006 and is slated for airing on Bravo in June 2006. (When ordering the DVD, don't confuse this with the 1993 movie "Three of Hearts" starring William Baldwin.)

Here are a wide variety of reviews of the movie. Read some more viewer comments — and add your own.


December 15, 2005

Commitment in Polyamorous Relationships

Masters thesis

This isn't a media item, but it would be nice if it were. Longtime poly activist Elaine Cook (a.k.a. Cascade) had her masters thesis accepted in November 2005; it's titled Commitment in Polyamorous Relationships.

I interviewed 7 long-term polyamorous couples to explore the nature of a commitment that is not defined by sexual exclusivity. I described the nature of the relationships that respondents are involved in, their conceptualization of the nature of commitment, the ways that they maintain their primary bond, and the benefits of polyamory as perceived by the participants....

The factors contributing to the success of these relationships, as mentioned by the respondents, are their appreciation of each other, their ongoing and often increasing emotional closeness, a high degree of honesty and good communication, and flexibility in meeting the desires of both people. Finding a way to meet unmet needs (other than for variety) did not seem to be a major factor in the choice of polyamory.

The participants have created a different meaning for sex and intimacy than is common in the culture, and have found polyamory to be a crucible for growth. Some of the reasons given for monogamy seem to be met by polyamory. This study suggests that some of the factors for successful relationships include paying attention to each other, caring about the partner's needs and desires, finding ways to enjoy each other, focusing on what is working well, honesty, and flexibility in finding ways to relate that works for [all] partners.

The paper includes an overview of the (scant) academic work on modern non-monogamy, including some interesting stuff in both academic and popular literature not widely circulated. Example: "Weber [2002] estimated that half a million Americans are polyamorous (even if they have not heard the word)."

Read the whole thesis, either as HTML chapters or as a .PDF document.


December 12, 2005

Bay Area Called a Hotbed of 2,000 Polys

A triad in Hayward, California, has sparked some beautiful local press. Several newspapers in the region, including the daily Oakland Tribune, have run one or more of three stories written by reporter Michelle Beaver.

One story profiles the group itself and its members:

The triad is part of a flourishing East Bay community of polyamorous community members.... Atkins and McKee have been legally married for 18 years, and have been with Lon for 12 years. Each says they are married to each other. Additionally, Atkins and Sarver each have a girlfriend outside the triad.

They claim to love each other equally, but in different ways. Sarver has the most in common with each spouse and helps unite his partners, Atkins said.

The trio shares one bank account. Sarver does most of the cooking and grocery shopping, and helps Atkins make the trios social plans. McKee fixes things around the house and handles anything computer-related. Atkins sends out the bills, and they each act as parents....

"I have a wonderful intertwined community of interesting people adding something different to the stew," Sarver said. "It is far more interesting than I ever thought life could be."

What a wonderful statement! Read the whole article:
Two Husbands, Wife Make Love Stew; Each member of polyamorous trio offers own special ingredient.

Another story picks up on the fact that one member's mother lives with them and thinks it's no big deal. Sounds like the mother-in-law from heaven:
Hayward Mom Bored by Daughter's Alternative Lifestyle; Parent jokingly says her child needs 10 husbands, not only 2.

And the third looks at the region's larger poly picture:
East Bay — Big Polyamorous Region; Some 2,000 people enjoy spreading the love in laid-back Bay Area. That number, by the way, is an "educated guess" from Loving More's Robyn Trask.


December 9, 2005

"Polyamory? Your How-To Guide in Loving More Than One"

Utne Reader

The December 8, 2005, issue of the Utne Reader, a well-established monthly magazine of "the best of the alternative media," highlights Franklin Veaux's much-linked-to web site on polyamory for beginners (and for the pretty experienced too). Some of us have been nagging Franklin to hurry up already with the book he's writing; maybe this extra recognition will help push him along.

What makes it work is the love and emotional intimacy shared by all participants, built just like in a monogamous relationship on a foundation of trust, open communication, and mutual respect. And, says Veaux, when these elements are in place, then you have a network of people who deeply care for one another's well-being, something that is beautiful and emotionally sustaining....

It's not a utopia, though, and it's not for everyone. Veaux claims that polyamory and monogamy are relationship styles that people seem hardwired for, either by nature or nurture. And just like with monogamous couples, dysfunction and heartbreak are always possibilities. So becoming poly isn't necessarily an instantaneous recipe for love and happiness. According to Veaux, it's more difficult than monogamy — you have to carefully maintain each one of your partnerships, and while love may be infinite, time and energy are not.

Read the whole article.


December 3, 2005

Polyamory on the Montel Williams TV show (and how to see it)

Daytime TV has a deservedly bad reputation (think Jerry Springer), but the Montel Williams show is known as less dumb and exploitative than others. Such, anyway, was the gossip flying around the online poly world after a producer for the show started seeking people in group relationships to come on TV.

Sure enough, it worked out very well. The show aired on November 29, 2005. An initially hostile audience seemed won over by the end, the host posed his devil's-advocate questions but was fair and generous, and the participants were generally thrilled with how it went. Including the way Montel closed the show with a video of one panelist's partner's 15-year-old daughter telling how great it was growing up in a poly household.

Here's a comment from activist Cherie L. Ve Ard:

I have now watched the episode twice, and overall, I think it was fantastic considering it's daytime TV.

I had talked fairly in-depth with two of the associate producers of the show and Nan Wise before the taping, in consideration of going on the show myself with some of my network. What [the producers] told me they set out to accomplish is indeed what they did. They stuck to their word.

Nan, John, Amy and Julio did a superb job fielding questions and presenting themselves. Their media experience shows through (they were previously featured on Penn & Teller's Bullshit, as well as some other outlets). They also have fairly extensive presentation experience behind them as well. (You can learn more about Nan at her website, http://www.outrageousintimacy.com/ ).

I really liked the model that Dawn & Akien portrayed on the show, particularly her 24-year LDR relationship with Gary that predates her marriage to Akien. Having Gary's daughter do a spot at the end was fantastic as well.

I also appreciated the non-married poly couple that was shown towards the end. It's nice to start presenting that polyamory isn't always necessarily an extension of the marriage concept, or an opening up of marriage.

Montel seems to really get polyamory, and that the default relationship models aren't working. He presents polyamory as a viable alternative option. This was his second show on the topic (he did one a couple years back, in which he ended it saying "This is the relationship model of the future."). It was really good to see him handling this again, and saying he wanted to do yet another show on it. I take him at his word on that.

All and all, our poly representatives did an OUTSTANDING job. They all came off as articulate, professional and bright. They all presented as folks who have well considered their relationship choices.... Just this afternoon I have already received a few inquiries from folks seeking more information about polyamory after seeing it on Montel.

So, where can you SEE the show??

You can buy a legal videotape from Burrelle's Transcripts; call 800-777-8398. You'll need the topic and air-date: The topic is MULTIPLE LOVE: POLYAMORY. The air-date is Tuesday, November 29, 2005. The tape costs about $38. Purchasing it makes you copyright-compliant to show it to groups.

If you can cope with a 260-megabyte download, you can get it from the Polyamorous Percolations site by following the instructions here.

Added April 23, 2006: A much easier way to view the show now is simply to click here.