Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

April 27, 2006

"Let's Get (Meta)Physical"

Philadelphia City Paper

The Free Spirit Gathering's ninth annual Sacred Sexuality Beltane festival starts today (April 27, 2006) at Ramblewood in Maryland. It got quite a writeup in Philadelphia's widely read alternative weekly the City Paper, which came out today. The story is an attention-holder:

The gathering, which runs today through Sunday, draws dyads, triads, quads, groups and singles from as far as Hawaii and Canada to a 200-acre retreat near Havre de Grace, Md., 90 minutes south of Philadelphia. . . .

What started eight years ago as a family-friendly Pagan fest with flower garlands and naked hippies dancing around the maypole has evolved into a pansexual, clothing-optional retreat offering workshops and lectures - at least half of which are Pantheist-oriented and taught by instructors with names like Puck, Freeheart and Wilddragon.

The teachings cover a wide range of topics, including spiritual S&M, Chakra orgasm, advanced spanking, tarot reading, foreskin restoration (aka Take Back the Turtleneck!), sacred prostitution (aka hooking for the good of the Temple), Taoist handjobs, and the always popular Tantra.

For the socially conscious, there are classes on overcoming homophobia and other "sex-negative demons"; for the anal-retentive, there's "Exploring the Rosebud and Pelvic Cradle," a two-part series on tailbone adjustment and starfish massage. The lick-a-witch workshop explores the wondrous vulva, and a women-only circle of love is being co-priestessed by two bisexual Wiccan feminists.

The story gets the polyamory part right:

Polys don't nurture bullshit notions of needle-in-a-haystack soulmates or happily-ever-after serial monogamy. They thumb their noses at Hollywood romantics who believe love is a Klimt painting, and point to high divorce rates and rampant infidelity when accused of corrupting family values.

Never to be confused with swinging (all about the booty) or polygamy (all about the wifeys serving the man Big Love-style), multimaters like [organizer George] Marvil base their relationships on honesty, equality and respect.

Read the whole story.

Followup: At the time I wondered: would this be too much publicity? Would a mass-market writeup like that bring every sketchy creepolo in Philly to the registration gate? No, as it turned out. One long-time attendee responded, "Beltane was a success and seems to get better every year."

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April 14, 2006

"Three's Company"


And here's another columnist musing about what polyamory might be like for her. Liz Langley is writing for AlterNet, a widely-read national alternative e-newspaper, for April 14, 2006.

Thanks to HBO's new series "Big Love," which features a Utah polygamist with three wives, romantic multitasking is getting viewed with a fresh new eye....

I've never tried polyamory myself, but have always been curious about it for lots of reasons. Maybe it's because I'm an American, and I think more is better. Second, I've far too often been plagued by this quandary: Do I date the one who is safe, comfortable and good? Or the one who's so hot my jeans catch fire? Polyamory seems like it would eliminate that conundrum....

"People in monogamous relationships are sometimes afraid to share their thoughts," Janet [Kira Lessen] says. Been there. But if we tried, would the world really end? Or could we come to terms with other attractions and affections so they woudn't have to mean the end of a good thing, the foregoing of an also-good thing, or a potential deception?

Never having tried polyamory, I don't know if I could handle it or not. "You [need] to have a willingness to look at jealousy and see what it really is," says Janet, who was in two traditional marriages (the first ended in abuse) before trying polyamory in 1991. "Are you feeling envy? Are you feeling abandoned? What is jealousy for you?"

"Yes, I have experienced being jealous in this lifestyle," she says, but she has a community where she can talk about it. Another thing about polyamory is that typical relationship processes are accelerated. "If you have baggage, you're going to have it shown to you by more than one person," she says. You "get busted on your shit" more quickly.

...I don't know if America is ready for polyamory, but as Janet points out, people used to smoke everywhere, and now nobody does. There's lag time for things to change, but change they do.

And she seems pretty happy. "I did something right in my life to come to this place," she says. "My life has been magical."

Read the whole article. It collected 97 reader comments in its first day. They make very interesting reading. Add your own!

April 12, 2006

"Gay, polyamorous, and proud!"


Here's another outsider's take on polyamory, from a different direction: considering what we can bring to the gay community. It does seem like we're attracting more notice lately.

...Oddly enough, the straight and bisexual world has coined the term "polyamory" for those practicing a non-monogamous lifestyle, a term that by no means excludes homosexuals, but that seems, to my knowledge, not much in use among the gay community.... The world of polyamory seems full of resources to understand the potentiality of diverse models of affectionate bonds.

Polyamory is defined as "the practice, state, or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved." ...what is strongly excluded from the definition is cheating: full consent is essential to polyamory.

People in the poly culture discuss the multitude of possibilities that this lifestyle can take.... Communication and honesty are crucial to maintain those consensual relations; words like "polyfidelity" come up to identify specific loyalty involved in such bonds. Polyamorous deny that their lifestyle shows an inability to commit or to fully love someone; the practice ideally consists of more commitment and more love than a monogamous relationship.

Polyamory, though it does not get much public attention, seems to produce a lot of pride among its practitioners, and I am wondering why this proud identity has not reach the gay community more thoroughly....

Read the whole article.

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April 11, 2006

"Two in a marriage is enough"

New Statesman

A columnist for England's progressive New Statesman (April 17, 2006) looks at the polygamy kerfuffle that has U.S. conservatives "all asplutter" over "a future in which a man might marry his sister, his mother and his Labrador." Kira Cochrane has an upfront outsider's view of polyamory.

When it comes to questions of discrimination, some polyamorists (people who openly have more than one lover, but are not married) are arguing that their need for more than one partner is as innate and discrete as a "gay" disposition, and should be recognised as such. But let's face it — this is going to take some proving. Most people in a long-term relationship have felt a strong need for another partner — a sudden, blinding attraction for a girl in a bar or a guy at the office — whether they pursue it or not. The sheer prevalence of this "disposition", this yearning for more sexual partners, would seem more a justification for abandoning marriage altogether than a case for extending its constructs.

Don't get me wrong: if people want to live communally, forming a long string of relationships, picking up new partners and discarding old ones, or remaining for many years in a stable collective of three or four or 27 people, that's entirely their call.

It would make no sense, however, to write this into law. Liberal polygamy is just too variable. What happens if one partner in a group of three decides to leave, for instance?...

Given the inherent differences, it is to be hoped that [the] conflation of gay marriage with polygamy will end in the US. To claim that there is an overlap or a "slippery slope" is entirely specious. The polyamorists will likely continue, separately, to try to convince us of their cause, and they are welcome to give it a go.

If they should ever succeed, after all, it could be one helluva wedding party.

Read the whole article.


April 10, 2006

"Free Love Grows Up"

City on a Hill Press

Here's the kind of press we need (and that maybe you can stimulate in your own area!) Lots of people are fascinated to learn about what we're up to and how we can make it work. This story introduces us well and describes societal issues we face. It might make a nice handout. It appeared in City on a Hill Press, student newspaper at the University of California at Santa Cruz, for April 6, 2006. "We're so happy it turned out to be a positive article," writes one of the interviewees.

On a recent cool Saturday afternoon, a tall, serene grandmother of three who calls herself Beauty, her partner Howard, and four of their friends gathered in a house on the outskirts of Santa Cruz to discuss their lives, their loves, and the minutiae of everyday life on the outside edge of the mainstream. Beauty is an arresting woman with long wavy hair who speaks clearly and articulately, and her hands were never still during the interview, quickly and smoothly knitting a striped scarf.

Howard is quieter, speaking slowly and thoughtfully, and often gazes at Beauty with love and affection in his eyes. Howard is married, but Beauty is not his wife. They, and their friends, are polyamorous, and to them, the bonds of love don't connect to just one person.

Polyamory is the idea, belief, or practice of being involved or open to involvement in more than one intimate relationship at the same time. According to many in the polyamorous (poly for short) community, it is not necessarily synonymous with swinging, which involves purely sexual relationships outside of a primary intimate relationship. On the contrary, polyamory is more about intimacy and building strong partnerships. "Swinging is not poly," explained Norm, a prominent member of the local poly community. "Swinging is not emotional. Polyamory is about many loves, not many fucks."

Despite the participants' views of intimacy, many feel that polyamory seems to go against one of the most fundamental assumptions of Western tradition....

Read the whole article.

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April 7, 2006

"Hers, hers, his and hers"

Chicago Sun-Times

Prompted by "Big Love," and not to be outdone by its rival the Chicago Tribune (see this article from February), the Chicago Sun-Times went prospecting for local polys and came up with a decent general-interest article:

For a sliver of America, HBO's "Big Love," a Sunday night television show about a man "married" to three women, isn't just a weekly hour of drama. It's the way they live.

They call themselves "poly people" or "polyamorists" — people who say they have marriage-like commitments to more than one person.

The idea conjures up images of group sex, though it's not always a free for all: Not all of the partners necessarily sleep with each other, but they do have what they call deep emotional connections. It's negotiated non-monogamy where the goal is falling in love. A lot.

...Ten years ago, [Manelqua Hinton] met Mary, who had also previously lived in poly arrangements. Hinton said his promise with Mary is "for eternity." The promise to Kristi is to stay with her "as long as love lasts."

They share one bedroom. He's sometimes asked by the women to leave them alone together, he said.

The secret, Hinton said, is to "be totally open and honest. If something bothers you, you have to say it now and not later. It takes a lot of love and trust."

Kristi declined an interview. But, said Mary, "I'm lucky to have two very supportive, good friends."

For balance, the article quotes Christian right-winger Bill Maier, a vice president with Focus on the Family:

"It's all about 'my wants.' It's radical individualism."... Maier said the polys who consider themselves married are anything but, because marriage is about "putting the other ahead of you."

"Polyamorist relationships [are] about 'me-me-me.' And that's why they're bound to fail," Maier said.

In poly arrangements "women are objectified — they're collected like a commodity. Women always lose in a poly society," Maier said.

Sheesh. Successful polyamory requires exactly the opposite: unusually good antennae for the feelings of others; generosity and readiness to put others first; compromise; willingness to work a whole lot on communication; and readiness to sacrifice (when you've all worked out what's best) with a smile. To suck it up for the good of all. If Maier's is the quality of criticism we're going to face, our debate muscles will get flabby.

Read the whole article (from the issue for April 2, 2006). The writing did strike me as rather flat, and the reporter committed a howler: calling Minx, the Chicago-based hostess of the Polyamory Weekly podcast, a "he"!

Never mind. We should do all we can to facilitate this sort of article. Each one introduces thousands of new people to the concept. A few who have been longing for our community will discover us and perhaps lift their lives out of the mundane forever. The rest will at least become aware of the concept before they run into us — and will know that some people find it a glorious life that works for them.