Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

May 18, 2006

Wendy-O Matik: "Taking Open Relationships Beyond Sex"

East Bay Express (California)

The East Bay Express, a venerable alternative weekly, today published a profile of former punk rocker and current poly author/lecturer Wendy-O Matik:

After a lifetime of open relationships, people accuse her of being a commitment-phobe. Yet Wendy-O Matik's supposed fear of commitment landed her in a thirteen-year nonmonogamous marriage, with a book about relationships now in its fifth printing, and an international speaking tour preaching the personal and political values of a more openly loving society.

. . .The hostess had invited Matik and this motley group of strangers into her home to talk about "radical love," Matik's phrase for caring, considerate open relationships — a dating philosophy she has been developing since high school. She defines the term as "a radically different, redefined relationship outside the status quo, where partners encourage nonrestrictive paths of love while remaining seriously committed to their primary partner(s), friends, and lovers."

Wait a minute — didn't we once call that polyamory?

"I hate that word," Matik says dismissively. "It's so '70s." She tells workshop participants that such "free love hippie shit" didn't work then because there were no guidelines or rules, and it was mostly women who got hurt. Those old-fashioned practices were "emotionally irresponsible." . . .

"I see radical love as a social movement," she says. "We have to unravel ourselves from these unhealthy relationships that aren't satisfying us and admit that we have deeper needs. When we do that, we change the world."

Read the whole article (May 18, 2006).

And yes, we do know that the word "polyamory" was invented — or at least popularized — not in the 1970s but in spring 1990, by Morning Glory Zell in her influential essay "A Bouquet of Lovers" in the pagan magazine Green Egg. (See also Joshua Bardwell's commentary on "Bouquet.") Footnote: Morning Glory, a blessed creator of our community and movement, is currently (May 2006) fighting cancer; further information.


May 16, 2006

"Hub Hedonists Spread the Love"

Boston Herald

"[This] has got to be one of the worst articles about poly I've ever read," commented a poster to the PolyBoston Live Journal community.

And I have to admit I was an unwitting accomplice to it.

A Boston Herald writer, who called herself Kimberly Atkins, wrote me asking how to find local polys to interview "for a story I'm working on for this weekend. It is not a negative piece - I'm trying to make it an informative one." I posted her e-mail to PolyBoston, and someone immediately replied, "Don't do it. I was one of the poly folk that she tried to interview at [a local gathering place], and her motivation for interviewing us seemed to come from conflating polyamory and polygamy, courtesy of some HBO TV show about polygamy. We very politely told her that we didn't want to talk to her 'about our lifestyle', and she finally got the clue and left.

"Under the best of circumstances I'd view her as clueless and unlikely to keep her facts straight in a newspaper article about polyamory, but remember that the Herald is a lowbrow conservative asswipe of a newspaper and this is unlikely to end up as anything but sensationalism and shock value."

Bingo. Read it and weep:

Hub Hedonists Spread the Love

By Jessica Heslam (May 14, 2006)

Dozens of otherwise strait-laced men and women live secret, “Big Love”-style polygamous lives right here in buttoned-down Beantown, the Herald found.

“Is it fun to have sex with several people? Sure. But that’s not the point,” said Tom Amoroso, 44, of Quincy, a physician and follower of the so-called polyamorous lifestyle, an anything-goes haven for sharing the love, where no primal urge goes unsatisfied.

It’s a menage-a-many, hedonistic labyrinth of “here comes the brides and grooms” - with each group inventing its own set of vows. They vary from casual lovers who date their lovers’ lovers to committed polygamous “families” such as the fictional Henrickson clan in the HBO Sunday night show “Big Love.”

Practitioners say interest in their polylifestyle has shot up recently, buoyed by the popularity of the show.

Many local participants remain in the closet, but they congregate weekly right in the heart of Somerville at the trendy Diesel Cafe in Davis Square. Membership has exploded with the group’s presence on the Internet, where they chat on sites such as polyboston.org, polyandproud.com and polymatchmaker.com.

[Name deleted to protect the misquoted] insists he’s no different than most folks, except for his dexterous libido.

“Three is the most people I’d be in a relationship with,” he said.

[He] hails from Israel, where he grew up among families living communally in every aspect but their bedrooms. He and his girlfriend now live polystyle.

“The funny thing is we’re both dating the same person - but separately,” he said, adding that the logistics can be problematic.

In polyspeak, that relationship is referred to as a “double-vee,” one of many terms in the polyamorous lexicon.

To solidify their unsanctioned sexual web, they often will form a limited liability partnership to purchase property as a group, said Robyn Task, 42, publisher of Boulder, Colo., based Loving More Magazine.

Task says she’s had more than 500 subscribers in the Bay State - in places such as Malden, Plymouth, Norwell, Ipswich, Worcester, Arlington, Peabody and Roxbury.

“Certainly, thousands of people are polyamorous in the state,” said Linda Marks, 47, a therapist who says she founded the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network, a refuge for locals with many loves.

But many hide their lifestyles and even stick with lists of “polyapproved professionals.”

Among them is Monique Noelle, a licensed psychologist practicing in Harvard Square who said she regularly counsels patients living the polyamorous lifestyle.

“It’s not a pathology,” she said. “They have similar issues as monogamous people, though at times they may be more complex.”

Amoroso said he’s outing himself to help legitimize this life of wandering libidos.

“It’s very much like it is to be in a relationship with one person, only multiplied several times,” he said.

Read the original (May 14, 2006).

The piece isn't hostile, it's something worse: stupid and clueless — spreading the awful myth that poly is about hedonism and "anything goes." When of course successful polyamory demands the exact opposite: honesty, integrity, restraint, sensitivity to others, high standards for one's behavior, and a whole damn lot of work.

Followup: The fallout continues. A PolyBoston organizer posts, "I got a call yesterday from [an owner of the meetup site]. She said that since the publication of the unfortunate Herald article, they're having a *huge* amount of contact, some of it inappropriate, from people who saw the article. Lots of people want to know when we meet. . . . Some of those people have done things like hit on the counter staff. . . so I think we can expect a certain proportion of clueless and problematic people to show up tomorrow. . . .

"On the other hand, I've also gotten a couple of subscription requests from people who saw the article and who sound perfectly reasonable and like they weren't necessarily taking the sensationalist tone of the article at face value."

As it turned out, no influx of creeps showed up that evening, "but it gave us all quite a lot to talk about and drew us together nicely as a community." As a goodwill gesture, the group presented the cafe's owners and staff with a big bouquet of flowers and a thank-you card containing about $225 cash as extra tips.

More followup: The Herald told Linda Marks, founder of the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network (she was quoted in the article) that it will print a letter to the editor from her on May 17th. Here's her complete letter:

Having been interviewed by reporter Jessica Heslam in the context of writing an educational feature on the emerging lifestyle called Polyamory, I was greatly dismayed to find an article in yesterday's Herald entitled "Hub hedonists spread the love." This title not only misrepresents what the Polyamory movement is about, but also creates a sensationalist tone that is reminiscent of the gay-bashing of times past.

This past November, I appeared as an expert therapist on a very well-researched show produced by Montel Williams. In a culture where 62% of marriages end in divorce, and, according to an article in the current issue of Psychology Today magazine, [where] nearly 50% of adults are single at any point in time, something in our notion and practice of intimate relationship is not working. Montel pointed out that thoughtful new models need to be considered to allow people to have healthy, sustainable relationships. No one model is right for everyone. People are born with different orientations — monogamous and non-monogamous, gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered and polyamorous. What is important is that we are better educated about the range of human identity, so that we may live healthy, authentic lives.

The word "polyamory" literally means "many loves." Polyamory is about love and relationships, not just sex. My polyamorous clients, colleagues and friends are intelligent, conscious, responsible people committed to building quality loving relationships with clear agreements, good communication and respect for the one another's needs. Many relationships, monogamous and non-monogamous, fail for lack of these very pieces! The polyamorous people I know work harder on the skills required to sustain healthy emotional relationships than most others I know.

I also would like to correct the misinformation provided in the article about the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network (BASSN), which I founded in 2002. Identifying us as "refuge for locals with many loves," as the article stated, misrepresents our mission and the scope of work we actually do. BASSN is a volunteer run, sex-positive educational organization, providing a wide variety of programs for the community at large. We have offered programs ranging from Sexuality and Disability to Self-Loving to Tantra to Safe Touch 101 to Ways of Loving: Forms of Relationship. We are developing a program for our 2006-2007 season helping parents learn how to talk with and listen to kids about sexuality. Those who attend our programs range from straight monogamous people, both married and unmarried, to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and polyamorous people who may also be single or partnered. Ages of attendees have ranged from twentysomethings to seventysomethings. Our programs do provide a safe, respectful environment, but for everyone, not just one subculture.


Linda Marks

Further update: The Herald did print the letter — all of it!

Also: Tom Amoroso, who was quoted in the article, mentioned a few weeks later that he had no repercussions from the story whatever.


May 11, 2006

"The Polyamory Interviews: Tess and Otis"

The Stranger (Seattle)

In Seattle's alternative weekly newspaper The Stranger (issue of May 11–17, 2006), kink columnist Mistress Matisse presents another in what's becoming a series of polyfolk interviews:

OTIS: I keep hovering around the word "articulate." I have learned — I am learning — how to be more emotionally articulate. How to exercise my attraction to others, and how to create intimacy with someone without bringing in a pile of assumptions or agendas. . . .

TESS: When we began, I was certain that I knew exactly how to do poly — I was the girl who'd had multiple "open relationships," right? Ha! I knew nothing about how to do this with integrity and compassion. . . .

OTIS: . . .What has been the most valuable lesson is that the hard times end, and they make the good times sweeter. Not just because they are over, but because they make the world bigger.

Read the whole article.

The article got quite a flame war rolling at the Family Scholars Blog. (You might keep an eye on its Polygamy/Polyamory section and chip in a comment from time to time.)


May 10, 2006

"The Legal Logic of Polyamory"


In an AlterNet "Best of the Blogs" selection (May 9, 2006), Lindsay Beyerstein points out something that ought to be obvious (IMO) to both us and to our critics: while conventional marriage can easily be extended to gay couples, it is never going to fit poly groups:

Some people hope (or fear) that same-sex marriage will pave the way for the legal recognition of polyamorous marriages. Some advocates of legal polyamory argue that restricting marriage to duos is every bit as arbitrary and unfair restricting marriage to partners of the opposite sex.

I'm in favor of social acceptance and legal recognition for n-tuples (like couples, except n>2). However, there's no easy way fit the diverse and complex poly-relationships into a convenient package deal of rights and responsibilities comparable to civil marriage. If we want to create legal recognition for these relationships, we are going to have to self-consciously build alternative institutions. This won't just fall into place like gay marriage. . . .

The institution of marriage reflects [one] widespread preexisting cultural practice: romantic pairs setting up households. Polyamory isn't a single cultural practice or way of life, it's a general term that applies to a broad range of alternative lifestyles. . . .

It seems to me that real-life polyamory is too diverse to allow for any simple package deal like civil marriage. Part of the appeal of the lifestyle is that participants are free to explicitly negotiate their own rules instead of being bound by the strictures of preexisting institutions. I've read about poly folks who use a variety of legal strategies to formalize each party's legal relations to others.

Read the whole article.

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May 2, 2006

"Family Affair"

WHDH-TV News, Boston

Channel 7 here in Boston ran a news segment last night (on May 1, 2006) about a poly triad I'm friends with:

HBO's "Big Love" is making a big splash on TV, focusing on a family with one man, three wives and a whole bunch of kids.

And you don't have to leave Massachusetts to find more adults than you'd expect under one roof.

This attorney, computer expert, and physicist say three is definitely not a crowd.

"I'm one of a triad, as we call it, a three person intentional family; three adults and two children."

The three, who didn't want to show their faces, say they have been living as a husband, wife and wife for more than ten years. All they're missing is marriage certificates. . . . They share custody of their 4-year-old twins, they share a mortgage, and they share each other's beds. . . .

"The point is to have a community in your household of people who are very closely emotionally committed. It's not to have sex with a lot of people. You don't need a committed relationship for that at all."

Read the transcript and watch the video.

The backstory began a few weeks ago, when a Channel 7 producer called a local sex-positive activist and asked how to find a poly family with kids to go on a show. A call went out on the local poly lists, but at first the only people willing were individuals. So the producer canceled the idea — but then the three folks featured in the show decided to take the plunge, as long as their identities were not displayed.

"We all talked to the producer on the phone," writes one, "and she undertook to protect our privacy — and she did. She and a cameraman spent an afternoon at our house, asking questions and filming. The producer was very pleasant and personable and kept exclaiming, 'Oh, I could NEVER do that!' in an admiring way.

"They used probably one percent of the sound bites they taped. Not the best ones either, I don't think."

The three volunteered for this mission, she continues, because "We think it is important that multi-partner relationships be normalized in the public mind." But especially with two 4-year-olds, they decided that staying anonymous was best for them. They are out to friends, church, and their town community.

Two points I might add:

If you go on TV news, remember that only a few sound bites out of everything you say will get aired. So decide on your sound bites beforehand, and say them over and over while being interviewed. Read the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom's first-rate advice for appearing in the media.

Second: We need lots more polyfolk willing to do this! Most who've appeared in the mass media lately are either people I personally know, have met at a conference, or have corresponded with. That's much too small a universe to draw from.

The good news is that there's a huge untapped reservoir of personable, articulate polyfolk who, as soon as they spill out of the closet, are poised to boost awareness and acceptance immeasurably. Remember how it seemed to happen all at once in the gay community?

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May 1, 2006

"Polyamory: A Twist On Polygamy"

KUTV News, Salt Lake City

A TV station in the capital of Mormon country does a very nice story (April 30, 2006) explaining polyamory and its difference from traditional polygamy:

There is another twist on plural marriage -– one that some people say is gaining popularity.

It's called polyamory -– the practice of loving and living with more than one partner. The form Utahns are most familiar with is called polygyny -– one man with two or more female partners. But there is another less common form called polyandry -– one woman with two or more male partners. . . .

Polyamory is a growing trend across the country. There is even a polyamorous society here in Utah. . . .

"I think a three-person household is more stable than a two-person household because you are able to spread the work and the stress out. The house tends to flow and work better,” says Cat. . . . Polyamory is more heart based than it is sexually based. It's more about love. It's more about long-term relationships.”

"If a traditional marriage is a lot of work, polyamory is about 10 times as much work,” says George. . . . It's not always easy and it's not always pleasant. You have to be very open and honest and really communicate your feelings, which could leave you vulnerable.”

You can read the transcript, or watch the TV report!

By the way, Tapestry Against Polygamy, Utah's group against abusive fundamentalist Mormon polygamy, is quoted in the story and comes across as hostile or at least skeptical toward polyamory. This is understandable considering where they're coming from; we should reach out to these people.

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