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

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.



Blogger Michael Lockhart said...

God, that's awful... he's conflating poly with "being slutty", and I have to wonder if he's been "slutty" himself (i.e. cheated on someone), or if he's trying to look more monogamous than he really is. In a way, it reminds me of the way language is used in porn a lot of the time -- missing the sensual and feeling aspects of sex in the process of sensationalizing it.

The level of honesty involved in poly is highly threatening to people who practice public monogamy while lying about their private behavior or fantasy life. That includes people who haven't cheated but have seriously thought about it but can't be honest with themselves... and that's a ton of people.

March 08, 2010 11:51 AM  

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