Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

September 27, 2006

"Utah trio asks court to allow polygamy"

The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah)

Here is a polygamy-rights case moving up through the courts, as reported yesterday in "Central Utah's Newspaper":

The case is being watched by adherents of plural marriage, who hope it will be eventually taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, which last considered the issue in 1878, said Mary Batchelor, of Sandy, executive director of the group Principle Voices.

"It's time for it to be readdressed," she said in an interview. "We live in a society of family arrangements that simply are, no matter how people want to define them. They are not labeled criminal and we don't believe our family arrangements should be labeled criminal either."

Read the whole article (Sept. 26, 2006). Note the vigorous local online discussion at the end of it.

More polygamy in the media: On September 28th the Dr. Keith Ablow TV talk show aired "Inside the Lives of a Polygamist Family", interviewing five women. The video does not seen to be available, but you can read (and add to) the discussion on the show's comments page.


September 24, 2006

"My Husband's Three Wives"

The Learning Channel

On Sept. 24, 2006 (and then in reruns), the Learning Channel aired a 1-hour show on a polygamist family in Texas. The teaser: "When Pam married her husband Brian 20 years ago, she dreamed of a big family, but never imagined it would mean living not only with six children but with Brian's other wife Kathy as well. Now, Brian plans to bring a third wife, Denise, into the family...."

Comments from poly viewers are harsh indeed. Controlling man, unhappy women, altogether a pathetically unevolved setup... "his attitude was so threatening in a passive-aggressive way, I thought 'cult' for a moment," wrote one commenter. "Brainwashed women with no real say in their lives, they just revolve around him."

Says Jenny in the comments below: "Idiot Redneck Husband stomps his foot and makes everyone around him responsible for his foolhardy actions. Esteem-challenged wives exercise what little power they have by acting out primitive social games amongst themselves.... What disgusts me most about the show is that it was basically, 'same old sh**, different day.' All the same old tired, useless, unproductive relationship rituals that people insist on performing, set against a backdrop of one-sided non-monogamy.

"More's the pity. I can only hope TLC will work on showcasing a similar arrangement that is successful instead of leaving us with the bloody wreck of what isn't."

The show never mentioned the word "polyamory," thank goodness.

Also check out the discussion on the LiveJournal Polyamory Community.

P.S. If you'd like to learn about better types of multipartnering than the above, enter the word "polyamory" into Wikipedia or Google. Or browse other articles on this site (especially these), or start off with these fine entry points:

New Scientist magazine article
Franklin Veaux's poly site
The alt.polyamory home page

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September 6, 2006

"The 'Lifestyle' — Real-Life Wife Swaps"

ABC News Primetime

The cartoon looks like this: Two people are walking into a house where a crowd under a "Poly Discussion Group" banner is having a knock-down, food-fight brawl. One of the new arrivals is saying to the other, "The topic must be poly versus swinging."

Polyamory is about love, swinging is about recreational sex; that's the stereotype. In reality, there's a lot of crossover and something of a continuous spectrum. Some swinger couples are poly at heart — developing deep, lasting affection for another couple they met at a swing club, with whom they begin to share their lives. Some were looking for polyamory without knowing it and simply encountered the swing world first — because it's better organized, better established, and about one hundred times larger (by my semi-educated guess). On the other side of the coin, some polys really do enjoy having lots of sex.

The biggest differences, in the opinions of some folks I've talked to, are in class, education, and attitude. Polys tend to be highly educated, happily geeky, socially radical, and feel they've discovered something truly big and important they want to share with the world. Religiously they tend to be atheist, pagan, or do-it-yourself spiritual. Swingers, on the other hand, tend to be less educated, more conservative and Christian (yes you heard right), more working-class, and sexist in terms of dress and roles (lesbian sex is hot, gay guys are unwelcome; porny getups are hot on women, men show up in t-shirts and jeans). Swingers stereotypically see themselves as just out to have fun, are glad to stay closeted, are generally coupled up as a matter of principle, and are afraid to use the word "love" outside the couple.

(Runs and ducks as the food fight begins.)

Last night (on Sept. 5, 2006), ABC News Primetime aired a report on swingers. This was a rebroadcast of the show that first aired on ABC 20/20 on March 18, 2005. Here's from the transcript article on the ABC News website:

On the hit ABC show "Desperate Housewives," cheating destroys marriages because spouses lie and get caught.

But we found couples who say they have found a way to enjoy the company of others without the deception. It's called the "lifestyle," or swinging, an arrangement in which couples have sex with other couples, and there is no secrecy.

...It's not like other clubs, because in back there's a locker room where couples can get undressed and, if they want, have sex in different bedrooms with other couples — or watch one another in hot tubs.

..."Tess was the first woman I ever kissed in my whole life. So you always have an innate curiosity about 'How would another woman feel?' I no longer have that curiosity," Bob said.

Swinging was Tess' idea. She heard about it from a girlfriend and was intrigued. She figured their relationship was strong enough to give swinging a try. "You have to be completely open and honest with each other," she said.

Won't they look back at their lives and feel that they ruined the intimacy they had with each other by having sex with all these other people?

"No. It's made us much stronger over the years," said Bob. "Just 'cause we are attracted to other people, doesn't mean that we don't love each other."

...The first time Bob and Tess went to a club, they didn't participate. They just watched. That's common. Often almost half of the people at the clubs are "soft swingers" — they just watch, without having intercourse, according to the club owners and swingers we met.

But watching had an impact on Bob and Tess at home. "We had the greatest sex of our lives that weekend," Bob said.

...Apparently, there are a lot of them. About 4 million people are "swingers," according to estimates by the Kinsey Institute and other researchers.

Swingers have become a multimillion-dollar travel industry, so be careful when you pick a family vacation spot. (Watch out for code words like "clothing optional," "adult fun" and "couples only.") Hundreds of resorts now cater to the lifestyle. There are also swingers' conventions that take over entire resorts. Inside, thousands of couples play out sexual fantasies.

"It's a worldwide phenomenon," according to award-winning journalist Terry Gould.... "Most of them don't drink and most of them don't use drugs. They believe in raising children in clean-cut, stable environments. They match our paradigm of the sunny suburbanite," he said.

In his book "The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers," Gould concluded couples swing in order to not cheat on their partners.

"They see it as consensual, co-marital sex and something that they're doing in order to spice up their own relationships. They are not going to a swing club to have sex with other people. They're going there to get hot for each other," Gould said.

Chris and Lavonne are new to the lifestyle. They've been married five years, and about a year ago decided they wanted to experiment. They checked out Web sites where thousands of people seeking strangers to have sex with can find one another.

Brian and his wife run such a site, and it's very popular. "We have a half million members. We have 70,000 per day that visit," he said.

Liberating for Women?

I would think men might pressure their wives into swapping. But the women say they're the ones who are in charge.

"The women are the ones that make this happen," Tess said.... "It definitely changes women. And it makes women more confident — that they are the ones in charge."

And here you can watch the show itself.


September 3, 2006

"How Does Warren Buffett Get Married?"

New York Times

Warren Buffett is the world's best-known investor, second-richest man, and second-biggest philanthropist, after his friend Bill Gates. He has some remarkably progressive and independent ideas about money — and perhaps about other things too, judging from the coverage of his second marriage last week.

From the Sept. 1, 2006, New York Times:

How Does Warren Buffett Get Married? Frugally, It Turns Out


...The marriage of Warren E. Buffett, the Omaha billionaire, to his longtime companion, Astrid Menks, had the financial world all abuzz yesterday.

Mr. Buffett and Ms. Menks formalized a relationship of more than 20 years in a brief civil ceremony.... The new Mrs. Buffett, 60, has been the constant companion to the 76-year-old financier, even as he remained married to his first wife, Susan T. Buffett, who died in 2004.

The first Mrs. Buffett, who had lived apart from her husband since the late 1970's, knew and approved of the relationship with Ms. Menks.

"She has been with my father all these years for all the right reasons," Mr. Buffett's daughter, Susie Buffett, said in a telephone interview. "I'm so thankful. She loves him and takes care of him. If Warren didn't have a cent, she'd be with him."

...When together and out socially, Mr. Buffett, the older, wise-cracking businessman, seems proud to be with the former Ms. Menks, who is known for putting others at ease.

...His first wife, Susan, left the family home in Omaha in the late 1970's, after raising the couple's three children, and moved to San Francisco.

And she introduced a friend, Ms. Menks, to her husband and encouraged Ms. Menks to take care of Mr. Buffett.

"Astrid and my mother were very close — really loved each other," [daughter] Susie Buffett said.

In an interview with Charlie Rose shortly before her death, the first Mrs. Buffett said of Ms. Menks's relationship with her husband: "She takes great care of him, and he appreciates it and I appreciate it. She's a wonderful person."

..."They had a relationship that was so unusual, so fine, and so sophisticated — all three of those people," said Cedric Hartman, an Omaha furniture maker and friend to the Buffetts for many years.

...After she and Mr. Buffett became a couple, friends often received cards signed, "Warren, Susie and Astrid," according to "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist" (Random House, 1995), a biography by Roger Lowenstein.

Read the whole article, with photo.

From The Age in Australia:

By Andrew Clark

September 3, 2006

...Mr Buffett's Latvian-born bride, Astrid Menks, is 60 to her husband's 76. The pair have been living together since the late 1970s. Nothing unusual about that, except that Mr Buffett had an apparently close and loving marriage to another woman, Susan, until her death in 2004. The trio even sent out Christmas cards signed "Warren, Susie and Astrid".

...After a quarter of a century of marriage, Susan opted in 1977 to move to San Francisco to pursue her career — partly, friends say, because she felt smothered by the attention her increasingly famous husband was receiving.

Their separation was only partial. The couple continued to see each other regularly.

Susan asked several friends in Omaha to look after her husband — including Ms Menks, who began discreetly delivering him home-made soup and moved in with him a year later.

The two women proceeded to "share" the billionaire. As his wealth grew, Susan Buffett took on the task of managing her husband's charitable foundation. Mr Buffett spent a good deal of time with his wife — they often appeared at functions together.

Ms Menks would pack him off to see her, apparently without a trace of jealousy, and would sometimes appear beside her smiling, talking and even holding hands.

In his book The Making of an American Capitalist, the author Roger Lowenstein wrote: "From the day she moved in, Astrid knew that Buffett did not envision remarrying, and that he was still attached to his wife. She made a home for him, yet she would see him off with neatly laundered shirts when he left town to be with Susie."

...It is a sign of the esteem with which Mr Buffett is held in America that his relationships have generally been politely ignored by the media.

Read the whole article.

From Forbes:

Though Warren and Susie remained close, attending social functions as a couple, Astrid became his constant companion. Remarkably, the trio remained friends would send gifts to acquaintances with an attach card signed from "Warren, Susie and Astrid."

"This most unlikely trio developed a rhythm," wrote Roger Lowenstein in his best-selling biography of the billionaire investor. "Buffett's friends...became accustomed to his domestic triangle. Buffett did make a point of telling friends that Astrid had Susie's blessing."

Susie went on to forge a career in San Francisco as a cabaret singer and abortion activist, and continued to sit on the Berkshire board as a major shareholder in the company.

Read the whole article.

One wonders: Have they heard the word "polyamory"? Do they know similar folks, or do they consider that their arrangement was private and unique? And do they have any idea that there's a movement?

P. S.: If you've just landed on this page and are interested in learning more about polyamory, put the word into Google or Wikipedia and off you go. Or better yet, start at these excellent entry points:

New Scientist magazine article
Franklin Veaux's poly site
The alt.polyamory home page