Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

October 29, 2006

Poly Love Is...

This isn't a media item, unless tribe.net is "media." But there are some real heartwarmers in this big thread, where people chime in with experiences under the heading "Poly Love Is..."

What wonderful little snapshots of poly life in our time.

October 22, 2006

"Monogamy Getting a Tad Monotonous"

The Sunday Independent (Ireland)

The largest newspaper in Ireland recently ran a long article musing on the shortcomings of monogamy — and reporting at some length on polyamory as a positive alternative:

Let's Face It, Monogamy Is Getting a Tad Monotonous

October 15, 2006

By Celine McGillycuddy

'I KNEW I was lying at the altar when we took our vows, I knew I didn't believe that it would be just us from then on and I think she knew too, we bought into the idea that marriage would put us on the straight and narrow," James, 36, tells me as he shows me his wedding photographs.

Five years later James and his wife have separated and James has deep regrets.

"I wish we hadn't tried to conform to the idea of monogamy, it's an unreal and unnatural thing, I wish we could have just understood each other and forgave each other, it was the endless sneaking around that finished us....

"I have no doubt that we were in love with one another but we were also in love with other people and another way of life. I've only realised now that we might have been able to make it work if we had just abandoned the belief that what we were doing was wrong."

...Annie is 30 and lives with her boyfriend of four years, they have an open relationship with rules. "We don't feel that we need to conform to anybody's ideas of where the boundaries for our relationship should be," she says. She and her boyfriend say they are allowed to be with other people and are open with one another about this. They also encourage one another to form emotional as well as sexual bonds with other people.... "If we are walking around town and I see a nice-looking man I might say 'God, he's gorgeous' and that won't cause insecurity, in fact it makes things better, we're open about what goes on in our minds."

...Those who have completely turned their backs on monogamy may well find themselves discovering the World Polyamory Association which is seeing its membership increase year on year. They describe polyamory as a philosophy of being involved with multiple, long-term intimate partners. They distance themselves from 'swingers' and emphasise that polyamory is not about sexual promiscuity but about creating emotional and sometimes sexual bonds in an open and respectful manner.

Such is the new nature of this type of relationship that an entire lexicon has evolved around it. Would-be 'polys' are encouraged to investigate the possibilities of having a lifestyle with more than one lover. Enthusiasts discover how to 'uplevel' jealousy into 'compersion' (joy at your lover's joy) and can look forward to feeling 'frubble' — this is the feeling of warmth and happiness a poly can feel when they see their loved ones with another lover.

One polyamorist described how comfortable she and her partner have become with their lifestyle, "sometimes we'll go for months when it's just the two of us. But if I just happen to be busy or not in the mood, then I'm not going to stop him. For example the other night I had lots of work to do, so when Simon brought a new girl home, I was in the bedroom while they took a bath, later I walked by and just said 'hi'."

She warns that as polyamory becomes increasingly popular and more widely accepted people should give serious consideration before jumping into such a relationship.

"If you can't manage one relationship healthily, you are not going to be able to manage two or more, relationships are like a consuming hobby, they take up a tremendous amount of time."

Dr Meg Barker, a senior lecturer in psychology at London South Bank University and a practicing polyamorist, emphasised that it is about "the recognition of multiple important relationships" and she dispelled accusations that multiple partners meant a lack of commitment....

A couple comments: It's a bit unfortunate that the article mentions only the World Polyamory Association as a source for more information; the couple who run it have rather idiosyncratic views. A newbie to their Yahoo group, after the article appeared, asked in frustration whether all poly people are into extreme newage (and got flamed for it). A simple Google search on "polyamory" will get people up and running better.

Secondly, Ireland is in the midst of a great breakout from its centuries of social/sexual repression, paralleling its modern economic boom after centuries of poverty. A generation ago such an article could never have appeared in the mainstream press!

You can read the whole article in the newspaper's archive.

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October 18, 2006

"Lust Life: Polyamory"

New York Press

The New York Press (circulation about 100,000) calls itself "New York's premier alternative newspaper." In its issue for Oct. 18–24, 2006, "Lust Life" columnist Stephanie Sellars describes her discovery of the polyamory-awareness movement.

The first time I heard the term polyamorous, I was on a date with a guy who was simultaneously on a date with another woman.... That was two years ago....

Literally meaning “many loves,” polyamory includes: couples who have secondary committed relationships, triads, quads, group marriage, open marriage, intimate networks and singles with multiple romantic partners. Whatever the configuration, the common defining elements of polyamory (also known as responsible non-monogamy) are honesty, openness and consent among all parties. Liars and cheaters need not apply.

Most people find it shocking that there’s actually an ethical way to have your cake and eat it too. I never had the desire to be a deceitful whore.... Birgitte Philippides, a thirty-something artist residing in the West Village, has been polyamorous all her life, but officially only in the last three and a half years. She says, “There is one model in society for relationships—monogamy. The other is cheating... it’s more socially acceptable for me to have a boyfriend and cheat on him than it is for me to openly love more than one person.”

Many polyamorists remain closeted for that reason: not only is it more acceptable to cheat, it’s more acceptable to be gay than for a straight guy to have a wife and a girlfriend. Justen Michael Bennett-MacCubbin, the founder of the group Polyamorous NYC, says, “Saying you’re not interested in the traditional monogamous relationship is a significant burden, especially when children are involved. It challenges other people’s ideas of what a relationship can be. It’s so far from their understanding that it’s scary for them. We, however, embrace an idea that we view as slightly different, but much more honest and realistic to actual human behavior.”

...It’s not for the faint-hearted. Is this just a revival of hippie free love? No — the difference is responsibility. You have to be willing to confront your fears and become a master of communication. “It’s not just about multiple booty calls and doing whatever you want. It’s about agreements you make with your partners, honoring those agreements and having integrity in relationships,” says Philippides.

When I learned there was an official term for how I was living my lust life, I confess I was slightly disappointed to discover that I was not unique in my libertine ways. That’s a minor tradeoff. At least now I know there’s a community of people who don’t think I’m crazy for eating my cake and loving it too.

It's nice to see such a clear explanation for the public that gets the basics just right, at least from the "independent actor" point of view (that is, the "singles with multiple romantic partners" variety of poly, as opposed to the "family formation" variety). Read the whole article. Then send a letter to the editor: editorial (at) nypress (dot) com.

October 17, 2006

Women In Love

Movie directed by Karen Everett (Outcast Films, 2005)

This 1-hour documentary, showing in indie venues, has become available on DVD. It explores love and polyamory in the director's San Francisco lesbian world. She writes (on the movie's website):

In the spring of 2000, a few months before my fortieth birthday, I found myself falling in love for the sixth time in my life. My lover Erin and I took a vacation to Chile at the height of our honeymoon phase. Sipping tea in a Santiago cafe and try to swallow how ridiculously happy I felt, I decide I wanted to make a documentary about love.

Seeking a broader canvas than simply my relationship with Erin, I asked my circle of friends to be part of a film about us navigating our love lives....

A few months into our relationship, Erin began dating another woman. For us, monogamy seemed tied up in possessive, fear-based behavior, and ultimately, it was a setup for failure. Erin and I realized we were both capable of loving more than one person at a time.... I filmed us going to an "ethical slut" class, a polyamory conference, and Bay Area poly support groups. I filmed intense conversations with my skeptical friends about how to sustain long-term relationships. I also filmed the dynamics between me and Erin as we processed both the jealousy and passion inspired by other lovers....

On the Polyamorous NYC site, a member wrote:

Fraught with all of the trials and tribulations of trying to make a multi-person relationship work while you all suffer through your communication-skill learning curves (sound familiar, anyone?), Women In Love shows the journey of director Karen Everett and her several lesbian lovers trying to make poly work.

Here's a review by Chias, webmaster of Polyamorous Percolations.

The DVD is now available to buy. Watch the trailer.

(If seeking to rent to video, don't confuse it with the 1969 movie adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's classic novel Women in Love.)

P.S.: The first season of "Big Love," the HBO polygamy drama, has also just become available on DVD.

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October 12, 2006

New Scientist author interview

The New Scientist article on polyamory (July 8th) was a milestone. I just learned that New Scientist also produced a podcast interview with the author, Annalee Newitz. It's very good. (Thanks to Luc for the tip).

Biggest head-turner:

"The impression that I've gotten from talking to several different psychologists and psychiatrists who've been studying polyamorous families over time is that actually they are surprisingly stable. And that a lot of polyamorous groups stay together as long as monogamous people stay in marriages."


October 11, 2006

"Things Polyamorous People Should Know"

The Stranger (Seattle)

Mistress Matisse, kink columnist for the Seattle alternative weekly paper The Stranger, presents another in her series of occasional poly columns:

Having three people in a happy, perfectly balanced sexual relationship is often regarded as the Holy Grail of polyamory. But in Arthurian legend, Galahad, the guy who actually reached the Grail, was a virgin who led a sinless life. Let that serve as an example of the difficulty and sacrifices usually required to make one's triad dreams come true....

If you can keep only one agreement with your poly partner, let it be this one: When you say, "It's fine," really mean that it's fine. Nothing sucks more than not knowing if you can take your partner at their word....

Even if you and your partner say you don't have veto power over each other's other lovers, you actually do. You can veto with your feet, by leaving the relationship.

Read the whole article (issue of Oct. 12 – 18, 2006).


October 10, 2006

Polyamory on the Tyra Banks Show

The Tyra Banks daytime-TV talk show ("empowering young women") for Oct. 10, 2006, was devoted to polyamory — with many fine, articulate guests getting the word out about the basic concepts (with the 16-year-old daughter of one group stealing the show!), and some opponents on for balance. Check your local listings for possible reruns.

The show is unavailable on the Tyra Banks website, and I haven't yet heard from anyone who recorded and YouTubed it. Someone help me out here?

Here's the promo for the show:

Would you share your lover with other women? Managing one relationship is hard enough, but in the world of polyamory, people deal with two or three relationships at the same time! To understand this committed group love, Tyra invites a group of polyamorists to the show to explain how their intimate networks function, how it differs from polygamy, the scheduling of sex and what happens when jealousy occurs. Tyra’s cameras follow a couple who are looking for a third partner out on a date with a potential woman to join their relationship. Plus, a former polyamorist explains his change of heart, and a 16 year old who wants to lead a polyamorous lifestyle!

The backstory: a couple months ago the show's producers went hunting for polys to display, and warnings spread on the poly lists that this was one to avoid — that it would probably be stupid and exploitive and awful. In the end, however, the community produced several brave and distinguished volunteers for this hazardous-duty mission: outspoken poly therapist and public speaker Nan Wise, Loving More editor and publisher Robyn Trask, Dawnd and members her family, and others.

Wrote Dawn on the LiveJournal Polyamory community: "Tyra was trying her best to be serious about the subject, while still doing daytime TV. The audience was pretty negative.... My sense is that it will likely be OK, but not as good as the Montel [Williams] show" (a surprisingly well done daytime-TV polyamory exploration that first aired last November).

But after all the fears, the show came out very well — judging by comments from Dawn and poly viewers in this LiveJournal/Polyamory discussion and elsewhere. Congratulation to all involved. Your courage created an educational event that has introduced thousands of people to the concept, its perils, and its possibilities for wonders that most people never imagine.

Check out (and add to) the show's comments page.


October 9, 2006

Polly & Marie:
Poly TV sitcom in the works?!

Reid Mihalko, co-founder of the Cuddle Party phenomenon, posts this exciting news:

New poly TV show looking for a home
and your help

Date: Oct 8, 2006

Dear poly peeps!

A few years ago, I co-created an idea for a sex- and relationship-based television show about the lives of a group of neighbors in alternative relationships and the comedy that stems from "living outside the box." I named it Polly & Marie, a play on the term polyamory.

The intention of the show was and still is to get more positive examples of alternative lovestyles out into the public consciousness. Well, the pilot for this half-hour dramedy has actually been filmed and edited and is now being shopped around for a home on the small screen!

And as great as this news is, I'm contacting you for your support and your feedback...


1) Please go watch the trailer by clicking on

2) Go to the show's MySpace page: (http://myspace.com/pollyandmarie)
and either become a friend or sign the guest book: (http://www.pollyandmarie.com/Guestbook/)
so that the producers can show the studio execs that x-number of people are actually interested in watching a show like this.

3) Forward along to your networks and peers and friends news regarding Polly & Marie.

4) If you happen to know someone who might be able to help get Polly & Marie on the air, or help build the buzz, please send me an email at reid@cuddleparty.com .


Let me know what you think. I've been pretty hands-off on the project after the initial script rewrites, and your thoughts and suggestions will be invaluable as Polly & Marie moves forward.

There's never been a show like this. With everyone's help and feedback, getting more examples of what is possible in relationships on TV can become a reality!

Love and great TV,


And here is more description of the show:

Polly & Marie is a scripted half-hour dramedy revolving around the love lives of a 30-something interracial, polyamorous couple, Scott and Rebecca McCaw, who have agreed to open up their marriage to see other people, and the sexual and relationship highjinx of their fellow alternative life styled friends and neighbors: Bartholomew and Ernesto, a monogamous gay couple, one of whom, is still closeted to his family, and the frustrated, single, sexy, and celibate lipstick lesbian, Faith, who is the surrogate mother to the gay couple's son.

Also featured are: Kevin, a gospel hip hop recording artist, who happens to be Rebecca's brother, Bell, a serial monogamist who is widow to seven husbands and may lose the eighth at any moment and Judge Eve Landers, a well-known, conservative federal court judge (Rebecca's Mother).

Victoria Rowell (Rebecca)
Dimitri Lekkos (Scott)
T.C. Carson (Bartholomew)
Ivo Cutzarida (Ernesto)
Natalie Raitano (Faith)
Kel Michell (Kevin)
Beth Grant (Bell)
Daphne Maxwell Reid (Judge Landers)
Jack Merrill (Jackson White)
Denise Vaughn (Gillian White)

Created by Reid Mihalko and Kalla Brousard

REiD Mihalko
Sex and Relationship Educator, Co-creator of Cuddle Party
email: reid@cuddleparty.com
office: 212.737.6368 • fax: 940.403.1863
Atlas Spooned • PO Box 1127, NY, NY 10021

There's a discussion at the LiveJournal Polyamory Community here.

I sent Reid the following comments:
I concur with what other people are saying — don't let this become just a titillating Sex and the City knockoff. Poly is about relationships and love. It's about people who work to make it work (or maybe don't but should). People with big hearts who want other big hearts, not just big whatevers (though, yeah, there's a place for those too). Kind, generous people who want not just a hot night, but a warm breakfast. Even if they have to get up at 6 a.m. to start the pancakes for everybody.

In other words: "Keep the Amory in Polyamory!"

(I hope that goes up on someone's wall.)

To which he replied,

The show's comedy and titillation will grow out of a foundation of big hearted characters trying their best to be authentic, and Scott, BTW, would definitely be that guy getting up at 6 am to fire up the griddle.

I love the "Keep the Amory in Polyamory!" too.

Similarly, he explains the group-grope scene in the trailer in a longer post to the Polyfamilies Yahoo Group.

Let's do what we can to make this show happen. This could be big.

Update, March 2009: At the recent Poly Living Conference, Reid said "HBO almost bought" the show. It is still looking for a network.

He also said that in the television industry, "There's a lot of interest in getting this [topic] on TV, but nobody is quite biting, because nobody knows if the advertisers will want it. It's kind of happening, but you don't see it yet, because it's not on the air yet."



October 6, 2006

Poly Comic Strips

There are way more comic strips on the web now than on paper. Webcomics number more than 7,000 [update 2013: make that more than 21,500], ranging from pathetic to brilliant. Here are 100 of the most popular.

I've run across a few poly strips:

Strange Den, which is semi-autobiographical. The characters in the author's house are real despite how they're drawn. Here's what the author thinks of her family.

Spice, an archived oldie telling the story of how the author's quad got together.

Queen of Wands, another archival strip, is at least poly-friendly. Claims to be 70% nonfiction. This page is a good, fast explanation of poly suitable for printing in large format (here's the file) and taping to your door.

The hauntingly winsome Bruno has long had polyamory drift in and out of her dreamy, ineffectual life.

The long-running, ever-popular Dykes to Watch Out For featured this sly episode a while back. (With thanx to diligent researcher Guy With Hounds.)

Those were all I found. Can you add more? Post in the Comments section below.

P.S.: Then I open my mainstream morning newspaper a couple days ago to see a Harry Bliss cartoon (not available on the web) showing one lightbulb saying to another as they look at a third: "A three-way bulb! That's hot!"

P.P.S.: Questionable Content offers this explosive-laden scene. And this update of old-timey doctoring....

Here's a lolcats that's been going around. Oh, and a bunch more: MAI POLYAMORY LOLCATS, LET ME SHOW YOU THEM. And another.

And here is a major historical golden oldie! A genuine scanned paper copy of Far Out West comics starring Polly Morfus — by "Even Eve" Furchgott of the seminal Kerista commune in Haight-Ashbury, the group that invented the terms polyfidelity and compersion. This was published in 1975, when computers were supposed to look like that thing on the cover.

Update May 30, 2008: The long-running "Fans" has returned with a storyline exploring a new-forming triad, complete with Heinlein reference. It helps to know the characters and their backstories (bad goth bondage girl with heart of gold, maybe; sweet little anime artist, a runaway from Japan; all-American Christian college kid, thinks he's Archie). And the frames can cut from one storyline to another. But never mind, pick it up from here. Keep clicking the forward arrow.

The artist clearly knows what he's doing. As the story develops he's touching one important base after another.

Update July 2008: In The New PolyAnna, cartoonist Anna Hirsch chronicles her life of multiples.

Updates 2009-10: "Oopsie" from the Polyamorous Percolations forums says she's starting up a comic named <3, an emoticon heart.

And another, from "Pictures for Sad Children".

And another, from "Not Invented Here."

A geek-thought warning from xkcd.

A new twist on the hoary old Noah's Ark trope.

The popular strip Questionable Content ran a strip on February 5, 2010 that a lot of poly readers criticized, so artist J. Jacques followed up with an explanatory strip on February 8 spelling out his views on polyamory. And at the bottom, in an author's text box, he explains himself:

It seems some people were offended or confused by Friday's comic. They felt that I was saying or implying that polyamory is somehow not as serious as monogamy, or that polyamorous folks don't enter into committed relationships, or something. That couldn't possibly be further from my intent!

What I was going for in that comic (and this one) is that the specific situation Tai finds herself in.... In no way did I mean to imply that because Tai isn't happy, ALL polyamory is unfulfilling, or not serious, or anything of that sort.

Like Dora says in today's strip, relationships exist on a continuum, and there are many different kinds of relationship that different people consider "polyamory." You certainly can have a serious, committed, happy polyamorous relationship! You can also be more casually polyamorous, like Tai has been in the comic. Ain't no right or wrong, or inferior or superior, as long as everybody's being safe and honest.

One of the challenges of working in this medium is that intent and interpretation are two very different things. I thought it was obvious that I was writing about a specific situation, and not denigrating polyamory in any way, but some people felt otherwise. That means I didn't do a good enough job! The vast majority of you guys either had no problem with the strip or actively told me that it was fine! But that doesn't mean that the minority who were bothered by it don't deserve to have their concerns addressed, which is what I'm attempting to do.

I apologize if I've hurt any feelings or offended anyone, and will try to make my intent more clear in the future! I hope this clears things up.

Added 2011: Poly in Pictures, by Lotte.

Dinosaur Comics on polyamory, an oldie (Oct. 6, 2003). And another (Mar. 30, 2011). And another (Nov. 19, 2013).

From Something Positive, regarding those elementary-school Valentine's Day rituals.

Kendermouse writes,

Flipside seems to handle it at some point, and is sex-postive throughout.... First comic is here. They have nifty "Monogamy... it's overrated" shirts, that come in a true variety of sizes!

And Girl Genius seems to be leaning that way lately, at least if the side stories and comments of the castle and whatnot are any indication. Heck, in one of the one-off side stories, it's the canon ending! (The start of said story.) :)

Just begun: the amateur furry anime strip PolyFi.

Lucy Bellwood's as-yet-unnamed mono-vs-poly autobiography. She's good. On her blog she writes that she "is currently pursuing a degree in Studio Art at Reed College while trying to figure out how to make comics the central focus of her academic and social life."

For Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner giggles, here's an oldie in the style of Gary Larsen.

Added 2012

Girls With Slingshots looks like its heading into a poly storyline. Artist's comments. Update: Ryan comments on the North Carolina Regional Poly List, "The gist of it is that two women start off in a monogamous relationship. One is asexual, and one is a very libidinous bisexual, and they decide to shift to a polyamorous relationship to deal with the frustrations presented by their dramatically different sexualities. The author admits she has very little personal experience with either asexuality or polyamory, but I've been really impressed with some issues she's tackled in the past (like safe sex, ageism, representation of a wide variety of body types, BDSM, differences in sexual experience, how differences in ability (like deafness or blindness) affect relationships, male aggression, different concepts of satisfying sexuality, etc), and I'm enjoying her attempt at approaching asexuality and polyamory concurrently. The polyamory story arc starts here." The storyline take a break for a run of guest artists, then resumes here.

Next up: Go Get a Roomie sometimes takes up poly themes, as Chloé C. in Brussels draws "the wild adventures of an upbeat hippie, living her life in love and joy. (And beer and sex.)"

More geekness: Why you should date a scientist... or a poly scientist.

Added 2013

The new Kimchi Cuddles is all about poly life and loves. (With the old exploding head meme.) "Most of the comics are based on my own experiences, but many are based on the experiences of friends of mine or from submissions from fans." It's exploding in popularity in the poly world as of June 2013, a month after its introduction.

Added 2014

Kris "Floe" Busini posts some illustrated autobiography.

My Heart Palace by Glasmond (who runs a geek shop in Munich) about her partners Cherry and Schpog.

Another slippery slope.

Added February 2015

A new ongoing strip about the author-triad's life: The Feeling Is Multiplied!.

A reader recommends Leftover Soup.

Added March 2015

Ongoing autobiography of a mono-oriented person: Polyamory Isn't for Everyone.


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October 5, 2006

"Designing for the future as it is now"

Excalibur (York University, Toronto)

The student newspaper of York University reviews a classic play from a modern poly viewpoint:

In 1933, Noel Coward wrote a play called Design For Living, which could have been written in 2006 in all but one way.

The play, which is now playing at the 2006 Shaw Festival... is about what is now termed polyamory — relationships based on unconcealed non-monogamy, ongoing relationships with multiple partners. As people in polyamorous situations have always known, and now often discuss openly, it takes a certain kind of skilled balancing to pull off the relationship in a way that is fair and happy for everyone involved.

...Design For Living is the fictional story of one such delicately choreographed arrangement. It follows the love triangle between Gilda (Nicole Underhay), Leo (David Jansen) and Otto (Graeme Somerville). Coward's play is the story of the trio's respective emotional ups and downs and evolution as a group in London and then in New York.

...Somerville and Jansen play the tense, drunken gay love scene with a subtle sensitivity. Both the actors and the director know that times have changed; playwrights no longer have to represent homosexuality as the fruit of alcohol and youthful naivété in order to justify it. Nonetheless, Design For Living is very politically incorrect in its way of representing homosexuality as pathetic vice, and this production does not censor the homophobia. [Ed. note: Noel Coward himself was homosexual.]

Design For Living, a play from the 1930s, is probably more modern, truthful and sophisticated in its representation of polyamory than any other play on the subject, [but] is a relic from a time when gay people needed an excuse to be gay. This is a fascinating play — one that should be celebrated for its startlingly close prediction of the social climate we live in today.

Read the whole article (Oct. 4, 2006).

P.S. Here's another description of the play (which actually premiered in 1932). Its immediate success led to a 1933 movie adaptation with the same name starring Gary Cooper, now on DVD. (At the time a New York Times reviewer sniffed that the movie was a "slaughter of the Coward play.")


Update December 2011: “Design for Living” (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933) is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. Carlos J. Segura gives it a major review from a poly viewpoint on Cinespect:

Lady's Agreement

Polyamory, or some dalliance with it, has been used, to one degree or another, in some films; in some to great success, while in others to not so great success. Often in said films polyamory involves some form of disrobement, to the delight and provocation of audiences. Titles that come to mind include “The Dreamers,” (which in turn takes some loose inspiration for its three-way from “Band of Outsiders”) “Henry and June,” “Y Tu Mamá También” and “Love Songs,” the only one of these titles I have not seen, but considering how prominent polyamory is in the film according to plot descriptions, it felt fair to mention.

The writer describes the inadequacies and fallings-short of the poly themes in those movies. Then:

How refreshing, surprising and almost radical, by today’s standards, that “Design for Living,” a film more chaste than any of the aforementioned titles, at least in the skin and words department, turns out to be the most revolutionary. And it was made in 1933.

Let’s better understand the sleight-of-hand Mr. Ernst Lubitsch pulls by his using the written word and brilliant, metaphorical images, packaged in the form of a rom-com, by understanding what distinguishes and makes this film the most daring depiction of polyamory I have seen thus far....

...The first half of “Design for Living” hinges on this tension of will-it or won’t-it work out. That is, will the agreed-upon arrangement function? Referred to as a “gentleman’s agreement” by the characters, it involves Gary Cooper, Frederic March and Miriam Hopkins cohabiting in a dump in Paris, where they will inspire, incite, and create at the behest and encouragement of Ms. Hopkins, their Mother Hen and spiritual patron of the arts. On a train ride, the characters meet in a near-silent and knock-out meet-cute....

They meet, they gaze, they talk, they rapport, attraction is established, as is a mutual love of the arts (Cooper is a struggling painter and March a struggling playwright). They agree, subtly, on no couplings. Soon jealously escalates between the two men for Hopkins’s affection. Before you can say “pick one,” Hopkins makes it clear that she wants both, comparing them oddly and funnily enough to hats to make her point; and the cincher: she acknowledges that her predicament is one thought to be unique to men, and yet she pursues her desires without qualm. A hardcore feminist if ever there was one....

...Yes, 2011 was a year that saw “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached,” films in which women were allowed to engage in, um, intimate action that likens them to men. But I have read what happens in each film at the end (got through half of one) and again, business as usual. Try to imagine “Design for Living” made today by a major studio and you will appreciate the outrageous, progressive and, it must be said again, revolutionary nature – revolutionary for its commitment to true bohemianism and alternative sexuality – of this dazzling (thanks to a sparkling transfer by Criterion) pre-code classic.

Read the review (Dec. 18, 2011).


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October 1, 2006

"The Revolution in Parenthood:
The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs"

Institute for American Values

Here's another sign that "What about the kids?" will be the right's argument of choice against polyamory, one that we must address. The Institute for American Values and other groups have issued a report titled "The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs". The report is written by Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Institute's Center for Marriage and Families. It says the same things as her article in the Christian Century noted here two months ago, but in more depth.

Here are parts of an article about the report (Sept. 30, 2006) from Zenit, a Catholic news agency:

Family structures and parenthood roles are being redefined without sufficient consideration for the needs of children. This is the warning of a report just published that describes worldwide trends in family law and reproductive technology.

...The report finds that worldwide trends in law and reproductive technologies are redefining parenthood in ways that put the interests of adults before the needs of children. "The two-person mother-father model of parenthood," it states, "is being changed to meet adults' rights to children rather than children's needs to know and be raised, whenever possible, by their mother and father."

The revolution in parenthood described in the publication comprises a variety of issues: high divorce rates; single-parent childbearing; the growing use of egg and sperm donors; support for same-sex marriage; and proposals to allow children conceived with the use of sperm and egg donors to have three legal parents.

...There is increasing support from influential legal commissions and legal scholars in Canada and the United States for the legalization of group marriage arrangements such as polygamy and polyamory, which involves intimate relationships of three or more people.

..."A good society protects the interests of its most vulnerable citizens, especially children," Marquardt's report contends. But the core institution of parenthood is being fundamentally redefined, often in a way that orients it primarily around adults' rights.

...In the United States at least 10 states allow someone with no biological or adoptive relationship to a child, and no marital relationship to a child's parent, to be assigned parental rights and responsibilities as a psychological or de facto parent.

"In law and culture, the two-natural-parent, mother-father model is falling away, replaced with the idea that children are fine with any one or more adults being called their parents, so long as the appointed parents are nice people," the report comments.

These changes will have far-reaching consequences for the family, children and society. "Those of us who are concerned," concludes the report, "can and should take up and lead a debate about the lives of children and the future of parenthood."

We should not ignore these concerns even if we could. Of course, throughout history most children have been raised by extended households with more adult caregivers than just the parents (including grandparents, aunts, other relatives, servants, etc. — never mind families in polygamous cultures). By comparison, today's American model of the isolated "nuclear" family, limited to two adults doing it alone, is historically unnatural, socially impoverished, and surely less enriching for children's development overall.

As for sexual matters between the caregivers, details of what goes on behind adults' bedroom doors are not the children's business in any family. Either the children are too young to know or care, or they have it explained that sexual expressions of love are done among the grown-ups privately. In any case it is irrelevant to child care.

Marquardt has done her homework on the poly movement:

Polyamorists are perhaps the newest, most unfamiliar players on the scene.... Polyamory involves relationships of three or more people, any two of whom might or might not be married to one another.... Polyamorists distinguish themselves from the “swingers” of the 1970s, saying that their own relationships emphasize healthy communication or what they call “ethical non-monogamy.”

Polyamorous unions have been around for a while — probably for a long while — but they and their supporters are now seeking increasing visibility and acceptance....

[S]upport for polyamory is not just found among the fringe types; notably, the topic is emerging at the cutting edge of family law and advocacy. In a recent report on family law, Daniel Cere of McGill University cites examples including a University of Chicago Law School professor, Elizabeth Emens, who last year published a substantial legal defense of polyamory in a New York University law review; a major report, “Beyond Conjugality,” issued by the influential Law Commission of Canada which wondered whether legally recognized relationships should be “limited to two people,” and in An Introduction to Family Law, published by Oxford University Press, a British law professor who notes quizzically, “The abhorrence of bigamy appears to stem…from the traditional view of marriage as the exclusive locus for a sexual relationship and from a reluctance to contemplate such a relationship involving multiple partners.”

Advocates for polyamory often explicitly mimic the language used by supporters of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. They say they must keep their many loves “in the closet.” That they cannot risk revealing their personal lives for fear of losing their jobs or custody of their children. That to reveal their inner “poly” nature is “coming out of the closet.” That being poly is just who they are.

One potential complication is children. Websites for practitioners of polyamory devote considerable space to the challenges of being a poly parent.

At LiveJournal.com, one mom says, “Polyamory is what my kids know. They know some people have two parents, some one, some three and some more. They happen to have four. Honestly? Kids and polyamory? Very little of it effects [sic] them unless you’re so caught up in your new loves you’re letting it interfere with your parenting.”

Another older mom advises a young poly mother-to-be who isn’t sure how to manage a new baby and her poly lifestyle....

A pro-poly website despairs: “One challenge that faces poly families is the lack of examples of poly relationships in literature and media.” A sister site offers the “PolyKids Zine.” This publication for kids “supports the principles and mission of the Polyamory Society.” It contains “fun, games, uplifting PolyFamily stories and lessons about PolyFamily ethical living.” Its book series includes titles such as The Magical Power of Mark’s Many Parents and Heather Has Two Moms and Three Dads.

See the whole report. In particular, read the section "Group Marriage: Polygamy and Polyamory" halfway down.

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