Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

November 17, 2006

Robyn Trask on the Steve Douglas Show (and thoughts on women poly leaders)

KOA News Radio, Denver

As a result of being profiled in her local newspaper, Loving More director/editor Robyn Trask got invited onto the nationally syndicated Steve Douglas radio show for a one-hour interview and call-in (Nov. 13, 2006). She was her usual articulate, voluble, insightful self. You can listen to the show (22-megabyte .mp3 file). Some interesting bits:

"In our national database that we have here at the magazine, we have 13,000 people, and that probably only represents a very small portion of the polyamorous community."

"Our hope is to reach out to and educate as many people as we can about choices in relationship, no matter what those choices are.... My relationships are certainly healthier [than before embracing polyamory nine years ago]. I say that because I have more intimacy and more honesty in my relationships. I can be more authentic and more real. I can be honest that yeah, I'm attracted to somebody, I can speak about that, I don't have to hide it or pretend that it's not happening."

"We [Loving More magazine] had a survey a few years ago, and one third of the community identified as Christian" in some form.

"We're very afraid of jealousy in our culture. Instead of running away from jealousy, in this community we have a tendency to face it — to look at it, and see what is it about. Is it about the relationship? Is it about insecurity in myself? And what can I do to resolve the problem? Rather than run away from it, or blame...."

With jealousy "It's not a matter of getting rid of it. Rather than 'getting rid of it,' you 'move through it.' For me, it's a process of looking at what it's telling me about myself. Jealousy is like any other pain. When we feel a physical pain it's telling us there's something wrong — our hand is burning and we need to move it. Jealousy may tell us there's a problem in the relationship, or we're feeling insecure in a relationship and need to talk to the person, and say, 'Here's what's going on for me.' It may be that we just need to speak about our feelings and be heard. And then again it may be — like for me, about seven or eight years ago, I really didn't like the person I had become, because I wasn't being authentic and honest about who I was to myself, or living my life the way I felt from my heart — and that was where the jealousy was coming from — that I didn't like myself. And I went on a whole quest to learn to love myself again."

"More men are open to the idea [of polyamory] in the beginning. More women handle the dynamics and the emotional part of it better."

After hearing from such a good spokeswoman, that last comment about men and women brings to mind a big shift in poly sociology that's happened in the last 40 years. I'm certainly not the first to point it out.

When the modern era of multipartnering emerged in the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, it was pretty much led by men. Think of Oberon (Tim) Zell, founder of the Church of All Worlds; Bro Jud (John Presmont), founder and leader of the groundbreaking Kerista commune (to which we all owe a debt); and any number of other counterculture gurus. The two key writers in creating the movement were very male: science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein (no counterculturalist!) and Robert H. Rimmer (The Harrad Experiment, Proposition 31, etc.). We can't skip — admit it — Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Philosophy. The free love of that era sometimes had male-entitlement overtones that put women off. In fact, female reaction against it played a key role in the birth of modern feminism, which gestated in the counterculture around 1969-70.

By contrast, today's polyamory movement, which got going in the 1980s and 1990s, has been a remarkably female enterprise. A good majority of its creators, leaders, authors, and spokespeople were and are women.

Think of Deborah Anapol (Love Without Limits); Loving More founder and powerhouse Ryam Nearing and her successors Mary Wolf and Robyn Trask; Dossie Easton and "Catherine A. Liszt"/Janet Hardy (The Ethical Slut); Wendy-o Matik (Redefining Our Relationships), Celeste West (Lesbian Polyfidelity); Morning Glory Zell, creator or popularizer of the word "polyamorous"; Jennifer Wesp, creator of the original alt.polyamory usenet newsgroup; Janet Kira Lessin, Polyfamilies Yahoo group founder Noel and her successor Julie; Polyamory Weekly podcaster cunning minx; Northwest poly event organizer Theresa Brennan; Anita Wagner; Unitarian-Universalist poly leaders Jasmine Walston and Valerie White; academics Elizabeth F. Emens, Elisabeth Sheff, Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, Geri D. Weitzman, Joy Davidson, Elaine (Cascade Spring) Cook, Leanna Wolfe, Meg Barker, Barbara M. Foster; and on and on. (Apologies to folks I missed.)

Male poly leaders have certainly accomplished a great deal, but there are fewer of them.

Any theories why?


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan, thanks so much for providing a link to this show! It's so refreshing when we get positive press, regardless of the medium. Out of curiousity, do you have any idea what the listening audience of this show is? I think I'll provide a permanent link to this show in the More in The Media section at Polyamorous Percolations. Thanks again for sharing this with all of us, I really enjoyed the show.

November 18, 2006 9:13 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Well, it says on the Steve Douglas Show site, "We are on in 38 states, Mexico, and Canada." That's all I could find.

November 18, 2006 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I think women are leaders of the poly movement because of the "democratic" nature of poly.

When all parties are on an equal footing, woman who traditionally are able to express their feelings more, find themselves in the leadership roles.

(couldn't log in for some reason but this is Rob Wilson)

November 19, 2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

In regards to your question on why there are fewer male poly leaders I think Robyn is definitely on track with her observation that women handle the dynamics better (in general) and are therefore in a better position to teach.

At the same time, I think another backlash from "hippie" counterculture era and the birth of modern feminism is that women (again, in general) tend to be viewed as more reliable sources of relationship advice than men. Spokeswomen for poly lend credence that it is not simply male entitlement and, in my own experience, make the possibility of finding such relationships much more real.

I also get this sense that female sexuality and sensuality is viewed as a much more accepted and defined idea than male sexuality and sensuality. Not that poly is a sexuality, but more that the social acceptance of women's sexuality and sensuality adds further reliability to a woman's perspective on poly versus a man's.

I hope that makes sense as it's a fascinating question to pose. :)

November 19, 2006 12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not an easy question to answer.

I suspect that a number of factors contribute to this

- In my exerience, when men talk openly about polyamory they apear to be heard as saying that men should be allowed to have more female partners instead of the truth about polyamory. I know for myself I have had a hard time convincing people that the women I am involved with are ok with it and that it is something they want. However when the woman in my life speak to the same groups of people they are believed almost instantansously. I suspect it has to do with some kind of mind set that when men talk they dont really understand the womans feelings etc so there statements are misunderstood or not believed.

- Woman have a greater ability (gerneally speaking) to communicate the feelings and the experiences of being poly better then men.

- Polyamory is a way of life that is liberating for women and as such the desire to share that empowerment helps to motivate them to speak out and for what they believe in.

November 20, 2006 9:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Paine said...

I think some of your generalizations are going to founder on the fact that the poly "movement" is simply one small slice of non-monogamy and "open" relationships. It may have as much to do with the fact that poily has tended to line up with vegans and other female-centric "movements."

Women also tend to value "relationships" first, whereas men seem to look for sex first, then relationships. There are other dymanics at work.

November 25, 2006 5:39 PM  

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