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

February 18, 2007

"A love triangle? Try a hexagon"

St. Petersburg Times

Today's Sunday St. Petersburg Times (Feb. 18, 2007) has, on the front page of its "Floridian" section (photo), a great big story on polyamory featuring Florida polyactivists Cherie L. Ve Ard, Franklin Veaux, Fritz Neumann, and their lovers and friends.

By Leonora LaPeter

Cherie Ve Ard is worried. As she waits for her burrito at an Orlando Tijuana Flats, she wonders if she's giving her three boyfriends enough attention.

There's Franklin Veaux, 40, her long-distance love from Atlanta, who has surprised her with a visit. He's holding her left hand and kissing her neck.

Her longtime live-in boyfriend, Fritz Neumann, 40, cradles her right hand on his knee.

And she gazes googly-eyed across the table at her newest love, Chris Dunphy, 34, of California. They met in a Toyota Prius chat room in June, and their conversation was so intense he drove cross-country to her doorstep one day ago.

Ve Ard, 33, knows people may think she's a swinger. But these aren't casual sexual relationships, she says. They are a natural outcome of her belief that there's more than one true love out there for her at any given time.

...The term is used to define an entire range of relationships. Some polyamorists are married people with multiple love interests, and others practice informal group "marriage." Some have group sex, and others have a series of one-on-one relationships.

Polyamorists around the country gather in support groups formed on the Internet; Meetup.com has about 6,000 polyamorous members nationally. A half-dozen groups meet in Florida, including Gator Poly at the University of Florida and PolyTampa in the Tampa Bay area (178 members).

..."The majority of polyamorists are white middle- and upper-class professionals," says Elisabeth Sheff, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University.... "Many work in the computer industry, so there is a strong online community. They tend to gravitate toward urban areas," she said, "much like gays and lesbians."

...Polyamorists like Ve Ard spend a lot of time trying to convince a monogamous culture that their lifestyle is viable. Outsiders are dubious, to say the least, especially where children are involved.

"We need to have a debate right now about what this means for children... because having multiple unrelated adults passing through will open them up to a much higher risk of physical and sexual abuse," said Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and Families in New York City.

No one has actually studied the effect of polyamory on children. Polyamorists say it has benefits because there are multiple adults around to care for them.

...Ve Ard says she's not having sex with all of her boyfriends. But whenever she adds another lover to her repertoire, she sends him a "sexual history disclosure" spreadsheet, complete with names of partners, the types of sexual contact they had and the results of tests for sexually transmitted diseases. She expects the same in return.

So when she and Dunphy initiated a sexual relationship, they exchanged spreadsheets and she disclosed to him that she has had human papillomavirus, or HPV, a common sexually transmitted disease. They also got tested for other STDs, including HIV, and shared the results with each other — and with Neumann.

"Because I'm sexually involved with her, any new diseases will affect me," Neumann says.

It is hard to imagine all of this ever being simple. Sheff, the Georgia State University professor, said polyamorous relationships sometimes fail because some partners feel unequal. Typically it is the long-term partner who starts to feel neglected.

Neumann, Ve Ard's longtime beau, realizes her new relationship with Dunphy is something special compared with the other relationships she's had. But he appears unconcerned.

"New relationships take more energy," says Neumann. "But it is something we'll get through. She's going to be spending more time and energy with her new relationships. I accept that as an existing partner."

He admitted one feeling: envy.

"I just wish I had that new relationship fluffiness going on," he says. "It's like the little kid in you seeing a new toy and saying, 'I want, I want, I want.' "

He has limits. If Ve Ard's new relationships start taking up too much of her time, Neumann says he'll let her know it.

"Cherie (Smoocherie) invented the word polysaturation," says Neumann. "If she gets enough partners, all of us are going to go to her and say, 'Cherie, come on, you're spread too thin.' "

..."Seriously enjoying having two guys around the house," Ve Ard wrote in her online journal one day recently. "It's sheer bliss and I feel so absolutely loved and adored."

The three planned a seven-day cruise to Mexico on Disney's Magic. They would share a suite.

Neumann offered to let Ve Ard and Dunphy have the master suite while he took the sleeper sofa. Ve Ard said she would probably spend a few nights with Neumann.

A few days later, they boarded the ship hand in hand. All three of them.

Read the whole article. To send a letter to the editor: http://www.sptimes.com/letters/. And you can also leave a comment at the end of the article.

Update: The article was reprinted in the Chicago Tribune for March 7th, under the title "Polyamory: Moving beyond the love triangle." To send a letter to the editor: ctc-TribLetter@Tribune.com .

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Anonymous Fritz Neumann said...

Overall, a fair and reasonably balanced article. The reporter,
Leonora LaPeter, had been interviewing us since about October, and we could tell she was being thorough and following up on things, checking facts. We had also checked her other articles about things like women choosing not to marry and such and determined that she had a genuine interest in fairly presenting alternative ways that Floridians are living these days.

I am personally glad she quoted me about Envy. She kept asking me about Jealousy, and I could tell she felt it inconceivable that I would have no jealousy. Which of course isn't true: there's always SOME jealousy, but I think what makes us polyfolk a little different is that we're willing to work through the jealousy, to see beyond it, so I didn't want too focus too much on that. Also, I think so much of what passes for jealousy is really simple Envy - which in my book, isn't nearly as dark and difficult to deal with, and is ultimately more a manifestation of plain old selfishness.

So, I'm glad I was able to relay that message and that she quoted me on the Envy thing. Sometimes lights seem to go on in people when they can start separating out Envy (wanting what you don't have, what you perceive another has) from Jealousy (fear of loss of what you perceive you already have).

BTW, in contrast to the TV media we had to deal with last year [the CBS-4 Miami TV report in November; http://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/2006/11/husbands-and-wife.html ], it was a MUCH more pleasant experience dealing with a REAL journalist from the print media.

I think TV - with its soundbite-oriented, short-attention-span presentation - is not generally a very good medium in which to explain something as complex as polyamory. Exceptions exist, of course! But media that allows at least a *little* bit more depth - such as newspaper and magazine articles, extended radio interviews, film documentaries, etc. - make a better venue for our message.

February 19, 2007 9:17 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

> I think TV - with its soundbite-oriented,
> short-attention-span presentation - is not generally
> a very good medium in which to explain something as complex
> as polyamory. Exceptions exist, of course! But media that allow
> at least a *little* bit more depth - such as newspaper and
> magazine articles, extended radio interviews, film
> documentaries, etc. - make a better venue for our message.

Well, I think there have been many exceptions to this rule -- most recently the CNN Valentine's Day report, which clocked in at just 3 minutes 21 seconds (see http://www.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/video/specials/2007/02/11/sanchez.polyamory.couple.cnn ;may require Internet Explorer). I think any medium can do a good or bad job depending on the integrity and intent of its policy-makers and staff.

--Alan, formerly a newspaper writer/editor

February 19, 2007 9:34 AM  

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