Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

May 25, 2007

Upcoming poly books and movie

Several polyamory guidebooks are currently on the market. If, like me, you're not altogether happy with any of them, I know of four new ones that are in the works to one degree or another.

1. The Ethical Slut is the most widely read guide to multipartnering, with 70,000 copies sold to date — even though it was issued with no advertising or real publicity by a tiny independent publisher, Greenery Press, which is run by co-author Janet Hardy. But the book is getting old. It came out in 1997, and the polyamory world has grown and evolved a lot since then. So it seems high time for the long-rumored new edition.

It's happening. Co-author Dossie Easton talks about it on this week's Polyamory Weekly podcast with host and producer cunning minx (episode number 110; May 24, 2007). Here's some of what Easton says:

We've started writing a second edition, a revised edition, of The Ethical Slut.... At the time we first wrote it, polyamory was like this brand new word; this was very, very new in public discussion. There had been some books published in the seventies — Open Relationships and Beyond Monogamy were written in the mid-seventies — but nothing for a long time, so it was kind of a very new thing in the beginning.

Once Slut was out there, we started hearing from a lot of people who weren't part of our personal community, particularly me as a therapist. I started getting families, couples, relationships, triads, quads, what have you, people who were very different from my direct community, coming to work with me on whatever they were struggling with. And that was fabulous for me, because I got a chance to learn how a lot of different people deal with polyamory.

So one of the places that will be expanded [in the book] will be a lot of exercises and things you can try that come from me doing work with different people on polyamorous issues and trying out a lot of exercises and seeing what works and what doesn't.... Some of [the exercises are] about talking about emotions and communications techniques, some are about constructive ways to deal with conflict; we're going expand that greatly, we're going to expand the uses of the yes-no-maybe exercises....

Also, the online world has expanded exponentially since '97.... The way we communicate has changed — and we wanted to put in more things about internet communities, internet cultures, finding partners over the internet, and that sort of thing.

Beyond that, the world has become a lot more open. Both of us have been hearing from people for 10 years now, their concerns and issues. There are a lot of small chunks of information we are going to add.

Easton also had this to say about the Ethical Slut movie being made:

It's a romantic comedy about a young man from Middle America who comes to San Francisco and falls in love with someone in a poly family. It's this charming film about the collision of this extremely naive young man with San Francisco's full range of wondrous sexual cultures. It's quite delightful and educational at the same time; and funny and both lighthearted and serious. I think it's going to be a real interesting film when it gets out there.

...[Director and producer Moses Ma] wanted us to consult with him on the script, which we have done, and essentially get our feedback on what's realistic and true, and what were important things for people to know....

...This is going to represent people as they really are, which includes some struggle.... One of the things that's important to me about the veracity of the film is to say that all the characters struggle with coming to terms with the lives they want to live, and what they need to learn about themselves and how they need to grow and heal in order to do what they want to do.... It's an opportunity to show the people doing the hard work, and succeeding.... It is an attempt to model what high-consciousness people do.

Could the movie turn from an independent with a message into a disappointing sellout?

It's within the bounds of possibility that somebody will come around with massive amounts of money and decide to make it into a bigger, more expensive, fancier picture, only they want it to come out with their ending, and then it will be different. But as it stands, it's coming out as a small indie movie... and we're hoping that it will come out as loving and charming and beautiful as its producer wants.

Easton is wonderful through the whole interview. Listen here (MP3 file). It'll be continued next week.

2. Farthest along in the pipeline is Opening Up: Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships (Cleis Press). It's by Tristan Taormino, well-known queer/ kink/ poly/ sex-radical book author and columnist for the Village Voice. The publication date was set for October 28, 2007, but may get delayed. From the publisher's blurb:

Sex and relationship expert Tristan Taormino shows how to create joyful, fulfilling polyamorous relationships.... With wise and practical guidance, Taormino helps readers decide if polyamory is right for them, explains different styles of non-monogamy, and offers options for transforming a monogamous relationship into a non-monogamous one. For those already exploring non-monogamy, Opening Up offers realistic strategies for making an open relationship work, including tips on communication, negotiation, jealousy, boundary setting, and conflict resolution, as well as such practical issues as sexuality, community, child-raising, and legal considerations. Woven throughout the book are interviews with real people in polyamorous relationships who candidly share their struggles, fears, hopes, and successes.

3. Franklin Veaux (a.k.a. Tacit) runs a polyamory website that much of the poly world regards as the place to send anyone who wants to learn about the topic. Its many articles are full of insightful, practical, voice-of-experience wisdom (with some personal quirks, of course). This site is the closest thing we currently have to a general-purpose how-to book.

Veaux has been working on an actual book, with the working title More Than Two. I asked him about it, and he writes:

I'm not entirely sure when or even if that book will ever see the light of day. I'm still working on it, albeit slowly, but the editor I had been working with has left her job and moved to Germany, so it's now an orphan project. If it does get finished, it may end up being "published" through CafePress or something.

You're welcome to talk about it if you like. Who knows? Might end up helping find another publisher.

So, anyone know a publisher or a book agent who's smart enough to grab a hot prospect? Veaux is an excellent, natural writer, a widely respected name in the community (meaning the book is pre-sold to its key audience), a practiced public speaker who has appeared in the media — just the kind of author a publisher's marketing department wants. And the topic is becoming a Hot New Thing.

4. Anna Sharman in England has self-published a little 36-page book, Open Fidelity, that she plans to be the first of a series. She intends to get them published eventually as Open Fidelity: The Complete Guide. Blurb from her site:

Anna has been researching honest nonmonogamous relationships for several years. Her insights come from her own experience and research and also from interviewing lots of people, of all ages and in all kinds of complex situations, about their relationships. Because she is a scientist, and also being a Quaker, she takes the problem back to first principles, doesn't accept any dogma and draws her own conclusions.

Here's another opportunity for a publisher who knows how to spot a coming thing.

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May 23, 2007

When you meet an FGO

The Stranger (Seattle)

Here's more voice-of-experience poly wisdom from Seattle columnist Mistress Matisse (May 23, 2007).

...Even when you're all committed to multiple love relationships, there are stumbling blocks. One that Max and I had to cope with is what happens when you don't get along with your partner's other lover.

Once upon a time, Max met a woman who I'll call Anna. She seemed like a perfectly charming person, and I gave Max my consent to begin a relationship with her. But over time, it turned out that Anna and I had vastly different ways of looking at the world — in short, she started getting on my nerves. First a little and then, over time, a lot.

You've heard the phrase "a growth opportunity"? In my circle, we call something like this an FGO, which stands for "fucking growth opportunity."...

Read the whole article.


May 18, 2007

Poly and "the Uncomfortable Reality of Sex in Space"

Wired magazine online

Regina Lynn, the "Sex Drive" columnist for the geek-chic magazine Wired, takes an unusually clear look at what NASA faces in addressing sex and romance in space — now that long-duration moon bases and Mars flights are on the drawing boards. Polyamory needs to be out on the table, Lynn suggests. Because sealing a group of people into a small can for years is likely to put it front and center.

...The space agency is almost 50 years old, and while it likes to think it's a leader in exploring new frontiers, it has yet to shake off the fetters of its childhood when it comes to sex, romance and relationships.

..."We will have to address crew compatibility, sexuality issues, whether there is a necessity for sexual activity," says David Steitz, NASA senior public affairs officer.

He had the grace to laugh when I interrupted with a "Hell, yeah!"

But I was serious, too. We cannot expect astronauts to spend three years in a spacecraft and not have sex — of some kind. Probably with each other, and likely in more than one combination.

...It's [not the biology but] the touchy-feely bit that the agency will need to consider seriously. Blindly applying Earth-bound standards that astronauts cannot follow under space-voyage conditions will only lead to guilt and shame.... How do you handle love, sex, romance, heartbreak, jealousy, hurt, unrequited longing, crushes, loneliness and twitterpation when you're 18 months away from Earth and perhaps unsure whether you'll make it back?

You cope with it the way you do everything else in space. You rely on your intelligence, your commitment to the common good and your training.

If NASA invites me to take part in discussions about sexual standards in space — it could happen — I will suggest sending all candidates into the adult internet for a year.... They should participate in different types of adult communities until they become comfortable with the wide range of human sexual relationships.... They can observe and experiment with sex without possession, partnership without monogamy, sexual pleasure without expectation of roses or breakfast.

They can discover group love, bond with a special someone, or both. They can try letting go of jealousy and fear, figure out how to protect themselves from other people's drama, and develop healthy ways to cope with desire, love and rejection.

Some astronauts might discover they are comfortable with polyamory or bisexuality while others might reaffirm their commitment to monogamy. The important thing is that they practice living and working respectfully with others regardless of who is sleeping with whom.

We need to acknowledge that humans will bring our sexuality with us into space and that includes all the complexities of relationships as well as the relatively simple matter of bodies. NASA cannot avoid confronting those complexities, especially now that the public knows even astronauts sometimes confuse obsession with love.

"How long can humans go without sex?" is not the right question.

I don't care if you have a same-sex crew of great-grandparents who have never had a flicker of sexual desire in their entire lives. Lock a group of humans into a ship, sail them through space and time, and it won't take long for that deep, ancient need for touch and intimacy to surface.

Read the whole article (May 18, 2007).

The issue of how to handle love and sex on a long Mars flight will strike many polys with deja vu. A seminal book that helped to launch the polyamory movement was Robert Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).1 It begins, "The first human expedition to Mars was selected on the theory that the greatest danger to man was man himself." A fictional space agency decides that four married couples would be the stablest crew configuration. But the mission ends in murder and catastrophe due to the captain's in-flight affair with another man's wife. Born of that affair is the hero of the novel: a baby who is raised by unisex Martians, returns to Earth in adulthood, discovers human male-female love, rejects jealousy and possession, founds a polyamorous society of Martian-speaking initiates to be the next stage of human evolution, and goes to a Christ-like martyrdom to spread the group's message of love unbounded.

My own view, after thinking about it for decades, is that sealing a group of people into a small can for years will require either (1) complete voluntary celibacy, perhaps by choosing the crew from the few percent of the population who are genuinely asexual, or (2) the crew being ready to adapt to all romantic and sexual developments in very close quarters. In other words, being good at handling poly. This takes knowledge and training — and frankly, we're the experts. NASA, take note.

NASA is not yet acting like grownups; the fairly serious book Sex in Space (2006), by space-program journalist Laura S. Woodmansee, apparently threw NASA authorities into a moral panic. With long-duration International Space Station stays now routine, and with rumors of couples who've tried it in zero-g, NASA remains scared of the issue. But as a National Academy of Sciences committee report warned in 2005/06:

"Whereas the committee recognizes the task-oriented nature of both the crew and the mission, it concludes that ignoring the potential consequences of human sexuality is not appropriate when considering extended-duration missions. Areas of concern for the 30-month Mars mission include the potential psychological and physiological consequences of sexual activity, consequences that could endanger life, crew cohesion, performance, and mission success."

Lastly: remember Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit? A man and two women, one a lesbian, arrive in Hell, where they get sealed up in a hotel room together forever. The play's classic line: "Hell is other people."

Sartre, and his partner Simone de Beauvoir, had a lot of experience with MFF threesomes. The play seems (to me) to say that the characters' only chance at redemption is to make this sealed-up hell a heaven, by grace of doing what none did in life: truly loving one another. (Here's my essay on No Exit as a poly fable.) Maybe there are lessons here about what people will face being sealed together in a can for long durations.


1 Nearly a half century after Stranger was published, and even a little after the years in which the story takes place, Josh Wimmer has written (on io9.com) a thoughtful examination of its continuing place in science fiction and the wider culture (Jan. 31, 2010).


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May 15, 2007

"Where Mother's Day Strikes Thrice"

Time magazine

A debate recently raged on the LovingMorePolyactive Yahoo group about how broadly or narrowly to define "polyamory" — and, in particular, what we might have in common with Mormon-based polygamist families. Most of the debaters (including me) were skeptical that any connection between secular, egalitarian us and the literalist Book of Mormon followers would be possible or desirable, on either our part or theirs.

But you've got to hand it to Principle Voices, the leading pro-polygamy group in Utah — they know how to do public relations. They recently helped get this fine article into Time magazine (May 11, 2007) on the occasion of Mother's Day. We could take lessons here.

And for that matter, doesn't this household sound kind of familiar?


Since last fall, eight-year-old Sam Jensen has been nurturing a seedling, along with his other classmates at school, to give as a Mother's Day gift. This Sunday, he'll proudly present the thriving plant to his moms — all three of them — who will also receive corsages from their husband, and a giant card from their 11 children....

For the Jensens [a pseudonym], being outside the law is simply the price to pay for a lifestyle consistent with their faith. Robert Jensen, like his wives, grew up in polygamous households. "This isn't something frivolous — it is deep-seated in us to do this," he explains. They follow the original teachings of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, which include the practice of polygamy [as a requirement for males to enter Heaven]....

And Robert Jensen believes they've gotten a bad rap. Disgust crosses his face at the very mention of Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who is currently under arrest and facing charges on two counts of being an accomplice to rape.... "To stereotype polygamists as all one way, is like picking one monogamous family and saying they are all like this," says Robert, visibly irritated by the question.

His own wives see one another as an indispensable network of emotional support and load-sharing. "I wouldn't be the mother I am or the wife I am without my sisterwives," says Abigail. Since marrying at age 18, she has shared a life with her husband his two other wives for 14 years. The intimacy of their sisterwife relationship has been forged by sharing the experience of witnessing births, weathering deaths, caring for the children, running a household, and sustaining a good marriage. "You are closer to them than your own sisters," says Regina, as she dishes hash-browns and fried eggs on to plates for all the family's fresh-faced children streaming in, hair parted, pigtails still wet, shirts tucked in.

Like girlfriends, they go shopping, to the pool and on vacation together. Like sisters, they share their clothes and shoes, and the same maternity wardrobe. Like mothers, they veto each other's wardrobe choices and provide perspective checks on minor problems. And the bond with her sisterwives saved Regina's marriage when her four-year-old son was killed in a car accident. Men deal with death differently than a woman, she says, but her sisterwives grieved with her, reinforcing and validating her emotions, which they shared because of their intimate involvement with the child she had lost. "Without their support through this, I would have been in the 90 percent of marriages that end in a divorce after a child's death. I can see why they don't make it," says Regina, mad and sad and pausing for breath. The kids have left the kitchen; only Robert hears this.

Regina sees other advantages in the polygamous relationship: "This lifestyle helps things from becoming overwhelming and it has given all of us more choices," she says.... Judy, who has a new baby, is the designated stay-at-home mom. Regina is a successful home designer whose job requires travel, while Abigail recently began work as a teacher after the family agreed that a third income was needed — her sisterwives covered for her at home, allowing her to earn her associate's teaching degree in one year rather than two. In fact, the women constantly cover for one another on many of the commitments familiar to any suburban parent, from piano recitals to Little League games.

...Lest their picture of domestic bliss seem too idealized, Judy points out though that not all polygamist families work as well, and that the husband sometimes pits one woman against another. "Some of my friends have loved it and others hated the plural marriage lifestyle."...

Read the whole article.


May 8, 2007

Montel Show redux: not so nice this time

In November 2005 the Montel Williams daytime-TV talk show did a surprisingly good job interviewing a panel of poly people, despite a lot of folks' misgivings beforehand.

But daytime TV is fickle. This afternoon (May 8, 2007) the Montel Williams Show aired a new segment featuring polyfolks — this time Loving More's Robyn Trask and family and friends. They discovered at the last minute, on arriving for the taping, that they were to be briefly displayed on a show titled "X-Rated Family Values" along with a porn star and other presumed cases of questionable parents. In short, they were ambushed.

There are lessons here in how to deal with the media — TV and daytime TV in particular — as Robyn describes in her account of the experience on the Loving More site.

Also, if you plan to be interviewed, read the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom's first-rate advice for appearing in the media.

I haven't found anywhere to view the show online.

A person who was on the previous Montel show has just watched today's episode and posted that the final edit actually didn't make Robyn and company look so bad after all, considering how it might have, and rated its treatment of polyamory as "middling."


May 4, 2007

"She was just one of the people who shone."

The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland)

Remember the murder case of Angelika Kluk in Scotland last fall? After she was killed — by a church handyman who was convicted today (May 4, 2007) — it came out that she had been lovers with a respectable local married man, and in the weeks after the tragedy he and his wife went public to defend polyamory in theory and practice.

In the last few weeks the trial has riveted Scotland; see BBC coverage and much more. In the midst of this, the May 5th Glasgow Herald readdresses her lover's polyamorous partnership:

Angelika’s lover and his wife tried to include her in marriage

by Calum MacDonald and Lucy Adams

Amid all the bizarre allegations and innuendo about Angelika Kluk, one fact is undisputed: she had a married lover.

Martin Macaskill, 40, met Angelika when he was driving for a wealthy Russian family for whom she was working as a nanny.... Mrs Macaskill revealed that she and her husband believe in polyamory, a system that condones open relationships and loving many people at the same time. The love may be sexual, emotional or spiritual.

The phenomenon developed in the US but has since become increasingly popular in the UK.

The couple, who had been married for 12 years, had been trying to find a way of including Angelika in their lives when she was killed....

...Mrs Macaskill wrote her own tribute to her husband's young girlfriend: "My life has been touched by an angel. I dearly wish God hadn't called you back."

Last night Mr Macaskill spoke of his love for Ms Kluk. In an interview with BBC Scotland, he said: "Her enthusiasm for life and absolute passion for everything, passion for learning, enthusiasm for everything she came across was infectious, it was wonderful to see.

"She was just one of the people who shone."

Read the whole article.


May 1, 2007

Sex Diaries of New Yorkers

New York magazine

For its annual "sex and love issue," flashy, trendy New York magazine recently featured several people's sex diaries. They were so popular that the magazine extended the series online. Whaddya know, the word "polyamory" sprang up in three of them there. Is this a sign of what's supposed to be trendy or merely what's titillating?

Sex Diaries: The Single Girl
Sex Diaries: The Swinger
Sex Diaries: The Bisexual Polyamorist