Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

January 31, 2008

"Love Big"

Whole Life Times, and others

Whole Life Times is one of a chain of several good-looking monthly magazines about New Age, "conscious living," and health-food topics that are distributed free in health-food stores and similar outlets. Articles are shared within the chain — so the edition in your city may already have this fine piece that introduces ethical polyamory to readers who may not have heard of it.

For a growing number of sexual adventurers, commitment doesn’t equal exclusivity, and the possibility for meaningful connection is only as limited as your capacity to love.

By Andy Isaacson

Hallmark doesn’t make Valentine’s Day cards for triads. Nor does it for quads, or vees, which may best describe the geometry of Jeffrey, Meredith and John’s relationship.

Meredith is a 33-year-old teacher in Seattle; Jeffrey, a 35-year-old software engineer, is her husband. They’ve been married five years, have a baby son, and as Jeffrey puts it, imagine “holding hands and walking around parks together at eighty.” John is Meredith’s new boyfriend.

...The “desire for sexual variety” is a hard-wired temptation. For men, notes evolutionary psychologist David Buss, author of The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, the payoff is greater reproductive success, but nonmonogamy has also historically offered women access to more diverse genes and the additional resources that men tend to give the women they have sex with....

Monogamous relationships are precariously bound by a contract to resist this primal urge. We agree to sexual fidelity with our partners because the thought of them with someone else would break our hearts. But that fragile construct is routinely broken: Nearly half of respondents in an MSNBC.com poll last year admitted they had been unfaithful at some point in their lives. One in five adults in monogamous relationships have cheated on their current partner.

One result of the poll, however — that 40 percent fooled around with a friend and 35 percent with a co-worker — gets to the philosophical heart of polyamory, which distinguishes itself from other forms of nonmonogamy by its emphasis on forming loving connections. “In swinging,” explains Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol, author of Polyamory: The New Love Without Limit, “they have sex first, and maybe they become friends later. In polyamory, people become friends first, and maybe they have sex later.” Such distinctions are simplistic, Anapol concedes — the spectrum of nonmonogamy is various shades of gray — but have served to legitimize the practice, to some extent, as a more principled way to be nonmonogamous. “Polyamory tends to present [itself] as the modern, pragmatic, grown-up version of free love,” notes the blog Freaksexual.

Although relationships that look something like polyamory have long existed... coinage of the term in the early 90s gave polyamory a new cultural voice.... Having a language and a support network “makes the whole experience intelligible,” says Lara, a 34-year-old grad student in Chicago who has an open relationship with her partner of 10 years, Jon. “The emotional highs and lows, the anxieties, fear or jealousy — I can make sense of it all, because I know that other people have gone through it.”

...“Polyamory was a seductive ideal,” says David, a 33-year-old therapist in Berkeley, who for a time explored multiple partners with his girlfriend Raina. “There’s a thrill-seeking edge. It’s evocative. It does break up the idea of ‘you belong to me,’ which is a suffocating model for a relationship, and exposes you to limitless possibilities. It’s also very dramatic, since you never know what’s going to happen. But there’s so much emotional material that gets activated, it can also be nonstop processing with your partner. Ultimately, I just didn’t want to be in that energy all the time.”

...If a relationship doesn’t have a solid foundation, the outcome of opening it up to other partners can be disastrous. But on the other hand, it can yield great returns. Multiple relationships, says Dr. Anapol, offer “more opportunities to have both your strengths and weaknesses reflected. You can bring together the polarities of security and freedom, depth and variety.”...

Adding another sexual partner takes work, “But is that any different from adding a child, or for that matter, your ailing grandparent?” asks Dossie Easton.... “If we put this in a nonsexual context we get some idea of our abilities and capacities.” Polyamory, she adds, can even be a way of building extended families in an era when couples tend to live away from their own. “We don’t tend to have the grandmothers and cousins and uncles available to help out with the work of child rearing these days. Many people have built their poly relationship to serve exactly those needs.”

Read the whole article.


January 27, 2008

"When Three is Not a Crowd and the Fifth Wheel Spins Smoothly"


An article explaining and discussing polyamory has appeared in the online magazine SexHerald.com, "The Adult Entertainment and News Authority."

...The question of polyamory comes along while the country is at, tritely put, a romantic crossroads.... Years of skirmishes on sexual and gender issues between the left and right appear to be degenerating into a full-scale — and possibly much needed — war. Throwing polyamory into this combustible and tangled heap of traditional family values, religion and individual freedoms would be like dropping napalm on a four-alarm blaze.

Why is polyamory offensive? There are the usual religious objections, as well as the fear of anything new and outside the accepted norm. But maybe the most telling reason is that it makes people explore their own relationships and the fears that reside within.

To those in a monogamous relationship, polyamory can be an uncomfortable subject because it's impossible to dissect a multiple partner relationship without that same probing light beaming back at their own alliance. Questions may arise. Does my significant other feel this way? Is there a side to him or her that I've never seen? If they don't dismiss followers of the polyamory lifestyle as “perverts,” “sluts,” etc., then it's too much like looking in a mirror.

...And perhaps the most serious issue is what place do children have in a polyamorous society? The same place they have in a traditional monogamous relationship. There is a vast trove of literature dealing with polyamory and children, and the basic attitude is that if the adults do not act like their living situation is a shameful, embarrassing secret, then neither will the kids (Not to mention how much it eases the burden at parent-teacher conferences.)

Children, of course, can and will adapt to everything. Is it bad to have another parental figure around who may teach and nurture them? The argument is made that this also means there is another adult in the home who may treat them poorly and abuse them, but polyamorists fire back that this sounds suspiciously like a traditional family structure.

Whether you believe polyamory is immoral, a perfectly logical lifestyle or rather harmless, get used to it, it's here to stay. Scores of polyamory websites, such as Sexuality.org and AltPolyamory.org, inundate the Internet, almost all with vast tables of contents, informative FAQs and many members' stories. Many also hold meetings, classes and socials for those who are already in the lifestyle or are interested in learning more about it. TriState Poly [NY, NJ, CT] alone has over a dozen gatherings each month.

Will polyamory ever be accepted? Well, when hard pressed for precedents, polyamorists point out the bonobos, a primitive tribe of chimpanzees that substitute sex for aggression. That point may be all too telling. The bonobos may be facing extinction in the near future.

The article is undated, but Google cached it on Jan. 14, 2008. The site is porny and Not Safe For Work.

There's some careless reporting here. That bit about "a vast trove of literature dealing with polyamory and children" just isn't so, unless you mean anecdote, hearsay, and internet discussions among those involved. The last genuine study of outcomes for children raised in multipartner households that I know about dates from 1973 [1]. Its conclusions match what people generally observe in the poly community today: that poly relationships are either neutral or positive for kids in a household where the parents are good parents. But there's a crying need for objective, scientific studies to document that this is so — or to uncover any problems that we need to understand and address. (Hey, if you knew the answer beforehand, it wouldn't be research, right?)


[1] Constantine, Larry L. and Constantine, Joan M. Group Marriage: A Study of Contemporary Multilateral Marriage. New York: Macmillan, 1973.

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January 14, 2008

Jeg elsker dere!
(I love you-plural!)

Dagbladet (Oslo, Norway)

A Norwegian newspaper runs a very long article on "polyamori" in its magazine insert (Jan. 12, 2008). The case histories, however, are set in England, with commentary by English biologist and poly activist Anna Sharman. The story is hugely upbeat as best I can tell. A bit of fractured translation:

"It just happened. Instead of to be jealous at each other, we came to be comfortable right off. It truly gladdened me that Davina had met a girl she liked saw be comfortable," say Dean. A eve after they all three had been at a bar, closed they in bed. And it lasted. "We stayed it in bed a couple of weeks," smiles Davina. Dean and Jennifer am laughing.

Here's the text of the article in Norwegian.

This came to my attention by way of the Norwegian-language polyamory blog Magic Penny, which has a picture of the article's opening page (Jan. 13 entry).

Update Jan 31: The Magic Penny folks write,

"There have been some [more] articles on polyamory recently here in Norway. We have written about it on our blog and you can find the links to the articles here.

"—Capricorny and Inni"

Update August 2009: Also, check out Polynorge.no.

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January 12, 2008

More swinging in the news

Following up on my previous post....

A slick new online magazine for swingers has just appeared: Kasidie.com, based in Denver. This is from the publisher's press release:

...Kasidie.com is a total departure from what the general public might expect to find in an online swinger magazine. With no personal classified ads, chat rooms, or gratuitous pornographic material, Kasidie has taken an intellectual and creative approach to exploring the lifestyle of swingers. Through information, conversation and some sexy stimulation, Kasidie aspires to overturn prejudices and preconceived notions about sexuality and the modern swinging lifestyle.

"Most people hear the word "swinger" and they immediately focus on the sex," say Kasidie's publishers, Scott [Purcell] and [his wife] Nicoleta. "But the swinging lifestyle is really not about sex, it's about sexuality and it's about friendship....

Read the whole press release. Note: the Kasidie.com site has a porny look (despite the press release) and is Not Safe For Work.

The Denver Post and other papers ran an article (Jan. 8, 2008) about the magazine's launch and Scott Purcell, the web entrepreneur behind it. He brings real money and a track record to this venture, and the first issue is very professionally done. He says,

In five years I'd love to be the Playboy of the swinging world.

I admit to a little poly jealousy here (actually that would be envy) about how much bigger and better the swing world is able to do things than we can. So far.

Heck, it's big enough to support a line of designer swinger's watches, with Mary Carey promoting them. You can check out the SwappWatch at booth #68 at the upcoming Swingfest in Hollywood, Florida. "These elegant but playful watches aim to promote discreet connections among lifestyle couples by providing them a means of identifying each other easily and openly in social settings."

The poly equivalent would be infinity-heart pins and jewelry. (For instance, from Abzu Designs and PAARC.) I've worn a little infinity-heart lapel pin off and on for a couple years now, and never yet has someone spotted it and said "Omigod, do you know about poly?" Maybe someday....

Some swinger demographics: Gypsey Teague of Clemson University writes,

I just finished a project attempting to identify the percentage of swingers in [several states] and look for some form of comparison between red and blue states. What I didn't expect to find was there is no comparison. Within 4 tenths of a percent, all [seven sampled] states had 1.6% of their population swinging. It didn't matter whether the states were red or blue. The predominance of the population on the sites monitored were Boomers, not X, Y, or Millies....

No reference yet; her study is unpublished. 1.6% of the U.S. population would be 4.8 million people, which is more or less in line with other estimates.

Update March 5, 2008: There's a big article in the March Boston magazine, "Hooking Up with the Joneses," about the supposedly roaring swing scene here in the Boston suburbs. The most fascinating part to me, however, is the high-drama catfight going on in the article's comment section between local swingers and party organizers. Reminds me why I stay away from The Lifestyle. Poly Boston and Family Tree seem so gentle, kind, and civilized by comparison.

Update on "Swingtown," March 8, 2008: The CBS drama "Swingtown," about young suburban lifestylers in the 1970s, will debut on CBS May 29th at 10 p.m. Thursdays. 

What will it mean when this show appears on mainstream TV? Blogger Galahad predicts we'll have to do damage control. Read what he has to say about this and other portrayals of swinging and alt sex on network TV at The Sideshow Menagerie.