Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

June 30, 2008

"A Husband, Three Kids and Two Boyfriends???"


An online magazine "for Moms who want to know a little bit about a lot of things" interviews Robyn Trask, the director of Loving More, as part of the magazine's "Secrets in the Suburbs" series:

We had no idea what a polyamorist was...until we met Robyn. She may seem like your typical suburban mom, but her life is anything but average.

...She's a 44-year-old mom of three and a polyamorist who's currently involved in loving, intimate relationships with three men. And she's open to more, time permitting.

ML: What is polyamory?
Robyn: Polyamory is a romantic relationship with more than one person. It is usually a committed relationship, but polyamory can come in all forms. One form is called polyfidelity, it means that there is a committed relationship between the people, and they are sexually faithful with each other. There can be three people in the relationship or more.

ML: What kind of a polyamorist are you?
Robyn: I am a more open polyamorist. I have a primary partner, Jesus, and we live together with my three kids. He has another partner in Michigan, and I have two other partners who I am in long distance relationships with. One is in New York, and the other one is really long distance — he's in another country. But I'm not tied down to those three people. I always try to remain open. Right now my life is very busy, but that doesn't mean that if I met someone who I was intrigued by that I wouldn't make time for him.

...ML: Do you have kids?
Robyn: Yes. I have three children. David is the oldest, he's 21. My son Morgan is 17, and my youngest is a girl, Rico, and she's 12.

ML: Are they aware of your lifestyle?
Robyn: Yes, they are. The kids know that we have romantic relationships with other people, but they are not privy to the details of my private sex life and what goes on in the bedroom.

ML: How do they feel about it?
Robyn: To them it's kind of normal. They have been raised in this family their whole lives. My husband and I really opened up our marriage (and started openly seeing other people and having them visit the house etc.) when my oldest son, David, was 10, and when it became an issue when I would had a boyfriend come over to the house. So I talked to my oldest about it and he was like "OK, cool mom." Some people try to hide being polyamorous from their kids, but outside of custody cases, kids are aware of what is going on. They can sense that one or both parents are seeing other people, or maybe they sense that something is wrong. But if you just tell them what's really happening, then they feel secure (not like someone is having an affair and it's going to tear apart the family) and then they feel like they can trust you and talk to you about it....

ML: Do you or Jesus ever get jealous of the others secondary partners?
Robyn: Jesus does not have a big challenge with it. He is awesome about how he handles things. I on the other hand sometimes have a problem with it, and I have to talk myself through it. I have a handle on the fact that jealousy comes from insecurity, and it's something that I will occasionally have to deal with. But I know that polyamory is the right thing for me, and there is no way that I would ever want to be monogamous.

...ML: Do your secondary partners spend time at your home?
Robyn: Yes. Jesus and I have separate bedrooms, and sometimes our other partners will come over and spend the night. We all have dinner together with the kids, it's really nice.

Read the whole article (June 27, 2008). And leave a comment.

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June 29, 2008

Amores múltiples: poly in Spain (and new book)


Juliette Siegfried and her triad in Barcelona, who are very much out as poly spokespeople, appear in a newspaper article in their hometown. Here is the original article in Spanish (June 20, 2008). Below is Juliette's translation.

Note the reference to the book that came out last month, which is said to be the first in Spanish on polyamory. Can somebody review it?

Multiple Loves

by Anna Lladó, ADN

Photo: Roland Combes, Juliette Siegfried and Laurel Avery, in the apartment of the first two, last Monday.

"I can't understand how you could love two women at the same time and not go crazy," said el bolero. Polyamory, an emotional concept that means maintaining more than one loving relationship at a time, has an answer to this dilemma. And for it, you have to have total trust with your partner(s) and leave jealousy behind.

Juliette Siegfried, for example, feels absolutely no jealousy when her husband Roland Combes goes out to dinner or the movies or to bed with Laurel Avery, his girlfriend of a year. "When he comes back to me he loves me just as much as ever, and with Laurel each day we're better and better friends," says Juliette. "To overcome jealousy you have to have a lot of communication, and tell everything to your partner," adds her husband. Within polyamory the term compersión has been created, which means the happiness caused by knowing your partner is happy with someone else.

Juliette, Roland and Laurel, the women from the US and he English, have all just passed 40 and are now looking for an apartment together in Barcelona. They chose polyamory while fleeing from the "hypocrisy" they say is in monogamous relationships: "It's more acceptable to cheat than to be sincere," they lament.

"Polyamory offers transparency in the couple, which reduces the stress that can cause cheating," says psychologist Yves-Alexandre Thalmann, author of The Virtues of Polyamory [Las virtudes del poliamor: La magia de los amores múltiples, Plataforma, May 2008], the first book on the topic in Spanish.

The limit on the number of people who you can love at one time is determined by "the time you have to give and how demanding your partners are," says Roland. Thalmann compares it with maternal love or friendship, which don't have quantity limits.

Don't confuse polyamory with casual sex with other people. "Don't even think that it has to do with looking outside for what you don't have at home," insists the French author. The pool of people that are interested in polyamory is very limited.

Often, the most difficult thing is managing these relationships day to day. "We have two bedrooms, and Laurel and I take turns sleeping with Roland, without a strict schedule," explains Juliette, who brings her boyfriends home with no problem. When her husband is with her, Laurel doesn't call; when he is with Laurel, Juliette doesn't bother them.

Roland assures us that when he is with one of his two women, he only thinks about her. His family and friends are growing to understand their unusual relationship little by little. If they end up having children with Laurel, as they would like to, things will get more complicated.

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June 16, 2008

In California, gay-marriage opponents cry poly peril

Same-sex couples in California have been marrying for nearly a whole day now, and the state hasn't yet crumbled and fallen into the sea.

But polyamory was very much in the news during the final days of the California countdown.

On June 12th, the Christian-affiliated Liberty Counsel filed a petition asking a lower court to put a stay on the California Supreme Court's decision allowing gay marriage. Their argument?

"To prevent a violation of federal and state law by opening the door to de facto polygamy and polyamory."

The group's petition included a diagram of a six-person polycule looking like a benzene ring (Exhibit 1; page 28). This structure, the petition argued, could be created if a group of people linked a same-sex marriage in California, via non-marriage civil unions in other states, to couples in traditional marriages — it would not violate laws against bigamy. The petition went nowhere (lower courts don't overrule supreme courts), and editorials and blogs derided the human benzene ring as ridiculous. Hmmm....

This happened during Gay Pride Week — two days before I was to set up a polyamory booth at the Boston Pride Festival, for Poly Boston, Family Tree, and the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense & Education Fund. As I installed our big, cheery "POLYAMORY!" poster (legible a tenth of a mile away) over our booth on City Hall Plaza, I wondered if we would get blowback. Would Pride people see us as the skunk at the garden party?

Nope. The folks who came by the booth all day ranged from friendly to squeeingly enthusiastic. What fun! We gave out lots of stuff, and I was surprised that most people (at least in this campy crowd) were already familiar with what poly is about.


Now about that benzene ring. I actually know people in a relationship sort of like that. But my experience is that when poly activists discuss legalized group marriage, the discussion quickly runs up on the rocks of how extraordinarily complicated any state recognition or regulation of poly relationships would be.

Same-sex marriage is simple. It maps exactly onto the legal regime that already exists for straight couples. (At least this has been true ever since the courts started regarding men and women as equals.) But how would the law mandate, for instance, property rights and responsibilities in partial poly divorces? What about the rights and responsibilities of marriages that merge into pre-existing marriages? Setting default laws for multiple inheritance in the absence of a will... allocating Social Security benefits... it goes on.

And because there are many different basic kinds of poly relationships, compared to only one basic kind of couple marriage, each would need its own legal regime — and we know how good the state is at regulating complicated personal matters.

Moreover, poly relationships can change from one kind to another while continuing to exist. An equilateral triad can become a vee or vice versa, or something in between. The flexibility to adapt — to "let your relationships be what they are" — is a core value in the poly groups I know. How would the state keep up with your particular situation?

I've also heard it argued that opportunities would abound for unscrupulous people to game the system in ways the law couldn't easily address: for people to pretend that their poly relationship is a different kind than it really is, or that they're in poly relationships when they're not. (For instance, could gang members group-marry to gain immunity from each others' testimony?)

The discussions quickly come around, instead, to business-partnership models for poly households, such as subchapter-S corporations or family LLPs. These are already well developed to handle a wide variety of contractual agreements between several people.

Looking farther ahead: good law follows reality rather than precedes it. Fifty or 100 years from now when poly households are commonplace and their issues are well understood, I'm sure an appropriate set of law will have grown up organically to handle the issues that arise. At least that's how it works when civil society is allowed to go about its business, free of religious or ideological compulsion.

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June 11, 2008

"Redefining love and sex" in middle age


WomenBloom is an online magazine "inspiring and supporting women to make the most of midlife," with midlife being the "40s and beyond." A lengthy article looks at polyamory as an option for women seeking to expand their horizons as life advances. The article describes realistic pros and cons.

Redefining Love And Sex: Polyamory

9 June 2008

...It's a lifestyle that isn't for most of us, but learning more about it is almost guaranteed to make you think differently about relationships in general.

...In talking with midlife women, I realize the extent to which we are redefining relationships to suit our needs, from the traditional to the not-so-traditional. In the western world at least, marriage and relationships based on economic necessity are on the wane. Much more so than in the past, women are, or can choose to be, financially independent. So, more and more we focus on finding partnerships that meet our emotional needs.

...Polyamorists, or polys, are not to be found on every corner, to be sure — it is a challenging concept for most monogamously minded folks. But, in a recent women’s group on relationships I attended, I was startled that two of the eight women there were either in or considering such an arrangement.

...Polys look at love as an abundant commodity instead of a scarce one. They ask why can’t you be intimate with more than one person? When pressed to explain why not, I find myself grasping a bit.

...Polys also believe this lifestyle allows you to maintain a relationship with those you care about even if the relationship shifts, changes, or ends. Just because you and a romantic partner break up and you take up with someone else, it doesn’t mean you have to give that person up as it might if you were in a monogamous relationship.... Several polys I spoke with emphasized this and mentioned examples of relationships in their own lives that had undergone several transitions over a period of years. They valued and kept the relationships even as they changed forms.

...Lauren muses, “The thing I've found is that poly is a completely different game than looking for a mate. I've already got one of those. I can be so much more relaxed about a potential partner that I can focus on and appreciate what's special about him, without needing him to satisfy a whole host of other criteria I would be using if I were looking for a ‘one and only.’”

The attention she is receiving is wonderful, flattering, and has breathed new life into her and into her marriage. “Poly allows me to have my cake and eat it too — have wonderful, fulfilling relationships, and keep my family together and happy as well.”...

The Downside

That said, it’s easy to see that this lifestyle presents many challenges. One that is top of mind is the question of STDs....

Another challenge that cannot be understated is that sharing someone you are intimate with can be extremely difficult. Polys are very aware of what they call NRE or, new relationship energy. In the first flush of a new relationship (and going forward), it takes great care and attention to make sure the “old” partner’s needs aren’t ignored....

...And, it seems obvious that one needs very strong relationship skills to manage a poly lifestyle successfully. If communication and honesty are not top priorities in your relationships, poly probably isn’t for you.

...From initially blowing my brain circuits, exploring this lifestyle has brought a new realization of just how fluid the boundaries of our intimate relationships are. For me, the key really is that poly simply brings into the open behavior that happens in one way or other on a fairly frequent basis among us humans. No, it emphatically is not for everyone. But, for those of us in midlife who find the traditional ‘two people meet, fall in love, and get married’ scenario too confining or simply outdated when it comes to our intimate relationships, considering a poly lifestyle may, at the very least, stretch our minds to see that there are other possibilities for arranging our love lives.

Read the whole article. Once again, It's good to see poly simply being presented as one life option to consider among many.


June 7, 2008

Three New Polyamory Books

It's been four years since the last polyamory guidebook came out: Anthony Ravenscroft's Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful, which I find rich in ideas but overwritten, over-opinionated, and poorly edited. And there were only a few poly books before that.

Now all of a sudden we've got three new ones. What are they like?

Each is very different from the others, and each is very good in its own way.


1. The Polyamory Handbook: A User's Guide by Peter J. Benson (392 pages, AuthorHouse, March 2008).

Pete Benson has been living poly and devoting serious thought to it for decades, and he's a regular at Loving More gatherings. He has compiled a big, well-organized, workmanlike guide to every Poly 101 and 201 issue you can think of and then some. On nearly every topic he stays close to the conventional community wisdom, and to me this is a good thing. The community wisdom is the hard-won distillation of countless people's trials and errors. Benson certainly has his own opinions, but he doesn't let them get in the way.

Like a medical handbook, this is more for browsing than reading cover to cover. Pick an issue and here it's dealt with, in 122 subsections of 10 chapters. The chapter categories are: Is Polyamory for You?, Varieties of Polyamory, Ethical Considerations, Sexual Hygiene, The Relationship Agreement, Relationship Skills, Resolving Issues, Day-to-Day Living, Multi-Adult Families, Legalities, and an appendix of resources. It's heavily cross-referenced and has a good index.

At last February's Poly Living conference, longtime activist C. T. Butler observed that the poly handbooks up to then, perhaps trying to stay "respectable," hadn't said much about managing the dynamics of group sex (polysexuality), even though this skill can be crucial for a tightly interbonded poly group and is not exactly taught in school. Butler suggested that this be a criterion for rating future poly guides. Benson devotes just a couple pages to polysexuality, mostly to warn about the "who's getting left out" syndrome but not saying much about the ways to prevent it. On the other hand, he devotes 38 informative, explicit pages to safer sex — an essential part of any poly guide.

Although most of the book is very matter-of-fact, in the introduction Benson shows his mystical side:

In Chapter 6, talking about human interconnections in twosomes and larger groups, I use a metaphor from chemistry, refering to individuals as "atoms" and couples and larger committed groups as "molecules." The metaphor is actually quite close. In any chemical molecule (containing two atoms, three, or thousands), each atom exchanges energy with the others in such a way as to create the chemical bonds that hold them together....

Our dominant western culture has repressed the formation of human "molecules" larger than two "atoms" — the equivalent of carbon monoxide or table salt. Now many people are rejecting those limitations and exploring the possibilities of combining three people, or four, or more. What are we in the process of evolving here? We cannot know, any more than a molecule of water or methane can anticipate a DNA molecule or a human body or human mind.

But something big is stirring — and we're all part of it.

Benson says that he intends the book to be an asset not only for polys themselves but for "professionals in all areas of counseling and psychotherapy, who must be able to respond effectively to clients and parishioners who come to them for advice with polyamory-related issues." I'm going to give a copy to my Unitarian-Universalist minister for him to keep with the other counseling guides in his office — partly to tweak him a little on his antsyness about the subject, but partly because the book really belongs there. If you're reading this blog, it belongs on your shelf too.

Benson self-published the book through AuthorHouse, which means it won't get any real marketing, publicity, or bookstore placement. It will have to find its audience by word of mouth. Benson seeks feedback for additions and improvements to the future editions that he hopes to produce; The Polyamory Handbook could thus become a living, growing document. Hopefully a serious publisher will spot its potential before then.

Read the table of contents and first few pages.

Here is Benson's press release and more about the book.


2. Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block (276 pages, Seal Press, May 2008).

This book, by contrast, is an intimate, read-in-a-day personal memoir. Jenny Block tells how she grew up in suburban Dallas confused and conflicted about society's messages regarding sex and marriage, then found her way through college relationship romps, a period of Stepford Wife misery in a gated community, rocky affairs, a marriage crisis — and then a wonderfully successful open marriage. It's now a tight polyfi vee with her husband and her girlfriend. Whenever you begin to think the story is too much about her, she veers into cogent, insightful essays on love, marriage, expectations, and feminist independence, drawing on a wide variety of interesting sources.

Block projects confidence, authority, warmth, and zest. She's gotten knockout pieces into the Huffington Post, Tango magazine (where she just began a regular column), and other smart outlets. She has just set out on a readings-and-media tour. A literary agent has contacted her about movie rights. A subtext that she is deliberately projecting is that you don't have to be born weird to blaze new societal trails. Through pluck and hard work, you too can achieve happy weirditude even if you dress sharp and come from Dallas. This certainly makes her book a welcome addition to the poly canon. She'll be an especially good role model for women who haven't quite yet grasped that feminism is good for them.

A useful bit from her college days:

Having partnerships in which the parameters of both partners' expectations were clear from the get-go, with no question about what each person wanted, made for very fulfilling sex, regardless of emotional connection.... Hilda Hutchinson, an ob-gyn in New York City and a clinical professor at Columbia University, writes, "Sex is always better and more deeply satisfying when your motivation for doing so is simple and healthy."...

The message I got growing up had been that sex is only good when it happens in a relationship between two people who love each other. But what I discovered instead was that love, sex, and relationships — or any combination thereof — could be good or happy or successful when the participants' expectations were shared and understood.

You can read Chapter 1 online.

Here are her book blog and tour schedule. Watch how she handles a TV appearance.

Here's a pair of reviews in Library Journal.

Here's an interview with her in Richmond Magazine (she used to live in Richmond, Virginia.)


3. Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino (371 pages, Cleis Press, May 2008).

This third book combines the best elements of the first two.

Tristan Taormino is another compelling feminist character, but wilder. She's X-rated, brassy, and brilliant, a sex educator, writer, and porn director ("I believe I can change the world one feminist porn video at a time") and is probably best known as the leading how-to expert on anal sex for women. This is the 33rd book that she has authored or edited, by my count on Amazon. Most are annual collections of lesbian erotica and how-to guides to non-vanilla sex practices.

Lest anyone be frightened off by this, in Opening Up Taormino carefully puts the raw stuff mostly aside to keep this a relationship guidebook. (In a recent interview, for instance, she directs people wanting polysexuality advice to The Threesome Handbook by Vicki Vantoch instead.)

And this is no quickie book, either. It is the longest and most substantial of the three reviewed here. (In fact, Taormino says it was originally 675 pages long and the publisher made her condense it down.)

From the introduction:

The first time I saw someone have sex right in front of me, I was mesmerized, awestruck, turned on. It was really cool. The 400th time, it's still cool, but it's different. I found myself less interested in the surface of what I was seeing — how he licks her, the noises she makes.... Instead, I was much more fascinated by who the people are. Are they a couple? How long have they been together? What made them decide to come to this sex event?... I want to know what the context is for what I am watching. I want to know about the inner workings of their relationship.

And no wonder. As I got to know these people, I discovered that their relationships were a lot more intriguing, complex, and transgressive than their sex lives.... In addition to sharp communication skills and a creative sense of identity, they all appeared to have one thing in common: they were all in nonmonogamous relationships. And they'd found a way to make those relationships work so well that they exuded an above-average level of sexual and emotional satisfaction.... So, I wondered, just how do they do it?

To get started, Taormino talked with about 120 people in all sorts of open-relationship configurations. She uses their stories and experiences to help illustrate numerous ways that hand-crafted setups among lovers succeed and fail. She covers a huge amount of ground in 20 chapters and 90 subsections: Poly history and myths, how to decide if it's for you, basics of what creates success, the many styles of open relationships, safer sex, the most common problems, jealousy, compersion, dealing with relationship changes and breakups, coming out, finding community, raising children in a poly family, legal issues, and thoughts on the future of relationships. There's a big, up-do-date appendix of poly websites, local poly groups nationally and worldwide, books, and other resources. The appendix is also available online.

A message that comes through is that there's not even one set of right ways to do this. Or of ways to screw up. As Taormina put it in a recent article in the Village Voice's Naked City blog:

Once you step out of the confines, expectations, and traditions of monogamy, it might as well be the Wild West. People are constructing relationships that are custom-built for them, and no two relationships are exactly the same. Even as I managed to name and define popular styles — partnered non-monogamy, swinging, polyamory, solo polyamory, polyfidelity, and mono/poly combos — within these categories is so much variation.

True, the poly community has evolved a lot of specific guidelines about what success usually requires. Most of these revolve around "CRT" (communication, trust, respect) and traits that earlier generations simply called "character": honesty, integrity, and a readiness to choose the difficult right over the easy wrong. But as Taormino's interviewees remind us, what's necessary is not sufficient — and sometimes not even necessary. Setups doomed to fail by conventional wisdom occasionally work fine, what with their particular people's quirks, tolerances, and needs.

Here's Taormino's website for the book.

Read David Hall's review of it in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality.

Violet Blue (sex writer, podcaster, and a Forbes magazine "Web Celeb") interviewed Taormino a few days ago for her San Francisco Chronicle column, “Open Source Sex” (May 29, 2008).

Watch Taormino in a TV interview on Red Light District Chicago, an internet and public-access TV show by and for prostitutes; Part 1, Part 2.



Two additional, much-awaited polyamory guidebooks are in the pipeline to appear in 2009 or thereabouts.

The Ethical Slut, Second Edition, is long past due. The current edition dates from 1997, and even though it's showing its age (the poly world is way different and better organized now), it's reportedly selling better than it did when it first appeared. A year ago co-author Dossie Easton talked about the second edition on the Polyamory Weekly podcast, Episode #110:

At the time we first wrote it, polyamory was like this brand new word; this was very, very new in public discussion.... 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... 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.

Both of us have been hearing from people for 10 years now.... One of the places that will be expanded [in the book] will be a lot of exercises and things you can try.... Some about talking about emotions and communications techniques, some are about constructive ways to deal with conflict; we're going expand that greatly.... There's a lot information we're going to add.

Meanwhile, Franklin Veaux (aka Tacit) is finally getting publishers interested in his much-awaited Practical Guide to Polyamory (tentative title). This'll be one to watch for. His huge polyamory website is probably the most-recommended and most linked-to poly resource on the internet. Veaux recently talked about what he intends for the book on Polyamory Weekly Episode #156:

I want to talk to a lot of people in the poly community, particularly people who have either made a lot of mistakes and figured out ways to solve those problems, or people who are in successful long-term poly relationships. [Interested? Email him at tacitr AT aol DOT com.]

The approach I want to take with this book is a lot more practical and a lot less theoretical than a lot of the other books I have seen... practical, hands-on advice, that is divorced from tantric sex or BDSM or any of the other subcultures. I want to talk for example about poly-mono relationships. We need a lot more about that.... Building polyfamilies, doing poly without primary-secondary hierarchies.... A lot of the books seem to be couple-centric, but a lot of poly relationships are not couple-centric.... There's very little about people who are coming into an existing relationship, or about creating an intentional family or a polyamorous tribe....

I'd really like to focus on practical problem-solving, practical day-to-day tools for dealing with communication — for constructing relationships that are healthy and functional.

Lots to look forward to.


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June 6, 2008

15-year quad signs legal papers in California

The Daily Telegraph

"A Californian family has unveiled the latest version of family life — a marriage of four," reports this morning's Daily Telegraph, a conservative newspaper in London, England.

Four better or four worse for marriage of four


Tony, 48, Kaye, 48, Kevin, 40, and Sandi, 40, who live in San Jose, signed legal documents to give them similar status to actual spouses.

The foursome practice polyamory — the belief people can love several partners at once with everyone's blessing.

The unusual household was formed 15 years ago when Briton Tony and his legal wife Kaye invited their married friends Kevin and Sandi to stay at their home.

The couple decided to stay for good after falling in love with each other....

"We plan to grow old together and to stay this way forever," said Tony.

...The four signed legal documents so [their daughter] Ruth [age 11] will remain with her parents if one or more dies, and the remaining partners will keep the house.

The only problem the Lucks have is making sure they have enough time for each other.

"We're very busy people and we're rushing about all the time.

"We have an online diary so everyone knows where any of the household is supposed to be," said Tony.

Read the whole article.

Here's another, briefer story, in another British paper this morning, the Daily Mirror. (Tony is originally from England)

They are celebrating 15 years together in San Jose, California, and only the men don't sleep with each other.

Ruth said: "People ask which is your real mum and dad. I always say, if I pinch them and they say 'ouch' aren't they real?"

Anybody know the people involved? Would the folks in the quad be willing to post their legal paperwork, as a model for others?

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June 5, 2008

"Swingtown" and poly

Tonight at 10 (check your local listings) the 1-hour drama series Swingtown premiers on CBS. That's right, a broadcast TV network, and the one with the oldest, least-hip demographic.

Swingtown is about couples involved in suburban mate-swapping in the 1970s. According to early reviews, the show has been made safe for mass consumption by (1) setting the whole phenomenon resolutely in the past, using every 70s cliche you can think of (the hair, the mustaches, the shag rugs) and a background of golden oldies tunes, and (2) making the motivations of the people seem shallow. But that's second-hand opinion from a couple of early reviewers. Judge for yourself.

Will this redound on today's poly movement? Watch for the media to get the poly concept wrong, and be ready to jump in with comments and corrections.

If you miss the first episode, you can watch it on the CBS website.

This morning's Newark Star-Ledger starts off dumb but improves from there and closes with a very intelligent quote from Deborah Anapol:

Polyamory is the new 'swing'

Thursday, June 5, 2008

With all due respect to the, er, motion of the ocean, it's the quantity of the waves that count for some sexual adventurers.

Too vague? Okay, you come up with a peppy opener about swinging that's suitable for a family newspaper. But why are we bothering to beat around the bush? CBS sure isn't: "Swingtown," an hour-long relationship drama about mate-swapping in the 1970s, premieres tonight at 10, shedding a lava lamp on the sexual revolution in the suburbs....

There's no hard evidence that casual swinging is on the upswing, or that more people are looking for mates in the plural, a practice known as polyamory, or "many loves" (sort of like polygamy, minus the religious underpinnings and exploitation commonly associated with it, not to mention the bad clothes).

But some sexuality experts say that major societal, medical and technological changes over the last century have contributed to decline in expectations of lifelong monogamy: extended life expectancy, available, effective and cheap birth control, early puberty, increased opportunities for women in the workplace, advances in fertility treatments, and, last but not least, the internet.

"I think it's leading toward quiet variations in lifestyles," said Robert T. Francoeur, a professor emeritus of biology at Fairleigh Dickinson University.... "I don't think we realize to what extent sexual relationships, intimacy and concepts of marriage are going to change. I don't think we realize how much things have already changed."

Swinging entered the public consciousness in the late 1960s.... The provenance of polyamory, in which a person forges emotional and sexual connections with two or more people, is less clear, although the term is thought to have been coined nearly 20 years ago.

...Polyamory is not a lifestyle one can slip into easily. Think one relationship is hard? Try balancing the emotional and physical needs of three or four people. (Not to mention the division of labor: "It's just like every other relationship, there's just three or four people in it," Tom said. "You argue over whose turn it is to wash the dishes like everyone else.")

Prominent polyamorist Deborah Taj Anapol is a psychologist and relationship coach in San Francisco and the author of "The New Love Without Limits," and the co-founder of "Loving More Magazine."

"A lot of people are just not equipped to have more than one relationship at a time," said Anapol, who was born in Camden.

If you're interested, the first step is to have an open and honest discussion with your current partner about the possibility. If you can't get that far, she advised, stay monogamous.

"Polyamory to me is really a spiritual path," she said. "It's a tremendous growth opportunity. It will show you very very quickly any area where you're insecure. Any old wounds that you have will come to the surface, any weak spots in your relationship will come forward. Basically polyamory will show more quickly than just about anything else all the unfinished business you have in your life."

Read the whole article.

I'm not even going to try to post about all the Swingtown stories coming in. Read 'em here. Go have fun.

June 4, 2008

"Scenes from a Group Marriage": A child of poly remembers


"I was a normal 9-year-old boy with two parents. And then, after a fateful camping trip, I had four," writes Laird Harrison in this morning's Salon (June 4, 2008).

One day in the summer of 1971, my parents held hands, closed their eyes and jumped out of their conventional marriage into something strange and new. I was 9 years old at the time, and we were camping at Betsy Lake in the High Unitas Wilderness with another family of five. We were halfway into the camping trip when the six of us kids realized our parents had mixed and matched: My father was in the tent with their mother, and their father was in the tent with my mother.

No sound came from either tent. I remember the smell of mosquito repellent. I remember gray ripples in the lake, squirrels scrambling up pine bark and us kids nervously discussing. I remember trying to believe my life hadn't shot off its safe, predictable tracks....

Read the whole article, and the comments.

"What about the kids?" is the most serious argument that polyamory is too dangerous to mess with, at least for couples raising kids. Does opening a marriage decrease, or increase, the chance of an otherwise unnecessary family breakup? What are the factors, in your particular marriage, for choosing — and for handling it well after the choice is made? We need to address these things directly, both in public debates and in making our private life decisions.

And we need to hear more from the kids of polyamory. This article presents a mix of effects on one of them, both good and bad. When your own 9-year-old is grown — the one you imagine isn't really paying attention — what will he write in Salon about growing up with you?

P. S.: The only real study of outcomes for children raised in alternative-culture group marriages that I know about dates from way back in 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 by the usual standards. But there's a real need for more studies here.

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