Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

July 31, 2008

Jenny Block gets us more good ink

Baltimore City Paper

Baltimore's big, much-read alternative newsweekly turns a book review of Jenny Block's Open into a long feature:

Redefining Intimacy

Jenny Block — and Other Spouses in Open Relationships — Refuse to Let Monogamy Ruin Their Marriages

By Heather Harris

Whom and how would you love if no one ever told you how it was "supposed" to be done?

...Think about it for a moment. Would you love men or women? Would you love for life? Would you love in series or in parallel? If you loved in parallel, would you tell each partner about the others? What would you do if you had to create the rules from scratch?

The circumstances of author Jenny Block's life led her to wrestle with these questions as few of us do. In her new book, Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage (Seal Press), Block traces her path from monogamy to infidelity to polyamory, being in an intimate relationship with more than one person....

Polyamory may have an established presence in urban "alternative" communities, but Block is telling her story from the suburbs. The thirtysomething girl next door, the one with the handsome WASP-y husband and the adorable young daughter... has her husband's blessing to engage in sexual relationships outside of their marriage. And what she has learned by flouting relationship convention so thoroughly is surprisingly, universally relevant.

...Block convinced her husband to try a threesome with her and her friend, a much-younger firecracker named Lisbeth. Christopher agreed, not without some reservation, and one night the girls tag-teamed him. "I was watching them," Block says on the phone from her home outside Dallas. "And I had this moment of, `Are you completely insane? She's 16 years his junior. She's hot. She's much more fun and entertaining than you are. How long do you think it's going to be before he leaves you for her?'"

But Lisbeth didn't want to be a wife and mother right then, and Christopher didn't want to be married to anyone but Block. So while their first foray into polyamory hit a few snags, it didn't threaten the integrity of the marriage or cause either spouse to question his or her desire to be there. It was a watershed experience for both of them.

...Block isn't trying to sell polyamory as some sort of utopia. "My husband can leave me just as easily as anyone else's," she says. "It's just that if he wants to see if the grass is greener, he can jump over the fence, that's all. In some ways I think being allowed that freedom keeps him from running off into the next pasture. There's no fantasy about what else is out there. Go ahead, look, have at it." She stops to think for a minute. "In the end, I think marriage and relationships all bear striking similarity to one another in that we all face the same issues once we settle down with one person. Yeah, you can leave your wife for your secretary, but it won't be long before your secretary turns into your wife."

..."I totally see why people follow convention," she says candidly. "People don't want other people to be different and they don't want them to be happy when they're different, because then the implication is that they could live differently, too. A lot of people just can't face that."

Block's larger goal for her book is to make it easier for people to live differently in all sorts of ways. Open doesn't just explore polyamory; it explores what it is to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a bisexual, a breaker of convention, and a married person in America. And with each exploration, Block suggests that people should have more latitude and responsibility to do what feels right and works for them.

Read the whole article (July 30, 2008).

Next up: in Charlottesville, Virginia, the alternative newspaper The Hook did a nice writeup prior to Block's appearance and reading in town:

"It was weird that it wasn't weird."

That's how Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, describes the first sexual encounter she and her husband had with a mutual friend as part of their open marriage. According to Block, the friend was "a younger, hilarious, intelligent woman," and their relationship lasted for years....

Whole article (July 17, 2008).

Here's a short interview with Block in the June 12th Quick DFW, a free weekly paper in her Dallas hometown (published by the mainstream Dallas Morning News).

Keep up with her media notices and book-tour adventures at her book blog.

She is also writing regular columns for Tango magazine and The Huffington Post.

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July 30, 2008

The "FOXSexpert" weighs in

Fox News

On America's conservative-movement TV news show, "FOXSexpert" Yvonne K. Fulbright ruminates about polyamory in a surprisingly nonjudgmental way. She asks "Can you be in love with more than one person?" Her answer: Yes and no.

She's trying to be intelligent. Ignore that she drags in reality TV; she works for a trashy program, she has to reference the trash for form's sake.

...Somewhere along the line, reality TV took an interesting turn in dishing out polyamorous programming....

If you’re not familiar with it, polyamory (which means “many loves”) is the practice of having more than one open sexual, romantic relationship. Typically characterized as loving, poly-relationships don’t just involve sex, but emotions as well.

This practice of maintaining multiple significant, intimate relationships simultaneously encompasses love, intimacy, commitment, friendship, affection, flirting, desire, sex, romance, eroticism....

People who support the claim that humans have the potential to simultaneously love more than one person tend to highlight other matters. In “Open,” Jenny Block, herself in an open marriage, criticizes Americans for being limited in their thoughts around love. She has a particular issue with society’s view that the only relationship that counts is the heterosexual, monogamous marriage.

Block argues that humans are capable of loving as much as they allow themselves. This is particularly important given that no relationship is static....

While I certainly understand many of Block’s points, as somebody who doesn’t like to share when it comes to sexual partners, I wasn’t convinced that she had a case until it came to the matter of defining love. Whether trying to sort through the latest season of “The Bachelor” or attempting to comprehend another couple’s structure, the fact that there are different types of love needs to be considered in understanding polyamory....

...A great deal of biological research alone supports the structure society has in place for monogamous love. One could argue that, when you’re truly falling in love with somebody, there can be only one. [For example,] researchers like [Helen] Fisher have shown how dopamine in the brain increases greatly when we fall in love with somebody. This neurotransmitter is what makes for a person having extremely focused attention, incredible motivation, and goal-directed behaviors when it comes to winning over a crush. Lovers consumed with feelings of romance are known to focus exclusively on a beloved and no one else.

Everyone is going to have their own take on whether it’s possible or not — whether it’s right or not — to love more than one person at the same time. Perhaps of greatest concern, however, should be how the one juggling multiple partners is treating the suitors involved. In being sexually promiscuous, is this person using others for his or her own gratification?

Better known as “players,” these individuals are generally chalked up by psychologists as having relationships that are immature, incomplete, and sexually focused. Reality TV or not, that’s polyamory at its worst.

Read the whole column (July 21, 2008).

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July 26, 2008

Portuguese poly roundup: "The winds of freedom are blowing"

Do you or polyfolks you know speak Portuguese? Some items of interest:

1. Estadão, the second largest newspaper in Brazil, recently published a long feature article on open relationships:

Amor sem amarras; Love without tethers

By Fabiana Caso

After the dictatorship of the traditional family, today the winds of freedom are blowing.... And contrary to the rule that possessiveness is part of love, some couples decide on open relationships. Unlike polyamory (poliamor), this is not about maintaining parallel/equal relationships, but having the right to be with other partners if there's physical attraction. Though in general these dating relationships do have rules and agreements.

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir were the most famous couple of the 20th century to adopt this model.... [Such couples] believe that despite having a stable relationship, they do not need to bypass opportunities that come their way....

"I was his first girlfriend [says young wife Ana], and I knew he had less experience than me. I made sure he felt free to try other people, and not be frustrated for the next 40 years by regretting what he had lost" by marrying early. But the agreement had rules: she did not want to hear about it.... "I am not jealous of what I do not know."...

In [the social-networking group] Orkut, the largest community of open relationships has 2,500 participants. Among them is Marcelo, a 30-year-old systems administrator in São Paulo who offers some interesting comments. He had an open relationship with a former partner the lasted almost eight years. They had a critical view of societal behavior-shaping, and discussed possessiveness in anthropological studies.... "We had a very strong loyalty in maintaining the relationship, especially after opening it."...

The article goes on to describe several people's open relationships, with different levels of nondisclosure, that broke up.

Read the whole original (July 20, 2008), and you can still seja o primeiro a comentar.

2. In Portugal, Público reported on Lisbon's annual GLBT parade and mentioned that, despite the talk of unity and solidarity, the polyamory contingent in the parade upset some of the more conservative gay marchers: 'Orientação sexual não é um tema “fracturante” '; see the last paragraph and the photo caption (June 28, 2008). In the comments, a poly organizer says the contingent was Poly-Portugal, which has been around for four years.

3. Poly-Portugal runs a Yahoo discussion group. A few months ago, organizer antidote73 announced, "We are trying to make a very concentrated effort to bring most of the polyamorous people living currently in Portugal onto the mailing list so that organisation and information about parties, discussions, meetings, dinners gets easier and more convenient."

4. The same folks run the Poliamor website, with Portuguese-language explanations and worldwide links.

5. See also the blogsite Our Laundry List (Nao-monogamia responsável e outras utopias possíveis): "Escreve-se aqui principalmente sobre POLIAMOR/POLYAMORY, nao monogamia responsável, mas também liberdade, GLBT, DIY, criatividade quotidiana e utopias definitivamente possiveis."

6. See also the Tamêra Community, "situada no Alentejo, Portugal. Tendo em vista a paz global, desenvolve várias actividades interessantes. Entre muitas coisas importantes, defende 'um amor sem ciúmes, sexualidade sem medo, alegria antecipada sem o medo secreto da impotência, uma fidelidade que não se desmorona por causa de "escapadelas", duração no amor e novos caminhos à parceria'. (English, Deutsch, Português)."

Updates, Dec. 17, 2008: A new website: Poliamor Brasil, "Para conceituar e viver amores sem fronteiras."

In the newspaper Folha da Região (Araçatuba, SP, Brazil; Dec 17, 2008): Possibilidades de amor: "Atualmente, o fenômeno chamado de 'Poliamor', cresce no mundo e ganha adeptos também no Brasil. Trata-se do envolvimento entre indivíduos que concordam com...." (Subscription required, 30-day free trial available).

See also poliamor.wordpress.com.


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July 24, 2008

"In the polyamory world, we don't give out toaster ovens for making new converts."

The Stranger (Seattle)

Kink advice columnist Mistress Matisse holds forth on poly etiquette:

In the polyamory world, we don't give out toaster ovens for making new converts — that's for the queer people, which is just as well. I can't speak for others, but my record for monogamous-to-polyamorous conversions is pretty low.... I recommend against missionary dating: trying to recruit someone to your sexual group in spite of his or her expressed misgivings.... You're more apt to end up with an electrical fire than a handy household appliance.

Conversationally, deal with poly people's other partners the way you might deal with their children: Acknowledge that these are important people in your desired one's life. Ask a few polite questions about their work or hobbies or whatever. It's showing due respect to their existence. It costs you nothing to create goodwill with the incumbent lovers, and failure to do so could cost you: If Max and Monk told me someone who'd flirted with me had been anything less than courteous to them, well, that would be the end of the flirtation.

And a few remarks for poly people on the prowl. Disclose early and often. Don't hedge about it, or use weasel words like "special friends."...

Read her whole column (July 24, 2008).


July 23, 2008

Poly Realism on Florida's Sun Coast

Creative Loafing (Sarasota)

For its cover story this week, an alternative newsweekly on Florida's west coast presents a long, realistic article about polyamory, with three sidebars profiling local characters who are doing it.

A missus, a mister and their mistress

Polyamorous lovers keep their options — and their relationships — open.

By Justin Richards

When Vance's girlfriend meets someone she likes, there are things she has to explain before it goes any further.

The new guy has to appreciate her relationship with Vance. If he's a dominant, sexually, he needs to know that Vance's orders come first during a submission-domination sex scene. Oh, and they can only spend the night together as often as Vance can tolerate.

...It's an especially structured sort, but what this Sarasota couple is explicitly and consensually engaged in is a polyamorous relationship. In order to challenge one of society's most rooted institutions — the one-at-a-time rule for relationships — people like Vance and his partner have created an institution of their own.

In the mainstream, monogamy has been a cultural assumption on par with monotheism, air conditioning and covered sex parts. There have been strains of resistance throughout the 20th century — swingers, lesbian collectives, polyfidelitous communes — but the term "polyamory" didn't appear until the 1990s....

For many open-minded people, our sources stipulated, monogamy remains the most satisfying option. But they did argue for certain advantages afforded by polyamory. Of course, certain difficulties arise as well. We'll start with the most obvious of those.

Enough to go around?

Time, care and libido become a lot scarcer when several partners are clamoring for them. And how these resources are parceled out can cause jealousy, which polyamorous people are not immune to....

Vance has put his girlfriend and her secondary boyfriend on hiatus for the time being, he says, because she had kinky sex with the guy without telling Vance beforehand.

Although this seems like an issue of sexual jealousy, Vance says it's not that way. "If somebody starts developing a whole separate set of personality cues and a whole different lifestyle," he says, "you guys are going to drift apart.... There's a lot of that in monogamous relationships, too. It just gets more complicated when you're polyamorous."

...[Tristan] Taormino sees polyamory as a new frontier in equality. A polyamorist is unprotected against discrimination, and Taormino writes in Opening Up that coming out as polyamorous can be risky. She spoke with two people, in researching her book, who lost custody of their children due to polyamory.

...Lilian's parents know about her boyfriends, but they never allow her to bring both to the same gathering. So she brings one of them to Thanksgiving, for example, and the other to Christmas. That way, she says, "They can pretend really hard."...

Read the whole article (July 23, 2008). And leave a comment there.

Here are the three sidebars:

Michael: the Pioneer

Michael Rosen-Pyros is one of the early ones, a sort of a prototype. When he and a group of leftist post-beatnik intellectuals started exploring nonmonogamy in the 1960s, they didn't have much to go on.

The friends he was living with, in a commune on Long Island, studied thinkers like Karl Marx, Wilhelm Reich and Emma Goldman. As the youngest, 19-year-old Rosen-Pyros was something of an outsider.... "They were interesting people, they were my heroes, they were wonderful, and they were dealing with the most dangerous of all things, which was possession of each other's loved ones."

..."They talked about it, like good old lefties, for about a year before they ever did anything. 'Cause everybody wants to make sure that whatever they do is in the line of the central committee."...

Vance: the Alpha

Vance went on his first date when he was 20 years old, and he's been loving in multitude ever since.... One day, Vance and his girlfriend were at a party, where they met a third girl. Vance hit it off, so all three of them went back to the new girl's place. And so it went. It was the start of a dating collective that, kind of like The Cure, has been gaining and losing members ever since, with Vance as its perpetual Robert Smith.

...Now, Fay is Vance's only primary, and vice versa. Fay has a secondary boyfriend, though, whom she normally visits for one day every month. That day is really hard on Vance. When Fay comes home, the first thing they do is cuddle, as he needs to be comforted. Then he asks her to tell him everything — their activities during the day and all the way through the night.

The situation may be hard on Vance, but what about the other guy?

"We both really want him to get another girlfriend," Vance says.

Lilian: the Analytic

"Your identity gets collapsed into this other person," Lilian says of typical monogamous life, "and there are cultural myths that you're supposed to exist for this other person, that blinding obsessive jealousy is somehow normal....

Lilian kind of stumbled through her first few attempts at polyamory, like most do. She and her lovers hadn't studied any precedents like those outlined in The Ethical Slut (the polyamory bible, to some). They didn't lay out ground rules in advance (Some polyamorists even draw up contracts.). Pain and confusion ensued.

Much forethought and structuring often go into a polyamorous relationship, and Lilian says that monogamous couples would do well to learn from that.... Today, Lilian and her two boyfriends have things laid out pretty clearly.

...Her dream, Lilian says, is to live in a big house full of her partners. Some of them will have families and children. She will remain the "crazy aunt."

It seems an odd model for romantic fulfillment. But to ask why it seems odd is to examine the traditional model and to wonder why one should expect it to satisfy everybody.

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July 21, 2008

"Thirty years after the sexual revolution: How is it possible that I didn't know this existed!"

Onkruid (Netherlands)

The long, slow arc of world history bends toward human betterment. At least that's what most of the Western world has believed since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. The ideal of historical progress toward ever greater knowledge, humanism, civilization, and reason — an ideal aborted in the United States — continues in Europe, the place that gave birth to the Enlightenment and the concept of historical progress itself. These ideals remain especially strong in the Northern European countries.

So in a place like the Netherlands, people tend to be unthreatened by new ideas about better human relations.

European societies do tend to behave more traditionally around issues of home, family, and community than Americans do — what with our own ideals of individualism, private gain, and mobility, which have led to social fragmentation. Few of us Americans pay much attention to our neighbors any more or even know who they are. This individualism does give American polys a lot of breathing room, despite the hostile ruling ideology.

But in societies that believe in the idea of progress — that we are here to throw off the darknesses and cruelties of the past, and to strive for a happier, more humane future (as America itself once believed) — in such places, the notion of polyamory lands on friendlier ground.

All this is by way of introduction to a letter I got from GeekFox in Amsterdam:

The magazine "Onkruid" ["The Weed"], which is the main 'alternative' print magazine here in the Netherlands [with a New Age slant], has 8 pages dedicated to polyamory in its Juli/August 2008 number. Much of this is an interview with Ageeth Veenemans, whom you mentioned on May 17, 2008.

The article is called Dertig jaar na de seksuele revolutie: van partnerruil naar polyamorie, or "Thirty years after the sexual revolution, from partner swapping to polyamory". It starts by talking about the ability to love multiple people, as opposed to just have sex with multiple people as was long the focus of the sexual revolution.

The suite of articles includes a column by Iteke Weeda, a Dutch sociologist who has written books and columns about the concept since the mid-80's, when it was called liefde in meervoud, "love in plurality". There are also sub-articles dealing with the origins of polyamory, a rather simple test to see how poly you are, "From Jealousy to Frubble", "Polyamory and Spirituality", and "Polyamory as a Trend".

He has translated the main article for us, shown below. "It wasn't easy," he writes, "as Dutch has a lot of flowery sayings and idioms, and the article has used a lot of them. ^.^ I've tried to keep close to the original; I hope this hasn't created clunky English."

Thirty years after the sexual revolution: from partner swapping to polyamory

By Judith van der Graaf

Do you remember... the sexual revolution and its effects? Or is that way before your time, and are you more into monogamous relationships as came afterwards? In either case, summer is a good time for love. However, what to do if you're already in a relationship and have butterflies in your stomach over someone else? Cheating is cumbersome, and 'swinging' doesn't have all the answers either. Polyamory might provide you with an alternative: Openly loving more than one person at the same time. In a conversation with Ageeth Veenemans who wrote a book about it, we'll shed some light on this phenomenon and take a look at its spiritual content. Also, a look-back by Bob Snoijink and Iteke Weeda as experts on the achievements of 30 years of sexual revolution.


Ageeth Veenemans (age 44) has made polyamory her life's work. She wrote the book Ik hou van twee mannen (I love two men). A book about her personal struggle with love and falling in love while being married, with a happy ending. At the same time it's a guide: how do you actually do this, and how do you become a full-fledged 'polyamorist'?

Q: What is polyamory?

A: "Polyamory is a life-philosophy in which you admit that you can love more than one person and that you can be loyal, open and respectful towards each other. Typical qualities can be: Friendship, intimacy, emotional or spiritual closeness, and/or sexuality. In essence it is love, not sex. it's about love without limitations rather then sex without limitations. Love is an energy that you can feel, and that you can show by loving. I see sex as the most beautiful and intense way of communicating love. However that is where the taboo lies: having sex with someone else than your partner"

Is polyamory limited to gender and age?

"Often men are more interested in sex and women more interested in intimacy. In a sense you could say that polyamory is more of a woman's thing. However, in principle it's not connected to gender or age. In the forums most people are 35-plus. This is natural: by then you will have had a steady relationship for a while, and it is possible that you will fall in love with someone else. There are people in their 20's who practice it. These usually are students who are very conscious about their life. I even know people aged 80 and above who have been practising polyamory for several decades!"

Do you belief that deep in their hearts, everybody is polyamorous?

"I belief that everybody can feel love for several people at a time. But not everybody will be suited to the polyamorous life. I sometimes call it 'love for advanced students', because in practice, it's not an easy road."

What to do when your partner is polyamorous and you are not, or the other way around?

"Indeed, it is tricky if you differ from your partner in that way. however I don't believe in perpetrators and victims."

What do you think about 50-plus men who say: my wife is getting old, with all the wrinkles, I'm going to add a younger woman?

"I see two or three people who will have to work that out. Sometimes you'll see, especially in older generations, that such a wife has learned to sacrifice herself and take care of her husband. In return she expects his sexual fidelity. How awkward that he should fall in love with another. I'd want to challenge such a woman: take care of yourself, assume responsibility. Don't become a victim of the situation. That will be bad for your self-image. But I can see how difficult that is!"

And the man, does falling in love with 'a young flower' offer him any chances on self-development?

"I think he does, often involving insecurity about his age and looks. I find it hard to understand this focus on superficialities. For me it's all about the 'click'. On the other hand I do seem to fall for taller men, so perhaps I have some things to work out about my height!"

What is the link between polyamory and 'swinging'?

"The morality needs to adjust itself to the reality. Swinging is a way to deal with that: sex with other people is allowed, but restricted by rules. Love is often not allowed. Sometimes it works. I know people who experience an enormous amount of freedom, by only having the guts to do that, and who develop beautiful friendships because of it. Personally I feel that sex for the sex is in no way comparable with loving sex. In polyamory it's all about the love, and is sex a possible result, not a purpose."

What is your personal mission in writing this book and doing this work?

"I was raised Catholic and monogamous, got married, had three children, and thought that this would be the way it would be for the rest of my life. Until seven years ago when I fell in love with a co-worker: Bob. Cheating was a big personal taboo, and I condemned it strongly in other people. However when he kissed me, all the fuses blew and I started a secret affair.

"I was so much in love, that I considered leaving husband and children for him. Maybe you should experience something like that yourself to understand how this can happen in a life. My brother had the same experience: He had a relationship of 17 years and a child a year old when he fell head over heels for another woman. He was convicted by people around him, his wife left him, taking his child, and he lost everything he had in one fell swoop. One time we talked about it, and I saw him cry. About how intense his love felt, but also about how he still loved his wife, and missed his child. Unfortunately he had a cardiac arrest a few months later in this stressing period of his life, which cost his life.

"I have literally seen what kind of misery the monogamous norm can bring. I myself went through a harsh time: I confessed to my husband and said my farewells to Bob. I was completely open to my husband about that, because I didn't want to cheat any more.

"But what was the alternative? That was when I found the website (www.polyamory.nl) and thought: how is it possible that I didn't know that this existed! I immediately decided: I'm going to write a book about this! The writing began to process my own experience, but also to lend support to all the people in that situation.

"Polyamory saved my marriage. Only when we were able to talk about this, could our relationship improve. Finally I could show my sorrow for my lost love, and my husband could show his emotions about my deceit, and through all this openness we came to each other again.

"Before I went public under my own name, I extensively talked with my husband about it. I like the way we live and want to express it. And I have experienced that you can do it: I continued to live, and feel that people even respect us. Only the pre-war [WWII] generation cannot seem to muster understanding. The generation that experienced the sexual revolution is usually quite open to it.

"I couldn't consider leaving my husband any more and would be extremely embarrassed if I had taken the care of their father away from my children. An important part of my mission is: Assume responsibility for your children. Sometimes divorce is the way to go. But I want to show: This is the alternative, take a look, maybe it's something for you."

GeekFox also translated the sidebar on Iteke Weeda:

Sociologist and love-researcher Iteke Weeda (age 65):

'It should be possible' becomes 'It should be allowed if it can be done'.

"Polyamory is one of the biggest taboos; still, a majority of people have to deal with love-experiences with others in their relationship. Isn't that weird, a taboo for something that lives with most of society!"

Iteke Weeda has been talking about 'love in plurality' [liefde in meervoud] for years, a term that she coined for the phenomenon of erotic feelings of love for several people at the same time. She has an enormous amount of letters and depositions from men and women who have experience of this.

"In the 50's the sexual morality was very strict: you find your true love between your 18th and 25th year of age, and you marry him, without having sex before marriage. It was rather immature if you fell in love after 30. If you had a partner, flirting with another was not done, and cheating was direct cause for divorce.
The period 1965-1975 was a a time filled with experiment to topple the sacred ideals, especially in the more elitist groups: the time of communes, anti-authoritarian raising of children and partner-swapping. Actually partner-swapping was still a bit traditional because you experimented within marriage, and emotions wore not allowed. 'It should be possible' became the new motto. Of course it wasn't that simple: new love and jealousy did develop, with many divorces as a result."

In the second half of the 70's the number of experiment declined; monogamy was nourished more. In the 80's AIDS reinforced this trend. Did the sexual revolution fail because of that?

"Oh no, I see it this way: first we ran ahead 25 steps and then we fell back 15. But those 10 remaining steps we kept: we never returned to the way of thinking of the 50's. Slowly we developed ourselves further, we become emotionally stronger. And this is the requisite for such experiments as polyamory; this allows you to cope with the painful emotions that sometimes come with it. The new morality is turning into 'everything should be allowed if it can be done'. I meet many people who are finding their way into polyamory. It can be an enrichment if all parties can deal with it, and if it can happen in the open. Through secrecy, you distort the intuition of the other, who really can tell that something is happening. This doesn't mean that you should share everything, including the tiniest bed-details. There is something like privacy."

The magazine didn't put the articles on its website. If it does, remember that you can translate (very roughly) a whole site by pasting the URL into Google Language Tools.

Update: In the Amsterdam newspaper The Telegraph for Feb. 14, 2009, there's a short article "Do You Believe in Monogamy?" with many reader comments.


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July 19, 2008

"Secret Lives of Women: Open Relationships" on TV

WE (Women's Entertainment) TV

New York poly activist Birgitte Philippides writes in excitedly:

I wanted to give you the heads-up that I will be appearing on the WE Network's critically acclaimed TV show "The Secret Lives of Women," in the episode on OPEN RELATIONSHIPS — starting this Tuesday at 10 p.m. (the show will continue airing throughout the year, and on video-on-demand). I was profiled extensively throughout the hour-long program about my life, my art and my loves.

Here is the show's promo video, featuring Birgitte.

"They also include on their website," she writes, "an extensive bio about me, my art, polyamory, and my journey with battling an eating disorder and body image, among other topics."

The show will air on each of the next two Tuesday nights, July 22 and 29. Go to the WE TV site and enter your zip code for local availability.

WE TV calls itself "the content destination where strong, confident women connect to fun, entertaining programming focused on pop culture, personal style and relationships."

Here is their description of the Open Relationships show:

Not all women marry the man of their dreams and live happily ever after. For these four women, one man just isn’t enough!

Christa has been married to Ken for eight years. The first few were monogamous, but one eye-opening evening with her husband and a female stranger led to a revelation: she likes women and doesn’t mind sharing her husband with them. Now they have an open relationship. Christa is currently dating two women, and both she and Ken freely indulge in one-night stands. Eventually they plan on having kids and settling down, but until then, nobody is off limits.

Keysha is in a committed relationship with long-term boyfriend Mike. Together, they raise two kids. Mike understands when Keysha doesn’t feel like being romantic, even if she’s had the energy to do so all day. You see, while there is only one Mike in Keysha’s life, there are many “Johns.” Keysha is a prostitute at the famous Kit Kat Ranch in Nevada and to make a living, she can be with over a dozen men a day. What’s different about this open relationship though, is that it’s strictly a professional one… the world’s oldest, to be exact.

Birgitte is a painter living in New York City. A main source of artistic inspiration for her is her lovers. Luckily for admirers of her work, she has no shortage of muses. Birgitte is polyamorous, which literally means “many lovers”. She is also the leader of Polyamorous NYC, the East Coast’s largest poly organization. From cuddle to pool parties, Birgitte has a wealth of love to share in the city that never sleeps.

For former banking professional Dee Dee, the dream of being her own boss and fulfilling her sexual fantasies on a weekly basis has come true. Dee Dee’s lifestyle as a Swinger has led to the opening of “Black Rose Swing Club,” a full service bar for those who enjoy no-strings-attached sex. If you ever want to grab a drink from a lingerie clad bartender, take in some pole dancing, or enter a wet T-shirt contest while seeking a partner for the night, this happily married wife of twenty years is the person to call.

Upcoming Air Dates:
Tuesday, July 22 at 10pm Eastern | 9 Central
Wednesday, July 23 at 1am Eastern | 12 Central
Tuesday, July 29 at 11pm Eastern | 10 Central
Wednesday, July 30 at 2am Eastern | 1 Central

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July 16, 2008

Miss Manners on triad-introduction etiquette

Many newspapers

As more people face dilemmas of proper social conduct at the poly-mundane interface, newspaper columnist Miss Manners (Judith Martin) offers some advice, and exhibits her usual discreet aplomb (week of July 10, 2008):

Three's a (possibly offensive) crowd

Dear Miss Manners:

My matron of honor, my sister, will be (if all goes well) six months pregnant at the time of my wedding. Her husband will be in attendance and will want to claim his place as the father of the child. However, their wife, one of my oldest friends, will also be in attendance with her then-15-week-old baby, also born of their shared husband.

While their lifestyle is not for me, I do not find it my place to condemn them, but rather to rejoice in the happiness my sister’s choice has brought her.

It is the concern of my fiance, however, that if their relationship comes to light, older and more conservative members of his family may look upon us with ill favor or denounce us outright since we did not denounce the three of them, opting instead to invite them to our union.

My own concern is that nobody there is so socially put out that they cannot enjoy themselves and celebrate with us our happy marriage — whether that be the groom, fretting for his family relations; my brother-in-law, temporarily disavowing a great happiness in his life; or my fiance’s family, trying to figure out what the world has come to, or some such.

I agree with my sister that it might not become a direct issue if we did not announce their relationship to one another in introducing them, but as the newborn will be the only child at the wedding, and my sister will be the only (and obviously) pregnant woman, the parentage of both seems to be an obvious point of conversation.

It seems that it would disturb the fewest people to have my brother-in-law practice restraint of joy for a few hours, but that it would be a more openly joyous occasion if we were not putting effort into denying the truth, and another source of joy. I have agreed to abide by your judgment, and I believe that my sister’s family will, as well.

Dear Gentle Reader:

Since it took Miss Manners three readings of your letter to grasp the situation, she rather doubts that people who are busy drinking champagne and critiquing the wedding dress will be alert enough to understand it.

However, there is a precedent for dealing with the presence of wedding guests of whom others may not approve. And that is not to deal with it. You do not tell wedding guests how to present themselves, and you are not responsible for how other guests react to this. Your sister seems to be in favor of discretion. Your chance to exercise this admirable trait would be to introduce the lot of them merely as "my sister's family," followed by their names.

That's what I'd say too. This is much like the advice Miss Manners gave the last time she addressed a polys-at-the-party concern.


July 15, 2008

Ménage Your Time; "Why is this stuff so hot right now?"

Style (Richmond, VA)

"Greater Richmond's alternative newsweekly," located in Jenny Block's old hometown, reviews her new open-relationship book and also Tristan Taormino's:

Ménage Your Time

By Valley Haggard

At one time a band of gold was the fashion choice for monogamists everywhere, but for a growing number of people, that ring has gone out of style: For them, polyamory is the new monogamy.

Increasingly, it seems, people in committed relationships are choosing to let the neighbors in on their richer, their poorer, their sickness and their health. The new CBS series “Swingtown” and HBO’s “Big Love” present alternate bedroom realities. And now two smart, unsmarmy books about polyamory are on the shelves, all of which begs the question: Why is this stuff so hot right now?

The writer never tries to answer that.

...“I think we’ve gotten sex and love really tangled up,” Block says. “We’ve gotten really possessive; marriage has become all about sexual ownership, but there’s not necessarily emotional support. That’s not to say I have a problem with monogamy. If it’s a conscious choice, hey, more power to you.”

...“Open” is a memoir, but at times it reads like a critical analysis of evolving lifestyle choices. (It even has footnotes.) “I started out writing more pure memoir, but my editor thought it would be too indulgent and racy,” Block says. So she approached her writing in a more intellectual way, supporting her thesis with the details of her life....


“We haven’t seen a good book about non-monogamy since ‘The Ethical Slut’ in 1997,” says Tristan Taormino, a Village Voice columnist and author of the newly released “Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships.”

“The more I look around, the more I see two things,” she says. “People seem to be struggling with traditional monogamy — in the news every day, there’s a sports figure or politician struggling with monogamy. Some of the most successful relationships I know in my community are not monogamous. People seem to be willing to go off the beaten path to create relationships that work for them.”

Taormino, 37, has been in an open relationship with her partner, Colten (a transgender person, born a woman, who has not undergone any type of surgery but who prefers male pronouns), for eight years. “Like any relationship, it’s been very dynamic,” Taormino says. “It started as polyamorous, and now it’s partnered non-monogomy [meaning a central committed couple who have casual sex with other people]. Marriage is a point of negotiation. The landscape is constantly shifting in terms of what’s legal and what’s not.”

...Is there any demographic more likely than another to be open? Can you look for an “O” crocheted to the lapels of nontraditionally partnered Americans?

“Oh God, no, not at all,” Taormino says. “In terms of age, race, gender, class and geography, it’s all over the board. I interviewed an enlisted member of the Army, a pastor in a mainline Christian church, phone sex operators, elementary school teachers, lawyers, doctors. And a whole bunch were from Virginia.”

But if non-monogamy is happening successfully in so many ZIP codes, why do so many people find the arrangement threatening?

“I think it’s because we have collectively been told this fairy tale about our one true love, our Prince Charming, our soulmate — and it’s been reinforced in the media and every part of society. And whenever you challenge such a prominent institution, it’s terrifying,” she says. “But on the flip side, it’s courageous to say, ‘You know what? This isn’t working for me.’”

Read the whole article (July 16, 2008). You can send a letter-to-the-editor to letters@styleweekly.com.

Here are my own reviews of the books.


> Why is this stuff so hot right now?

Okay... deep breath... here's my take:

1. It's been building slowly for 20+ years — ever since Ryam Nearing, Deborah Anapol, and others created the modern poly movement from the ashes of the 1960s and 70s — and now the momentum is finally reaching a tipping point.

2. The invention of the word "polyamory" in 1990-1992 gave it a name. I remember when there was no name — when it was called all sorts of unsatisfactory, un-memorable mouthfuls: ethical nonmonogamy, multilateral marriage, utopian swinging, polymorphous perversity (per Sigmund Freud), polyfidelity, "the Harrad Experiment lifestyle," synergamy, waterbrotherhood.... Only when a movement gets a clear name can it take hold.

3. The internet is letting people find each other and form communities as never before.

4. In the last three years, Loving More has done a lot of media outreach — and when one newspaper or TV show does something others copy it (see "herd journalism"). This matters, because media coverage has become more effective for movement-building in the era of Google. All it takes is one mention of the concept and the word, and an interested person can discover the whole poly scene.

5. A lot of today's polys are well-educated writers and communicators. A survey by Loving More of about 1,000 of its members a few years ago found that 40% had post-graduate degrees, compared to 8% of the general population (see the survey data, page 424). Such people are good at spreading new ideas and memes. Quotable quote here: "There were only a few thousand people in all Europe who brought about the Renaissance." —Paul Tillich.

Other thoughts?

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July 9, 2008

This just in! New York goes wild for polyamory! (says Russian TV)

TV-Novosti (Moscow)

In my boyhood bedroom I had a shortwave radio that picked up, through the antenna I rigged in the treetops, the jolly-sounding lunacy about America that passed for news on Radio Moscow. I got a flashback to those Soviet broadcasts when I read the following news report from the "Russia Today" program on TV-Novosti. The exaggerations from grains of truth, the made-up facts, the same hearty tone of amazement ending with, of course, moral superiority and predictions of ruin, all with an undercurrent of envy.... Here's the whole thing (July 8, 2008):

Sex in the City: Big apple’s big temptation

In New York, traditional relationships are becoming less and less fashionable. Having several boyfriends or girlfriends is something of a lifestyle choice for many. However, critics say it just shows a lack of responsibility.

You don’t need to go far to see that New York is celebrating sexual freedom. Polyamory — literally meaning “multiple love” — or consensual non-monogamy — is becoming extremely popular here.

A growing number of people are enjoying more than one serious relationship, in which all sides involved agree to have two or more long-term partners.

Thousands of people came out onto the streets of New York to celebrate their choice, and it seems that the number of people who are happy to be open about their sexuality is only growing.

Diana is a polyamorous bisexual divorce lawyer and child custody attorney.

“I’ve decided in my life to focus on having relationships with just two people. I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend because I am bisexual — and that fulfills me much more than if I was in a monogamous relationship for the rest of my life with a man,” she says.

New York’s polyamorous society is one of the largest in the world. It is incredibly fast-growing. The number of people who consider themselves poly is already in the millions.

“In 2000 if you googled polyamory, there were 6,000 hits, and now if you google it, it’s about 3 million,” says Birgitta Philippides, New York’s polyamorous community leader.

Reid, a sex and relationships educator, says relationships are like music. He believes if everyone in the world was polyamorous the world would be a much happier place.

“It doesn’t matter so much if you play classical music, jazz or rock-n-roll. It’s that you’re getting to play the music that really makes you happy. There’d be less hate, less war. If you have five relationships, who has time to declare war on anyone?” he says.

However, psychologists say polyamory may initially seem like a great idea, but problems always arise sooner or later.

“There is usually a primary partner and then there are secondary and beyond. The rules are usually established with the primary partner, and as I said, they don’t usually last,” says psychologist Jonathan Alpert.

Moreover, freedom of sexuality also has the number of people who fall victim to STDs sky-rocketing.

Here's the text on the original site. Watch the TV report in English. (May require Internet Explorer or a Firefox plug-in.)

What's wrong here? The video footage is actually of New York's enormous Pride Parade, with campy gays hamming for the camera. The poly group in the parade numbered a dozen or two, not "thousands." (In fact New York City may have fewer self-identified polys than it has West African immigrants secretly practicing traditional polygamy.) "Extremely popular"? We can only wish. "The number of people who consider themselves poly is already in the millions"? Pulled from thin air; no one knows this number despite many attempts to estimate it. (My own best guess is somewhat over 100,000 in the U.S. as of 2008.)

Some STDs are indeed "sky-rocketing." But the report failed to mention that the self-identified poly community polices itself pretty vigorously about safer-sex practices, and about getting tested regularly, at least in my experience. Open communication — and gossip! — in a sexually active group creates real social pressure for safety-conscious behavior.

The quotes from Diana and Birgitte do sound like them, but I wouldn't trust the whole-world-should-be-poly bit attributed to Reid. In my hearing, Reid has always said poly is right for some people and monogamy is right for others. Perhaps he said openness to poly should be universal, and the distinction got dropped for convenience, but what's he gonna do, sue the Russian government?

It is the government talking, or it might as well be, even though TV-Novosti is officially an "Autonomous Nonprofit Organization." The Russian government under Vladimir Putin (and his designated successor Dmitry Medvedev) has been re-Sovietizing all Russian media and silencing the reporters it can't buy off — sometimes with bullets, poison, and fake suicides, say critics.


Still, Russia has some large if embattled alternative communities. What's going on poly-wise?

If you go to Google Preferences, set your Interface Language to Russian, and search for the word полиамория ("polyamoria") — and also for the less common forms полиамории ("polyamoryy") and полиамурность ("polyamurnost") — you'll get somewhat more than 1,000 hits. Including the ru_poly LiveJournal community and a translation of some of Franklin Veaux's much-referenced pages. But search for the words in the Russian news ("Новости"), and you get nothing.

Can someone who knows the Russian poly scene give a report?

P.S.: To reset your Google Interface Language back to English: go to the Google homepage, choose "Настройки" (Preferences) in the tiny type to the right of the search box, choose "английском" (In English) from the drop-down list at top, and hit the "Сохранить настройки" (Save Preferences) button at top right.

If you don't read по-русски, you can still take a whack at it with Google Language Tools. Ain't technology wonderful?

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July 6, 2008

The Sunday Observer Tails Jenny Block

Jenny Block continues her book tour promoting her memoir Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage (see my review). A writer for London's Sunday Observer followed around with her for a couple of days. The result is a long, archly droll, but sympathetic article in today's issue (June 6, 2008).

One poly commentator calls the piece "sarcastic... full of inaccuracies and bad assumptions," but overall I think it's rather good. The writer endorses Open as a "heartfelt memoir... an articulately argued and enjoyably readable defence of her marriage, not least because this kind of bedroom nitty-gritty can hardly fail to fascinate." The article portrays Block, and the possibilities of ethical, happy multipartnering, rather favorably to an audience inclined to assume the worst about both. What do you think?

How not to become a desperate housewife

By Louise France

Sunday brunch at a dim sum restaurant in Seattle with the local polyamory group. I'm sitting between two men. One has a T-shirt that reads 'Two's Company'. The other's wearing the slogan 'Screw Abstinence'. Welcome to the neighbourhood 'sex-positive' community, a club where anything goes, just so long as it's between consenting adults and latex is involved.

They're a friendly bunch (well, I guess you'd have to be. It doesn't do to be stand-offish and polyamorous). There is E, who has known she was polyamorous since she was 18; then J, who first discussed this kind of lifestyle with his wife back in 1962 (they're still together); and a woman who describes herself as temple priestess, sex educator and counsellor, which must keep her busy.

Guest of honour is Jenny Block, America's poster girl for open marriage. Block is a 38-year-old writer who has flown in from Dallas where she lives in one of the outlying suburbs with her husband Christopher, an IT consultant, and their nine-year-old daughter Emily....

Briefly, Jenny has a sexual relationship with both Christopher and Jemma — though her husband and her girlfriend don't sleep with each other. Christopher, should he choose, could sleep with anyone he fancies (so long as it's not in the neighbourhood; they have a strict 'not in town' rule). So could Jemma, although she says she doesn't want to. Jenny used to hook up with other people, men and women, she met on work trips and writer retreats, but at the moment she's content with just the two of them. In poly-speak this means she's in a 'vee' relationship (in which one person has two lovers who aren't involved with each other) as oppose to a 'triad' or a 'quad' which sound even more exciting, or exhausting, depending on your point of view.

She's just written a book about these unusual (although, according to Jenny, not that unusual) domestic arrangements.... Which is how, by the end of two days following Jenny on her book tour, I know more about her than I do about some of my closest friends....

Before Jenny Block and I met in Seattle, she emailed me saying I was to expect 'the girl next door'. Usually this kind of description makes a journalist's heart sink but in this case it makes her story more intriguing. As one of Seattle's tattooed and pierced polyamorists tells her: 'What's great is that you look so much like one of them' - by which he means America's supposedly monogamous majority. 'You're really screwing with them.' In more ways than one.

She looks like someone who might anchor the evening news: petite, doll-like, large expressive brown eyes, immaculately groomed, with a glossy bob and cute frock. A wedding ring, engagement ring and anniversary ring on the third finger of her left hand (plus, on her right hand, a ring from Jemma, bought in Mexico).... 'People make assumptions about me and then when they see me they get confused,' she explains. 'They say you're much more conservative than I expected.'

...So what, I wonder, are the myths about this kind of arrangement? 'Number one, being open does not mean being promiscuous,' she says, counting out her arguments with her fingers. 'Number two, that you have a bad marriage and you are doing this instead of getting divorced. Number three, that people are not careful in terms of protecting themselves — in my experience anyone who has more than one partner is militant on that score. Number four, that we're into S&M. If you do one, you must do the other.'

...Later on Sunday afternoon, Seattle's swingers reconvene at their headquarters, two neighbouring cinderblock buildings a short drive from the centre of the city. There would be a nameplate on the door reading 'Centre for Sex Positive Culture' but for the fact that this might encourage 'unwelcome voyeurs' from the local college (as opposed to the welcome variety).

...Next door Jenny reads from her book to a rapt audience of couples, many of them holding hands, some of them remarkably conventional-looking. In the discussion afterwards they talk of a coming sexual revolution when open marriage is more accepted. Block is a natural speaker — likable, articulate, funny, confident, able to laugh at herself....

Read the whole article.

Meanwhile, a columnist for the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal talks sympathetically about Block's book and also Tristan Taormino's big new manual Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships (see my review).

New rules for open marriage

By Rita Watson
July 6, 2008

IN A YEAR when “Virginity Rules” became an abstinence movement motto, the pendulum swings to new rules for an open marriage. With recent statistics from 13 countries showing that marriage is down while living together is up — and monogamy being challenged by polyamory — will the words “for better or worse, until death do us part” become obsolete?

Polyamory means sharing more than one intimate partner at the same time. Unlike the ménage à trois or Updikean wife-swapping, polyamory is characterized by multiple-relationship arrangements with the consent of all partners and defined by specific boundaries....

But then, couples have been choosing alternative arrangements for years — look at Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt (and his mistresses), Nelson Rockefeller and his mistresses, and the open relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In the 1800s, the married Amherst College treasurer, Austin Dickinson, spent 13 years involved with a young professor’s wife. In writing about their relationship, Mabel Loomis Todd proclaimed she could love two men at the same time. (Poet Emily Dickinson helped her brother and Mabel keep the affair alive.

...Written or unwritten rules that include mutual respect, agreements, and even contracts between various partners appear to set apart today’s open marriages from the swinging ’60s. Tristan Taormino, in Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, describes a variety of arrangements, including monogamy with benefits, triad couples and solo polyamory. The resource list of polyamorous groups is broken down by state and country.

Taormino says her goal is “to empower people to let go of societal expectations of what relationships should look like and create customized relationships that meet their needs and desires.”

Jenny Block’s Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage is a memoir. She wrote me and said, “I do think that polyamory might well work for many people. That’s not to say that I have any problem with monogamy. I think it is great when a couple is actually practicing it and not just giving lip-service to the concept.”...

Read the whole article, and send a letter to the editor (to letters at projo dot com).

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