Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

March 31, 2009

Creating Poly Culture: a British soap, Hollywood, webcomics, and Minx's strategic vision

How often, since discovering poly, have you been struck by movies, books and legends where the whole stupid drama would be so not there if people just grasped the concept? From the Iliad to Shakespeare to Italian opera to The Corpse Bride — why can't people just be more evolved, dammit? So much of our culture-mythos would melt away in the morning sun.

Of course bushels of new drama (and comedy) would take its place. But at least it wouldn't be so hackneyed.

Woody Allen has always mined this territory (for instance in last year's Vicky Christina Barcelona). Now, more drama writers may be starting to see the possibilities. From England, Helen M. writes that the teen soap opera "Hollyoaks" has taken an unexpected twist. The plot was going along ordinary lines about a couple both cheating on each other with the same man. "Now," writes Helen, "it has turned into a proper 'open relationship', as they are calling it, between all three. There are catch-up clips here: tinyurl.com/crvr2j."

A user comment to episode 20: "Thank god i found this..... thank you... i didn't know that this could happen".

Okay, I'll make a prediction: Hollywood won't be far behind.

At Loving More's Poly Living Conference outside Philadelphia last month, Reid Mihalko provided some insider gossip about this. Reid writes TV screenplays and knows that crowd. He co-created a pilot show of his own for a comedy/drama series called "Polly and Marie" (say it fast — get it?), and he said "HBO almost bought" it. (Watch the trailer.) "There's a lot of interest in getting this [topic] on TV," he said, "but nobody is quite biting, because nobody knows if the advertisers will want it. It's kind of happening, but you don't see it yet, because it's not on the air yet."

When'll be the tipping point? The keynote speaker at Poly Living was Cunning Minx of the Polyamory Weekly podcast, and she made an astute point. She told the crowd of about 100 that it's time for the poly-awareness movement to start shifting focus: from education — explaining polyamory to people who've never heard of it — to culture-building — creating recognizable pop images of the polyfolk-world that represent us well, that we can be proud of, and that will appear in people's minds when they think of us.

Right now, she said, what pops into people's minds when they hear the word "polyamory" is maybe swingers at parties, or Mormon polygamists in the desert, or mostly a blank-slate question mark. We need to create our public image.

Think of the images in your mind when you hear "accountant," or "hippie," or "cowboy." If we don't create our own culture-images — the ones that pop into people's heads when they hear the word — outsiders are surely going to do it for us.

How do we do this? We can create our own stories, art, and music. "Twitter. Blog. Podcast," said Minx. "We need novels, music, movies. We need to show our poly culture. Let's show what poly culture is like. This is our next step." We can inspire the larger culture industry, such as the people who produced the new play All My Love, the new webseries "Family", even webcomics like "Fans" (here's a recent page).

But the biggest thing that any of us can do, wherever we are, is (in the words of Goddess of Java), "Be a credit to your kink". Model what good poly people are about. Hell, model what good relationship people are about. Be kind, honest, ethical, self-aware, self-disclosing, bold, generous, caring. Display integrity. Expect integrity in others. As Emerson said, "character is everything." This is how the world is ultimately going to judge us, and how poly culture will rise or fall.

You can listen to Minx's talk while watching her PowerPoint.


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March 27, 2009

Honorary polys of the recession


"Pretty darn good article this morning as far as mass media goes," writes Steve of Toronto. "I would almost take out my baton and dub them 'Poly' by default."

Young couple moves in with her ex-husband

By Jessica Ravitz

Struggling to make ends meet, trying to dig themselves out of debt, Nicole Thompson-Arce and her husband have moved in with her ex-husband.

Together, the unlikely threesome of Omaha, Nebraska, is raising two young daughters from the first marriage.

It's the kind of situation that has left cable guys howling.

"They'd never heard anything like this," Thompson-Arce, 28, remembered with a laugh. "And they're in people's homes every day."

When she and Craig Thompson, 42, were going through a divorce in 2005, this was not a deal either of them could have imagined striking. It was a messy divorce, the kind involving a custody dispute. But once they ironed out that battle, agreeing to joint custody, Thompson-Arce said they were able to move on and forward.

By the time she married Mathew Arce last July, she said she and her ex were friends. In fact, they were so close that his mother -- meaning Thompson-Arce's ex-mother-in-law -- was in (not just at) the second wedding ceremony.

Soon after the Florida wedding, the new lovebirds flew into a financial mess. She had left a job, and as soon as she found another (a temp position), her 22-year-old husband was fired from his higher-paying gig.

They fell behind in rent. The bills stacked up. The credit card debt grew.

...In walked the ex with an offer, just in time for Christmas.... "I knew they were having money problems, so I just asked them to move in," he said. "I figured I'd get to see my girls, my daughters, more often. And Nicole said yes right away."

...No longer do they have to shuttle Victoria, 7, and Caitlyn, 6, between two households. As a team, they can parent and be on the same page. Finding a baby sitter is never a problem. They take turns making meals, which they all share.

Thompson and Arce, who are 20 years apart -- "I had to get the whole spectrum going there," Thompson-Arce joked -- have become the best of friends, and share a similar sense of humor. They have tackled home improvement projects, run around together on days they both have off and often hang out at the kitchen table building plastic models.

"We just clicked," Thompson said. "When I tell people, 'I'm living with my ex-wife and her husband,' I get some really strange looks. ...It's different. It's unusual, but it works."

The transition has been smooth and great for the kids, Thompson-Arce said. And for their benefit, irrespective of finances, she thinks it's a living situation they'll stick with for at least five to 10 years. It has, however, taken a little time for the little ones to get the story straight.

Seven-year-old Victoria went back to school after winter break -- and after the whole team had blended under one roof -- and started telling people this: " 'My mommy has two husbands,'" Thompson-Arce remembered. "I was like, 'No, honey, don't tell them that!'"...

Read the whole article (March 26, 2009).


Here is Thompson-Arce's original post to CNN that started the story. Comments are closed on the main article, but comments are still open here.

Their local newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, has picked up on the story (March 28). Note that Nicole feels obliged to say there, "This isn't something disgusting. I'm not intimate with both of them or anything like that. We're just roommates and really good friends. That's all it is."

ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" has scheduled a TV report about them for Monday (March 30).

This is spreading around the blogosphere.


March 24, 2009

"The more love you give away, the more you have to give"


A dating advice site for young people ("True stories on the journey from single to 'it's complicated' ") has published a student's excellent two-part article on polyamory and what it means to him:

...Because people can't agree on what "intimate relationship" means, the term [polyamory] can be used in terribly broad ways by some people (like me), referring to just about any sexual or romantic relationships that are not exclusive. It's an umbrella term, basically; it gives you a vague idea about how a person approaches relationships, but because it covers many modes and models of relationships, more explanation is needed. And this is why I like it. I like it because there is fluidity in its definition: many colors, many layers, many shades. I can't throw the word out and not use details to describe the way I practice it; it's something that demands honesty and communication....

Common Misconceptions

Poly people are polygamists (or polygamists are poly people). False. ...Polyamory is a personal outlook grounded in such concepts as choice, trust, reciprocated freedom and compersion (taking pleasure that one's partner is experiencing pleasure, even if the source of their pleasure is not you)....

Poly people are just really horny and want a lot of sex. False. Not all poly people define their relationships by whether or not people are sleeping together.... With polyamory, we're talking about more than one romantic relationship, not just more than one sex partner.

Poly people just can't commit or are commitment-phobic. That doesn't even make sense. You're telling me someone who can't commit to one person will be able to make a lasting commitment to two?

...An example of a "rule" is that Person A permits Person B to have outside lovers under the condition that the outside lover is approved of beforehand and that both Person A and the outside lover understand the nature of the relationships between Person A and Person B and Person B and the outside lover. I'll be honest, that example sounds more complicated than it really is. But yeah. That seems like commitment to me. And a lot of it.

If you love someone, you shouldn't want anyone else. ...This is based on the "starvation model" of love — that is, the idea that you have a finite amount of love and if you give your love to one person there is none left to give to anyone/everyone else. Essentially, this model demands that when you fall in love with another person, you have to "pay" for it by withdrawing your love from all other people. And people do this. (In my opinion, they're missing out.) Love is not the same thing as money.... When you love more than one person, you soon realize that the more love you give away, the more love you have to give....


Growing up, I never had a best friend.... It was hard for me to see lines between my friendships; it was hard for me to see the people I told all my secrets to as any more valuable than the people who made me laugh.... It was very clear to me from a young age that everyone was important and that a particular individual's role in my life couldn't honestly be dismissed as "less than."

Presently I divide myself among my friends and those I venture to call lovers. Talking, flirting, cuddling, sharing, deep and emotive conversations, affirmation, affection, quality time, and even sex (on extremely rare occasions) all happens. I have so many people in my life who mean so much to me on so many different levels (some who live nearby and some across the continent) that none of my relationships are even remotely similar. And I like that....

There's more. Part 1 (March 20, 2009). Part 2 (March 22).

Incidentally, look for a lot more poly education and outreach to colleges and TNG (The Next Generation) starting up in the next year or two. The folks at the National Polyamory Leadership Summit three weeks ago really wanted to make this happen (among many other things), and a committee of volunteers has begun working on it. The focus will be on relationship choice: understanding that a poly way of life is workable and good, for certain people — and that choosing whether you want your relationships to be exclusive or open should be done consciously and mindfully.


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March 23, 2009

Psychology Today columnist lays an egg of dumb.

Psychology Today

In the March/April 2009 Psychology Today, longtime columnist Hara Estroff Marano displays some chip-on-the-shoulder un-informitude:

Q: Can an open relationship work?

My partner and I have been together 10 years.... we are eager to give it a try. We are both open-minded individuals in creative professions and don't believe in putting restrictions on each other. Do you think this can work?

A: The short answer is no. At least not for the long haul. Sooner or later someone will form an outside attachment.... I'm wondering what you two expect to get out of your escapades, whether you two are secretly hoping to find some Peter Pan escape.... If you are so creative, why don't put that energy into the existing relationship and use the trust between you as a springboard for endless inner and outer exploration and excitement? Of course, it takes guts; it's much easier to look outside for excitement than to find the source within.

It's not on the magazine's website (yet), but to read the whole thing, here's an image of the page; it's the second item. (Thanks to Michelle of the National Polyamory Leadership Summit for finding this.)

You can send a letter to "comment on the magazine," or snail-mail it to Letters, Psychology Today, 115 E. 23rd St. 9th floor, New York, NY 10010.

True, open relationships often don't work. Marano's stupidity is in saying they don't ever work. Telling that to us is about like telling a romping American Atheists convention that atheists do not exist (as I've seen some evangelicals claim). God help the poly couple who wastes their money on a therapist like this.

By the way, here's a list of poly-friendly professionals; here's another list; here's another. At the very least, sound out a therapist about his or her knowledge of, and openness about, matters that are important to you before you sign on.

And here are two articles to give therapists to read (on their own time, not yours):

What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, by Geri D. Weitzmann.
Working with Polyamorous Clients in the Clinical Setting, by Joy Davidson.

However, Marano does say something in her column that is true: "Often, one partner wants an open relationship more than the other but presents it as something for the benefit of both." Note the qualifier "often." Of course, when discussing relationship changes you need to talk about it with your partner at length, showing genuine respect for his or her wants and needs, and with no hurry, and with no bullshit lines about what he or she should want.



March 19, 2009

All My Love: Polyamory play opens in Chicago

Chicago-area newspapers

Update, May 19, 2009: The play, All My Love, has now closed, and Annabelle River wrote the following on the new sexgenderbody site; copied with her permission:

Where are all the poly writers?

Last week I attended a polyamory book club meeting to discuss [the play. The meeting was organized by Cunning Minx, who also] interviewed the playwright and actor Tony Fiorentino, and published it on her podcast, Polyamory Weekly. (Which podcast I highly recommend in general, and thank you Minx.)

But early in the meeting, we determined something funny about the poly book club discussing this play: The play showed a deeply cynical view of polyamory. And yet there we were, about a dozen active polyamorists, discussing it for three hours.

Now that the play has closed, this review will contain spoilers. Yes, the central character is a woman who claims polyamory as an integral facet of her identity, and she has two boyfriends, and she is a sympathetic character. But one of her boyfriends makes it very clear that he hates polyamory and is barely, painfully sucking it up to avoid losing the girl - and the other boyfriend turns out to be lying to his wife about very important things. Throw in our "heroine's" deeply disturbed teenage daughters and her metamour's infertility, and these characters spend most of their lives screaming and/or crying. New layers of dishonesty and heartbreak are revealed in every scene.

And as a polyamorist, that frustrated me to no end. ...Until someone else at the book club pointed out from Minx's interview with Tony Fiorentino that Mr. Fiorentino is not himself polyamorous, and he never intended to create converts. To quote him from Minx's podcast: "I was actually researching stuff for my previous play... and just came across the word 'polyamory' and started reading a little bit about it, and I thought... It would also make a great play, because... when you put a couple of people together who do not share the same ideologies but they happen to be in love, you have the seed of what could be a play with a lot of conflict."

And there is nothing in that with which I can argue. Mr. Fiorentino is not obligated as a playwright to be our spokesman. And there's nothing untruthful about the implication that some individuals practice polyamory badly. Some individuals in his play also practice monogamy badly. We are all flawed, and melodrama ensues. Then a statutorily-raped teenager attempts suicide on prom night, and far worse melodrama ensues. That much is realistic enough.

No artist should be expected to speak for an entire community, especially if the artist's familiarity with the community is only from books. The unfortunate part is that plays like this do end up speaking for the entire community, because there are so very few artists saying the word "polyamory" at all - and none with any more fame or attention. Reviewer Alan Breslof called the play "educational". The depressed teenagers get at least as much dramatic stage-time as their polyamorous mother, but all the reviews focus on the novelty of polyamory. Fiorentino himself apparently had never heard of the concept until shortly before he decided to write the play. Whether anyone likes it or not, the play did create first impressions for a lot of its audience.

So why isn't anyone else producing poly fiction that's less cynical or tragic? I've heard the argument that good stories require a conflict, but Western writers seem to have an easy enough time writing romantically for monogamy. Hollywood and Broadway and bestseller book-lists have fed us plenty of emotionally engaging stories about couples in love. Where are our poly romantic comedies? Where are our stories about people in functional poly relationships battling external conflicts? Twenty years after the publication of Heather Has Two Mommies, where's the book for Heather's classmate with three?

Read her original post, with comments.


And now, back to my original post:

The new play All My Love, exploring problems poly life, will open March 19th at the Theater Building in Chicago. Already a chain of suburban newspapers has an article:

Love but no marriage in this show

By Myrna Petlicki
March 19, 2009

Monogamy isn't for everyone. Glenview playwright Tony Fiorentino explores one option in "All My Love," a new comedy-drama about open romantic relationships, presented by Diamante Productions, under Braden Lubell's direction, at Theatre Building Chicago, March 19 to May 10.

Diamante artistic director Fiorentino stumbled upon the topic of polyamory during some recreational reading. "I realized that there's this whole subculture of alternative styles of relationships," he said, "when we're so accustomed to thinking monogamy is the only model for a relationship."

Fiorentino stars as Jack, a divorce attorney who lives with his girlfriend and her two children. "He's very possessive of her and very jealous," Fiorentino related. "He would prefer a traditional monogamous relationship and even be married, but his live-in girlfriend Ellen is an avowed polyamorist. He loves this woman very much so he's willing to endure the jealousy and the frustration of having to watch her date another man."

...Unlike Ellen, Hallie "believes a little bit more in traditional notions of monogamy, but her character is willing to go along because she's with somebody who purports to believe in (polyamory)," Fiorentino said.

...Fiorentino hopes audiences will get a few laughs out of the show, "But I also want them to walk out with the realization that there's more than one way of doing things," he said. "When it comes to relationships, the predominant belief in Western cultures is that there is one way ... lifelong monogamy. I'd like people to question the possibility of alternatives."

Read the whole article.

From the blurb on the producer's website:

When a middle-aged divorcée decides to explore the world of polyamory, she must temper the jealous passions of her lover, while her teenage daughters search for the meaning of love through the prism of their mother’s unorthodox practice of relationships. “All My Love” is an exploration of alternative “lovestyles” and a critique of Western society’s most cherished notions of love, monogamy, and marriage.

From an article in Broadway World (Feb. 25, 2009):

...All My Love is a smart, fun and thoughtful look into the world of polyamory and is the fifth production presented by Diamante Productions. The cast includes Fiorentino as Jack.... Fiorentino founded Diamante Productions in 2005, a non-profit theatre company dedicated to the production and development of new plays.

It runs through May 10th. The Theatre Building Chicago is at 1225 W. Belmont Ave. More information and video previews.

Updates: Writer and comedian A. R. Higgins, an outsider to the poly world, reviews the play.

Here's another review, by Alan Bresloff.

And another, by Jennifer M. Lezan.

And another, by Rachel Gillman.

Cunning Minx, a Chicagoan herself, reviews the play and interviews the author, Tony Fiorentino, in her Polyamory Weekly podcast, Episode #199.


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March 16, 2009

Current TV profiles Diana Adams, poly- and sexual-rights lawyer

Current TV

Al Gore's cable TV network, aimed at 18- to 34-year-olds, has been airing a five-minute profile of one of our rising stars: Diana Adams, a sexual civil-rights lawyer in Brooklyn. Diana is also a powerhouse poly activist who helped stage Poly Pride Weekend in New York last October, co-created and co-hosts New York's monthly Polyamory Cocktail Party, and gave the keynote address at last September's Loving More conference/retreat ("This is my poly dream: that every college student in America will know the word polyamory and what it means within five years."). She presented workshops at the Poly Living conferences in 2008 and 2009 and is active in the National Polyamory Leadership Summit, particularly its legal committee and its committee to reach out to TNG, "the next generation" of under-30-year-olds, of which she is one.

From the Current TV video:

I'm really thrilled to be a resource in the polyamory community and the community of people who are forming new kinds of relationships.... I saw that there was a need. For people who are forming new kinds of families, the law hasn't caught up yet. So what can they do, now, to protect their rights and protect themselves until that happens? I'm really passionate in doing that in my lifetime. And I hope that during my lifetime I am able to see change in the way our government appreciates family in our country.

Watch the video.

Diana writes in her Feminist Outlaw newsletter,

They edited out some of the basics on what polyamory is and what I actual DO to help alternative families (I tried to clarify in the comments below the piece on their webtv), but overall, it's a positive portrayal of polyamory and my work, and this is the first time journalists wanted to focus on my career more than my love life, which I appreciate!

Please 'vote it up!' so it will get more circulation, and perhaps join the discussion in the comments.


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March 12, 2009

"Family" polyfolks interviewed on radio

KISW radio, Seattle

Terisa Greenan is the creator and producer of the polyamorous web sitcom "Family" (see previous post). Christopher Bingham is the musician from Gaia Consort / Bone Poets Orchestra who wrote and sang the theme song. The two of them did a very fine interview yesterday morning with a gabby talk-jock, B.J. Shea, on KISW Rock Radio in Seattle. You can download and listen to it (March 11, 2009).

A few bits:

Terisa: I say it's "loosely" based on my life. As the episodes go on and as people point things out to me, I realize it's less loosely based than I thought — maybe pretty closely based on my life.... and some things I don't know if I want to say on the radio [laughing].... The configuration that I live in is very accurately depicted in the show.

Chris: I'm involved in a fourple. We're involved with a couple — they're currently living in Amsterdam, it's long-distance at this point — we still consider ourselves together — but we were living in each other's back pockets for a couple of years.

B.J.: ...What I don't understand is if you and Chris are such good friends, and you guys are polyamorous—

Terisa: —Why haven't we had sex, Chris?! [Laughter, banter and flirting.]

Chris: There are only a few reasons why I wouldn't do it. The first is that I'd have to ask my partners, and we'd have to talk about it. It would probably be okay in our setup. Like Terisa said in her setup, we're very strict about safe sex stuff, because we all like to live, and it's really important. In terms of opening up the circle, the fourple that we have is more of what we call a polyfidelitous relationship. We are committed to each other, unless we want to expand the group. And if we want to expand the group, then we need to talk to all of our other partners about it, and define what that means. So I could theoretically have sex with Terisa, and I'm sure it would be absolutely lovely, but we would have to decide how much we want to be involved.

Terisa: ...Since you brought up the topic of rules, I would just like to say that every poly family has their rules. Some are bisexual, some only play as a couple, some say "everything but intercourse," whatever. But the main thing to remember, is each polyfamily has their own customized rules. And no two polyfamilies have the same rules.

Chris: ...We're dealing with human beings. Every relationship you go into— most Americans go through life doing what's called serial monogamy, where we decide that if we want another lover, or it's not working out or whatever, we just break up our lives and move on. Well in polyamory if we decide to have another lover, you don't have to do that, you have honesty as the basis of what you're doing—

B.J.: ...Terisa, do you feel like this is the way we really should be living as human beings?

Terisa: I do. I feel that very strongly. I don't think there's anything natural, or normal, about only having sex with one person for 30 or 40 years.

B.J.: ...Well this is what I loved about the show... What I really loved was the New Year's Eve episode, where—. I have a wife, I also have a daughter, and so as a man having to deal sometimes with, you know, the emotional outbursts and problems that sometimes the two women in my life have, sometimes I go "God, I would like to pass this over to somebody else." And, what a great episode— where one dude's out having a good time, where normally that would be a problem, 'cause he'd have to come back and deal with this woman who was upset that he was gone. But then the other dude was like reassuring her, sticking up for the other guy— that is pretty cool. The two dudes are able to actually give her the nurturing she needs, while the other guy doesn't have to deal with the grief.

Terisa: And that is one of the episodes that's practically transcribed from a real-life event.

B.J.: Which I think is fantastic.... The real tough stuff does come from the nonsexual interactions.

Terisa: ...We're telling people all the time that. It's so true. When I have a conflict with Larry, Scott mediates and helps us through that, and it's really nice to have that impartial third party, and when I have a conflict with Scott, Larry mediates. It's wonderful to have that extra support! And they're both fond of having time alone to just read a book or do whatever they want to do alone, and they're happy that I've got someone else to be with.

They go on and talk about lots more stuff for almost an hour, intelligently and excitedly. We're lucky to have such good spokespeople! Especially because Terisa says she's very new to being a public poly figure and said on the air that she'd been scared to go on the show. I say we've got a new star.


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March 9, 2009

"Family" poly sitcom gets recognized!

Seattle Times

It's about time. Terisa Greenan's web-based poly sitcom, "Family", gets a big writeup in a major newspaper this morning — in its own hometown.

Seattle-based "Family" webisodes no ordinary sexy sitcom

By Mark Rahner
Seattle Times staff reporter

It's not hard to picture this on prime-time TV: a sitcom called "Family" about a woman and two dudes shacking up in a polyamorous relationship.

In fact, independent Seattle filmmaker Terisa Greenan's short, biweekly YouTube "Family" webisodes — seven and counting [actually nine –Ed.] — have drawn the Kinsey Institute's attention as a sort of landmark on the subject and put a spotlight on this area as one of the nation's, uh, hotbeds of the lifestyle.

..."They always say use something that you know about, right?" said Greenan, an actress who has appeared in commercials for Value Village and Coldwell Banker, done voice work in the "Star Trek: First Contact" video game and appeared in independent flicks and local theater.

While Greenan's zero-budget depiction of poly Seattle lacks the polish of a studio production — she shoots an episode in a day, takes three or four days to edit, and the actors work pro bono — it's ringing true with those who know the subject.

"These are funny as all hell to those of us who have lived poly for more than a week," said "Minx," whose Chicago-based "Polyamory Weekly" podcast (www.polyweekly.com) has run four years and gets about 2,000 downloads a month [I think that's supposed to be 2,000 a week. –Ed.]. "What Terisa Greenan has done is to take all the poly fears, pitfalls and misconceptions and gently poke fun at them in a searingly entertaining way."

Now, Greenan hopes to spread the love further, despite the thousands of hits each webisode already gets. "It's gotten so popular in poly and sex-positive communities, the point is to make it accessible and a crossover hit."

Changing partners

Greenan lives with two men — one for nine years, the other for 11.... They're all free to pursue relationships with other people outside their triad or "V," and she has a couple of "casual boyfriends" as well, who also have other partners. (Although polys live in every conceivable configuration.)

Apart from "Where do you find time for anything else?" the other most obvious question concerns safety. "We're very, very strict about safe sex. That's the one rule we do have," Greenan said.

She bases "Family" on her own experiences in Seattle (with Amber Rack, Eric Smiley and Ernie Joseph as the leads), sometimes transcribing real conversations, other times spinning fiction from some nugget of truth.

"I just thought, what can I do that's original?" Greenan said. "And polyamory still has an element of taboo about it."

However, she said, "One thing I really wanted to do with this, because the subject matter is not widely known, is just show these people in this lifestyle as ordinary. Because when people find out about my lifestyle, they react with shock and horror sometimes."

Like, for instance, her parents....

...But what is it about Seattle and all the free love? Turns out it ain't so free, according to Jodi O'Brien, chair of Seattle University's sociology department and a specialist in gender and sexuality.

"My sociological take on it is that it's challenging enough to handle one committed relationship with full honesty and openness, so when you bring more into it the complications are going to multiply exponentially."

Yep: "It takes us, like, five times longer just to get out of the freakin' house to go to dinner," Greenan said. "The more people you involve the more time everything takes. The same thing's true when there's an argument — you have a whole other person whose argument you need to work through and hear, a whole other brain, a whole other set of opinions. Everything is a lot more complicated, but everything is a lot more interesting."

Polys tend to be white, well-educated, middle-class or higher, in the 30s-to-50s age range, and often in the information-technology industry, according to such experts as O'Brien and Elisabeth Sheff, of Georgia State University, who's doing a longitudinal study of polyamorous families with children.

Sexual minorities tend to congregate in larger urban areas — "Boston, New York City and Atlanta have large polyamorous populations, but they're barely organized. In Seattle there are multiple groups with multiple and consistent meetings. Seattle has one of the most active, well-developed, organized and thriving [poly] communities in the United States," Sheff said.

Read the whole article. And go join the comments!

The newspaper has also produced a nice 3-minute video report on Greenan, her vee triad, and Seattle's thriving poly community.

Update: Christopher Bingham, composer of "Family" the theme song, is offering free downloads of it on his Bone Poets Orchestra site.


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March 4, 2009

Savage Love on poly denial

Many alternative newspapers

It happens so often. You explain to a new romantic interest that you're poly, and what it means, and the philosophy behind it, and that this means you'll be dating other people no matter how serious your relationship becomes. Or, that you'll be staying happily married to your spouse, who approves.

"You need to understand this about me before we go any further. Are you okay with this?"

And your NRE-besotted date nods and says "Oh, yes, I'm cool with that" and smiles wonderfully at you, and you thank the Goddess that your date gets it — and on both sides, DeNile flows down to the sea.

The denial bursts into view months (or years) later when New Person breaks into sobs and demands "How could you do this to me?" when you talk about another wonderful new person who has come into your life.

Or when it gets through your thick skull that the reason New Person never has the time to accept your family dinner invitations at home, and says catty things about your wife, is because she is hoping/expecting to cowboy you away from your wife.1

Who is at fault here? The world will says it's your fault for being a commitment-phobic horndog/slut who wants to have his cake and eat it too. Never mind how clearly and explicitly you explained the situation (or thought you did) on that early date.

Now comes an advice columnist who takes your side with fists and vengeance. Dan Savage writes "Savage Love," a gay sex-and-relationships column that's based at The Stranger in Seattle and is syndicated to many other alternative newspapers. It is not for the easily offended.

Free Spirit, My Ass

Q: Recently, I celebrated my first year of marriage to the most amazing man. When we first began dating, he told me that he enjoys open sexuality and wants swinging to be part of any partnership he's in. I regard myself as free-spirited and agreed to explore this with him. We delayed experimentation because I had a stressful job and I wanted to spend my limited free time with him instead of exploring our sexuality with multiple partners....

...Recently, we had a civil discussion wherein we discussed the possibility of him having these sexual experiences without me, since I do not find them compelling. This idea appealed to him. He proposed going to a sex party alone that very night.

Ever since then, I have been crushed by the prospect of my husband having a sex life outside of our relationship.... Having a healthy sexual relationship with him is enough for me. He makes a good point that he has been straight about his desire for this lifestyle since day one, but I am still frustrated and horrified that my husband needs to have sex outside of our marriage....

—Sex Best One On One

A: Straight, honest feedback: You are an idiot.

...You knew going in that your husband could never be satisfied in a marriage that didn't involve "open sexuality" and swinging. Don't come crying to me now because the man you married wants to actually have sex with other people. You knew that before you married him, SBOOO, because he fucking told you so.

You're unlikely to encounter a marriage counselor who'll take your husband's side (nonmonogamy? boo!) over yours (monogamy? yay!), SBOOO, so I'm going to aggressively come to his defense: You're never going to convince your husband that one-on-one ought to be enough for him. Sorry. You're also going to have a hard time convincing him that you didn't deceive him in the run-up to this marriage. When he told you that monogamy was a deal breaker, SBOOO, you replied that you were "free-spirited" and willing to "explore." But, alas, circumstances beyond your control prevented you from embarking on any explorations until after the wedding, and only then — only after he married you — did you discover that your husband's sexual interests both frustrated and horrified you.

How convenient.

...Sorry, SBOOO, you picked the wrong columnist. You want and always wanted a monogamous commitment. Free spirit, my ass. You are — surprise! — sexually incompatible. Divorce. Get it over with.

He says a lot more; read the whole column (Feb. 12, 2009).

Two weeks later, Savage continued with a followup:

Q: I am a polyamorist. I am always upfront with my partners about this, especially if I want to get serious with them. So many people seem to say that they are fine with it out of some kind of misguided assumption that they can eventually change my mind. You know, "Polyamory isn't real; it's just a phase!" You know, like being gay.

I just wanted to say thank you for your reply to SBOOO!... While I'm sure you enjoy positive feedback, saying thank you is cheap. A lot of times you plug various charities and causes in your column — is there any group you'd like me to donate to as a more concrete symbol of my appreciation?

—Longtime Fan

A: Some folks think I was too hard on SBOOO, some think I was just hard enough.... For the record: I am not biased toward nonmonogamy. But I do think monogamous people should be with each other and refrain from marrying folks who are self-aware enough to inform them in advance that they don't think they're capable of being monogamous.

...Some folks who wrote in about my advice for SBOOO raised a good point: I should have come down on the husband as well. If nonmonogamy was a deal breaker for him, then he was a fool to marry SBOOO before verifying her ability to be nonmonogamous. Agreed. So, for the record: SBOOO's husband? You're an idiot, too.

Finally, LF, I'm always happy to see money go to Planned Parenthood.

Read the whole column; scroll to the bottom (Feb. 26, 2009).

As for donations? To help educate the world about the need to make conscious poly or mono relationship choices, donations are especially needed by the Loving More nonprofit poly-awareness organization. I've donated to it heavily, so I'm not shy about saying you should too.

In this regard: I just got home from the Poly Living Conference in Philadelphia, put on by Loving More, and the 2nd National Polyamory Leadership Summit held in the same hotel in the two days that followed. The 60 or so people at the summit planned out more than a dozen task forces to get ambitious new projects under way. (And to convene the third leadership summit at a date and city to be decided, probably on the West Coast.) If you are a poly-awareness activist with accomplishments to show, and if you work well in committees, you really should get yourself invited into this. We hope to change the world.


[1] Cowboy (verb, transitive): To ride up alongside a herd of polys and try to rope one away all for yourself.