Newsweek: Polyamory is "America's Next Romantic Revolution"
There's been gossip for more than a month that Newsweek magazine was interviewing people for a big article on polyamory. This morning the magazine published the article on its website, with an accompanying two-part video.
The title on Newsweek's homepage is "America's Next Romantic Revolution," and the title in the rotating feature spot is "The Next Sexual Revolution?" The article centers on Terisa Greenan's household in Seattle (on which she bases her webcast video series "Family") and works outward from there.
It's dead on-target and absolutely wonderful.
It is not in the paper magazine, however, at least not yet. Word is the writer hopes she can get it into the print edition sometime in the coming weeks. [UPDATE LATER: This never happened.]
Only You. And You. And You.
Polyamory — relationships with multiple, mutually consenting partners — has a coming-out party.
By Jessica Bennett | Newsweek Web Exclusive
July 29, 2009
Terisa Greenan and her boyfriend, Matt, are enjoying a rare day of Seattle sun, sharing a beet carpaccio on the patio of a local restaurant. Matt holds Terisa's hand, as his 6-year-old son squeezes in between the couple to give Terisa a kiss. His mother, Vera, looks over and smiles; she's there with her boyfriend, Larry. Suddenly it starts to rain, and the group must move inside. In the process, they rearrange themselves: Matt's hand touches Vera's leg. Terisa gives Larry a kiss. The child, seemingly unconcerned, puts his arms around his mother and digs into his meal.
Terisa and Matt and Vera and Larry — along with Scott, who's also at this dinner — are not swingers, per se; they aren't pursuing casual sex. Nor are they polygamists of the sort portrayed on HBO's Big Love; they aren't religious, and they don't have multiple wives. But they do believe in "ethical nonmonogamy," or engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person — based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. They are polyamorous, to use the term of art applied to multiple-partner families like theirs, and they wouldn't want to live any other way.
...It's enough to make any monogamist's head spin. But the traditionalists had better get used to it.
Researchers are just beginning to study the phenomenon, but the few who do estimate that openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city. Over the past year, books like Open, by journalist Jenny Block; Opening Up, by sex columnist Tristan Taormino; and an updated version of The Ethical Slut — widely considered the modern "poly" Bible — have helped publicize the concept. Today there are poly blogs and podcasts, local get-togethers, and an online polyamory magazine called Loving More with 15,000 regular readers....
With polyamorists' higher profile has come some growing pains. The majority of them don't seem particularly interested in pressing a political agenda; the joke in the community is that the complexities of their relationships leave little time for activism. But they are beginning to show up on the radar screen of the religious right, some of whose leaders have publicly condemned polyamory as one of a host of deviant behaviors sure to become normalized if gay marriage wins federal sanction. "This group is really rising up from the underground, emboldened by the success of the gay-marriage movement," says Glenn Stanton, the director of family studies for Focus on the Family, an evangelical Christian group. "And while there's part of me that says, 'Oh, my goodness, I don't think I could see them make grounds,' there's another part of me that says, 'Well, just watch them.' "
...Polyamory might sound like heaven to some: a variety of partners, adding spice and a respite from the familiarity and boredom that's doomed many a traditional couple. But humans are hard-wired to be jealous, and though it may be possible to overcome it, polyamorous couples are "fighting Mother Nature" when they try, says biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, a professor at Rutgers University who has long studied the chemistry of love. Polys say they aren't so much denying their biological instincts as insisting they can work around them — through open communication, patience, and honesty. Polys call this process "compersion" — or learning to find personal fulfillment in the emotional and sexual satisfaction of your partner, even if you're not the one doing the satisfying. "It's about making sure that everybody's needs are met, including your own," says Terisa. "And that's not always easy, but it's part of the fun."
It's complicated, to say the least: tending to the needs of multiple partners, figuring out what to tell the kids, making sure that nobody's feelings are hurt. "I like to call it polyagony," jokes [Ken] Haslam, the Kinsey researcher, who is himself polyamorous. "It works for some perfectly, and for others it's a f--king disaster."
...It's easy to dismiss polyamory as a kind of frat-house fantasy gone wild. But in truth, the community has a decidedly feminist bent: women have been central to its creation, and "gender equality" is a publicly recognized tenet of the practice....
...It's a new paradigm, certainly—and it does break some rules. "Polyamory scares people — it shakes up their world view," says Allena Gabosh, the director of the Seattle-based Center for Sex Positive Culture. But perhaps the practice is more natural than we think: a response to the challenges of monogamous relationships, whose shortcomings — in a culture where divorce has become a commonplace — are clear. Everyone in a relationship wrestles at some point with an eternal question: can one person really satisfy every need? Polyamorists think the answer is obvious — and that it's only a matter of time before the monogamous world sees there's more than one way to live and love....
Read the whole article (July 29, 2009).
Newsweek also put up an absolutely first-rate two-part video on the Seattle household, mixing real-life interviews with scenes from "Family":
Part 1: Love — Poly Style
Part 2: Making Poly Love Work
Newsweek also put up a slide show on the history of polygamy and multiple partnering, titled "More Ways Than Two" (starting with Rameses II in ancient Egypt). It struck me as mediocre by seeming to conflate separate topics.
Updates: 7 a.m. next morning: I see the article is now #1 on Newsweek's site in all four categories: most read, emailed, recommended, and commented. Also, it's made the front page of Digg.
-- The Fox TV network has put out a news item referencing the Newsweek article. It's remarkably objective considering it's Fox.
-- A New York Press blogger says "Newsweek Loves Group Sex". (Never mind that the folks in the article say they never sleep with more than one person.)
-- Anita Wagner discusses some of the... umm... least complimentary comments that are piling in to the Newsweek site, on her Practical Polyamory blog. The contrast in character is remarkable between the ugly negatives and the often polite, thoughtful, well-presented positives. That's also been true in the comments to past poly news articles generally. We're winning the comment wars in terms of the impressions we make on normal people; keep it up. As Emerson said, "Character is everything." As Goddess of Java says, "Be a credit to your kink."
More on this: Okay, I went googling and found where a lot of those ugly comments are coming from. Turns out the right-wing blogosphere is having conniption fits over the Newsweek article and is sending its readers there — FreeRepublic, FoxNation, TownHall, the works. I kinda suspected. (A typical Freeper: "Yes and Bestiality and Pedophilia if the Obamunists have their way. Oh I almost forgot Necrophelia.") NewsBusters did a relatively decent article.
-- A columnist in The Frisky discusses the Newsweek article:
...ever since Anya James wrote about being in a polyamorous relationship back in November, I’ve noticed that three-way relationships have been everywhere. According to a study cited in Newsweek, “openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city.”...
-- The Newsweek article prompted momlogic.com to reprint its interview from last year with Loving More's Robyn Trask about her life, partners, and children.
-- Thoughtful criticism and commentary from a basically pro-poly columnist at GetReligion.org, a site about treatment of religious issues in the media.
-- Here's a Spanish translation of the article, which appeared on the site of the weekly newsmagazine El Argentino in Buenos Aires (Aug. 26, 2009).