Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

January 2, 2010

"Love's New Frontier" in the Boston Globe

Boston Globe Sunday Magazine

As the cover story of tomorrow's Sunday magazine, New England's largest and most prestigious newspaper (which I've read for most of my life) presents a 3,400-word article about Poly Boston and some of its most out members. The article is already on the Globe's website. So is a well-produced video, in which people in the article are interviewed.

The article is thoughtful, detailed, and accurate. But I do think it could have given a little more attention to poly models other than those that are basically open marriages, especially in light of its wonderfully sweeping title.

Love's New Frontier

It’s not monogamy. But it’s not cheating or polygamy, either. It’s called polyamory, and with hundreds practicing the lifestyle in and around Boston, is liberal Massachusetts ready to accept it?

By Sandra A. Miller | January 3, 2010

Jay Sekora isn’t actively looking for an additional relationship, but he admits to occasionally checking a dating site to see who’s out there. Sekora’s girlfriend, Mare... said she is not pursuing anyone, either, but is “open and welcoming to what might come along.” In the three-plus years they have been together, a few other people have come along, like the woman whom Sekora, a 43-year-old systems administrator from Quincy, met online and dated briefly until she moved away. There was also a male-male couple that Mare and Sekora, who identifies as bisexual, dated for several months as a couple....

Through the lens of monogamy, this love connection may appear distorted, but that’s not how Sekora and Mare, who is 45, describe their lifestyle. Adherents call it responsible non-monogamy or polyamory, and the nontraditional practice is creeping out of the closet, making gay marriage feel somewhat last decade here in Massachusetts. What literally translates to “loving many,” polyamory (or poly, for short), a term coined around 1990, refers to consensual, romantic love with more than one person. Framing it in broad terms, Sekora, one of the three founders and acting administrator of the 500-person-strong group Poly Boston, says: “There’s monogamy, where two people are exclusive. There’s cheating, in which people are lying about being exclusive. And poly is everything else.”

Everything else with guidelines, that is....

Polyamory has a decidedly feminist, free-spirited flavor, and these are real relationships with the full array of benefits and complexities — plus a few more — as the members of Poly Boston’s hypercommunicative, often erudite, and well-entwined community will explain.

[Says Cambridge sex therapist Gina Ogden,] “Polyamory isn’t a lifestyle for everybody, any more than monogamy is for everybody. Keeping one relationship vital is a lot of work, and if you start adding more relationships, it becomes more work.” Though common descriptors used for monogamy don’t easily apply to polyamory, there is a recognizable spectrum of how open these partnerships may be. On the closed end, you might have a couple in a primary relationship who will then have one or more secondary relationships that are structured to accommodate the primary one. There’s also polyfidelity, in which three or more people are exclusive with one another. On the open end, there might be chains of people where, for example, Sue is dating Bill and Bill is dating Karen and Karen is dating Jack, who is also dating Sue.

“I’m not sure there are as many ways to be poly as there are people who are poly, but it’s close,” says Thomas Amoroso, an emergency room doctor from Somerville and member of Poly Boston.... When a woman he had just begun seeing revealed she was polyamorous, the concept, new to Amoroso, resonated. Amoroso and the woman stayed together for five years, while each sustained additional relationships, including — for her — one with Sekora that drew Sekora and Amoroso together in a close friendship that they still maintain. For Amoroso, being poly is less about sex than the authentic expression of caring for more than one person. “People tend to harp on the sexual component,” he says, “but the relationship component is just as important.”

It’s complicated, as the poly catch phrase goes. It’s also still surprisingly closeted. Nonetheless, Valerie White, executive director of Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund in Sharon, says we are ahead of the curve in Massachusetts, particularly compared with the South, where teachers have lost their jobs and parents have lost their children for being poly. But she notes there is no push in the poly movement to legalize these relationships, largely because there’s no infrastructure for it. “It was easy to legalize gay marriage. All you had to do was change bride and groom to person A and person B. But we don’t know what multi-partnered marriage looks like,” White says.

...“A lot of poly people who feel jealous say it’s a warning sign that your needs aren’t getting met,” says Sekora. He says he’s felt insecure about relationships but not necessarily jealous of his partner’s partners. He recalls a time early in his relationship with Mare, however, when she felt threatened by a woman he had started dating. When the three sat down and talked, the women got along well and Mare’s worries dissipated. “Sensible, mature, self-reliant, and stable partners would be a welcome asset” to their relationship, says Mare....

...“I think you can play the part of a monogamous person without necessarily having to think what it means for you,” [Sekora] says. “There’s a cultural script that we learn from movies, sitcoms, songs on the radio, and watching our parents. Because there isn’t a similar script for poly relationships, you have to think about what you’re doing and decide what you want.”

...It was Biversity Boston, a thriving, well-organized bi community, that helped draw Sekora to Boston in 1992. After a few years, he and two other non-monogamous bisexual friends envisioned a similar organization and separate social space for poly people. Their research revealed that a small, albeit active, polyamorous group called Family Tree had already been in existence locally since 1980.... But the Family Tree meetings usually took place, and still do, in the suburbs, and its members were generally older. Sekora imagined Boston-centered, T-accessible events that could also draw an urban crowd. In December 1994, Sekora and the two others who are no longer active in the community launched Poly Boston as a mailing list of five people. Six months later, it started taking root with new members. Sekora took over the list in 1998, steadily helping it grow to its current 500 members, with an almost equal number of men and women....

The flavor of the group reflects the city in general, with a fair amount of students as well as people who came here to study and then stayed on. But, demographically, it is more bisexual than the city at large.... Information technology, academia, and biotech are well represented among the professions, but, though the group is somewhat skewed toward the sciences, plenty of Poly Boston people work in the humanities or the service industry, according to Sekora. The most obvious common feature beyond their lifestyle may be a love of intellectual ferment.

She got that right. I'm a regular at the Poly Boston dinners; a recent one featured excited discussions of conspiracy-theory culture in Serbia, on-air radio pranks people have engineered, verb forms and numerology in Latin vs. Greek vs. Aramaic, championship chess, Tesla coils we have known, how to get on shortwave radio, the Pope and the split in the Anglican Church, plans to start a wingnut internet meme that the city of Indianapolis does not exist, recent discoveries among extrasolar planets, and points of Unitarian theology.

“It certainly seems to be a group of people who are, by and large, interested in the discussion of ideas,” Sekora says.

...Poly Boston members Alan and Michelle Wexelblat of Burlington [Ed. note: he's not me; I'm the other Alan, Alan M.] take turns attending the cafe gatherings. As the parents of two boys, 6 and 9, the poly couple find that the get-togethers — though child-friendly — conflict with homework and dinnertime. “There’s nothing that having kids didn’t affect in our lives, including how we date,” says Alan. That would be dating each other as well as other people outside of their stable 10-year marriage. Both Alan and Michelle identified as non-monogamous when they met and hit it off 15 years ago at a science-fiction convention in Philadelphia. Authors such as Robert Heinlein, whose stories often feature nontraditional marriages, are frequently credited with the striking overlap of poly people and science-fiction fans....

...How long has it been since Michelle has dated anyone? “Long enough to be annoying,” says Alan, who would like to see his wife find a boyfriend.

Michelle, who calls herself a romantic, says she gets wistful rather than jealous when her husband goes out on dates, and while she would welcome having someone new in her life, it also has to be the right person. There’s compatibility to consider but also schedules, goals, and, of course, the feelings of other partners....

...In 2006, Elisabeth Sheff, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University who had been collecting data on poly families since 1996, launched the first long-term study of children raised in such families. While her findings are not yet conclusive, Sheff says her initial generalization is that kids raised in poly families have access to many resources, such as help with homework, rides when needed, and the additional emotional support and attention that comes from having other, nonparental adults in their lives. Sheff adds, however, that “kids in poly families also sometimes feel extremely upset when their parents’ partners leave, if it means the end of the relationship between the kid and the ex-partner.” She says that poly families often pass as mundane, blended families from divorce and remarriage and therefore easily fly below the radar.

Many poly people don’t necessarily want to stand out, but quietly seek acceptance for a lifestyle that they say is challenging, often time-consuming, and yet rewarding....

Read the whole article (January 3, 2010). Click on the graphic there for the video. Send comments to magazine@globe.com .

The article was many months in the making, in part because Globe editors insisted that people profiled have public identities and real names. This constraint made the article hard for the writer to assemble and ruled out some of the most interesting people she approached, including two thriving, living-together triads with young kids.

One reason why I think the poly movement is poised for a major cultural breakout is because there are so many great people who, for one reason or another, still feel it's best for them to remain private. (Frustratingly, me included.) For gays, the great sea change began when people grew sick and tired of life in the closet and the dam against coming out finally burst. We're not quite there yet.

Partly, I think, this is because compared to gays, we have it easy. Polys are not assaulted by thugs on the streets. We're not dying of a dread disease. For at least six years, high-end leaders of the right wing have tried to whip up hysteria against us as the next great threat to Western civilization, but they've gained no traction beyond their immediate followers and seem to have given up.



Update: Kamela Dolinova, in her smart Boston Open Relationships Examiner blog, reviews the article:

The Boston Globe tackles the issue of polyamory in the Boston area with sensitivity and aplomb....

...It is my sincere hope that the publication of this article marks the start of a new era in journalism around polyamory and related lifestyles; for too long our story has been relegated to page 19 at best, and often rife with misunderstandings and sensationalism. The Globe story points out how closeted poly people still tend to be, given the dangers of losing kids and jobs over the practice in some states. Perhaps a true outing is finally in the works.

Read her whole post.

In fact this "new era in journalism" about poly has been building for several years. Here is my pick of the best.

Update: Two weeks later the Globe Sunday Magazine printed several letters about the article, most of them hostile.


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Blogger Ruggiero said...

Well, the initial reaction from one of my mono friends on Facebook was not encouraging. "Boston's new fad: Polyamory. Isn't that a suburban word for swinging?"

I wonder what will trigger the mass coming out you describe? I'm hoping that poly can find a better trigger than some form of 21st century Stonewall incident.

January 02, 2010 4:07 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

That mass 'coming out' might easily be triggered by one of two things - 1) there is the concern brought up in a previous post of the "bandwagon" getting away from the people who are pushing it forward (with all the 'popularity' it is attaining among celebrities); and 2) the whole "we're not swingers" situation.

I know there has been some backlash to the whole "we're not swingers" concept here in the Midwest. It's being seen as "intolerant of swingers" - and therefore shouldn't be used.

But the more and more that irresponsible swingers (as opposed to responsible ones) start making the news, the more likely the anti-poly rage will start. And the reality is that it was the rage and hatred that made the GLBT community finally 'come out' so that they could give support to each other and stand together.

We polys don't really have that. We seem 'comfortable' in our privacy and secrecy. Until more people are persecuted for poly, it is unlikely that many will want to 'out' themselves.

January 02, 2010 5:10 PM  
Blogger Ruggiero said...

Not that I'm hoping for this particular outcome, but my partner Orlando suggested that one possible trigger could be a big, splashy, ugly, highly public lawsuit.

Of course, she also suggested that the likely plaintiff in such a suit would be a "second generation" poly person - someone who grew up in a poly household and is more likely to get fired up with righteous rage when faced with discrimination based on lifestyle choices. If so, we might be waiting a while.

January 02, 2010 5:39 PM  
Blogger Farmer Jen said...

Good article and video.

January 02, 2010 7:08 PM  
Blogger MoonRaven said...

It was pretty wild to see that on the Globe site. My sister (who I've come out to as being poly) alerted me to it.

My fear is that as poly becomes public, the right wing is going to go nuts about it--not to mention trying to use this to show that gay marriage is leading us all to ruin.

January 02, 2010 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with poly coming out is that it will open the door to pligs.
These are Fundie Mormons who practice polygamy and the false prophet Joseph Smith. Several of them are going to prison on bigamy charges in Texas and we are in the process of seizing their property and homes in Utah/AZ. We have no issues with poly or swinging if not religiously motivated. It would be nice if the polygs/swingers wait till we eradicate the Fundie Mormons before coming out of the closet. If they come out too soon, the pligs will claim selective prosecution and freedom of religion violations, that could hinder our campaign against the Mormon Pligs.

January 02, 2010 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend who's quite monogamous herself but very supportive of my poly relationship called me when she saw the story. She was excited for me that the article seemed so professional and respectful, especially in a publication sure to have such a wide audience. That says to me that this article may very well do us a lot of good in the long run.

I was particularly pleased that the people interviewed didn't bash monogamy per se. We're going to be in for the inevitable backlash; why hand the backlashers any more ammo?

January 03, 2010 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: being "intolerant of swingers"-- My impression is that the "we're not swingers" meme comes from people who aren't interested in being propositioned by strangers, just because they're poly. They don't want the sex angle to overwhelm the relationhip angle.

I don't know if there's a commonly accepted definition of a "swinger", but I think it's pretty safe to say that non-swinging polys are interested in more than just sex, and they want to keep it that way. If the general public confuses the two, we'll have a much harder time explaining ourselves.

Having said that, I think most polys aren't opposed to swingers' right to exist, as long as they're allowed to make it clear that they're not interested in participating in it themselves.

January 03, 2010 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polygamy is evil in my book. Even when all involved in it were adults when they chose it, even if they weren’t indoctrinated to believe in it, it just causes too much pain. There’s no possibility for true equality in a group dynamic and people get hurt. Yes, what people do in their own lives and in their own homes should generally be their own business, but that doesn’t change my view on polygamy. As for children being raised from birth on to accept it? I think it’s past time America got with the program and stopped allowing parents to do such things to their children. Freedom of Religion should NEVER trump a child’s basic human right to develop his or her thinking, reasoning and evaluation skills. They (in America at least) should be getting medical care — COMPLETE medical care — regardless of their parents’ religious insanities. Perhaps some of our lawmakers would like to take a look at some Canadian laws regarding this? After all, their religious crackpots don’t get to kill children on religious principle. Perhaps there are a few other laws which could be created and/or enforced to protect the children too? The only way to truly wipe out this kind of abuse is education, education, and more education. It may take generations, but if the children are actually taught, more and more will make emotionally healthy choices and these kinds of religious abuses will fail and fade away. (In my humble opinion.)


January 04, 2010 1:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Father Marries His Daughters:
A Case of Incestuous Polygamy

Polygamy is a risk factor for incest. This case report of incest and polygamy portrays the dynamics that dominated this family’s identity. The father indoctrinated and groomed his biological daughter and stepdaughter for sexual gratification in a cult-like atmosphere, and secretly married both of them. He justified his acts to the family members under the guise of religion, but he later denied allegations of polygamy and sexual contact with his daughters when confronted by the authorities. Ultimately, his parental rights were terminated in family court. The authors interviewed
the primary victim and reviewed extensive evidence, including videotapes of the victims talking with detectives and also privately amongst each other. Videotape dialogue excerpts capture how these young girls individually coped with the sexual abuse and responded to becoming child wives in a polygamous family. Criminal charges ultimately were not pursued because the key witness refused to testify against her biological father.


January 04, 2010 1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polygamy and polyamory is also responsible for the murders of vast numbers of children.

How Safe is Polygamy for Children?
Click to see a nine page, alphabetical list of every body, infant through adult, currently buried in Colorado City, Arizona, home of the FLDS, through 2004. Flora Jessop compiled this list, in her continuing quest to have the children’s deaths of Colorado City investigated.

Highlighted in yellow are the bodies of infants and children, with the age and purported cause of death of each child.

Like the CDC, I counted anyone 19 years of age or younger as a child.

After doing so, it was clear that Colorado City, Arizona was a tiny city, with a consistent yearly death rate of 50% children or more, almost every year.

Accidental Child Deaths
The AAAP has questions about the unusual numbers accidental deaths, especially among FLDS toddlers reported to have been “accidentally run over”. We can find no other city in America, of the same size [less than 6,000 residents], which has reported almost a dozen children “accidentally run over by cars” in the last 20 years. The AAAP stands on our challenge for anyone to show us the same death results for another modern American city of the same size.


January 04, 2010 1:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

America has no room for polys.

Buster Johnson, Mohave County commissioner, has this to say about pligs/polygs

" I think that these people basically are so hard core that they cannot be allowed back into normal society. They need to be allowed to die out completely."

January 04, 2010 1:52 AM  
Anonymous LetsEatCake! said...

"Polygamy and polyamory is also responsible for the murders of vast numbers of children."

I'm sorry, is this said in jest?

I can't tell if you're pointing out how ridiculous and irrational this thought is, or if you really believe it.

January 04, 2010 1:07 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

> We're going to be in for
> the inevitable backlash;

Well I've been waiting for it for years now, as poly becomes more and more widely known, and it just keeps not happening. Yet.

Despite some high-level right-wing attempts to whip it up. For instance:

Meanwhile, I think we're doing a great job of *getting the first word* in defining who we are. This is much better than what gays faced, for instance. They had to deal with nasty images deeply rooted in the culture *before* they managed to find their public voice.

January 04, 2010 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polygamy/Polyamory degrades women and children, is an abomination against God, and has no place in modern society. It is also a illegal in all 50 states. There is plenty of evidence that the vast majority of pliggers molest children, abuse women, and mooch off welfare.
The year is 2010 AD, not 2010 BC.

For more info go to

January 04, 2010 11:51 PM  
Blogger Ruggiero said...

Alan - I think the "nasty images deeply rooted in the culture" are popping up in the comments right now. Our two nasty images to fight are the mass-media, key-partying-wife-swappin'-irresponsible perception of swinging, and the prairie-dress-wearing-FLDS-religiously-motivated-often-abusive polygamists. In both cases, the distinction is blurry in many people's minds, and so we get any negative baggage that goes with the swinger/"traditional" polygamist label.

January 05, 2010 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As a Black lesbian feminist comfortable with the many different ingredients of my identity, and a woman committed to racial and sexual freedom from oppression, I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, ellipsing or denying the other parts of self. But this is a destructive and frightening way to live. My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly." - Audre Lorde, 2004

Have a mass coming out of polys may not fulfill this sentiment as it has not, as of yet, managed it for the LGB community. Rather than the mass coming out I hope for a slow growth to normalcy where I can just live my life.

January 05, 2010 7:23 PM  
Blogger Sexie Sadie~ said...

I think that it's fear, plain and simple, which keeps us from coming out of the closet. Until we have a reason to come out, there is nothing motivating us to come out of the dark. It's comfortable here. Quiet. We can invite who we want into our cave and we can kick them out if they muss things up in our tight, organized, space.

It will take a few brave souls. It will take a lot of tolerance and it will take everyone who swims in the ethical non-monogamy pool (including swingers) to come together and be supportive of each other's choices and stop admonishing each other for our differing styles of relational operations. I hope to be a part of the movement that will eventually burst out of the proverbail closet. Because even though it's comfy as all get out, it's a little stuffy sometimes.


January 05, 2010 10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are a successful Poly triad living in a liberal metro area. But we will never be out.

Why? Because of political correctness.

Without giving too many details, we continue (this was written by the three of us). One of us is a Dom (Dominant Male), but not a leather boy. He enjoys the company and love of more than one submissive (two to be specific). Two of us are legally married to one another, but the third party is not . We casually cohabitate, which translates to we have more than one pad.

Now, having spoken the truth, the RAINS SHALL POUR DOWN for our political in-correctness. To make all this worse, we are all caucasian.

If our Dom were a male sub, then some groups might wish to defend our rights. But to most people, our relationship is a clear example of "white male misogynistic domination of vulnerable females."

Well, that is no fun at all, now is it. The fact that the three of us in this relationship all discovered our own sexual orientation before we met is a detail. The fact that this is 100% mutually consensual is a detail. And the fact that we really do make this all work is just proof to others that a man have two (wonderful) women under his evil dominant powers. (We have checked, btw, no powers - he can only wish.) But, under no circumstances, do the two of us who are submissive ever want to be “liberated” from our Dom. We chose this lifestyle and it works better than anything we have tried in the past.

We know several Fem-Doms who have man-subs for partners. They can be out as long as their profession is somehow related to D/s sex. (Great work if you can get it. We subbies agree 100% - we do not remotely believe our Dom could work in the sex industry.)

Our conclusion is that the article is correct. Gay people can be out because it so closely resembles the accepted norm. Add a few manners, and it can be mainstream. (No one asks gay people anymore “So who is the man and who is the woman?”)

But Polys and D/s, and perhaps especially Poly+D/s simply must live in the closet. Other than a few small group dinners, the subs do not wear collars or anything that is a give away in public. (And we do protest: we look stunning in collars. And every woman wished to look stunning at dinner.) Because we have an air or respectability, we can all three go to dinner, and we do. But we tend to be careful about affection when we are all three together, because it is really best to avoid certain confrontations. (We are certain that a few of the waiters have caught on, but that is another story.)

So the closet it is. And following generations will need to go through the gauntlet that we three have survived. Because successful role models like us are closeted, people who come of age with our similar orientations will need to fail in a few vanilla relationships to become self aware. In our opinions, this is a waste of energy, but it cannot be solved.

If we could be out, what good would come of it? The article does hint in this direction. In our observation, the thing that is missing in most traditional relationships is the ability to adjust and negotiate. Because traditional relationships (which we call “vanilla”) are based on 90% assumption and 10% agreement, the members are always in danger of disrupting the relationship by questioning or clarifying any tiny detail in the presumed “rules”. But in a non-traditional relationship, every detail is up for discussion, and there are precious few assumptions. The article states that there may be as many types of Poly relationships are Poly people.

All of this, every little thing, must be negotiated. We need to be explicit, affectionate, caring, open and loving. But negotiate we must. We believe the world would benefit from what we have learned. But we are not martyrs and we will not be “out” in our lifetime.


October 13, 2010 1:29 PM  

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