Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 27, 2010

Wendy-O Matik interviewed

AK Press / Revolution by the Book

Wendy-O Matik, cultural radical and former punk musician, wrote one of the early books on polyamory: Redefining Our Relationships (Defiant Times Press, 2002). It's now in its 7th printing. It reads, says Hakim Bey, "like a punk-rock Ann Landers channeling Emma Goldman and Victoria Woodhull."

Matik (born Wendy Millstine) is still a street-level activist and leads Radical Love & Open Relationships workshops. She recently held one at the warehouse of AK Press, a worker-owned anarchist/radical publisher in Oakland, California. AK Press has posted an interview it did with her at the scene:

Redefining Our Relationships: An Interview with Wendy-O Matik

By macio | February 19, 2010

Wendy-O Matik, radical love activist and author of Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines For Responsible Open Relationships, recently held one of her famous workshops at AK Press. I used the opportunity to do a brief interview....

Wendy: ...I’m beaming with enthusiasm and radical love inoculations, even after 7 years of peddling polyamory workshops across the globe.

Macio: ...what are your favorite parts about these workshops? Do you have a least favorite part?

Wendy: My favorite part of the radical love workshop is visibility. There’s this critical moment when a group of total strangers begin to look around the room and acknowledge that they are not alone, we’re not alone, we’re in it together, and we are all struggling to figure out our unique relationships and it is extremely validating. I am deeply grateful to play some small role in bringing people together to create allies and building community support.

My least favorite or most challenging aspect of my workshop is being a facilitator. It can very challenging to occasionally deal with people who frequently dominate a discussion, or people who give unsolicited advice or try to solve someone’s issues. I also get disappointed when I’ve spent the greater part of my work dedicated to how radical love is linked to social justice, revolution, and saving the planet, and still most folks default to sex and juggling multiple sexual partners. I am, of course, more interested in love and intimacy, not sex and sexual conquest. I am committed to smashing patriarchy and relationship heirarchies whenever possible.

...Some day, I do hope to do a second edition, where I would like to develop at greater length this notion of how the practice of loving more is not just focused on people but also a critical part of loving the planet. Radical love has come to embody a form of political, social, and environmental justice for me, deepening over the years. The tendency for more poly folks to focus on sex, and while sex may be a delicious and fun part of open relationships, it fails to tap into our innate ability to love all species, non-humans and the planet.... Radical love has, at this core, an innately spiritual component, centered on global family, a sacred global interconnection.

Macio: What are some of your life experiences that have ushered you toward the idea of loving openly and without bounds?

Wendy: As a child, I was taught to love everyone. As an adult, I still do....

...Everywhere I’ve traveled or people I have connected with — from Canada to the US to Australia to Malaysia — are hungry for new relationship models. Many of them are already practicing different kind of open relationship structures and are eager to find others to connect with and discuss openly their unique experiences.

Macio: Understandably, going against the grain of how we have been trained to love requires us to confront a lot of inner demons. What are some quick tips for people out there attempting trying to maintain open relationships but running into fears around jealousy, loneliness and other insecurities?

Wendy: Quick tips:

* Read everything you can on the topic of open relationships, jealousy, setting boundaries, communication skills, and building self-esteem.
* Join or create a poly support group via online, chat-rooms, forums, or in your community locally.
* Find workshops and presentations on the topic of open relationships and polyamory. Bring your questions and issues to these gatherings.
* If you’re really struggling emotionally, find a poly-friendly therapist who can help you navigate those difficult issues that you’re facing.

...Radical love has the potential to shift the dominant paradigm, to embrace institutional change and to dismantle systems of oppression, such as capitalism, greed, and patriarchy, but only if we’re interested in smashing the system and rebuilding it with a more holistic paradigm to replace it. As a feminist and anarchist in spirit, open relationships go to the very core of patriarchy and threaten to disrupt men’s historical control over how we love, who we love, how many we love.

Read the whole bang-up interview (Feb. 19, 2010).


Interview with Matik on KFPA radio.

Internet talk radio interview on Voice America (registration required).

Interview on Sex With Emily podcast.

Print interview in East Bay Express (May 17, 2006).


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February 24, 2010

Polys: Winning the Race to Define Ourselves... So Far

I'm just back from Loving More's 2010 Poly Living Conference near Philadelphia, and the third summit meeting of the Polyamory Leadership Network (PLN) that immediately followed it.

At Poly Living, Anita Wagner and I presented a workshop titled "Polyamory in the Media's Spotlight." One theme that we and the audience discussed was the surprising fairness, and even positivity, with which mainstream media are covering the poly movement. This despite the fact that we're challenging bedrock assumptions about civilized behavior, human nature, and morality.

So why are we getting such good treatment?

In the audience was Pepper Mint from San Francisco, whose long and influential essay "The Strange Credibility of Polyamory" proposes some answers. I have two more answers of my own. But I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop — for the anti-poly backlash to begin — and it keeps not happening.

This matters — a lot. Because right now, as modern, ethical, egalitarian polyamorists, we are getting to have the first word. We are defining ourselves to the world before our opponents can.

Politicians spend millions trying to grab that advantage.

Contrast this to what the gay movement dealt with. When gay liberation got rolling in 1969, homosexuals were already sharply defined in the public mind: as pathetic, awful people. Those images have taken decades to beat back. But until recently, there was no cultural image of what modern, ethical, egalitarian polyamorists look like. Because most people never knew they could exist.

So I see a race underway: to entrench accurate images of ourselves in the culture before our opponents can plant awful images of us instead. So far, we're winning. This will be our best defense against future hysterias, witch hunts, and moral panics.

Want to help? Would you like to train up as a public poly spokesperson doing media appearances? If you are presentable, articulate, self-disciplined, a good role model, and committed to spreading polyamory education and awareness (admit it, that covers a lot of you!), then help is available. Joreth of the Polyamory Leadership Network has just put up a website for the new Polyamory Media Association. Check it out, register (for free) to access the materials, and contact her. And, please pass around the link: PolyMediaAssociation.com.

In addition, Robyn Trask of Loving More has already been providing TV coaching, and help in negotiating with reporters and TV producers on an even basis, for several years. She has experience in how to obtain fair treatment, and how to spot warning signs that you'll be treated badly and should stay away.

A rough guideline: Television is the hardest medium to do well and the easiest to look bad on if untrained. Print is better, depending on the writer's agenda. Radio is easiest — even with a hostile interviewer if it's a live conversation that can't be hacked up by editing.


All of this comes to mind as another positive poly story popped up this morning in an unlikely, very mass medium.

The Sun is one of the trashiest tabloid newspapers in Great Britain, the land that invented the trashy tabloid. It's best known for its "page 3 girls" showing their bare tits. It's currently aligned with the Conservative Party and is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Yet here it is with a nice, positive intro-to-poly feature:

I kiss my man goodnight, shut the door... and sleep with my other lover

By Nikki Watkins | Feb. 24, 2010

PADDING around the living room in her dressing gown, Julieanne Rennie gives her boyfriend of six years a kiss goodnight.

Then the 26-year-old turns and walks to the bedroom, hand in hand with another man.

For most men the idea of their girlfriend spending the night with somebody else would be unthinkable.

But for Chris Healy it is a regular occurrence - because Julieanne's other lover lives with them.

Julieanne, carer Chris, 29, and NHS worker Rick Maclennan, 35, practise "polyamory" - they have more than one long-term partner.

..."I am affectionate with Rick or Chris in front of the other, kissing or holding hands," [says Julieanne], "but anything more intimate is strictly for behind closed doors. For us, it's about far more than just sleeping with other people. We all believe that you can be in love with more than one person at once, and that you can meet lots of soulmates throughout your life."

Chris and Julieanne discussed the idea of opening up their relationship a few months after meeting at college.... But their first attempts at seeing other people did not go well.... "We realised we needed to start from scratch and do it properly.... I sat down and started researching open relationships online."

It was here they discovered "polyamory" - a term to describe "responsible non-monogamy".

...They decided to try once again to make an open relationship work and agreed they would always have to be honest about who they were seeing and how they felt.

..."Once we started telling people, other couples we know came out of the closet to us and said they saw other people too. We had had no idea because none of them were 'out' to many people.

...Rick adds: "Polyamory sounds complicated but I've found this my easiest relationship because we're so honest the whole time. In the six months I've been with Julieanne I've actually spoken about my feelings more than I did in my two marriages combined."

...It was the boys who suggested living together.... The transition has gone so well he has now moved in permanently.

Julieanne says: "The problem with dating multiple people is time, but living together has helped that."

...Julieanne hopes that polyamory will become more accepted by society.

She says: "I've read articles claiming it will be the next sexual revolution.

"I'm sure there are people who could be really happy living like us and just don't realise it's an option."

Read the whole article (Feb. 24, 2010), and see how nice the three of them appear in the pictures! Could that be you?

In a parallel vein, three months ago the Sun's sister tabloid the News of the World ran a similarly long and positive feature article on another happy poly household.


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February 12, 2010

Poly as a child-friendly way of life


What about the kids? Momlogic, a big mainstream parenting site, finds that a good poly household is a grand place for kids to grow up, though with a couple of drawbacks. Bookmark this for the next time someone asks, "But what about the kids?"

It's Not Swinging If You're Committed!

By Ronda Kaysen | February 9, 2010

For some, being polyamorous provides more love and support for the kids than does being in a monogamous household.

Most nights, Matt Bullen's 7-year-old son sleeps at home with his mom and dad, except for the nights when he sleeps at his dad's girlfriend's house. The arrangement works well because his mom's boyfriend lives there, too. Actually, his mom's boyfriend is married to his dad's girlfriend. Confused? Don't worry, that's just par for the course in polyamorist households.

Polyamory -- the notion that committed love relationships can involve more than two consenting adults -- is a bit like swinging, with one key difference: Love and commitment are the focus, not sexual hookups. For some, polyamorous relationships involve three or more adults, and no other new partners ever enter the equation. For others, polyamory becomes an even more fluid family dynamic.

...Terisa considers Matt and Vera to be extended family, and their son now has a room in her house.

Raising kids in a polyamorous household has its advantages, say polyamorists. After all, more adults means more hands to help with household chores such as doing laundry, making dinner, getting kids ready for bed and scheduling playdates. With more adults, there's also more money to go around. Kids enjoy the benefits of a large, extended family network. Polyamorous parents insist that their kids also learn valuable communication skills simply from watching their parents navigate the tricky terrain of managing more than one lover at a time.

"It's actually more natural than nuclear families, to tell you the truth," says Dossie Easton, a psychologist and author of The Ethical Slut, which is considered the polyamorists' bible. "The kids are startlingly able to discern between the different adults."

Easton, who found herself a single mother by choice in 1969, raised her daughter in an ever-changing polyamorous household in the San Francisco Bay Area. For a time, she lived with two other single mothers and hosted regular luncheons for all their various lovers, so everyone could get to know one another. Raising children, she says, was always at the center of the equation. If a lover didn't feel comfortable in a child-centered world, he didn't last long.

"I don't think it's any different than raising [kids] in a monogamous family," says Robyn Trask, Managing Director of Loving More, a polyamorous magazine and nonprofit organization based in Colorado. "You just have to really talk and communicate with your kids, which is important anyway." Trask raised three kids in a polyamorous household. When her oldest son was 10, she broke the news to him that she and his father had other lovers, expecting it to be a difficult conversation. To her surprise, he rolled with it.

"I explained that we had an open relationship, and that that didn't mean [his father and I] didn't love each other very much," she says. "I asked him how he felt about it, and he said, 'That's kind of cool.'" Now 22, her son identifies as poly and currently has two girlfriends.

For Trask's kids, growing up poly meant they had a large network of aunt- and uncle-like figures to call on. "We have more adults that we can lean on, who can be there for us," says Trask. "That kind of extended family, where there's an intimacy, is really nice."

The unusual family setup does have its drawbacks. Poly kids have to deal with judgmental peers, hiding their true family structure from friends, and the sudden absence of parental figures they have come to love and trust (if their biological parents break up with the boyfriend or girlfriend du jour).

"Kids have certainly talked about feeling sad when partners leave," says Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist at George State University who is conducting a long-term study on children raised in polyamorous households. "That's a source of pain for them."

Although polyamorists are quick to point out that monogamy doesn't shield kids from breakups and abandonment, Sheff notes that the turnover in poly households tends to be higher simply because more adults are involved in the equation....

Read the whole article (Feb. 9, 2010).


Here are some more poly parenting items:

1. A recent Polyamorous Misanthrope column, Poly Parenting 101, by Noel Figart, certified mom:

One of the sad facts of being an alternative lifestyler of any sort is in this political climate, you’re liable to be labeled a dangerous pervert....

[If you're a parent] should this worry you?

It depends on a lot of things. Where do you live? Is it a conservative area? Do people have a live and let live policy, or are they all up in your bidness? What about your relatives? Are there control issues going on? Are you accepting significant financial support from them?

But more than that, I want to point out one more thing, which is the big subject of my rant.

Are you a good parent?

Seriously, dewd. Don’t get on your damn high horse until you’ve evaluated your parenting....

Here's her whole collection of no-nonsense poly-parenting experience and advice.

2. Curve magazine on coming out to your kids, whether you're LGBT or poly:

...“When building unconventional families, we must remember that our children will have to negotiate these relationships with peers, school systems, and extended family members,” reminds Lev. “You will also need to remain open to continuous dialogue with your [child].” Lev says as they age, they may have many different feelings about their ‘unusual’ family at different stages of their life....

3. "Not Half the Parent You Used To Be" by Millie Jackson at sexgenderbody:

A common argument against polyamory is that it is not a healthy lifestyle for the children involved. I have never found this argument to hold up. Although I do not have children, I have been involved with people who do. What I have witnessed are very content children getting a lot of positive attention. They are being raised in a diverse and accepting environment while witnessing communication, negotiation, and a team mentality. Often times, they are completely unaware that their “extended family” includes partners of their mommy and/or daddy....

4. Another article, by Alex Vitti:

...The choice of structures is affected by timing: an adult who has been present throughout a child's life is likely to have a more parental relationship with that child than one who enters a relationship with people who already have a teenage child. (The issues involved often parallel those of step-parenting.)

The degree of logistical and emotional involvement between the members of the relationship is also important: a close-knit triad already living under one roof with shared finances is far more likely to take a collective approach to parenting than would a larger, loose-knit group with separate living arrangements:

“Some poly families are structured so that one parent can be home to care for the children while two or more other adults work outside the home and earn an income, thus providing a better standard of living for all concerned.

More adult caretakers means more people available for child care, help with homework, and daily issues such as transportation to extracurricular activities. Children thrive on love. The more adults they have to love them who are part of the family, the happier and more well-adjusted they are.

There is no evidence that growing up in a poly family is detrimental to the physical, psychological or moral well being of children. If parents are happy in their intimate relationships, it helps the family. Happy families are good for children.”

5. A long article in Natural History magazine argues that children are best and most naturally raised by a group, not by the isolated modern nuclear family, which is a historically recent aberration. By anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.

6. The actual quality of poly households for childraising "is a critical area and there's not yet a lot of good, recent research," notes Jim Fleckenstein, chair of the Institute for 21st-Century Relationships (ITCR). "One dated, but still very solid published piece is:

Constantine, Larry L. and Joan M. Constantine. Treasures of the
Island: Children in Alternative Families.
Beverly Hills, CA: Sage
Publications, 1976."

7. One resource for families is the Loving More PolyParent Yahoo Group. A much larger body of online resources exists for step-parents; sometimes the issues are quite parallel.

8. There is an interesting chapter on children of polyamory in Deborah Anapol's forthcoming book Polyamory in the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield), to be published in June.

9. Poly parents are sometimes paranoid about their state Child Protective Services barging in like morality-police storm troopers. That's not what to worry about (assuming there's no actual abuse or neglect). The real danger to keeping your children, experience shows, is from your own bitter ex, or his/her parents, in a divorce or custody battle. Being poly can then be used as a weapon against you in court, in an attempt to sway the judge's assessment of what is "in the best interests of the child." A lawyer whom I heard of said candidly, to a poly family drawing up a bunch of legal paperwork, "Your real danger is from each other." Just like ordinary husbands and wives.

My friend Valerie White is a family lawyer who runs the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund, a small nonprofit. Read her Checklist for prospective poly parents, and Advice for avoiding custody disputes.



February 11, 2010

Us: Americans Talk about Love. "How we chose an open marriage"


John Bowe has published oral-history books collecting the stories of working people (Gig, 2001) and modern-day slaves (Nobodies, 2008). Last month he came out with his third book, Us: Americans Talk About Love.

For Valentine's Week, the online magazine Salon has put up one of the book's chapters: a late-middle-aged couple, Nick and Cate, talking about their happy, adventurous, and sometimes scary open marriage. It's certainly an engaging read.

Nick: The first thing you have to know is that early on in our relationship, Cate actually said, "If you ever see anybody else, I'll kill you."

Cate: Oh, yes, I was completely conventional. I'd never heard of polyamory. I certainly would not have believed that it was possible to love more than one person.


Nick: Cate had a justification, which I have always found incredibly romantic. Which is that she wanted somebody to reminisce with at my funeral about what a great fuck I was.

Cate: I imagined all your lovers gathered around the casket going, "Daaaamn!" [Laughs]


Cate: I thought it was exciting because it was transgressive. I had never been in bed with a girl before. And it's a turn-on for a lot of couples to watch their partner have sex. It was sexy to see Nick in bed with someone.

Nick: And what Cate said, which I find interesting, is that on one hand, it was one of the most terrifying things she'd ever seen, but on the other hand, it was one of the most exciting things she'd ever seen.


Nick: I remember we had a very interesting conversation that I've never forgotten. We were walking around in Montreal and discussing how in your average relationship, at some point, somebody strays. And then you spend an unbelievable amount of energy either breaking up or salvaging things.

Cate and I realized that we would rather figure out a way to have a rich, sexual, romantic life with expanded boundaries than to constantly be trying to repair a relationship that was falling apart because somebody's got the hots for somebody.

Cate: It just seemed like a more interesting way to live, to have an infinitely greater sense of sexual possibility, to have the possibility of romantic love with more than one person. I mean, it's rare in life to really fall in love, but --

Nick: I mean, there's love and there's love and there's love and there's love.

Cate: But just that there's that possibility, if you're having drinks with someone, or, say, see someone standing on the subway, for example, and you know even just in the abstract that you could have sex with them and that it wouldn't send the entire apple cart crashing, there is a sense of possibility that is lovely to live with -- even if you never, ever exercise it.


Nick: We started out with quite a few rules, and we ended up with three: no sneaking around; safe sex; and we each have veto power. If one of us says no, that's it.

Cate: Anyone who comes into our life has to understand that our primary commitment to each other is the foundation for whatever takes place with anyone else. And that's not up for grabs: I'm not leaving Nick.

Nick: Still, I like to say this is not a game for amateurs, you know? This is a high-risk game. Because we're definitely talking about more than just being simply in lust. Really, if you're going to live a polyamorous life, you have to accept the fact that your partner might fall in love with somebody else.

Cate: When one of us has a crush on someone new, the other one can't replicate that. They cannot compete with the newness, and the new relationship energy takes over.

Nick: Somebody said to me, "Jealousy obviously isn't a problem for you and Cate." I said, "Don't be ridiculous. If we weren't jealous, we wouldn't care about each other." It's that we handle it differently than the average couple.

To make this work, we have to appreciate each other all of the time.

Read the whole conversation.

And here is Salon's interview with the author.


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February 10, 2010

"5 Rules from the Polyamorous for Not Screwing Up Valentine's Day"


Details is a piggy men's fashion magazine with strong gay overtones. Its website offers Valentine's Day advice, and "because they clearly have relationship superpowers, we asked a few polyamorous people how they manage to please multiple partners."

By Liz Langley

1. Love Is a Battlefield; Prepare Like It's War

"Ever try to get four adults together on one night for a board game?" says a soldier — we'll call him B. — who is currently deployed in the Middle East. "Imagine how hard it is to coordinate everyone for a trip to Europe." Before B. returned to duty, his quad — two men and two women ranging in age from 18 to 26 — didn't like to "get busy" without everyone present. That means they're due for a memorable reunion. Your plans may not be as elaborate as theirs (they'll start in Amsterdam, then visit Frankfurt and Florence with side trips via ferry to Corsica and Sardinia, before ending up in Spain for a gay wedding), but not mapping out every detail could lead to couple armageddon....

Go ahead, read on.

Despite the snark, they seem kind of awed.


February 4, 2010

Poly trend examined in Malaysia

The Star

The largest English-language newspaper in Malaysia devotes major Sunday feature space to examining modern polyamory and open relationships among Malaysians, especially the urban educated class.

Loving many = loving more?

By Andrew Sia | Feb. 7, 2010

RAYMOND spends two nights a week at the condo of Susan, who also meets up with Michael for meals, movies and sometimes “a bit more” at his place. Yew Ling is Raymond’s occasional travel cum romance partner on short holidays. Michael also has a few companions cum girlfriends.

All the parties know about each other and are cool about it – a classic open relationship. These well-educated, middle-class, English-speaking Malaysian Chinese, all living around the Klang Valley, are a nascent example of polyamory (literally, many loves).

A Newsweek article last July calls it “the next sexual revolution”.

“I don’t believe in marriage,” says Susan, a marketing manager in her mid-30s, who earns a five-figure salary.... “Love is really about genuinely caring. You can love your brothers, sisters, children and animals – it’s all plural. So why does your partner need to be limited to the singular?”

...Susan encapsulates the key factors that drive polyamory – scepticism about marriage, and women’s independence and empowerment.

...A basic explanation by Loving More, a polyamory advocacy group (www.lovemore.com), states that it’s not really about having more sex, but having more love:

“The point is love, romance, intimacy and affection with more than one person, openly and ethically by mutual agreement all around. For some, sex is a driving factor in relationships. For others, romance and emotional or spiritual connection are more important.”

“Polyamory is not a fancy word for cheating because the latter involves deception and violation of an agreement,” the group says.

“The point of polyamory is not secrecy but openness, communication, and sharing the love. It’s about disclosure, trust, and respect.”

Wow, some of that is my writing! I was invited to do an edit job on Loving More's poly FAQ last year.

...Among Malaysian Chinese, it was certainly not uncommon for wealthy men in the 1960s and 1970s to have legal second and third wives. During the Rajah Brooke era in Sarawak, the Ibans would offer visitors to the deep interior one of the women of the longhouse as a sign of hospitality. This custom stopped only after “modernisation” and conversion to Christianity.

The nagging feeling remains that having multiple partners is perverse and unnatural. But statistics say otherwise.

Of the 1,270 human societies catalogued in Murdoch’s Ethnographic Atlas, about 85% indicate some form of multi-spouse relationships. A Psychology Today article (June 5, 2008) on polyandry (one wife, many husbands) states: “A comprehensive survey of traditional societies in the world shows that 83.39% of them practise polygyny (multiple wives), 16.14%, monogamy, and 0.47%, polyandry.”

A check on Wikipedia reveals that 62 countries worldwide recognise polygamy under their civil or traditional laws....

While I was searching for interviewees on Facebook, my friend Alistair King helpfully pointed out: “Polyandry has happened in Asia for centuries (in certain tribal groups). Check out the Paharis of North India and the Todas of South India. The Todas, with whom I lived, have a system (going out now) in which the wife was ‘married’ to all the brothers of a family. They all have a go and when the child is born, a ‘Naming of the Father’ ceremony is held, whether or not the person named is the biological parent.”

...The Time magazine cover story of August 1995, entitled “Infidelity – It may be in our genes,” suggests that women evolved that way to get more help in raising kids.

It quotes Nisa, a woman from a !Kung San (the bushmen of the Kalahari desert, Africa) hunter-gatherer village, telling an anthropologist that “when you have many lovers... one comes at night with meat, another with money, another with beads. Your husband also does things and gives them to you.”

...If science suggests that polygamy is more natural, why is monogamy often touted as the “right” choice?

It can be argued that this is more of a Christian practice that European colonisers spread around the world to “civilise” the natives, even though the Old Testament itself does mention how King Solomon and Abraham (among others) were polygamous.

And Martin Luther, the founder of Protestant Christianity, found nothing in the Bible that outlawed polygamy. In fact, in his autobiography (The Life of Luther), he recalls how he granted a German nobleman, the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, permission to take a second wife rather than live “in a state of adultery and fornication”.

Another sociological argument could be, as the Observer article, puts it: “Monogamy is a form of civilisation – an attempt to control the rampant promiscuity and gender warfare that is man’s natural state. And it has its advantages – it creates family structure, naming systems, and accountability.

“It’s a response to the invention of property and money, too. Monogamy is an enabling tool for the inheritance of goods. So maybe it’s not natural, but simply useful as a way of bringing order to a chaotic world.”

But uncontrolled libido is not what polyamory is about, as groups often set rules and boundaries.

And according to the great pragmatist Lee Kuan Yew, controlled multi-partner relationships such as polygamy can even promote social progress....

Read the whole long, well-researched article (Feb. 7, 2010). Update: Read the author's followup with comments on reader reactions (Feb. 28, 2010).

The article comes with two sidebars:

1. A wholesome affair?

FREE love is about sharing. That’s what a former hippie-era soul, now reincarnated as a New Age thinker and blogger, advocates.

From his base at the orang asli village of Kampung Pertak, Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, Antares, 59, says true love goes beyond jealousy and possessiveness.

“My first wife began an affair when she discovered I was shagging a colleague,” he recalls. “The guy happened to be a kindred spirit, a gentle soul who played exquisite ragas on the guitar.

“For a while I struggled with my jealousy circuits and my cuckolded ego. Yet I was able to connect with him and enjoy the powerful love connection my wife had with him.”

Soon, Antares (also known as Kit Leee in his days as a writer, cartoonist and musician) was chauffeuring his wife to her “soulmate’s” house.... “Yes, it was a wholesome molecular family, especially when I observed that my two daughters were extremely fond of him and that he treated them with utmost affection. When I found a new girlfriend we often went out to live music events together as one large family.”

...Antares is convinced that his early experiences shows that polyamory (or what he calls “the molecular family”) is workable. “But the initiative must come from individuals who have successfully freed themselves of boxed-in thinking.”

As he writes in his blog (magickriver.blogspot.com): “I’m convinced that if polyamory was included as another way to explore love and harmony, the world would blossom into a spiritually wholesome and truth-valuing place – where deceit, hypocrisy, guilt, and vindictiveness cannot flourish, and destructive jealousy will be seen for what it is: an emotional disease!”

...“In Malaysia, I have met many young women who are beginning to openly talk about polyamory and perhaps even practise it, but secretly, for fear of a bad reputation.”

Does he think that younger women today, fuelled by increasing economic power, are claiming their sexual independence by asserting their choice? Or, perhaps, even carving their own territorial domain over several attentive males?

“More and more females are displaying stronger male aspects, while their male counterparts are becoming more feminine. Perhaps it’s Nature’s way of rectifying a patriarchal bias that has lasted too long.

“An empowered and liberated female attracts a string of admirers and is in a position to enjoy their affections without demanding emotional commitment or becoming over attached.”...

Read the whole sidebar

2. A Practical Solution?

WOMEN who are more open in their relationships are those in their late 30s or early 40s, with successful careers. Whereas women in their 20s are still looking for a husband,” says Zainal, an articulate, successful businessman in his mid-40s who claims to know “the KL scene” well.

“Some of them earn over RM20,000 a month. They have decided they are happy alone, and are not interested in marriage but want companionship. Or they can’t find a guy they really like, so they don’t mind an open relationship in the meantime.”

...Zainal advocates a new model of society.

“It’s not about being immoral. I tell people, like it or not, this is happening. The social environment has made us like this. It’s a new society and we need new ways, new mechanisms.... An open relationship is about two humans caring for each other without trying to own or possess each other.”

Read the whole sidebar



February 3, 2010

"What happens when poly becomes mainstream?"

Three more poly-in-the-media items have piled up in my queue. They drive home the immediacy of the question that Reid Mihalko — the keynote speaker at the upcoming Poly Living conference February 19-21 outside Philadelphia — plans to delve into on opening night:

"What happens when poly becomes mainstream?"

For the activists among us [writes Reid], progress for the poly movement has never been fast enough. For those who've been "poly for years," shows like Big Love and the occasional Oprah episode on open marriages reassure us that things are shifting. For the newly poly, posting "In an open relationship" on our Facebook profile reminds us that we are no longer the only stranger in a strange land...

No matter where you are on the poly spectrum of experience, what we all have in common is that polyamory has not yet become mainstream.... Has anyone thought about what happens when it does?

Reid will tell his experiences "bringing poly to Hollywood's world of reality television, and what he thinks is going to happen to us when polyamory becomes a household word — and what you can do today to help."

You can still register for the Poly Living conference, which will be full of other good stuff too. I'll see you there.

A while back, I remember that some people wanted to keep the whole polyamory concept a secret — to avoid notice and censure, and maybe to keep it from being sullied by the "wrong people." Sorry, the horse is long out of the barn. Our role now, I'm convinced, is to try to run fast enough just to keep the polyamory bandwagon steered in good directions as it gains momentum.

To that end, the Polyamory Leadership Network (PLN) will hold its third summit meeting the evening and day following Poly Living, in the same hotel. This event too is sponsored by Loving More. The meeting's purpose: to plan out, and recruit volunteers for, various poly-education and -awareness projects following up on last year's big meeting.

If you intend to come to the PLN summit and haven't signed up yet, please get a move on. I'll see you there too.


Oh yes, those three recent articles.

Two of them introduce polyamory, accurately, to readers who are assumed not to have heard of it. I predict that articles of this type (which have become increasingly common in the five years I've been doing this blog) will run their course in another five years or so, if you and I do our jobs and the publicity trend keeps increasing. Eventually, we may hope, everyone will have heard of polyamory; will know correctly what it means; and will know that it can work dazzlingly well for a certain minority of people — maybe — if they're willing to devote a lot of commitment, time, and relationship work to it — with no guarantees.

The third article is an advice column that assumes readers already know the concept. Of these sorts of articles, I think we'll be seeing more and more.

From a California journalism professor writing in the Santa Barbara Independent:

Bucking Monogamy

Free-Loving Dissidents Buck Puritanism and Practice Polyamory

By Starshine Roshell

...A covey of free-thinking, free-loving dissidents is bucking Puritanism, bucking monogamy, and, frankly, bucking anyone else who's game. They practice what they call "polyamory," or being openly — and therefore ethically — involved in multiple intimate relationships.

"Poly," as it's called for short, encompasses all sorts of consciousness-expanding configurations: from stick-straight to gay-as-the-day-is-long, from married couples with separate-but-not-secret lovers to a trio of adoring roommates who share more than the water bill. It's not polygamy and it's not "swinging." It's consensual non-monogamy with as much emphasis on love as on sex.

...Today's polyamorists aren't the first to reject the traditional one-on-one courtship and marriage model; surely, intriguing romantic arrangements have been made behind closed doors for centuries.

But spurred, perhaps, by recent nationwide debate about the definition of marriage, and united into regional groups via the Internet (there isn't currently an active group in Santa Barbara), their numbers appear to be growing....

For old-skool copulators like myself, the concept can be unsettling... especially when I hear about the poly guy who told Portland Monthly Magazine that his missus serves him and his girlfriends post-coital snacks. "There's nothing sexier than having your wife bring you food when you're in bed with another woman," he said with no apparent shame....

Read the whole article (Jan. 19, 2010) and leave a comment.

Next up, from a book author and Los Angeles Times book critic writing in the new online newspaper The Faster Times:

Polyamory, Honesty and Pie

By Amy Wallen

A few weeks ago, I drove north on Interstate 15 to a town ranked the most conservative in Southern California, just an hour outside San Diego.... I was on my way to visit Sherry, Greg and Bill, a polyamorous co-habitating triad. They are an example of why conservatives don’t want gay marriage to be legalized — then “anyone” can marry anyone, and next we’d have polygamists wanting to get married, and then who’s to say you can’t marry a porcupine if you choose to?

I was excited to have the opportunity to interview Sherry, Greg and Bill because they didn’t fit into the clichéd situation of two women and one man.... Maybe I envied Sherry a bit. She’s got it all. While Greg is a good breadwinner, he’s not so good around the house. That’s where Bill comes in: he likes to make chicken and rice dinners, bake pies and fix things....

We’ll get the basic questions out of the way first: Yes, Bill, Greg, and Sherry are all bisexual. No, they don’t all have sex at the same time, but they will all snuggle in bed together. Bill and Greg are affectionate with one another, but not necessarily sexually attracted to one another. They both have sex with Sherry.

...Bill, who’s from West Virginia, says that when he’s interested in a married woman, he likes to bake a pie and take it to the couple. Ah, the Southern polyamorous tradition....

...Bill, Sherry and Greg have been together for more than ten years, and they seem truly happy....

Read the whole article (Jan. 19, 2010) and leave a comment.

And lastly, an advice column that appeared in a couple of hip/progressive outlets in Canada:

Multiple partners, multiple questions, multiple solutions

Dear Sasha,

What do you do when you are a monogamous person in a long-term committed relationship with someone who is polyamorous and he falls in love with his lover?

I am a firm believer that you can only love one person and that’s the person you share your home and life with....

— Up the Creek

A: ...As Andrea Zanin, who conducts workshops on open relationships, points out, “[Up The Creek is] asserting a belief system that is fundamentally incompatible with polyamory — even though she’s using the term and seems to have willingly engaged in a relationship with someone who identifies as polyamorous. If that wasn’t okay with her, why is she with him in the first place?...”

If what you agreed upon was that your partner was only to have noncommittal sex outside of your relationship, a model known as partnered non-monogamy, then he has broken your agreement. But this is by no means uncommon. “Once you open up your relationship,” Tristan Taormino writes in Opening Up (Cleis), “there is always a risk, since the way people connect and the depths of emotions that arise cannot be predicted.” And as Zanin says, “The human heart doesn’t always pay attention to terminology or rules.”...

...Sounds like a hell of a lot of negotiation, self-reflection and attitude adjustment, doesn’t it? It is.

...“If she does want to try and work on this, I’d send her, or better yet the two of them, to a poly-friendly therapist who can help them untangle things a bit without automatically judging polyamory itself as the problem.”

Zanin recommends Philip Strapp at new-choices.ca. As for reading, Taormino’s book Opening Up and Wendy-O-Matik’s Redefining Our Relationships (Defiant Times) are good choices. As Zanin says of Wendy-O-Matik, “She has such an expansive and inspiring view of what love is and how to cultivate it everywhere in life.”

Read the whole thing in NOW Toronto (Jan. 30, 2010) or Rabble.ca (Feb. 1, 2010). Thanks to Alissa for the tip. She writes, "I love the fact that the questioner doesn't feel the need to explain/define 'polyamory'."


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February 2, 2010

An Israeli report on a Loving More retreat


One of Israel's main newspapers, Ma'ariv, sent its New York correspondent to the annual Loving More conference retreat in upstate New York last September. Only now did I find the article that resulted (thanks, Robyn and Jesus!). Here it is in the original Hebrew (Oct. 9, 2009). The following is adapted from a Google Language Tools machine translation:

It's Saturday, 7:15 in the morning. Jesus Garcia and Robin Trask have spent the summer night in their romantic wooden shack. Robin kisses Jesus, sliding her hand on his long hair before she goes to wake Ben in the next room. For close to half an hour she and Ben shut themselves there. But time has its own rhythm where clothes are optional, a distant bell heralds the meals, and for cell phone reception you have to drive 20 miles.

Robin and Ben curl up in bed. A long time passed since the last time they met. He lives in New York, she in Colorado. "I'm happy for her," says Jesus, 35, a computer professional of Mexican descent born in California. "I know that Ben makes her happy, and when she is happy, I am happy."

For three years Jesus and Robin have been together. They recently purchased land in Colorado and began to plan their new home. "Building the house will take several years," explains Garcia. Meanwhile, the window of the cottage overlooks a breathtaking view of the Hudson Valley, beyond sloping fields of crops: organic food being raised for the guests here at Easton Mountain Resort, three hours' drive north of Manhattan.

A few minutes later, in the main conference site, Robin and Ben are holding hands, exchanging kisses and demonstrable affection, cuddling like high-school students at the movies. Jesus comes to them from time to time, whispering something in Robin's ear. Through the morning you can see the three exchanging hugs and cuddling with each other, and to each other [photo].

For the dozens of visitors here — a place where "body, mind, heart and soul unite," as a sign heralds at the entrance — there is nothing unusual about such a romantic triangle being celebrated before their eyes....

Read the whole machine translation. The article profiles, carefully and accurately, many people who attended the Loving More gathering and what brought them there.

P.S.: Here's a Polyamory Israel blog, with other Israeli and Jewish links.


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February 1, 2010

Canada polygamy/polyamory court case update

A new group called the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) has just been formed. It stems from efforts by the Vanpoly group in Vancouver, and others, to become "interveners" in the reference case that's being brought by the government of British Columbia to determine the legality of Canada's sweepingly broad anti-polygamy law. "We now have active volunteers and potential witnesses in BC, Ontario, Québec, and Manitoba," says the CPAA on its website. (It also has a Facebook page.)

A few days ago the CPAA applied to become an official intervener in the court case. So have 15 other groups and individuals — including an ex-polygamist who fled the breakaway-Mormon group at the center of the case, children's-rights advocates, Catholic organizations, a free-speech group, and others. Here's a mainstream-media article on the intervener applicants. Update: Here's another.

Polyamorists have a dog in this hunt because the law — unenforced for many decades, and perhaps in violation of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms — outlaws not just polygamy, but any type of multiple "conjugal union" even if it makes no claim to be a marriage. It also criminalizes any person who merely assists at a multiple-marriage-like ceremony, such as by bringing potluck food to a Pagan handfasting. The penalty for any of the above is five years in prison.

Here is the law in its entirety (scroll to Section 293).

CPAA has issued a press release explaining its position. The group seems to be laying the groundwork to argue that the law criminalizes a far greater number of non-abusive, egalitarian polyamorists than actual polygamists — and that laws should target the alleged abusive behavior, not any and all committed multiple loving relationships.

The CPAA is calling for more witnesses, volunteer helpers, and donations. The group writes,

We are currently looking for:

-- Legal researchers and academic researchers to help us identify and compile legislation, legal precedence, and academic research in support of our arguments in support of polyamory. Our arguments need to be grounded in the best evidence and research available where that exists.

-- Canadians who practice a polyamorous lifestyle to step forward as potential witnesses, particularly if they are cohabiting with multiple partners.

-- We are very fortunate to have a number of legal recourses available to us at little or no charge, and a legal counsel who has had experience in mounting this type of legal action. Our legal counsel is polyamorous himself. However, court filings and copying does cost. And down the road there may be travel costs as well. If you want to support us monetarily, please send a Paypal payment to donate(AT)polyadvocacy.ca, or email donate(AT)polyadvocacy.ca for instruction on how to send us a donation by cheque.

Our media spokespersons are John Ince and Zoe Duff. John Ince is also our legal counsel.

No court dates have been set, and Chief Justice Robert Bauman has not yet reviewed the applications for intervener status.

For more information see the previous coverage here. And check for news updates.


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