Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

March 28, 2010

"Breaking Upwards": A movie about negotiating a poly arrangement

New York Times

Rare is the indie movie shot for $15,000 that earns a major, 1,700-word article in the Sunday New York Times. "Breaking Upwards," having toured the film-festival circuit to acclaim, is opening Friday in a few theaters but will be mostly available by video on demand. From today's paper:

“Breaking Upwards” is about a pair of Jewish Manhattan 20-somethings who find their relationship foundering; but rather than split up, they choose to alternate days alone and together. Emotions get complicated and feelings get hurt, of course, as they meet potential romantic partners and have to explain their arrangement to their uncomprehending parents....

The story in large part echoes the experience of [the filmmakers] Mr. Wein, 26, and Ms. Lister-Jones, 27. A couple for six years, they “started having issues,” as they put it, about two years after they met, and decided to try what their parents’ generation might term an open relationship but which they (and anthropologists) call polyamory.

“I remember that we were sitting in a coffee shop much like a scene in the film, writing on a paper tablecloth, both of us being so hyper-articulate about the goals and bounds of this experiment we were going to do,” Ms. Lister-Jones recalled. “It was definitely a sad moment, but we were also laughing at ourselves. I remember that at that moment Daryl said, ‘This would make a really funny movie.’ ”

...The couple have been promoting “Breaking Upwards” over the last year with every tool available....

Read the whole article. (It's in the print edition for March 28, 2010.)

Here's a short interview with the leading lady/filmmaker in Interview magazine. Excerpts:

After initiating an open relationship with her boyfriend, director Daryl Wein, the duo went on to write, produce, and star in “Breaking Upwards,” a film re-enacting their experiment with polyamory. Issues of intimacy and autonomy abound – no surprise from 27-year-old Lister-Jones, who garnered critical acclaim for her 2004 one-woman show, “Codependence is a Four Letter Word,” and went on to score roles in Law and Order, State of Play, and the upcoming Salt (starring Angelina Jolie)....

...LISTER-JONES: My mom’s best friends are polyamorous, and they were an inspiration for the experiment. I think that lifestyle is so interesting... and terrifying. People are human, and they have human desires and needs – and how do you deal with that? I mean, most people deal with it by cheating. So I think it’s pretty brave to say to someone: “You know, I want to sleep with someone else right now.”

The prime poly mantra — bitter wisdom from countless people's schools of hard knocks — is "Communicate, communicate, communicate." The couple in the movie, it seems from the trailer, started off with a Don't Ask Don't Tell agreement, a rule forbidding communication, which is pretty well guaranteed to end up creating awfulness and drama. But where would a romantic comedy be without drama?

Here's the "Breaking Upwards" site, with trailer, notes, links to numerous reviews, etc. (Here's a less flattering review not on the site.) More reviews. The movie's Facebook page.

The credits include a category for "Polyamorous Actors," apparently referring not to their relationships but to playing more than one role.

The movie is playing in some IFC theaters and is available by video on demand.


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March 26, 2010

Post-Mo'Nique, more open marriage fallout

The celebrity/entertainment site E! Online opines, "What If Sandra Bullock's Marriage Were More Like Mo'Nique's?"

That is, what if the couple in the latest Hollywood cheating awfulness had set up an honest open marriage instead? Two of our best spokespeople are consulted:

Is Mo'Nique onto something? Are open marriages the way to go in Hollywood?

"In some ways, absolutely, yes," says author Jenny Block, who wrote about her own open relationship in Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage. "[Two people can say], 'Look, let's not kid ourselves, you and I are going to be in different countries, filming different movies...".

..."I truly don't care if Jesse James wants to have three girlfriends and a wife," sex guru Tristan Taormino says of Bullock's husband. "It's all the stuff that comes with cheating that hurts people, and it seems like that's unnecessary because there is another option."

Taormino's the author of Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, so you can guess what the other option is....

"I just wish that people could be honest about their desires, and could make agreements to do what they want to do, and not have all this lying and betrayal and hurt," Taormino says, "because I think in the end, when you talk to people who have been cheated on, the sex is not necessarily the issue — it's the lying."

According to Taormino, who in researching her book interviewed more than 100 people who were partners in an open relationship, sometimes with great fidelity, producing marriages of up to 30 years, sex isn't even necessarily where it's at in the convention-defying arrangement.... "I truly believe if someone like Tiger Woods had an open marriage, the number of partners he had would have decreased."

And the writer's opinion?

We only know what we see: tons of tabloid headlines; four apparently miserable and/or chagrined spouses; and, oh, by the way, nothing, nada, zip in the way of scandal for Mo'Nique, Tilda Swinton, or any other boldfaced name in an avowed nontraditional union.

So, is open marriage the way to go for Hollywood — or would that be too weird?

Says Block: "The weird thing to me is people cheat."

Read the whole article (March 25, 2010).

Incidentally, there's a great article about Tristan in the Canadian gay paper Xtra just out yesterday (March 25).

Meanwhile, a conventionally minded self-help book author goes and disses all over the very concept. She's on the Oprah site, as picked up by CNN:

By Karen Salmansohn | March 23, 2010

(OPRAH.com) -- I was deeply involved with a man (let's call him Steve) when he surprised me with an unusual request. One night, Steve explained that if and when we got married, he would always want to have a separate apartment where he could be "alone."

In his version of our lives, Steve's "alone" was when he would step out on our relationship -- up to three nights a week. Steve wanted an open marriage -- a nonmonogamous, polyamorous arrangement wherein he could go his way and I could go mine.

Steve made his request after he and I were intimately involved -- catching me totally off guard....

Was it at all possible that the pros of an open marriage agreement could outweigh its cons?... Could creating a system of rules for cheating actually prove to be helpful? Does operating with transparency when cheating lessen the stress of an affair?...

...When open marriages work, it is most likely because the unconventional unions are focused on good old-fashioned open communication.

...I must confess, every time I type the words "good open marriage," my fingers twitch. These words feel oxymoronic....

For me, a healthy marriage asks you both to bring out your highest selves.... In my opinion, open marriage is pretty much the opposite of marriage. It seems to be about avoiding commitment -- one of the cornerstones of a happy marriage.... By the end of my research, I firmly believed that open marriage is merely an excuse for getting away with behaving self-indulgently and recklessly.

...So what happened to Steve? I said no to his suggestion for an apartment he'd go to three days a week. You can't be four-sevenths married. If you are going to cheat, why bother asking someone to marry you in the first place?

Read the whole article, and leave a comment.

At least she had the wits to reject something obviously wrong for her. But wrong for everybody? And Steve's way certainly isn't the only way.

As I've said before, trying to make alternative relationships work under a horse-and-carriage worldview is like trying to get your horse to pull the carriage faster by making your horse drink this new-fangled gasoline. Nope; just brings drama and spectacle. To use gasoline well, you need a worldview with internal-combustion engines. Revolutionary new ways rarely fit comfortably into old life paradigms. I'm sure that's why, IME, poly seems to thrive best in alt cultures.


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March 20, 2010

"The Future of Marriage and Non-Traditional Relationships"

KPBS Public Radio (San Diego)

A public radio station presents an intelligent, 34-minute discussion of the future of polyamory, featuring three guests: Ethical Slut co-author Dossie Easton, family therapist David Peters, and family-law expert Janet Bowermaster.

Polyamory comes off in the discussion as a serious and promising, though difficult, new social institution — for the minority of people who are suited to it and willing to face up to the work.

The segment aired March 18, 2010, in mid-morning. You can stream or download the audio, or read the transcript. Here are pieces of it:

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The big news about marriage recently is how many more people want to give it a try. Many gay and lesbian couples are working hard to achieve the right to marry in California, a right same sex couples have already achieved in five states and the District of Columbia. In addition to being part of a struggle for equal rights, the move toward same sex marriage might also be seen as a validation of monogamous relationships.

But not everyone agrees. At the same time that some are working for marriage, the polyamory movement is gaining strength in some urban areas and on the internet. Polyamorists believe in ethical non-monogomy by openly engaging in intimate relationships with more than one person at a time. And if that sounds like old fashioned hippie free love to you, you may not be so far off the mark. Joining me to discuss what place polyamory may have in the future of relationships are my guests....


DAVID PETERS: ...Well, monogamy in human history is the dominant form of bonding. Most of the animal world does not pair bond monogamously, 90% does not. But humans, through almost all of human history, have had a proclivity to monogamy and pair bonding. You have exceptions, of course....

CAVANAUGH: And many people live, in a sense, polyamorous lifestyles without being honest about it. I mean, spouses cheat and... does that sort of knock down the idea that monogamy is what most people sort of go towards?

PETERS: Well, we, as a species, attempt monogamy and then because we have emotions and drives that lead us by our nose sometimes, we fail at monogamy.... Affairs in marriage, you know, some 30% of men and women, statistics vary depending upon what you read, but most of those people who do have affairs would also say, well, they’re not happy about it, they would prefer that they had one love in their life and – or one love at a time and that they could be open with that one love. So many people who are having affairs feel caught....

EASTON: ...There’s no reason to think that having an affair or a relationship with another person needs to detract from a life partnership or any other relationship that you have. You don’t have to kind of subtract the one from another.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, I understand exactly what you’re saying....


PETERS: I’m going to quote a little bit from the work of a well known anthropologist, a Dr. Helen Fisher, who is out of Rutgers State University. And she’s done some remarkable research on the level of brain neurology and brain chemistry in terms of studying love, lust, attachment, and romance. She’s pointed out that we actually have three different brain systems within our heads that promote the mating and reproductive behavior among humans.

The first one is commonly known as lust. It’s merely that urge to have sex with someone. It’s impersonal, it doesn’t require love, it doesn’t require attraction even....

Another brain system is romantic love, and this is the very familiar human trait which is that attraction. You get this euphoric feeling. That’s marked by a rise in dopamine levels in the brain and it causes the sense of excitement, and then a lowering of serotonin in the brain which causes the obsessive love where you just can’t get the person out of your mind. And we really enjoy this romantic love. You know, poetry’s written about it, movies are written about it, music is composed about it. And this is really uniquely human and it makes our mating and partnerships so wonderful.

A third brain system, in this full human behavior, is attachment. And with attachment, you see the longterm bond between humans. This is the marriage that’s lasted for years. You have your best friend there. It may not be hotly romantic anymore but it’s very comfortable. You’re good friends. You trust one another. You stick together....

What’s interesting here is that these brain systems can act independent from one another... and cause confusion if your goal is monogamy. You have to really work to manage it. What’s interesting here is in the polyamorous community, they’re attempting to have a primary attachment with one partner, or sometimes two partners, while allowing romantic love or allowing lust to be explored with others. And this is all by open agreement. Everybody has to know what’s going on. Most people would not prefer this, but this is what’s being attempted.

...EASTON: Some people – and when my daughter was young, this was what I was doing and sort of still do – see their polyamorous connections as one kind of big, extended family, the equivalent of a neighborhood or a village. And extend things out like, you know, sharing raising kids and keeping houses going and all that, in one larger system that distributes a lot of the work in that system. I would simply add that there is room for attachment as well as lust and romance. My own experience is that sexual connection is kind of an amazing intimacy – I think of it really as sacred, a wonderful way of connecting, so I don’t think of it as just lust, or just romance. I think of it as a truly profound connection and I want to honor that connection.... So I sort of expect people who are present in my and my partner’s lives as lovers to, you know, have profound connections.

CAVANAUGH: Dossie brings up a point....


CALLER: I had a question for the author of “The Ethical Slut.” You know, I know that at least Christianity and Catholicism believe that when a couple get married and have intimacy, there’s a bond, a divine bond that’s created there. I know they were talking a little bit about spirituality before but in terms of that religious morality and divine connection between married people, monogamous married people, what is the polyamorous perspective on that?

EASTON: I think that the polyamorous perspective is largely that spiritual connection can exist beyond marriage and that the connections, that the love connections that we make are sacred, whatever rituals or whatever commitments involved in those relationships are. Certainly, marriage is a very special relationship, but the notion that love can only occur in marriage or that sexual love can only occur between two people in one particular kind of relationship, is, in my experience, really just plain not true. And that the kind of love that indicates a spiritual connection - loving, caring, concerned about each others' wellbeing, all that other good stuff - is something that can be more widespread.


PETERS: ...Well, jealousy is certainly going to be the biggest challenge if you’re attempting a polyamorous relationship. And, you know, when you hear people casually talk about this, they’ll say, oh, these people just want it easy to just get whatever they want. And, in fact, it’s not quite easy. What they’re attempting does require a lot of work because one has to take full responsibility for one’s position. You go in consciously knowing what’s going on, no one’s being fooled, and so if you do have feelings of jealousy or insecurity then you’re responsible for them. So there’s a deep personal challenge to own up to, you know, what you’re doing there.

And that can be growth enhancing, one could say, but clearly the majority of people, you know, are not wanting to be challenged in that way. We want the security of marriage. And so, you know, this is certainly not a route for everybody; this is a route for people who have really thought about it very seriously. And I wouldn’t recommend anybody get into such a thing casually.


PETERS: If you read much of the polyamorous literature, it is not male-centered. Much more of it is female-centered. They tend to - Dossie has mentioned several times the spirituality of sex and there tends to be – you can kind of find it in the literature as you read around a certain feminine-feminist-spirituality-sexuality, you know, flow here, where sex is celebrated in a spiritual encounter, and that’s definitely the trend in the polyamorous community....

Read the whole transcript (March 18, 2010).


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March 18, 2010

Mo'Nique prompts lots of open-marriage news

Actress Mo'Nique Imes-Hicks won an academy award a couple weeks ago, bringing new attention to her proclaimed open marriage. The award was anticipated in advance. Accordingly, we saw a flurry of open-marriage items in the media:

• The Frisky ("Love. Life. Stars. Style.") did a story about her and seven other celebrity couples who are public about being in some sort of open relationship (March 4, 2010). Most of these seem pretty one-sided in favor of the guy, except for Tilda Swinton's household and Will & Jada Pinkett Smith. A poly blogger discusses and categorizes them.

• The day after the Academy Awards, KDAF-TV 33 in Dallas/Fort Worth did a 2½-minute report on open marriage centering on local writer Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage. See transcript and video (March 8, 2010).

• Your Tango ("smart talk about love") presented "Five Open Marriage Myths: What you may not know about polyamory and open relationships". Their five myths:

1. Open marriages are all about sex....
2. Both partners [necessarily] have multiple lovers....
3. People in open marriages consider monogamy old-fashioned....
4. Non-monogamous relationships are less challenging than monogamous ones....
5. Polyamory is harmful to kids....

• Belisa Vranich had a "Fox on Sex" article on the Fox News website:

"Big Love:" The Different Kinds of Polyamory

By Belisa Vranich | March 11, 2010

“Swinging saves you from cheating — there’s no lies and deception. It’s letting people have the variety they crave, but their partners get to have power and choice in the matter.”
— Danielle, 31

“If done right, it can keep relationships together, rather than add to the statistics of divorce or miserable deceptive marriages.”
— Jonathan, 46

...How does polyamory (having multiple intimate relationships simultaneously, with full consent) differ from swinging? Are swingers nudists? (Not necessarily, though I am sure some nudists might swing). Are bondage and S&M essential parts of swinging? (Nope, not essential). And then there are the numerous e-mails I get that about “cuckolding” (men who like watching their wives having sex, which might have an undercurrent of psychological humiliation to it).

...The topic that reoccurs is the amount of communication that is needed. Couples in “alternative” or “open” relationships have to express themselves very precisely about their comfort levels, boundaries and desires....

Read the whole article.

• A dumber article came out around the same time on the Psychology Today site:

The Truth About Open Marriage

By Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

Some couples want their sexual freedom, but don't want their relationship freighted with the lies, secrets and ongoing deceptions that affairs require. In some cases, a contract for an open marriage is negotiated and agreed upon.

For example, one couple I saw in therapy had a "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy. They promised each other that they would only have sex one time with outside parties to avoid emotional entanglements — a promise that struck me as easy to break, given the agreed-upon silence....

...I've worked with several couples who experimented with open marriages, quickly terminated the experiment when one or both partners started feeling badly, and moved forward from there. I have actually met one (only one) couple in my four decades of professional experience who claim to thrive over the years — as parents and partners — with an open marriage.

They are by far the very rare exception, not the rule. Usually, at least one person becomes an emotional casualty....

Read the whole article (March 6, 2010). Many of her warnings are sensible, so why is this dumb? Because she never seems to have considered that her clients are all in troubled marriages; that's why they come to her. She doesn't see the happy couples. They teach about sampling bias in high-school statistics, duhh.

• On the other hand, a long, excellent feature article appeared in the Sunday Times of London:

Making an open relationship work

By Kate Spicer | Feb. 28, 2010

“We protect monogamy like some sacred cow, but for me it has always felt like a dictatorship.” Alexandra Salafranca, 27, and her husband had a year of “theoretical discussions” about the rights and wrongs of monogamy. She brought it up first. “I have never understood why you can have lots of friends but only one lover. When I was younger, I was always cheating on my boyfriends, either emotionally or physically,” she says.

...Life’s statistics make a mockery of our cultural dedication to monogamous relationships. Monogamy is expected by 95% of couples, yet a survey, by the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center at Washington State University, of sexually active Seattle residents aged 18-39 found 27% of men and 18% of women reported that during their most recent sexual relationship, they had had sex with at least one other partner. Is this shocking? If you’re a regular tabloid reader, probably not.

More astonishingly, in the 1990s, Robin Baker, then an evolutionary biologist at Manchester University, discovered that 8% of children are conceived when a woman has recently slept with another man. Another statistic reveals that 10% of children in Britain don’t belong to the men they’re supposed to. This, says Baker, “is normal behaviour for a mammal”....

...“There are far more open relationships than you might think,” says Tristan Taormino, the author of Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. While half the couples she interviewed for the book were, indeed, committed to being “alternative”, the other half were “just living their lives, and didn’t consider themselves anything out of the ordinary”.

Graham Nicholls has always had open relationships, and they generally have been successful. “My first advice to anyone considering one would be to do the ‘opening process’ together,” he says....

...By all accounts, an open marriage is hard work. Yet the sort of people who go about an open relationship in a sensible manner will devote themselves to unpicking possessive and jealous instincts as much as they can. “Our automatic response is ‘You’re mine and nobody else is gonna have you’, even if your higher motives are: I want freedom and I want you to have freedom,” says Taormino. “I have been in a committed relationship for nine years, and it’s open because I do not want to restrict the freedom of someone I love. Personally, though, I’ve struggled with jealousy — everyone does.”

She devotes a whole chapter of Opening Up to jealousy; and the whole of the following chapter to “compersion”. Compersion is what you feel when you have reprogrammed your brain not to feel jealousy any more. “Jealousy is learnt behaviour,” says Taormino, “reinforced by everything from complex German opera to advertising.” Compersion aims to work with the heat and passion of jealousy and turn it into pleasure at seeing or knowing your other half is enjoying pleasure. It’s the sort of sympathetic joy that most people can only identify with from watching their kids have a great time.

Nicholls thinks it is “an almost spiritual state of being. There is a real power to being able to empathise with your other half’s feelings for their other lover. It is powerful because it is hard, but once you experience it, you find an emotional freedom that changes the way you view relationships”.

Noble indeed. Unimaginable to most. All the people I spoke to for this story had experienced fierce jealousy, yes, but were able to intellectually redraw those feelings. If they could not, then they sat down with their spouse, talked about it and redrew the boundaries....

...“It is not for the faint-hearted; it is a process that will take communication, devotion and energy. If you are busy, do not attempt an open relationship.”

And perhaps it is this, more than anything else, that puts an awful lot of people off. Cheating is simply easier.

Read the whole article (Feb. 28, 2010).

While we're on the topic, here are a couple of older open-marriage items that I hadn't posted yet:

Details, a piggy men's fashion magazine, did a story on agreements between couples to have adventures:

I'm in a taxi late at night, drunkenly putting the moves — rusty but surprisingly effective — on a friendly young publicist, when I'm struck by several buzz-killing realizations: My son has swimming tomorrow and his bathing suit has gone AWOL. I have to reschedule a conference at my 4-year-old daughter's school. There are only two chicken nuggets left in the freezer. And my wife's birthday is next week.

The last one is really important — the woman deserves something nice; without her, I wouldn't be getting it on....

Read the whole article.

• Your Tango has reprinted Jenny Block's "Four Steps to Opening a Marriage", from her book:

...Being in a successful open marriage is about four things: 1) finding the support you need, both within your marriage and from the people around you; 2) accepting that jealousy is a manufactured emotion that, with enough conscious effort, you can learn to let go of; 3) treating an open marriage as you would a traditional one — that is, normalizing it as a choice for everyone; and 4) overcoming people's fears and misunderstanding of open marriage and its supposed consequences on society at large.

...Number one is support from your spouse. Open marriage is productive only if both partners are onboard. And because the rules can morph and change, it requires ongoing attention and communication....

...You have to be strong enough to deal with all of the new feelings, problems, and experiences that it might throw at you. You have to know that jealousy is bound to rear its ugly head....

...Making an open marriage effective means being prepared to work through any rough spots with your friends, surrounding yourself with as many enlightened people as you can, and setting an example for people of just how normal and reasonable an open marriage can be....

...The final stage in figuring out how to be in a successful open marriage is overcoming our own worries and other people's misunderstandings about how we define our relationships....

Read the whole article.

Whew! Eight items in one post! They seem to be coming faster these days.


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March 17, 2010

Poly family demands not to be criminal in Canada

Macleans magazine

Canada's national news magazine uses an MFM poly family to lead off its article on the 16 diverse interveners in the upcoming polygamy test case now heading toward trial:

Making their bed

Some 16 groups take sides on polygamy in a landmark case

By Ken MacQueen | March 17, 2010

The British Columbia government’s decision to test the legality of Canada’s 120-year-old polygamy law led to a shocking revelation for Karen and her two male partners. The 37-year-old Winnipeg-area mother, her husband of 15 years and a second male partner concede their arrangement is unconventional. She calls it a plural union based on equality, not religious ideas of male dominance. What she didn’t realize, until the B.C. court reference drew attention to the issue, was that they’re breaking the law by sharing a home. “This has been a real learning experience,” she says.

Karen, who doesn’t want her surname used in order to protect her children, is part of a constituency of polyamorists, one of many groups seeking standing in the B.C. Supreme Court. The case will determine if the polygamy law — Section 293 of the Criminal Code — is constitutional....

...The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association... includes many gay and lesbian multiple partnerships. Vancouver lawyer John Ince, legal counsel for the group, and in a polyamorous relationship himself, says the case will determine only if plural relationships are legal. What flows from that — the rights of multiple partners to pensions, adoption or immigration sponsorship — are issues for future rulings many years, and many appeals, down the road, he said.

From her home in Manitoba, Karen says she is offended that the law labels her and her partners criminals, yet it would have been legal, and more socially acceptable, to disrupt her family life by leaving her husband or having an adulterous affair. As much as she hates the attention, polyamorists have to take a stand in what promises to be a high-profile case, she says. “The irony is we’re really fighting for the right to be left alone.”

Read the whole article (March 17, 2010).

Here's more about the case and the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.

Karen in the article blogs about her interview with Macleans and related thoughts.

Jasmine Walston of the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness has just produced an introductory brochure on the differences between polygamy and polyamory.


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March 15, 2010

Someone in TV scripting likes us

The Mentalist (CBS-TV)

From a reader:

I am a huge fan of your blog. I was just watching an episode of one of my favorite shows, The Mentalist, and it featured a couple with an open marriage in a positive light. It showed how much the man cared for his wife (who was the murder victim) and how they were close with their daughter. When asked about "having an affair," the characters described their marriage as "open and honest." This came up several times in the episode.

I was afraid the husband would be the one who killed her out of jealousy or something over a lover; however, I was very relieved to see that the final reason for the murder had nothing to do with their marriage or partners. And this show was broadcast on primetime network television.

Margot Garnick

The episode was "Code Red," March 11, 2010 (season 2, episode 16). Apparently it's not available on CBS.com or hulu.com.1 There was also a LiveJournal/Polyamory discussion about the episode.

The concept of multi-relationships that don't end in murder and mayhem, but are serious, loving, communicative, ethical, and good, is inching into mainstream TV dramas and comedies. Big Love, now ending its fourth season, is the obvious example, though it portrays an oddity: Mormon religious polygyny. Other examples have shown up on HBO's Caprica, NBC's Parks and Recreation, and England's Hollyoaks. But I don't watch much TV. Can you add more examples? Use the comments below.


1Someone found this link to the show:

...but it tried to install an .exe program and set off an adware alert on my computer, so I'd say avoid it unless you have malware mojo. I've chopped up the URL so you can't go there accidentally. Can somebody find a safer site?



March 13, 2010

"Polyamory Works for Us"

Fairlady (South Africa)

A mainstream glossy women's magazine in South Africa presents a "My Story" article by one of the country's poly spokespeople, who goes by the name Princess Anie.

Polyamory Works for Us

My husband and I left 'forsaking all others' out of our wedding vows — and we're happier for it.

...Shortly after our wedding, a new friend mentioned his past relationship with a man and a woman at the same time. When he described how they were all in love and happy together, it was a light bulb moment for us. He told us that this life style was called 'polyamory', and that night we spent hours on Google looking at all the information available. The more we read, the more it resonated with us....

...Even though that first relationship failed, David and I learnt so much about ourselves and each other that we decided to try it again. It became easier after David's first relationship, because he was dating a polyamorous woman with lots of experience in the lifestyle. She was very open to discussing and compromising, and brought with her experience and advice from her past and present relationships.

...It takes a fortune of thought and time to practice polyamory without hurting people, and because I see lying as one of the main ways to hurt people, I refuse to lie, ever. If there is something bothering me, no matter how small, I talk about it. I don't let it fester. And I expect the same from my loved ones.

Boundaries and agreements are also very important....

If you think safer-sex precautions are a serious deal in North America, consider that southern Africa has the highest HIV-infection rate in the world (more than 20 times the rate in the U.S.):

...Even if all this [testing] comes out clean, we still use condoms, femidoms, latex gloves, dental dams and we don't swap any sexual fluids.

Here's the whole article (April 2010). Someone has also put up images of the two magazine pages: first page, second page (you'll need access to Yahoo Groups).

South Africa's small but active poly community has a website and the busy ZaPoly Yahoo Group for discussion. The group's moderator, Andrea (Green Fizzpops), scours the web for noteworthy poly articles. If you enjoy Polyamory in the News, you'll enjoy browsing the essays, blog posts, first-person stories, and insights that have caught her attention; look through the ZaPoly Yahoo Group's backlist.



March 12, 2010

Polys vs. Swingers, as viewed from today

Boston Open Relationships Examiner

The "poly vs. swinging" debate has died down in the last five years or so, praise be. The two subcultures, similar in theory but different in who they attract, may be learning not to over-stereotype and diss each other. And there's always been crossover and middle ground.

Now, in her smart Boston Open Relationships Examiner blog, Kamela Dolinova presents a clear and knowledgeable perspective on the two cultures.

Open war: the polyamorous versus the swingers

...Many polyamorous people define themselves in opposition to swingers, and in fact, at least locally, swingers tend to dwell outside of the intersecting subcultures that one often sees gathered together: the polyfolk, queers and kinksters, the geeks and gamers, the DIYers and cohousers, the pagans and atheist-engineers. I can speculate a number of reasons for this... but what I also hope for is a greater understanding between the two groups, who often see each other in a negative light.

In 2004, a friend of mine named Pepper Mint did a wonderful presentation at the Building Bridges conference and shared his notes for that presentation online. The presentation sought to bring together polyamorists and swingers under the identity umbrella of nonmonogamy....

Swingers tend to be vilified by mainstream culture, but also tend to be more a part of it than poly people.... Given the mainstream viewpoint of swingers and [their] desire to continue operating within the mainstream culture, it's no wonder that many of them remain extremely private about their swinging.

...Unlike swingers, poly people often must be out at least to a certain extent: after all, it is difficult to pretend to everyone in the world that you don't have two husbands. Your kids are certainly going to notice, your neighbors probably have a good idea....

By and large, swingers seem to see themselves as normal folks who are just out having some excitement on Saturday nights.... They are often happily suburban, Christian, and ranging from working class through to wealthy. Aside from their adventures with other couples, which admittedly sometimes turn into long-term, dating-like friendships, swingers tend to fully participate in Normal Life(tm).

Poly people, on the other hand, are often life-hackers: people who are interested in doing things differently from the norm to see if they work better for them.... Many polyfolk are entrepreneurs in the widest sense: not just running their own businesses but generating the business of their lives....

...Swingers have the challenge of working within the mainstream even as their life choices are condemned by it. And polyamorists are working to make their choices acceptable to the mainstream even as they often reject its other strictures.

...If we banded together rather than remaining so separate, perhaps the larger culture could expand a bit, and discover that more is possible: it's certainly happened before. But to start with, we might simply try not judging each other.

That's just a skim off the top; read her whole essay (March 10, 2010).


Meanwhile, an important new book on swingers is out: Swinging in America: Love, Sex, and Marriage in the 21st Century by Curtis R. Bergstrand and Jennifer Blevins Sinski. Curt Bergstrand, a sociology professor, gave a talk at last month's Poly Living conference: "The Rise and Decline of Monogamy in America." The book, published by Praeger (November 2009), is an academic hardcover. From the publisher's description:

Drawing on an extensive survey of [1,100] real people and over 40 years of research, this revealing volume proposes that a nonmonogamous lifestyle may be healthier for marriages than a monogamous one.

...Significant social science research suggests that the standard of monogamy has become a destructive force both on marriages and parenting, and that nonmonogamous relationships actually provide a more viable blueprint for relationships today.... [Bergstrand] concludes that nonmonogamous relationships such as swinging and polyamory offer a new blueprint for combining sex and love — one that may prove more in line with the way people actually live their lives in our society.

Swinging in America begins with what we know about swingers and the swinging lifestyle, based on personal narratives and over 40 years of sociological research comparing swinging and non-swinging couples on factors such as personal happiness, marital satisfaction, psychological stability, and personal values. The second half of the book explores the historical rise and contemporary decline of monocentrism — the sexually monogamous marriage as the organizing principle underlying our culture — and the implications of this decline for new nonmonogamous relationships and marriages.

...Centers on the largest survey of swingers ever undertaken, comparing married swingers to a national scientific sample of married nonswingers on 40 questions about their lives.

A much more popular-level new book on The Lifestyle is The Swinger Manual; see review (March 9, 2010).

Whatever you think of the swing scene, it's way bigger and better organized than the poly world. But it usually comes into public view only for its giant conventions in Las Vegas and Florida, and for police busts of party houses (often triggered by neighbors' complaints of noise and traffic). One such battle in the suburbs of Dallas prompted the alternative weekly Dallas Observer to follow up with a long feature article on the swing scene, ranging from its low to high ends. The article is a little old (Sept. 18, 2008) but still interesting.



March 10, 2010

A breath of fresh air in China

China Daily

Is the government of China easing up a bit on its official prudery toward nonstandard sexualities? The China Daily, published by the Chinese Communist Party in English, features in today's issue a friendly article on the controversial sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河) — with a flattering photo of her, no less — and her opinions on gays, casual sex, and polyamory:

When the immoral is not illegal

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

Updated: 2010-03-10 10:14

Sociologist and gay rights activist, Li Yinhe, continues to stun the country with her comments on hitherto taboo topics such as sex and same-sex marriages.

She has submitted, for the fifth time, to the ongoing 2010 annual sessions of the NPC and CPPCC, proposals to allow same-sex marriages, and rescind the ban on sexual orgies as a violation of the Criminal Law of the PRC.

"The first is a continuous attempt as I know it will take time to realize this," Li says. "The second involves doing away with an outdated law."

When the immoral is not illegal

A highly profiled scholar, Li's thoughts have influenced the Chinese public for two decades. In an exclusive interview with China Daily, she shares her views on sex and marriage.

In 2006, Li caused a flutter with her support for one-night stands and polyamory (multiple sexual partners). Explaining her stance, she says unmarried people have the legal right to one-night stands. And while it may be morally wrong for married couples to do so, there is nothing illegal about it.

"I'm not saying I encourage people to have casual sex," Li says, "People have the right to sex just like they have the right to eat. Although both are not explicitly written into the Chinese Constitution, they are not violations of the law."

She says polyamory offers important evidence for her sociological studies.

"I know of three lovers living together in harmony, in China and in other countries. They are straight and are not jealous of sharing lovers," she says, adding this proves that the human emotion of jealousy stems from social rather than physiological reasons.

Li strongly opposes women being mistresses to men. She sees that as an insult to the idea of equal social status for men and women. "It's a pity that young women would like to find such short-cuts to a better life," she says.

She even jokes that when stories of women keeping men begin to appear in the mass media, it could signal a higher social status for women.

Li's sharp ideas have come under much attack on various online forums. She has now shut down the forum for her personal blogs to block off vicious criticisms.

The former wife of late writer Wang Xiaobo currently lives with a 9-year-old adoptive son in Beijing. Her research on marriages, covering five major Chinese cities, will soon be published under the aegis of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

In her spare times Li reads extensively and is particularly partial to detective stories. "Most books, I only read once," she says.

"Wang Xiaobo's books are the exception," she adds, with a smile.

Read the original (March 10, 2010).

We last reported on Li Yinhe here three years ago.

The China Daily, according to writers on Wikipedia, "is regarded as the English-language mouthpiece for the government and is often used as a guide to official policy.... The editorial policies differ in being slightly more liberal than Chinese-language newspapers.... Journalists practice a high degree of self-censorship at the paper.... The editor of the paper has told foreign editors that the paper's editorial policy was to support the policies of the Communist Party and only make criticism of the authorities if there was deviation from Party policy."

Update, April 8: On the other hand, the BBC reports:

China charges online 'swingers' in Nanjing

Prosecutors in the east Chinese city of Nanjing have charged 22 alleged members of a wife-swapping internet chat room with "group licentiousness".

A university academic, company bosses and shop assistants are among 14 men and eight women facing up to five years in prison if convicted.

Group sex parties were reportedly held at the academic's home.

The trial has sparked debate between conservatives and liberals, a Beijing-based blogger told the BBC.

Stan Abrams, who writes on Chinese legal matters in his China Hearsay blog, said prosecutors were using a little-known article of criminal law against the defendants.

The 22 defendants are accused of engaging in dozens of group sex encounters between 2007 and 2009, according to China's Procuratorial Daily newspaper.

Ma Xiaohai, a 53-year-old associate professor at an unnamed university in Nanjing, was charged with setting up the chat room and organising group sex parties at his home.

"At first the chat room discussions were very clean, with most people discussing their marital problems," the paper quoted him as saying.

But "swinging" became the focus of the forum, which grew to include more than 190 members, the paper said....

"You have two camps that have come out on this trial," Mr Abrams told the BBC World Service.

"On the one side, you have got the conservatives and, frankly I think, the government, who are saying there are public policy issues here, there is the matter of social order to think about.

"On the other hand you have people who want liberalisation, who want the law to reflect the reality of the situation, who are saying that not only there should be legal reform, but the government should stop cracking down on these people for these kinds of activity."

See the original article (April 8, 2010).

More on this case. It's reported to be the first time anyone in China has been charged with "criminal licentiousness" for more than 20 years.

Update May 20: Ma Yaohai, leader of the swing club, was sentenced to 3½ years in prison, remains defiant, and is appealing. He seems to be gaining support across China; see New York Times article.



March 9, 2010

"Polyamory: Evil dressed as love"

Jackson Sun (Tennessee)

Gosh, sometimes people don't like us. Delita Johnson is co-founder of Focus On Christ Ministries, a "last days" ministry in Jackson, Tennessee, and she has a column in the local Jackson Sun:

Polyamory: Evil dressed as love

Let me start off by describing to you a picture that I saw a couple of days ago that was taken in San Francisco in 2004. The picture was titled "Polyamory Pride," and it showed four women holding a massive white sign with large capitalized black letters that read "POLYAMORY." These women were smiling and waving and appeared to be very proud of holding such a disgraceful sign.

Two of the women were dressed like dominatrixes, while the other two had a mix of male and female attributes. The picture was, to me, a bit disturbing. How confusing is this for today's youth who are already struggling with making right and wrong decisions? This type of open exposure of polyamory makes the concept of an honest and real marriage relationship dim. The meaning of a true marriage relationship is slowly deteriorating.

According to Newsweek, polyamory is here to stay and the world wants "traditionalists," like myself, to get used to it. I, for one, will not "get used to it."...

Oh, and for those who don't even know what polyamory is, let me help you out. It is the current "term of art" applied to "families" or "clusters" comprised of multiple sexual partners.

As Newsweek explains, this is not exactly polygamy, because marriage is not the issue. Advocates of polyamory argue their lifestyle is not "open marriage." Indeed, they define their movement in terms of the principle of "ethical nonmonogamy," defined as "engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person, based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved."

All of the "new terminology" is killing me. This movement includes couples who openly and with full knowledge of each other engage in sexual relationships with others. Some are involved in group sex, and others experiment with bisexuality.

...Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Read the whole column (March 8, 2010). This isn't the first time she's gone on about us.

The irony here is that states with a conservative "pro-marriage" evangelical culture, such as Tennessee, have the highest rates of divorce and of teen pregnancy (see pages 3 and 13). They have at least as high a rate of births to unwed mothers (see page 7), and buy at least as much online porn per capita, which religious conservatives would include with all the above.

Liberal states have substantially lower rates of marriage-crisis indicators. And in particularly liberal places, such as my own leafy Boston suburbs and my Unitarian Universalist church (with its comprehensive, explicit sex-ed program), marriage and intact-family childbirth are doing way better than today's American norm.1 When the headline came out last year that nearly 40% of American children are now born out of wedlock (see page 3, top right), people here thought the Boston Globe must have printed a typo.

Meanwhile, the moral breakdown of conservative culture, which evangelicals see all around them, only entrenches the very beliefs that tend to make it worse.

Update: Just after I wrote that, this article appeared in the highly respected Christian Science Monitor:

High divorce rates and teen pregnancy are worse in conservative states than liberal states

By Naomi Cahn and June Carbone

Ask most people about the differences between families who live in “red” (conservative) states and “blue” (liberal) states, and you’ll hear a common refrain: Massachusetts and California are hotbeds of divorce and teen pregnancy, while Nebraska and Texas are havens of virtue and stability.

The reality is quite different. And the evidence should force all of us – conservative and liberal alike – to think carefully about the policies we set to help American families thrive in the 21st century.

...The US family system, which once differed little by class or region, has become a marker of race, culture, and religion. A new “blue” family paradigm has handsomely rewarded those who invest in women’s as well as men’s education and defer childbearing until the couple is better established. These families, concentrated in urban areas and the coasts, have seen their divorce rates fall back to the level of the 1960s, incomes rise, and nonmarital births remain rare. With later marriage has also come greater stability and less divorce.

...Difficulties in the “red” world, meanwhile, have grown worse. Traditionalists continue to advocate abstinence until marriage and bans on abortion. They’ve said an emphatic “no” to the practices that have made the new “blue” system workable.

Yet, paradoxically, as sociologist Brad Wilcox reports, evangelical Protestant teens have sex at slightly earlier ages on average than their nonevangelical peers (respectively, 16.38 years old versus 16.52 years old), evangelical Protestant couples are also slightly more likely to divorce than nonevangelical couples, and evangelical mothers are actually more likely to work full time outside the home than their nonevangelical peers.

While the devout who make traditional marriages work have happy stable lives, economic circumstances have made it harder to find matches that support gendered family roles and to get marginal couples through family tensions.

...The hallmark of what we have termed the blue family paradigm is training for autonomy.

...The fact that traditional families are flailing often persuades them that a return to traditional values is that much more critical. In today’s world, however, almost all of the traditional nostrums have proved counterproductive.

Missing from this debate is recognition of the bankruptcy of traditionalist family values as policy for the postindustrial era....

We are entirely sympathetic with those inclined to lock up their daughters from puberty until marriage, but we do recognize that the societies abroad most insistent on policing women’s virtue are locked into cycles of poverty.

In the United States, states that emphasize abstinence-only education, limit public subsidies of contraception, restrict access to abortion – and, yes, oppose gay marriage – have higher teen birth and divorce rates.

...The solution? As we outline in great detail in our book Red Families v. Blue Families, there are three critical steps we can take: (1) promote access to contraception – within marriage as well as outside it; (2) develop a greater ability to combine not only work and family, but family and education; and (3) make sure the next generation stays in school, learns the skills to be employed, and cultivates values that can adapt to the future....

Read the whole article (March 12, 2010).


1 A sex-positive, poly friend of mine used to direct a shelter for troubled youth. He says he gave thorough birth-control indoctrination to all the kids entering the shelter and freely passed out contraceptives to minors, a felony in his state at the time. He is proud that not one unwanted pregnancy happened among the several hundred at-risk kids under his care over a span of years.



March 7, 2010

Mo'Nique, Academy Award winner, on her open marriage

Earlier this evening the rising black actress Mo'Nique, who has lately been sweeping up film awards, won the Academy Award for best supporting actress, with her husband Sidney Hicks by her side. (Video of her speech.)

Fearlessness and outspokenness have been keys to her success, and these qualities extend to talking about her personal life. A week earlier she made news discussing her open marriage on a Barbara Walters Special:

"Could Sid have sex outside of his marriage with me? Yes. That's not a deal-breaker," she says. "That's not something that would make us say, 'Pack your things and let's end the marriage.'"

And she says she wouldn't call it quits even if he had numerous flings.

"What if it's 20 times?" she asks. "So what? We've been best friends for over 25 years, and we truly know who we are. Oftentimes, people get into marriages and they don't know who they're laying next to. I'm very comfortable and secure with my husband."

(Quoted from a brief article in Us magazine, March 4, 2010.)

This news wasn't new. She said much the same to the New York Times for an article published August 5, 2007:

...She and her husband, Sidney Hicks, have what she calls an open marriage.

"We have an agreement that we'll always be honest," Mo'Nique said of the year-old marriage. "And if sex happens with another person, that's not a deal breaker for us, that's not something where we'll say, 'Oh my God, we've got to go to divorce court, and you cheated on me.' Because we don't cheat."

And she elaborated on that a few months later on The Oprah Winfrey Show for January 28, 2008:

"When I said I had an open marriage, people automatically jumped to sex. They automatically went there," she says. "But I've been best friends with my husband since we were 14 years old. When we say open, we're very honest. There are no secrets. Oftentimes you have people that are married, but they're strangers, and we refuse to be those people."

Mo'Nique admits, though, that her and Sidney's definition of an open marriage does include sex with other people. "It's not a deal breaker... we're very real people and we understand what's for us. It doesn't work for everybody," she says. "I've had to sneak and I've had to lie, and I don't want to do that any more."

Portrait of her and Sidney on the cover of Jet.

She began her own talk show on BET last October. Earlier she filled in several times for Michael Baisden on his black-oriented talk show. Baisden is very friendly toward polyamory and has brought Loving More director Robyn Trask onto his radio show many times.

Update: In Dallas/ Fort Worth, this news prompted KDAF-TV 33 to do a 2½-minute report about open marriage, centering on an interview with Open author Jenny Block, who lives in Dallas. See transcript and video (March 8, 2010).


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March 6, 2010

The Non-Monogamous Male Couples study

San Francisco Bay Times

Open committed relationships are much more common and understood in the gay world than in straight society, though same-sex marriage campaigners are sometimes embarrassed to say so. Such arrangements can often work very well, according to a recently completed study of non-monogamous gay couples.

What factors make for success? Members of long-term open gay couples in the study often cited communication, honesty, transparency, respectful negotiation about needs and boundaries, and various forms of conscious relationship work. Sounds familiar.

The study included 86 couples who had been together for at least 8 years (the average time together was 16.2 years) and who were currently non-monogamous. The two authors themselves fit this category. They have posted a comprehensive summary, "Beyond Monogamy: Lessons from Long-Term Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships" (78-page .pdf document), and have set up a website with overviews.

The San Francisco Bay Times reported on the study Thursday:

Long-Term Non-Monogamous Male Couples

By Tom Moon, MFT | March 4, 2010

Blake Spears and Lanz Lowen have been together for over 34 years. They told me that they still have great sex, contradicting the common belief that sexual interest inevitably wanes in a long-term relationship. How do they do it? “One reason,” Lanz said, “is that we’ve been in an open relationship from the very beginning. If we hadn’t been open, we wouldn’t have been able to grow individually or as a couple.” But, they write, this was a journey they took “without a roadmap… Information about how couples navigate this terrain is surprisingly lacking. We were curious about the experience of others and assumed many long-term couples might offer valuable perspectives and hard-earned lessons.”

So, a few years back, they decided to use their combined training and experience in research and psychology to do an independent, in-depth study of other long-term open gay male relationships.

They hoped to provide the community with an accurate picture of what non-monogamy actually looks like in the lives of gay men....

This study is a fascinating read because the authors largely avoid speculation and let the participants speak for themselves. One finding that fascinated me was the many varieties of “openness” that the couples practiced. Some only played together, some only separately, and some did both. Some only allowed anonymous outside encounters, while others allowed “friends with benefits” and still others built polyamorous families with multiple partners. Some (about ten percent) had no rules at all governing outside sex, while at the other end of the spectrum others created detailed ground rules and contracts. Every imaginable kind of “openness” seemed to work for someone.

The study includes a summary of previous research on non-monogamy, in which the authors report that “Most research shows that approximately two-thirds of long-term male couples who have been together for five years or more are honestly non-monogamous,” and that “Multiple studies have found no differences in relationship quality or satisfaction between samples of sexually exclusive and non-exclusive male couples.”

Despite those findings, they had a hard time recruiting participants. They had no trouble finding non-monogamous couples, but relatively few who wanted to talk about it. One man who chose to participate said “Having an open relationship feels like a funny way of being in the closet again. Family and friends expect that we’re monogamous, and we don’t tell them we’re not. It’s like a secret….In our community and society, it feels like something huge isn’t being talked about or studied or understood.”

It’s no wonder. Non-monogamous relationships may be common in our community, but I still frequently hear gay men criticize them as pathological, immature, and destructive. I’m sometimes confidently assured, as if it’s self-evident, that open relationships are less healthy, loving, responsible, or honest than monogamous relationships; that if you’re having outside sex, something must be wrong with the love or the communication in your partnership; that outside sex causes you to lose your focus on one another other; and that once you “start straying” it’s “the beginning of the end.”

Blake and Lanz came to different conclusions. While they concede that “…we had a study population skewed towards the positive,” they believe their work shows that “...it is reasonable to conclude that non-monogamy for gay male couples is a viable option. When partners find enough common ground in their inclinations and perspectives toward non-monogamy, sanctioned outside sex is a sustainable and satisfying possibility. If a couple is willing to be forthright and to problem-solve as needed, non-monogamy isn’t by nature de-stabilizing. In fact, the results of this study would suggest the opposite – many study couples said non-monogamy enabled them to stay together. The average length of relationship for interviewed couples was 16 years – double our minimum requirement. Given the difficulties we had in recruiting participants, this figure suggests a positive correlation between longevity and non-monogamy. At a minimum, it destroys the myth that opening the relationship is the ‘beginning of the end’.”

On the other hand “…for most couples, there was a price of admission. Non-monogamy came with risks and required maintenance.” Most participants found that making it work required “clarifying values and making certain they are mutual; appreciating and accommodating differences; holding steadfast to agreements and a commitment to honesty; growing greater capacity to process and manage their own emotional reactions; learning to voice their desires, concerns, and uncomfortable feelings; becoming increasingly vulnerable, trusting, forgiving, generous; partnering to constructively problem-solve and find resolution for unforeseen and possibly highly charged issues.”

Wow! That’s a tall order. As I read this, it occurred to me that this may help explain why non-monogamy gets a bad rap from some gay men. Too many men go into open relationships expecting that it will be a lot easier than monogamy, providing them, more or less effortlessly, with “the best of both worlds.” That may be one of the most important myths this study destroys. It provides a much-needed dose of realism: successful open relationships require commitment, patience, and hard work.

(Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. His website is www.tommoon.net.)

Here's the original article (March 4, 2010).

Lowen and Spears point out that the study participants are a skewed sample because they were willing to talk about their open relationships; most non-monogamous gay couples that the researchers approached declined. But with that in mind, here are some interesting statistics:

Beneficial Impacts — Key Themes
(percent of all study participants naming this as a significant impact)
78% - A sanctioned sexual outlet
48% - Stimulates our sex life, e.g. titillating, energizing
40% - Different needs met
34% - Brought friends, new experiences into relationship
33% - Encourages & reinforces honesty
27% - Provides variety, sense of freedom
26% - Brought perspective & greater appreciation
24% - Encouraged sexual growth (expertise, repetoire, awareness)
23% - Increased intimacy & commitment
20% - Encouraged personal growth
15% - Wouldn’t be together without it


Most Commonly Mentioned Difficulties
21% - Jealousy (markedly less than what is often assumed in the research)
20% - Getting too emotionally involved
12% - Becoming comfortable with non-monogamy
9% - Dishonesty
8% - Issues related to drug/alcohol use
7% - Lack of sensitivity
20% - “Nothing has been difficult.”

Update, July 2010 Here's a conservative response.


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March 2, 2010

The PLN, the Polyamory Media Association, and some ideal TV

From time to time I've mentioned the Polyamory Leadership Network (PLN). This group got started in October 2008, when 34 poly-awareness activists met in New York to brainstorm ideas. Since then the PLN has held two additional "summit meetings" and has grown to 76 people.

Its members make no claim to represent anyone but themselves. Their common-denominator commitment, as thrashed out at the most recent summit, is simply "To promote acceptance of relationship choice." Most are already doing this in one way or another.

Membership in the PLN, however, is a bit selective and often happens by invitation. A high value is placed on people with a record of poly activism and a history of "playing well with others" in project-oriented groups. But if we haven't already noticed and invited you, and you'd like to collaborate in doing poly education and awareness work, you can ask me offlist for an application: alan7388 {at} gmail.com.

The Polyamory Media Association

One creation of the PLN is the new Polyamory Media Association (PMA). Its goal is to help out-and-proud polyfolks become skilled, effective spokespeople for themselves and for polyamory. The PMA also intends to become a resource for reporters, editors, and program directors who are seeking publicly out polys to profile or quote. Could this be you?

The PMA can also help to vet media offers that you receive for signs of trouble, or past histories of trouble, and can help you negotiate with reporters or producers on a more even basis. Its services are free and depend on volunteers.

That's an ambitious agenda. The PMA has been put together by Joreth, a longtime poly spokesperson and activist, with help from other volunteers. Here is its announcement press release to the poly community, just out yesterday afternoon:

Calling all Polyamorous Spokespeople, Activists, Community Leaders, and Out & Proud Polys!

March 1, 2010

Ever more news reports, articles, and television shows are highlighting poly families, and a surprisingly large number of them are showing us very favorably!

Have you ever wondered how those people got chosen -- when, perhaps, your family would have been perfect?

Have you ever been interviewed yourself, and watched or read it later and thought, "Hey, that's not what I said/meant!"?

Have you ever seen Terisa Greenan or Jenny Block on television and wished you could sound and look that polished, and that you could get your message across that clearly?

Introducing the Polyamory Media Association! We're a volunteer project of the Polyamory Leadership Network, collaborating with Loving More. Our goal is to bridge the gulf between the media and the polyamorous community. We offer media training to help you polish your own message and develop those skills necessary for navigating the waters of the media and entertainment industry.

We will not tell you what to say. You create your own message; we'll teach you how to say it. Our training is good for radio, television, and print interviews, for public speaking, for letter-writing, and for other proactive polyactivism.

Plus, we offer our free services as media screeners. We can help you vet reporters and shows so you can avoid problematic ones, negotiate with the rest on a more even basis, and make sure you're treated fairly. But the final decision is left up to you -- we will not filter or make decisions for you.

The Polyamory Media Association will also seek out the media to help them find you if you wish. By bringing together the polyamorous community and the media, we hope to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between the two parties -- when they share common goals.

So sign up today at www.PolyMediaAssociation.com and take advantage of the training materials and experience collected by those trailblazing polyamorists before you! Shortly after you sign up (completely free, and all information will remain confidential), you'll be given access to the Members portion of the website with all the benefits we have to offer.

We look forward to seeing you at the Polyamory Media Association!

Joreth InnKeeper
Director, PMA

Please pass this along to your lists, either the full text or the URL:

A Changing Climate

For years, many poly people have been skeptical of anything to do with the mainstream media, fearing that it will only sensationalize and misrepresent us. Occasionally we have indeed been treated sensationally or stupidly. (For instance). But these days that happens rarely, as regular readers here know.

And good media coverage matters. As I've said before, now that we're becoming widely known to the world, we are in a race to define who we are to the public before our opponents do it for us. So far we're winning.

An Example of Excellent TV Coverage

Television is the easiest medium to look bad on if you go into it untrained. The camera strips you bare and displays you the way you look to strangers, not the way you look to yourself or your friends. It can be brutal.

But if you don't think mainstream TV can do poly families justice, this recent four-minute report from German TV news will change your mind. To view the segment, click on the thumbnail of the three people; it's the second from the left. Never mind that it's overdubbed in German; the visuals communicate the message loud and clear. These three have done it before and knew how to handle reporters.

The PMA exists to help you look this good!

Big Demand

These days many writers and editors are seeking poly people to profile. In fact, there's a serious shortage of out, open polys to meet this demand. Many choose to stay private out of concerns — often justified — about upsetting their families of origin, or job security, or a hostile ex who might use polyness as ammunition in a child-custody battle. But if you can be out — and are reasonably presentable, articulate, self-disciplined, and ready to learn some skills and pointers — there is a great need for your story. And you'll have a number of opportunities to choose from.

For instance, the following comes from Jessica Bennett, who wrote the excellent Newsweek online article last July:

I'm working with a production company here in New York on developing a documentary TV series based on polyamory (as, apparently, is everybody these days!), and am in search of a poly family (or families) to profile.... I know many in the poly community are hesitant to talk to the media (and for good reason), but I'm hoping the Newsweek piece can speak to the kind of work I do. Thanks in advance! Jessica

Call for Participants: Poly Documentary

Hi there,

I'm the writer of the Newsweek piece on polyamory that appeared a few months back. I'm working with a New York-based production company, Myriad Entertainment, on developing a documentary TV program based on polyamory, and am in search of poly families to profile. What we're looking for are families with 3+ partners, between the ages of 20s-50s, who are committed to the lifestyle and may help debunk the stereotype of the poly community as an outlier.

Geography is flexible (within the U.S.), though a group whose partners live together or within driving distance is preferable. The biggest requirement, of course, is that the group be out and open, willing to talk honestly about their relationship, and is comfortable putting themselves out there for what could potentially be a large audience. We would film on location in the your home/city, and there would be compensation for the project.

As somebody who has written on polyamory in the past, I'm well aware of the sensationalist portrayal the community has often suffered at the hands of the media, and hope the Newsweek story speaks to the kind of open and fair portrayal we hope to present. To tell you a little bit about us, I'm an award-winning journalist (originally from Seattle) covering cultural trends, LGBT issues, women and sexuality. My co-producer is Jennifer Molina, an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker with more than a decade of experience, at the Sundance Channel, the United Nations and Newsweek. (Jenn produced the two videos that were featured with the Newsweek article, about the lovely Greenan family.) Together, we are working Veronique Bernard and Lisa Zeff, two highly regarded industry vets who recently teamed up to launch Myriad. Zeff was the former GM of ABC News Productions, and Bernard is a former production and development executive who's worked everywhere from National Geographic to the New York Times.

If you're interested in participating, or know anybody who might be, we'd love to hear more about your family and setup. We can be reached directly at polydocu@gmail.com, and you can check out mine and Jenn's porfolios and reels at www.jessbennett.net and www.rinkdproductions.com, respectively. The Newsweek story, if you haven't seen it, is viewable at http://www.newsweek.com/id/209164. Please note that this project is not affiliated with Newsweek in any way.

Thanks for reading.

Jessica Bennett

Also: Anita Wagner, a member of Loving More's board of directors who runs the Practical Polyamory blog, has checked out, endorsed, and is passing around an appeal from a well-known mainstream women's magazine looking for an FMF vee.

Loving More has been receiving many additional requests.



March 1, 2010

Group marriage in "Caprica"

Syfy Channel

The new science-fiction series "Caprica", which debuted on the SyFy Channel on January 22nd, presents group marriage as part of its far-future world (a prequel to the "Battlestar Galactica" world). Commentators are noticing. For example:

1. From the SF site io9 (slogan: "We come from the future"), by Annalee Newitz:

Is Caprica the Big Love of science fiction?

Friday's episode of Caprica, "Gravedancing," began with secret monotheist terrorist Clarice waking up with her wife and two husbands all snuggled in bed [see picture]. And this SF soap has more than just polyamory in common with HBO's Big Love.

Caprica's great experiment has been to wed the naturalist melodrama of nighttime soap opera with the posthuman preoccupations of contemporary science fiction. Which is why you have odd mashup plots featuring, for example, the mafia from another planet, and a dissolute rich family whose daughter turns into a cyborg. Ratings for Caprica so far have been low, so it's possible television audiences don't want to see Big Love in space....

SF elements: Clarice's pagan group marriage; monotheistic terrorists.

Soap elements: The Tauron family melodrama is pure Sopranos or Big Love....

...No matter how deftly the show hybridizes these two genres, however, I think Caprica may fail to garner a big audience for a simple reason. By combining science fiction with soap opera, you wind up with an otherworldy setting and a weird set of social relationships. After all, SF specializes in strange worlds, while soap operas specialize in strange people. Perhaps it's all too much strangeness, even for Syfy watchers?...

Read her whole review (Feb. 22, 2010).

2. From a Los Angeles Times interview with "Caprica" co-creator Ron Moore:

Q: I'd asked Magda Apanowicz about the "Big Love" storyline with Sister Clarice. How did that come about?

A: It was a sort of a notion that kicked around in the "Battlestar" offices that there were different societal norms in colonial civilizations, and one of them was a group marriage. In terms of polygamy, here it's usually framed in a "Big Love" context -- it's one man with many wives. I thought there was something even more intriguing about a true group marriage where all of the partners were married to one another. They have this much bigger definition of what a marriage was and I thought it was a fascinating cultural idea and I thought it would be very surprising if Sister Clarice was in a group marriage like that....

Read the whole article (Feb. 6, 2010).

3. From the movie news site Film School Rejects:

...Speaking of unconventional relationships, one of the first images presented to us during this episode [Feb. 12, 2010] was Sister Clarice in bed with (at least) three other people — presumably the husbands and wives that were introduced earlier this season. I can’t decide if this polyamory is meant to be progressive or just shocking, maybe it’s a little of both.

Read the whole review.