Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

June 29, 2010

Open relationships: "You get to make yourself stronger."


The left/progressive news site AlterNet (originally an outgrowth of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, which I helped to found 34 years ago) presents a long, thoughtful article on the character-building aspects of open relationships. As in basic training, driving yourself to master the obstacle course can make you a stronger and better person, though it may not be fun.

Although whoever wrote the title and tag line apparently didn't see things that way.

Freedom from Sexual Self-Denial: Why Not Have Sex With People Who Aren't Your Partner?

Infidelity is treated as selfish, while monogamy is celebrated. But what's so great about living a life of self-denial?

When my boyfriend, Jason, confessed to having sex with another woman, I cried. I cried almost nonstop for a full weekend, actually, in spite of the fact that I was the one who encouraged him to do it.

For the first two years of our relationship, I constantly teased Jason with dares that he fool around with any girl who hit on him. I maintained that I didn’t feel comfortable demanding monogamy, and that if he wanted to have sex with someone else, all I asked was that he be honest with me about it.

But Jason repeatedly said he was naturally monogamous..... He didn’t like one-night stands — he was picky and prone to germophobia — and he didn’t want to have an ongoing sexual relationship with anyone else while we were together. Together we decided that I would seek out another man, and though Jason would not necessarily look for another partner, he had license to seize the opportunity should it arise. That opportunity arose during a trip to New York, when a waitress gave him her phone number.

...The usual assumption is that polyamorous people are selfish, immature, incapable of commitment, and their primary relationship is therefore doomed to failure.... But what’s so gutsy about living a life full of self-denial and insecurity, where the person you love most is also the person you most need to limit?

...[Janet] W. Hardy, co-author of The Ethical Slut, is quick to point out that being “open” is not necessarily the path of least resistance, and that moving away from monogamy takes courage: “The difference between polyamorous people and monogamous people isn't that poly people never feel jealous — we do. The real difference is what we do with our feelings of jealousy. […] By blaming the [unhappy] feelings on their partners, [most monogamous people] are able to make problems someone else's fault. That way, they don't have to feel responsible for figuring out what's causing the feelings, or for finding a solution.” Those who have elected to allow their partner extra-relationship sex don’t “have that luxury. You don't get to distract yourself from your feelings of loss, sorrow, insecurity or whatever by diverting them into anger toward him [or her.]”

This is part of why an open relationship can be such a challenge. In an article that came out earlier this year about one couple’s history of their open marriage, wife Cate specifically said “it seemed worth it to me to push my psychological limits, to just work through it. I wanted to get to a better self […] There were a million — not a million, but many — painful challenges. Enormous, terrifying. But if you have relationships that have real emotional depth to them, which is what we aspire to, then it is never safe. You're terrified about losing the person. It's high risk.”

Is that the thought process of someone who’s cowardly, careless or motivated only by hedonism?

I found out about such powerful psychological effects firsthand. My logical side was appalled by my crying — I was going to have other partners, too! — but my ego was screaming for comfort.... I knew Jason had practiced safer sex and I knew that he loved me. There was no threat to my safety and no betrayal of trust. So why was I suffering so much? Probably because Jason’s news forced me to confront the way I perceived myself (impervious, rational, independent) versus the reality of how I actually am (insecure, emotional).

Janet Hardy puts this suffering in a positive light, by calling it “a gift, although it doesn't feel like one. It means that you get to make yourself stronger by figuring out what it was that triggered your jealousy, and working to solve it.” And that’s what I started to do....

Read the whole article (June 28, 2010), and join the comments.



June 27, 2010

"Gay after marriage: A bisexual woman figures out how to make it work"

The Daily Loaf

The website of Creative Loafing for Tampa Bay (one of a chain of alternative newspapers in the South) offers a first-person story tracing a path by which many people explore their way into polyamory.

Gay after marriage: A bisexual woman figures out how to make it work

What do you do when you discover you’re gay after you’re already married?

By Alexandra and her husband, Nick

I suppose a lot of spouses trip over themselves as they run to find a lawyer. I suppose others cry or yell or throw things. I suppose still more sprout feathers and thrust their heads into the sand. But not my husband. Actually, he was the one who told me that I’m bi.

No, it was I who sobbed into our bedspread until my eyes could hardly open. It was I who said “No, no, no” as my husband rubbed my back and told me everything was okay and that he still loves me. It was I who woke up the next morning and denied that night had any real meaning. And it was I for whom it took eight more months until I could finally learn to realize, then accept, then love the fact that I also love women.

But what then? I am married. I am loyal. I am … so gay.

Once again, Nick surprised me. First in the utter joy and relief he emanated when I finally realized that I like women, and then when he said, “This is an important part of who you are. You need to explore this and date women.” When I replied, “But I’m married,” he said, so what? He didn’t want me to deny a fundamental part of who I am or hold me back. And that’s when I learned the word, polyamory....

...Nick paved the way eight months prior, and then Kim helped get me to the tipping point of acceptance in October 2009. Out of the blue, she casually mentioned that she had once dated a couple. My head snapped to attention at that moment. Wait, you can DO that?...

...For days I couldn’t stop thinking about that. I began to unlock dusty doors hiding in the shadows of my mind, allowing myself to sneak inside and, for the first time, explore the mental images and concepts that hid behind them. I remembered a dream that I’d had more than a year before that left a smile on my lips for days without knowing why....

...My two champions and best friends threw me a coming out party. Nick even baked me a pussy cake. Yes. That’s right. A French vanilla cake with vanilla fudge frosting, pink sugar sprinkles and topped with fruit in the unmistakable arrangement of a vagina. A half a mango, raspberries, grape jelly and cocoa powder came together to create a beautiful, delicious … um, yeah. I don’t even need the photos Nick snapped to remember the look of delighted disbelief on Kim’s face when she realized what the cake depicted.

Then came the more challenging part. How in the world does one dive into the poly world? Nick and I found an amazing support network on FetLife.com, both for my bisexuality and for polyamory.... The biggest gift it gave me was realizing that Nick and I aren’t alone....

Read the whole article (June 26, 2010).

Update July 6: The author posts another article on The Daily Loaf telling more about her evolving story: My poly adventure: Polyamory, bisexuality and me.

Update July 29: She's doing more in this continuing series. Here's the list.


Labels: , ,

June 25, 2010

Poly in two criminal cases

"Polyamory in the news" isn't always about nice people earnestly talking love and flowers. Two criminal cases currently in the news involve polyamorous relationships that are being reported as such in the media.

In Bloomington, Illinois, a 42-year-old man with a wife and another live-in female partner is denying that he raped a 14-year-old girl:

Sexual assault trial of man who had 'polyamorous' lifestyle begins

...A self-employed building maintenance worker pointed to mileage records Wednesday to support his claim that he did not sexually assault a teenage girl five years ago....

...[Ira G.] Lynch was asked if he had ever touched the teenage girl sexually or assaulted her.

"Absolutely not. Absolutely not," he said.

Lynch admitted that he is involved in a long-term relationship with a woman other than his wife of more than 20 years, Cheryl Lynch. The nontraditional, or polyamorous, lifestyle has been discussed by several witnesses during the three-day trial.

Cheryl Lynch testified Wednesday that her husband's other partner and that woman's daughter moved into the Lynch home in 2005.

"It was agreed upon by me and my husband. I'm OK with it," she said.

The defendant's wife made it clear that she would not condone any sexual activity between her husband and a child.

"I'd probably turn him in myself. That's just not right. There's a difference between consenting adults and children," she said.

The alleged victim, now 19, spent two hours on the witness stand Tuesday describing three incidents in which she said Lynch sexually assaulted her during a visit to Bloomington. The girl's mother was involved in a relationship with Lynch but did not live in his home, she told the jury.

Lynch also denied that he ever expressed an interest in having a sexual relationship with the girl and her mother.

"Nothing remotely similar to that ever came out of my mouth," Lynch said in response to questions from defense lawyer Lance Cagle.

In a videotaped deposition shown to the jury Wednesday, the daughter of Lynch's live-in partner contradicted portions of the alleged victim's testimony -- including a statement that she walked in on one of the purported assaults at the Lynch home. The witness, who now lives out of state with relatives, said she considered Lynch a father figure....

Read the whole article (June 23, 2010), and others at the same newspaper.

"With increased visibility and an increase in the practice of polyamory, I suppose stories like this one are inevitable," writes Anita Wagner, board member of Loving More and a longtime polyactivist;

Even so, despite knowing that all societal groups have their pedophiles, seeing that subject linked to polyamory in this article makes me cringe. Spokespeople may need to be prepared with a statement for the media if asked about such cases. NCSF can help if needed; they deal with these kinds of stories all the time.

And Wagner proposes that anyone who may be asked about this case have their talking points ready:

* There is no evidence to indicate that children raised in polyamorous families are more likely to be sexually abused than in any other form of family.

* Pedophilia exists in virtually every segment of our society, including communities like ours whose code of ethics emphatically condemns such behavior.

* Polyamory is practiced between consenting adults, and children by law cannot give consent to sex with adults.


The other case is the high-profile trial involving the murder of attorney Robert Wone in Washington DC. He was stabbed to death under mysterious circumstances in the home of three well-to-do gay men living as a triad. The three are charged with conspiracy and covering up evidence. They have stuck tightly together in their story of an implausible "intruder," to the point that murder charges cannot be brought against any one of them (nor anyone else). Their polyamorous family has been second only to their gay identity in attracting attention to this strange and in some ways inexplicable case.

Their lengthy, multimillion-dollar trial ended yesterday with TV trucks crowding the street outside the courthouse. Google "Robert Wone" for more than you could ever read. In particular, the blogsite WhoMurderedRobertWone.com, run by four men in the DC gay community, has provided exhaustive coverage of the case from the start. A verdict is expected Tuesday.

Update June 29: The judge declared the three not guilty on all charges — though with a lengthy explanation that their "intruder" story is apparently fake, that their actions are "damning," and that one, two, or all three of them are "very probably" guilty as charged. But because only one or two of the three may be guilty based on the spotty evidence, and all three refuse to talk, she said that she was forced to acquit each of them based on her very strict interpretation of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

As in the O. J. Simpson case, to which this is being compared, they aren't off yet. They now face a civil suit by the widow of the murdered man, in which the standards of evidence and proof will be less favorable to them.


June 9, 2010

"A right to live with the people we love": Polyfamilies file statements in Canada court case

Vancouver Sun

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) took a big step forward on Tuesday when five of its members, representing five polyfamilies living in what they consider to be "conjugal unions," filed affidavits with the court in British Columbia that will test the legality of Canada's 19th-century anti-polygamy law. The law, long ignored and forgotten, outlaws not only polygamy but anyone living in a household with two or more other people in a "conjugal union" (even if they don't have sex), as well as anyone who assists in forming or sanctioning such an arrangement.1 The penalty for everyone involved is five years in prison.

The government of British Columbia is bringing the case as a "reference" (meaning there are no defendants) to try to establish the law's validity, after the BC attorney general failed in his attempts to bring polygamy charges against two Fundamentalist Mormon leaders in Bountiful, BC. The two are alleged to abuse women and girls and force them into plural marriages. Catch up on the case starting here.

The CPAA, with volunteer legal help, has gotten its ducks in a row very professionally. So far it has been the most visible of more than a dozen "interveners" who'll have a chance to testify for or against the law.

"We’re here because we have a right to live with the people we love, and Canadian law doesn’t seem to recognize that," says the group. "Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada purports to outlaw polyamorous people living together as families. It penalizes us as soon as we make a serious commitment to one another."

In their affidavits, the CPAA members describe living in healthy, egalitarian, committed multiple relationships, and they demand not to be considered criminals under the law for doing so. Read their affidavits here (if a link fails, try reloading).

The group has been seeking publicity, and today it got it. The Vancouver Sun published a long article summarizing the affidavits and naming everyone.

Many of the people are unhappy with the article. It garbled some things (starting with the meaningless headline), and the writer, columnist Daphne Bramham, seemed to some to express a chilly or dismissive attitude. She is deeply invested in the Fundamentalist Mormon angle, having researched and written extensively about the polygamy and alleged abuses in the Bountiful community. She wrote a book on the topic titled The Secret Lives of Saints.

My guess is that she resents the polys for showing up and complicating things.

Me, I don't think the article is so bad. It accomplishes the CPAA's main goal — telling the world that modern, egalitarian polyfamilies exist, are out and proud, and refuse to be denied.

Anti-polygamy case gives rise to all kinds of family forms

By Daphne Bramham

Forrest Glen Maridas is a polyamorist who believes that it is her constitutionally guaranteed right to freely express her sexuality in any form that that might take.

...Maridas and Osborne and their two young children live in a home in Edmonton with Drew Thompson and Katy Furness. For the past two years, Maridas has been in "an intimate and conjugal relationship" with Thompson.... "Russell and Katy's relationship with one another -- as well as myself with Katy and Drew to Russell's relationship to one another -- are roommates and friends," says Maridas.

Maridas generally sleeps with Russell, but when "sleep schedules" permit, she and Drew sleep together, often with the baby. "On more rare occasions, Drew, Katy and myself sleep together or Drew, Russell and myself sleep together at night."

Drew and Russell do not have a sexual relationship, which is described as a triad or a "polyamorous V." But all of the adults are free to date outside the family. "Being bisexual assisted in having a psychological framework for the ability of multiple relationships to make sense," says Maridas.

...Maridas explained all of this in an affidavit filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court. It was one of six filed by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which is intervening in the case [that will] determine whether the anti-polygamy law is valid.

...And what they have to say in their affidavits about how they live offers a glimpse of just how far some Canadian families diverge from the tradition of Mom-Dad-kids or the more recent "traditional" families of two Moms or two Dads and kids.

And this peek behind normally closed bedroom doors is a hint of what's to come in November, when Chief Justice Robert Bauman begins hearing the case....

Since these affidavits represent only the views of those who believe the anti-polygamy law should be struck down, it's no surprise that they provide a rosy snapshot of domestic life as told by a single member of a family....

...Bashinski worries that Kaia might be taken away by child-protection authorities. He fears prosecution, conviction and punishment.

He also fears the prospect of being denied permanent residency in Canada. And in saying that, Bashinski raises the question fundamental to this court case: What kind of country do Canadians want?

Read the whole article (June 9, 2010).

It was reprinted in the Ottawa Citizen on June 14th with the title "Polyamorists Fight to Share Love".

Kudos to all these people for putting themselves on the line! As far as I recall, this is the biggest and best-organized public legal action that the poly movement has undertaken since 1998-99, when Loving More took up the April Divilbiss child-custody case in Tennessee. (That one ended inconclusively when the mother conceded the case in midstream.)


1 The complete law in question (Section 293 of Canada's Criminal Code):

(1) Every one who
        (a) practices or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practice or enter into
               (i) any form of polygamy, or
               (ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
         (b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Evidence in case of polygamy

(2) Where an accused is charged with an offence under this section, no averment or proof of the method by which the alleged relationship was entered into, agreed to or consented to is necessary in the indictment or on the trial of the accused, nor is it necessary on the trial to prove that the persons who are alleged to have entered into the relationship had or intended to have sexual intercourse.


Labels: ,

June 7, 2010

"Making honesty the cornerstone of your relationship": Open marriage advocated on China coast

Macau Closer

Jenny Block gets around. The author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage visited Macau on the coast of China last year and ended up being interviewed by the glossy women's magazine Macau Closer for its annual wedding issue. She spoke on a wedding topic close to her heart:

The Open Alternative

Can you briefly explain why you feel so strongly that open relationships should be considered an acceptable alternative to conventional marriage for those who choose them?

I believe that individual choice is the cornerstone of the human experience. There are so many different kinds of people. So it only makes sense that there would be all different kinds of relationships too. I feel strongly about the rights of consenting adults to live and love in a way that feels authentic to them. (As long as it does no harm to others, of course.)

How do you think local culture impacts on the social acceptance of open relationships, particularly in Asian countries, which tend to be more male dominated and conservative?

I think culture plays a huge part in the acceptance of less common relationship styles. I do think it will be difficult for open relationships to become widely accepted in a male dominated conservative culture. Change can be slow, and it can even be painful, but it is necessary. And, in the end, in this case, I believe it will also be good. Very good.

...Being open is about communicating with your partner, evolving as a couple, and making honesty the cornerstone of your relationship.

...What advice do you give individuals or couples who are considering the idea of open relationships? Does this advice differ depending on whether a person is currently single or currently in a relationship?

The advice is the same. If you are interested in pursuing an open relationship you need to arm yourself with as much information as you can. Read everything. Join online newsgroups, and be prepared to talk, talk, talk with everyone with whom you are involved or want to be involved. Being in an open relationship is just like being in any other kind of relationship. If it’s going to work well, you have to commit to making it work well....

Read the whole article (April 2010 issue). It's available in English or Chinese; Macau is a port city that, like larger Hong Kong nearby, is a former European colony (Portuguese) and now a semi-autonomous "special administrative region" of China.

Also: Block writes that she's gotten a regular gig writing two columns a week for "Fox on Sex" at the Fox News website. Fox News gave her a trashing when she appeared on the show last year — but no hard feelings; Rupert Murdoch's properties don't care about their collapse-of-civilization rants, they know sex sells and are happy to bring their trashees on board accordingly.

And here's a brief TV appearance Block had earlier this year on "Virginia This Morning" (WTVR in Richmond, Virginia).


Labels: , ,

June 1, 2010

Creating poly-aware therapists

Polyfolks sometimes complain about the lack of poly-aware therapists and relationship counselors: professionals who can assess people's problems without seizing on multi-relationships as the "obvious" cause for whatever is wrong — or, conversely, who are too naive about poly to grasp the common reasons it does go wrong.

Two new books are coming out this summer that should, among other things, help therapists get straight about what they're dealing with.

Deborah Anapol's Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners (Rowman & Littlefield, to appear in July) surveys the poly world with a sociological eye and clarifies, for instance, the difference between healthy polyamory and "sex addiction" — a genuine pathology, Anapol insists, but a trendy diagnosis that too many therapists apply prematurely.

Love Unlimited: The Joys and Challenges of Open Relationships, by Leonie Linssen and Stephan Wik (Findhorn Press, to appear in August), is based on Linssen's relationship-coaching practice specializing in non-monogamous situations. Among many other things, she analyzes how to distinguish poly from "commitment phobia" — another pathology that's often used as a convenient rush to judgment.


Polyfolks also complain that when they start with a therapist, they may have to waste session time and money educating the therapist on what poly is about. For years, one shortcut has been to send the therapist a couple of papers in advance: What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory by Geri D. Weitzman, and Working with Polyamorous Clients in the Clinical Setting by Joy Davidson.

Those papers have now been updated, combined, and expanded with more material into a booklet titled What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory. It was put together by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) with volunteer help from members of the Polyamory Leadership Network. From an NCSF press release:

[What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory] is edited by NCSF Foundation chairman James R. Fleckenstein, B.A., and Carol Morotti-Meeker, M.S., M.L.S.P. This guide answers all of a therapist's questions about the purpose and practice of polyamory: everything from the motivations and benefits of polyamory, to emotional and social concerns such as discrimination and family disapproval. Polyamorists can use this guide to explain their lifestyle to their therapist, and [it's also] for therapists who understand that personal value systems may sabotage their goal of enabling their clients to explore options and life experience in a neutral or supportive way.

"For too long, polyamorous clients have consistently expressed concerns that their therapists completely failed to understand the clients' lifestyle choices at best. At worst, therapists immediately pathologized the clients' lifestyle and ascribed all of the clients' issues solely to the decision to have non-exclusive relationships," says Fleckenstein. "This piece, written by three clinicians and thoroughly supported with three pages of references, should help put an end to this practice."

At the same time, NCSF has also issued A Guide to Choosing a Kink-Aware Therapist by Keely Kolmes Psy.D. and Weitzman. While written to "help people who engage in BDSM find a therapist who can accept them without judgment or prejudice," is has obvious parallels to the needs of polys:

"Therapy needs to be a place where you can feel safe to bring your whole self. I hope that our article is a helpful tool for kink-identified clients and the therapists who want to learn more about working competently with them," [says] co-author Keely Kolmes.

...NCSF is dedicated to ensuring that everyone can find a mental health professional who is understanding and supportive of alternative lifestyles. It believes these guides are an important addition to its Kink Aware Professionals (KAP) program and referral list, and to the DSM Revision Project. A member of KAP recently wrote: "Thank you for operating this fantastic resource. All of my current clients have found me through the KAP database, which is helping me cultivate exactly the kind of practice I'd hoped for."

...NCSF needs your support to continue important mental health projects like the KAP and DSM Revision Project that directly impact peoples' lives. Please join NCSF to show solidarity! We do so much for very little money, and we need your help. Please donate to NCSF now!