Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

September 27, 2010

Danish print and TV do it right

Politiken and DR2-TV (Denmark)

The second largest newspaper in Denmark explains polyamory to its readers, at length and in depth, partly through a young, confident bi feminist (photo). Here's a large part of the story, translated with help from Google Language Tools:

Sometimes one girlfriend just is not enough

The polyamourøse movement is gaining ground as alternative to divorce and adultery.

PHOTO CAPTION: Physics researcher Di Ponti is living with two girlfriends. Previously she was the girlfriend of a man and a woman in a couple. "For me polyamori is a mixture of ethics and desire. We want to be deeply involved with each other."

By Stephanie Surrugue

Once she was waiting, like her friends, for him to come. The Dream Man. The one and only.

Di Ponti and her classmates had learned that the story goes: girl meet boy, girl and boy marry and live happily ever after.

But life is not a fairy story. Reality is an unmanageable hugeness full of doubt and desire, longings for both freedom and love — with love and conflict, fascination and frustration, big emotions and big egos too, jealousy and all that.

So Ponti wrote her own story. And when the 28-year-old scientist goes home from the Niels Bohr Institute, where she just completed her doctoral thesis at the Center for the Philosophy of Nature and Science, she goes home not to a husband and children. She goes home to one of her two boyfriends.

"It is a great liberation. We share love, respect and honesty. I have no secrets in my love relationship. I live with a sense of standing for myself, and I sleep well at night. For I will not give up being happy," says Ponti.

She grew up in Portugal, in a large family with six siblings, grandparents.... Her childhood was full of people, and even as a schoolgirl she wondered why you could love as many family members and friends as you wanted, but had to love only one partner. Yet she tried to act correctly:

"For many years I fought with my inner princess, who just sat and waited for the prince on the white horse to come and find me."

...Today she lives in a relationship with two people, one of whom has a second girlfriend — who, incidentally, also has a second girlfriend.

But no... it's not about the freedom to have sex indiscriminately, emphasizes Ponti:

"I've never had one-night stands. I respect people living monogamously, and people who constantly change sex partners, but neither is anything for me. I tried living monogamously, but I felt trapped, both sexually and emotionally. I strive for a pure love relationship, where we are honest about our feelings and dreams," she says.

"Many people live in relationships that are full of taboos. Some choose to live with suppressed emotions, infidelity and secrets. Others choose to live in open relationships where it's hard to withstand the jealousy.... But basically jealousy matches one's own insecurity. If you can't talk about these things and work on them together, it is very, very difficult to live in love relationships with other people. For me honesty is the biggest difference between the 1960s 'free love' and today: Without communication, and personal development in the broad sense, polyamori is impossible."

The dilemma is old, but the word is new.... The polyamourøse movement is gaining ground in the West, where organizations, blogs and books on the subject roll onward in both the U.S. and Europe, not least in Denmark, where books like To Whom Are You Unfaithful? (Hvem er du utro?), A Woman, Three Men (En kvinde, tre mænd), and A Pure Connection (En ren forbindelse) — which comes out on Monday — extend the polyamourøse message....

...There are virtually no statistics or figures on polyamori.... In 2007... Compass Communications asked more than 5,000 Danes about their relationships, and the numbers tell the story... 45 percent have tried to be unfaithful and 26 percent of us have been so more than once, while 48 percent would like to try a sexual relationship with two people at once....

Few, however, have taken on the love bonds of author Carsten Graff. He has lived for seven years with his wife Chandini, his girlfriend Anne, his wife's boyfriend Jonas, and the family's three shared children.... Their bid to create a modern form of nuclear family can be seen by Danish television viewers tonight in the documentary "Carson, his wife and their boyfriends" at 8 p.m. on DR 2, as part of the show "When one lover is not enough" [which portrays four poly groups]....

[Graff] concedes that polyamori is a complex exercise: "The more people who are in a love relationship, the more difficult it is. It's like juggling: Four balls are harder than two. I usually say that polyamori not something you should try at home without adults at home, because you can get hurt emotionally."

But what is it that makes everything worth it?

"There is a freedom in releasing the ownership of other people.... Sex takes on a spiritual dimension, when I for example have a love affair with two women who love each other. Everything just released life in all its dimensions," says Carsten Graff.... And there is the feeling of being part of something bigger, like dragons: "The other day I sat at home with the kids while Chandini and Jonas were out together. I did not feel lonely, I felt happy."

...The same view is shared by American psychologist Deborah Anapol, who has been on the polyamoriens front lines for decades. Most recently she published the book Polyamory in the 21th Century, for which she is touring in Europe in coming weeks. Anapol believes that the idea of the one and only destroys many people and relationships:

"The most important thing in life is that we keep open to let love prevail. We should not write off our quest for happiness and harmony as a legacy from the hippie movement or as a slippery sexual apology. It is a universal mission."

Di Ponti has a dream: A family consisting of a small core of people, two or three or four who are deeply linked. A nuclear family who live together but have freedom to love, live and travel alone and with others.

She smiles almost shyly as she talks about her dream. And Dr. Anapol herself? At 58 she has chosen to live monogamously.

"I have experimented with everything that was to experiment with. I have reached an age that is about wanting to go in depth with one other person. I can surely say I now understand what my teachers said to me in the beginning: It is not the form that is crucial."

Read it in Danish (Sept. 18, 2010).

Here's the one-hour TV documentary that the article refers to (Sept. 18, 2010). On the same page are links to what seem to be four documentaries on poly and open relationships. Only one other seems available to North American IP addresses, at least for now; one of the shows is set to air October 3rd.

When one lover is not enough
If you are a modern man, and if you learn the art of having several love affairs at once -- is it the alternative to today's infidelity and divorce? Tonight's theme: we meet Danish couples where both husband and wife have other girlfriends, and we see how they tackle the difficult jealousy that arises when more people share the love.

Carsten, the wife, and their lovers
Author Carsten Graff has for 7 years formed a family with Chandini, who is also the girlfriend of Jonas, who is the father of her youngest daughter of 2 years. We follow the family's lives closely and see how it goes when Chandini, who is struggling with jealousy, meets Carsten's other, Anne, for the first time. [Watch here. (The same link as above.)]

It's so lovely to go together
Claus and Marie are young, very much in love, and getting married. But they do not feel that love is reserved for only one, so they live in an open relationship where it's okay to have sex with others. [Watch here. My God they're sweet, even if I can't understand a word they're saying.]

I love you. And you. And you
In the western world the polyamorøse are moving forward -- families who thrive on having equal love relationship at one time. In this American documentary, we follow two families; the program examines whether this life is a relevant possibility for future relationships.

Lina and her young lovers
The desire to realize the free love has no age limits. Lina, who is 73, lives near the beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and here she is enjoying life and her young lovers.


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September 26, 2010

"Sister Wives": polygamy reality show premiers tonight


You know how TV networks copy each other. So when HBO's "Big Love" (a fictional series about a Mormon polygamist family in modern-day Utah) became a success, you knew more was coming.

Here it is. Tonight TLC begins a reality-show series called "Sister Wives" about an actual fundamentalist Mormon family in modern-day Utah, in which one man and three wives are about to add a fourth wife. From the Huffington Post's entertainment editor:

"Sister Wives": TLC's Polygamist Family Asks Us To "Rethink Marriage"

By Katy Hall

Kody Brown married his first wife, Meri, 20 years ago. Three years later he married Janelle, and a year after that he married Christine.

"I just fell in love. Then I fell in love again, and I fell in love again," he says in the opening episode of "Sister Wives," TLC's latest reality series about an excessively large family. This one is set in Utah with a polygamist twist.

The Browns and their 12 children are Fundamentalist Mormons, and their faith, as Kody says, likes to "reward good behavior." Why stop with one good marriage when you could have four? (Kody is courting a fourth wife, whose assimilation into the tight-knit circle of sister wives provides the only conflict in a family that keeps reminding us how happy they are.)

"I never wanted to just be married to a man," says Christine, who is pregnant with Kody's 13th child. She's glad to be his third wife because she never wanted to be alone with a husband, and the third wife balances out the tension between the first two.

"I always wanted sister wives," she says. "There's too many things I wanted to do, to be free for."

Indeed the sister wives work together to raise their plucky children and attend to Kody's sexual needs. The show doesn't waste any time getting to the bedroom dynamics, which are really why viewers are here. Kody is on a rotating schedule of conjugal visits, and the wives make it clear they are not into group sex....

It's okay until Kody begins courting Robyn, a 30-year-old divorcee with three kids who is slim and pretty and brunette and the new hand-holding partner he hasn't had in 16 years....

The Browns have kept their lifestyle an open secret until now, so the show is a coming-out party as well as a much-needed paycheck for the growing family....

Read the whole article, with pictures and video (Sept. 23, 2010).

Watch the riveting introductory videos on TLC's Sister Wives site. Anything look familiar?

Good summary/review on Tubular.

At the New York Daily News: 'Sister Wives,' '19th Wife' and 'Big Love' usher in wave of polygamy programming.

Here's heaps more recent news about "Sister Wives."

By coincidence, I have Mormon ancestry on my mother's side (her generation broke from the church). We have copies of ancestors' journals from the wagon-train days and the settlement of Utah1. You may rightly wonder why today, 120 years after the mainstream LDS Church renounced polygamy (as a condition for Utah joining the union), polygamy is still what leaps to most people's minds when you mention Mormonism. Two reasons:

1) The most obvious is that some tens of thousands of "breakaway" Mormons in various sects have continued polygamy ("Celestial Marriage") in Utah and environs, as proclaimed by Mormonism's founder and prophet Joseph Smith. The largest of these, the Fundamentalist LDS Church, makes the news for its cult-like abuses and restrictive, 19th-century lifestyle. But many other "pligs" (a Utah insult) quietly live modern lives as portrayed in "Big Love."

2) The mainstream LDS Church abolished polygamy only in this life. The church doesn't talk about it, but good Mormon men still marry three wives in the next life. I remember a discussion I had with a teenage girl, a good LDS churchgoer, who was deeply upset that she would have to share a husband with other wives after she died. She didn't think she could handle it, but she was told that's just the way it is. Although you don't hear much about this, it's on the minds of fully-informed LDS Church members today, and somehow this preoccupation seems to seep out to the wider culture.

Update, Sept. 28: In the family's hometown of Lehi, Utah, local police have taken notice of the show: Police investigate US plural family for bigamy. In Utah you're guilty of bigamy (literally, "two marriages") if you merely live together with another person not your spouse. In other states, bigamy refers to an actual second marriage without the first one being nullified.

Note, however:

The Utah attorney general's office has investigated the state's secretive polygamous communities, but focused its efforts on cases involving allegations of abuse, sexual assault and fraud, not bigamy.

"It has been our office's position not to pursue cases of bigamy between consenting adults," the attorney general's spokesman, Scott Troxel, said Tuesday. "We want to use our resources wisely."


1 My mother, now 91, recalls visiting a great-uncle as a little girl out west where an awful lot of "aunts" lived in the house: Aunt Inger, Aunt Helen.... At another great-uncle's farm, she says, the wife who ran the place most of the time always spoke resentfully about the other wife who got to live in town "in a brick house with curtains."

My mom spent part of her childhood on a sheep ranch near Lava Hot Springs in southern Idaho, north of Salt Lake City, where a lot of single ranch hands lived their lives in an all-male bunkhouse and crammed the kitchen area for meals. Only later did it dawn on her that these might have been the excess men left over after the area's high-status men claimed all the women.


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September 22, 2010

Mono, poly, and the anthropology of jealousy

Psychology Today online

If we've been shaped by the fact that our ancestors evolved in polyamorous mate-sharing tribes for hundreds of thousands of years — as argued in the hot new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality — then why do humans the world over seem to have come out of those hundreds of thousands of years hardwired for jealousy?

The conventional answers are simple. Men who carry the trait of driving other men away from their women are more likely to spread their own genes — including that trait. And, women and infants were more likely to survive and reproduce if a woman stopped her man from giving scarce resources to someone else; this selected for the jealousy trait in females.

But those two answers are built on an unspoken assumption that the Sex at Dawn authors call Flintstonization: the assumption that our stone-age ancestors lived in compartmentalized monogamous families like the Flintstones, "the modern stone-age fam-il-eee." In reality (anthropological findings indicate), people in isolated, stone-age hunter-gatherer tribes interbreed so thoroughly that they perpetuate very similar genes no matter who they mate with inside the tribe. And secondly, child-rearing is such a communal activity that the identity of the birth father hardly matters and is often not even known.


NEWS! Christopher Ryan,
Sex at Dawn co-author, will appear at Loving More's Poly Living West conference near Seattle on October 23, for an evening speech and book-signing! Day passes available. See the end of this post.


Dropping the Flintstones assumption explains another age-old question: why wasn't homosexuality quickly bred out of humans ages ago, since gays tend to not pass on their genes at all? Yet homosexuality continues to exist all around the world, and as far back as is known.

A poly-tribe explanation for this is clear. Females in the tribe had abundant mates; semen-scarcity was not the limiting factor for successful reproduction. The limiting scarcities were things like food, resources, defense against predators, and other things that depend on cooperation and loyalty within the tribe — for which gay bonding works as well as the straight kind. Darwinian selection happens at all levels — groups as well as individuals.

But what about jealousy? In particular, what about jealousy among gays and lesbians? Why does gay jealousy persist when it has nothing to do with breeding?

Jesse Bering, a blogger for Scientific American, challenged Sex at Dawn co-author Christopher Ryan about this last month in a much-quoted essay on why jealousy and heartbreak exist. He challenged the "polyamory chic" that Sex at Dawn and its like are creating, and argued that the powerful human traits of jealousy and heartbreak torpedo Ryan's thesis.

Last week he and Ryan met in person (and shared a dinner of octopus). Following their no-doubt animated (and tentacular?) discussion, Ryan posted his rebuttal on his Psychology Today blogsite. In short: jealousy as we know it is not really about sex. Symptoms of mate-jealousy in modern society, where available mates tend to be scarce, are remarkably like childrens' fear of abandonment where there is a scarcity of invested parents. Writes Ryan:

On Gay Jealousy:
How to explain jealousy in same-sex couples?

Jesse Bering recently wrote a typically insightful and entertaining blog piece in which he explores the possible evolutionary origins of sexual jealousy. He begins by asserting that, "Heartbreak is every bit as much a psychological adaptation as is the compulsion to have sex with those other than our partners, and it throws a monster of a monkey wrench into the evolutionists' otherwise practical polyamory."

He goes on to dramatically buttress his case that our evolved capacity for empathy, a signature feature of our species, makes us very sensitive to the suffering our sexual indiscretions may cause our primary partner:

"We may not be a sexually exclusive species, but we do form deep romantic attachments, and the emotional scaffolding on which these attachments are built is extraordinarily sensitive to our partners' sexual indiscretions. I also say this as a gay man who, according to mainstream evolutionary thinking, shouldn't be terribly concerned about his partner having sex with strangers. After all, it isn't as though he's going to get pregnant and cuckold me into raising another man's offspring. But if you'd explained that to me as I was screaming invectives at one of my partners following my discovery that he was cheating on me, curled up in the fetal position in the corner of my kitchen and rocking myself into self-pitying oblivion, or as I was vomiting my guts out over the toilet for much of the next two weeks, I would have nodded in rational Darwinian assention while still trembling like a wounded animal.

...Bering argues that while this emotional/psychological response may have originally been related to biological concerns (paternity assurance for men, resource flow for women), its ubiquity among homosexuals shows that the response is now deeply embedded in the human psyche, concluding that, "sexual jealousy in gay men can only be explained by some sort of pseudo-heterosexuality mindset simulating straight men's hypervigilance to being cuckolded by their female partners."

I'm not buying that.

Where's the proof that sexual jealousy (experienced as heartbreak) is an unavoidable response to a partner's extra-pair sexual activity? If it were a genetically encoded behavioral response, there would be very few, if any exceptions to this pattern. Yet every major city (and plenty of small towns) have sex clubs where couples have sex with extra-pair partners with no discernible emotional consequences at all — at least not negative ones.... Most surveys of these so-called "swingers" indicate that they are more satisfied with their marriages than couples in more conventional arrangements. Add to this the large number of men who actually find the notion of being cuckholded very appealing (described by fellow PT blogger, David Ley in his fascinating book, Insatiable Wives). Then add the societies we describe in Sex at Dawn in which a party without extra-pair sex is like breakfast without coffee, and the genetic argument starts looking very wobbly indeed.

Let's consider the possibility that much, if not all, of this heartbreak is a learned response.

The separation anxiety Bering describes bears striking similarities to that experienced by a baby who feels abandoned by its mother. We live in a society that greatly amplifies that innate fear of abandonment by ignoring the baby's need for 24/7 maternal contact in the first few years of life.... The association between mother-love and lover-love is enhanced through a constant media onslaught ("Oooh baby, baby") and a freakishly childish understanding of mature sexual love.

...Loss is loss, regardless of sexual orientation. We all fear rejection and abandonment. It's a harsh and lonely world out there, and we're a tender, vulnerable species. So it's not surprising that gay men cherish their deepest connections and fear losing them just as much as anyone else does. It's not really about sex at all, at the deepest levels. It's about intimacy and love [when these are scarce –ed.]. We just find this fear often expressed in the sexual arena because that's where we've relegated so much of our intimacy in our fractured, conflicted world.

Read the whole article.

The anthropological studies behind this stuff, by the way, aren't just about mating and relationships. Just out from the University of Notre Dame: Research Shows Child-Rearing Practices of Distant Ancestors Foster Morality, Compassion in Kids.


Breaking News: Loving More has just snagged Christopher Ryan for its Poly Living West conference on the outskirts of Seattle October 22-24. Ryan will speak on Saturday evening, October 23, from 7 to 8. This will be followed by an author's reception from perhaps 8:30 to 11:30 along with three other poly-book authors, as a fundraiser for Loving More (which desperately needs funds). Ryan is witty, fast and funny and should be quite an attraction.

He has not had much to do with the poly community up to now, but he has become very interested in learning more about us. This means you. C'mon, show up! I'll be there too.


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September 18, 2010

New poly-trend movie: The Freebie

Has anyone seen the new indie movie The Freebie? It won kudos at Sundance, opened yesterday in New York, and will open in a smattering of other theaters nationwide in the coming weeks1. The premise: a young couple's sex life has gone dead, so they agree to give each other a one-day pass for sex with outside interests to heat things up. Dramedy ensues. Watch the trailer.

Sounds a lot like Breaking Upwards, except it's set in LA rather than NY. Are trendspotters' antennae going up? Yesterday was National Freebie Day, in case you missed it. The movie's website is called Untie the Knot, and most of that is the Untie the Knot Blog "for couples committed to the Freebie: one night, any partner, no questions asked."

On the site's Planning Your Freebie and Rules pages, I find most of the advice disgusting: sneaky, dishonest, disrespectful. So does Eden M. Kennedy, writing at the feminist site BlogHer:

"The Freebie" and Its Bizarre Self-Help-for-Swingers Web Site

...The producers of the new film The Freebie... would like to give married folk everywhere permission to tuck a condom in their pocket and go hit the bars in search of whatever it is they don't have at home.

...An otherwise happily married couple, played by Katie Aselton (who also wrote and directed the film) and Dax Shepard, dance shyly around the concept of sanctioned infidelity, kind of thinking that it's a stupid idea but also hoping that a couple of one-night stands will shake them out of their sexual doldrums and allow them be grateful for what they already have. The fear, of course, is that sleeping with other people will be the end of their friendship and their marriage. Tension!

...I haven't seen the film, but what I have seen quite a lot of is cheerfully disturbing web site that's been launched in support of the film.

The goal of Untie-TheKnot.com seems to be to create some fun, kooky buzz around the concept of open marriage.... "five must-have items for your special night" (include) concocting a sexy backstory to impress your potential hook-up, and a decent lie to reassure your spouse afterward that "it wasn't all that great".

The site also features some terrible Penthouse Forum-type one-night stand stories, and an advice column by two white-bread, can-do columnists named "Bill and Susie." Bill and Susie are about as subtle as a firehose, and seem blissfully assured that swinging, flinging, and serial polyamory are easy as pie if you drink enough tequila.

Kennedy then offers readers some better advice:

If you really want the security and comfort of a long-term relationship combined with the thrill of shagging that handsome stranger who only comes to town twice a year for business, you might be better off reading polyamory.org or unmarried.org, sites run by people who actually work to maintain healthy open relationships that may or may not include children, and who advise you to do the exact opposite of the Johnny-come-latelys over at Untie-TheKnot.

The REAL rules for so-called "freebies" read more like what the movie is trying to show: Tell the truth. Know yourself. Accept responsibility for your actions. Be strong, be loving, be open, etc.

Ironically, these turn out to be good rules for monogamous relationships as well. Hey! No wonder Bill and Susie couldn't hack it with each other -- they have the combined emotional equilibrium of an sleep-deprived toddler whose parents have a giant collection of porn in the basement.

Read the whole article (Sept. 17, 2010).

The online daily newspaper New Jersey Newsroom reviews the movie today, the morning after it opened:

By Miriam Rinn

Most people nowadays believe that honesty is an essential component of a successful marriage, or indeed of any personal relationship.... In "The Freebie," writer/director and leading actress Katie Aselton takes a dispassionate look at a young California couple who struggle with how much truth to tell to each other and, perhaps, to themselves.

Married for seven years, Darren (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Aselton) live comfortably in a very clean, affluent-looking Los Angeles, sharing conversation and laughter, dinner with friends, walks in the mountains, and all the other cool things that well-situated young people share. The one thing they don't share is sex. For whatever reason, Darren doesn't desire his wife. Is he bored? Is he gay? Is he depressed? We don't know, and Annie doesn't ask. Instead, they come up with a scheme to relight their fire. Each of them will go out, score a one-night stand with a stranger, and return to each other sexually reignited.

Needless to say, this plan goes seriously awry. The viewer is left wondering what made them think it could ever work.... They appear to have established a form of intimacy that includes neither sex nor honesty, but is that possible?

"The Freebie" looks and feels very much like an indie....

...Aselton has constructed "The Freebie" to provoke a series of questions, and thankfully, hasn't provided the answers.... In a way, it's reminiscent of a Woody Allen relationship movie, but without the laughs and without the deep humanism. Aselton's film is shallower in its characterizations, but still engaging with lots of room for discussion and disagreement.

Read the whole review (Sept. 18, 2010).

The ABC News site has a brief interview with leading man Dax Shepard.


So far this is raising my latent conservative hackles about "careless" open relationships and "playing with fire," and it does nothing to allay my fears about what'll happen if any old crappy form of non-monogamy goes mass-market as polyamory. I saw what happened to the open marriage movement in the 1970s, which left a lot of that generation "knowing" that open marriage is just a recipe for disaster. The open marriage movement started out as something much better, but by the time it went mass-market a lot of the people doing it were careless and clueless, and that's all that people now remember. This is not how we want people of the 2020s and 2030s to remember polyamory.

Am I just being paranoid?


1 The production company says (Sept. 15),

We are actually opening in the following markets:

Sept. 17: NYC - The Angelika
Oct. 1: LA - Nuart
Oct. 8: Seattle - Varsity
Oct. 15: Denver - Chez Artiste
Oct. 28: San Francisco - Lumiere
Oct. 28: Berkeley - Shattuck
Nov. 12: Portland OR
Nov. 12: San Diego - at the Ken or Hillcrest
Nov. 12: Philadelphia - Ritz Bourse
...with more to follow.

Keep an eye out and spread the word. If NY & LA are box office successes it will help us open more markets and theatres!



September 14, 2010

The long perspective, from Oberon Zell

Within the Sacred Mists

Last month I wrote about the influence of science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein on the gestation and growth of today's polyamory movement.

Another crucial figure from that same time — one of the first and most important people inspired by Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land — was Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, who was then using his birth name, Tim Zell. That was in 1962. He went on to help create and define the Neo-Pagan religious movement, in particular by founding the Church of All Worlds and Green Egg magazine (quite outside Heinlein's hard-science interests, though Heinlein always had a mystical side since young childhood and his second wife, Leslyn, practiced white magic for many years).

Oberon and his life partner Morning Glory have been public exemplars of polyamory for decades — and in 1990 she became the first of the two independent inventors of the word polyamory, giving the concept and the movement a clear name for itself for the first time, and thereby unblocking the way for its growth.

Oberon and Morning Glory are alive and active today despite near-death encounters with cancer. Oberon's main focus for a long time now has been the teaching of practical magic — something that I consider a dead end, a classic delusion arising from the human brain's hardwiring to overinterpret and see connections that, on testing, don't exist. But never mind. I can't wait for his memoirs to be published; they're due out in 2011.

We get a foretaste in an interview that recently went up on a magickal site:

Many people hear about polyamory but really have no clear cut understanding of it. Can you explain what polyamory is to you? Where do you see the polyamory movement going? What may be the positive and the negative aspects of polyamory. Is it for everyone?

Polyamory (a term coined by Morning Glory in 1990) simply means “The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.”... As for numbers, we recently saw a short documentary on the History Channel which claimed that there are currently more than 500,000 people in the US practicing polyamory, so it looks like MG started a real movement with that term!

As for the positive aspects, these are legion: always having backup when one partner isn’t available for some reason; a mediator when any two people get at loggerheads; a team to handle larger projects; companionship; never having to be lonely. With multiple partners, more needs can be met than one person can possibly fulfill, so one can explore and develop more aspects of one’s potential.

As for the negative aspects... well, try as I might, I just can’t think of any! But I do think the worst thing about monoamory is that no one ever gets to sleep in the middle.

But polyamory definitely isn’t for everyone! One has to be truly inclined in that orientation (as with being gay) to make it work — and also, of course, one has to find partners who share that essential nature. MG and I have come to believe that the most common natural relationship pattern for most people may very well be serial monogamy: exclusive devotion to one person at a time — for several years, perhaps — and then moving on to another. This is not polyamory, which is about having several significant relationships simultaneously.

As to the future of polyamory, I believe that the first syllable of the word polyamory, “poly,” is a post-modern paradigm of great value; and that “polyamory” is one expression of it. We live in a POLYmorphous POLYverse, in which even many scientists seem to understand that our world emerges out of chaos and the order we perceive feeds and thrives on the chaos that is beyond our understanding. Where one linear idea once lived in human culture, a diversity of notions have grown.

I believe that polyamory is a very important new relationship option whose time seems to have arrived. Where once we thought every family should consist of a monogamous man and woman with their 2.5 kids, we now consider a family to be any small group of bonded people who claim that connection with one another. Most families no longer fit the conventional description. The much-lamented “breakdown of the American family,” and the need to reclaim “traditional family values,” are manifestations of the 20th Century’s transition from village life and extended families to the modern “nuclear family” units, which often reduce down to a single mother trying to raise and support children she hardly even interacts with.

With each generation of the last century, we have become increasingly isolated and alienated.... But deep within each of us is our genetic ancestral memory of the Tribe, the Clan, the extended Family. Such rich relationships nurtured and sustained our ancestors from the dawn of time, and it was within that context that we became fully human....

And for an increasing number of us, we are learning how to create such complex and deep bonding relationships through extended networks of multiple lovers and expanded families. “Polyamory,” implying multiple lovers, is both a new paradigm for relationships and a vision for healing the pathological alienation of individuals in modern society.

We now know that the biodiversity we value in nature, as the biologist Bruce Bagemihl points out, is valuable in sexual and bonding behavior also. And although Dr. Bagamihl is talking about animals, we are also animals and this applies equally to us. Polyamory is not “the answer.” Diversity and choice are the answers — and polyamory is one of the strands in the decentralized network of diversity and choice with regard to human bonding, intimacy, and family.

Read the whole interview (Sept. 4, 2010). The part about poly is near the end.

Incidentally, Oberon and Morning Glory are facing a killing move from their 10-acre homestead unless they can raise the money to buy it or find a new landlord to buy it. "This (or someplace even better) would also provide a physical campus for the Grey School of Wizardry, where Morning Glory’s and my life, work, library, and museum collections would find a permanent home and become a legacy to future generations." If there's a sympatico angel out there, you are being tapped on the shoulder.



September 13, 2010

Open marriage in Indonesia

Jakarta Post

Non-monogamy has always been common across cultures worldwide, say anthropologists. But now the relatively new idea is spreading, generally from the Western world outward, that consensual, equal, open, honest versions of non-monogamy — done with respect and care toward everyone concerned — are at least possible. Sometimes. Though they often have to stay hidden.

This article appeared in an English-language newspaper in Indonesia:

The Polyamorous Love

By Agustina Wayansari, Contributor

...Open marriage, loosely defined as a marriage in which partners agree that each may engage in extramarital sexual relationships, without being regarded as infidelity, is barely a novelty in what is a seemingly conservative society like ours, although it gained less notoriety than the case of polygamy, which has been accepted in the country for decades.

But some people just don’t want to admit that open marriage is an accepted practice in the country, believing that it could only happen in a more open society such as the US, where it is known by its other name, polyamory. Newsweek magazine in its July 2009 edition reported that polyamory, relationships with multiple, mutually consenting partners, has started to gain a following. Those who practice polyamory insist that they are not swingers or looking only for casual sex.

...Among a small number of people who agreed to talk to The Jakarta Post is a couple of ten years, Lala and Rama, not their real names.

This couple has its own definition of marriage. “We love each other and we are both happy with this kind of arrangement, but I believe other people would not see things the way we see them,” she said....

“It’s better to be labeled as a cheater rather than being found to have this type of arrangement,” said the 39-year-old businesswoman. “People will call us sick. What do you think? Do you think I am sick?” she asked, chuckling.

...Irwan Martua Hidayana, an expert on sexuality and gender at the University of Indonesia, said the open marriage arrangement is a fact of life in big cities such as Jakarta, where nobody could have control over other’s people lives.

...Irwan said that open marriage could also be the by-product of globalization, which rendered old values irrelevant. Exposure to Western values, known to be more tolerant of sexual freedom, had resulted in a change in notion of sexuality and relationships.

...He said that individuality was valued more in modern society, and if an institution such as marriage stood in the way of realizing individuality to its fullest, people could have the freedom to leave it. Irwan said from a gender-study perspective, women nowadays have equally strong positions as men.

“The privilege of having more than one partner is no longer the privilege of men. Now, for some husbands, they can easily accept when their wife has affairs with other men,” he said....

Read the whole article (July 25, 2010).



September 9, 2010

Canada: Court case attracts wide attention to polyamory

When the lawyer for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association appeared in court yesterday he made news across Canada and beyond, even though the test case to weigh Canada's extremely broad anti-polygamy law won't begin until November 22nd. (If you're new to this, catch up here.) The CPAA is one of more than a dozen "interveners" in the case who will present evidence for and against the law, or at least the breadth of its wording. But so far the CPAA seem to be getting the most attention.

The lawyer is John Ince, reportedly poly himself, and by all accounts he did a very able job in court and in the media. With all the attention, says one Canadian poly activist, "Everybody is asking 'What is polyamory?' and getting helpful answers."

First up, a wire-service report:

Group wants to know position on sex law

By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - The lawyer for a group that advocates for allowing multiple spouses wants to know if a law against polygamy could also apply to his clients.

John Ince, who represents the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, told British Columbia Supreme Court Wednesday that polygamy is based on a patriarchal system, while polyamorous relationships are consensual.

Ince, who practises polyamory, said that such relationships can involve a group of males and females and that members can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgendered.

Ince is asking the attorney generals of B.C. and Canada to decide where polyamorous people stand compared to those practising polygamy, saying about 0.5 per cent of people across the country are part of polyamorous relationships.

"We oppose laws that oppose loving, consensual relationships," he said outside court.

Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada bans polygamy, and offenders can face five-year prison terms.

Lawyer Deborah Strachan, who represents the federal government, said various issues have to be settled by the court before anyone can determine if people in polyamorous relationships are immune from prosecution.

Craig Jones, a lawyer for the B.C. attorney general, said there's no legal definition for polyamory and the word is debated even among people in such relationships....

Ince said polyamorous relationships "encourage sharing" and joint decision-making, while polygamous ones focus on male dominance, where "you hoard women, you hoard wealth."...

Read the whole article (Sept. 8, 2010).

[Update, Sept. 17: The judge turned down CPAA's request to have the B.C. and federal attorney generals state their positions on the legality of polyamory. Article.]

A story about CPAA appeared on the front page of the Vancouver Sun. It's by Daphne Bramham, a longtime opponent of the Fundamentalist Mormon polygamist leaders in Bountiful, B.C., who are at the center of the case (she wrote a book against them, Lives of the Saints).

Polyamorists want court to declare group love legal

By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun columnist

Is polyamory the new gay? That’s what John Ince and the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association would have us believe.

They define polyamory as a post-modern, secular, non-patriarchal, conjugal relationship that involves a panoply of sexual groupings and gender variations. Ince even suggests that it’s non-sexual and is based in love (amore), not sex.

The groupings can be triads, quadrants or more. A grouping could have one heterosexual woman, two men and a bisexual female. It could be all women or all men. It could include transgender and transsexual persons.

It’s an anything-goes kind of relationship, as long as everyone is a consenting adult, participating in a spirit of love and harmony.

Nirvana? Maybe. Maybe not.

But what Ince and the association want is nothing less than the sweeping legal and social reform that occurred in 1967.

That’s when Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as justice minister, declared that “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation” and that “what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.”

Trudeau’s omnibus bill decriminalized sexual behaviour that had made being homosexual illegal, and it made abortion easier....

But polyamorists aren’t going the political route yet. Instead, they hope to accomplish reform through the constitutional reference case to determine whether Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code — the anti-polygamy section — is legal.

The attorneys-general for British Columbia and Canada argue that the harms caused by polygamy — from child brides, to boys being forcibly evicted to make the arithmetic work, to psychological and economic harm to both women and children — justify the infringement of rights.

But polyamorists hope to convince Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court that their egalitarian, consensual relationships are nothing like polygamy as practised by fundamentalist Mormons or Muslims.

...But before they’ve even submitted their arguments or lined up witnesses for the reference case, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 22, the polyamorists went to court Wednesday asking Bauman to order the attorneys-general to outline their positions on polyamory and make them available to the five polyamorists who filed detailed affidavits about their families.

When that didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, Ince asked Bauman to craft an order “collaboratively and collegially” that would somehow cause the attorneys-general to be more specific about whether the polyamorists might be prosecuted.

Bauman reserved judgment.

...Polygamy may not survive the constitutional challenge. But polyamory as the new gay? It seems unlikely. But it could be.

And it’s one more reason this case deserves public attention.

See the whole article (Sept 8-9, 2010; it appears online under a different title). Bramham has been the lead newspaper writer on this case from the beginning, but she seems to be confused by the polyamorists showing up and complicating things; she has made careless reporting mistakes and seems to be out of her depth.

In the Sun chain of Canadian newspapers:

Polygamy test case ramping up

By Mindelle Jacobs, QMI Agency

The unusual test case on the constitutional validity of Canada’s anti-polygamy law hasn’t even begun but the pre-trial jousting suggests it will be quite a show.

...The polyamorists don’t support the FLDS polygamists in Bountiful, B.C., emphasizes Ince. But they don’t think free love among consenting adults should be criminalized. “It’s a growing movement. People say that polyamory is the new gay.” Who knew?...

Whole article (Sept. 7, 2010).

As usual, some of the most in-depth reporting comes from Xtra, Canada's chain of gay & lesbian papers:

Group wants Crown to disclose its definition of polyamory

But BC Supreme Court reserves ruling in leadup to polygamy case in November

By Jeremy Hainsworth

...CPAA lawyer John Ince told Bauman the attorneys general for Canada and BC have not delineated what their thinking is on the polyamorists.

That, he said, makes it hard for him to prepare a case.

..."We clearly fall outside the definition of the offence. If there are other elements, please specify," Ince said.

...If polyamory is found to be criminal, offenders could face five years in prison.

But, Ince added, evidence filed by the attorneys general contains no direct evidence pertaining to polyamorous relationships in general, or the five described in affidavits the CPAA itself has filed.

"We are asking why the polygamists get all the details. We get nothing," Ince told Bauman. "Give us the facts. What are the harms associated with polyamory? We'll proceed from there."

But, countered Crown lawyers, that is the point of the reference.

BC Crown Craig Jones and federal Crown Deborah Strachan argued that what Ince is asking for is a detailed analysis of the law before the case starts in November.

Strachan said the ruling Ince seeks could be used as an immunity from prosecution in the future. That would be a violation of the right to prosecutorial discretion in Canada, she added. She said the Crown's opposition is not an attempt to take the CPAA by surprise or hold its cards close to its chest. They will get the position of the attorneys general on this point in due course, she said.

Jones added there is currently no legal or psychological definition of polyamory....

...A so-called amicus, or friend of the court appointed to represent the interests of the FLDS, spoke in favour of the CPAA motion. Amicus lawyer Tim Dickson said the reference itself is the constitutional challenge a polyamorist who is charged under Section 293 could ordinarily use in such a case.

"Is polyamory a crime or not?" asked Dickson. "The polyamorists have a lot at stake in this reference."

Dickson said Ince is "simply asking" the legal position of the attorneys general so he can respond to it.

As part of Ince's submissions to the court, he included a survey of polyamorous relationships.

Of 188 people in polyamorous households that responded, 112 were currently living in one or more households in a conjugal union of three or more people....

The total number of women was 167, while there were 158 men and 40 self-identified as other....

Ninety-nine respondents had no minors under 19 in their households. Another 53 households had one or two minors, while 17 had three to six minors. Two identified as having seven or more minors.

Sixteen of the unions of three to five people were reported to have been sanctioned by a rite or ceremony, contract or consent other than a legal marriage. Another 30 conjugal unions of three to four people were reported, indicated by a verbal or written agreement....

Read the whole article (Sept. 8, 2010).

Ince also appeared on the widely listened-to Christy Clark radio show. From the promo: "You’ve heard of polygamy, but what about polyamory? It's the practice of having more than one intimate, consensual and committed relationship...." Listen here; jump ahead to start at 6:10. (The audio may disappear in a month, on October 8.)

An article appeared on MAARS.net, "the global legal network" for human rights, with an out-and-proud photo; this article is mostly taken from the others above. It adds, quoting Wikipedia,

Polyamory, often abbreviated to poly, is sometimes described as consensual, ethical, or responsible non-monogamy. The word is occasionally used more broadly to refer to any sexual or romantic relationships that are not sexually exclusive, though there is disagreement on how broadly it applies; an emphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic.

Read the whole article.

And this afternoon the story made a GLBT paper in Boston, The Edge:

The ’New Gay?’ Polyamorists Pursue Legitimacy.

by Kilian Melloy

...Bramham wrote, polyamory is seen by its advocates as "the way of the future," and to an extent, the way of the present as well....

...For many people, any form of relationship falling outside the male/female pair-bonding model tends to be grouped into one amorphous category. An essay on polyamory at blog The Writerly Life notes, "Other ’kinks’ have come and gone as the primary target of "polite" society’s moral outrage--homosexuality, orgies, swinging--and forged, in some people’s homes, an uneasy truce. Polyamory, then, might be the last taboo--possibly because many people can barely navigate the obstacles of one relationship, let alone several....

Whole article. (Sept. 9, 2010).

Overseas, on what seems to be an India news site based in the U.K.: Polyamory Group Goes to Court for Legalization.

More to come, for sure. As I've said, this is the poly movement's biggest legal initiative since Loving More took on the April Divilbiss child-custody case in 1998-99.


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September 3, 2010

We're worse than Warren Jeffs! And we steal children!

The American Spectator, Touchstone, Catholic Insight

In The American Spectator, a magazine of the far right, a columnist discovers the upcoming Canadian polygamy test case and the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association — and decides that polys are worse for society than breakaway-Mormon cults of alleged child abusers. Because at least cults are orderly, while allowing freedom for secular modernists leads to confusion unthinkable. Or something.

The More the Merrier?

By William C. Duncan

While the United States is occupied with the federal challenge to California's Proposition 8, Canada has its own pending marriage case, which is likely headed for the Canadian Supreme Court....

Recently, the case has been uniquely complicated by an intervening interest group called the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association. The Association is seeking an adjudication of sorts that the Canadian laws regarding polygamy (one man with more than one wife) do not apply to polyamory ("multiple conjugal relationships"). "Polyamory," by contrast, is strictly egalitarian and consensual, according to CPAA, and thus does not involve or promote one gender over the other.

Affidavits filed in court detail (1) a woman and her male partner who live and have relationships with two other adults in the household (they also have a child living in the home) and who have agreed that each can pursue relationships with others, (2) a woman who lives with two other men (two of her teenage sons also live in the home), (3) a husband and wife who live with another adult (and the married couples' two young children and the third person's teenage children), and (4) a man who lives with a woman and another man (with whom he is raising a two-year-old child). Polyamory advocates also tout a lack of social science evidence showing any harm from its practice. In other words, the CPAA is arguing that since you can't prove that polyamory is bad for society, it must be good. By this rationale, we can all rest assured that Jimmy Hoffa is alive and well.

He seems scared of what scientific studies may find and warns readers to ignore them in advance:

Any study of polyamorous "families" is likely to be plagued by methodological difficulties — large holes in data, voluntary samples, reliance on self-reporting, small sample sizes, poor comparisons, and misplaced focus.

...The proposed distinction between multiple-wife polygamy and polyamory in terms of social harms is spurious. In fact, it may be the case that acceptance of polyamory would, if possible, be more harmful.... Both traditional polygamy and polyamory promote types of infidelity (though the former is of a more orderly variety), of course, but the chaos of polyamory blurs distinctions of parenthood more significantly than does a setting where a child has an established set of parents and lots of half-siblings....

Read the whole article (Sept. 2, 2010).

Meanwhile, the CPAA gets a more-or-less favorable mention at the end of a column about the polygamy case, written by the lady who's been crusading against the British Columbia polygamist group for years (Vancouver Sun, Sept. 2, 2010).


You think that first item was nuts? Check out the one below. It first cropped up a year ago from a conference of the religious right. Sometimes the progression of an extremist is to grow more and more extreme until he goes pop, or gets laughed off the scene with not-the-Onion tags.... Or invades Poland.

Patrick F. Fagan directs the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion at the Family Research Council. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Family and Community Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for President George H. W. Bush. Vote Republican, and this is who you're voting to be reappointed into government.

There's some word confusion here. By "culture of polyamory" he's not actually referring to us. He means anyone who has more than one relationship in a lifetime, including remarriage after divorce — meaning most Americans.

Domestic disturbances: The rising polyamorous culture is out to get your children

By Patrick F. Fagan

The culture of the traditional family is now in intense competition with a very different culture. The defining difference between the two is the sexual ideal each embraces. The traditional family of Western civilization is based on lifelong monogamy. The competing culture is “polyamorous,” normally a serial polygamy, but also increasingly polymorphous in its different sexual expressions.

...The culture of monogamy and the culture of polyamory differ profoundly in their assumptions of the way society functions. Here are some of the differences:

• First and foremost, religion has a very different place in each culture. The culture of monogamy is infused from top to bottom with the sacred, in personal, family, community, and national life. Worship of God is frequent and assumed. The culture of polyamory tends much more to hide religion, even to suppress it in all things public. It worships God less and demands that religion be private....

• The laws of the culture of monogamy protect by forbidding—outlawing certain actions. The culture of polyamory protects by prescribing programs and ensuring outcomes....

• The constitutional state was the product of a monogamous culture. It could never have emerged from a culture of polyamory because it assumes responsible citizens....

• In the culture of monogamy, all human lives are sacred and protected, including those of the unborn, the handicapped, and the elderly. In the culture of polyamory, about one-third of unborn babies are aborted, and the handicapped and elderly are unwelcome and increasingly vulnerable to early “termination.”

• In the culture of monogamy, gender roles are more differentiated, with women more likely to devote their time to the tasks of motherhood and the men more likely to be the sole or main source of family income. The culture of polyamory is much more androgynous, its main focus being equality of outcomes for both men and women in the workplace and in the home....

The “Janissary” tactic

...The culture of polyamory has figured out its way to survive and even thrive: by controlling three critical areas of public policy, which yield big gains in “converts” from the culture of monogamy to theirs. These three areas are childhood education, sex education, and the control of adolescent health programs.

Controlling these three areas enables the polyamory culture to reach into the traditional monogamy culture and gradually dismantle it....

Through its domination of the education of children, sex education, and adolescent health, the culture of polyamory diminishes the influence and dismantles the authority of parents and so impedes parents’ efforts to form their children as members of their own culture. In a polemical vein, one could say the polyamorists “snatch” children away from their parents and from the culture of monogamy just as the Ottoman Turks of the fourteenth century raided boys from Christian nations to train them as their own elite warriors, the Janissaries.

Every time the polyamorists succeed in drawing a teenager into sexual activity through one of their anti-monogamy education programs, they have captured another “Janissary” and won a number of victories simultaneously: (1) They have initiated the adolescent into the polyamory culture (albeit without his knowing what is at stake); (2) with the out-of-wedlock births or abortions likely to follow, they have broken a family before it has started, solidifying the polyamorous status of the adolescent or young adult; and (3) they have pulled the young person away from participating in the sacred, since formerly religious teenagers who begin to engage regularly in sex outside of marriage tend to stop worshiping God.

All this the polyamorists achieve without any overt, direct attack. Their programs are conducted “under the radar” and are all the more effective for it. They know this, and are fierce in protecting their control of the Big Three programs (childhood education, adolescent health, and sex education), with a fierceness nothing in the culture of monogamy rivals in intensity or success.

Time to act

By its very make-up, the culture of monogamy organizes itself from the bottom up, not top down, in social (and thus political) matters. It solves its social problems by forming its own private “platoons.” A significant aspect of the family is that men have the special role of being the primary protectors. Thus, it is husbands and fathers especially who need to engage the increasingly hostile state and the polygamy culture whenever they attempt to “raid” the territory of the family’s domain.

Every man in the monogamy culture needs to find his way to be actively engaged in the protection of his children, and, given what is at stake, other men and women of the culture of monogamy will increasingly expect this of every man, and will do what they can to help him.

...In all of human history, the culture of monogamy has never encountered the type of competition it faces now. We must engage. We can wait no longer; we need men of courage and energy. We are looking for the first few.

Read the whole article in Touchstone magazine (Jan.-Feb. 2010) or Catholic Insight (April 23, 2010).

Sound familiar? At least we're not drinking the blood of Christian babies (yet) or controlling the world banking system... but remember the "first few" who put on the armbands.

Once again: vote Republican, and this guy is who you're voting to be reappointed to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Update March 12, 2013. New from Fagan: FRC: No Right to Have Sex Outside of Marriage, Society Should 'Punish It'.