Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

October 29, 2010

South African polyfamily profiled

Sense (Johannesburg, S.A.)

An online women's magazine in South Africa ("exploring alternate living — awakening the sense of you") published a portrait of a happy poly family of five-plus:

Polyamory: Loving Multiple Partners

By Jabulile Bongiwe Ngwenya

Polyamory, the giving and receiving of love between multiple partners, involves more than just sex. Honesty and integrity are amongst its cornerstones.

‘I love my husband dearly, but I also love Marcus,’ says Glenda van der Westhuizen, pulling a short, stocky man from the shadows into her embrace. ‘It’s not monogamy. It’s polyamory.’

Seeing the look of incredulity on my face, she touches my arm and laughs, ‘You’ve got nothing to fear. We’re one big happy family. It’s a pity all the others couldn’t be here so you could meet them.’

By the others she means her husband’s lovers Miranda and Lindsay, as well as her new lover, Tymon. Perhaps ‘lovers’ is the wrong word. It carries connotations of casual, caustic relationships. It belies the true extent of what really happens.

...So what really happens in a polyamorous relationship?

‘Love,’ explains Glenda’s husband, Jacob, as he walks over to join us.

It’s too easy an explanation for what is seemingly a complex situation. Sharing a love with two or more people does not seem possible or even plausible, but watching this close-knit family erases every negative notion. Of course, the truth is one doesn’t really know what goes on behind closed doors.

...Polyamory is not swinging, which is having recreational sex with many partners, nor is it cheating. It certainly does not involve lying. In fact, the biggest criticism polyamorists face is being called commitment-phobes.

‘Nothing could be further from the truth,’ says Marcus, rolling his eyes. ‘Polyamory and being polyamorous is all about being committed.’

More so than most couples who believe in monogamy, they say, because the basis of a polyamorous relationship is honesty and integrity. Here, people involved in open relationships are called upon to be committed to themselves, to each other and to the relationship. Sceptics, who do not believe that a person can love more than one person at a time, are usually rebuffed with the comparison to having and loving children....

...It hasn’t been simple or easy.... Learning to understand your insecurities, working through your own issues and knowing what works for you can play a huge role in the health of any relationship. It’s even more important when you are intimate with more than one partner....

Read the whole article (June 8, 2010). We couldn't ask for better.

Thanks for the tip to Greenfizzpops. Even though she has moderated South Africa's ZAPoly network for years, and runs the South African Polyamory website, this family was unknown to her.



October 26, 2010

"The Great Polyamory vs. Polyfuckery Debate"

The Stranger (Seattle)

I hope she was just having a pissy day, but Mistress Matisse kicked a hornet's nest in this week's issue of Seattle's alternative weekly paper The Stranger (edited by Dan Savage).

By coincidence, I was in Seattle — for Loving More's Poly Living West conference (great workshops, great Bone Poets concert, 75 great people), and for the Polyamory Leadership Network's fourth national summit meeting (a website is supposed to be up soon).

And from what I see of the poly community, and certainly from what was on display at those two major Seattle events, I don't know what Matisse is talking about.

The Great Polyamory vs. Polyfuckery Debate

by Mistress Matisse

Some days, I miss the term nonmonogamy. I should dust it off and give it some daylight, because I'm put off by how reductive the definition of the word polyamory has become lately.

I first heard the term polyamory on a Usenet group in the early 1990s. Its appeal was obvious: Saying that one is nonmonogamous implies that monogamy is what's proper and that being nonmonogamous is a deviation, with all the negative baggage that word carries. Also, to say I'm nonmonogamous makes sexual behavior the central issue. But to say I'm polyamorous widens the focus to include both emotional connections and political worldview, something advocates for alternatives to monogamy want. Quite simply, polyamory is better branding than nonmonogamy. So a wide range of people who were nonmonogamous — including me — adopted the word.

However, as the term became more popular, factions developed, and one of them might be called poly literalists. "Polyamory has the word amor in it, which is Latin for love," they say. "So if you don't love the other person, then what you are doing is polyfuckery, not polyamory. You're just using the word polyamory to justify your promiscuous sexual activities. And you're a dirty slut who is tainting my morally pure system of having sex with more than one person."

Okay, they usually don't say the "promiscuous dirty slut" part out loud. But it's clearly implied, along with every other sex-negative shaming strategy in the book....

I dislike transparently opportunistic lechers (of any gender) cocking their finger at me and saying, "Hey, babe — I'm polyamorous."... But you know what I dislike even more? Purity campaigns. And sexual-minority groups of all kinds have an unfortunate habit of eating their own young.... Well, I'll let you Pure Poly People wrestle with how, exactly, you can restrict the language of polyamory to folks who do it exactly like you. Let me know how that works out. I'll be over here, being nonmonogamous.

Read the whole article (Oct. 20, 2010).

Honestly, among the poly people and groups I know, I don't see these One True Way putdowns. The most visible face of polyamory has to be Loving More, and as long as I've known, its position has always been that "everyone does poly differently" — that there's a huge spectrum between romance and play, and where people place themselves on that spectrum is their business; and that the bottom line is simply about honest dealings and "relationship choice." Two highlighted stars of the con were Allena Gabosch and Dossie Easton, two of the brassiest sex-positivity radicals on the planet.

The Polyamory Leadership Network has also agreed on the phrase "Promote acceptance of relationship choice" as the common-denominator theme among its 80 or so members, and it embraces people from the wild ends of various kink/ queer/ sex-radical spectra.

Same with the local poly groups that I'm in, and the online discussions I read.

Is there some hidden motherlode of Poly Purity Peeps that Matisse meets and I don't? The only restrictive definition of poly that I hear is the part about honesty and "the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned" (part of the dictionary definition since 2006). Usually this comes with strong values around respectful behavior, serious communication, and personal integrity. But sex negativity? No way.

Comments welcome.

P.S.: I can't pass up this chance to plug Franklin Veaux's Map of Non-Monogamy. Note that polyamory is only one subset. Geek Love!


October 21, 2010

"Hyperlocal" Poly 101

Santa Cruz Patch

One way the news business is trying to survive in the get-it-free-online age is by creating "hyperlocal" news sites with low operating costs and, often, volunteer writers. Who could be you.

AOL is in this game with Patch.com. AOL says it will expand the Patch network to more than 500 localities by the end of 2010 and hire 500 journalists as local editors to supervise the writers. "Patch will be the largest hirer of full-time journalists in the United States this year," AOL claims.

The editor of the Patch for Santa Cruz, California, wrote an article herself about a Poly 101 workshop given by longtime poly educators Dawn Davidson and Akien MacIain:

Duo works with growing Santa Cruz poly community to conquer issues like time management and jealousy

By Ruth Schneider

Polyamory is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those with lousy communication skills.

That was the message conveyed Wednesday night by the instructors of "Simultaneous Lovin': Intro to Polyamory," held at Pure Pleasure downtown boutique.

"You have to be up for complexity to handle polyamory," said Akien MacIain, an Bay Area native and former partner of fellow class instructor Dawn Davidson.

..."Polyamory is like a crucible in which your relationships get concentrated," [Davidson] said.

The more than a dozen participants who filled Pure Pleasure on Wednesday evening were seeking more than the basics. Participants brainstormed topics that ran the gamut from time management to partner criteria selection to the most persistently discussed issue in polyamory workshops: jealousy. (In fact, they teach an entire workshop on that subject alone.)

...MacIain is clear on what he sees as his goals for the class.

"Relationships don't have to look a static way," he said. "They can change over time. We're trying to make this available to people who are interested so they don't have to stumble around in the dark like we did."

Read the whole article (Oct. 15, 2010).

BTW, Dawn is giving a workshop at Loving More's Poly Living West conference outside Seattle this weekend. I'm about to head off there! (And yes, there's still room to sign up for the conference. Day passes also available.)

Dawn and Akien were married for many years, but ended their bond with a "hand-parting" ceremony that was attended by family and friends. They still work together on public education projects.



October 19, 2010

"Pakistan media gripped by man marrying twice in one day"

BBC South Asia

Here's one that doesn't fit easy categories. At first it looks like traditional Muslim polygyny. Read on, and it looks something like a consensual, do-it-yourself FMF vee triad among middle-class young folks who have set a conservative nation all a-twitter. But what aren't we seeing? At any rate, not everything fits the boxes.

A Pakistani man's solution to the age-old dilemma of whether to embark on an arranged or a love marriage has captivated the country's media.

Television channels have provided live coverage of Azhar Haidri's decision to marry both women over a 24-hour period.

...Mr Haidri's love for 21-year-old Rumana Aslam - ahead of 28-year-old Humaira Qasim - at one point threatened to split his family apart.

"I gave this offer that I will marry both of them," Mr Haidri, 23, told the Associated Press ahead of his first marriage to Ms Qasim on Sunday in the central Pakistani city of Multan. "Both the girls agreed."

Both women appear to have given their consent to the compromise and say they plan to live as sisters and friends.

"I am happy that we both love the same man," Ms Aslam told AP.

Mr Haidri, a herbal medicine practitioner, counts himself lucky.

"It is also very rare that two women are happily agreeing to marry one man," he said.

The whole article: Pakistan media gripped by man marrying twice in one day (Oct. 18, 2010).

More coverage worldwide, mostly repeating the same story.

Thanks to Michael Rios for the tip.



October 17, 2010

"Sister Wives" and polyamory's public image

We need more out, proud, public poly families willing to go on TV and set our public image.

Or so polyamory activists keep saying. Well, a brave family of originalist Mormons has stolen a march on us. For better or for worse, the face of multipartnered families in America is now the Brown family of Lehi, Utah, stars of TLC's reality show "Sister Wives."

These are the people your family, friends, and neighbors will likely think of when you tell them about serious multipartner relationships. And frankly, the Browns are the stellar poster family for their way of life. We should do so well.

The show's final episode — at least for this season — airs tonight (Sunday October 17th) on TLC at 10 p.m. Eastern Time; check your local listings or the show's schedule on TLC. All the episodes are also running as reruns.

USA Today says about the final episode:

In the finale of TLC's much-talked-about polygamy series Sister Wives, airing Sunday night at 10 p.m., Kody's current three wives help his fianceé Robyn pick a wedding dress, a cake, and a venue for the upcoming wedding. The big day arrives and everyone officially welcomes Robyn and her three children into the Brown family.

But the unusual lifestyle has not come without a price. Wife Meri cried this week as she told Oprah Winfrey that she has lost her job in the "mental health industry" since going public on Sister Wives. And prosecutors in Lehi, Utah, are weighing whether to charge the adults with felony bigamy.

Watch how well the family appeared on Oprah three days ago (video clips and long article).

Here they are appearing on ABC's Good Morning America day before yesterday (video and article).

Commentary from USA Today: "Unfamiliar world of polygamy is opening up in TV shows, films."

Salon covers the show by interviewing Anne Wilde, co-founder of Principle Voices, an effective and attractive advocacy group for the civil rights of polygamists. ("The Principle" is a Mormon term for Joseph Smith's plural-marriage doctrine.)

Google up lots more in the news about the show.

The Brown family is not living as part of the fundamentalist-Mormon FLDS Church — famous for its cultish rulers, 19th-century strictures, and flagrant abusiveness. The Browns are among the independent Mormons living in the Mountain West who simply ignored the official end of polygamy decreed by the mainstream Mormon (LDS) Church in 1890. The church changed course as part of its negotiations for the federal government to accept Utah as a state.

Polygamy was revealed as an order from God by the church's founder and Prophet, Joseph Smith. Today's polygamists are "fundamentalists" in that they reject the revised doctrine as a sellout for secular gain, and continue to follow the words of Joseph Smith.

Compared to us polys, Mormon polygamists build their households on an utterly different foundation: Old Testament patriarchy/sexism, religious sex-negativity, a rejection of self-determination (the church determines all private aspects of one's life), and the declarations of a self-interested megalomaniac from the 1830s and 1840s (Smith had hidden the fact of his own multiple women; he issued God's revelation about polygamy only after being outed as a "philanderer").

Nevertheless, as the camera follows Kody, Meri, Christine, Janelle and their children around the home, their daily lives and emotional issues sometimes look eerily like ours.



October 8, 2010

Upcoming Events

Just a note: it's a busy poly-event time coming up for me — and maybe you too?

• Tomorrow, Saturday October 9, I'll be at the Poly Pride Picnic & Rally in New York's Central Park, noon to 6. Here's my writeup of what it was like last year. And here's full info on all of New York's Poly Pride Weekend events this year.

[Report, October 10: The Picnic and Rally had gorgeous weather on Central Park's Great Hill; happy spirits among the participants, another fine lineup of speakers and performers, and it didn't get chilly this time till near the end (which promoted cuddling). Turnout was again smallish; I counted 120 people at the maximum period in mid-afternoon. (Promotion had been limited, mostly to the LGBT community.) Met old friends and some new ones too. Afterward a number of us went to Murray's place for hot chocolate, then I had to hit the road. So I missed the dance party later that evening, and today I'm missing the conference at the LGBT Center. Shux.]

• In two weeks I'm off to Loving More's Poly Living Conference in the Seattle area, October 22–24. This is the thing that author Christopher Ryan of Sex at Dawn is appearing at. Here's the conference schedule with descriptions of workshops. Here's registration and hotel information. I've been to a lot of Loving More conferences; highly recommended.

See you there?


October 6, 2010

Sex at Dawn making more waves

I'm excited to be meeting author Christopher Ryan — and a lot of you readers! — at the Poly Living conference coming up in Seattle in two weeks (October 22–24; spaces still available; see the end of this post for more info1.) We owe Ryan bigtime for changing the intellectual landscape around us — as Kamela Dolinova writes on her Boston Open Relationships Examiner:

"For polyamorists, swingers, and other practitioners of open relationships, America just became a slightly better place,"

thanks to the publication of Sex At Dawn, the new popular anthropology book that has been tearing up the blogosphere and major news outlets for several weeks now. Since no lesser light than Dan Savage called the book "the single most important book on human sexuality since Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948," word about husband-and-wife duo Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá's work has been spreading like...well, like prehistoric women's legs.

Some background:

According to Ryan and Jethá, the overwhelming physiological and archeological evidence shows that our pre-agricultural ancestors were not monogamous, nor even serially monogamous as some more liberal thinkers claim. Instead, these hunter-gatherers lived in "fiercely egalitarian" societies where everything was shared: food, shelter, parenting, and yes — sexual partners. The common mode of living in early human bands was apparently closer to a communal marriage than what we think of as a "traditional" one, in which paternity certainty was unimportant and women — as well as men — had sex as often as they wished with as many as they wished.

There is controversy:

Predictably, a few misguided idiots and plenty of random internet commenters are responding to the book with a certain amount of vitriol. But more surprising is that the first three pages of today's Google search for the book's title are full of praise for the work — a wave of mainstream media acceptance of the idea that maybe, just maybe, our species isn't naturally monogamous after all.

Ryan himself (clearly the public face of the book) has repeatedly said that people shouldn't take their findings as carte blanche to cheat on their spouses, or that everyone should be polyamorous. In fact, it's impossible to say at this moment what the impact of the findings might be on the lives of people who now, 10,000 years after the advent of agriculture, live so very differently than their ancestors did.

Nonetheless, as Alan at Polyamory in the News points out, the popularity of this book and its scientific underpinnings are a huge step in the literature for those of us who have refused to buy into the monogamy deal. The idea that jealousy is not an inherent human state, that the exchange of sexual exclusivity for security and support is a cultural construct, and that the natural state of human sexuality is much more complicated than the overculture would have us believe may not go over well with everyone, but it is a great leap forward from the slew of evolutionary psychologists and other authorities from Darwin onward who have insisted on our species' "natural" propensity for pair-bonded monogamy....

Read the original (Sept. 3, 2010).

Dolinova went on to interview Ryan for Carnal Nation. Excerpt:

KD: I live and write in a loose-knit community of polyamorists, and know many people who make it work beautifully. What do you think is the next step for modern romance and family life?

CR: I suspect the next few decades are going to bring a radical reconfiguration of American society. Romance and family rituals generally follow and adapt to economic conditions, so we may well see realignments resulting in multi-family homes and off-the-grid communal situations. Some of these could involve some form of group parenting, home schooling, and so on. But a lot of this depends on what happens economically and politically in the US. Crisis brings opportunity for change, and major crisis looms ever larger these days.

Read the whole interview (Sept. 22, 2010).

An editor of the highbrow Atlantic Monthly is peeved with the book:

I'm in the middle of Sex at Dawn, the book that's caught the attention of a number of commentators... and so far, I'm disappointed to say that it reads like horsefeathers.... The language is breathless rather than scientific, and they don't even attempt to paper over the enormous holes in their theory that people are naturally polyamorous.

For example, like a lot of evolutionary biology critiques, this one leans heavily on bonobos (at least so far). Here's the thing: humans aren't like bonobos. And do you know how I know that we are not like bonobos? Because we're not like bonobos....


Ryan is aggressive about wading into a good food fight; here's from his reply:

Over the years of cocktail party conversations that proceeded the publication of Sex at Dawn, Cacilda and I have witnessed many reactions to our proposal that monogamy doesn't come naturally to most people....

[Sometimes] you get someone who feels so personally threatened by the very idea that they don't give a damn about "your so-called evidence" (they assume you're making it all up anyway).... Stand back, because you're likely to get wine in your eye as they sputter and spray their indignation.... The trick is to learn not to take any of it personally, because they're not really talking about you, or your book. They're talking about themselves, often quite revealingly, at that.

...It's pretty clear Ms. McArdle hasn't read even the first half of the book very closely. Pages 77 and 78 contain a table listing some of the major similarities between humans and bonobos, many of them unique to these two species....

I'm not holding my breath because I don't think she's responding to the substance of the book at all; she's responding to what it makes her feel, which is something entirely different.



Labels: ,

October 3, 2010

"A topic too risque for the congregation?"

Lancaster (PA) Intelligencer-Journal

A lady ordained as an Episcopal priest writes thoughtfully about religion for small newspapers in rural Pennsylvania and for national religion blogs. If we're favorably impressing people like this — and some of the people she interviews — we're doing well.

A topic too risque for the congregation?

By Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans

What does spirituality on the alternative lifestyle "cutting edge" look like? I've long been curious about this.

Having written about the Lancaster County religion scene for a number of years, it's hard to ignore some of the tensions that dwell just beneath the surface.

One of these is a paradox — in an area which is still predominantly known for its evangelical Christianity and strong Amish traditions, there is a thriving underground scene in which the lines between spirituality, philosophy and sexuality sometimes become a little blurry.

...A few years ago... I interviewed some area residents practicing polyamory — romantic relationships with more than one partner and (it's crucial to polyamory advocates that you know this) the full knowledge and consent of all involved.

Since that time, polyamory has gotten a fair amount of mainstream press coverage....

She knows that a number of polys are out and proud in my own denomination, the Unitarian Universalist Church, but when she asked spokespeople for the UU national headquarters, they seemed a bit defensive:

One of the organizations that support polyamorous relationships is Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness [UUPA.org.]

Aware of the group's sometimes rocky relationship with its parent body, I asked public relations director Daisy Kincaid [at UU headquarters in Boston] to clarify the UUPA's relationship with the Unitarian Universalists.

Terming the UUPA a "related organization," Kincaid responded in an e-mail.

"The UUA has never supported the legal recognition of polyamorous relationships, nor has this issue ever been considered by any official decision-making body of the Association," Kincaid wrote.

...Are there active polyamorous Unitarians in Lancaster? Patricia Hart of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster isn't sure, she said — and at the moment there are other pressing priorities, like gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.

"As a parish minister, my involvement is particular to a parish community", said Hart, who leads the approximately 700-member church with her husband, Peter Newport. "I have to have a darn good reason to bring up matters not pertinent to the life of my congregation."

Hart says that she's not really sure personally about her stance on polyamory.

"I can make an academic case (for it), understand it and honor the courage of those who feel deeply that they have found a way to live a life of honesty and integrity that doesn't limit love to one person," she said. "I can admit that I don't really know, without endorsing or condemning their position."

A UUPA co-founder was more emphatic:

Kinsey researcher Kenneth Haslam, the Delaware contact for the UUPA, explained where he saw polyamory and spirituality intersecting.

"I think Jesus said something about love," said the retired anesthesiologist, who has done a lot of research on the topic of polyamory. "We're (Unitarian polyamorists) not Jesus people, but we are love people...."

Speaking of polyamorist partners, Haslam said, "You are connected to them, bonded with them, sharing your soul, sharing your vulnerability."

But, he added, dancing naked around a bonfire in a pagan ritual on a moonlit night also can be a spiritual experience.

...For another view on the place where multiple relationships and spirituality converge, I spoke with Beverly Dale.

An ordained Disciples of Christ minister, Dale spent several decades heading the University of Pennsylvania's Christian Association. Currently a freelance consultant on sexuality and social justice, she has both a pastoral and sociological interest in polyamory as a way of expressing integrity and mutuality in intimate relationships — an integrity and egalitarianism she sees as grounded in the person of Jesus.

"To live a life of faith is to live a life of risk," Dale said. "It is to believe in the goodness of God and the goodness within ourselves, to believe that the world needs more love."

The honesty and respect that polyamorous partners demonstrate, and their belief that the world has a need of more of that love, is consistent with a life of faith, she said.

...If church leaders and congregations were willing to talk about Jesus as egalitarian and rule breaker, said Dale, they might not be "quite so strict about the monogamy piece."

...Dale continues to be outspoken on the subject, presenting performances, studies and lectures in venues both sacred and secular — places where she knows that people will gather and ask questions.

..."When I've done some of these programs with church folks, I've been surprised that when I leave people will come up and say 'you know, I've felt that all along,' " Dale said. "I have affirmed what they have intuited themselves. You know that the church may be more ready than we know."

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

Update: More on "Rev Bev" Dale, in the Philadelphia Inquirer (Jan. 24, 2011).



October 1, 2010

Polyfamilies on TV in French Canada

TV5, Montreal

Éric Côté writes from Montreal:

This week TV5 featured, on the show Hors Série, a 26-minute episode on polyamory. Hors Série is similar to MTV’s True Life. Previous weeks featured compassionate looks at the lives of anarchists, bodybuilders, and dump diggers.

This week’s episode features three poly families living their lives in very different configurations: an MFF triad, an older MMF triad, and a more complex molecule of MMFF. These families are poster children for Québec’s polyamory community. Two are based in the Montreal area, and the older triad lives in Quebec City.

These are mature and established relationships, where the members have been together for at least five years. The older couple has been married for 32 years, and has now been in a stable V triad for the last 15 years.

The episode shows their daily lives: canoeing, gardening, playing badminton, preparing dinner, cocooning in front of the fireplace. The episode is very respectful and avoids any sensationalism or shock treatment.

That is not to say their lives are devoid of drama. One of the girls in the young triad is thinking about moving in with the others. Questions are raised. “Will we still be compatible when we move in together?” “I’ve been living on my own for the last 8 years, will I be able to go back to sharing a household?” Viewers see that through honest and open communication, most issues can be dealt with.

Although most of these families have children, the documentary is completely silent about them. (I know because I’ve met those people personally. Montreal’s polyamory community is quite small.) I guess the director didn’t want to overcrowd an already crowded episode, or was concerned about keeping the privacy of the children. (Privacy laws in Quebec are quite strict.)

You can watch the show here or here (after ads).

Also, the show's website is hosting 13 scenes that couldn’t fit in the 26 minutes of the documentary. You can select the deleted scenes at the bottom of this page:


P.S.: French Canadian polys hang out at

The show's website lists these links of interest:
Association Québécoise des Polyamoureux
Tryade Info
Polyamour Info
Groupe de discussion Yahoo – Poly-Québec
Irrésistible Amour
Groupe d’intérêt Facebook / Polyamory


Labels: , ,