Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

December 30, 2010

"The Upside of Polyamory"

Psychology Today blogs

Deborah Anapol, a co-founder of the modern polyamory movement some 30 years ago and a longtime relationship counselor, posted "The Downside of Polyamory" last month to her Love Without Limits blog at Psychology Today magazine.

This month she offers thoughts on the flip side. There's a lot of experience talking here.

At the start of the sexual revolution in the 1960s, many people thought that creating honest nonmonogamous relationships would be easy. Instead, half a century of false starts and painful discoveries has taught us that polyamory exacts a price. The fact is that most twenty-first-century humans have many contradictory impulses that pull us in the direction of inclusive love and simultaneously push us in the direction of jealousy and possessiveness.

These opposing forces must be reconciled before we are truly free to love and therein lies one of the biggest gifts polyamory has to offer. Polyamory places people in the center of the cyclone, with an abundance of opportunities to confront these opposing forces and to learn from their mistakes along the way. Learning theorists have found that the more mistakes you make, the faster you learn. In polyamory, it's possible to get the benefit of several lifetimes worth of mistakes in a relatively short time....

Polyamorous relationships offer many means of accelerating personal growth. All intimate relationships at their best are a path to higher consciousness and greater self-knowledge, largely because of the valuable feedback — or mirroring effect — one receives from a beloved. Having more than one partner at a time not only increases the available quantity of feedback but also makes it harder to blame your partner for the problems you might be creating in the relationship. Of course, serial monogamy also offers the opportunity to see the same issues arise in one relationship after another, but not only does it take longer to get the lesson, but, if you're a fast talker, you may be able to convince one person at a time that it's not your fault, whereas two are less likely to be fooled.

..."Liz, Helen, and Angie are all mad at me," [Bill] complained. "They started comparing notes and found out I'd told some white lies. Now they're accusing me of manipulating them. I really don't understand what their problem is, but I'd like to find out. Can you help me?" Bill was reaping the benefits of polyamory in a different way than he'd expected....

Because multiple-partner relationships are inherently more complex and demanding than monogamous ones and because they challenge the norms of our culture, they offer other valuable learning opportunities. Lessons about loving yourself, about tolerance for diversity, about speaking from the heart and communicating clearly, and about learning to trust an internal sense of rightness and to think for yourself rather than blindly relying on outside opinion are only a sampling of the lessons....

...Multiple-adult families and committed intimate networks have the potential of providing dependent children with additional nurturing adults who can meet their material, intellectual, and emotional needs.... Polyamory has the potential to create stable and nurturing families where children develop in an atmosphere of love and security. With the traditional nuclear family well on its way to extinction, we are faced with a question of critical importance: who will mind the children? Neither two-career nor single-parent families offer children full-time, loving caretakers, and quality day care is both scarce and expensive....

...We don't yet know how polyamory impacts the rate of divorce; the little data we have suggest that it doesn't....

Polyamory can mean a higher standard of living while consuming fewer resources.... Multiple partners also help in the renewal of our devastated human ecology by creating a sense of bonded community.

Polyamory can help parents and children alike adapt to an ever more complex and quickly changing world....

...Deep ecologists suggest that the ancient wisdom of indigenous peoples may offer some important clues to our survival as a species. Deep-ecology advocate Dolores LaChapelle views the breakdowns in so many modern relationships as a direct result of placing too much emphasis on the romance between two people and losing sight of the larger whole in which we are all embedded....

...Dr. James Prescott's research revealed that cultures [with open attitudes toward sex] are significantly less violent than those that disallow extramarital sex....

...What polyamory does require is a more altruistic, unconditional type of love than is common in monogamous unions and that naturally arises from a felt sense of oneness. While monogamy, of course, also thrives on unselfish love, monogamy can survive more easily than polyamory in its absence.

Those are just bits; read her whole article (Dec. 22, 2010). Like past posts, it's adapted from material in her 2010 book Polyamory in the 21st Century.



December 28, 2010

"Critique of Pure Relationships: On Consent and Compulsory Monogamy"

Organization for a Free Society

Poly activist Angi Becker Stevens and Alex Upham examine autonomy in sex, gender, and family formation for the anarcho-left-libertarian Organization for a Free Society ("to break down all systems of inequality and injustice and to create a participatory, democratic, and egalitarian society").

This is a narrow niche as media go, but I think their "Critique of Pure Relationships" (a play on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason) is worth attention.

Within feminist circles, there has been a movement in recent years to reframe our notion of consent, moving away from a passive “no means no” model wherein consent is a lack of resistance, toward a “yes means yes” model of active, empowered consent. Proponents of this model of consent offer invaluable insights into how our personal relationships can be transformed... but they often fail to articulate a broader vision and strategy for deconstructing the coercive forces at work in our society. We propose that in order to realize a truly liberated sexuality, the model of active consent must be applied not only to our personal interactions, but to our interactions with society as well. A truly liberated sexuality is one in which all aspects of our sexual identities... are a result of active consent, not a result of passive submission to coercive structures....

The word “choice” appears frequently in debates about sexuality, as if our desires can exist only on the extreme ends of a continuum between purely biological inborn traits and frivolous choices. We believe this absolutist notion of biology vs. choice is a false dichotomy.... Applying a model of consent offers a way out of the choice vs. biology debate, offering instead a model for valuing and respecting a variety of sexualities regardless of their origins.

...Any institution that upholds any particular form of sexuality as ideal, and privileges it as such, in turn acts as a coercive force, pressing individuals to comply with that ideal.... We can hardly be said to be actively consenting when only one option is considered valid, ideal, or “good.” In order to better understand consent it is important to look at some of the systemic roots of coercion in our lives. In this essay we will be exploring the way these coercive forces act to create a culture of compulsory monogamy. While we have chosen to focus on this specific issue, however, we hope this example offers a model of consent which can be applied to all aspects of sexuality.

The section headings are

● Compulsory Monogamy and the Nuclear Family
● Upholding Traditional Gender Roles
● Love and Marriage?
● Jealousy
● Community
● The Economics and Politics of Compulsory Monogamy
● Toward a Non-Coercive Sexuality

Read on (Dec. 11, 2010).

P.S., added later: This is from a classic anarchist-poly article a few years ago by Dean Spade:

For Lovers and Fighters

...Sometimes while I ride the subway I try to look at each person and imagine what they look like to someone who is totally in love with them. I think everyone has had someone look at them that way, whether it was a lover, or a parent, or a friend, whether they know it or not. It's a wonderful thing, to look at someone to whom I would never be attracted and think about what looking at them feels like to someone who is devouring every part of their image, who has invisible strings that are connected to this person tied to every part of their body. I think this fun pastime is a way of cultivating compassion. It feels good to think about people that way, and to use that part of my mind that I think is traditionally reserved for a tiny portion of people I'll meet in my life to appreciate the general public. I wish I thought about people like this more often. I think it's the opposite of what our culture teaches us to do. We prefer to pick people apart to find their flaws. Cultivating these feelings of love or appreciation for random people, and even for people I don't like, makes me a more forgiving and appreciative person toward myself and people I love....

Here's the whole article.


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December 26, 2010

First appearance of the word "polyamorist": 1953!

When was the word polyamory first used, and by whom?

Word person that I am, I've had this thing for tracking it down. Especially because the multi-love movement was hobbled for three decades by lack of a clear name for itself before settling on "polyamory" in the early 1990s1.

The usual story is that the word was invented by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart in her article "A Bouquet of Lovers" in the Beltane (Spring) 1990 issue of the Neo-Pagan magazine Green Egg. She only introduced the form "polyamorous" there, but her partner Oberon Zell-Ravenheart recently wrote me to say that the two of them did use "polyamory" in a glossary that they handed out at a "Polycon" convention at UC/Berkeley in August 1990 (elsewhere he says 1991), where they were featured presenters. However, in 2006 the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary (despite knowing about Morning Glory and corresponding with her) assigned priority for the word to Jennifer L. Wesp, for when she created the Usenet newsgroup alt.polyamory in May 1992. Read more here: "Polyamory" enters the Oxford English Dictionary.

Another piece of conventional wisdom is that the word was used occasionally since the 1960s. But I never found a single example and assumed that people were just misremembering "polyfidelity" (coined by "Even Eve" Furchgott in the Kerista community in the 1970s).

Well, Google Books is an amazing thing. Now you can search for words in some 15 million scanned books (out of the estimated 130 million unique books in the world) plus lots of serials, published since ever.

So I searched from Jan. 1, 1400, to Dec. 31, 1991, and found:

polyamory, polyamoury, poly amory, or poly amoury: Zero occurrences (not counting one later book that has a typo in its publication year).

polyamorist, polyamourist, poly amorist, or poly amourist: One, in editions of a book starting in 1953! Here it is — in the Illustrated History of English Literature, Volume 1 by Alfred Charles Ward (aka A. C. Ward). Excerpt:

If Henry VIII had not been a determined polyamorist to whom divorce or some more drastic means to annulment of marriage was a recurrent necessity, the break with Rome would probably not have come in his reign, [Thomas] More and others would have died naturally, and the whole of subsequent English history might well have been different.

(Ward published similar histories of English literature before and after 1953, and this passage was reprinted in one from 1958. The 1953 book may be a republication of earlier material for all I know, but my Google Books search did not hit on these. Note that Google Books results are imperfect and often change.)

polyamorous, polyamourous, poly amorous, or poly amourous: Seven hits, from 1969 to 1989. Here they are. The first of these is in the 1969 novel Hind's Kidnap: a pastoral on familiar airs by Joseph McElroy (who's still writing as of 2010). Excerpt:

...Maddy disqualifying John Plante, "You have to conclude the Family quote unquote is finished as a viable socio-entity because you're committed to your polyamorous roller tribe, so you can't even so to speak let me into court." Occupying, taking over, stealing me and my flat while I shook too much chervil into the eggs, pretty too....

That's all of it that's online, per Google's copyright arrangements.

Most of these just seem to be cute, one-off wordplays, not references to any kind of movement or philosophy as we use the word today.

Update May 2011: A use in 1921 in Italian has been found; see comment #15 below, by Julio.


1 Before the early 1990s people, including me, floundered with such awkward mouthfuls as "utopian swinging" (now there's a contradiction in terms), "modern polygamy", "waterbrotherhood" (per Stranger in a Strange Land), "polymorphous perversity" (per Sigmund Freud), "synergamy" (per Robert Rimmer), and "the Harrad Experiment lifestyle."



December 20, 2010

Poly and jolly for the holidays

The solstice comes Tuesday at 6:38 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, when the Sun reaches its southernmost point for the year and begins its return with the promise of new light and warmth to come. Such is the root and the symbolism behind the date chosen for Christmas and many other festivals of light and hope in this darkest time of the year.

Sparkler and I got back yesterday from an overnight Longest Night party with about 50 New Culture/ HAI type people in icy New Hampshire. Christmas/Hanukkah caroling, Yule log with wishes attached, hot tub, feasting, the works. Wall-to-wall sleeping arrangements. Back home, our Unitarian Universalist church had a full-bore Christmas service in the morning and an equally packed Solstice service at dusk. We are blessed.

To celebrate the season, here's a roundup of poly holiday jollity and other matters.

● Need a last-minute gift? The abundantly poly Bone Poets Orchestra (formerly Gaia Consort) has a new album, Belladonna Smiles; listen and buy here. Recommended; it's well and truly stuck in my head. The album adds a new poly tune to the canon: "Yes!". Also, Terisa Greenan has produced a video for the album's "Christmas Down South (of your Mason-Dixon Line)," featuring rooftop singers Christopher Bingham and Sue Tinney with um-friends down below. Cute! There's a PG version and an R-rated version for your holiday viewing pleasure, depending on the sensibilities of your visiting relatives.

● Another last-minute gift recommendation: be a little bold and give someone Sex at Dawn. Moses Ma interviews co-author Christopher Ryan in Tantric News and writes,

"Polyamorists should run, not walk, to the bookstore to get this book, because with its research backing you up... you'll finally have amassed enough intellectual ammunition to withstand the holidays, when well-intentioned family members try to talk some sense into you."

● If you're attending or hosting a family gathering for the holidays, chances are good these days that it's not quite traditional:

Four in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete

Associated Press, Nov. 18, 2010

As families gather... more people are accepting the view that wedding bells aren't needed to have a family.

A study by the Pew Research Center, in association with Time magazine, highlights rapidly changing notions of the American family....

Indeed, about 39 percent of Americans said marriage was becoming obsolete....

When asked what constitutes a family, the vast majority of Americans agree that a married couple, with or without children, fits that description. But four of five surveyed pointed also to an unmarried, opposite-sex couple with children or a single parent. Three of 5 people said a same-sex couple with children was a family.

"Marriage is still very important in this country, but it doesn't dominate family life like it used to," said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. "Now there are several ways to have a successful family life, and more people accept them."

"More Americans are living in these new families, so it seems safe to assume that there will be more of them around the [holiday] dinner table"....

The changing views of family are being driven largely by young adults 18-29....

Read the Time article.

● For example, Joreth describes her multifarious Christmas plans as a radical atheist out poly:

...But with everyone reminding me that I'm "different", it got me to thinking ... how does a skeptical polyamorous atheist deal with a holiday that is more or less seen as a religious family holiday? Apparently, people want to know.

...First, I talk to all the partners and metamours who will actually be able to be present (i.e. the local ones and anyone who can travel). We discuss who has any pre-existing traditions, and how strongly everyone feels about those traditions....

...One of my metamours has a very strong attachment to decorating the tree, exchanging gifts, and spending the 2 days with her loved ones. On Christmas Eve, she likes to sleep out in the living room, under the lit tree. On Christmas morning, she likes to exchange gifts while sipping hot chocolate. Well, the rest of us think this is a fine and dandy way to spend a couple of days with loved ones, and since no one has any other traditions that they feel more strongly about than she does about her tradition, that's the one we all do....

Read more.

● "Around the holidays, you tend to get a spike of interest [from others] in your family," writes blogger sexpositiveactivism. "I find this frustrating because in choosing to only be selectively out about my polyamorous status, I necessarily get stuck telling some lies, and I’m a big truth-teller...." See Poly Holidays and the Difficulty of Telling Half-Truths.

● Here are some items from my Christmas-season post last year, starting with one in Canada's gay-newspaper chain Xtra, "where queers conspire":

Multiple partners doesn't have to mean more stress

By Liz Stembridge | December 23, 2008

'TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY (AND POLY). Competing demands from multiple partners can certainly add to holiday stress, but there are plenty of ways to make it work.

..."I plan on spending equal time with both of them. I planned something special with A and planned something special with B. As far as actual Christmas Day, which I celebrate, I plan to be with my family.... It is just a way to make things fair and to avoid hurting feelings."

Maggie, who has been in polyamorous relationships in the past, says competing demands from multiple partners can certainly add to holiday stress.

"Oh, was I ever dreading the holidays," she says of her holiday experience while dating two women a few years back. "First off, my parents are not thrilled about my being gay... so one girlfriend is awkward, I couldn't imagine them knowing about two...."

See the full article. The illustration and ads may be NSFVG (Not Safe For Visiting Grandmas).

● If you live in a multipartner home, are you affected by people who don't know how to address their cards and letters to all of you? (Or who pointedly refuse to?) Some people are — as was discussed on LiveJournal. Posts tehuti:

I am one part of a quad. We're about as out as you can get without tattoos or neon signs. :-) Some cards have come addressed to all four of us, some only to the legally married couple, one even came specifically to only one of us. In at least one case, a card sent to just the married couple was from people who know better. These cards are actually quite useful. We're getting a really good idea of which of our family and friends "get it" and which ones don't. Mostly, it's family that's the problem.

● Here's Mistress Matisse — a high-end professional dominatrix, member of a longterm poly vee, and columnist for Dan Savage's alternative newspaper in Seattle — with a thoughtful piece on bringing her partners home to her relatives' traditional gatherings in Georgia: Bringing Poly Home:

...I suspect that having me show up with Monk instead of Max is going to be challenging to my kin.

...My biofamily is quite clear about the fact that they don't wish to know about the kinky side of my sexuality. But my observations of other people's coming-out experiences make me think that some families actually have an easier time accepting kink than they do polyamory.

...I suspect the difference is that kink doesn't seem to reliably make vanilla people question their own relationship choices. At least, not to a point of discomfort. But rare is the person in a long-term monogamous relationship who hasn't been attracted to another.... Too often what I've seen is someone more or less saying, "If I have to suffer, you should, too!"

● Don't miss this sweet classic video from 2007: a jingly-bell quad from Poly Victoria in Australia singing The 12 Poly Days of Christmas. The final verse (copyright Anne Hunter):

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Twelve minutes alone (sigh)--
Eleven Christmas dinners
Ten jealousy cures
Nine long discussions
Eight dozen condoms
Seven GoogleCalendars
Six-handed massage
Five Ethical Sluts!

Four sandwich hugs
Three-way snogs
Too much attention
And a quick course in polyamor-ee.

● Polyfulcrum offers some holiday thoughts and experiences:

...I am strongly in favor of not coming out at major family events!!! There is a certain sick draw toward dropping the poly nuclear bomb at such occasions. Resist the temptation! ...Tell people in smaller groups, answer the questions, deal with the shock and awe, and be prepared to have people tell you that they always knew there was something different about you/ going on. Then, by the time the next family gathering comes along, it's part of the family fabric; weird fabric, but hey, there's always got to be an eccentric, right?

...We finished [Thanksgiving] weekend by hosting a meal here that was open to our friends in the poly community, as they often stand in as our family of choice (particularly for me, as I don't have relations close by). It was much more satisfying than the mandatory family event, because it was a conscious choice.

● If and when you come out to your family of origin, you might ease the shock a bit with some nice, positive news articles showing that at least you're not a lone nut but part of a (supposedly) hip social trend. Find a bunch at my category Show Your Parents!

● Citi Kittie, who's in an equilateral QQF triad, has tales to tell:

...The next people we told were Alexis's parents. They were both stunned. Her father said, "I'm going to need another glass of wine." This from a man who only drinks beer.

But they seemed to adjust quickly. Seeing how happy we are together made it easy for them to accept our triad. Then they proceeded to tell the rest of the family and suddenly I had a whole new set of people to buy birthday presents for.

When her grandma heard she giggled and said, "Oh, I didn't know you could do that." When she thought about it some more and said, "Well, I don't think it's for me." But she's been sending the three of us Christmas cards ever since.

Later, at a party for her parent's 30th wedding anniversary, we met Alexis's entire extended family, over ten aunts and uncles and cousins by the dozens. Most made no mention of the fact that we have a different kind of relationship. Except Aunt Sadie. After talking with my wife and I for a while she said, "Well, I wanted to meet you and make sure you weren't creepy."

...My mom said it's not a good idea for my wife and I to have someone else living with us. She said, "What if you need to fight?"

Surely we can fight while living with someone. Growing up I had a brother and a sister and we fought all the time. So I think "fight" might have been code for "make a baby." And "why do you want Alexis to move in with you?" might have been code for "when are you going to give us some grandchildren?".

● And finally, here is Noel Figart with one of her Polyamorous Misanthrope columns, on the meaning of the holidays beyond any lovers-and-relations problems: The Holiday Spirit:

Mama Java, she loves Christmas. A lot. It’s her birthday, and she was named for it, after all....

I have always thought of Christmas as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol




December 15, 2010

"How to Have an Open Relationship"

YES! magazine

The Winter 2011 issue of YES! magazine ("Powerful ideas, practical actions") is themed around What Happy Families Know. Tag line: "The American family is changing. We're finding new models for extended families that are healthier, more resilient — and happier."

One of the many articles:

How to Have an Open Relationship

Exploring open relationships can change our assumptions about intimacy and empowerment.

By Jen Angel

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve questioned the world around me -- everything from our car-based culture and corporate food system to my intimate relationships. How can my personal life reflect my political beliefs -- autonomy, transparency, respect? How do I work for balanced power dynamics in love, sex, and partnership with other people?

These questions led me to open relationships, or as some people say, “polyamory” or “nonmonogamy.” While a lot of people date multiple people before they decide who they want to be with long-term, being in open relationships means long-term involvement with more than one person at a time. Everyone I know approaches it differently....

I constantly challenge my own assumptions about sex, intimacy, and commitment. It’s exciting to have the freedom to evaluate each new person who comes into my life and see where that relationship goes on my own terms, terms that I’ve chosen or negotiated with my partners, rather than limits preset by culture.

I believe open relationships are empowering for everyone, especially women. As I became an adult, the freedom and autonomy I felt in my relationships helped me understand my self-worth as an individual, separate from my partners. I learned to speak up for my needs and desires while respecting others’ feelings. I can admit openly that I like sex and that I think it’s fun and interesting to explore that level of intimacy with different people.

...Each new person who enters or leaves your life requires a new conversation with your partners.... Over the years, I’ve settled on just a few things that are important to me. For instance... “if we go to a party or event and one of our other partners is going to be there, we all know in advance who is going home with whom.”

...As I’ve learned to negotiate, I’ve re-examined and rejected some of the attitudes that I saw around me growing up, like the idea that you possess and control your partner -- as if dating someone gives you the right to know what they are doing all the time or to manipulate or coerce them. I believe these behaviors are means of avoiding your own fears and discomfort. When I confront my jealousy, I stop focusing my anger and irritation on, for example, the new person my boyfriend is seeing, and focus on the action causing the problem -- maybe we’re not spending enough time together.

Separating commitment from sex opens possibilities for different types of long-term or committed relationships and redefines family.... I know committed nonmonogamous couples, some of whom are married, who don’t live together. Or there are couples who have been together for decades who don’t have sex with each other any more (and do have sex with others), but still maintain their commitment and intimacy.

Being in open relationships takes a lot of emotional energy. But the self-awareness I bring to each relationship makes me feel authentic. Open relationships are not more politically correct or “hip.” They’re about choosing what’s important to you and working to live, love, process, argue, and be upset in healthy ways that make you feel empowered. Such choices make any relationship -- whether open or monogamous -- honest and meaningful.

Read the whole article (posted Dec. 2, 2010). The article is also reprinted on AlterNet (Dec 12, 2010).



December 14, 2010

Lovers? "Sharing is caring"

The Citizen (South Africa)

A columnist for a mass-market tabloid paper in the Johannesburg/Pretoria region, circulation nearly a half million, informs his readers about the poly possibility:

Sharing is caring

Thanks to modern technology, groups of people who share niche interests or philosophies have been given unprecedented opportunities to communicate with like-minded people.

By Michael Coetzee

...Proponents and adherents of polyamory are one such group that has found in the Internet the perfect vehicle to meet and communicate with others who follow the same lifestyle, or who are simply curious to find out more about it.

...Polyamory is often confused with polygamy, something most South Africans are aware of.... The difference is apparent in the names — polygamy is having more than one spouse (usually more than one wife) and is often a cultural or religiously inspired practice. Polyamorists, on the other hand, are people who believe it is possible to have more than one romantic relationship at the same time.

...There may be sex involved, but like any good romantic relationship, polyamorous ones are based firstly on love and affection. It is also not about promiscuity or cheating — all the persons involved are well aware of what is going on.

There exists an infinite variety of expressions of polyamory — some involve three or more people living together, two couples who live together or meet regularly, or even eight people living together.

Most people involved come up with their own rules for these relationships.
A term often used by polyamorists is “compersion”, which they describe as the opposite of jealousy.

It is described as “a state of empathetic happiness and joy experienced when an individual’s romantic partner experiences happiness and joy through an outside source, including, but not limited to, another romantic interest”.

...Neurological research also backs up the assertion that the brain can love — romantically and in other ways — more than one person at the same time, and in equal measure.

Polyamory will probably never become the dominant paradigm in our society, nor is it likely to ever find much mainstream acceptance.

But it stands as proof that there’s always more than one way of approaching life, and that what works for some may not work for others.

With serial monogamy seemingly keeping most people miserable, perhaps polyamory will eventually become more popular than people think after all.

Read the whole article (Oct. 29, 2010).

Tip o' the hat to Greenfizzpops, who runs the South African poly site ZAPoly and its Yahoo discussion group. She often picks up interesting items worldwide.



December 12, 2010

Canada case continues unfolding

Canada's anti-polygamy test case continues in the British Columbia Supreme Court. Last week saw heart-wrenching testimony by abused and oppressed women who escaped the Fundamentalist Mormon community in Bountiful, B.C., which prompted the case. Also testifying were experts on bad social effects of patriarchal polygyny generally; see recent news stories.

Free, egalitarian polyamory has faded into the background after a bangup opening by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) in the first week of the trial.

The group is looking for ways to get back into the debate. The anti-polygamy law is written so broadly that it criminalizes polyamory in "conjugal" situations (which the law leaves undefined except that they do not require sex) irrespective of whether anyone claims to be married.

CPAA member jbash has put together some numbers that might liven up the debate. He looked for the best numbers available and found that polyamorists outnumber Bountiful's polygamists by a huge ratio. On the CPAA's website:

30 to 1 or 500 to 1, we dwarf Bountiful. Why is it about them?

...“Polygamy” has one main face for the Canadian public: the fundamentalist offshoots of Mormonism in Bountiful, BC.

...There are probably about 33 polygynous families there, containing about 120 spouses… and those seem to represent most of the Mormonism-derived polygyny in Canada. There may be 10 or 15 independent families in “Mormon” polygyny outside Bountiful.

We have specifically identified 112 egalitarian, secular conjugal polyamorous families in Canada, including over 350 spouses. That was with a quick survey, mostly promoted on a few Internet mailing lists. Even that number is over three times the size of Bountiful.

We think the real number is much higher, perhaps somewhere between 1100 and almost 17000 conjugal families (and, of course, many more non-conjugal polyamorists).

For every single Bountiful family that might be doing something bad, the Government(s) would make criminals of at least 33 polyamorous families. That’s the low estimate. The high estimate is more like 510. None of those polyamorous families are accused of any real wrong.

He goes on to dig up numbers for Muslim polygamists in Canada.

Our best guess is that Canada may have roughly as many Muslim polygynists as secular polyamorists… assuming our lowest estimates on the polyamorous side. If our highest estimates are true, polyamory leaves the Muslims way behind.

Many activists, on all sides, prefer to say that “polygamy” doesn’t include conjugal polyamory, just patriarchal polygyny. That’s not the law’s definition, nor the dictionary’s… and probably not the public’s, either....

...We welcome any improvements or corrections to any of these numbers, but, please, only if you actually have better data or methods than we have....

He also examines African, Hmong, and Christian polygamy numbers in Canada. Although data are sparse, the numbers seem very small. Egalitarian polyamory really ought to be front and center in whether the law remains on the books as written. Read his whole article (Dec. 1, 2010).


Meanwhile, a certain amount of good publicity or at least thoughtful discussion continues.

● On the online newsmagazine Backofthebook.ca:

The polygamists down the street

By Jodi A. Shaw

...The women of Bountiful, in [law professor Angela] Campbell’s opinion, are not oppressed by their husbands but by the law. The anti-polygamy statute renders them silent and fearful to reach out for services or speak out against other crimes, for fear of exposing themselves as members of a polygamist family and put them at risk of having their children taken away.

It is a fear shared by other polygamists, including acquaintances of mine, who live a normal life, in a normal house, far from any polygamist community.

They live a life of secrets, Steve* told me. In order to feel safe and accepted in their community, they disguise their relationship and discuss it with few people. Not that they like it that way.

Steve and Laura* have been together for over 15 years, and have a child. Almost four years ago, Megan joined the family. While one of the women is more outgoing than the other, they are far from submissive, and Steve is not remotely sexist or domineering. All three entered the relationship respectfully and willingly.

I can’t personally imagine myself sharing my husband with another woman, but Laura and Megan seem comfortable and happy in their lives. When on their own with Steve, they are affectionate, jovial, and immersed in each other’s company. As a family, they go on bike rides and do yard work together, though they have to refrain from affection or anything else that would reveal their dynamic.

Since Steve and Laura are more established as a couple, have been together longer, and are parents to the child, Megan often has to take a back seat when they are in public or around people who recognize Steve and Laura as a couple, but are unaware of Megan’s role. It’s a step back that leaves her feeling somewhat ostracized and alone. That’s where the real oppression occurs, according to Steve.

...All three entered the relationship as individuals and consenting adults, and all three report that, while they may sometimes deal with issues and struggles that do not exist in monogamous relationships, they feel content and loved. The secrecy is taxing, but they do not complain. They acknowledge, though, that many of the complications and stresses in their lives would be resolved if polygamy were legal....

Read the whole article (Dec. 9, 2010)

● An editor at the Ottawa Citizen, a major daily newspaper in Canada's capital, wrote a clear, forceful editorial column:

What harms do polygamy laws prevent?

By Kate Heartfield

The polygamy reference case has already made a valuable contribution: It has focused the debate on the question of harm. Apologists for the current law are now having to try to show that polygamy, in and of itself, always and necessarily hurts people. I don't believe they're succeeding, but I do see this as a promising first step toward creating a rational and effective legal strategy for dealing with abuse in polygamous communities.

Modern law -- and modern secular ethics, which defaults to some version of the Golden Rule -- is heavily influenced by the principle articulated by philosopher John Stuart Mill: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."

...Crown counsel Craig Jones tried to cover all the philosophical bases he could, and made a fine mess in the process, saying the law must be upheld to confirm the government's right to "impose some fundamental codes of moral behaviour for the protection of the vulnerable and to promote and advance our highest aspirations of equality and social justice." The "protection of the vulnerable" bit is in there to make John Stuart Mill happy.

The harms to be prevented include forced marriage, rape of young girls, expulsion of young men, and unequal family dynamics.

Forced marriage and rape are already illegal.

...Many laws, the polygamy law included, sometimes require the co-operation of victims. It's worth noting that the polygamy law is rarely enforced and has not prevented any of the harms we're all talking about.

The polygamy law manages to be both overreaching in principle (criminalizing consensual behaviour) and inadequate in practice (it hasn't stopped the abuse it supposedly targets).

As for unequal family arrangements, that's a more difficult question.

If we make polygamy illegal because, most of the time, polygamous unions involve patriarchal gender roles, are we also going to make patriarchal gender roles illegal in monogamous unions? If so, we're going to have to build a lot more prisons.

The relevant question, for the law, is not the number of people in the relationship, but whether they're adults who have freely consented. If the women in relationships of any number are being compelled or detained -- well, again, there are laws against that, and they ought to be enforced....

If we Canadians decide to uphold the polygamy law... we'll be guilty of shrugging off the harm principle when it seems inconvenient.

Which principles, then, will form the basis of our law? In the absence of secular liberalism, which culture or religion gets to impose its sexual morality on the rest of us?

That's why it's important to strike down this law, and replace it with a sound legal strategy to enforce existing laws, to put abusers behind bars without incidentally criminalizing consensual sexual behaviour.

This case tests our willingness to tolerate needless exceptions to the principle that the government can only compel our behaviour when that behaviour affects other people.

At the core, this case isn't about freedom of religion, or freedom of association. It's about freedom, full stop.

Read the whole article (Dec. 3, 2010).

● An editor of Macleans, Canada's national newsmagazine, weighs in:

Why should polygamy be a crime?

We don’t need to ban polygamy to ban rape: it’s banned already.

By Andrew Coyne

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’m against polygamy. I think it’s wrong, and harmful, for all the usual reasons: that it devalues women, impairs the trust on which marriage and family life depends, upsets the sexual balance in society at large, and is broadly incompatible with the egalitarian, individual-based political values of Western civilization.

So when it came to opening statements in the landmark British Columbia Supreme Court reference on the issue, the government lawyer had all the best arguments, in my view. And yet I found myself agreeing with the conclusions of the amicus curiae, the lawyer hired by the court to represent the other side of the case.

...At bottom the issue is the role of the criminal law in regulating conduct.... In a free society, we should always prefer the least intrusive means of correcting harmful behaviour, consistent with getting the job done.

...The practices listed... it will be noticed, are all crimes in their own right, under other sections of the Criminal Code. We don’t need to ban polygamy to ban rape: it’s banned already. Granted, there are practical concerns about the chances of successful prosecutions in these cases, given the exploitive nature of polygamous relationships and the difficulties in getting witnesses to testify. But the ban on polygamy is too crude a proxy....

Read the whole article (Nov. 26, 2010).

P. S.: The CPAA needs your donations.



December 9, 2010

Polys of color

The self-identifying "polyamory community" is overwhelmingly white (though perhaps not as much as in the past), which is probably just one reason why the black media have been slow to touch the subject. Since 2005 I've put up 463 posts here about poly in the media, and only six of them (including this one) have the "polys of color" tag.

A bold exception to this quietude is black radio and TV personality Michael Baisden. He understands the subject, is not afraid of it, and has brought Loving More director Robyn Trask and other poly leaders onto his shows many times over the years. Unfortunately I don't find any of these shows archived on the web.

A listener of his wrote,

He is nonmonogamous, according to what he's said on the show, and he's interviewed Robyn [Trask], Jim Fleckenstein, and others live on the show while he fielded calls. He's nationally syndicated. Baisden has done several 1- to 3-hour segments on polyamory and has been challenging callers' attitudes about poly as being the same as cheating, and partners who are so territorial because the perception is that there aren't enough black men to go around. A poly African American man called in and said how hard it is to explain poly to new women without being accused of spinning a line.


A few days ago Clutch magazine ("ushering in the new era for young, contemporary women of color") ran a forward-looking article:

Why monogamy isn't the most important part of a relationship

By Tasha Fierce

Recently a new sex partner asked for my advice on how to deal with three women he was "seeing," each of whom was interested in having a monogamous relationship with him. Being as how we had just had "no strings attached" sex, I asked him if he was really able to handle truly being monogamous. His reply was (as I expected) a sheepish "No."

It came out that he was more interested in one of the women than in the other two, but that she also had commitment issues. So I suggested that he consider an open relationship, one in which he did all the "girlfriend" things with this woman, but which allowed for both of them to still have the option of sex with other people -- provided that there was no emotional involvement.

This was an apparently novel idea for him, and he liked it. I explained that they would need to negotiate the ground rules of their relationship.... After he left, I wondered to myself: If we didn't have the expectation that our "committed" partners would be able to fulfill all of our sexual needs, could we be free to simply enjoy the closeness and commitment of a relationship based on emotional instead of sexual fidelity?

For me, the most important part of a relationship is the emotional connection you have with your partner. You trust them, you talk openly with them, they know your quirks and flaws and still love you for them. When you have this connection, it usually makes for better sex. But there's something to be said about having someone you can give your heart to and still remain free to engage in other sexual encounters. I'm talking about emotional monogamy....

Some people take the next step and choose to practice polyamory -- multiple full-fledged emotional and sexual relationships. Books like The Ethical Slut offer a guide on how to construct working polyamorous relationships....

This type of relationship arrangement is not for those interested in emotional fidelity, because, by definition, polyamory is participation in multiple loving relationships. Meaning, you're sharing your partner's affections -- so if you're the jealous type, this probably won't work for you. But many people can and do thrive in a polyamorous relationship. Me, I need that emotional exclusivity. To each her own....

...Add sex to the equation, and the fact that when you orgasm with a partner a hormone called oxytocin is released causing the creation of strong attachment, and you've got drama if your partner doesn't get the same dosage....

Each of these non-monogamous relationship configurations -- and I'm only touching on a few of the multiple possibilities -- have their pros and cons. It is important to think carefully about what you need in order to feel comfortable. Do you want to "come home" to one person but have sex with many people, as in, an emotionally monogamous yet sexually open relationship? Can you handle knowing that your partner both loves and sleeps with more women than just you, as in a polyamorous relationship? Do you want to love and sleep with more partners than just the one? Can you rein in your attachment and just be friends who f**k? Really, it's up to you where the line is drawn.

But in any non-monogamous relationship, just as in monogamous relationships, communication is of the utmost importance. The minute that communication breaks down when one partner expects something that the other has no idea they want, things fall apart.

...Practicing non-monogamy doesn't make you a "ho" or a "slut." I know we are wary of the stereotype of the hypersexualized black woman.... What I am suggesting is that we shed the notion that there's only one way to be in a relationship with someone, and embrace the spectrum of relationship configurations that include flavors of non-monogamy.

You might find ways to fulfill needs you didn't even know that you had.

Read the whole article (Dec. 6, 2010). It's also reprinted at The Grio (Dec. 7, 2010).


Pepper Mint, a poly/ bi/ queer activist and organizer in the San Francisco area, passes this on:

"Katie (a friend of mine from the DC area) is co-editing an anthology of nonfiction writings by people of color who are polyamorous, kinky, swingers, or otherwise sexually bent or nonmonogamous. This is going to be a first-of-its-kind book, and fills a gap in the literature as there has been very little published writing by poly people of color.

"They are looking for submission ideas (not full pieces; 250 words maximum) by midnight January 15th [changed from December 15th]. Despite the name ('perverts') they are very interested in polyamory submissions."

Here's the website.


Some other links:

On NeoBlaqness.com: Why Are Polyamorists Mostly White?

Alicia's apologia, i do not own a pink uhaul truck, on her Freedom Fighter blog.

Polyamory has been a Skype discussion topic at Quirky Black Girls.

At the online woman's magazine Hello Beautiful (part of BlackPlanet.com), Abiola Abrams did a video report asking people "Are open relationships for you?" (April 20, 2010).

A few months ago a blogger put up Poly PoC Resource List beginnings.

In the academic journal Sexualities: Progressive Polyamory: Considering Issues of Diversity, Melita J. Noël, December 2006. "...In particular, these texts, written by and geared toward an assumed audience of white, middle-class, able-bodied, educated, American people fail to address how nationality, race, class, age and (dis)ability intersect with gender and sexuality in the theory and practice of polyamory. In order to successfully challenge systemic, intersecting oppressions, polyamorists must move beyond the limits of identity politics to build coalitions and norms of inclusivity around shared issues, such as expanding definitions of relationships, families and communities." (Abstract only; full paper requires payment or library access.)

Added later: In Oakland Local in California, a black writer explains her New Year's resolution:

Resolutions 2011: Giving up monogamy

I am resolved to start this New Year fresh, and take up, once again, the vow that I made to myself a very long time ago, and broke, unwisely. This vow was to completely give up monogamy.

I’ve tried to do it in the past, only to fail miserably.

What can I say? I am in love with the world and terrified of it at the same time.

The beauty of us all is startling. Falling in love with someone feels natural. But then agreeing to a monogamous relationship usually feels like I am cheating on myself....

Read the whole article (Jan. 13, 2011).

If you know of more, please add them in the comments.



December 5, 2010

New culture? New advice columns needed.

Advice columns both old-culture and new-culture have been fielding questions about poly problems and etiquette. It's way past time for a roundup (partial, no doubt):

1. Shortly before Thanksgiving, "Dear Abby" — which your great-grandmother read when it started in 1956 — addressed a family's holiday invitation situation:

For the past few holidays we have had to accept the fact that my sister-in-law was bringing her husband AND her boyfriend to family holiday dinners. Last year we protested, saying it was ridiculous and that we wouldn't come. (We don't want our kids thinking this is appropriate.) We relented when my mother-in-law said we were being unreasonable because the husband and boyfriend are OK with the situation.

We have ended up going in the past, but Thanksgiving is nearly here again and we're not "thankful" for this arrangement. How do you think we should handle this?

Relatively Odd In Jacksonville

Dear Relatively Odd: If your children are small, they will accept the "odd" man at the table as simply a good friend of their aunt and uncle, so I see no reason why you shouldn't join the family unless you personally dislike the man. However, if your children are old enough to understand that there is something romantic going on, make other plans for the holidays. To do otherwise would make it appear that you approve of what's going on, which you do not.

Franklin Veaux of xeromag poly pages fame called out this reply as

infantilizing and reactionary. It misses a great opportunity to actually talk openly to a child about things like, "We may not make the same decisions or hold the same values that our relatives do, but this is how we can behave with courtesy and respect toward other people even if they are different from us."


2. A newer columnist at the weekly Now in Toronto delved in deep:

Multiple partners, multiple questions, multiple solutions

Dear Sasha,

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

I am a firm believer that you can only love one person and that’s the person you share your home and life with. If my partner is in love with someone else... how do I handle the feeling that I am compromising my belief system? I love my partner deeply, but I love myself too, and stay true to my sense of integrity.

I’m in a pickle and unsure whether to keep trying to work on understanding (which I can’t seem to do), dissociate from it altogether, or cut my losses, end the relationship and start a new life....

— Up the Creek

The term “polyamorous” implies that your partner doesn’t simply maintain a primary relationship with you and have casual sex with other people, but is free to cultivate love relationships outside of your commitment.

As Andrea Zanin, who conducts workshops on open relationships, points out, “[Up The Creek is] asserting a belief system that is fundamentally incompatible with polyamory — even though she’s using the term and seems to have willingly engaged in a relationship with someone who identifies as polyamorous. If that wasn’t okay with her, why is she with him in the first place? This seems indicative of some problems in world view and/or communication that likely predated this new development.”

If what you agreed upon was that your partner was only to have noncommittal sex outside of your relationship, a model known as partnered non-monogamy, then he has broken your agreement. But this is by no means uncommon. “Once you open up your relationship,” Tristan Taormino writes in Opening Up, “there is always a risk, since the way people connect and the depths of emotions that arise cannot be predicted.”...

What you are describing, the “fun without the work,” sounds a lot like what Taormino calls “new relationship energy” (NRE), and for many of us it’s one of the most challenging aspects of an open relationship....

...But, as Zanin says, “Relationships should be fun as well as truthful and honest, and most of them do require lots of work, too. I have no idea how much work this new partnership is for him, but regardless, it sounds like [Up The Creek is] just resentful that he’s having fun with someone else, period — as though their work entitled her to all his “fun” energy.

“Fortunately, fun is not a finite resource, but if she’s going to be upset knowing that he’s enjoying another relationship, then poly is not for her....”

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

“It seems that [Up The Creek is] choosing her belief system over what appears to be the actual situation,” says Zanin. “Has her partner fallen out of love with her, declared that he no longer loves her, etc.? Or is he simply stating, in a way that’s perfectly in keeping with his own belief system, that he’s now in love with his other partner as well?

“If Up The Creek is absolutely convinced that loving more than one person is impossible, she’s going to hear anything he says to the contrary as a lie even if he’s perfectly sincere.”...

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

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

Read the whole column (Jan. 30, 2010). It also appeared in the lefty Rabble.ca.


3. In The Frisky online:

Dear Wendy: “I’ve Fallen In Love With Another Man”

By Wendy Atterberry

I am a 28-year-old married woman, who has been with my husband for 10 years (married for two). Last year my husband confessed that he had a “hot wife” fantasy and wanted me to experiment with sexual relationships outside of our marriage. At first I was appalled... but after months of talking about it, I became open-minded to the idea. So, this past January, I met a single man I was extremely attracted to. Needless to say, I told him that I was in an open-marriage and within a matter of weeks we were involved in a hot and heavy sexual relationship.

I have been with my lover now for three months and have a huge problem: I’ve fallen in love with him. I know he is not in love with me (he is dating other women) and it hasn’t changed the fact that I love my husband. But I can’t stop thinking about or lusting for my lover, and lately have even felt a bit jealous about his other relationships. I told my husband and he believes our relationship is strong enough to handle this. I’m afraid to tell my lover for fear that he’ll end the affair, which would devastate me. I’m so confused about how to proceed; can I be in love with two men and somehow make this work?

— Twice In Love

Admittedly, I don’t know much about open marriages or polyamorous relationships in general, but I do know that in order for them to work the primary relationship (your marriage with your husband, in this case) has to be the central focus. When that focus begins to shift, you’re basically screwed. And it seems to me, if you’ve fallen in love with the other man and you “can’t stop thinking or lusting” after him, your focus has certainly shifted. If it were me, I’d end the relationship with the lover and start couples therapy with my husband to decide if opening your marriage is, in fact, best for the two of you and how you can create some boundaries to ensure your primary relationship with each other remains the central focus.

There are some great resources for couples in open marriages at OpeningUp.net, where you can find helpful book recommendations and online groups. Hopefully someone can help you find an open-minded therapist in your area who will guide you through opening your marriage in a healthy way if you decide you want to continue down this path.

Read the whole column (May 25, 2010).

A month later Wendy ran a followup letter from the writer:

...I’m still in love with both men and luckily for me, things have smoothed over. While I wasn’t ready to end things with my lover, I did take your advice about going to Openingup.net and I found a lot of good books and local online polyamory groups that I could look to for guidance. So after a lot of introspection and honest communication, I’m finding a balance between the two. At the end of the day, I definitely think I’m a polyamorist (I just can’t do the casual sex required of my husband’s “hot wife” fantasy) and he is happy with the arrangement I have with my lover — especially now that I’ve shifted my approach to make it perfectly clear that he comes first. Meanwhile, my lover isn’t seeing anyone besides me because he’s happy to have a regular, loving partner without the stress of a traditional relationship.

This is still one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever been through, but also one of the most rewarding. I’m learning a lot about myself, about love and about relationships so in the end, I think that it’s worth it. Thanks for your help!

And thanks also to today's poly community, in particular to Tristan's OpeningUp.net site, for existing and providing that orientation and help. Looks like you saved a relationship and changed somebody's life.


4. At Care 2 Make A Difference:

Ask the Loveologist: Polyamory, More Love or More Confusion?

By Wendy Strgar

I have been with the same man for a couple of years and he just asked me whether I would want to be in an open relationship with him. He has met another couple through his work that practices polyamory and he is interested in exploring a relationship with them. I am not sure about this but I am trying to be open-minded. Can “open” relationships really work? Is polyamory just another way to have more sexual partners? I know that I can and do get jealous and it seems like tempting fate, but I don’t want to lose him because of this....

The idea of polyamory is not new.... Books that started the movement, like Open Marriage, have been followed recently by Jenny Block’s Open and Opening Up by sex columnist Tristan Taormino....

Polyamory distinguishes itself from other forms of multiple relationships by its central idea that all relationships, whether they are sexual or emotional, [should] exist within the knowledge and consent of all parties.... Their belief that human beings have the ability to love more than one person intimately in committed, sustainable, multiple relationships is how they view the future of all relationships. They say that the practice of Polyamory is about maturity and overcoming our jealousies.

...Conceptually this is all good, but humans are hardwired for jealousy, so don’t worry, it isn’t just you. Whether this practice goes against human nature is a question that many have asked. I believe that it adds a level of complexity and challenge to intimate relationships, which are already pretty challenging in their most basic coupling for most of us. Asking whether this kind of arrangement can work for both of you is both a healthy and essential question to begin with because based on their philosophy, you being in agreement is critical to its success.

So although polyamory might seem like an ideal solution to combat the familiarity and boredom often associated with monogamy, its practice is no simpler and often much more complicated than monogamous relationships....

I have heard polyamory referred to as “polyagony,” if that gives you a clue as to how far off the multiple relationship arrangements can get....

I have had many a conversation about “love styles” in my Good Clean Love traveling booth over the years. Many people discuss things there that they might not otherwise because it is so difficult to find non-judgmental spaces to explore our intimate choices. I remember well a conversation with a couple that had come out of 20 years of living in a polyamory community in Hawaii. They told me that although the idea of polyamory is appealing in principle, it often becomes an easy way to avoid the deep issues that arise in our primary relationships. Rather than people getting better at relating, the diffusion and confusion of so many people’s needs doesn’t often translate into more loving.

I have long believed that as difficult as monogamy is for so many of us, learning how to deeply and completely love another person actually opens up the way to understanding what it means to love everyone. But that’s just me.

Read the whole column (Jan. 19, 2010).


And More:

Annie Ory of Mapping Love ("become the person you want to be in love with") is contributing a poly-specific advice column to ModernPoly.com. She's up to column #10.

BTW: Keep an eye on ModernPoly.com; these folks are serious about building it into something big for the long haul. Already they've established a useful and up-to-date Local Poly Group Registry, with a zoomable map. You can add your own local group and information into it.

New and enthusiastic Poly Advice Nurse site and podcasts, by Betty Baker.

Interesting thread on LiveJournal's Polyamory Community, also started by Betty Baker: If you could tell everybody who's about to try polyamory (or new to it) just three things, what would you say?

And, here are my last 20 posts in the "advice columns" category (including this one; scroll down). They include a bunch more from within the last year.



December 4, 2010

Poly explained to the checkout-counter set


Yahoo has an online women's magazine called Shine; think grocery-store checkout line. Five or ten years ago a sympathetic, fairly good explanation of polyamory in such an outlet would have been a surprise. Now we've come to expect it.

How Do Polyamory and Polygamy Work? The Dirt on Poly Relationships

The more the merrier: is polyamory the new black?

By Natalie Bencivenga, BettyConfidential.com

There has been a lot of buzz in the media lately about polygamy, especially since "Sister Wives," the reality show about a man with three wives (and engaged to a fourth) and loads of kids, recently aired on TLC.... The gender bias of the man being able to sleep with several women at once but the women remaining faithful to one man has also left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths. What so many people don’t realize, however, is that there is a sexy alternative to both monogamy and polygamy....

...“Polyamory is a practice of mutual non-exclusivity. It represents mutual options. But, it’s not necessary that those options are acted upon,” states artist and writer Ben Barnett, 41, who engages in polyamorous relationships.

Understanding polyamory is based upon three principles that Barnett believes are essential for a healthy and happy polyamorous relationship.

“...Discretion, honesty and safety...safety should probably be priority number one,” he believes.

...Whether you are in a monogamous relationship, or daring enough to try a polyamorous one, honesty is the key to any happy union. Without honesty, there is no trust, and without trust, you cannot sustain a healthy relationship, whether it’s you plus one or you plus five.

...It would take a very special person, someone with a very strong and defined sense of self, to engage in healthy polyamorous relationships.

However, if you happen to fit that profile, being polyamorous would be rather exciting and stimulating. You would meet different people that fulfilled different aspects of your personality. The pressure would be taken off to find “the one” and you could really explore sex on a whole other level.

"...To say that it’s only possible to have only one a deeply emotional, deeply romantic, deeply physical, deeply intellectual and deeply spiritual connection is simply not true, and it’s simply absurd.”

...Unlike the stifling culture of polygamy, where only one gender is free to choose multiple partners, polyamory puts choice in the hands of each individual, regardless of gender, and thereby, the responsibility for you own happiness is in your hands, as well.

Read the whole article (Dec. 2, 2010), and join the comments.

(It originally appeared on BettyConfidential.com; undated.)


December 1, 2010

Poly ponderings in student newspapers

Brown Daily Herald
Daily Nebraskan
Kansas State Collegian
La Trobe University

● Writing on the future of marriage in the Brown Daily Herald, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island talks to six of her peers about their diverse family intentions. One intends a poly triad:

Brown women shape the new family

By Alexandra Ulmer

...New notions of family are growing in the United States, according to "The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families," a report released by the Pew Research Center last week.

"How many of today's youth will eventually marry is an open question," according to the executive summary. "Even as marriage shrinks, family — in all its emerging varieties — remains resilient."...

A triad of childrearers

For Aida Manduley '11, Queer Alliance head chair and Queer Coordinating Committee leader, three is the ideal number. She would like her children to be raised communally — preferably by a triad. Manduley, who said she is queer and practices polyamory, feels that society is too focused on matrimony to the detriment of other valid alternatives.

"I don't feel marriage is necessary to have a stable life or to have a long, fulfilling relationship," she said.

While Manduley said she remains open to marriage, the idea of non-monogamy is more appealing to her at the moment. But Manduley's family, which lives in her native Puerto Rico, isn't as enthused about her alternative ideas.

They expect her to maintain a career and a family, which Manduley also desires — albeit in a different structure. "But there's no shame or worry in having different opinions to my family," she said....

Read the whole article (Nov. 22, 2010).

● In the Daily Nebraskan, "the student voice at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln":

Polyamorous relationships: Right for some, not for others

By Lacey Mason

...Our relationships are changing. Or, perhaps more accurately, our mindsets are changing. We're getting to know one another in entirely new ways and evaluating our interactions more critically. We're asking questions. We're finding new ways to make ourselves happy, romantically, which is a step outside the social norms.

My friend announced this weekend that she and her husband are now in an open relationship. Also known as polyamory (having multiple romantic partners), the relationship was met with some controversy. One friend told her it would never work, could never work. Conversely, another shared her positive experience with an open relationship. I chimed in that while I wouldn't be game, I knew of two couples happily married with years of polyamory behind them.

My friend, let's call her Mabel, argued that she felt monogamy was unnatural. She defended herself by saying, "Monogamy is a bit like vegetarianism — it's a great choice for some people, but ultimately, humans are designed to eat meat."...

The discussion shifted to animals.... Even the Schistosoma mansoni, an intestinal parasitic worm that can live in humans, mates with only one partner. Our discussions went back and forth from here....

...Polyamory also isn't for the insecure or codependent. An open relationship only works when both partners are in it together. There needs to be the utmost transparency, open communication, trust and, above all, respect. The partners in a committed relationship still need to put each other first, and if one partner decides they are no longer interested in the arrangement, it needs to end for both....

Read the whole article (Nov. 29, 2010).

● In the Kansas State Collegian at Kansas State University:

Open marriages can work without love lost

By Lindsay Vannaman

I'm writing in response to Jillian Aramowicz's Oct. 28 article about how marriages have become too casual....

...I have been in an open relationship for almost two years while I attended a community college and my boyfriend was here at K-State, and while he studied abroad in Italy. This arrangement has not been easy, with plenty of jealousy and hurt and tears. I also think those things come with most monogamous relationships.

Now that we finally live in the same city, we appreciate each other so much more. I honestly think this has made us much closer. While I realize open relationships and marriages may not be right for everyone, it doesn't make it OK to condemn those who choose it as a lifestyle. I speak from experience; it doesn't make them crazy and it sure doesn't make them any less in love.

Read the whole article (Nov. 5, 2010).

● And on the website of La Trobe University in Australia:

Poly is the new gay

By Linda Kirkman

...There is a growing awareness of polyamory as a way to form relationships and families, and it is on the frontier of social change in acceptance of relationships. The more aware and accepting of diversity in relationships the more healthy our society is....

...I started reading about non-monogamous relationships as part of my PhD literature review, and for a while became immersed in finding out about polyamory. I remembered seeing a pamphlet about polyamory on campus a couple of years ago, but it had not been on my radar or in what I observed about the world. There is not much available in the scholarly literature, apart from a special edition of Sexualities 9(5) and an edited book, Understanding Non-Monogamies (Barker & Langdridge 2010).

Since my first delve into the polyamory literature at the start of 2010, I have observed the growing public visibility of polyamory, (abbreviated to ‘poly’) and now it is on my radar I am realising how widespread it is....

...I typed ‘polyamory’ into iTunes as a search, and found a regular US podcast, Polyamory Weekly, that has been going since 2005 (www.polyweekly.com). I listened to many of them, selecting from over the five years, and observed a change, including a growing inclusion of young people into the poly movement, where it had been earlier commented on that to be under 30 and poly was unusual....

....The Australian newspaper ran a story on November 20, 2010, "Three is the new two as couples explore the boundaries of non-monogamy," about a poly family of two women and a man who are having a baby. The writer, Emma Jane, used pseudonyms for the family, presumably to protect the people against discrimination, but wrote a supportive and positive article about this family’s normal and thoughtful existence, and about the growing emergence of polyamory worldwide. I hope it won’t be long before people in poly relationships don’t feel the need to protect themselves with pseudonyms. A same-sex couple having a baby would no longer feel the need to hide their identity in this way. I look forward to a society where any loving family, irrespective of how many people it includes or what sex they are, feels safe to be open about who they are.

In that respect, poly is the new gay.

Read the whole article (late November 2010).


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