Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 27, 2011

Is poly "like a big, hearty buffet?"

San Diego City Beat

A writer for "San Diego's real alternative newspaper," (circulation 50,000) wrote a bemused article about polyamory but failed to report on the local poly scene other than to say that it exists. As a former editor for alternative newspapers, I would have told him "Don't just talk to your friends, go back out and get the damn story."

Nevertheless, the article does help the increasingly successful cause of poly awareness. Despite its gross lead.

Attracting a crowd

By Alex Zaragoza

There are few things that get me into a glutton-filled tizzy like a big, hearty buffet.... Asian? Yeah, I’ll have some of that! Italian? Sure! Looks tasty! Mexican?... it’s my natural instinct to gorge.

People who practice polyamory apply that buffet mentality to love and sex. Those who are polyamorous, or “poly” for short, choose to have multiple open relationships, either serious or just sexual, while keeping everyone involved in the know. Usually hierarchies are involved, with a primary partner and secondary partners. However, it’s really up to each individual to decide the best fit.

...“It’s a great personal-growth experience,” explains Robyn Trask, executive director of Loving More, a nonprofit dedicated to the support and education of polyamory. “It takes being very open with communication. If you’re having a relationship with three people and see you always have the same problem with each of them, you realize it’s something on your part and you work to fix it. In that way it can be really healthy.”...

...My friend Erica, a 25-year-old San Diego transplant from Denver, has been practicing poly for about three years and says she gets all her itches scratched with multiple partners. She describes herself as “really horny,” but she thinks it’s unreasonable to ask one person to meet all her sexual and emotional needs, so she’s open to having multiple people fill the partner role. As a result, her sex life has gotten an extra pinch of spice.

“I learned a lot about sex being poly,” she says. “What I enjoy, what I’m looking for in a partner. It’s nice to have different partners because everyone knows a lot and gets ideas from their other partners. They’re getting fresh input and I’m getting fresh input, and so it brings freshness to the bedroom.”

Before you start cruising poly meet-ups (yup, there are poly potlucks and poly “sacred snuggle parties” in the area), it’s not all steamy sex romps with horny hippies. There are some drawbacks.

Erica gripes that many poly guys are often “sensitive, feminist types” who “want to make love,” so it’s hard to find someone who will “run a train through you” when that’s what you’re in the mood for.

Well. That’s one con, I suppose.

More so than that, being poly takes a great deal of work when it comes to overcoming jealousy. I spoke to another poly friend of mine, Alex, a 46-year-old transgender fellow who’s been poly for a few years now. He acknowledges that being non-monogamous can be difficult and awkward since it requires approaching relationships in a way that goes completely against what society has taught us....

...I’m amazed that poly people can nurture all this free-flowing love. As much as I love multiple options at a buffet, something on my plate always ends up getting ignored. I can’t deal with more than one partner’s needs at a time while still balancing work, family, friends and my Netflix account.

But if others can, I say get yours.

Read the whole article (Feb. 9, 2011).

Does an article like this actually help? Absolutely. It spreads the awareness that multiple love can work happily, openly, ethically among equals — something that almost no one used to imagine could happen in real life — and that healthy people create their own relationship styles.

Since I began Polyamory in the News in 2005, I've put up 490 posts covering roughly 1,000 media treatments of the topic. You saw nothing like that 15 years ago. This public attention, or rather you people who are prompting it are changing the world with a powerful new idea. For the better, and probably forever. Thank you.



February 24, 2011

Poly and Obama's DOMA decision

National Review Online

Yesterday President Obama announced that the Justice Department will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed by Congress in 1996 to prevent the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. In the resulting outcry from the right, polyamory is again being cited as the next slippery-slope waystation on the logical greased incline from gay marriage to marrying goats.

This does raise poly awareness! People who listen to the religious right keep hearing about all these folks living happily in successful, marriage-like group relationships where everyone loves one another. Much of what we polys are trying to do is just get people to grasp that successful poly relationships exist at all and can work well all around.

Once this subversive idea is planted, people will remember it if Cupid ever happens to shoot multiple arrows their way. And if their own relatives, friends, or employees ever turn up in such relationships, at least they'll have some concept of what it's actually about.

One of DOMA's architects, law professor Hadley Arkes at Amherst College, just posted a long strategy article on National Review Online acknowledging that polyamory not only exists, but is growing:

...And of course, if marriage has nothing to do with begetting, if it can be entered into by people of the same sex, why is it confined to two people? What would the President say to the growing numbers of the “polyamorous” in the country? Their loves are not confined to a coupling. They are woven together in ensembles of three, four, and more. If marriage is about love, rather than begetting, why should these people not be allowed to have their love expressed in marriage?

Why indeed? Read the whole article (Feb. 24, 2011).

In reality though, as I've said before, multiple marriage would require a vastly more complex and difficult legal regime than gay marriage — which fits exactly into the template that already exists for straight marriage (at least since courts started recognizing husbands and wives as legal equals). Good law follows reality rather than precedes it. Fifty or 100 years from now when poly households are commonplace and their issues are well understood, I'm sure that society will have evolved an appropriate body of law to handle the issues that arise.... if free, civil society is allowed to go about its business.


While we're on this topic: If you haven't yet seen the weirdness that is XtraNormal — which generates an animated cartoon from your text dialog — watch Queering Marriage: Why Not Three? acted by teddy bears. I stumbled onto this at a Columbia Law School site (SFW).


And a tip regarding slippery slopes: If you accept this framing you've lost the debate before you open your mouth. Slipping on a slope is a painful accident that leads down. Reframe the scene as a stairway up — in which each step is a deliberately chosen advance toward a better, kinder, freer, more humane world.

Or as Tree (of Polycamp Northwest fame) once put it, awkwardly,

Giving blacks the vote, women the vote, contraception — it's all a slippery slope to a place of better social justice and acceptance.

P.S.: Another counterargument: slippery slopes work both ways (cartoon).



February 23, 2011

"Getting familiar with polyamory in Wisconsin"

Dane 101

An online magazine "for Madison and Dane County" interviews a Christian poly lady who explains the basics, as she sees them, and tells how people have reacted to her and her partners.

By Nathan J. Comp

If you think having one relationship is tough, imagine nurturing two or three or four all at once. But that’s how Kimberly Stenerson, 42, prefers it, explaining that monogamy isn’t for her. Instead, Stenerson, who performs with the Spring Green-based performance troupe Camp Burlesque, has for most of her life sought out fully committed relationships with multiple people simultaneously.

“I think I was always poly,” she says, referring to polyamory. “It’s like when people ask, ‘When did you know you were gay?’ It’s the same as knowing you’re monogamous and heterosexual. You just always knew.”

She cautions that, more than a lifestyle, polyamory is a state of being, and therefore isn’t for everybody. “It’s not just sex with other people,” stresses Stenerson, who lives in Spring Green with her daughters and partners. “It’s also love, trust and communication, like you’d have in any relationship.”

Stenerson spoke with Dane101 about the dynamics of poly relationships, how the lifestyle squares with her Christianity and how it differs from swinging.

What’s the difference between poly and open marriages?

Well, an open marriage tends to be sexually oriented. So you can swing. Sometimes they have arrangements where there’s certain level of sexual activity involved and other things that are not. Like, some people talk about doing a full swap, where you and another couple might get together and mess around but end up with your significant other. So it’s more sexually oriented, but not in a bad way. It’s very good for the marriage, for the folks that like it.

Poly is more emotional. You have multiple people that you love... people are committed to more than one person.

So, you’re a Christian. How does that square with the adultery thing?

Well, I don’t commit adultery, even when I’m poly. Adultery is cheating and cheating is lying. So I don’t lie.... For me, the definition of adultery is to betray one’s vow or promise.

What kinds of jealousy issues arise?

If the person has been poly their whole life, it’s completely different than for someone new to the lifestyle. Because the same way if you’re monogamous, you watch your parents deal with all the issues that come up in a relationship. If you grow up poly it’s easier to deal with the jealousy issues. I always suggest, if you’re taking on a new lifestyle, give yourself a year to learn and explore before you get into any heavy-duty commitments.

...You don’t love someone more; you love them differently than someone else.

What are the biggest misperceptions monogamous people have about poly?

...It depends on whom you talk to. Talk to a couple. It’s interesting; they’ll both act like it’s perfectly fine until you get them alone. You’re talking to them [together] and they’re, ‘Oh, that’s just fine. That’s wonderful. That’s interesting,’ until you get them alone and the guy says, ‘Hey baby, ya wanna swing?’ And the girl’s like, ‘How can you do that? What about your children?’...

Read on (Feb. 23, 2011), and perhaps leave a comment there.



February 21, 2011

Black couple educate about open relationships

BET; BlackVoices

I first saw Carl and Kenya Stevens (photo) talking about their open marriage earlier this month on Philadelphia local TV news. They got a much better chance to tell about themselves recently in a long interview with BlackVoices. They have also appeared on The Mo'Nique Show on BET, Fox News (part 1, part 2), the Michael Baisden radio show, Mademoiselle, Ebony, and elsewhere.

These are very together public spokespeople for self-creating your life.

From Black Voices:

We're in an Open Marriage: Q&A

By Aisha I. Jefferson

Would you be okay if your husband had a girlfriend? Or what if your wife went on vacation with her male lover — without you — could you handle that?

Most people admittedly could not, with such ideas often igniting feelings of rage, jealousy, a barrage of expletives or even cause windows to be busted. Yeah, it could get ugly.

But BlackVoices found a married couple who is fine with those scenarios and even spent last July apart with their significant others. Meet Carl and Kenya Stevens, parents of three who, after spending 12 years of marriage monogamously, decided three years ago to try open marriage.

...They say their open marriage has been spiritually and emotionally transformational, and even brought them closer together.

As unconventional as the Stevenses' marital status appears, they aren't the first African Americans to engage in this lifestyle. Academy Award-winning actress Mo'Nique has spoken publicly on various occasions about the open marriage she shares with her husband, Sidney Hicks. Legendary Hollywood couple Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis admitted in their 1998 joint biography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, that they tried an open marriage but later decided it wasn't for them. Supermodel Naomi Campbell's Russian billionaire boyfriend Vladimir Doronin has an open marriage with his wife. And let's not forget the occasional rumblings surrounding whether A-list couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have an open marriage.

Even though there isn't any statistical data pointing to open relationships as a growing trend among African American couples, you have to wonder with rampant cases of infidelity and marital dishonesty, reports of the single black woman's plight and nearly half of American marriages — a reported 70% for African Americans — ending in divorce, should African Americans consider this lifestyle?

Black Voices sat down with the Stevenses to discuss how this marital arrangement is working for them and why others may want to consider it.

Black Voices: How do you define open marriage as a couple?

Carl Stevens: For us it's the ability to relate to other people, meaning we can have friendships, we can have intimate relationships, we can have any kind of relating with someone else that we feel is necessary for us as individuals. We also have to be able to be open and honest with each other, and we have a certain line of communication so that everybody is in the loop with how we're feeling and what's going on.

Kenya Stevens: Oftentimes in marriage, parameters are set on even emotional friendships with the opposite sex. If my husband wanted to go and play checkers with the woman who lived across the street, that's deemed as 'not right.' In our marriage, we can have emotional relationships with people of the opposite sex.

...BV: You are love coaches who have a foundation in tantra. How has this influenced your ability to have an open relationship?

Kenya: Tantra is the idea that sex is a sacred activity. It's the most grandiose meditation that two people can participate in together. So we don't think about sex in a pornographic fashion. We think of sex as connecting with another person. And so that separates the idea of just swinging and going out and just looking for sex and so forth.

When we deal with a relationship outside of our marriage, it's a deep connection. The individuals that we are friends with outside of our marriage are also friends with our partners. So my boyfriend is friends with my husband. My husband's girlfriend is friends with me. So we have a tantric connection to each individual that we have an intimate partnership with.

BV: That's a very evolved way of thinking, but it still can't be easy knowing that your mate now has another lover. How did you adjust?

Kenya: Yes, there's a big adjustment period and we're still in it. We're very comfortable right now, three years in, but for the first year it was very, very rough because we're discarding all of these notions and ideas like jealousy. We're replacing jealously with ideas like compersion — the state of being actually joyous and excited if your partner is receiving pleasure and happiness outside your union.

So replacing jealousy with compersion was a big, big thing for us. We're at the point now where we're actually very happy when our partner is satisfied outside our union. And we're very happy when we receive satisfaction with each other....

BV: You have three children under the age of 12. Do they understand your lifestyle arrangement? What's their reaction?

Carl: We basically talk to them openly about our lifestyle. We include them in it in terms of communication and they may meet our partners. The only negative effect I see is their being judged by other children or adults who want to pass judgment upon Kenya and I. I think overall, it's a positive thing for our children because they understand they can actually make a choice. They can live the lifestyle they want to live. They don't have to follow tradition or follow the 'cultural norm.'

...BV: What has been some of the feedback you've received about open marriage from the African American community?

Carl: We get a lot of feedback that's against open marriages, but at the same time, I think there's a very large group of people out there who understand that the current institution of marriage does not work. And instead, we need to focus on more of a universal love concept and focus on not being victims in our own lives. I think those people are open to the concept of an open marriage because basically they understand they create their life and have control of it. If a person isn't used to being open and honest in a monogamous relationship and is used to playing games there's no way they will be able to conceive of an open relationship that's built on trust and honesty....

Carl and Kenya Stevens, who authored Tame Your Woman and Change Your Man, respectively, are love coaches who blog about their experiences at www.JuJuMamaBlog.com, where they also operate JuJuMama's Love Academy.

Read the whole interview (Feb. 4, 2011). Great exemplars that they are, I have to say the titles of their books don't thrill me.


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February 18, 2011

More college poly doings, south Texas to Stony Brook

"The largest and leading newspaper in South Texas" gives splashy feature coverage to a self-confident, 19 year old, un-Texas-like Texan at the University of Texas Pan-American:

UTPA student could be America’s Next Top Model

Sara Longoria rarely shaves her legs. It’s just not something she thinks about too often. When she got her first modeling gig at a vintage resale shop, which was little more than a friend calling for a favor, she was a bit surprised....

...She’s been chosen as a contestant for this season’s “America’s Next Top Model,” which premieres at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23. There’s no telling how far the college sophomore will go on the reality show, especially since she may be one of the most controversial models-to-be on the popular CW network program....

...“America’s Next Top Model” has had its share of controversial contestants.... The subject of Sara’s own sexuality comes up often during the show, she said.

“I am bisexual and polyamorous, so I have a boyfriend, and as a couple, we date our girlfriend April,” she said.

Polyamorous couples usually date others, with permission from their partners, and have more than one romantic, intimate relationship.

For the most part, Sara’s family and friends are accepting of her alternative lifestyle.

“ … It’s not like we live together — my boyfriend and girlfriend both live at home (and) I just recently moved out — so it’s not like we’re trying to figure out how to pay our taxes or anything like that; we’re all very young,” Sara said. “My mother knows about it. I don’t really talk to my dad, so it’s not an issue. My siblings know.”

Controversy aside, Sara was chosen out of tens of thousands of girls vying to compete in photo shoots, model challenges and runway walks with the final goal of becoming “America’s Next Top Model.”

Sara was confident she would be picked as one of the 16 semi-finalists who bunk together in a swanky mansion.

“… There’s always one short-haired weird girl in every cycle. And when I got to L.A., I saw that the weird short-haired girls’ numbers were very low,”....

Read the whole article (Feb. 17, 2011). The paper goes on to note that she'll soon be acting in a local production of The Vagina Monologues as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood.

The show was filmed late last year. The first episode airs February 23rd on the CW Network.

More from a University of Texas press release:

"...What I wanted to do, even more than winning, was to make sure that while I was there I remained true to who I was. I didn't want to change or become fake, I just wanted to be able to convey my feelings and have my decisions understood."

In addition to modeling, Longoria has an unconditional passion for education, women's reproductive rights and helping her family get ahead. She intends to take what she has learned from being a contestant on the show and use it toward her education at UTPA, where she is considering changing her major to political science to better understand and help solve the struggles concerning reproductive rights.

"I've always considered myself a feminist and I felt very unusual about it in high school because I was so passionate about it, but at UTPA I met like-minded people who took pride in it," Longoria said. "I am now involved with VOX (Voices for Planned Parenthood) and we work on campaigns and projects that have made me realize the importance of being involved in politics."

...Longoria plans on traveling to New York City this summer to pursue modeling, but will keep one thing in mind.

"Eventually I'm going to get old and wrinkly, and nothing external will be left, but I'm still going to have my mind.; so, I'm going to get an education and earn a degree," Longoria said. "Really the ultimate goal for my life is to better the living situations for women in the Valley and reduce violence against women internationally. I want to know that I helped women around the world."

On the cover of the newspaper supplement, in her full model get-up, she looks inhuman. In her real-life pictures with the article she looks wonderful. What's wrong with our culture that the fashion industry takes fine-looking people, artificializes them beyond recognition, and convinces women that this is the standard they should aspire to?


Elsewhere... at the State University of New York/Stony Brook a few days ago, sex-ed lecturer, poly-activist leader, and all-around happy puppy Reid Mihalko did his shtick before an appreciative student audience. I've seen Reid at work and at play — including leading two all-day meetings of the Polyamory Leadership Network very effectively — and they don't make sex-positive spokes-guys any better.

Apparently a reporter for Stony Brook's THiNK magazine ("Stony Brook University’s first progressive campus publication") thought so too:

A Non-Conservative Presentation on Non-Conservative Sex

By Trevor Christian

Reid Mihalko delivered a fascinating sex education seminar entitled ‘Non-Conservative Sex’ on Thursday in the Student Union, just in time for Valentine’s day. The world-famous founder of ‘Cuddle Party’ was invited to Stony Brook by the LGBTA because of his all-inclusive, humorous lessons on a subject that can be hard to talk seriously about.

Mihalko is upset because non-conservative sex — even sex in general — is considered taboo in our culture....

The culture that Mihalko is describing isn’t that of primetime TV where sex comes in all forms all the time. It’s the culture found in churches, families, and health classrooms. It’s the culture that makes it hard for someone different to feel good about themselves. But his seminar was also for kids with parents that would support them no matter what.

To that point, he made a lot of jokes about “being anything he wanted when he grew up,” something his mother would say to him as a kid. Even the most supportive parents can have issues with what “no matter what” means, especially if it’s cuddle parties.

The talk wasn’t all serious. Mihalko is a master of using humor as the spoonful of sugar to help the serious talk sink in. When students giggled at one of his favorite sex activities, he made them say it aloud. “Say it with me: ‘Strap-on gang-bang.’ ”

Mihalko’s “elevator sex-speech” strategy grabbed a lot of attention. He told attendees to give a brief summary of their sexual history and preferences to potential partners on the elevator, or way back to their room. According to Mihalko, this shocking honesty may be intriguing or endearing if the person is up to it.

The same principle should apply to non-sexual relationships, Mihalko said. “Your real friends are the ones who don’t run.”

After taking a few anonymous questions, Mihalko decided to molest a cupcake. [Photo.] He did this to simulate the proper way of fingering someone. Throughout the demonstration, he stressed the importance of respect and acquiring permission to go further, especially in the early stages of a relationship.

...The self-described polyamorous queer slut values respect. And honesty. And safety. Molesting a cupcake with a Finger-cot.

What made it non-conservative was the emphasis on accepting others, being comfortable and “feeling good about liking what you like.”...

Read the whole article (Feb. 15, 2011).


Another item, in the Daily Northwestern:

Facebook expands relationship status options

Facebook added two new relationship status options Thursday: "in a civil union" and "in a domestic partnership."... The changes drew praise from students associated with Northwestern's LGBT Resource Center and the Rainbow Alliance.

...Still, Garcia said he would like to see Facebook represent relationships with multiple partners, especially considering many college students are polyamorous....

The whole article (Feb. 18, 2011).

Update, March 19: So Sara Longoria didn't make it to be the top model; she was eliminated on the fifth round. After that segment aired she was free to talk about lots of things — including, says Reality TV World, "how she felt the sexy coffee commercial contradicted her own personal feminist beliefs, what the producers chose to edit out of the show about her sexuality...." Here's the interview.


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February 15, 2011

Getting good poly advice into colleges

East Tennessean (East Tennessee State Univ.)

Two and a half years ago poly activist Diana Adams, now a member of the Polyamory Leadership Network (PLN), declared at a Loving More conference, "This is my poly dream: that every college student in America will know the word polyamory and what it means within five years."

One way or another, it seems to be happening... to some extent. For example, see the four college newspaper articles in my previous post. PLN members brainstormed a plan to produce explanatory pamphlets for college health and sexuality counseling centers, but I haven't seen any action happening on that yet. Even so, word is getting around.

A few days ago at East Tennessee State University in the heart of Appalachia, a counselor presented a clear explanation of polyamory in the college newspaper's "Sex Matters" column. This could be the basis for such a pamphlet almost by itself:

Polyamorous relationships require trust

By Rebecca Alexander

Dear Sex Matters,

I'm a bisexual female and I've been dating a girl on and off for the past year. "On and off" due to distance, but the point is that as much as I love her, I still feel like there is a male void in my life. Lately, I've been thinking that it would be nice not to have to choose, and that I would be most comfortable in a committed relationship with both a man and a woman. Do you think there's any hope in finding others who would be able to maintain this kind of relationship in a healthy manner?

Wanting It All

Dear Wanting,

Humans are incredibly complicated creatures — the depth and complexities of our desires for companionship take many forms.

...What you are describing — wanting a committed partnership with more than one partner — is coined "polyamory," or "plural loves".

Polyamory differs from traditional polygamy, which is grounded in hierarchy, patriarchy and religious beliefs (and, in fact, is illegal in the U.S.).

Rather, polyamory, or choosing to have multiple romantic and/or sexual relationships with multiple consenting people, is grounded in such concepts as gender equality, self-determination, free choice for all involved, mutual trust and the equal respect among partners.

Polyamorous persons do not outright reject monogamy as a workable option for people, but emphasize that people can choose their dedication and intimacy levels with their partner(s), and can also choose to be faithful and committed to more than one person.

Those in polyamorous relationships are not sex-crazed people without morals or inhibitions, as some stereotypes imply, but rather believe that the human capacity for love can expand beyond simply one partner.

Sex is, in fact, often secondary to the primary focus on the building of long-term relationships. Thus, polyamory does not include merely casual recreational sex, one night stands, cheating and hooking up.

Polyamory has been defined as "the philosophy and practice of loving more than one person at a time with honesty and integrity, upholding many of the values ideally found in any healthy relationship."

Here are some of the underlying principles of polyamory:

Human nature does not dictate monogamy.

Non-monogamy, when chosen, should be practiced responsibly, ethically and intentionally. Intimacy and sex between multiple simultaneous partners in polyamorous relationships is not inherently wrong, bad or unhealthy.

Sex is a positive force if applied with honesty, responsibility and trust.

Love is an infinite rather than finite commodity, and can be offered to your partners without conditional restraints to love only that one person.

Even while having more than one partner, jealousy is not predestined. Polyamorous persons try to find joy in knowing their partners are desired by other people, and if jealousies and possessiveness do arise, work to address feelings in a constructive way. Relationships require long-term emotional investment.

If you decide to explore polyamory, having an open, honest dialogue with your current partner is paramount.

How do you both see your relationship fitting into this new polyamorous paradigm?

Polyamory points out the harms perpetuated by deceit and dishonesty; all of your romantic interests deserve to be on the same page with any relationship arrangement.

Having an ethical code of conduct for any relationship, whether monogamous or polyamorous, is a gift to yourself and others. Staying in touch with your true desires and having an open attitude and a reverence for honesty and communication can be a great foundation for intimacy, love and connection to others, however it is expressed.

Questions may be e-mailed to oasis@etsu.edu. Sex Matters' questions will be published anonymously and answered by an ETSU Counseling Center licensed counselor, Rebecca Alexander, as part of the Outreach & Advocacy: Sexuality Information for Students (OASIS).

Here's the original article (Feb. 10, 2011).

Who wants to help pick up the ball and run with it?

alan7388 'AT' gmail.com


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February 14, 2011

"Love the Ones You're With"

City on a Hill Press (UC Santa Cruz)
Washington University Student Life
Syracuse Daily Orange
UCLA Daily Bruin

An independent student newspaper at the University of California, Santa Cruz, takes an expansive view for Valentine's week.

Love the Ones You’re With

Polyamory, or relationships with multiple consenting partners, attracts a high profile

By Julie Eng

...[Dawn] Davidson is one of the estimated half a million Americans who identify as polyamorous. Polyamory is having romantic relationships with two or more individuals simultaneously.... In Santa Cruz alone, 238 people participate in an online group that meets regularly to discuss polyamory.

In recent years these numbers have received significant media attention — notably, Newsweek described polyamory as “the next sexual revolution.”... As polls show younger generations growing more accepting of all lifestyles and non-hetero-normative relationships are in and out of federal courtrooms, polyamory is becoming more high-profile.

The poly community has received some negative attention. Conservative groups like Focus on the Family have publicly denounced polyamory as immoral, and a threat to the current federal marriage laws. A pamphlet released by the Family Research Council describes a polyamorous home as “a frat house with revolving doors.”

“This nebulous, free-for-all model of the family looms ahead for our society unless a bulwark is created in the form of a constitutional amendment protecting marriage,” according to the pamphlet.

Davidson said people in polyamorous relationships have similar motivations as those in monogamous ones, and they face similar challenges, just in greater numbers. As the number of members within a relationship increases, so does the potential for common dating and familial problems.

“Socially, it’s very similar,” she said. “We still have to negotiate around who gets to see whom, Thanksgiving and Christmas, ‘Are we driving to so-and-so’s this year? Are we getting together, and is there a big enough place to hold us all?’ It’s not an uncommon discussion. It’s just in a very different context.”

Many conservative groups wouldn’t agree with Davidson. Publications on the Family Research Council website warn that “the rising polyamorous culture is out to get your children.” Stigmas like this drive many poly people to keep their relationships relatively private.

Santa Cruz County resident Steve Jones* said he is openly polyamorous around his friends, but he chose to remain anonymous in this story to avoid becoming the subject of “malicious gossip.”

“A lot of families are doing polyamory-style relating,” she said. “We just call it divorce and remarriage. There are a lot of people who have two moms and two dads.”

...“I would actually say that the context of monogamy tends to generate some really strong jealousy behaviors,” Davidson said. “Again, it’s condoned and even supported by our culture — ‘A real man will protect his woman’ kind of thing, and it gets into that patriarchal property kind of stuff. Or conversely, you’ll hear about women using jealousy to get their man to pay more attention to them. It’s my take on it that at least the ideals of the polyamorous community, based on openness and honesty, everybody really has to be on board with what’s going on.”

...While some might assume polyamory and cheating are the same, members of the poly community are quick to differentiate between the two.

Polyamorous relationships usually include primary and secondary partners. Primary partners often function in a spousal role, and there is less expectation for serious commitment and partnership in secondary relationships.

The differences between what some poly people see as undefined polyamory in monogamous relationships and open polyamory in multi-person partnerships can come down to semantics.

“There are a lot of cases where two people, often close friends, have mutual attraction but don’t act on it because of their agreement of monogamy with their primary relationship,” Larry Colen, a Santa Cruz County resident and long-time polyamorist, said in an e-mail. “These people are often lovers in everything but the sexual consummation. Since polyamory is, in theory, more about the emotional attachment rather than the physical expression, one could argue that these are, in reality, polyamorous relationships.”

...While many people interested in polyamory seek out local and online groups, Jones guesses there are many more people who are not active in the community.... “I know a lot of people of a younger generation who just don’t identify it as polyamory,” Davidson said. “But if you ask them if they are monogamous, they’d say no. They might call it responsible non-monogamy. They might call it open relationships … One group I used to know used to say their relationships are ‘in the flow.’ ”

...Though polyamory may not be mainstream, the community is not small.

Pure Pleasure co-owner Janis Baldwin said Davidson’s classes have met a need for many Santa Cruzans, who used to drive to San Francisco for poly classes and resources.

“No one was teaching classes like that,” Smith said of Davidson’s poly workshops. “The last class was standing-room only.”

...One of the most important things to take away from investigating polyamory, Davidson said, is that love is the same, regardless of how many people are involved.

“Honestly, poly relationships are just relationships,” she said. “We just have more of them.”

Read the whole long article (Feb. 10, 2011).


Also on campus for Valentine's week, the independent student newspaper at Washington University in St. Louis explains polyamory in covering a talk on BDSM by sex educator Lee Harrington.

“It is not Poly[amory] if you have seven boyfriends and haven’t told any of them about the other ones. It’s the notion in kinky sex that what we’re doing is agreed upon by all parties involved.”

Whole article (Feb. 14, 2011).

In the Syracuse University Daily Orange, there's a brief mention that assumes readers know what it's talking about:

Today a large segment of the Syracuse population may be experiencing the Valentine's Day hangover.... Some may have woken up today jaded by the fact that their significant others really thought the value pack of strawberry air fresheners was a great gift. And others may not have been so thrilled at proposals of polyamorous relationships with the logic that the more love, the better....

And on a more serious note, from the UCLA Daily Bruin:

Exploring different types of relationships can open up new possibilities for finding happiness


One true love? The days of that myth are crumbling like the Valentine cookie in my backpack, and trust me – we’re all better off. Pink frosting is gross.

Your mother may incessantly ask you who that “friend” really is, but the answer to that question has simply come to have less credence with our generation, and with sound reason.

Some cultural pundits, as one might say, mourn our loss of regard for the traditional relationship and what it can come to mean for a happy marriage filled with runts tugging on our hems.

And such grief is based on the fact that the divorce rate is at about 50 percent, casually cohabiting couples are more common than ever, and child-rearing without marriage is an occurrence for which my generation does not double take.

But I wonder – couldn’t there be an advantage in feeling comfortable with less traditional modes of romance-seeking? Aren’t we, as we move toward labeling less and exploring more, giving ourselves more possibility for finding happiness?

...Our current social condition has piloted the freedom for people to weigh their options. We are more disposed to sampling alternative forms of relationships, whether it be a monogamous, polyamorous, or casual one – but above all, ideally a life-altering one.

...Perhaps we’re moving toward an environment wherein we truly believe in the plausibility of several successful relationships. A broken heart is easier to deal with if we aren’t living under the threaded belief that we will encounter one real love in one real lifetime.

Whatever your opinion, these changes are happening and are thus inevitable. Opposing the tide doesn’t allow for victory – rather, you’re simply in for a slower loss. To embrace our fluidity toward relationships is to also embrace the grander trend – that societal norms are molded from the changes we see in the human condition, not the other way around.

So, in the spirit of Hallmark holidays, embrace your relationship for what it is – certainly not what it “should be.”


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February 13, 2011

Dumbness on Valentine's Day

AOL News

A mass-market article with a huge readership features a bit of education and then a couple of self-declared former polyamorists who never got it. Nor does the author, nor his editor.

How to Handle Valentine's Day When You're Polyamorous

By David Moye

...Because Valentine's Day is the day picked to celebrate romance, couples in all types of relationships plan different types of events -- even swingers and polyamorists.

But while monogamous couples might think of going out for a fancy dinner, swingers might use the occasion as a chance to enjoy the company of each other and other partners, according to journalist George Pappas who researched swingers for an erotic novel called "Monogamy Sucks" (Lazy Day Publishing).

...On the other hand, there is another sexual subset that handles Valentine's Day in a different way: Polyamorists.

Often confused with swingers, they actually are very different from each other, according to [swinger Angye] Fox.

"Swingers might hook up with another couple for sex one night and never see each other again," she said. "On the other hand, when polyamorists get involved with other people, it's an emotional attachment and they are involved in each other's lives beyond sex."

One of these polyamorists is Dr. Patti Evans, a mental health therapist and a doctor of oriental medicine in Tampa, Fla. She is also Fox's co-host on their radio show.

Although she is happily married to her husband, the two are involved with another couple and, recently, she started a side relationship with another man.

Since Evans is emotionally attached to all these people, she admits that she and the others are forced to do some calendar juggling around Feb. 12, 13 and 14.

"We're getting together with our 'poly couple' on the 12th, and the 13th will be spent with my paramour and the 14th will be with my husband," Evans recounted. "My slogan is 'Love is limitless, but time is not.' "

Sharing the love and the quality time is all well and good for a polyamorist like Evans, but buying flowers, candy or jewelry for four other people can add up to a lot of cash.

Luckily, in her case, her relationships are built on love, not lucre.

So far so good. And then...

...Former polyamorist Joshua Pellicer, before settling down with the woman of his dreams, dated as many as seven women at a time.

"For some reason, I could never get past that number," he said, adding that he was always upfront about his polyamory from the git-go.

He admits that Valentine's Day can be hard on guys who are dating just one women, but says having seven ladies in your life to satisfy can be, well, complicated.

"Women have a stronger emotional connection to Valentine's Day," he told AOL News. "For guys, it's just a day to comply with what's expected. So when you're dating seven women, you have to make seven women feel special."

Pellicer says practicing polyamory is not easy, and wonders how many of the people who claim themselves as "polyamorists" are sincere.

"It seems like a lot of people who do it are just kinky and some guys who say they are just cheating on a lot of women at once," he said.

...During Pellicer's polyamorous period, money was often tight, so he had to rely on creative methods to avoid getting flat busted on Valentine's Day.

"To make this work, you have to find out a woman's love language," he said. "There are five styles: Some women need quality time, while others prefer acts of service or words of affirmation while still others respond to touch and others just want gifts.

"The keys is to use this love language, but call it out, like, 'I am busy on Valentine's Day, but I'd like to spend quality time with you on the 13th, or 'In honor of Valentine's Day, I wrote you this poem.'"

Former polyamorist Seif-Eldeine Och says if you're not serious about anyone, don't ask them to do something on Valentine's Day because it sends the signal that you are.

..."I remember dating two women and, sometimes, I would be on a date with one and we'd run into the other," he said. "It only made them pursue me harder."

"If you don't have someone you want to be exclusive with, say you're not seeing anyone on Valentine's Day, because otherwise you're sending the signal to them that you want to be more serious," he said.

Read the whole article (Feb. 7, 2011).

I'll hand the mike over to Dan Savage, who also saw the article, so he can reply to this old-paradigm crap:

I'm pro-poly and I vote. But—

Describing yourself or your relationships as "poly" implies that there's something more than sex going on. It implies that there's something loving and nurturing and mutually supportive about your relationships. "Poly" doesn't mean "tons of sex with tons of people." So while a person may be able to casually date seven people at once, while a person can have seven fuckbuddies or FWBs on speed dial (or more), a person really can't "be with" seven people at once in the having-an-actual-relationship sense of "be with."... So that doesn't sound poly to me. It just sounds... ambitious.

And if you become a "former polyamorist" the moment your dream woman comes along, well, maybe you weren't really poly at all. Maybe you were just, you know, playing the field, sowing your wild oats, slutting around, etc. No need to attach a $10 word to that. Just call it what it is.

Read his whole post (also Feb. 7).


While we're at it, here's a cute Something Positive cartoon about the elementary-school Valentine's Day ritual that you may still have cringy memories about.

Another comic, of poly Valentine's dilemmas, from Poly in Pictures.

Someone forwarded me this poly Valentine's card, though the one on the left seems in need of a little extra care and attention from the others right now.

And regarding the endocrinology of Valentine's Day, here's a sober look at what the "bonding hormone" oxytocin actually does and does not do, from Live Science. (TL;DR: Oxytocin is a hormone, not a magic potion; its expressions in humans are complex and chemical, not simple and spiritual.) At the article's end:

...And what of "liquid trust," now selling at $30 for a quarter-ounce and citing [Paul] Zak's research as evidence that spraying yourself with an odorless formula can bring success in business and in bed?

"It's totally bunk," Zak said.


February 11, 2011

"I’ve covered some strange stories, but this is one of the most mind-blowing."

Edmonton Sun

A columnist for one of Canada's large chain newspapers admits she has trouble handling reality, does some straight reporting but can't be bothered to look up the difference between polyamory and polygamy, then expects her subjects to carry the burden for her reality-handling problem.

Nevertheless, this is a good piece of publicity for the busy people in the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, and for their position on the reference case now before British Columbia's Supreme Court testing the legality of Canada's very broad anti-polygamy law. The 1890s law, unenforced for decades but now being dusted off, criminalizes not just patriarchal Mormon polygamy (its original intent) but also polyamorous households if they are "conjugal" — a word the law leaves undefined except to specify that it does not require sex.

Three's Company for Polyamorous Edmontonians

By Mindelle Jacobs

Marilyn, a stay-at-home mother and polygamist, has a dilemma. Who to sleep with on Valentine’s Day? Her husband or her boyfriend?

I’ve covered some strange stories over the years but this is one of the most mind-blowing.

I’m sitting in a Jasper Avenue cafe with Marilyn, her husband, Harry, and her other lover, Bob. (I’m using pseudonyms.)

The three plan to go out for a Valentine’s dinner together next weekend, but who gets to have sex with Marilyn?

“I don’t know. I haven’t been told yet,” quips Harry.

Retorts Marilyn, pretend-checking her PDA. “I make no promises. I have no idea,” she laughs. “Probably nobody,” she says seconds later, since Valentine’s Day is a Monday and she’s got to be up early to get the kids to school.

...Marilyn e-mailed me after reading a recent column I wrote in which I criticized a law professor for urging that polygamy be decriminalized.

“As a mother and wife, I firmly believe in the protection of women and children,” she wrote. “As an individual who identifies as polyamorous … and is involved in a consensual relationship with not only my spouse but also with another man, I strongly disagree with (the ban on polygamy).”

She wondered if I’d like to chat. Well, sure. After all, you don’t (knowingly) meet polygamists every day. The back story is that Marilyn and Harry have been married for 12 years. Harry and Bob have known each other since junior high.

A couple of years ago, Marilyn met a polygamous trio (a man and two women) and, as she explained: “Something just resonated with me.”

She compares her awakening polyamorous sensibility to someone realizing he or she is gay. “It was a very interesting process coming out to myself,” she says. “I realized something very deep about myself — that this kind of relationship makes sense to me. This is who I am.”

Marilyn bumped into Bob one day and opened up to him about her feelings. She wondered if Bob was interested in experimenting with polygamy, or polyamory, as she prefers to call it.

“It kind of weirded me out in some respects,” admits Bob, who is separated and raising kids of his own. “It’s not something I ever expected to pursue.”...

...The kids in the two households are too young to know what’s going on but they may figure it out one day. “If the legalities of this were different, I’d probably be much more open with my children,” says Marilyn.

She’d like polygamy either legalized or the Criminal Code section narrowed so proof of exploitation is required for a conviction.

Sorry, Marilyn. While I can’t imagine the police busting up your polygamous party, I don’t want Canada to be a beacon for the cause. Overall, polygamy causes immense harm to women. Why encourage it?


Read the whole article (Feb. 6, 2011).

Meanwhile in the B.C. court, the evidence-presenting part of the trial has just ended and the case has been adjourned until March 28th, when closing arguments will begin. TV cameras will be allowed into the courtroom then. Check for recent news updates.

Whichever way the judge decides, the next step is almost certain to be Canada's federal Supreme Court, and then perhaps a political fight in Parliament over rewriting the law. The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association continues to need donations and volunteers to keep being heard in this process. I just donated, so I feel fine asking you to as well.

Poly house-party fundraisers are also being planned across Canada and perhaps elsewhere, with help from the folks at Modern Poly in the U.S.



February 10, 2011

A therapist for polyfolks speaks out

Chico News & Review

For its Valentine's-week issue, a long-established alternative paper in northern California profiles a local marriage and family therapist who specializes in poly relationships.

Polyamory: Love, multiplied

Counseling people who have more than one partner

By Christine G.K. LaPado

On a list of specialties that includes life coaching, relationship issues, sex therapy and spirituality, local marriage and family therapist Adrienne Parker-Morano also includes polyamory.

Say what?

...Polyamory, explained Parker-Morano, means “having more than one love.” Marriage to one of those lovers may or may not have anything to do with it.

“I think that we’re all polyamorous,” said the statuesque 56-year-old, seated in her office on the fourth floor of the Waterland-Breslauer building in downtown Chico. Parker-Morano is married to widely known local musician Jerry Morano (see “Keeping Chico’s beat,” CN&R, Jan. 13, 2011), and is the proud grandmother of “a passel” of grandkids.

“We all love more than one person,” she offered. “It’s the possibility, the potential, the option to have more than one relationship that distinguishes polyamory.

...“It’s important to understand,” she added, “that the focus is on the intimate love relationship, not on the sex. It’s really all about love, although sex is an option.”

Parker-Morano said that approximately three-fourths of her clients “are dealing with polyamory [issues].” Clients often “come out of the woodwork,” she said, and from as far away as Sacramento and towns north of Chico. Parker-Morano said she receives “a lot of referrals” from other therapists who do not have the expertise in the field of polyamory that she does.

Most of her clients, she said, “are married, but most are not monogamous, or if they are, they are contemplating opening up their relationship. Maybe they’re trying to be monogamous, or are having affairs, cheating, sick of lying, and are saying, ‘How can we open up our marriage without deceit, lying or hiding?’ ”

...She spoke of the frequency in the poly world of people who have a “primary” partner — often a legal spouse with whom they raise children and share finances — and a “secondary” relationship. In such an arrangement, a person’s “first and foremost responsibility is to the primary relationship,” said Parker-Morano, adding that’s it’s “not a hierarchy of love, but rather a hierarchy of time and energy.”

She recommends that married polyamorous couples “make a conscious effort to renew their vows yearly, and have their vows reflect their evolved views” of the relationship, so that things remain open and honest.

Parker-Morano said she first became aware of polyamory in the early 1980s when she was attending a conference and met a “quad” — two women and two men living together as a “polyfidelitous” — or “polyexclusive” — entity....

“I was intrigued from that point on,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow — people can actually be in more than one loving relationship at a time, and they tell the truth.’ ” Parker-Morano said she was impressed by the “openheartedness and the inclusiveness” of polyamory.

...“Polyamory offers people another choice,” she said. “Polyamory is a lot about maintaining relationships. As a therapist, that is one of my personal biases. Not that I am opposed to divorce — sometimes it’s the right thing. But I definitely do have a bias to sustaining the relationship. Sometimes they just need to switch things up a bit. Or a lot.”

...“Whether you’re monogamous or nonmonogamous, you have to keep to your agreement,” Parker-Morano summed up. “If your agreement is you’re going to be monogamous, you better darn well be monogamous. But if your agreement is you’re going to have more than one sexual partner, you’re not cheating.”

“I freely admit — it’s complicated. There’s no blueprint,” she said. “If you’re a person who likes things simple, polyamory probably isn’t for you. Polyamory takes a lot of emotional maturity, and it’s not for everyone.”

Read the whole article, with photo (Feb. 10, 2011).



February 9, 2011

"How Not to Have an Open Relationship"

The Stranger (Seattle)

Mistress Matisse provides more alternative-newspaper poly advice:

Control Tower

How Not to Have an Open Relationship

...So here's Flawed Polyamory Strategy Number 11: Evolution Theory.

Chris and Pat fall in love. Along the way, having an open relationship is discussed. Chris says, "Okay, but I want to be monogamous for a while. Just until we feel secure in our relationship." Pat agrees to this.

Time passes, and Pat feels attracted to other people. However, because of the agreement, Pat doesn't act on the feelings or tell Chris about them. Then one day, Pat meets someone and thinks, "Wow." And says to Chris, "Remember how we said we'd open up our relationship eventually? I think it's time."

Chris knows Pat is bringing this up because he's attracted to a particular person. What usually happens now: Chris gets upset. Yes, Chris agreed to maybe opening the relationship someday. But if Pat wants to change their comfortable state of monogamy right now, then he must be head over heels about this interloper. That makes Chris feel insecure. Therefore, Chris says, their relationship is clearly not ready to be open....

The monogamy-now, polyamory-later trap seems seductively reasonable, and I've seen many well-intentioned people fall into it....

If you know you want an open relationship, stick to that from the beginning. Make agreements about it while it's still an abstract concept....

Read the whole column (Feb. 8, 2011).

And if you missed her recent column on the Dunning-Kruger effect among couples seeking hot bi babes, here it is (Nov. 30, 2010). (Don't know the Dunning-Kruger effect? Understanding it will help you get through life sensibly, says me the science guy.)


February 8, 2011

Poly and Loving More on local TV news

Action News, WPVI-TV Channel 6 Philadelphia

Last Friday afternoon as people arrived at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Philadelphia for the Poly Living conference, they encountered a camera crew from the local ABC TV affiliate packing up to leave. Channel 6 News had wanted to film people at the conference for a segment about couples in open marriages. Instead, Loving More director Robyn Trask arranged with them to film volunteers in a controlled setting before the conference began.

The segment aired last night at 11. I wasn't thrilled. The announcers began and ended with the kind of self-protective statements you sometimes see on these things, to the effect that "this may be shocking for normal people, but these oddballs say it works for them." First up were the black authors Carl and Kenya Stevens, a husband-and-wife team, who got out brief snips of their story:

Carl: ..."Right now, I only have one girlfriend—"

Kenya: "And I have one boyfriend."

Announcer: "Yes, a proudly monogamous couple for more than a decade, Carl and Kenya opened their marriage three years ago, still in love with each other, but dating, even falling in love with other people, too. Jealousy? They say it's not an issue."

Kenya: "I am excited if my mate is having pleasure or joy or ecstasy outside the relationship."

Announcer: "The Exton native and his wife don't suggest their lifestyle is for everyone, but they say it's definitely for them, though it may seem odd. The Stevens say there are no secrets between them. Their open relationship is an honest one. And they think monogamous couples can follow their lead when it comes to communication."

Then the scene cuts to the hotel lobby with many Poly Living attendees happily embracing and greeting, sometimes in multiples.

Announcer: "This past weekend, Philadelphia played host to the 6th annual Loving More Convention, organized by Robyn Trask, who used to own a wedding chapel, and now calls herself poly-amorous.

Trask: "I want people to know there's a choice. Monogamy is great for a lot of people, but for some people it's not."

Announcer: "To be clear, they say this is not 'swinging.' It's not about sex, they insist, but about love, and allowing themselves to experience as much of it as possible."

And that was it for Loving More and poly philosophy. Next up was the standard clueless therapist, saying "I actually think they are all destined to fail, one way or another. I don't think that's realistic at all."

My take: superficial, defensive, over in a blink. How did the show manage to be so cursory for four whole minutes?

However, a few crucial images got out during those blinks: a happy, articulate, successful open couple; the Loving More crowd embracing and delighting in one another; Robyn delivering one key line. So, better than nothing and coulda been worse. A few viewers will flash on those images and realize that there's something important for them going on here.

Watch the video and read the transcript (Feb. 7, 2011).

P.S.: This segment followed a sad news report about a woman murdered downtown allegedly by her jealous former boyfriend, and a sad report on former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and his wife splitting up with a mention of longtime rumors about his affairs. I'm sure the irony escaped the newscasters.



February 6, 2011

Atlanta Poly Weekend organizers in the news

Georgia Voice

Next month, polyfolks in Atlanta will convene the first-ever weekend polyamory convention in the heart of the Deep South (as far as I know). Atlanta Poly Weekend takes place March 25–27 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel – Atlanta Airport. Its key organizer is Billy Holder of the triad Pocket, Billy and Jeremy, "PB&J". On Friday he got their triad, and the event, into the biweekly Georgia Voice, "the news outlet of record for the state’s LGBT communities and their allies".

Writes Billy, "This is the first ever interview I have done."

Is Atlanta a hotbed for polyamory?

By Dyana Bagby

Atlanta polyamorous scene growing.

[Billy] Holder was looking through a kitchen drawer searching for his barbecue tools. He was about to cook dinner for his wife, Melissa, and their boyfriend, Jeremy, following an afternoon at the park.

Holder and Melissa have been married 14 years and have two teens and a six-year old child. They live a polyamorous lifestyle — not to be confused with polygamy, which means marrying more than one person, or even “swinging,” because, they explain, polyamory is about love first, not sex. Generally, polyamory can be defined as open, honest non-monogamous relationships.

After watching [his] brother go through a horrible divorce, Holder said [he and Melissa] sat down to discuss ways to not ever let that happen to them. The answer was to form a new way of loving — to be open and honest about other lovers.

...While living in Georgia before his primary family moved here, Holder met Jeremy...at a camping festival.

“We clicked and I figured he would click with my wife,” Holder says. ‘No sneaking around, no lying, no cheating.’

Holder, who identifies as bisexual, introduced his wife to Jeremy two years ago. He has private — including sexual — time with Jeremy as well as with his wife. Melissa also has a sexual relationship with Jeremy. But all three are quick to point out that polyamory is not about being promiscuous.

“The biggest misconception is that love equals sex. You can completely love someone without having intercourse,” Holder says.

Jeremy lives in Alabama and visits Holder on the weekends and holidays. Jeremy also has a girlfriend in Alabama.

“We’re a lot more open. There is no sneaking around, no lying, no cheating, because having that level of communication is huge. Even for monogamous couples, having a strong level of open communication is important,” Holder says. “There’s nothing too big we can’t talk about.”

...Wanting to connect with more “poly” people in Georgia and Atlanta, especially with poly people with children, Holder founded [Atlanta Polyamory Meetup]. The group currently has 150 members and continues to grow, he said.

There is enough interest for the group to host the first annual Atlanta Poly Weekend March 25–27. The event includes speakers, workshops, [a steampunk band], and time to socialize.

One of those speakers is Dr. Elizabeth Sheff, an assistant professor at Georgia State University. Sheff focuses her research on sexuality, gender, family, deviance and communities. One area she specializes in is the poly (short for polyamorous) community, specifically a long-range study on polyamorous families with children.

While Atlanta may be a hotbed for polyamorous people, there is not a well-organized community as can be seen in cities like San Francisco or Seattle.

“For the life of me I can’t figure out why, especially because Atlanta is such a magnet for other sexual minorities. The kink scene, for example, is well developed. There is a well-established gay and lesbian community and a burgeoning transgender community,” she said.

Gay men do have non-monogamous relationships, she said, but they don’t consider it polyamorous.

“Gay men invented non-monogamy,” she said. [Elizabeth was surely joking, but the writer didn't get this across.]

Sheff remembers asking a gay friend who was in a long-term relationship with his boyfriend but who also had outside lovers why he didn’t consider himself poly. He told her, “We don’t need another label for something we’re already doing.”...

For another side of the coin, the article goes on to profile a monogamous black gay couple. "...Gates acknowledged he is the jealous type — something that has to be dealt with carefully in polyamorous relationships — and can’t imagine Aaron with someone else. He also wants to prove to the world that two black gay men can be in a loving relationship, something he says is not visible in society."...

Read the whole article (Feb. 4, 2010) [The excerpt above includes minor corrections/additions.] See also Atlanta Poly Weekend's Facebook page and Polyamory Southeast, which includes a list of other southeastern poly groups.

The organizers have taken a gamble by setting the conference price ambitiously low. Registration is $50, and rooms are $82 a night. To break even at that rate, Atlanta Poly Weekend will have to sell a large block of rooms that it has promised the hotel. I wouldn't want to be on the losing end of that bet. If you're coming, be sure to book a room in the "Atlanta Poly Weekend block," which gets you the special rate.

I'll be there. Hope to see you!


Poly Living East. Coincidentally, I'm writing this on the train home from the Poly Living Conference that was just put on by Loving More at a fine new hotel in Philadelphia. The weekend was a great success — excellent workshops and presentations, lots of the best-hearted people I know, old friends to reconnect with, new friends to discover, loving new-culture community, a nonsexual Cuddle Party, a decidedly sexual room party that people put together in a suite privately, lots of exchanging of life stories, advice, and email addresses. About 100 people registered, enough that Loving More broke even and then some. Loving More still faces cash-flow problems for the office, phones, and services it maintains year-round; it needs your membership.

I've already booked a spot at Loving More's next event in the East: its weekend conference/retreat at Easton Mountain north of Albany, New York, September 9th to 11th.


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Recent Poly Books, 2:
What Does Polyamory Look Like?

Six new books on polyamory have come out in the last year or so (in English), as far as I know. In July I reviewed Deborah Anapol's Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners. It's high time I got on with the others. They are:

What Does Polyamory Look Like? Polydiverse Patterns of Loving and Living in Modern Polyamorous Relationships, by Mim Chapman (iUniverse, August 2010).

Love Unlimited: The Joys and Challenges of Open Relationships, by Leonie Linssen and Stephan Wik (Findhorn Press, August 2010).

Swinging in America: Love, Sex and Marriage in the 21st Century, by Curtis R. Bergstrand and Jennifer Blevins Sinski (Praeger, November 2009).

Love in Abundance: A Counselor's Guide to Open Relationships, by Kathy Labriola (Greenery Press, October 2010).

The Art and Etiquette of Polyamory: A Hands-on Guide to Open Sexual Relationships, by Françoise Simpère (Skyhorse Publishing, February 2011).

I hope to get to all of them in the coming weeks.


Let's start with What Does Polyamory Look Like?

Mim Chapman is one of the liveliest presenters I've met at poly conferences. She's a former Alaskan fishing-boat captain, marine salvager, civil rights activist, schoolteacher, middle-school principal, creator and star of the "Vagina-Penis Dialogues," board member of Loving More and of Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, lifelong observer of the poly world, and all-around character. If you saw the six-foot-tall vulva costume walking around Burning Man, that was her inside it.

"I really wrote this book to expand our vocabulary," she told the crowd at a book-signing dinner at the Poly Living conference in Seattle in October 2010. "I've discovered there can be as much difference between two visions of poly — two ways of doing it — as there is between poly and mono. And if I didn't have a vocabulary to explain my vision of polyamory, there were probably other people in the same boat."

To fill this need, the book describes "five of the more common relationship formats that I've observed in the poly world," gives them cute names and initials, and devotes a chapter to each. They are:

P: Plural Poly Pairs. This is the most common form. It's the one in which a couple, usually a husband and wife, remains primary. One type of Plural Poly Pair is the open marriage, in which two life-bonded people also have secondary pairings. But the category, as Mim defines it, includes anyone who prefers to stick with dyads (regardless of how many of them), with each being its own entity and not having much to do with the others. "Think of the things that change for you when 'I' becomes 'me and thee,' " Chapman explained to the audience. "Yes, you lose some freedom. But you have that wealth of having another mind, another body, another outlook on the world." "P" people experience a variety of separate partners bringing their different outlooks and experiences of life.

O: Old Fashioned Grok. Chapman calls this the "We Poly" model: a circle of people all in it together, a communal group like Stranger in a Strange Land waterbrothers. In such a group, Chapman said, "when things interact they build on each other exponentially." (For both joy and misery, I might add.) This is her own poly dream situation, and mine too. People live together as family, or nearly so, often sharing resources, child rearing, each other, and pretty much all of life. New members are brought in by consensus. Members of the group often have little time or inclination to pursue outside relationships.

L: The Loving Triad. Think of a Grok circle of just three. Sexually it's likely to be a vee rather than an equilateral triangle; even in the bisexual-rich poly world, the odds (at least on paper) are only 15 to 20 percent that two random same-sex people in a triad will both be bi [1]. But regardless, in this model the two ends of the vee share a kinship bond as chosen family. Like a larger "O" Grok circle, they may live together and share finances and child-rearing. The Loving Triad may enlarge into an "O" or split out into a "P," but Chapman claims that it's generally the most stable poly form.

Y: Yikes — Lots of Poly. Most people call this "network poly." It seems to be the fastest-growing kind, and it's the variety that seems to me to be the most stable overall. In this model a partner is likely have other partners who have others who have others, in a large relationship web or "polycule." Much of the network may all socialize together, so that even people with several degrees of separation know each other as part of the community. With so many relationships in the network, some are likely to be forming and ending at any given time, but a large enough network can absorb such readjustments without breaking — especially because network poly necessarily puts a high premium on good behavior and getting along well with exes. Gossip spreads, and someone who violates those norms tends to find him- or herself left out in the cold. Sometimes, close examination will show that there's a core person or group making the network cohere.

S: Sensuous Poly Snakes. This is a less interlocked version of a network. Think of an N, a W, or longer zigzags. Person A is linked to B who's linked to C who's linked to D, and so on. Beyond two or three degrees of separation, people may have little or no knowledge of each other.

For each of these five models, Chapman gives detailed accounts of what she has seen over the years: the benefits of the model, its characteristic difficulties, the agreement issues that it tends to involve (such as STI protections and protocols), the most effective ways of introducing new members, the model's particular etiquette, and the ways it most commonly morphs into another form.

I found this systematic comparison rather clarifying. It will certainly help newbies understand what to realistically expect and, more importantly, help them decide what they're actually looking for. When someone just says "You're poly? I'm poly too!", this doesn't come close to telling the things you need to know about their actual goals, hopes, and expectations.

The book's next chapter, "Choices: Dreams, Fantasies, Life Goals," addresses this problem head-on. Poly life comes in so many forms that each relationship is a do-it-yourself construction. Are you a free-agent poly single? Look for positions as a secondary to "P" couples or part of a "Y" network, suggests Chapman. Are you a family-formation poly, with dreams of a shared home, lives, and kids? Look for fellow "O" and "L" polys. Are you okay with a partner taking a new lover without consulting you, or not? Do you adore puppy-pile sleeping arrangements, or do you find more-than-twosomes distracting? Ask.

Chapman ends with practical strategies for collaborative decision making, and some fun celebrations and rituals — including the fluid-bonding ceremony she and her two triad partners performed together in 2002. "Props: 1 condom, unrolled; 3 candles; a lighter or matches; scissors; a bottle of wine or water; a nice pottery cup; background music; video camera; cell phone." Read the book to learn how it went.


You can read the first several pages online at Amazon.

An excerpt from a little farther in:

Polyamory is sometimes described as many ways of loving, not just many loves.

...In the first chapter, I shared my personal history and how I discovered the word polyamory. Unfortunately, once I discovered the word, I had a precise picture of poly in my mind. It was what I’d been fantasizing about and working toward for my entire adult life.... My dream was of five or maybe seven loving people living in a big round house where each person had a small private space linked to the inner common living room, kitchen, library and music room.... Together, we’d learn and love and brainstorm great plans....

Then I actually met some poly people, and fell in love with a couple who also knew exactly what poly looked like, and it wasn’t my hippie commune!

At a poly conference in California, I met a charming polyamorous man who fell in love with me.... He also knew exactly what poly looked like... him and two hot bi babes who would live with him on his sailboat and be sister galley slaves. There would be no debate or conflict, because they would love and obey their wonderful Master, and together they’d sail the world in euphoric bliss.

In doing relationship coaching with a wide variety of couples across the country, I’m starting to hypothesize that the difference between the dreams and goals of two people with different visions of polyamory can be just as far apart as the difference between two people whose dreams are of monogamy and of polyamory. Not only are the goals diverse, but the partnership agreements, the commitments, and the social etiquette related to things such as how a new person is brought into relationship all vary with the type of poly relationship.

...As I got to know more people and to see the types of relationships they had formed, some patterns started to emerge. I realized that if we became aware of the rich diversity within poly and had a vocabulary to describe the types of poly relationship models that we wanted, we would more readily be able to communicate our dreams to potential new partners, and to ourselves.

Here's another review of the book, by a type "L" guy in an MFM triad who consider themselves married. He runs the blog Polyandry Press.


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February 3, 2011

"Changing Families: from Traditional to Whatever Works?"

Baystate Parent

"Massachusetts' premier magazine for families," a free monthly that claims to be distributed at over 1,000 outlets, includes polyfamilies as a small but noteworthy part of the evolving future of family structures.

By Doug Page

Is there a married couple out there that would ever guess that the day they bring home that bundle of joy from the hospital, they’re a minority?

...Only about 20 percent of American adults... are married, living with their spouse, and, together, bringing up a child or children to which they both have a biological connection.

...The myriad of living situations any adult can be in is countless. But one thing is for sure — the traditional household, where a married mom and dad live together and are bringing up kids they conceived, is falling.

...About 23 million children, almost a third of all kids in the United States, are growing up with a single parent. And about 3 million of these children, reports the Census Bureau, live not only with a single parent but also with their parent’s partner.

...In addition, it’s estimated, from various media outlets, that between 1 and 9 million children are raised by gay couples in the United States.

But alternative lifestyles don’t stop with gay parents.

It’s estimated that about 40,000 Americans live in polygamist families, and, in what might be considered the last social barrier to be crossed, polyamorists, adults who carry more than one open romantic relationship at a time, are bringing up children too, even in Massachusetts.

...“The family structure has been changing rapidly,” says Andrea Press, a sociologist at the University of Virginia. “There are so many unorthodox-looking families compared to 10, 20 or even 30 years ago.”...

The FIRST alternative lifestyle?

Before gay couples came along, the country’s first alternative lifestyle was likely polygyny, or plural marriage involving a husband with more than one wife....

“Suppose you’re a woman alone with children. You’re a Mormon. Then you find a Mormon family with the same beliefs as you, and these women (the wives) are great,” says Janet Bennion, an anthropologist at Lyndon State College in Vermont, who lived with polygynists for four years and authored a book, Women of Principle: Female Networking in Contemporary Mormon Polygny....

The LAST social frontier?

It’s hard to define the typical polyamorous union because it can involve few or many adults living together or apart, sometimes married, sometimes not.

“A lot of people outside of the polyamory community think these relationships are all about sex. It’s not. It’s about family,” says Robyn Trask, managing director of Loving More, a polyamorous educational group in Loveland, Colorado, who estimates that between 150,000 – 200,000 Americans live in polyamorous relationships.

“One of the advantages of polyamorous families is that you can have two incomes while one parent stays home with the children,” Trask says.

“The extended sense of family is one of the things that attracts people to polyamorous families,” she says. “It’s more hands to help. It is shared resources.

“The nuclear family isolates people, and when you think about this economy, it’s hard to survive, especially if you have two parents working and the kids are in daycare,” Trask says.

In addition, says Trask, it’s difficult for any one wife or husband to meet all of their spouse’s needs.

“It’s a little naïve to think that one person can fill all of your emotional, physical and spiritual needs,” she says.

In Massachusetts, there are at least three polyamorous groups with an online membership of nearly 1,000 people, says Tara Shakti-Ma, who’s active in the polyamory community.

In a Boston suburb, Victoria, who requested anonymity, cares full-time for her two children, both under 10 years old, while the other two adults in the polyamorous family, which includes the children’s other mother and their father, work.

She’s known the couple for 16 years, lived with them for 14, and says family life is no different than anyone else’s. “We take out the garbage, do the recycling and review the kids’ homework,” Victoria says.

The adult relationships are about “egalitarianism, full disclosure and informed consent.”

“You don’t practice this lifestyle under any false sense of gender entitlement,” she added....

Read the whole article (Feb. 1, 2011).

P.S.: One crucial family statistic that the article left out: Forty percent of American children are now born out of wedlock (see page 3 of the link, top right).