Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

April 30, 2011

Glimmers of poly in the Philippines

Philippine Online Chronicles

If you wonder what today's Catholic Church would do if it were larger and stronger, look at the Philippines, where it is. Divorce is outlawed; many Filipino couples live outside the law in second partnerships without legal, financial, or property protection. The Church has partly succeeded in stamping out birth control, especially by the one-third of the Filipino population officially living in poverty — who don't have the money or connections to get around the anti-contraception regulations. The average woman in this category reportedly has six children and tells pollsters she wanted two. The new president (elected last year) promises to revoke the birth-control restrictions, calling them a major cause of Philippine poverty, backwardness and misery, but despite popular support he faces a furious fight from the Church establishment.

Don't even ask about healthy sex and relationship education.

And yet alternative cultures exist there, sort of.

The Philippine Online Chronicles is a large, quasi-mainstream web magazine funded by an arts-and-education foundation. It calls itself "both a media network and news curator, a platform for alternative viewpoints and a synthesizer of ideas."

Of monogamy, polyamory, swinging and being third party-hardy

By Libay Linsangan Cantor

Since our culture is so hung up on the concept of monogamy, it becomes “natural” for people to condemn individuals who stray from it. It doesn’t matter if you’re LGBTQ or straight or where your geographic location might be. To [all] people, issues that revolve around this concept remain essentially the same, and they react essentially the same way.

Here in the Philippines, the concept of being the third party in a couple is automatically lambasted. Women who find themselves in this position are often branded as traitors, home-wreckers or people who are in the habit of snatching partners. Yes, in short, they are evil.

But what if they’re not? What if, in certain situations, they could also be considered as victims?

In the LBTQ community here in Manila, third party issues also occur in certain spheres but in different contexts compared to the straight circles. Intersecting with the heteronormative world, I have encountered friends and acquaintances — all self-identifying lesbians or bisexual women — who shared stories of pairing up with heterosexual women who already have either a boyfriend or husband. We can only second-guess the reasons why these straight women choose to secretly engage (yes, we were always their secret) with women from our community.... These queer third party people usually end up as the martyrs....

Not that these queer women don’t know what they’re entering.... Sometimes, set-ups like these work for them....

When I first circulated within the Manila lesbian community, the issue of infidelity was the number one topic du jour, and the community is still sensitive about this, actually, up to now. Since the prevailing mode of relationships gear towards homonormativity — meaning being coupled and trying to build a home/family together and stay as partners for x number of years — anyone or anything that mars that homonormative set-up is considered an abomination.

...I guess open relationships would only work if the original couple has enough trust with each other and if they are honest about everything from day one.... If couples are amenable to also introducing all parties involved in their setup, then there is no need to identify a certain individual in an oppressive hierarchical fashion as “the third party” – even if the rest of queer society would look at them that way, I’m sure.

...Some people merely dismiss polyamory as being promiscuous in this country, so I guess we really have a long way to go when it comes to such non-monogamous unions to flourish. I guess most Filipinos don’t want to share that easily....

In the end, regardless of what relationship setup a queer woman chooses — as long as it’s a healthy relationship, that is — her community should be supportive of that.... If we are truly fighting against discrimination against us, then perhaps the first thing we should do is not to discriminate against each other when it comes to our individual relationship setup preferences. Let’s walk the talk, shall we?

Libay Linsangan Cantor is a media practitioner, a film school professor and a Palanca-award winning fictionist. She blogs at leaflens.blogspot.com and leaflenspopmedia.wordpress.com.

Read the whole article (April 25, 2011).

On the same site, a day later:

It's complicated: Third party issues, open relationships, and love

For the past several years, I have been unable to label the kind of relationship I am in. No single word seems appropriate when talking about my relationship status. Even the term “it’s complicated” seem not enough. It’s that complicated.

... A fact of life; I will always be in her life and she will always be in mine, a constant third party that no one can shake or replace.... And all these time, not really talking about what we meant to each other. It was as if there was an unwritten yet understood rule that we were not to talk about it.

Maybe the closest description would be an open relationship.... On one of those rare moments when we actually talked about what we had, she said she was amazed of the fact that after all these years, and after the number of people who has come and gone, we still find ourselves in each other’s company....

Read the whole article (April 26, 2011).

A heartfelt introduction to a blog article:

Polyamory — Is It for You?

Because of the basically Catholic upbringing of Pinoys [Filipinos] — which, in itself, is already bad enough — we were brought up that sex is a bad thing [no, it's not!!], that it can only be used for procreation, that we can only have one and only one life partner, that, once married, we are committed to this person "till death do us part", and that we cannot have more than one relationship, sexual or otherwise, with anyone else anymore — because of this very strict upbringing, men most specially hide their "other" relationships from their girlfriends or wives for fear of reprisal from them and from the community they belong in....

Enter polyamory—

And then the rest of the article has been deleted from the server.

Another sad blogger, who found some poly FAQs overseas:

...I am also actually trying to be polyamorous, the problem is that here in the Philippines, it’s hard to find a female who will agree to that.

I’m very happy, though, that some people elsewhere can find people who are just like them. Who can not only understand them, but can also mingle and share the same belief as they do.

Count your blessings, people.


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April 28, 2011

Student poly stories

Whitman Pioneer (WA)
Sacramento State Hornet (CA)
Portland State Vanguard (OR)
Smith Sophian (MA)

Time for another roundup of polyamory discussions in college newspapers.

● In today's Whitman Pioneer at Whitman College in the state of Washington:

Partnered Monogamy: Is there an alternative?

By A. Cuard

...The form that these relationships take can vary greatly. Some people may form a fairly traditional relationship between two people but designate it as an ‘open’ relationship.... Some people form ‘primary’ partnerships and then pursue secondary relationships outside of that. Others pursue and form several long-term and short-term relationships with multiple people, without designating any as primary or secondary.

...For people who choose non-monogamy as a permanent relationship choice, it may involve levels of commitment similar to long-term monogamous relationships.

So why bother with non-monogamy?

Under the current model of monogamy, we accept that there is a natural difference between ‘relationships’ and ‘friendships’ that allows us to treat our romantic partners differently than our friends. As a friend, I have very little control over who my friends form relationships with and the shape those relationships take. But this changes with ‘romantic relationships’....

As opposed to friendships, there is apparently a limit on how much romantic love or intimacy a person can occupy at one time, and it is assumed that if you are in a romantic relationship with one person, you cannot be in an equally meaningful relationship with someone else....

This idea of ownership or ‘belonging’ to one other person might feel comforting and natural for many people, but for others, including myself, this type of possessiveness and jealousy limits my ability to function as a self-determining individual.

...Non-monogamy offers a way for people to find intimacy and commitment in relationships regardless of whether they involve sex. At the same time, it lessens the pressure to be jealous and possessive, because individuals in non-monogamous relationships don’t ‘belong’ to one other person the way that monogamously partnered couples do....

Read the whole article (April 28, 2011).

● At Cal State Sacramento yesterday, on the website of the State Hornet:

Oral Exam: Open relationships

By Brittany Bradley

...When a friend of mine recently told me she and her boyfriend were considering evolving their monogamous relationship into an open polyamory relationship, I was instantly curious.

Polyamory is an arrangement revolving around the idea that a committed pair of lovers seeks sexual satisfaction with multiple partners outside of the committed relationship with the absence of jealousy and possessiveness. It means that the couple can see and involve themselves in as many sexual or emotional relationships as they choose as long as both are open, honest and communicate efficiently.

However, this recent bout of enlightenment got me wondering ... whatever happened to the threesome?... Are we seeing the dawning of an age in which the threesome has been replaced by complicated relationships with varying levels of commitment?

...Group sex, like all sex, must be approached with responsibility.... If you play your cards right, sex will take on a new existing outlook and your intimacy can survive the whole outcome. Sex can be as much fun as it was when you first got together and the person involved can be someone you've chosen together.

The only issue? Like any other relationship, non-monogamous or otherwise, communication and honesty are the real key to success. If you or anyone involved becomes concerned or uncomfortable, SPEAK UP. Otherwise you'll end up re-enacting a scene from "The Human Centipede"....

...Even if you don't have the taste for polyamory or open relationships, there's no doubt you know or will know someone who does.

Dive in, experiment, push your limits to wherever seems comfortable and you may find you learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible....

Read the whole article (April 27, 2011).

● In the Portland (Oregon) State University Vanguard:


By Kat Audick

Polyamory. A term with which I was completely unfamiliar until moving up to Portland.... For a while I let this mysterious concept sit on the back burner in my mind, until I realized that this polyamory thing is perhaps more common than I thought.

Is it just sleeping with a lot of people? Or labeling multiple individuals as your "significant other" or "significant others," for that matter?... Ask around and you'll likely find that depending upon whom you talk to (who identifies as polyamorous), the meaning can differ quite a bit.

...There definitely seems to have been a strong resurgence of the concept only recently among college-age folk — at least from my observations. Portland happens to be one of the cities across the U.S. that is embracing it with open arms....

Before you get too excited, polyamory is not just an idea that means "free sex for everyone" and without obligations. Poly individuals have a similar basis in morals when practicing consensual relationships — they just happen to hold these relationships with more than one person.... Instead of committing to just one girlfriend/boyfriend, they choose to romantically commit to several. If anything, they are over-committal....

Running all over Portland State's campus, I stopped random individuals and asked their thoughts on the subject. Out of a hundred students... 71 said that polyamory didn't bother them. It's also notable that 25 people couldn't present an opinion on polyamory because they had absolutely no previous knowledge of the subject, and only four flat out said that they thought every aspect of polyamory wasn't just wrong for them personally, but that it should not be practiced by anyone. [See poll results chart].

...With how many 20-something friends and acquaintances that I know who identify as polyamorous, it's easy to question if it's just a fad. Much like being a little bi-curious in college can be thrown around as a stereotype — having its heyday when Katy Perry's song "I Kissed a Girl" hit the radio. Polyamory may become more well known and talked about as time goes on. Maybe Perry's next song will be "I Kissed a Girl, and a Boy, and Another Girl, and We All Liked It."

Read the whole article (April 1, 2011).

● At Smith College, known for a strong lesbian community, in The Sophian:

Sex and the Smithie: Hear me out, I'm polyamorous and proud!

Have you ever fallen in love with more than one person at once? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that jealousy might be kind of dumb? Have you ever been sexually attracted to another person while already in a relationship? Congratulations! You're not automatically a bad person — you might just be polyamorous.


...It means "loving many," and although it might seem wrong to combine Greek and Latin roots, it's a legitimate lifestyle choice for many. The basic idea of polyamory is that it is acceptable to have more than one romantic or sexual partner at once, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.


Mind-blowing, scandalous, I know. Disgusting. Counter to the very idea of a relationship. Slutty. An excuse for cheating. Mormon-y? Awful. I'll admit, when I first heard of it, I found it sickening. But hear me out just a little more.

In my, at first rather incidental, education on polyamory, I learned a few things that polyamory is not.

It is not cheating. All partners must be aware of the situation and are involved in creating boundaries for the relationship(s). For this reason, it is also called consensual non-monogamy. It is not a cult plural marriage; partners may be married, committed or just passing through - and many, if not most, polyamorists are not

Polyamory has strong feminist and freethinking roots that allow both men and women to have multiple partners, and all involved parties set guidelines for the relationship that they want, not the one that society dictates.

...In addition to describing a relationship status, "polyamorous" can also describe an orientation. I, for example, currently only date one person, but consider myself poly by orientation and would like to have another partner or two. And my partner is aware of this.

Sound confusing? It is. If you thought monogamous relationships were bad, try balancing two or more partners. Three Valentine's Day cards? Two sets of feelings? Four pains of being in love? Yikes. But all the joy of love is multiplied as well....

...I'm poly. But here's what I'm not: I'm not a slut. I'm not a repressed cult member. I'm not a liar, or a cheat. I'm not sick, immoral or evil.

Here's what I am: I am a devoted girlfriend. I am open and honest in a way I've never been able to imagine before. I am flexible - and I don't just mean physically. And, yes, let's face it, I am countercultural. I am free. I am polyamorous.

The whole article (March 10, 2011).

P.S.: Guess what! I'm interviewed on Minx's current Polyamory Weekly podcast: episode #270. Listen here.


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April 23, 2011

"There’s More Than One Way to Have a Lesbian Relationship"


If you haven't studied Franklin Veaux's Venn diagram of nonmonogamy even now that it's gone viral, you just have no geek cred at all. It may have inspired the flowchart of lesbian relationships that's gone up on Autostraddle ("news, entertainment and girl-on-girl culture"). Autostraddle is an online lesbian magazine that specializes in the brash, radical and sexy. A quality flowchart is brash, radical and sexy, and if you don't understand this you probably don't get xkcd either1, so there.

Start at the "YOU" box at center and see if you end up at "polyamorous." That's where the happiest choices seem to get you.

Here's the article accompanying it:

There’s More Than One Way to Have a Lesbian Relationship

By Andrea

...Perhaps you have, in the recent past, had an intense, intimate, friendly, semi-cordial relationship with another cute/hot/pretty/(insert aesthetic adjective here) person and are now wondering what it could possibly mean.

Hopefully it means that your life is about to get a lot more exciting, filled with lots of adorable chemical reactions that hopefully don’t leave you with any complicated byproducts. There’s no need to worry; hang out with this new girl, go to a concert, make breakfast, cuddle. You don’t have to give in to external pressures of labeling yourselves. You can enjoy yourselves without being monogamous.

...I mean, if the only ‘real’ interactions we had with people were serious relationships and we were otherwise alone, we would probably all be friendless, emotionally distraught hermits.

...Thus I have compiled some possible relationship (or friendship) types for all of you autostraddling lovers and friendlers.

Friendship: Filled with platonic cuddling, honesty, and wonderful adventures....

Ambiguous friendship with a straight girl....

Friends with benefits.... Who doesn’t love hooking up without consequences?

Open relationship: Through my own experience and friends’ experiences here’s what I have learned: open relationships are much like monogamous relationships in that both people deeply care for each other, maybe even love (scary, right?). However, this does not imply the demise of sexual attraction to other people. Thus, both interested parties are granted the freedom to pursue alternative, noncommittal, non-significant intimate relationships with other people....

--Type I open relationship:... If/when one member gets down and dirty with someone else, they come clean about it....

--Type II open relationship: Both people agree that they are allowed to hook up with other people; however, neither wants to hear about it.

Polyamory: Having both intimate, emotional, open, and consensual interactions with multiple people. Polyamory includes the idea that jealousy does not have to exist (for a more in-depth discussion, check out Autostraddle dot com’s ‘Polyamory 101’). Jealousy is hard to deal with. As much as I would like to pretend that I’ve never experienced it or never will it can be a pernicious destroyer of both relationships and friendships. But that is only if you let it.

Monogamous relationships: I don’t think I can go here until I’m older/mature/experienced/mentally stable.

Long distance: It better be fucking worth it.

Read the whole article (April 21, 2011).

The article references this earlier one:

What Do You Mean You’re Not Monogamous?

by Akwaeke Z Emezi

....Eventually I reached a point where I had to put my foot down, throw my hands up and say it: I don’t want to be monogamous. Never have. Ever. Ever. Just admitting that was step one, and step two meant that I had to get vocal about it from the jump, so that I wouldn’t end up dating monogamous people and mislead us both about what was possible.

Whoo, that led to some interesting conversations that raised my hackles. I’ve heard some blanket statements and generalizations about nonmonogamy that simply did my head in, so I think it’s about time we educate ourselves, open discussions, and learn from each other. Let’s tackle a few issues in bullet point, shall we?...

● Poly people just want to sleep with a lot of people. You can switch this up with ‘poly people are greedy,’ et cetera – any format where it just gets reduced to sex....

● Poly people just can’t commit. Oh, this one gets under my skin to no end.... This one usually gets linked to the first one: operating under the premise that it is impossible to commit to a person if you’re busy smanging other people, i.e. commitment always = monogamy. False.

● Isn’t this the same thing as being a cheater? No....

● What’s the point of being with someone if you’re going to continue smanging/dating other people? If you don’t want to be with a poly person, it’s simple. Don’t.... I’ve had a close friend get furious that I had the nerve to get married while nonmonogamous....

● What if you change your mind and turn out to want a monogamous relationship? #blinks. Then I’ll date monogamously.

● Did... did you just say relationship orientation?? I believe that for some people, being poly is innate and not a choice....

● Polyamory/nonmonogamy is just the newest trend. People started saying this about natural hair, did you know?

Feel free to add your own bullet points.

There are also a lot of myths that run in the opposite directions, such as claiming that poly relationships are ‘more evolved’ than monogamous ones, or that involve people treating monogamous people with disdain. Prejudice can run both ways in this case....

So now, I turn it over to you. What are some preconceptions you’ve had about monogamy or nonmonogamy? Have you ever encountered someone who is extremely anti- one or the other?

About the author: Born and bred in the south of Nigeria, Akwaeke Z Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil free love advocate, genderqueer Nutri-C addict, and natural hair aficionado... A current Brooklynite.

Read the whole article (March 24, 2011).

More lesbian poly on Autostraddle.

P.S., later: How could I have forgotten to include Franklin's flowchart snarking stereotypical couples looking for hot bi babes?


1 Okay okay, here's the joke. The scientists study 20 jelly bean colors. For 19 colors they find no acne causation at the 2-sigma level, meaning only a 5% chance that the result is a statistical fluke (p = 0.05), the usual standard for scientific publication. But look carefully at panel number 14: the statistically expected fluke happens. Scientifically illiterate media then go nuts.


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April 21, 2011

"A Gorgeous Wife, Her Loving Husband and Her Boyfriend"

Abiola TV / LSD: Love, Sex and Dating

Sassy, black, and sex-positive, Abiola Abrams ("The Lifestyle Passionista") appears on TV — "You've seen me interviewing people on BET, NBC & HBO, as a reality chick on VH1, & on MTV Teen Dating Empowerment Coach" — and she runs her own popular web TV show. An episode she recently aired was "Polygamy, Polyamory, Open Marriage: A Gorgeous Wife, Her Loving Husband and Her Boyfriend":

How to turn a threesome into a Happy Marriage! Juju Mama Kenya, Tantric teacher Rakim, and Kenya's boyfriend talk about love, relationships and polygamy.

You can watch the whole episode (1 hour; she gets to the guests at 10:35). It originally aired last July 23rd with the title "Polyamory & Open Relationships: 1 Woman, 2 Men."

Abiola calls this "one of our favorite episodes." A viewer picked up on other vibes, however: "I don't mind it being one woman two dudes, it's just the dudes seemed so unhappy. Her husband's jumpoff lives in the south, and the dark skinned guy visibly got upset at certain points when discussing the arrangement. If only 1 out of the 3 seem to be happy what's the point?"

So were the guys unhappy, or just untrained in how they look on TV? The boyfriend in particular seemed to stare into space as if he didn't even grasp that he was on camera. A reminder: before attempting to do television on such an edgy topic, get free tips and training from Joreth and other volunteers at the Polyamory Media Association. You'll be glad you did.



April 14, 2011

As Canada watches, polyamory group delivers final arguments

Yesterday attorney John Ince for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) presented his closing arguments in the case testing the legality of Canada's broad anti-polygamy law1.

No matter how the judge rules in the coming weeks, the CPAA's intervention in the case has greatly raised public awareness across Canada of the reality of poly relationships and families, and of polyamory's underlying philosophy and ideals.

The Canadian Press reports this morning:

Polyamorists' relationships wrongly targeted: lawyer

Canada's ban on polygamy unfairly criminalizes healthy relationships involving multiple spouses, a lawyer representing the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association told a special hearing in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The group is among several interveners in the landmark constitutional case in B.C., which was prompted by allegations of abuse in the isolated [Fundamentalist Mormon]religious sect of Bountiful, B.C.

But the group's lawyer, John Ince, said the shocking stories that have emerged from Bountiful don't reflect the lives of hundreds of polyamorists across Canada, who say their relationships are secular, egalitarian and are part of mainstream society.

He said that's why the provincial and federal governments have largely ignored polyamory in the complex discussion of polygamy, and have offered no evidence that polyamory causes anyone harm.

"There's been a dearth of evidence in this case respecting polyamory -- I guess they [the governments] are avoiding attracting [attention] to their Achilles heel," Ince said during his closing arguments.

"There is no evidence of harm that justifies the criminalization of polyamorist families."

Lawyers for the provincial and federal governments have offered contradictory opinions on whether multi-partner relationships outside of a religious context would be illegal under the law....

...Ince said it was difficult to pinpoint exactly how many polyamorists there are in Canada, but he noted the association conducted a survey and received 560 replies from people who said they were living with multiple partners in polyamorist relationships.

They include men living with multiple women, women with multiple male partners, and same-sex relationships, said Ince.

...Ince's group filed written affidavits from several polyamorists across the country, who described happy families, sometimes with children, where spouses are equal, and resources and duties such as childcare are shared.

"All of this contrasts dramatically with the type of multi-partner conjugality that has been the focus of this case, which is patriarchal polygamy," he said, referring to Bountiful. "It is that patriarchal polygamous style of multi-party conjugality that was known to the lawmakers in the 1890s. They could not anticipate the development of the post-modern institution of polyamory."...

Read the whole article (April 14, 2011).

An earlier Canadian Press report:

VANCOUVER - A lawyer for so-called polyamorists says their non-religious, egalitarian relationships are the "Achilles heel" in the governments' defence of the anti-polygamy law.

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association represents relationships involving more than two people who are treated equally and are part of mainstream society....

The provincial and federal governments have justified the law by pointing to allegations of abuse in Bountiful, but Ince says those stories don't describe the caring, committed relationship of polyamorists.

He says the current polygamy law appears to criminalize polyamorists, which he says makes it difficult for them to live openly and puts them in constant fear of authorities, especially when it comes to custody of their children.

The whole article (April 13, 2011). Much media attention is also going to the lawyer for the Fundamentalist Mormons, who also presented his closing arguments yesterday.

Here are Google News's current news reports on the whole case. Here's the subset of these articles that mention polyamory.

Read the complete CPAA's closing submissions. This document will be a fine running start for any similar case that may come up in the United States.

Here's the CPAA's Facebook page.


The previous week, the "amicus curiae" in the case — the lawyer appointed by the court to argue that the anti-polygamy law is unconstitutional — gave his own wrapup. From a news article:

By James Keller, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Canadians in relationships with multiple partners shouldn't be turned into criminals because of alleged abuses in a small, isolated community in British Columbia, says a lawyer arguing against the anti-polygamy law.

George Macintosh, a lawyer appointed to oppose the government at constitutional hearings, said Monday that the current law against polygamy is far too broad. He said it targets not just polygamous men who abuse women and children, but also people in multi-partner relationships that aren't harming anyone.

Much of the evidence in the case has focused on the small, religious sect of Bountiful, B.C., where residents follow the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS.

But Macintosh said the question isn't whether bad things are happening in a single community.

"The attorneys (general of B.C. and Canada) focused virtually the whole case on what would clearly be criminal behaviour by some FLDS people," Macintosh told Chief Justice Robert Bauman during closing arguments.

"I would urge you to redirect the spotlight to what is the central issue, and that is: Is Section 293 (of the Criminal Code) constitutionally justifiable? ... It would expose some (polyamourists) to criminal prosecution only for being in an open and honest and committed relationship."

...He also noted even supporters of the law can't agree on what exactly it prohibits.

While the B.C. government argued the anti-polygamy law only targets men with multiple wives, and not women with multiple husbands, the federal government insisted it outlaws all forms of polygamy. Several interveners said the polygamy law only applies in cases involving exploitation and abuse.

"And they did that (offered varying definitions) because, in my submission, they recognize that the plain and ordinary meaning of Section 293 cannot survive" a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Macintosh said....

He brushed aside the suggestion that striking down the anti-polygamy law would suddenly force polygamous marriage onto society. Macintosh compared the case to the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969. Even though homosexuality was removed from the Criminal Code, same-sex marriage wasn't legally recognized for another four decades.

"If Section 293 is struck down, society as a whole and Parliament will decide on the appropriate next steps."

Read the whole article (April 4, 2011).

Carole Chanteuse of the CPAA writes, "I love how the Amicus keeps talking about how the [attorneys general's] arguments and interpretations would still capture some of those who [we represent]. We are an unmistakably huge factor in this court case."

Last Monday evening (April 11th), members of the CPAA and others held a public forum in Vancouver titled "What Is Polyamory?". More than 170 people attended, and according to observers present, most of these were polyamorous themselves. A similar forum in Victoria last November drew 100 people. These numbers alone exceed the Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists in the community the prosecutors are targeting.

Another story on the amicus's arguments, and the continuing confusion over who the law affects or should affect:

Criminal Code on polygamy must change if B.C. court strikes down law: Macintosh

By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - If the B.C. Supreme Court strikes down Canada's polygamy law, the court-appointed amicus said Monday it must be society as a whole and Parliament in particular that determines the next step.

Lawyer George Macintosh made his comments Monday at the beginning of his closing argument in the constitutional reference case to determine whether the Criminal Code section that prohibits polygamy is valid.

...Macintosh's position is that the law must be struck down. The reason, he said, is that Section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows only for “minimal impairment” of guaranteed rights and freedoms.

But Macintosh said the polygamy law is so broad that last week the five defenders of the law argued for five different interpretations of it.

● The attorney general of B.C.'s lawyer argued that it should only apply to men with more than one spouse, not women.

● The attorney general of Canada's lawyer argued that it applies only to people who have some sort of ceremony to formalize their plural relationships.

● WestCoast LEAF wants it interpreted to mean only multi-party, conjugal relationships that are exploitive.

● The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Child said it shouldn't criminalize children,

● while the B.C. Teacher's Federation argued that it shouldn't criminalize women.

Macintosh's associate Tim Dickson argued that Parliament's intent both when the law was written in 1890 and rewritten in 1954 was to capture everyone in a multi-partner, conjugal union.

He pointed out that the polygamy section of the Criminal Code begins “Every one who . . .” leaving no room to exempt wives who only have conjugal relations with a shared husband, children, all-men or all-women multi-partner relationships or even immigrants who were legally married to multiple partners in other countries.

What Dickson did agree, though, is that having an affair doesn't make someone a polygamist. Conjugal unions in family law has been defined by the courts as meaning that it is a relationship of three or more years with the partners sharing shelter, providing economic support or giving the “societal perception” of being together....

Read the whole article (April 5, 2011).


1 Here's the entire text of the law under dispute (Section 293 of Canada's Criminal Code):

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

Evidence in case of polygamy

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


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April 13, 2011

Polyamory and sex addiction

Psychology Today blogs

At a recent poly conference I attended, the organizers set aside time and space for anyone who wanted to do a presentation or announce a discussion topic. A longtime poly couple took the opportunity to discuss a terribly difficult and traumatic problem.

The man, who sincerely loves and respects the woman, had recently confessed to her that despite their poly vows of openness and care, he had been cheating with secret girlfriends, sneaking out to spend huge sums on prostitutes, endangering his livelihood by spending hours a day with porn rather than working, and keeping it all hidden. She had sensed that something was badly wrong but blamed herself. The man poured forth, to the rapt audience at the conference, what it was like to be a sex addict — the compulsion pushing everything else aside, the inability to stop despite seeing the damage his behavior was causing, the denialism despite seeing it, and the almost suicidal self-disgust at being unable to break his destructive behavior despite his best efforts.

If you've ever heard an alcoholic or a gambling addict tell his story, you heard exactly what we heard in that room. This had nothing to do with sex-negativity or guilt about being a sexual creature. If I was skeptical about the reality of "sex addiction" before, I wasn't any longer.

The man is now in a sex-addict recovery organization, and with its help and the help of his partner he has broken loose of his compulsion, so far. The two said that they decided to close their relationship during the ongoing intensity of working through this, a radical step for both of them.

The woman, very experienced in the poly and kink worlds, emphasized that sex-positive communities have had a hard time facing up to the reality of sex addicts because the mundane world often throws this accusation against anyone who lives beyond the ordinary.

Hopefully, we are becoming mature and confident enough to be less defensive and address this problem when it really exists.

Deborah Anapol, one of the founders of the modern polyamory movement a generation ago, takes up the topic in her latest "Love Without Limits" article on the blogsite of Psychology Today magazine:

Polyamory and Sex Addiction

...Several years after that, Thelma looked me up again, asking what I thought about sex addiction. I responded that I was very disturbed by the presence of sex addiction in the polyamory community, saying that while most polyamorous people are not addicts, it was a significant problem and one that often came up for discussion in my workshops. Although I wish sex addiction was never an issue in polyamory, the truth is that polyamory does provide a convenient cover story for addicts who are generally in denial about having an addiction.

It's easy to justify sexual obsession by calling it polyamory. A handful of sex addicts can wreak havoc in a community, especially when people are still operating out of conditioning that forbids the sharing of "family secrets" out of misguided respect for confidentiality. Polyamory offers a venue in which sex addicts can begin at least to tell the truth about what they're doing instead of carrying on secret affairs. I prefer to put a positive spin on it by seeing that bringing their destructive, addictive behavior out into the open is the first step toward healing, but unfortunately it can get messy and hurtful for those who are hoping for love and instead find callousness.

I'm well aware that some people object to the whole concept of sex addiction, partly because the label is sometimes used inappropriately to condemn people who don't conform to sexually repressive social or cultural norms. However, if the polyamorous community insists on denying that sexual addiction exists, they end up reinforcing the erroneous view that all polyamory involves sex addiction by allowing sex addicts to masquerade as polyamorists.

After hearing my opinions, Thelma decided she'd like to tell me about her own experience. "I can well describe what it is like, how it feels to be the substance that a sex addict uses to engage in his addiction," she told me. For Thelma, the idea that she was attempting a polyamorous relationship that would involve a potentially painful confrontation with her own jealousy, but would be well worth it in the end, allowed her to be drawn into an abusive relationship....

Anapol also discusses the outwardly similar, but quite different, syndrome of "New Relationship Energy addiction."

...For Alex, polyamory did provide a context in which he was able to see that it was not so much the jealousy and possessiveness of his partner... nor the judgments of society — which were essentially reversed in the polyamory community — that stood between him and his sexual freedom. Rather, he became aware for the first time that nonmonogamy was workable only if he could heal the childhood wounds that led him to compulsively lose control when he indulged in his "drug." When he wasn't "high" on "new relationship energy," Alex was an empathic and attentive partner. "It wasn't like I could just be satisfied with two or three women and settle down. There was never enough, and I was always tempted by the next one."

Alex's high-level communication skills, team spirit, and playful creativity made him a natural for polyamory, but his addictive behavior sabotaged him every time. Alex, like Thelma, finally joined Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA). Similarly to its sister Twelve Step groups Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, SLAA preaches abstinence (which in this case means monogamy rather than celibacy).
At one point, when Alex was having difficulty staying on the wagon, I suggested that it might be easier if he stayed out of "bars," but he and Dawn so enjoyed the relaxed openness of poly-friendly venues and the deep friendships they'd established that they continued to gravitate toward this community and eventually succeeded in establishing better boundaries....

Read the whole article (April 11, 2011).

The woman I described at the start of this post writes,

There are sex addicts and their partners in our community who suffer in silence, being too embarrassed and afraid of condemnation to come out, ask for support, etc., because they are aware how conflicted many are about whether sex addiction actually exists.

Part of the controversy over whether it exists comes from "addiction" sometimes being defined as applying only to chemicals that cause withdrawal symptoms. People who hold to this definition insist that the term "compulsion" should be used instead for things like gambling, sex, Warcraft, and marijuana.

But there's evidence that the same dopamine reward/compulsion process occurs in the brain whether the addiction is chemical or purely behavioral. So I think the term is justified. And anyway, so many people use "addiction" this way now that it's too late to change it.



April 9, 2011

Poly as a subset of self-determination

Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Longtime polyactivist Barry Smiler has placed an article in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (published by the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality), arguing that the way forward for polyamory acceptance is to understand it as part of a broader principle. What he's talking about is the principle of individual self-determination — the assumption that you actively construct your own life, rather than automatically following a life laid out for you. This has been the widening trend across most of the world for several centuries. In fact, it's the defining characteristic of modernism.

There's No Such Thing As Polyamory

By Barry Smiler ©

An attempt to reframe polyamory and place it in the context of larger social issues in a way that retains all of its power, yet makes it culturally acceptable in terms even John Wayne could support.

What Polyamory Isn't, What Polyamory Is

It's a truism that there as many definitions of polyamory as there are people that do it. Why is that? It has seemed to me for some time that polyamory isn't about how many relationships one has; I know many people who call themselves poly yet who have just one partner, or no partner at all. And it isn't what one does within those relationships; there are as many poly structures as there are people doing them.

So what's left? The way I've expressed it for the last several years is, if you feel without reservation that the person who gets to choose how to structure your relationships is you, then no matter what choice you ultimately make, you're poly....
You get to decide how your relationship life looks. Not your mother, not your culture, not your government ... you.

Recently, though, I've come to feel that this is just a smaller restatement of a wider context, and not something that exists by itself. In these terms polyamory is merely an example, or special case, of the much larger principle of self-determination.

The Evolution Of Self-Determination

Looking back through history, the evolution of self-determination is clear.... I feel [this is] perhaps the most valid and honest way at looking at the poly experience, and it explains a lot....

[For instance:] What distinguishes polyamory from other movements it is often lumped in with by mainstream observers [such as swinging and polygamy]? And what does this indicate about the self-determination framing I propose?

...All this is why I offer the reframing that there's no such thing as polyamory. Instead, I suggest that polyamory might well be presented as simply a special case of the larger social ideal of self-determination, a trend that has for hundreds of years been irresistibly moving our society towards individual empowerment and away from cultural/societal strictures, towards everyone's right to manage their own lives in their own way. Reframing polyamory in this way reveals common ground with other social movements, which could well be advantageous for all....

Read the article (April 7, 2011).

I have a secret mathematician in me that's always on the lookout for breakthrough generalizations. Seems like Barry thinks the same way.


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April 7, 2011

Poly and Kids. "I've probably observed more modern polyamorous childrearing than anyone on the planet."

Psychology Today blogs

On her blog at the Psychology Today magazine website, Deborah Anapol posts a noteworthy section from her book Polyamory in the 21st Century:

Polyamory and Children

Is polyamory harmful to children?

...As extended families who live together become increasingly rare, especially in the affluent West, polyamorous families are one way that some people are counteracting the isolation of the lone nuclear family and finding ways to provide at-home caretakers for children. Others gravitate toward cohousing or intentional communities that may or may not be monogamously oriented but where adults share some responsibility for child rearing.

Several studies have been done on stepfamilies and children reared communally, but there is still a dearth of research investigating the important question of how polyamory affects children. At the same time, the impact on children is one of the most commonly asked questions whenever the subject of polyamory is raised. Dr. Elisabeth Sheff is an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University. She conducted her doctoral research on polyamorous families with children in the mid-1990s and later decided to attempt a longitudinal study of these and other poly families. So far, she's following about thirty families with three or more adults living together who have children between the ages of six and twenty. She'd like to double that and include an ethnically and culturally more diversified group before publishing her findings but says that funding for research on polyamory is scarce.

...As a parent who has raised two children of my own in a variety of nonmonogamous contexts and watched many friends and clients do the same over the years, I have thought deeply about these issues. Over the years, I've socialized with, coached, or spoken at length with at least several hundred other polyamorous families with children and a few dozen middle-aged adults who were raised in families where their parents had open or group marriages or where patriarchal-style polygamy was practiced. While I've made no attempt to "collect data," I've probably observed more modern polyamorous childrearing than anyone on the planet.

...All the recent surveys of polyamorous people find that about half of them are parents. However, at least half of these attempt to hide their extramarital relationships from their children or have teens or adult children whose lives are mainly independent of their parents or utilize polyamorous gatherings, other social occasions, or coaching sessions as a vacation from parenting. As a result, in the course of everyday life, I've had far less opportunity to interact with the children of polys than with their parents, except in the case of personal friends where spending time with the entire family was a natural part of our interactions. Consequently, while I believe my observations can be generalized to a wider population, this may not be the case. It's possible that the children of poly parents I have not met are different from those that I have met.

...Dr. Sheff's sample is also skewed in that virtually all her participants thus far come from the network of people who strongly identify as polyamorous and who attend various polyamorous conferences, potluck dinners, or other social events. Dr. Sheff has found that some polyamorous parents are reluctant to talk to anyone "official" because they are concerned about losing custody of their children. The common perception that children in poly (and nonheterosexual) families are at higher risk for sexual abuse than those in monogamous families, which appears to be completely unfounded according to Dr. Sheff, also makes people nervous about talking to her.

Her focus has been to rely on unstructured interviews to determine what kinds of experiences children in polyamorous families have, what the internal dynamics of the family are, and what kinds of things these families do that help them survive. Further, she's included nonbiological parents, who she says are sometimes more involved in the day-to-day parenting than the biological parents, perhaps because they have more time and inclination for it. Nevertheless, as I spoke with my own contacts and heard what she had found thus far, a cohesive picture began to emerge.

In the absence of existing research on polyamorous families, Dr. Sheff has looked to the research on children of gays and lesbians for clues. There's a fair amount of this research.... The GLBT research has found that essentially all the pressure the children of homosexual parents face is from outside the family. In other words, nothing has been found in the families themselves that's a problem for the children, but they do encounter judgments, prejudice, and negative attitudes from outsiders, such as teachers or neighbors, or are concerned about appearing different. The same appears to be somewhat true for children in polyamorous families, although one bisexual poly parent told me that his teenage son's perception was that polyamory was more acceptable than bisexuality among his peers.

...What's interesting to me is that most of the young adults I know who were raised in child-centered polyamorous families seem to end up giving a higher priority to bonding and sustained intimacy than to freedom, whether they are male or female. While they often attempt both, they seem willing to go for serial monogamy because its continued cultural dominance provides greater ease in intimate connections with partners raised to believe in monogamy. Those who are more determined to pursue radical multipartner lifestyles whatever the cost or who are hungry for sexual variety to make up for a sexually repressed adolescence seem to have a greater need to rebel against the culture norms than the children of the last generation of polyamorous pioneers. This pattern also seems to hold true for the children of more mainstream families who are open with their children about their polyamorous relationships.

As I often joke, if you want your children to be monogamous, practice polyamory!

Read the whole post (March 25, 2011).

I know a number of counterexamples to that last quip, including second-generation adult poly activists today. Healthy poly families certainly produce healthy poly kids at a greater rate than the general population does. Although as Deborah points out, it's awfully hard for a lot of them to find poly-oriented partners while young.

But just as in gay or lesbian families, kids go their own way. Just as most kids of gay parents turn out straight because most people turn out straight, I think a majority of polyfolks' offspring will always tend to choose monogamy in some form because most people do.

If only because the structure is simpler.

As I've pointed out before, in the poly world there seem to be more open marriages than vees, more vees than equilateral triads, more triads than quads, and more quads than quints. The trend seems to be that the more complex the structure, the less commonly it occurs. Extend this trend the other way, and a couple is the least complex structure of all. This suggests to me that even in the fully poly-aware and poly-accepting society we will have 50 or 100 years from now, most relationships will still be pairings most of the time.


Deborah asked me to mention that she will be putting on several events in the eastern U.S in coming weeks:

-- "Love, Sex, & Freedom," Plainfield, MA; May 19-22.

-- "Sexual Healing for Women," Hartford, CT; May 28.

-- "The Yoga of Love" near Asheville, NC; June 3-5.

For information:
or write


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April 4, 2011

Atlanta Poly Weekend: my report (and others')

So I just got back from Atlanta Poly Weekend, the first-ever polyamory conference held in the Deep South (if you don't count Florida). APW turns out to be a seriously up-and-coming new source of polyactive energy. Here's my report.

The weekend was bravely organized from scratch by Billy Holder, his wife Pocket, and their triad partner Jeremy (PB&J they call themselves), along with other friends and family and Atlanta Poly Meetup volunteers. A friendly, animated bunch of 113 people (attendees, presenters, staff, and kids) crowded into a small, out-of-the-way conference area of the Crowne Plaza Hotel a mile from the Atlanta airport. We had 30 hours of presentations and self-generated discussion groups and constant lively chatter. Financially it came fairly close to breaking even, which PB&J consider good for a first-time con. (And the weekend would have come out in the black except for a costly mistake in interpreting the hotel contract.) So clearly the Southland can support a poly conference all its own.

We had an open common area, three small meeting rooms, and a large meeting room divisible in half. These were renamed the Den, Bedrooms 1-3, the Living Room and Dining Room, for a homey feel. Speakers included Cunning Minx of the Polyamory Weekly podcast on “poly and single” and “personal branding for the sex-positive activist.” Joreth spoke on a panel on poly & skepticism and about the Polyamory Media Association. She also appeared in her full Victorian outfit as Miss Poly Manners to answer etiquette questions, one of her roles on Polyamory Weekly. I talked about media treatment of poly and about our recognition in the wider culture. MayMay presented on anti-censorship strategies and tactics for sex-positive and political websites; Billy and others spoke on Poly 101 and coming out; Jessica Karels gave a workshop on surviving as a community organizer. Elisabeth Sheff of Georgia State University, who is conducting long-term research on poly families with children, was on a panel titled “What Will We Tell the Kids?” For more see the preliminary session list.

The two evenings featured a local steampunk band and a burlesque show. The crowds for these were rather thin; a number of people had gone off to private room parties.

What a friendly, lively, excited bunch! Most of the people seemed to come from Georgia and neighboring states. Overall the event had the look and feel of a small, intimate science fiction/fantasy con, including a bit of costuming. PB&J have helped organize things at SF cons and know people involved in them; the paid sponsors they recruited for the program booklet included Dragon*Con, OutlantaCon, and Frolicon. The weekend's scheduling occasionally got frayed around the edges, and some events didn’t happen, but there was always enough going on that this didn’t matter.

The weekend was cheap: $50 to register, and the hotel was $82 per night (group rate). That did not include any food, however, and the hotel didn't allow outside food into the conference area. So, finding and paying for meals was an added expense and inconvenience. Remember to pack your own provisions; you can eat in your room (or in a room party).

PB&J were hugely thrilled at the size and community spirit of the crowd and have already announced next year’s Atlanta Poly Weekend. It will be March 9-11, 2012, possibly at a different hotel.

They are setting up as a 501(c)7 corporation, a “social and recreational group” under IRS rules (contributions will not be tax deductible). And, “to make this truly community owned,” said Billy, they may sell stock to raise funds, while keeping a majority ownership themselves. They had a volunteer lawyer (who was also a presenter) handle the 501(c)7 paperwork.

Here's the Atlanta Poly Weekend Facebook page.

More observations from my friend Ken Haslam, longtime poly activist and conference presenter:

My sense of the meeting was that there was a lot of native energy there, whatever that means. I think this group is going to be a formidable force in the future.... There seemed to be a subtle BDSM energy around but this is hard to define exactly. All in all very positive.

The lack of organization was not a problem for me and I suspect this will improve next year. I was especially pleased to see the well-organized "post mortem" [at the public closing session] where people discussed in detail what went wrong, how to improve it, and what topics might be good for next year, as the organizers wrote all this down.

A leader from the swing community was at the post mortem trying to get them to include a sponsored swing party. I had a chat with him and his girlfriend and explained that, IMHO, a lot of polys would just as soon curl up with a good encyclopedia as go to a sex party. I think a sex party (optional) off-premises and not sponsored might be OK if it is NOT affiliated with APW....

I wonder if this is the beginning of [a model of] really good local meetings that are cheap and eliminate the long-distance travel.

After the conference Billy posted his story of how APW came about, and his amazement and gratitude at how it worked:

How did we get here?!

...Atlanta Poly Weekend, like our [triad] relationship, started on “The Hill” [Dragon Hills Resort]. It was a warm October afternoon in 2009. We were lying in the sun talking. One of us said “You know, it’s a shame there’s not an organized Poly group or event for families in our area.” And so we took it upon ourselves to become active members in the community.... On March 21, 2010, we founded the Atlanta Polyamory Meetup.com website. One month later we held our first Meetup. There were 2 people there. But we kept at it. Now a year later we have 179 members.

During the growth of the Meetup event we realized that the community needed an event to network the South to the rest of the country. So Atlanta Poly Weekend was formed....

We had many bumps in the road and quite a few hills to climb. After a year of promoting and gathering presenters, we were looking at having to cancel. That’s when the ModernPoly team came up with some ideas to jumpstart interest in the conference....

I could never have imagined the wonderful feeling the moment we opened registration and the first people walked in. It was REAL. And we had done it....

Read his whole post (requires Facebook login).

And this is from Pocket:

There is a certain fear and joy with being first. You've got to build it yourself, with your own hands and hope it will be strong enough to stand on its own merits. On the flip side, there's joy in creating something from scratch without any rules and to be able to look at it and say, "I did this."

...Our staff was like a cross section of poly culture: our triad, a quad, a poly-friendly single and a husband with a poly wife. However, we quickly became family and would fill in the gaps where needed. If one fell, someone was there to pick them up. We functioned as a team.

...It didn't hit me until the Thursday before. I was at work and happened to look out a window, realizing that at that time the next day I would be setting up registration. I practically bounced all day and was almost unbearable I'm sure when Billy picked me up. Thank heavens for Chinese take-out that evening with the staff, and our families grounding me and reminding me that we are here on a mission!

For me, the event started when Jeremy and I picked up MayMay. Here was a presenter made form, no longer an idea but a solid, huggable reality.... As opening ceremonies were going on, Aims the Programming Goddess had stuck her head in the door and came out glowing. "It's real!" she told me, pride on her face. "We did this!"...

Read her whole post.

(Both quoted with permission.)


But you don't have to wait a year for more poly conference goodness!

Loving More is holding one of its one-day Loving Choices seminars in Denver, Colorado, on April 23rd. These are more structured Poly 101 introductions intended particularly for newcomers to poly; individuals, couples and groups considering the possibilities and/or dealing with poly issues; and therapy professionals interested in learning about what more of their clients are thinking and doing. Schedule.

Polycamp Northwest happens August 26–29 at Millersylvania State Park south of Seattle. Now in its 8th year (I think), Polycamp is a rustic, kid-friendly gathering that drew well over 100 people last year. See local alternative-newspaper article.

● Loving More's annual Summer Conference Retreat happens the weekend of September 9–11 at Easton Mountain Retreat in the rural hills north of Albany, New York. These events feature fine workshops, presenters, and poly community in a relaxed, clothing-optional setting. Here's last year's program, and my writeup of what the retreat is like that I sent around last year (requires Yahoo login).

● Loving More's annual Poly Living Conference happens in Philadelphia each February. The workshops and seminars are similar to those at Easton but held amid the amenities of a fine hotel; not clothing-optional. Here's the program from the February 2011 Poly Living, and here's my writeup of the first one I attended.


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