Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

August 29, 2011

"Why 'Open' Marriages Don't Work"

Psychology Today blogs

New York therapist Anne Rettenberg writes a blog titled "Beyond Don Juan" about "relationship and dating issues, targeted to men." In her article below, she generalizes from her sad clients — dysfunctional women and doggy men, apparently — to everybody else.

This is common among statistically illiterate therapists who can't grasp the concept of sampling bias.

Why "Open" Marriages Don't Work

Jealousy is as old and as powerful as sex.

The number one issue that brings couples to my office is infidelity. In my experience, infidelity usually, although not always, destroys the relationship. In a few cases, I've seen people develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from a spouse's infidelity. Yet there are people who want to believe that monogamy is unnatural, or impossible for them as individuals. Some attempt for themselves (or promote to others) the idea of an "open marriage." There are some (in my opinion rather obvious) reasons why ultimately, an "open" marriage almost never works.

First, let's look at who promotes the idea of "open marriage." One of the male bloggers on this site wrote a book [Sex at Dawn] promoting the idea that infidelity is "natural" (a meaningless word--aggression and eating high-fat foods are natural behaviors, yet indulging in them is destructive)....

...In counseling, a variety of reasons for this struggle come out: Marriage at too young an age, difficulties with emotional intimacy (often due to an abusive childhood) or an inability to directly confront problems in a relationship. There may also be some people who are more biologically wired than others to be promiscuous, just as there are people who seem to be biologically wired for addiction....

People who desire open marriages often don't think about how they would feel knowing their partner is sleeping with someone else....

Some couples engage in threesomes; I don't consider this behavior part of an "open" marriage, a term that connotes that each member of the couple has sex with whoever they want outside of the relationship. A threesome is group sex within the relationship; I don't see it as infidelity because it's a shared activity. It can also lead to problems, however, if occasional threesomes become a triadic relationship. It's hard to live in a stable triad because humans are wired for pair relationships. As babies, we feel a merger with our primary caretaker, a feeling that relieves the anxiety of our dependency. As adults, we still find comfort in a pair relationship that reminds us of this merger....

The reason an open relationship almost never works is because people who enter a serious relationship are people who are capable of attachment. They might tell themselves that because they have a special relationship with one person, it's "just sex" when they have sex with someone else. They forget that their initial attraction to their spouse/partner was probably mostly sexual....

There are some people who aren't capable of attachment. These people don't worry about monogamy or fidelity.... When they aren't sexual, they sometimes fit into a diagnostic category called Schizoid Personality Disorder. When they are sexual, they are often psychopaths. The reasons why some people develop these disorders are not completely known....

In many cases an "open" relationship is an attempt to avoid problems in a relationship instead of openly discussing or dealing with them. A better option to an "open" relationship is a frank discussion with your partner about your differences and how to manage them within the relationship. That would be a different kind of "openness," and a healthier one.

Read the whole article (Aug. 26, 2011).

Now this really isn't a big deal in itself — Psychology Today hosts hundreds of blogs, for practically anybody — but it stirred up a lot of reaction in the poly community.

Geri D. Weitzman, the lead author of the booklet What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory (2010, expanded from a her 1999 paper with the same title), posted in the LiveJournal Polyamory community,

Sigh.... There are a ridiculous number of inaccuracies in the piece. I will need to write a rebuttal letter to the editor, citing various research studies....

...In my experience, discussion of these issues is heavily coloured by confirmation bias and observer effects; open marriages tend to be much more visible when they fail than when they don't.

The most relevant research I'm aware of on this issue is Rubin and Adams (J. Sex Research, August 1986) which found "no statistically significant difference in marital stability" between sexually open and sexually exclusive couples.

Noel Figart, who blogs as the advice columnist The Polyamorous Misanthrope ("wielding the stick of grandmotherly kindness"), has also stirred up people to send in rebuttals. In a post widely forwarded by others, she writes,

This article is a bit insidious and I find it disturbing. The basic allusion is that anyone who wants to be poly is damaged somehow and might actually have Schizoid Personality Disorder. I deeply disagree with many points in her article. Where there’s not an armchair diagnosis, she seems to find open relationships male-driven and female-tolerated. As you can imagine, I find this really weird. In fact, I’d say that she’s not interacted much with the polyamory community to have this point of view!

I would like to encourage the polyamory community to respond to this by going to Psychology Today and giving some feedback. However, a caveat: I don’t think the author knows many poly people. The letters she gets are going to be the face of polyamory to her. You will be the face of polyamory to her. Keep that in mind and be a credit to your kink in your responses.

But notice that you can't actually post comments; you can only write to the author personally.

See the Misanthrope post's comments for some excellent letters that people have sent the author, and in one case the author's reply.

Elsewhere, researcher Kelly Cookson takes a measured view:

Actually, Rettenberg's argument is:
(1) People in open marriages want a "special relationship" between spouses and "just sex" with satellite partners.
(2) Psychologically healthy people can't "turn off" the psychological systems that lead them to form attachments.
(3) Therefore, having a "special relationship" between spouses and "just sex" with satellite partners can't work because unwanted attachments will develop....

The statements above do not imply that poly people [necessarily] have psychological problems....

I think statement (2) is basically correct (based on 40 years of psychological studies into attachment).

I think statement (3) is sometimes correct and sometimes incorrect. An older study found that some people dropped out of swinging because they developed unwanted attachments to satellite partners. But that was not the only reason for dropping out. Plus, we don't know what percent of people drop out versus stay involved in swinging. Empirical evidence does not support the universality of Rettenberg's conclusion (though it does suggest her conclusion is correct for some open marriages).

Statement (1) is clearly the source of the problem. This is an incorrect assumption about open marriages.... The percentage of open marriages that want just sex with their partners may be quite low.

Update Aug. 31: Well whaddaya know, her "Why 'Open' Marriages Don't Work" article has been taken down. On her index page, her other articles are still up.

Update Sept. 3: Turns out that the overseers of Psychology Today's blogfarm are the ones who pulled Rettenberg's blog post, because they were getting inundated with polyfolks' objections to it. (Rettenberg had turned off commenting, so her critics could not speak back to the article directly.)

Now Rettenberg is up with a new post about the whole episode: Free Speech Under Attack. This time comments are enabled, and the fur is flying. Have a look.

I still say tempest in a teapot, relative to the amount of fuss this is generating.

This episode does, however, give notice that polyfolks are an articulate, self-confident, mobilize-able bunch. And that if you're going to say dumb things about them, you'd better leave commenting turned on if you don't want them venting their steam higher up your food chain.


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August 26, 2011

Polyday organizers debate TV talk-show hosts

ITV (U.K.)

As if their big newspaper article plugging Polyday tomorrow (August 27th) wasn't enough, Polyday folks in London got themselves onto British TV yesterday, on ITV's "This Morning" show. The promo:

We meet three women who have all made the decision to share the same man...

Maxine, Eunice and Mimi each have more than one partner... and their partners have other partners... and all 3 women share the same man... and they all know about it, and are all friends... confused?

They have all adopted the Polyamorous lifestyle and are here to tell us all about how it works.

Denise Robertson joins them to give her views on polyamory.

From the looks of the promo picture they may have dished out smart poly goodness by the spoonful, but they also had to bat away crap like "Let me put it to you that you are in fact a victim" from sad-looking co-host Eamonn Holmes. Too bad that you can only watch the show from the UK (unless you can spoof a UK IP address). Can someone find a backchannel link? It aired August 25, 2011.

Update: Okay, thanks! Watch it here worldwide (10 minutes).

Maxine Green, at left on the couch, is Polyday's chief organizer. Elsewhere today she tweets, "Really quite funny watching the three of us trying to get a word in edgeways!" She credits the Polyamory Media Association "for useful training in talking to journalists" (thanks Joreth!). Sounds like it's a good thing they were prepared.

Following the show, Lotte of the PolyinPictures webcomic posted this:

Gawd bless him, on This Morning on ITV (UK), Eamonn Holmes’ life appeared to be full of woe. It was all caused by three awesome, articulate women, talking to him and co-interviewer (IT’S A WORD) Ruth Langsford about polyamory. The idea seems to cause him some distress.

Jemima Willcox was there to talk about her book (ebook available on Amazon here), which is a collection of stories about polyamorous people. She was joined by two friends, and all of them did a bang up job when accused of being victims, cultists, naive and doooooooomed.

Let me save you some pain. (If you’re a masochist and don’t want spoilers, here’s a link to the debate in full. ETA: Anyone who puts this up on YouTube and sends me a link gets my eternal gratitude; there are readers outside the UK who apparently can’t view the video.)

Agony aunt Denise Robertson called polyamory a “lovely little scheme” (condescending much?) and said that it would all end in tears. Eamonn Holmes referred to Jemima’s book as the Bible for polyamory, despite objections from the author and references to other works. These stunning, emotionally mature and intelligent women were told that it only worked because they were in their 20s and that when they wanted to settle down and have kids they’d fail. Denise Robertson said that if polyamory worked, we wouldn’t as a species have been monogamous for all this time.

So, here’s my proposal. OPERATION HUG.

You’ve got two options, in order of priority:

1) Hug Eamonn Holmes’ head. He obviously needs some reassurance that we’re not all nutters, and that we can actually love lots of people, so we should share the love with him. (Ruth Langsford seemed more balanced about it all.)

If this isn’t possible…

2) Write a nice email to Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, or the This Morning people in general, telling them about your loving families and long-term polyamorous relationships. Young and old, with and without kids, out and closeted. We may be few and far between, but we have so many stories to share. Their email address seems to be viewerservices@itv.com unless anyone else knows any better? Also, they’re on Twitter: @itvthismorning

Go have some fun.

P.S.: I see they also got this notice into the arts & culture guide Time Out London. These people know how to do publicity.

All the coverage prompted a spot-on explanation of polyamory by Lori Smith at the online women's magazine BitchBuzz (Aug. 26, 2011).

Update: A blogger's story of her Polyday day.


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August 22, 2011

1.3 million promos for Polyday

Metro (U.K.)

This Saturday (August 27th) is Polyday in London — a one-day annual gathering at a hip community center featuring talks, discussions, workshops, speed dating and, come evening, drinking. Past Polydays have had turnouts of up to 200 or so.

This one looks like it may be biggest yet. Because this morning, the Polyday folks scored a coup. They got a great article about themselves — including happy pix of cuteness (example here), lengthy plugs for Polyday, and their URL — into the Metro, a free daily newspaper distributed on public transit all over the U.K.

With a circulation of 1.3 million.

The bouncer at that place may have an interesting time on Saturday.

Polyamory: Sharing the love? Yes, we'll take that

What would you say if your partner had feelings for someone else as well as you? We meet polyamorous lovers as they prepare for their largest London gathering.

By Helen Croyden

You may think Matt Bobbu, 23, is a lucky guy. He’s been with his girlfriend, Katy, for two years. With her consent, he also has a long-distance boyfriend, Mike. Mike is engaged to a girl who is dating one of Katy’s friends. Meanwhile, Bobbu’s flatmate is dating a girl who’s dating Katy.

Confused? Well there are triads, quads, open networks, secondary partners and pansexual love affairs to consider too. This is the menu of relationships open if you don’t believe in restricting romantic feelings to one person. Bobbu and his coterie of lovers will be gathering for Polyday this Saturday, at Dragon Hall near Holborn, London. It’s a gathering with workshops, talks and social activities for anyone who follows, or is interested in, the romantic web of polyamory.

‘The idea of monogamy has always been weird for me,’ says Bobbu. ‘Why can I only love one person and not others? Yet I can have a favourite book and still love other books?’

It sounds like a great way of getting lots of sex, doesn’t it? A commitment-phobe’s paradise. Imagine – I could have John for his conversation, Paul for his lothario bedroom acrobatics and Steve for his sensitive side… but apparently it isn’t like that. Polyamory is about respectful and trusting relationships. Friends With Benefits it isn’t.

Maxine Green, 29, is this year’s organiser. ‘People think of us as commitment-phobes,’ she says, ‘but there are many serious relationships going on. We’re more like commitment-addicts.’

Green has one serious partner, one semi-serious and a few occasional lovers. ‘It’s not that I get one thing from one person and something else from another and therefore I feel complete,’ she says. ‘All of them are whole relationships.’

Polyamorous affairs take many forms. They can be closed or open, depending on whether the individuals keep amorous attention within a particular circle. Some distinguish between primary and secondary partners (the primary being a committed long-term partner). If it’s three-way love, it’s a triad. A more balanced four-way union is a quad. Some inflict gender-specific boundaries on partners, others set numeric ones.

Bobbu doesn’t have any rules, which makes him, by definition, a relationship anarchist. ‘I don’t think polyamory would suit everyone,’ he says. ‘It takes emotional maturity to be polyamorous. The key to any relationship is communication.’

Alex Winson, 24, a software developer, has a ‘primary’ girlfriend of one year, plus a casual arrangement with a girl he sees monthly. ‘Love is one of the few unlimited resources,’ he says. ‘I see no reason to ration it or deny it to people. I take both relationships seriously.’

But what about jealousy? Our competitive human nature thrives off feeling special, doesn’t it? ‘Of course I experience jealousy,’ admits Winson. ‘But it is always symptomatic of something. No one wakes up feeling jealous. You have to work out why you feel it. The majority of problems that creep up are because you date too many people and don’t make time for each other.’

Bobbu is giving a talk at the event on Saturday in connection with his own campaign group, Polytical, which is working to raise awareness of polyamory to counsellors and health professionals.

It’s not all about serious talks. Other workshops include Poly Parenting and Speed Friending for those looking to network. For newcomers or the curious, there is an introductory workshop, Poly 101, explaining what polyamory is and where you can meet like-minded people.

The aim of the Polyday is for those interested in polyamory to meet and for the organisers to attract new people to their community. Green hopes to quash polyamory’s bohemian image. ‘There are poly people from all walks – solicitors, bankers etc – but when it comes to “coming out”, it tends to be people from creative professions like artists.’

The day signs off with a bring-your-own-bottle party. But if you’re thinking what I was thinking — free love and trails of underwear — Green puts that straight. ‘People hear non-monogamy and think of people swinging from chandeliers,’ she says. ‘In fact, a polyamorous group are more likely to be sitting down and having a cup of tea.’


See the original (Aug. 22, 2011), and leave a comment.

How did they get that article?! Matt Bobbu, a member of the Polyamory Leadership Network (PLN) and the black-hatted guy in one of the pix, says that although he has studied the materials at the PLN's Polyamory Media Association, "I think it was mostly fortuitous timing that someone wanted to write an article on poly who had pretty decent credentials, and was persuaded to do it with a nice big plug for Polyday too."

BTW: Bobbu just got an article into The Skinny (Scotland's monthly arts & entertainment magazine of "independent cultural journalism"), titled So, What Is This Polyamory Thing? (Aug. 29, 2011 online. September 2011 print issue).

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August 21, 2011

Poly movement in France taking hold

There's new stuff out since my last roundup of poly media coverage in France, including a feature article in France's largest weekly newsmagazine. These items come from organizer Guilain Omont in Paris (a member of the Polyamory Leadership Network) and his resource-filled site, Amours Pluriels (amours.pl).

From Le Nouvel Observateur, the weekly newsmagazine:

Polyamorous and proud to be so

By Charline Blanchard

...Like any church, that of plural love has its prophet, Charles Fourier (1772-1837)... and its high priestess, the writer Françoise Simpère. [Her books] Guide des amours plurielles and Aimer plusieurs hommes (Poche) have become the old and new testament of poly-lovers. She pleads the cause on radio and in newspapers and claims "single love is only a dream." Another face up from anonymity is that of Guilain Omont, a thirtyish independent entrepreneur and creator of amours.pl. He came to "polyphilie" after long having believed that his one Princess Charming would someday appear. Neither a Don Juan nor supermacho, but a normal boy small and shy, he's perfect to normalize this controversial lifestyle.

It exploded in the 1970s — post-68, if you will. But French polys today, following the American style, brush that off. They are doing something "modern." No flowers in the hair or colorful robes: these are men and women of their times. They are architects, managers, cooks, teachers. With their heads on their shoulders, they create their own identity using tools 2.0....

This is no longer the sexual revolution, but one of emotions. Not always an easy way to live....

On polyamour.info, they discuss at length. "I fell in love with a mono," says Toni, alarmed. Another concern: "I think I'm jealous. Am I selfish?" They help each other, they refine the concept. Poly cafes, organized from time to time in Paris or the provinces, try to structure the movement. And avoid the pitfalls. For there is no family without confits, and polys are not all agreed with each other. There are activists who see this way of life as a political commitment, even revolutionary. An act of resistance against hidebound moralism, the imperialism of possession.... And there are those who are not so in their heads but look only for happiness with two or more.

The "monos" are also interested. Intrigued anyway. In the cafes polys, plenty of "classical" couples come to see what's going on. On the forums, they confide their fears of deception and say they are tempted by the "third way."

...The 21st century will be one of "multiple love, polyunion, polyfidelity, polyamory," Jacques Attali prophesied in Amours: Histoire des relations entre les hommes et les femmes (Fayard). And if he's right?

Read the whole article in witty French (Aug. 11, 2011).

If you'd like to hear Françoise Simpère, she appeared on a radio talk show July 4th: Has infidelity re-entered our morals?

Next: a five-page article appeared in the June 2011 issue of the magazine Psychologies ("to live life better"): "Are The Polys Happy?"

Neither swingers nor libertines, they claim the possibility of being in love with several people, openly and honestly. How do they love? Is polyamory is it the future of couple-dom? Investigation and evidence.

The article draws upon psychologists pro and con and profiles several polys themselves, giving them the last word. Read it on the magazine's website (remember, you can translate a foreign-language site into machine English using Google Translate). Or read the scanned pages, including art-quality photos of the three poly people profiled.

Those are just the most recent media items. See Omont's press list for many more going farther back.

His site also lists upcoming events and other resources, including other French-language poly sites and eight (!) French books:

Des sites Web:

Vous pouvez aussi rejoindre le groupe polyamour sur facebook (le mur est ouvert pour toutes les "dernières actualités polyamoureuses"), et la liste de discussion poly-quebec (Yahoo group créé en 2003, 500+ membres, 20 messages/mois).

8 livres en français sont actuellement disponibles sur le sujet:


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August 16, 2011

Dear Abby: Should Triad Come Out to Family?

Up to 1,400 newspapers

When poly triads and quads first began seeing their inquiries taken seriously by newspaper advice columnists, it was truly a big deal. Here we were being recognized in public as actually existing; millions of people were reading, with their eggs and toast, that poly relationships are actually possible and happening in the real world.

Now that this kind of attention is becoming almost commonplace, it hardly seems like news. But yes it is, and yes it really matters.

This week, huge numbers of newspapers are about to print the following from Dear Abby, supposedly the most widely syndicated newspaper columnist in the world:

Woman with husband and lover wants one big happy family

By Abigail Van Buren

Dear Abby: Sometime ago, you printed a letter from one of your readers who was upset over her son’s polyamorous relationship. I didn’t respond then, but now that my triad is ready to come out to my boyfriend’s family (we are out to mine and to my husband’s family), I feel the need to address this lifestyle in your column and ask your advice.

My husband and I have been together 10 years. We started out as swingers. When we met my now-boyfriend, it became apparent that it was going to be more serious than “play” partners. Our particular arrangement is a “V” triad, meaning I am involved with two (husband and boyfriend), but they are not involved with each other.

My boyfriend is extremely important to us in every way. We all work together to make a very smooth-running, loving household.

I want you and your readers to know that this IS a viable relationship with love, respect and, most important, open communication. This kind of relationship — or any, for that matter — is doomed without it.

An estimated half-million people in the United States are part of polyamorous relationships. We’re not freaks in need of counseling, but people who realize that love can grow and that there is an alternative to monogamy.

Abby, I would like to get some tips from someone who doesn’t readily accept this life or even know it’s out there. My boyfriend’s family is conservative and they know he lives with a married couple. We’ve all spent time together, and I think they like me. Of course, they don’t know I’m romantically involved with their son.

What’s the best way to tell them about our triad? We want them to know this isn’t the end of the world and that I love him very much. I’d appreciate any advice from you or your readers on this. Until we’re out of the closet, please sign me...

Nowhere And Everywhere

Dear N And E: Because you’re looking for input from someone who “doesn’t readily accept this life,” you have come to the right place. You didn’t say how long your boyfriend has been living with you and your husband, but if it has been any length of time and his parents know he isn’t involved with anyone else, it’s possible they already have some suspicions.

Because they are conservative, if I were you I wouldn’t shatter their illusions. I can almost guarantee they won’t embrace you for it. If you feel you MUST disclose the information, then do it in the same way that you have explained it to me. But don’t expect them to jump for joy.

Here's a typical newspaper appearance (Aug. 16, 2011). Join the comments; they've just begun. And here's her official site.

Why is this a big deal?

Because according to her syndication service, Dear Abby is

the most widely syndicated newspaper columnist in the world.... Abby commands a client list of about 1,400 newspapers worldwide, and a daily readership of more than 110 million people.

Abby receives more than 10,000 letters and e-mails per week... has appeared as an expert on all major networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX and NBC... uses her column not only to entertain, but also to educate. In the U.S., public and private middle schools use her column to teach sex education and generate classroom discussion on a variety of subjects; the same is true in colleges and universities.... Dear Abby is used by educators worldwide as a teaching tool in adult level ESL (English as a Second Language)....

Every Web site mentioned in Dear Abby receives an immediate onslaught of viewers, and organizations mentioned are routinely encouraged to gear up to accept millions of hits....

P.S. Here are about two dozen other recent advice-column responses to polyfolk (including this one; scroll down).





Okay, I've gone and created a site to list all the major poly cons, festivals, gatherings, etc. coming up in the next 12 months. There are now 13 events on the list through July 2012, with descriptions and sometimes my commentary about events that I've been to. Please tell me any I've missed; write to alan7388 AT gmail DOT com.

Also, at the bottom of the page I've put links to lists of LOCAL POLY GROUPS worldwide, sorted by location -- making it easy to find the local group(s) in your backyard, with their own meetings and happenings.

Instructions for how to suggest new listings are on the page.

I intend to keep the site updated and current forever. I hope this will fill the poly world's need for a single, go-to place to find out about all major cons, gatherings, meetings, rallies, and festivals.

Please link to it and pass it on.




August 8, 2011

German Public TV tells our story beautifully

Viktor Leberecht, a poly activist in Berlin, sends word of a remarkable half-hour show about two polyfamilies that just aired on the German public TV channel ZDF. "I Love Not Just One: Happy with multiple partners" was shown August 2nd as part of the documentary series 37 Grad ("37°"). It follows two groups of people in depth: a sweet, homey bunch in their 60s or so (pictured above), and a group a generation younger.

I don't know German, but the imagery in the video says so much by itself! [Update: It's now on YouTube with English subtitles added by a volunteer: http://youtu.be/y_qn9wNSvqQ . For the subtitles, click the CC button while the video is playing.] Can you imagine PBS daring to air a show on alternative relationships this gentle and kind? The title of the documentary series, 37°, is the Celsius temperature of human warmth. Think "98.6" as you watch the opening sequence.

Watch the show (in Flash). If that doesn't work, try one of the non-Flash versions. I don't know how long it will remain on the program's website. Can someone capture it? For archival purposes only, of course....

On his blogsite, Viktor Leberecht (a pseudonym) has posted links to additional material about the show, how was made, and its makers Jana Matthes and Andrea Schramm (in German).

Here's a discussion of the show on 37 Grad's Facebook page.

Also, the show's site suggests four recent German books on polyamory and open relationships as further reading, with their covers and descriptions.

And here is Leberecht's own booklist.


Elsewhere in German public media, the public radio station Deutschlandradio Kultur broadcast a half-hour program on June 22nd, during evening prime time, titled "Because love is not exclusive! Polyamory as a concept of love and life?"

From the promo description (with help from Google Translate):

Polyamory: Created as a feminist movement in the late 90s in the U.S., this model of multiple committed relationships is currently experiencing a boom.

But can the supporters of polyamory really offer more than sexual freedom, and where exactly is the difference between open relationships and the politicized intimacy of '68?

An estimated 10,000 people are living in Germany "polyamor," and they are particularly concerned with rules and forms for their relationships. Behind this is also the need of people to continuously develop new theories of love.

Victor himself makes an appearance on the radio show. Here's the show's full written transcript. I can't find the audio online.


Here are all my posts about German-language coverage (including this one; scroll down). I'm sure I've missed many. See the second most recent one for links to a bunch of German poly sites and resources.

Polyamory in the News gets more hits from Germany than from any other non-English-speaking country.




I added a list of major upcoming poly events to my last post, with commentary and links to my writeups about the ones that I've been to. The list provoked enough interest, and new listings that I missed, that it clearly needs its own website.

Ta-dah! Here it is.

I intend to keep this list updated continuously. See the instructions there on how to suggest events to add. You can also post your own comments about events that you have been to.

I hope this fills the poly world's need for a single go-to place to find out about all major cons, gatherings, meetings, rallies, and festivals. Enjoy!


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August 5, 2011


The Advocate

The Advocate has been a leading publication in the GLBT movement since the 1960s. Its August 2011 issue offers a gay take on the "monogamish" or "New Monogamy" trend that's growing (or at least being more discussed) among straight couples.

The terms refer to allowing secondary relationships, often with the goal of keeping a marriage thriving.[1]. These build-it-yourself arrangements are supposedly taking a cue from gay culture, Dan Savage in particular. The term "monogamish" is Savage's invention.[2]


We often protest when homophobes insist that same-sex marriage will change marriage for straight people too. But in some ways, they’re right. Here’s how gay relationships will change the institution — but for the better.

By Ari Karpel

When birth control pills were making Megan’s sex drive almost nonexistent, she told her boyfriend, Colin, what many gay men in a similar position might say to theirs: “If you want to have sex, feel free to sleep with someone else; just don’t tell me about it.”

...That’s how Megan, now 25, and Colin, 26, college sweethearts who live in Minneapolis, came to fashion a committed, nonmonogamous marriage. They don’t flaunt their unconventional lifestyle (they requested that their last name not be used), but they are hardly alone. By designing a relationship that doesn’t fit a typical married couple, Megan and Colin have joined a small but growing number of straight couples who are looking to gay male relationships as the model for long-term, nonmonogamous unions.

Anti-equality right-wingers have long insisted that allowing gays to marry will destroy the sanctity of “traditional marriage,” and, of course, the logical, liberal party-line response has long been “No, it won’t.” But what if — for once — the sanctimonious crazies are right? Could the gay male tradition of open relationships actually alter marriage as we know it? And would that be such a bad thing?...

Welcome to Queer (Roving) Eye for the Monogamous Straight Couple Lie....

Monogamish relationships are not about wild promiscuity or even Swingtown-style polyamory, two things the term nonmonogamy connotes...

“If it’s open in a controlled way, then it’s less destructive to a relationship,” preaches Savage, whose podcasts, column, and blog have become a soapbox for his views on relationships.

Nevertheless, Savage’s own account of his monogamish relationship (he and his husband, Terry Miller, have been together for 16 years and have a 13-year-old son) fosters a sense of support and community for couples who find little of it elsewhere....

Even many gay male couples, who Savage describes as having “perfected nonmonogamy,” fear disclosing that their relationship is anything but one-on-one. Gary (not his real name) is out in every area of his life, and his family is completely supportive. “But I don’t tell my family, even my brother — who I’m incredibly close with — that I have sex outside of the relationship with Ben,” his partner of 14 years, he says. “I have never said that to him.”

Gary and Ben, who live in Los Angeles, won’t reveal their real names because Ben has a high-profile career in television. “We have too much to lose,” Gary says. “But we also don’t want people passing judgment on us.” Which is why they don’t even tell most of their friends.

Blake Spears and Lanz Lowen recently completed The Couples Study, an examination of nonmonogamy among 86 gay couples.... The thing they found most striking is that while nonmonogamy seems to be fairly pervasive among gay couples (though they did not hear from the many monogamous pairs), there is surprisingly little support within the gay population for such relationships.... [Many statistics follow.]

...The Couples Study suggests that consensual nonmonogamy can have a stabilizing effect on relationships.... “Having an open relationship, even when we don’t act on it frequently, has been great for us and for our sex life,” says Dave. “It makes us feel more secure with each other, and we don’t fear cheating. Also, it’s improved the sex just because it’s exciting to think about having sex with other people.”...

Read the whole article (August 2011 issue).

Update: Autostraddle now has an article on this topic: Gay Marriage Doesn’t Change Straight Marriage… Except When It Does (Aug. 9, 2011).


Announcements: Upcoming Poly Gatherings!

Several poly-community events are happening soon! In date order:

Polycamp Northwest, Millersylvania State Park south of Seattle, August 26–29. A big, kid- and family-friendly campout with workshops, hikes, canoeing, singing, dance, games from Calvinball to frisbee golf. Some adults-only workshops/discussions. Polycamp NW had well over 100 people last year. Deadline for meal-plan signup is August 7. See newspaper article about Polycamp last year (by Dan Savage!).

Polyday at Dragon Hall, London, U.K., August 27. "At Polyday you'll meet a wide variety of people who all know that happy and honest relationships don't have to be monogamous. Talks and discussion groups throughout the day, followed by an evening of music and socialising. Workshops begin at noon, entertainment and social in the evening until 11pm."

● At Burning Man, Nevada desert, Aug. 29 – Sept. 5. (Note, Burning Man is already full. If you didn't get a ticket yet you can't get in.):

Poly Asylum theme camp, all week; azimuth 7:30, sector Graduation. Pepper Mint and friends are running this. He writes, "We will be holding workshops, putting on parties, and doling out nonmonogamy advice to anyone who wanders in. Feel free to stop by and chat with us! Also, be sure to check out our Friday mid-evening party — this is the first ever public polyamory party on playa that I've heard of." Afternoon offerings include The Poly Doctors Are In, Happy Insanity Hour, Dealing With Jealousy, Nurturing Secondary and Play-Buddy Relationships, Poly Perspectives Beyond Sex, and Nonmonogamy and Parenting.

Poly Paradise theme camp, all week; azimuth 4:15, sector Engagement. Poly Paradise is now in its 13th year. In past years it has been, to my knowledge, one of the largest poly assemblages anywhere. Scheduled workshops and events include Heart of Now, Poly High Tea, the desert Hiney Hygiene Station and the famous Human Carcass Wash, Radical Honesty workshops, Revolutionary Honesty, Mind Melt, and Herpes/STIs Out of the Closet.

Loving More's annual Conference Retreat, north of Albany, New York, at the Easton Mountain Retreat Center; September 9–11. Relationship and deep-communication workshops, navigating poly both for beginners and the advanced, tantra and energy sessions; warm fellowship, beautiful rural setting, hot tubbing, sauna, pool, stars. Clothing optional (though not many go bare except around the hot tub, sauna, and pool). I've been coming to this since 2005 and will be back again. Highly recommended. See you there.

Poly Pride Weekend, New York City, October 7–9. Sponsored by Polyamorous NYC. Now in its 11th year, the Poly Pride Picnic & Rally takes place Saturday noon to 6 on Great Hill in Central Park. Music, speakers, performers; past programs have been excellent. Not huge; attendance the last two years has only been in the 100 range. GLBT oriented. The weekend also features a dance party at Infinity and a massive Cuddle Party. I attended in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and spoke at the first two. See my last writeup.

OpenCon, in Gillingham, Dorset, U.K.; October 14–16. "A 3-day event in the English countryside for everyone who knows that happy and honest relationships don't have to be monogamous. OpenCon combines discussions, workshops and socialising to give you a chance to meet like-minded people, to build our community and to celebrate its diversity.... OpenCon 2010 was hugely successful, and we anticipate that OpenCon 2011 will be even more fun. OpenCon has grown out of Polyday, which has been run in various cities in the UK over the last several years. We hope you'll join us!"

Southern Polyamory Gathering at All World Acres, Tampa Bay area, Florida; October 20–23. "Workshops, activities, and entertainment presented by members of the polyamorous community. The community at AWA has had plenty of experience presenting festivals that are always educational and fun. Planned activities include meet-and-greet party the first evening, entertainment, nightly bonfire with drumming and dancing, workshops by various presenters to help one understand and appreciate polyamory; camping, vendors, more." Camping facilities are said be to very primitive, but there are showers, flush toilets, and a cafe on site. No kids allowed (except for little bitties).

Farther out, mark your calendar for 2012:

Poly Living Conference, Philadelphia, February 10–12, 2012. This is also put on by Loving More each year. The format and people are similar to the September Retreat, but Poly Living is held in a very nice large hotel with full amenities, convenient to the Philadelphia airport. Not clothing optional. Here's last year's workshop list to give you an idea. Here's my writeup of the first Poly Living I attended (2006).

Atlanta Poly Weekend, northern Atlanta, March 9–11, 2012. This new hotel conference, which began in 2011, is put on by energetic people of the Atlanta Poly meetup group. Participant-generated workshops, panels, discussion sessions; fun events in the evening. Kid-friendly. I came to the first APW last March, which drew well over 100 people; see my writeup.

Polyamory House Party Weekend, June 8-10, 2012. The dates are already set for this second annual network of “barbecues, keggers, potlucks, raves, picnics, blues dances, play parties, tantric retreats, game nights, field days, movement fundraisers, cuddle parties, and fancy dinners.” Mark your calendar, and start planning your event!


[1] My posts on recent articles about the "monogamish" trend:

The New York Times Sunday Magazine is the biggest outlet so far to jump on it, citing Dan Savage as the model; much reaction resulted. Elsewhere, Savage is called America’s most important sex ethicist. A New York weekly considers what straight couples can learn from same-sex couples about negotiating unconventional arrangements. Two new books on the topic are getting mainstream press: Marriage Confidential and Unhitched. Another is in the works: The New Monogamy. And check out Polyamory for Monogamists.

So why do I have a queasy feeling? There’s a big unspoken assumption going on here: that radical, paradigm-breaking relationship forms will naturally work out just fine for normals — people who don't think to examine their other old-culture habits about human relations, or the assumptions in which the rest of their lives are embedded. There is a reason why the 1970s open-marriage movement among mainstream, middle-class couples is widely remembered for its failure rate. I say this while still full of fizz from being at Network for New Culture Summer Camp East last month.

[2] Savage has quite the knack for inventing words that stick: santorum, saddlebacking, pegging, campsite rule, GGG, DTMFA, lifting luggage.... See list with definitions and origins (scroll down).


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