Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

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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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Burning Man is sold out??!! Noooooo!!!!!!

August 05, 2011 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I'm glad to see more monogamous couples take a conscious look at their relationships and make deliberate choices, I have to concerns. One is the concern already voiced about people jumping into the "new" way without bothering to look at the old way.

The other is in this continued misuse of the word "monogamy" to apply to a wider and wider set of caveats. Monogamy means single marriage, except when it means single marriage *at a time* but multiple over a lifetime, except when it means single sexual partner, except when it means single romantic partner but multiple sexual partners... I understand that "English is a living language", but there comes a point at which a definition for a word becomes so broad that it effectively becomes meaningless.

I think we do need a word reserved for those people who really do have only one partner. There are almost as many words for non-monogamy as there are styles of doing it, and people make up new words all the time. I am really not a fan of co-opting the word "monogamy" for relationship styles that are clearly not monogamous.

Also, Swingtown-style polyamory? The reporter hasn't been doing his homework.

All that being said, however, I'm glad there is becoming more mainstream acceptance of designing your own relationship and making up rules that fit the people rather than trying to mak people fit the rules.

August 05, 2011 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Lucius Scribbens said...

The article was good, but I feel it has given gay-culture too much credit for non-monogamy, as if gay people invented it and heterosexuals adopted it. Humans have been non-monogamous since the dawn of time regardless of gender preference.

August 08, 2011 12:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The exposure is cool and all, but in my opinion this trend has less to do with polyamory than with ignoring cheating if she "doesn't want to hear" about the other hook-ups. It's not really being supportive, and therefore I feel like resentment and guilt are going to make it end horribly for them. She should have just found a better birth control option and stayed monogamous. But I'm not them, and it's just my opinion.

August 14, 2011 4:01 AM  

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