Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 29, 2012

Poly at the Good Men Project

A collection of 10 poly and related articles (so far) has gone up on the widely noted online men's magazine The Good Men Project ("a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century").

Most were published in just the last few days, following a call for submissions that got (ahem) forwarded to the Polyamory Leadership Network. You can still get in on this.

There's some good material here to save and pass on. You may recognize some of the names:

Polyamory: Rebooting Our Definitions of Love and Family. Angi Becker Stevens doesn’t need you to understand her family to accept it as equal.

What if We Approached Monogamy the Way We Approach Polyamory? Franklin Veaux describes common approaches to polyamory in monogamous terms.

Polyamory Is Pro-Family. Raising children is easier with four adults, according to Micah Schneider, making a pro-family argument for polyamory as a lifestyle.

Polyamory, Fidelity and Faithfulness. Jimmy Holloway can tell you from experience that faithfulness and exclusivity are not necessarily the same thing.

Is Being “Half a Partner” to Somebody Enough? Mark D. White wonders if anybody is hurt in an open emotional affair.

The Poly Closet. Christopher wonders, “Is it harder to accept honesty than infidelity?”

Bi Polyamory: Calling a Spade and Spade. Rob Grimes thinks honesty in relationships is the best policy.

Monogamy Isn’t For Everyone; Polyamory Isn’t Going to Ruin the World. Jasmine Peterson is angry that it took her 27 years to learn about polyamory.

The Myth: Men Are Horny, Women Are Not. Noah Brand breaks down the nature and origins of cultural assumptions about male vs. female libidos.

Non-monogamy. Jeremy M. believes you don’t need to let society’s rules get in the way of the kind of relationship that you are interested in having.


February 25, 2012

When triad life comes easy

Huffington Post: Gay Voices

Poly discussion sites can make this life look damn hard. There's jealousy to analyze and master, insecurities to dredge up and dissect on a brightly lit table, agreements to negotiate, NRE craziness to manage, Non-Violent Communication to learn, Google Calendar to install.... It can sound like pursuing a PhD in self-improvement. For many people it is.

Showing up less often on poly-community sites are the naturals: people who just take to group relationships like fish to water. They seem born to it, and/or have lucked into the right partners. They don't seek much community support, often barely know a poly community exists, or perhaps even (until recently) know the word.

John Shore, a prolific gay religious book author ("America's preeminent non-douchey Christian" says Dan Savage), today interviews such a woman on his popular Huffington Post site. She is living in a polyfi triad home with a passel of their combined kids, where they hide out pretty comfortably in a deeply conservative Christian backwater of the South.

Sometimes It Takes Three to Tango

Could you give us a quick definition of what "polyamorous" is/means?

...Honestly, the term "polyamorous" wasn't on our radar when we fell in love. It was later that we discovered there was a term for what we were. If we need a term, we consider ourselves "polyfidelitous," which is what polys call those who love more than one person in a long-term, faithful kind of way.

Some people consider themselves polyamorous because they believe they need and/or want to be in multiple relationships at any given time. This is not a good description of us. We all feel we could be satisfied with just one person. It's just that we fell in love with two, pretty much all at the same time... and we discovered (through lots of open and honest communication!) that we were all not just OK with it, but that it was something we wanted.

Truthfully, we don't think of ourselves as polyamorous. We just think of ourselves as us.

...How long have you guys been together?

We have been dear friends for a very long time, with children who grew up as babies together.... I was a (divorced) single mother, and they were a happily married couple.... She had been my best friend for years, and we've always been closer than sisters. People used to always comment on how close we were, but we never realized that could be sexual, too. Both of us were raised to not even be aware that was a possibility.

Long story short, the three of us began doing more and more things together and it just... worked really well. We got along incredibly, the three of us, and at some point, my best friend realized she had feelings for me. She was the one who began the conversation about, "What if?"...

We all felt very excited when we realized that we were in love and that we all wanted the same thing (a long-term, committed relationship as a three). And then there was a lot of open and honest communication, of course. There has to be with any successful couple, and so with three people, even more so....

Every step forward just felt so right on so many different levels, and doors kept opening up right and left. There were numerous points where we would look at each other and say, "It's so weird, but if I was still a fundamentalist Christian, I would say that God is blessing us..."

We took very small and careful steps forward, hesitantly, every inch of the way being shocked at how nice, how perfect, how healthy, how "just right" it always felt. Our fears about each next step were always replaced by fearfully taking it and then finding it delightful....

Do you all live together?

Yep. Wouldn't have it any other way.... Two years this spring.

What's the sexual deal? Are each of you bisexual? Do you all sleep in the same bed?

He is not bisexual. I suppose that both of the women are. Well, honestly, I don't even know if we are. I just know that I love her. And she loves me. And being intimate feels like it makes sense, given the depth of our feelings for each other. We had been incredibly close friends for years, prior, and it never seemed close enough. Now, it feels just right.

We all sleep together every night. The person in the middle gets seriously snuggled on. It's fun.

Sexually, we have learned a lot about how three people can have an amazingly wonderful experience that feels like making love for everyone. We occasionally joke about the bestselling book we will write about how to have amazing threesomes one day. It was delightful to learn that you can have that feeling of being "one" with three. You totally can. That was one of the things we worried about at first -- what would we do about sex? Now, my mind automatically assumes that making love takes three.... We are sexual as couples, too, just not as often....

...I love my two partners. I love our life together. I love our big, happy home. But I do not love the fact that I live in a community that would rather me live as a struggling single mom to four children than to have the support of two adults who love me dearly as a life partner. The fact that my community would believe wholeheartedly that my sexual relationship with my abusive ex-husband was righteous but that my sexual relationship with two committed life partners (if they knew about it) is unrighteous, just seems so hypocritical....

Do you know any other polyamorous, or polyfidelitous, relationship units? (I guess "couples" isn't the right word, is it?) But do you know any others like yourselves?

No. I'm sure they are out there, but we don't know of any personally. That's OK. Honestly, I don't think this would work for very many people. The reason it does for us is that we are just the right three people for each other. It's hard enough to find just the right one person for yourself, much less two! When I think about my relationship as a three, I mostly just feel incredibly lucky, like God is smiling at us. I get to be loved by two best friends and lovers. I get to love two amazing people back (and they really are amazing). I get to love a whole house-full of children. It just feels like so much goodness. When I come home from work and pull into our drive, I smile. I love us!...

What do you want people to know about people like you, and relationships like yours?

That we are normal, solid citizens. That we are professionals that you work with at the office. That we are the teacher in your child's classroom, the person who delivers your mail, the doctor who looks at your injury. That we are the mom at the soccer games. That we are the dad at the geography bee. That we are the people with the really huge cart of groceries ahead of you in the supermarket line. That we grew up in conservative Christian America and certainly never imagined that we would do something like this. That we certainly weren't looking for something outside of the norm, but that love found us, and we were willing to step outside of the norm to meet it....

Read the whole interview (Feb. 25, 2012).


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February 23, 2012

An open-marriage couple goes on the Dr. Phil Show

Daytime-TV psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw has been on the air for 10 years. He's known for bringing on screwups and losers and lecturing them about what they're doing wrong. He presents a strong family-first message and has a low opinion of open marriages. So today's guests, open-marriage advocates Carl and Kenya Stevens, were walking into a tough appearance.

On the other hand, the Stevenses weren't about to be the usual easy victims. They've had lots of media experience arguing for their way of life on BET, Fox News, the Michael Baisden radio show, and elsewhere.

How'd they do? I have a day job so I couldn't watch. The show isn't online anywhere I can find (link, anyone?). However, here's the show's official web page for today's episode (Feb. 23, 2012).

It offers a 1-minute promo in which Kenya and Dr. Phil try to out-interrupt each other. That's a losing game; he's the pro, and he writes the video editor's paycheck.

Another video clip they put on the page is an outtake of Kenya fetching lotion from someone to put on her legs, which makes her look self-centered.

The third and last video on the page is more serious. Dr. Phil "addresses Carl’s admission that he doesn’t always practice safe sex" due to Carl's notion that being fearless helps the body protect against STIs. Sadly, this woo-woo nonsense from Carl was in the public record for the show's researchers to discover, and for Dr. Phil to highlight on a big display board in Carl's face, the audience's, and ours. Kenya jumps in to try to divert the subject; Phil doesn't let her. Carl tries really, really hard to walk this one back and almost succeeds — but finally can't. I wanted to reach through the screen and strangle him for ever having talked up this awful piece of New Age crap. He walked nose-first into Dr. Phil's punch on this. (And thanks to Joreth for tipping us poly activists in advance to Carl's STD woo-woo problem.)

There are also two text links to long transcripts from the show, in which further text links to better video segments are buried a couple pages in. So the couple did get some chances to have their say — and here they look good when they get enough time to make a point.

Note: Hostile TV can really screw you over. Unlike radio or print, it can edit your message practically out of existence and still have plenty of stuff to make an engaging show. A TV host and editor also have a deeper bag of tricks to draw upon, and if they choose to use these against you, you literally cannot win. Of course, it doesn't help if you are already on record saying medically stupid nonsense in public.

For different takes, see John U's and Jasmine's comments below. They saw the whole show.



"Germany's Polys Speak Out"

Monsters & Critics / Münstersche Zeitung

Outside the English-speaking world, where have poly ideas taken firmest root? Germany might be a good guess. Its counterculture and out-of-the-box progressive movements match any in Europe. I get more hits from Germany than any other non-English-speaking country, and not just because I've covered loads of poly in the media there. An interesting item coming down the pike will be Antonia Levy's PhD thesis comparing and contrasting the poly movements in Germany and the U.S., for which I was just interviewed on the American side.

The online magazine Monsters and Critics this morning reprints an article adapted from a German newspaper:

Open relationships — Germany's polys speak out

By Marco Krefting

Stuttgart, Germany — Whenever Michael is away from home for a few days his girlfriend takes the opportunity to meet up with other men. Afterwards, Elisabeth calls Michael and tells him how the meetings went — and what the sex was like.

Michael and Elisabeth have a polyamory relationship: that means each person has more than one intimate relationship and the other one knows it. The pair live near Stuttgart, in a conservative part of rural Germany....

...Christopher Gottwald from Germany's PolyAmores Network (PAN) says there are no figures for how many polys live in the country. 'Polyamory is a philosophy that's based on honesty, openness and self-development. It's a broad term that describes an open lifestyle.'

The polyamory community in the United States has an estimated 100,000 members — far more than in Germany. According to Gottwald, there are growing numbers of polys who regularly meet in Germany. But they are still encountering intolerance, according to Michael. 'People do not understand. Normally, a man betrays his partner and has a secret affair.'

...Ahead of a regular monthly meeting in Stuttgart, Maria describes why polyamory is so important to her: 'I wanted to experience myself as a sensual woman again.' After almost 20 years of marriage her children had left home. Her husband spent much of his time at work and Maria felt she wanted more from life. 'I was alone and I didn't want that. It was time to pay more attention to myself again.'

...However, sex therapist Ulrich Clement says this form of relationship can be plagued by jealousy. 'Sexual transparency without any secrets such as those found in an extra-marital affair is not easy to maintain in a polyamory relationship.'

...One advantage to a polyamory relationship, according to Maria, is that she can speak to men about problems she's having with her partner. 'They know him and appreciate his qualities. It means I don't have to fall into the old, typical relationship patterns.'

Polyamory is not about having wild sex, its adherents say. Michael describes his relationships with women as sexual friendships, however, they are not one night stands - they are meant to last longer.

'Polyamory should not be compared to the free love of the 1960s,' says couple therapist Abbas Schirmohammadi. 'It's more a concept that is dictated by thought.' Polyamory requires a lot more talk about worries, fears, desires and needs with the different partners. 'That can only work when you feel comfortable with yourself. If you are dragging an inferiority complex around with you, then it won't work.'

...Is polyamory a relationship model with a future? Michael says: 'Sex quickly becomes boring in a relationship with just two people.' Michael believes that leads to what he describes as serial monogamy: when a person regularly changes partner. Gottwald believes polyamory has one big advantage over monogamy: 'It's actually the more honest version of the two relationships.'

Read the whole article (Feb. 23, 2012). The original German article appeared in the Münstersche Zeitung on February 14 with the title "Frau + Mann + Frau = Liebe".


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February 19, 2012

"Modern lovers: The ‘sexual body warriors’ and pioneers transforming 21st-century relationships"

The Sunday Independent (UK)

The Independent is the closest thing Great Britain has to a national newspaper of record, after the venerable, two-centuries-old Times of London was bought and wrecked by Rupert Murdoch. Or so says my wife Sparkle Moose, who lived there for eight years.

Last week the Sunday Independent published a major article on the changing forms of relationships in 21st-century society. Polyamory gets lengthy treatment.

Modern lovers: The ‘sexual body warriors’ and pioneers transforming 21st-century relationships

By Sarah Morrison

You probably should not ask psychotherapists to divulge what they believe is meant by the term "modern love". The response you get may be enough to set you pining for a Mills & Boon.... "Modern love has become more complicated," argues the psycho-therapist and bestselling author Susie Orbach, "but it has also become much more interesting."

A quick glimpse at the statistics tells us why.... Marriages are at the lowest rate since 1895.... But our thirst for desire, romance and life-changing relationships is more prominent than ever before, the experts say.

...As Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim wrote in The Normal Chaos of Love: "Love is becoming a blank that lovers must fill in themselves."...

...Orbach wants to dispel the myth that traditional love has been replaced with a lust-fuelled array of casual relationships.... "Attachment is important. My experience still tells me that people, most people, want somebody who is there for them."

...In psychology lecturer Dr Meg Barker's new book, Rewriting the Rules, due out this year, she cites research showing that up to 60 per cent of married people have affairs.... As Barker asserts, "some of the radical ways people challenge love doesn't necessarily involve swinging from chandeliers". [Barker has long been a leading researcher of the poly community.]

...In fact, the "new monogamy" as it is called, involves fewer labels and definitions and largely avoids categories at all. There is "friendship with benefits", a "hook-up culture", and "polyamory", the notion that people can have multiple relationships that may be emotionally close and sexual in nature. This term first entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. Dr Christine Campbell, senior lecturer in psychology at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, who is carrying out studies on jealousy in polyamorous relationships, says: "The worst label you can call a polyamorist is a 'swinger'; they are very clear that it is not just about sex, but also emotional connections."

There may be an absence of quantitative research into the number of people who define themselves as "poly", but few will deny that the growth of the internet has enabled the community to become more vocal. Sites such as Facebook and OkCupid.com, one of the largest American dating websites, now allow users the chance to define themselves as in an "open relationship". OkCupid estimates that around 6 per cent of all its members fall into this group....

The article goes on to profile four people and groups representing interesting types: A gay " ’appy singleton" relying on his iPhone's find-a-hookup app, a "sexual body warrior" couple ("sexual healers, using intimate bodywork and therapy to empower people sexually"), a genderqueer longterm polyamorous family (photo above), and a "cyber couple" who met on SingleMuslim.com.

Here is the polyfamily profile. A different photo of them leads the original article.

DK Green, 45, and his wives, Rachel Green, 49, and Luisa Green, 47 – affectionately dubbed the "tripod" – have lived together for more than a decade in a committed polyamorous relationship. They have raised three children and, like most other married couples, they share one bed – albeit 7ft in size – in their home in Chesterfield.

Only, they are not married – and will never be allowed to be under British law. DK Green, self-defined "daddy of the house", is biologically a woman and the mother to all three children – Kirsty, 25, Tony, 22, and Lina, 14 – as well as five step-grandchildren. His two wives were married to him and each other via a pagan ceremony known as handfasting. They have brought other partners into their home, on the condition of mutual consent, but say they view their marriage as "sacrosanct".

DK, who has been in a heterosexual marriage before, says: "We all met online in 1999, within two weeks of each other. The three of us are loyal to each other; nobody does anything without the others' consent. If it's honest, open and hurts no one, it is not cheating. We respect each other as wives, although I am head of the household. The response has been varied. Lina, our youngest, has had the hardest time, but that's as much to do with the fact that her parents are gay as that she has three mums.

"Some of the children's fathers are still very much part of their lives. There is a tribal kind of feel to our family and our children always have someone to go to. If they want advice or a cuddle, they come to me. If they want a laugh, they go to Luisa, the American, and if they want to know something, they go to Rachel, because she's a genius. We all have things to offer them. Then there are the practical things: three of us were able to buy a house together; one of us [alone] couldn't. We are traditional in a non-traditional sense. We have children, grandchildren, mortgages and bills; there just happens to be three of us.

"For all the benefits, there is three times as much to deal with. We are talking about six relationships between us, but we probably work at it harder than the average couple. People absolutely believe that you fall head over heels with someone and can't possibly see someone else, but my love for Luisa doesn't change the fact that my love for Rachel is deep and abiding. Just like a parent can love more than one child, so too can you love more than one partner. Your heart doesn't split in half, it doubles; there is an endless supply of love."

Read the whole article (Feb. 12, 2012).


On the subject of redefining relationships in the 21st century, writer and activist Angi Becker Stevens recently published a notable article, "Polyamory: Rebooting our Definitions of Love and Family," at the online magazine Role/Reboot ("providing the best writing on culture and gender roles"):

...It says a great deal about our society’s rigid definition of romantic love that people are able to somewhat easily accept the concept of sexually open relationships — and even dishonest infidelity — while insisting that it cannot be possible to actually love multiple partners simultaneously. Frustratingly, I have been told on more than one occasion that what I share with my partners cannot, by definition, be love, as if anyone can define for others what love is and what it is not. These attitudes strike me as incredibly reminiscent of a society that — 30 years ago — viewed same-sex relationships only as a deviant sexual behavior. And yet dismissal and disapproval of my relationships often comes from those who support LGBTQ equality, who claim to be open-minded and progressive.

Currently, I am in two relationships, both of which I consider myself committed to for life. My husband and I will be celebrating 10 years of marriage — 15 total years as a couple — this year, and we have an 8-year-old daughter together. My boyfriend doesn’t live with us yet, but we have plans to all live together in the not-so-distant future, and there’s been much talk of adding more children to our family as well. My daughter is well aware of the nature of my relationships, which I do not keep hidden from anyone.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people raise concerns about the well-being of children in polyamorous families. Some seem concerned that the kids in these situations are growing up with inappropriate ethics, which is a lot like warning same-sex couples that their children will grown up thinking it’s OK to be gay....

From my perspective, being in a polyamorous family has a lot to offer both children and parents. Children benefit from having additional trusted adults who care for them, parents benefit from sharing the burdens of parenting among more than just two people. And while I would make no claims that polyamory is inherently and necessarily revolutionary with regard to gender roles, there is something to be said for the possibilities it opens up in that respect. When we shift away from families with one mother and one father, it can become easier to also shake up the roles and expectations associated with those labels. I believe in the sentiment that it takes a village to raise a child, particularly if women are to function as equals in society while also caring for young children. Multi-parent households are certainly not the only way of more equitably dividing parental tasks, but they do offer one model for doing so....

Read the whole article. (Feb. 8, 2012).


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February 17, 2012

My keynote speech at Poly Living 2012

I'm still winding down from the exciting, almost overwhelming whirl of people (130 of them) and workshops and ideas and conversations and affection at last weekend's Poly Living Conference in Philadelphia, run by the Loving More nonprofit. I gave the keynote speech.

People asked me to put the text of it online. So here it is. Regular readers will recognize chunks of it and some of my hobbyhorses. No apologies for self-plagiarism.

For much of the time I was talking I had a slide show running on the wall behind me, presenting screen shots of the last 90 or so posts on this site. Some people said this was an effective enhancement; others said it was a distraction. If you were there, what did you think?


Busting Loose: Polyamory in the Next Five Years

(Keynote speech, Poly Living Conference; Feb. 10, 2012)

Hi! I'm Alan. And now, if this is supposed to be the keynote talk for the weekend, I am going to take the assignment seriously:

(Blows pitch pipe.)

A key note is sounded for a chorus, so that they can start together on the same key. I hope that what I say here will set the tone, for everybody to have an exciting and productive weekend.

(Holds up pitch pipe.) I will be back to this.

Okay, here is what I am going to do:

-- I'm going to talk first about how and why polyamory right now is busting out all over, and what I think we can expect to see in the next five years or so.

-- And then, looking much farther out, I'll be a bit daring and describe how I think the things we are doing, and the culture we are haltingly building, just might shape the direction and survival of Western civilization in ages to come.

-- And then, we can get up out of our seats and do a couple of fun little exercises to maybe start getting to know each other better and kick off the social part of the evening.


What kind of "busting loose" is polyamory going to have in the next five years?

Just a couple months ago when I wrote the description of this talk in the program, I worded it kind of tentatively. "We may be in for quite a ride." "The pace of public awareness may be accelerating." Well since then, things have been going nuts. We're having a sudden breakout of greater public recognition, which clearly must have been just waiting to happen.

For instance: Unlike in previous cheating-politician scandals... (audience laughter) ...the Newt Gingrich open-marriage episode two weeks ago became a vehicle for major media attention to good open and poly relationships, contrasting with how Gingrich did it. There have been big profiles of people doing multiple relationships, and articles on how to make them work with honesty and close communication and compassion and respect, in the New York Times (twice), the BBC, USA Today, many others. Representatives for poly done well are suddenly in demand to I think an unprecedented degree.

And here I have to show some slides from less than 24 hours ago. (Click other powerpoint.) Our own presenters Anita and Tim Illig and Michael Rios and Sarah Taub here this weekend were riding this wave last night on the Channel Seven news in DC, representing us and our values just beautifully.... And a bit farther south in Virginia, members of that area’s poly community are about to be on TV too. It’s happening all over.

Now: Contrast this experience with the Governor Mark Sanford cheating-politician scandal 2½ years ago, which also captivated the nation for a few days. Sanford was Mr. Hiking the Appalachian Trial. During that one, Loving More sent out a press release to media high and low trying to drum up attention for multiple relationships that are done with kindness and consent and good ethics all around — and couldn't get a peep of interest. Something really changed in those intervening 2½ years.

Moreover: On January 30th I think we crossed a certain milestone in poly history. For the first time that I know of, we became a political football in a national political arena in a way that was good for us. For years, we’ve been railed against as an example of the Something Awful waiting at the bottom of the slippery slope of gay marriage. But the day before the Florida Republican primary, the largest newspaper in Florida's largest Republican belt published a long feature article on the people in the local poly community and their high ethical standards, explicitly drawing a pointed contrast between us and Newt Gingrich right in the lead paragraphs. The newspaper was profiling us very positively to drive home Gingrich's scuzziness by comparison — the day before Florida's crucial vote (which Gingrich lost, though I'm sure this was only a tiny part of it).

If we're going to be used as a political football, that was a pretty good football to be! I didn't expect to see this happening this soon.

Other milestones in the last month or so: In the space of one week, we saw poly triad families, each with a kid, profiled positively on ABC's Morning Edition, Nightline, and the National Geographic Channel. More and more of the public is getting acquainted with what multi-partner families actually look like. We are becoming more familiar; on the way to being normalized.

That same week, we also saw a broadcast-TV drama, ABC's "Private Practice," present a fictional polyamorous triad family — explicitly called that by name, so viewers would be sure to get it — treated so well, and at such length, that it reminded me of the first breakthrough shows treating gay characters with understanding and respect.

Reid Mihalko, who works in and around the TV industry, has said for a few years that Hollywood is quite aware of modern polyamory and its potential to seize viewers' interest. He says TV people have been nosing around the edges of it. But they've been nervous about letting it get any closer to home than the polygamists in "Big Love" and "Sister Wives," who are pretty removed from American mainstream life. Because, Reid says, the networks still aren't sure how advertisers will react, and in TV, advertisers rule everything. Now it looks like maybe the networks have decided it's time to test the waters a little more boldly.

Demand for publicly out polys who want to appear in the media exceeds the supply. People like Robyn Trask in Loving More, and Anita Wagner active in the Poly Leadership Network, keep getting calls. Truly — if you want to try your hand at representing open relationships and poly life to the public, the way is open. Robyn would love to have more good people to send media inquiries to. She is experienced in dealing with the media herself, and she's an invaluable resource for newbies about how to negotiate with them on a more even basis so you get treated right. And how to know when to walk away, and how to present your message effectively like a pro.

Also: We now have a Polyamory Media Association, which is run by Joreth. It's set up to train out-and-proud polyfolks to become skilled, effective public spokespeople for themselves. There are necessary tricks to this, especially for TV, and they’re easy to learn. The Poly Media Association is also a resource for reporters and program directors seeking poly people. Its services are free and depend on volunteers.

As for the next five years? We're going to be busting loose more all over, though of course there will be plateau periods too. The things we are saying and doing truly grab attention. We turn heads. With relationship roles and rules and ideals in flux throughout society, society is increasingly ready to hear us, and see us, and consider our examples.

And, as we become more widely seen and talked about and thought about, is there going to be a backlash in the next few years? A big moral-panic persecution, as the things we’re saying become less avoidable, less dismissable, and therefore maybe more threatening?

No. That is my prediction. I used to think there would be a great backlash at some point, but now I don't.

There will continue to be a lot of pain and discrimination. There will continue to be trouble from your birth families, and in court from hostile judges in child-custody divorce cases, and from bosses who may fire you. But gradually less with time.

One reason I say this, is that an organized backlash has already been tried. From about 2003 to 2006, some top-level conservative think tanks and journals tried to whip up a campaign against us as the next great threat to civilization that they could defend everyone from. It was all over the serious conservative journals like the National Review and the Weekly Standard.

This campaign gained very little traction beyond the conservative movement's immediate followers. It didn't take. So, they pretty much just abandoned it and went on to try other things that might do better in the panic market.

Meanwhile, therefore, we have had years now in which we've been defining ourselves to the public on our own terms. This is crucial. Politicians spend millions of dollars trying to define themselves to the public before their opponents can do it. We've done it on a shoestring.

Thanks in part to Loving More and a whole lot of brave individual volunteers, we've by and large successfully represented the modern polyamory movement to the public as what we know ourselves to be: ethical people who care deeply about good relationships — smart, verbal, interesting, friendly people — nonthreatening and respectful of all well-considered relationship choices, monogamy included — and by and large just kind of adorable. Every year we are better entrenching this public image, firming up our defense against future moral panics.

It is going to get easier. It's gradually going to get easier to be out. And when that happens, the dam will really burst.

Remember, the dam broke on gay issues when a flood of gay people finally got sick of the closet and came out all over the place in just a few years. We're not quite there yet. But it's going to happen.


And now, before closing, I want to look ahead much farther.

Barry Smiler has said, quote:

> I'm more than half convinced that in the future when
> historians look back on the poly movement, we'll be
> remembered not so much for multiple partners, but
> rather as the cauldron in which was developed some
> powerful tools and frameworks for discussing and
> negotiating win-win in relationship situations.

In other words, we're among the people developing powerful tools and frameworks for getting along intimately in close, complex social structures.

You see where this is going.

I have a rather bleak view of what may happen to the world in the coming century or two. Some of you have heard this from me, but I'm going to lay it out again.

Maybe 150 or 200 years from now, following climate-change and resource-overshoot catastrophes, I see surviving cultures spreading out and recolonizing the wreckage of the 21st and 22nd centuries.

Getting to a sustainable world on the other side of this, or maybe with any luck before it gets that bad — "sustainable" meaning a world that is both good and able to last — will not happen, without the emergence of genuinely attractive life alternatives to high material consumption.

A sustainable world will surely require more people sharing homes, kitchens, child-rearing, goods and resources of all kinds. Life in more crowded quarters, in a low-consumption economy of resource-sharing, is generally a worse way to live in the present culture. People strive hard all their lives to move in the opposite direction: to buy bigger, emptier homes farther apart. Closer living, using less material goods, will truly attract people only in a new culture of unusually high interpersonal and group-living skills by today's standards.

Never mind about sex and romance for a moment. I see today's polyamory community gardening up sprouts of these next-level interpersonal and group-interaction skills — the practices and ideology and interpersonal value system of a new culture. I really want these ideas and practices to take root well enough to survive through ugly times, if that's what's coming, and be there to seed the ground on the other side.

Second point: Back to sex and romance. A sustainable world is going to require attractive ways to pursue and acquire richness and purpose and meaning in life that do not depend on Getting More Stuff. The ways that people find richness and value and meaning will need to have low resource costs. Which means, finding these things in each other. As the bumpersticker says: "The best things in life aren't things."

A culture offering wide possibilities for romance and sexual intimacy, or just deeply intimate socialization throughout life, can offer abundant richness and purpose. A materially simple life need not be simple in any other way.

Don't get me wrong; I have no use for fairyland woo-woo about these things. But I do think that the polyamory paradigm might help to humanize the world. I think that it might even someday generalize the magic of romantic love into something larger and more powerful in the world than the isolated couple-love where society has safely walled it away. Thus helping to provide ways to lead rich, rewarding, meaning-filled lives without the Earth-killing pursuit of Ever More Stuff.

And thirdly: Sexual repression in a culture is an accurate predictor (as the CIA is said to be quite aware) of that culture's tendency toward war hysterias, religious fanaticism, violence, submission to authoritarian rule, and pathologies of denialism toward reality-based ways of thought. So, a safer world will have to be freer of it. And we're on the intellectual cutting edge against sexual repression.

So: Is this really going to be the great future that this movement has ahead for us?

Well as computer pioneer Alan Kay said: "The best way to predict the future, is to invent it."

Thank you.


Okay! Now, here is the Key Note!

(Blow pitch pipe.)

My challenge to you guys here this weekend, is to imagine what YOU would like to create. What ways of being would you like to develop here at this conference? How do we empower each other to do this? Go for it — go ahead and push your limits. Risk it.

We've kept you in your seats long enough. I'd like to suggest we try a little something to get up and get the juices flowing for the reception and the next part of the evening.

First let's everybody stand up and stretch.

Now — start moving around a bit. Just moving.

Okay, as you are milling, look at someone near you that you may not know. Get their eye.

And the two of you, face off with each other. Now if you're okay with this tell the other person your deepest hopes and dreams about what you hope to get out of this weekend. First one of you, then the other.

What brought you here? What are your dearest hopes in your heart for this event? And then trade, and the other person can say theirs.

And when you're done, go back to join the milling, and do it with someone else, someone you don't know....

(By that point I was completely drowned out by a rising roar of excited chatter, and my job was done. It worked!)


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February 16, 2012

The poly media pileup in the last few days

Valentine's Day always brings an uptick of poly in the media, but this year came a flood. In addition to the items I've posted about in the last few days, here's a pile more that Google News Alerts and interested readers shoveled my way. I'm sure it isn't complete. Enjoy.


Jaiya, Jon and Ian continue their TV appearances with a first-rate Valentine's Day segment on their local Los Angeles CBS affiliate. Jaiya calls it "one of my favorite interviews thus far on my polyamorous relationship."

1 Woman, 2 Men In A Polyamorous Relationship Raising A Child In Topanga

TOPANGA (CBS) — “Three’s Company” is not just a TV show; it is the way some people are living. They are having multiple, intimate relationships at the same time and everyone involved knows about each other. It’s called polyamory.

We spoke with a polyamorous family — one woman and two men — living under the same roof and raising a child.

“I get to live my life in a way that is extraordinary. I get to be who I want to be and experience what I want to experience,” Jaiya Ma said.

Ma, 34, has been in a relationship for a decade with Jon Hanauer, a 49-year-old heterosexual.

“Oh yeah, It’s kind of mind boggling,” Hanauer said about his love for Ma.

Then there is Ma’s more recent boyfriend, 44-year-old Ian Ferguson, who is also heterosexual.

...When it comes to providing for the unit, Ferguson’s furniture design business pays the bills. Hanauer takes care of Eamon and chores at home, which allows Ma, a renowned sexologist, to focus on her career.

[Coming out of past hard times,] perfect is how this family sees life right now. As in any normal household, there is always a struggle to find balance. But for this polyamorous family, they said the key is in living with an open heart.

“I think some of the benefits of polyamory, that I think anyone in monogamous relationship can use learn from and use, is great communication.”...

Watch it (4:24), and read the whole article (Feb. 14, 2012).


In Chicago, the free daily paper RedEye (a youth-market spinoff from the Chicago Tribune; circulation 250,000) reports:

Local polyamorous community ditches monogamy for honesty

By Taylor Ervin

Rivanna Jihan won't be celebrating Valentine's Day this year, but that's not because she doesn't have a significant other to spend it with. In fact, she has more than one.

The 33-year-old school teacher from Chicago's South Side identifies as polyamorous, a practice where individuals maintain multiple intimate romantic relationship at a time and where all parties involved are open and honest. And all that love has her convinced that Valentine's Day is just like any other day.

..."Jealousy doesn't make any sense to me. I can't really wrap my head around it." Jihan said "I can wrap my head around being insecure, or being afraid, or being angry or these other sort of singular emotions, but the idea of jealousy, which is sort of a conglomerate of emotions, it doesn't work for me because when my partner is interested in someone else, I encourage that."

According to Ph.D sexologist Leanna Wolfe, Jihan's feelings are not unique. Members of polyamorous relationships often operate under an idea called compersion, which is essentially the polar opposite of jealousy.

"It's a state of empathetic happiness practiced by poly-people who have loving feelings towards one partner engaging other people erotically or romantically," Wolfe said.

Because most long-term monogamous relationships battle with a least a little infidelity at some point, polyamorous people choose to circumvent all the lies and the cheating and just thrust everything out into the open.

For Jihan, though, polyamory is not something that she chose; it's something that just happened. As far back as she can remember Jihan has always found herself falling in love with multiple people at the same time.

"That was always the big question for me," Jihan said "Why is it that if I'm in love with you I can't also love someone else or why is it that if I tell you that I love someone else it means that I love you less or that I can't love you anymore."...

...According to Kevin [who wished to keep his last name anonymous], organizer of the Polyamory Under-40 Meetup Group and co-organizer of the Chicago Polyamory Meetup Group, the groups get a lot of attention from people who are just looking to hook-up or snag some guilt-free sex, but that's not what the group is about. The group is focused primarily on building relationships.

"Our group is open to all who are poly and poly friendly," says a disclaimer on the Chicago Polaymory Meetup Group's website, "but this is not a hook-up group. It is not dedicated per se to other manifestations of non-monogamy and human sexuality such as swinging and recreational sex."

Jihan has run into similar problems in her personal life when potential partners approach her with a skewed idea of what it means to be polyamorous....

...Fed up with monogamy and looking to get in on the fun too? Make up for your lackluster Valentine's Day and check out the Chicago Polyamorous Meet-Up group's combination Valentine's Day/Mardi Gras party Friday, Feb. 17.

The whole article (Feb. 14, 2012).


Spanning the mountainous border of inland North and South Carolina, the CBS affiliate WSPA TV-13 aired Untraditional Love: Polyamory (Feb. 13, 2012) about a man known online as MonkeyCouple. In contrast to the other local-TV treatments in the last few days, this one has a grittier, darker look. MonkeyCouple appears with a blurred-out face talking about his swinging background and high sex drive. Accordingly, the camera pans over a bunch of swinger-looking magazines. They do not look attractive. A glance at his website shows that the area has a very active swinging underground. But he tells how he wanted more: "Poly-mory is primary about the relationship, and secondary would be the sexuality.... If you have a wonderful relationship, again, it's always based on 100 percent honesty." He and his partner do not currently have a third, but "she or he will come."

Note: If the camera is going to do closeups of your anonymous fingers working the touchpad, it would be useful to clean your fingernails.


CNN online featured a lightweight, what-people-do-on-Valentine's-Day article, but it ends with a twist: polyactivist Joreth Innkeeper and her squiggle of intimates. Joreth is honcha of the Polyamory Media Association (which would tell you to clean your fingernails before allowing hand shots, and can otherwise help you take control of your image on camera). Joreth is also Miss Poly Manners on Cunning Minx's Polyamory Weekly Podcast and is speaking at the upcoming Atlanta Poly Weekend March 9–11.

...Nontraditional relationships

Not every relationship fits into one of those categories, but that doesn't mean nontraditional lovers don't want to celebrate their relationships just like the rest. Take, for example, polyamorous "families," which consist of multiple romantic partners, from as few as three to north of 20 in some instances.

"Each of my partners is like those in any monogamous relationships," said Joreth, a representative of the Polyamory Media Association, which provides members of the press with information and spokespeople on how polyamory works. "There's really no difference between how I feel about my current partners or how we relate to each other. The only difference is I didn't have to break up with one to start the other."

Joreth, her three male partners and their additional "metamors" are going out for dinner at a nice steakhouse in Tampa, Florida. All told, there will be six of them around the table.

"I don't personally observe Valentine's Day, but my partners' other partners do," she said. "The holiday's not important, but making my loved ones feel that I care about them is important."

Read the whole article: From DINKs to polyamory, the guide to how people spend Valentine's Day (Feb. 13, 2012). (DINKs are Dual Income No Kids.)


In Nine to Five, a newspaper of downtown Sydney, Australia:

What it feels like for a (polyamorous) girl

By Alyson Katz

For some of us, Valentine’s Day is a little more challenging than for others.

...However you run your life, the important thing is to discuss it all in advance. You’ll save a lot of heartache if everyone has a clear understanding that today, you’ll be with the person you live with, on Wednesday you plan a movie and moonlight walk with your other main lover and on Saturday you’ll attend a Valentine’s party with a new person you’ve seen a couple of times.

Of course, being “poly” (as it’s known) doesn’t mean you don’t ever get jealous or envious. Special holidays can highlight where you are in a love hierarchy which you can pretend isn’t there the rest of the year.

Poly relationships come in many shapes and sizes....

The whole article (Feb. 12, 2012).


On a more serious level, from the Sex at Dawn lead author: Bonobo Love: Valentine's Advice From Christopher Ryan. Here's your succinct, non-woowoo summary of what this bonobo stuff is all about. Bookmark it to send to anyone who wonders. (Feb. 14, 2012).

Also, notice this reference in it:

As James Prescott demonstrated in a meta-analysis of all available anthropological data, the connection between less restrictive sexuality and less conflict generally holds true for human societies as well.

For more than 30 years, I have considered Prescott's research results on this to be the most important human-sciences finding anywhere that remains under-reported to the public. Prescott's original paper; wider sources.


And finally, a vacation getaway in the U.K. pitched to triples:

Romantic break — for threesomes

A luxury Lake District hotel is offering a romantic break — especially designed for threesomes.

Gift website Wish.co.uk is offering the one-night stay at Windermere Suites, a five-star bed and breakfast in the heart of the Lake District.

The three guests will get a weekend in the luxurious room for the princely sum of £399, reports Metro.

The hotel will even provide a triple breakfast in bed, so there's no need to even leave the room in the morning.

Extra luxury touches include free champagne and chocolates, and a king-size bed decorated with rose petals.

Apparently such offers are common overseas, but have never been provided — let alone encouraged — in Britain, according to Wish.co.uk co-founder Richard Kershaw...."

Source, with an image of the ad (Feb. 13, 2012).


February 15, 2012

Poly Parenting: A Day in the Life


At the high-traffic parenting site Babble.com, on the occasion of Valentine's Day, Sierra posts a new blog article reflecting on her brimming life as a poly parent:

What It’s Like To Be A Parent In An Open Marriage

By Sierra

It’s movie night at my house. Six kids are piled up on the couch downstairs watching "How To Train Your Dragon' and devouring pizza. My girlfriend and I steal a private moment together while our husbands settle the kids in.

We say a sleepy hello, she gets a work call, and I comfort a sad toddler. End of moment. It’s chaos, but happy chaos. There’s a lot of laughter and smiles amid the juggling act of feeding everyone dinner and making sure no one’s view of the dragons is blocked by an elbow.

When the movie ends, my girlfriend and her husband bundle their kid up and head home. My husband, Martin, and I tuck our girls into bed. He tidies up the living room, getting ready for his sweetie to arrive for their date night. I pack up my laptop and head out to a lover’s house. Not for a hot date. We’re getting together to work for a few hours. I’m behind on a deadline.

This is a snapshot of life in an open marriage: busy, happy, full.

At least the way we do it....

...Monogamy was never on the table for us. I’d been practicing polyamory since high school and was dating two other people when I met my husband. Martin had never tried non-monogamy, but he thought I was pretty special and wanted to give it a go. It’s certainly not what our parents wanted for us — I think my mom hoped it might be a phase I’d outgrow — but they’re supportive.

While there are infinite ways to structure an open marriage, my husband and I have one with a few lovers who are closely entwined with our lives. We celebrate birthdays together, and go on family trips. In the decade we’ve been together, I’ve had a handful of lovers, all of whom were close friends before they shared my bed. My partners are like extended family — we don’t live together, but we see each other often and our families have close relationships. People take all kinds of approaches to this. Some never introduce their lovers to their kids. Some live together in households where three or more adults are parenting together.

And apparently we’re not that unusual. Around 7 percent of straight couples have arranged some kind of consensual non-monogamy, according to a recent Slate article. Numbers are much higher for gay men and a little lower for lesbians. Still, there’s been little enough research done that these numbers remain fuzzy. What is clear in the research is that practicing polyamory doesn’t make or break most relationships....

Read the whole long, thoughtful article (Feb. 14, 2012). Save it to pass to family and friends if they need something reassuring.


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In Norway, a triad appears in the media from 2008 to 2012

Norwegianpoly posts, "Jon Bertelsen and his two wives, Annika and Suzanne, talk on a famous 'good morning' show about how their life works ('they almost never quarrel'). The V have 3 Christmas trees because they cannot decide on one they all like better! In the latest article, they mention that they all celebrate Valentine's day together with a nice restaurant meal."

Bertelsen is an importer of cognac. These items span 2008 to 2012. To read in English, use Google Translate.

Feirer Valentine med begge konene (Celebrating Valentine's with both wives) 14 Feb. 2012.

To koner og tre juletrær (Two wives and three Christmas trees) 26 Dec. 2008.

Vil tillate polygami ([Youth party] will allow polygamy). 1 Feb 2008.

Nyter livet med to kvinner (Enjoying life with two women) 26 Jan. 2008.



February 13, 2012

The Monogamy Gap, by Eric Anderson

Another book is out riding the wave that Sex At Dawn began a year and a half ago — arguing that monogamy comes unnaturally, and not very often, to the human species. The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, by sociologist Eric Anderson, was published February 7th by Oxford University Press.

I don't have the book, but judging by the author's public statements, gaak. [Update: but see the comments for opinions that I misjudged it.]

First, from the publisher's promo:

Whether straight or gay, most men start their relationships desiring monogamy.... Yet despite this deeply held cultural ideal, cheating remains rampant. In this accessible book, Eric Anderson investigates why 78% of men he interviewed have cheated despite their desire not to.

Combining 120 interviews with research from the fields of sociology, biology, and psychology, Anderson identifies cheating as a product of wanting emotional passion for one's partner, along with a steadily growing desire for emotionally-detached recreational sex with others. Anderson coins the term "the monogamy gap" to describe this phenomenon.

Anderson suggests that monogamy is an irrational ideal because it fails to fulfill a lifetime of sexual desires. Cheating therefore becomes the rational response to an irrational situation.

In a Huffington Post interview Anderson says,

Honesty is good sometimes, and horrible other times. There are good reasons to lie; it is an essential skill for keeping community and relationship peace. The reason men lie about cheating is mostly because they know that if they ask for permission to have recreational sex: 1) they will be denied 2) after they are denied, they will be subject to scrutiny and increased relationship policing; 3) they will be stigmatized as immoral, and most likely broken up with.

Gender-rigid poly-ignorant oldthink, say I. Reviews of the book make it look like the best alternative to cheating that Anderson can think of is an open marriage with "emotionally distant" outside partners who should be used and tossed like kleenexes. Love with them would be dangerous, he says. Later in his Huff Post interview he says, approvingly:

...Rather than marrying 20 times or more in one's life via serial monogamy, we can keep one emotional lover and just have casual, meaningless -- and hot -- sex with strangers.

He seems clueless about the people who do live in encompassing circles of love, or at least family-like companionship, trust, and affection, among three or four intimates or a larger poly network.

An early (and skeptical) review at Forbes again paints him as oblivious to non-monogamy that's not mired in old-culture ways of thought. Or maybe it's the dumb Forbes reviewer. Or Anderson's sorry research subjects. Or all three:

What's So Wrong With Monogamy?

By Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff

...Increasingly, people are asking the question: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a lifetime of fulfilling fidelity?

...Last summer, the New York Times magazine devoted nearly 6,000 words to sex-advice columnist Dan Savage’s belief that monogamy is harder than we admit and may not work for many couples. And this year the news of Newt Gingrich’s alleged request for an open marriage with his second wife Marianne brought the concept of sexual openness back to the forefront, so much so that the Times style section questioned whether open marriage is showing signs of a second life.

Meanwhile, researchers are increasingly investigating the institution of love, and many may be unsettled by their conclusions. In his new book The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, sociologist Eric Anderson argues that “monogamy fails both men and women” and believes we need to have more honest conversations about love and sex....

...“The real question is,” Anderson poses, “Is our desire for monogamy serving our culture as best as it can?” He says no, and suggests we remove the stigma from open relationships in order to save partnerships. Then, he believes men and women would be more comfortable asking for what they “need,” they’d be more likely to use protection with others, and relationships would be less likely to end over a “slip up.”

...Many men in Anderson’s study expressed a desire to openly have sex with others, but they refused to consider allowing their partners the same freedom, saying they would be too jealous....

Sex with others is also certain to create emotional attachments that undermine the primary relationship — and the dignity of others. Logically, it would increase the likelihood of infatuation, and thus increase the chance of leaving the primary relationship. Anderson says the (cheating) men he interviewed said, “I wanted her and then I had her and now I’m over her” — that it’s just a “matter of business.” While exceedingly unromantic, these sentiments don’t even consider the “her” that’s been “had.” The potential for hurt feelings and unkindness seems astronomic....

Read the whole article (Feb. 13, 2012). And please leave a comment?

Here Anderson speaks in the Washington Post, presenting some interesting material:

Five myths about cheating

By Eric Anderson

...1. Cheating and affairs are more common among the rich, and less common in conservative cultures.

...Studies find that the more money and celebrity men have, the more likely they are to cheat... [but] according to Boston College economist Donald Cox, poorer women are more likely to cheat than wealthy women.

Nor do more socially conservative times erase infidelity. America today may seem more sexually relaxed than the button-down years immediately following World War II, yet pioneering research by Alfred Kinsey found that married men cheated at rates of around 50 percent. In 1953, Kinsey showed that 26 percent of married women had also been unfaithful. Estimates today find married men cheating at rates anywhere between 25 percent to 72 percent. Given that many people are loathe to admit that they cheat, research on cheating may underestimate its prevalence. But it appears that cheating is as common as fidelity.

2. If you really love your partner, you’ll remain faithful.

Perhaps one of the most tragic misconceptions about cheating is that people stray because they have fallen out of love with their partners.... Rather, they cheat simply because they desire sex with someone else, even if they want to preserve their relationship.

3. We generally agree on what counts as cheating.

....Unsure of what form of cybersex might upset a partner, the strategy of almost all of the men I interviewed, gay or straight, was don’t ask, don’t tell.

4. Your partner won’t stray as long as you keep your sex life exciting....

5. Most married people don’t cheat.

...For most couples, the expectation of exclusive sexual activity is unsustainable. We may need to investigate other relationship models: open arrangements, or what sex columnist Dan Savage calls “monogamish” relationships in which couples have flings, affairs or threesomes. These ways of loving, along with polyamorous relationships and even singlehood, should be as equally culturally valued as monogamy. Only when men and women are able to make sexual choices free of stigma will people be honest with their partners about their desires.

Well finally, one mention of the polyamory alternative. It's nice that he says we should be culturally valued, but coming in this context it loses some punch.

Read the whole article (Feb. 13, 2012) and leave a comment.

Discussions of the book are appearing many other places.

I'm not saying he's wrong, just short-sighted. Recognizing that for many people monogamy doesn't work (although for many others it does!) ought to be a first step toward good alternatives, not just poor ones.

We've got a long way to go in telling the world about them.


Valentine's Poly on Virginia TV

WVEC TV-13, Norfolk, VA

It continues. "Feather and I were interviewed for 90 minutes this morning by our local ABC TV station," wrote Andy, a member of Hampton Roads Polyamory (HaRP), to the Polyamory Leadership Network almost three weeks ago. "This will be broadcast on Monday Feb. 13 in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News, etc.). The station may end up interviewing two other people for additional material. It has been deliberately timed to air a day prior to Valentine's Day."

Sure enough, watch it here on the news. (If the link fails, try here.) It's a little over 3 minutes long. The TV people strike a tone of being amazed and incredulous (this is standard procedure), but they let the poly folks get their messages across. And they certainly showcase the word, both verbally and on screen, which is what we really need for the most interested viewers to go googling.

Remember, folks, if you're dealing with the media, have a bunch of key messages that you've rehearsed as sound bites (both long and short). And whatever you're asked, find ways to segue into these key messages. Don't be shy about repeating them no matter what you're asked. The editors will use your one best take. You come off looking much clearer, more self-possessed, and more authoritative this way, than if you only react to questions.

And stay loose, folks. Move, dramatize, ham it up, have fun. In this show, notice how much more effective and persuasive the poly people are, with their difficult-to-sell message, when they're moving and demonstrative than when they're sitting still. Your body language says way more about you and your relationship than your words.

Is this "an act"? Of course it is! When you're on camera, like it or not you're an actor!

There's also an article on the station's website with the video link. A HaRP member notes, "There are some misquotes and quotes attributed to wrong people."

Polyamory: a different take on love and relationships

By LaSalle Blanks

NORFOLK -- Polyamory -- it's a different take on love and committed relationships.

Polyamory allows committed couples to openly date others.

They say it's not just about physical companionship -- it's about establishing deep, meaningful relationships with people other than your primary partner or spouse.

Feather and Andy have been married for six years. Lee has been dating Kelly for three years -- she's one of his six girlfriends. One of those girlfriends is also dating the married Andy. He sees her once a week.

"He has a smile on his face when he comes home so I knew he had a good time," says Andy's wife Feather.

The couples are quick to say they are not swingers.

"The difference between swinging and poly in my mind is it's the relationship," Andy explains.

Lee says it's about intimacy.

"There are plenty of people who I'm in relationships with who we have a lot of intimacy, but we're not sleeping together," he notes.

Feather calls it "responsible monogamy." [This is a misquote for non-monogamy.]

"I know where he is and who he's with and he knows where I am and who I'm with," she says.

The couples say it's essential to have that openness, especially when it comes to health issues like STDs. "If I were to get a positive result back, I would be sharing it with my partner immediately," says Kelly.

They believe this openness means no cheating, no deceit.

Lee and Kelly and Andy and Feather say communication is essential so jealousy doesn't creep into these multiple love relationships.

Andy says being with one person isn't for him.

"Variety, variety is the spice of life," he says. "We have a loving relationship -- that's important."

There are polyamorous groups across the country. In Hampton Roads, HARP has 500 people on its email list.

The original (Feb. 13, 2012).

P.S.: A reminder, if you're a poly group or an open couple willing to do media together, you're in demand! Get listed for reporters and producers to find you at the Polyamory Media Association. Study the advice there, and take the free training (Skype is all you need). Getting trained in representing yourself well to the public is a huge life skill that will serve you far beyond anything to do with poly.



February 9, 2012

Polyspokespeople on DC television

WJLA TV-7, Washington DC

Earlier this evening Sarah Taub wrote,

We're going to be on TV! Michael, Jonica, and I were interviewed for a piece on open relationships and polyamory that will air on WJLA Channel 7 in Washington DC. Anita Wagner Illig was also interviewed for the piece with her husband Tim [at center and left, with interviewer]. It will air in the 11 PM news.

The interviewer, Rebecca McDevitt, was interested and respectful, and we have high hopes for it being an informative and positive piece.

I just watched it. Yes indeed, 2 minutes 38 seconds of sweet representation. You done good, folks. Watch it here, where there's also a printed article (not an exact transcript). (Feb. 9, 2012).

Here's also a photo album from the show that the station put up.

Anita adds:

...The Newt Gingrich open marriage story has spawned tremendous interest in polyamory once again, and I and several other spokespeople have been fielding requests as fast as we can.

...I'm working with producers for ABC's news show 20/20, who are putting together an episode that addresses the current state of marriage in the US. At this point we are seeking a couple to be interviewed that has some kind of a "monogamish" arrangement, i.e. under certain circumstances it's OK for one or both to have sex outside the relationship. Obviously this is not anything close to true polyamory. If you know anyone who might be willing, please write me off list. Poly people to be filmed have already been lined up.

(You can reach Anita at imapolygirl AT yahoo DOT com. Michael is at mvr-pitm AT rios DOT org.)

Cheers to all these folks for explaining themselves, and by implication the rest of us, with clarity and courage.

(Sarah Taub and Michael Rios.)


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February 8, 2012

"Valentine's Day For Non-Monogamists"

Huffington Post/ DC Around Town

Every mid-February there's an uptick in poly in the media, as writers and editors cast around for something new to say about Valentine's Day. And on top of the Gingrich-inspired attention to open relationships? You've got the opportunity if you choose to take it. Get listed with the Polyamory Media Association if you want to make it easy for media to find you.

One who took the opportunity was Tamara Pincus, a Washington DC psychotherapist who runs a local poly discussion group and a web-radio talk show. This article, in a local branch of the Huffington Post, came about by happenstance. A person at the LGBT Center where she holds the discussion group gave the local writer her name, and when the writer called, she decided to go for it. Pincus tells of the adventurous life that she and her husband have put together.

Q&A With Tamara Pincus: Valentine's Day For Non-Monogamists

WASHINGTON -- How do you celebrate Valentine's Day when your husband has two girlfriends, one of whom lives with you? How about when you've got two boyfriends yourself?

For answers, The Huffington Post turned to Tamara Pincus, a local psychotherapist who specializes in sexuality. Pincus hosts a call-in [online???] radio show, "Sex Talk with Tamara Pincus", and leads a discussion group for people in nonmonogamous relationships.

She also knows about Valentine's Day for polyamorists from personal experience. Pincus lives in Northern Virginia with her two children, her husband and one of her husband's girlfriends. Her husband also has one other girlfriend and Pincus has two boyfriends.

It sounds like a complicated group of people to share a box of chocolates and a candlelight dinner with every Feb. 14. Is it?

HuffPost DC: What does it mean to be in a polyamorous relationship?

Pincus: We are open and honest about having multiple relationships with multiple people. My poly family consists of me and my husband. We've been married for nine years. One of my husband's girlfriends lives with us, so she also helps out with childcare and house work, and that kind of stuff. And we also have outside relationships on top of that.

We were non-monogamous for the last four years or so. But we didn't start having real intense poly relationships until about a year ago. I'd experimented with being poly before. For my husband it was totally new.

HuffPost DC: Do you find the D.C. area to be welcoming to poly families? Are there particular places in the D.C. area that are more or less welcoming?

Pincus: Honestly, we're not very out. I think that's really true for a lot of people in the area. There's a big poly community, but most of the people are [either] younger and don't have kids -- or they're older and their kids have graduated and moved on.... The other poly people with families that I know, I don't find being that out about it.

HuffPost DC: How does Valentine's Day get celebrated in your family?

Pincus: Valentine's Day isn't really a big deal for a lot of us.... And that night I have my radio show. Strangely enough the show is going to be about sex addiction. I'm not sure that was the best choice.

HuffPost DC: So you wouldn't all go out for dinner together?

Pincus: No. We don't have the kind of relationships where we're all romantic with each other.... It might make sense for other groups. I know some triads [relationships involving three people] who would probably end up doing something like that. We did, actually, on New Years. We invited all our partners over with their kids. We all hung out, and let the kids run around. That was fun....

HuffPost DC: Does Valentine's Day heighten insecurities and anxieties in the poly community the way it seems to in the non-poly community?

Pincus: I haven't really seen that. I think that the December holidays seem to have more issues because you have to figure out who you want to spend them with....

...HuffPost DC: What are the upsides and the downsides of being in a poly relationship?

Pincus: We spend a lot of time trying to set aside time for our own relationship, to make sure we're still connecting with each other. My mom will take the kids for dinner once a week and my husband and I will just spend time with each other. I think that's really important for managing this kind of lifestyle. I think it's easy for people to fall for someone new, and then get so into the new person that they let the other relationships slide. I think when people don't think it through, disasters can happen. When you do think it through you make mistakes, but as you make mistakes you learn from them. Things that are really hard in the beginning get less difficult.

We've found that it works really well for us. It's not for everybody. We feel like having more adults is more helpful as far as raising our kids. And a lot of the outside people we're dating also have kids, so when we get together all our kids play, and run around, and have a good time. It's been great. I didn't actually imagine it would end up being this good.


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February 5, 2012

Western poly ideas spread to South Asia, and thoughts on the far future

Two hundred years from now, when surviving cultures are spreading out and recolonizing the climate-changed, resource-overshot wreckage of the 21st and 22nd centuries (I sometimes think), perhaps parts of India will be providing some of those outspreading survivors.

I'd put lower odds on America in its current form. A better world in coming ages will mean embracing sustainability ― and here in the U.S., the topmost elites who dominate business, policy-making, and the limits of acceptable discussion have mostly become so denialist and brittle that they would rather crash American civilization, and much of the world with it, than get behind, say, a carbon tax.

Long views like that are part of what keep me in this polyamory-awareness business.

Okay, what's the connection?

Getting to a sustainable world — one that is both good and able to last ― will not happen without the emergence of genuinely attractive life alternatives to high material consumption. It will also require economic structures that do not depend on ever-increasing material consumption year by year to stay ahead of economic failure.

Bear with me.

A sustainable world, on the far side of whatever is coming first, will surely require more people sharing homes, kitchens, child-rearing, goods and resources of all kinds.1 Life in more crowded quarters, in a low-consumption economy of resource-sharing, is generally a worse way to live under present circumstances. People strive hard all their lives to move in the opposite direction: to get bigger homes farther apart with more empty rooms. Closer living will be attractive to people only in a new culture with unusually high interpersonal and group-living skills by today's standards.

Never mind about sex and romance for a moment. I see today's polyamory community gardening up sprouts of these next-level interpersonal and group-interaction skills, and the ideology of this new culture. I really want these ideas and practices to take root well enough to survive through ugly times, if that's what's coming, and be there to seed the ground on the other side.

Second point: back to sex and romance. A sustainable world is going to require attractive ways to pursue and acquire richness and purpose and meaning in life that do not depend on Getting More Stuff. The ways that people find richness and value and meaning will need to have low resource costs. Which means finding these things in each other. As the bumpersticker says, "The best things in life aren't things." A culture offering wide possibilities for romance and sexual intimacy, or just deeply intimate socialization throughout life, can offer richness and purpose in abundance. A materially simple life need not be simple in any other way.

Don't get me wrong; I have no use for New Age woo-woo about these things. But I do think that the polyamory paradigm might help to humanize the world. I think that it might even someday generalize the magic of romantic love into something that's larger and more powerful in the world than the isolated couple-love where society has safely walled it away ― thus helping to provide ways to lead rich, rewarding, meaning-filled lives without the Earth-killing pursuit of Ever More Stuff.

Thirdly: Sexual repression in a culture is an accurate predictor (as the CIA is said to be quite aware) of that culture's war hysterias, religious fanaticism, submission to authoritarian rule, and pathologies of denialism toward reality-based ways of thought. So, a safer world will have to be freer of it.

Hmmm... some of this may get into the keynote speech I'm giving at the opening of Loving More's Poly Living conference in Philadelphia this Friday evening (February 10). You can still sign up for the weekend, and maybe tell me in person I'm full of shit about this, though I like hugs too. Hope to see you there.


Okay, back to India.

The ideas about relationships that we polys are seeding into the Western world are starting to get attention in other places too ― places that might someday be in a better position to develop them and carry them forward. Here is a roundup of such attention in South Asia.

● In southern India's leading English newspaper, The Hindu:

Is our society ready for multiple partner relationships?

By Vijay Nagaswami

...The general theme of what most of my interlocutors had to say centred around the belief that since multiple-partner relationships are successful in many parts of the world, they should, therefore, be acceptable in our country as well. Although my research hasn't provided me any convincing data that such relationships actually work in the short or long-term, I thought it may be politic to examine some of the dynamics in some clearly delineable prototypes of multiple-partner relationships.

Open relationships

The first of these are what are usually referred to as ‘open relationships', wherein both partners are free to get emotionally and sexually involved with other people without needing the partner's consent every time.... In other words, the element of exclusivity gets taken out of your open relationship, although commitment is still inherent.

This is different from ‘swinging' and ‘spouse-swapping' in which the focus is more on sexual rather than emotional intimacy....

And in recent times, there is the new phenomenon called polyamory or simply, poly, sometimes described as ‘responsible non-monogamy'. While the definition of polyamory is not always absolutely clear, and can include open relationships as well in its ambit, it is distinguished from swinging because it's seen as encompassing sexual, emotional, romantic and spiritual dimensions. The basic understanding here is that anyone is capable of having simultaneous, multiple, deep, intimate relationships, and that the ‘distracting' elements of marriage, like jealousy, exclusivity, power imbalances etc., are squarely removed from the equation, thereby creating opportunities to grow as human beings.

However, jealousy does appear every now and again, and the successful poly is one who has been able to conquer this emotion and replace it with what is referred to as compersion (the opposite of jealousy, where you experience genuine happiness that your partner finds fulfillment or joy from somebody or something other than yourself). Fidelity, loyalty, honesty, equality, respect and transparency are big virtues among polys, for, no relationship takes place in the absence of consent and consensus. If ever consent is withheld, the reasons have to be substantial.

Polyamorists may engage in long-term relationships in triads, quads or networks. They would still tend to have a ‘primary' relationship and one or several ‘secondary relationships'. They are a growing movement in the United States (apparently there're about half a million polyamorists there) and also participate in Pride parades to highlight the legitimacy of their cause. Polyfidelity is a more controlled method of engaging in multiple relationships. The partners that one can choose from are limited to members of a group, network or commune. And fidelity to this group is demanded at all costs. Otherwise, the dynamics are similar to polyamorous relationships....

...Some research into multiple marriages is under way in the West, but it's too early to tell whether it is a viable and sustainable alternative to monogamy....

Read the whole article (Jan. 7, 2012). More about Vijay Nagaswami and his book 3's a Crowd: Understanding and Surviving Infidelity.


● In Outlook India, one of India's four top-selling English weekly newsmagazines:

Indian couples are exploring a few ‘open’ ways out of desultory middle life

By Ira Trivedi

...Just down the road from Renu’s South Delhi home, I meet Sangeeta. For a soft woman of benign, even nondescript appearance, short and pudgy — clad in a simple salwar-kameez — she is surprisingly loquacious. An eager Sangeeta talks freely, almost in a manner of showing off, about her open marriage.

“An open marriage is not what people think. Some of my friends do think that I am promiscuous, or that my kids see me with other men. Many of my so-called friends ended their friendships with me, they thought I was immoral, and that the only way to live was in an orthodox marriage, caged in with the in-laws. But my husband and I know that our marriage looks like most people’s marriages, except that we are honest with each other, and that we are happier than we have ever been before.”

...At 35, Sangeeta has pretty much overhauled her views. A three-year overseas stint in the UK with her engineer husband, exposure to glossy magazines, television and liberal faceless friends made on the internet have encouraged her to enter new forms of relationships — something she would never have imagined she would do when she was 18.

“My husband and I know that our marriage looks like most people’s marriages...except we’re honest with each other.”

...The relationship paradigm is slowly changing in pockets of India where a subculture is brewing which is dancing an unconventional dance to the conventional song of marriage.

When I was a kid, my girlfriends and I teased each other chanting the popular jingle, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Smriti with a baby carriage.” In the Indian context, the order of love and marriage was understood by all of us to be the other way around. At this time, such truisms were uncontroversial and as empirically accurate as they were morally prescriptive.

Those were the days when any sort of love other than arranged monogamous relationships dared not raise its head.... Just a decade ago, Indians could not imagine procreation and marriage as separate, or even procreation and sex as separate. We never imagined tolerance for premarital sex, live-in relationships, or open marriages, yet as I interviewed urban, and largely middle-class couples and individuals for this article, I found them speaking eagerly about their unconventional relationships and desires.

...A prime reason for this shift, continues [Sanjay] Srivastava [professor of sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth], is the increasing distance from wider kinship networks. Couples marry, move away to other cities, and are less likely to be under surveillance from kinsfolk than before. So, urban mobility, changing nature of work and, very significantly, the lessening of stigma (at least in some circles) on women having unconventional relationships, is also an important context in this regard.

...Unconventional forms of relationships such as live-in partnerships and open marriages are certainly not the norm or the mainstream in India, but through these new paradigms we get a sense of where marriage and sexuality may be headed, not according to statistics that tend to capture the most tectonic shifts, but according to pioneers, such as the people who I have spoken to, who stand on the frontlines.

...It is surprising to see the large number of low-conflict, melancholic marriages, mostly in the cohort of people in their late ’30s, 40s and early 50s. My interactions and studies indicated a beguiling paradox: many of the people who I spoke with either felt more comfortable existing within the rules of melancholy marriages/relationships or with breaking them completely through affairs and divorce, than by revising their mindset towards relationships.

It seemed that even though there existed an incentive to bring about change, couples seemed disinclined to figure out how marriage and sex might evolve substantively, and not merely superficially into something better and more satisfying within the existing relationship. This is probably linked to the shortage of marriage counselors, sex therapists and family psychologists who can speak freely to couples and guide and counsel them. As the uncomplicated (though not necessarily happier) age of the baby carriage comes to end, we are presented with a brand new frontier, one in which the future is uncertain as old standards, traditions and priorities are gently blown away.

Read the whole article (issue dated Dec. 26, 2011).


● Commentary by a female writer in República, a newspaper in Nepal:

Romantic inclusivity


Polyamory (pronounced Pou-lee-aa-moukh-ry) wasn’t the word I was prepared to encounter on one of those lousy days at my office, when the sun hung low in wisps of mist and warm air from the heater burnt my nostrils to fatigue.

When I first stumbled upon the word, amid a jumble of other adjectives dedicated to describe French existentialist writer Simone De Beauvoir, well, it was merely the Frenchness of the word that invoked my curiosity....

...On close follow-up, the idea came as a full-fledged concept, which was adopted by a noticeable chunk as a lifestyle. And there are, actually, psychiatrists specializing on the issue, even though American health insurance doesn’t recognize their charge as medical expense yet.

And wait, they aren’t swingers (one who swap their partners for pleasure). Uh, uh, not even polygamist (those who, as if not suffering enough, go for multiple marriages).

Polyamory is defined as, “a lifestyle in which a person may pursue simultaneous romantic relationships, with the blessing and consent of each of their partners. This is in contrast to monogamy, where relationship partners agree to romantic exclusivity. This is also in contrast to infidelity, where someone takes on additional lovers without their partner’s consent.

Polyamorous people commit to honesty, negotiation, and clear communication about each of the relationships in their life (Hymer and Rubin, 1982).”

While the concept as a whole was intriguing enough, what really got me was this term “romantic exclusivity”. Of late, I’ve pondered a lot on this particular aspect of relationship, yet the neatness of the summarization — romantic exclusivity — came as some sort of revelation....

...[The polyamory school of thought] claims that love always multiplies on sharing. Or in more plain terms, it suggests if you share a loving relationship with 10 people, it's more extensive than loving one person. Simple mathematical axiom!

And when you experience more freedom in a relationship ― not just freedom to pursue multiple relationships, but freedom to be yourself, whoever that is ― the dynamics of relationship expands from mere attraction to mutual respect. From my own experience, whenever my boyfriend trustingly lets me be with other friends, even male friends, I feel more loving towards him; I feel this great joy for being trusted. And funnily, the more I’m convinced that he trusts me with other men, the lesser I’m motivated to cheat (ya, that’s a huge word) on him. I can be friends with men, be myself, and joke around, without any murky desires lurking on the backyard of my mind. And that is so beautiful, so meaningful, so relaxing....

Torn amidst this desire to break free and allow freedom, I’m extremely fascinated to polyamory as an intellectual theory, but I wonder, if pursuing 10 relationships at a time, per se, wouldn’t be ten times more problematic, if not as hectic.

Read the whole article (Dec. 3, 2011).


● In Chauthi Duniya, a national Hindi weekly newspaper (English edition):

Have you always wanted to have more than one partner and be honest with them about it? Check out the life of a polyamorist.

Polyamory is the term consisting of the Greek word for more – ‘poli’ and the Latin word for love – ‘amor’, and it therefore refers to “love for more than one partner”. This love can be sexual, emotional, spiritual or their combination....

...Polyamory is based on honesty and openness and the key values of polyamorists, as they call themselves, are fidelity, loyalty, respect, trust, dignity, mutual support, communication, negotiations and unpossessiveness. For that reason, polyamorists are also familiar with the term ‘coming-out’.

They imagine fidelity and loyalty in a slightly different way than most, monogamous people. Jealousy isn’t considered a sign of love or moral weakness, which is sometimes used as criticism by people who don’t understand polyamory (they therefore don’t take respect and mutual communication into account) and want to drag their partner into a relationship he or she isn’t ready to establish. Jealousy is just an emotion that requires our attention, similar to depression, and has to be explored.

What’s love like with several partners?

Some relationships are bisexual, while others are monosexual (that is, solely heterosexual or homosexual). Polyamory may have a hierarchical structure. The hierarchical version distinguishes between primary, secondary etc. partners. The status of the primary partner may be equal to the status of a marital partner.... There are different variations in terms of number and gender structure and in terms of partners’ residence and division of work. Some relationships last for a long time and people also have children.

Polyamorists say that in fact people aren’t polygamous or monogamous beings. There are only polygamous and monogamous relationships. Everything therefore depends on the arrangement between all the people involved....

The whole article (2010). It also appeared in the magazine ZeeNews (Aug. 28, 2010).


● Deborah Anapol, who has lived in India, wrote a long article "Polyamory in India: Then and Now," with "then" being ancient times:

Like China, India presents some strange paradoxes when it comes to sexuality and intimate relating. The famous erotic temple sculptures of Khajuraho and the present-day practices of existing indigenous tribal peoples in central India, the well-known writings of Kama Sutra, and the popular worship of Krishna with his thousands of wives, and legendary queens and goddesses with more than one husband, all point to a culture where sexuality was celebrated and multiple partner relating was sanctioned.

...Uma, a psychotherapist in Mumbai, feels that the British are primarily responsible for the sexual repression that has prevailed in Indian society for the past century and that most Indians "have not managed to shake off yet."...

Read on. (July 12, 2010).


Update, March 26, 2012: Thanks to Pieter Schultz for spotting this:

3 on a bed: India’s first polyamoric film

In a fully packed auditorium... I saw the première of Rajdeep Paul and Sarmistha Maiti’s 32-minutes short film ‘3 on a bed’, on Saturday, March 24, 2012. Produced by Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI) and inspired by Girish Karnad’s Kannada play ‘Hayavadana’, this is said to be India’s first polyamoric film about a ménage-à-trois or a threesome of two men and a woman.

As the name suggests, the story revolves around three friends, Kapil, Debdutta and Padmini, all art college pass-outs, sharing their bodies, soul, food and a bed....

...While watching ‘3 on a bed’, I recalled an article published in popular Bengali news daily about the life-story of a business person; living at Garia in Kolkata; who is married to two women, who are sisters. He also has had children from his wives and they all are living together happily, under one roof. Perhaps, people may term this as an exceptional incidence of our society, but the truth is, it exists and relationship is successful.

The concept of this film raises the same issue; can this kind of love and sexual relationship exists in our society? If so, what shall be their terms? What should be the model of our social system?...

...As the film ends, it leaves the audience with a feel good feeling. When we see the three characters to unite again, it’s a strong message given by the director duo; yes, a new world is possible, what we all need to do is to love others selflessly.

As Debdutta, replied in his interview, “it might be your dream; but you need a team to realize your dream”, I wish, the team of Rajdeep and Sarmistha will continue making films and keep sharing their dreams with us.

Read the whole article (March 26, 2012).


1. For instance: Why do eight houses on one cul-de-sac require eight riding lawnmowers? Two reasons. First, unless more lawnmowers are made, marketed, and sold than are needed, businesses suffer, workers become unemployed, stockholders lose value, and any downward economic spiral is accelerated. Second: From the individual homeowner's standpoint, a private lawnmower spares you from having to interact with the neighbors ― to negotiate and maintain agreements about sharing its use, costs, and upkeep. This matters, because by new-culture standards, most people today interact rather poorly.

I believe these two seemingly separate reasons actually depend on each other, and reinforce each other, and perpetuate each other. Multiply that by practically all the other material things that surround us.


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