Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

May 28, 2012

"Sweet reward of open loving — but polyamory is no free-for-all"

The Australian

The Australian, a conservative Rupert Murdoch paper that circulates throughout that country, cranked up a controversy last week over the Green Party's proposal to legalize gay marriage in Australia. Would multiple marriage be next? The paper falsely headlined an article "Marriage for four put to Senate". (No such proposal has been put.) When a Green senator was goaded into saying that polygamy is not on the agenda, the paper demanded in an editorial to know why not, and a columnist found and quoted Facebook comments from polys expressing disappointment with the Greens for abandoning them. See my coverage of the original article and the many followups.

In the midst of this, the paper asked Nikó Antalffy, one of Australia's most visible poly leaders and organizers, to write an op-ed article.

She agonized over whether to resist feeding the trolls or to take this opportunity to tell what poly is actually about to a very large audience that was only hearing about it second-hand. She consulted the poly community, then decided to go for it.

Her article just appeared:

Sweet reward of open loving — but polyamory is no free-for-all

By Niko Antalffy

NON-MONOGAMY has been the flavour of the year. No wonder – there is a near-universal desire to be with someone other than your monogamous partner. Or at least to get close to others in ways monogamy tends not to allow: to touch, to feel, to connect.

Sex at Dawn and other books have shown that humans have never been sexually monogamous, although social monogamy (pair bonding) is widespread in most cultures. We are simply not wired for exclusivity. Once the shackles of conservative tradition, religious morality and stifling cultural expectation have been thrown off by modernity, our pre-medieval ways have re-emerged.

Strong cultural monogamy developed only with property ownership as a means of preserving certainty in lineage. Underneath, our true nature has bubbled away. Most of us long to connect with more than one person and the ever-present desire to look elsewhere is almost impossible to contain. The good news is that now there are ethical and consensual ways of reaching beyond monogamy while holding on to fidelity and integrity.

One form that developed through the 1990s is polyamory, where longer-term intimate and sexual relationships are maintained with multiple partners simultaneously and ethically. If it's not consensual or ethical it's not polyamory. Polyamory doesn't mean a love or sex fest. Women are strong leaders because gender equality is one of the foundations of ethical non-monogamy.

The best way to imagine polyamory is to view it as loving multiple people. There is a utopian element tempered with a pragmatic outlook where all parties have to develop a skill set to deal with complexity and emotions.

Many have primary relationships where cohabitation, raising of kids or common ownership of property occurs that doesn't quite extend to additional partners even if love and closeness might be shared freely with all. Others share their time equally. One of the many strengths of polyamory is diversity. You get to shape your relationships beyond preconceived ideas and rules.

Polyamory isn't for everyone. It involves a lot of communication, deep honesty, trust, and often a lot of work that monogamous relationships do not. But all this brings its benefits: more self-knowledge, the possibility of deeper connections, and satisfaction. There's also potentially more risk (you may lose several relationships; get hurt by many). But the rewards are worth it for many. More freedom, more emotional and practical support and deep intimacy.

"Infidelity" is a concept that's bound to monogamy by definition. Often the storyline of cheating follows a cultural script mirrored in film, literature and TV that knows only one set of norms. But when there's a more open choice of partners, "cheating" loses its appeal; leaving your partner for another is unnecessary. The pressure also comes off partners to be the sole person to fulfil your needs. Some happy monogamous people have discovered this: sharing different parts of yourself with others (fishing with one friend, photography with another) means richer connections; the polyamorous extend this to sex and intimacy. So there's more to fidelity in polyamory than first meets the eye. Remaining true to each other is very important, except that this happens on negotiated terms that suit each person's needs rather than on terms that compulsory monogamy has bequeathed to all of us.

Monogamy can be great from the polyamorous point of view, as long as it is knowingly chosen by each party instead of a default setting that receives little critical scrutiny. But for that options need to be open.

Would people in multiple relationships want more recognition? Absolutely. Ideally this would happen in the form of a wider societal acceptance of polyamory as a viable alternative way of having relationships next to monogamy. Another form of recognition should be protection from discrimination that gays, lesbians and transgender folk already enjoy legally. These two would go a long way to create more equality and security.

There is also the question of trust and jealousy that comes up when discussing multiple relationships. Trust is built over time by honest communication, keeping to your word. Jealousy tends to be scary at first, but wrestling with the green-eyed monster helps you learn about your own emotions so it becomes easier to deal with. Some never feel it; some learn to tame it and ride it.

An unexpected delight is when compersion pops up: the overwhelming joy experienced when a partner is witnessed experiencing joy with someone else. It's the sweet reward of open loving.

Life is too short to limit human connections. I love my partners deeply and I want us to have as rich a life as we can until our time runs out.

Niko Antalffy is a leader in the Australian polyamory movement.

Here's the original article (May 29, 2012). Free registration required.

As a result of the article, Nikó suddenly has at least a half dozen more media inquiries.

She writes to us:

The drummed-up controversy in The Australian filled me with dread, as it pitted minorities against each other in order to serve a conservative cause. The day before my piece a same-sex advocate, in the same op-ed space, strongly spoke against plural marriage in words that were potentially hurtful to polyamorous people. Of course, it's well understood that same-sex marriage can achieve more mainstream respectability by distancing itself from the 'slippery slope'. With this op-ed I deliberately wanted to steer away from attacking back the same-sex marriage advocate or even to attack monogamy as not a valid choice. I think polyamory stands on the strongest footing when it's not adversarial in outlook.

I wanted to create a bridge between monogamy and polyamory that anyone can imagine walking onto. Despite boldly stating at the outset that humans are essentially non-monogamous (which I do believe is generally empirically true, but it's also a controversial opening to get attention), I also wanted to emphasize that we need to be aware of alternatives and make informed decision about relationships, whether we end up being mono, poly or something else. Once options are freely talked about, then it's a short step to wider acceptance in the shape of anti-discrimination and general social recognition of poly as a strong, ethical, viable alternative. Valuing poly is part of a wider appreciation of diversity, which in the end benefits all.




May 24, 2012

Poly Party Weekend, June 15 - 17!

Off-topic maybe, but it's just three weeks till Polyamory Party Weekend. This is a worldwide, do-it-yourself event swarm created by folks at Modern Poly — to have fun, to "bring together polyamorous people and communities, to celebrate polyamory, and to support the movement for the acceptance of relationship choice."

It is poly-fi triads, kids of four-parent households, primaries and their play partners, the ethically non-monogamous, the incidentally monogamous, the polysaturated, the overly single, the doubly heartbroken, the label-resistant, the too-complex-to-explain, and our wonderful not-wired-that-way supportive allies.

It is barbecues, keggers, potlucks, raves, picnics, blues dances, play parties, tantric retreats, game nights, field days, movement fundraisers, cuddle parties, and fancy dinners.

It is raising awareness about our culture, our relationship preference, and the idea that freedom of relationship choice is important to society at large. It is a community bonding experience, our way — because everyone will do it a little differently.

What sort of a thing might you put on? You can announce a party or event of any description, large or small, and (after moderator's approval) it will be listed for all to see on the website. More events are needed! Of course you'll also need to do your own local inviting/publicity. (Events do not have to be on that weekend if scheduling requires.)

It's suggested that the gatherings be voluntary fundraisers for Loving More and/or the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association and/or Modern Poly, but that's not required.

The idea was born at the Polyamory Leadership Network meeting in Seattle a year and a half ago. In a brainstorm about things we could do, I think it was Mai Li who first yelled out, "House parties!" She's now taking the lead in publicizing this thing. The first Poly Party Weekend was one year ago, with 16 events. Can we beat that this year? (As of 5/26 there are 9....)

Why is Modern Poly doing this?

Aside from any other excuse to throw a party?

STRENGTH IN UNITY. Because the world needs to see the polyamory community come together in celebration — because alone, we are vulnerable, but together, we are strong.

ACCEPTANCE. Because building a strong, proud, happy, & ethical public presence makes it easier for more people to be out comfortably.

IDENTITY. Because showing the world our cultures, our diversity, and what makes us unique, shows them we are real and valuable, and not just a 'phase,' but how we live & love.

SUPPORT. Because we are already fighting for our rights, and that fight is just beginning.

What are the goals?

We want to see people hosting all kinds of events that weekend to celebrate polyamory, across the world!

We want to see polys globally to spend the weekend building and nurturing their communities, and raising awareness about our culture and relationship preference.

We would love to see the largest organizations working for our rights have some of the support they need, in dollars, resources and volunteers.

We hope to see polys across the world more connected to each other and the issues we are facing together in our fight for acceptance.

I'm co-hosting the one in Hollis, New Hampshire. If you'd like to come, please RSVP to the address there (ignore the sleepover part, that's not happening).



May 23, 2012

Foursome marriage? A Murdoch paper gets ahead of itself... and serious slippery-sloping in Australia

The Australian

In Australia as elsewhere, opponents of gay marriage warn that multiple marriage would come next — which is why Australia's major conservative newspaper (a Rupert Murdoch property) ran the interesting story below.

The headline is false. No proposal about marriage for four has been put to the Australian Senate.

Marriage for four put to Senate

By Ean Higgins

The power couple of Australia's increasingly open polyamorous community, Rebecca and James Dominguez, have made Senate submissions urging the legalisation of same-sex marriage, as they promote greater acceptance of multiple-partner relationships.

The couple have led the way in publicly outlining their own journey from monogamous marriage to one in which each has another lover as well.

In her blog, Ms Dominguez, who is an adminstrator with IBM in Melbourne, writes: "My life rocks . . . I am incredibly happy and have almost everything I could possibly want . . .

"I've built a house with my husband and my husband's boyfriend so there are four of us living together in nice harmony. (The fourth household member is Rebecca's boyfriend.)

"James outed himself to me as bisexual a year after we got married. Remarkably, this didn't really phase me.

"He talked to a nice female friend of ours that was interested in him, informed her about my boundaries and they agreed to have a sexual relationship.

"I felt more secure in my relationship with James . . . I knew that James wasn't going to leave me, that he could have sex with and love another woman and still love me and want to be married to me."

For many years Ms Dominguez was president of PolyVic, which promoted the "practice of honest, open, ethical multiple relationships".

More recently the couple have taken up leading positions in Bisexual Alliance Victoria.

The two organisations are closely connected and hold picnics which, the website says, are family-friendly with "food and drinks to share, picnic rugs or chairs, outdoor games, kids, dogs, kayaks".

As president of the alliance, Mr Dominguez, an IT specialist in the Victorian public service, wrote to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in support of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010.

"The legal definition of marriage itself has changed over history, such as the removal on restrictions of inter-racial marriage and the provision for divorce," Mr Dominguez wrote in the submission.

Ms Dominguez wrote in her own submission to the Senate committee: "Just as we have allowed changes in the past to things considered 'traditional' (equality of women, humanity of non-white people), we can change 'traditional' understandings of things now."

The couple say they are not championing the idea of legal recognition of polyamorous marriage now but hope it might evolve in decades to come.

"Some time in the distant future we should look at the idea of plural marriage," said Mr Dominguez.

It is exactly this thin end of the wedge which has led one of the Liberal members of the Senate committee, Eric Abetz, to warn of the dangers of same-sex marriage.

Once one goes beyond the concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman, Senator Abetz said, "the logical conclusion is the complete deconstruction of the institution that is marriage".

It would lead to demands for menages a trois and other combinations to gain the status of legal matrimony, he said, thus endangering "the security of the next generation".

"That's the extreme of what happens when you say love is love," Senator Abetz said.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said: "The A-G is on the record as supporting gay marriage and a conscious vote.

"On the second question (legalising menages a trois as marriages), the government is not considering this."

The Dominguezes hope in the short term for greater acceptance in society of polyamorous marriage.

"My family was initially unhappy, but I wasn't excluded or disowned," Ms Dominguez said.

See the original article (May 21, 2012). The same paper and author have written on this topic before.

The same day, The Australian published this:

Greens declare they are against polyamorous marriage

By Patricia Karvelas

May 21, 2012

The Greens have declared they have a clear policy against support for polyamorous marriage as they pursue their case for same-sex marriage.

Greens marriage equality spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has declared the Greens have a clear policy against support for polyamorous marriage....

For the whole article you need to register.


Rebecca Dominguez in the first story comments to us (quoted with permission):

I believe that this whole charade was to manufacture a controversy where there was none, and to target the Greens (an Australian political party), who have been doing quite well participating in the Senate Committee on Marriage Equality. No other mainstream media in Australia touched this mess (thankfully) and at least one right-wing, conservative Christian organisation (the Australian Christian Lobby) rewrote their press release after doing some research (they had started out saying that I was using the same language to fight for polyamory that was used in the equal marriage debate, where I was just using that language for the equal marriage debate).

I don't think the Australian will feel any pressure to correct their headline, no other media organisations in Australia have picked it up and the whole thing has been bypassed in relation to real news.

Dominguez sent a letter to The Australian, as posted on her blog:

I am very disappointed and upset that I was so badly misrepresented in the article written by Ean Higgins and published in The Australian 21 May 2012. There are factual inaccuracies and inferences in the article which I would like corrected.

The headline was a deliberate attempt to mislead readers into thinking my submission to the senate supported polyamorous marriage when in fact it did no such thing. My submission, which has been publicly viewable on my personal blog since 12 March 2012, was in favour of equal marriage for same sex attracted couples, similar to many other submissions in favour. There was no mention of polyamory, and in my discussions with Ean Higgins I believed that I was clear that my submission was not in favour of introducing polyamory, but in favour of marriage equality for same sex attracted couples. I am not championing polyamorous marriage.

Furthermore, I do not speak for the poly community in Australia and any suggestion that I do so is a complete fabrication.

Update May 24: The original Australian writer has now published this:

Greens fall foul over menage a trois ban

By Ean Higgins

The Greens face a backlash from polyamorists outraged after senator Sarah Hanson-Young rejected their aspirations for equal rights in her bill to legalise gay marriage.

The blogosphere has been full of vitriol, with postings from participants in menages-a-trois and other plural relationships who feel dejected since Senator Hanson-Young said the institution of marriage should involve only two consenting adults...

In fact there's no vitriol cited; the article could quote just one polyamorist, who (does this count as big news in Australia?) left a comment on Facebook:

"The first time in a long time the Greens have disappointed me," Tracey Kerr wrote on Senator Hanson-Young's Facebook page. "I know that it might be politically expedient to cast us poly people out but true marriage equality should let the people getting married decide what their family looks like."

Here's the whole article (May 24, 2012). This is why we love Murdoch papers.

There's more! Based on the ginned-up stuff above, The Australian now runs an editorial (May 24, 2012):

THE question of equal rights for polyamorists is not an issue on which The Australian is inclined to declare its hand, since multiple simultaneous relationships, conducted within the law by consenting adults, are a private matter.

Advocates of same-sex marriage, however, do have an obligation to state clearly if polyamory, or any other boutique form of intimacy for that matter, will be accommodated under the legal changes they wish to introduce, and if not, why not....

Update May 25: The Australian is really trying to keep this thing alive: Same-sex marriage campaigners distance themselves from polyamorists' demands.

And more, May 28: Greens challenged on poly marriage policy, again by Ean Higgins.

And a rebuttal to keep the pot boiling, Defenders of marriage risk jumping at shadows:

By Rodney Croome

IN our society, marriage is understood to be the exclusive, monogamous union of two people for life.

Same-sex couples fit easily within this definition, while polygamists and polyamorists don't....

May 29: Other Murdoch outlets join in: News.com.au, and several Murdoch papers in Australia, publish Confessions of a polygamist: A man's love for two sisters. The website also titles the story "My Polygamous Life: I'm the meat in the sandwich".

Marc Glasby was faithful to his wife Belle for 30 years until he fell in love with her identical twin sister, Dorothy.

Now he loves them both. And they love him. And the three of them live together, the women taking it in turns to sleep with Marc.

Polygamy – marrying multiple people - is illegal in Australia, but there is clearly no law against polyamory – loving multiple people.

In some Australian communities – including Muslim, Aboriginal, African, and some religious groups, polygamy is practised informally.

And Polyamory Australia (“supporting ethical non-monogamy”) says on its website the poly community is diverse, and thriving....

On the up side, this was the day The Australian printed Nikó Antalffy's lovely piece on what polyamory is about. She refused to engage in the marriage controversy. Sweet reward of open loving — but polyamory is no free-for-all.

May 30: Back to The Australian's daily usual: Will incestuous couples want marriage rights?.

In the U.S., the flap has caught the attention of Newsweek/ Daily Beast columnist David Frum: "Gays Against Polyamory" (originally titled "Gays Against Polygamy").

June 12:

The Australian Christian Lobby now mass-mails a slippery-slope video in its campaign against the gay-marriage bill being considered in the Senate:

Kirby stars in Christian same-sex attack video

By Ean Higgins

THE Australian Christian Lobby, emboldened by statements from the polyamorous community calling for legal recognition of multi-partner marriage, has produced a video advertisement warning of the "slippery slope" of gay marriage.

The ACL will send the video to 110,000 people by email today, hoping it will go viral at a time when the Greens' same-sex marriage bill is being examined in a Senate committee.

The video, which runs for a minute and a half, aims at wedging the Greens who, while insisting their bill only deals with marriage between two consenting adults, have not excluded extending legalisation to menages-a-trois and other sexual configurations in the future.

A statement by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young last month excluding multi-partner marriage from her bill has outraged some Greens. Some who complained on Senator Hanson-Young's Facebook page or in the general media are polyamorous, but some are homosexual or bisexual who see true equality in marriage as necessarily including the poly community.

The ACL video starts with the line: "Marriage equality -- no consequences? Wait a minute."

It uses a grab from retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, an advocate for gay rights, who told the Senate committee last month that while homosexual marriage was the question now, in the future there could be "some other question". Responding to a question from the committee as to whether same-sex marriage could lead to polyamorous marriage rights, Mr Kirby said: "The lesson in court and in the parliament, I suggest, is that you take matters step by step."

The video then uses a grab from Brisbane-based polyamorist activist and Greens voter Rachelle White saying in a radio interview that what Mr Kirby said was "very important".

Senator Hanson-Young said yesterday: "The Greens' policy, reflected in my marriage equality bill, is for two adults to be allowed to get married, regardless of their gender. The Australian Christian Lobby continues to represent nobody, with most religious groups wary of their nasty, unChristian attitudes. A great many religious and non-religious Australians reject their hate campaign and simply want equality of marriage rights for same-sex couples."


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May 18, 2012

From Monogamish to Relationship Anarchy: a Widening Poly Spectrum

America is having a nonmonogamy moment, and probably more than a moment. After a generation in the shadows, the concept of responsible nonmonogamy is settling in as a permanent part of modern life and thought. Workable, agreed-upon multi-relating is certainly getting more attention than at any time since the 1970s, and in healthier, more mature, more sustainable forms.

Many things are contributing to this, from the slow disintegration of traditional marriage to the appearance of books like The Myth of Monogamy (2002) and Sex at Dawn (2010). The latter in particular makes a compelling case from anthropology and other sciences that we have evolved by nature for a life of easy nonmonogamy, a fact that we ignore at our misery and peril.

Getting the most public interest are, naturally, the multi-relationship styles on the least radical end of the poly spectrum: those that challenge the fewest other cultural assumptions.

"Open marriage," for instance, usually implies a very primary couple, secondary relationships that are presumed to be disposable in a pinch, and little or none of the deeper poly ethos that "we're all in this together" even if just tangentially. The standards of communication within the couple, and toward outsiders, are likely to be much more ordinary (and unexamined) than the radical transparency, self-analysis, and fearless honesty that many polys consider to be their guiding ideal, even when they fall short of reaching it.

The new terms "monogamish" (popularized by Dan Savage), "flexogamy" (from Cosmopolitan), and "The New Monogamy" (the title of a book by Tammy Nelson coming out next January) refer to even more tentative dabblings with outside liaisons. For instance, here's a local TV news report on "monogamish" couples that aired last Monday on ABC-2 News in Baltimore.

A different sign of ferment on the mainstream end of the poly spectrum is the growing rapprochement between poly and swinging. Since its origins in the 1940s, swinging has mostly been about couples swapping with other couples at prescribed venues: sex parties where what happens at the party stays at the party, with cultural taboos against falling in love or seeking to build too many real-life connections. That's changing; there's always been crossover, but the current generation of swingers is taking new interest in poly philosophy and practice. At Atlanta Poly Weekend in March, swing-community lawyer and entrepreneur Stephen G. Cobb predicted to the crowd that this trend is reaching a "tipping point" and that the poly movement is about to be inundated by a "flood" of people from the vastly larger Lifestyle. Other signs suggest this may be so.

The biggest difference between polys and swingers is cultural. Swingers tend, on average, to be more conservative, mainstream, Christian, happy to stay closeted, satisfied with standard American life in other ways, and unpracticed in questioning dominant paradigms. As a result, despite its large size (estimated at 4 or 5 million people in the U.S.) and the radical nature of what it's actually doing, "the Lifestyle" has left remarkably little imprint on American life and culture in the last 60 years. If lifestylers really do flood the poly world in the next few years, poly on average is going to look less geeky, alternative, intellectual, queer, and Seattleish than it does now.

However, there is also new activity brewing on the opposite end of the poly spectrum.

"Relationship Anarchy," or RA, is the term being used by really alternative people who disdain "polyamory" as meaning something too limited and ordinary. Or perhaps too much like the older generation. This is the term of choice in some anarchist and Occupy cultures in particular, especially in Europe, and it's spreading.

Deborah Anapol, a spiritual founder of the modern poly movement and author of Polyamory: the New Love Without Limits (1992, 1997), commented a couple of weeks ago,

Most people in open marriages are very deliberately and intentionally committed to the couple paradigm. This has led some younger, more radical people to reject polyamory as old paradigm and advocate what they call relationship anarchy but is pretty much what I called polyamory over 20 years ago....

My feeling is that we are still at least one, if not two or more generations away from evolving beyond the couple paradigm, but that the standard couple is rapidly evolving into an open couple — and an open couple who does not resonate with the word, community, or concept of polyamory. Furthermore, among the people I meet in conscious environments all over the world, most of those who really "get" polyamory —— not so much as an identity, but as a way of life —— don't want to apply the label to themselves or their behavior.

Longtime poly researcher Meg Barker in England notes,

Three phrases that I have heard for a potential 'third wave' of polyamory are 'relationship anarchy', 'relationshipqueer' and 'polytical' (the UK website). All are more explictly politically engaged, tend to come from a queer and/or anarchist perspective, and question things like the privileging of romantic over other kinds of relationships and the ideas of rigid rules and contracts.

(Barker and Daniel Cardoso in Portugal were recently on an academic panel exploring these topics. Elsewhere, Cardoso and Pepper Mint go deeper into theory.)

From the leading RA activist Andie Nordgren in Sweden:

8 Points on Relationship Anarchy

Andie Nordgren
By Andie Nordgren (2006 translation by Leo Nordwall and Elli Åhlvik)

You can love a lot of people — each relationship is unique

     Relationship Anarchy (RA) questions the idea that love is a special, limited feeling which is real only when kept between two people at any given moment.... Every relationship stands on its own, a meeting between independent equals.

Love and Respect is to have no demands

     Refraining from demands, as a basis of a relationship, is to show respect towards other people's independence and capability of making decisions on their own. You having feelings for others or a history together doesn't give you the right to set rules or make demands. Try instead to explore how you can develop a relationship without disregarding each others essential values and opinions.... Demandlessness is the only way to be completely sure that everyone in a relationship is there of their own free will. It's not “real love” to adjust to each other according to an existing template.

Give yourself a solid point of view

     How do you want others to treat you? And I mean everyone. What are your premises and how do you define your boundaries? What kind of people do you want to have around and how do you want your relationships to be? Find such a core point of view and work with all your relationships according to it....

Remember the heterosexual norm but don't be afraid

     Remember that there is an incredibly powerful set of normative beliefs telling you how life and real love should be. People will wonder and question your relationships.... Don't allow your relationships to be driven by fear of societal norms.

Spontaneity instead of duty

     To be able to be spontaneous – to act without the fear of being punished and without obligations – is what makes radical relationships come to life....

Fake it 'til you make it

     Sometimes it might sound like you have to be some kind of übermensch to "stand life" as a relationship anarchist. It's not true. Try using the trick “fake it 'til you make it”, which means that you imagine how you would have done in various difficult situations if you were as strong and cool as you'd like....

Trust is better than being suspicious

     Assume that everyone near you wants you to be happy....

Change through communication

     Whenever people do something together, there is a norm on how to act and what to do – a norm on how a the situation should turn out. If you and people around you won't talk about the whats, hows and whys, everything will turn out as the norm dictates. Communication, common action and a will to change is the only way to break free from the norms. Radical relationships must have open discussions as their main component.... Talk to each other!

That's a condensation; read and save the whole article [updated new translation by Andie, July 2012]. "Andie Nordgren is a genderqueer relationship hacker and a key voice behind the Relationship Anarchy movement, which originated in Sweden but is now gaining international interest."

Similarly, the radical web magazine The Scavenger presents a long article that's worth saving to show anyone who wonders why a person with the author's philosophy takes such utter joy in this life:

Revolutionary romance: A primer for polyamory

By Sadie Ryanne

...I guess because I’ve been talking a lot about new dates (*cough* like a giddy teenage queen *cough*) and my upcoming wedding, I’ve been having to answer lots of questions about polyamory. Monogamous people just seem to be utterly fascinated (or horrified) by it, and they want to talk to me about it all the time.

One friend recently called me “the most amorous-seeking person” they’ve ever met. I’m a flirty gal, it’s true… But when asked how many relationships I’m in (which happens often), I honestly don’t know how to answer. Three? Five? A dozen?

According to dominant monogamous narratives, “a relationship” is a special kind of dynamic that is easily distinguishable (because it is the only dynamic that is supposed to involve both romance and sex), and it needs to be fiercely defined and defended....

I find that when most monogamous people try to understand polyamory, they still generalize this basic idea. They understand that I’m not sexually or romantically exclusive, but they still assume that I have multiple “relationships” the way they understand what a relationship is. Thus, when monogamous people ask me “how many relationships are you in?” they expect the answer to be easy.

Well, that just doesn’t apply to my life....

...And of course, it’s all very flexible: Someone who begins as a sexual partner often ends up as a platonic best friend.

...I still get joyously anxious about new crushes when I’m not sure where they will go, I still squeal when someone asks me to be their girlfriend, and I still cry when one of my partners decides that we shouldn’t call each other lovers anymore. It’s not that the labels have no meaning for me.

But instead of assuming that there is only one, monolithic way to define a relationship, I see it much differently: There are just many different dynamics between two or more people (I’m in at least one triad, by the way), and many different words that they might use to describe their relationship to one another.

...I can still be heartbroken by the breakup of one relationship while being ecstatically in love with another and brimming with excitement about the possibility of another new one starting.

The radical politics of blooming flowers

But there’s also more to my poly identity than that. Polyamory is more than a descriptive term for a certain type of relationship structure. It is also, at least for me, a political identity marking my opposition to compulsory monogamy.

...Polyamory has the potential to challenge many of the entrenched sexist and trans/homophobic social structures — notably, the nuclear family.... Polyamory opens the door to a variety of messy, self-determined, tangled networks as alternatives for creating families, providing for mutual support, raising children and so on.

Not to mention, the more we pursue pleasure and love for ourselves and the people around us, the more we eschew the neoliberal imperative to be productive (where productivity is narrowly defined within a capitalist framework).

...On the whole, I find that poly relationships are usually much stronger because we do openly talk about things like jealousy. I’ve found that many monogamous people (at least the vanilla ones) have no idea how to negotiate things like safer sex, boundaries, desires, and so on. Hell, most monogamous people don’t even know how to talk about sex or romance at all without getting super uncomfortable!

If I need some space from my fiancee or just want to stay in for the weekend, I might ask her, “Hey, I was really hoping to sleep in my own bed this weekend. Do you think you can either not hang out with your other partner, or maybe spend the night at her house so I can have the house to myself?” A lot of monogamous people I know are terrified to ask for space like that, and obsessively worry that they’re going to hurt their partner’s feelings or something. In my case, my lovers just try to accommodate my needs and everyone ends up better off for it.

Poly people basically have to talk about this stuff. With my poly partners, it’s totally considered normal to have regular check-ins about our boundaries to see how they’ve changed and how we’re feeling. Acknowledging things like jealousy and talking about what we’re okay with and what we’d rather not hear about and so on means that we have better communication skills, and thus are healthier partners.

And there’s another emotion that needs to be acknowledged. Jealousy exists, but so does compersion. This is a word that poly people invented to describe the feeling of happiness, satisfaction or fulfillment that is derived from knowing that your partner is happy, satisfied and fulfilled.

It’s real! Whenever one of my partners starts seeing someone new, I get excited and giddy with them. And when they get back from a fun date, I love to hear about it because knowing they had a good time cheers me up, too....

Read the whole long article (June 11, 2011).

We have an interesting and diverse future opening up.


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May 16, 2012

"Three Partners, One Family"
in a liberal Christian magazine

United Church Observer

            "Blue" Joyce, John Bashinski, Kaia Baird and Warren Baird at a
            park near their Montreal home. Photo by Neal Rockwell.

The United Church is Canada's largest Protestant denomination. Its independently-run, highly regarded magazine the United Church Observer (circulation 60,000) sympathetically profiles, in its current issue, a longterm Montreal triad raising a child. The family were among the polyfolks arguing for decriminalization of polyamory to the British Columbia Supreme Court last year.

Three partners, one family

By Pieta Woolley

For the past five years, computer techie John Robert Bashinski has shared his Montreal row house with two partners — one female, one male — and the trio’s kindergarten-aged daughter. It’s a polyamorous relationship — on the surface, hard to distinguish from polygamy, but in many ways, the polar opposite.

Egalitarian, secular and non-institutional, the family’s relationship is founded on the personal freedom of each of the three partners, he says. All three adults see other lovers outside their primary unit. Weekly, the partners also rotate on date nights, a two-adult romantic evening, while the third does childcare. It’s just your average three-parent “open” relationship, in other words. Bashinski reports they’re very public about it yet never harassed in their progressive, family-oriented neighbourhood.

...“Polyamory seems to be on the upswing in the zeitgeist,” says Bashinski, who is a spokesperson for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA). “There may not be way more people publicly doing it, but it is becoming more visible, and more people are thinking of it as a valid option.”

The CPAA argues that polyamory, which literally means “many loves,” is far more widespread in Canada than its fundamentalist cousin, polygamy.... The group refers to itself politically as the “poly majority.” Social acceptance, Bashinski reports, is on the rise. He credits the popularization of open marriages and the free love movement starting in the 1960s.

Legally, however, there’s a ways to go. In November, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the 122-year-old law prohibiting polygamous marriages. The CPAA was an intervener in the case; Bashinski was one of five polyamorous Canadians who testified in favour of allowing egalitarian multi-partner relationships.

Still, the decision of B.C. Chief Justice Robert Bauman effectively decriminalized polyamory while confirming Canada’s anti-polygamy laws.

...In response to the judgment, the CPAA stated, “Decriminalization of homosexual relationships did not lead to the recognition of gay marriage until 30 years later. No doubt it will take some time for Canadians to determine whether they ever want to recognize multi-partner marriages.”

And indeed, there’s no consensus within the polyamorous community if legal marriage is a worthy fight. For Bashinski, an important part of being polyamorous is refusing to narrowly define relationships or sanctify them through a religion or the state. He doesn’t want a marriage — though he does value commitment. “If an arrangement is working, it’s foreign to me why I’d care whether my partner has other sexual partners. At the same time, we’ve all agreed that we’re not going to do anything that will destabilize our family.”

...“Overall, we want normalization; we want acceptance,” he says. “My biggest concern is making sure nothing bad happens to our daughter because of society’s larger attitudes toward what we’re doing.”

Read the whole article (May 2012 issue).


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May 14, 2012

Poly psychotherapy article
in a major newspaper

Philadelphia Inquirer

Poly activists, researchers, and therapists have long tried to get a foothold at mainstream academic and professional conferences. They achieved a milestone last Wednesday (May 9) with a well-attended panel at the convention of the American Psychiatric Association in Philadelphia. Ken Haslam, who was there, posted to the Polyamory Leadership Network about

...what was probably the first-ever formal discussion of polyamory at a psychiatry convention. William Slaughter (a psychiatrist from Harvard), Richard Sprott (a psychologist), and Eli Sheff (an academic sociologist) presented a wide variety of polyamory topics to a standing-room-only audience of psychiatrists. It would appear that polyamory has, to a very small extent, finally made it onto the screen of mainstream medicine.

That's Bill Slaughter at right. Here's the session listing in the program:

Polyamory (responsible non-monogamy), an emerging relationship orientation/presenting issue: Research and clinical information to improve care. William David Slaughter MD, Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D. and Richard Sprott, Ph.D.

Here are Sprott's PowerPoint slides from his part of the presentation: "A Review of the Research on Polyamory."

One of the people attending the session was a medical reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the major local newspaper. She didn't hold out much hope at the time that she would get an article published. But in this morning's paper, here it is:

Experts in Philly describe mysteries of polyamory: When one lover isn’t enough

By Stacey Burling

You think a romantic relationship between two people is hard? Try polyamory.

A panel of experts at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in Philadelphia last week said that open relationships between more than two people can work, but it requires a lot of talk about rules, boundaries, and time spent with various lovers.

William Slaughter, a psychiatrist in Cambridge, Mass., who has been treating polyamorous patients for about five years, said they need to have very good communication skills and be especially good at “mentalizing” or understanding others’ emotional reactions. He and Richard Sprott, a psychologist at California State University East Bay, and Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist who recently left Georgia State University, talked about what to expect from polyamorous patients. Such patients often complain that they have to spend too much time educating their therapists, Slaughter said.

...The most common presentation, the panel said, is a couple that considers their relationship primary, while each may also have secondary relationships with other people. Sometimes all the relationships are considered equally important or all secondary.

Sheff said she knows of one group of seven, but that’s unusual. “When they get larger than quads, they’re a moresome,” she said.

...Sheff and Sprott believe polyamory is increasing. Sprott said younger generations are less insistent on monogamy than their parents. He cited research that found that 29 percent of lesbian couples, 29 percent of cohabiting straight couples, and 47 percent of gay couples are not monogamous.

...The panel said there is ongoing debate about whether polyamory is a choice or a sexual orientation. Some people float between monogamous and polyamorous relationships.

She and Sprott said the poly community tends to be white and well educated. About half say they are bisexual and 30 to 40 percent are into BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism), Sprott said. He said both the men and women tend to have unusually high testosterone levels and be extroverted and high in what psychologists call sensation-seeking.

Sheff has studied children in polyamorous families. In her small sample, the “kids tend to be in great shape.” These families often aren’t obvious to the mono world. They look like a couple whose good friends come over a lot or people who are good friends with their exes. Most are discreet about sex, so the kids aren’t confronted by it and neither are their friends.

Sheff said the children say they like having extra adults in their lives. There’s always someone to drive them somewhere or help with homework. “A number of them expressed pity for children who only have two parents,” she said.

The important point for therapists, she said, is that polyamorous families are “not definitionally pathological.” While they don’t follow conventional morals, they do establish clear ethical codes that emphasize honesty and treating others well.

...Slaughter said people in the poly community come to him for the same reasons as other patients. Some extra issues include secret affairs, coercion, grudging consent, the opening and closing of marriages, and fears about child custody. A particularly emotional time is when a couple decides to enter the poly community together, he said. They have to work out new boundaries. They ask: “How much time do you spend with me? How do I know you love me?”

Asked about sexually transmitted diseases, the panel said this issue is probably discussed in more detail in the polyamory community than among other groups. People may agree on complex sexual rules, including “fluid bonds” that spell out whom they’ll have sex with without condoms.

Read the whole article (May 14, 2012). In the print edition it was on the front page of the C section.

Regarding this bit — "patients often complain that they have to spend too much time educating their therapists" — print out and give your therapist in advance this excellent, professional booklet: What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory. It's produced under the auspices of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF). The paper copies of the first printing have all been distributed; a second edition is currently being edited and printed, funded by yours truly.