Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 27, 2013

Previews of the "Our America" poly documentary airing next Tuesday

Oprah Winfrey Network

"Our America with Lisa Ling" has put up 30-second and 2-minute promos for its one-hour poly documentary that will air Tuesday March 5th. A lot of us have high hopes for this one. Looks good so far:

Preview: Monogamy's Not for Everyone
Lisa Ling wants to know: how many is too many? There are half a million Americans practicing polyamory or committed non-monogamy. Lisa Ling meets three families who believe it is possible to love more than one person at a time. Tune in for this all-new episode of Our America with "I Love You & You...&You" on Tuesday, March 5th at 10/9c, only on OWN.

First Look: Plenty of Love to Go Around
At its core, polyamory says loving multiple people is natural. While it may seem extreme to many, half a million American families believe there is more than enough love to go around in their committed non-monogamous relationships.

Update: A new 3-minute trailer features the 11-year old of one of the families:

Meet Colleen. She is an 11-year-old girl living with a polyamorous family -- specifically, her mother, her stepfather and her mother's boyfriend. The family opens up to Lisa Ling about their lifestyle and how they explain polyamory to Colleen.

Just wow.

If it doesn't display here yet, you can watch it here instead.

The show will re-air at least three times. Schedule. Channel finder.

See my previous post about the show for lots more on its genesis, its people, and how they think the filming went.


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February 26, 2013

Laci Green with a new millennial poly video

Discovery News

Remember Laci Green? She's the chattery young ex-Mormon pro-science peer sex educator who hosts the hugely popular Sex+ YouTube series. Which includes a letter-perfect introduction to polyamory (4:33).

She put that up 15 months ago. Now she's 23, she's graduated from Berkeley, and has dived into a swirl of education and advocacy projects: "I consider myself strong-minded and ambitious and I will stop at nothing –NOTHING!– to make waves in our social landscape." She recently got a gig hosting and writing videos at D News, the Discovery Channel's hip science-news website aimed at millennials.

There she's put up a new polyamory video, apparently prompted by the recent paper by Terri Conley et al. in Personality and Social Psychology Review that I wrote about last month.

Can you handle a second or third girlfriend or boyfriend? Turns out more and more people can, and we don't mean "on the side." Polyamory is quickly becoming this generation's sexual revolution. Laci explores what it's all about and how it works. (2:25)

If we had a bunch more spokespeople like her, our job would be done.

A snippet:

The cornerstones that keep this together are honesty, openness, and communication. They're talking a lot. They're negotiating, they're putting how they feel openly on the table for discussion, and for reflection.

Researchers at the University of Michigan looking into polyamory found that polyamorists are far more communicative and enthusiastic about emotional honesty than their monogamous counterparts. And they suggest that there's something for the other 95% to learn here.

Pass it around.


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February 25, 2013

"Love More Than One" ad: for cookies or people?

Public attention to polyamory has grown as fast in Australia as in the U.S., and don't tell me that's not behind this TV ad campaign and "Love More Than One" bus tour by Tim Tam cookies:

"Who says you can have just one true love? Wouldn't the world be a better place, if we could love more than one?"

Comments a reddit/r/polyamory reader, "Ahhh the slow, steady progression from being freaks and pariahs to marketable assets."


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February 23, 2013

One-hour poly documentary airs
March 5 on Oprah Winfrey Network

Our America with Lisa Ling

Oprah Winfrey's people have been sniffing around the edges of the poly community for years, but they never did a show, and they were apparently working under an edict not to allow the word "polyamory" on the air if they did. I wondered why? Too Greeky-Latiny? Too scandalous? Would it be too much like an endorsement to call it by its real name?

That's water under the bridge now. Last August, the Oprah Winfrey Network's "Our America with Lisa Ling" contacted Robyn Trask, director of the Loving More nonprofit, about doing a show on poly people. Trask checked out their previous handlings of alt-sex topics, found them good, and agreed to help them locate people.

The resulting one-hour show is called "I Love You & You...& You." It will air Tuesday March 5th (moved up from the 12th) at 10 p.m. Eastern Time, 9 Central. It will re-air two hours later, and again on subsequent dates. Schedule. Channel finder.

The program will feature three polyfamilies: Trask and her life partner Jesus V. Garcia and their partners and kids, an outspoken young quint in the Philadelphia area, and a triad in Vancouver whom I know less about.

Jesus, Robyn, John
Members of the first two groups were among the 180 people at Loving More's Poly Living conference in Philadelphia last month, and they shared what they could in advance. Robyn, Jesus, and two of their kids (a teen and an adult) were favorably impressed with Ling and her film crew, who followed them around their Colorado home and community for three days. "Overall it was a fun experience and very different from other TV crews I have worked with," says Robyn.

One of the Philadelphia group is well-known on the poly internets as Shaunphilly, an atheist-skeptic humanist who runs the Polyskeptic blog. There, he writes,

Polyskeptic is about to OWN you!

We here at polyskeptic have been involved, over the last few months, with a project that will hit reality in just a few weeks. Over a few days, separated by some weeks, there were cameras, a camera crew, and even a person whose name you might recognize — Lisa Ling — in our home in order to ask us questions about being polyamorous....

Now, we have no way of knowing what kind of response we will get from friends and family or the polyamorous community itself. We will have an opportunity to find out what some of the polyamorous community has to say right after it airs, as [two weekends] after it airs we will be in Atlanta for the Atlanta Poly Weekend conference March 15-17. Whether we will be minor celebrities, run out of town with flaming torches and pitchforks, or merely treated as a few schmucks who were on TV once is yet to be seen. My guess is that we will be world-famous, wealthy, and more awesome than we already are overnight.

I may be biased....

I got a chance to meet Kamala Devi and Michael McClure from last year’s Showtime series at the Poly Living Conference.... My recent experience in interacting with [folks at Poly Living] has made it clear how many polyamorous people appreciate the exposure of this lifestyle, as coming out as polyamorous can be a real concern for many people. We, here at polyskeptic, have not hid our identities, and now that we are about to be on television (even if only on a cable channel many people don’t watch) we will have little choice about being out to the world. This privilege of ours is not universal, and for the same reasons atheists need to be out of the closet when they can, the same is true for polyamorous people.

I hope that you all watch, and I would be interested in feedback about the episode, which we have not seen yet.

Here is his original post (Feb. 15, 2013). It includes the season-promo video clip from which this still of the group is taken; Shaun is second from the right:

The quint you'll soon be meeting.

Gina, in the center, posted about coming out at work in preparation for the show:

Being Honest About Loving More

“So…I figured I should just come in here and say something before I lost my nerve to say it…”

I sat down in the chair next to my boss’ desk, felt awkward for a second and then just bulldozed through it.

Gina in foreground. Click for readable enlargement.
“Well, my family and I are going to be featured in a documentary next month about alternative lifestyles… namely, non-monogamy. Wes and I each have long-term partners outside of our marriage. They live with us. My boyfriend’s wife also lives with us. It doesn’t really have anything to do with work, but I figured it was about time that I came clean so that I didn’t have to hide my life anymore.”

He took it very well. It didn’t particularly seem to faze him in the least.

“Cool!” he said, “Seriously, if it makes you happy and doesn’t cause a problem at work, it doesn’t matter to me at all.”

I chatted for a bit about the documentary and how hilarious and sometimes stressful the process was, and then we talked a bit about some work projects, and I went on back to my desk.

A few minutes later I came out to two more coworkers with whom I have worked for years. The reception was similar. One was pretty quiet about it, but ultimately seems to be OK. The other had a ton of questions and I made it clear that no questions were off limits, that he could ask about whatever he wanted.

I went out to lunch today with another coworker and told her. She took it well too and was happy that I felt comfortable enough to open up to her about such things.

I live a charmed life.


...[At Poly Living's closing ceremonies] I was made aware how important being out is to a community such as this.

Robyn Trask, the head honcho over at Loving More, called Shaun and I out into the center of the room to tell everyone that we were some of the people who would be in the documentary (her family is also being featured). We got a round of applause and some comments from people thanking us for being willing to be out like that…to have our lives put on display so that people can know the awesomeness that is poly family.

I hadn’t really realized what a relatively big deal the documentary might be, and I hadn’t considered that it was somewhat special of us to agree to participate. Perhaps it’s that I blog a lot about my personal life or perhaps because I have grown up being on stage that I don’t always remember how hard it is to put yourself out there. Don’t get me wrong…I have been nervous about the documentary.... My mind went to the worst places. I began to fear that I would lose my job: Gina fired for being peculiar.... I went through with it anyway though because I knew that it was important. Visibility is important to movements and there is most certainly a polyamory movement in our midst…one that needs strong and confident voices and those who have the privilege to be able to share their lives with the public without fear.

...Next month our family will be heading down to Atlanta for the Atlanta Poly Weekend, and I am looking really forward to it. Not only will it be my birthday weekend (and we will likely be meeting a whole host of awesome fun people to celebrate my turning 32 with), but we might be semi-celebrities there, which might be pretty entertaining. But most importantly, I will be able to enjoy it as a fully integrated member of the community, someone living honestly and out as a polyamorous person…a person who would be so much worse off if the support system a polyamorous life has offered me were not here. I can speak knowing that I am not hiding anywhere anymore, and that is a pretty nice birthday present to give myself.

Read her whole post (Feb. 11, 2013).

The Philadelphia quint.

The full show may eventually become available on the web after its initial airings; check here.


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February 20, 2013

"Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen"

The Stranger (Seattle)

We haven't heard for a while from Mistress Matisse, the BDSM and poly columnist for Dan Savage's home paper The Stranger in Seattle. She went through a rough breakup, as she tells late in the story here:

You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom

Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen

by Mistress Matisse

Simone Shin

...To hear right-wingers tell it, you'd think there was an army of group-marriage revolutionaries howling at the barricades to overthrow our single-spouse oppressors. Seattle has a large polyamorous community (including me!). So perhaps you're wondering: Now that we have same-sex marriage, is it only a matter of time before King County executive Dow Constantine is signing marriage licenses for trios and quartets?...

But hold on a sec. For starters, poly- marriage organizers would have to agree on a precise definition of what, exactly, poly marriage even is. Explaining the flowcharts and Venn diagrams of poly relationships can be trickier and take longer than a play-by-play of naked Twister. And you can't just engrave "It's Complicated" on tasteful ivory card stock....

But let's say the poly community comes up with a way of defining "poly marriage." Then comes the price tag... persuading voters to change the law in favor of poly marriage would take a lot of skillful and extremely expensive political marketing. How many gay/lesbian bars have I been to where a drag queen or a leather daddy had a microphone in hand and was working the tipsy crowd like a carnival barker for marriage-equality donations? Too many to count. Unfortunately, poly people are not oppressed enough to have our own bars. We only have potlucks, and no one drinks very much at those (although I have very much wanted to on the few occasions I attended one). I shudder at the idea of Obama-esque daily e-mails from Poly Marriage Now begging me for money. But fundraising infrastructure is key — and queers have it, poly people don't.

Perhaps I'm not the only poly activist who sees what a Sisyphean task this would be, because when I asked around poly networks about it, I heard... crickets.

...My whole adult life, I've actively pursued the wisdom and skills to sustain multiple romantic relationships, and I'm pretty good at it. But no matter what you do, it ain't all rainbows and unicorns. I think romantic love that leads to deep, committed relationships is wonderful. But... I've never been interested in sharing a household with more than one person....

My other reason for being leery of poly marriage? A close brush with poly divorce. You see, I lived with a partner in a polyamorous relationship for 12 years. He and I were happy and well-suited to each other — we were both active in the poly community, we both had long-term relationships with other partners throughout that time, and lots of people thought we had this poly thing all nailed down. We thought we did, too — for a while. We broke up about a year ago.

It was just as awful as breakups always are, but I dodged a bullet in one crucial matter....

My partner's dream of a group poly household had become more important to him than I was, so I left. Now, a mortgage isn't a marriage license — although I probably could have gotten a divorce faster and cheaper than I could have sold one-third of a house. But I'm extremely glad now that I didn't make a legal and financial commitment to two other people that I would have had to dissolve while going through an intense emotional upheaval with one of them....

Mistress Matisse is a professional dominatrix who writes about BDSM, polyamory, and sex work.

Read the whole article (Feb. 13, 2013).

Updates: Cunning Minx devotes much of her Polyamory Weekly podcast Episode #350 to discussion of this article: To Fight or Not to Fight for Poly Marriage (Feb. 28, 2013).

Further discussion on Polyamorous Paganism (March 1, 2013).


February 19, 2013

Poly in Ireland: A recognized facet of love & relationships

The Limerick Post

As Ireland emerges from ages of social and sexual repression, a newspaper in Limerick prints a Valentine's spread on love and marriage in Ireland's rural Mid West:

...in which one of the stories, with the illustration, centers on people who have chosen the poly route.

..."We didn't have any information or support and we were operating completely in the dark when it came to issues like jealousy"...

...Some time after her divorce, Orla was having lunch with an old friend who was back in Ireland working for a year after moving to the US.

"He told me about his two girlfriends, and I was riveted. I had never met anyone else who felt this was a workable arrangement. Then he told me there was a name for this — polyamory — and there is even a polyamory group in Ireland. I contacted them and discovered there are hundreds of members."

Here's the zoomable original (Feb. 16, 2013). If that fails, click the image below for a readable enlargement.

Thanx and a tip of the hat to our Ireland correspondent Randy R., organizer of the Dublin Polyamory Discussion/Support Group. He writes that he checked with the story's author "about any aftermath from the article (three days after its publication) and she said, 'It deserves mention that this is a paper in rural Ireland and there was no outcry!'"



February 18, 2013

"Why are we so committed to keeping compulsory monogamy intact?"


PolicyMic is a news-and-opinion site, founded by recent Harvard and Stanford grads, designed to function as "the first democratic online news platform to engage millennials in debates about real issues. We believe in amplifying excellent unheard voices."

So Angi Becker Stevens, polyactivist and radical theorist in the Detroit area, went there and wrote this:

Valentine's Day is For Celebrating All Kinds Of Love ... Including Polyamory

By Angi Becker Stevens

...David Blankenthorn, who once opposed same-sex marriage... has since changed his tune. He announced last June that he wished to join forces with same-sex marriage advocates “to build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same.” And his recent “Call for a New Conversation on Marriage” — with its claim that “this hollowing out of marriage in mainstream America is among the most consequential social facts of our era” — has been signed by both gay and straight activists and thinkers from across the political spectrum.

...Even if we put aside for a moment the fact that many “traditional family values” are deeply rooted in patriarchy, is this really the best turn for the marriage-equality movement to make? If we can agree to cast away the oppressive social institution of compulsory heterosexuality, why are we so committed to keeping the institution of compulsory monogamy intact?

As a polyamorous woman, I admit to having a personal stake in that question. Families like mine, with more than one romantic partner, are seldom treated with credibility. To conservatives, we're the ultimate danger that the "slippery slope" of gay marriage might lead to. To liberals and particularly same-sex marriage advocates, we're often seen as a silly distraction from more important matters. (That is, when we are seen at all.)

But relationships like mine do exist, happily, and we want the same thing anyone wants: to have our choice of partners recognized and accepted by the world we live in. And of all the arguments I have heard against the ethics of relationships like mine, I have yet to hear any that do not rely on the same kind of "defending traditional values" reasoning that has so long been invoked against gay marriage.

I don't mean to criticize the choice to marry; I'm legally married to one of my partners, and would quite likely marry the other if multi-partner marriage ever becomes legal. And I certainly don't mean to scoff at lifelong commitment, as someone who has made not just one such commitment, but two. Nor do I wish to criticize monogamy, which is wonderful for a lot of people, but simply not right for me. What I do wish to criticize is the notion that there is any one correct way to form intimate, loving relationships....

Read the whole article (Feb. 14, 2013).

Stevens has just started a new blogsite, The Radical Poly Agenda.


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February 17, 2013

"Sign Here and Here and Here: Exploring the Legality of Polyamory"

The Corvallis Advocate (Oregon)

A short piece in an Oregon alternative newspaper describes some issues that poly families can face.

Sign Here and Here and Here: Exploring the Legality of Polyamory

By Lana Jones

...How do poly people navigate parenting, bank accounts, and other everyday family business? Serious poly relationships might involve three, four, or more people that want to share the same rights and responsibilities that spouses or domestic partners would.

Parenting problems might arise because a child can by law only have two people recognized as parents. This is an issue not only for poly families but also divorced parents and step-parents. Multiple parents could be an asset to children though, and the issue may never come up unless there’s a larger problem.

“When there is some sort of problem and the court gets involved,” said Jen [a third-year law student from University of California Hastings], “the court is going to scrutinize poly families very closely.”

In that case, the parents that aren’t legally recognized may not have a say.

“That doesn’t mean that people don’t successfully co-parent, multi-parent all the time,” she said.

Poly families could turn to contracts that approximate marriage or custody. This route is expensive though because the contracts aren’t prefab forms that anyone can complete.

“It’s really a question of how much money you have,” Jen said. “The more affluent you are, the more likely you’ll be able to get your family protected.”

Even if you do get your family protected, there’s no guarantee that your contracts will be recognized. If a member of a poly family is hospitalized, for instance, will the hospital allow multiple visitation rights?

...Despite some of the difficulties associated with being poly, the lifestyle is gaining more recognition and people continue to practice it. Corvallis even has its own poly social group that meets once a month. For more information, visit http://www.meetup.com/The-Corvallis-Poly-Meetup-Group/.

Read the whole article (Feb. 14, 2013).

P.S.: See you at Atlanta Poly Weekend in four weeks! I'll be giving the closing talk.



February 14, 2013

Science site:
"New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You"

NBC News
Yahoo News
Scientific American

This is the second of two fine articles about the poly movement published today by the science-journalism site LiveScience. I posted about the other one, 5 Myths About Polyamory Debunked, this afternoon. Both are by the same author and quote many of the same sources, but most of the material is different.

The two pieces seem designed to offer different styles of presentation for LiveScience's mainstream-media partners to choose from. The one below is the one picked by NBC News online, by Yahoo News, and by Scientific American so far.

New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in studying polyamory, in which people make commitments to multiple romantic partners at once, with the full consent of everyone involved.

On Valentine's Day, images of couples are everywhere. They're buying each other diamond rings, making eyes over expensive restaurant meals and canoodling over chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. But two-by-two isn't the only way to go through life. In fact, an estimated 4 to 5 percent of Americans are looking outside their relationship for love and sex — with their partner's full permission.

These consensually nonmonogamous relationships, as they're called, don't conform to the cultural norm of a handholding couple in love for life. They come in a dizzying array of forms, from occasional "swinging" and open relationships to long-term commitments among multiple people. Now, social scientists embarking on brand-new research into these types of relationships are finding that they may challenge the ways we think of jealousy, commitment and love. They may even change monogamy for the better.

"People in these relationships really communicate. They communicate to death," said Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont. All of that negotiation may hold a lesson for the monogamously inclined, Holmes told LiveScience.

"They are potentially doing quite a lot of things that could turn out to be things that if people who are practicing monogamy did more of, their relationships would actually be better off," Holmes said.

Examining nonmonogamy

The study of consensual nonmonogamy is a relatively new field. In the 1970s, partner-swapping and swinging (recreational sex outside of a relationship) came into the public eye, and psychologists conducted a few studies. But that research was limited to mostly white, heterosexual couples who engaged in swinging for fun, according to Elisabeth Sheff, a legal consultant and former Georgia State University professor, writing in 2011 in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.

That means little is yet known about who participates in consensual nonmonogamy and why. Research is largely limited to self-report and surveys, in which people can be tempted to present themselves in a positive light. There are, however, some key definitions to understand. Consensual nonmonogamy contains multitudes. It includes sex-only arrangements, such as two committed partners agreeing that they're allowed to seek no-strings-attached sex with other people. It also includes polyamory, which involves multiple committed relationships at once with the consent and knowledge of everyone involved.

Consensual nonmonogamy does not include cheating, in which one partner steps out without the permission of the other.

While there are no national statistics on consensual nonmonogamy, University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley has estimated that about 5 percent of Americans are in one of these types of relationships at any given time....

So far, studies suggest that polyamorous individuals are well-educated, holding more master's and doctoral degrees than the general population, said Champlain's Holmes, who is conducting ongoing research of an online sample of more than 5,000 polyamorous individuals. Despite their smarts, they're not particularly wealthy.

"That tells me that it's probably people who are often more focused on experiences in life," than money, Holmes said.

Jealousy & love

One thing that seems to unite the polyamorous community is a real enthusiasm for digging into emotions. Honesty, openness and communication are cornerstones for polyamorous relationships, Holmes has found....

His work also suggests that basic emotions work very differently in polyamorous relationships.

Take jealousy. If you ask most people how they'd feel if their partner had sex with or fell in love with someone else, the responses would be pretty negative: fear, anger, jealousy, rejection. Ask a polyamorous person the same question, and they're more likely to tell you they'd be thrilled. It's a concept called "compersion," which means the joy felt when a partner discovers love outside of you. It's similar to the feeling the typical person might get after finding out their best friend scored her dream job, Holmes said. But in this case, the happiness stems from a lover's external relationships.

That finding challenges much of what traditional psychological research has established about how jealousy works.

"It turns out that, hey, people are not reacting with jealousy when their partner is flirting with someone else," Holmes said. "Good science tests theories and predictions … you need to see if it holds up even in extreme situations."...

In another example of polyamorous people potentially turning typical psychological reactions upside-down, Holmes conducted a preliminary analysis of about 200 polyamorous people, asking them about feelings of jealousy. Typically, he said, you'd expect to see that women are more anxious about emotional infidelity, while men worry more about sexual infidelity. That wasn't the case among the polyamorous individuals. In fact, there were no gender differences in rates of sexual and emotional jealousy to be found....

Safe sex

...The University of Michigan's Moors has found that people who cheat on their partners sexually are less likely to engage in safe sex while doing so than are people in consensual nonmonogamous relationships. The findings, published in March 2012 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, apply to condom use, use of gloves for genital touching, discussion of sexually transmitted disease and sexual history and sterilization of sex toys.

"Individuals in consensually nonmonogamous relationships were just safer across the board," Moors told LiveScience. A second study, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Sexual Health, found that individuals who had permission to "cheat" were more likely to use condoms correctly than actual cheaters.

There are many open questions left about polyamory and other nonmonogamous arrangements, but research is picking up, Holmes said. This weekend, the first International Academic Polyamory Conference is being held in Berkeley, Calif....

Polyamory is complex enough and time-consuming enough that it will likely never overshadow serial monogamy, Sheff said. Nonexclusive hook-up culture has young people negotiating consensual nonmonogamy like never before, she said, and people are increasingly thinking of relationships as build-it-yourself rather than prepackaged.

"I think polyamory will co-exist as a less popular option" than monogamy, Sheff said. "Or people will phase in and out of it at different times in their lives."

Read the whole article (Feb. 14, 2013).

A conservative columnist at the National Review Online is upset. So are his commenters.


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Science site:
"5 Myths About Polyamory Debunked"


Good, solid research on polyamory and the people who practice it is still fairly sparse. But LiveScience, a highly regarded science-journalism site that often feeds its stories to mainstream media, presents (for Valentine's Day) two solid articles on today's polyamory movement.

Both articles reference this weekend's International Academic Polyamory Conference, which Dave Doleshal has been frantically pulling together at UC Berkeley. (It starts tomorrow evening Feb. 15, and yes you can still get in.)

First up is the succinct discussion below of some key points. My next post will be about the other LiveScience article, "New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You." Both are by the same author.

5 Myths About Polyamory Debunked

By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Researchers estimate that as many as 5 percent of Americans are currently in relationships involving consensual nonmonogamy — that is, permission to go outside the couple looking for love or sex.

Credit: Shutterstock

The boundaries in these relationships are remarkably varied, with some couples negotiating one-off "swinging" or partner-swapping experiences, and others forming stable bonds among three, four or five partners simultaneously. The latter is a version of polyamory, relationships in which people have multiple partnerships at once with the full knowledge of all involved.

Polyamorous people have largely flown under the radar, but that's beginning to change as psychologists become intrigued by this unusual group. The first annual International Academic Polyamory Conference takes place Feb. 15 in Berkeley, Calif., and ongoing studies are examining everything from how jealousy works in polyamorous relationships to how kids in polyamorous familes fare. Though there's a lot left to learn, initial findings are busting some myths about how love among many works.

Myth #1: Poly people are unsatisfied

When someone goes outside a relationship looking for companionship or sex, it's natural to assume there's something missing from their romance. But that doesn't appear to be the case for polyamorous individuals.

Melissa Mitchell, a graduate student in psychology at the University of Georgia, conducted research while at Simon Frasier University in Canada on 1,093 polyamorous individuals. The participants were asked to list a primary partner and a secondary partner (more on that later), and they averaged nine years together with their primary and about two-and-a-half years with their secondary.

Mitchell and her colleagues surveyed their participants about how satisfied and fulfilled they felt in their relationships. They found that people were more satisfied with, felt more close to and more supported by their primary partner, suggesting that their desire for a secondary partner had little to do with dissatisfaction in the relationship. And satisfaction with an outside partner didn't hurt the primary relationship.

"Polyamorous relationships are relatively independent of one another," Mitchell said in January at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans. "We tend to assume in our culture that if you have your needs met outside your relationship, some kind of detrimental effect is going to result, and that's not what we find here."

Myth #2: Polyamorous people are still paired up

Many polyamorous people do form relationships that orbit around a committed couple, with each person having relationships on the side. But the primary partner/secondary partner model is an oversimplification for many poly relationships, said Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont.

"I'd say about 30 percent or so of the polyamorous population would say they think of one partner as being primary," Holmes told LiveScience. "A large part of the population would say, 'No, I don't buy into that idea of primary or secondary.'"...

..."What I've come across most is actually configurations of two males and a female living together," Holmes said.

Myth #3: Polyamory is a way to avoid commitment

Research by Amy Moors, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, finds that people whose relationship style involves little emotional entanglement often say they'd love a polyamorous relationship, thinking that they could have the benefits of coupledom without too much attachment.

Wrong. Joining a polyamorous relationship and thinking it's going to be a commitment-free breeze would likely be a huge mistake. For one thing, plenty of polyamorous relationships are very serious and stable — Holmes says he's interviewed people who've been legally married for 40 years and in a relationship with a second partner for 20.

Secondly, successful polyamorous partners communicate relentlessly, Holmes said: "They communicate to death."...

Myth #4: Polyamory is exhausting

The monogamists in the crowd may be shaking their heads. Isn't all that communication and negotiation exhausting? It's true that polyamorous relationships take lots of time, said Elizabeth Sheff, a legal consultant and former Georgia State University professor who is writing a book on polyamorous families....

But people who thrive in polyamory seem to love that job, Holmes said....

Myth #5: Polyamory is bad for the kids

One big question about polyamory is how it affects families with children. The answer to that is not entirely clear — there have been no large-scale, long-term studies on the outcomes of kids growing up with polyamorous parents.

But some early research is suggesting that polyamory doesn't have to have a bad impact on the kids. Sheff has interviewed more than 100 members of polyamorous families, including about two dozen children of polyamorous parents ranging in age from 5 to 17 years old.

Parents list some disadvantages of the polyamorous lifestyle for their kids, namely stigma from the outside world and the danger of a child becoming attached to a partner who might later leave the arrangement, a risk most tried to ameliorate by being extremely cautious about introducing partners to their children.

For their part, kids in the 5- to 8-year-old range were rarely aware that their families were different from the norm, Sheff found. They thought about their parents' boyfriends and girlfriends as they related to themselves, not as they related to mom or dad....

From ages 9 to 12, kids became more aware of their families as different, but mostly said it was easy to stay "closeted," because people tend to mistake polyamorous arrangements as blended families or other relics of modern relationship complexity. The teens in the 13- to 17-year-old crowd tended to take a more in-your-face approach, Sheff said, "an approach of, 'If you think this is wrong you're going to have to prove it to me. My family is fine.'"...

Read the whole article (Feb. 14, 2013).


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February 13, 2013

"For polyamorous families, three hearts are better than two"

Westword (Denver)

Facing out from newsboxes all over the Denver area today, Colorado's largest and oldest alternative newsweekly presents, for Valentine's week, the above cover design with the teasers "Big, Big Love. For polyamorous families, three hearts are better than two." Inside is a multi-page, 2,700-word profile of a successful longterm triad. Excerpts:

For polyamorous families, three hearts are better than two

By Jenn Wohletz

Reggie Alexander is a good-natured guy. It's a trait that serves him well.

Sitting on the couch in his Denver home, he's holding hands on his right with his wife, Eeza Alexander, who is dark-eyed, playful and eager to let Reggie know when he's made a bad joke. His left hand, meanwhile, is intertwined with that of Cassidy Browning, who is thoughtful and confident.

Reggie and Eeza and Cassidy, all in their mid- to late forties, are a couple. Well, not a couple. They are a polyamorous triad — a group of three committed partners living together in a relationship under one roof. In their case, Reggie explains, he acts as the "hinge partner. It's a relationship where the person at the center of the V is fully involved with both of the people at the ends of the V, but they are not as fully involved with each other as they are with the person at the center."

Cassidy Browning (left), and Reggie and Eeza Alexander play together and work together. (Photo by Anthony Camera.)

And after six years of living in this group, Reggie is used to being in the middle of everything — including their California king-sized bed. "It's hard to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom," he laughs. "It's an athletic accomplishment."

The literal definition of polyamory is "many loves." But in practice, the term usually applies to non-monogamous but ethical relationships where the people involved believe in honesty, consent, open communication and trust. In fact, the general principles of polyamory are similar to those of monogamy; you just have to do the same things more often, and with more partners.

For the most part, mainstream culture has associated polyamory with swinging, hippie love-festing, cheating and, of course, certain religious groups, either current or historic. The Mormons, the most well-known of these, no longer officially embrace polygamy, but some splinter groups still practice it.

But the image of polyamory is changing, especially with reality-TV shows like Sister Wives and Polyamory: Married and Dating. And, anecdotally, many monogamous couples are changing their relationships to be what sex-advice columnist Dan Savage calls "monogamish."

In fact, Reggie, Eeza and Cassidy believe that having a long-term relationship with more than one person is a significant accomplishment at a time when divorce rates in the U.S. continue to increase, nasty breakups seem to be the norm, and everyone knows someone who isn't getting their needs met in a monogamous relationship.

"Our society...is looking for alternative dynamics that work," says Reggie. "The days of the traditional nuclear family being the only model are giving way to other options."


That tradition is how Reggie and Eeza got their start. The two fell in love in high school in Edmond, Oklahoma, and got married in 1984, before Reggie graduated....


...After spending three years discussing what they wanted out of a new relationship dynamic, they tried Polymatchmaker.com, an online dating site with a specific theme — and found Cassidy.

...But making the relationship work, physically and emotionally, wasn't easy — and it took time.

"I got jealous big-time in the beginning," Eeza says. "It's just something you have to work through. I still get jealous every once in a while, but I've learned to deal with it. Reggie does his best to make us feel special."

...Reggie adds, "In the beginning of the relationship, we did briefly explore a threesome sexual relationship, but the ladies decided it just wasn't what they wanted. We do all sleep in the same bed every night, although we also have a schedule in place where each of the ladies has one-on-one time with me several times a week. I am fortunate enough that being affectionate or even sexual with one of them in the presence of the other is not usually an issue."

Their living situation did prove to be helpful in many other ways, though, especially when it comes to their family income, responsibilities and goals.

Shortly after getting together, the trio started a small business, Poly's Pleasures Chainmail. Using updated fourteenth-century technology, they hand-create jewelry, halter tops, bikinis, skirts, panties and even kilts out of chain mail. They've sold their pieces to stores and travel to trade shows nationwide.

At the same time they started Poly's Pleasures, Reggie and Cassidy began writing erotic fiction together....


...In addition to writing, the group also does a lot of talking. In particular, they spend time explaining their lifestyle to family and friends, associates and acquaintances — mostly trying to educate them about what poly isn't (a no-holds-barred, free-for all naked orgy) along with what it is (a committed relationship, like any other).

"Swingers have sex, poly people have conversations — lots and lots of conversations," Reggie says. "To me, they are related but different subsets of the alternative-lifestyle arena."

...A pretty common question for the ladies is what in the world they could possibly get out of two women sharing one man — without hair-pulling and Jerry Springer-like drama.

Cassidy has a ready answer for this. "Once you get past the notion that your man should never be interested in anyone else, you begin to understand the benefits of having more adults in your household. We share cooking, cleaning and errand duties, we each get a little more 'me' time than we would if we were running individual households, and on those nights when one of us is just not 'in the mood,' there's someone there to take care of Reggie."

Eeza agrees. "It's nice having Cassidy around," she says. "We share the chores and spend many companionable nights doing chain mail together on the couch. We do a lot of girly-type stuff together and enjoy each other's company."

"I love being able to be emotionally connected to more than one other person — to be able to combine my energies, talents and desires with those of my partners and accomplish so much more than I would ever be able to do on my own," explains Reggie. "Both of our businesses are a prime example of this. I tried for twenty years to start a side business and to write a novel, with no success. Once Cassidy joined us, the extra push her energy gave when added to ours allowed us to start and grow a chain-mail jewelry business.

"To me, that in and of itself is the proof that poly can be a great thing for those willing to put the effort into it," he adds.

Thanks to television, polyamorous relationships aren't as foreign of a concept as they used to be, which has helped Reggie, Eeza and Cassidy in some situations....

There's a BDSM D/s relationship in the mix, and an error in judgment about coming out at work, and two adult daughters with differing opinions. Read the whole article (Feb. 14, 2013).

They're happy with the article. Posts Cassidy, "Thank you, thank you, thank you to Jennifer Wohletz for doing such an awesome job! You rock!!!"

Update, same day: The author has put up a second, companion article on Westword's website: Five myths about polyamory — and why they persist (Feb. 14, 2013).



February 12, 2013

Yet more college poly reporting

Queen's Journal (Queens University)
The Daily Northwestern
The Daily Lobo (Univ. of New Mexico)

Valentine's Day approaches, and the wave is under way.

The Sexual Health Resource Centre at Queen's University in Ontario is running a series on non-monogamy in the student paper The Journal. From Part 1 (Jan. 31, 2013):

QJSex: What is non-monogamy? Part One: Exploring the terminology

Posted by The Expert Sexpert

...With all these ideas and concepts floating around like non-monogamy, polyamory, open relationships, or friends-with-benefits, its easy to get confused and lost within the vast world of non-monogamous relationships. Hopefully, a quick intro to non-monogamy will settle any confusion and open the door to a whole myriad of relationship possibilities.

Non-monogamy is basically a big umbrella term that describes any relationship that doesn’t follow the structure of two people only romantically and sexually involved with each other. That obviously leaves a lot of wiggle room, which is where various types of non-monogamy come into play, such as open relationships, polyamory, threesomes, or dance-floor make outs.

...Polyamory describes a relationship in which a person is intimately involved with more than one other person. For some people this might mean not just sexual relationships with more than one person but also relationships involving love, commitment, or emotional attachment.

In contrast to open relationships, which are usually centered on a primary relationship, polyamory involves multiple partnerships that are often of equal significance. As with open relationships and all non-monogamous relationships, a polyamorous person negotiates unique boundaries with each person they are involved with....

...Venturing into the world of non-monogamy can be intimidating at first, especially as we aren’t surrounded with positive role models who lead non-monogamous lives.... Thanks to movements like sex-positivity, people are slowly reclaiming the right to define what a relationship means to them....

Support, information and resources do exist, and the SHRC [Sexual Health Resource Centre] is a great place to start. In our library we have plenty of resources on non-monogamy, as well as informed and non-judgmental volunteers who are more than happy to help you with any questions you have or to point you in the right direction to more support.

I left a comment correcting some of their muddled definition of poly, which forgot the defining "knowledge and consent of all concerned" bit and also made it seem like, "no primary couples allowed."

Here's a better intro to poly from a different college's student counseling center.

From Part 2 (Feb. 7, 2013):

QJSex: What is non-monogamy? Part Two: Healthy relationships

...Let’s tackle the harder question: how to actually make it work.... It’s pretty difficult to determine what is a ‘working’ relationship, but generally we can agree that a relationship that is healthy, in which both partners are able to communicate, give and receive respect and care, can be said to be a relationship that ‘works’.

Healthy relationships involve safety, honesty, acceptance, respect, and enjoyment, and these aspects aren’t limited to just one relationship. These factors can be in place in more than one relationship, for example a situation where one person has two partners, and shares these values with each person.

Communication & Boundaries

A key factor that differentiates non-monogamous relationships from the derogatory labels of ‘cheating’ or ‘affair’ is communication. Being in a non-monogamous relationship involves communication and honesty with one’s partner(s) so that each person involved is able to be comfortable and happy. Communication involves acknowledging and respecting both yours’ and your partners’ boundaries and needs, and keeping your partners informed about your thoughts and emotions regarding the relationship.

Communication goes hand and hand with boundary setting, another important aspect for all healthy relationships....

Sexual Health

...Regular STI testing, exercising birth control options, using safer sex barriers such as condoms/dental dams/gloves, and maintaining your overall health become very important when sharing sexual experiences with many people.

You wouldn’t cough on your hand then shake 10 people’s hands so why would you spread unnecessary infections through unsafe sex with multiple partners. Healthy communication, again, is great for talking with partners about sexual history, safer sex methods, or personal/partnership boundaries around sex.


Northwestern University's Daily Northwestern presents an informative opinion piece:

Between the Sheets: When one boyfriend just isn't enough

By Tonya Starr, Columnist

...It seems our generation is reconsidering its commitment to monogamy. In its place, a few alternative lifestyles have come to light — everything from cohabitation to civil unions to eternal spinsterdom. I’d like to introduce a relationship structure I find particularly intriguing and under-reported — polyamory.

Polyamory, according to Polyamorous NYC, means participation in long-term, romantically committed, multiple-partner relationships. For example, two women and two men all date one another. Each group member involved carries on romantic and sexual endeavors with whichever other group member he or she chooses, provided the person has the full consent of the group before the act is committed. They aren’t swingers or polygamists — just little clusters of folks all around the country for whom one partner is not enough.

A 2009 Newsweek article speculates there are more than half a million polyamorists living in the U.S., and they’ll be rising to the mainstream in the near future. There are now blogs, non-fiction books, Showtime specials and match-up networks dedicated to polyamory.

...Don't get me wrong — I'm not discrediting monogamous relationships. I, too, have apron-donning, childbearing, husband-loving fantasies about my future self. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't inform ourselves about the alternatives. Doing so on a wide scale will foster the eventual acceptance of polyamory — and similar lifestyles — into the mainstream. Experts say that after the battle for gay marriage is won, the battle for multiple partner marriage could be next. So suit up and keep your mind and eyes open as we ride into 2013.

The whole article (Jan. 16, 2013).


At the University of New Mexico, the Daily Lobo ran an article on a dramatic local BDSM demonstration put on for the public by poly kink educator and performer Julian Wolf (a genderqueer female whose stage persona, Jack D. Nimble, is referred to with masculine pronouns). Trigger warning: simulated assault.

BDSM and polyamorist communities alive and well in Albuquerque

By Nicole Perez

Two men dragged a screaming woman off the dance floor at Evolution Nightclub Saturday night, covered her mouth with a rag and bound her in the fetal position with green plastic wrap. A brief kiss later, they left her whimpering in the corner as a security guard with an earpiece and studded boots guarded her from the crowd.

To an unsuspecting bystander, it appeared the woman was assaulted. In reality, she knew it was going to happen; it was a planned fetish performance-art piece....

The performances are often led by Jack D. Nimble, the alter ego character of Julian Wolf, who is an educator on topics such as bondage, domination and sadomasochism.

“It’s a quote that’s not original to me, but ‘Fear is an underestimated aphrodisiac,’” Wolf said. “And it’s true. It stimulates all the same cortexes in the brain as other sorts of stimulation.”

Wolf, a former sexual-health lecturer at CNM, travels the country giving demonstrations on flogging, wax play and role playing. She said sadomasochism is often confused with abuse, but in fact, the nonegalitarian relationships are based on consent.

“If you are being coerced, it’s abuse,” Wolf said. “If you do not want to do it, it’s abuse. If at any point you said, ‘no,’ and it was ignored, it’s abuse....”

Wolf, who is polyamorous and a member of the kink movement, said everybody has their own threshold of comfort, which is why she talks to her sexual partners before engaging in any activity. As a polyamorist... Wolf has multiple sexual partners of both genders. She sees some every day and others twice per year, and her partners typically have multiple sexual partners as well. She said she rarely gets jealous when her partners engage with others, but when she does, it’s because she hasn’t seen them in a while, not because they are enjoying themselves with others.

“‘Compersion’ is the opposite of jealousy: when you’re really happy that somebody else is happy,” she said....

Wolf grew up in a conservative family, attended church and led her church’s drama troupe. She said she began to realize she was queer in high school, but didn’t officially come out until later....

The whole article (Jan. 31, 2013), with pix.



February 10, 2013

"Does Monogamy Matter?" And queering the state

The Vine (Australia)

Another voice speaks up for fearless self-creation of gay relationship styles — this time at "Australia’s #1 Youth News and Entertainment site," which claims to be read by 400,000 "hyper-connected urban millennials" (though only about 1% of them have read this story according to the stats). Australia is having its own debate about legalizing gay marriage, in which opponents are wielding the "polygamy is next" cudgel and some gays are trying to show how monogamous they are. Of course, as among everyone, some are and some aren't.

Does monogamy matter?

By Senthorun Raj

“The time has come to think about queering the state.”

In a seminal essay written in 1994, queer theorist Lisa Duggan argued that what was needed in gay and lesbian politics was not aspiring to meet the liberal demands of the “same,” but to transform the ways in which sexual minorities could have their relationships valued and recognised. For Duggan, a “queer” project is committed to challenging oppressive sexual norms (i.e. homophobia), while refusing to have the terms of “proper” intimacy dictated by the state.

So why bring this up now?

With the push towards marriage equality (of which I have written extensively in support of), there has been a troubling tendency to consider marriage as the most virtuous institution of intimacy.

Moreover, the arrival of Monogamous Gay Australia (MGA) has generated significant debate about the role of monogamy in the domain of coupledom. As MGA note on their Facebook page:

“Monogamous Gay Australia (MGA) is a not-for-profit, support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals that celebrates and promotes monogamous, loving and faithful gay relationships. We encourage singles to take a stand, beyond one night and hold out for the one. We support new couples in getting to know each other before intimacy.”

Let’s begin by asking a couple of questions. Are “loving”, “faithful” and “monogamous” synonymous terms? Who is “the one”? How do you differentiate between “knowing” someone and being “intimate” with them?

...Intimacy is a slippery thing. We can have profound emotional attachments to people we do not want to sleep with. We can have amazing sexual experiences with those we do not wish to be in a relationship with. Our intended one-night stand can end up being our life partner. Distinguishing between sexual, platonic, emotional, and romantic intimacies in the pursuit of “getting to know” someone can be a futile exercise.

So how do we decide what form of intimacy to “hold out” on and when? Additionally, echoing the work of cultural theorist Lauren Berlant, what “love plot” do we subscribe to when mapping our intimate encounters?... We said “no” to compulsory heterosexuality. Curiously, then, why do we now want to say “yes” to compulsory monogamy?

...Monogamy is neither better nor worse than any other relationship arrangement. Whether you want one spouse for life, practice polyamory, or remain single, the ethics of intimacy cannot be measured in quantitative terms. You only need to see the appalling instances of sexual violence in various romanticised “traditional” relationships to see why there is no inherent virtue in any one sort of intimate practice. What matters, more importantly, is the way ethics is practiced in the relationship(s) you are involved in....

Read the whole article (Jan. 22, 2013).


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February 6, 2013

"Why I'd Love a Four-Person Marriage"

Elephant Journal

So many people these days yearn for structures of family and community beyond the isolated nuclear couple.

Especially desperate are parents trying to raise emotionally healthy children by themselves — children with competence, good values and few crises — and feeling helpless against onslaughts of marketers and consumerism, damagingly stressed-out school environments, the narrowing, steepening pathway to the middle-class life that their own parents took for granted, all in an environment of little-boxes isolation from even the neighbors.

Humans are not designed to live like this. Especially children. We were shaped by evolution to thrive in rich community of extended family and tribe. Including 24-hour adult-infant contact, ample time later for free play and exploration, and extended webs of adult-child bondings.

"These traditional practices are important to understand," writes Time magazine online this week, "because many indices of poor health in children — such as obesity, depression, ADHD and teen suicide — have increased dramatically in the United States over the last 50 years."

The Time article is titled What the Pygmies Can Teach Us About Childrearing (Jan. 30, 2013). It draws upon Jared Diamond's new book The World Until Yesterday, which, says Time, "describes some of the lessons we can learn from today’s hunter-gatherer societies that most closely approximate the way people lived in our ancestral past." Diamond doesn't romanticize prehistoric lifestyles. He lived for long periods among the ancient hunter-gatherer tribes that remain isolated in the mountains of New Guinea, and he paints much of their life as fear-driven, ugly, and sometimes just plain dumb even by the standards of the next tribe over. But they do some things consistently better than we do, and one is raising emotionally healthy children. This happens in part because the job is spread around.

The modern polyamory movement has emerged at humanity's opposite pole: among the most educated, intellectual/geeky, cosmopolitan people in the most developed Western societies. The kind of people who read Jared Diamond, for instance.

And often, sex and love prove not to be their main draws to polyamory. It's often a new vision of family: extended chosen family, modernly tribal.

At the poly conferences I go to, attendees have often been asked to describe the poly situation of their dreams. Consistently coming out on top is the extended group-marriage model, often with kids. Even though this model is the rarest in real poly life. It's damn hard to put together. For now.


So where's this leading? Elephant Journal is an online magazine (formerly the print magazine elephant) that calls itself "your guide to what we like to call ‘the mindful life’: yoga, organics, sustainability, genuine spirituality, conscious consumerism, fair fashion, the contemplative arts…anything that helps us to live a good life that also happens to be good for others, and our planet."

Its February issue features a heartrending article by a woman with kids yearning for the quad relationship that she and her husband once had with another couple. Here's the thing. There was no sex involved. They were a tight poly quad in every other respect, despite being just-friends who wouldn't raise Rick Santorum's eyebrow. There is so much yearning out there.

Why I’d Love a Four-Person Marriage

Lyla Cicero

Two Couples in Bathing Outfits, circa 1934.

A few years after finding and marrying each other, Seth and I found our couple-friend soulmates.

Over the few years that followed, in an entirely platonic way, we became more than just friends. When there was something going on in one of our lives, there were four people, instead of just two, who put their heads together and figured out what to do.

Instead of Seth and I planning our social schedules together, all four of us would coordinate. When one of us was being bullheaded, there were three other folks there to gently but persistently provide an “intervention.”

Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to get your partner to hear feedback on his behavior when there are two other people there backing you up!

However, the biggest thing I took away from that experience was that the business of life felt a lot less like work during that time. Life felt less burdensome and more fun. With four adults facing the world together things just felt a bit less daunting—spending time with friends stopped feeling like it required elaborate planning or impossible scheduling feats. There just seemed to be…time.

When our couple-friend soulmates divorced, Seth and I were devastated. We all joked that Seth and I were more upset than they were, but I think in some ways we really were.

We were losing this family unit we’d created — except we didn’t have any of the motivation for wanting to move on that they had. We were perfectly happy in our sexless, four-person marriage; we hadn’t signed on for divorce.

Fast-forward two years and our couple-friends are out there dating, finding new communities, moving on with their lives and Seth and I are slogging through marriage with twin two-year-olds. Seth and I have had our ups and downs over the past couple years since our twins were born, and there were times I wondered if we would make it.

But I want us to. I want Seth as my life partner; I never really question that. What I question is why it feels so hard.... I question why the business of life seems so hard in ways that sometimes overwhelm our relationship and leaves us with too few resources for each other and our family.

...The sheer impossibility of completing all the tasks necessary to financially, logistically and emotionally manage a household, attempt to meet each other’s and our kids’ needs, maintain our careers, and oh, have some time to nurture ourselves, feels back-breaking. It is simply too much for two people!

I often think back to our foursome and fantasize about having another couple as an intimate part of our lives or even our household.

Ok, sure, sometimes these fantasies involve me exploring my attraction to women with a hot, redhead who just happens to be a member of that new couple. And I think that would be great, I really do! I think if you can have the right mindset and great communication, having two new folks to explore with sexually can be really good for a marriage.

But this post is not about that; it’s about the soul-crushing workload of a two-parent household. Whoever thought up this craziness? What culture in the history of the world isolated two people, threw toddlers at them, demanded they both find satisfying, lucrative employment, and then, as some kind of cruel joke, expected them to meet all of each other’s emotional and sexual needs?

The answer is none!...

Read the whole long article (Jan. 31, 2013).

P.S.: If this post speaks to you, if you dream of how to live in community in a new and better culture, check out the Network for a New Culture. Some of my dear friends are very active in it, and I've been going to the annual West Virginia summer camp of its East Coast branch for several years now. Which I wrote about here.

P.P.S.: Hope to see you at Poly Living in Philadelphia in a day or two! (You can just show up for walk-in registration. Day passes available.)


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February 2, 2013

Closing arguments in the "Sister Wives" polygamy/ polyamory/ cohabitation case

KSL-TV (Salt Lake City) and others

The Browns.

Slipping under my radar two weeks ago were the closing oral arguments in the "Sister Wives" challenge to laws against bigamy and polygamy as defined by cohabitation.

This case matters to polyfolks, because the Kody Brown family — the Mormon polygamists starring on the TLC reality show Sister Wives, currently slated for a fourth season — is legally the same thing as a secular polyamorous household. The Browns claim only one legal marriage among them: between Kody and his first wife Meri. The others, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, are his single girlfriends for purposes of the state — they file as single on their tax returns and such — regardless of how they may think the bookkeepers in Mormon Heaven record them.

What made them criminals under Utah law, and started an investigation against them at the local level (before they moved to Nevada), was that they lived together and called each other husband and wives. Utah defines as "bigamy" merely living with a person of the opposite sex while married to another. Doing so is a third-degree felony good for up to five years in prison. The family is seeking to overturn all such laws nationwide.

Representing them is the prominent constitutional attorney Jonathan Turley of Georgetown University, who has written eloquently about the case in the New York Times. By contrast, the Utah assistant attorney general who defended the law on January 17th seemed poorly prepared and out of his league.

From KSL TV and Radio in Salt Lake City (owned and run by the mainstream Mormon LDS Church, which bans polygamy):

Difference between affair and polygamous marriage questioned in court

By Pat Reavy

SALT LAKE CITY — What is the difference between consenting adults engaged in an affair and consenting adults in a polygamous marriage?

That was the question U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups asked Utah assistant attorney general Jerrold Jensen on Thursday afternoon during final oral arguments for the case involving a former Utah County polygamist family made famous by a TV show.

Kody Brown and his four wives... are challenging Utah's bigamy statute, claiming it is unconstitutional because it violates their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, free exercise of religion, free speech and freedom of association.

During Thursday's hearing, Jensen was grilled by Waddoups with questions about what specifically made polygamy a crime. Jensen was on his heels for most of the hearing.

When Waddoups asked whether a married adult who had no children and an adulterous relationship with three other women living in separate homes was different from a polygamist relationship, Jensen said, "Yes." He said it was the "criminality that comes out of polygamous unions" and the crimes against young girls and boys that made it wrong.

"The government has a legitimate interest in protecting people from being injured," Jensen said.

Waddoups pointed out that there were already separate laws that dealt with child abuse....

Later, when asked again to distinguish the difference between polygamists and consenting adults in an affair, Jensen said it was marriage, whether it was one officially recognized by the state or a secret ceremony.

"Just because the state can't prove (marriage) doesn't mean it didn't happen," he said....

The Browns' attorney, Jonathan Turley, responded by arguing that a blanket statement that all plural marriages were the same was wrong.... While the government argued that it could give "thousands" of stories about abuse in polygamist families, Turley said, "I can give you stories in the tens of thousands of abuse in monogamous relationships."...

Waddoups took the arguments under advisement and will announce a decision at a later time.

Read the whole article (Jan. 18, 2013).

More about what went on in the hearing is reported by the Salt Lake Tribune on its Polygamy Blog: Part 1, Part 2.

Background article: ‘Sister Wives’ lawsuit coming back to Utah courtroom (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 14, 2103).

Whatever Judge Waddoups' decision, the losing party will likely appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The next step after that would be the U.S. Supreme Court.


P.S.: See you at Poly Living this weekend! (Feb. 8-10).


Update June 4, 2013: The judge sure is taking his time. Meanwhile, polyactivist Vrimj, who has been tracking the case closely, writes today to the Polyamory Leadership Network:

"The (redacted) transcripts in these hearings have been released and I have downloaded it for people who are following along as I am. Transcript as a PDF. It is a pretty short transcript (55 pages, so probably about an hour of argument and about 20 minutes to read), and it highlights just how good at this Mr. Turley is. These are my favorite bits:"

MR. TURLEY: Now, the other thing I wanted to address on that point, Your Honor, is that the state continually comes back and says whatever social harms mean we're particularly concerned because these communities are so insular, which is quite maddening because the reason the communities are so insular is because the state has made the status of the relationships a crime. And so this becomes quite circular. The state says if you have a plural relationship you're a felon. In fact, the defendant in this case went public to say these people are all committing felonies through his subordinates. That might have something to do with the fact that these communities remain insular. If you don't want them to be insular, the first step might be to say we're not going to criminalize you just for your private relationship.

The government's limited argument in this case focuses almost entirely on Reynolds, what we call the "Hail Mary" pass, and it's a pass that is meant to clear Lawrence, which is the most recent discussion of the Supreme Court, and throw the ball back to the Nineteenth Century and to rely on a case that is widely condemned as one of the most vile and prejudicial cases in its language that the court has ever handed down. To suggest that Reynolds is still good law, I have to submit, with all due respect, is perfectly bizarre.

For the court to do what the state is asking it would have to say that we are living under Reynolds, it would have to take us back to the Nineteenth Century.

The Utah law is fundamentally different in its use of cohabitation. If you look at other states, they focus on multiple marriage licenses, and we do not contest that you can prosecute people for multiple marriage licenses and we do not contest that you can prosecute people for a collateral crime. That's just not precedent in this case. And, more importantly, those are not distinctions under the statute.

THE COURT: All right. One final question, on the free speech claims, as I understand the government's argument, it is in this case that the Browns brought the public investigation and accusations upon themselves and, therefore, because they did that, they shouldn't be allowed to argue that this is somehow an imposition of their free speech claims. How do you respond to that argument?

MR. TURLEY: Well, Your Honor, I find that a curious argument because that's basically saying, look, if you didn't speak, you wouldn't have a free speech problem. That's what it basically comes down to. It's your fault. You should have stayed quiet. And there's no question the Browns wanted to show people that a plural family is not one of these compound monstrosities that the state keeps on describing. There's a great number of plural families that are law abiding, they live within society, they don't commit these collateral crimes. But all the state can say is, you know, if you had simply not done the television show, you wouldn't have a problem. That's exactly what Chief Justice Roberts strongly condemned in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life when he said you can't analyze a free speech case by considering whether they would have been treated differently, quote, "by changing what they say." That's ultimately what the state wants. The state is saying, look, if you just didn't have a show about you and did a show about making duck calls, or living on the Jersey shore, we wouldn't have any problem with you. Well, that's just not the test. The test is do they have a right to speak and is it because of that speech that they have been prosecuted. And the state has not been particularly subtle. They have said from the beginning we started the investigation because of this television program, and then they went out publicly and said they are committing felonies every night on this television program. It was the state that actually established this close nexus.


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