Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

March 31, 2013

Poly marriage or poly freedom?

With the Supreme Court now deliberating two gay-marriage cases, there's lots of new speculation across the political spectrum about whether polygamy and polyamorous marriages are next. The usual slippery-slopers have their say. For instance, this is from a CNN.com commentary by Harvard law professor Robert P. George, Rhodes Scholar Sherif Girgis, and Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation:

Gay Marriage, then Group Marriage

...if marriage were simply about recognizing bonds of affection or romance, then two men or two women could form a marriage just as a man and woman can. But so could three or more in the increasingly common phenomenon of group ("polyamorous") partnerships. In that case, to recognize opposite-sex unions but not same-sex or polyamorous ones would be unfair — a denial of equality.

There's lots more like that, often less civil. But the less hostile are also taking a look. My last post linked to a long VICE article that asked many actual sources close to the polygamy and polyamory worlds and quoted my own skepticism about the practicalities of state-sanctioned group marriages.1

Elsewhere, the noted Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley is representing the Kody Brown "Sister Wives" family in their attempt to overturn Utah's anti-polygamy law, which may be polygamists' best shot ever for a victory in court. Utah bans multiple cohabitation regardless of whether the people claim to be married. The Browns are not seeking state recognition for their plural marriage, they're seeking to have it not be criminal. But Turley spoke in wide-ranging terms on National Public Radio a couple of days ago:

In Light Of High Court Arguments, What Does Gay Marriage Tells Us About Polygamy?

...Turley said that polygamy is now where gay marriage was a decade ago, when the Supreme Court decided Lawrence v. Texas, which stopped states from prohibiting sexual acts between same-sex couples. The implication is that polygamy will move forward in time.

"You cannot defend a new civil liberty, while denying it to others. I think there's a grander more magnificent trend that can seen in the law and that is this right to be left alone," Turley said. "People have a right to establish their families as long as they don't harm others."

Background article and audio. Transcript. (March 28, 2013).

Among the 125-member Polyamory Leadership Network (PLN), a long discussion got going on whether people want state recognition of multiple marriage or not. Long story short: The general feeling was that we would prefer less government role in marriage and relationships overall, rather than a new category of state recognition, regulation, and inevitably control. For instance, people argued that access to health care should not depend on being married, never mind whether to one person or three. Your boss shouldn't have the power to threaten you over your family structure whether you're with a person of the same sex, two, or none. Child custody should depend on the best interests of the child, not the adults' documents or a judge's animus.

Some PLNers disagreed, but many felt that this approach to poly rights — better rights and justice for all, rather than ushering another small group through the marriage-privilege gate — makes more sense to pursue and would appeal to broad swaths of society, such as singles. Of course, that's what many gay/queer folk were saying before the marriage movement took off and kind of co-opted the situation.

Coming out of this discussion, PLN member and social theorist Angi Becker Stevens has put up an article with a somewhat different view, boldly defending poly marriage aspirations. It's on RoleReboot ("Make Sense of Men & Women"):

I'm Polyamorous: So What If Same-Sex Marriage Is A Slippery Slope?

By Angi Becker Stevens

...I understand the anger people feel about comparing same-sex relationships to pedophilia and bestiality. But as a polyamorous woman, who honestly would like to one day have the right to legally marry both of my partners, it's disheartening when same-sex marriage advocates respond to this rhetoric by invalidating the idea of multi-partner marriage, insisting that it is nothing at all like same-sex marriage and will never, ever happen.

I do believe that there are some practical reasons why legal same-sex marriage cannot immediately lead to legal multi-partner marriage. The legal framework of two-party marriage already exists, and it is a simple process to apply the same rights and regulations to same-sex couples. Legally defining multi-partner marriage would be a much more complex process with regard to things like taxes, property rights, and child custody. I don’t object to this necessary legislative process being pointed out as a reason why multi-partner marriage will not simply happen overnight once same-sex marriage is federally recognized. But I do object to ethical arguments against multi-partner marriage, which respond to “slippery slope” arguments by essentially throwing polyamorous folks under the bus.

One of the arguments frequently given by same-sex marriage supporters against multi-partner marriage hinges on what we know of people currently practicing polygamy in a religious context. Polygamy is patriarchal and abusive, the argument says.... But this brand of polygamy does not resemble my polyamorous relationship any more than a fundamentalist, traditionally-gendered, monogamous marriage resembles a marriage that is progressive and egalitarian in nature.

...I am frequently surprised and discouraged by the frequency with which arguments against polyamorous marriage — made by supporters of same-sex marriage — resemble classic arguments against gay marriage. I have heard many times, for example, that polyamory is a “lifestyle choice,” and therefore deserves no legal rights or protections. And I have also heard, more times than I can count, the argument that polyamory is not love, merely a sexual practice....

At the moment, few polyamorous people are really interested in fighting seriously for marriage rights.... We would be happy just to see our loves and our families treated as valid by a decent portion of society. But every time a supposedly progressive, “open-minded” person supports same-sex marriage by arguing that such marriage has nothing at all in common with the sexual deviancy of polyamory, we are moved further away from that validation....

What we need is solidarity between all people who are oppressed and marginalized as a result of who they love and how they form families.... After all, every gain in social justice throughout history could be called a “slippery slope” toward the next. This is what we call “progress,” and it should be celebrated, not feared.

Read the whole article (March 28, 2013).

My own take on slippery-sloping, once again:

If you accept the framing of civil rights and social acceptance as a slippery slope down, you've lost the debate before you open your mouth. Slipping on a slope is a painful accident that leads downward. Instead, reframe it as a stairway up. Each step is a deliberate, effortful, carefully chosen advance toward a more humane, just, enlightened world.

With that framing, you can consider which steps are actually upward, and which ones to take.

Or as Tree of Polycamp Northwest once put it, awkwardly, "Giving blacks the vote, women the vote, contraception — it's all a slippery slope to a place of better social justice and acceptance."

Even some big-time conservatives, disturbed by the legal progress of gay marriage, are asking Should Government Get Out of the Marriage Business?

If you are interested seeing relationship rights and freedoms widened, check out the Family Matters Project of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. The Family Matters Project is "dedicated to advancing, respecting and protecting the human right to family by eliminating discrimination based on family structure and relationship choices." Woodhull will hold its annual sexual freedom summit September 19–22 just outside Washington, DC.

And also see the thought-provoking Beyond Marriage statement on this topic.


1. Here's my standard cut-and-paste on this:

Same-sex marriage is simple and, from a structural point of view, not legally innovative. That is, it maps exactly onto the vast legal regime that's already well developed for straight marriage. (This has been true ever since courts started regarding men and women as equal parties in marriage.) By contrast, state recognition and regulation of poly relationships would require many new legal structures, precedents, and policies.

How would the law mandate, for instance, property rights and responsibilities in partial poly divorces? What about the rights and responsibilities of marriages that merge into pre-existing marriages? Setting default laws for multiple inheritance in the absence of a will, allocating Social Security benefits... it goes on.

And because there are many different basic kinds of poly relationships, compared to only one basic kind of couple marriage, each would need its own legal regime — and we know how good the state is at sorting out complicated personal realities.

Moreover, unlike couple marriages, poly relationships can change from one kind to another kind while continuing to exist. An equilateral triad can become a vee or vice versa, or something in between. The flexibility to adapt — to "let your relationships be what they are" — is a core value in the poly circles I know. How would the state keep up with your particular situation?

I've also heard it argued that opportunities would abound for unscrupulous people to game the system in ways that the law couldn't easily address: for people to pretend that their poly relationship is a different kind than it really is, or that they're in poly relationships when they're not. For instance, could gang members group-marry to gain immunity from each other's testimony?

In polyfolks' discussions that I've been in, the talk comes around instead to business-partnership models for poly households, such as subchapter-S corporations or family LLCs or LLPs. These are already well developed to handle a wide variety of contractual agreements between any number of people. (Though they have to be maintained properly, with formal annual meetings and such, or they lose their validity.)

Looking further ahead: Good law follows reality rather than precedes it. Fifty years from now when poly households are commonplace and their issues are well understood, I'm sure an appropriate body of law will have grown up to handle the issues that arise. At least that's how it works when civil society is allowed to go about its business, free of religious or ideological compulsion.


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March 30, 2013

"After Gay Marriage, Why Not Polygamy?" A wide-ranging look

VICE is an large news-and-culture magazine, both print and online, somewhat countercultural with a young readership. It's distributed free in 28 countries and claims 1 million readers a month. An editor of its US edition asked me whether I thought a movement for legal poly marriage would follow on the heels of gay marriage. I said no, and explained my thoughts on why. His article is now up; I'm quoted in it twice.

After Gay Marriage, Why Not Polygamy?

By Harry Cheadle

Illustration by Alex Cook
Gay marriage is going to be legal... no matter what the court says.... But if two men or two women can get married, what's stopping two men and two women from getting hitched?

The idea that after gay marriage is legalized, polygamy will be next — and then bestiality and legal unions between lawn mowers and volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica and so on — is one of the main arguments that social conservatives trot out to “defend traditional marriage.”... Stanley Kurtz made that argument nearly ten years ago in The Weekly Standard, and it got brought up again in several briefs filed this week with the Supreme Court by anti-gay marriage advocates. It goes like this: if the purpose of marriage isn’t to produce children and traditional one-mom, one-dad homes, if it’s just a legal arrangement between folks who really like each other, what basis can there be to deny triads and quads who want legal recognition of multiple-partner marriages?

Actually, yeah — why are polyamorous marriages between consenting adults illegal?

“Kurtz was right for the most part,” Anita Wagner Illig, a polyamorous relationships advocate who runs the Practical Polyamory website, told me in an email. “Legalizing same-sex marriage creates a legal precedent where there can be no valid legal premise for denying marriage to more than two people who wish to marry each other… We just disagree as to whether it’s a bad thing.”...

...Many gay marriage advocates dislike that comparison — they don’t want the public to draw comparisons between gay relationships and “weird,” potentially abusive multi-wife setups.... “For as long as they could get away with it, [marriage equality advocates] disingenuously denied that we polyamorists even exist and swore that it was and would forever be a non-issue,” Anita said. “This was all politics as usual, of course, but it was pretty disappointing for us to be thrown under the bus that way, especially since the polyamory community has always supported marriage equality.”

...The problem is, it’s not clear at all that the poly community wants [this] battle. “We’re a pretty independent bunch,” Anita said. “Many poly people reject traditional marriage for themselves and consider polyamory to be an entirely new paradigm that doesn’t fit in the existing social and legal fabric. We make our commitments in our own way.”

Alan M., who runs the Polyamory in the News blog, agrees, and wrote in an email to me that, “The legalities [of group marriage] would be far more complex and innovative than gay marriage has been. Gay marriage maps exactly onto the vast, existing legal regime that has been developed for hetero couple marriage.”

In a short essay that he has posted on his blog several times, Alan expanded on this: “How would the law mandate, for instance, property rights and responsibilities in partial poly divorces? What about the rights and responsibilities of marriage that merge into preexisting marriages? Setting default laws for multiple inheritance in the absence of a will, allocating Social Security benefits… it goes on.”

The poly community is much smaller than the gay community (at least for now) and less organized and desirous of changes to laws — maybe that’s because they’ve got enough on their plate just navigating the complexities of their personal relationships.... But poly relationships are definitely becoming less “weird,” as all the “Get Ready for Group Marriage” articles in the media over the past several years have shown....

...Even Alan, who doesn’t see polyamorists getting their day in court anytime soon, said that change may be coming, if slowly.

“Good law follows reality rather than precedes it,” he wrote. “Fifty years from now when poly households are commonplace and their issues are well understood, I’m sure an appropriate body of law will have grown up to handle the issues that arise. At least that’s how it works when civil society is allowed to go about its business, free of religious or ideological compulsion.”

Read the whole article, which is much longer and touches many more bases (March 29, 2013).

More on this topic coming soon (hang on Angi).

P.S.: I also recently got quoted in Starcasm, an online celebrities magazine, in a Poly 101 article they did: What is polyamory? Are there any famous polyamorist couples? (March 26, 2013).



March 28, 2013

ABC's Poly vs. Tea Party "Wife Swap": What Happened


I was dreading it, but I broke down and watched it anyway. So that you don't have to. I'm talking about ABC's prime-time episode of "Wife Swap" just now, in which a mom from a polyfamily swaps homes for two weeks with a mom who's a Religious Right talk show host married to a former state senator from Missouri; they're on God's mission to save America.

I steeled myself with a pass-the-popcorn attitude.

We're first introduced to the two families. The polys have four kids, the Tea Partyers have five. The polyfamily consists of Chris Envy (his real name), a pro wrestler who works at a warehouse for his day job; his bi wife Angela, and their younger live-in girlfriend Ashley. The three sleep together. All care for the kids together. Chris explains at one point how they came to be: There was this party at the house, and Ashley got too drunk to drive home, so she stayed over, and one thing led to another. She's been with them for a year now. They and the kids eat mostly junk food and watch lots of TV together for family time. The women cook and clean. Chris would be fine with another woman getting involved but not a man — an OPP kind of guy.1

Cringe, go I.

On the other side of the country, Gina Loudon runs a radio talk show where she rattles on about how "You take Hitler. You take Mussolini. You take Pol Pot. They were all liberals. Let's not forget that." And, "the reason for Planned Parenthood was to eliminate the black race." Her youngish-looking husband John Loudon, even more of a Christian evangelical, used to be a Missouri state senator when he was even younger.

When Gina first arrives at the Envys' house it's empty, and she cannot make sense of the pictures on the wall. "I'm utterly confused about the family situation here. What I'm seeing is, two couples who live here?"

Each mom has left a family handbook for the other with explanations and house rules. Gina reads the word "polyamorous" with confusion and growing disbelief.

Meanwhile, Angela is telling Mr. Loudon and his children about her poly home, and already she is looking defensive, embarrassed, and outgunned. Literally; he and the kids take her to a shooting range for some gun education, and after a few flinching shots she says she never wants to shoot a gun again.

It goes downhill. "Wife Swap" is designed to be a drama fest, and its producers are skilled. Gina rags on Chris for being a lazy pig and makes him cook a real sit-down dinner. She views Ashley as an exploited afterthought and orders her out of the house; her new rule. Ashley breaks down crying and refuses. So do the kids; they cling to her, and Chris wades in to defend them all. Ashley stays. Still, in her smiley way, Gina sets other rules: no TV, and dump all the junk food and white sugar. And she tells Chris that he's going to be turned into someone "worthy of living in America." Starting with studying the Constitution under her tutelage.

They get into arguments over religion. Chris blurts that the Bible is "a mythical comic book where a man walks on water." Gina says she is being persecuted for her religion.

Angela, meanwhile, is trying to set a new rule on her end. In the interest of peace, there will be no discussions of politics or religion. The Loudon family will get out of their "bubble" and do new things together, like art and skateboard lessons for the kids (who have been homeschooled). It doesn't stick. John cracks belittling little jests about deviants in front of her and the kids, and reads her Leviticus where it says homosexuals (and, we presume, bi women) shall be put to death "and their blood shall be upon them." She breaks down.

And so on.

But as the two-week swap nears its end, developments take a twist. Gina leaves the Envys' home — whether she was kicked out or stormed out isn't clear to me — and she breaks the show's rules by phoning John on the other side of the country. We hear him (through a closed door) telling her to pack and return immediately: "we're definitely dealing with dark forces here."

And that's it. Usually "Wife Swap" ends with the two families sitting at a roundtable to discuss the experience. But ABC made a big thing in its publicity that this was the first time in the show's history (it's now in Season 6) when one family refused to met and discuss.

Which side chickened out? On that cliffhanger, we get a bunch of commercials. Then we're back. It was the Loudons. A narrator says that John and Gina's attorney informed the show that they would no longer participate in any way. So, we are left with the triad and their kids at the roundtable alone, discussing how awfully things went, how disrespectful and judgmental the politico-religious couple were, and how utterly overjoyed they all are to be back together safe again in their own happy home.

We see a followup six weeks later. The Envys, says the narrator, continue as a happy, loving family. Angela tells the camera that one good thing to come from the experience is that they feed the kids healthier snacks now, and Chris helps cook. Angela laments for their naive early hope that they would make new friends on the show. We close with a heartwarming scene of the three adults and four kids joyfully gathered on the couch in each other's arms.

And then a black screen with the narrator saying that despite repeated attempts, the show was unable to make any further contact with the Loudons.

My assessment:  The show displayed Religious Right evangelicals being their worst. No viewer can have missed this. The poly family came off as trashy at first, but became much more sympathetic during the ordeal as they pulled together and stuck up for each other at every turn. The happy ending was lopsidedly pro-poly.

P.S.:  One useful lesson learned: To get overweening fundies out of your hair, make them think they're "definitely dealing with dark forces here." They'll vanish.

(Disclaimer: I scribbled notes while watching the show just once, so I don't guarantee that all details above are error-free.)

Update: You can now watch the full episode. Also, here is Wife Swap's webpage.

Wife Swap typically has about 5 million viewers. And there will be reruns.

Oh-The-Irony Followup: A local online newspaper where the Loudons live, the Imperial Beach Patch, has a story on the episode the morning after, including this:

While on the show, Gina said she participated to overcome stereotypes about conservatives, but on her website and radio show last week, Gina explained that her family moved to California and appeared on the show to be a part of a "culture war."

"I think there comes a time when you look at the culture we're in and you ask yourself the question 'What am I really doing?' We all enjoy calling ourselves culture warriors but how do you really fight that culture war?" she asked.

Conversatives can't fight a culture war by addressing people with similar views and beliefs, said Gina, who has appeared on Fox News and written a book.

"Anytime I have a platform I'm going to take the opportunity to fight for what I believe in. You can't very well call yourself a culture warrior and then be afraid to engage in the battle."

Some warrior. Once outside her bubble she broke and ran, the first in the show's six years to do so, leaving the "enemy" in uncontested control of the battlefield. Yet here she is back on the air telling her bubble of believers what a great warrior she is.

More update: Rush Limbaugh weighs in, fuming that the Tea Party family was portrayed as “intolerant, Bible-thumping prudes” while the polyamorous family was portrayed as “the normal, loving, sympathetic characters whose worst trait is eating a lot of junk food.” But apparently he couldn't find much so bad to say about them either.


1. "One-Penis Policy," highly snarkable in the poly world.


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March 27, 2013

Poly pioneers Morning Glory and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart go on TV

"Destination America" Cable Channel

Discovery Communications, the parent company of The Discovery Channel, created the "Destination America" cable channel less than a year ago. "Destination America" specializes in sensational video documentaries. One of its shows is "Hidden in America," about unusual people and groups. A one-hour episode on polyamory and swinging is tentatively scheduled to air on Tuesday April 16 at 10 p.m. Eastern time (after it was bumped from March 16th).

Already up on the show's website is a 2-minute video clip: a delightful interview with the early poly pioneers Morning Glory and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and their partner of many years Julie O'Ryan:

If the video player fails, watch here: http://america.discovery.com/tv-shows/hidden-in-america/videos/polyamory-in-america.htm

The Ravenhearts are walking, talking poly history with perhaps some mythology thrown in. Morning Glory (left above) was one of the two independent inventors of the word "polyamory," with her influential essay "A Bouquet of Lovers" which she published in their Neo-Pagan magazine Green Egg in spring 1990; the word was also in handouts they distributed at a conference not long after. Oberon (birth name Timothy Zell) started the Stranger in a Strange Land-inspired Church of All Worlds in 1962, helped to promote Stranger and ideals of group love as the 1960s counterculture grew, and became a central character in the development of Neo-Paganism, including the strong poly streak that continues to run through the Pagan world. They were married in 1974.

Today both Oberon and Morning Glory are cancer survivors who beat tough odds. They're completing their autobiography, The Witch and the Wizard OZ, scheduled to be published by Llewellyn in early 2014. Both are hale and hearty in the video, which Oberon tells us was filmed last August.

The title of the full Destination America episode is "Swinging and Free Love." Bianca Ritchie, production coordinator for the Hidden in America series, informs us that "the episode runtime is 43 minutes and will include segments on the rise of swinging culture during the sexual revolution, modern swinging culture, distinguishing between Polyamory and swinging, a Polyamory community in Boston, and of course Oberon, Morning Glory and Julie." Deborah Anapol will also have a role.

To see if the Destination America channel is on your cable, use the channel finder. To check if the schedule has changed again (and to find the likely reruns), see the Hidden in America schedule as the date draws near.

Transcript of the clip above:

Narrator: Until the early 1990s, the word "polyamory" didn't even exist. It was invented by this couple: Morning Glory Ravenheart and her husband Oberon.

Morning Glory: The way the word polyamory came to be — a lot of people were trying to live a "non-monogamous" lifestyle. And that is a mouthful. "Non-monogamy." So I took the Greek word poly, which means "many," and the word amor, which is kind of French and also Latin, amo, amas, amat — and combined the two together, poly and amor to make polyamory.

Narrator: Morning Glory and Oberon are New Age pagans. They have been happily married and polyamorous for almost 40 years. They've shared 20 years of that with their partner Julie. And they're living proof that open marriages can go the distance.

Oberon: In polyamory the focus is really on love. I mean you can only do so much sex. Even when you're 18 you can only do so much sex. The rest of the time you're hanging out together. You've got to be able to talk to each other. Enjoy the same things. Work together. Enjoying the same movies, enjoying reading the same books. So it's a constant ongoing relationship.

Julie I don't think anyone "becomes" polyamorous. Any more than you "become" gay, or "become" female. I love to love. And I love to meet other people, new people. To flirt, to have new adventures — so a monogamous life simply would not work for me.

All: To lessons learned!


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March 24, 2013

Old poly-and-Unitarians story rockets to top of Washington Post site

In Friday's Washington Post, religion columnist Lisa Miller published an article that seems to have been mostly written eight or nine years ago. The article chides the Unitarian Universalist Church for putting up with, while being embarrassed by, the independent group Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA), of which I'm a member.

The article stems from the flap that occurred in 2004 when the San Francisco Chronicle noticed that the UUPA was presenting panels at the church's national General Assembly in San Francisco. (The article.) For this the religious right denounced Unitarianism, as it often does. The church's national office, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in Boston, felt thrown on the defensive, especially because some of its staff didn't like the sound of poly themselves, and it issued a statement that poly is not on the church's agenda. But the UUA cannot control members' activities or set doctrine. UU-ism is a "congregational" religion, meaning that congregations govern themselves; the role of the national office is to support congregations and act as their voice rather than issue edicts. Not that UUs would pay attention to edicts anyway.

The controversy died out, and almost nothing of it has been heard for years. Then this:

Many Unitarians would prefer that their polyamory activists keep quiet

By Lisa Miller

The joke about Unitarians is that they’re where you go when you don’t know where to go. Theirs is the religion of last resort for the intermarried, the ambivalent, the folks who want a faith community without too many rules. It is perhaps no surprise that the Unitarian Universalist Association is one of the fastest-growing denominations in the country, ballooning 15 percent over the past decade, when other established churches were shrinking.

Actually, that number may have been true back during the peak child-rearing years of the baby boom, but from 2003 to 2012 UU membership grew by only 3% in actual members (as opposed to what people may tell pollsters).

...But within the ranks of the UUA over the past few years, there has been some quiet unrest concerning a small but activist group that vociferously supports polyamory. That is to say “the practice of loving and relating intimately to more than one other person at a time,” according to a mission statement by Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA). The UUPA “encourages spiritual wholeness regarding polyamory,” including the right of polyamorous people to have their unions blessed by a minister.

UUA headquarters says it has no official position on polyamory. “Official positions are established at General Assembly and never has this issue been brought to General Assembly,” a spokeswoman says.

But as the issue of same-sex marriage heads to the Supreme Court... the Unitarians are so liberal that they’re playing right into conservative hands. And the conservative blogosphere has responded predictably: First Things has taken disapproving note of the trend, as has the American Conservative.

The debate also makes the whole denomination look silly. “Unitarian Universalism is so broad-minded that it has become flat-headed,” Michael Durall, then an editor of a UUA magazine (he no longer works with UUA groups), wrote in 2004. “This is an abdication of leadership leaving Unitarian Universalism vulnerable to ridicule. Jay Leno would have a field day with this one...."

Read the whole article (March 22, 2013).

For years now the "vociferous" UUPA has, I have to admit, done and said little. It focuses mainly on educating a scattering of curious UU ministers about polyfamilies who might show up in their churches. Its member Mim Chapman recently produced "Love Makes a Family", a poly religious-education curriculum for congregations and religious professionals. And its listserve offers discussion and support among UU polys themselves.

On that list, talk about the Washington Post article was offended and puzzled. Wrote Steve Caldwell, "Lisa Miller's article would have been newsworthy 5 to 8 years ago when the polyamory issue was a hotter topic. And I wouldn't worry about UU consultant Michael Durall's comment from 2004 about how this would make Unitarian Universalists look silly when Jay Leno makes jokes about polyamory and Unitarian Universalists - nobody is watching Leno anymore."

Wrote a UUPA founder, "I think all we can do is disseminate accurate information, not be defensive, and support UUs as the open, welcoming people/denomination that we are."

So, did some new event prompt the story? I've found nothing except maybe the Supreme Court's plan to hear arguments on gay marriage this week. I asked our minister this morning, and he hadn't heard of anything either. He asked a friend in the UUA headquarters who would have heard of any such event. That person had "no idea" what prompted the article and said, "Miller called our PR office on Thursday to ask for the UUA's position on poly. There hasn't been anything new on this issue for years."

So I think the writer just decided to recycle an old article to meet a deadline, and hoped no one would notice.

Yet for a while this evening, the article became the #1 most popular on the Washington Post's home page — beating out the sequester and Obama's trip to Israel — no doubt because it's being linked to from many religious sites.

Update: The Post has published three letters to the editor in reply, under the headline An insulting caricature of Unitarian Universalism (online Apr. 2, 2013; earlier in print).



March 20, 2013

Polyactive triad in South Africa gets profiled

Independent Newspapers Ltd.

A newspaper chain in South Africa splashes a feature story about people in a poly vee, including a longtime SA poly organizer ("Kate"), across several of its papers. Names are changed.

Openly loving more than one person (headlines vary)

Noor-Jehan Yoro Badat speaks to a man and two women who are open about their polyamory — an alternative lifestyle they says has enriched their lives emotionally.

JOHANNESBURG — Mark and Kate have been together for 13 years. And Mark and his lover, Alice, have been a couple for a year. Kate, too, has another lover, Nathan, with whom she’s been involved for five months.

Confused? These people follow a polyamorous lifestyle. Polyamory literally “many loves” and is the practice of having more than one intimate, sexual relationship at a time, with the full consent and knowledge of those involved.

A scene from Woody Allen's 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which has a polyamorous theme involving an artist, his ex-wife, and an American visitor to Barcelona.

Before I met Mark, Kate and Alice at a Joburg restaurant, I learnt that they are considered the “poster children” of polyamory in South Africa. That is why, says Mark, they try to present a positive image to their community, despite some people’s disapproval of their unconventional bond.

The three have nothing against monogamy – they all started out that way. But Kate says she was “never very good” at committing to her partners. No matter how much she felt for her partner, it didn’t stop her from developing feelings for someone else. “I didn’t have a word for it. I only discovered the term ‘polyamory’ years later,” says Kate.

...The women got on well. Alice was shy but slowly came out of her shell. They enjoyed each other’s company and skinder (gossip) sessions.

Alice may be the “new kid on the block”, but she plays an important role in their lives. “She’s very much a member of the family,” says Mark.

Alice appreciates the comment and reaches across the table to intertwine her fingers with Mark.

Softly-spoken, she admits that in the beginning she was jealous of Mark and Kate’s relationship.

“But that’s my own insecurity, because of past experiences. I’m a person who doesn’t adjust well to change. But because of Mark, I got a lot of reassurances,” says Alice.

“Mark is an excellent communicator,” agrees Kate.

...Kate believes that each of their relationships stands on its own. Mark relates differently to her and to Alice, just as she relates differently to Nathan.

“I have objections to the concept that love is finite. I believe you can love someone differently. If you had two children, would you ask which child you loved more?” argues Kate.

...The subject of sex eventually crops up during our interview.

“Most people say that polyamory is about sex,” says Mark, “but they’re taking a shallow view of it… you may as well be swinging. Certainly not all hedonism is about kinky threesomes.”

Have they had a threesome? I ask him.

“Yes,” he smiles. One night the three of them were huddled on the bed with a male friend, Dave.

“Alice got frisky, Dave left, and so we had a threesome. It happened naturally, it didn’t feel strange.”

He adds with a laugh: “It also wasn’t a once-off, but a twice-off. The last one was the five of us, three guys and two girls.”

The women say they ensure that they all practise safe sex.

“You have to have a safe sex agreement with all partners. Otherwise, if you’re not careful, you can introduce a whole chain of things,” says Kate.

Alice says that she didn’t feel awkward about their intimacy with one another.

“I am by nature an affectionate person,” she says.

...Looking fondly at the two, Kate explains they openly communicate their feelings to one another.

“It doesn’t mean that we don’t get upset. We figure it out in everyone’s interest. I don’t own Mark, he doesn’t own me.”

...For more info on polyamory, visit www.polyamory.co.za


Isn’t it just swinging with a fancier name?

Polyamory isn’t swinging, says sex educator Avri Spilka.

Swingers engage in purely sexual activities with other partners for reasons that include adding variety to their sex lives.

“I see an unwritten rule in swinging,” says Spilka. “You don’t fall in love. It’s physical, even affectionate, but it’s not seen as emotional.

“And that’s the difference with polyamory – it has an emotional aspect. Swinging is more sensory,” says Spilka, who herself is in a polyamorous relationship....

People discussing the story in South Africa's poly community think the writer was sincere about doing a good job, and though she made some cringey oversimplifications and odd juxtapositions, overall the story came out well. Its central people got to see proofs of the article before it was printed. (Always ask for this!) The person quoted in the short sidebar on swinging was concerned that she came off sounding judgmental, but someone sought out a woman who owns a major swing organization and she said she had no problem with it.

Read the whole article online (March 20, 2013), and help out the members of the SA poly community who are bravely carrying the flag in the comments.

They've put up PDFs of the pages as published in Pretoria News, The Star, and Star Africa. (March 19, 2013).



March 19, 2013

TV Crazy Alert: Poly vs. Tea Party drama coming on ABC March 28

ABC-TV's reality show "Wife Swap" will mix and match a polyfamily and a Tea Party family on March 28. An ABC press release explains:

"Envy/Loudon" - Political pundit and Tea Party activist Gina Loudon trades lives with a mom in a polyamorous relationship, on "Wife Swap," THURSDAY, MARCH 28 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on ABC. And in a first for the series, one of the families breaks the rules and refuses to reunite at the round table to discuss their experiences, leaving only one family to discuss things among themselves.

In "Wife Swap," two mothers of families, each with opposing values, trade households, lifestyles and children (but not bedrooms) in a two week-long challenge: In the first part of the exchange, each mom moves into the other's home and agrees to follow a manual of "household rules" written by the departing mother, including how to parent, manage their social life, do house work, unwind and more. Everything changes in the second week when "new mommy" takes charge, introduces her own set of rules and runs the "nest" her way. At the end of the second week, the two couples meet for the first time in a raw and highly-charged exchange of views, making frank assessments of one another and discussing the experience.

Gina Loudon is a staunch Tea Party activist and conservative political pundit who lives in San Diego, California with her husband, former Missouri State Senator John Loudon, and their five children -- Lyda (17), Lilly (13), Jack (10), Beau (6) and their adopted son Samuel (6), who has Down syndrome. Religion and politics are topics of constant discussion in the Loudon home, with John leading daily Bible study for his wife and children.

In Charleston, New York, Angela Envy lives with her husband of eight years, Chris, along with Angela's daughter Brooklyn (12) and their three children -- Maverick (7), Lyric (5) and Kingston (1-½ ). Angela and Chris also share a live-in girlfriend, Ashley, who has become part of the family. Chris is a semi-professional wrestler in his spare time and works at a local warehouse to support his family.

When Gina first arrives in Charleston, she meets Ashley and learns that she'll be living with a polyamorous couple. With her conservative views and strong religious convictions, Gina finds the relationship "wrong" and is very uncomfortable with the situation. Tensions rise between Gina and Chris after he and Ashley take Gina out one night for drinks at a local bar. With the alcohol flowing, Gina begins to let her guard down and starts sharing her true feelings about the relationship between Chris, Angela and Ashley, as well as her stance on myriad controversial topics. The evening peaks Chris' interest to look into Gina's background - and what he finds prompts Chris to confront her, sparking an even larger confrontation.

Meanwhile, Angela meets her new family, but immediately feels judged by John when she reveals her relationship with Ashley to the family. As someone who does not discuss politics or religion at all, Angela finds the family's strong conservative views upsetting. When it's time for the rules to change, Angela decides to turn the tables by creating a political and religious free zone, but John breaks Angela's rule and continues to share his disdain for her personal life, bringing Angela to tears.

Here's the original press release (March 19, 2013).

Six years ago, a producer from Wife Swap came asking around the poly community for participants. They were offering each family $20,000 at the time.

If anyone can pass this on to the poly family involved: Would you like to tell about the experience from your end, for possible posting here? You can write to me at alan7388 AT gmail.com.


March 14, 2013

New Book: Polyamory and Pregnancy

Just in time for the book launch Jessica Burde is doing at Atlanta Poly Weekend tomorrow evening, her new book Polyamory and Pregnancy has been published and is now available. Its Amazon description:

The first complete guide to pregnancy in polyamorous relationships, Polyamory and Pregnancy covers every step of welcoming a new life into your polycule. Whether you are planning ahead for future children or are on your way to the baby shower, you will find something here to help on your journey:
   –Unexpected pregnancies
   –Planning for pregnancy
   –Important decisions during and after pregnancy
   –Poly-friendly prenatal care
   –Birth certificates and paternity
   –Custody and co-parenting
   –And more…

I admit I'm prejudiced to like the book because I had a hand in editing it. Jessica writes from experience: she's the mother of three children all born into polyamorous relationships, she has lived in polyfamilies for much of the last 10 years, and she has seen a great deal of the good and bad first-hand. The book is full of considerations that you may not have thought of, starting from conception and continuing through birth. If you or a poly partner are pregnant or someday might be, the book could be a life-changer.

Burde runs the thoughtful Polyamory on Purpose blog of practical information and advice. The book is the first in a series of Polyamory on Purpose Guides that she plans to publish about once a year. Future titles, she says, include Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous, The Poly Home and Raising Children in Polyamory. She also writes fiction and has a novel-length erotic fantasy that she hopes to release as a webserial later in 2013.

P.S.: A nice pre-convention writeup about Atlanta Poly Weekend appeared in the Georgia Voice, "the news outlet of record for the state’s LGBT communities and their allies." (March 14, 2013).

Update: Here's Jessica's own post about the book's launch, and an excerpt about the "What if" discussion that any people doing PIV sex need to have like right now.


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March 12, 2013

Latest college-newspaper poly roundup

The Link (Concordia University)
The Diamondback (Univ. of Maryland)
The Capilano Courier
The South End (Wayne State)
The Pitt News (Univ. of Pittsburgh)
The Review (Univ. of Delaware)

It's college newspaper roundup time again.

At Concordia University in Montreal:

A New Sexual Standard: The Nature of Relationships and Sexual Orientations Are Evolving

By Elysha del Giusto-Enos

Gender & Sexuality Special Issue

Graphic: Jayde Norström / Paku Daoust-Cloutier
...Role models are scarce for anyone deviating from heterosexual relationships, and even those who deviate from homosexual relationships, too. People who identify as polyamorous, bisexual or whose sexual orientation fluctuates end up confronting negative stereotypes from all sides.

But without any social expectations defining them, the rulebook for these kinds of relationships ends up being written by those in them. And for people working to further diversity and tolerance in our society, the variety of ways they see people defining themselves are staggering.

...“When I was attracted to women, I was still attracted to men,” said artist Shaista Latif, who self-identifies as a queer woman. “But it wasn’t until I decided to act on my impulses to see what it was like that my feelings for men went away.”

Latif has been “out” to people in her life for about a year.... Being Afghan has made it even more stressful for her to out herself....

...[Marla] Schreiber agrees that the definitions coming from the mainstream leave a lot to be desired. “Television tells us that homosexuality exists, but it tells us that it exists in very specific kind of way,” Schreiber said. “I also do workshops on polyamory and part of why I do that is to talk to the norm — to talk to the people about other ideas that are out there. Because if you’ve never heard of it, and you can’t fathom it on your own, this ignorance sort of continues.”

Schreiber herself has been living what she calls “the poly life” for almost ten years. It started when she was in CEGEP, where she said that polyamory was an unheard-of concept. But one ethics teacher was living a polyamorous lifestyle and she credits him with “opening her eyes.”

She said that once she decided to pursue this lifestyle, there weren’t any templates for how to model her relationships based on what she saw in society.

Today, one man has been her partner for eight years and another man for three years. The way they make it work is by constantly communicating and setting, then re-setting their boundaries and values.

...But open-mindedness towards these emerging relationship styles from established communities can still be a struggle. “I definitely experienced judgment,” Schreiber said. “A lot of people assume that polyamory means that you’re super easy.”...

Read the whole article (March 5, 2013).


The Diamondback at the University of Maryland publishes a nice endorsement of the quality of poly people generally:

The advantages of polyamorous relationships

By Ezra Fishman

...I am the wrong person to explain exactly what polyamory is, as I fall under the umbrella of monogamy. However... the polyamorous people I have encountered in my life are some of the most stable and rational people I know. They develop strong emotional connections with their partners. They have real, loving relationships and can even be happily married with children. Though their relationships are often hidden to avoid social stigma, when you get to know them as people, they are just as open and happy about their relationships as anyone else.

...It’s not a choice, or a moral flaw; it’s simply a different way of loving....

Read the whole article (Feb. 28, 2013). Thank you to whoever made such favorable impressions on this guy. As the saying goes, "be a credit to your kink."


At Capilano University in North Vancouver, Canada:

Lydia Fu
WHEN TWO WON’T DO: Polyamory doesn’t have to be a relationship death sentence

By Ben Last and Natalie Corbo

“Why is it acceptable in our society to love more than one sport with a passion? Read different books? Why is it acceptable to love more than one child?” writes Kendra Holliday, the leader of sex-positive website The Beautiful Kind....

...Ryan* has been in polyamorous relationships since 2006, and explains that he had a lot of trouble in monogamous relationships in the past because he always ended up cheating. He is now in a happy, co-parenting relationship with his daughter’s mother. “It’s still a very close and caring relationship, but not one that has a sexual aspect to it, but still a very intimate relationship.” Beyond that, “there is someone else who I am dating, and people who I see three or so times per week, and then there’s also a few other long-term very-casual people in my life,” Ryan explains. “It is very realistic, it is very doable, [and] it can be a completely satisfying way to live.”

...Bob Muckle, a professor of anthropology at Capilano University, explains that monogamy is actually not a “natural” evolutionary trait. “There are 300 species of primates and only a few that are monogamous,” Muckle explains. “Increasing research shows primates may have one primary relationship and then have relationships outside of that,” much like polyamorous relationships in humans....

...Marnie’s open relationship is honest and communicative, and they always tell each other about other people, though not all of those relationships are equal. “Obviously we’re each other’s primary partners and so the emotional connection there is not comparable with what I have with anyone else.”

For Marnie, there’s also a political aspect involved in that she wants to break away from the idea of owning people or owing people — an aspect that might be found in traditional relationships. “We wanted to feel the type of intimacy and connection that didn’t necessarily involve that part of owning or owing each other things,” she says of her relationship with her primary partner.

...Open relationships, however, are not just an “easy way out” of any sort....

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


At Wayne State in Detroit:

Dissecting alternate outlooks on love

Despite widespread stigmatization, polygamy sustains in states

By Nicole Hayden

With shows like “Big Love” and “Sister Wives,” the understanding of what defines marriage has been questioned more and more. From alternative relationships such as those explored on television, to LGBT relationships and even “open” relationships, the dynamic of social acceptance is starting to shift — specifically the idea of a polyamorous relationship.

A polyamorous relationship is one with more than one intimate partner,with the complete consent of everyone involved. Being polygamous means being part of a marriage with multiple partners.

...Steve Lott, who comprises one-third of a polyamorous relationship, said one benefit of having not just two, but three, incomes within the household makes paying the bills much easier. Standard tasks such as “cooking, cleaning and caring for our daughter is easier with more people on the job,” Lott said.

Lott’s family structure consists of himself, his wife Nicole and his second relationship with Dana Kitchens and her daughter....Unfortunately, Lott said neither his family nor Nicole’s family supports their decision of an unofficial polygamous marriage. However, Kitchens’s family does, which gives them a welcoming place to go on holidays, Lott said.

No matter what the issue is, however, “there is no question that any time a group (or individual) bring up some new idea, this provides a suggestion to other members of society,” said Mary Sengstock of WSU’s Sociology Department....

Read the whole article (March 1, 2013).


In the Valentine's Day Sex Edition of the University of Pittsburgh's student newspaper:

Rethink monogamy's place as our society's default relationship type

By Danny Zaidi \ Columnist

Monogamy is so 20th century.

Honestly, you probably love all your friends, anyway. Why not love them a little more? Be polyamorous.

...The notion that everyone will be satisfied by a monogamous relationship is not necessarily true. Yet most are reluctant to push these boundaries and enter into a polyamorous relationship — or one that is “[a] long-term, romantically committed, multiple-partner relationship,” according to the organization Polyamorous NYC, which serves the needs of the LGBT community.

...Elisabeth Sheff, a scholar in the field of ethnography and particularly polyamory, cites Morgan, a 29-year-old white accountant and mother of one. Morgan believes, according to Sheff’s work, that monogamous relationships create competitive grounds between women. Morgan connected what she viewed as stronger bonds between polyamorous women not only to the potential for them to develop a sexual relationship but the shift in the balance of power generated by bisexuality and increase in choice and autonomy from men. In other words, she grew to love her fellow woman and include her, rather than leave her on the other side as a potential competitor for other men.

During her life, [Emma] Goldman also believed in the ideals of polyamorous relationships and, more specifically, she argued for these relationships as beneficial in eradicating the... jealousy that leads to so much divorce and mistrust among monogamous couples. Goldman stated, “Jealousy is obsessed by the sense of possession and vengeance.” This idea of possession is nearly eradicated via polyamory because of the exchange of partners, so this proves another push toward the issues of monogamy. Ultimately, sharing is caring.

That’s not to say that the realm of polyamory completely escapes the threat of jealousy. The Journal of Contemporary Ethnography says: “Feelings of jealousy or strife often plagued relationships among polyamorous women. The most common source of discord was difficulty sharing a lover.” However, I suggest that this is a version of jealousy that most are not accustomed to — it’s a jealousy we see and don’t embrace in monogamy. In other words, bring on the jealousy, because it’s no longer one-on-one.

Jealousy within the polyamorous relationship can be dealt with in a more reasoned fashion because of the nature of the group structure.... We must again look to the benefits of the group versus a pair....

...How would you feel in a community where everyone was open about the love and compassion for others? If only monogamy wasn’t so ingrained in this society, we might have a more peaceful, mutually serving outlook today.

In Goldman’s words: “All lovers do well to leave the doors of their love wide open.”

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


At the University of Delaware:

Open relationships allow students to date in new ways

By Alexandria Murphy

Senior Rose McNeill says she does not want to feel that a potential relationship or friendship with another person is limited because she has a boyfriend. For this reason, she is part of an open relationship.

“No one has every single interest in common with their partner, so it makes sense to be able to spend time with other people who do have those things in common with you,” McNeill says.

McNeill, who has been with her most recent partner for four months, has been involved in open relationships throughout her time at college. She says she feels that she has a better relationship with her partners in open relationships because it takes away the expectation and pressure that one partner will satisfy all of the other’s needs.

...Psychology professor Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, who studies relationships and couples, says although an open relationship may be unconventional, it is not necessarily unhealthy.

“I would define a healthy relationship as one where both parties are able to grow and ultimately, let each other flourish,” Laurenceau says. “This can be achieved in an open relationship, but I imagine that it would be very, very difficult.”...

Read the whole article (Feb. 19, 2013).



March 10, 2013

Five New Lists of Five Poly Myths

Have "Lists of Five Myths" become a meme or something? Lists of "five myths about polyamory" have suddenly sprung up in the last few weeks:

Five Myths About Polyamory by Stephanie Pappas, senior writer for LiveScience. Of her two LiveScience poly articles that came out on Valentine's Day, this is the one less widely reprinted in other media.

● That same day, from Jenn Wohletz at Colorado's Westword: Five myths about polyamory -- and why they persist.

● By blogger Pearls and Pentagrams: The Silliest Things I’ve Ever Heard: Poly Misconceptions (yes there are five).

● At GoodTherapy.org, Five Myths About Polyamory and Monogamish Relationships, by Zawn Villines.

Polyamory Myths by Faranae at Wikinut. This one only has four. Some people don't get the memo.

● Related: The Mistakes I've Made in open relationships (yes 5), by suggestivetongue.

Updates: Five Things Your Secondary Wants You to Know, by A Poly Nirvana.

Five Things You Might Not Know About Polyamory, by Deborah Anapol.

Update: Yes, Five Myths is a Thing. Turns out "Five Myths" has been a column at the Washington Post site for two years now, with more than 100 of them so far.


March 6, 2013

Our America poly documentary: Incredible job!

Our America with Lisa Ling (Oprah Winfrey Network)

What an incredible job Lisa Ling did with this one-hour show last night!

It followed three successful, living-together polyfamilies of somewhat different styles, full of articulate, intelligent, and deeply good-hearted people — and gave them free rein to express themselves naturally and well. For example, watch this 4:30 segment with one of the families, the "Philadelphia W":

I Love You & You... & You: How To Create a Polyamorous Family
Philadelphia couple Gina and Wes discuss how they transitioned from a monogamous duo into a polyamorous "W" -- a five some in which three other people live in their home with the possibility of adding more partners in the future.

And here's a 3-minute outtake (which didn't make the cut for the show, which was only one hour long) on the Northwest triad and their 11-year-old daughter:

Deleted Scenes: Polyamorous Family Raising 11 Year-Old Girl
Regina discusses being a poly mom to her 11 year-old daughter Colleen, and shares the benefits of having multiple partners when it comes to parenting.

And here's the third family, my dear friends Robyn and Jesus (Chuy) of Loving More, who were were shown in the process of bringing in and integrating a new third. This is another outtake, in which they discuss Loving More. The segment is titled "National Organization for Polyamory Awareness" (2:00):

Deleted Scenes: National Organization for Polyamory Awareness
After discovering polyamory awareness website Loving More in the 1990s, Robyn found comfort and support from a community she felt she was meant to be a part of. Now the Executive Director of the site, Robyn explains its mission and the growth of the poly community in America today.

Here's another segment that did make the show, in which Regina of the Northwest triad organizes a local poly discussion and support group and we see area people coming together to share their views and concerns. Narrator Lisa Ling has an insight: "With this group, something is coming clear to me. Poly isn't just a way of loving. It's a way of living."

I Love You & You... & You: Polyamorous Adults Join Discussion
After being involved in the polyamorous lifestyle for a few years, Regina created a discussion group where this subculture can let down their guard and be completely open about their relationships and struggles.

As of now the whole show is scheduled to re-air Tuesday night March 12 at 9 p.m. and midnight Eastern time. Schedule. Channel finder. First aired March 5, 2013.

Here's the episode's web page. Go get some comments up. Especially in the post-show conversation section.

See earlier trailers, and advance reports from some of the people who are in it.

Gotta run and go to work now. I may add updates later.


● At Gawker.com, Rich Juzwiak (the guy who reviewed the Polyamory: Married and Dating series last summer) writes,

This week's probing episode of OWN's Our America with Lisa Ling focused on polyamory. In a brash Barbara Walters-esque style, Ling asked several of the profiled subjects what it's like to be considered perverts and freaks by mainstream society for loving multiple people. It was almost cartoonishly rude, but it gave the opportunity for what all seem like reasonable, well-adjusted people to give reasonable, well-adjusted answers about their way of life....

"There's nothing wrong with what you're doing. It's not something to hide or be ashamed of. Loving people, however you love them, is not a bad thing," said one correct person....

Whole article (March 6, 2013).

● Here's Regina of the Northwest V posting about the whole experience on their blogsite, Polytripod.

● Lisa Ling tells her own feelings in an interview on the new sexuality/lifestyle podcast DVDASA:

Lisa: Have I ever pursued a swinging relationship or polyamorous thing? I haven't, but, I feel richer for knowing about it, and it's made my conversations with people, and even made conversations with my husband a lot more open and communicative, and I feel like if we ever got to a point in our relationship where it was like, you know, I don't know if your necessarily fulfilling all of my needs, and he felt that way, I feel like we could kind of talk through it, it wouldn't be as black and white as like I'm gonna cheat on you, or we need to break up. Maybe there are other options.

● A blogger's snappy comments on why she likes the show.


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March 5, 2013

Two poly shows coming up on TV

Two poly presentations are coming up on TV today and tomorrow:

Tuesday March 5: Our America documentary, "I Love You & You... & You". This is the big one: a one-hour show following three polyfamilies, by the Oprah Winfrey Network's Lisa Ling. This looks like it's going to be unusually good, judging by its trailers and by reports from the people who are in it.

As of now it's scheduled for two showings tonight, at 10 p.m. and midnight eastern, and on March 12th at 9 p.m. and midnight eastern. Schedule. Channel finder. Some local poly groups are posting about viewing parties they're holding.

Update: New 3-minute outtake featuring the 11-year old of one of the families. Watch it here, or with a partial text transcript here. Wow. Below is a still from it.

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.

Wednesday March 6: Katie Couric. Sierra Black posts, "We’re scheduled to appear on Katie Couric’s show for a brief discussion of poly family life." You may remember Black and her crew from ABC's outstanding 20/20 segment that first aired April 20, 2012 (and which coincidentally re-aired last Saturday March 2). Katie Couric is a daytime show. Local time and station finder. Here's the episode's webpage (not much there yet).



March 4, 2013

New research: Gay nonmonogamy outcomes

Huffington Post Gay Voices

New research results are published on outcomes of negotiated nonmonogamy among gay couples. Although the full paper requires payment or access through an academic library, there's a link to the abstract and introduction below, and Zach Stafford summarizes the results in an article at Huffington Post Gay Voices:

"Monogamish": Two Is Company, but Is Three Really a Crowd?

By Zach Stafford

When I think about dating and relationships, especially when talking with friends, I tend to come to the same conclusion: Monogamy isn't possible. I feel that in the gay world, no matter how committed a couple appears to be, or how beautiful their life together looks, or even how perfect they seem, there always seems to be the threat of infidelity lurking in the background. Countless dinner parties, nights at bars, Pride events and everything in between suggest one thing to me, over and over again: Most men don't really seem interested in sticking with just one person.

I used to resent this aspect of "the gay lifestyle," as some call it.... I found myself really disheartened by this image, because what I wanted for myself was the traditional life -- one marriage for life, with some kids -- not a life in which I'm constantly in clubs and in the beds of men whose names I don't know.

...Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, director of Hunter College's Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), worked with a team of researchers to investigate a relatively unexplored area of social research: monogamy and commitment among gay and bisexual men. After surveying over 800 gay and bisexual men in the New York City area, Dr. Parsons and his team found that "the diversity in types of non-monogamous relationships was interesting.... Typically gay men have been categorized as monogamous or not, and our data show that it is not so black and white."...

In 2010 researchers at San Francisco State University carried out a similar study that revealed just how common open relationships are among partnered gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. As The New York Times reported, "The Gay Couples Study ... followed 556 male couples for three years -- about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners." That figure is remarkably similar to what CHEST found.

Now, I know what you are thinking: These can't possibly be happy, healthy relationships, right? Well, here's what CHEST's survey found:

Men in fully monogamous partnerships showed significantly less illicit drug use and significantly reduced sexual health risk when compared to all other groups of men (single, open, and "monogamish"), suggesting a benefit to monogamy. But CHEST's findings also indicated that non-monogamous partnerships provide other types of benefits to gay and bisexual men. Men in "monogamish" relationships indicated lower rates of depression and higher life satisfaction when compared to single gay men.

Dr. Parsons added, "Our findings suggest that certain types of non-monogamous relationships -- especially 'monogamish' ones -- are actually beneficial to gay men, contrary to assumptions that monogamous relationships are always somehow inherently better."

So being in a "monogamish" relationship seems to mean that you may do more illicit drugs and take more sexual health risks, but you may actually be happier as a person. Easy enough, right? Not really. It's a little more complicated.... There is a lot boundary setting and a lot more talking before these types of relationships happen and are successful.

The Advocate recently put together a great guide to nonmonogamy that lists some basic things to think through before opening up a relationship: the whos, whats, whens and wheres. I think this guide would be a great starting point for any couple thinking about opening the doors of their relationship....

Read the whole long article (Feb. 27, 2013).

Here are the abstract and first two pages of the CHEST study (click "Look inside"). Reference: "Alternatives to Monogamy Among Gay Male Couples in a Community Survey: Implications for Mental Health and Sexual Risk" by Jeffrey T. Parsons, Tyrel J. Starks, Steve DuBois, Christian Grov and Sarit Golub: in Archives of Sexual Behavior, Feb. 2013; first published online Dec. 21, 2011.

Here's CHEST's press release about the study.


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March 2, 2013

Tristan Taormino on NPR

National Public Radio

Of all the 31 books about polyamory published since the modern poly movement began in the mid-1980s, the one recommended most often these days — at least for people looking to open an existing relationship — is Tristan Taormino's Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships (2008).

Tristan Taormino leads an energetic life as a sex educator, college speaker, author, sex-positive activist, host of the weekly VoiceAmerica radio show Sex Out Loud, and producer of feminist porn.

A number of NPR stations are airing a 10-minute interview with her on the highbrow, big-ideas show To the Best of Our Knowledge. She's one of a series of six guests discussing "After the Romance": what to make of the fact that humans are built in such a way that new-relationship limerence does not last.

You can listen to her 10-minute segment on open relationships, or the entire 53-minute show (she's segment 3), or listen on the radio if your area is on the local broadcast schedule. (First airs March 3, 2013. Produced by Wisconsin Public Radio, distributed by Public Radio International.)


...I think for some people it's simply [that] monogamy doesn't work. I mean monogamy may be this revered and sacred institution, but as a relationship style it's really pretty dismal, and has failed a lot of people. So people are looking for an alternative. And there are people out there who say "I don't want to cheat, I want to be honest about this" — and how can we create a relationship and a set of guidelines that incorporate other partners, and do it in a really responsible way?

...We're brought up to believe [monogamy] is the mature choice, and when you're truly in love with someone you want to be monogamous with them because you don't want anyone else. And that's just not true for people. There are a lot of people out there who believe that you can love you more than one person at a time. And other people who believe you can love someone strongly, commit to them strongly, and still have other sexual partners — and that doesn't infringe on your primary partnership.

...[Jealousy] is part of what you sign up for when you sign up for an open relationship. You're going to have to confront some of your own emotional baggage: around insecurity, fear of abandonment, envy, possessiveness — an open relationship is not a good idea to "fix" a monogamous one. You've got to have a solid foundation before you open up.

The host challenges her with a story of two good friends of his who were excited to announce they were opening their marriage — and within six months one had moved in with a new primary "and now they are getting divorced. Is that a common story?"

It's a common story of serial monogamy, actually.... One of the things that people have to do in open relationships is you really have to manage that new relationship energy. When you first get infatuated, or excited about someone, and everything about them is really amazing, and you're like hey, let me pack up all my belongings and move in with them — there's a time at which you have to take a pause, and say let's not make any abrupt decisions here. Because this little honeymoon phase of feeling high, and in love, or in lust, is going to come to an end. And if you can ride out that wave, then you can make better decisions.

This is just the right basic 10-minute audio snippet for a newbie couple considering opening their relationship or marriage. Save the link for that purpose.


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