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

April 6, 2013

"Philpott fire deaths trial shines light on polyamory"

BBC News Derby (UK)

This is an ugly one.

The UK is abuzz over the conviction and sentencing of Mick Philpott, a serial awful, with his wife and a sexual friend for burning down his house and killing six of his children. From The Guardian:

A man with a history of violence and controlling younger women was convicted on Tuesday of killing six children in an "evil, stupid, shameful act" as part of a twisted attempt to frame a former lover who had dared to defy him.

Mick Philpott, 56, his wife Mairead, 31, and a friend involved in the plot, Paul Mosley, 46, were all convicted of manslaughter after setting ablaze their Derby home, meaning to blame the inferno on Philpott's former lover, who left him.

Instead, the fierce heat and smoke engulfed the home, leading to the deaths of six children aged five to 13 years, including five of Philpott's 17 children and a son of Mairead from a previous relationship.

The jury was not told Philpott had a previous conviction in 1978 for attempting to murder a woman who wanted to leave him, whom he stabbed a dozen times.

Such was Philpott's hold on women that after the fire that killed his children he got his wife to perform a sex act on the third co-conspirator, Mosley.... Philpott had children with five partners, claiming welfare benefits for himself and forcing women in his life to hand over money to him.

Amid the coverage came this story yesterday on the website of the BBC's local branch in Derby, where the crime took place:

Philpott fire deaths trial shines light on polyamory

By Caroline Lowbridge

BBC News, Derby

Mick and Mairead Philpott shared their home with Mick's girlfriend and 11 children in a relationship which can be described as polyamorous.

Mick Philpott's girlfriend was a bridesmaid
at his wedding to Mairead.
Why do people live with more than one sexual partner, and are there problems that can arise with these relationships?

...While there is little research on polyamory, research on polygamy - where people marry multiple partners - suggests that some women can feel pressured into consenting.

Dr Thom Brooks, who has researched polygamy and polyamory, said a lack of consent by women was one of the most significant problems.

"The two are practised very similarly and [are] almost always a relationship of one man with two or three women, with the man at its centre," said Dr Brooks, of Durham University.

But marriage and family therapist Dossie Easton, who has been in polyamorous relationships, said they were different in nature to polygamous marriages.

"Polyamory does not follow the rather strict forms of marriage and gender in relationships that are found in many polygamous cultures, [such] as in Islam and Mormon[ism]," she said.

..."Polyamory has come out of the closet, and thus more people feel free to try what had been very forbidden," she said.

"Nowadays you don't have to be a hippy or a rebel to explore an expanded sex life."

...Dr Brooks argues that polyamorous and polygamous relationships subordinate women.

"Their practice privileges the position of men over women where the family revolves around the man at its head surrounded by his largely dependent family," he said.

"In practice, it is often the men who choose who joins."

So why are men more likely to have multiple partners, rather than women?

"The religious and legal reasons are perhaps well known, but others are more speculative," said Dr Brooks.

"One argument is that men are perhaps more prone to jealousy and less able to share a wife with another man, but I have not seen much evidence to support it."

In their evidence, Mairead Philpott and Lisa Willis agreed that they became like sisters over time and they considered each other's children to be their own.

Ms Easton's experiences of polyamory are similar....

Dr Brooks has looked at research which suggests women in polygamous marriages are at a greater risk of harmful effects, including sexual diseases and family violence.

"The primary mental and psychological problems for women are perhaps depression. For example, where one wife becomes pregnant her husband may become more likely to take an interest in his other wives," he said.

The women can also be powerless, he argued, because they are typically less educated and lacking in employability skills.

"I should emphasise that polygamy has also been linked with harmful effects on men, too," said Dr Brooks....

Read the whole article (April 5, 2013).

Comments Franklin Veaux, "The article doesn't say what field Mr. Brooks' doctorate is in, but from the article I suspect he has a Ph.D. in Confirmation Bias, possibly with an area of specialization in Data Cherrypicking."

It turns out that Brooks is a professor in philosophy with a specialty in law, with no apparent experience in anything related to human sexuality, sociology, or relationships. A prolific philosophy writer, he once wrote a paper on Nigerian and Mormon patriarchal polygamy and therefore apparently thinks he knows everything.

The BBC article appeared on its Derby webpage in the East Midlands. The rest of the UK seems caught up in a debate about Philpott's manipulation of the welfare system.

A poly researcher in England says she has been approached by a "journalist who is writing a rebuttal to appear in the New Statesman soon. I've tried to give her some grist for the mill, not least pointing out that the 'expert' Brooks is a lawyer who has done no research on polyamory and has made a fundamental mistake by conflating polygamy with polyamory." (Update: here it is, Don't Use Mick Philpott's Case to Bash Polyamory.)

Pepper Mint posted to the Polyamory Leadership Network, "It doesn't seem that Mick Philpott ever actually identified as polyamorous (as far as I can tell from media), but did often have a wife and a mistress or lover at the same time. Just a heads-up to folks who are often approached by media -- you may be asked about this case, or about polyamory by reporters who are looking at this case. From the way the article reads, I expect that Dossie Easton was not aware of the context she would be quoted in."

Watch out for that. Always ask a reporter who calls or writes to you what's the focus of the article they're working on, so you can speak accordingly.



Blogger Natja's Natterings said...

Hey Alan,

Dr. Thom Brooks, Reader of Law has been contacted with regard to his contribution to this article, he replied

"The BBC contacted me about a paper that I published in a peer reviewed journal in 2009. They provide a link to a version of the paper in their story. I was not asked about any specific cases. Nor was I shown the piece before the BBC published it. If you are interested in my research, then I recommend you read the paper linked in the story. Again, my comments only pertain to this paper and not to any particular case."

I read the paper in question and it is almost exclusively about religious Polygamy. I have copied the only section of the paper that mentions Polyamory on the Polytical.org website:


It is too large to copy the whole section here in the comments but the only negative thing about Polyamory came at the bottom where Dr. Brooks wrote:

"There is no evidence that polyamorous relationships are less likely to lead to polygyny similarly.
Thus, polyamory remains problematic for much the same reasons that the current practice of polygamy is problematic. Polyamory is not a clearly preferable alternative to polygamy"

Not that I am in support of Dr. Brooks research in any way but the fault lies completely with the shoddy journalism of Ms. Lowbridge, rather than his research.

April 06, 2013 12:14 PM  

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