Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

October 30, 2013

In which our side knocks a nasty pitch out of the park.

HuffPost/ Politics

Here I am sitting on the couch watching our Red Sox build a 5-run lead in WIN the World Series (!!!). So pardon a fractured baseball metaphor: A professional conservative throws a nasty curveball, our team confers in the Polyamory Leadership Network dugout, and from there, Angi Becker Stevens steps up to the plate and knocks it over the wall.

Eli Lehrer has been a career conservative for Koch- and Sun Myung Moon-funded organizations and is currently the president of R Street Institute. On Huffington Post/ Politics, he threw an almost progressive-sounding curve equating polyamory with patriarchal polygamy: Gay Marriage: Good, Polyamory: Bad. Maybe it was a deliberate fake, maybe he just misread the signs.

Gay Marriage: Good; Polyamory: Bad.

By Eli Lehrer

Walter Olson has a top-notch blog post over at Independent Gay Forum that describes why increased acceptance of same-sex marriage isn't going to lead to acceptance of polyamory.

I agree with all of his arguments and I'd add one. Gay marriage is, at the very worst, neutral for society while polyamory is pretty clearly harmful to society. The obvious harms of polyamory are likely to prevent its widespread acceptance.

The facts about gay marriage should come first. Now that we've had almost a decade of legal gay marriage, it seems reasonably safe to say that it has no detectable negative social impacts.... Meanwhile, only about 3.5 percent of the population identifies as gay indicating (no surprise) that increasing social acceptance of homosexuality is not exploding the number of people who identify as LGBT....

On the other hand, a long social experience with polyamory indicates that the social results are awful. If they're patriarchal and primarily polygamous and limit the economic roles that women can take (as almost all known polygamous societies do) they will doom a lot of people to living in poverty. Self-described "fundamentalist Mormons" and the handful of backward Muslims that Olson mentions almost all live in poverty surviving off of government transfer payments and even crime. Polyamorous societies will, by definition, never have enough mates to go around....

And legitimizing polyamory would increase the number who practice it. Unlike being gay -- which, overwhelming evidence suggests, is not a choice -- polyamory clearly is. Its legitimacy would increase its prevalence.

If any major modern society ever moves towards legitimizing polyamory or anything like it, the social results are likely to be an unmitigated disaster in the short term. And this will create a very strong warning to anyone going down the same path. Gay marriage is increasingly accepted precisely because its results, to date, have been good for society. Polyamory on a large scale would have negative short-term results and that's a good reason to think it's just not going to happen.

Read the whole article (Oct. 28, 2013).

That was worth batting right down. Long story short: with pats on the back, Angi goes and knocks on the HuffPost/ Politics manager's door, and they let her step into the batter's box:

Polyamory: Not Harmful to Society

By Angi Becker Stevens

...As a polyamorous feminist who is firmly committed to all varieties of social justice, it's important to me to refute what Lehrer sees as the "obvious harms" brought on society by families like my own.

Though Lehrer uses the term "polyamory" throughout his piece, the only form of multi-partner relationships he addresses are those of a fundamentalist, patriarchal variety.... Polyamorous relationships do not adhere to a patriarchal, heterosexual "one husband, many wives" model, but instead include every imaginable combination of genders and sexual orientations. Many polyamorous women, like myself, are in loving, committed relationships with multiple men. And a large number of us -- from my observation, seemingly a larger percentage than of the general population -- consider feminist values to be central to our relationships.

...Given the reality of modern, egalitarian polyamorous relationship configurations that include one woman with several men, three or more men or women all in a relationship together, quads made up of two men and two women, and many more, it is difficult to imagine how polyamory can create a scarcity of available partners of one gender or the other.

It is of course true that granting legal recognition to polyamorous families would also have the effect of granting legal recognition to patriarchal polygamous families as well. But the unfortunate reality is that many women still live in oppressive, fundamentalist monogamous marriages, and we do not use that as an excuse to eschew marriage altogether. The problem is patriarchy itself, not the particular form relationships take....

Though I am living in a life-committed relationship with two men myself, I am not particularly interested in arguing for the legal recognition of polyamorous marriages anytime soon. Like the vast majority of polyamorous activists, I am much more interested in simply increasing social awareness and acceptance of families like mine.

Lehrer might be correct that increased acceptance of polyamory would lead more people to live polyamorously, but this is only something to fear if one accepts the premise that polyamory is in fact harmful to society.... If we're going to discuss what's harmful to society, I'd argue that things like racism and sexism and heterosexism and every other form of oppression we live with are far larger threats to the common good than my two partners, my daughter, and I, who have the audacity to live in a modest home in the suburbs together, where we regularly commit such scandalous acts as playing board games, watching Netflix, and cuddling with dachshunds. But ordinary, loving families like mine certainly do suffer when people like Lehrer choose to perpetuate misunderstandings about who and what we are.

Read the whole article (Oct. 30, 2013)

All that said, remember my longstanding warning: We poly activists may indeed end up turning a bad thing loose on society if, as it moves from an alternative niche thing to a mainstream cool thing, "polyamory" dumbs down into just a trendy excuse for crappy behavior. We're living in a time when social ideas are fluid, and open to influence. It's up to us — you readers — to call out degradations of what we're about when we see them, and to speak loud and clear for the good values that make loving, caring multi-relationships work.


Meanwhile, other influential conservatives have been taking more note in the last few days following the big CNN article. From heavy hitter Robert P. George at Princeton:

“Loving, committed multiple partner families”

The logic of the sexual revolution continues to play itself out in exactly the way defenders of “traditional” marriage and norms of sexual morality saw (and said) that it would. When I and many others noted that the abandonment of the idea of marriage as a conjugal union and its replacement with a conception of “marriage” as sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership would swiftly be followed by the mainstreaming of polyamory and eventually demands for the legal recognition of “poly” partnerships and families, we were accused of “scare mongering” and making illicit “slippery slope” arguments.

...Today, fewer and fewer people on the liberal side of questions of marriage and sexual ethics are even pretending to have moral objections to polyamorous sexual relationships or their recognition. Increasingly, the pretense is not regarded as politically necessary. “Poly” groups no longer need to be pushed into the closet in order to depict redefining marriage as a “conservative” cause; “polys” are now even welcome to march in pride parades and the like. Polyamory is swiftly becoming one more hue in the multi-colored flag. We now even have the “conservative” argument for polyamory: these are people in “loving, committed multi-partner relationships.” They have jobs and homes and mortgages and kids — just like everybody else. Moral objections to their ”identity” and the sexual expression of their love is condemned as mere “prejudice.” We must, we are told, fight the “bigots” who are stigmatizing them and “harming their children.” When you have a script that works, I guess you keep using it.

CNN is about as mainstream as you get, right? Here are some passages from CNN’s non-judgmental and, indeed, quite sympathetic treatment of polyamory and polyamorists....

Read the whole article (Oct. 26, 2013).


Rod Dreher at The American Conservative:

Up Next: Polyamory

Robert P. George points to evidence that polyamory is moving toward mainstream approval, though it’s far from it at the present moment. It’s significant, he says, that the LGBT movement is embracing polyamorists. Notice also, he says, the media framing of reporting on polyamory. It’s following the same script they followed on SSM. Once you give up the idea that marriage is founded on conjugal principle, you have no strong moral grounds from which to condemn polyamorist arrangements among consenting adults, says George. How do you tell them that they cannot have what they desire, if sexual and emotional desire itself is sufficient basis for expanding marriage rights....

...Nobody has a good answer to this, at least none that I’ve seen. They just say, “That will never happen,” or, dismissively, “Slippery slope!”, as if there were no such thing as slippery slopes.

Whole article (Oct. 29, 2013).

Slippery slopes do exist — but some social movements are actually stairways up.



October 28, 2013

"Children, Stigma, and Polyamorous Families"

Psychology Today blogs

The past week saw an uptick of public attention to poly, following the widely noticed Slate and CNN.com articles. As always, the concern that people new to the subject expressed most often was for children raised in poly households.

So it's timely that sociologist Elisabeth Sheff's book The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families comes out in less than three weeks. It describes her findings from 15 years of studying polyfamilies and their kids.

She has been providing previews on her Psychology Today blogsite. Three recent posts there talk about her conclusions regarding children. In date order:

The Status of Children in Polyamorous Families

What does the research say?

The children in the polyamorous families that participated in my 15-year study are generally in great shape: They are articulate and intelligent, precocious and thoughtful, poised and self-confident. Not that kids from poly families are perfect — they can be just as obnoxious, defiant, and irritating as children in other families. Even so, kids from poly families are a strikingly robust group, and my findings indicate three main reasons for that conclusion.

1. Optimistic Sample

In research speak, the group of people who participate in a research study is called the sample. The sample for my study of poly families was prone to be optimistic about polyamory for a couple of reasons....

2. Race and Class Privilege

The mainstream polyamorous communities in the United States, Australia, and Western Europe — the bastions of polyamorous life and research — are composed primarily of white, middle-class, highly educated people.... Kids whose parents have multiple graduate degrees (about 2/3 of the adults in my study had at least a masters degree, and almost half had a PhD) are already starting off with many advantages compared with children whose parents have less education.

3. It Really Does Take a Village

The dominant factor that encourages kids in poly families to be so articulate and thoughtful is the presence of numerous adults their lives. Multiple adults provide lots of attention, greater life experience, copious support, and abundant role models for children....

Read the whole article (Sept. 29, 2013).


When Partners Leave Polyamorous Families With Children

Parents' and children's strategies for dealing with shifting family members.

The larger poly groups get, my research indicates, the more often they experience a change in membership. It makes sense — the bigger the group, the more likely it is that someone will leave or others will join. What happens when the group includes children who become attached to adults, and those beloved adults are the ones who leave?

Sometimes it Really Sucks

Some kids in my study of poly families reported feeling quite upset when their parents broke up with partners whom the children had come to love....

More Often it is Not a Big Deal

The kids in poly families I interviewed routinely reported that they felt safe and secure with their parents.... While some children experience painful loss and disappointment when their parents’ partners leave, for others it is rather anticlimactic....

Slow Introduction

In order to minimize the potential for kids to bond with someone who leaves, parents in poly relationships routinely use extreme caution with new partners....

Blend In

Dinner parties, group camp-outs, movie nights, and support groups are common in poly communities and often include children. Because poly people are often quite social, they tend to interact with lots of friends and community members. With all of these people around, [some] parents’ partners can blend in to social background and do not stand out in children’s lives....

Staying In Touch

When adults are friendly or at least civil and supportive, it is easier for kids to stay in contact with beloved adults. In many poly communities, the ideal is for adults to bond with children and continue that link even if the various adults no longer maintain a sexual relationship....

Whole article (Oct. 7, 2013).


Children, Stigma, and Polyamorous Families

How do kids in poly families explain their home life to peers and teachers?

As with all sexual minorities, kids in poly families... are at risk of being hurt by the stigma attached to their parents’ romantic lives. The past 40 years of LGBT+ activism has made same-sex relationships socially recognizable.... Polyamory, however, remains comparatively obscure so that people are more likely to identify a woman with her two husbands as a couple with a friend/ brother/ employee instead of a poly triad or vee. This relative obscurity provides poly kids with the ability to pass as “normals” if they wish.

Hiding in Plain Sight

The most common way for kids in poly families to deal with the potential for stigma was to pass as members of divorced families.... Poly kids said that, if they did not correct others' assumptions about their families, teachers, peers, and peers’ parents would invariably assume their numerous parents were a result of divorce and remarriage....

Selective Disclosure

Occasionally peers would ask poly kids about the adults that attended their sporting events or picked them up from school. In some cases the poly kid would evade the question by changing the subject, being silly, or refusing to answer. If the questioner was a trusted friend and they had enough privacy at the moment, the poly kid would often tell the truth. Sometimes poly kids would use filter questions, asking friends what they thought about same-sex marriage or some other issue pertaining to sexual minorities and gauging the safety of disclosing their poly family status on the basis of the friend’s reaction....

Forced Disclosure

Getting "outed" as a member of a polyamorous family was usually the worst case scenario for poly kids, and often ended in the most hurtful expressions of stigma and discrimination....

Class Privileges

The more social privileges someone has, the easier it is to get away with breaking rules because social privilege provides a buffer against some of the effects of stigma and discrimination....

Living Liberal

Poly families tend to gravitate to liberal urban and suburban areas, seeking a hospitable environment.... Buffering them from their grandparents' reaction to polyamory is more complicated, and the next blog will explore relationships with families of origin.

Read the whole article (Oct. 24, 2013). I'll post about that next one when it goes up.


Here are All of Sheff's Psychology Today posts.

Her Polyamorous Family Study Facebook page.

Sheff and her media mentions have appeared here often before.

More broadly, here are my posts tagged "kids" for the past three years (including this one; scroll down).


Price discount: The Polyamorists Next Door is being published by Rowman & Littlefield. Academic publishers are notorious for high book prices, with their captive markets of students and university libraries. Amazon's discount is small. However, notes Sheff on her website, anyone can get a 20% discount by buying from the publisher directly:

If you order directly through Rowman & Littlefield at

you can get a 20% discount on The Polyamorists Next Door. Use promotion code 4M14SHEFF at checkout. This promotion is valid until December 31, 2014. This offer excludes eBooks, and cannot be combined with any other promo or discount offers.


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October 26, 2013

Big excellent poly feature now on CNN.com

Atlanta Poly Weekend's instigator triad of Billy Holder (left), Jeremy Mullins (right), and Melissa Holder (front) with co-organizer Amy Munowitz (center).

During Atlanta Poly Weekend 2012 a year and a half ago, writer Emanuella Grinberg from CNN.com was roaming around the convention, attending sessions and interviewing people. Organizers of the con (above) had told the crowd of 150 about her in advance and set ground rules for her about wearing identification, respecting privacy, and so forth. They restricted photography to a room that CNN set up as a studio for people willing to be pictured. I talked with Grinberg for a long time over dinner. She struck me as perceptive and smart and had clearly done a lot of homework (including reading this site).

And then nothing happened. She interviewed more people elsewhere. Three weeks after APW was over, she and a photographer spent six hours at the home of conference organizers PB&J — Pocket (Melissa Holder), Billy Holder, and Jeremy Mullins. Billy said, "We tried to show our everyday (weekend) life —— relaxing, doing home-improvement projects, chores and interactions. Overall we had a very positive experience. They have one more local family to profile and are talking about keeping the story going with updates and new stories about our group."

Later she spoke with them further. And she was with them at the 2012 and 2013 Atlanta Pride parades, where Atlanta Polyamory had a float. And still no story appeared.

Now after a year and a half it's finally on CNN.com this morning.

It's every bit as good as everyone hoped. And it's long, a 4,200-word opus. It's featured prominently on CNN's homepage, with the blurb "Understanding the polyamorists next door. Polyamory 'ain't for sissies,' and it's not just for the kinky either, an advocate for open relationships says."

It gets my "The Best" and "Show Your Parents" tags.

Polyamory: When three isn't a crowd

By Emanuella Grinberg

(CNN) -- Revelers in the rainbow-washed crowd smiled and cheered this month as the little blond girl in the parade float pageant-waved to the B-52's "Love Shack."

Next to the float, the girl's father, Billy Holder, handed out fliers to the Atlanta Pride Parade crowd. His wife, Melissa, carried a banner along with Jeremy Mullins, the couple's partner.

"Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals," read their purple-lettered banner, embellished with an infinity heart.

The "awws" and waves from the crowd gave way to some puzzled looks and snickers.

"What's poly?" a woman asked, looking toward a handwritten sign on the float that read "Atlanta Poly Paradise."

"Multiple partners?" the man next to her guessed.

Sort of. As the concept of open relationships rises in pop culture and political debates, some polyamorous families like the Holders and Mullins see an opportunity to go public and fight stereotypes that polyamory is just swinging, cheating or kinky sex.

It's not just a fling or a phase for them. It's an identity. They want to show that polyamory can be a viable alternative to monogamy, even for middle-class, suburban families with children, jobs and house notes.

"We're not trying to say that monogamy is bad," said Billy Holder, a 36-year-old carpenter who works at a university in Atlanta. "We're trying to promote the fact that everyone has a right to develop a relationship structure that works for them."

For the Holder-Mullins triad, polyamory is three adults living in the same home about 20 miles south of Atlanta. They share bills, housework and childcare for their 9-year-old daughter. They work at the same place, sharing carpooling duties so someone can see their daughter off to school each day....


'Polyamory ain't for sissies'

...For each of the 12 people walking with the Holders-Mullins triad in the Atlanta Pride Parade, polyamory works differently. For example, Mark, a tall, bespectacled computer programmer, has been happily married to his wife, an electrical engineer, for more than a decade. They live alone and have no children, but they've been involved with two other couples with children for the past six years. Mark and his wife spend time with the adults and their children doing family-friendly activities but the adults also go out on dates, cuddle and more.

It's not cheating or swinging, he said, because everyone knows about other partners, whom Mark calls his girlfriends. There is a level of intimacy and emotional attachment that makes them more than friends with benefits or one-night stands, he said.

"I'm more involved in their lives and more aware of their inner thoughts or aspirations; I'm more involved in their long-term happiness," said Mark, who asked not to use his last name out of concern that he and his wife might face backlash from employers.
"It's like having a regular, monogamous relationship but having more than one of them."

It's unclear how many people identify as polyamorous because, like Mark and his wife, the majority aren't open about their relationships. Because of the varied forms these non-monogamous relationships take, it's difficult even to know who to include in such a count, demographer Gary Gates said.

...Many poly people stay closeted out of fear of discrimination, social alienation or because they simply prefer privacy, sociologist Elisabeth Sheff writes in her forthcoming book "The Polyamorists Next Door."

Sheff based her findings on 15 years of research that began with a partner's request to explore alternatives to monogamy. She continued her research even after her relationship ended, and does not consider herself a polyamorist. But her research led her to believe that polyamory is a "legitimate relationship style that can be tremendously rewarding for adults and provide excellent nurturing for children."

Making it work, she acknowledges, is "time-consuming, and potentially fraught with emotional booby traps," she writes. It can be rewarding for some "and a complete disaster for others."

...Indeed, while many associate polyamory with swingers or kinksters, "there are much easier ways to get laid," said Anita Wagner Illig, founder of online polyamory resource, Practical Polyamory.

Wagner Illig, a self-appointed "poly educator" who gives talks at adult conventions about polyamory, began to identify as poly after her second divorce in the late 1990s. She decided there must be a better way than cheating to have multiple relationships.
Much has changed since then, she said....

"Polyamory," Wagner Illig warns, "ain't for sissies."


...Last year, in a Holiday Inn Select just off the interstate, the Holders led the second Atlanta Poly Weekend, a retreat dedicated exclusively to poly-related issues. It drew people from across the Southeast and as far north as Baltimore.

Some attendees were single or relatively new to polyamory. A couple in their 20s described how they'd been together since their freshman year at Georgia Tech, had married a couple of years earlier, and had opened up their relationship after discussing how they still loved each other, but felt attractions to other people.

"He dates and I flirt but I haven't actively sought out dates. All that matters is that he's coming home to me," said the wife, Michelle, who asked to not use their last name because they haven't told their families.

A few attendees, like the Holder-Mullins triad, were married and dating and had at least one child. While parents attended panels, their children could stay at the "kid con" room in the care of a pair of women in a "closed quad" with their husbands.

Ashley Tipton, middle, and husband, David,
live with another couple in Marietta, Georgia.
"I've always thought it was better to live in a commune-type large family where you get to choose your loved ones," said Ashley Tipton, one of the moms in the quad from Marietta, Georgia. "I came from a broken home where I had to take care of my sisters and alcoholic mother and I wanted something better than that for me and my kids."

In panels with names like "Defining Our Relationships" and "The 5 Love Languages" -- based on Gary Chapman's bestselling book and relationship philosophy -- the discussions revolved around topics that often come up for monogamous couples: Communication, jealousy, time.

Some panels, though, were uniquely poly....


[Billy, Jeremy and Melissa] have learned the need for discretion. They said a family member reported them to Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services, alleging child abuse and prompting a weeks-long investigation. The Holders said it ended with no charges being laid and their daughter remaining in the home. Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.

But the experience also informed some of their desire to change public perceptions of polyamory.

So they march, and organize and raise their daughter the best they can. Their meetup groups continue to grow and they're looking forward bringing in new speakers to 2014's Atlanta Poly Weekend.

After all, the Holders and Mullins say it's not a choice -- polyamory is an inherent part of their sexuality.

"Life would probably be easier if I didn't feel the need to open myself up to loving more than one person," Jeremy said. "But it's part of who I am, and I feel that my life is enriched by it.

"It's up to us to figure out how to make it work."

Read the whole article, not just these excerpts (Oct. 26, 2013). And join the comments. They're piling in by the hundreds, and some are holding up our side.

Billy writes, "Please support the community by sharing and commenting your support. We took a huge risk doing this story."

Jeremy sent in a comment: "We were likewise ecstatic over the quality of the article. It exceeded our expectations. We would very much encourage anyone who is approached by Ms. Grinberg in the future to work with her, as the entire experience was positive from beginning to end. She resisted numerous attempts by her editors to sexualize the story and went out of her way to make sure the proper story was told, and that commitment was reflected in the final article."

I give deep respect to Billy, Jeremy and Pocket and the other people featured for putting themselves out so publicly, in a region where that's not an easy thing to do, in order to tell the world that this way of life is for real.

Update: If you're wondering about the high rate of offensive comments on the CNN site, it may be due not just to the usual trollers but the attention that the article, and the recent ones on Slate, are getting on conservative sites — where the attitudes are a mix of "I told you so" and despair. For instance by columnist Mona Charen (in many outlets), Gay Marriage Makes Just ANY Relationship OK (on Wizbang), and "Loving, committed multiple partner families" (Mirror of Justice).

A vastly better set of comments appeared where Metafilter linked to the article.


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October 23, 2013

"What Will the Land of Liberty Make of Polyamory?"

HuffPost Lifestyle / U.K.

The writer, husband, and children in Sweden
Louisa Leontiades, raised in the U.K. and living in Sweden with her husband and child, is emerging as a forceful and prolific poly writer. In the last three months she has published 13 notable pieces on Huffington Post/ U.K. (crossposted to her online magazine MultipleMatch.com). Her book The Husband Swap (2012) narrates the tumultuous story of the failed quad that set her and her husband onto their current poly path.

Her latest piece declares the radical potential of poly, describes social defenses against this potential that have accreted around the parts of the poly world closest to the mainstream, and looks at the movement's place in American sociology — though from a foreign viewpoint.

What Will the Land of Liberty Make of Polyamory?

All of a sudden, polyamory is everywhere.

Articles flood the internet, many of them opinion pieces written by people who (so far) identify as monogamous. One of the reasons this is happening is to keep the news cycle churning now that gay marriage seems to be approaching normalcy. The clue is in the name; news is characterized by an obsession with the "new".

But in the process of giving polyamory a makeover that everyone can identify with, the only truly radical thing about the ideology is completely lost. To sugar-coat an unspoken truth; polyamory seeks to upend a many-thousand-year-old narrative about ownership. We don't own our daughter's virginity. Husbands don't own their wives. Wives don't own their husbands. We may seek to avoid hurting those we love -- any healthy person (poly or otherwise) with a conscience does -- but we do not own one another, and at the end of the day, our decisions, and our lives, are our own.

[But] the prevalent made-over polyamory picture for the mainstream is of a hetero-normative couple that likes to swing on the weekends....

In recognizing that we cannot own others, we give up our claim on other's bodies, but at the same time gain a new claim on our own freedom. The radical potential of polyamory is actually what might shift our entire societal structure. Because with polyamory, our lives will no longer be lived out in a linear fashion of birth, marriage, children-rearing and death.

...In nature, organisms rearrange, collapse and reform both deterministically (innate programming) and voluntarily (as a response to outward stimuli). The idealism of polyamory demands that we do the same. This is a surprising and terrifying challenge for us, and is what is potentially radical about polyamory. Otherwise, it is simply a revision to the old dating guidebook....

Polyamory as Counterculture

...Countercultural reaction against the mainstream is not so much an isolated incident as part of the very nature of American culture. In their own way, many of the first settlers were a counter-culture, even if their ideals were not those of the 60s hippie movement. We can also see a more familiar, if less popular counterculture in the Transcendental movement, which included many attempts at communal living and -- in some cases -- "free love".

Though none of things are unique to the United States, [it] is nevertheless a unique sort of hot-house for... reactionary conservatism on the one hand and idealistic utopianism on the other.

Looking at them as a whole, what can we say identifies the ideology of such counter-cultures?

● A recognition of the failures of the mainstream culture.

● An attempt at using that analysis to create a "new way".

● A sort of stubborn individualism only rivaled by their mirror-image opposites, (such as Libertarianism.)

● A movement that is most strongly peopled not by the truly disenfranchised, but rather by those [fairly privileged] that are instead peripheral to the mainstream....

(Co-written with author and blogger James Curcio, manager of Modern Mythology and cross-posted at Multiple Match.com.)

Read on (Oct. 22, 2013).

There's a lot here that I can agree with, but in a couple of places her distance from America made me cringe: her assumption that the Polyamory: Married & Dating series was about couples who just "like to swing on the weekends," and her statement that polygamy "is practiced to this day by many Mormons" (actually less than 1% of Mormons by the usual counts).



October 22, 2013

Dear Abby this morning, and other advice columnists fielding poly questions

Dear Abby
Dear Prudence

Many people are opening their morning newspapers to this item in Dear Abby:

Polyamorous woman keeps options open for men

Abby (Jeanne Phillips)
Dear Abby: I'm never happy with just one partner. It's not that I want to go out and have a different man every night of the week — just some options. I'm currently in a polyamorous relationship, so seeing other men is OK. But my boyfriend is now asking me why I feel the way I do because he is considering becoming monogamous again.

I crave something different from man to man and seek whatever the other one doesn't have. I have been with my fair share of guys, yet there doesn't seem to be one person who has all the qualities I need in my life. Should I just stay single and noncommittal forever?

—Fickle in Fort Wayne

Dear Fickle: Perhaps not forever, but for now, yes, until you meet someone who has more of the qualifications you're looking for. When you do, you may finally realize that in successful relationships some degree of compromise is always involved.

...Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby seems to diss the idea that in poly, compromise might be a two-way street. If you wish to share an opinion with her, write to the address above. Other advice columnists have taken note of articulate poly-community feedback and put it in print; for instance here, here, here, and here. Remember, be a credit to your kink.


Last June Dear Prudence, based at Slate.com, once again bobbled a poly question:

Prudence (Emily Yoffe)
My new crush says he’s in an “open marriage.” Should I go for it?

Dear Prudence: I'm a 27-year-old woman who recently made friends with a nice, attractive 34-year-old man. He asked me out for drinks soon thereafter and made it clear that he's interested in a romantic relationship. He's my type, and I like him, but after our date he explained that he's in an open marriage. I have no doubt that it's a mutual agreement between him and his wife. And I'm in a situation that makes the idea especially appealing: I just got out of a two-year relationship that was sexually unsatisfying (my boyfriend rarely climaxed).

It left me feeling as if there's something wrong with me. The idea of a fling with someone new, with no commitment potential and nothing to lose, seems like it could be a positive ego boost for me as I look for single, available men to date. New guy is saying: Let me be your rebound! Let's be friends with benefits! But most of my friends think it's a morally objectionable thing to do and doubt that I can get involved without getting my feelings hurt in the long run. What do you think?

—Want a Fling

Dear Fling, I wish you’d explained why you are so certain that this guy’s wife is also party to the information that they have an “open marriage.” I’m assuming that he didn’t text a photo of you to his wife in the middle of your date with the note, “Things are going well!” I bet if you decided to have an affair with him, it would quickly become clear your relationship is surreptitious and you would have to go along with his rules. It doesn’t speak well for this this man’s character (no matter what arrangement he and his wife have) that he withheld the central fact of his being married until after the seductive banter and drinks.

However, I understand the appeal of a commitment-free sex romp after coming out of a sexually frustrating relationship. But before you give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his friends-with-benefits proposal, make two counterproposals of your own. One is that you two get to know each other better first. I’m guessing he won’t want to invest too much time in activities unrelated to said benefits. Another is that given his history, you need to get a current STD status on him. Again, I assume he’s not going to be interested in generating any paperwork in order to get in the sack with you.

But even if he demonstrates he’s disease free, consider that aside from the moral questions about a married man, investing your time in one does have a cost. You think you can be looking for that real partner while you are carrying on with this guy. But, as your friends have warned, you can’t anticipate what happens to your emotions once you get involved with someone. If this affair gets hot and heavy, it will likely make the available men seem lukewarm and lightweight in comparison. Keep at the forefront of your mind that your goal is to find your own life partner, not borrow someone else’s.


The original (June 20, 2013).

That same day Seanphilly of Atheist Polyamorous Skeptics dissected her response piece by piece. For instance:

...This man is available. He’s in an open relationship. His wife does not own him. He does not belong to her. Want a Fling is not borrowing property the way she would go to a neighbor to borrow their weed-wacker or someshit. She is considering having a relationship with another person, who also happens to have a relationship with other people. Just like we all do (but with sex, which is apparently the way we own people).

...And who said anything about Want a Fling’s goals? Why should her goal be to find a life partner? Perhaps she doesn’t want that...


One wonders why people send their poly advice queries to unaware public figures, when so many knowledgeable and experienced poly advice sources are available. I've wondered at times whether a writer-in is being deliberately provocative. (Hmm, is that a suggestion?) But not in these cases.

Here are my last 12 posts about dozens of advice columns in the past three years (including this one; scroll down). And, you can search the archives to find many older ones. A research project awaits you, someone.



October 20, 2013

"Is Polyamory a Choice? Does It Matter?"


Remember Why I'm Still in the Polyamory Closet in Slate last month? It got wide attention beyond Slate. Now "Michael Carey" (the author's pseudonym) publishes a followup about the ruckus the article raised, especially among LGBT readers, over whether being poly is an inborn orientation or a deliberate choice. His discussion of this is more thoughtful than average.

Is Polyamory a Choice?

By Michael Carey

When my last essay appeared in Slate, a number of people were offended that I compared polyamory and homosexuality. The commenters’ chief objection seemed to be that homosexuality is innate, like race, and therefore “more worthy” of civil rights, while polyamory is a choice.

Even a cursory examination of the facts will blur any claim of a black-and-white, binary distinction. Sexual orientation... is informed by both nurture and nature. Otherwise you couldn’t get the vast differences that are observed across cultures and eras. There’s good reason to believe that it’s partly genetic and perhaps partly developmental as well, but at the margin, there are surely some people for whom same-sex intimacy is a choice.

Meanwhile, there are some people whose innate personality traits make it very difficult to live happily in a monogamous relationship but relatively easy to be happy in an open one....

...My experience suggests that perhaps half to two-thirds of polyamorists — those who want to be able to fully embrace multiple loving relationships, with sex as merely part of that (albeit an important part, just as it is in monogamous relationships) — are “obligate poly.” I’ve heard a lot of stories from people about having a few miserable monogamous relationships before they were introduced to the concept of honest, consensual non-monogamy. I doubt there are many gay folks, anymore, who get to age 20 or 25 without learning that the kind of relationship they yearn for is actually possible. That kind of experience was common when I first joined the poly community in the ’90s. Media exposure is gradually ending that problem, just as it did for gays. I suppose it may also lead to an increase in the number of “optional poly” folks joining the community, just as increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships has probably encouraged more bi people to try a same-sex relationship....

Still... this entire conversation is a red herring. The “born this way” argument has been politically useful, but the moral argument for acceptance of gay relationships doesn’t require it. Nobody ever claimed that Mildred and Richard Loving were born with some kind of overwhelming predisposition to prefer partners of another race and that they thus couldn’t marry somebody of their own race. Choosing an interracial partner was, and is, a choice. So what? The correct response to the nature vs. nurture question is: There’s no way to know for sure, and it doesn’t matter....

Read on; it's worth it. (Oct. 16, 2013).


More on the topic:

This paper appeared in the Journal of Bisexuality early this year:

Polyamory and Monogamy as Strategic Identities

By Margaret Robinson


Increasingly, challengers to antipolygamy legislation have framed polyamory as a sexual orientation, arguing that some people are immutably predisposed toward forming multiple relationships. Drawing on a qualitative study of 40 bisexual women in Toronto,
Canada, this article argues that polyamory and monogamy are better viewed as strategies of sexual expression rather than as immutable orientations. Such an approach accommodates identity shifts between monogamy and polyamory that enable women to manage and negotiate their visibility as bisexuals. Viewing monogamy and polyamory as strategic identities can help health
care practitioners more accurately assess their clients’ needs and health risks.

Read it here (you may need to exit from a download window and reload the page once or twice). Here's the article's formal publication site (requires payment or library access).

Discussion of this article arose on the Polyfamilies Yahoo group. Commented Michael Rios, "[Robinson] seemed intent on considering polyamory as a choice, not an orientation -- which is directly contrary to my own experience, and the experiences of *most* of the polyfolk I hang out with.... This would support [a] suspicion that this is aimed at delegitimizing polyamory.

"...Using bisexuals to prove anything is suspicious in itself.... For that matter, a researcher could reach the same conclusion about being gay -- it's a matter of personal choice -- by studying only bisexuals."


At Sex and the State, a libertarian site, Cathy Reisenwitz wrote Is Polyamory an Orientation? when DOMA was struck down in June. She thinks yes.


Here's Angi Becker Stevens' Orientation or “Lifestyle Choice”? at The Radical Poly Agenda (March 5, 2013). "Rather than responding to opponents by denying that we make active choices, I think freedom of choice is exactly the thing we should all be fighting for."


Here's Ann Tweedy's much-cited University of Cincinnati Law Review article, Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation (Oct. 17, 2011; 56 pages). She argues that a good case can be made that it is. Abstract:

This article examines, from a theoretical standpoint, the possibility of expanding the definition of “sexual orientation” in employment discrimination statutes to include other disfavored sexual preferences, specifically polyamory. First, it examines the current, very narrow definition of sexual orientation, which is limited to orientations that are based on the sex of those to whom one is attracted, and explores some of the conceptual and functional problems with the current definition. Next the article looks at the possibility of adding polyamory to current statutory definitions of sexual orientation, examining whether polyamory is a sufficiently embedded identity to be considered a sexual orientation and the degree of discrimination that polyamorists face. After concluding that such an expansion would be reasonable, the Article briefly outlines some issues for further investigation, including potential policy implications and the conflicting evidence as to whether polyamorists want specific legal protections.


Eleven months ago Dan Savage waded into the topic, infuriated readers, and provoked much debate.

During that episode, Sarah Taub summed things up in a Polyamory Leadership Network discussion:

In the USA, we have (at least) two rationales for granting rights and/or freedoms. One is, basically, "It's not fair to penalize people for something they can't help." The other is, "Free people get to choose what they do."

...The GLBT movement, broadly speaking, made a choice to frame its case in terms of the first rationale.... At the same time, there were voices within the GLBT movement who preferred to frame the case in analogy to freedom of religion —— free people get to choose who they love and who is in their family.

Poly activists generally tend to frame their case in this second way, though sometimes we see polyamory framed in the first way. I believe the tension between these two approaches to rights and freedoms is what makes the question "is poly an orientation?" keep coming up as a heated debate.


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October 16, 2013

Everyday Feminism: "The Myths and Facts of Polyamory"

An on-target explanation of some poly myths and truths appeared yesterday in an online feminist magazine that claims to have more than 70,000 subscribers.

More Than Two: Examining the Myths and Facts of Polyamory

By Laura Kacere

Source: Care2
...Often described as “consensual and responsible non-monogamy,” polyamory can characterize anyone who engages in intimate relationships with multiple people in a way that is consensual and communicative of all relationships. (That is, cheating on a partner doesn’t count as polyamory!)

These definitions are broad, and polyamorous relationships come in all different shapes and sizes....

Myth #1: With the right partner, you only need one person.

This myth can also sound a lot like “Polyamorous relationships aren’t real relationships.”... If your desires do not fit into [the monogamy] ideal, then there is something wrong with you.

But is there really anything wrong with not finding yourself completely fulfilled by one partner?... I’ve found, as have many others, that when the pressure to be everything is lifted, there is more space for me just to be me.

Myth #2: Polyamory means you love your partner(s) less.

...Our monogamous culture lives on the assumption that when it comes to romantic love, there is a love scarcity – that there isn’t enough love to go around....

Myth #3: Polyamory is for people who “just want to sleep around” and avoid attachment and intimacy.

...While this may be true of some people (poly and monogamous), polyamorous people tend to engage in very intimate and attached relationships....

Myth #4: Polyamory is for people who don’t get jealous.

...What is important is what you do with that feeling, and how you come to understand and deal with it.... There are strategies to survive and even work to unlearn jealousy. These can often be applied to other areas in our lives.

Myth #5: Polyamory is for enlightened people....

Fact #1: You are already complete....

Fact #2: Valuing all of your relationships....

Fact #3: Other people are not your competitors....

Fact #4: You have the right to choose....

Read the whole 1900-word article (Oct. 15, 2013).


While we're on the subject, here are writer Angi Becker Stevens' Poly and Feminism articles at her site The Radical Poly Agenda.

Here are my posts tagged Feminism. And there's lots more out there.


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October 13, 2013

"Don't Follow the New 'Poly' Rules"


Kjeld Lindsted has written an article on PolicyMic that's now going around the polywebs. It seems to have stuck a nerve.

Have Multiple Lovers, But Don't Follow the New 'Poly' Rules

By Kjeld Lindsted

Polyamory's success in popular media is making it a national fetish.

The triad from Season 1 of
Showtime's Polyamory: Married & Dating
Polyamorous relationships — the practice of having multiple lovers — are all over the news.... In the last couple of years there has been an explosion of discussion around alternative relationship styles, and now that the gay marriage debate is all but over, at least legally, it seems that everyone is looking for the next sexual frontline. This is good news, and something I predicted a few months ago, but all the media attention does have an unfortunate, though not wholly unexpected, side effect: polynormativity.

While I didn’t coin the term (that credit goes to Andrea Zanin of Sex Geek), I’m happy to help spread the warning. "Polynormativity" refers to the general sense of what should constitute a normal poly relationship. According to Andrea, this normalized media version of polyamory generally includes four popular misconceptions about the movement:

● Poly relationships are built around a “couple”.
● Polyamory depends on hierarchy.
● Poly relationships require a lot of rules to work well.
● Polyamory is practiced by white, young, cute people and usually tracks the “one penis per party” theory of modern patriarchy.

While I’ll leave you in Andrea’s capable hands if you’re looking for more detail on each issue, I’d like to focus on the bigger problem that her article addresses, particularly because it’s this bigger picture that is at stake in the ongoing political/social debate about the future of sex.

The recent fervor in the LGBQA community over marriage rights aside, the entirety of the alternative sexuality movement has historically been about challenging the monogamy norm. It absolutely wasn’t about replacing that norm with another, equally restrictive, objective alternative. Instead, it was about choice. The freedom of each individual to pick for themselves the relationship/ romance/ sexuality style that works best for them....

It is this freedom that the polyamory movement really supports, and it is this freedom that is at stake if polynormativity takes too deep a root in our popular imagination....

If the polyamory movement is to accomplish anything, we... have to take the time to explain that polyamory is about options, not about rethinking monogamy by simply adding a side-car....

Read the whole article (Oct. 7, 2013).


And while we're on what can happen as poly becomes trendy, Simon Broussard recently wrote on Polytripod about crappy pseudo-poly Lines to Watch Out For:

..."What I'm doing is morally and ethically transparent. So what's your problem?"

"Your issues are your own weakness. Consider this a 'growth opportunity' for you."

"You're an adult. Figure out something to do. I'm going out tonight."

"Why are you blaming me - I told you I was going to sleep with him."

..."I decided to fluid bond with her over the weekend. Any questions?"

"Maybe I did promise to go with you to that family event this weekend. Still, she's in town, so I'm going to go with her."

..."My husband and I, we've decided ..."

...Selfishness. Dictating Terms. Guilt trips. Tantrums. Absolutes. Ultimatums.

You know, for a relationship style that supposedly promotes such lofty concepts as compersion and sacrifice, there's a whole lot of ... me ... that gets in the way.

...Certainly there's nothing wrong with being your own advocate and asking for what you want. But if what you want becomes the last word and you've left no recourse for your partner, then your will is forcibly imposed and the issue is closed. That's not healthy....

If you're practicing Polyamory, then you've an opportunity here to catch yourself in selfish moments and attempt to rise above it. Look carefully at what you're saying, or your potential action.... Become aware of yourself, your words, your feelings, and your actions, and how they might affect others you care about.

That means....

Read on (Oct. 6, 2013).



October 11, 2013

"Polyamorous Jews share love, seek acceptance"

Four weeks ago a writer for JTA, "The Global Jewish News Source," came poking around the polyinterwebs looking for Jewish polys to talk to for a story she was working on. Her story just appeared. I'm really glad that one of the people she found was Mai Li Pittard, a polyactivist force of nature in Seattle.

JTA, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (the name dates from 1919), is the major news agency serving Jewish-community newspapers and related media worldwide.

Married and dating: Polyamorous Jews share love, seek acceptance

By Talia Lavin

NEW YORK (JTA) — Bud Izen wasn’t prepared for the reaction he received the first time he brought his two girlfriends with him to synagogue in Eugene, Ore....

...Such arrangements remain far from mainstream acceptance. But in the wake of the progress made by gay and lesbian Jews in winning communal recognition for non-traditional partnerships, some polyamorous Jews are pushing to have their romantic arrangements similarly accepted.

“The only kind of queers who are generally accepted in some sects are monogamous married queers, upstanding queers,” said Mai Li Pittard, 31, a Jewish poly activist from Seattle. “Judaism right now is very oriented towards having 2.5 kids, a picket fence and a respectable job. There’s not a lot of respect for people on the fringe.”

A former editor of ModernPoly.com, a nationwide polyamory website, Pittard has been polyamorous for 10 years and is currently involved with three partners — two men and one woman. She is a violinist and vocalist in a fusion hip-hop klezmer band, the Debaucherantes, and likes to engage in culture jamming, the mixing of seemingly disparate cultural elements. Combining polyamory and Judaism is one example of that.

“For me, polyamory and Judaism make a lot of sense together,” Pittard said. “When I’m singing niggunim or hosting people at my Shabbat table, it’s just another way of experiencing a connection with a group of people.”

Pittard is frustrated by what she describes as a “white-bread,” conformist Jewish culture that refuses to accept polyamorous relationships. But some Jewish communities have been more accepting than others....

...For more than a decade, poly Jews have connected with one another on the email list AhavaRaba — roughly translated “big love” in Hebrew. The list’s 200-plus members come from across the country and use the forum to discuss jealousy, breakups, child rearing in multiple relationships and, in one case, a poly gathering in a sukkah. They also address the challenges of being poly in a community in which monogamy and marriage are still considered the ideal....

Read the whole 1100-word article (Oct. 10, 2013).



October 10, 2013

Followup: What's happened with the Showtime Polyamory family in Hollywood

Chris and Megan

Season 2 of Showtime's Polyamory: Married & Dating ended on a cliffhanger for the Hollywood family of three. They had broken up, were wrestling with how or whether to get back together and on what terms, and they were finally beginning to talk about hard disagreements and individual needs that had long gone unsaid. And then the credits rolled. That final episode was shot months ago. So what happened?!

I asked, and Chris responded with this letter:

Hi Alan,

Let me tell you first off that we read all of this season's recaps as you posted them. We all felt that you had very good insights and did a great job recapping the events for those who were unable to watch the show.

We also agree with you that the show ended rather inconclusively and we were a little disappointed by that. That said, the issues that our trio was coping with were far too many and too complicated to have been dealt with in eight half-hour segments, let alone that only half of that time could be spent on our family. Under those conditions [director] Natalia did an excellent job telling our story and did her best to wrap up the show without forcing a resolution that did not yet exist.

When the season left off, Megan and I were still living together in the house that Leigh Ann and I had made our home since even before our marriage. I was spending some nights there and others with Leigh Ann, in the house that she had moved into. Very quickly, this became an issue for all three of us.

The only resolution we could find was for Megan and I each to find our own separate apartments. Currently we continue to each have our own residences and have made a point to carve out time for ourselves as individuals as well as beginning to acknowledge and make time for the four separate relationships that are contained within our trio. It has been a difficult time, plenty of arguments, hurt feelings and "processing," but we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

This past week we had considerably more "trio time" than we have had this entire year. Leigh Ann hosted a work event this past Saturday night that Megan and I helped out with and attended. This event gave us our first opportunity post-filming to really be out publicly together. The girls have now planned a two week road trip, where Leigh Ann will be attending several different pole dancing events and competitions. She will be judging some competitions, performing at several venues and teaching workshops at each place she stops. Megan will be bringing her merchandise and setting up "pop up shops" at each of Leigh Ann's events. They will, after hitting several different states, be meeting up with me in Des Moines, Iowa. I will be there with my most promising fighter, Alan Jouban for his RFA welterweight championship fight. This is a huge fight for him, me and my gym, LegendsMMA, and it can be viewed live on AxisTV (formerly HDnet) October 25. I am really excited that I will have both of the girls there supporting me and even more thrilled that the girls are re-experiencing their love for each other and taking this time, away from me, to rebuild their relationship.

Right now, I believe we are all still considering what type of lifestyle/relationship configurations will work for us longterm. And we are aware that we may not all come up with the same answers. We are, however, mostly past the pain and anger we were experiencing in the series and have allowed ourselves to remember how much we love each other. This combined with greater communication and scheduling has helped us grow considerably closer. Right now we are mostly focusing on our businesses and on living the fun, exciting and unique lives that we were living before all the drama and unhappiness that unfolded during the show.

We really appreciate your and all the fans' interest. Anyone who is interested in keeping up with our lives can do so through all of our social media:

Polyamory Married and Dating: Hollywood Family

@chrisreillymma and @legendsmma
@msomerville and @three_heartz
@leighannreilly and @bespunpoledance

@leighannreilly and @bespun
@malyssasomerville and @threeheartzaccesories
@chrisreillymma and @legendsmma

Here's my detailed recap of the final episode, with links to videos, etc.

Here are all my posts about Season 2.

Update Oct. 17: Leigh Ann posts her own comments on where they're currently at.

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October 8, 2013

Season finale of Showtime's Polyamory: My recap of Episode 8, "The Road Ahead"

Season 2 of Showtime's Polyamory: Married & Dating ended last Thursday with a strikingly inconclusive conclusion to half of it. So I wrote to the Hollywood family, and in my next post I'll have an exclusive update on what has happened to them in the months since filming ended.

First, here's my recap of the season finale, Episode 8, "The Road Ahead."

We begin with the split-up Hollywood three trying to make their ways through their mess:

"For the last couple of weeks," explains Chris's wife Leigh Ann, "Chris has been splitting his time between Megan and I. Chris and I have been rekindling our romance. The alone time has really reminded us how special and important we are to each other."

Leigh Ann and Megan, however, have had nothing to do with each other despite their once-strong connection. Chris: "Having to split my time between the girls has been really devastating. I feel like my heart is torn in half.... It doesn't work for me. I can't be in love with two women who no longer have a connection."

He and Leigh Ann agree that it's time for all three to sit down and figure out their future. But, says Leigh Ann, "I'm scared to get together and talk, as I always am."


Michael and Kamala are packing up lube, condoms, musical instruments, and clothes for the big excursion that their network of partners and lovers takes every year to a spot in the Palomar Mountains east of San Diego. "This getaway is so exciting," says Kamala, beaming, "because we are going to have a big sex party with all our new lovers and some of our old lovers as well."

In come Tziporah, Jason, Jen, and Jesse; they're all driving up together. Michael to the camera: "The ultimate goal of this getaway is to bond all of our lovers. The only real concern I have is that we have some new people. The new people haven't been through these events yet, and they're pretty emotionally stressful, I'd say."

Jen is thrilled, for instance, that her young mono lover Jesse is "willing to step outside of his comfort zone and show up." On the drive, however, Jesse confides to Tahl and Jen that he's not exactly excited about coming along. "It's really hard for me thinking about, like, not going and then her going — I don't think I'm going to go to the sex party though, I've got this big knot in my stomach right now."


Back up north in Hollywood, Chris comes home to Megan from Leigh Ann's temporary abode. "So how was your night" she asks him, giving him a Look. Seems he stayed there two nights in a row without asking Megan first, just telling her by text.

Chris: "Honestly, Megan, it's not really working for me either.... What this hinges upon, Megan, is are you willing to give her another chance?" He asks if she'll agree to a meeting of the three.

She says she'll think about it.


The core San Diego pod plus its outer members — eight people in all — arrive at their mountain getaway. There's an awkward moment when Jen and Jesse say they'll be taking a separate room for themselves, and Jesse says he may not want to be around the other lovers when things get intimate.

Alone, Jen compliments Jesse for coming along at all and asks if he'd be okay with her going to the sex party if he doesn't? Even just to be with her husband Tahl? Jesse, apologetically: "I'm trying to be as poly as I can. I've gotta take baby steps."

Michael is showing Rachel around the grounds. It's her first time here. She is moving to San Diego to be with Michael and the family, she has said. Michael opens a talk about their future relationship: "For us going to that next level: what would that look like for you?"

"I'm really looking forward to more one-on-one time that you and I are alone."

Michael, nodding: "Mm-hm?... I know we looked into having that relationship with Kamala and even playing in threesomes — do you not want to pursue that?"

"I think for now I would be okay with letting that one go? It kind of crashed and burned the first time?"

"What about in the sex party as well?"

Rachel comes out with, apparently, some irritation: "Other than group sex and threesomes and things, what does going deeper with me mean to you? What do you mean when you say that? Is there any way that you want to go deeper with me alone, or does everything 'going deeper' with me involve others?"

"You know I still do have a wife, and I have a child—"

"But that doesn't answer my question?"

"Mainly, I've got a lot of things that pull me a lot of ways."

"It kind of seems like if I don't grow into the pod, and into your relationship with your wife, that really leaves us with not a lot."

"It would be more, like, me really having a separate relationship with you?"

"That's still poly," Rachel points out.

"Yes it is, but it's definitely not the way I have my life set up."

"Maybe that's why you never go deeper with girls."

"Maybe — yeah."


Megan is bustling around her designer clothing business in Hollywood and is unburdening to her old friend Emma. Emma has known Chris and Leigh Ann since before they brought Megan in three years ago. "Emma is very good with tough love," says Megan. "She is no-bullshit and will call you out.... She knows all of our drama, so I think she will have some really good insights."

And indeed, here comes some straight talk like we haven't heard before.

Megan complains that other than Chris and Leigh Ann, she has had no support system for the last three years. She can't talk to her birth family. "And since this all fell apart, I really have to think about what is my future going to look like.... I just don't want to feel like the girl on the side."

Emma: "Well what's exactly what you are right now."

Megan says she wants a commitment that they will all be equal, and complains that Leigh Ann "wants to be the wife."

Emma, sweetly: "But you want to be the wife, too." There, someone said it!

(Cue the poly sigh here — between the couple privilege on one side, and the fact that no two relationships can be forced alike on the other side, it's popcorn time. And about having no support system? I remember Kamala insisting [outside the show] that the first thing she stresses for making poly work is, "You need a tribe.")

Megan to Emma: "My question is, can we keep going forever? I want kids like, in a year." An even bigger thing we've never heard discussed.

Emma informs Megan that before she came on the scene, Chris and Leigh Ann always were known to, um, experiment, and that about a year into their new closed relationship of three, she remembers "Leigh Ann saying to me, 'Wow. I really should have had a discussion with Chris before this started. Because now I'm in a position where I'm in a relationship with someone that I don't know if I want to be in a relationship with. And I should have, as a married woman, with my husband, set boundaries before we entered into this relationship.'"

Rather a shocker for Megan to hear two years after the fact, and from a third party.

Emma continues to lay it out: "Leigh Ann's too afraid of Chris to say anything. When you have a conversation, do you say what you think? Or do you say what Chris wants to hear? And I don't know that Chris knows what polyamory actually means. Because he gets to have two people who love him, and cater to his every need. Chris is Chris's priority. And you and Leigh Ann, you just do what you can to make Chris happy, with your own self just pushed by the wayside."

Megan decides it's time to agree to this three-way talk, and "to say that I'm looking for equality in this relationship."


Back at the mountain retreat, we see an utterly different scene. Here is a transcript of nearly the whole thing, because it is a fascinating model of how an important and unusual thing is done.

Kamala tells the camera, "In the seven years that I've been doing play parties, I've found that having a pre-party conversation to set intentions is essential. And since we have a number of new people, we want to find out what their boundaries are, so that we avoid having breakdowns, and we increase the breakthrough."

On a sunny patio in the greenery, Kamala starts off the discussion among the eight. "I need to know if somebody is like, 'I don't want you guys to sleep together.' If you want to say, 'I'm a red light to that person sleeping with that person.' Or maybe 'I'm a yellow,' which means go slow. Or green, 'it's totally cool.' Jason and I had a check-in," she continues (they're cuddling), "and I'm happy to say that he's a free agent, and I'm excited to share him with other people in the pod.

"How about for you, Jesse?"

Jesse is oozing youthful discomfort. "Um... I'm not comfortable with Jen being sexual, or really sensual, with any guys except Tahl; women I guess I'm okay with.... I don't want to be left alone."

Kamala reassures him: "You guys can stay together all night, and you don't have to necessarily play with anyone else."

Tahl to Jesse: "It's awesome that you came up here. And, I want Jennifer to really respect Jesse's boundaries."

Jennifer, however, is chafing at Jesse restricting her like this.

Tziporah: "I do have a red light, and the red light's with sexually playing with Rachel. Mainly because, I'm not 100 percent comfortable yet with knowing you?"

Kamala to Rachel: "I've not connected with Rachel yet. Sexually we kinda have that incomplete" — the failed threesome — "and it'd be nice to see what happens between us tonight? That's kind of an intention."

Rachel sets a boundary here. "That was actually the one thing I told Michael I didn't really care to revisit. I don't really need to have a second time that doesn't work out? That I'd like to explore some other people tonight. And not really revisit the threesome with you."

Kamala seems about to roll with it okay, but then: "Michael and I always have a total inclusion.... For you to say you're not comfortable doing a threeway with me is like you're excluding me, and I'm not okay with that." But having stated this aloud, Kamala has done what she needs to, and that's that.

To the camera Kamala explains, "I want to have a sister connection with Rachel. But if she doesn't want to play with me, she at least needs to know that the rules of a play party is that my husband and I always include each other."

Some viewers might see strain and awkwardness here that they would never want to be involved in. I see impressive modeling of the way that direct, honest communication within a poly network can work — even when it's saying tough things between people who don't particularly like what's going on with each other. This is how to make what might look like a utopian fantasy actually function well in a non-utopian world.

And then they break and all join together in setting up and decorating the main room, and dressing up. As they're getting ready, other lovers arrive — several folks who we've not seen on camera. For the record, at least one is black, so the cast is no longer entirely white (or part Latina) as critics have mentioned.


Chris, Megan, and Leigh Ann are finally having a meeting. Leigh Ann is resolved to "be really honest by finally coming clear about my biggest fear about our relationship."

They sit on the living-room couches. Megan: "I think a lot of our problem is that we haven't ever talked about what is our future is like, moving forward. We didn't talk about things.... I'm looking very much in the future. And I want to feel like I'm an equal. That I'm a priority."

Leigh Ann: "You know honey, as much as I've wanted to give that to you, I don't know if I can give you equal rights in this relationship."

Chris to Leigh Ann: "Well I'm going to be honest, I don't know if it's your choice anymore."

Leigh Ann to Megan, becoming teary-eyed: "You know when I met you you were you were young, and beautiful, and I totally fell in love with you. But the truth is I never anticipated how serious you were going to get, and we were going to get in this relationship. Like, it was really not what I wanted... and I did not speak up. I was afraid to say, that's not what I wanted."

Megan, who knows this: "It's not the easy thing to hear but... I know you've been scared to say it for a very long time. I know you're finally being honest to me. But I don't want to just like be the girlfriend forever. I want a commitment, you know? I want to have kids. And I can't help but ask, if it's something that you're ever going to be able to work towards."

Leigh Ann: "I can't commit to it right now. I think that you two would have beautiful children. But it scares me to think that a girl that's ten years younger than me could come in, partway through our relationship, and earn all the credit and all the respect that I have. It scares me."

The meeting ends. Leigh Ann leaves. We see her driving away in the night.

Chris: "If it doesn't work out, I'm really not sure whether or not I would attempt polyamory again."

And that is the last we see of them. A very inconclusive conclusion.

That was filmed several months ago. An update since then comes in my next post.


It's night in the mountains at the lovers' retreat. Everyone's sitting in a circle on rugs in the main room. Kamala reviews ground rules: Everything is consensual, "you're only doing that which you're a 'hell yes' to." If you want to leave early then you do; you take care of yourself. "It's not a free-for-all"; everyone "stay really true to your relationship agreements." When things get into any fluid exchange, "which is anything involving the genitals, we want to be practicing impeccable safe sex."

And then we get multi split-screens of a gentle controlled orgy, including, amid all the warmth and closeness, shots of Jesse sticking close to Jen, Michael paying special attention to Rachel and saying he'll be spending more time with her and will probably do polyamory somewhat differently now; Kamala privately expressing concern about Rachel's distance from her — and in the end, Kamala having the last words of the season:

"If all of my relationships were perfect, it would be boring. I think it's our vulnerabilities, our insecurities, that help us grow. And we just keep supporting each other. That's what allows us to take it to the next level."


Want a Season 3? Then, Kamala is urging, say so on the show's official Facebook page. This matters. She writes,

You may think writing, emailing or calling a big cable network is a waste of time, but since Showtime and Time Warner recently had a dispute (which dramatically affected the ratings of Polyamory: Married & Dating), they are deciding on whether they have enough interest to buy another season and they are looking for and listening to feedback from their viewers (or potential viewers), like you. Your voice matters in this powerful decision.

Watching polyamory represented in the media is important for social change. Whether you feel the role modeling is positive or negative, this show is a conversation starter and making a difference in the minds and hearts of viewers across the globe.


It's only a few days to the San Diego pod's four-day, "heart opening" Poly Palooza, which they and their network are holding at a resort in Desert Hot Springs over Columbus Day weekend, October 10–14. Spaces are still available. "Immerse yourself in a sex-positive celebration of liberated love: learn from top love experts, express yourself in group, experiment at play parties, soak in healing waters, and create lifelong relationships with a worldwide tribe of love leaders."

Workshops include Free Love vs. Agreements, Into the Heart of Jealousy, and Visioning the Future of Polyamory. ZEGG Forum daily after breakfast, music and parties in the evening. Workshop presenters include Diana Adams and Reid Mihalko. I wish I could be there.


Viewing party. The San Diego cast is holding a season-finale viewing party of episodes 6, 7, and 8 on October 26 in San Diego's Victory Theater, followed by a Q&A with the cast and the director, Natalia Garcia. Info.


Here is Heather McGuire's recap and review of Episode 8, for a somewhat different viewpoint than mine. You'll also find all her other episode recaps there.


All eight episodes begin reruns very late Thursday nights, from the night of October 10-11 to November 28-29; see schedule (choose from the Episodes drop-down, then on the left click On TV > All Airings).

If you're a Showtime subscriber, you can watch any episode on demand (click On Demand), or on a computer or device via Showtime Anytime.

Showtime’s Facebook page and website for the series.

All video clips from Season 2.

All video clips from Season 1.

To keep up with doings of the San Diego family, see their Facebook Fanpage.

Here's my own stuff about Season 1, with plots, spoilers, commentary, and notices in other media.

My stuff about Season 2 (including this post; scroll down).


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