Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

January 30, 2014

Economics of polyamory discussed on NPR's "Planet Money"

National Public Radio

And now for something completely different. Maybe you've heard NPR's "Planet Money" radio series (slogan: "The Economy Explained"). Yesterday's episode (#513) had as its guest Tim Harford, a British economist who, almost as a joke, started writing "Ask The Economist" advice for the lovelorn in London's Financial Times. His column applies the Dismal Science to readers' questions about dating and relationships. It took off and has made him something of a star.

The show took questions from callers. A man named Russell called in. "I'm a polyamorist," he explained;

I'm married, but I also have two close other loving partners who I share my life with, and in turn, she also has other partners of her own, and in fact we live with one of her boyfriends. A core tenet of polyamory is the concept of abundance, that love is abundant and you can share it with whomever you want, whereas monogamy concentrates on scarcity. So I'd just be curious to hear the economist's thoughts on the idea of abundance in love, and then what economic benefits, or detractors, that could arise from society thinking abundantly about love in this way.

Harford steps right up:

So Russell, economics is often described as the study of scarce resources, so in a way you'd think an economist was the wrong person to analyze this situation of abundance you find yourself in.... but what I would say is love may be boundless, and abundant, but time isn't. Time is finite....

Now there actually is an economic theory that is related to this. It was developed by Gary Becker, Nobel Prize winner in economics. And he developed an idea of how many children you might want to have. And what Becker said is, there's a tradeoff here. Because each additional child that you have is going to divide your time, and your attention [and resources].... And in Becker's theory there is a tradeoff between the quantity of children and the quality of children. And I imagine you face the same tradeoff. You have to decide what the optimal number of committed partners is. You can say that love is abundant and can be shared in a transparent way, but I think your behavior is not totally consistent with that. Because you have I think, three committed partners, your wife has a few committed partners — why not five billion?....

Russell says that yes, his relationship ability is saturated at three, and he tells why.

Listen here. The segment runs from 15:00 to 18:25.


January 29, 2014

"6 Common Misconceptions About Polyamory"

The Buddhist Elephant Journal posts another nice article looking at poly. People there are paying attention.

6 Common Misconceptions About Polyamory

By Renee Picard

I used to be one of those people who couldn’t comprehend how it would be possible to be in a non-monogamous relationship. I’ve always held pretty liberal views on relationships, but I remember making certain assumptions (internally) about what an open relationship might be like.

In the past year or so I have learned a lot about it by spending time in the community....

Despite the fact that it is becoming more mainstream and acceptable, mainstream media likes to dramatize certain elements and downplay others, potentially giving the rest of the world false impressions of what polyamory is.

So, to clear some things up, polyamory (non-monogamy) is not:

About orgies....

The same as polygamy....

A way to ‘prevent’ divorce or breakups....

About eliminating jealousy....
The difference is in the way it’s dealt with.... There is a focus on knowing the difference between attachment and love.

About avoiding commitment....

About having less intimacy or less love....
Put simply: when one spends time within a community where there is extra incentive to be open, loving, accepting and compassionate—well, this can be contagious!

Polyamory is more about:

Freedom of choice....


Learning to love (yourself)....

Presence and authenticity....

Here's the article (Jan. 28, 2014).

A search of Elephant turns up these these others.

Here are all my posts tagged "Buddhist" (including this one; scroll down).



January 25, 2014

"The Greatest Generation (In Bed) – How Millennials Are Changing the Sexual Landscape"


Some pretty self-congratulatory stuff from the upcoming generation, but I suspect it's mostly true. I hope!

The Greatest Generation (In Bed) – How Millennials Are Changing the Sexual Landscape

By Alan Brightside

Barely a day seems to pass without one of the ‘wise old men’ who dominate the editorial columns writing a dubiously- researched opinion piece on how the Millennial generation is dangerously apathetic, hedonistic, and lazy. The American Conservative recently published an article bemoaning the fact that over a quarter of men and women under 30 don’t bother to affiliate with any religion and are therefore, in their words, the “decadent” generation.

They’re absolutely right. By the standards of our parents, we’re all little Caligulas. And that’s our greatest strength.

As the generation with the least up-tight views on sex since the ’60s, our sexual laissez-faire is changing the way society treats both sex and identity, entirely for the better. Here’s how.

1. Pornography and masturbation are now things that normal people do....

...With the invention of the internet, we are the first generation to grow up without having to wonder, “Is touching myself going to kill me?”... Millennials are enjoying guilt-free masturbation in record numbers — if that doesn’t lead to a more well adjusted society, I don’t know what will.

2. Millenials are more likely to experiment with the same gender — and overwhelmingly support gay marriage....

...The surprisingly detailed OkCupid dating insights data suggests that over 34% of young men and women have either had a same-sex encounter or would like to — an increase that dovetails nicely with the 81% of people under 30 who now support gay marriage. Coincidence? We think not.

3. Sex is no longer necessarily between two people, and love doesn’t need to be either.

According to an ABC survey, over 21% of Americans have had a threesome and a further 14% would like to — and that’s counting all generations. Factor out people over 30, and this percentage rises dramatically. So why does it matter?

One of the last remaining forms of legal discrimination against consenting adult relationships is with men or women who choose to involve themselves with more than one partner. Note that polyamorous people are not necessarily going around throwing orgies — but, much like homosexuality, a generation that is willing to reinterpret traditional notions of monogamy is far more likely to support the right of others to live the lifestyle of their choice.

4. We’re having more sex than anyone since the 60s — but not having unwanted kids.

...Despite the worst efforts of legislators and educators, our generation has the lowest teen pregnancy rate in history — because we’re smarter about condom use and birth control than any generation before us.

5. Kink is the new mainstream — and it’s leading to intelligent discussions about consent....

6. The stigmas around sex work are lessening as attitudes about sex become more relaxed....

...So next time you see an out of touch columnist rushing to label the youth as decadent, embrace it. Overthrowing the backwards sexual morality of yesteryear can be our greatest accomplishment.

Read the whole article (Jan. 23, 2014). Imgism is an online magazine of mostly lightweight culture stuff ("whether you want to look at some cats for 6 hours or read up on some entertainment news, we got you covered.")



January 24, 2014

Redbook magazine: "We Bet This Isn't How You Pictured Polyamory"

A few years ago Kendra Holliday got the kind of bad break that many readers here dread. She made a brief Twitter slipup that outed her under her real name — not just as poly but as involved in heavy-duty fetish and BDSM. The nonprofit where she worked fired her, on the grounds that it couldn't afford to be seen associated with such things. She had trouble from her ex-husband. But she rolled with it, embraced her involuntary outness, and made a new career as a sex educator, writer, and sex and relationship consultant.

Now she's interviewed by Redbook, one of the leading traditional women's magazines (founded in 1903, circulation 2.2 million).

We Bet This Isn't How You Pictured Polyamory

A decade ago, Kendra Holliday, 40, was your everyday Midwestern mom and wife. Now, she’s a sex-positive activist who blogs about her less-than-typical life with her primary partner… and the men and women she dates.

As told to Anna Davies

As a teenager, I was a cheater. I wasn’t proud of it, but it always ended up happening. I thought it was a maturity issue — that when I grew up and got into a serious relationship, my behavior would change. And it did… for a while. I got married in my early 20s and spent the next 10 years focusing on my marriage, career, and motherhood. I didn’t cheat. But I nonetheless got divorced at 30.

I thought that since my marriage didn’t work out, perhaps I wasn’t relationship material, and that I’d be better off playing the field forever. As soon as I became single, I made a list of all the people I wanted to sleep with. And I had a lot of fun going on dates and exploring different sides of my sexuality....

Little by little, with the help of the Internet, books, and local groups, I... began to realize that having multiple partners was an option. I could settle down and still be able to play the field.

Around that time, I met a man through a mutual friend. He’d recently gotten divorced after 10 years, and though his marriage was monogamous, he felt like I did about being with only one person. So we hit the ground running and happily began dating other people, together. This time, it felt more natural. I was more experienced and more compatible with my partner. We’ve been happily together for six years, and have dated dozens of people, together and separately.

At first, I’d feel very anxious whenever he went on a date with another woman. My heart would race and I couldn’t sleep. But nowadays, it feels fine. I feel very secure and comfortable with it. I’ve always been turned on by it, even early on, but now it feels warm instead of edgy.

People don’t realize that it can take years to acclimate to polyamory. You can’t just wave a magic wand and de-program decades of social norms. Also, monogamy has one built-in rule: Don’t be intimate with other people. Polyamory is much more challenging, because you get to make your own rules, the list of which can be long and must be discussed often. Open and honest communication is the key to polyamory. That means pushing past the fear and saying things you are afraid to say. You have to replace the fear with love.

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it actually feels like our relationship receives a steroid shot every time we tryst with other people and share the details with each other. Talking about how we felt, what we loved, what made us feel insecure — all that openness makes us feel closer. There are no secrets.... I’m proud of my partner, so I love when another woman gets to experience his sexual prowess. I think it’s hot to watch him in action, so to speak. And of course I like feeling desired by other men. A lot of people enjoy fantasizing about orgies, but it’s another thing altogether to witness or be a part of one.

And it’s not all sex, not for me and not for others I know who also engage in polyamory or nonmonogamy.... It’s also about intimacy. Do you limit yourself to intimacy with just one person, or do you allow it to occur with multiple people in an ethical, open, and honest context?...

Kendra Holliday is a 40-year-old bisexual mother living in St. Louis. A passionate sexplorer when it comes to kinks, fetishes, BDSM, swinging, and polyamory, she is a sex and relationship consultant, a sex [surrogate] worker and educator, and editor of the award-winning sex blog The Beautiful Kind.

Read the whole article (undated but just recently posted). It also just went up at Yahoo/ Shine (Jan. 24, 2014).


January 22, 2014

"Safer Sex in Practice": More on poly and STIs

That last post of mine is getting a lot of hits. Some people are tweeting it with a comment "Monogamy is touted as safest relationship type, but recent study on polyamory shows otherwise." That's an exaggeration. The study in question found that people in honest open relationships do sex more safely, on average, than cheaters or their unwitting partners do. Couples who are in fact sexually monogamous are safest of all.

The study's title tells its conclusion: Unfaithful Individuals are Less Likely to Practice Safer Sex Than Openly Nonmonogamous Individuals. Here are some more articles about it, and about STI information for polyfolks.


● Two weeks ago sociologist Elisabeth Sheff posted an upbeat article, Sexually Transmitted Infections in Polyamorous Relationships:

How poly people have multiple partners but don't spread STIs.

...Simple numerics mean that having multiple partners increases the risk of encountering STIs, and exposure of one partner can mean exposure of others down the line. How do people in polyamorous relationships deal with this magnified risk of STIs? Very carefully.

Testing and Talking

Talking about sexual health is an
important part of staying healthy.
True to polyamorous form that emphasizes communication as a key relationship tool, poly folks talk with each other and partners’ partners about sexually transmitted infections. Most frequently, people get tested (with six month follow-ups) and come together for a conversation with results to show and tell—sitting a circle in someone’s living room or basement, handing the results papers around so everyone can see what everyone else has. It makes a difference to see the people who will be affected by your sexual choices and speak to them directly about how everyone is going to protect each others’ health.

Protection and Creativity

Condoms and dental dams can go a long way towards cutting the transmission of STIs by containing fluids and preventing (or at least inhibiting) skin-to-skin contact. There are also many ways to have sex or sexual interactions that do not involve fluid exchance, and polys can be creative about what kinds of sex they have and how they do it.

Fluid Bonding

Because of the potential for STIs to spread through a social group, the rule among mainstream poly communities is no fluid exchange unless and until it has been excruciatingly discussed, tested, and negotiated. This can be such an extensive process that actually deciding to have unprotected sex is a sign of serious commitment, enough so that it is associated with commitment ceremonies.

Positive Outcomes

How does all of this careful talking, testing, and negotiating work for poly folks? Pretty darn well, it turns out. Recent research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicates that people with negotiated non-monogamy have fewer STIs and infect fewer partners than do people in unfaithful relationships in which the partners are cheating and have not negotiated multiple-partner sexuality. Openly non-monogamous folks were more likely to get tested for STIs frequently, discuss their sexual health status with partners, and use condoms and other barriers than were people who had not negotiated an open relationship. Cheaters were less likely to use condoms with their primary partners or during their extradyadic sexual encounters, get tested for STIs, or discuss safer sex concerns with new partners.

● Sex educator Charlie Glickman's article on the study (with Reid Mihalko's Safer Sex Conversation Elevator Speech): More Proof That Poly Isn’t Cheating: STI Edition.

...Among cheaters, condom use for vaginal and anal sex was 27% and 35% lower and alcohol use was 64% higher. Of course, there’s some correlation between alcohol use and not practicing safer sex, and some people who cheat may drink in order to get past the voices in their heads that are telling them that they’re doing something they know they shouldn’t....

● Excellent article by Micah Schneider — longtime poly educator, queer event organizer, and quad member — at The Good Men Project:

Let’s Talk About STIs

Talking about your sexual history with a new partner is best done early and honestly.

...Let’s take the second part first: negotiating acceptable risk. Like everything else in a relationship, you have to talk to your partner/s about STIs, preferably before you ever have a problem with them....

STIs are one of those things that I try to get out on the table with a potential new partner as soon as possible, especially if I want to have a sexual relationship with them. In my case, HPV is in my sexual history. I may or may not be a carrier, and there is no real way to know for sure. It behooves me to tell potential sexual partners this, so they can decide what their level of acceptable risk is for themselves. For some people, it won’t matter at all. Maybe they already have it (or had it). Lots of humans fall into that category. Maybe they won’t want to have any kind of sexual contact with me at all. But this person deserves to make an informed decision, right? You’ve got to find each other’s comfort zones, and then honor them.

Here’s the hard part. You have to be OK with rejection. It doesn’t matter if you think their response is unreasonable, or illogical, or fair. It doesn’t matter if you think this is your new soulmate, the first person you’ve crushed on in years, or whatever. That person gets to decide what is acceptable for them. I’m not saying you shouldn’t educate them. There’s lots of misinformation out there about STIs, as I found out about HPV. When I was dealing with that, I quickly discovered that most of what I thought I knew was wrong. Be careful not to step over the line into “pushy”, because you don’t want to be That Guy (or Girl), either. But if they say no, you have to accept it. And as much as it sucks to be rejected for any reason, you are far better off getting that out of the way as quickly as possible, before anyone involved gets really invested.

You have got to be OK with setting your boundaries. Only you can decide for yourself what risks you are willing to take....

The first part of the question — how to protect yourself from STIs — is easier, since I don’t have to answer it. Getting information about STIs and how to protect yourself has never been easier than in the Digital Age.... I have to assume if you are reading this then you have reliable access to a computer. There are tons of resources available, from sites like Planned Parenthood and the CDC to blogs such as the excellent STD Project, a blog dedicated to educating the public about STDs and reducing the stigma attached to them. If you really cannot get online much, there are still plenty of resources available. Planned Parenthood is an excellent place to get information from. Even if you don’t have a local clinic, write to them and they’ll help you if they can. Your personal care physician, ON/GYN, local walk-in clinic or hospital can also help.

The original article (July 1, 2012).

Safer sex in practice: 15 risk factors that are not given enough attention, by Positive Juice. These are key indicators for assessing another person's reliability and self-care, which wouldn't ensure safety by themselves but improve your odds a lot. "Basically, in one sentence, the summary for all this is that for safer sex, you should find people who also want to do what it takes to be safe."

● From Kamala Devi: Top 10 Safe Sex Standards for Polyamory, Swinging, Open Relationships and Group Sex (May 28, 2013).

● Joreth Innkeeper writes, "I keep up with STI research and testing options on my LiveJournal at joreth.livejournal.com/tag/STI, and I cover the basics of good poly sexual practices at www.theinnbetween.net/polysex.html." Including the Sexual Health and History Disclosure Form that she uses with new partners.



January 19, 2014

STIs: Why "polyamorous relationships can be physically healthier than monogamous ones"


One way the poly movement is influencing the culture for the better is by advocating and exemplifying excellent safe-sex practices — based on honesty, unashamed discussion of sexual history and practices, regular testing, negotiation, and attention to the most current medical research. That's our rhetoric, anyway. And in my observation it's pretty often the reality, certainly more so that in the rest of society. Indeed, there's research evidence for good results that polys can be proud of.[1]

One reality that society fails to teach is that good risk assessment is numerical, not emotional. For STIs it also involves mutual discussions about your own levels of acceptable risk. People differ about how good is good enough for them.

There's no true safe sex, any more than there is safe driving. (No matter how safely you drive, you can be T-boned by a speeding drunk.) Yet people still choose to drive. As my friend Michael Rios emphasizes, if you can reduce your chance of death or major injury from an STI to match your risk of death or major injury from driving across town to see your partner, then you can call it "safe sex" to the same extent that driver's ed talks about safe driving. Insistence on the term "safer sex" at that level of risk betrays our sex-negative culture.

Another part of risk reduction is understanding that unsafe protection methods, those that only improve your odds somewhat, are not evils to be shunned but helpful adjuncts when added to more reliable methods, to reduce your total risk a bit further. Examples are condoms as protection against HPV, urinating and washing from navel to knees after sex, keeping your immune system up with a healthy diet and enough sleep, and many others.

Think those methods sound awful? Wearing a seat belt reduces your risk of death or crippling injury by only about 50%. That would be considered awful for an STI protection method, yet everyone recognizes that wearing your seat belt is a Good Thing. Risk reductions add up. Life is a gamble, but intelligent gamblers seek to use lots of ways to improve their odds.


And so, "Polyamorous relationships can be physically healthier than monogamous ones," writes the online magazine VOXXI — "an independent voice for Hispanic America, committed to transforming the digital media landscape and catapulting Latinos into the forefront of American dialogue. Our goal is to become the voice of the Hispanic 21st Century.' "

VOXXI is in English; it's aimed for the large market of Latinos who use English as their dominant language.

Having healthy sexual polyamorous relationships

By Hope Gillette

Polyamorous relationships can be physically healthier than monogamous ones.

While it may be more socially mainstream to stay in a monogamous relationship while dating, the truth of the matter is more and more people are exploring their sexuality, and polyamorous relationships are becoming common. So how do you stay healthy when you are in relationships with multiple people — and when those people are likely in multiple relationships themselves?

The key, according to experts, is open, honest communication and testing, testing, testing.

In a report from Psychology Today, couples in polyamorous relationships.... have one major fear when it comes to their sexual health: sexually transmitted infections (STIs). And this concern is not surprising. By the time all partners are accounted for on every branch of a polyamorous relationships, one person could potentially be exposed to pathogens from a hundred other people.

The trick to getting around this fear is to maintain an open circle of trust and communication, and experts recommend having an organized time where all partners can get together and schedule STI checks and review results.

”True to polyamorous form that emphasizes communication as a key relationship tool, poly folks talk with each other and partners’ partners about sexually transmitted infections,” stated Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., on Psychology Today. “Most frequently, people get tested (with six month follow-ups) and come together for a conversation with results to show and tell—sitting a circle in someone’s living room or basement, handing the results papers around so everyone can see what everyone else has. It makes a difference to see the people who will be affected by your sexual choices and speak to them directly about how everyone is going to protect each others’ health.”

The American Sexual Health Association indicates more than half of all people will have an STI at some point in their lives, and recent estimates indicate there are almost 20 million new STI cases reported every year. Unfortunately, less than half of adults ages 18 to 44 have ever been tested for an STD/STI other than HIV/AIDS, and 1 in 2 sexually active people will have an STI by the age of 25.

Polyamorous partners try to cut down their risk of STI transmission by adhering to a “no fluid” rule, which means adhering to sexual practices like condom use and dental dams. If there is going to be a fluid exchange, all partners look to agree on it.

What monogomous relationships can learn from polyamorous ones

Interestingly enough, while polyamorous relationships are generally frowned upon by those in monogamous relationships, couples who are dedicated to one and only one other individual can take a lesson from the values polyamorous relationships hold dear. Because of the significant health concern regarding STIs, openness and sharing are valued among the polyamorous group and this translate into more than just the sexual side of things.

What’s more, this communication protocol and rigorous testing regime have led research to conclude non-monogamous individuals in open relationships often have fewer STIs than people who remain in monogamous but unfaithful relationships.

Research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found “Sexually unfaithful participants demonstrated significantly lower rates of protective sexual health behaviors both within their primary partnerships and during their extradyadic sexual encounters. Sexually unfaithful participants were also less likely to engage in frequent STI testing, and less likely to discuss safer sex concerns with new partners,” according to the report.[1]

The original article (Jan. 18, 2014).


So, where do you get the best current medical information? Aggie Sez posted at Singleish and Solo Polyamory:

The CDC [the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention] just released its annual US STD trends report, which includes screening recommendations. So if you prefer to make sexual health decisions based on reliable and current information, this is a must read. The fact sheet is a good start, but the report looks worth a deeper dive (as always).

[UPDATE: Perhaps the best starting point: www.cdc.gov/std, especially The Facts Brochures.]

This is the 2012 report, but the page says last reviewed and updated January 7, 2014.


You have to practice talking directly. Here is Reid Mihalko's kit for crafting your Safer Sex Elevator Speech to have ready for potential partners (.pdf download).

Also on that page in a webtool for finding a local STD testing location. And a $25-off coupon. The page is part of Reid's excellent site ReidAboutSex.com.

Also see Joreth's STI resources that she links to in the comments.


1.: Unfaithful Individuals are Less Likely to Practice Safer Sex Than Openly Nonmonogamous Individuals

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Vol. 9, Issue 6, pages 1559–1565, June 2012

Authors: Conley TD, Moors AC, Ziegler A, and Karathanasis C.


Introduction.  Given the prevalence and harm of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there is a need to examine safer sex strategies in the context of romantic relationships and extradyadic sexual encounters. Sexual infidelity is associated with a variety of detrimental psychosocial outcomes; however, little research has addressed the sexual health ramifications of sexually unfaithful partners and members of other high-risk nonmonogamous lifestyles.

Aims.  To determine whether sexually unfaithful individuals or "negotiated nonmonogamous" individuals are more likely to engage in sexual health risk reduction behaviors during extradyadic encounters and with their primary partner.

Method.  Data were collected via an anonymous Internet-based study. Several hundred sexually unfaithful individuals and individuals with a negotiated nonmonogamy agreement completed a sexual health questionnaire.

Main Outcomes Measures.  Self-reported measures of risk reduction behaviors within the primary relationship and risk reduction behaviors during the extradyadic encounter were assessed.

Results.  Sexually unfaithful participants demonstrated significantly lower rates of protective sexual health behaviors both within their primary partnerships and during their extradyadic sexual encounters [than openly nonmonogamous people]. Sexually unfaithful participants were also less likely to engage in frequent STI testing, and less likely to discuss safer sex concerns with new partners.

Conclusions.  These data add to the literature on the negative effects of sexual unfaithfulness. Understanding rates of nonengagement in safer sex strategies will be helpful to those who lead efforts to increase condom use and other preventive STI measures.

Link for the abstract and full paper (paywall):



January 15, 2014

Janet Hardy on CNN.com: "Why Plural Marriages Make Sense"

Janet Hardy — co-author of The Ethical Slut, founder and owner of Greenery Press, and a sex radical for decades — has a provocative opinion piece on the CNN site today. Enjoy. It kicks the opposition's hornets nest; get ready to pitch in.

Why plural marriages make sense

By Janet W. Hardy


• Janet Hardy: It is tempting to think of nuclear family as an ideal and universal norm.
• Hardy: Plural marriage and "alternative families" based on love and mutual consent work.
• She says nuclear family is an uncomfortable fit for many, an impossible dream for others.
• Hardy: We should not expect all to conform to an unrealistic standard for the rest of history.

Editor's note: Janet W. Hardy, a writer, editor and consultant, has published 11 books, including the best-selling, "The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures." She has taught workshops about alternative sexualities and relationships all over the world.


(CNN) -- I grew up in the early 1960s in an affluent suburb on the East Coast. Every child I knew went home to a family that looked like mine: a mom at home waiting for us, and a dad who showed up a few hours later in time for dinner.

How tempting it is to remember such households as an ideal and universal norm. But they were rarely ideal, and they were never universal.

Let's not discuss the stresses that affected those nuclear families. Let's just talk about the innumerable people who, by virtue of race, background, health or circumstance, could not -- or did not want to -- live in such families.

Instead, they lived in single-parent households, in households with two men or two women, in extended families of grandparents and aunts and grown siblings, in households where multiple adults pooled money and skills to make ends meet, and in many other configurations.

Back then, it never occurred to the people I knew to call those configurations "families." Today, in a more tolerant era, that old standard of the nuclear family is still encoded in our laws and our tax code, as well as in the antiquated and judgmental phrase "family values."

Among my own circle of acquaintances, I hold many "alternative families" close to my heart:

— A man and two women who have been raising their two children together from infancy through high school.

— Three men who have shared a loving household for nearly 20 years.

— A "core couple," married for many decades, who have consistently surrounded themselves with long-term, live-in lovers.

— Two couples who share a duplex and a busy and intermingled sex life.

— A long-partnered gay man and lesbian woman who together brought a third, lesbian woman into their household because the female half of the pair missed that part of her life.

There are as many configurations of genders, ages and numbers as you can imagine. These are families as surely as any family you've welcomed into your neighborhood. They share property, raise children, tend to their homes and communities.

Last month, in a case involving the plural family portrayed on the reality show "Sister Wives," a Nevada judge overturned a ban against cohabitation, enabling consenting adults to form whatever style of household meets their desires and needs. He refused, however, to overturn the part of the law that banned plural marriages....

Read on (Jan. 15, 2014). In the end she proposes, "One solution for the future might be to designate 'marriage' as a social institution with no legal standing and to create 'civil union' as a legally recognized subtype of business partnership, available to anyone who is willing to make the appropriate commitments."

On the Polyamory Leadership Network, this piece prompted Barry Smiler to elaborate on his perspective that polyamory is going to be widely normalized sooner than we think, and not so much by us. Copied here by permission:

I found it interesting that this was published by CNN, hardly a bastion of leading-edge thought. As with such issues as legalized cannabis and marriage equality, the conventional wisdom on multi-partner and open relationships seems to be changing rapidly. I feel that a tipping point is coming, and the change will be a lot sooner than many people expect.

But I am also beginning to feel that the leading actors in that change will not be from the polyamory camp. Rather, it will be from three (well, three and a half) other camps:

1) Swing lifestyle folks. Swinger-identified folks hugely outnumber poly-identified folks (for example swinglifestyle.com gets fifty thousand new profile signups *every month*), and while the swing scene is still primarily about recreational sex, when you read the profiles it's clear that there is more and more desire for actual ongoing relationships. Sounds like poly to me. It's still a minority of the lifestyle scene, but given the numbers, even just that minority is *way* bigger than the entire poly scene.

2) Polygamy folks. While not as numerous as swing lifestyle folks (or as geographically distributed), unlike polyamory everybody already knows what polygamy is about. (Or thinks they do, effectively the same thing, because it means it's already in the mindspace.) Eventually, more court rulings like the Utah decision will lead to more of an acceptance of multi-partner relationships. The fact that these questions are even making it into court at all is raising awareness.

3) Kinky folks. As with swinger-identified folks, there are way more kinky-identified folks out there than poly folks, and with the phenomenal recent sales success of Fifty Shades of Gray this is only growing. My friend Jay Wiseman, who literally wrote the book on BDSM (SM 101: A Realistic Introduction) and gives presentations all over, tells me that there are active and thriving kinky groups just everywhere nowadays, even in the kinds of benighted red-state places you'd never expect. The kinky scene definitely includes active sex-positive and multi-partner elements, and kink ideas are entering the mainstream very quickly. I feel this will tend to reinforce and validate the ideas of multi-partner and open relationships.

3 and a half) The LGBT scene.... There is a good deal more acceptance in the LGBT scene than in the het scene for multi-partner and open relationships. When the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual Creating Change conference was in Baltimore in 2012, BmorePoly sent a contingent of volunteers to help out. Two things here. First, we as poly folks were very well received and appreciated there, and seen as allies (as we felt we are). Second, as one of our BmorePoly volunteers I had a chance to go to many of the workshops and panels there, and I noticed that quite a few touched on the possibility of multi-partner and open relationships, and some were specifically on that topic.

...So I feel these scenes will inevitably define and take up oxygen from their respective sides, since their conceptual frameworks already exist in the minds of far more people than the polyamory concept does.

In my paper a few years ago There's No Such Thing As Polyamory (Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 14; April 7, 2011), I said:

As time progresses and social trends continue to evolve I expect that greater numbers of people will incorporate multiple loving relationships into their lives. As this happens, inevitably these behaviors will become more accepted by mainstream society as a valid option, as interracial or gay relationships have in our era. Ironically, the more that happens, the less these behaviors will reflect social ideals of self-determination. Polyamory will become just another mainstream choice, in the same way that once-edgy options like vegetarianism, jazz, or premarital cohabitation have now become just another mainstream choice. When that happens we won't even use the word "polyamory" any more. It will just be what (some) people do.

I still believe that multi-partner and open relationships as an accepted option are where we are inevitably headed, and a lot sooner than many people think. The difference is that now I wonder if these other movements, rather than the polyamory concept itself, will be the leading players in this evolution.

To that last question, I don't really think so. Those other groups have the numbers, but we have the focus, the drive, and the ability to grab attention for the poly concept specifically. As Janet — long a major BDSM leader although CNN didn't mention it — just did under our umbrella instead.

(Let Barry tell more about himself: "With Cathy Smiler, Barry Smiler runs BmorePoly, by far the largest and most active [alt-lifestyles umbrella] group in the Mid-Atlantic area and one of the largest in the country. They are both longtime members of the Polyamory Leadership Network.")



January 14, 2014

Cathy Young's anti-poly panics, and Jenny Block's rejoinder

Newspaper columnist Cathy Young is a contributing editor to the libertarian magazine Reason, which is ironic twice over in light of her panicky fear of poly freedom and her resulting logic convolutions in New York's Newsday yesterday:

Polyamory pushes the bounds of relationships

By Cathy Young

In a free society, multi-partner relationships should not be criminalized. But neither should they lose their stigma in the name of tolerance.

While 2013 was a year of major victories for same-sex marriage in America, a controversial court ruling at the end of the year addressed another thorny marriage question: a federal judge in Utah struck down a portion of the state's polygamy ban.... [This] highlights a push for the acceptance of non-monogamous relationships that could change marriage -- and not for the better.

...The Utah case represents a traditional, patriarchal version of polygamy. But there are also egalitarian, socially liberal subcultures in this country that embrace alternatives to monogamy: open marriage and polyamory (multiple intimate relationships with everyone's consent). These lifestyles have been gaining visibility, thanks in part to the discussions of same-sex marriage and new frontiers of tolerance.

Credit: iStock 
Last August, Salon.com published an article titled "My Two Husbands," whose author -- living with her longtime husband and her boyfriend -- lamented widespread prejudice against families such as hers. A month later, Slate.com ran a pseudonymous piece by a man bemoaning the hardships of "the polyamory closet."

While the polyamorists often liken their cause to gay rights, the parallel fails in key ways.

First, in seeking marriage equality, gays could make a strong case that they simply wanted the same thing as heterosexuals....

The non-monogamists mostly want cultural acceptance rather than legal reform. But even that is fraught with problems.

Same-sex marriage, as its proponents have pointed out, does not directly change or affect heterosexual marriage: It's extremely unlikely that a previously straight, married person will suddenly decide to get a divorce and marry someone of the same sex just because it's now legal. But a person in a monogamous marriage may well decide to renegotiate the "forsaking all others" part if non-monogamy gains cultural approval.

...If monogamy becomes merely one valid option -- a preference rather than a norm -- it will be much harder for people who want a sexually exclusive marriage to insist on one.

In a free society, multi-partner relationships should not be criminalized. But neither should they lose their stigma in the name of tolerance.

So one party should have the right to ask for the relationship structure they want, but the other's right to ask should be suppressed? See the whole article (Jan. 13, 2013).

I won't go further to take apart the logic, since many smart people are already doing that in a comments thread on reddit/r/polyamory.

The article is a remake of one that Young published in the Boston Globe last July 21st:

The real threat to marriage, gay or straight

By Cathy Young
With same-sex marriage gaining legal victories and public acceptance, a new debate is percolating: Will the change in marriage rights lead to change in the nature of marriage — such as a reassessment of monogamy?...

Last month, an article in Gawker, a left-leaning website, focused on same-sex marriages that allow extramarital sex....

Some who are monogamous, such as Cathy Marino-Thomas, a lesbian activist quoted in Gawker, still praise gay culture’s sexual openness and suggest that more heterosexual “honesty” on the subject would reduce “the stigma around sexual freedom.”

But would lifting this stigma do more harm than good? Some respond with, “Don’t like open marriage? Don’t have one” — a variant on similar statements about gay marriage.

Yet the analogy fails. Your heterosexual marriage cannot suddenly turn gay; your monogamous marriage can turn non-monogamous. Yes, open marriages require mutual consent — but with cultural strictures removed, spouses who want exclusivity will have far less leverage to demand it.

The case for marriage equality has been so compelling in part because opponents could never coherently explain how same-sex unions would damage or cheapen marriage. Acceptance of non-monogamy would do both — in a way that old-fashioned “dishonest” adultery cannot, since it doesn’t challenge the ideal of sexual exclusivity as an essential marriage feature....

But there is a visible media trend of sympathetic coverage for non-monogamous relationships — and, at least judging by discussions on liberal websites, a growing number of people who feel that being “judgmental’’ toward open or multipartner relationships is intolerant.

This trend should be opposed by everyone who cares about marriage.... No one wants to stone adulterers. But if there’s anyone who belongs in the closet, it’s people, gay or straight, who want to enjoy the social privileges of marriage and keep their “sexual freedom” too.

Yay cheating and closets. Here's the whole article (July 21, 2013).

To which Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, published a rejoinder on PolicyMic:

More Than Half Of Americans Have Cheated, So Why Aren't We Talking About Open Marriages?

Cathy Young penned an op-ed for the Boston Globe titled "The real threat to marriage, gay or straight," where she seems to imply that extra-marital affairs are equal parts rare and harmful to people and their relationships. Her confusion is as obvious and naïve as it is familar, so I hope to clear things up.

Young suggests that open relationships, or non-monogamy, are the "real threat" to marriage, when in fact the true threat is the current structure of the institution itself.

...If you need cultural strictures in place to give you the leverage to coerce your spouse to be monogamous because you want exclusivity, you have a serious problem. A couple should be monogamous because that is the relationship style they both choose, not because "everyone else is doing it."...

Young says that, "Eventually, monogamists may be chided … for being so fixated on sexual fidelity" as a means of arguing against non-monogamy. But I think it's time people were "chided" for following the band instead of thinking for themselves. Monogamy is a perfectly valid choice — to be thoughtfully chosen and carefully adhered to. Otherwise it is simply a mockery of itself.

Sexual exclusivity is not an essential marriage feature.... Marriages can exist without sexual exclusivity because they do exist without sexual exclusivity.

...All of this prudery and Puritanism makes people think they have to cheat in order to have the non-monogamous marriage they desire, all because judgmental people like Young and others are waiting in the wings....

...The logic that Young and others like her lay claim to is anything but. Her words and ideas are hurtful, archaic, and infantile. But more than anything, they are dangerous, particularly these:

"But if there's anyone who belongs in the closet, it's people, gay or straight, who want to enjoy the social privileges of marriage and keep their 'sexual freedom' too."

No one belongs in the closet. So I want to offer these words to anyone that Young and others like her have hurt with their thoughtless ramblings.

Don't listen to them. Be who you are. Love who you love. Live how you would live if there were no Cathy Young, oppressive religion, or Disney movie telling you how to live....

The whole article (July 30, 2013). It also appeared in the Las Vegas Sun Jan 18.



January 13, 2014

The Garden of Chloe: Indie movie of a triad's homecoming is in the works

Another poly crowdfunding project is about to happen, following the ones for The Ethical Slut webseries, Lutine: Le Film, and the books More Than Two and Stories for Unique Families.

This one will be for Johnny Robinson's feature-length movie The Garden of Chloe, "a coming-out story about a middle-aged woman in a long-term V triad," Robinson says. He continues,

Here's the story:

Chloe returns with her two male companions to her home town to take a teaching job and reunite with her family and community. She fears these new bonds are at risk as she becomes more and more cornered into revealing the true nature of her closeted relationships.

In the first half of the film we discover her daily life through the eyes of her sister Ginny. Ginny struggles to wrap her head around how honesty can replace jealousy and love does not diminish when it is shared.

Eventually Chloe finds that the avoidance of public reprisal is too costly to her own authenticity.

This is a micro budget feature-length drama to be shot this spring in central Illinois. This movie needs interest and support! Check out the web page, see the short related videos and if you like it please help me spread the word.

Here's the movie's website, with lots of pix, background material, and several videos, including discussions with the actors about their characters and this prequel:

On watching this, I had some doubts about the acting and the slow pace. Robinson responded,

I agree that there was some overacting in "Chloe Returns"; these are theatre actors and they need to be dialed back for film. This was our first time working together and they'll get the hang of the medium as we move forward. It was a moody nostalgic piece. We will shoot the actual movie in March, April and May.

Producer/director Johnny Robinson (left) with Michael David Myers and Kelly Lynn Hogan (Martin and Chloe).

Also on the website is Robinson's representative list of ménages à trois in the movies, where he notes that they generally fall into three inadequate tropes:

1) The triad as a solution to a love triangle. In this category, the polygamy is only introduced in the last 10 minutes of the film as a happily-every-after. It is never fully described.

2) The threesome as a soft-focus sexual fantasy come true. This reckless adventure can't endure and is usually destructive. There are many movies in this category.

3) A conflicted compromise that endures throughout life, in spite of the participants' efforts to resist it.

About modern polyamory, he writes, "I believe it has never occurred in the movies, not the way I am depicting it. Chloe's ménage à trois is a day to day life. It doesn't begin or end in the movie, it is never really threatened, it is simply there. The conflict in the movie is caused by the larger society's reaction to it, and the challenge that creates for Chloe.

"I don't tell people the movie is about a triad. I say it is about the challenge of being yourself when the outside world resists. I normalize the triad by making it a given."

The project's Facebook page. Pinterest.

The crowdfunding project is not yet announced, but watch for it soon.



January 8, 2014

"Bisexual: A Label With Layers"

New York Times

The overlap between polyfolks and bisexuals is striking. There's a fair amount of evidence that roughly 40% of self-identified polyfolks say they are bisexual compared to just a few percent of the general population, and that in the other direction, a similar fraction of bisexuals consider poly to be their preferred relationship model.

Bis were also found to outnumber gay men in a Pew Research report last August. The B is the most numerous letter in the LGBT acronym. But the report also found bis to be almost three times more likely to be closeted than either gays or lesbians.

A New York Times article explores why, and how this might be changing, following the recent coming out of Olympic diver Tom Daley.

Bisexual: A Label With Layers

Tom Daley Comes Out as Bisexual, Igniting L.G.B.T. Debate

Left: Tom Daley, far left, and the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Right: Actress Cynthia Nixon, at left, had children with a man before having a son, Max, with Christine Marinoni. justjared.com/Cosmo via FameFlynet; Brian Ach/ID-PR via AP

“Of course I still fancy girls.”

Those six little words, tossed off like a request to please hold the mustard, were among the most deconstructed in Tom Daley’s YouTube video last month, in which the 19-year-old British Olympic diver announced that he was dating a man.

Leaning against Union Jack pillows, he continued, “But, I mean, right now I’m dating a guy, and I couldn’t be happier.” Mr. Daley’s message was sweet and simple, and gay rights advocates seemed thrilled to welcome an out-and-proud athlete into their ranks....

But the cheers were premature, or at least qualified. Despite the trending Twitter hashtag #TomGayley, Mr. Daley never used the word “gay,” and there was the matter of his still fancying girls. While many commenters embraced the ambiguity (“I don’t care if Tom Daley’s gay or bi or whatever ... He’s still fit,” one tweeted), others raised eyebrows.

Was it a disclaimer? A cop-out? A ploy to hold on to fans? Was he being greedy, as some joked? Or was he, as the video’s blushing tone suggested, simply caught up in the heady disorientation of first love, a place too intoxicating for labels?

Whatever the answer, Mr. Daley’s disclosure reignited a fraught conversation within the L.G.B.T. community, having to do with its third letter. Bisexuality, like chronic fatigue syndrome, is often assumed to be imaginary by those on the outside. The stereotypes abound: bisexuals are promiscuous, lying or in denial. They are gay men who can’t yet admit that they are gay, or “lesbians until graduation,” sowing wild oats before they find husbands.

“The reactions that you’re seeing are classic in terms of people not believing that bisexuality really exists, feeling that it’s a transitional stage or a form of being in the closet,” said Lisa Diamond, a professor at the University of Utah who studies sexual orientation.

Population-based studies, Dr. Diamond said, indicate that bisexuality is in fact more common than exclusively same-sex attraction, and that female libido is particularly open-ended. That may explain why female bisexuality is more conspicuous in popular culture, from Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” to “The Kids Are All Right” and the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.” (That straight men may find it titillating doesn’t hurt.)

In a recent Modern Love essay in The New York Times revealing her relationship with another woman, the actress Maria Bello wrote, “My feelings about attachment and partnership have always been that they are fluid and evolving.” Before marrying Bill de Blasio, Chirlane McCray identified as a lesbian, which has become part of the progressive credentials of New York’s first family.

...Lesbians are not immune to this kind of wariness. Even after Ms. McCray married Mr. de Blasio, some of her “lesbian-separatist friends,” as The New Yorker put it, refused to accept her new life in Park Slope....

“Among the younger generation, I’ve seen much more openness about bisexuality in both men and women, and often a rejection of all labels,” Dr. Diamond said. “They’re more open to the idea that, ‘Hey, sexuality is complicated, and as long as I know who I want to sleep with it doesn’t matter what I call myself.’ ”

Read the whole article (paper edition dated January 5, 2013). If that link fails, you can read the text here.

See also Victoria Bond's Three Problems for Bisexuality published on HuffPost Gay Voices three days ago:

...In reading the flurry of pieces that emerged from this hotbed of bi cultural activity this fall and winter, three things stood out as making bisexuality more confusing than it actually is....

1. The idea that female sexuality is utterly mysterious.
2. People not labeling their sexuality at all.
3. Disbelief in bisexuality altogether.



January 5, 2014

The bright poly future... and some dark sides: Part 2

"Leftovers," by Kimchi Cuddles. Used by permission. 

Following up with the flip side of my previous post, here are some topics that are more troubling. We all know about the standard poly problems: time management, jealousy management, upset relatives, friends or employers; the potential use of poly as a weapon in custody disputes, the bother of careful STI prevention. People also often imagine that we have problems we actually don't.

But as the world grows more poly-aware and -tolerant, and as more people choose to try this way of life, other problems may emerge.

Here are three examples that showed up lately on the poly internets.


1. "Polyamory + Aging = Loneliness?" An articulate essay on being left old and alone by "Shipwrecked," a man in his early 40s:

I practiced polyamory from 1995 through 2010, in a progressive West Coast city with a large and vibrant poly community. I've attended countless poly workshops and poly-friendly gatherings, and read pretty much all of the major poly books. But despite all this I ultimately ended up alone, and lonely.

I'd like to state the reasons this happened, since I believe they're reasons specific to polyamory, but which I've yet to hear any member of the poly community articulate a solution for.

1. The pool of potential partners drastically shrinks with time.

A recent TED Talk by psychologist Meg Jay brought this home for me, when she described dating in one's 20s as being like playing musical chairs: you're merrily changing seats, but suddenly realize the music has stopped and you're the one left out. Of course, in theory with polyamory this doesn't have to happen, but in practice many of the people who claimed to be polyamorous when they were younger eventually transition to monogamy. In fact, in my case this happened with every single one of the people I used to date fifteen years ago....

2. As polyamorous people age, the only spaces in their lives tend to be for secondary rather than primary partners.

Even among the once-poly folk who don't transition to full monogamy, if they have room for you at all as they age it's probably as a secondary partner. I realize that splitting hairs over definitions is something our community dearly loves, but once they're boiled down here's what most definitions of being a secondary really mean: you're expendable....

3. Polyamorous dishonesty and/or self-deception is often harder to detect than the monogamous variety.

I realize that sounds insane, but hear me out....

4. A history of polyamory diminishes your ability to find partners outside the poly community.

Unfortunately, it's easy to underestimate how repugnant polyamory is to much of the population....

5. Polyamory creates constant reminders of your own aging and associated loss of attractiveness.

The previous four points were more about how, despite its best intentions and hype, polyamory can paradoxically result in fewer partners than monogamy (i.e. zero rather than one). By contrast, this point and those following it are more about how it can increase your subjective feeling of loneliness regardless of how many partners you actually have.

This one is pretty simple. In permanent monogamous relationships people tell each other that they're still attractive, or "still as beautiful as the day we met".... But even if there weren't a single grain of truth to it, at least the fact of your loss of the ability to attract new partners isn't constantly thrown in your face.... As time goes on, you steadily see fewer and fewer of your invitations accepted....

6. Constantly hunting for partners can blind you to the other good things in life for which age isn't a barrier....

Why I Took the Time to Write This

Despite what my experience of polyamory has been so far as I've aged, I am still willing to keep an open mind. So, maybe someone here actually will be able to point out a reason why the odds aren't as bleak as they look to me....

But failing such a reason, I at least want to know that I said what I could.

Again, I have no moral problem with polyamory, and in fact believe that for the young it's much better than serial monogamy. But when you get to your 30s, if there's anyone still in your polyamorous life whom you could see yourself spending the rest of your life with, at least consider proposing exactly that while there is still time....

Read the whole essay (Nov. 11, 2013) and the many good comments. I commented, in part,

Simply by numbers, this problem ought to be self-solving. If there come to be more than a few people in this situation — aging, poly, wanting a permanent life partner, and actively looking for the same — they can advertise and find each other.


2. Poly and kids when the kids are teens breaking away. Humans are evolved to break loose from their birth families after puberty and strike out on their own. We are not sessile creatures like sponges; youth rebellion and walkabout spread the species across the globe. Modern life requires most teens to stay in the birth home longer than nature intended, IMO, and everyone knows how the tensions can go bad for both sides.

That's especially a problem — for both sides — when the parents are leading a socially disapproved lifestyle. Even more so when they have been less than stellar in their parenting, and how many parents are perfect?

Here's a post by a teen daughter embarrassed and humiliated at school, on Mommyish.com:

My Parents Are Polyamorous And I Hate It

I’ve been following the Polyamorous Mom’s articles with great interest, and I wanted to share my story. I’m not a mom, but I’m the daughter of two polyamorous parents.

I’m the all-American teen. Cheerleader, homecoming court, mostly A’s and the occasional B or two, cross country, charitable, and just kind of making my own way. I would say average except my parents are in a triad with this woman who I used to call mom. I haven’t called her that in years, but that’s a story for another time.... My parents told me when I was younger. I didn’t really care. I was too young to fully comprehend it. They just told me that they loved me, weren’t breaking up, and wanted to share their love with others. Being the naive kid, I just like said whatever and went back to playing with my toys.

I’m older now, and I’m struggling with why they can’t be normal? Their girlfriend has been with my mom since I was two, and they’ve been a triad since I was four. I have a half-sibling. Yeah, dad and his girlfriend had a kid together. My parental units wanted to scream their love from the top of the skyline and jump on couches like Tom Cruise, so everyone knows. We live right outside of Hollyweird, but they never stopped to consider if their need to be out of the closet would later affect me or my sibling.

Last week, my school had parent-teacher conferences at my new school. I thought just my mom and dad were going to attend. Since they’re not hiding it from anyone, they told all of my teachers that she was their girlfriend and that she’d be an active part in my education. I go to a Catholic school, and yeah, the example set before me doesn’t look too hot. They were showing affection like holding hands with each other, and it embarrassed me....

They never asked how I felt about them inviting my girlfriend or telling the office staff that she had the right to view my records or anything like that. It’s hard enough being a teenager without parental units complicating the high school experience and making it worse. I feel like everyone is talking about me now. The way teachers look at me says it all....

I should be happy because I’ve got three “parents,” but I’m miserable. I’m begging them to send me to boarding school overseas, so I can experience something normal....

Read her whole article (Nov. 14, 2013).


3. Abuse. A happy benefit of poly, especially networked poly, is that it helps exclude abusers. Ideally, it trains people to believe in their rights to their boundaries and to stand up for their needs fearlessly. It also provides support from intimates who can spot the early signs of abuse. An abuser typically tries to isolate his victim from family and friends. A healthy poly network will call this out and intervene.

But sometimes, gang-ups can work in the other direction. At Feminspire:

Accidental Polyamory: How I Found Myself in an Abusive 3 Person Relationship

...Tina and Andy were inseparable and adorable. I loved them both from the moment I walked into their home.... My first night there found us having a somewhat light-hearted discussion about my ex’s suspicions regarding their intentions toward me. It was mentioned that they did, actually, really love the idea of my being part of their relationship. Not just in the bedroom, but as a permanent third party....

I had never engaged in this sort of relationship before. I didn’t even realize that other people had. My relationship experience with women was limited, but I felt a connection with Tina that I had never found with another female. Andy seemed like a really sweet man, and while I adored him as a person, I wasn’t attracted to him sexually. However, it was a package deal, and I figured it was worth a shot.

At first, everything seemed to fit like a glove.... [But] the first time we were intimate with each other was a mixed bag of feelings for me. On the one hand, I enjoyed being physical with Tina; she was passionate, gentle, and sensual in our lovemaking. However I felt quite awkward sharing that moment with Andy looking on, and occasionally participating. There was no real direct sexual contact between he and I, which I was actually quite grateful for.

...Our relationship outside of the bedroom was faring little better, due in large part to Andy’s growing jealousy of the chemistry and emotions shared between Tina and I. When we tried to broach the subject with him, he became moody, sullen, and volatile. She suggested to him that perhaps he simply needed to fuck me and be done with it. I was totally against this idea, however in the end, I figured that if it could help repair the damage in our relationship it was worth a shot.

Andy and I went into the bedroom and awkwardly began to undress. He was very cautious and kind, making sure to continually ask me if everything was all right, if I was ok. I lied through my teeth, wanting the whole ordeal to be over and done with as quickly as possible. There are no real words to describe how uncomfortable it was, how violated I felt.

...I believe that Andy could tell how uncomfortable I was and that I had zero interest in him sexually, which seemed to fuel his anger even further.... I remember hearing them fight in the other room frequently, and soon they stopped trying to hide their fights from me at all. Instead Andy would explode at me in front of Tina, who had given up on her attempts to defend me, and also began to join in on the attacks. Suddenly, it was my fault that their relationship was damaged. It was my fault that they were fighting all the time.

The emotional abuse escalated to a point where I was physically afraid of them, specifically Andy.... Finally, during one particularly terrifying episode, I knew it was time to leave....

The whole article (May 7, 2013).


Another abusive relationship, with a manipulative, gaslighting "celebrity in the BDSM community," as told on xoJane:

It Happened to Me: My Polyamorous Boyfriend Cheated on Me

My relationship with David started off with a stacked deck: we lived 1,000 miles apart from each other, he is a generation older than me, and he is polyamorous, while I had only ever been monogamous.

Despite these challenges, we had a loving and stable relationship. He met my family, I met his wife and girlfriend. We communicated almost every day, saw each other as often as we could and after a year and a half together, I made a solid plan to move to his city. Our relationship was low on rules and high on freedom.

The only set boundaries were: 1) tell the other person if you start a new relationship and 2) keep our private life off of social media.... Trust is a huge hurdle for me, but he assured me that he’d be the best man I’d ever had. That polyamory made it easy to be honest.

...That’s when I made my plan to move. There was just one nagging problem in the back of my mind: Rose.

I’d met Rose the year before at an event, and had heard of her in conversation so I knew she was a casual friend of David and his girlfriend.... She started responding to my tweets rather aggressively.... I’ll admit it: Her blog was pretty hot. I started reading it for the material, but then I started to piece together some details and realized that she was writing about David. I was confused for a while, as I thought he would have told me about their relationship....

...I asked him in casual conversation if he was the guy she called by that name. I told him I wasn’t upset, but I was confused and worried I had been doing polyamory wrong and had done something to complicate our communication.

He said they had been lovers years ago, but now they were just friends.... He said she had a lot of emotional troubles, so he provided her with support. But they were not “dating or anything.” I filled him in on the Tumblr and he said he hadn’t seen it, that it was all fiction, that he felt his privacy had been compromised and he had to go lay down. I was baffled....

I requested that he talk with her about her online behavior as it was making it very hard to believe him and I felt like I was going Ophelia-level mad....

David is a “celebrity” in the BDSM community [BDSM = Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism], and he reminded me that a price of dating him is that people would always be talking about him. His advice: ignore, ignore, ignore. He said she is delusional and an “obsessed fan”....

...I wrote an email telling him I thought he was lying all along, and included links to things I saw.... The photos were of her bruise-covered breasts, taken the same week she was helping him around his house.

His response? A brief email. He said that I could believe him or what is said about him....

I was even more confused a few days later, when he followed up with a phone call, during which he called me a “monster” and a “crazy psychotic bitch.” Rose was just a “poor broken [31 year-old] kid” who needed him, but I was mean and manipulative. I had no empathy or compassion for her, and I had abandoned him....

The weeks following that phone call had me going over everything in my head all day, every day. Maybe he wasn’t lying. Maybe everything she wrote really was a delusion, and everyone else was just knew about it and ignored it because she’s sick. Maybe I really am crazy and a monster. I sent an apology text begging for forgiveness....

...One click told me all I needed to know: She is one of his “core partners,” that Friday nights are their date night, that they are in a “sexual/romantic” relationship. That same day she made four posts about how that day was their third anniversary. He had been hiding his partnership with her for the entirety of our relationship.

I went nuclear and emailed him, and got this response: “Believe what you want to believe.”

I am no stranger to the BDSM community, and weirder things have happened.... Of course the fallout has all been documented on social media, too. He writes about people needing to be right vs. being happy and folks jumping to conclusions....

Read the whole article (Nov. 22, 2013). And look up gaslighting.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: The case above is mild. Be wary of "celebrities in the BDSM community," especially those who deny that it has — like the U.S. military and the Catholic priesthood — a problem of rape, victim-shaming, and coverup. For all the talk about the BDSM community ethic of "safe, sane, consensual," I keep hearing evidence that genuine abusers and sociopaths are attracted to the BDSM world in outsized numbers, because they have learned they can operate pretty freely in it. Victims are especially reluctant to go to the police because their lives would be exposed and they may be dismissed with "You asked for it," even if they then had a safeword ignored.

Predators swim toward opportunities. Sociopaths tend to be charming, charismatic, persuasive, skilled at manipulation, and they often rise to the top. And sometimes throw the best parties, where they scout victims. This problem will continue until the BDSM world changes its culture to hear and care for victims, to support them rather than the victimizers even if it means getting disinvited from the best parties, or threatened — and to call out serial abusers and threat-makers by name, in public. Are you listening, Fetlife?

Some BDSMers, I'm told, advise playing only in clubs and other group spaces with enough people around to watch out for you, especially if you're new to the area.