Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

March 31, 2014

Poly article from Germany goes global

For the last couple years I've hardly mentioned polyamory in the news in non-English-speaking countries. There's too much easier stuff to keep up with! But coming onto the radar last month was an article from Germany (in English) that Agence France-Presse (AFP) distributed around the world.  It was published in the US on Yahoo News (it's now down), and in the English editions of media in France, Japan, Philippines, South Africa (twice), China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Kenya, North Africa, Singapore, Peru (in Spanish), Quebec (in French), at the worldwide site Reporters 365, and probably more.

In Germany, polyamory strives to 'come out'

By Frederic Happe

Berlin (AFP) - Misunderstood, dismissed and often hidden, polyamory, or having several romantic relationships simultaneously, is slowly coming out into the open in Germany aided by the efforts of a counselor and support network.

At the age of 19, Christopher Gottwald decided he didn't want a monogamous relationship and spent the next decade searching for a partner who shared his outlook. He eventually found her and their "open" relationship has lasted 13 years.

With this experience behind him, three years ago he set up his own polyamory advice and information service, offering practical and emotional help to aficionados as well as seeking to dispel myths or misunderstandings.

"I no longer believe in monogamy. For anyone," Gottwald, now in his 40s, told AFP.

"I don't believe we are made to be (faithful). The best thing is to say to yourself 'let's, us two, live together while remaining open to what may happen'," he said.

Gottwald organises conferences, workshops and individual chats on polyamory and helps run the PolyAmore Netzwerk association which has 120 members in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

He insists on the emotional aspect of the practice in which a relationship is conducted with more than one person but with the consent of all. "It is about love. It's not just free sex where you can sleep with whomever you want," he argued....

Gottwald argues it is also simply the natural next step on from serial monogamy....

Read the whole article (Feb. 12, 2014).


Christopher Gottwald
Gottwald has done a number of media appearances as well as his talks and workshops. I don't know how well he is connected to Germany's larger poly community, which a few years ago was estimated at 10,000 people. Here's his partial collection of press clips.

His website.

He was featured in a different German article around the same date: Liebe ohne Grenzen: Wie polyamore Beziehungen gelingen können (Love Without Limits: How to succeed in polyamorous relationships) (Lampertheimer Zeitung, Feb. 16, 2014).

Here are my past posts regarding Germany (including this one; scroll down).


In other news, the fourth Atlanta Poly Weekend happens in just two months, June 6 - 8! The registration price goes up a bit tomorrow (April 1). It's held in a nice hotel on Atlanta's northern perimeter. Last year's APW had more than 200 people all told. Here's my writeup of APW 2012, and more from me from APW 2013.


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March 26, 2014

In a far corner of the Earth, representing well in a fancy style mag.

Scoop Magazine (Perth, Australia)

"A local magazine published an article about me and my partners!" writes Madge Carew-Hopkins from Western Australia. "I'm really happy with the way it turned out :) "

She's on the right in the pic below. Scoop is a thick, glossy fashion/consumer/style magazine "showcasing the best of Western Australia." The three-page article is one of a series of four about people living alternative lives "on the edges"; the others are body modifiers, nudists, and a Buddhist nun.

From left: Kitty Byrne, Paul Wright, and Madge Carew-Hopkins.

Madge Carew-Hopkins, an engineer in her mid-twenties with close-cropped hair and a forthright manner, takes out a graph to help explain her love life. It looks like something that might have hung in your high-school chemistry lab. Line thickness denotes relationship significance, it's colour coded for gender, and a web of connecting lines, suggesting chemical bonds, fuse people together. All seven of them, to be precise.

...The people that sit with me around their kitchen table do cross-stitch and collect Dr. Who paraphernalia. They're measured, methodical, and whip-smart. At times, in fact, they tackle love as they would an equation.

Madge tells me that in the Perth polyamorous community, people tend to fall into one of two categories: those who are "a bit hippie" and practice tantra and free love, and "geeks" — "people who have thought about it and said, 'Well, this is really logical.' "...

Read the whole article as online magazine pages you zoom and flip. It's a beauty. (Autumn 2014 issue; March-April-May are autumn in the Southern Hem.) Replies Libertyhawk3 on reddit.com/r/polyamory, "you guys are adorable! Thanks for having the courage to be open and present a good example of the community!"



March 24, 2014

"Relationship Anarchy Basics," and others

On the radical edge of polyamory is Relationship Anarchy, or RA. It's similar to the free-agent model of poly but in addition, recognizes no privilege for romantic or sexual relationships over friendships, family relationships, or others.

The Good Men Project just published this long, interview-format article about RA:

Relationship Anarchy Basics

By Marie S. Crosswell

What is relationship anarchy?

...A relationship anarchist believes that love is abundant and infinite, that all forms of love are equal, that relationships can and should develop organically with no adherence to rules or expectations from outside sources, [and] that two people in any kind of emotionally salient relationship should have the freedom to do whatever they naturally desire both inside their relationship and outside of it with other people.

When, where, how, and by who did relationship anarchy get started?

It’s unclear.... It’s definitely a philosophy that’s recently evolved out of the polyamorous community.... In the last couple years, more poly individuals have begun to explore the idea of relationship anarchy, but at this point, it’s a very new idea.

How does relationship anarchy differ from polyamory?

...Relationship anarchy goes further than polyamory in its departure from the monogamous norm. Relationship anarchy does share with polyamory an overall rejection of sexual and romantic monogamy, its common rejection of legal/institutional marriage, etc, but it also seeks to completely break down what I like to call the Romantic Sex-Based Relationship Hierarchy by erasing relationship categories determined by the presence or absence of sex and/or romance....
A polyamorous person can be and often is just as much a sex supremacist or a romance supremacist as a monogamous person.... A relationship anarchist does not place an emotional ceiling on nonromantic/nonsexual friendship or on a sexual friendship that’s devoid of “romance.”

...Okay, this sounds really complicated and confusing. Could you give me some concrete examples of relationship anarchy in action?

Read the whole article (March 22, 2014). It originally appeared on The Thinking Asexual blog (May 7, 2013).

Two other articles of hers at The Thinking Asexual, new in the last few days:

The Word “Partner” and Relationship Anarchy (March 24, 2014).
Relationship Anarchy vs. Nonhierarchical Polyamory (March 20, 2014).

She has written for the Good Men Project before, including The Big, Fat Polyamorous Asexual Post (March 10, 2014).


● An article at Louisa Leontiades's MultipleMatch.com: Relationship Anarchy Is Not Polyamory (Dec. 23, 2013).

● Article by Wes Fenza at Polyskeptic.com: Relationship Anarchy and The Spectrum of Relationship Control (Oct. 12, 2013).

● A thread on RA at the Polyamory.com forum: Anarchy! (Um... Relationship Anarchy, that is.) (Nov. 2013).

● A previous article of mine, with more links: From Monogamish to Relationship Anarchy: a Widening Poly Spectrum (May 18, 2012).


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March 17, 2014

Dear Prudence column: "Poly, Pregnant, and Proud"

Slate, various newspapers

Dear Prudence (Emily Yoffe) has been getting friendlier over the years toward the poly questions she fields. This time she doesn't snark about it at all.

Poly, Pregnant, and Proud

Q. My Sister Is Polyamorous and Pregnant. My sister Julia recently told our family that she and her husband Jake are in a polyamorous triad with their best friend Tony. The three of them have been together for as long as Julia has been with Jake (seven years) and all of their friends know that, essentially, Tony is Julia's other husband. They decided not to tell our more traditional family (with the exception of our brother) until Julia became pregnant, as she is now. She does not know whether the child is Jake's or Tony's, but both men plan to raise the child equally.

Our brother claims they're an amazing set and that Julia has never been this happy. My parents, my husband, and I are more realistic and feel queasy about the arrangement. I cannot imagine how their child will feel, growing up with half siblings (Julia plans to have children by both men) and with their mom sleeping with two men. I don't know how they will provide the children of this "marriage" with stability. My husband doesn't want Tony around our children, even though Julia has asked that we now treat him as her husband in addition to Jake. I love Julia but am nauseated by her lifestyle choice. I think eventually it will end disastrously. How can I support this?

A: You don't have to "support" it, you just have to act like a decent person. Jake, Julia, and Tony are a threesome. Your sister is not asking for your advice or approval, she is just asking to be treated politely. You don't have to say any more to your kids other than Uncle Tony is Aunt Julia and Uncle Jake's good friend. Kids are remarkably flexible about these things. I fail to see how having Uncle Tony—presuming he's a good guy—come along on visits will harm your children in any way. If your kids have questions you answer them honestly in an age appropriate way. Which will mostly consist of, "The three of them are really close friends. I agree it's kind of unusual, but they are happy all living together." Julia is pregnant so she's the one who should be dealing with nausea. Eat a couple of crackers, settle your stomach, and welcome this new addition to the family.

The original (March 17, 2014).



March 14, 2014

A men's mag out of its depth

British GQ

This article fumbles with some misconceptions and mediocre reporting, or maybe bad editing (for instance, group marriages have always been just one kind of poly). At least the writer went to CatalystCon and one of Reid Mihalko's workshops, so she was exposed to good stuff even if it didn't always take.

Share the love: the return of polyamory

By Anka Radakovich

Rex Features
...This non-monogamous lifestyle is being explored by a small but growing number of folk who want to date other people while already in a relationship, without being called a cheating asshole. It differs from swinging, which is sex only with no emotion. Polyamory is about falling in love. With a bunch of people.

Formerly known as "group marriage", polyamory has its roots in the free-love movement of the late Sixties and Seventies in California.... Today the term "group marriage" means that you cannot date outside your matrimonial ensemble. With polyamory, you can date other poly people. The official dating policy of people on Planet Polywood is: "It doesn't matter who you go home with, as long as it's one of us."

...Peppermint is a 38-year-old "poly activist" I meet at Catalystcon, a sexuality conference attended by sex therapists and marriage counsellors, who says he has "been in a primary relationship with a woman for ten years, has had a girlfriend of five years, and occasionally hooks up randomly with other couples at swingers' parties". What a deal this guy has. "Polyamory's most crucial departure from monogamy is the area of sexual fidelity," he says. "Multiple romantic attachments is polyamory's resistance to the cultural rules of sexual fidelity."

Reid Mihalko and Allison Moon teach a class at various sex shops in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York including the Pleasure Chest in Los Angeles where I attend their seminar, "Poly-curious 101, Understanding Non-Monogomy. " But before I leave, I brush up on my poly pick-up lines like: "Do you five come here often?"

...Sci-fi guy hands me a brochure from Live The Dream, a support group for those inspired by the writings on polyamory by Robert Heinlein and Robert Rimmer. "Many of our concepts on multiple committed relationships come from the books Stranger In A Strange Land and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress," the brochure states....

Read the whole article (online March 12, 2014, and in the March 2014 print issue of British GQ).


March 12, 2014

Kotango: New poly dating/social site soon to launch, say the business pages

For a year and a half we've been hearing that an ambitious dating and social-networking site for the poly and open, backed by Sex at Dawn's Christopher Ryan, was about to happen Real Soon Now. It's named Kotango (originally Kotangle). It's been struggling along in beta but, supposedly, is finally coming together for an official launch in spring 2014. (Update January 21, 2015: It's got more members now, but parts of the site are still pretty clunky.)

At least, so says a long article in the business section of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Where the article diverges from reporting on Kotango, however, it strikes off-key notes that don't help me trust the rest of it. I mean, since when is poly a subset of kink, or only about "sexual adventurers"?

By Kristen V. Brown, Chronicle staff writer

Kotango brings kink and tech together for sexual adventurers

Since moving from Louisiana a few years back, William Winters has ascended to a sort of unofficial throne, the de facto king of the East Bay polyamory scene.

William Winters (photo by Michael Short)
The poly potlucks he hosts have surged in popularity and tripled in regularity. It would appear that in the Bay Area there is an expanding interest in upending the traditional relationship.

But even in a region where alternative sexual cultures thrive in the open, the polyamory community has remained a relatively small circle. And as interest in open relationships grows, so too does a need to reach a larger, more diverse and perhaps even more vanilla crowd.

Kotango, a new social network for those who ascribe (or aspire) to something other than monogamy, intends to do exactly that.

Imagine it as something like a kinky mashup of Facebook, OkCupid and Reddit, a place for the sexually venturesome to connect, cruise for dates and seek out advice.

Or, in the words of Polly “Superstar” Whittaker, a co-founder of the site and leader of San Francisco’s varied sex scene, it’s “kind of social networking for kinky hot nerds.”

...“We wanted a safe place for people to meet, connect and share stories,” said local IT bigwig Andrew, the brains behind the site (he asked to go by first name only, as his kids aren’t aware that he and his wife have an open relationship).

As the polyamory community grows, he said, it needed a “gateway,” something more approachable than sex parties or dinner with a room of open-minded strangers.

Other online fetish networks exist, but, as the Kotango website explains, “a lot of people are looking for a sexy, intelligent community without the sleaze and shame typical of many conventional dating or swingers sites.”...

...Andrew came up with the idea for the site, then passed it along to Christopher Ryan, co-author of the book “Sex at Dawn” and a celebrity in the polyamory community. Kotango launched in beta last year and is slated to debut in full this spring. So far, it has attracted over 5,000 users, about 2,000 of them in the Bay Area.

Here is a snapshot of some of the happenings on the site: a query as to how to tell the kids that mom and dad are polyamorous; a nuanced discussion of the difference between jealousy and envy; and advice for newbies on managing the complex emotions of relations with multiple lovers.

...The site is surprisingly tame; in fact Kotango advises its members to save the sexy shots for themselves. The site’s name is a portmanteau of tango — “unlike other dances, it doesn’t have a pre-determined set of steps,” the website explains — and community, cooperation and connection.

...In a lot of ways, it makes sense that polyamory is the place where new and old San Francisco come together.... “There is a historic relationship between San Francisco and self discovery and renewal,” said Andrew. “In tech and in polyamory, there is this whole idea of reinventing everything.”...

Read the whole article (early March, 2014).

Also, on Social News Daily: Kotango Might Be The Polyamory Social Network That Doesn’t Out You On Facebook (March 7, 2014):

Over on Facebook, polyamory groups have been exploding in size and scope — enter Kotango, which aims to coalesce the social polyamorous community on a single site, away from judgmental monogamous eyes.

...It looks like Kotango will seek to occupy a space on the social venn diagram between Fetlife (which is too BDSM and kink oriented for many poly folk) and Facebook (which, while very well-trafficked, can be unpredictable at best in terms of disclosure.)

...Kotango seems to represent a safe middle ground for poly people who worry about Facebook outings, but aren’t ready for the dick in your faceness of FetLife.

...Aside from this new poly network, just this week, OKCupid finally added a “strictly nonmonogamous” option for users who identify as polyamorous or otherwise don’t adhere to monogamy.

Kotango's About Us page, getting out of date.

(For the record, I have no financial or other interest in Kotango).


Okay, so I guess it's time for a POLY-DATING DATA DUMP. I've been saving up poly online-dating information and advice. Here goes.

OKCupid is the default poly dating resource everyone uses. It's free, enormous, and mainstream; the reason it works as a poly dating site is because it's very customizable for subgroups and special interests — if you know how. If you choose and answer lots of relevant questions about yourself, OKC matches you with people who answered similarly. The key: choose and answer lots of poly-supportive questions such as the ones listed below, and rank many of them as very important or mandatory for matches. Also answer at least 100 other questions (maybe 300 or more), skipping those of low importance to you.

This advice was recently posted by Greenfizzpops, longtime organizer of the South African poly community:

OKCupid (www.okcupid.com) is a very poly-friendly dating site with eerily accurate matching algorithms.

The first thing you need is a great profile. There is some solid generic advice in the do and don't lists in the right sidebar here: www.reddit.com/r/OkCupid.

The next thing you need is to make your profile poly-specific in profile content and match questions, and then politely (extra points for also being lucid, engaging and positive) message people [who show both] poly profile cues and high match percentages.

The perceived best way to use OKC as a poly person is to:

(1) Fill in your profile with the word "polyamory" or "polyamorous" marked as an interest.

(2) Answer at least 100 matching questions, marking the polyamory-related answers as "very important" or "mandatory" for your ideal match to answer that way.

(3) Search for and contact people with high match percentages.

Its not always easy to find the poly-related questions, so here's a helpful list of the ones that qualify in my opinion. These are the direct URLs to the questions; all you need is to already be logged onto your OKC account before you click on the URLs:

Would you consider dating someone who is already involved in an open or polyamorous relationship?

Would you ever consider an open marriage? That means you can sleep with other people.

Would you get upset if your girlfriend/boyfriend flirted in front of you?

If you had a one-night stand DURING a relationship, would you confess to your mate?

Would you consider having an open relationship, where you can see other people?

Would you be upset if you saw your boyfriend or girlfriend checking someone else out?

If you're dating someone, is it okay for your partner to kiss another person closed-mouth, on the lips, as a hello?

If someone chooses to wait for marriage to have sex, that is...

Would you SERIOUSLY date someone now whom you knew you absolutely could not marry?

Do you think that people should be allowed to marry more than one person at a time?

Do you consider yourself a truly honest person, in all aspects of your life?

Would you be okay with your significant other spending a lot of time with one of his/her exes (as a friend)?

Do you consider yourself to be good at clear verbal communication?

Have you ever had multiple romantic partners during the same time period?

Would you date someone who was already in a committed relationship with someone else?

Someone in an open relationship asks you out on a date. You:

Do you believe that it is possible to experience romantic love for more than one person at a time without loving one less because of your love for the other?

Do you believe in monogamy?

Do you take prevention of STD transmission seriously (making sure your partner has been tested, using protection, being upfront if you're at risk, etc.)?

Do you bring up STD results/risk factors before you start fooling around?

Is it okay for a married person to play around with someone with the permission of their spouse?

Do you think it is possible to have more than one soul mate in a single lifetime?

Is it OK for a person in a serious relationship to use OkCupid to make new friends?

Would you consider being part of a commited polyamorous relationship - i.e., three or more people but no sex outside the group?

How would you feel if your partner asked you to get tested for STDs before having sex with you for the first time?

If you had to choose one for the rest of your life, which would you pick?

P.S.: Don't forget — match percentages are worthless without overlapping match questions.

Writes tosii2, "Don't forget the tests (in addition to the questions). There are several that 'measure' how poly you are."


An OKCupid plugin for polyfolks: Ben Jaffe recently wrote a free OKC plugin (for Chrome) that, he says, "makes OKC much better for poly folks [and other minorities]": OKCupid for the Non-Mainstream User. It automates and shortcuts some of the above.


OKCupid like many dating sites can be a zoo, especially if you blunder around uninformed. A typical exchange in a poly Yahoo group:

I'm on OKCupid and my inbox is assaulted daily with "want to have sex" requests from straight men.... OKC is not my friend, in fact it makes me want to turn off my computer forever ;)

[A reply:]

The most effective way I know of to reduce propositions on any online site is to limit the skin you show. Use attractive but "vanilla" photos.... I realize this is not "sex positive" but you are trying to shut out men who never heard of "sex positive"....


* Learn how to flag emails with disagreeable pictures.

* Learn how to block people after the first transgression.

I met Kelly on OKC. But online dating is hard. I probably waded through 100 people I wasn't interested in and met 20 I wouldn't meet again, just to find one Kelly.

Women may find their inbox filling up with driveby propositions by men playing the numbers game (ask 100 random women "Wanna fuck?" and one may say yes.) If you only want to hear from people who actually read your profile, bury this near the end: "If you message me, include aardvark in the subject line so I'll know you've read this." Set a filter to delete replies lacking "aardvark" in the subject line (pick a different word).

OKCupid is always changing, so specific advice may go out of date fast. Nevertheless:

● Michael Rios, who has long used OKCupid with good results, advises, "Be sure to answer at least 300 questions, and skip any that don't speak to you or where none of the answers fit. Then do your match search on Match %, then Friend %." See his discussion of how to use OKC effectively at www.polyinfo.org (the Meet Others tab).

● A reddit thread: Poly and OKC: Share your tips. (2013)

Polytical site's OK Cupid for the Polyamorous, by Polyana in the U.K. (2012)

● Kit O'Connell's 7-part Polyamorous Dating With OKCupid. (2011)

● Pepper Mint's OKCupid Dating Tips. (2010)


Poly dating sites other than OKCupid?. They're out there — a search will turn up a bunch — but many seem dead-ish and I'm not the one to ask. Comments?

One that has been around for many years and is often mentioned, however, is PolyMatchMaker. It currently claims 32,260 members and the posted number creeps up daily, I see. Comments?

And remember, when someone you meet says "You're poly? Oh wow, so am I!", do not assume that the word means the same thing to them that it means to you. "So how do you do poly?" is one of the first things to discuss.

Good luck!


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March 11, 2014

Yes, Laurell K. Hamilton is poly

Unlike many millions I've never read Laurell K. Hamilton's fantasy/horror novels, but people keep telling me they love her poly themes, while others say her portrayals of it are crappy. If you've wondered whether she's poly herself, the answer is yes, as she mentioned again a few days ago:

Ten things I’ve learned from Two Marriages and a Decade of being Polyamorous

1. Do not date drama llamas. Do not date people that are prone to drama, just don’t....

2. Remember that you aren’t perfect either....

3. Love means different things to different people. Do not assume that because your last girlfriend loved getting flowers, that your current girlfriend doesn’t see them as funeral flowers, and is trying to figure out a way to tell you, “Please, stop buying me dead plant matter.”

4. People have different hierarchies in love: I put great sex near the top of my list....

...9. If a woman asks a man, “What are you thinking?” and the man says, “Nothing.” Just believe him....

10. If you’re with a woman that changes her clothes a lot before going out, please, do not get angry about it.... Just budget enough time to let her try on a dozen outfits, before she’s ready to go out. You don’t have to understand why she does this....

Read the whole post (March 8, 2014).

She went into more detail last October, posting to Facebook:

I wished our girlfriend, yes Jon and I are date-dating her, a happy Goth Chick Appreciation Day, yesterday....

No, I'm not bisexual, if I was she wouldn't be the first girlfriend I'd ever had. Jon and I like the term Heteroflexible.

No, I've never tried to date as many people as [star character Anita Blake] dates. 5 was my max and it was too many to give emotional support and care, or time, to everyone.

Polyamorous means to love more, and yes it is a weird mix of Greek and Latin, but it has become widely accepted, so that's the term. Poly has only one real rule, everyone is supposed to know what everyone is doing, or who they're doing. No lying, no cheating, but just communication of epic proportions. If you're prone to jealousy, please do not attempt poly. If you want to sleep with other people, do not bully your spouse into being poly with you, if you aren't so much poly as just wanting to fuck-about. Please keep your cheating asses off our polyamory, and don't blame the fact you can't keep it in your pants on us. And no, we are not swingers, that's a different alternative lifestyle. What's swinging? Google it. You can google Polyamory, too, but don't believe everything you read. (That goes for anything you research on line.)

That got 9,524 likes and 1,478 comments.

Supposedly, a publicity pic posted by Hamilton's assistant to MySpace in 2007. (If you trust what someone said on the internet.)

Update Oct. 17, 2014: And now she announces on her blog that they've just formed a live-in quad:

Our foursome is complete and under one roof, Genevieve and Spike have moved in with us! We are forming a household together. One of the interesting things that’s been happening is that we aren’t getting to sleep until very late. Yes, sometimes it’s for fun and nefarious reasons, but more often it’s just that the conversation that started at dinner keeps going until late. We talk like people who don’t see each other often and have to catch up, but we’re doing it night after night. This is after celebrating four years of dating long distance....


March 7, 2014

Newspaper coins word: Bopo, the "bourgeois polyamorous"

The Globe and Mail (Canada)

Canada's largest national newspaper continues its recent spate of coverage of open and poly households as a wave of the future.

The writer of this article coins a new word. Bopos are the "bourgeois polyamorous," families of "the most conventional members of the 'poly' sub-culture." Especially if they are raising kids.

Sarah, Ayla, Nekky, Hannah and Noah Jamal and Catherine Skinner
(Photo by Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail)

What one family looks like today:
Three partners and kids under one roof

By Leah McLaren

In many ways, Catherine Skinner is a typical stay-at-home mom.

The 37-year-old former actress lives with her family on a 30-acre farm in rural Ontario where she spends her days cooking, knitting and caring for three children.

...But there is one aspect of Skinner’s life that is far from regular: Her family is polyamorous. The man she calls her husband, Nekky Jamal (37), also has a legal wife, Sarah (41).

For the past five years, since moving in with the family, Skinner has been a full partner and spouse to both of them, as well as an adopted mother to their two biological daughters, aged 8 and 10. A year and a half ago ago, she gave birth to a son, who is growing up, like his sisters, with two moms and a dad.

“What I tell the kids is that we have a unique and special family,” she says.

“Not everyone will appreciate it, and some people will be fearful of it, but to us if feels like the most natural, normal thing in the world.”

The Jamal-Skinners are part of a small but noteworthy number of families who are making the choice to raise their children in polyamorous partnerships involving three people or more. Call them bopos (bourgeois polyamorous) or polyfidelitous (the more academic term), they are the most conventional members of the “poly” sub-culture, a group that includes everything from orgy-obsessed swingers to S&M enthusiasts....

...There are no hard statistics on the number of poly families, and few polyamorists are as “out” as the Jamal-Skinners. But academic researchers estimate that anywhere from 3 to 5 per cent of the North American population engages in some kind of consensual non-monogamy.

While still uncommon, poly families have at least become more noticeable....


...Tara and her family eventually moved to one of B.C.’s Gulf Islands where they have found a more socially tolerant community. But she says it’s still difficult: “One woman actually said to me, ‘Why can’t you just have an affair like everyone else?’ ”

It’s this perceived hypocrisy that frustrates many bopos. They point out that while marital infidelity is an open secret in our society, polyamory is still viewed as aberrant. Or, as Skinner puts it, “Most people are polyamorous to some extent. Unlike us, they just choose to lie about it.”

Once you get past the taboo aspect of polyamory family life, the practical benefits begin to emerge. The Jamal-Skinners, for instance, are double income family with a stay-home parent – an enviable set-up for any family with three young children....

Read the whole long article (March 6, 2014).


P.S.: Last chance to see Showtime series.

If you've been meaning to watch Showtime's docu-reality series Polyamory: Married & Dating on demand or online, you've got one month. It will cease to be available after April 8th, and director Natalia Garcia tells us Showtime has no plans to release it on DVD. (Showtime subscription required.)


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March 5, 2014

Elisabeth Sheff gets publicity for book The Polyamorists Next Door

I first met sociologist Elisabeth Sheff over dinner at the 2011 Atlanta Poly Weekend. She had recently been denied tenure at Georgia State University. Her specialty for more than a decade was polyfamilies and their children (she's not poly herself), and she had come to a tough and dispiriting decision.

Something that really matters if you're up for tenure is bringing grant money to your university department. Rather than abandon years of work in favor of something that would bring more grants to GSU — meaning research that would pathologize alt-relationships, thereby accessing the grants available for research into pathologies — Sheff decided to leave and try to make her way on her own.

For 20% off the retail price, see footnote 1
The first major fruit of that effort appeared in November: her book The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families.1 It describes her findings from 15 years of studying polyfamilies and their kids. She's currently on the road to promote the book, giving talks and interviews.

Huffington Post Gay Voices just published an interview with her this morning. Although there is nothing particularly gay about the book or about poly, the gay world seems to be treating polys more and more as fellow travelers in the queer universe.

Additional media appearances, including several podcasts, are listed further below.

Who are 'The Polyamorists Next Door'? Q&A with author Elisabeth Sheff

By Arin Greenwood

...The relationship didn't last. But Sheff's curiosity about polyamory had staying power; she spent some 15 years studying non-monogamous families. The book she wrote based on her research — "The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families" — is a thoroughly interesting, deep look inside this world.

Sex and jealousy, when it's time to open up a family's Google calendar to a new partner, why so many in the poly community are white and affluent — Sheff spoke with HuffPost about all this and more.

The Huffington Post: Is there a typical polyamorous family?

The most common form I found was the open couple, generally a female/male couple that lived together with their children and dated other people who did not live in the household with the couple and their kids. The more people in the relationship, the rarer they are and the more likely it is that the people involved will shift over time....

Poly families’ shared characteristics include a focus on communication and honesty, emotional intimacy with kids and adults fostered through communication and honesty, sexuality kept private among the adults so kids don’t see it even though they can ask about it if they want — and they never want to know, like any other kids, the kids in poly families do not want to know about their parents’ sex lives — dealing with stigma from society and families of origin, challenges deciding to be out or not depending on family circumstances, location and sharing resources so that people get more attention, free time, money, rides, help with homework or life issues, and love.

What makes for a successful poly relationship? How is success defined in poly relationships?

Successful poly relationships are those that meet the participants’ needs. If they continue meeting needs then the relationships continue being successful. If they stop meeting needs because people change or their interests or needs diverge, then it does not have to mean that they failed, only that they are changing form to be something different that meets needs better — at least in the ideal.

Sometimes they crash and burn, hurting people in the process and that is not success. But merely ending or changing form does not mean failure but rather new opportunities to be different....

Some people worry that polyamory is bad for kids. What did you find in your research?

The kids who participated in my research were in amazingly good shape — articulate, self assured, and confident in their family’s love. This positive social outcome was helped along by their parents’ (and their own) race and class privileges because lots of these folks are white, highly educated professionals with middle class jobs, health insurance and white privilege.

On top of those advantages, kids in poly families get a lot of attention from multiple adults who can provide emotional support and practical help on homework or rides home from the movie at the mall.

The downside is that sometimes kids get emotionally attached to a parent’s partners who then leave when things do not work out romantically between the adults. The same thing happens in divorced families in which single parents are dating, and the poly parents use many of the same strategies single parents use, like being very selective, careful and slow about introducing the kids to someone they are dating, and being very clear with the kids about what to expect from the adults in their lives.

The other downsides the kids talked about were too much supervision to get away with anything coupled with the difficulty of keeping a lie coherent with multiple adults, and the problems that come with household crowding....

What are the big rules or guidelines governing sex in the poly community?...

Safer sex agreements mean that fluid transfer is assumed to be taboo unless explicitly negotiated otherwise. Polys routinely use condoms for fluid-producing sex, and have other kinds of sex that does not involve fluid transfer. They also tend to get tested for STIs and share their results in group “show and tell” so everyone knows what everyone else has and sees those people in person to get the sense that they hold the collective health of the group in their hands. This spreads responsibility and empathy.

Polys tend to have more conversations about relationship maintenance than sex, though [when] they do have sex it is often only after extensive communication about feelings, schedules and STIs. All of the discussion and communicating make polyamory a bad choice for people who only want to have no-strings sex....

Most polys try group sex at some point and some of them love it, prefer it to two person sex. More of them tell me that they prefer two person sex and only have group sex occasionally....

...In poly circles, giving someone access to the family’s Google calendar can be considered not only foreplay, but prelude to serious family inclusion....

...How did you do your research? How many people did you talk to, and how did you find them?

I did qualitative research -– what sociologists call ethnography. That involved interviewing 122 people and observing another 500....

There's lots more interesting stuff here. Read on (March 5, 2014).

Commentary on the interview just went up at the San Francisco site sfist.com: Regarding Polyamory, Why Polyamorists Are Mostly White, And How Their Kids Cope, by Jay Barman.


Sheff has had other publicity since the book came out (not necessarily complete):

● Wisconsin Public Radio did a 22-minute interview just as the book appeared (Nov. 18, 2013).

● On the Sex with Dr. Timaree podcast (to listen, click the button on the speaker bar. Nov. 21, 2013.)

● Interview with the Girl With Pen: Bridging feminist research and popular reality (Dec. 26, 2013).

● On Tristan Taormino's "Sex Out Loud" webradio show: Polyamory, Non-Monogamy, and the Current Reality of Relationships (Jan. 17, 2014).

● On The Sex Geeks podcast: Sexology Spotlight: Polyamorous Families (Feb. 18, 2014).


Sheff has a blogsite at Psychology Today titled "The Polyamorists Next Door," with much material based on the book. The index page of all her articles there.

On her website are her journal articles and academic book chapters and some presentations.

Some upcoming speaking gigs.

A recent substantial publication: Children of Polyamorous Families: a First Empirical Look, in the Journal of Law and Social Deviance (Vol. 5, 2013. 95 small pages).

Her Polyamorous Family Study Facebook page.

Sheff and her media mentions have appeared in Polyamory in the News often before.

And, here are my posts tagged "kids" for the past three years.


1. Price discount: The Polyamorists Next Door is published by Rowman & Littlefield. Academic publishers such as this, with their captive markets of students and university libraries, are notorious for high book prices. However, you can get a 20% discount if you order directly and use the 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."

There's also a lower-cost Kindle edition at Amazon.


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March 2, 2014

"This Blended Family Consists of 3 Couples, 3 Kids, and a LOT of Love"

HuffPost Divorce

I'm in the midst of a big editing job: Franklin Veaux's and Eve Rickert's forthcoming book More than Two, which is scheduled to be published May 30th. No cats out of bags from me, but let's just say this book is going to be an Event. It will immediately rank right at the top of the 36 nonfiction books about polyamory published in the last 30 years, and with its depth, insight and seriousity I think it could break out into wider mainstream attention.

It will have a big running start from Franklin's reputation operating the world's most recommended poly site for 17 years, and Eve's depth and organic perspective broadening Franklin's tech-geek braininess — and the time is certainly right, with the public coming to see poly as a New Happening Thing.

I just finished with the chapters on communication techniques and philosophies, when this popped up on my screen:

This Blended Family Consists of 3 Couples, 3 Kids, And a LOT of Love

Hannah (left), Tyler, Shelley, Connor, Jill, Rod and Jack

The interesting thing here is they're not even poly. The six adults, as far as we're told, are in three conventional though remixed couples. They're all interrelated by divorce and remarriage, all of the exes get along well and support each other, and they think of themselves as one big family.

They broaden the polyfamily model beyond its focus on simultaneous multi-person romance. I see this larger model of chosen family as central to how good people will adapt their households to thrive in an increasingly harsh and resource-limited future world. As I've written about before.

How does this group get along so successfully? Especially after they couldn't get along in their first marriages? We're not told much, but I bet they just grew naturally into the kind of skills that Eve and Franklin are teaching in More Than Two. Some people just do.

The article appears in a HuffPost Divorce series on blended families:

By Brittany Wong

You know your family tree is complicated when you need an outline to help others make sense of how you're all connected. That's the case for Shelley, Jill and Kimberly, three stepmoms who've spent years forging a deep bond between their three families for the sake of their kids. "I never imagined I'd be friends with my ex-husband's wife's ex-husband's wife!" Shelley laughs.

The three women tell us a little more about their special friendship and share some of the many ways their kids benefit from it.

How many family members do you have?

Shelley: There are nine members in our immediate blended family -- three couples and three kids. A family tree might come in handy to understand how we're all connected!

Shelley (now married to Tyler, who has an 18 year-old daughter, Hannah, who lives on her own) and Rod (now married to Jill) share 50 percent custody of their son, Connor.

Jill (now married to Rod) and Mike (now married to Kimberly) share 50 percent custody of Jack. We arranged our schedules so our boys are together, in one household, 50 percent of the time. They’re step-brothers but we call them brothers.

How long have you all been together with your spouses?

Shelley: I've been married to Tyler for four years.

Jill: Rod and I have been married for seven years.

Kimberly: Mike and I have been married for four years.

You mentioned that it was vital for everyone to get along in the beginning. Could you elaborate on why that was so important to you all?...

Kimberly: It was important that we all came together for the love of our children and so our kids can depend on all of us at any given time. It’s truly an extraordinary friendship -– we gather happily together on holidays, vacations or just a casual dinner or movie. There is no denying we all have a good time together. It’s more than friendship -– it’s family.

...What makes you proudest of your family?

Jill: I can say I’m most proud when, after all these years, we still get that “look” when explaining who we are to strangers. Just this past weekend while wine tasting with Mike and Kimbo, we told some fellow wine tasters about our situation. I love that I can still make someone have "the look." It’s that, “What? I’m shocked, but how fantastic!” kind of look. But really, what we are doing now will shape the two boys we are raising into strong men who will learn compromise, respect and love....

How does your family manage the stress that comes with being part of a blended family?

Kimberly: We all work through our challenges. In the end we highly respect each other.

Jill: We just communicate. And ultimately that reduces whatever stress I am experiencing.

...Shelley: Forgive yourself and others for whatever has happened in your relationships so you can nurture a healthy, productive and joyful life. I realize this isn’t always easy when emotions are raw, but it can be done over time. Also, be open-minded and adaptable to a family that looks different than your picture perfect family....

Read the whole article (Feb. 28, 2014).