Post Number 1,000: Poly being seen as a next cool thing... and some history
When I began this project in 2005, the future of the poly movement didn't look so promising. Loving More magazine (printed on paper) and its conferences had been the movement's centerpiece since the early to mid-1990s, but Loving More had nearly collapsed after the departure of its sparkplug Ryam Nearing. Newspapers and other media rarely allowed the word "polyamory" to appear in stories — because, we were told, it was unknown to readers, technical-sounding, and not in the dictionary.
Few people had even heard of the concept. Those who did mostly thought "old hippies." An article around that time mused about whether this idea could ever attract more interest or was destined to remain a small, little-noticed corner of the human potential movement.
Nevertheless, things had advanced a lot since my last tries to advocate for group relationships in the early 1980s. At that time I'd given up on finding any kind of movement at all. When I came back in 2005 I was impressed by the quality of the new people who had picked up the ball and the sophistication of their ideas.
But the most active poly site I found was polyamory.livejournal.com with about 1,300 members. The internet gave the impression that the late 1990s had been the high point, or at least the start of a plateau. The breakup of one well-known quad threw much of the community into a panic of self-doubt, as was parodied in this comic.
So I never thought the movement would grow and mature as incredibly fast as it has in these last nine years.
In 2006, the well publicized entry of polyamory into dictionaries seemed to break the dam against the media using the word. As a result, interested people could find something to google. Meanwhile Loving More had gotten back on its feet, the Washington Post gave landmark coverage to Loving More's Poly Living conference in 2008, and in 2009 a big Newsweek feature stirred up national attention. "America's next romantic revolution," they called it. Activity seemed to be increasing everywhere (thanks, people!!). At the beginning of 2008 when Wired announced "Internet Pushes Polyamory to Its 'Tipping Point'," I wrote that we campaigners for poly awareness "sometimes get a sense that big things are actually starting to happen."
In October 2008, a National Polyamory Leadership Summit in New York brought 34 of the movements movers-&-shakers together for the first time. At its next big meeting in February 2009, with 62 attending, it changed its name to the Polyamory Leadership Network. Since then the PLN has enabled communication and networking among a large cadre of poly-awareness activists who had previously been fairly disconnected.
Since then the story has been all about growth and increasing confidence, much greater public awareness, and widening diversity and maturity. There are ever more websites and blogs, social groups and meetups, conferences and gatherings, advice and discussion sites (a few topping 20,000 members, one at 41,000 [update: Polyamory.com has 140,000]), a TV series, and so much media attention that it's become routine. There are now 40 nonfiction books about polyamory, 25 of them published in the last eight years. And we're seeing a demographic shift toward millennials, many of whom take the availability of the concept for granted.
What's next? The poly movement is just one part of wider changes in attitudes about relationships, especially a growing public interest in what sociologists are calling "consensual non-monogamy," or "CNM," in general. A much more dramatic shift, of course, has been the rapid public acceptance of gay relationships. Together these are part of a trend toward relationship choice: people gaining the knowledge and skills, and then seizing the right, to build their intimate lives as they choose.
Which, as Barry Smiler points out, is just another step in the 500-year arc toward freedom and personal agency that defines Western civilization. Which makes it look hard to stop.
Here are some recent straws in the wind of people seeing the poly movement as the future. Some of them may be a little starry-eyed, but here you go.
● Huffington Post:
Are Unconventional Sexual and Romantic Relationships Becoming More Mainstream?
By Douglas LaBier
A recent Pew poll found that millennials have a steadily declining rate of marriage. There are several possible reasons for this, but I think it highlights a broader, changing reality: We're in the midst of a social and cultural evolution regarding the kinds of romantic, sexual and intimate relationships men and women seek and what they experience as fulfilling.
Polyamory: The subject of an [sic] annual conference, polyamory relationships are those in which people have multiple partnerships at once with the full knowledge of all involved. A comprehensive report in LiveScience describes how jealousy works in polyamorous relationships, how children in polyamorous families experience them. It also explores several other new findings, including that some polyamorous people report feeling energized by their multiple relationships and say that good feelings in one translate to good feelings in others.
Open relationships: A variant of polyamory [sic], open relationships received some attention in the 1970s among young baby boomers... and looks like it's re-emerging in new form — now called consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships. In them, committed partners mutually agree not to be sexually and/or romantically exclusive to one another. Some recent research finds, for example, that up to 40 percent of men and up to 25 percent of women in a monogamous relationship said they would switch to a CNM if they lived in a world where everyone had open relationships. Currently, the research finds a continuum: some people are completely monogamous, others are completely nonmonogamous, and many more are somewhere in between.
Polygamy: Stretching the boundary even further, some suggest that polygamy will become increasingly accepted as a form of relationship in our society....
As our society, culture and world become increasingly co-mingled and diverse, we're witnessing a corresponding evolution in what men and women -- straight, gay; younger and older -- look for in the kinds relationship that they want to enter and build....
Read the whole article (Nov. 19, 2014).
● Things polyfolks can teach everyone, from the Psychology Today blogsite:
Stay Monogamous Using Polyamorous Principles
By Kristen Mark
We have recently seen public discourse challenge monogamy; messages noting it as unnatural, unrealistic, and breeding infidelity.... Others have provided evidence that polyamory may be good for you.
...What if couples who wanted to be monogamous could use some of the principles of polyamory in monogamy?
...Prevalence rates of consensual non-monogamy have been noted to be between 4% and 11% . For people who are open to consensual non-monogamy, it works. Consensual non-monogamous couples report high levels of trust, communication, and satisfaction ,. But it isn’t for everyone.
A recent issue of Psychological Inquiry provided a number of scientific articles about the current state of monogamy and marriage. One paper in particular outlined how most of us are guilty of psychologically and emotionally suffocating our romantic partners in monogamous relationships . Another offered a solution to this problem in the form of consensual non-monogamy . Although their paper was incredibly interesting and made a great case for embarking upon a polyamorous relationship, its applicability may be limited to people who are open to consensual non-monogamy. And we know this isn’t the majority of people. So here is how these principles can be applied to monogamous relationships while retaining monogamy:
Don’t expect one person to meet all of your needs.
We expect so much from our partners. We want them to be our best friend, our confidant, our lover, caretaker, and a number of other things all at once. This isn’t possible to get from one person. Find other people to meet some of those needs. Lifting some of the weight from your partner can provide more room to be good at just a couple of those things....
Engage in open and honest communication.
One of the things people in consensual non-monogamous relationships do best is communicate. They have to.... This doesn’t just happen overnight....
Integrate some “space” into your relationship.
...When your partner is doing something where they exert their autonomy, it enhances the feeling of your partner being their own individual, which in turn may enhance desire.
...Integrating consensual non-monogamy principles into monogamous relationships offers the potential for some of the benefits of non-monogamy to be integrated into the lives of many.
Read the whole article with the references and other links (Nov. 14, 2014).
● The crucial role of poly pioneers, at Poly Peeps:
Early Adopters of Open Relating
The term early adopter refers to an individual who is amongst the first to try a new product, technology or service. In our context, it refers to the modern polyamorists; social pioneers who have found monogamy to be inadequate for their needs and who have found a polyamorous model more suited to their proclivities.
Early adopters are the trend setters. These are the individuals who were doing [insert activity here] before it was “cool” and “hip.” And they are eager to remind you of this, as if it were a badge of honor. And so it should be.
...The early adopters of polyamory are... actively seeking to find their own happiness instead of blindly following in the footsteps of prior generations. This group does deserve recognition and applause. These are the brave. These are the strong. These are the social pioneers. Others who follow do so in the trails that these early adopters forged when the terrain was much less tamed.
Who is an early adopter of polyamory? While polyamory has been practiced in its modern iteration for decades, the concept has still not achieved mainstream social acceptance and thus, is not yet “cool.” Of course those who actually engage in the practice know otherwise, but for this to expand to a more mainstream awareness, the early adopters will have to educate and inform the population.
If you are an early adopter, this responsibility falls on you, as it does on me. We possess knowledge and experiences that others are still only curious about. There will be those who become disillusioned with monogamy but will not understand what alternatives and choices they have....
It is not our role to overstep our boundaries, proselytize and impose our relating styles. But in the honoring of consent is where the duty to educate and inform springs forth....
The principles and practices we engage in will, decades from now, be traditions adhered to by future generations.
Read the whole article (Nov. 18, 2014).
● At Elephant Journal, "dedicated to the mindful life":
We Are What We Love: How Polyamory Can Change the World for the Better.
By Krystal Baugher
...For the longest time I’ve been grappling between the theory and the reality of polyamory, which is the idea of being in multiple intimate relationships. I remember the moment when I felt I could dive into the polyamorous lifestyle and I would come out okay in the end. It was actually while I was watching the movie Adaptation.... Two characters' conversation went something like this:
Donald: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn’t have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
Charlie: But she thought you were pathetic.
Donald: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago.
...Even though bell hook’s book, All About Love: New Visions has an overall monogamous tone, I’d like to discuss why her theory and definition of love could, when combined with polyamory, actually transform the world into a much better place....
Read the whole article (Sept. 24, 2013).
● At A Black Poly Man:
Polyamory: The New Fad
Poly family, I'm worried. Polyamory has gained popularity over the last few years.... Mainstream society has finally begun to recognize that heterosexual monogamy might not work for each and every human being. So why am I worried?
Because I don't want this lifestyle to become a fad, a quick cash-in for the media sharks to utilize....
I'm conflicted on this issue as on the one hand I do want people who would identify as poly but have no idea that there is name and, better still, a community for them to join to know about it -- but I loathe the idea of the lifestyle being something for all the Abercrombie and Fitch crowd to "do" on their days off from nothing.... It won't help at all if it's the "hot new thing to try."....
The whole article (March 12, 2014).
● And this post by a mono-identified person to reddit/r/polyamory (23,000 members) just a few days ago:
For a long time, I just lurked in this subreddit and couldn't figure out why I enjoyed reading it so much. It dawned on me one day and decided I'd let you all know why you guys are top notch.
I don't know if it takes more emotional insight or empathy to have successful polyamorous relationships, but you all exhibit those qualities more than any other sub[reddit] I've come across. Some advice doesn't transfer, but the concepts do. I've learned so many things about all relationships -- not just romantic ones. If I'm speaking honestly though, I like coming here because you're all smart, well-versed, patient, understanding, supportive, and can communicate effectively. This sub is a breath of fresh air.
Riding a wave, we are! When is the other shoe going to drop? And when it does, what will be the cause of it?