Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

March 28, 2015

Two more Kickstarter movies: *Monogamish* and a Tamera documentary

Following the Looks Like Love to Me and Twice movie projects on Kickstarter — both met their funding goals — two more poly-related Kickstarts are in progress. Both are documentaries.


This one blew past its original goal of $35,000 in just a few days. After his divorce, filmmaker Tao Ruspoli "took to the road for over 3 years to talk with relationship experts, best-selling authors, relatives, historians, artists, sex workers, philosophers and ordinary people, about love, sex and marriage, throughout history and into the 21st century."

Ruspoli says the filming is done; it includes Dan Savage, Esther Perel, Christopher Ryan, John Perry Barlow, Diana Adams, and Stephanie Coontz among others. "Monogamish is the world's first high-quality, wide-release film that includes interviews with all of the world-renowned experts in this subject area." The money will be used to produce the finished documentary and build publicity for it.

The pitch:

And here's the trailer for the movie itself.

Kickstarter page. Facebook page. Podcast interview with the director.

Healing of Love — Sex, Partnership and the Village

This is a documentary about the long-running Tamera commune in Portugal, "a school and research station for realistic utopia," which spun off from ZEGG in Germany. I wish the director had given the film a clearer title. Maybe that's why its Kickstarter campaign is off to a slow start; it's at $3,618 of $21,000 with 29 days to do.

Tamera, "a global leader on research into new models of love and relationship," has a story that deserves telling — with decades of poly intentional-community building, and apparently successful adaptation and evolution to surmount problems, giving it cred. Hint: think ZEGG Forum. Here's the pitch for the documentary (you can skip through the overlong animated first third).

Kickstarter page. Tamera's Facebook page with some of what they're currently up to.

Interview with the filmmaker.



March 21, 2015

"Mom, I Have Two Boyfriends: How I Discovered I Was Polyamorous at 27"


Lots of people post stories of how they discovered poly, but this one struck me as especially well done. It appeared in Jezebel, a feisty online women's magazine owned by the Gawker Media Group. Jezebel claims to have 15.5 million monthly US readers.

The story is illustrated by the author.

Mom, I Have Two Boyfriends: How I Discovered I Was Polyamorous at 27

By Sophie Lucido Johnson

Almost every girl has a movie that breaks her. It's usually something intended for children, like Cinderella. The girl watches it and gets hooked on this idea that if she has an impossibly tiny waist and can talk to birds, eventually she'll stumble upon the man of her dreams. He'll put her in a carriage, and for some reason she'll be into that.

...I loved all of it. I knew then what most girls know at some point in their life: all I wanted, more than anything, was to be found, rescued, and loved forever.

A little over a decade later, I had been in six long-term, serious relationships. By "long-term" I mean that they lasted over a year, and usually almost exactly a year and a half. By "serious" I mean that marriage was discussed in every one of them — including the first one, when I was 16. I couldn't stand the idea of being in a relationship that didn't have the potential of being my Bed of Roses relationship. The boys I dated were almost all wonderful — they were all "husband material," as my mother put it — but something always went wrong and they all ended. By the time I was in my mid-twenties and still not married with a dog in the yard and a kid on the way, I was pretty annoyed.

Then I got into the relationship that I was absolutely sure was The One.... And then, all of a sudden, it ended.

...I spent a LOT of nights alone in my room watching Gilmore Girls for a while, muttering statements that included the phrases, "alone forever," and "lots of cats." What had gone wrong? How had this perfect relationship broken? Where was Christian Slater when I needed him?

I spent days doing what too many girls do post-breakup: I made a long list of everything that must be wrong with me.... And then at some point, the list got so comically long that it didn't make sense anymore. Suddenly, in a Haagen Dazs daze, I realized something: Maybe the relationship hadn't ended because something was wrong with me. Maybe it had ended because something was wrong with the model.

Right around this time, my roommates, who are a couple (couples are everywhere when you go through a breakup), had started to read this book called Sex At Dawn....

Read on (March 16, 2015).


March 20, 2015

"What life is like in a polyamorous family"

The Week

If you missed this excellent, 3,000-word article when it appeared in Vocative last Christmas Eve (under the title "A Poly Family Portrait: More Love to Give"), it has now been reprinted in a more influential venue: the website of the newsmagazine The Week ("All you need to know about everything that matters").

What life is like in a polyamorous family

David Ryder / Vocativ

Cliff greets me at the door of his family's apartment in Tacoma, Washington, trying to contain an excited golden Labrador mix that has managed to wriggle between his legs. Behind him stands his wife, Britt, who offers a cheery hello, while their 3-year-old son, Gareth, sizes things up from a safe distance.

..."It is very normal, except for the fact that we have one more adult living in our household," says Britt. "The only real difference is that we're buying food for one more person, and that person sleeps in our bed."

Britt, Cliff and Dave are polyamorists, which is to say they are interested in romantic relationships with more than one person. Specifically, they are a triad, meaning they are involved with one another both emotionally and sexually. V formations, which are also common to polyamory, involve one person who has a relationship with two others who don't connect; quads are usually couples that come together, though not all parties will engage. But these formations are just frameworks people use to describe their situations — there are no rules to, and seemingly endless permutations of, poly.

...Britt is quick to point out that no one situation, her own family unit included, is representative of polyamory as a whole. "Poly is a build-your-own relationship structure. Your mileage will vary depending on what the person involved is doing," she explains. "All that really matters is that everyone is ethically treated. As long as everyone is on the same page, it can be whatever you want it to be."...

Read on (March 18, 2015).

The Week online has published several polyamory articles in the last two years. Either someone there likes us, or their stats say these articles get them a lot of hits.


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March 16, 2015

The state of poly research: Guest interview with Eli Sheff

Today we host a guest post by Dr. Anya Trahan and Liane Ortis. They interviewed sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door and founder of the PolyResearchers Yahoo group, on how things currently stand with regard to research into polyfolks and their lives.

Take it away, Anya and Liane—


Who are we? We are two emerging poly researchers as well as members of the poly community. We are/were the first two scholars in our respective fields (that we know of) to embark on dissertations that explore the topic of polyamory. In so doing, we not only carefully review(ed) as much as we could from the general media on the poly movement, but we also review(ed) a growing body of research called Polyamory Studies, which usually only professors and academics read — the stuff that doesn’t make it into the mainstream news. Instead of boring you with a list of things you must read to understand the “researchey” side of polyamory (which we can provide upon request) we thought it would be more fun to talk to a prominent expert, one that we both deeply admire, about why some of this research might be interesting to you.

Dr. Elisabeth Sheff researches the diversity of identities and experiences of polyamorous families. She is the foremost academic and legal expert on polyamory in the United States. Among her many other accomplishments, Sheff provided a valuable contribution to the growing body of scholarship on polyamory by coining terms such as polyaffective, which describes emotionally intimate non-sexual relationships between poly people. She is author of The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families, which presents the findings of her groundbreaking 15-year study. Sheff is collecting submissions for a new collection, Stories from the Polycule: Real Life in Polyamorous Families (to be published by Thorntree Press in October). Sheff has given more than 20 radio, print, podcast, and TV interviews with outlets from Radio Slovenia to National Public Radio, the Sunday London Times to the Boston Globe and Newsweek, CNN to National Geographic Television.

We thank Dr. Sheff for joining us and sharing her thoughts. We also welcome any further dialogue sparked by this post!


What purpose does academic research serve the poly community?

In general, I think academic research can help make the topic less personal: so polyamory can be shown as a social phenomenon, rather than just a whole bunch of slutty people. It can make things more understandable at a less visceral level. Polyamory is something that I think many people find profoundly threatening. Academic research on polyamory can remove the conversation from such a threatening, emergency feeling and place it in a much more calm and rational type of conversation.

Can you give examples of how published research has benefitted and/or harmed the poly community?

I think published research in general can benefit sexual minorities as a whole, and polyamorous research specifically, in terms of using facts, or evidence-based ideas, to counter hysteria or prejudice. For example, The Polyamorists Next Door has helped a couple different people introduce the concept of polyamory to their Child Protective Services workers.

In terms of harm, I haven't observed that aspect. I think I and others who are doing academic research on polyamory have been vigilant about protecting people's identities, and allowing the participants to choose their own level of out-ness. To my knowledge, no one has ever been accidentally outed in my own research, and I know that a majority of other researchers continually stress the privacy aspect. And, in the United States, as well as in many other places across the world, universities have strict IRB (Institutional Review Board) standards for researchers. IRBs are charged with maintaining the welfare and rights of people involved in research, and polyamory researchers, just like other researchers, must follow those strict standards.

What are the most influential pieces you recommend everyone read, both academic and non-academic?

I think it depends on what people are looking for. If they’re looking for a more theoretical treatment of polyamorous families, I strongly recommend Dr. Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli’s book: Border Sexualities, Border Families In Schools. She does this great update and forward of the Mestiza idea that Gloria E. Anzaldúa came up with about living on the "border."

Also in terms of academic work, it’s hard to go wrong with Meg Barker; she has written both academic and popular press.

In terms of non-academic work, there’s More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. It’s a much more practical guide to polyamory. So I think that’s a great one in terms of really practical responses.

For another practical book, there’s Kathy Labriola’s The Jealousy Workbook: Exercises and Insights for Managing Open Relationships. She has been in the poly community as well as treating polyamorous folks in relationship counseling for years. I find her book just really well done, non-judgmental, and kind of a realistic way to deal with jealousy.

Do you feel current methods of academic research can adequately represent the variety of experiences and identities within the poly community? How so?

I think current methods can accurately represent the "mainstream polyamory community." I think the sampling techniques (how one gains participants for research), which tend towards internet research and snowball sampling [asking recruits to find other recruits], tend to produce these very white, educated samples of people. I think those procedures lead to a somewhat false homogeneity.

Also, polyamorous people with less privilege (in terms of race, economic status, etc.) are not necessarily being captured by this research. Their voices are not coming forward because they have more to lose from participating.

How important is the popular media (news articles, blogs, podcasts, books for general audiences) to the academic research being done on the poly movement?

It’s actually fairly important in that it brings much greater public awareness to polyamory. So journal editors, who in 2004 had never heard of it, or viewed it as this crazy fringe thing, or questioned why should we talk about this in academia because ‘there are really more important things’, now recognize submissions about polyamory. So I think it makes the research more likely to be taken seriously and get published. Hopefully as polyamory becomes more socially widespread there can be funding for research.

In our own academic fields (Dr. Anya in rhetoric and writing studies; Liane Ortis in higher-ed administration), we were/are the first researchers to take on projects dedicated solely to exploring polyamory in depth. At this time, sociology and psychology seem to be churning out the most research on polyamory. Have you heard of any other fields that have, recently, broached the topic?

Yes. Anthropology — which is a lot like sociology, or sociology is a lot like anthropology. Social psychology — which is so much like sociology and psychology. Geriatrics and life-course aging studies. Family studies. There are certainly some medical studies for looking at the transmission of sexually transmitted infections in consensually non-monogamous relationships versus non-consensually non-monogamous relationships. Also, the legal field is looking at monogamy/non-monogamy, particularly decisions made on hearsay and fear versus facts surrounding families/children.

What is the most pressing work that needs to be done in the future? What’s missing?

I think looking at the long-term effects of polyamorous relationships, in terms of physical and mental health, and financial stability, and [whether] these relationships really foster well-being over the long haul. My hypothesis is that if people get over the hump of figuring out how to deal with multiple partners and can establish a supportive network, folks in multi-partner relationships are actually going to be better off than folks in monogamous relationships because they have a wider support network.


...and her forthcoming book cover.
Anya Trahan...
Dr. Anya Trahan is a relationship coach and spiritual counselor. Her book about polyamory, Opening Love: Intentional Relationships and the Evolution of Consciousness, will be published by Changemakers Books in May 2015. Anya's doctoral dissertation is available free online: Relationship Literacy and Polyamory: A Queer Approach. Contact her or learn more at dranya.net.

Liane Ortis
Liane Ortis is a social justice and diversity educator who speaks, develops and delivers workshops, and consults on all areas of identity. Liane’s goal is to assist institutions and individuals with creating more inclusive, accessible, and equitable living and working environments. She is a doctoral student in Higher Education Administration at Bowling Green State University; her dissertation, in progress, is titled, “Identity Meaning-Making Among Polyamorous Students in Postsecondary Educational Contexts: A Constructivist Queer Theory Case Study.” Liane can be reached at liane.ortis@gmail.com or found on Facebook.



March 14, 2015

The "Looks Like Love To Me" triad suddenly become global stars

Late last summer, an enthusiastic delta triad put up a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 for a web video series about themselves and their two babies about to be born. The series was to be called Looks Like Love to Me. Their description:

Dani and Melinda have been a boundary-pushing, adventurous couple since 2008

and domestically partnered since 2010.

In 2012 they decided to find the "perfect" man to continue life and build a family with.

After 2.5 years of being a "Polyamorous Triad", they now have two babies on the way…and only two weeks apart!

This web series is dedicated to exploring our story. We aim to expose ourselves in an effort to educate, inspire, and pioneer Love in all its various forms. The web series will include issues such as:

Our double pregnancies and parenting journey
Our triple wedding that occurred on July 18th, 2014 (check out our Wedding Teaser Mini-sode here)
Sex, Jealousy, Money, Communication, and beyond...
The support and judgments of friends, family, and society
Our daily life as a loving and healthy triad family
Interviews with other polyamorous and alternative love seekers
We already have a ton of footage and a dedicated team, so we're well on our way to making this project a reality.

They raised the $5,000 but didn't make their goal of having the first "season" of videos done by January; instead they decided to make a single long documentary rather than a series of shorts. They've got a lot of footage on their website LooksLikeLoveToMe.com, and more in the can. The producer is longtime polyactivist Stefunny Pettee, also of the Bay Area. Their site now says,

Our goal is to create a documentary of the story from the meeting of Dani and Melinda, through their marriage, finding Jon, their pregnancies and birth, and on until the babies Oliver and Ella Lynn become one year old.

Which will be in October.

This week they suddenly got a huge burst of publicity. It happened after they were featured on the website of the UK's Daily Mail ("that dreadful rag" to many Brits), which is aggressively expanding its online presence in the US. The story is happy as happy can be, quite unlike how the Daily Mail once treated polyamory. Excerpts:

'We breastfeed each other's babies!' Polyamorous man's two wives give birth within 30 days of one another — and all three insist they couldn't be happier

By Georgina Bisval

On September 6, 2014 Melinda Phoenix was overjoyed to welcome her first son Oliver into the world.

But it wasn't just her husband Jonathan Stein, 32, from Oakland, California, who shared her joy in the delivery room. Incredibly his second wife Dani, who was also pregnant, was beside them to witness it too.

And just 35 days later on October 11, it was Melinda's turn to offer her support to 30-year-old Dani in the delivery room, when she gave birth to Jonathan's second baby, a beautiful baby girl named Ella Lynn.

Jonathan, Dani, and Melinda are a polyamorous family, which means that they all believe in having more than one partner.

The trio and their two children all live under the same roof, with all three parents sharing every aspect of parenthood, from nighttime feeds to diaper changes.

'It might seem strange to a lot of people, but to us it makes perfect sense,' Melinda, 28, who runs her own healing company, East-West Collaborative Health, told Daily Mail Online. 'We all love each other and it was our dream to fall pregnant at the same time.

'Unlike conventional couples who are sleep deprived when a newborn comes along, there are three of us to take it in turns on the night shift. We breastfeed each others babies, split the finances three ways and the housework too.

'Even sex is great, as if one person is not feeling up for it, then there are two other people to choose from.'

Dani added: 'We compliment each other perfectly as our parenting styles are so different.'...

Until Dani met Melinda in 2008, Melinda had only been in monogamous relationships with men, while Dani had enjoyed relationships with both men and women. But after meeting at a music festival, the pair knew they were destined to spend the rest of their lives together....


'My mom thought it was a joke when Dani and I got married, so when we told her about Jonathan she just thought we were crazy,' Melinda explained. 'Some of Jonathan's friends just thought it was all about kinky sex and thought it was just plain weird. So much so he doesn't talk to some of them anymore.

'Dani's family had a hard time accepting it too.

'But luckily there were others, like Jonathan's mom Sandy, who thought what we had was amazing and gave us their full blessing.'

The threesome also had to learn to overcome their own feelings of jealousy too.

'At times it has been hard to adapt to, as for me just being with Melinda was enough,' Dani explained. 'So to see her fall in love with Jonathan was at times tough.

'But I began to realize that I could love him too, in my own way. And the more we talked to each other, the easier over time it has got. There are moments when I just want Melinda to myself, but now there are also moments when I feel just as strongly about Jonathan too. We have just learnt to cope better as time goes on.

'Now we all make sure we give each of us time together and separately. If Melinda wants a night out just with Jonathan, I am fine with that and likewise with her.

'Sexually it works perfectly as while we do make love together and me just with Melinda or Jonathan, I don't have as high a sex drive as Melinda, so she gets to satisfy that part of her personality with Jonathan too.'

By the end of 2013 Melinda, Dani and Jonathan were living together and began making plans to start a family....

'We all have a fabulous sex life, share the same bed, so we just made sure we timed things correctly and prayed our wishes would come true,' Melinda said. 'I found out I was pregnant on January 14th this year and two weeks later we all let out a scream of pure delight when we found out Dani was expecting too.'...


'People sometimes ask us: "Are you not worried about the kids getting bullied at school?"' Melinda admitted. 'But in all honesty it is not something that concerns us.

'We had agreed that when they become old enough we will explain our situation and are committed to instill them with tools to face any hurdle they may encounter.

'Thankfully we live in community that is pretty liberal and over time we hope families like ours will not be in a minority. Because in all honesty we think having two moms and one dad is the perfect way to raise a child, in a home full of love.

'We are even open to taking in even more lovers if it feels right in the future, as more hands make for an easier life.'

The paper defined polyamory well in a sidebar:


Polyamory is the philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously.

Those who believe in polyamory often involve themselves with more than one partner, and in many cases, will marry more than one person [sic].

The belief is focused around each person being able to consciously decide how many partners he or she wishes to be involved with, rather than accepting society's more traditional views on relationships and marriage, which dictate that people should only love and commit to one person at a time.

Polyamory embraces sexual equality and all sexual orientations; polyamorous relationships can involve as many people as each person wishes, and can involved people of all sexes.

See the whole article, with lots of lovely pix (March 9, 2015).

The story wasn't new; the same author published a very similar piece about them in the UK's equally downmarket Reveal magazine last November: One husband, two wives: one family's polyamorous relationship! (Nov. 21, 2014).

The Daily Mail article was syndicated into US newspapers and also resulted in fresh stories being written here. The one that's probably been going around most is a long, more straightforward piece at SFGate, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle in the family's own backyard:

An Oakland family has found what they think is the key to a happy household: three parents.

By Amy Graff

Two women named Melinda and Dani Phoenix and the man they both consider their husband, Jonathan Stein, are in a polyamorous relationship and parenting two babies together under the same roof.

Melinda and Dani began their relationship as a lesbian couple and became domestic partners in 2010. A year later, Jonathan joined them as the third partner and the three married last summer in a ceremony that is not legally recognized.

Now they’re sharing their story to raise awareness about polyamorous families and hope that some day these arrangements can be widely accepted and legally recognized. With children entering their picture, they feel gaining support from the community is more important than ever.

...While many new parents are sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, this trio are gliding through parenthood as they take turns with childcare, diaper changes and nighttime feedings.

“We split things up,” Dani says. “We’re all working hard and well as a team.”

“Melinda and I both breastfeed. He’s my son and she’s my daughter and vice versa. We share that responsibility and that love with them.”

In addition to nurturing two new babies, the three parents are working various degrees of part-time hours outside the home. Dani has a low-key dog-walking service, Melinda runs her own healing studio in Oakland called East-West Collaborative Health, and Jonathan keeps busy as a self-employed carpenter. Together, they earn enough money to cover household expenses.

With three parents rotating kid duty, it’s also possible for the two moms to advance their careers by going to school. Melinda is earning a degree in Chinese medicine and after a semester break, she’s now loading up on extra units while Dani stays home to watch the babies.

“I’m the primary boob for the babies,” Dani says, jokingly.

Dani plans to return to school in the fall to finish her degree to become a sign language interpreter, and Jonathan will support her by accepting fewer carpentry jobs and spending more time with the babies.


Polyamory is a term used to define people who love multiple partners at the same time. A polyamorous relationship can range from a married person with multiple love interests to an informal group marriage. Some engage in group sex while others have one-on-one sexual relationships with multiple partners.

Polygamy falls under the polyamory umbrella and refers to a structure with one man who dominates over two or more wives. In a polygamous relationship the wives don’t have an intimate relationship. The Stein-Phoenix clan is different because Melinda and Dani are romantically involved and all three partners are viewed as equals.

“If one was to put a fancy label on our relationship one would say we are a poly fidelitous triad, meaning we are focused on just the three of us (for now at least) and not open to other partners,” Dani says.

Jonathan, Dani and Melinda are sharing their version of polyamory in video clips and blogs on their website LooksLikeLovetoMe.com. Dani has chronicled the story ever since she and Melinda first met at a music festival in 2008 and is now collaborating with local videographer Stephanie Pettee to produce a documentary that reveals the mystery behind a polyamorous family.

“We get so many questions about our relationship,” Dani told SFGate. “Our mission is to share our story and answer some of those questions...."


With the UK press recently covering the family’s story, the trio are hearing from people all over the world who have been touched by their philosophy.

“We’ve received great responses from individuals who feel inspired by the story,” Dani says. “People who aren’t happy in their relationships are writing in. We’re hearing from people who are polyamorous but can’t be open about it.”

Extended family have been supportive with Jonathan’s mom attending their three-way wedding and Dani’s mom flying out from the East Coast to meet the new babies.

But the harshest critics have been a few family members from conservative backgrounds. Melinda’s mom was slow to warm up to their situation.

“She didn’t come to the wedding and didn’t even want to see us,” Jonathan said in an interview. “But now she’s inviting us to bring the grandchildren to the house.”


Jonathan says the biggest misconception people have about their relationship is that he rules the roost, but he’s quick to point out that this is an equal partnership.

“People think that because I have two wives that I’ve succeeded in life as a man,” Jonathan says. “But really it’s more like a bisexual women couple and their husband. It’s not a masculine-run household.”


“There’s a huge polyamorous community that people don’t even know about,” Dani says. “Society really looks down on it, so we understand why poly people don’t ‘come out.’

“We want to show that love is beautiful and it’s OK to talk about it, regardless of what it ‘looks like.’ It’s really like any of the civil rights movements of the past, the more people are respectfully exposed to it the more people will accept it. We’re proud to get the conversations started.”

The whole article, again with lots of pix (March 11, 2015).

Following the Daily Mail story, Dani (now with a buzzcut) posted a self-described "rant" about how its original title assumed that the man took two wives, polygamy-style, when in fact it was two long-partnered bisexual women who went looking for a guy:

They've started keeping a media page of their coverage, so I'll refer you there for the rest. It includes pieces in Belgium, Germany, and Bosnia, though I see they missed the one in a moms' magazine in Nigeria: "Heard of Polyamory?" (March 10, 2015).

And they've been on three radio shows, with at least one more apparently lined up.

They're overwhelmed. Dani posted to their Facebook page on Tuesday,

Since I woke this morning we have been contacted by a dozen news reporters, film producers, new supporters and even a doctor!

Our story was published in the UK recently and has 2.2 THOUSAND shares! And friends in other countries are linking us to our story--one found today in the Belgium news.

It's a super strange feeling, equal parts of exciting and scary. Which one would you feel?

Once again, we're so lucky that such fine people are willing to drop their privacy and serve as poly faces to the world.

Would like to try? The media demand for out polyfolks exceeds the supply. There's a particular need for greater diversity. Your entree to poly-in-the-media stardom, with lots of media-savvy advice and inside knowledge from experience, is to contact the ever-helpful Robyn Trask, director of the Loving More poly-educational nonprofit. Reach her through the contact link on the Loving More homepage. Say I sent you. Robyn maintains a list, still too short, of people she can refer writers and reporters to when they call Loving More.


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A Happy Poly Pi Day card

Had to give this one a signal boost.

Pass it on; here's her original on Tumbler and Facebook.

Here in the Eastern time zone, Exact Pi Instant (3/14/15 9:26:53.5897932384... a.m) has already passed, but the p.m. reprise is coming up tonight! Kiss your geekysweeties. There's a Pi Day every year, but no Exact Pi Instant for another century.


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March 11, 2015

The Humanist Hour interviews articulate PolyColumbus activists

Susan Porter (left) and Rose McDonnell
The Humanist Hour is a monthly podcast produced by the American Humanist Association. It's also on the Public Reality Radio online network and a couple of small stations in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

This month's episode (number 141) is What Is Polyamory All About?, featuring the brilliant Susan Porter and Rose McDonnell of PolyColumbus in Ohio, which helped sponsor the Beyond The Love poly conference there last November.

Listen here. They're thoughful and sharp — great new representatives we're lucky to have. They start at 6:30 into the program.

The blurb:

Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington interview Susan Porter and Rose McDonnell from PolyColumbus.org. Listen as they discuss polyamory – the practice of having multiple simultaneous sexual and/or romantic partners.

From the PolyColumbus.org website:

PolyColumbus empowers individuals that either self-identify as polyamorous, open, or ethically non-monogamous, or are exploring such possibilities. We build community to provide a safe and inclusive place to not only be ourselves, but also meet like-minded individuals from all backgrounds.

We advocate for the equal treatment of the ethically non-monogamous under law, and for broader societal acceptance of the same. We serve organizations with similar goals by documenting best practices and creating other resources for successfully running such an organization.

Finally, we educate each other, allied organizations, and the broader community on what it means to be ethically non-monogamous.



March 10, 2015

The movie *Twice* and its Kickstarter campaign

If you're on the polywebs (and why else would you be here?) you've seen the Kickstarter appeal for Sarah Arlen's indie movie Twice. It's all over the place because these people are doing their publicity, but also because lots of folks have looked into the project, gotten interested, and given it a signal boost. Count me in.


The campaign is in its final week — it ends March 17.  It's $18,912 of the way to its goal of $25,000. This is not a "flexible funding" campaign; if they don't raise $25,000 by next Tuesday evening they get nothing, and the donors' credit cards/ PayPal accounts are not charged.

We often say we wish movies and art would explore poly life seriously, so if that's you, now's the time to step up and make it happen.

The Kickstarter pitch:

The press release:

Feature Film Twice is Crowdfunding to Tell a Polyamorous Love Story.

Indie feature film Twice, by Sarah Arlen, plans on being the tipping point of the polyamorous revolution. A crowdfunding campaign for the project is running February 14th (Valentine’s Day) through March 17th (Saint Patrick’s Day), 2015, in order to raise $25,000 in completion funds and to create audience awareness of the film.

The movie tells a polyamorous love story from two divergent points of view, one of “Woman,” the other of “Man.” While the plot revolves around the two characters starting out as friends, becoming lovers, breaking up and getting back together, the core themes of the movie are centered around second chances, being honest, embracing identity and coming out of the closet. The project’s purpose is to show what it can be like to live a polyamorous life, while also exploring how monogamous people can understand, accept and love polyamorists.

...Twice turns the standard romantic comedy plot on its head. The tension of the story doesn’t come from the standard cinema trope of “Who will be the chosen one?” but rather “How will they all love each other?”

Because many polyamorists live in the closet, they stand as an example of what being “closeted” means in everyday life and how “coming out” is something everyone experiences each time they reveal a new facet of themselves that might be misinterpreted or bullied.

In 2014, a major tipping point came for the transgender community when Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time magazine. With the recent significant rise of media coverage about polyamory, it appears the next cultural tipping point will be polyamory. Twice, much like Orange is the New Black, is striving to be the entertaining conduit that invites audiences to see the humanity in a word they might not have ever heard before and tips polyamory into pop culture.

More links from Arlen:

My production company is Polyamorous Productions. Its Facebook page.

My Twitter handle is @saraharlen  and my company’s is @polyamorousart .

I registered a hashtag: #makingtwice

Graphics for sharing.

Lots of photos.

Here are some swipe files:

For Twitter:
See #polyamory on the big screen! I backed "Twice: A Polyamorous Feature Film" on Kickstarter, support it today! bit.ly/kickstartTWICE

For Facebook:
Come to the poly party! Help make a feature film while getting a great reward: for $100, you get invites to worldwide polyamorous parties, plus the finished film of “Twice” (a polyamorous love story set in sexy Paris) and much more. Support it before March 17th at www.twicethefilm.com.

R-Rated music video of Twice: (feel free to share with the password):
link: https://vimeo.com/118403555
password: KSLove!

Sign up for free videos & updates from Polyamorous Productions.



March 7, 2015

"Compersion: A Polyamorous Principle That Can Strengthen Any Relationship." And the word's origin.

HuffPost/ Weddings

Here's more of the good press that poly ideology is getting for what it can offer anyone. This article appeared in the wedding-planning section of Huffington Post, now gearing up for the spring/summer wedding season. (It isn't exactly a niche site; the article had 2,600 likes in its first 24 hours, probably from its links elsewhere on HuffPo.)

Compersion: A Polyamorous Principle That Can Strengthen Any Relationship

By Gracie X

I vividly remember the first time I felt it. My husband and I were in the backyard, lazing in the sun, sipping drinks as he described the previous evening. As he talked, his face looked brighter, his eyes clearer. In a flash of déjà vu, I remembered that same vibrant and enraptured look from 25 years earlier, when we first met. It was a sudden reemergence of his vitality that I hadn't fully seen in our domestic nest for many years. But now, in his detailed (and scintillating) descriptions, that fire in his eyes was beaming.

"Baby," I told him genuinely, "I am so happy for you!"

What brought on these feelings of joy in both of us? To be honest, he'd just had sex -- with another woman. And, yep, I was stoked for him.

There's actually a word for the joyful feeling that a polyamorous person has when his or her lover or spouse walks through the door after spending the afternoon making love to his or her new girlfriend or boyfriend: compersion. Compersion is such a novel concept that you won't even find the word in the dictionary (unless you look in the Urban dictionary).

Feeling all warm and gooey because your spouse had a great time banging someone else is not something we're socialized to feel....

Read on (March 6, 2015). Though I don't see where she actually explains how compersion can be relevant to a monogamous couple.


For people wondering about the etymology of "compersion," by the way, forget Greek or Latin. The word was invented some time before 1985 by members of the Kerista commune in San Francisco, which ran from 1971 to 1991. I've long heard that Keristans invented it using their variant of the Ouija board, which they called the alphabet board. But can this be documented?

Yes. First, here is a one-step-removed source, writing on a Wikipedia discussion site:

Actually, I did trace down the origin, from one of the original Kerista members who claims to have been present (and whom I find believable). For your curiosity, he says it was created by the group via Ouija board (a device of which Kerista made extensive use for decision making), prompted when a couple of the female members were discussing positive feelings they had about their male partners with others and thought "there ought to be a word". It was not consciously invented from any roots. Alas, I don't believe there is any Wikipedia-citable source for this origin, so even if true (and I believe it is), we can't describe it here.

A direct source, however, is the a key Kerista member, the writer and cartoonist "Even Eve" Furchgott, who in spring 1985 wrote in a Kerista glossary,

Alphabet Board — An important cultural artifact used for 'telepathic information transfer through touching inspiration together'. The alphabet board looks something like a ouija board, with the letters of the alphabet and numbers painted in a circle on its surface. Keristans (two or more at a time) put their fingers in a cup on the board. The cup moves to spell out messages and answers to questions posed. The movment is spontaneous and totally uncontrived, occurring via subconscious ideomotor activity.... It is the source of all Keristan's names, as well as volumes of advice, wisdom, practical suggestions plans, stories, plays and great comfort.

...Compersion (the word) was coined by the alphabet board when a word to describe the emotion was being sought. Interestingly, some years later, an anthropological term 'comperage' was discovered by a Keristan in a book opened at random. 'Comperage' refers to a custom practiced by certain pre-technological tribes of men 'sharing' their wives with visiting male guests (the women sleep with the visitors as an expression of goodwill and hospitality). At the time that the board coined 'compersion', no one [of us] had ever heard of comperage or any words similar to it.

My guess is that someone with their finger in the cup was trying to spell "compassion" and someone else was trying to spell "person." Not bad. Compersion could have ended up named "fplkjqwhr."


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March 3, 2015

A burst of Irish poly in the media

The Irish Times
RTÉ radio

"We're excited because this is essentially the first time a major, respected news source is picking up [our] story," writes Randy of Polyamory Ireland in Dublin. "The guy interviewed is from our regular poly group. I was told that the author of the piece did not choose the headline (she disapproves of its somewhat salacious nature). Overall, not too bad."

Polyamory: ‘People think it’s like a swingers’ party’

By Tanya Sweeney | The Irish Times

As narratives go, “boy meets girl” is as old as the hills. So too is “Boy meets girl, then meets someone else, and then everybody gets upset”....

Well, what about “boy meets girl, then meets someone else, and they all live happily ever after”? Monogamy has long been our main expression of love for one another, but a growing number of Irish people have realised that there’s another way.

Polyamory Ireland, a 300-strong group of people who practise the relationship model of having more than one partner at any given time, hold regular meetings in Dublin. Its members range in age from teenagers to grandparents and are multicultural and well-travelled.

“A lot of people think that it’s like a swingers’ party where we all pair up,” says Tim Sinnott, smiling. “The fact is, polyamory can be pretty complicated, and it’s handy to talk to people in a similar situation about it.”

Tim Sinnott

Monogamous relationships aren’t without their complications, certainly, but the fact that three or more people are involved in a poly relationship means that the interpersonal combinations are plentiful. There is a “V” (one person is the “hinge”, and has two lovers who aren’t romantically involved with each other), a “triad” or a “quad” (a relationship between three or four people). A “W” denotes a fivesome in which two lovers have their own separate lovers. Some, not all, have a primary relationship, then secondary or tertiary lovers. With the constraints of monogamy effectively by the wayside, anything is possible.

“The only rule I have with my partners is that we use protection [during sex],” says Sinnott. “But for the most part, we treat it as ‘don’t put rules on each other’. In a lot of monogamous relationships, you just stop talking about your relationship with each other, but in poly you’re expected to talk about it a lot.”

This stands to reason, and it’s something that appears to be common among the polyamorous people I’ve interviewed.... Jealousy and possessiveness can occasionally rear its head, but polyamorists tackle the issue with their lovers head-on to find a way around it....

Is it different for women?

Do female polyamorists encounter a different reaction from others? “Anyone I know who is polyamorous is wildly sex-positive and wouldn’t have any squeamishness about being seen as sluts,” says Tara. “Frankly, you don’t get into this kind of relationships if you care what people think.

“I always say to people, ‘Do you love both your parents? Well, you don’t pick one of them to love’,” she adds.... “In a way I imagine it is what it would have been like growing up gay. You never see any relationships depicted in popular culture that match your own.”

...The public might be edging towards a place of understanding. On RTÉ2’s hit reality show Connected, Elayne Harrington, aka Temper-Mental MissElayneous, spoke openly about her relationships with her boyfriend and girlfriend. “Even as a child as young as seven, I found myself challenging social conventions,” she says. “For example, I turned vegetarian. This gives an idea of my mindset, even then, in terms of morality and making decisions based on opinions I had independently formed.”...

Elayne Harrington

Harrington’s appearance on Connected has prised open a dialogue for an audience previously unfamiliar with polyamory. “The feedback I’ve received has indicated that the viewers have appreciated that [frankness and openness], whether they agree with my lifestyle choices or not. No one has felt the need to impose their beliefs on to me, as I have not on to them.”

Irish traditional society has long been a powerful moderating force when it comes to matters of the heart, and monogamy seems unlikely to die out as the dominant model. Still, for anyone who feels left out of that one-size-fits-all model, the option to try another route to emotional happiness is here for the taking.

Here's the complete article (Feb. 13, 2015). It includes a 2-minute video clip of its interview with Tim Sinnott.


Then two days later, RTÉ radio ("Ireland's National Public Service Broadcaster") aired a 25-minute program on monogamy and polyamory, featuring an interview with two people from Polyamory Ireland, on its Sunday show "Life Matters." Listen from here (Feb. 15, 2015).


Irish media have picked up on poly and its Dublin representatives before; here are my six posts regarding Ireland since 2006 (including this one; scroll down).



March 2, 2015

Dilbert cartoonist: Nuclear-family marriage is poor engineering; poly tribes more optimal

Scott Adams in 2007
Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist and an advocate for creative engineering-think in real life, blogged a few days ago about the increasingly bad design of the nuclear family for today's world. In particular, he noted, the standard family model requires a catastrophically destructive divorce system to deal with single-point failures that are common and predictable. No engineer would approve.

If we want children to be raised better and adults to be happier, he proposes an obvious solution: more tribal ways of life, including fluid relationship models that can better fit reality and provide some redundancy:

Divorce is one of the most expensive, horrible, and wasteful things a person [can commonly] experience. It is terrible for the kids, terrible for finances, good for lawyers, bad for employers, etc.... And those people typically remarry and either divorce again or, all too often, live unhappily ever after. The entire process is insanely inefficient.

Unfortunately, in 2015, marriage is probably the best system we have for raising kids. But as a thought experiment, imagine that the government removes all laws favoring marriage. You get no tax breaks, no nothing. And instead the government encourages people to set up alternative social systems that solve the problems of divorce.

How do you solve the divorce problem? Ask any economist. It is quite easy. I’ll give you a solution in one word: diversification.

In marriage, if something bad happens to one person, or one person becomes a jerk, the system breaks. Any engineer will tell you that is a poorly designed system. But if, for example, you had a small tribe of people cooperating for mutual interest, a bad day for one wouldn’t be a death blow for the tribe. If your love interest hates you today, you have three others on call. If you get sick and need childcare, there are ten people ready to help.

...I won’t design a full alternative to marriage here because people are different and one solution does not fit all. The main idea is that marriage is perhaps the biggest economic problem in the country that isn’t food-related. Marriage made sense in old-timey days. But with the help of the Internet it would make more sense for people to organize around what works instead of what we know does not.

You will be tempted to point out that hippy communes didn’t catch on. I’m not talking about poorly-engineered hippy communes. That’s like comparing a Model-T to a Tesla. I think that with some creative thinking, and maybe some experimenting, society could develop modern alternatives to marriage that remove the divorce problem.

I hear whispers that these sorts of arrangements are already happening, but because non-monogamy is shamed, you don’t hear much about it. Marriage will go away eventually, as all bad systems do.... Can we speed it up?

Read Adams' whole essay (Feb. 27, 2015). The relevant part here is the second half.

P.S.: Adams can get away with this stuff because, like Colbert and Stewart, he's in the comedy business. You can tell how free or unfree a society is by how important its comedians become — by how much of the important stuff only gets said by the jester.


March 1, 2015

"Polyamory is like the tech industry? WTF?!?"

429 Magazine

Remember that CNN Money piece about poly becoming a trend among Silicon Valley techies/ life-hackers/ entrepreneurs?

Emily Rush at 429 Magazine ("for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender business leaders") goes on a rant about it. It seems to have hit some triggers of hers.

Polyamory is like the tech industry? WTF?!?

By Emily Rush

Polyamory seems to be having a big boom as of late — it’s almost like you can’t throw a rock without hitting poly this and open that. It seems like it’s everywhere, especially when you look at television: From American Horror Story to Big Love to Showtime’s Polyamory, it really seems like it’s becoming quite predominant.

Another place that seems to have picked up on this is in the tech industry. CNN Money recently did a report about a tech worker who also happens to be poly…and there’s so much that feels wrong about the article.

Let’s start with a direct quote: “I think that in technology, people have higher appetites for risks. Opening up your relationship is really risky, kind of in a similar way that starting a company is really risky.”

This is what Miju Han thinks poly is.

Ohhh… where do I start?

There is so much flawed thinking in this statement that I can’t even.

So, let’s start with my poly credentials. I’ve been poly now for… oh, going on twelve years. I’ve been in a functioning poly relationship for ten years, and I’ve had another committed partner for five. I’ve read virtually every book on poly that you can imagine.... The vast majority of my friends are also poly. So, I think I might know a thing or two about it.

How about we look at calling poly “an experiment”?... First, the word “experiment.” Now, let me think where else experimentation has come up in sex and sexuality…Oh, right! Isn’t that what they say to dismiss people who are bisexual? That they’re experimenting, that it’s just a phase? Yeah…

After twelve years, I can’t say that I’m “experimenting” anymore....

Well no. An "experiment," to us techie-sciencey-geeky types (a big subset of poly) is trying something to see what happens. Because you're curious. Curious people are cool.

To say that this is an experiment is pretty insulting to those of us who have done this for years (or even decades).

Han was referring to this as a social experiment. Can modern poly work on a societal scale? That's never been tried, and it would be cool to find out.

Come on, if you’re going to claim to be poly, don’t be so ignorant of the community you’re supposedly a part of. Even worse, it might actually be insulting to your own partners, especially if they’ve been doing this longer than you.

Now, let’s talk about risk.... Calling poly “risky” is the statement that I have a bigger problem with. You know what else is risky? Job interviews. Walking down the street. Driving a car.... Is there a greater risk in poly (that would be tantamount to, say, starting a new business)?

Uh, that’s basically saying that monogamy is safe.

False dichotomy.

...Then there’s the comparison to poly being like the tech industry [and starting a company]…

I shake my head when I read this.... It once again compares poly to business.

You know what other group of people has a higher appetite for risk? Gamblers, people who play the stock market, venture capitalists.…wait, does that mean that you’ll also find a lot of poly people in the financial market as well?

In fact, surveys do find that self-identified polys tend to score high on measures of adventure-seeking and appetite for risk.

Read the whole article (Feb. 26, 2015).

Rush's previous article at 429 Magazine was the perfectly fine Polyamory: A Primer two weeks ago.

P.S.: Regarding experiments, a warning from xkcd: