Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

August 31, 2015

Stories from the Polycule and more

Meg John Barker, a senior lecturer in psychology at Open University in London, wrote a very substantial and thoughtful review of the two new poly books about to appear from Thorntree Press: The Game Changer by Franklin Veaux, publication date September 23 [Update: Some of Franklin's former partners have challenged his accounts as false], and Stories from the Polycule edited by Elisabeth Sheff, pub date October 15.

Meg John is a longtime queer and poly researcher and community organizer. They've agreed to let me reprint virtually all of the 3,000-word review here as a guest post. Thanks!

Polyamory book reviews: Useful ideas for all relationships

By Meg John Barker

...These books are particularly interesting given that the authors were previously responsible for two of the most important books on polyamory in recent years: probably the best self-help style book on polyamory currently available, and the most in-depth academic study of polyamorous families to date. The former is More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert (the same title as Franklin’s successful blog). The latter is The Polyamorists Next Door by Elisabeth Sheff, who writes the Psychology Today column of the same name.

I found their latest outputs just as interesting. The Game Changer is an in-depth exploration of one person’s experience of shifting from a fairly hierarchical to more egalitarian polyamory. Stories from the Polycule is an accessible collection of all kinds of experiences of open non-monogamy. They provide a rich description of one person’s lived experience of polyamory, and a sense of the diversity of experiences that are possible within open non-monogamy.

This is important because many popular accounts of polyamory focus on rather similar narratives. As with many marginalised groups, poly people generally tell a public story that challenges common prejudices against them. So, for example, we often hear poly stories that contradict the stereotypes that polyamory is all about sex (by focusing on love), that it’s doomed to failure (by focusing on long term relationships), and that it’s weird (by focusing on the kinds of poly that are closest to monogamy).

This is understandable in a world where poly people are still stigmatised and afforded few legal rights. However, it means that the accounts we hear can be rather shallow, sterile, and samey. It was very refreshing – therefore – to read Franklin’s story of both the pains and pleasures of polyamory and alternatives to more conventional forms of poly; and in Elisabeth’s collection to read about the ups and downs of poly, the sexual side of relationships, and the multiplicity of possible constellations. These books offer exciting alternatives to the ‘one true way’ versions of polyamory that can be found in some poly communities, and the search for a universal explanation for why people are poly that are often found in academic work on the subject.

I’ll say a bit more about each book in turn, in particular on why I think they offer something to our understanding of all relationships, not just polyamorous ones.

The Game Changer

Franklin Veaux’s memoir gives us a more detailed account of something that he alluded to in More Than Two: His own journey towards the version of relationships that he’s living now, and the ways in which he – and others – got hurt along the way. One of the strengths of More Than Two is that it doesn’t present polyamory – or relationships in general – as easy: the book is clear about the many common mistakes that people make when opening up their relationships.

In The Game Changer Franklin describes how he got together with a partner early on who was more-or-less okay with his non-monogamy as long as he agreed to a number of contractual rules. These included her being his primary partner, her being able to veto at any time any of his partners she wasn’t happy with, and other partners not living with them or sleeping the night with him. Franklin agrees to this, thinking he is incredibly fortunate to find somebody who is open to him being non-monogamous at all. They both end up having other relationships, but these are obviously restricted in how close they can become.

Franklin and his partner stay together for years, but Franklin increasingly realises how much the relationship is rooted in fear: his partner’s insecurities about Franklin leaving her, and his own fear of never finding anybody else who will agree to his non-monogamy. He also realises how much people are being hurt by the arrangement: particularly the secondary partners who are vetoed without any explanation, or denied any possibility of developing their relationships.

I was fascinated at how similar this story was to the accounts of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre’s non-monogamous relationships, which I researched for a book chapter a year or so back. Apparently, towards the end of her life, Simone de Beauvoir said, of her relationship with Sartre:

If the two allies allow themselves only passing sexual liaisons then there is no difficulty, but it also means that the freedom they allow themselves is not worthy of the name. Sartre and I have been more ambitious; it has been our wish to experience ‘contingent loves’: but there is one question we have deliberately avoided: How would the third person feel about the arrangement? (de Beauvoir, cited in Rowley, 2006, p. 299-300)

It sounds like she is saying here that only a polyamorous style of non-monogamy (where people love other partners rather than just having sex with them) can be a fully free style of relationships, but that even then there is a big question over the how free the further partners beyond the ‘primary partnership’ can actually be (Simone and Jean-Paul used the distinction ‘essential/contingent’ rather than ‘primary/secondary’ to describe a similar thing).

In The Game Changer Franklin swiftly finds that limiting himself to ‘sex but not love’ won’t work – and manages to get his partner to agree to him being able to love other people. But for much of their relationship he still neglects to consider de Beauvoir’s question of how the third person feels about the arrangement. It’s only through talking with many of these secondaries that he finally begins to overtly challenge this: first by creating a ‘Secondary’s Bill of Rights’ on his blog – which infuriates many people in his local poly community – and eventually by divorcing his first partner and moving to a more egalitarian style of polyamory where partners don’t have control or veto over each others’ relationships.

As I was reading The Game Changer, this quote from Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax kept coming to my mind:

Sin … is when you treat people as things, including yourself, that’s what sin is.

This is the lesson that Franklin is learning throughout the events described in his memoir. And, of course, it is one that many of us have learnt – and continue to learn – through our adventures in relating – whether monogamous or non-monogamous, coupled or single, sexual or not.

Clearly it isn’t cool to treat secondaries as things: they end up getting badly hurt. But equally, Franklin discovers the problems inherent in him and his partner treating each other as things. She treats him as a thing by endeavouring to control him and make him be what she wants him to be, even though that isn’t what he is. And he does a similar thing back by constantly trying to get her to be somebody who is open to his form of non-monogamy. Finally – and perhaps most difficult to spot when we’re doing it – is treating ourselves as things. Again, both Franklin and his partner attempt to turn themselves into what their partner wants them to be, at the expense of their own freedom and authenticity. And we see how much this hurts both of them, and how it simply isn’t sustainable in the long term.

Of course, as many of the existentialists have pointed out, humans generally default to treating people as things (‘objectification’ if you want the technical term). We have a strong tendency both to try to make others into what we want them to be, and to try to make ourselves into what we think others want us to be. It is no criticism of Franklin and his partner – or of Simone and hers – that they fell into treating other people, and themselves, as things. And it is deeply impressive that they noticed they were doing it and made a life project of trying to find another way, and to live it as much as possible.

Reading it on this level, The Game Changer is not just a polyamory memoir, but a sustained meditation on the existential themes that affect us all. How do we navigate our relationships – of all kinds – in ways which balance our human desires for both freedom and safety? Can we find ways of relating in which we explicitly counter our tendency to treat others – and ourselves – as things? Can we develop a relationship ethics which moves away from a hierarchical model whereby we objectify people more the further away they are from us (friends more than lovers, secondaries more than primaries, strangers more than friends, etc.)? How can we be with our own fear and jealousy, boredom and restlessness, when they threaten to destroy our relationships? How can we be with the knowledge that relationships will change over time, and the insecurity inherent in that? And how can we relate with each other ethically when the cultural norms around us encourage a fear-based, hierarchical, way of relating?

Franklin’s memoir provides one set of answers to these questions, and Elisabeth Sheff’s Stories from the Polycule makes it clear that there are many other possible answers.

Stories from the Polycule

This collection presents 49 accounts from different poly people about their relationships and experiences. Divided into sections, the book includes stories about how people began being poly, different poly family constellations, experiences of having children in poly families – including several accounts from children themselves – how people navigate difficult times and breakups, stories of long-term poly relationships, and ‘racy bits’ about the sexual side of poly.

High points in the book for me included Maxine Green’s account of her appearance with two of her metamours on breakfast television – which I remember well, and which was a nice UK moment in a collection of otherwise mostly North American accounts. It was a shame not to see some of Maxine’s own poly comics included as they are some of my favourites (and a big inspiration behind my own forays into comics). Also it was great to see the likes of Andrea Zanin, Julie Fennell, and Elisabeth Sheff herself breaking down the distance between research and researched by including powerful accounts of their own relationship experiences in the book. Finally, as with Elisabeth’s previous book, this collection presents an important challenge to the common assumption that polyamorous parenting is somehow more questionable than monogamous parenting. As with the research on same-sex parents in the past, it is clear that there is no evidence to support the idea that poly parenting is in any way inferior.

As I mentioned earlier, the main strength of this book is that it gives a good sense of the diversity of polyamory: both the range of ways of doing openly non-monogamous relationships that people have developed, and the numerous different reasons that people have for pursuing them. This is helped by the inclusion of a number of comics in addition to the written stories, many of which illustrate this diversity beautifully. It was great to see a couple of the popular Kimchi Cuddles poly comics, along with this incredibly helpful cartoon from Kirstin Rohwer, which I’ve shared before:

Kirstin’s comic highlights the one limitation that I found with Stories from the Polycule, which – I think – could easily by rectified in a future book (Further Stories from the Polycule?) The book seemed to me to be rather focused on stories from relationships in the second couple of rows of Kirstin’s cartoon: people in open relationships, polyfidelitous relationships, and hierarchical versions of poly (such as the kinds of primary/secondary arrangements that Franklin describes). I felt that there were fewer stories representing egalitarian forms of polyamory and very few on solo poly or relationship anarchy.

Open non-monogamous relationships can be roughly divided into two forms, nicely illustrated in Franklin’s shift from one to the other in The Game Changer.

The first kind are those which seem to take the cultural norm of monogamy as a starting point, but chisel bits off it in order to create something that better fits the people concerned. For example, swinging and open relationships chisel off the rule about sexual fidelity; polyfidelity chisels off the rule about a relationship being between two people; hierarchical polyamory chisels off the rule about ‘forsaking all others’. However, these versions generally do accept the common assumptions that romantic relationships are more important than other kinds of relationships, and that some kinds of rules of engagement are necessary to protect the people concerned.

The second kind of openly non-monogamous relationships are those that endeavour to start from a different place than conventional monogamy: often a different set of assumptions about human beings and relationships. For example, they might assume that people are fundamentally free and independent; that nobody can belong to anybody else; that relationships inevitably change over time; that no form of relationship is inherently more important than any other (e.g. friends vs. lovers, sexual vs. non-sexual); and that relationships should be grounded on trust, communication and ongoing negotiation. Relationship anarchy is a form of open non-monogamy that explicitly starts from these kinds of assumptions. But we can see that the form of egalitarian polyamory Franklin ended up with has a similar foundation, as do many forms of solo poly.

Research seems to support the genuine existence of this kind of split. In his studies on open non-monogamy, Mark Finn has found that people roughly divide into those who seek ‘freedom-of-contract’ and those who seek ‘freedom-from-contract’. The first group are the ones who look to rules and contracts to make their relationships feel free-enough and safe-enough. The second group are those who feel that independence, trust and ongoing negotiation will be more likely to create the safe-enough and free-enough relationships that they’re looking for.

Both models can become rigid and brittle if they are held too tightly. A few years back I ran a workshop at a poly conference where we talked about the poly ‘crab bucket’. The crab bucket is another Terry Pratchett idea that I draw on in my writing about relationships. Pratchett pointed out that you don’t need a lid on a bucket of crabs. Crabs generally do not want to leave the security of the group, and if any crab does try to escape over the rim of the bucket, the other crabs will drag it back down.

I extend the metaphor to imagine what happens if a crab does escape the bucket. Being alone on the beach is not a comfortable or safe place to be, so most crabs will find another bucket to climb into. This is a good metaphor for the move from of monogamy to poly, or from one version of poly to another. We often tend to grab hold of a new set of norms rather tightly and insist that everyone else in our community follows them too.

At my workshop it quickly became apparent that people were familiar with two different kinds of poly crab buckets. The norms in one bucket were about dividing people into different kinds of relationships (e.g. primary and secondary), having rules and contracts (e.g. specific date-nights for each relationship, keeping certain kinds of activities sacred for certain relationships, etc.), and seeking ‘unicorns’ to create the perfect poly constellation (e.g. the ‘hot bi babe’ who would have to fall in love with both members of a heterosexual couple).

In the other bucket, the norms were more about controlling certain forms of emotional expression (e.g. it not being acceptable to express jealousy or insecurity), insisting that people adhere to the same model of non-monogamy even if it doesn’t feel comfortable to them (a kind of poly-er than thou attitude), and sometimes imposing a rhetoric of equality on what actually feels rather hierarchical (e.g. people stating that all their partners are equal whilst spending a lot more time with one than another, or saying that they have just ‘changed their relationship’ in what feels a lot like a break-up).

Many of these issues with the second crab bucket stem from failing to recognise how difficult it is to completely step outside of culture. Whilst – as we’ve seen – there are many good reasons to try to find new ways of relating, it probably isn’t possible to completely escape the models that surround us in wider society. Also, we risk becoming just as restrictive and controlling as rules-based models can be if we don’t recognise our tendency to create new crab buckets, and if we fail to examine our own models with the same critical eyes with which we examine others’.

Obviously this division into two forms of open non-monogamy is an over-simplification, and – as with all binaries – it can usefully be challenged. Arguably it should be more of a continuum from the first to the second form of non-monogamy than two separate boxes. And there may be relationships which don’t even fit on that spectrum at all. As I’ve written about elsewhere, there are also big issues with the monogamy / non-monogamy binary. There are monogamous models that look more like the freedom-from-contract way of relating, just as there are non-monogamous models that are very rules-based. It would be more accurate to view relationships on a number of different dimensions rather than attempting to come up with such hard-and-fast divisions.

Going back to Stories from the Polycule, I would love to see a further book that included as many accounts from egalitarian and solo poly people, relationship anarchists, and others exploring these kinds of models, as accounts from the more open-relationship / hierarchical-poly end of the spectrum. However, for now, Stories from the Polycule remains a very helpful addition to the poly literature indeed.


Here's the original article on Barker's site Rewriting the Rules (August 17, 2015).

P.S.: Kimchi Cuddles also just reviewed The Game Changer, as follows:


UPDATE April 2020: Recently some of Franklin Veaux's partners whose stories are told in The Game Changer have disputed those accounts and come forward with their own stories of relational harm in their connections with him.


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August 29, 2015

Ashley Madison fallout: a wave of problem open-marriage newbies coming our way? And, Dan Savage nails it.

I suspect that the Ashley Madison hack may send a surge of desperate open-marriage newbies to poly websites, local groups and poly conventions.

Consider the numbers. The site's roughly 31 million actual customers (the number if you assume that nearly all the female accounts were fake [Update: that claim has been retracted]) have been outed forever to anyone with a laptop or smartphone: name, address, pix, lists of preferred sex acts, and more. To put that 31 million in context, there are only 68.6 million American men married or living with a domestic partner as of 2013 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Granted, the Ashley Madison customers are spread around the world, and an unknown number of them may be single. But nearly half of the 37 million total accounts (real and fake) are reported to be in the U.S., and the site was pitched not to singles but to bored members of couples with a promise of secrecy justifying the high price.

Work this out, and roughly one in five married or domestically-partnered American men has an Ashley Madison cheating account.

That matches reports that 5.1% of the total American population (320 million men, women and children) were on Ashley Madison: 16.3 million U.S. accounts.

So a lot of divorce-quality discussions are probably happening, or about to happen, within shouting distance of wherever you live.

Suppose just one in a hundred of those couples decides that the solution is to try an open marriage, or this lovey-sounding polyamory thing they saw once on TV. If they come looking for help (or partners), we'll have 300,000 new troubled cases on our hands. Or 600,000 if both members of the couple show up.

I'm guessing that most of these new honest-nonmonogamy experimenters won't realize they need the support and wisdom of a community (they do). Or, they'll be ashamed to seek us out. Even so, the next year or two could be interesting for your local discussion group.

The hack is so big that it has prompted media ruminations about the future of marriage. The gist of the thought-pieces I've seen is that explicitly open relationships will become more common in the wake of the hack, and that actual monogamous people really need to make a deliberate effort to seek each other out.

Which is what the poly movement has been saying for years: we're about relationship choice. Understand what kind of relationship or marriage you actually want, and date people who are compatible with that.

Don't assume, discuss.

If I'm going to highlight just one article on this whole business, it's Dan Savage's piece that went up yesterday evening:

Savage Love Letters of the Day: End of Week Ashley Madison Letter Dump

Dan Savage in April 2015
...Someone who was a victim of this hack — an outed Ashley Madison member or group of AM members — has got to start organizing other victims of the hack. If you're all going to be outed, you might as well come out swinging. Call press conferences, tell your stories, defend yourselves. There are millions of you out there. You know what would instantly make news and change the narrative? Staging a protest at a business that fired someone whose named turned up on the database. Act up, fight back — like gay men did back in the 80s and 90s. The stigma then around being gay and/or having AIDS was greater than the stigma now around being one of those cheaters outed in the AM hack. Gay men with and without HIV were treated like diseased pariahs — and we embraced the term. We wore "DISEASED PARIAH" t-shirts, for fuck's sake.... We refused to be shamed.

If I personally knew someone who was reeling from the AM hack — someone whose info was out there, someone whose in-laws were freaking, someone whose boss had been emailed a link to his or her data — I would sit them down and make them watch "How to Survive a Plague," David France's Oscar-nominated documentary about ACT UP and TAG, and then make them read "So You've Been Publicly Shamed," Jon Ronson's book about public shaming in the age the Twitter mob. (AM members: Please pay close attention to the chapter on Max Mosley.)

...Not everyone who was on AM cheated [the vast majority never had a chance –Ed.] ...and some people who cheated had grounds to cheat. And the only people who have the power to rewrite or complicate the narrative around who AM members are? AM members themselves. Which is why you motherfuckers need to stop sitting at home pissing your pants and start fighting back.

Go read the whole thing, and pass it on. (August 28, 2015).


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August 28, 2015

In Montana, the Collier trio files to overturn bigamy laws, legalize their multi-marriage

Christine, Nathan, and Vicki Daugherty Collier
Christine, Nathan, and Vicki Daugherty Collier

And in other poly-marriage legal news, the Collier trio in Montana have gone ahead and filed a challenge to the state's bigamy laws and their denial of a second simultaneous marriage license. Nathan Collier posts on Facebook:

We just filed our federal lawsuit seeking TRUE marriage equality in U.S. District Court in Billings, Montana. The U.S. Marshal's Service should be serving the defendants [county officials and the governor] in the very near future after which we will prepare to have our lives changed forever in many ways, both good and bad. No matter how this turns out I know that we will be on the right side of history and I cannot imagine anyone I would rather face this with than my wives who have loved me through everything and stood beside me even when some would say that they shouldn't have. We are fighting for the right for our family to simply exist without fear of prosecution for nothing more than being a family; I cannot imagine a greater cause worth fighting for.

They will almost certainly be turned down; the question is how high can they take an appeal.

● From an Associated Press story:

Polygamists Ask Judge to Strike Down Montana’s Bigamy Laws

Nathan Collier said he was inspired the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling allowing gay marriage to legally wed his second wife

HELENA — A Billings man, his wife and his common-law wife filed a federal lawsuit Thursday that seeks to strike down Montana’s bigamy laws and argues the state is unconstitutionally preventing them from legitimizing their polygamous relationship.

Nathan, Victoria and Christine Collier turned to the courts after Yellowstone County officials denied Nathan and Christine’s request for a marriage license in June. Nathan Collier said he was inspired the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling allowing gay marriage to legally wed his second wife.

“I’m fighting for my family’s right to exist as a family,” Collier told The Associated Press. “I can’t imagine a greater cause to fight for.”

Nathan and Victoria Collier married in 2000. Nathan and Christine Collier held a religious ceremony in 2007 but did not sign a marriage license. The three live together in Billings, have eight children from their own and from past relationships and went public by appearing on the reality cable television show “Sister Wives” in January.

In their lawsuit, they argue the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling means that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is inconsistent with the fundamental right to marry. They also reference biblical figures and historical who had multiple wives as evidence of polygamy’s historical acceptance.

They speak about how they were excommunicated from the Mormon church for polygamy, and how they only want to love, protect, care and financially provide for each other.

The state laws that forbid a man from marrying more than one woman denies them their constitutionally guaranteed rights to equal protection, due process, free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association, the lawsuit said.

Nathan Collier said he wants a judge to prevent the state from enforcing those laws against consenting men and women in “plural relationships.”

The whole article (August 27, 2015).

● Here's a more detailed story on a local TV station's website: Montana polygamists file federal lawsuit after being denied a marriage license (Aug. 27).


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August 27, 2015

Robert George: "Is Polyamory Next?"

The American Interest

Robert P. George — Princeton professor, fixture of prestigious conservative think tanks, and perhaps America's leading Catholic arguer against same-sex marriage — just gave us polyfolks some very good press while arguing that incest is sure to be next.

And in what looks like it's supposed to be a rebuttal, titled "Why Not Polyamory?", eminent sociologist Peter L. Berger presents a mildly entertaining, superficial ramble going nowhere.

Both pieces went up in the last two days on the website of The American Interest, a big-think quarterly journal with neocon roots.

First, from George:

Is Polyamory Next?

By Robert P. George

The Youngs are women in a committed relationship who love and care for and look after each other. They share domestic duties and financial responsibilities. They share a bed and make love. They have a child (courtesy of sperm donation and in vitro fertilization) and intend to have two more. They were united in a ceremony in which they wore beautiful white wedding gowns and were walked down the aisle by their fathers [as Polyamory in the News featured here –Ed.]. They are just like any ordinary Massachusetts opposite- or same-sex married couple. Only they’re not a couple. Doll, Kitten, and Brinn Young are a throuple. And, for now at least, Massachusetts, like other states, does not recognize as marriages “polyamorous” unions (romantic partnerships of three or more persons).

But Doll, Kitten, and Brinn think that’s unfair and should change. They want marriage equality for themselves and other polyamorists. They are proud that their home state was in the vanguard of legally recognizing same-sex partnerships as marriages....

If gender doesn’t matter for marriage, they ask, why should number matter? “If love makes a family”, as the slogan went when the cause being advanced was gay marriage, then why should their family be treated as second class? Why should their marriage be denied legal recognition and the dignity and social standing that come with it? Doll, Kitten, and Brinn love each other and are as committed to each other and their child and future children as are, say, Donald Trump and his third wife, or Elton John and his husband. They find fulfillment in their long-term sexual partnership, just as opposite- and same-sex couples find fulfillment in theirs. The dignity of their relationship, not to mention their own personal dignity, is assaulted, they believe, when their marriage is treated as inferior and unworthy of legal recognition. Their child and future children are stigmatized by laws that refuse to treat their parents as married. And to what end? How does it harm the marriage of, say, John and Harold, the couple next door, if the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognizes the Youngs’ marriage? Indeed, what justification can be given — what legitimate state interest can be cited — for dishonoring Doll, Kitten, and Brinn and their marriage? Surely, the only explanation, apart from religious scruples of the sort that may not constitutionally be imposed by the State, is animus and a bare desire to harm people who are different?

Over the past couple of years, a number of mainstream websites, newspapers, and magazines — Salon, Slate, USA Today, Newsweek, the Atlantic — have run sympathetic stories about polyamory.... Polygamous and polyamorous relationships, often with children in the picture, are depicted as just one more historically misunderstood way of being a family — and those who enter such relationships as an often-victimized minority. The polyamorous partners profiled in the stories sometimes weave discussion of the ordinary challenges and simple joys of domestic life — dealing with disagreements, getting the kids to do their homework or practice the piano, celebrating birthdays and other special occasions — together with peek-a-boo accounts of what it’s like for throuples or larger polyamorous units to share a bed and have sex.

Many polyamorous people say that their desire or felt need for multiple partners is central to their identity, and that they have known from an early age that they could never find personal and sexual fulfillment in a purely monogamous relationship. The message is that they are the next sexual minority whose human rights, including of course the right to marriage equality, must be honored. They’re following the same playbook as same-sex marriage advocates in mainstreaming polyamory and putting in place the cultural predicates for its legal recognition. And it’s working. In the most recent polling, fully a quarter of Americans are now prepared to recognize polyamorous marriages, and among religiously unaffiliated citizens (whose numbers are climbing in the United States) the figure is 58 percent. These percentages represent far higher support than gay marriage had within the memory of more than a few readers of this essay.

....These and other open advocates of polyamory and its legal recognition now look like they were ahead of their time. With USA Today, Newsweek, and other respected publications sympathetically presenting polyamory, more and more polyamorists and allies of their cause will feel safer coming out. The politicians aren’t there yet, of course, but in this late season of our experience we all know that they are almost always among the last to arrive at the party. Soon enough, a small number will break the ice, just as they did on same-sex marriage. They will, to use President Obama’s famous description of his own flip-flop on same-sex marriage, “evolve.”

The problem with this? It's that marriage is supposed to be, according to moral and legal tradition (and especially, though he doesn't say it, the doctrine of the Catholic Church),

a conjugal union in which a man and woman consent to unite in a bond that is (1) founded on their sexual-reproductive complementarity, (2) consummated and renewed by acts that unite them as a reproductive unit (“one flesh”) by fulfilling the behavioral conditions of procreation (whether or not the non-behavioral conditions happen to obtain) [He means fucking. –Ed.]; and (3) specially apt for, and would naturally be fulfilled by, their having and rearing children together.

The idea of marriage as a conjugal union explains the structuring features of marriage in our moral and legal traditions, including (1) the rules of consummation (including annulability for non-consummation, but not for infertility); (2) the requirements of (a) monogamy, (b) sexual exclusivity (fidelity), and (c) permanence of commitment (“till death do us part”); and (3) the treatment of marriage as a properly public matter, something that law can and should recognize, support, and regulate, and not a merely private or religious matter, like baptisms, bar mitzvahs, and ordinary friendships (even the closest and most intimate).

This understanding of marriage is radically different from the revisionist conception that one must adopt if sexual-reproductive complementarity is irrelevant to marriage. According to revisionists, marriage is essentially a union at the affective level. What sets it apart is a certain emotional bond. It unites partners in an especially close or intense form of friendship, one which ordinarily involves sex but just as a way of fostering and expressing affection. Sex is thus, strictly speaking, incidental, not inherent, to the relationship....


if one grants the premises of sexual liberalism — that consenting adults have a right to enter into whatever types of sexual relationships they like without state interference,

then acceptance of adult incest is inevitable.

Read the whole 4,200-word article (August 25, 2015). If you ever need to cite a heavyweight reference for slippery-slopism, this would be a good pick.

Then from Berger:

Why Not Polyamory?

...In a society that is both pluralist and democratic different beliefs and values will have to co-exist. There will also be an overarching value system (Emile Durkheim’s “collective conscience”) to which at least the great majority of citizens will adhere and for which they will be ready to sacrifice (be it in treasure or in blood). It is probably helpful if this “conscience” is theologically neutral, but inevitably it will be explained differently by different faith communities....

...What is avoided in such a discussion is demonization of all who disagree with one’s own views. If at all possible, democracy seeks reasonable compromises.

Those are the only bits I find in the article that are pertinent to his title. Mostly it's a directionless ramble about polygamy in one part of the world or another, and the small part about polyamory shows how little he's followed the subject. See for yourself. (Aug. 26). People pay $8 an issue for this?

● The Slowly Boiled Frog (David Cary Hart) posts a clearer reply to George: Robby George is (still) trying to undo marriage equality with fear of polyamory and incest (Aug. 26).

● Also yesterday, sure to add fuel to the fire, came this news: ‘Sister Wives’ point to same-sex marriage in fighting Utah’s polygamy appeal:

SALT LAKE CITY — In a court filing challenging Utah’s appeal of a judge’s decision to strike down part of the state’s polygamy ban [i.e. criminalization, not just non-recognition], reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives point to the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling on same-sex marriage.

In a response filed with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court in Denver, Kody Brown and his wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, ask the judges to reject the state’s appeal. They cite cases involving same-sex marriage (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges) and a case that struck down the ban on gay sex (Lawrence v. Texas).

“From the rejection of morality legislation in Lawrence to the expansion of the protections of liberty interests in Obergefell, it is clear that states can no longer use criminal codes to coerce or punish those who choose to live in consensual but unpopular unions. This case is about criminalization of consensual relations and there are 21st century cases rather than 19th century cases that control,” Brown family attorney Jonathan Turley wrote.

The Browns, who appear on the TLC reality show “Sister Wives,” sued the state of Utah over its ban on polygamy, arguing it violated their right to freely practice their religion and their right to equal protection under the law.

Or read the Salt Take Tribune's longer story with a similar headline: ‘Sister Wives’ family points to same-sex marriage cases in arguing against Utah polygamy ban (Aug. 27).

Here is Turley's filing, dated Aug. 26.


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August 23, 2015

Deutsche Welle: "Polyamory: An abundance of love"

This came as a reminder of my old childhood shortwave-radio days. Deutsche Welle is the official international broadcaster, and now website, for Germany. It offers programming in 30 languages including English. Its stated goals are to convey Germany as a "liberal, democratic state based on the rule of law," produce reliable news coverage, and represent German language and culture.

On Thursday it put up this long, friendly, supportive article on its website:

Polyamory: An abundance of love

By Caroline Schmitt

Loving several people at once — is that possible? Meeting a polyamorous young woman showed that it is, but only if you replace some of love's glamor with sober rationality.

"There are phases where I'm closer to one person. Physical proximity plays a huge role. But if I meet someone new and think they're interesting, that doesn't mean I'm less close to anyone else. Maybe I have a bit less time for them, but everyone else's lives never stand still either," Juliane (right) says.

Turns out love, unlike money, food or space, isn't a limited resource. Juliane loves, sleeps with, is there for, and occasionally gets angry about, four different people. She lives as part of a network of people who all have multiple lovers.

Currently, she has been in one relationship in Berlin for more than a year, in a long-distance relationship and casually with two others for two and four years, respectively.

The secret for not letting this turn into a massive orgy or a constant emotional rollercoaster ride? According to Juliane, there are some essential ingredients: "It's really important to me that the people who play a central role in my life get to know each other and communicate openly," she says, adding that honesty is also important, along with having the guts to be raw and vulnerable.

Her relationship model of choice is polyamory, a term coined in the mid 90s. It is a model that works differently for everyone involved in a relationship with multiple partners. There isn't one sole way to live it — details are constantly being negotiated.

..."Monogamy is an absurd idea to me. If there is someone I feel very close to, someone I love, why would that keep me from having sex with others? Why would that keep me from feeling close to someone else? I mean [even if I tried], it would happen. I would meet someone new and I'd fall in love. A relationship wouldn't prevent me from feeling that way," Juliane says with a smile, as if she's probably thinking about someone at this very moment.

She describes love as "finding someone fascinating" and "meeting someone so great you want to spend as much time with them as possible". Her idea of love is focussed on the other person — on their life, the way they see the world — so it feels different every time because every person is different. In that way, she doesn't so much talk about the butterflies in her stomach or the excitement in her own heart, instead she highlights people's characters.

She talks about all these people fondly while sitting in the garden of her girlfriend Theresa's flat in a residential part of north Berlin. Theresa never had just one relationship; there were always several. After one and a half years together, Theresa is one of her more intense relationships. Their interactions are natural and effortless. They casually chat about their plans for next week and talk about where her housemate is. With their inside jokes they come across like old friends, but you can tell they are lovers by the way Juliane tenderly strokes Theresa's hair for a split second....

...It's difficult to picture what being vulnerable could look like without witnessing any major fights, meltdowns, or arguments about the same old issues that wouldn't end. Now, talking about vulnerability on a harmonious summer evening feels a little clinical and theoretical, but maybe that's a huge part of a polyamorous lifestyle.

Her profound determination to live differently has become stronger and less compromising over the years, because she put so much effort, literary research and then first-hand experience into making polyamory work. "If people look at all the relationship models and find that polyamory doesn't work for them, that's fine too. What annoys me is people who don't reflect on society and traditions and just adopt [monogamy]."

...Maybe that's something monogamous people can learn from polyamorous people like Juliane: Instead of being so focused on one person — The One who will lead you to eternal happiness and rainbows — copying Juliane's way of relying on herself, being conscious about her own feelings and needs, may also increase the abundance of love in a one-to-one relationship.

Read the whole article (August 20, 2015). I don't find any versions but the English one.


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August 19, 2015

Deborah Taj Anapol, 1951 - 2015

Deborah Anapol, known as Taj. (Photo courtesy Becca Tzigany)

News comes that a founding mother of the modern polyamory movement, Deborah Taj Anapol, unexpectedly died in her sleep last night in England. She was staying with friends about to host a workshop retreat where she was a presenter.

Robert and Marta of the U.K. Pelvic Heart Integration group post this:

Dear friends, I have some very sad news to share with you. After two wonderful days staying with us in our old Devon house, Taj died suddenly in her bed last night. It was totally unexpected – she went to bed well and happy, and looking forward to her work and travels. Taj spent her last day with us walking and meditating in what she felt was one of the very oldest of the Dartmoor stone circles, having lunch in a lovely café in Totnes, and a candlelit dinner in our dinner in our farmhouse kitchen. She was very happy feasting on local lamb and home grown vegetables while we all chattered about the workshop to come, and how Marta and I would be running it.

It was an extraordinary evening. Before she went to bed, Taj wanted to show us a short film about ecstatic death. We watched this together in front of the wood fire, and afterwards she spoke a little more about death, and the possibility of letting go into it. “If you live your life orgasmicly, your death will also be orgasmic,” is what she said. She went off to bed later with a warm hug. In the morning, we found that she must have died shortly after she went to bed. In the light of the extraordinary quality of this last day, the joy she took in it, and the things she spoke of as the day ended, I cannot but feel that Taj at some level knew and embraced the point she had arrived at, even so wonderfully in love with life as she was.

Adds Rebecca Tzigany,

She leaves a legacy of liberation in Tantra, Pelvic Heart Integration, polyamory, juicy cronedom, and conscious death. She was a good friend, and we will miss her. .... Travel well, Taj. We hold you forever in our hearts.

Taj and Ryam.
Courtesy Loving More.
Taj is often credited with setting the modern polyamory movement in motion, along with her fellow wonder woman Ryam Nearing, by their vigorous activism in the 1980s and 1990s. This included the founding of Loving More magazine, the movement's central nexus before the internet (now a polyamory-education nonprofit and organizer of the annual Poly Living conferences). The movement's deep feminism today, in both its ideology and its predominantly female leadership, is partly a founder effect stemming from these two. Anapol's book Love Without Limits, published in 1992 (expanded and reissued in 1997 as Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits), was practically the first book on polyamory and was often called its bible.

At one of her last events: New
Culture Summer Camp East, July 2015.
With Monique Darling (left) and Sarah Taub.
In her later years she shifted focus to neo-tantra and to training practitioners of Pelvic Heart Integration. In 2010 she published Polyamory in the 21st Century, a more analytical, retrospective work.

Last month she presented at the Network for a New Culture's Summer Camp East, at the Abrams Creek Retreat Center in West Virginia, where I got to participate in a Pelvic Heart Integration workshop. She was the picture of health and energy.

● Loving More's obituary for her: The Passing of a Polyamory Trailblazer, by Robyn Trask.

Saying Goodbye to the Woman Who Inspired Me to Become a Sexual Healer: RIP Deborah Taj Anapol Ph.D., by Kamala Devi.

● Her Psychology Today blog covers many of her ideas about poly in recent years: Love Without Limits. See in particular What Ever Happened to the Sexual Revolution? Core quote: "Will we ever integrate sex, love, spiritual awakening and ecological awareness?... My take is that the Sexual Revolution has gone awry but its downfall stems from a lack of moral, ethical, and ecological grounding, and also from not going far enough to alter our way of life."

● Dr. Anya Trahan's interview with her earlier this year. Excerpt:

Deborah: My views on polyamory itself really have not changed much at all since [her first book in 1992]. What has changed is that I no longer see polyamory as a way to radically change the culture or as a radical solution to the many problems of modern life. Instead it seems that what’s happening is that polyamory is being used to prop up the status quo.

Anya: In what ways do you see poly being used to prop up the status quo of social relations?

Deborah: Atlantic Magazine has joined the ranks of mainstream publications running favorable articles about polyamory.... Over the last 30 years I’ve witnessed a huge change in how the print media relate to polyamory. It’s gone from an unofficial blackout to advocacy. I’d like to think that it’s just that the mainstream has seen the light and is getting more tolerant of diversity, but I don’t see similar articles about how fabulous it is to be gay, for example.

Judging by the kinds of questions coming from journalists who’ve interviewed me, social policy experts have realized that the nuclear family is an endangered species, just as I predicted in the 80’s. So the question becomes, how can we keep couples together so that we don’t have to shift our whole concept of relationship? How can we lower the divorce rate? Without families, there is a greater burden on government funded social services. Since we prefer to spend our tax dollars on the military and bailing out financial institutions, something needs to be done to save the family and preserve the kind of thinking and behavior that says, “These people are my family and I will share my resources with them and take care of them.” That’s all well and good but I’d like to see this attitude extending to all life – all people, animals, plants, oceans – our whole global social and environmental ecological web.

Update August 26: Her younger daughter Alana Glassco posts,

Many people have asked about our plans for a memorial service. We are currently planning a very small, private memorial for our family in the Bay Area, but we will not be planning a larger memorial service for the community at this time. We are grateful for all the wonderful people who were in Deborah's life, and encourage everyone to plan whatever types of events they would like to honor her in their own communities.


August 18, 2015

A surprised columnist: "Polyamorous relationships and the 'messes' of love"

Chicago Tribune

Here's an interesting one. A news columnist for the Chicago Tribune, a millennial judging by her photo, wrote a column that went up on the paper's site this afternoon about her surprise that something called polyamory exists. She heard about it from a friend (who described it pretty well), assumes that it's mostly a new thing for millennials, and is intrigued but skeptical.

It's interesting to see the assumptions that someone makes these days when they first hear about this thing.

Polyamorous relationships and the 'messes' of love

Is the heart big enough to accommodate polyamory?

By Dawn M. Turner

My introduction to the concept of polyamory, or Polyamory 101 as I like to think of it, occurred a few months ago when I was walking with a friend across Harvard Yard. My friend, who's in her late 20s, mentioned that she engages in polyamorous relationships.

For a second, I thought: A poly-who?

Then, my knowledge of Greek and Latin kicked in and helped me divine the word's meaning. Still, I didn't know it was a thing. Or, maybe I should say, a new thing.

A polyamorous relationship is one in which consenting adults openly have several deeply intimate, monogamous-like relationships, but without exclusivity. It may, as my friend described, include sex. It may not.

Confused? Keep reading.

In my mind, it's a concept that used to be called "playing the field" if you were single, and "swinging" (or engaging in an "open relationship") if you were married. Now, it's been repackaged and hybridized into a heady euphemism for millennials.

I must tell you that I conducted a highly non-scientific survey of several Gen Xers and baby boomers, folks between the ages of 38 and 60, and asked them if they'd heard of polyamorous relationships. They hadn't....

To be clear, the concept is not new. (We're just late to the party, so to speak.) For my research, I found the websites of several local polyamory meet-up groups, one started in 2012....

So what distinguishes polyamory from "swinging" or "playing the field?"

The big difference, said my friend, is that it's a way of negotiating a relationship — talking about how you feel and what you want in your many companionships — and not merely negotiating sex....

...But I wonder: Is the heart so big, so muscular, that it can accommodate so many loves, however open and honest couples are?

What do you think?

Read the whole article (August 18, 2015), and comment with some further information. (Free registration required.)


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August 15, 2015

Ruban Nielson's album *Multi-Love* continues making waves

Ruban Neilson continues to draw attention with his album Multi-Love, which, he says, grew from his awe-inspiring, scary year in a triad. On Wednesday night (August 12-13) he appeared on NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers (heir to David Letterman) and sang the title track. As Consequences of Sound described,

Polyamory is an uneasy topic for some folks, but not so much for Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. He made it a key topic in the band’s latest release, Multi-Love. Last night, he brought the topic to a national audience with a performance on Seth Meyers. Nielson tried to make the crowd as comfortable as possible by taking a relaxed position up on a giant white piano while he sang the album’s title track.

Lyrics. Musically, I don't think it's the most interesting song on the album.


Here's a selection from the many reviews, interviews and stories since my last roundup.

● In The Guardian: 'I can't tell what I'm supposed to keep private now' (June 9, 2015)

Not long ago, New Zealand-born Nielson embarked on a three-way relationship between himself, his wife Jenny and a young woman whom the music website dubbed “Laura”. The couple and their two children had moved out of a yurt and into a permanent residence and invited Laura to stay with them after a period of exchanging increasingly romantic emails. The three had a polyamorous love-in for the next year, until visa issues prevented Laura from extending her stay.

...Despite his laidback demeanor, his complicated love life looms like the elephant in the room. I want to ask more about what happened, how he fell in love with two women at the same time and, I’ll be honest, who slept where. To the cynical it sounds like life imitating Portlandia. But Nielson is still dealing with the very real emotional fallout.

“It’s hard …”, he begins, half-tired of fielding questions about it, half-nervous about what he might answer. Laura isn’t talking to him after the article was published last month. “It’s in a weird space at the moment,” he says of how they left things. “She’s really pissed at me right now; she’s never really had to deal with media [before].” Despite shooting the album’s cover, a shot of Nielson’s studio with a distinctive pink glow, Nielson suggests that Laura was taken aback by how, as a line of the titular track goes: “It’s not that this song’s about her / most songs are about her”. “I think she was just a bit shocked at how much of ...” – he catches himself and changes tack – “how important the album was to me”.

...Is she annoyed that he’s exploited their anomalous experiences for his own creative ends? “Yeah, maybe,” says Nielson, tentatively. “The way things happened might have made her feel that way, but that’s not really what happened. Maybe it’s a betrayal that I’m still talking about it to the press, I don’t know. I can’t tell what I’m supposed to keep private now, or what’s my responsibility to the people who listen to my records.”

...Nielson liked the idea of “a hip-hop DJ being able to play Kanye and then my song without it feeling like a total seismic shift”, but the truth is that UMO’s music has its own wooze-vision. And not just because Nielson tends to spiral off into theories about the universe and holograms. Multi-Love’s production is dense, burbling with an unhinged, squelchy pressure that could only come from escaping the stress of a three-way relationship in a basement studio stacked with old synths in the middle of the night. Multi-coloured parts bound in and out of focus like neon flubber, or else are muffled like a dusty, well-loved Otis Redding record lurking at the back of your bookcase. His style has caught the ear of Frank Ocean and Chet Faker, both of whom Nielson is said to be working with.

For now, however, Nielson is content to be UMO’s ringleader and shape them into one of the must-see live acts this summer.

The whole article (June 9, 2015).

● From a long interview in Australia's FasterLouderUnknown Mortal Orchestra on Prince, Pitchfork and polyamory (June 2)

...That is a very personal thing to talk about and try to represent in a record — were you ready to talk about all this publicly?

...I wasn’t going to talk about it. And then when David — the journalist who wrote the Pitchfork piece — came out and hung at my house for three days. At one point he laid it out that he had figured it out, because he had got so deep into the record and he had done some research he had figured it out on his own and he was basically like, “Let me tell the story because if you trust me and think I’m a good journalist it will be better if I present it than if it ends up on Tumblr”.... It kind of forced my hand a little to be honest. But David was so respectful about it....

It was always going to become increasingly difficult not to talk about it – because you could already see people picking apart the lyrics and pushing you to give a reason for what this record is about.

Yeah that’s the other thing about it. The record becomes sort of confusing and unnecessarily obscure if you don’t know some of the things that went into it.

● In the New Zealand Herald, where Ruban is from: Album review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love (June 4).

Once you know the story about Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman Ruban Nielson's experience with polyamory while this album was in creation, it's hard to forget. Except if you'd never heard about it, it's entirely possible that you could listen to Multi-Love and never have any inkling of that story, because though that experience infused Nielson's outlook and writing, and gave the album its title, this isn't an album about polyamory.

It's an album about the confusion of love and life, of emotions, endless questions, and a search for contentment....

● When it was released on May 26, Spin made it their album of the week.

In The 405 (May 28):

The glimpse into Ruban Nielson's studio that adorns the cover of Unknown Mortal Orchestra's third record, speaks volumes about what is contained within the album. Analog consoles and tape reels stand out among a variety of instruments and knick-knacks, but all of it is cast in darkness.... But this gloomy chamber of reflection is being invaded by an amorphous, psychedelic blob coming out of the ceiling. Its purple-orange hue is cast across the room, providing relief to the melancholic spirit of the room. It is this feeling that Nielson uses to set the stage of Multi-Love's cathartic and complex examination of polyamory.

● In Flavorwire: An Unflinchingly Honest Account of a Polyamorous Relationship (May 26)

In addition to being one of the year’s best psychedelic records, Multi-Love may just be the first album to honestly explore the complications of an increasingly common relationship arrangement that remains both fetishized and taboo....

As Pitchfork notes in a recent profile, Nielson said one pal responded to his admittance of the three-way relationship with the following comment: “That’s rad, man. Maybe you can go to bed with both of them.” Instead, Nielson bristled and told his friend, “I wish I wasn’t in this emotionally terrifying situation.”

“Think about the two most serious relationships in your life so far, and then experiencing them simultaneously,” Nielson offered as an explanation. “It makes you wonder: How much can a human being deal with emotionally? How well-adjusted are you?”

Interview in Coolhunting (June 23).

Q: The album art for Multi-Love is a photo of your pink-lit basement — I wanted to know the story behind the two skulls on the shelf.

A: The gold one and the crystal one — one was a gift from my wife and one was a gift from my girlfriend.

● In the Salt Lake Tribune, while on tour: Unknown Mortal Orchestra grapples with overwhelming weight of love (July 26).

● In the Phoenix New Times: Unknown Moral Orchestra Details Singer's Polyamorous Relationship (I wouldn't say so). (July 29.)

Lots more, currently.

● The Multi-Love official video (4:15):

New video for the album's "Ur Life One Night":

...and Rolling Stone's article about it (August 13).


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August 14, 2015

Anya Trahan on 'Marriage Equality' and the Politics of Love

Relationship coach Dr. Anya Trahan, who runs Purple Mornings Reiki in Bowling Green, Ohio, says she was recently fired from two jobs for coming out poly with her book Opening Love: Intentional Relationships & the Evolution of Consciousness. I haven't read it yet; on her site she calls it "a lucid manifesto for those who realize that love is a bigger story than the one we’ve been told. Sexuality is the fundamental pulse of the universe, and cannot be contained by partnership forms that induce scarcity and control."

Now she's traveling, lecturing, and giving workshops. She recently did an interview about poly rights that was published on Huffington Post. The piece has grown legs on the poly internets.

'Marriage Equality' and the Politics of Love

By Tim Ward

The recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage makes it seem as if marriage equality has finally come to the U.S. But that is not actually accurate....

For example, polyamory....

The ironic thing is, there would be no big deal about a person who just happened to be sleeping with more than one lover. But call it polyamory — in other words, a public, ethical stance about loving more than one partner with honesty and integrity — and that seems intolerable to so many. Currently, polyamorous people do not have equal protection under the law, because anything other than monogamy is seen as a fringe/ freakish/ immoral lifestyle choice and not as a valid sexual or relationship orientation.

I interviewed author and poly advocate Dr. Anya Trahan about the Supreme Court decision, and what she sees as the way forward for those who embrace ethical loving with multiple partners.

Question: Do you think polyamory is a sexual orientation? Is it a choice or is it inborn?

...The way I personally think of polyamory is as a relationship orientation. In my work as a relationship coach, I have found that a surprising number of my clients consider themselves "partners" or "family" with those whom there is no sexual interaction. In other words, polyamory seems to be more about coming together for the purposes of co-creating a life together, a support system, based on mutually shared values and philosophies. Responsible sexual expression may be enjoyed, of course, but that is not necessarily a prerequisite to form loving, intense, committed connections.

Question: You are a public figure, an author and a spokesperson for polyamory. Have you suffered any negative consequences?

When I first came out as poly back in 2012, I lost a number of close friends. Members of my biological family reacted with open hostility and judgment, resulting in a period of estrangement. Since my book about polyamory, Opening Love, has been published this year, I have been fired from two jobs.... I know that I would have at least a small shot at winning a discrimination case, because one of the organizations stated openly in writing that the reason I was being fired was for being openly polyamorous. In theory, I could sue on the grounds of sexual discrimination. [The chance of winning such a case would probably be slim. –Ed.]

Although my personal experience with getting fired was difficult indeed, what is really difficult is when it comes to family discrimination cases. My heart goes out to those involved in the numerous child custody cases that have happened in this country in the past few decades. In many of these cases, wealthy grandparents or an ex-spouse with a bone to pick will target the poly parent.... To the best of my knowledge, there has only been one state, Pennsylvania, who has set any precedent for protecting poly parents in custody cases.

...As long as human beings are living in the sort of cultural paradigm that includes laws and legal codes that enforce certain ways of behaving, I think it makes sense to offer legal protection against harassment and discrimination for consenting adults who choose to create partnerships and families of more than two adults. This protection would include not just polyamorous relationships but also lesbian mothers and their sperm donor, gay fathers and their surrogate, polygamy (one male, multiple females), polygyny (one female, multiple males) [should be "polyandry" –Ed.], and other versions of loving relationships. There are so many ways to enjoy intimacy, connection and support between consenting adults, and the freedom of choice must not be denied us. "Relationship orientation" needs to be a protected category under the law, too.

...Question: In your view, how might legalizing polyamorous marriage improve society?

The family is the basic blueprint for humanity as a whole. What happens in the internal family is reflected in the larger external world.... What many traditionalists don't realize is that from a global and historical perspective, the concept of the two-parent nuclear family in an isolated residence is rather new. And, although this at first appears counterintuitive, one big advantage that a poly family has over a monogamous one is stability — because, with more than two adults, if an individual adult member decides to leave, the family will persist in more or less the same form. If, for example, you have four parents living under the same roof and one leaves, it is not quite the same catastrophic situation as when divorce happens between two monogamous parents....

In our society, there is a very narrow view of what "family" is, and as a result, groups of loving people who want to live together often run into legal trouble due to zoning laws that protect outmoded concepts of economic scarcity and the supposed superiority of the nuclear family model.

...Question: What support is available for people who have lost their jobs or who face child custody crises as a result of polyamory discrimination?

Contact Loving More, the nation's leading advocacy organization for polyamory and relationship choice. Also contact the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF). After I was fired as a result of being openly poly, these two organizations were invaluable to me, providing me with honest advice, legal facts, as well as much-needed emotional support.

Read the whole interview (Aug. 3, 2015).


● In June she had another interview hosted on HuffPost by the same author: Torn Between Two Lovers? The Spiritual Path to Choosing Both (June 25, 2015).

Q: How do you see polyamory as a spiritual practice?

Polyamory is a practice that encourages us to go beyond egos (the part of us that mistakenly believes we are separate from everything else), and therefore see the interconnected nature of all things. Seeing that interconnectedness, seeing that we are truly all One, helps us move towards a more egalitarian-based mindset, where the central value is helping each other rather than competition.

...Q: Polyamory has become a movement, not just an individual lifestyle choice. What are the pros and cons of becoming part of a community when it comes to one's own private relationships?

In hosting a support group for my local poly community, I have found that, in reality, there is no such thing as "private" choices. What we do in our so-called private life is really a reflection of the choices we make in our public life, and vice versa.

I encourage everyone who is poly or poly-curious to seek community. There are many support groups (online, as well as in-person) who maintain confidentiality, so even if you are not "out," you can still benefit from guidance and friendship with like-minded others....

● Article in her hometown newspaper: Author Offers New Look at Love (June 17, 2015).

● Her doctorate is in English/Philosophy; her dissertation was Relationship Literacy and Polyamory: A Queer Approach (2014), as Heather Anne Trahan.


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August 12, 2015

"Polyamory: taboo for religious Americans but not for the rest"

That's the headline with which YouGov announced its polyamory-acceptance polling results today. The first part of the headline is no surprise, but the second part might be. From the announcement:

Polygamy has long been prohibited and rarely practised in the United States.... What is increasingly common in the United States, however, are various forms of 'polyamory', where people have multiple sexual and romantic partners with the full knowledge of their partners.

YouGov's research shows that most Americans (56%) reject the idea that polyamory is somehow morally acceptable, though one quarter of the country does think that polyamorous relationships are morally acceptable....

Attitudes towards polyamory depend significantly on how religious someone is. 80% of people who say that religion is 'very important' in their lives say that polyamory is wrong, but among people for whom religion is 'not at all important' 58% say that polyamory is morally acceptable.

Some other results:

– Men were more than twice as likely as women to say that polyamory is morally acceptable.

– The most accepting age group was 30-44.

– Democrats and independents were equally accepting; Republicans less so.

– The Northeast, Midwest, and West were equally accepting; the South only a little less so.

– Whites were twice as likely to be accepting as Blacks or Hispanics.

– Income hardly mattered.

– Polygamy is viewed much more negatively than polyamory.

Here's the whole announcement (August 12, 2015). The full poll results are here; and topline results are here.

YouGov also asked the same questions in Great Britain and got somewhat similar answers; full results.

How reliable is all this? Unlike most polling firms, YouGov doesn't try to assemble a representative random sample of a population. To get polled by YouGov, you have to join the YouGov "community" online. You win perks if you answer surveys they email you, on all kinds of topics. Says Wikipedia,

The company’s methodology involves obtaining responses from an invited group of internet users, and then weighing these responses in line with demographic information. It draws these demographically-representative samples from a panel of 3 million people worldwide including over 600,000 people in the UK [where YouGov is based].

YouGov claims that its weighting algorithms make it at least as accurate as conventional polling. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight found that it did about average among polling firms in predicting the 2012 presidential election. Silver says internet polling in general has become about as reliable as phone polling, which has sample-bias problems of its own.

Aside from such systematic errors, YouGov's polyamory-attitudes poll in the US used 1000 responders for a statistical margin of error of ±4.4%.


August 7, 2015

"Louisville has growing polyamory community"

Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal

This local newspaper story about Kentucky polys has been in the works for at least a couple of months. Now that it's finally out it sounds kind of clunky and uninspired to me, but the people in it represent us well. Big thanks to the folks who volunteered to be interviewed — those who made it into the story and those who didn't.

Update August 10: Despite the story's overall mediocrity, USA Today has just picked it up: Polyamorous Relationships Become More Visible. The topic must be popular. (Both papers are owned by Gannett.)

Update August 16: Now it's being reprinted in local papers all over the country, despite being very tied to Louisville, Kentucky. Hey journalists — this topic is in demand.

"Jim Hanson, wife Jacque, and daughter Sammy, 5, enjoy a nice day in Lebanon, Ohio. Jacque and Jim are Polyamorous and her 'other better half' lives in Louisville." (Mark Bealer/ Courier-Journal)

Louisville has growing polyamory community

By Janica Kaneshiro

Her mother calls him “the man from Kentucky.”

But to Jacque Hanson of Lebanon, Ohio, Jason is more than the boyfriend her mom won’t accept.

He would be her second husband if she could get her way.

“I would marry him today if I could,” Hanson said, adding that she has no intention of leaving her husband, Jim.

Instead, she and Jim have agreed to an open relationship.

Hanson identifies as polyamorous, a brand of consensual non-monogamy — or ethical cheating [Groan. –Ed.] — in which partners are in more than one committed relationship at once with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

It is difficult to determine the actual number of people in such relationships because of a lack of research, but they are becoming more visible because of the Internet and social media, according to psychologist Meg Manthos, whose clientele is about 30 percent poly groups.

“Poly relationships have been around for as long as we’ve had documentation,” Manthos said.

And according to a national Avvo.com study from June 2015, about 4 percent of the U.S. population admits [groan] to being in an open relationship, which amounts to about 12.8 million people, or roughly three times the population of Kentucky.

In Louisville, Hanson’s boyfriend Jason and his wife lead a support group of polyamorous couples. The group started five years ago and has grown from four people to between 10 and 25 at each of the monthly meetings, they said. In addition, the Louisville Poly e-mail list which they also run has 420 people on it.

...He said he and his wife have only two rules: safe sex and “don’t be a jerk.” The latter has taken the place of a longer list they made when they first started exploring outside their marriage.


...Hanson, who works as a nurse at a nursing home, talks openly about her lifestyle with anyone who asks, so people often pepper her with questions.

“Some people think I do this because I have low self-esteem, but I think I’m awesome,” she said. “I don’t need help with that.”

One of the most common questions she gets: “Which partner do you love more?”

Hanson said the question is like asking someone which of their children they love more.

She and her husband are perfectly compatible, Hanson said, but “no one can be 100 percent of the things you need, no matter how compatible. I want him to be happy and he wants me to be happy.”

She said it’s a poly principle called “compersion” in which a person gains something emotionally when their significant other finds happiness in another relationship.

She said her relationships are “pretty normal,” the only difference is that she has more than one at a time.

Psychologist Manthos said most of the poly couples she counsels have problems similar to monogamous couples she works with, except poly couples tend to have more issues with how they are perceived....

The Hansons go on to describe compersion, and the level of support and mutual aid among the local poly community. Here's the whole article (August 7, 2015).