Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

September 29, 2015

Comic: "5 Radical Ways People Do Non-Monogamy That You Need to Know About"

Everyday Feminism

As poly awareness becomes mainstream, is awareness of poly's wider potential being pushed to the margin?

This comic, by Joamette Gil on Everyday Feminism, has begun to take off. It's titled "5 Radical Ways People Do Non-Monogamy That You Need to Know About." The link. (September 27, 2015)


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September 26, 2015

In Australia, "Free love in the 21st century: Why polyamory is taking off"

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. runs a chain of newspapers in Australia. Newly up on the chain's website is a guy's story of sleeping with a poly woman. His article is well-intentioned but begins off-course in a way that I think we ought to call out.

Free love in the 21st century: Why polyamory is taking off

Polyamorous couples are free to date other people, but the key is honesty.

By Tyson Wray

Last weekend I was having pillow talk with Scarlett* (25). We had been on a date the night before. It was only our third or fourth. We had gone to the theatre, followed by a bar, then eventually back to my apartment for sex. We woke with hazy headaches, bruised bodies and whimsical conversation.

“What’s on for the rest of your weekend?” I quizzed in a hungover drawl.

“Oh, I’m just planning to spend some time with my boyfriend Chad* (29).”

...In the past decade society has seen a rise of couples (especially the more youthful) exploring polyamory and open relationships — the practice where a committed couple also separately and openly engage in dating and sexual relationships with others sometimes casual and sometimes more serious.

Open relationships, maybe — but polyamory is not defined as "where a committed couple also separately and openly engage in dating and sexual relationships". There are poly singles too, and committed triads and quads who may be open or closed, and networks of intimate friends.

When he hands the talking stick to his pillowmate and her boyfriend Chad, they explain things better:

“Poly to me is dating or otherwise being in a relationship (sexual or romantic or both) with more than one person, or being open to that,” notes Scarlett, who has dated Chad for three years. “I was still poly when I was only dating one person, the same as how dating a man doesn’t remove my queer identity. When talking about my current relationship I usually say I’m in an open relationship, because I feel like poly sometimes implies that I’m only interested in multiple committed relationships (or at least that’s how I see it used), whereas right now I’m perfectly happy casually dating or sleeping with other people while having one live-in committed relationship with Chad.”

...“I identify as a queer pansexual with an interest in various forms of fetish play,” says Chad. “Because of this I tend to think that in a lot of cases it is impossible for one partner in the traditional sense to fulfill all needs when it comes to the rather broad concept of intimacy. This is something I fell naturally into doing over time as I worked it out.”

...Of course, as with any form of relationship, boundaries must be drawn and communication is imperative.

“When I’m interested in going on a date with a new person I make sure they know about Chad right from the start, because if someone isn’t comfortable with an open relationship then they’re not the person for me. Another important thing for me is that they respect my other relationships.”

“I like to think communication between all parties is key,” says Chad. “But I also think that is true with any kind of relationship. It shouldn’t be a challenge and if it is, perhaps it’s not for you.”

...Polyamory will never be for everyone, but the same can be said for monogamy. They both fall at the opposite ends of a very broad spectrum, one that many people occupy the middle-ground of for much of their lives.

The important thing for couples like Scarlett and Chad is being upfront and honest. And there’s definitely something to be said about that.

Tyson Wray is an editor and writer from Melbourne. Find him on Twitter @tysonwray and feel free to ask him on a date.

The whole article (September 25, 2015). Comments there are not enabled.



September 23, 2015

The Game Changer, Franklin's story of his poly life, is out today.

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.


Franklin Veaux has had more influence on polyamory than probably anyone else in the last decade — first with his popular intro-to-poly website and his prolific blogging, and then with More Than Two, published a year ago with Eve Rickert as its co-author and deepener of ideas.

Franklin's stamp on the movement has been to spread recognition that poly relationships succeed when they put certain principles of ethics and autonomy dead center, even when this means sidelining couple privilege, one-sided rule-making, and efforts to maintain the "safety" of a primary couple at the expense of others.

Short version: ethics in relationships can be defined pretty exactly — as equal respect for everyone's agency and right to informed consent; setting your boundaries clearly in terms of your own self; and "Don't treat people as things"; as items to be used. Not even the people you don't know yet.

That last surely comes from Granny Weatherwax and her definition of sin in the Terry Pratchett novels: "And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things."1

The poly movement wasn't always as receptive to these severe insights as it is now. When Franklin faced up to a moral crisis and published the Proposed Secondary's Bill of Rights in 2003, the fury it aroused in the poly world was horrific. Twelve years later it's taken as received poly wisdom.

How did Franklin get to that key turning point in 2003?

Today is the publication date for his autobiography, The Game Changer: A memoir of disruptive love. If you assumed that the Game Changer is supposed to be Franklin, no, it's his wise partner "Amber": a fellow giraffe, who set him on his redirected path. No relationship, poly or otherwise, is proof against a game changer, nor should it try to be.

Franklin has started a 10-day book tour of the West Coast, then he and Eve will do a joint book tour in Europe for The Game Changer and More Than Two. The schedule.


I've already posted Meg John Barker's long review of The Game Changer. Here are some more:

● In The Frisky, by Katie Klabusich (Sept. 14, 2015):

...A great read for anyone who’s ever felt slightly “off” or out of place — either with my brand of vague insecurity, or with an assuredness that more closely matches Veaux’s own determined approach to life and love. For me, it’s been more than just a pleasure read; when his More Than Two co-author and publicist Eve Rickert reached out to me this spring, I was navigating my first on-purpose poly relationship and getting the chance to figure out for real what I want and who I am. Being able to experience Veaux’s journey, missteps, early assumptions, and adjustments to how he approaches relationships has been invaluable.

“Amber was my giraffe. She was the first person I ever knew who really got me, understood me, saw me on a deep level,” Veaux writes. “Amber saw me. It’s impossible to express how transformative that was.

“The thing was, I was a giraffe too. And I had never believed there were other giraffes out there. Like Amber, I felt like I was living in a world of alligators. Meeting another giraffe … well, that was a very heady thing.”

...Poly people are definitely not the book’s sole audience; Veaux has plenty to offer monogamous folks as well. The emphasis on communication and consent in poly circles isn’t just for scheduling and logistics — both make relationships stronger and happier. I know, shocker, right?...

Read the whole review.

● By Louisa Leontiades:

Sometimes something happens in your life which upsets the world as you know it. For many of us in the polyamorous community, the first realisation that you can love many without cheating and in a long-term stable relationship, is such a revelation.

But one of the reasons polyamory is so powerful is that it not only upsets the biggest social norm of our time, but that it is a gift that keeps on surprising… pain, jealousy, break-ups and yes, the joy of loving many sends us on a never-ending journey of exploration of our innermost depths. Weaknesses and insecurities which may otherwise have remained hidden are exposed, and sometimes if we aren’t careful, exploited. The ‘secondary’s bill of rights’ sent the community reeling …and changed our lives....

Leaders in the polyamorous community today are those who demonstrate compassion, courage and integrity. But these things are born out of experience which – much of the time – we have to go through ourselves.

‘I hope we can learn from others’ experience.’ said Franklin. ‘Because whilst experience might be the best teacher, the price is really high. Someone has to make the mistakes, but not every single person does.’

Whole article (November 24, 2014).

● Powerful story by Rebecca Hiles: The Game Changer, AKA I Hate Franklin Veaux (June 16).

...I hate Franklin Veaux because he made me cry. Not just cry, he made me weep.

When Jon and I first started dating, I told him pretty explicitly that I wasn’t very good at monogamy. I told him all the things that could happen. All the ways I was going to break his heart. He was still good with it.... When we opened the relationship up, we didn’t have many rules. The basics of using protection and STI testing were our most important... but we only had one rule beyond that. Jon was my spouse, and I wouldn’t have any other spouse besides him.

But everything changed when I got [cancer].

I needed Kai, and I needed Jon and I needed them both to be equal and both to be my points of contact in case something went wrong. Kai was, for all intents and purposes, my second spouse. They were equal. Some people found it strange, or horrifying. They didn’t understand that even though I had been together with Kai longer, that I married Jon. They didn’t understand that my relationship with Jon (as a marriage) was no more or less important than my relationship with Kai.

I’m telling you this, because I need you to know where my brain is coming from when I am writing this review.... Sometimes you have to realize that breaking the rules of your relationships is what is going to save them....

If you are a person who believes strongly in hierarchy, this book is likely going to make you uncomfortable. It might even make you a little angry. I strongly suggest you keep reading. I strongly suggest that you find growth through the pain.... If this book makes you uncomfortable, makes you a little afraid I really, strongly suggest that you reflect on why that is....

Which brings me to how Franklin made me cry. In the book he wrote a sentence that resonated with me in a way that nothing else has in quite some time.

[Y]ou do not always get to have a comfortable relationship when you are in love with a dragonslayer.

With that quote, I was completely broken into a billion pieces because I identified so strongly with it. [The cancer-patient community often calls cancer "the dragon." —Ed.] I identified with being the dragonslayer. I immediately understood the heartbreak of being the dragonslayer, and watching someone love you, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

After reading that, I closed the book and threw it across the room. I was furious at Franklin for making me feel these feelings. I was angry at him for saying something that struck me that way. Angry at someone who has been an idol for me saying something that was so real and true and hit me in such a raw way. I was angry in much the same way that the people who were angry about the Secondary’s Bill of Rights were. But then I realized that I wasn’t angry, I was scared....

Read the whole article (June 16).

● By Elisabeth Sheff:

Reading The Game Changer was so thought provoking that it felt like having a deep and roving conversation with a very witty person about what it means to be truly authentic — only without the pressure to be clever yourself because half of it is happening inside your own head. This is a great read for anyone who has questioned the status quo or wondered what intriguing adventures wait on the road less traveled. Daring souls will appreciate Veaux’s frank wit and searing self-critique in this fascinating memoir of unruly love.

The whole review (June 12).

● By Jessica Burde of Polyamory on Purpose:

You know that “watching a train wreck in slow motion” feeling? I lost count of how often I got that reading this book. As someone whose been (more or less) involved in poly for over a decade now, I’ve made most of the easy mistakes. Franklin would start a new section with something like “and we decided this, and had no idea how we were setting ourselves up for disaster.” And I would already be mentally tracing the lines of disaster, shaking my head and thinking “Yup, I remember being that (naive/foolish/culturally brainwashed/oblivious).”

...In spite of the almost complete lack of surprise in any of the major “plot twists,” I had trouble putting the book down. As usual, Franklin has an engaging writing style, a way of working humor, self awareness, and bulls-eye insight into his narrative that makes for an engrossing read.

It seems that we, as a culture, understand that if we leave kids to teach themselves math or history or literature, few people will end up being good at those things. So we have developed formal systems of education to teach people, to help them become productive members of society. But we don’t teach them communication, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, or many other skills we need to become fully formed human beings. We leave kids to figure that stuff out on their own. The results are about what we might expect if we left them, say, to deduce the laws of algebra by themselves. The difference is that most of us need interpersonal skills a lot more than we need algebra.

Perhaps the most important thing I took away from The Game Changer is a new perspective on the poly approach to honesty and communication:

Self awareness is a prerequisite for open and honest communication. We can’t tell others the truth of our feelings and needs if we refuse to face them and admit them to ourselves.

The whole review (August 18).

● A review in Russian. Good luck using Google Translate — the book's title comes out as Mixing cards: memories of a devastating love.

● Franklin's February 2010 LiveJournal post that may have introduced the concept: Some thoughts on game-changers.


1. The full passage, from Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum. Granny the witch says,

'. . . And that's what your holy men discuss, is it?'
'Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example.'
'And what do they think? Against it, are they?'
'It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of grey.'
'There's no greys, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is.'
'It's a lot more complicated than that—'
'No. It ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts.'
'Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes—'
'But they starts with thinking about people as things...'


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September 17, 2015

CNN mentions Twin Oaks polyamory

Remember the glowing account of childrearing at the Twin Oaks community, sometimes by poly parents, that appeared on Yahoo Parenting last June?

CNN has just published a more measured article on life at Twin Oaks by top-flight journalist Jessica Ravitz. It's a substantial piece, 3,700 words, and from what I've heard of Twin Oaks from friends who've lived there and at its offshoot Acorn, it paints a pretty realistic picture.

Gwen, who was born at Twin Oaks, practices ballet outside the Morningstar residence in 2007. (Photo by Aaron Cohen)

The story is headed, incongruously, by a separate video about the Co-Living trend among millennials and tech professionals in San Francisco — a very different crowd and a completely different economic structure. More on this in a bit.

Ravitz mentions, while describing Twin Oaks' various Small Living Groups (SLGs), "One SLG is more down with the polyamorous way of life than others. (I'm told a third of Oakers are poly.) One may not be into kids, another more kid-friendly. One might enjoy late nights and partying, while a different SLG prefers quiet."

Read the whole article (September 2015).

Longtime Twin Oaks and Acorn resident Paxus Calta blogs that the article "did a fairly good job of representing the commune.... I am glad CNN got so much right about us." But he questions the editorial confusion behind pairing the story with the San Francisco co-living video:

In both circumstances there are people living together and sharing things and selecting each other (this is my definition for intentional community.) But if the affluent residents of co-living circumstances are disagreeing about maid service, it is about how often it is necessary. Maid service is inconceivable to most income-sharing communes, not just because we don’t think we can afford it, but because we feel responsible for cleaning up our own messes.

As GPaul points out in “We are not selling a product,” the differences only start here. Co-living replicates the landlord/tenant dynamic; FEC communities largely own their own properties which are land trusts. Sharing income means you need to listen to those you live with about what their needs are, and the survival of the community depends on trust building. Sharing an expensive group house means you stay until you have a serious fight with someone living there, are bored, or find a better offer, and you are constantly on the lookout for that offer.

None of the co-living situations I have seen or read about have children. Mostly what we see is twenty-somethings appearing to live the good life. Nothing wrong with that, but for me the good life is multi-generational.


My own lifelong yearning for communal living is something I discuss with Michael Rios, who runs the Center for a New Culture based just outside Washington DC. Michael founded his first polyamorous commune as a teenager in 1964; it lasted 30 years. He's lived in intentional communities of one kind or another all his life and has seen it all. I tell him about the times I almost applied to Twin Oaks long ago. "You wouldn't have stayed," Michael says. "You have lots of ideas and want to do them. Entrepreneurial people tend to get frustrated and leave."

It's true, I hate long meetings. I think "leadership" means "do cool stuff without waiting for permission, and see who follows."

But a big part of it, I think, is that so many ICs (intentional communities) have tied themselves to rural life where land is cheap. Think about it. The reason why the land is cheap is because no one wants to live there. The reason why no one wants to live there is because there are no jobs: no money, opportunities, career growth, urban networking, vibrant cultural life, exciting chances to pursue.

In the present day and age, as far as I can tell, the folks who settle into rural communes for the long haul may be good-hearted people who seek intimate community  — and who appreciate a low-pressure life, going without a lot of stuff, eco-living and gardening — but also folks without much ambition or drive, or sometimes, if truth be told, much ability to make a decent life for themselves anywhere else.

That's fine for them. But I see the future of intentional community in the world-beaters driving the Co-Living movements in places like New York and San Francisco. And the professionals and families in the co-housing developments I've seen around Boston. Cash economy, monthly payments, income requirements and all.


And about low-tech food farming. As Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog used to advise back-to-the-landers (this is my paraphrase from memory),

Your great-grandfather was a farmer. He lived on his own land by the sweat of his brow in beautiful nature, and he called no man his boss. And just as soon as he could, he left the farm to take a factory job in the city.

Maybe your great-grandfather knew something about farming you don't.


By the way, that Yahoo Parenting article on Twin Oaks in June? Turns out it had big repercussions. ABC Nightline came knocking. "Perhaps we should have said no," relates Paxus. He tells the tale: Wrong from word 2: the Media discovers the commune. (Aug. 23, 2015).


September 16, 2015

"How do I accept my polyamorous son?"

Many alternative newspapers

Say what you want about Dan Savage, he's willing to change his mind. He once snarked polyamory, but his Savage Love column out this morning echoes standard poly-community talking points.

Although I don't really see the implied criticism of the parents' marriage that Savage goes on about.

Joe Newton
My son, who is almost 30 years old, was married four years ago. He just shared with us that for the last three years, he and his wife have been practicing polyamory. They are committed to their relationship but have each had relationships with both men and women. We are trying to get our heads around this, as we come from a more traditional background (we've been married 40 years in a loving and respectful relationship), and we find ourselves feeling very sad. We are accepting and nonjudgmental, just trying to understand how he came to this decision. He feels that to make love "finite," to love only one person, is "not being true," and that their kind of relationship prevents dishonesty and is based on truth. He shared that his wife was the first one to broach this idea — and after many deep conversations, he eventually overcame his jealousy and is embracing this practice. They do not have children or plan to have children. I asked my son if he's happy, and he says he is.

—Sad Mama

If your son says he's happy, SM, you should believe him and be happy for him.

It's unfortunate that your son framed the news about his choices and his marriage — which make him happy — in what sounds like a clumsy critique of your choices and your marriage. (If that's what he did, SM. I've only got your characterization of his comments to go on, not a tape recording of them, and it has been my experience that monogamous folks sometimes hear critiques of their choices when we nonmonogamous folks talk about our own choices. "We're not doing what you're doing" ≠ "You're doing it wrong.")

There's nothing necessarily "finite," untruthful, limiting, or dishonest about monogamy. If that's what two people want, SM, and it makes those two people happy, that's great. Monogamy is what you and your husband wanted, it's what made you and your husband happy, and it worked for your marriage. You could see your son's choice to be nonmonogamous as a rejection of everything you modeled for him, or you could see his choice as modeled on the fundamental bedrock stuff — for lack of a better word — that informed the choice you made....

There are lots of people out there in happy, fulfilling open/poly relationships, SM, and lots of people out there in happy, fulfilling monogamous relationships. (And there are lots of miserable people in both kinds of relationships.) There are also lots of people in happy, fulfilling monogamous relationships they will one day choose to open, and lots of people in happy, fulfilling nonmonogamous relationships they will one day choose to close. It's happiness, consent, and mutual respect that matters....

If your son is happy, SM, you should be happy for him. But if he states — or clumsily implies — that you and his dad couldn't be happy because you're not doing the same thing he and his wife are doing, you tell him from nonmonogamous me that he's full of nonmonogamous shit.

Two pieces of recommended reading: the book Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block, and an informative interview poly activist and frequent Savage Lovecast guest Diana Adams did with the Atlantic. But I don't think you need to do a whole lot of homework about this....

Here's the original (Sept. 16, 2015).



September 14, 2015

Harbin Hot Springs destroyed in California wildfire

The Temple

Updated Sept. 16. The Harbin Hot Springs retreat and conference center was wiped out late last Saturday by the Valley Fire that continues raging through the Middletown area in northern California.

Harbin hosted many Loving More conferences in the polyamory movement's early formative years. It has continued to be a prime venue for workshops of the Human Awareness Institute (HAI), an unsung incubator of the poly movement for decades. I'm told that a Level 4 HAI weekend was in progress when the evacuation was ordered.

Harbin was run by a total of 285 residents and staff living on the property and in the surrounding area; it was an intentional community as well as a retreat. Many of them have also lost their homes and possessions. There were no casualties.

Everyone expects to rebuild. Harbin's world-famous springs and pools remain, along with some stone and metal artworks, two new cabins, and two-thirds of the Domes according to people who have scouted the situation. The fire may have been intense enough to kill even the biggest trees among the buildings, but patches of woods nearby still appear green. An enormous reservoir of good will, going back decades, should help with money and labor.

What's less clear is the future of the entire region. Harbin was one of the largest employers in the area, but substantial parts of Middletown and Cobb are also destroyed. Diane Tulley, a water masseuse at Harbin, told a reporter, "I don’t know how Lake County is going to survive this."

Like Esalen farther south, Harbin has long been a prime venue for New Age, spiritual, and personal-development gatherings. First developed as a spa in 1867, its lodges were destroyed by previous fires in 1894, 1928, 1943, and 1960. In the late 1960s and early 70s the site had a chaotic countercultural history. Since 1975 it has been owned and operated by Heart Consciousness Church, a spiritual nonprofit. The retreat includes 5,000 surrounding acres.

The Valley Fire is still only 30% contained as of Wednesday morning.

Los Angeles Times story: Harbin Hot Springs, a place of renewal, is reduced to ashes by Valley fire (Sept. 15, 2015)

San Francisco Chronicle story: Well-loved Harbin Hot Springs ravaged by Valley Fire; pools survive (Sept. 14).

Santa Rosa Press-Democrat: Valley fire destroys Harbin Hot Springs (Sept. 14).

Official website: Harbin.org, with information on how to donate to emergency relief for residents and staff.

Facebook pages:

Harbin Community Check-in. What Help Do You Need - What Help Can You Give.

Rebuilding Harbin Hot Springs.

Previous official Facebook page.


Trends in polyamory: "Living a trusting, multi-partner relationship in the City of Brotherly Love"

Philly.com, the combined website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, hosts relationship blogger Dr. Timaree Schmit. Today she covers some local polyfolks as examples of where the polyamory movement is trending.

Living a trusting, multi-partner relationship in the City of Brotherly Love

By Dr. Timaree Schmit

Timaree Schmit
When asked about the uptick in reporting on polyamory, Kari Collins of West Philly tells me that she is “ambivalent.”

It’s exciting to not have to explain what polyamory means over and over again, but the representations are really limited.

“A lot of times it still seems like, ‘This couple is poly,’ or ‘These three people are poly’ and it doesn’t go beyond that,” she says. “It’s as close to a monogamous family as we can get... presented like [it's only] this wild thing they do on Saturday nights. But there are so many forms that poly is taking.”

Kari (who is genderqueer and identifies alternately using “he” and “she”), for instance, currently only has one partner, but his partner currently has four other relationships, and several more people with whom they share an undefined friendship-romance. Those folks, in turn, have their own network of significant others.

The web forms a polyamorous community of metamours, and nearly all of them hang out together, often playing board games. “It’s like the #1 poly hobby… It’s an easy group activity.”

Mae Esposito and Phil Weber (Photo: Timaree Schmit / Philly.com)

For Phil Weber of Bensalem and Mae Esposito of Fishtown, board games were a major activity at a recent poly network camping trip.

This group took up four cabins — a crew of about 14 metamours and friends, hiking, making meals, and playing games. A month prior, Phil had seven partners, but one moved away and two “stepped back” — a much healthier way to describe amicable separation than “broke up” or “dumped."

...“I don’t really do casual,” he says, mentioning that one of his most informal experiences was a “two-week stand.”...

For some, open relationships are something into which they stumble. For others, relationship anarchy is a conscious choice to reject a system that has proven to be untenable. And for many, polyamory is as intrinsic to their sexual orientation as their preference for men or women.

...One thing that isn’t always helpful to negotiating non-monogamy is a strict set of rules. While having hard-and-fast parameters used to be a common feature of polyamory discourse, it’s falling out of favor in the community.

“Rules are really limiting in a lot of ways, says Kari. They "prevent people from being open to what they are feeling now and what is important to them. Those things tend to feel like they’re coming out of a place of fear and usually it’s better to say, ‘This kind of thing hurts me, what can we do to avoid this?’ Rather than saying, ‘You can never hold someone’s hand on a Tuesday,’ or whatever.”

Another facet of language that has shifted in recent years is the idea of hierarchy, having a lover who might be “primary” while others are “secondary” or “tertiary.” Phil explains that those ideas were more important when polyamorous relationships “had to be on the down low.” If a person’s job or child custody was in jeopardy, it may be prudent to maintain one public partner and the rest had to be “friends of the family.”...

For Kari, who just finished seminary, it’s important to free everyone, monogamous or otherwise, from the constraints of the Relationship Escalator (the notion that dating requires a series of milestones at a specific pace), or shopping for a checklist of desired traits in a mate....

Read the whole article (Sept. 14, 2015). "Dr. Timaree Schmit earned her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality from Widener University, where she now trains future sexologists and clinicians. Her passion is bringing rational, empirically-based, sex-positive information to the world, empowering others to celebrate their bodies, build intimacy and experience pleasure."



September 12, 2015

Time magazine asks: "Is Monogamy Over?"

That's the top question on the cover of Time for its "Question Everything" issue this week.

What's inside is no great shakes. Time asked ten supposedly interesting people whether monogamy has a future. Most of their replies seem off-the-cuff and are only mildly entertaining. Not one mentions "ethical non-monogamy", "open relationships" or "polyamory." It's mostly about cheating. With jokes.

Coming closest is porn actor and producer James Deen, who observes,

...The beauty of sexuality is that it’s open-ended. There’s no right, there’s no wrong. [Cringe. –Ed.] It’s based on the individual. The beauty of it is that just because one person, or two people, or three people, or however many people are involved in a relationship structure that works for them, that doesn’t mean that’s the right way. All that needs to happen is that when people enter into relationships, and while they’re in these relationships, they need to have open discussions about their emotions, feelings and boundaries, and then they need to respect each other. I’ve been in relationships where anything went; I’ve been in relationships where I didn’t have sex off camera at all. The interest of the youth doesn’t seem to be the consistent with the old format of relationships.

So, is it monogamy obsolete? Absolutely not. Is it something that’s in the future we’re going to see less of? Yes.

But that first paragraph didn't make it into the print edition (Time still has a paid circulation of 3.2 million).

David Barash, co-author of The Myth of Monogamy, says it's unnatural but do it for the kids. Nathan Collier of Montana argues for legalizing polygamy; he and his two wives, you'll remember, just filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana that could become a test case. Miss Piggy huffs about her breakup with Kermit.

You might write a letter to Time pointing out their glaring oversight on the topic: letters@time.com .

The interesting thing here is that Time's marketing experts chose this question as the one that would grab the most people's eyes.



September 10, 2015

Poly on campus: new roundup

Athens Post
 (Ohio University)
The Western Front (Western Washington University)
The Easterner (Eastern Washington University)
The Horn (University of Texas / Austin)
Daily Californian  (UC Berkeley)
Her Campus
(American University)
The Daily Egyptian (Southern Illinois University)
UW Daily (University of Washington)
Hilltop Views (St. Edward's University)
The Tab (Cambridge University, U.K.)
Virginia Tech Collegiate Times
The Muse (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
The Red & Black (University of Georgia)

It's been a while since my last roundup of poly articles in college newspapers. Here are another 13.

See what you can get going at your school!

● In The Athens Post of Ohio University, Athens, Ohio:

Polyamorous relationships redefine commitment, love (September 8, 2015):

By Rachel Hartwick

Jasper Wirtshafter had only ever known monogamy — just two people in one relationship....

During his freshman year, he said it was a perfect coincidence that he started dating a man who brought up the idea of polyamory first. Wirtshafter began dating polyamorously throughout college, and after attending Beyond the Love, a polyamory convention in Columbus in November 2013, he was inspired to start a chapter — Athens Poly.

...The group of about 15 people usually meets at least three times a month on Saturdays and is open to all people — whether they are polyamorous or not.

...Athens Poly public relations director Pop Peterson is in a “triad,” which is a form of polyamory in which all three members involved are considered equals. He calls them his “partners” because they are financially bound in some way — but at the same time, he and his partners both have an ever-changing flux of boyfriends and girlfriends. The key to pulling off this relationship, Peterson said, is constant communication.

“The only reason I’d say polyamorous people are more apt for communication is because we don’t have a playbook to go by. In monogamy, everyone has assumptions about the way things are supposed to work,” the 26-year-old Athens resident said. “In polyamory, you don’t have a blueprint given to you from fairy tales, from parents. You’re pretty much starting with a blank slate.”...

“I very much comfortably see me and my current partners growing old and dying together, but I’m also realistic enough to know that may not happen,” Peterson said. “In monogamy, you expect one person to be your everything. … In polyamory, you’re more allowed to bring what you have to the table and if that’s not enough, your partner isn’t going to expect you to do without. Your partner can find that missing piece elsewhere, and I appreciate that.”

● In The Western Front at Western Washington University, Student discussion on polyamory (May 8):

By Caleb Galbreath

Not Yr Ethical Slut was a discussion on polyamory and non-monogamous relationships led by Western alumna Ro Sigle and student Kyan Oliver Furlong on Friday, May 1.

Sigle and Furlong opened the discussion up by asking participants what needs, such as emotional support, sexual satisfaction or acceptance, are expected to be met in a monogamous relationship. They then had the group write down the people in their lives that fulfilled those needs.

The exercise showed that these needs were met by many different people and not necessarily just one. The idea that one person must meet all your needs is perpetuated by society but isn’t very realistic, Sigle said.

Jesse Doran, a Western student, said that what is generally considered fulfilling or important in relationships can be very restricting.

“Everyone should feel comfortable expressing themselves how they wish,” Doran said. “Society pushes us into boxes where we don’t feel comfortable with ourselves.”

Sigle said the concept of monogamy is rooted in many problematic parts of society such as white supremacy and classism.

“Because monogamy is so rooted in literally everything and because the institutions that support monogamy are so tied to the financial sector and cultural ways of relating to each other, we’re asked to give up parts of ourselves in order to fulfill the myth of monogamy,” Sigle said....  “Relationships are life giving. We need each other. So if we’re not engaging in collective action for good interpersonal relationships, then we can’t get anywhere.”

● And in The Easterner at Eastern Washington University: Polyamory unveiled (May 9):

Lauren Campbell
By Zoe Colburn

Polyamory is coming more and more to the forefront of modern consciousnesses, and as it does, those of us who are polyamorous are often confronted with parades of questions.

The usual questions usually range from “Don’t you get jealous?” to “So, is it like a constant orgy?” For me personally, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding “No.” For most polyamorous individuals, jealousy isn’t usually a problem.

...There are more or less endless combinations of whatever rules or parameters a couple, triad, or so on may decide on, but one thing has to remain 100 percent consistent: all people involved must be aware and on board with polyamory. Anything where even one partner is unaware of the others’ actions is, hands down, cheating.

Polyamory requires just as much trust and understanding as monogamy. Even in an entirely open relationship, there is still an understanding that, at the end of the day, you are a couple. If one person decides they’re done with an open relationship, whether that means the relationship is over entirely or it just becomes a closed relationship, the decision is up to both partners; there’s respect that goes along with polyamorous relationships just like monogamous relationships.

There are way more specifics and intricacies to polyamory than I could possibly go over in one article, but I guess it always ends up circling back to a core question a lot of people have, though: Why can’t I just be happy with one partner?

It’s not about being “happy” with one partner — it’s about knowing that my love for one partner doesn’t discount my love for another....

● In The Horn at University of Texas / Austin, about a local LGBT film festival: aGLIFF Review: S&M Sally: "I'm ready for an honest, mature, and realistic film portrayal of BDSM and Polyamory. S&M Sally is unfortunately not that film...." (Sept. 9, 2015)

● A long one in The Daily Californian at UC Berkeley: The Magic of Polyamorous Relationships (Feb. 13):

By Jennifer Wong

I attended a fashion show last year with a very good friend of mine and her husband. She donned a black Victorian lace headpiece and petite Coach purse; her husband dressed in something I couldn’t remember. My eyes were on her, and I joked about taking her home that night, ready for Mr. Husband to make some kind of defensive remark. “Go ahead,” he said with a tone I almost realized was serious....

Months later, the tales of their luscious affairs made their way into my ears, and I realized that this couple was on some other level. She called it an “open marriage,” but I know now that “open marriage” is a baby term protecting the monogamous from going into shock at the beautifully complex world of polyamory....

...If you can develop intimate feelings for more than one person at a time, then you can identify as polyamorous. Polyamory, in practice, means consensual nonmonogamy. It doesn’t mean being a selfish dick and boning whoever you want left and right. That’s just hooking up. Polyamory means communicating what you’re doing with your partner(s) as soon as it’s necessary.

In my first poly relationship, we fell in love at a ridiculous Romeo and Juliet pace but didn’t want to give up our sexual capabilities outside of each other. We agreed to be primary partners and set ground rules.

...Compared to tradition, it’s basically organized cheating. Except everyone is in on it, and it’s magical.

...There’s a saying about candles that equates flames to happiness. I think the same could be said for love and sex. When one lights another, the original doesn’t lose its fire; happiness — and love — is not lost as it’s shared....

...I am now what some call “solo poly.” Picture a Maypole planted center in the ground with various multicolored ribbons attached to it. That’s me and my “other bitches.”

That sounds callous and egotistical, but solo polydom grants me so much more control than ever before that I can’t help but feel relieved for my ego.

My good friend Nam once said of my personality that I “exist in multitudes.” I think the same is true of my sexuality. I love the thrill of flirting, meeting new bodies, new personas. I’m a honeymoon-phase junkie, a first-date-o-holic and a Tinder match connoisseur. Polyamory frees my interests so that I can pursue them all simultaneously.

● In the American University edition of a commercial magazine called Her Campus, An Ode to Polyamory (March 29):

By Magdalene Bedi

The standard expectation for relationships in America is a rigid cycle of dating, commitment, monogamy, and marriage.... A choice separate from monogamy is thought to be unhealthy or a sign of irresponsibility, which leads many to actively seek out marriage and commitment even if they otherwise wouldn’t....

What many don’t realize is that polyamory isn’t restricted to a man with multiple wives or girlfriends. It can be a single person in four different relationships, three people in a relationship with each other, etc. and it’s not restricted to specific genders or gender roles.

...The core values of any relationship include communication and honesty, and those are still upheld in alternative structures. If anything, there is a higher emphasis placed on these values in non-monogamous relationship because all participants must be aware of each other and the extent of each other’s relationships in order to consent (and consent is a requirement)....

● In The Daily Egyptian at Southern Illinois University: Polyamory is not for me (March 15)

By Branda Mitchell

...Being jealous or territorial does not work in these types of relationships, so I ended it completely. Although my free love lifestyle was short lived, I learned some things about expectations:

1. Sharing may not be caring. I spent the majority of that time convincing myself I was okay with something I wasn’t. Polyamory is totally fine for people who can handle it, but some people simply cannot....

2. Circumstances matter. There is a difference between casually dating and being in a defined open relationship....

3. Ground rules are important.... For example, I strongly suggest discussing threesomes before you find someone in your significant other's bed, because it just gets awkward.

4. It’s risky business. When it comes to your health, having multiple partners increases your risk for just about everything....

5. Don't knock it until you try it. Initially, the thought of sleeping with other people made me immediately feel like I was insufficient. Most people I discussed my relationship with thought I was in it just to sleep around. However, neither of those things turned out to be true.

The implication that people cannot truly care about more than one person is unfair. It may not be for me, but the only way I learned that was by keeping an open mind.

● When Allena Gabosch appeared at the University of Washington, "Ask The Sexpert" wrote it up in the UW Daily: (Feb. 13)

By Laura Mishkin

What’s sexier than consent?

Nothing, according to relationship and sex coach Allena Gobosch, who was one of three experts to present at Thursday night’s Ask the Sexperts event.

Consent was one of the many timely topics she, along with Kristen Knapick and April Lee, addressed at the Q&A session in the Ethnic Cultural Center, sponsored by UW clubs Third Wave Feminists and Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy.

...“Even if schools have sex ed, they usually do it from a heteronormative point of view,” [Rachel] Mahre said. “There’s not a lot of information in mainstream sex ed about queerness, disability, polyamory, asexuality. We want people to be able to ask questions they may not be able to otherwise.”

...“We live in a monogamous culture which means we also grew up in a culture that is secretive [about our sexualities],” Gobosch said. “Be generous with each other, be compassionate. The more open you can be, the more honest, the better the relationship will be.”...

● In Hilltop Views at St. Edwards University, a Catholic college in Austin, Texas: Polyamory a legitimate source of mutual respect, support (March 2):

By Jackie Schicker

Love is infinite, right? The Hollywood love stories and romantic novels all say so. Hearing such a statement is comforting and idealistic, and for the polyamorous community it is a daily practice.

Polyamory is the practice of having multiple intimate, romantic relationships, with the consent of all parties involved. Like the root of the word itself, polyamory is as varied as the partners involved in polyamorous relationships.

...This likely sounds like just another branch on the tree of hook-up culture, but that is an unfair assessment of polyamory. The idea of polyamory is that romantic love is not a finite thing and that romance can exist in a multitude of forms.

Commentaries on being a polyamorist emphasize consent, trust, open communication and love. The community tends to specify that they are not “swingers” (couples that have sex with others recreationally) or “cheating” on their partners, since consent of all parties involved is required. The relationships people have with one another are about those people first and foremost.

Just as the LGBT community should not have to constantly justify their romantic interactions to the heteronormative standards of American culture, the polyamorous community should not have to justify themselves either.

It is with the word "consent" that polyamory shows its validity and its strength....

I have watched a handful of friends in polyamorous relationships and their successes or failures are based around open communication. Consent should be provided each and every time partners have intimate interactions with one another. People change their minds and have every right to do so, but if you are comfortable with multiple partners and your partners are equally comfortable, the thoughts of other people should not be affecting your choices.

Relationships are always complicated; they always involve compromises and expectations, but from my understanding honest communication is the number one factor in staying in a relationship.

I thoroughly believe that if being in polyamorous relationships enables you to have better communication and interactions with your partners, that it is healthy.

This does not mean that everyone should have multiple partners. It means that whether you are single, in a monogamous relationship, or in a polyamorous relationship, you need to show respect and love and kindness toward the people with whom you engage, and the labels, for some of us, simply do not matter.

The Tab in the U.K. is a chain directed at college students. This appeared in the edition for Cambridge University: The perils of polyamory (Feb. 13):

By Alex OBT

Everyone assumes that every sexual encounter you have is an orgy. They’re right.

I’ve been polyamorous for the past year.

...As I was exploring this brave new world, it was all too easy to think I’d stumbled into some kind of romantic Nirvana. Love without limits? Relationships, freed from exclusivity? Surely this was all too good to be true.

I’ve since discovered that polyamory, like any relationship style, has its own set of pitfalls, ready to ensnare the unwary adventurer.

So before you throw off the yoke of mononormativity, ask yourself: are you ready to handle the consequences?

These are just some of the trials and tribulations I’ve faced in the past year....

Valentine’s Day. It gets expensive, fast. They sell Christmas cards in multipacks but not Valentine’s Day cards. #everydaypolyphobia

The difficulty coming up with metaphors to illustrate polyamory. Imagine your love life is like a Cadbury’s Milk Tray. Monogamy is like deciding that Turkish Delight is your favourite, then making a pledge in the eyes of the Lord to eat only that one for the rest of your life.

...Your conversations sound like a Chemistry lesson. Metamour. Compersion. Triad. I’m pretty sure those are all words I had to memorise for my Chemistry GCSE.

Being accused of selfishness or greed. “Do you really need more than one person to make you happy?” This is a weird one, seeing how it’s monogamous people who are going all US Border Control on their SO’s genitalia and/or rights to feel certain forms of affection for other people.

Being unable to join in commiseration DMCs about other people’s love lives....

Your crippling sense of superiority. How do you manage to keep a straight face while listening to your monogamous friend explain his concerns about his girlfriend spending too much time with her male best pal? How to console someone who’s feeling guilty for fantasising about her girlfriend’s best friend without bursting into supercilious laughter?...

We in the poly community have to accept the everyday reality of walking amongst monogamites – or ‘muggles’ as we call them behind their backs – as Gods amongst mortals, bearing witness to their petty and entirely self-inflicted woes without letting our smug superiority show on our faces.

So there we have it. It’s not always easy, but I’d like to think the rewards of polyamory are worth the risks.

After all, the prize of a secure and committed relationship is worth a little bit of compromise and sacrifice.

Wait, no, that’s monogamy I’m thinking of. Now excuse me while I go have sex with a bunch of people.

If any of this interests you, Alex and his friends have started up a brand new discussion group, open to people of any relationship preference: the University of Cambridge Open Relationship and Non-monogamy Society (UniCORNS) (best acronym ever).

● In the Virginia Tech Collegiate Times: Sex & Relationship Column: The rise of polyamory (Feb. 5):

By Kaite Britt

...Polyamory is growing in popularity even if its not accepted by the majority. Perhaps one day, polyamory could be as widely accepted as gay marriage. Though that day seems far, it’s just around the corner.

● At Memorial University of Newfoundland, in The Muse, a long one: More to love: Understanding polyamory (Feb. 9).

By Laura Howells

...So instead of limiting ourselves to one person and denying our own complexity, why not just expand our love? Such is the foundation of polyamory, a concept that has been gaining popularity and recognition in recent years. Last fall, MUN student Jef Anstey created St. John’s first polyamory support group, where “poly” people can talk about issues, share advice, and learn more about the concept.

Literally meaning “many loves,” polyamory is the practice of engaging in more than one romantic relationship at one time, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. It is not a free for all, it is not a license to cheat, and it is not the polygamy depicted on Sister Wives. It is the understanding that people can love different people in different ways, and embracing that plurality responsibly and ethically.

“Most people in polyamorous relationships find that having multiple relationships adds something important to their lives,” said Anstey.

“It’s kind of like when you have a friend, that friend doesn’t like every single thing you like. You don’t do all the same activities with them as you might with another friend, you talk about different things. The relationship can have a very unique dynamic. And it would be kind of silly for someone to say ‘well why do you need all those extra friends? You have me, I’m your friend! I look at relationships more so like friendships with varying degrees of intimacy or emotional closeness or companionship.”

Polyamorous relationships exist in many forms....

“Poly complicates everything, so you have to be a lot more open and honest with your partner. You have to communicate what you’re feeling now as opposed to letting it sit. If you’re not perfectly aware of what’s going on then it puts people at risk of harming each other,” Anstey said.

“From time to time there are more small things that we have to talk about, but we resolve them. But then the tradeoff is that I’ve found we have been able to understand each other a lot better. We talk more about how we feel and we share in each others excitement or interest in people. I’ve found recently I’ve learned a lot about my partner and myself, and we’ve gotten a lot closer because of that.”

● And to end in a different Athens than the one where we began, this comes the University of Georgia's The Red & Black (Feb. 14): Free love: Polyamory in Athens.

By Blake Morris

“[The polyamorous scene in Athens is] small and growing rapidly,” said Eli Gaultney. “It wasn’t something I’d ever heard of five years ago, and these days nearly every person I talk to has at least heard of it. At UGA, I think a lot of people are polyamorous, or at least ethically non-monogamous, without realizing there’s a word for it.”

Roughly a year ago, several Athens citizens formed a Meetup group called Athens Polyamory and began having meetings on the first Saturday of every month.

...Seeing love as a positive and generally unlimited resource, polyamorous people see nothing wrong with sharing their love with multiple partners.

“It’s not solely about sex — we want romance,” Gaultney said.

By definition, polyamory should be consensual to all parties involved and is often egalitarian in nature. As opposed to some other forms of non-monogamy, polyamorous relationships are generally based on pleasing everyone involved.

“I think that one of the biggest things people don’t realize is that there’s so many different ways to do polyamory, and it can be different for each person or group of people,” said Sarah McManus, another organizer of Athens Polyamory. “So it’s more based on figuring out what works in an ethical way than having a specific set of rules.”

...“I’d estimate one out of five women or men I’m matched with say they are polyamorous,” Gaultney said....

Although living in the South can definitely be a mixed bag for those with nontraditional relationship ideas, parts of Georgia seem fairly accepting of polyamorous people. Athens and Atlanta both serve as havens for more liberal thought, and polyamory is growing in prevalence in both cities....



September 8, 2015

Australian poly pioneer Anne Hunter in print, TV, radio

Anne Hunter — an early, key poly-movement pioneer in Australia (population 24 million) — writes that she and two of her pod are on the front page of today's Melbourne Age. They're serving as photo icons of relationship freedom practiced by baby boomers today.

Boomers with benefits: A free love revolution with no rings attached

By Miki Perkins

Anne Hunter with partner Peter Haydon, right, and friend James Dominguez.

Anne Hunter has a deep and committed relationship with her long-term partner of 22 years, Peter Haydon, who lives down by the coast with his other partner.

Yes, you read that right.

Hunter, 52, used to have another long-term partner, but they are now just close friends.

She also has about six or seven "intimates" like James Dominguez; friends of all genders she might have sex with, or just "jump into bed naked together and cuddle".

Some she sees rarely, others live nearby and they catch up often.

...Research on baby boomers like Hunter who have "friends with benefits" will be presented at the Let's Talk About Sex conference in Melbourne on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Conference speakers plan to challenge the assumptions and stereotypes about older people and sexual intimacy, in an event organised by Alzheimers Australia and the Council on the Ageing.

La Trobe University researcher Dr Linda Kirkman did her thesis on rural baby boomers in "friends with benefits" relationships.

Her interviewees had sexual relationships that were ongoing but didn't consider themselves in a couple or share finances, she said.

She found many desired sexual pleasure and intimacy but didn't want the ties, financial entanglements and commitments of the relationships -- often marriages -- in their younger life.

Some of the people she interviewed were hippies in their youth and influenced by books like Robert Heinlein's free-love classic Stranger in a Strange Land, while others had regarded sex as frightening or taboo when young but hungered for a richer sex life as they aged.

"Several of the people I spoke to said they were having the best sex of their lives."

Anne Hunter describes herself as "polyamorous". She defines polyamory as having multiple ethical relationships, with an emphasis on emotional connection, not just sex.

With Haydon she founded PolyVic in 1994 [error; should be 2004 --Ed.], the first polyamorous network in [the state of] Victoria.

..."We support each other in all sorts of ways. When [Peter's] other partner had a severe illness a few years ago I moved down to the coast for a couple of months and did cooking and cleaning," she said.

...Despite lobbying from PolyVic, the Australian Bureau of Statistics was yet to include a question about polyamory on the census, making it impossible to reveal how many people were "raising the level of love in the world", as Hunter put it.

The whole article (September 7, 2015).


And here are two items from Australian TV and radio that have been waiting in my to-post files:

● Late last March, a Channel 10 news show broadcast a segment titled "Open Relationships." It's no longer available online, but Nikó Truffelish in Sydney, who's done her own share of Australian TV, wrote,

It is short and somewhat tabloidy, without giving a good enough background or details, though to their credit there is mention of jealousy, and polyamory is mentioned as having a wonderful advantage over cheating... but it stops short of calling it an alternative practice, showing its popularity, or explaining its mechanisms or why people would engage in it.... and falsely states twice, I think, that polyamory is taken up 'for the sake of the relationship'.

Brave folk [referring to the poly folks who went on the show]. It's so hard to draw the line between wanting to get to a wide national audience and leaving yourself completely open to be edited into bits, re-framed and re-cycled later in different contexts. Anne and Peter and Darren are all amazing poly activists, leaders and thinkers; even they get heavily re-framed.

I still think it was probably beneficial overall, as this segment does spread the word and ideas.

● A year earlier, Hunter did a 40-minute interview on an LGBTQ radio station: All About Polyamory with Anne Hunter (March 13, 2014). "Join Andrew the Apprentice and Avi Miller as they talk to Anne Hunter from Your Relationship Toolbelt all about polyamory: the rules, tips, tricks and pitfalls."



September 7, 2015

More polyamory fallout from the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling

Polyamorous marriage equality logo
Poly marriage equality logo
It's been 2½ months since the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision for gay marriage nationwide, and articles about the decision's implications for polyfolks — is multiple marriage next? — have slowed down. For now. This isn't going away.

Here's a roundup of material I didn't collect earlier, followed by what some mover-and-shaker polyactivists have said. Click the headlines for the full articles.

And for easy reference, here are all articles about the Obergefell decision on this site (including this one; scroll down).

● One of the most talked-about reactions was a provocative piece in the New York Times by University of Chicago assistant law professor William Baude: Is Polygamy Next? (July 21, 2015):

...[Plural marriage] was hard to discuss candidly while same-sex marriage was still pending, because both sides knew that association with plural marriage, a more unpopular cause, could have stymied progress for gay rights.... With same-sex marriage on the books, we can now ask whether polyamorous relationships should be next.

There is a very good argument that they should. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell did not focus primarily on the issue of sexual orientation. Instead, its main focus was on a “fundamental right to marry” — a right that he said could not be limited to rigid historical definitions or left to the legislative process. That right was about autonomy and fulfillment, about child rearing and the social order. By those lights, groups of adults who have profound polyamorous attachments and wish to build families and join the community have a strong claim to a right to marry.

And while Justice Kennedy’s opinion does not explicitly discuss this possibility [and explicitly refers to "two" people in marriage repeatedly –Ed.], it is easy to see how future generations could read his language to include polyamory or plural marriage.... it is not hard to imagine another justice in 20 or 40 years saying that the assumption is similarly unenlightened.

Nonetheless, many supporters of the same-sex marriage decision reject the possibility of plural marriage with surprising confidence....

● In The Atlantic, staff writer Conor Friedersdorf writes The Case Against Encouraging Polygamy; Why civil marriage should not encompass group unions (July 9):

The law should, I think, allow groups of people to sleep in the same house, engage in group sex, and enter into contracts or religious arrangements of their liking. If a polyamorous family lived next door to me, I’d welcome them to the neighborhood and champion treating them with love and respect. But I think it would be imprudent to include their arrangement in civil marriage, with its incentivizing benefits, because if group marriage were to become normalized and spread beyond a tiny fringe the consequences for society could be significant and negative....

And then he quits talking about polyamory and mostly goes on about power abuse in traditional patriarchal polygamy. Sigh.

● At Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende, a co-author of last year's Almanac of American Politics, describes how the gay marriage movement won the hearts of a majority of Americans and Supreme Court justices, and why polygamists aren't up to that: Why Obergefell Is Unlikely to Lead to Polygamy (July 6).

Trende says gays won the marriage campaign by working four themes diligently and effectively: 1) "Individual autonomy/rights talk", 2) "They’re born that way", 3) "The power of familiarity" (friends, family, and celebrities coming out all over the place), and 4) "Great spokespeople."

He compares that to the low appeal of Fundamentalist Mormon boss-men in the desert arguing that Heaven subordinates women. "These [four] factors are not present for those in plural marriage, and seem unlikely (though not impossible) to emerge anytime soon."

But hey! Over here! Look at us! The polyamory movement long ago picked up all four of those themes to one degree or another, has shown it can do them, and is running with them.

● The libertarian Cato Institute argues for the decriminalization of polygamy in a piece that Newsweek picked up a week ago: Saying ‘I Do’ Multiple Times Shouldn’t Be a Crime (Sept. 1).

In Utah [as in most of the US], it’s legal to have an “open” marriage, and any number of unmarried consenting adults can live together, have sex with each other, pool their finances and describe themselves as being in a long-term polyamorous relationship. They just can’t use the “M” word....

● Writing for Religion Dispatches, William E. Smith offers a deeper historical perspective with lots of good links: Who's Scared of Polygamy? (July 17).

...[The current rumblings] of a possible polygamy debate do not seem to recognize that we’re in what I would call a reformation period of marriage. Nor do they seem to know that during the Protestant Reformation, which dramatically redefined marriage, polygamy was on the table. And, to me at least, it’s likely that (eventual) support from some branches of American Protestantism, drawing in part on this older Protestant debate, will complicate [expectations for] how a debate around the legalization of polygamy will come to pass.

...Let’s think for a minute about how same-sex marriage went from novel idea to law-of-the-land in just a few short decades. The ascent of same-sex marriage in the United States gained much (but not all) of its initial support from churches. Many local Unitarian Universalist (UU), Disciples of Christ, and United Church of Christ (UCC) congregations, and some Episcopal churches, for example, started blessing same-sex unions as far back as the 1970s....

...Even though almost no American Christians support [multiple marriage], there is no reason to think they could not come to do so, and to do so as rapidly as they did with same-sex marriage.... It would be rather interesting to see what the state of polyamory will be among churchgoers in 2040.

...Marriage has changed substantially and consistently over the past 70 or so years in the United States.... And this is hardly the first time marriage has undergone a rapid yet sustained change. I see the Protestants’ reformation of marriage during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as a particularly relevant historical analog. That reformation is important for, among other things, planting seeds inside the Christian tradition that may bear fruit in the form of pro-polygamy theology and practice.

The Weekly Sift, a liberal news and analysis site, asks So What About Polygamy Anyway? (July 20) and raises the common "complication objection" (one I've often repeated myself):

If you’re worrying (or hoping) that some judge will legalize polygamy next week, stop.

...However you picture it, giving polygamy legal recognition would mean establishing legal infrastructure to answer questions that don’t come up in binary marriages. In a group marriage, can one spouse divorce the others, or does the whole relationship dissolve and need to be reformed? What’s the property settlement look like? Do all spouses have equal rights and responsibilities regarding the children, or do biological parents have a stronger legal bond? In a Biblical polygamous marriage, are all the wives equal, or does the first wife have a special role?

...Consequently, a court can’t simply order to a county clerk to issue a three-person marriage license. The judge would have to rewrite big chunks of the legal code, which a judge is not equipped to do, even if one thought he or she could get away with asserting that kind of power.

● As for those big new issues in the legal code, conservative blogger Owen Tew (Greg Richter) conjured up some colorful detail: Polyamorous Marriage Train Coming in Too Fast for the Curve (July 1).

And if these marriages are just like our current traditional marriage system, some of them are going to break up.... What percentage of your property goes to a side spouse who divorces you when you are in another polyamorous marriage of five people? Does he/she get one-half of one-fifth of what you own? What do the other four have to say about you giving up a piece of actual property — jointly owned — when none of them were even a part of this side marriage?

And that's just assuming there were only the two of you in the side marriage. What if there were a couple of more in that marriage. I'm getting a migraine just from the fact that the math exists to make the calculation.

While same-sex marriage might work just as easily as traditional marriage in a legal sense, going any further is going to throw the train off the rails. Conservatives might want to stand aside and watch the wreck.

● But why, exactly, is the state in the marriage business at all? Froma Harrop, a syndicated newspaper columnist, argues Get government out of marriage altogether:

There's a more basic question here: Why is government in the business of conferring a right to marry at all? What is it about this thing called marriage that justifies a grab bag of legal benefits? That would include tax advantages, inheritance rights, hospital visitations and the ability to make end-of-life decisions for one's spouse....

If you want to pursue this idea you can start at Unmarried Equality and the Marriage Privatization Wikipedia entry.

● Would multi-marriages really be too complicated for the law to handle? Not necessarily, says Elisabeth Sheff on her Psychology Today site: How Society Could Accommodate Multi-Partner Marriages (July 20):

In my last blog I explained why the sky won't fall even if gay marriage sets the stage for plural marriage. For this blog, I examine the ways in which marriages might flex to fit families as they really are, including multiple-partner relationships....

● Billy Holder — longtime polyfamily member, a very public poly-education activist (here he is on CNN), and the principal founder of Atlanta Poly Weekend and the Relationship Equality Foundation — put out a strong statement after the Obergefell decision: Marriage Equality (July 1):

I have some very strong personal feelings about the institution of marriage. One of which is to do away with it altogether and go to an individual relationship-contract system. HOWEVER, I also think that this is a BAD idea to discuss as the next step. Here's why....

I think our conversation needs to be about the individual's choice to structure FAMILY as they see fit. Giving the individual the power to build what works for them.... By ADDING a system that grants equal right and protections to those who choose to be bonded in a way different than that which exists....

If we are going to advocate for Relationship Choice and empowerment of all styles of relationships, then we need to do so in all things.

To this Ricci Levy, director of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance, added,

In Woodhull’s Family Matters Project we aren’t working to eliminate marriage. We are working to forward the human right to family. For those who seek marriage as a way to memorialize or sanctify their union, they should be able to do so.

● Robyn Trask, director of Loving More, published a statement and press release on July 1: Is Polyamorous Marriage on the Horizon?

For many in the Loving More and polyamory community, marriage is a hotly debated issue. Many polyamorous people simply want the government out of their relationship choices and many want some sort of legal recognition or ability to marry more than one person. In the 2012 Loving More Survey, some 66% of over 4000 self-identified polyamorous respondents said they would want to marry multiple people if such marriages were legal, and an additional 20% said they would consider it. So clearly it is an issue that needs to be considered....

● Longtime Bay Area poly activist Dawn Davidson posted on her site Love Outside the Box: Are We Next? Polyamory & Marriage Equality:

...Leaping directly to “poly marriage rights” — or even more so, to “we should just abolish marriage!” — is unlikely to be a winning strategy, as far as building strong coalitions and being able to enact true social change. It’s likely to feel very divisive, and ungrateful to those who just won this long battle, to turn around and say that “we” (whoever that is) would like to dismantle the very rights for which they just fought! So we need to find ways to build bridges, and to emphasize connections and shared values. I think the best way to do that is to focus on recognition of diverse families.

One very important point, in my view, is that this decision was based in part on the idea that children should have the right to protection without reference to the sexual orientation of their parents. I think that’s a strong lever for future positive change: no child should be discriminated against based on any characteristic of their parent/s, whether that is religion, color of skin, sexual orientation, or number of adults in their household. Therefore, the focus of our collective efforts should be on the right to have one’s family recognized, no matter what that looks like, and for the individual — not the state only — to determine whom they recognize as “family.”

● And from Jessica Burde, author of Polyamory and Pregnancy and the forthcoming The Poly Home, A New Chapter in Poly Life (early July):

This sudden spurt of attention to the legal side of polyamory is changing the way polyamory is discussed in the US mainstream.

Speaking for myself, I feel that now is not the time to focus on plural marriage. If only because (in addition to reasons I've gone into elsewhere) the right wing in the US is looking for a new scapegoat. The LGBT community is no longer an effective scapegoat. Their attempts to mobilize their base around the issue of immigration have failed. And their focus on contraception, abortion, and other "women's" issues are running out of steam.

I don't think the polyamory community in the US is prepared to wage a battle for public opinion with the US right wing media machine. However, the recently filed court case by a polygamist family in Montana may take the choice out of our hands....

I dunno — part of me says bring it on! There's precedent. Keeping polygamy criminal became a national issue in Canada in 2010–11, following reports of Fundamentalist Mormon abuse of women and children in British Columbia. In response, Canadian polyfolks organized the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, got their foot into the the door of the court case, and won the explicit decriminalization of polyamorous cohabitation, even though the polygamists lost.

An important side effect of this was that, through the media, Canadians gained a picture of polyamorists as 1) responsible civic-minded freedom advocates, perhaps sometimes 2) "born this way", who became 3) a more familiar presence, with 4) excellent spokespeople.

All articles on this site about the Obergefell decision (including this one; scroll down).


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