Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

October 30, 2016

A victory for the Hartford intentional family charged with zoning violation

The Scarborough 11. (Stephen Dunn / Hartford Courant

It's not over yet. But the intentional family of eight adults and their three kids who bought a fixer-upper mansion in Hartford, Connecticut, then were threatened by the city with daily fines for violating the neighborhood's single-family zoning, seems to have out-stubborned the city.

The year-plus standoff has drawn wide community support for the family, and attention from media around the country, as more and more people seek to live in groups as "functional families" — whether for economics, sharing of labor and child care, friendship, belief in intentional community, or polyamory. (The Hartford group is not poly.)

The family claims the right to be defined as a functional family even if more than two member are not related by blood or marriage. Residential zoning is a hot issue in many towns and neighborhoods where residents fear groups of students or immigrants — or anyone, no matter how settled and white, who might set a precedent for groups of students or immigrants.

From the Hartford Courant:

City Of Hartford Withdraws Suit In 'Scarborough 11' Case

A group of friends bought the nine-bedroom mansion at 68 Scarborough St. in Hartford in August 2014. A battle with neighbors and the city followed.

By Vanessa de la Torre

The group of West End residents known as the "Scarborough 11" can stay in their home now that the city has pulled its enforcement threat against them, bringing the two-year zoning dispute closer to a resolution.

On Wednesday, city lawyers quietly withdrew a suit that the city of Hartford brought in March 2015 against the homeowners at 68 Scarborough St., where three children and eight adults live together in a case that tested the city's definition of family and sparked a wave of national attention.

In its suit, the city had sought a court ruling that would allow it to enforce its cease-and-desist order and hand down civil penalties against the residents for violating the neighborhood's strict single-family zoning. The group of friends have countered that they are an "intentional family," even if not all of them are related by blood or marriage.

Howard Rifkin, the city's corporation counsel, said Thursday that Hartford's legal fight against the Scarborough 11 had proved costly and that "continuing to pursue an enforcement action against this household is not the best use of the city's time or resources."

"We concede that the issues in this case have engendered hard feelings between the residents of 68 Scarborough and their neighbors, not to mention notoriety," Rifkin said in a statement released through Mayor Luke Bronin's office. "It is our hope that we can find a way forward, but to further litigate this matter will only increase costs and divert us from some of the critical matters on which the city must focus."

Peter Goselin, an attorney representing the 11-member household, said Thursday that the city's latest action means his clients no longer have to fear daily fines or eviction from their home. And if Hartford's planning and zoning commission further changes its regulations to allow the Scarborough 11, and residents like them, to live together in a single-family dwelling, the case can finally come to an end, he said.

Goselin said he believes the commission is working on such language.

"From our point of view, the people at Scarborough and the city are pretty much on the same side," Goselin said. ...

...The [city's] 2015 suit, under the past administration of Mayor Pedro Segarra, was filed after Hartford's zoning board of appeals rejected the Scarborough 11's appeal of the cease-and-desist order. The city said that "time for compliance has passed."

The Scarborough 11 immediately filed a federal suit against the city, contending that their civil rights were being violated because the city refused to accept them as a family and was trying to evict some of the occupants who are not related. Goselin said his clients also faced fines of $100 a day.

Earlier this year, however, the city's planning and zoning commission approved the first major overhaul of Hartford's zoning laws in nearly half a century. The definition of family is gone, and now there is reference to a household unit: "A collection of individuals occupying the entire dwelling unit, sharing a household budget and expenses, preparing food and eating together regularly, sharing in the work to maintain the premises, and legally sharing in the ownership or possession of the premises."

West End neighbors had argued against the approval. But the current regulations don't solve Scarborough 11's zoning problem because they define a household, in part, as "up to 3 persons all of whom are not necessarily related to each other ... ." The number of unrelated people living in the mansion still exceeds three....

...If Hartford's zoning code is changed to include a "functional" family like the Scarborough 11's, the group's federal suit essentially becomes moot, Goselin said.

Read the whole article (October 27, 2016), with video and links to previous articles.

Meanwhile, a federal court just rejected the family's federal lawsuit against the city, on the grounds that the family had not yet exhausted all local remedies:

Federal Court Won't Define 'Family' In Scarborough 11 Case — Yet

By Vanessa de la Torre

HARTFORD — A federal judge dealt a legal blow to the "Scarborough 11" this week, granting the city's motion to dismiss the constitutional case but holding the door open for a second review.

The city argued that the federal court has no jurisdiction over a local zoning issue, while the plaintiffs — the eight adults who live in a Scarborough Street mansion, in a household that includes three children — say their plight transcends zoning and comes down to personal freedom over how to live as a family.

In Wednesday's ruling, however, U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall said that the Scarborough group did not exhaust all city options to resolve the zoning dispute before it resorted to a federal challenge.

Hall gave the plaintiffs 21 days to file an amended complaint that attempts to prove that the city's zoning board of appeals would have denied a variance if the Scarborough group had sought one. If they convince her, the judge could reopen the case.

"It's a setback, but it's definitely not over," said Peter Goselin, the attorney representing the Scarborough 11.

Goselin said Thursday that his clients plan to file a more robust complaint arguing that seeking a variance from the city would have been futile.

City officials said they are not evicting anyone from 68 Scarborough St., at least not yet.

"We understand that this is a difficult situation — these are people's lives and you want to be compassionate," city spokeswoman Maribel La Luz said Thursday night. "So we're not considering taking action until the process has played out, until the case is finalized and settled. ... There's still a process that has to be followed."...

Read on (October 15).

Many in the poly world have been watching this case with concern. It's a reminder that until functional families become a legally recognized thing, poly families should learn the local zoning codes before buying property or remodeling. You can apply for a variance, which legally clears you but may be denied if neighbors object or the local zoning board sees no reason to grant it. Or you can try to live below the radar, at the risk of having family members ordered to move out, and/or the owner(s) being ordered to undo the remodeling at their own expense.

If you live below the radar, have a backup plan to move or establish a second residence if necessary. And do no remodeling (additional entrance, additional bathroom, bedroom, etc.) without getting a building permit that approves it.

And, know the local definition of "residents" versus "guests." A tiny rented room elsewhere, where the offending people receive their mail, register to vote, pay bills, and occasionally spend time, may (or may not) be all that's needed. Consult a local lawyer. For instance, is it really your legal residence if you overnight there less than 50% of the time?

Article in the Connecticut Law Tribune: Hartford Gives Up Housing Suit Against 'Scarborough 11' (Oct. 28).


UPDATE: Federal Judge Grants Motion To Reopen 'Scarborough 11' Zoning Case In Hartford (Oct. 27).

Josh Blanchfield, left, serves as spokesman for the Scarborough 11, while Peter Goselin, center, is their attorney in the family's zoning battle with Hartford.
 (Patrick Raycraft / The Hartford Courant)

A federal judge has agreed to reopen the "Scarborough 11" case after accepting new arguments from the West End group that is suing Hartford over its definition of family.

U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall initially ruled in the city's favor and dismissed the suit on Oct. 14, ruling that the Scarborough Street clan, embroiled in a bitter zoning fight with city officials, had not exhausted all local options before raising a constitutional challenge in federal court.

But Hall, in a move that gave the plaintiffs hope, said she would reconsider the case if they could prove why seeking a variance from the city would have been futile. They apparently succeeded.

On Tuesday, Hall granted the Scarborough 11's motion to reopen the case. ...


Labels: ,

October 26, 2016

Two poly advice pieces, a study in contrasts

As more of the public pays attention to what we're doing and considers getting on board, the media are offering more advice about how to do this thing. Often they repeat advice from the poly world (thank you, people!), but they can still come off as outsiders looking in, trying to explain something they don't really get.

Today we had a study in contrasts.

● The New York Times posted Dating experts explain polyamory and open relationships. It's a well-meaning piece, based on interviews with Eli Sheff, Dan Savage, and Karley Sciortino, and some of the advice is on target. But it's totally from a primary-couple perspective, and you sense that the author couldn't get past feeling that poly is Some Alien Thing. The article appears online in the paper's Fashion & Style section. Excerpts:

Dating experts explain polyamory and open relationships

Yes, they used this stupid cheaters-on-a-couch stock
photo we're all sick of. Couldn't the New York
do better? Photographers, get busy!
(Getty images)
By Valeriya Safronova

Open relationships are one of those concepts that can inspire confusion. [Is the author confessing?]

To start, they are not the same thing as polygamy (that’s when you have more than one spouse). They are also not maintaining secret relationships while dating a person who believes he or she is your one and only (that’s just cheating).

Polyamorous open relationships, or consensual non-monogamy, are an umbrella category. Their expression can take a range of forms focusing on both physical and emotional intimacy with secondary or tertiary partners [no comment], though some relationships can veer toward strictly the physical and resemble 1970s-era swinging or group sex. [I'm restraining myself.]

To better understand open relationships, we talked to several experts. ... We distilled their thoughts into seven key points.

1. Open relationships aren’t for everyone. Neither is monogamy.

Among people who study or write about interpersonal relationships, there’s a concept known as sociosexuality, which describes how willing people are to engage in uncommitted sexual relationships. ... That said, a lot of people aren’t on opposite ends of the scale. Mr. Savage, who is in a non-monogamous marriage, said that when he first brought up being open to his husband, he rejected the idea. But several years later, it was his husband who suggested they try it.

“If I had put that I’m interested in non-monogamy on my personal ad, and my husband had seen that personal ad, he wouldn’t have dated me,” Mr. Savage said.

2. Polyamory is not an exit strategy.

Open relationships aren’t the way to soften a blow or to transition out of a committed situation....

3. Nor is it an option to just keep a relationship going.

“If it’s to avoid breaking up, I have never seen that work,” Dr. Sheff said. “I’ve seen it limp along for a few months. If it’s out of fear of losing the polyamorous person, that’s a disaster in the making. It’s like a lesbian trying to be happy in a relationship with a man.”

4. Rules and situations can change.

...“It seems boundless,” Ms. Sciortino said. “But actually, there are so many more rules in non-monogamous relationships than in monogamous ones. There’s only one rule in monogamous relationships.” ...

5. Prioritizing a primary partner is key.

...The problem with new relationship energy is that it can make a primary partner feel forgotten. “Your long-term partner can feel hurt if you’re taking your relationship for granted,” Dr. Sheff said....

“It’s emotional cheating that people want to protect themselves from,” Mr. Savage said....

So his pro tip? “Demonstrate that they are your first priority.” It’s called a primary partner for a reason.

6. Those sharing a lover can get along too. ...

7. Jealousy is present, but not unique.

“A woman once asked me, ‘Don’t you get jealous?,’ ” Mr. Savage said. “And I looked at her and said, ‘Don’t you?’ Monogamous commitments aren’t force fields that protect you from jealousy.”

Jealousy is a universal emotion that transcends sociosexuality states. ...

So what does she recommend? “Put yourself in their position,” she said. “If you can have sex with someone else and it doesn’t take away from your love and even enhances it, you have to allow [sic] them  the same freedoms.”

Dr. Sheff suggested taking a close look at the underlying causes of the jealousy: Is it insecurity? Fear? Maybe it’s even justified? “Sometimes jealousy is a signal that you really are being slighted,” she said.

Tips for confronting jealousy in open relationships are the same as in most other relationships: writing down your thoughts, talking out your feelings with your partner, seeing a counselor.

And that, all three experts were quick to note, may be the most important point to understand: In many ways, open relationships aren’t all that different from monogamous ones. The best way to feel comfortable is up to individuals and their partner(s).

Read the whole article (October 26, 2016).

Posts Chrissy Raymond Holman, president of Open Love NY, "Dear NYT, not every poly person does hierarchical. This erases relationship anarchism, solo poly and non-hierarchical poly."

● In striking contrast, also today Noel Figart — who's been dispensing solid advice as The Polyamorous Misanthrope for years and years — posted The Five Unbreakable Rules That Make Polyamory Work. She's serious about this. Excerpts:

1. Love

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. ... Love is patient. love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud...."

The Bible may not be part of your tradition or beliefs, but this passage makes a significant point. Love is a big, honkin’ deal. No love, polyamory won’t work. I put this first because it is the most important. Love first.

And by the way, love and NRE are not the same things. NRE is fun and awesome, and love can often be. But sometimes it is boring and tedious. It’s as much cleaning up after someone who threw up in the night, as it is about walking down a beach hand in hand watching the sun set. I talk more about the dull and tedious side because the other side is easy. ...

And love is also a verb. If you’re sitting there feeling nice, that’s cool. But get up off your ass and do stuff. That’s where it’s love.

2. Be Honest

...If you need peace and quiet and can’t get it when you’re being honest, maybe you need to take a look at Rule Five. If you want to get laid more and think you can’t do it being honest, again, Rule Five is going to be important to you.

...If you modify the noun “honesty” with the adjective “brutal” then I think you might want to take a look at Rule Three and Rule One. Honesty is not incompatible with kindness and love. If you think it is, you need to work on your communication skills, cupcake.

To do an end run around the whole, “But what if she asks, ‘Does this make my butt look big?’ ” and she happens to be a bit broad across the beam, I want to offer this thought:

You can still be kind. You can ask, “Are you asking if that is flattering on you, or if it emphasizes your butt more than you like?”

That’s not dishonest, and it is also kind. You’re asking for clarification about what they really mean, and you’re not assuming.

For what it is worth, if you need feedback and you’re dealing with a partner who you know does their best to be honest (you fortunate thing you), you can help by making sure you’re asking the question you need to be answered. If you need reassurance that you’re loved, found attractive, valued or whatever, it is totally okay to ask for exactly that! And hey, since that’s what you want and need, it’s also…

Being honest.

3. Be Kind

...I get that you sometimes have a terrible day. But try, try, try to keep kindness in mind as your motivator for dealing with your loves.

...The thing is, treating a love well means that you’ll need to know your loves well enough to learn what makes them feel loved and cared for. ...

4. Own Your Own Shit

“Own your own shit” is a phrase that, like using "I" statements, can be perverted into a stick to beat people with. Y’all do know that’d be a spectacular way to break Rule Three to use this on people that way, right? Good.

Owning your own shit is really recognizing several things:

It means knowing that your past has probably taught you coping mechanisms that aren’t very loving. Check for them. Root them out as best you can. You won’t entirely. It’s a life-long project. ... But perfecting your character and your treatment of other people is an excellent project – one that will serve you well in all relationships, not just poly.

However, owning your own shit means you have to be able to identify your own shit, and not other people’s. This brings us neatly to…

5. Have good boundaries

Boundaries are what is in your locus of control. What do you choose to do? What behaviors will you choose to interact with, and what behaviors will you walk away from? What are you responsible for, and what isn’t really your responsibility or problem?

So, here’s a boundaries example. You’re at a fancy dinner, and the hostess is passing around a dish of asparagus. You loathe asparagus to the bottom of your being and do not want to eat any.

“Would you care for some asparagus?” asked the hostess.

You reply, “No, thank you,” and you pass the dish on to the guest on your left.

That’s boundaries in a nutshell. You didn’t like something, you said no, and you passed on it. Good boundaries. Interestingly enough, good manners. It’s amazing how often the two coincide.

This is, of course, simplistic and ignores the personal baggage that we often bring to relationships. Interestingly enough, [setting] good boundaries does sometimes mean [investigating] this. Kindness and love may require exploration. (Why do you feel unloved when I say no to your asparagus surprise? I love you, and I love your cooking. Can we talk about this?) But, that loving discussion actually can’t happen until the boundary is bumped up against. So, boundaries are crucial when it comes to loving effectively.

Read the whole article (October 26, 2016).

What a contrast.


Update: For the person who asked "What's the contrast", it's the difference between treating poly relationships as Weird Things versus, you know, loving relationships. Or as Noel puts it in the comments, between a rules-based outlook (which will be incomplete, poorly adaptable, brittle) and a principles-based outlook (which will be deeper and more rooted, and adaptable to unforeseen situations).



October 21, 2016

"I don’t care if you have anal sex with her, but a picnic just seems too intimate!"

Yes, this one's couple-centric in a gritty way, but couple-plus is the commonest poly model. One of New York's leading nightlife guides gives a good plug too for Open Love NY and its long-running monthly Poly Cocktails events, the prototype for all the Poly Cocktails that have sprung up in other cities.1

Time Out New York (one in a multi-city chain) is a free weekly arts & entertainment magazine, print circulation 275,000, with a high-traffic website.

Is the article's print title a play on "Along Came Mary," or is my music getting old?

Thanks to Mischa Lin of Open Love NY for posting this photo.

NYC couples in open relationships tell all [the online title]

Monogamy is so 2015. We spoke to New York couples of a new breed—ethical nonmonogamists—about their love lives.

By Matthew Love

Try counting the number of times you or someone you know has recently come across the following on Tinder or other dating apps: a profile of a person who identifies as polyamorous or an ethical nonmonogamist. A lot, huh? From the massive, annual cuddle puddle that is Burning Man to OkCupid’s 2014 adoption of the “open relationship” designation, polyamory (roughly defined as intimate relationships involving more than two people, though its circumstances can vary widely) is slowly edging its way into the mainstream. According to this year’s annual survey Singles in America conducted by researchers at the Kinsey Institute, more than one in five people are currently or have been involved in an open relationship. What’s more, a poll of OkCupid users noted an uptick in interest regarding polyamory: In 2010, 42 percent of singles using the service would consider dating someone in an open relationship, while today more than 50 percent would....

...Advocacy group Open Love NY ... sponsors workshops and events including the increasingly popular monthly mixer Poly Cocktails. “On any particular night, we can draw upward of 500 people,” says Mischa Lin, VP and communications director of Open Love NY. “Cocktails go until midnight, but I usually peace out at 8:30pm because it gets so crowded!” And though poly culture is now more visible than ever, the different incarnations and iterations are as diverse as the city itself.

Monica Ramos

The players
Nicollette Barsamian, 25, and Jon Headlee, 30, Forest Hills, Queens

This pair brings a whole new edge to the meet-cute: Nicollette Barsamian’s friends left her in Jon Headlee’s arms outside of the party Dungeon X on Delancey Street, with a cagey, “You’re safe, right?” The two spent the night playing in the dungeon together until Barsamian choked a third person a bit too hard for their taste. (“She kind of has She-Hulk–like strength,” says Headlee.)... As far as managing judgment from peers, both are unconcerned and happy about how exciting their lives are in comparison to their contemporaries. “My first girlfriend ended up just marrying a cop and having kids,” says Headlee. “There’s an article about me in Hustler.”

The autodidacts
Logan Ford, 28, and Robert Reynolds, 37, Williamsburg

...When Logan Ford moved two hours away for undergrad, both parties knew they would need to embrace certain “freedoms” if the fledgling relationship were to survive. This was 10 years ago.... “When we first opened our relationship, there were tons of rules: never with these guys, not in these situations, blah, blah,” says Ford. ... “Now, it’s like, ‘Let’s trust one another’s good judgment.’ ” Both agree that they’ve blossomed in New York, not only as a couple but as a one that doesn’t mind other people knowing about their poly arrangement. ... “It’s just become so normal. At some point during our wedding reception, we said, ‘Let’s count all the guys at our wedding we’ve fucked around with. Oh, look, there’s a friend who had me in a sling recently, [now] having a conversation with my mom!’”

The latecomers
Carol, 46, and David, 44, West Village

“I don’t care if you have anal sex with her, but a picnic just seems too intimate!” That’s Carol, who describes herself as heteroflexible, talking to her partner, David. ... Intimacy boundaries were one of the difficulties (or in Carol’s parlance, “wonkies”) from their early days together. Neither he nor Carol had experienced a committed poly relationship until they found each other. While this open framework has provided them with what they say is the most honest relationship they’ve ever had, they also agree it’s taken time to, in David’s words, “re-engineer what we already know about committed, long-term relationships.” There have been moments of jealousy, of course, and both remember the first time they prepared for dates simultaneously. “It was like, ‘Intellectually, I know this is fine,’ but on the lizard-brain level, it wasn’t as easy,” admits Carol. ...

Read the whole piece (online October 18, 2016; print issue dated Oct. 19–25).


1. All the ones I know about:
Poly Cocktails New York
Poly Cocktails Jersey City
Poly Cocktails Albany
Poly Cocktails Orlando
Poly Cocktails Chicago
Poly Cocktails Madison
Poly Cocktails Austin
Poly Cocktails Houston
Poly Cocktails Salt Lake
Poly Cocktails San Diego
Poly Cocktails London



October 18, 2016

"The Joy of Mass Intimacy": the New York Times reviews Future Sex

Laura Berger
“I read Emily Witt’s Future Sex over the course of three days in Provincetown,” writes New York Times contributor Benoit Denizet-Lewis, “an eccentric beach town and art colony on Cape Cod — and a fitting place to delve into a book about polyamory, kink, group sex and orgasmic meditation. As I read Witt’s thoughtful and deeply personal exploration of 'the possibilities of free love' in 21st-century America, some of her themes played out around me.

A handsome gay couple discussed the rules — nearly broken after some day-drinking — of their open relationship. A young Bulgarian woman lamented to a friend that she hated her summer job, and wondered whether she could make more money webcamming for lonely men instead. ... And, after the bars let out, some gay and bisexual men biked, skipped and stumbled to a notorious cruising spot where strangers and couples looking to spice things up meet under the moonlight for an orgy on the beach.

Before moving to San Francisco in her early 30s, Witt didn’t think of herself as the orgy-attending type. ...

Most of Witt's book, it turns out, is her personal exploration of, if you're a classifier and word person like I am, CNM: consensual non-monogamy. Sociologists use this broad term because it is precisely defined. Polyamory is a special subset of it — as both the author and the reviewer understand.

Denizet-Lewis sets up the review's conclusion with a scene of women in an orgasmic meditation group, as follows:

One, Witt writes, “cried like someone who has been unhappy for a long time, has unexpectedly found solace, and now can hardly conceive of the darkness to which she had previously confined herself.”

And then:

There is very little darkness in what is probably Witt’s best chapter, a deep dive into polyamory in San Francisco. By the time she arrives in the city... it’s a playground for successful, bright-eyed young adults who have “grown up observing foreign wars, economic inequality and ecological catastrophe, crises that they earnestly discussed on their digital feeds but avoided internalizing as despair.” At first, Witt isn’t sure what to make of their sexual appetites. “Their sex lives were impossible to fathom,” she observes, “because they seemed never to have lived in darkness.”

Witt anchors this chapter inside the relationship of the young polyamorous newlyweds, who like going to Burning Man with their tribe of relentlessly cool and open-minded friends and who seem to have figured out, through trial and error and countless difficult conversations, what makes them happy in and out of bed. Witt can’t help envying their close-knit friendships and sexual frankness and openness.

Witt’s [own] sexual future — as well as the future of free love in America, which Witt only gives tangential attention to — seems less promising in comparison. “America had a lot of respect for the future of objects,” Witt writes, “and less interest in the future of human arrangements.”

Read the whole review (online October 18, 2016). A version of it will appear in print this Sunday (Oct. 23 ) in the Sunday Book Review section with the headline "The Thrill of Mass Intimacy."


A review just appeared in the UK's Financial Times: Emily Witt’s ‘Future Sex’ — an intimate history of American sexual mores (Oct. 21. May become paywalled).

...The resulting book succeeds in talking about sex without guile, vulgarity or swagger, and achieves something that is rarer than it might be: it suggests how old ideas about women and love might be put aside in favour of newer, truer, freer ones.

...Witt finds some answers in her later chapters. “Polyamory”, written in limpid, enviable sentences like a non-fiction short story, follows twenty-something Elizabeth in high-tech San Francisco and her navigation of non-monogamy from sexual jealousy to open marriage. ... Elizabeth marries in a white dress and face paint at Burning Man with the knowledge that she will have sex and even fall in love with other people. But is she simply signing up to a lifetime of delicate emotional negotiations? Witt attends a sex party with the couple and witnesses Elizabeth’s husband agree to let her go home with someone else: “It was a conversation that was difficult to listen to.”

In Future Sex, Witt has written a book that is actually about loneliness, intimacy and love’s elusiveness; capitalism, Californian utopianism and feminism; family, memory and loss. Her book expands the possibilities for women’s lives in the 21st century, and for sex’s place within them.



October 13, 2016

Wash Post: "I live with my husband and our boyfriend. Here’s how we make it work."

The gay poly writer Jeff Leavell has finally made the MSM with a piece on the website of the Washington Post. He's not shy about his struggles with jealousy.

Poly is much easier if you're naturally a low-jealousy person, but this is not required.

I live with my husband and our boyfriend. Here’s how we make it work.


By Jeff Leavell

Among those of us who are polyamorous — meaning that we carry on committed relationships with multiple people — there is a lot of talk about jealousy. It’s regarded as an emotion for the weak and unenlightened. [No it's not.]

I must be seriously unenlightened then, because I am a jealous, territorial, alpha-kind of man. My husband, Alex, and I have been together for five years. Our boyfriend, Jon, has lived with us for the past two.

For the most part we are happy. Like any relationship, we have our ups and our downs. Some days we are madly in love, other days we’d rather be left alone to watch TV, pay the bills and go about the normalcy of life.

...[However,] I still get that kind of heart-pounding and burning sensation all over my body whenever I picture either of my men with someone else. I want to stalk their lovers on Facebook. I want to follow Alex and Jon when they leave the house. Go through their phones. If I let myself, I can go a little crazy with jealousy.

The three of us met on a gay dating app, Scruff.... Jon kept coming back. For pizza and movies, sleepovers, hikes. We took a trip to Vancouver together. The three of us had our first four-way. We said “I love you.” We introduced Jon to our family members and friends as our boyfriend.

Watching Alex fall in love with Jon was a kind of strange torture. It was also beautiful. Learning to balance the torture with the beauty was a struggle.

...I have always loved the idea of monogamy — that one man would love me and only me; would want me and only me; would sacrifice everything for me, if it came to that. I loved the idea of someone being monogamous to me, I just wasn’t able to return the favor.

So opening our relationship up to include more lovers allowed Alex and me to have our own private adventures. It was also like taking a crash course in how to handle jealousy. The first time I told Alex about another guy I was dating, our relationship almost ended. When Alex told me about a new guy he had met in Seattle, I thought my world would fall apart.

Of course, my world didn’t fall apart. Instead, I had to confront my feelings. I didn’t have to confront Alex or Jon, but myself. I had to spend time alone with my fears and insecurities. Because that is all jealousy is: fear. Of being abandoned. Of not being enough. Of being alone.

And the truth is, all the things we fear might happen.... Relationships fall apart all the time.

At least Jon and Alex and I are honest with one another. I get to share my fears and my joys with them. I get to be there for them as they do the same. And I fall more in love with them as we do this.

Read the whole article (Oct. 11, 2016). It was originally titled "I'm polyamorous. Yes, I get jealous. But it's worth it."

● Jeff had another recent piece at Vice: My Advice for People Considering Polyamory (Sept. 8):

Jeff Leavell and his partners

...Basically, we tried to treat a relationship developing between three people like it was developing between two, with Alex and I as one party and Jon as the other. This, of course, is untenable. Equality is essential to making relationships work. [Make that equality of respect, dignity, and agency, say I; not necessarily time, sex, income sharing, and most everything else. No two relationships are ever the same. –Ed.]  If we were really going to do this new thing with Jon, Alex and I would have to change how our own relationship operated. But I had no role models to teach me how to do this thing — a problem I hope to address in writing about our relationship publicly.

People reach out to me all the time with questions about open and polyamorous relationships based on pieces I've written. A disproportionate number of them revolve around jealousy and insecurity: How do you avoid becoming jealous if your partner is sleeping with other men?

I've found that if I ever feel jealousy, the root of that emotion almost always comes from not feeling good enough for Jon or Alex. Jealousy always equals insecurity for me.

...But at the end of the day, it's how we react to that jealousy that matters. I constantly have to remind myself to shift the focus of my thoughts back to me: What am I really afraid of? Why do I not believe I am deserving of all this love?


People often ask me how we handled "coming out" as a polyamorous couple to our family and friends. ... Today, my advice is to use caution and not open yourself up too quickly to the scrutiny and judgment of those who love you. While they may seem normal when you're part of them, polyamorous relationships are far outside the norm, and it's hard to expect everyone to just accept what we know: that love is vast, and that there are many ways to experience and express it. Polyamory scares people. For some, it challenges everything they believe to be true about love....

● And here are two previous Vice pieces by Jeff: How I Told My Husband and Boyfriend I'm Dating Another Man (July 19, 2016), and How I Figured Out the Rules of My Three-Way Relationship (July 22, 2015).


Labels: ,

October 12, 2016

German government poly ad?

It's from the German Ministry of Economy and Energy. Translation: "Efficiency is conserving the energy. Not the warmth."

They look relaxed and happy. Who knows if the ad designers were thinking of polyamory specifically (can someone find them and ask?). But really, 10 or 20 years ago, would they have expected this image to connect the way it does now?

Thanks to TRNogger on reddit/r/polyamory for spotting this.



October 7, 2016

"Dear Media: Polyamory Is Not All About Sex." (And those feet pix?)

This was recommended to me as a meta article about poly in the media. Yes, the white duvets.

It appeared in the online feminist magazine The Establishment. I imported the pix from the other places that the author references in the text.

Dear Media: Polyamory Is Not All About Sex

By Carrie Jenkins

If you read about polyamory in the media, you’ve probably seen The Photo: an image of three (or more) pairs of adult feet at the end of a bed, poking out from under a white duvet.

In reality it is not one photo, but many, yet it’s a visual trope recycled so frequently and predictably that it might as well be just one. The Photo is supposed to provide a glimpse into the lives of those naughty non-monogamous people having their naughty non-monogamous sex; while only slightly risqué, it gets its point across — the point being that polyamory is all about having sex with lots of people.

You can see The Photo in action here in The Guardian, here at news.com, here at GetReligion.org, here at stuff.co.nz, here in the Georgia Straight, here at Mic, here at Cafe Mom, here in Soot Magazine, here at Role Reboot, and here at The Frisky. Sometimes it’s not feet, just three or more people in a bed—under, yes, a white duvet. (I confess I don’t own a white duvet, but I didn’t realize it was such a sine qua non of poly life.)

There is more going on here than editorial laziness. It suggests that our culture’s default visual image for polyamory is “lots of people in bed together.” This hypersexualization of polyamory might be normalized, but it’s far from harmless. Because we live in a sex-negative society, presenting poly relationships as “just” sex is a powerful way of signaling that these relationships don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

...On the whole, we tend to think that “real”-love relationships are serious — and should be shored up with social and legal privileges — whereas sex is “just” sex. When poly relationships are hypersexualized, they are also shuffled out of the realm of what we are taught to respect.

...A few months ago I gave an interview to a journalist for an article about polyamory in the print edition of Cosmopolitan UK. Her article was well-written and well-researched; it addressed various issues that can come up in poly relationships, like scheduling, jealousy, misrepresentation, and stigma. The journalist included some material from my interview on how polyamory is often stigmatized through hypersexualization and sex-negativity.

So perhaps you can imagine how demoralized I was when I saw that Cosmo had chosen to illustrate this article with full-page, full-color, graphic images of a pile of naked people in mid-orgy. And that the article itself was presented under the subheading “Young, hot and…polyamorous. Why everyone you know is getting multiple action.” Not only that, the front-page headline was “Greedy Lovers: Is a Foursome the New Threesome?” This bore no connection to the article; it was only used to play up the stereotype that poly people are sexually greedy.

Whoever was in charge of these editorial decisions made the Cosmo article into a perfect example of the exact problem I described in it. Either they didn’t read my quotes, or they didn’t care about what I said. I suppose giant orgy photos sell magazines, and what happens to people like me doesn’t matter much to Cosmo. But it matters to me. This kind of harmful imagery is partly to blame for the fact that I get called a “cum-dumpster” and a “cheap skank that bones a bunch of dudes” when I talk openly about being in two loving relationships. It’s what makes strangers feel okay about saying that my partners and I are trash, that our relationships are hopeless, that I’m only pretending to be married, that they hope I get STIs, that I already have STIs, that I’m disgusting.

It’s important to note that the harms caused by the hypersexualization of polyamory are not equally distributed among its targets. As a poly woman, you stand to be labeled a “slut” without a second thought, and there is no male equivalent. Being poly doesn’t necessarily entail having any sex (never mind nightly orgies!): It’s also consistent with being asexual, not being in any relationships, or just, you know, not having sex — like how monogamous people are sometimes allowed to be not having sex. But that’s irrelevant to how stereotypes and stigmas work....

Due to the gendered norms for sexual behavior, everything about this harms poly women far more than men. In fact, any kind of privilege can help protect you from the costs of being openly poly. It’s less costly for rich white people to be out as poly, which reinforces another stereotype: that poly people are all rich and white. (In the examples of The Photo that I listed above, you might have noticed that the feet in the bed are all as white as the bourgeois bedding from which they emerge....

Strategically devaluing disfavored relationships by “reducing” them to sex is nothing new. The same strategy has long been deployed against same-sex relationships and interracial relationships. It’s effective not only as a way of inciting disgust and disapprobation, but more insidiously as a means of othering — making the people in those relationships seem weird and alien and not like us. We fall in love and have serious relationships, but those people are lust-driven animals. It’s okay to treat them like garbage.

It is tempting to push back by demanding that poly relationships be treated as “real” love, and distanced from sex.... But it also throws sex under the bus. When sex-negativity is weaponized against us, we can run from the weapon — reinforcing its effectiveness — or we can work on disarming it....

Carrie Jenkins is a polyamorous philosophy professor currently based in Vancouver, Canada. She previously lived in Scotland, England, Wales, the U.S., and Australia so that her accent would be confusing and nobody would be able to figure out where she was from. Her book What Love Is And What It Could Be comes out in January.

Read the whole text (July 27, 2016).

And once again: Photographers, please supply the stock agencies with some better poly pix! Anyone with a camera and a good eye can do it.



October 2, 2016

Now on Showtime: "The 'Shameless' Polyamorous Throuple Next Door"

Remember the poly plot developments as Showtime's Shameless came to the end of Season 6 last spring?

Turns out those were teasers for what's coming in Season 7, starting tonight (October 2) at 9.

● On the website of NBC News:

The 'Shameless' Polyamorous Throuple Next Door

(L-R) Isidora Goreshter as Svetlana, Shanola Hampton as Veronica Fisher, and Steve Howey as Kevin Ball in "Shameless"(Cliff Lipson / Showtime)

By Trish Bendix

Showtime's family comedy, "Shameless," has quietly been one of the most boundary pushing shows on premium cable, especially when it comes to sex and relationships. The Gallaghers and their extended chosen family of friends are some of the queerest to ever exist, with Ian's coming out and subsequent relationships with men, Monica's leaving Frank for a butch trucker and then later a pixie-haired woman she met while institutionalized, and Debbie's willingness to feign interest in a woman dying of cancer in order to try and seduce her rich husband....

Season 7, premiering Sunday on Showtime, will expand on the notions of love and family with the throuple that they established at the latter half of season 6....

Polyamorous relationships are still taboo on television with little exploration given to the idea that three (or more) people can be involved romantically and sexually. But on a show like "Shameless," it's almost commonplace for an interracial couple (Kevin and Veronica, or Kev and V to those who know them well) to be partnered parents who then bring Svetlana, a Russian prostitute, to live with them after V marries Svetlana so she can stay in the country. Oh, and they have three babies to raise among them.... A modern family, indeed.

Series regular Shanola Hampton was not thrilled about the idea at first.

"I hated it, to be honest with you," she said. "I felt like Kevin and Veronica had been the stability throughout the show.... So when I saw that that love was sort of being divided or going some place else — wait a minute? Is that true for these characters? I don't know that that's right to me."

It was after she found a way to see how Veronica's love for Kevin wasn't diminished by their mutual relationship with Svetlana that she came to embrace the storyline.

"I had to make it make sense in my head," Hampton said....

"It's such an interesting dynamic between the three of us," Goreshter added....

When season 7 returns, there appears to be a harmonious hum in the threesome's household. They take turns with chores (in all senses of the word) and work together at their dive bar, The Alibi. But the actresses tease that things won't stay sane for long.

"It's not as sexy for Kev," Hampton said. "The sex is great, but you now have two women to tell you 'Why didn't you clean up the damn house?' And he's like 'Wait a minute — are ya'll ganging up on me?'"...

...And then this way it's like we're all married, so 'Why didn't we have this conversation?' And sometimes it comes up the other way where Kevin and Veronica agree on something, and Svetlana is like 'Wait a minute — we're supposed to be in a marriage, and we discuss and go through everything, but now you're not discussing this with me?'" Hampton said. "So yeah, a lot of that does come up in the dynamic of being with multiple partners."

..."That moment where they're having a beer in bed, and Svetlana is smoking a cigarette, and of all people, Veronica was asking this Russian whore ... how to be a good parent and how to love her child, and that's when I think that you started to see the walls break down for Veronica—because it's hard for her to accept anyone in her life."

...On most shows that depict polyamory (most recently ABC's "Mistresses" and Audience Network's "You Me Her"), the drama comes from... the deceit, the cheating, the lying that most people assume will ultimately push a polyamorous partnership to implode. But on "Shameless," it appears the threat comes in the form of a "mysterious visitor" who will clue viewers into Svetlana's past....

Read the whole article (October 1, 2016).

● In the Hollywood Reporter:

The Surprising Way 'Shameless' Will Tackle Polyamory in Season 7

“Polyamory is being shown in a way that hasn't been shown on television before,” star Shanola Hampton says as THR talks to all parties involved, including executive producer Nancy Pimental.

By Alyse Whitney

Polyamory may be the most normal thing to happen to Showtime's Shameless.

In season seven of the Showtime dramedy, Kevin (Steve Howey), Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter) will evolve their “thrupple” from a string of threesomes and a green-card marriage into one big happy family that includes working and raising kids together as the John Wells-produced series explores polyamory.

“Polyamory is being shown in a way that hasn't been shown on television before. It's not Big Love, where the poly aspect was all it’s about,” Hampton tells The Hollywood Reporter. “[Veronica] fell in love with a woman and her husband loved her enough to accept this relationship and add it to their own relationship. For her to make that choice, it wasn't to make it temporary — this is her new life and new family”

Adds Goreshter: "It evolved in such a slow, natural way between them, over a period of [season six], where Svetlana really integrated into their lives. It was this weird slow build so it didn't feel like, ‘Oh, we're polyamorous now.’”

Pimental credits the natural flow of the thrupple to the chemistry of the actors and the fact that the storyline happened organically. “We did not set out to have this happen. It originated when Kev and Vee had broken off and Svetlana needed a place to stay," she says.

...Although sex remains a large part of their storyline — including what the cast previews as a “giddy up” punishment scene — it’s not the focal point of their story or the series as a whole.

“Now you've gotten past the whole sex stuff, you just see them just doing the day-to-day,” Hampton previews of season seven, which kicks off Sunday. “It picks up with them doing their schedule — who's going to the bar to work, who's taking care of the kids, who’s doing breakfast, and yes, who’s having sex — and being a regular family.”

Notes Goreshter: “It's like a beautiful dance that's been choreographed, and they all work so well together. Our polyamory is not the focal point of Shameless or our storyline. It’s not thrown in your face; it's just a backdrop to our real life. It’s just there and it’s working.”

The level of love between the trio may also be directly correlated to how much they actually need one another. “It’s really hard to raise kids and have a career, so if you find another part of your tribe or another member of the village that can contribute and there's love and trust and good specs, it kind of just makes sense,” Pimental says. “I think that helps normalize it as well. It started off as a relationship out of convenience and mutual give and take of services and needs being met, and then grew into something more loving.”...

...After all of the crazy things that Shameless has gotten away with — including Frank (William H. Macy) having sex with a woman after her heart stopped, Fiona (Emmy Rossum) accidentally giving her youngest brother cocaine as well as Kev and Vee playing out a slave owner and slave sex scene — the cast jokes that this is the tamest storyline of their time on the show....

Read the whole article (Sept. 30, 2016).

● Showtime is offering tonight's Episode 1 online for free (55 minutes):


Labels: , ,