Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 22, 2017

About Carrie Jenkins, poly philosopher making waves

Best for last? Here's my final post of three in recent days about poly philosophy professor and new-book author Carrie Jenkins, who's getting in the news.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, read by college faculty and administrators everywhere, has published a 4,000-word article about her life and career, the weak record of formal philosophy on the subject of romantic love, and the literally shitty (as in, human feces) place for women in academic philosophy's very male world. High points:

‘I Have Multiple Loves’

Carrie Jenkins makes the philosophical case for polyamory

Photos: Jimmy Jeong / Chronicle Review

By Moira Weigel

Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins and I have plans to meet her boyfriend for lunch. But first we have to go home to walk the dog. Her husband, Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, is out of town at a conference for the weekend, and earlier that morning Mezzo, their labradoodle mix, got skunked; Jenkins says Mezzo is still feeling shaky. Before I traveled to meet her in Vancouver last June, she told me on the phone that most "mono" people misunderstand the challenges of polyamory — the practice of being openly involved romantically with more than one person at a time.

"People ask, ‘Tell me about the downsides,’ " Jenkins says. "They expect the answer to be that it’s so hard jealousy-wise. But the most common answer is timing and scheduling. I’m a fairly organized person, so I don’t find it super challenging."

The claim is easy to believe. In her professional life, too, Jenkins is managing to do several things at once. Since 2011 she has held a prestigious Canada Research Chair in the philosophy department at the University of British Columbia; she has taught 200-person lecture courses in metaphysics to undergraduates and advanced graduate seminars in epistemology. This semester she is co-teaching an interdisciplinary survey on the theme of "Knowledge and Power," introducing students to Freud, Russell, and Foucault in short order.

Jenkins is also in a band, called 21st Century Monads, in which she and several other academics write songs about the philosophy of numbers....

Jenkins wrote about polyamory because she felt she had to. She and her husband were tired of living in the closet.

...As we walk Mezzo around Mount Pleasant, a leafy neighborhood about 20 minutes away from campus by the green electric scooter that Jenkins drives to work every morning, she starts explaining why she prefers the term "polyamory" to "nonmonogamy."

...It took about a year, Jenkins recalls, before "I started to realize that I was in love with Ray as well as in love with Jon. And it probably took even more time to acknowledge it." After that, "the poly label started to feel like more of a useful fit."

Despite the personal clarity that she has gained on these points, socially the relationship has not been easy. Even in liberal settings, where people might not blink at the idea of a friend sleeping around or dating someone of the same gender, Jenkins says that "mononormativity" persists: The ruling assumption is that a person can be in love with only one other person at a time. (She recalls a colleague becoming extremely discomfited recently at her husband’s birthday party, when Hsu introduced himself as "Carrie’s boyfriend.") Still, Jenkins believes that we are in urgent need of a more expansive concept of love. And she believes that philosophy, the discipline named for the "love of knowledge," needs to become more expansive — treating a wider range of questions and addressing a broader audience — in order to help create it.

Jenkins did not set out to become a love expert. After growing up in Wales, she entered Trinity College, Cambridge, and pursued a degree in analytic philosophy; she stayed on to write a doctoral thesis on the philosophy of mathematics. "There’s a tradition of philosophy that I grew up in which is quite narrow in terms of the topics that it would address, in academic journal publications," she recalls. "We were addressing fundamental problems about space and time."

She published her first book, Grounding Concepts: An Empirical Basis for Arithmetical Knowledge (Oxford University Press), in 2008. ...

Following that book, Jenkins published a series of articles on theories of explanation. However, she began thinking more and more about love. It seems logical that a thinker who spent so much time re-evaluating the ways in which experience shaped metaphysical knowledge might attempt to analyze her own life using the tools of philosophy. As Jenkins tells it, however, her inspiration came from Bertrand Russell — one of the founding fathers of analytic philosophy and a titanic presence at Cambridge.

Jenkins with her husband (right) and boyfriend.
"What I didn’t realize when I was studying his philosophy of mathematics was that he wrote about all these other things," Jenkins recalls. She particularly means his 1929 book, Marriage and Morals, in which Russell advocated for what he called "free love." Jenkins calls the book "a precursor of the contemporary sex-positive movement." She thinks that a lot of Russell’s work on love and marriage was ahead of its time, but that he himself remained blind to its philosophical importance.

...While philosophers trained in the Continental tradition — thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvoir, Hannah Arendt, and Jacques Derrida — have written about love, analytic philosophy continues to dominate North American departments. Increasingly, Jenkins has become frustrated with the way it separates philosophy from "real life" concerns.

Personal considerations finally drove her to start making this argument in public. ...

"Despite various kinds of nervousness (justified or otherwise) about disclosure," they wrote, "being closetedly non-monogamous (effectively, mono-acting) has its disadvantages too. We’re ready to be done with it. Academic philosophy is a small world; certain areas of it are very small indeed. What if someone happens to see one of us with somebody else, and assumes (not thinking about the alternatives) that we’re cheating? We each hate the idea of being taken for a cheater, or of being pitied as the spouse of a cheater...."

Jenkins and Ichikawa called their letter "On Being the Only Ones." Soon after they published it, they learned that they weren’t. Strangers, and couples they had known casually for years, started approaching them at conferences, they say, and thanking them for writing the piece. Many said they had quietly lived the same way and felt relieved to be able to speak about it. Emboldened by a new sense that she had an activist mission — that her coming out might help others like her, and that she, as a tenured professor, had the privilege to do so — Jenkins began writing more about nonmonogamy. She wrote about it in The Globe and Mail and Slate. She went on CBC to give radio interviews. ...
...The Cosmopolitan UK spread not only conveyed the opposite of the message that Jenkins had wanted to send. It turned her into a target of abuse online. Like many women who write for the public, particularly about gender or sexuality, Jenkins gets a steady stream of hate mail. Strangers threaten her on Twitter: Why are you acting like this is an ok thing? Get herpes and die, slut. Sharia law looks more attractive by the day. ...

Meanwhile, Jenkins has had to contend with harassment within her discipline, too. She declines to offer specifics but says, "Anonymous commentaries in the philosophy blogosphere can be pretty grim." The field has been widely criticized from within by scholars who say that not only is the curriculum male-centric, but gender discrimination is routine. In recent years, several high-profile cases of sexual harassment have further sullied its reputation. ...

Jenkins emphasizes that this image not only affects who is doing philosophical work. It also shapes what kind of work gets done.

The debate over what kind of philosophy gets rewarded blew up recently in a more specific storm, in which Jenkins found herself at the center. It started as a set of disputes surrounding Brian Leiter, a University of Chicago law professor who founded the Philosophical Gourmet Report, and ran it until recently. The Gourmet Report ranks philosophy departments, based on surveys filled out by hundreds of academic philosophers every year, and enjoys enormous influence within the field. It has also caused consternation among critics who have questioned its methodology and say it is biased against philosophy departments with a Continental orientation or an Asian one.

...It was one of several critiques of the Gourmet Report that prompted a flurry of online and email exchanges between Leiter and his critics, and preceded a statement that Jenkins published in the summer of 2014 pledging to behave with civility in her professional life.

Many in the field, including Leiter, read the statement as an attack on him. He responded by sending Jenkins a derisive email and tweeting that she was a "sanctimonious arse." When Jenkins made the email public, other philosophers rallied to her defense. They circulated a "statement of concern," eventually signed by 600 faculty and students, saying that Leiter’s actions had harmed Jenkins’s health and ability to work, and refusing to participate in the Gourmet Report’s surveys until he stepped down as the editor. Leiter published a series of posts complaining of a "smear campaign" and that October stepped down, though he remains on the Gourmet Report’s advisory board. Later that year, he threatened to sue Jenkins for falsely portraying him.

Jenkins refuses to speak about the Leiter controversy. Last summer she — along with Jennings and two other vocal critics of Leiter’s — each received an envelope full of human feces. Leiter denied sending the packages and has attributed them to someone who must be trying to embarrass him.

I n contrast with these dramas, Jenkins’s book What Love Is reads calmly....

"We are creating space in our ongoing cultural conversations to question the universal norm of monogamous love, just as we previously created space to question the universal norm of hetero love," Jenkins writes. "I’m personally invested, as are you...."

The central goal of What Love Is is to abolish what Jenkins calls "the romantic mystique," a deliberate allusion to Betty Friedan’s classic second-wave text, The Feminine Mystique. "On the one hand, we’ve accepted the idea of love as a tremendously significant social force: something that shapes and reshapes the entire trajectories of lives and serves as a focal point for all kinds of values," Jenkins writes. On the other hand, "we have simultaneously normalized the idea that love is a mystery: something hard or impossible to comprehend."

...While Jenkins criticizes those who are too quick to call "insufficiently examined ideology … ‘natural’ or ‘biological,’ " she also emphasizes that recognizing the biological elements of romantic love can have socially emancipatory effects....

"Let’s not forget that it took many years of serious scientific research to convince (most) people that there is no biologically superior race or gender," writes Jenkins. "Getting a proper grip on the biology of love may help us unravel the idea that there is one biologically superior way to love."

Read the whole article (Feb. 3, 2017).


Update Feb. 23: A new interview in Vox: Is our view of romantic love too narrow? A philosopher makes the case for polyamory.

...I want to start a conversation. I don't care whether everyone agrees with what I say. I just want people to be talking about this. I think that's the way progress gets done. ... I think we can make progress if we get more people thinking about monogamy, about romantic love, and why it looks the way it does and how much control we have over that.

I keep coming back to this idea that we have so much control over what love is, what love looks like, what stories we tell, what is depicted in romantic comedies, what stories are told in romance novels. All of these ways we determine what love is are a social construct. We have so much control over that. That means we are responsible for getting it right.


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February 21, 2017

You Me Her: More media attention before tonight's show

Tonight (Tuesday February 21) at 8:30 ET/PT, we get the second episode of this season's You Me Her — the Audience Network's romcom in which our three characters from Season 1 have become a full-up polyamorous triad, facing the world together as three. It airs on DirectTV and U-verse and is available from DirecTV on demand or online afterward. (In Canada, Season 2 begins on HBO Canada on March 5.)

Since last week's post, more has appeared in the news.

The Guardian takes note:

The retro romcom with three-way chemistry

This surprisingly earnest and old-fashioned sitcom explores a very contemporary question – is monogamy the only way?

By Rebecca Nicholson

...Why you’ll love it: You Me Her tells the story of Jack and Emma Trakarsky, a married couple pushing 40 with a nice big house, aspirational jobs and a tepid sex life. ... The wheels are in motion for a retro romcom with an ultra-current twist....

For all its attempts to explore what feels like a contemporary question – is monogamy the only way? – there’s something incredibly earnest and old-fashioned about You Me Her. There is no suggestion that it’s merely about sex and desire, as emotions and attachments between all parties form rapidly, and in fact, what it leans towards is a pretty traditional form of a non-traditional relationship....

But there is something charming about it nonetheless. Poehler and Blanchard are just the right side of sweet, while Priscilla Faia, who plays Izzy, is just the right side of intense. The three-way chemistry is palpable. The lingering shots of Portland are not unpleasant. It sits somewhere between a sex farce and Sleepless In Seattle, which is not a combination that should be successful, but on occasion, when the jokes land as they should, it hits the spot.

The whole article (February 16, 2017).

● On the show's Facebook page is a brief "sneak peak" video of tonight's Episode 2:

● HiddenRemote.com interviews the actress who plays Izzy: Meeting “Her” – An Interview with ‘You Me Her’ Star Priscilla Faia (Feb. 14). Some long chunks of it:

We spoke to the rising star, where she gushes about how the Polyamory community has embraced the show and how much she adores Amy Adams.

Hidden Remote: How has the Polyamorous community embraced you and your character?

Priscilla Faia: Last season when we were doing press for the show, we had lots of people from the polyamorous community coming to… we had a few come to our premiere in Austin and we had a bunch of people – which was awesome – come to our premiere in New York.

I think that with any new representation of a community, I think that there’s always going to be holdups about how they’re going to be portrayed because, I think that sometimes when we’re looking at alternative relationships they can be overly sexualized in the media. But I think that’s where our show is different, because our show isn’t about sex, it’s about relationships and that’s what Polyamory is, it’s about having love with more than one person. So in that aspect, the feedback has been great, because you know being in a Polyamorous relationship is just like a regular relationship just with more than one person. So, there’s the positive aspects of that, and the challenges just like with any relationship, and I think that John does a really great job of portraying both sides.

So to answer your question, I think you know from what I’ve heard from the feedback on Twitter and what have you has been positive, which I’m very grateful for we want to represent them in the best way we possibly can.

Hidden Remote: I love that about You Me Her, and [that] the relationship aspect isn’t all about sex.

Priscilla Faia: Me too, that’s why I love the show so much. The reason I love being an actor is storytelling. We want to see the dynamics that happen between people and how that affects life and what have you and, like we said with You Me Her, it’s really relationship-centric and it doesn’t just stop at the three of us – it goes further to our supporting characters, to our best friends, with Nina who is played by Melanie Papalia and Carmen and Dave (Jen Spence and Ennis Esmer) and the neighbors and so on.

Hidden Remote: Izzy is the “unicorn” of the relationship, with the term generally having negative connotations… I don’t see Izzy accepting the usual negativity of that label.

Priscilla Faia: ...For Season 1 there’s definitely more of a unicorn aspect because she comes into this marriage with Jack and Emma and they have difficulties. There are things missing within each other that Izzy fulfills, and that’s what brings them together. And Izzy’s also not committed in any way to them, she gets to come in and out of their marriage so there’s this kind of fairy-like presence of her, when she comes in and changes their world and pops in and out throughout the season.

But in Season 2, we see a shift. In Season 2 we see that Izzy’s desires have changed and that she wants more, she wants the commitment, she wants to actually be with these people. Which is really exciting for me as an actor to play that arc for her, cause whenever we get to watch somebody go through a huge internal shift is always really exciting.

Hidden Remote: She is experiencing what the Poly community calls “New Relationship Energy” two-fold with Jack and Emma. What benefits is she experiencing and what’s the biggest issue she’ll find herself struggling with in Season 2?

Priscilla Faia: That’s kind of what Season 2 is about, new relationships. Sorry what’d you call it? I want to get this right, New Relationship Energy? ... John Scott Shepard — who is our Showrunner, Executive Producer, and he created the series — talks about Season 2 being now we’re in the realistic area of what happens when you’re in a relationship. What is it like having three people in a home, living, sleeping, and being intimate together, and the complications that arise from that. There’s always someone left out in a three-person dynamic. There’s always somebody that’s going to be left out, and how do they move past those complications and move towards each other instead of away, and we explore all of that in Season 2.

...And with any relationship, especially that of with multiple partners, you have to move into the love instead of the lust. I think that Izzy wants that, so I don’t think the new energy going away is something that she even considers possible. ... Izzy just believes that everybody deserves to have the life that they desire and you know, she’s someone who jumps in first and figures it out later....

You know when you’re going about life and something big happens and you go, “Oh, I have to grow up a little bit”? I think that that’s what’s happening....

Hidden Remote: Who would you say Izzy is most attracted to in her new Poly relationship, Jack or Emma?

Priscilla Faia: I don’t think it’s who she’s more attracted to, she is falling deeply for both of them equally. But within any dynamic where there’s more than one person, there’s a shift. Every moment of “who are you connecting with more?” in that moment, “who’s falling on the wayside?” in another moment. So there’s this constant shift between the three of them, of pulling into one another and pulling back – because it’s new. It’s new and they’re trying to figure this out....

Hidden Remote: Is there a specific scene you’re particularly excited for fans to see?

Priscilla Faia: Yeah, you know in the second episode I believe, they come out to the neighborhood to say “this is our reality, this is who we are”, and I’m really excited for everyone to see what happens, because you know in Season 1 Jack and Emma and Izzy all try very hard to keep it a secret because they’re afraid of the scrutiny and the judgment and when they finally do it, it’s surprising. I’m really excited for people to see that....

● TheGate.ca has another interview with Faia.

When season two returns on February 14, things are more complicated than ever. Izzy has moved in with Jack and Emma. Their living arrangement is out in the open. Can this unconventional romance thrive in a society based on tradition and that clearly defines what love should be?

...Where do we find this trio in season two?

Faia: “This season is all about now that we’ve decided we want to do this, what does it look like? We are learning this on the fly....

This season is about bravery. Bravery is living a life that you want, that makes you happy, but it’s nothing like you intended it to look like. We explore the reality of coming out to their friends and the unexpected response they get. I think there’s a misconception of, ‘Oh. What are you talking about?’ We’re past that, I feel. We’re past the judgment of that. In this world, they are much more accepting of those things, so we get to navigate them through that.

Despite their brave decisions or choices, in what ways are they at a crossroad this year? How have the emotional stakes been raised?

Faia: First of all, they’ve all moved in together. What does that look like? Moving in with anybody, whether it be one person or two people, is an adjustment. ... Izzy’s status in this relationship really shifts. She becomes more of an adult and stands up for what she really wants, which is this relationship. The stakes are raised because things are getting more serious. It’s about building deep intimate relationships.

How rewarding has it been to be on a show that breaks stereotypes and fosters conversations about what love really is?

I love being a part of something that shakes things up. It’s important to have shows where we can think and ask questions and break the barriers. Tradition puts us into boxes and it’s important to celebrate the different communities and creative outlets people have. We’re tapping into this new wave about how people are living their lives.

If one person who is stuck in their life watches our show and says, “What if I live my life a different way?” that makes me really happy. I think it’s incredible.

● And therefore, the right-wing site NewsBusters is hot and bothered:

You might wonder why a telecommunications company, together with Entertainment One, is hosting a show that attempts to normalize “throuples,” or romantic threesomes....

Just as Will & Grace normalized the gay lifestyle in the early 2000s, You Me Her is a blatant attempt to normalize polyamory. Despite what many progressives would deny, sexual deviancy is a slippery slope. Gay marriage paved the way for other heretofore taboo behaviors. Deadline's Pete Hammond called polyamory "TV's new sexual frontier." And show creator John Scott Shepherd has confessed as much, describing his attempt to "mainstream" the behavior and make it "relatable."

Folks who watch, please tell us your impressions in the comments below.


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February 20, 2017

Carrie Jenkins' book: "What Love Is, and What It Could Be"

Canadian philosopher Carrie Jenkins is a rising star for polyamory awareness (see previous post, and remember her piece about poly feet and the white duvet?). Now she's getting wider attention for her book out last month, What Love Is and What It Could Be, deconstructing romantic love for the 21st century. It's been getting a lot of reviews.

● In Quartz, A polyamorous philosopher explains what we all get wrong about romantic love. (February 11, 2017):

...But as Carrie Jenkins, a philosophy professor at the University of British Columbia, points out in her recently published book, [our] concept of [romantic] love is actually the product of a very narrow social script.

...“It’s harming people,” she says — not just those who, like herself, do not fit the conventional script of monogamy and marriage.

Though the social script of romantic love today has recently expanded to allow for same-sex romance, it still expects everlasting couples who stay together till death do you part. Such expectations are damaging for those who don’t wish to follow such a narrative, argues Jenkins. This applies to those in polyamorous relationships but also single people, and those who don’t want children....

Love is a hugely messy concept, and Jenkins argues that it incorporates both a biological side and a socially constructed side. The biological element refers to the physical behavior (the fluctuating hormones and shifts in brain activity) of those who are in love, and is a reflection of our evolutionary need for such ties. But it’s the social script that shapes our norms and expectations of romance, such as the contemporary belief that true love will be permanent and monogamous.

Though this social construct can shift over time, Jenkins says, that doesn’t happen easily. “Some people think it’s made up like fiction is made up, but I’m trying to say it’s made up like the law is made up. We made it, but now it’s real.”

...For example, the “Cinderella story,” in which a woman is rescued by a more wealthy, powerful, high-status man, is still a prevalent tale of what’s considered romantic... “feeding into these gendered stereotypes,” she says. “This is built into our ideas of who we find attractive, what it is to have a romantic story attached to your love life.”

...Jenkins believes that opening up the social construct of romantic love will ultimately be positive for everyone, even those who end up following the traditional script. “If you give people more choices and they choose to be monogamous, then that’s great. I think it’s better to do things with awareness rather than because it’s the only option available.”

● In Canada's National Post and other papers in its chain: From polyamory to marriage values, if you understand what love is to you, you’re more likely to find it (Feb. 13):

By Blair Mlotek

When new ideas threaten what we hold as truth, it is sometimes easier to stay away from them altogether. ...Vancouver-based writer and philosopher Carrie Jenkins sets out to tell us that love may not be what we think it is – a frightening notion at first, but Jenkins means no harm. In fact, this book is a testament to love.

Although Jenkins is a highly educated philosopher, What Love Is should be accessible to all. She believes that there is more philosophy in our everyday lives than we realize; it is there each time we wonder at the way things are.

But if you picked up this book to find out the definitive answer to what love is, you will not find it here.

...She writes, if we understand it, we can control it, and then change it. She asks us to be active readers, “not to passively absorb my ideas” but to question and challenge them.

Jenkins’s explanation of prevailing monogamy is that in the past people married for the purpose of relationships between families and countries; for financial reasons. Today, people are told to marry for love. Having a nuclear family was normalized and so the steps to get there had to be as well. To have kids, people needed to marry, to marry they have to fall in love.

It is our prerogative to change this....

● In her hometown Vancouver Sun: Unlucky in love? Try thinking critically about it, UBC prof suggests (Jan. 25). With a video.

By Stephanie Ip

...“Love hasn’t been viewed as central to modern philosophy, at least not in the traditions that I work in. That’s a problem,” said Jenkins.

“Without thinking critically about love, you’re kind of defenceless. If you just go with the flow, you can end up in some bad situations such as abusive relationships, or feeling like a failure just for being who you are.”

...“If we don’t have our critical-thinking skills switched on when we are surrounded by the Hallmark and Disney stuff, we just absorb it, and then it becomes our theory of what love is,” said Jenkins. “I think that’s dangerous, and it’s what I’m trying to arm people against.”

● On Valentine's Day, Jenkins was on Canada's popular radio talk show The Current: It's possible to be in love with two people, says philosopher (Feb. 14):

..."You know, it was partly prompted by people telling me if you're in love with two people then that's not real. That's not real love. ... And that didn't feel true to my experience, so I started thinking Well, what is it that they're talking about? What are they describing? That got me down the path of thinking about the way that socially, we police and prescribe certain normative models for romantic love."

..."If you don't understand that both biology and society are playing a role, you might mistake some of the things that are really coming out of the social construct side of things for biological or natural reality and I think gender is a huge part of this."

Listen here (23:34). Here's a transcript.

● A fellow philosopher, writing in the Times Higher Education section of The Times in London, is disappointed by the book's lack of rigor: "Polyamory could shed light on whether love is mainly biological or social" (Feb. 9).

By Jane O'Grady

...This book opens with her morning musings, as she walks from her boyfriend’s flat to the home she shares with her husband, about whether or not she can be said to be in love with both of them. Impatient with the way romantic love is presented as mysterious, and therefore unchangeable, she reminds us that loving is something we do, and can perhaps do differently and better. Whether we can depends on how far love is biologically hard-wired, and therefore subject to the slowness of evolution, and how far socially constructed. Jenkins seems to promise a key debate, which, although hardly new, will be conducted from the original angle of polyamory.

Unfortunately, this book is slipshod, repetitive, and full of rambling assertions rather than fine-grained philosophical analysis....

“I propose a new theory of romantic love,” Jenkins declares.... love’s dual nature is instantiated in “ancient biological machinery embodying a modern social role”. But how does that work? Jenkins never fleshes out her airy claim, and annoyingly conflates the origins of love in human history and in the history of a particular human. The crucial allied question of how romantic love fuses genitals and sonnets is never touched on.

Polyamory provides a promising tuning fork for sounding the nature of romantic love, and whether focusing exclusively on one person is essential to it. Jenkins arouses expectations that she will philosophise on this and similar questions via her own feelings, but ultimately offers little in the way either of emotion or philosophy.

● Another philosopher, in the L.A. Review of Books: Illuminating Love (Jan. 28):

By Skye C. Cleary

...Helen Fisher also argues that monogamous romantic love was an evolutionary solution to “female neediness”: once women became bipeds and, arms full, could no longer carry babies on their backs, we needed males for protection. Because men couldn’t protect whole harems of women, heterosexual monogamous nuclear families emerged as the norm. With swift and graceful logic, Jenkins points out that this is highly unlikely, primarily because,

if over 1 million years passed between the arrival of bipedalism and the evolution of love, then there must have been other solutions to the problem of having one’s hands full of babies that worked well enough to keep hominid evolution going for over 1 million years […] And if bipedalism posed such a problem for female ancestors specifically, how come we didn’t end up with male-only bipedalism?

● Quill & Quire: What Love Is: And What It Could Be (Jan. 20).

The philosopher describes What Love Is as “an exercise in critical thinking out loud,” and blends thorough research with personal experiences to present a readable and highly informative book. Jenkins in no way “spoils” love, but rather stimulates an essential, relevant conversation in a novel, inspiring way.

● At the American Spectator, a paleo-conservative organ, Robert Stacy McCain is fuming: They Even Hate Love (Feb. 14):

...Feminism’s goal is to achieve equality through androgyny, eradicating masculinity and femininity so that men and women become exactly identical and, in such an egalitarian post-patriarchal utopia, what basis could there be for romantic love?

None whatsoever, as feminist Carrie Jenkins explains in her new book.... Professor Jenkins, who teaches philosophy at the University of British Columbia, is an advocate and practitioner of polyamory. Her book has been praised by her fellow feminists as an argument against “traditional, heteronormative, monogamous, pair-bonded, procreative, romantic love.” It is wrong even to imagine that kind of love, Professor Jenkins recently told an interviewer: “This idea that it’s very romantic to be swept off your feet by a Prince Charming figure and rescued from a life of poverty or whatever by a wealthy man, is feeding into these gendered stereotypes. This is built into our ideas of who we find attractive, what it is to have a romantic story attached to your love life.”

● Announcement on Booklist (Dec. 1, 2016):

...Equally important to its subject matter, the book is a master class in how to think and why. Jenkins researches, questions, unpacks, considers, and examines. A philosophy professor, Jenkins uses her readable book to advocate for thinking both critically and in great depth as a form of self-protection and self-advocacy. Tolerate no one admonishing you for overthinking love, she advises. Love is an “extreme sport,” and we need parachutes. In so arguing, she empowers her readers in regard to not just their love lives but also their whole lives.

● Continued in Additional post.

More reviews are linked to from the book's website, with highlights of glowing quotes.

Further recent news coverage.


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February 18, 2017

Philosopher Carrie Jenkins: Make way for polyamory

Now here's some cool stuff getting attention! Carrie Jenkins is a Kind of a Big Thing philosopher at the University of British Columbia. She's an out poly with two male partners and has just published a book, What Love Is, And What It Could Be.

Let's start with a long article of hers that's going around. She originally published How a hackneyed romantic ideal is used to stigmatise polyamory in the thinky magazine Aeon. It was then picked up by the major newsmagazine The Week, which retitled it Monogamy is Out. Polyamory is In (a grabby title but not the point of the article). Yahoo News reprinted it from there.

Excerpts from the article as published in The Week:

There's no longer anything unusual about wanting an open relationship. Many who consider themselves progressive about sex, gender, love, and relationships know this. It's just that almost nobody in an open relationship wants to be open about it. What's surprising is that so many people feel the need for secrecy.

I've been out as polyamorous for years. Because of this, non-monogamous people who aren't out often feel able to talk to me about their own situations. When I go to conferences, I can't help noticing all the philosophers who are in closeted non-monogamous relationships. This discrepancy between reality and socially acknowledged reality can be disorienting; the "official" number of non-monogamous people in the room is almost always one (me).

So what's going on? No doubt there are several factors at work, but I want to talk about one that's both powerful and insidious: Non-monogamy isn't considered "romantic."

Romantic love is widely considered to be the best thing life has to offer: "Failing" at romance is often construed as failing at life. ... This monogamous ideal is supposed to appeal to women especially.

...According to the stereotypes, single women are desperate to "lock down" a man, while men are desperate to avoid commitment. There's nothing new here: Monogamy has historically been gendered. Even in situations where marrying more than one woman has been illegal, it has often been normal for men to have mistresses, but different rules have applied to women....

Our language undermines gender-related optimism about monogamous romantic ideals: there is no word for a male "mistress"; romantic comedies are "chick flicks." "Romance" novels are marketed to and consumed by women. Brides are "given away" by men to other men. ...

...Women who enter voluntarily into non-monogamous relationships are a direct challenge to the idea that women are "naturally" monogamous. They are socially penalized to maintain the status quo. A non-monogamous woman will be portrayed as debased and disgusting — a "slut." When I have discussed my open relationships online, I have been called many other colorful names.

My internet trolls focus on sex, partly because presenting non-monogamous relationships as "just sex" makes it easier to degrade them, and partly because women who violate the monogamy norm — whose sexuality is out of (someone's) control — are a threat to an ancient feeling of entitlement over women's sexuality and reproductive potential. In contrast, a non-monogamous man is, at least sometimes, liable to be regarded as a "stud."

Apart from monogamy, the only other relationship structure that controls paternity in a similar way is patriarchal polygamy, which is stigmatized in contemporary North America, for reasons including bona fide feminism as well as racism and cultural imperialism. One effect of this is that monogamy is seen as the only fair and liberal alternative.

Actually, there are many alternatives. But to tolerate them is to tolerate widespread social uncertainty about who is having sex with whom....

I believe that the "romantic-ness" of romantic love is largely socially constructed, and as such malleable. We collectively write the "script" that determines the shape of the privileged ("romantic") relationship style. This script has changed, and will continue to change. But currently that process goes on largely below the radar: We aren't supposed to see it happening, or realize that we can control it....

We must get beyond this. We need to question the limits we have placed on what counts as a "romantic" relationship. Freedom to love — the right to choose one's own relationships without fear, shame or secrecy — is critical, not just for individuals but for us all collectively. Non-conformity is the mechanism that reshapes the social construct to better represent who we are, and who we want to be. Instead of forcing our relationships to conform to what society thinks love is, we could force the image of love to conform to the realities of our relationships.

But it won't be easy. If the love of a polyamorous triad is seen as "romantic" and hence as valuable as the love of a monogamous couple, then the triad should have the same social and legal privileges as the couple....

Nor could we defend the countless ways in which non-monogamous people are stigmatized and rejected....

It's far easier to pretend that this is not really happening. Or that it's not really a big deal. Perhaps you feel that way right now: Perhaps you're thinking you don't know any non-monogamous people. But I wouldn't be too sure. Until quite recently, an awful lot of people thought that all their friends and relatives were straight.

Read the whole article in The Week (February 9, 2017) or in Aeon (February 3).

Coming next: more about the book What Love Is, And What It Could Be.


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February 14, 2017

"You Me Her," poly TV series, returns tonight for a deeper second season

Tonight (Tuesday February 14) You Me Her returns to Audience Network with the premiere episode of Season 2. It airs at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.

As noted earlier, Season 2 moves the show beyond being a novelty comedy about a three-way relationship falling together, and into a deeper exploration of a serious, living-together polyamorous triad. It's shaping up as television's first fictional series based on polyamory as a genuine way of life. It won't be the last.

Here's the Season 2 trailer (long version):

The blurb that's going around with the trailer:

Audience Network puckishly returns the polyamory comedy "You Me Her" for its second season on Valentine's Day. It stars Greg Poehler and Rachel Blanchard as a couple whose marriage has lost its fizz and Priscilla Faia as the psychology grad student/call girl whom they invite into their relationship. In its second season they deal with the logistics of being a throuple (both in bed and out) and its impact on their circle of friends when they out themselves. It's "that universal question of 'What happens when the romantic comedy fades to black?'," says creator John Scott Shepherd. "What happens after that? You know, real life sets in."

Audience Network is available to DirecTV subscribers and on U-verse. (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m.)

US Weekly has another video from Season 2, a "kiss-me competition."

● A newspaper story about the actor who plays the guy of the three: 'You Me Her' star Greg Poehler talks TV threesome (Feb. 13, 2017):

If Hallmark had a card for the characters of You Me Her, it might read:

Roses are red, violets are blue
We both love you madly, and each other, too.

...You (like most of their friends) might be appalled. Or maybe you're thinking this is the Three's Company you always wanted.

Either way, Poehler wants you to know You Me Her is probably not what people who've never seen it might be imagining.

"It never really goes down that road of where you would expect of one guy with two women," he said in an interview last month. "Certainly, my character is enjoying it the least out of all three of them, pretty much in every episode this season."

...And then there are the small things. For instance, who drives? Who calls shotgun? In Tuesday's episode, Izzy sets her lovers straight on "couples privilege," pointing out that she and Rachel both "assumed the unicorn would ride in the back. The unicorn — that's me. The third." She ends up with the keys to the Land Rover, but it's the first of many negotiations to come. ...

You can check here for more showing up in the news in the next few days.

The show's Facebook page.


February 13, 2017

Poly movement arising in India

The concept of modern polyamory has been spreading in India. Here's a story out yesterday in DNA India ("Daily News & Analysis"), plus a few others.

Polyamory: When three is not a crowd

Ganesh Gamare / Thinkstock

By Pooja Bhula | Mumbai

As the buzz around polyamory gets louder and Valentine’s day gets closer, Pooja Bhula pieces together the whole picture of romance in committed, consensual, non-monogamous relationships

Movies, pop culture and some romantic literature have familiarised us with love triangles – the kind where love is mutual only between two. As sad as you may feel for the one left out and wonder why it's called a 'love' triangle at all when the third person gets none, you accept that, that's how it works....

But increasingly, researchers worldwide are suggesting that the future of love, and possibly even marriage, lies in polyamory, literally meaning 'many loves'. Some dictionaries call it the 'practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all involved', but those in 'polys' short for polyamorous relationships, say it's not just about sex. They have a deep, emotional commitment to all partners.

Mumbai-based Richa Ruia*, who's in her second poly triad, narrates her story:

Two polys, her true story

We met through Twitter. *Soham and I had similar taste in movies, music, jokes...even our ideas of love matched. Back then, in 2014, I didn't even know the word polyamory, but we discussed things like feeling strongly about two people simultaneously, the genuineness of emotions, how sex would fit into it, whether it's right or wrong and society's perceptions. And then we agreed we'd date others too. Our interest in others needn't have to mean less interest in each other; sometimes other people just tap into different aspects of your personality.

A few months later, *Aditya and I fell in "love at first sight". He and Soham had common friends. A traditional relationships person, Aditya had to grapple with the reality that I wouldn't be exclusive. Initially, I tried pushing back, worried poly may be a negative experience for him. But he appreciated my honesty and genuineness enough to give it a shot, take the risk.

Though Aditya made peace with it, some of his friends were bent on proving that "Richa's only there for the sex". But these very friends had no qualms with Soham's short affair; he wasn't boycotted from parties like I was because "he's got that reputation anyway". Thankfully, others tried to understand and not be judgemental. I've long questioned the way people look at women, and also studied gender and culture...society is steeped in slut shaming, labels and stereotypes. Why would it spare me?

In September, I moved to London for my master's. ... But I still believed in the purity of emotions we'd all shared and also in poly, which I had arrived at organically in my search of a model that made sense for the person I am. ...

Is polyamory really the future?

Before we deal with that, let's ask whether it's for everyone. No it seems. Ten to 12 of clinical psychologist Nandita Sarma's clients, who visit her for varying reasons, are polyamourous. Based on their interactions, she says, "Polys require a lot of maturity as they involve a lot of emotion, stress and exploration. You not only deal with all partners' baggages, but also their ambitions, families, friends...everyone can't handle it."

Polyamory Facebook groups are widespread – from the Philippines and Venezuela to Switzerland and Australia. Spiritual counsellor Rohit Juneja, who started one called Polyamory India in 2017, also agrees that polys are not for everyone. "Most people merely want status quo in their relationships. Polyamory isn't for them. Nor for those who want to fall in love. It's for those who want to rise in love and seek a deep, unbreakable bond."

Married, separated, polyamory-experienced and now single, Juneja is equally open to monogamy. Having moved to San Diego years ago, he explains why polys have caught on like wildfire in the West. "Fifty per cent people cheat in long-term relationships. Some stopped to think: what's happening? Many feel attracted to others despite being in relationships. Poly allows you to share it with your partner (s), removing guilt from the equation. No one has to live a fake life."

That said, in Sarma's experience, people feel "confused" and jealous, which seems only natural as is the case in monogamous relationships. But many in polys experience 'compersion'. ...

With research observing benefits of polyamory, and reports forecasting it as the future of love, dating and even families, you hope openness and freedom will prevent breakups or reduce divorce rates. But it may, or may not.

"Polyamory can't resolve problems existing in a relationship, it would worsen matters," says Sarma....

...Won't this lead to unmarried partners feeling secondary? Juneja nods, "It's possible. That's why many follow relationship anarchy. But a certificate can't hold people together. You could be married today and divorced tomorrow. It's like having kids. To be fair, you must love them all equally."

The whole article (February 12, 2017).

The article goes on to plug 3 on a Bed, "India's first polyamoric film," and to list the names of several Indian Facebook groups:

Polyamory India (support group)
Polyamory India (study group)
Polyamory Mumbai
Polyamory Punjabi
LGBT Polyamory India.

● A long feature article ran last month in Outlook India, a leading newsmagazine: Nimble Feet And Open Hearts (Jan. 2, 2017):

Somak Biswas and, in motion, Prachi Singh (Photo: Narendra Bisht)

By Stuti Agarwal

Seated in a quaint little coffee house in the heart of south Delhi, Prachi Singh and Somak Biswas could, in some ways, pass for just another dating, doting couple, one of many that seem to have taken up permanent residence on the lounge chairs of coffee bars. And yet, in the dull winter light that frames their steaming cups of coffee, it’s easy to see that there’s an indefinable, inexplicable spark to their relationship. Perhaps it’s just the way they lean into each other as they bantered. ... So, what’s their secret?

Well, says a smiling Somak, it’s an “open secret”. The fact is he and she are in an “open relationship”.

The concept of polyamory — loosely, of a relationship where three (or more!) partners isn’t a crowd — isn’t easy to grasp. But the way Somak disassembles it, it begins to make sense. Sort of. His words could almost make for a First Law of Polyamory. “I believe we are capable of loving more than one person at a time,” he says. “Every person fills a different space, and to try making one person fit all the boxes has its problems.”

...“The new understanding is that one person cannot bring everything to a relationship,” claims relationship counsellor Sanjoy Mukherjee.... “An open relationship is an understanding between two people who are equal, devoid of any hypocrisy and are making their own rules,” says social scientist Shiv Visvanathan. People are increasingly looking to experiment and break the shackles of what is perceived as normalcy, he reasons.

...But experimenting is, by definition, an act that accepts risks — and the new adherents of polyamory in India would gladly go for emotional risks they can be responsible for. “Like every relationship, open ones too have teething problems,” says Sudha Mehta, who has been in an open relationship, with one partner, for five years. And unlike with traditional one-on-one relationships, this has no set rules. “We make our own rules,” says Sudhir Rao, who is in an ­early-stage open relationship. In fact, this is what many people in open relationships find liberating: everything from start to finish is an experiment. “When I came to Delhi from Lucknow, I wanted to try out everything, including this new, simpler understanding of relationships,” says Prachi....

...Most often, there is only one rule: honesty. “The foundation is great friendship and a shared camaraderie, so we share everything,” believes Sudhir. He candidly admits to dropping his partner [off] to other guys, or picking her up late at night from their houses....

Of course, couples in open relationships make up the rules as they go along. And those rules vary from couple to couple.

...They aren’t the first ones to do it. Older instances of open marriages are not entirely unknown — such as the celebrated one involving Kuchipudi dancers Raja, Radha and Kaushalya Reddy. “I fell in love with my brother-in-law and proposed to him,” reminisces Kaushalya. Her sister Radha agreed, but laid down one condition: “You can marry him, but not dance with him.” It was perhaps their own ‘open relationship’ rule, but it’s one that Kaushalya has lingering regrets over. “My sister got married to Rajaji when they were very young,” she says. “They ran away together to build a career in dance, so I can never share the understanding they have, but I get infinite love from both.”

...Yet, the lessons from the Sandstone Retreat experiment [in 1960s California] still hold. The first trouble is how widely misunderstood the idea appears to be. “Our friends called us horny and judge us for it even after years,” says Sudha. Prachi and Somak face the same stereotyping. Ironically, almost everyone in an open relationship tends not to tell their ­families of their arrangement. ... And just as the Gay Talese ­parable showed, open relationships are not immune to notions of jealousy. “I fear every time he becomes more emotiona­lly connected with someone other than me,” adds Sudha.

...As with any relationship, existential ­questions abound. But they meet the questions with cheerful defiance.... Hours into the conversation with Prachi and Somak, the concept of an open relationship still seems ­other-worldly. But then, it fell in place in a flash. As Prachi explained her encounters with other people, she lamented the difficulty in finding girls who are “open”. I mention that a bisexual friend of mine was having much the same trouble. “You should hook these two up then,” interjected Somak. And I did, right there. That open-hearted nimbleness, in a nutshell, was what open relationships are about.

● Two good articles recently appeared on a popular health-information site:

Dos and don’ts of polyamorous relationships (Jan. 20, 2017)

Polyamorous relationships – it’s not all about sex (Jan. 20, 2017)

● There have been more. Here are all my posts tagged "India/South Asia" (including this one; scroll down). I'm sure it's very incomplete.



February 12, 2017

After outcry, Florida university restores banned poly and kink talks

You sent letters. You phoned. You helped persuade administrators at the University of North Florida to meet with students and members of the school's LGBT Resource Center about reinstating talks on polyamory, kink, and sex toys. which the administration had banned from upcoming Sex Week presentations. After the meeting, and coverage on Jacksonville TV news — and before students could organize a protest rally — the administrators caved. They restored the talks to the schedule, with "Polyamory in Practice" and "Coming Out Kinky" now listing the student-run Pride Club as their sponsors.

This is from Billy Holder, poly activist and vice-president of the Relationship Equality Foundation, which is providing the speakers for those two talks:

University of North Florida Students and Administration Reach Sex Week Compromise

The students and administration at The University of North Florida have reached a compromise to allow all three previously canceled classes to be held on campus during Sex Week. Two of these classes were being offered by Relationship Equality Foundation and one by the UNF Pride Club. Students have been told that Pride Club can host the classes and that the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Resource Center can continue to assist Pride Club in the promotion of these events. Relationship Equality Foundation is currently working with Pride Club to bring these classes to students during Sex Week. [The LGBT Resource Center is run by the university; the Pride Club is by and for students.]

For more information, please see the LGBT Center's official statement.

The Relationship Equality Foundation thanks the University for its change of heart and applauds its effort to continue to provide equal sexual education to the students of University of North Florida. The Relationship Equality Foundation also applauds the students and their efforts to ensure that their educational needs are met.

Billy adds, "We were able to educate the administration as well. Several top administrators had never heard of kink or polyamory before and now they know what they are. Thank you; we are a great community."


Update: The local LGBT Human Rights Ordinance, which some feared might be endangered by anything controversial appearing on campus, easily passed the City Council on February 14th by a vote of 12 to 6 (though with a religious exemption).


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February 11, 2017

Poly surfaces in the Philippines

The Philippine Star

Another glimmer from the Ear East: one of the main newspapers in the Philippines prints a discussion with a young open couple who call themselves poly. This is notable because the Philippines, long under heavy control of the Catholic Church, has been one of the most sexually repressed countries at least officially. Until recently birth control was illegal.

“We are way more open about stuff, I think. When you trust your partner enough to tell them you want to have sex with someone else, I think everything else just seems kind of easier to talk about.” (Illustration by Rob Cham)

This Modern Love

By Stefan Punongbayan

MANILA – ...In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the nursery song “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be” takes on a whole new meaning this week here at Supreme. We sat down with a not-so-conventional couple who will henceforth be known as Craig (27, straight) and Michaela (22, queer) to explore polyamory, consent, threesomes, and everything in between. Whoever said that three (or more) is a crowd?

...When did you start dabbling in polyamory? What led you to this arrangement?

Michaela: I suggested it very early on, I think we weren’t even officially boyfriend & girlfriend yet, since I had tried an open relationship-type setup before. It’s something I already knew I liked, or at least was capable of, so I offered it to Craig in case he liked it too.

Craig: This is my first. She kind of convinced me to try an open relationship. Michaela figured that we were young and can’t help it if we end up being attracted to other people. Life is a long time. This was kind of a weird safeguard from cheating, too, which I think is way more devastating emotionally. She started it out when someone asked her out. I kind of winced and had a lot of anxiety around that, but it then turned out alright. From there it kind of escalated and I dated around, we slept around, it was fun. Always use protection and don’t hurt anyone. I always make sure to disclose to anyone I am interested in that I am in an open relationship. If they are cool with that, then we just see where it goes.

M: You can’t cheat if your partner is okay with you sleeping with someone else! At least they didn’t break your trust. Sex is the least offensive part of cheating, it’s the betrayal, the lying.

...Aside from the obvious, what do think are the advantages of polyamorous relationships over traditional romantic partnerships?

We are way more open about stuff, I think. When you trust your partner enough to tell them you want to have sex with someone else, I think everything else just seems kind of easier to talk about. Way more testing for STDs because we want to be safe and make sure that nothing becomes an outbreak. Way more spending on condoms. Way more spending on dates.

M: The communication is much better between people in polyamorous relationships, and not just about the sex stuff. Plus, there’s no pressure to hide your feelings or desire for someone else, and that helps your own mental health because you’re not racked with guilt.

But aren’t relationships — or love in general — supposed to be inconvenient? ...

The best relationships aren’t! Relationships already come with a lot of problems without all the arbitrary rules we place on them. Not to say that open relationships can’t be problematic, though. But you work through it, just like every other relationship, because you feel like it’s worth it.

How do you select potential dates? Is there a vetting process of sorts that’s peculiar to the kind of relationship you have?

It’s weird because Michaela is asked out more often and I usually ask out my dates.

M: I do a lot of asking out, too! I usually let Craig know the moment I’m interested in someone, or if someone asks me out. We usually don’t veto each other’s choices, but we probably would if we knew something bad or unsettling about the new person.

C: I just tell them I’m in this situation. I don’t try to spring it on them after getting serious. Always just at the start because it’s not going to turn out good at all if there’s that dishonesty. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with their dates seeing other people, and that’s understandable. So usually I end up with people just open to the idea, or are just okay with a fubu set up.

M: It’s pretty similar to dating when you’re single, except it comes with a disclaimer that you already have a partner. Sometimes you have group dates and more people cuddling in bed.

Are your friends and respective families aware you’re going out with other people? What do they usually ask you?

Friends, yes; families, no....

Read the whole article (February 11, 2017).



ABC News: "How This Polyamorous Couple Plans to Celebrate Valentine's Day"

As Val's Day approaches, the annual uptick of poly in the media is under way. The biggest item I've seen so far is this story on the ABC News website.

The type of poly that the featured vee practices seems to me unhealthy and cringe-making, rooted in unexamined mainstream assumptions. Does a TV network's attention to it spread awareness of the "polyamorous possibility" more than it just makes poly look awkward and male-centric? Or am I being too critical of other people's poly?

In any case, I think we've succeeded pretty well by now in messaging the public about the polyamorous possibility — that happy multi-love relationships exist and can work well, maybe even for you. So in terms of media coverage, I say it's time that we push for quality over quantity.

How This Polyamorous Couple Plans to Celebrate Valentine's Day

By Joi-Marie McKenzie

...Jamal Benjamin, a 40-year-old freelance editor, is in a loving relationship with his two girlfriends, Amy (who asked ABC News to create a pseudonym for her) and Ebony Thomas.

Amy, 40, and Benjamin have two children together. Thomas, also 40, and Benjamin are parents to a 3-month-old baby girl.

The three all live in New York City and Benjamin alternates daily between the two households. When it comes to celebrating holidays, including Valentine's Day, they're pretty diplomatic.

"We alternate each year," Benjamin explained to ABC News. "I know Valentine's Day is important to [Amy] -- well, it’s more important to her eldest [10-year-old] daughter."

Benjamin and Amy, who have been together for seven years and met at a house party, plan to travel to Cuba in March to belatedly celebrate Feb. 14.

Thomas, who has been with Benjamin since 2015 after meeting through Facebook, is completely fine with that.

...All three, however, admit Mother's Day this year will be a bit tricky. Just the thought of celebrating the holiday with both girlfriends is "rough," Benjamin said.

"I'm hoping I have to work that day," he quipped. "But I really don't know how that's going to work right now because [Amy] asked that to be her day."

As for their children, Benjamin said his two kids with Amy are too young to understand the unique dynamic.

Thomas, however, said she plans to inform her newborn daughter when she gets older. "My conversation with her will be, 'Daddy has another family that he loves just like he loves us,'" she said.

Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., an expert on polyamory who's been studying sexual minority families for 20 years, told ABC News that she estimates between 1.2 and 2.4 million U.S. adults are having sexual non-monogamous relationships. Still, the number of adults who actually identify as polyamorous is a lot smaller.

"What is clear is the growing interest in consensual non-monogamy and that is clear because of the number of websites available and the traffic available of those websites, [along with] the number of meetup groups for people to meet in person and the media attention it's being given," she said.

...Still, Amy, whose mother and stepfather have been married for more than 30 years, prefers monogamy and calls her relationship "very weird."

"We had a lot of ups and downs and I've had a lot of struggle with it," she said, adding that she's accepted the lifestyle because she's in love with Benjamin.

But there are restrictions. Amy, being the first girlfriend, must approve of any future girlfriend "to see if they're somewhat suited for my family lifestyle," she explained.

"It's not carte blanche," Benjamin clarified. "I can’t just go find another girlfriend...at my age, I’m not too interested in that."

And he's fine with his girlfriends having other boyfriends "if they can handle it."...

The whole article (February 10, 2017). There's no photo of them. Ignore the embedded video — it's irrelevant.

This piece also showed up in the Daily Mail.


February 9, 2017

At the Poly Living conference, planning defense and resistance

Last Saturday at Loving More's Poly Living conference, I ran a discussion for people to air their ideas on how the poly community can respond, protect, and defend itself under the Trump administration.

Here are my notes of what folks said.


The Poly Community’s Response in the Time of Trump

Discussion session at Poly Living East, Philadelphia
February 4, 2017
Notes by Alan M.

A dozen people gathered at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning for animated discussion. Ideas that arose, sorted by category:

·       PROVIDING FOR THE COMMON DEFENSE.  We are small and insignificant compared to groups now under direct threat ­­(immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, black communities, women, etc.), and we are small even compared to other sex- and gender-related groups who face common threats with us (LGBTQ, feminists, sex educators, sex info sites, the porn industry, BDSM, etc.). We must reach out to them as mutual strategic allies even if we don’t agree on everything.
·       Jim Fleckenstein: This is especially true when facing legal threats. A common legal defense can span many diverse groups and interests. For instance: credit-card companies cutting off service to sex-positive organizations, whether the companies are driven to it by new laws or just fear.
·       Jim continued: Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General nominee, wants to crack down on porn – he has talked about reviving the Meese Commission. All sex-positive or sex-ed sites may face threats of censorship, blocking or shutdown as a result: either directly by law, or indirectly by providers’ fears.
·       Poly support organizations, which means basically Loving More, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and the Relationship Equality Foundation (REF), should ally in particular with other sex- and relationship-related groups — medical information sites, therapists, AASECT, Woodhull, etc. — for group defense. Jim will bring the poly community’s concern to the NCSF board. Susan Wright of NCSF is already very involved with the Free Speech Coalition of the adult industry.
·       Personal alliances matter a lot in building support; not just organizational alliances. For instance, Loving More is known in the Colorado LGBT world for showing up at Colorado’s Pride Fest. Work with other groups on their own projects and defense; that’s how you win friends to be there for you.
·       In building coalitions, if you are afraid of being tarred by association with kinksters, nudists, swingers, strip clubs or practically anybody else, get over it. “You have to be ready to fight back from that corner,” said Jim F.  “You have to look where you can find allies, and cultivate personal relationships with them.”
·       Also reach out to Humanist groups, because “their lawyers work day and night on separation of church and state.” The American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, American Atheists, etc. And never mind whether you’re a humanist or atheist yourself.
·       Join the Indivisible Movement. “It’s becoming a big thing” as a very broad-based coalition for resisting Trumpism in the political sphere.
·       “All over we’re seeing people come together that would never have come together before.”

·       LEGAL / POLITICAL.  Even in the absence of new laws, judges may feel empowered to rule badly in poly-related cases: discrimination in work, housing, etc., as well as the separate question of child custody in family courts. The proposed federal “Freedom of Religion Act” to legalize discrimination against LGBTs would also include us. (Not that we have much in the way of antidiscrimination law to take away.)
·       Jim pointed out that Fetlife’s owner shut down some of its more extreme fetish communities last month because of a threat that the entire site would lose its credit card processing privileges. In cases like this, said Jim, “look for allies where you least expect them.”  For instance the gun industry, facing rejection by PayPal, credit card companies, etc., has found workarounds for transaction processing through sympathetic banks.
·       Have a website? Keep safe backups of your site (on local media such as a thumb drive stored away from your computer, as well as in the cloud).
·       The way authorities often try to shut down events is through a venue’s weak point: its local liquor license.

·       LAWYERS AND LEGAL SUPPORT: Robyn Trask, director of Loving More, is compiling a list of lawyers available to handle poly cases. If you are such a lawyer, or know of any, go tell her: robyn@lovemore.com. Loving More wants a large list to refer people to wherever they are. Update: The Polyamory Leadership Network is forming a working group on lawyers and legal matters. 
·       Suggestion: we need a “What Lawyers Should Know About Polyamory” booklet along the lines of NCSF’s successful “What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory.”
·       Jim F.:  Getting a handle on the legal needs of the poly community “will be one of the outcomes of our current Legal Survey. Everybody, please go fill it out!” It currently has 600+ responses; they want 1000+. Go do the survey even if you have no known legal needs, because it asks other relevant questions. Publicize it to your communities. The survey will guide Loving More/ NCSF/ REF/ ABSC in their directions in providing joint resources for the poly community. “By next year we should be able to move on this stuff.”

·       MEDIA MESSAGING. Mischa Lin of Open Love NY said, let’s write up a document for people to use in discussions with media: talking points and sound bites about issues in the Trump climate. For instance, “The rise of fascism in this country is already impacting people like me,” and tell how.
·       Cultivate connections in the media. Know a sympathetic reporter or editor to call when you need them. Look for reporters who have covered other personal-freedom or alternative-lifestyle issues well. (You can search a reporter’s name on polyinthemedia.blogspot.com to see what they may have written about poly in the past decade.)
·       Robyn Trask continues to build Loving More’s list of good poly spokespeople she can send media to. She wants more, representing all branches of poly. This means you! Robyn has a good list of tips for dealing with the media, and helpful materials, and she’s eager to consult by phone to develop your media skills. Contact her at robyn@lovemore.com, or better, phone her at 970-667-5683.

In addition, at least four other sessions at Poly Living discussed related issues:

--     Robyn and Jesus’s “Taking Our Movement Forward” session about Loving More’s own plans,
--     Lusty Guy’s “Voter Team Meeting” about building an effective resistance,
--     A lunch meeting of 15 Polyamory Leadership Network members to discuss what was on their minds,
--     Mim Chapman’s closing keynote talk, “Rainbow Poly: Becoming Radical Defenders of Diversity.”

A few additional points gleaned from these:

·       Cunning Minx: There’s an app called Countable that serves you bills coming up in Congress and how to contact your representatives about them. Phoning is better than writing, and actually easier. You’ll get a polite staffer who listens to your request for how to vote on the bill and tallies it. Brief is fine. This may take you 15 seconds.
·       Volunteer at your LGBTQ center; you will build relationships and gain activist allies. Ditto volunteering for other activist/ political groups. In groups you’re already in, come out as poly so that they know a poly person and know you have concerns about the current environment.
·       Pick up new challenges that take you a bit out of your comfort zone. Try new projects, go new places, reach out to different kinds of people than you usually do. In diversity is strength, and “Life rewards people who move in the direction of greatest courage.”
·       Lusty guy: “Fucking vote! Turn out the vote. Run for office.”
·       “There has been incredible progress in the last 14 days, as well as incredible degradation.”
·        Lusty Guy: “Two things have been scientifically shown, over and over, to change people’s behavior more than anything else: (1) What they think people around them are doing, and (2) Thinking that someone is observing them.” Activists who know this can pretty much skip all other persuasion techniques you may have heard of.


This was the second such poly-conference discussion; I moderated the first at Beyond The Love in Columbus, Ohio, last November just after the election. Here are the notes from that.

Finally, I recommend that you read David Frum's What Effective Protest Could Look Like, in The Atlantic. Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush who is now crossing the police lines, as he puts it, to the side of the Resistance to help save the Republic. Key parts:

As I step through the police lines, I bring a message with me: Your demonstrations are engineered to fail. They didn’t stop the Iraq war. They won’t stop Donald Trump.

With the rarest exceptions — and perhaps the January 21 demonstration will prove to be one — left-liberal demonstrations are exercises in catharsis, the release of emotions. Their operating principle is self-expression, not persuasion.

It’s possible I’m not the right person to offer the following analysis. Yet it’s also a good rule to seek wisdom wherever it may be found. So here’s what I have to offer from the right, amid the storms of the Trump era:

The more conservative protests are, the more radical they are.

You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.

...Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance. Close by singing the Star Spangled Banner like these protesters at LAX.... Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.

...Donald Trump has made clear that he wants to wage a Nixon-style culture war: cops against criminals, soldiers against pacifists, hard hats against hippies. Don’t be complicit. If you want to beat him, you have to reject his categories.

...The classic military formula for success: concentrate superior force at a single point. The Occupy Wall Street movement fizzled out in large part because of its ridiculously fissiparous list of demands and its failure to generate a leadership that could cull that list into anything actionable. Successful movements are built upon concrete single demands that can readily be translated into practical action: “Votes for women.” “End the draft.” “Overturn Roe v. Wade.” “Tougher punishments for drunk driving.”

People can say “yes” to such specific demands for many different reasons. Supporters are not called upon to agree on everything, but just one thing....

So it should be for critics of President Trump. “Pass a law requiring the Treasury to release the President’s tax returns.” “An independent commission to investigate Russian meddling in the election.” “Divest from the companies.” These are limited asks with broad appeal.

Protests are fun; meetings are effective.

...Bodies in the street represent only potential power, not actual power. ... The difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party was that only the second movement translated the energy and excitement of its early mass meetings into steady organizational work aimed at winning elections.

...Protests are useful mostly to the extent that they mobilize people to participate in the follow-up meetings to realize the protest’s goals. Collect names and addresses. Form Facebook groups. Keep in touch. Don’t argue: recruit.

...Outrage may get you started, but only hope keeps you going. Hope, as Vaclav Havel insisted, is an expression of the state of our minds, not a description of the state of the world. It powers you to undertake the daunting but essential mission: unlimited efforts for limited goals. You’re not trying to save the world. Just to pass one law. It doesn’t sound like much. It could be everything.


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