"Polyamory in Silicon Valley," supposedly the epicenter of the relationship future
The Sunday Times (UK)
One of Britain's major respectable dailies, in its Sunday edition two days ago, published an outsider's look at the supposed cutting edge of the polyamory movement. (The Brits seem to be even more in awe of Silicon Valley than we Easterners.) The article starts off sensationally, then snarkily, but we win the writer's heart in the end.
Polyamory in Silicon Valley
Among the tech set, having more than one partner isn’t sleazy like the swingers of old — rather it’s a political movement that could reimagine our communities
The article's lead picture, above, was probably supposed to mean something. (Credit: Lukasz Wierzbowski)
By Laura Pullman
Orgy Ben and Orgy Kate, as they’ve called themselves on their name badges, have taken me under their wing at a sex party in downtown San Francisco. It’s immediately clear that my pleather Zara trousers aren’t going to cut it — the event’s website wasn’t lying when it promised “leatherfolk, kinksters and perverts”. In one room, half-naked women writhe, suspended from scaffolding, while bumbling boy scouts below wrestle with knots. ... [More material possibly NSFW] ... A pale, purple-haired man introduces himself as a polyamory expert called Pepper Mint. I flee the building.
Baaaad reporter. The Pepper Mint (his real name) you fled from meeting is a friendly, level-headed, respected leader in the Bay Area kink and poly communities who earned his status through years of rigorous ethics in community building and consent enforcement. He's a non-monogamy conference organizer and recent guidebook author and knows the jumping Bay Area scene inside out. (Disclosure: I edited the book, and we're two thirds of the membership committee of the Polyamory Leadership Network, where he took the lead in cleaning up two wrenching nonconsent cases.) He could have been your premier source.
Polyamory is an increasingly hot topic in San Francisco and among the Silicon Valley set, and I’m curious why, whether it can work, and the general ins and outs. It’s not just in forward-thinking California that people are exploring new relationship models. It’s also a growing trend in Britain — largely among London’s hipster and queer scenes.
...Unlike the pampas-grass swinging of old, poly, as it’s dubbed, is not all about the sex. For some, it’s about building deeper relationships and creating varied social structures. As the joke goes: “Swingers have sex, polys have conversation.” Indeed, not all poly people are into kinky “play parties”, as they are creepily called out here — but in for a penny and all that.
...Recent estimates suggest that there could be up to 2.4m polyamorous relationships in America — there are no figures for the UK. In a place proud of its free-love, beat-poet, counter-culture history, it’s a fair assumption that a sizeable chunk of those threesome/foursome/moresome relationships are blossoming here in San Francisco, not to mention the “I want it all” Silicon Valley sorts dipping their toes in the poly pool.
In her book The State of Affairs, the relationship therapist Esther Perel points out that many people embarking on a poly lifestyle “do so with an entrepreneurial mind-set that aspires to a greater freedom of choice, authenticity and flexibility”, hence its popularity with the tech set. Chris Messina, 37, who has worked at Google and Uber, believes the relationship between polyamory and the tech world is correlation, not causation, and breaks down the different tribes. ... Over dinner in Dogpatch, an up-and-coming area in east San Francisco, he tells me: “In the city, the poly scene is more about a different set of behavioural norms or politics, and rejecting patriarchy. It’s about inclusion, egalitarianism and post gender. Plus creating shared homes and alternative structures for bringing people together. Whereas the Silicon Valley approach is much more pragmatic.” People in tech, he says, are typically “maximalists” seeking as many experiences as possible.
...It’s not hippie cool to discuss such banal matters, but what about the green-eyed monster? Polyamorists attempt to transcend, or simply accept, jealousy. Others claim to not experience it. Kate says the only time she’s been frustrated is when Ben dated a “homely looking” frump: “I just didn’t get what he saw in her.” ...
...Eric, 29, and Zarinah Agnew, 36, became non-monogamous after meeting in a commune in the city six years ago. “This isn’t about fun and pleasure, it’s a political thing,” says Zarinah, a British scientist. Rogers is similarly energised by this new frontier: “One amazing thing about San Francisco right now is the high density of people who aren’t just doing whatever they want and enjoying themselves in a hedonistic fashion, but also really thinking critically about how to build this into a thing that has a future.”
Co-parenting — collectively bringing up children — is a major element of this reimagining of community. Eve, 41, a Swiss-Italian music teacher, tells me that many people, herself included, move here for the poly scene. She currently co-parents the children of two of her different partners: seven-year-old twins and a three-year-old girl. Her co-parenting duties, in truth, sound largely like free childcare.
“All these monogamous parents are struggling, and there’s no system in place to network and help each other out,” she says. It’s a complicated area, with issues about parental legality for starters, but Eve and others are adamant that it’s beneficial for children and adults alike. And perhaps it could provide an antidote to that modern malaise, loneliness. Certainly, the atomisation of families — people now often live miles away from their relatives — and the decline of the church have left many yearning for a deeper belonging.
...After my brief foray into the poly community, it’s apparent that organisation and honest conversations are the keystones. Dr Alison Ash, a sexual empowerment coach and committed non-monogamist, says: “For non-monogamy to work, there has to be a high level of self-reflection, deep self-awareness and a lot of skilled communication. It’s about knowing your boundaries and capacity, and then being willing to share and express them.”
Messina, who is currently experiencing a rough patch with Amy, is explicit about how difficult having more than one partner can be. “It requires a lot of work, for you to be mature, to know your shit, know how you behave and what motivates you,” he says.
Heading to the airport, I spot a billboard for a software company that reads: “Polydataorus — the data warehouse open to all data.” There’s no doubt San Francisco is embarking on another exciting cycle of freer love. I reflect on how my initial assumption that polyamory was all about sex with mitigated loyalty and commitment was knee-jerk and misguided. Poly means different things to different people: finding freedom, building communities, co-parenting and, hopefully, some kinky sex, too. ... As Tolstoy never wrote: monogamous relationships are all alike; every non-monogamous relationship is non-monogamous in its own way.
Read the whole article (December 3, 2017. Registration wall.)
This isn't the first major-media treatment of Silicon Valley as a view of our poly future. Here are stories on CNN Money (with video), a CNN followup, in Wired, and in Emily Witt's book Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love.
On the same day, diving downmarket on British newsstands, browsers also found this in the soft-porn news tabloid The Sun (owned by the same Rupert Murdoch who now owns The Times):
What is ‘unicorn hunting’? The new couples trend that doesn’t always end well
Again with the feet. (Getty)
By Rachel Moore
YOU may never have heard of it, but “unicorn hunting” is the latest trend among couples looking to spice up their love life.
With a rise in the popularity of “polyamorous” relationships, couples are on the look out for a third person in order to become a “throuple.”
"Unicorn hunting" is where a male/female couple look to find one person who they can permanently invite into their relationship.
...People who go "unicorn hunting" are specifically looking for a bisexual woman.
The number of straight couples only looking to find a "unicorn" has reached such high numbers that many polyamorous people see it as a cliche.
Surprisingly, unicorn hunting isn't a casual affair.
The couple expect their "unicorn" to be both sexually and romantically exclusive. They also demand that a unicorn is attracted to them both equally and interested in only having group sex. [Not always, but too often. –Ed.]
But the couple are not looking to bring her fully into their relationship. In fact, their aim is to not let the "unicorn" come between them.
Finding someone who meets all the criteria is as hard as you might imagine.... An anonymous polyamorous man told Business Insider that he has never known a straight couple, searching for a bisexual woman, to have worked out.
...While the female in the couple is often reluctant at first, she can end up enjoying it more and more.
Meanwhile their male counterpart becomes jealous which causes tensions in the relationship.
If one partner is enjoying the new found freedom of polyamory more than the other, it can lead them to return to monogamy or even worse, break up. ...
The whole article (December 3, 2017).