Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

February 20, 2018

Last week in poly on campus: Val's day and Relationship Anarchy

Okay, I'm posting this late Valentine's bouquet of poly in the media (mostly college media) partly so I get a chance to boost this:

Courtesy Kimchi Cuddles. Used by permission.

Please can we make "just want to eat pizza in my duck suit" a thing?

But seriously, here's other stuff worthy of note.

● A glowing article ran in The Daily Californian, the independent student newspaper of UC Berkeley: How-to for more than 2: Exploring non-monogamy (February 13, 2018).

The illustration is someone paging through two of the stereotyped mainstream stock photos for poly articles that I've railed about: the cheating-looking couple caught from behind and the famous white duvet feet.

By Michelle Zheng | Staff

I started my exploration with non-monogamy last year when my boyfriend and I decided to open up our relationship. Ironically, I felt largely alone as I waded through awful Tinder matches and dating app after dating app.

...It was through luck that I stumbled upon Organ House, a “community devoted to normalizing non-monogamy and sexual exploration.” Unlike my aforementioned encounters, there was a feeling of acceptance and approachability. They had a wealth of resources for non-monogamous scenes in the Bay.

The polyam community is one of the most welcoming and accepting, regardless of whether a non-monogamous lifestyle ultimately ends up being for you.

“It’s strange,” Danelle Suchon, another Organ House member, remarked. “When you’re honest about your sex life, it carries over into every other part in your life. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who are on the same page.”

As Valentine’s Day lurks around the corner, many are consumed by the pressures of finding their one true soulmate. So what about those who are not only without a special boo, but also are uninterested in restricting themselves to just two?


Volunteering at a polyam-friendly event, rather than diving straight in as an attendee, is an good way to start, said Suchon, because volunteers have a reason to introduce themselves to new people.

Wholesome events

I know don’t always want to work while I’m trying to mingle. Organ House hosts plenty of wholesome, dry, polyam-friendly events such as group rock-climbing. People gather for semi-monthly polyam movie nights at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland.

...If you’re looking for Valentine’s Day plans, on Feb. 15, instead of watching the awful new “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, Organ House is hosting Open Underground. ...

...All-out orgies

The Organ House organizes monthly play parties, and the ambiance has been described as warm, perfect and incredibly sultry. Obviously, you won’t be able to just waltz in to one of these, unlike when Elon Musk apparently attended one in Silicon Valley thinking it was a costume party instead. One must submit an application and be approved. ...

She gets it: You need community.

● In the Capilano Courier of Capilano University (North Vancouver, BC): Polyamory is exposing many of the flaws in the institution of monogamy

By Justin Scott / Managing Editor

Michael Fenton
Valentine’s Day is billed as an occasion for monogamous couples to celebrate their undying and exclusive love for one another, but for a growing section of society, this idea is increasingly unrelatable. “I can’t really say that I’ve ever been in a relationship that really fits the Hollywood ‘finding one true person’ model,” said Liam Helmer.... Although Helmer prefers to be called a relationship anarchist as opposed to a polyamorist, he is a member of the same community.

...“Consent becomes more important in polyamory because we don’t have the script already written for us,” Helmer explained. ... Helmer believes that one of the most important factors in a successful non-monogamous relationship is open and clear communication. Establishing boundaries and expectations between the partners and their other partners helps everyone involved avoid crossing a line.

...A 2012 survey conducted by polyamory support and advocacy group Loving More found that 49.5 per cent of those who identified as polyamorous identified as women, with just 35.4 per cent identifying as men. Another study conducted by the Vanier Institute found that the number of Canadians involved in polyamorous relationships is on the rise.

...So are the communities around them. Polyamory communities and support groups are growing as a way for members of the community to both meet each other and seek support.

...“I think the best reason to get into it is wanting to connect with real people and also push your own boundaries of what you think is possible for yourself in your life,” [Helmer] said. ...

● RA in the Vanguard of Portland State University: Relationship Anarchy: a feminist twist on relationships (Feb. 16):

By Claire Meyer

...Often confused as a synonym for polyamory, relationship anarchy is a nontraditional relationship style, whether romantic or platonic, in which a special focus is put on open communication and constant questioning of norms between partners. RA is a feminist practice in that it breaks down patriarchal relationship norms.

“I think the more you’re confronting heteronormative beliefs, the more you’re going to bump into…I don’t want to say problems, but areas where you have to work harder,” said RA practicer Kale Gosen, who identifies as a queer, non-monogamous sex-positive feminist.

“I want relationships based around consent and communication,” Gosen added. “I highly value autonomy and direct communication, and therefore I won’t ask you for permission to do things, but I will talk to you about how you feel for as long as you need to!”

RA aims to ... deconstruct and dissect what it means to be in a relationship and customize relationships to individual needs.

“The idea of developing an explicitly ethical way of doing relationships resonates with key feminist ideas around…the idea that the personal is political,” said Dr. Meg John Baker, a relationship anarchist, sex and gender therapist and senior psychology lecturer.

...“Many people think RA is for people who just want to have a lot of sex,” said Sally Eck, a Portland State professor in the women’s studies department. Eck hosts RA meetings at her home.

“If that’s all someone wants, then I think relationship anarchy is way too much work. It’s a tremendous amount of work to live your life outside of assumption.” Rather than a free-for-all, Eck looks at RA as “an opportunity for conscious relating.”

RA practice emphasizes openness, communication, respect, cooperation and consent, and the principles of relationship anarchy can be practiced by everyone, even monogamous individuals.

Swedish activist and author of the RA instructional manifesto Andie Nordgren wrote, “Relationship anarchy is not about never committing to anything — it’s about designing your own commitments with the people around you.”

● Among millennials in particular, many poly people are identifying as RA rather than polyamorous. Why? One glaring reason showed up in San Francisco State University's Golden Gate Express, in Love comes in multiples (Feb. 14)

By Dimitri Bailey

...Like [in] most relationships, the key ingredients to a healthy [poly] relationship are honesty, communication, love, compromise, and last but not least, rules and boundaries. ... In polyamorous relationships there are rules and agreements that are tailored specifically to each individual relationship.

Uninformed writers, and people latching onto reassurance for their insecurities, often declare that poly always has rules: things you impose on someone else. Rules are quite different from boundaries: things you set up around yourself to protect yourself. Many people in poly relationships do agree to rules, primary couples especially. But the idea that polys always do this is what makes poly RA people say, "I'm not polyamorous."

● In the Panther of Chapman University in the Los Angeles area): Table for five: a polyamorous Valentine’s Day (Feb. 11)

By Jade Michaels

...For Rachel Yi, a sophomore film production major, the real challenge is balancing all of her dates without letting jealousy interfere.

Yi wanted to set her own terms for dating polyamorously, when it seemed to her like monogamy was only advantageous for men “to acquire women like property.”

“I just didn’t like the idea of ‘I complete you and you complete me,’ like we aren’t truly ourselves and complete without a partner,” said Yi, who has multiple partners. ... I just want there to be more education and dialogue on the matter because I still hear the craziest preconceived notions about polyamory. I hear, ‘Isn’t polyamory just cheating?’ a lot.”

Michaela Hook, a senior creative writing major, entered a relationship believing it would be monogamous, but later discovered that her partner was polyamorous.

“I know it’s not for everyone. I’m a monogamist myself, but I wouldn’t change my girlfriend for the world and will stand with her if she ever decides to pursue another partner,” Hook said. “We both had this preconceived notion of monogamy, so when she started realizing that she could possibly have feelings for someone else while still feel the same way about me, she felt extremely guilty and ashamed.”

Though she personally doesn’t want to date multiple people, Hook supports her girlfriend by exploring and overcoming any jealousy, and by setting her own guidelines for comfort.

“(My girlfriend) emphasized that, no matter who she has feelings for, I come first, because we’re a team and she doesn’t want to be with another person if I am not OK with it,” Hook said.

So not RA, which eschews relationships being predefined as primary-secondary.

...However, not all polyamorous relationships function this way. For Yi, all her significant others are equal, and each member communicates and respects the desires of the other. This makes Valentine’s Day difficult, so she opts out of it all together to allow everyone involved in the relationship a peace of mind.

Chapman professor Cheryl Crippen, who has studied LGBTQIA+ psychology for years, believes many people attach a negative connotation to polyamory because of its misrepresentation in popular western culture.

“(In the U.S), monogamous relationships are privileged and other relationship structures are considered deviant. Polyamorous relationships are predicated on trust, honesty, transparency and commitment between those in the relationship,” Crippen said.

She believes that, despite having multiple partners, polyamorous couples do not encounter any more problems than monogamous couples do. In fact, she believes the structure of a polyamorous relationship can actually promote stronger flexibility and communication between partners.

“Individuals who thrive in poly relationships tend to have a well-defined sense of self, are secure in their relationships with their partners, and are assertive in communicating their needs,” Crippen said. ...

● Just off campus, the Philly Voice ran a first-person story that exemplifies RA: Monogamy. Polyamory. Open relationships: Redefining love on our terms (Feb. 12)

By Kristine Rose

...According to conventional wisdom, mine is a cautionary tale. I am woman who's doing it wrong when it comes to relationships. I've been with the same guy for eight years, and though we live together and are completely committed, we're probably never getting married.

We both have really close friends of the opposite sex, some of whom have even been previous romantic partners. We hang out with them alone. ... I'm currently away for the winter visiting my best friend/former roommate in another state without my partner, Sean. He will most definitely be hanging out with girls I don't know and going to strip clubs in my absence. Take a minute to gasp in horror.

The author with partner Sean
...And to make it all that much worse, I'm 28. That's only two years away from 30, and everybody knows that if you turn 30 without your life looking a certain way, you spontaneously combust.

...I've had a friend confide in me that she was afraid it was a bad sign if she didn't want to spend every waking moment with her boyfriend. She was relieved when I told her that some people just need more alone time and it was perfectly natural. Variances like this don't occur to people because they're not often talked about.

...We both have best friends who are not each other, and those friendships are equal in importance to our relationship. If one of us wants to take a trip alone or with friends, we do. If one of us wants to go out, we do. ... I would, at some point, like to live my life without the constant barrage of questions:

The author with best friend Joanna
"Is your relationship okay?"

"But...it's just so weird!"

...What I want is the type of relationship that's able to withstand – and even flourish – in these conditions. ...

Communal living

To make matters even "weirder," my partner and I have always thought the best living situation for us would be communal.

We would both prefer to live with close friends as well as each other. My best friend, Joanna, and her partner plan to join us in Philadelphia this summer. She's bought a beautiful townhouse in Fishtown which we will all live in together for (presumably) the rest of our lives. People cannot seem to wrap their heads around this at all. Honestly, I'm just as committed to my friend as I am to my partner. I can think of no happier situation than living with two of the most important people in my life. ...

Totally RA.

...There are so many unique paths you can take in life. It's important to do what feels right to you and not feel pressured to subscribe to a certain ideal. I want to encourage critical thinking and living with intention. Growing up, we are presented with one or two examples of how your life will turn out in the future, but this is only a construct. There's so much more out there if you keep an open mind.


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Anonymous TAFL said...

I'm more strongly convinced now than when I first encountered the term that "Relatioship Anarchy" is a term made up by polyfolk who don't understand poly. No, poly doesn't automatically involve rules--that sort of thing appears in dysfunctional poly relationships and is not an essential component of polyamory. Attempts to regulate insecurities away instead of dealing with them as one's personal issues is dysfunction.

As for defining how a relationship is on an individual basis--that's how functional relationships pretty much all are. There's nothing new about that. It's not some earthshakingly-new dynamic that appeared when somebody decided they were so edgy about relating to others that they decided to claim to be a relationship anarchist.

February 28, 2018 3:52 PM  

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