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



November 29, 2018

Google employees: "Our Executives Engaged in Abuse. Don’t Let Kink and Polyamory Be Their Scapegoats."


Google employees walking off the job on November 1 (Mason Trinca / Getty)

 
On October 25th the New York Times published an investigative report on top executives of Google abusing their power over women employees and the company letting them go quietly on good terms: How Google Protected Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’.

It included these bits:


In 2013, Richard DeVaul, a director at Google X, the company’s research and development arm, interviewed Star Simpson, a hardware engineer. During the job interview, she said he told her that he and his wife were “polyamorous,” a word often used to describe an open marriage.


And,


[Andy] Rubin often berated subordinates as stupid or incompetent, they said. Google did little to curb that behavior. It took action only when security staff found bondage sex videos on Mr. Rubin’s work computer, said three former and current Google executives briefed on the incident.

...Mr. Rubin, 55, who met his wife at Google, also dated other women at the company while married, said four people who worked with him. ... In a civil suit filed this month by Mr. Rubin’s ex-wife, Rie Rubin, she claimed he had multiple “ownership relationships” with other women during their marriage, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to them. The couple were divorced in August.

The suit included a screenshot of an August 2015 email Mr. Rubin sent to one woman. “You will be happy being taken care of,” he wrote. “Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people.”


These stories, and others like them at other tech companies, have been reverberating around the tech industry and its critics, including conservative-world. Now some Google employees have published this on Medium:


Our Executives Engaged in Abuse. Don’t Let Kink and Polyamory Be Their Scapegoats.

A New York Times report exacerbated stigma while bringing wrongdoing to light

By Liz Fong-Jones

...On October 25, two New York Times reporters released their yearlong investigation, and the scandal burst into the open. ... A week later, 20,000 employees walked off the job to protest [Google parent] Alphabet’s systematic mishandling of harassment and discrimination. ... We as workers certainly cannot be safe while our leaders engage in, reward, and cover up sexual harassment and abuse.

Although the New York Times article shed light on workplace harassment, the stigmatizing depiction of polyamory and BDSM counterintuitively hurts victims and makes them less likely to speak out. We cannot agree with its characterization of the practice of polyamory and BDSM as inherently abusive or salacious. The executives’ excuses about their participation in polyamory and BDSM are yet another layer of deflection of responsibility. In fact, it is victims who are polyamorous or who practice BDSM who fear being shamed, isolated, and further retaliated against when reporting abuse, should they be outed in the process.

As women and nonbinary people who work at Alphabet (but who do not speak for our employer), and as people who have dealt with sexual harassment and assault, we want to set the record straight: Our existence as sex-positive and polyamorous people is not inherently abusive or scandalous. The abuses reported in the New York Times arose from corporate power dynamics and misogyny, not from polyamory or BDSM.

Ethical practice of polyamory and BDSM does not entail abuse or harassment. To explain this, let’s briefly define polyamory, BDSM, abuse, and harassment....

Consent is key to the practice of both BDSM and polyamory. Given the position of these men, however, meaningful consent was impossible. ... Adding in the dimension of stigma around polyamory and kink exacerbates the power dynamics in play. For one thing, if someone isn’t out as either polyamorous or kinky, threatening to expose them as such is an easy way for abusers to preemptively silence them. Even victims who aren’t polyamorous or kinky may be afraid to expose the abuse for fear of being publicly perceived as such because their abuser has used those words. Because of how polyamory and kink are often portrayed, being known as either can result in anything from social shaming and ostracization to loss of employment and custody of children.

...If people don’t feel safe seeking out support or asking questions about whether behavior they’re experiencing is normal, they will be easy prey for predators. ...

As a culture, we need to separate abuse and harassment from the ethical practice of BDSM and polyamory. As long as journalists and the public continue to conflate such practices with abuse, victims will face far too many barriers when seeking justice. If people don’t feel safe seeking out support or asking questions about whether behavior they’re experiencing is normal, they will be easy prey for predators. Communities dedicated to education about polyamory and BDSM practices exist, but they’re forced to exist in the shadows because of the fear of being outed and losing jobs, children, and more. Let’s work together to destigmatize ethical polyamory and BDSM so that powerful men will think twice before offending and past victims of abuse can seek justice.

Emily R. and an anonymous Googler contributed to this story.


Read their whole, much longer piece (November 29, 2018).

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November 27, 2018

Vice reports on London's Polyday convention


The UK's annual Polyday conference took a hiatus a few years ago, then came back with renewed energy under new leadership. The 2018 event last month brought out 250 people, Vice UK reports in an interesting look at us by an accomplished feminist journalist.


We Went to a Polyamory Event and Learned What a 'Polycule' Is

The organisers of Polyday think it's the biggest non-monogamy event in Europe, and tried to match that scale with a raft of talks and workshops.

Three organisers of Polyday – L-R: Charlotte Davies, Conaire
Hodgson and Eunice Hung – at a wedding.

 
By Sophie Hemery

Earlier this month, in a charmingly dingy community centre in south London, 250 people gathered to talk about polyamory. The organisers think Polyday is the biggest non-monogamy event in Europe — and in its four years [since being revived] this was the biggest yet. "We're at maximum capacity, way more than expected — it's going to be tight, hot and sweaty!" proclaimed the welcome speech.

Polyamory has just gone mainstream in BBC1's primetime drama Wanderlust, and you couldn't help but wonder if some of the crowd had decided to attend while choking down their Merlot and Kettle Chips. That is to say, the crowd wasn't just the likely suspects. There were some tasselled waistcoats and flares, sure, and some fluorescent hairstyles — but there was also: all sorts.

There were retired folk in cardigans; sleek, almost-famous actors; parents and children; millenials-who-can't-buy-homes-because-they-drink-too-many-oat-milk-flat-whites. Some were polyamorous veterans, experienced at having concurrent, committed intimate relationships. Others were taking their first steps away from the monogamous doctrine. ...


...Over the past five years, "polyamory" has become ten times more popular as a UK Google search, and there's also now a dating app dedicated to alternative relationships.

..."It's my first time at a poly event," one antsy but excited man told the woman next to him, "my wife suggested polyamory, and I'm embracing it." Beside me sat a beaming trio holding hands. ...


"I think we live in a fear-based culture surrounding relationships," said Matt, an attendee who is new to non-monogamy. "It's all, 'Oh god, don’t leave me!' and there's this pressure for one person to be everything." In contrast, Matt finds polyamory "very celebratory and honouring of people.

"When you stop looking for one person to cover everything, you can really engage with that person without the pressure," he said. "Knowing that they don't have to be everything, because you have a community, you have other people, enables you to be much more present." ...


Read on (Oct. 23, 2018).

● More recently, Hemery published a related article in the high-think magazine Aeon: Can relationship anarchy create a world without heartbreak? (Nov. 13, 2018). Spoiler: Probably not, nor should it, but it could make heartbreak less pathological.


Can you imagine a world without heartbreak? Not without sadness, disappointment or regret — but a world without the sinking, searing, all-consuming ache of lost love. A world without heartbreak is also a world where simple acts cannot be transformed, as if by sorcery, into moments of sublime significance. Because a world without heartbreak is a world without love — isn’t it?

More precisely, it might be a world without love’s most adulated form: romantic love. For many people, romantic love is the pinnacle of human experience. But feelings don’t exist in a cultural void. The heartbreak-kind of love is a relatively new and culturally specific experience, masquerading as the universal meaning of life.

...What if there was a way to reap the depths and heights of love without the heartbreak?


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November 23, 2018

Hey, it's Polyamory Day! And why November 23, you ask?



Also available in French and Spanish


Also available in French and Spanish

Fire up your meme-sharing fingers, because today (Friday November 23) is Polyamory Day if some ambitious organizers can get the idea to spread.

There's been talk of starting a Polyamory Day for the day after Valentine's, or maybe for six months opposite Valentine's. But the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) already took the initiative last year by declaring that November 23 would be National Polyamory Day in Canada — and maybe elsewhere if they could get the ball rolling.

November 23 is the date when, in 2011, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that Canada's anti-polygamy law does not apply to modern polyamorists, as long as they do not attempt to make a multi-marriage arrangement an official marriage in some form. Previously, according to the law, three or more people living in one dwelling "conjugally" could be sentenced to five years in prison, though no prosecution had been brought for at least many decades.

The CPAA has posted their Polyamory Day press release and graphics for anyone to copy and use. And here's their Facebook announcement to share.

The press release:

______________________________________________________________________________



For Immediate Release


November 23 is National Polyamory Day

VICTORIA – November 21, 2018 – Friday, November 23rd, is National Polyamory Day in Canada. And polyamory activists in the United States, Mexico, and other countries in the Americas are joining in on the observance and celebration.

On that day in 2011, BC’s Supreme Court ruled that Canada’s so called “anti-polygamy law” does not apply to unformalized polyamorous households – clarifying that polyamory, as it is typically practiced in Canada, is legal and not a criminal act.

Prior to November, 23, 2011, it was questionable if polyamory was legal in Canada. And polyamorists who dared to file affidavits in that case, to demonstrate that polyamory is practiced across Canada and causes no harm, put themselves at criminal risk.

Polyamory – or “poly”, “polya”, or “polyam” for short – is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

The CPAA (Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association) first launched National Polyamory Day last year on November 23, 2017. On Facebook alone, the image reached over 67544 people, was Liked or Loved by over 234, and was shared over 777 times. By far the most popular post the CPAA has made on social media.

"We were surprised at how successful National Polyamory Day was," said Zoe Duff, a spokesperson for the CPAA, "and particularly that people from outside of Canada wanted to celebrate it too."

The CPAA advocates on behalf of Canadians who practice polyamory. It promotes legal, social, government, and institutional acceptance and support of all forms of polyamory, and advances the interests of the Canadian polyamorous community generally.

For a list of polyamory groups across Canada, visit http://polyadvocacy.ca/find-poly-community/.

For more information on the CPAA, visit http://polyadvocacy.ca or email info@polyadvocacy.ca. The CPAA is on Facebook at http://facebook.com/polyadvocacy

Contact:
Zoe Duff, [phone number redacted], zoeduff@polyadvocacy.ca


____________________________________________________________________________

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November 21, 2018

BBC triad interview: "As genuine and as significant as a couple relationship"


Yesterday BBC Radio 5 hosted a 3-hour #sextakeover "focussed on sexual behaviour, relationships and attitudes in the UK." The show is not available outside the UK as far as I can tell, but BBC News put up this nice, 3-minute video with the show's poly interviewees:



It came with this text:


Meet the 'throuple': A three-way relationship

..."As soon as you say a three-way relationship, people automatically think this must be about sex. When in reality this is something like as genuine and as significant as a couple relationship," said Cathy.

"The third person is the mediator. So they can see it from an outside perspective of whatever that situation," added Nicole.

They talk openly about how they became a throuple, parenting Thomas and Cathy's son, and their sleeping arrangements.


The clip's page (November 20, 2018).

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November 20, 2018

Mary Crumpton followup, post-marriage: "What's life like for the woman with two husbands?"


Remember Mary Crumpton and her MFM triad in Manchester, England? Early this year they offered the Manchester Evening News a chance to write about them and their wish to multi-marry, "to help increase the visibility of polyamory" as she posted on Facebook.

Mary with John (left) and Tim. (Manchester Evening News)

 
They succeeded way beyond expectations. In April the paper printed a very nice writeup. Then the tabloids spotted it and plastered the story, and photos like the one above, all over the UK, again treating them very well. And those stories got syndicated to papers in Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Taiwan and probably elsewhere. Meanwhile the trio were invited onto BBC and ITV television.

In May, Mary and their live-in partner John exchanged vows in a full-up commitment ceremony in their local Unitarian Church with husband Tim performing a blessing, again to much press attention. Wrote the Daily Mail:


Said Mary, ‘It was a lovely day. Tim said a few words to bless mine and John’s commitment to one another. Then John said a few words of respect for mine and Tim’s marriage. Then John and I made vows of lifelong commitment to one another.’


The three went public, they said, "in the hopes that others in similar situations will feel less like they have to hide it. And also in the hopes that people in polyamorous relationships might one day get the same rights as people in monogamous relationships."

Now, Mary writes, the Manchester newspaper "checked in on me to see how I have been doing since the ceremony with John in May. And they decided to do a little followup piece. Well. Actually a long piece so make a cuppa before you read it!"

Here you go with some starter bits:


What's life like for the woman who has two husbands?

By Helen Johnson

Mary and John
...When Mary Crumpton made a lifetime commitment to John Hulls earlier this year, no one was more supportive than her husband Tim Crumpton.

Not only did Mary have his blessing to 'marry' another man, he even walked Mary down the aisle of the special blessing ceremony.
It's all part and parcel of polyamory — the practise of openly being in a romantic relationship with more than one person at a time, with the consent of everyone involved.

Mary lives with Tim and John under the same roof in Chorlton, and is in equally committed and loving relationships with both of them.

Tim and Mary
She also has two boyfriends who live nearby.

And if any of Mary's four partners wanted to start seeing another woman at the same time, she'd be happy for them.

...Now she is taking it one step further, and getting ready to lobby for a change in the law, to allow people in the UK to be legally married to more than one person at a time.

...Mary and John's ceremony took place at Chorlton Unitarian Church. ... "The church is very forward thinking, they were the first to do homosexual marriages and civil partnerships so they are very inclusive and respectful of diversity," says Mary. ...

"Tim and John get on great, they'll go off on bicycle rides together - they joke that I'm a bit of a wild one and it takes two of them to keep me in line!" ...


Read the whole article (November 18, 2018). And again it's going around the UK and the world.

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November 18, 2018

Ezra Miller, Grindelwald star: “We’re in the polycule, and we love each other so much.”


Roy Rochlin

 
The latest Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, opened this weekend to mixed reviews. Some of the entertainment press is going gaga over the queer poly life of one of its stars, 26-year-old Ezra Miller (he plays Credence Barebone, forced to repress his magical abilities), following a Playboy interview and cross-dressed photo spread.

Pink News sums up:


The US actor, who came out as queer in 2012, told Playboy that he was a “sexual being” who had found satisfaction in a squad he calls his “polyamorous molecule” — or “polycule” for short.

The polyamorous group includes members of his ‘genrequeer’ band, Sons of an Illustrious Father, and others who fit in with the rest of the polycule’s vibe.

The Fantastic Beasts star, who last week opened up about his #MeToo moment at the hands of a director and producer, teared up as he spoke about the heartbreak which had led to him abandoning monogamy.

He explained that he had found fulfilment in the polycule, saying: “I’m trying to find queer beings who understand me as a queer being off the bat, who I make almost a familial connection with, and I feel like I’m married to them 25 lifetimes ago from the moment we meet.

“And then they are in the squad — the polycule. And I know they’re going to love everyone else in the polycule because we’re in the polycule, and we love each other so much.”


The whole article (November 16, 2018).

Here's the Playboy interview, with many wallposter-quality pix:


Ryan Pfluger / Playboy
The Magic of Ezra Miller

Written by Ryan Gajewski, Photography by Ryan Pfluger

You want to smoke?” Ezra Miller asks me on the patio of his West Hollywood hotel room, reaching over to hand me his joint as I dry my tears with my hand. The 26-year-old actor ...one of the film industry’s most fascinating rising stars, has been smoking from the impressive joint since my arrival 80 minutes ago. (It is meticulously rolled.) Upon seeing me cry heavily during our conversation, he decides to share the wealth. ...

Undeniably, this is a moment in time for the energetic, garrulous and highly spiritual Miller, who casually loads his conversations with references to philosophy, history and political theory. ... He has seen his star ascend wildly following his breakout roles in 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and 2012’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. ... For many fans, his wisecracking Flash was the best part of last year’s tepidly received superhero-stacked Justice League....

...Miller, who is attracted to men and women, tears up when he tells me he has experienced a lot of heartbreak. As a result of these failed relationships, he says he has abandoned trying to find his perfect romantic partner, deciding that monogamy isn’t for him. Calling himself a “sexual being,” he instead finds companionship with a group of sexual partners he refers to as his “polycule,” a portmanteau of “polyamorous molecule.”

He says this includes people he’s known for years, such as the members of his band, Sons of an Illustrious Father, along with new people who are deemed the right fit for the polycule. ...

Ryan Pfluger / Playboy
...Miller is proud to be part of what he terms the “Golden Age Part 2 for cinema,” particularly because he sees the former Golden Age as one of pyrite. He refers to pre-Time’s Up Hollywood as “a racist, sexist, rape-culture mess that we still sort of celebrate,” and when I ask about his own experiences, he has a lot to say.

“I’ve survived abuse for sure, for sure, in a lot of capacities, starting from a pretty young age,” he says. “There was a close friend who I had a sexual relationship with who really, really turned on me in a violent way. So that Perks [of Being a Wallflower] story was pretty close to home for me,” he says, referring to his role in the seminal coming-of-age tale of Patrick, who is attacked by the high school football star with whom he is surreptitiously hooking up. [Miller dropped out of high school at 16. –Ed.]

...“I’ve been attacked repeatedly in my life — I’ve been attacked by fucking bigots, man,” he tells me. “Of course I’ve been in audition situations where sexuality was totally being leveraged. It’s really important to acknowledge the diversity of voices who have experienced this shit, and all genders, all capacities, all types of people. Everyone is victim to it. Everyone is a survivor of it.”

...He tears up again when I ask how he persevered. “Art is the only thing that I have,” he says. “If I didn’t have art, I’d be so fucking dead — so long ago, I’d be dead. I probably would have done it myself.” He believes in transformative justice and doesn’t want any of his attackers behind bars, as he doesn’t see prison as making anyone less likely to attack. “The way I see it, I am you, you are me, we dwell in each other, the whole world dwells in you. And anyone can heal the whole world just with parasympathetic magic, using their own body as a cauldron—anyone could do it, just no one has yet. That’s why we’re all still here ‘cause no one’s done it yet, so we’re just waiting.” ...


The whole interview, with video of the photo shoot (November 15, 2018).


Hollywood Reporter posted a video it made at his farm in Vermont:



It's with their article Ezra Miller Talks Fame, Living on a "Polyamorous" Farm, and His #MeToo Story (Nov. 7):



Heather Hazzan / Hollywood Reporter

 
Spend a day with Ezra Miller at his 95-acre Vermont farm and you will surmise that the star with two franchises in motion does not really exist. Instead, "Ezra Miller" is just a glitch in a Mandela Effect-simulated reality that the 26-year-old is happy to explain over a spliff.

It's difficult to square the man who tills the land here (blueberries, turkey tail, something called chaga) with the one pulling down seven-figure paydays. ... Barefoot with chipped nail polish and wearing a unicorn costume ("Unicorns are real, did you know that?"), he would rather talk about the ravages of fossil fuels ("fucking dinosaur juice that we keep burning into the heavens") and the "polyamorous" community of friends and spiritual advisers milling about the farm on this brisk day, marijuana smoke wafting, than how he landed that DC tentpole role: "I auditioned," he deadpans.

...Hollywood's warped hierarchy brings out Miller's intensity, but not nearly as much as the subject of climate change. In fact, that line of conversation brings the actor to tears. "Gaia, we don't understand her. We don't understand how powerful she is. We don't respect her rights," he says, shaking. "I'm just an emotional person. I just feel things differently. Yes, I'm crying already in the interview."

Often cited as the first non-hetero film superhero (Ian McKellan's X Man Magneto was a villain), Miller has long identified as queer. "Yeah, absolutely. Which is to say, I don't identify. Like, fuck that," he says. "Queer just means no, I don't do that. I don't identify as a man. I don't identify as a woman. I barely identify as a human."...


● And much more.

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Heather Hazzan / Hollywood Reporter

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November 16, 2018

Who are polyfolks, really? "A lifestyle for white liberals"?


A year ago Rolling Stone stirred up buzz with a feature story saying millennials are flocking to polyamory (although claims of a youth-poly wave are exaggerated, according to actual surveys of young people). Now Rolling Stone reports on two recent surveys that gathered data on who polyamorists are — although one of them, apparently, used an extremely broad definition of the term.

The story is by bi-and-poly writer Zachary Zane, who you may remember from several earlier stories.


On the National Mall during the Equality March for Unity
and Pride in Washington, June 2017. (AP/Shutterstock)

 
Who Really Practices Polyamory?

For years it’s been brushed off as a lifestyle for white liberals — but new research suggests ethical non-monogamists are much more diverse.

By Zachary Zane

When my boyfriend suggested I move in with him and his wife, I laughed directly in his face. It was one thing to date a married man, it was another thing for all of us to live together in a cramped apartment. ... Still I gave him — and subsequently polyamory — a shot because I loved him, and he loved me… and her.

That’s really all polyamory is — being open to the idea of loving more than one person and having a serious relationship with multiple people at the same time. ... Still, polyamory doesn’t have to be “all or nothing” — there’s been a growing notion that like gender and sexuality, polyamory can exist on a spectrum. And one doesn’t have to equally support their partner(s) when it comes to them being sexually and romantically involved with others. [Uh-oh. That ain't poly in my book. –Ed.]

...While there’s this notion, summed up by the title of an article in Medium: “Polyamory is for Rich, Pretty People,” there’s been no hard evidence to prove this theory.

Now, however, thanks to the research of Dr. Rhonda Balzarini and her colleagues at the University of Western Ontario, we know who’s more likely to be polyamorous. In her paper, published [online] in the Journal of Sex Research this past June, Balzarini compared the demographic backgrounds of 2,428 polyamorous individuals and 539 monogamous ones by asking participants to take an online survey. ... Dr. Balzarini looked at all the usual demographics: age, race, education, sexuality, etc. ...

Balzarini was able to draw three... major conclusions from the data.

For one, bisexual and pansexual participants were much more likely to report being in polyamorous relationships.... Half of bi/pan people reported being polyamorous compared to only 36 percent of heterosexual individuals. [Wait, 36 percent of America's hetero normals call themselves poly? That alone says the study's definition was too broad to mean much. –Ed.]

Second, polyamorous folks were significantly more likely to report being divorced than monogamous respondents. ...

Third, as she wrote in her paper, she wanted to test popular assumptions... “that polyamorists are more likely to be white, bisexual and politically liberal than the rest of the population.” ...  There were barely any differences between groups when it came to education, political affiliation and ethnicity. Only slightly more people who were in a poly relationship reported having a bachelor’s degree or higher and identified as Democrat. There were no major differences between groups when it came to ethnicity, except that respondents in poly relationships were significantly more likely to identify as “multiethnic” and “native.”

Folks in polyamorous relationships actually reported being in a lower income bracket that those in monogamous relationships, opposing the idea that all polyamorous folks are bored, rich suburbanites....


However, some of that contrasts markedly with the 2012 Loving More survey of 4,062 self-identified poly people. That survey found, among other things, a strikingly higher education level than average. It looks like a more accurate description of Balzarini's sample pool is simply be "non-monogamous." This gives it away:


Whereas Balzarini dichotomized relationship style to be either polyamorous or monogamous, more and more research is viewing polyamory to be on a spectrum with varying degrees. ... In September, Dr. Anne-Laure Le Cunff, a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, posted a working paper that surveyed 509 individuals who self-identified as polyamorous, monogamous, or ambiamorous (people happy to be in either a monogamous or polyamorous relationship.) “The most surprising finding was that women are overall more comfortable with the idea of non-monogamy than men,” said Le Cunff. “From a cultural standpoint, I did not expect those results.”

...“Poly [and] monogamy existing on a spectrum means people can start building more balanced relationships and have healthier conversations,” Le Cunff says. “Seeing polyamory and monogamy as two polar opposites that cannot co-exist has historically made these discussions more difficult than necessary.”


Here's the whole Rolling Stone story, with more interesting tidbits (online November 12, 2018).

Balzarini's full research report is behind an academic paywall, but here's the abstract.

Here's Le Cunff's paper (abstract and link to the full pdf).

--------------------------


P.S.:  It's not just polyamory that Millennials aren't rushing to embrace. The Atlantic's December cover story is Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?  (Cover illustration at right.) "Despite the easing of taboos and the rise of hookup apps, Americans are in the midst of a sex recession," it says, millennials in particular.

BTW, in that article's list of eased taboos we read, "Polyamory is now a household word." Congratulations to all of you over the years who helped to make that happen. Or at least to make it plausible enough for a serious major magazine to say it!

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November 9, 2018

"What is polyamory? This is what it’s really like to have multiple partners"


Two weeks ago I posted about Heath Schechinger, one of the leaders of the new Consensual Non-Monogamy Task Force within the American Psychological Association. They're getting stuff done to advance professional understanding of us and our needs.

Heath writes in response, "People may be interested in knowing that we are organizing over 50 poly researchers and activists from across the United States to accomplish our twelve initiatives.

"I'd also welcome giving folks an opportunity to sign up for our mailing list (which is the best way to stay updated on our progress) and sign our petition to support relationship diversity in mental health, medical health, and the legal professions."

Meanwhile, he's getting quoted quite well in various news media. For instance, in the Australian edition of Vogue:


What is polyamory? This is what it’s really like to have multiple partners

...As relationship norms shift, the acceptance and popularity of polyamory is growing. So what is it really like to have multiple partners?

“People have been non-monogamous, and practising polyamory, for as long as there have been humans,” says Dr Heath Schechinger, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Before you dismiss the notion as promiscuity slapped with a fancy label... consider this: the fourth most popular relationship Google search in 2017 was ‘what is a poly relationship?’ ...

...It isn’t simply an open relationship whereby you live largely monogamously, save for the occasional one night stand after a couple of after-work drinks. ... “Part of it is there is an emphasis on being ethical and consensual, so that there is no hiding and no deception,” says Schechinger, noting that current data, although scarce, does suggest a fairly equal split in men and women who choose a polyamorous lifestyle. “There will be people who say it is just something that guys want, but that doesn’t fall in line with the data.”

Current figures suggest that around four to five per cent of the US population is in a consensual non-monogamous (CNM) relationship (a term that encompasses polyamory as well as swinging and open relationships), and more than one in five people have indicated that at one point they have been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship. “The CNM community is just as big as the LGBT community combined, and in terms of the number of people that have ever practised CNM, it is about as common as the number of people who own a cat,” says Schechinger. ...

...At the heart of this movement is a big heart. It seems that for the poly community, love isn’t a zero-sum game in which loving someone deducts love from another. ...

... “It was hard for me to understand how [partner] could envision a life together without what I saw as recognisable commitment and without monogamy” [says relationship coach Dr Elisabeth Sheff], who, despite eventually breaking up with her partner, began studying polyamory and has since penned three books on the subject, [including] The Polyamorists Next Door. “It turns out that I’m not polyamorous myself. But it can work well for other people. It isn’t for everyone, in fact, I would say that it is only for a minority of people. I would think that other forms of non-monogamy that have less emphasis on interaction and emotional sharing are probably a lot easier to manage.”

---------------------------

“We’re not sure if people experience less jealousy because they are naturally drawn to polyamory, or if polyamory helps reduce jealousy, or if it is a combination of both,” says Schechinger. The takeaway? If you’re the type who has ever skimmed your significant other’s texts, then polyamory probably isn’t your jam. “If you have that high level of jealousy receptors, then perhaps don’t do consensual non-monogamy, because it’s going to hurt you like hell,” echoes Sheff.

For others, however, uncovering polyamory has been more of an ‘a-ha’ moment. Gender diverse Eve De Zilva discovered polyamory after attending sex-positive workshops at university. “I just thought: ‘That is so for me!’ I get to live my life to the fullest and connect with as many people as possible.”

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Those within the community insist on ‘relationship choice’ and say that while monogamy may be the default, there are other options. “For some people, they’ll talk about when they were little kids, never having a single best friend but having different friends that they did different things with,” says Sheff. “Others try and try to be monogamous and just can’t: they can never do it. One of my favourite explanations was from a respondent who said: ‘It was just like trying to wear shoes that were three sizes too small.’”

...Love doesn’t come in a neat, heart-shaped form. “There is no rightness of fit in respecting people’s choice or biological disposition to live their lives in a way that feels congruent to them,” says Schechinger. “I think that we all stand to benefit from knowing there are options and that it doesn’t have to be that one-size-fits-all.”


Read the whole long article (online October 26, 2018; in the November 2018 print issue. Reprinted in Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper).


● Schechinger was interviewed at length by email for Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow's "lifestyle brand" magazine: A Therapist on Polyamory and Consensual Nonmonogamy. This one is a long, rich resource of talking points to keep on hand. A sample:



Q: What are some misconceptions around CNM and polyamory?

A: Because we don’t talk about CNM openly — despite it not being very unusual — there are a lot of myths. ...

Psychologist Dr. Heath Schechinger
Myth 1: CNM relationships don’t last, or are unstable. Research suggests this is not true: CNM relationships have equitable levels of commitment, longevity, satisfaction, passion, greater levels of trust, and lower levels of jealousy compared to monogamous relationships.

Myth 2: Damaged people are attracted to consensual nonmonogamy and/or it causes people psychological harm. Research suggests psychological well-being is independent of relationship structure. That is, there’s a statistically proportionate percentage of monogamous and CNM people with relationship and psychological concerns. CNM doesn’t appear to “draw damaged people” or hurt people any more or less than monogamy does.

Myth 3: Humans are “naturally” monogamous. ...We know that between a quarter and half of adults report being sexually unfaithful to their monogamous partner.

Myth 4: People in CNM relationships are more likely to have or contract STIs. The research we have on this suggests that people in CNM and monogamous relationships don’t really seem to differ when it comes to their likelihood of having had an STI. Many ostensibly monogamous people do not live up to their commitment... and CNM people are more likely to use safer sex practices, such as using condoms with a partner, condoms with their extradyadic partner(s), and they talk more with their partners about the people that they’re sleeping with. They’re also more likely to be tested for STIs and are more likely to discuss their STI-testing history, [all of] which appears to counteract the increased risk of having multiple partners.

Myth 5: Men are driving the interest in CNM, and women are only nonmonogamous when they’re tricked or just trying to please their man. There are a number of scholarly articles (written mostly by women-identified authors) that address how polyamory is grounded in feminism, promotes equity, and empowers women; this is one example. Feminist scholars have also articulated how traditional monogamous structures are more likely uphold a system of gender oppression and how polyamorous women tend to indicate feeling more empowered and have more expanded family, cultural, gender, and sexual roles.

Myth 6: CNM is just an excuse to cheat. ...CNM promotes having honest dialogue about nonmonogamous desires to avoid deception and create space for honesty and authentic relating.

Myth 7: Monogamy protects against jealousy. While monogamy may act as a buffer from certain experiences that provoke jealousy, it may also act as a barrier to addressing any fear or insecurity driving the jealousy. ... What we do know is that jealousy levels tend to be significantly higher in monogamous relationships.

Myth 8: Children are negatively impacted. There does not appear to be evidence to suggest that children of poly parents are faring any better or worse than children of monogamous parents. Given the number of blended families, having more than one parent [of a given gender] seems to be pretty normalized.


And here are headings from another section that's worth saving to give people who might ask,


Q: If you want to explore opening your relationship with your partner, what’s the best way to communicate it or broach the subject?

A: I’m not convinced there’s one best way. Some people test the water by asking about related topics to see how their partner responds, while others approach it directly. There are a few principles, however, that come to mind.

1. Fully acknowledge the legitimacy of their feelings. ...Avoiding, minimizing, or rushing through this part of the process will not serve you or your partner....

2. Your partner may conflate their desire for connection with judgment. ...

3. Be patient and supportive. ...

4. Do your homework. ... Once you engage the topic, be prepared to provide reassurance and have resources available to address your partner’s concerns. Again, reading a book or exploring online resources together may be helpful.

5. Find support. You can’t do this alone. Both of you need a supportive community. ...


● The UC Berkeley alumni magazine California profiled Shechinger earlier this year: Popular Polyamory: A Berkeley Psychologist Seeks to Bring the Non-Monogamous Into the Fold (February 28, 2018). This too is a good read.

● A HuffPost story by a therapist who attended one of his trainings: Consensual Non-Monogamy Or Simply Put, Cheating, oh jeez. The article is good, it just had a stupid headline writer (Aug. 6, 2018).


...Recently I attended his webinar on clinical management of Polyamory. Yes, we therapists need training in and containing of our own possible discriminations and stigmas. And since CNM is the new kid on the therapy block, new learning is necessary for every therapist. ...


● He's quoted in a long article in the online dads' magazine Fatherly: Could Open Marriages Save Monogamy? (Sept. 2, 2018). "A group of cutting edge researchers, advocates, and writers believes that consensual non-monogamy should be a more considered option for couples."

● And here, in an advice column of Aplus, an online women's magazine: 'I Love My Husband, But Still Think About Opening Up Our Marriage'. The asker wants to explore a threesome. (Oct. 5, 2018)


...The next step is having a conversation about your boundaries, according to Dr. Heath Schechinger, a licensed counseling psychologist specializing in consensual non-monogamy. "Be honest and specific about what you do and don't want at this time," he explains. "These boundaries can be revisited later on.

..."Have a conversation about desires and boundaries with everyone involved before you engage. Each person in [a] threesome should negotiate their own needs and desires independently, as opposed to having one person in the couple speak for the couple as a unit." This is a key step in the sexual exploration process because it establishes the lines that can't be crossed, but it doesn't have to be clinical. Instead, try to view this conversation as a kind of socially-conscious dirty talk because "the more clarity, the more room for pleasure," according to Schechinger. ... Enthusiastic and ongoing consent is necessary for everyone to have a good time. ...

After you all agree on your individual limits, Schechinger advises against re-negotiating boundaries in the heat of the moment. "It can be tempting to request or permit extended boundaries during sex, but it's risky," he explains. "Consent is ideally requested/given when in a grounded state of mind. Trust that there will be other opportunities to experiment with expanded boundaries."

To make sure all participants are getting what they want out of the threesome, check in with each other regularly. Schechinger recommends doing this by making intentional eye contact, smiling, or asking "Is this feeling OK?" A good rule of thumb is to apply the ways you and your husband already check in with each other during a one-on-one sexual encounter to your interaction with this new person. ...


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November 1, 2018

"Not the Father: When Community Elders Erase Race from Polyamory"


Last week I posted about an interview with Oberon Zell-Ravenheart on his life in the polyamory movement, his role in the word's origin and its initial spread in the hippie and Neo-Pagan worlds, and his hurt reaction to an unexpected dust-up with New York polyfolks. The interview was by Leon Feingold, who Oberon perhaps did not know is on poor terms with New York poly leaders. It reopened wounds that had seemed to be resolved.

What happened?

Apparently Oberon, who's in his late 70s and on a walkabout around the Americas, was invited to a large, private poly party in New York while passing through. A friend of his argued online that he (the friend) should be allowed to publicize the party because "the Father of Polyamory" would be there. Oberon has not called himself that and insists he never would. But others in the thread apparently thought it was Oberon's own boast and called him out for gross world-cultural ignorance and white blindness; multi-partnering with the knowledge and consent of all has an ancient history in cultures around the world. Oberon defended himself but, IMO, became blunderingly reactive and exposed blindnesses like those being denounced; others then called him on that, and down it went.

Eventually the argument got resolved on the thread. But a couple weeks later Feingold published his interview with Oberon, and the wounds were reopened. I, unfortunately, worsened things by naively directing attention to the interview.

Kevin Patterson has just published an essay on Medium about the larger problems of cultural obtuseness that were at the root of the blowup. He calls me out too, and fact is, I do need to improve my perceptions about these things. I damn well don't want to be the clueless ally who messes up. Kevin's essay is guest-hosted by Eve Rickert in her column on Medium.


Not the Father: When Community Elders Erase Race from Polyamory

(Daytime TV host Maury Povich)
This is a guest post by Kevin Patterson, curator of Poly Role Models, author of Love’s Not Color Blind and co-author of For Hire, discussing a recent kerfuffle among polyamorous activists and what it means for the safety of people of colour in our scenes.

Every few years or so, someone tries to steal cornrows. To be clear, what I mean is: every few years, white folks try to colonize the hairstyle known as cornrows. ...Some fair-skinned public figure appears in cornrows, or some stylist claims discovery of an identical hairstyle, and celebrity media applauds them as a tastemaker and a trendsetter. ...

...So when the white celebrity of the day is given credit for popularizing a look that’s long been a standard in Black culture, without facing any of the social stigma involved, there’s a notable reaction. ... One of the most difficult parts of having these conversations is being spoken over and disregarded by folks who don’t understand or won’t accept their privileged place in that conversation.

Recently, some notable names in both local and nationwide polyamory circles had a dustup that turned into exactly this sort of dialogue. ...


Read on (October 29, 2018).

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