Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

April 29, 2020

They're noticing us: "Multi-Partner Sexual-Rights Crusade on the Horizon"

A few weeks back a journalist named John Murawski showed up asking polyamory activists for interviews about their ideas on poly rights and possible legal initiatives. Some, including me, were suspicious. He was working for RealClear Investigations, a branch of the nonprofit RealClear media organization. The respected Media Bias/Fact Check service, aggressively neutral, ranks RealClear Investigations as right of center: "These media sources are slightly to moderately conservative in bias. They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes) to favor conservative causes. These sources are generally trustworthy for information, but may require further investigation."

Murawski's article is out, and it's a good piece of journalism, neither overtly hostile nor supportive but a broad, straightforward overview of our civil-rights situation and what some of us hope to do about it. It's a hefty 3,000 words long.

Interestingly, though, it has been picked up by a number of extreme-right and militant-Christian sites. That's because it shows that there is indeed a movement gathering for polyfolks' civil rights in employment, housing, medical, child custody, and other discrimination cases — and an particular, because RealClear Investigations (as a nonprofit) lets anyone reprint its original content for free.

Note that the headline stinks. Polyamory is a real word and a real thing that doesn't need quotation marks. And the story is not about sexual rights; those have been largely guaranteed since Lawrence v. Texas (2003). It's about employment, housing, and other public-sphere civil rights. A headline writer got nasty.

Also, a key fact that Murawski seemed to miss: The vast majority of what the poly movement is doing is about general public understanding and acceptance, not legalities. If that is achieved, and it's slowly happening, the need for formal legal remedies dwindles.

Since they're giving the article away free, here's the whole text for the record. Settle in for a read. I haven't pasted in the many reference links; for those see the original. The highlighting is mine.

By John Murawski

It was only a few months ago that someone last treated Cassie Johns like a freak.

During a doctor’s office visit in February, she was asked to list her emergency contacts. Johns, a preschool teacher in Seattle, wrote down two people — Chris and Joan — and identified both as her “partners.” They are two of the four romantic interests Johns has been involved with for many years.

“‘Oh, that’s so dirty,’” Johns recalled the receptionist saying. “And the receptionist literally stepped back from me, in a doctor’s office.”

Johns, 58, is a polyamorist. She follows a non-monogamous lifestyle in which multiple partners give each other consent to date and have sex with others. Johns’s longest polyamorous relationship has lasted 36 years, twice as long as her former marriage to a polyamorous man. She talks openly about her partners to her preschool students and others.

But her forthrightness has a price.

“I have lost jobs, I’ve lost an apartment, I’ve lost a car loan,”
because of her lifestyle, Johns said. “I’ve lost friendly relations with neighbors.”

Despite the acceptance of campus hook-up culture and Tinder-arranged trysts, more intentional forms of consensual non-monogamy – which can include polygamy, polyamory, open marriages, group marriages, swinging and “relationship anarchy” – are highly stigmatized. Such behavior is widely considered to be abusive, immoral, or emotionally stunted. People in such relationships not only face rudeness and public shaming, they also lack legal protections against discrimination in employment, housing and child custody disputes.

Polyamorists distinguish their lifestyle from cheating and adultery because, they say, it hinges on the consent of all parties, and can involve unmarried people. Activists say such behavior is more common than many people presume. Some studies suggest that as many as a fifth of Americans have engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point in their lives. The studies show that at any given time, an estimated 4% to 5% of the population is in a consensually non-monogamous relationship.

While the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing are expected to put a temporary damper on polyamory, those numbers could rise if the social disincentives were removed – in part because some adulterers and cheaters could become consensual non-monogamists.

Activists are moving to dismantle the legal and social barriers, and say their goals are beginning to take shape.

They are laying the groundwork to have their cause become the next domino to fall in a long line of civil rights victories secured by trans people, gays, lesbians, women and blacks. Not too long ago, those marginalized groups were also viewed as unnatural, depraved or inferior, until negative judgments became socially unacceptable and often illegal.

The aspirations of non-monogamists don’t sound like such a moonshot in an increasingly tolerant society where a transgender man can menstruate and experience childbirth, and Pete Buttigieg, a gay man married to another man, can make a serious run for U.S. president.

"The parrot symbol of polyamory, or relationships
in which multiple partners give each other
consent to date and have sex with others."
As the topic breaks into the mainstream, some churches are beginning to grapple with the issue, and polyamorous students are forming university clubs and organizing events. Last fall polyamory got attention, some of it sympathetic, when California Rep. Katie Hill, was forced to resign over allegations she was having an affair with a campaign staffer in a “throuple” with her then-husband. A recent TV episode of “House Hunters” featured three adults searching for a home to build their polyamorous nest, and Hollywood celebrities are opening up about their polyamorous lifestyles as well.

“There is plenty of evidence that consensual non-monogamy is an emerging civil rights movement,” said Heath Schechinger, a counseling psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-chair of the Consensual Non-Monogamy Task Force, recently created within the American Psychological Association. “I’ve heard from a number of people advocating for relationship structure diversity over the past 20 years who are elated about this issue finally gaining traction.”

Activists are already working with elected officials in more than a dozen local governments, especially in California, to expand local anti-discrimination ordinances to include a new protected class, “relationship structure,” said Berkeley psychologist and poly activist Dave Doleshal.

Most efforts are at the informal stage but the city of Berkeley did consider a formal proposal to extend protections in housing, employment, business practices, city facilities or education to swingers, polyamorists and other non-monogamists. The proposal stalled last year amid concerns that it would have required employers to provide health insurance to numerous sexual and romantic partners outside of marriage.

Undaunted by that setback, advocates continue to generate a body of ideas and theories that normalize non-monogamy as a form of positive sexuality — and possibly an identity — following a script followed by other marginalized groups. Their efforts have led to reassessments of non-monogamy in the psychological and legal fields, contending the relationships are emotionally healthy and ethical, and thus forging a social movement with a shared identity, shared vocabulary, shared history and a shared desire for full recognition.

And, yes, there is already a polyamory pride flag.

Over the past two decades, nearly 600 academic papers have been written on the subject of non-monogamy, according to one count, including an assessment of the benefits to children in polyamorous families. Such research creates a body of scholarship to counteract ingrained social attitudes that poly advocates call prejudices and misconceptions. At the same time, the field has spawned more than 50 books, mostly written by women, said Kenneth Haslam, 85, a retired anesthesiologist and polyamorist in Durham, N.C., who helped create the polyamory history archive at the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Ind.

Brian Watson, author of “Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became ‘Bad’” (2016), is co-authoring a book on non-monogamy throughout history. He said it will feature 50 to 100 prominent figures, such as Victor Hugo and Virginia Woolf, and is deliberately modeled on earlier works about famous gay people.

Just as women’s rights grew from feminist legal theory and LGBTQ rights from queer theory, non-monogamy is also developing its own historiography, scholarship and theoretical frameworks.

Still, it’s not easy to pinpoint a polyamorist profile. They are less likely to identify as heterosexual or to conform to gender norms, but academic studies and anecdotal evidence don’t tell a single story. While some non-monogamists consider themselves neo-pagans, anarchists or socialists, others are libertarians or outwardly conventional suburbanites. Some studies say the lifestyle attracts more men, others say more women; some say it appeals to affluent whites, others say a polyamorist’s average annual income is under $40,000.

In the legal arena, sympathetic scholars are arguing for the extension of legal reforms adopted in family law in recent decades in response to the continued erosion of the nuclear family, which is no longer America’s dominant family structure.

At least a dozen states now recognize or allow for the possibility of a child having more than two parents,
an accommodation for surrogate parents, grandparents, stepparents and other nontraditional families, according to a February legal article by Edward Stein, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York.

These expansions of the legal concept of family are potential pathways for non-monogamous families to win legal rights of their own, Stein said. Another potential legal opening could be the existing precedents in domestic partnerships and civil unions that were set up locally for gays and lesbians before same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in 2015. In both cases, legal victories for one group could be extended to another group, a common way that legal developments happen, he said.

The first steps would likely have to be decriminalizing of adultery in the 38 states that don’t distinguish between consensual and non-consensual non-monogamy. The prohibition of adultery is comparable to anti-sodomy laws whose repeal by the Supreme Court in 2003 cleared an obstacle for recognizing gay marriage, Stein said.

“I think what we will see is a lot of chipping away at the edges of some of the restrictions we put on what a family is and what a family does,” said Janet W. Hardy, who has written on polyamory for more than 20 years. “When the legal challenge comes – and it will – I don’t think it will be from people who identify themselves as poly. I think it will come from blended families and some of the other ways that we are reforming around the idea of family that are legally challenging.”

One such example was a recent effort by Hartford, Conn., authorities to evict eight adults and three children living as a single family in a 6,000-square-foot mansion.

The combined family was not polyamorous, said their lawyer, Peter Goselin, but shared financial, domestic and child-rearing responsibilities. In 2014 the city alleged a violation of its zoning rules for single-family homes, but after two years of litigation, the city dropped its case.

The joint owners and residents of the home claimed a constitutional right to define a family. The octet’s lawsuit against the city includes a brief history of communal family living, from Iroquois longhouses, which housed up to 20 family units, to the communes, cooperatives and collective households of the 19th and 20th centuries.

“They saw the implications of it,” Goselin said. “Privately they said to me we know this would be encouraging to a lot of people who are in polyamorous relationships.”

Advocates say that the warnings against the perils of non-monogamy echo the now-debunked concerns about same-sex marriage.

“All of the well-known objections made against multi-person intimate relationships can be made against same- or opposite-sex monogamy as well, resulting in an indefensible double standard,” Ronald C. Den Otter, a political science professor at California Polytechnic Institute wrote in a 2015 article in the Emory Law Review. “Sadly, many two-person intimate relationships are dysfunctional, and a closer, more brutally honest look at them should not inspire confidence in their superiority.”

Once changes get under way, things can move quickly. The rise of the modern gay rights movement in the mid-20th century led to a decision by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (gender dysphoria was de-pathologized in 2012). Those medical reversals are seen as analogous to the American Psychological Association’s creation last year of its Consensual Non-Monogamy Task Force, formed to destigmatize such relationships and explore changes in public policy.

Schechinger, the task force co-chair, said it’s much easier to stereotype and hate a marginalized group when people in the normative majority operate by stereotypes and misinformation.

“That’s part of what the task force is seeking to accomplish – to gather empirical data, promote accurate information about CNM relationships, and ask if these relationships are causing harm or are not,” he said. “And what are the implications on society for promoting a one-size-fits-all model versus promoting people being in touch with what’s the good fit for them.”

As with the debates over human nature during the gay rights struggle, non-monogamy advocates are also raising the possibility that desiring multiple sexual partners is less a lifestyle choice and more of a sexual orientation. But there can be little doubt that non-monogamy, the norm in the animal kingdom, is natural, and that monogamy is a cultural ideal that developed in humans.

But the yen for sexual variety and adventure competes with an equally insistent bugbear: jealousy. And some believe that “green-eyed monster of jealousy” is the more powerful force, making it unlikely that most people could tolerate consensual non-monogamy for their partners and accept it is a social norm.

“In the long run there’s going to be some resistance because it’s threatening to everybody else, because they recognize the desire for multiple partners is something they have, too,” said David Barash, a zoologist and a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, and author of “The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People” (2001). “They recognize it touches something within themselves that they’d rather keep hidden. And something in their partner that they don’t want to acknowledge, either.”

Kay Hymowitz, a scholar at the conservative Manhattan Institute, is also skeptical. Her concern is the unintended harmful consequences of disrupting long-established social norms developed to ensure that men commit to rearing their own children, and that powerful, wealthy men don’t hoard women and create a deficit of available options for other males. “Normalizing consensual non-monogamy will become yet another way to ‘privilege’ male desire,” she said. “I know, I know: There are women who believe strongly in consensual non-monogamy [and who] may truly be happier in those relationships than they would be in vanilla relationships. Good for them. But they are a small minority.”

Hymowitz said that the individual rights of polyamorists, swingers and commune members have to be weighed against the greater social interest, and that case has yet to be made.

“You’re creating one more arrangement that will be less stable for children and less permanent,” she said. We have enough problems as it is keeping couples together.”

Nonetheless, longer life expectancies, greater personal freedoms for women, dating apps and the internet are transforming sexual expectations and sexual opportunities, said Elisabeth “Eli” Sheff, CEO of Sheff Consulting in Chattanooga, Tenn., which specializes in sex and gender minorities, and provides expert witness services and relationship coaching. She’s also the author of the 2014 book, “The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families,” based on a longitudinal study of more than 500 polyamorists.

“We don’t live in a monogamous society. We live in a society in which people pretend monogamy is the norm,” said Johns, the Seattle polyamorist who offered the poly mantra that it’s possible to romantically love more than one friend just as it’s possible to love more than one child.

Non-monogamy has a long history, more ancient than King David’s multiple wives and concubines in the Old Testament. Today’s non-monogamists often cite as their inspiration novelist Robert Heinlein’s treatment of the subject in his 1961 sci-fi classic “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Gay men are sometimes hailed as trend setters because they are accustomed to flexible “monogamish” marital arrangements that allow for outside dalliances.

One of the primary texts associated with the contemporary movement is Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton’s 1997 “The Ethical Slut” which lays out the best practices for what advocates hold up as consensual, ethical and responsible non-monogamy.

“I don’t think it has ever had the groundswell that it has now,” said Hardy,
who now is running into polyamorous adults brought up by polyamorous parents. “A lot of us are second-generation now.”

Poly activists point to many parallels between earlier movements that were born underground and operated under the radar: secret clubs, insider argot, referral networks for poly-friendly therapists, doctors and lawyers. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom’s Kink and Poly Aware Professionals referral list includes about 300 lawyers, said Susan Wright, the Baltimore-based organization’s executive director.

The world of polyamory overlaps with the subculture of kink and BDSM, which refers to the erotic practices of bondage, domination, submission and sadomasochism. As a sign of the movement’s maturation, some now embrace the kind of middle-class respectability that made gay marriage palatable to mainstream society.

“We’re a very boring and respectable couple!” polyamorist Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins beamed to The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2017. Jenkins, a University of British Columbia philosophy professor, has a husband and a boyfriend, both of whom teach at UBC. The Chronicle article paints a portrait of the polyamorous triad in domestic hues befitting Norman Rockwell: “On the wall hang sepia-toned photographs of someone’s relatives. On the front porch are a swing and a coffee table with an ashtray on it.”

The civil rights concerns of the non-monogamous and other minorities are dissimilar in some ways. Unlike earlier civil rights movements, non-monogamy has the potential of affecting a majority of the population, since membership in the group is theoretically open to everyone.

“In a way, poly is a deeper threat to the dominant culture than gay culture,”
said Geoffrey Miller, a polyamorist in an open marriage and a psychology professor at the University of New Mexico.

Miller, a member of the APA task force, compares the state of non-monogamy movement to gay rights in 1966, in the calm before the storm of the Stonewall Riots, the 1969 protests that launched the modern gay rights movement. The closeted movement had about 50 organizations in the late 1960s but exploded to 1,000 by the mid-1970s, said John D’Emilio, a retired professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, who taught on the history of sexuality and the LGBTQ movement, and is co-author of “Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America” (1988).

Conservatives had long warned that redefining marriage to allow same-sex unions would throw open the door to allowing any kind of marriage, from polygamy to incest. Those arguments reached a crescendo when gay marriage was winding its way through the legal system, en route to the 2015 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage. In that 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion warning of what was to come.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” Roberts wrote. “Why would there be any less dignity in the bond between three people who, in exercising their autonomy, seek to make the profound choice to marry?”

Princeton professor of jurisprudence Robert George was among those who warned of the slippery slope. In a 2015 article, he predicted that the civil rights challenges were inevitable, but initially judges would “swat away on procedural grounds the first few constitutional challenges to marriage laws.” Gradually the legal objections will give way to the force of logical consistency.

He told RealClearInvestigations in an email that this process is often characterized by indignant dismissal of the logical implications, followed by total capitulation.

“Of course, advocates of revising the law denounced us not only as ‘bigots’ but as ‘scare-mongers,’” George said. “There was, they insisted, no ‘slippery slope’ from same-sex marriage to polyamory. The two concepts had nothing to do with each other.

“I could see that this was nonsense — often disingenuous nonsense,” George said. “So I am not in the least surprised to see what is happening now. We have quickly gone from, ‘It will never happen,’ to ‘You’re a bigot for thinking there is anything wrong with it.’”

The original article (April 22).


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April 24, 2020

Friday Polynews Roundup — Happy-poly media as a two-edged sword, quarantine tales and recommends, a date for 'Trigonometry', and more.

It's Friday Polynews Roundup again — for April 24, 2020. Welcome back.

Is good media treatment of poly a double-edged sword? Public-relations experts say that the way you get the public to grasp a new concept is to tell them, "It's just like this thing you already know, but with one new twist." For instance, gay marriage.

But if the new thing actually requires a deeper paradigm adjustment to get it right, is that just asking for trouble? Might you leave people stranded on the wrong shore? Think of the stereotypical unicorn-hunting couple.

The thoughtful Ready For Polyamory blog comes from Laura Boyle, a relationship/sexuality educator and presenter at polycons. She and her polycule had a mostly positive experience being featured in one of those countless happy-polyfamily profiles that the British tabloids keep cranking out. (For instance. More.) Yes, she writes, media treatments like that help to educate the public about who we are and to destigmatize us — including, I might add, to our relatives, friends, employers, and other people who really matter. But the narrowness of such treatments can make them a double-edged sword. This week she writes about the sword's other sharp edge: Advertising Polyamory (April 20).

I have a deeply complicated relationship with all the press (especially tabloid press) that polyamory has received lately. It’s a necessary and positive step to have Super Wholesome Polyamorous People in articles and on video as Very Happy, with maybe a throwaway line that “jealousy happens but hardly ever anymore and we work through that.” [It's] really important to public perception. [Eventually], one of the crappy attempts at a polyamory show like You Me Her (all offense meant, that show was AWFUL) is going to be a little better, take off, and be our Will and Grace, made of all delightfully presented stereotypes, run for too many seasons, and make moms in the Midwest who think they’ve never met one of us realize it won’t be so bad when they do. Or, when we come out to them, they won’t panic; they’ve “heard of this.”

“Laura,” you might say, “that’s all good news. Why on Earth would you have a problem with that?”

Well, I’m in the awkward position of having done this long enough to know that the formats easiest to understand on TV are the hardest to make work in real life, and I worry about what that does when we don’t meet our stereotypes. ...

[In 10 or 20 years] do we get our mothers going “Ugh, you can’t do monogamy right, you can’t do polyamory right, when are you going to find a nice couple and settle down?” Do the long-chain, wide-network-polycule types get ignored and forgotten, and parallel[-poly] folks get treated like shit, when monogamy+1, and two couples getting together to make a quad, become acceptable? Like out leatherfolk got treated at some city’s pride parades in 2019, because we need to be more family-friendly now? Or is it ok because those [big poly] networks still have chunks where people are small-polycule-family-units in appearance, and my mother can still hope I’ll find a stepdad or two for my kid, and my place as the end of a chain is just a phase? ...Those questions bother me both personally and on a grand scale.

Logically, I 100% understand that change is incremental, and that public perception change is the most so. ... So, when members of my polycule were approached to do a tabloid video a couple years ago, I didn’t say “Oh my gosh, don’t do it!” — I said, “Please include me.” I wanted to show that people can have happy family lives and still have outside partners. It still came out as super wholesome, it still got a bunch of views and media attention, mostly positive, and it seems to have landed as similarly easy to understand, even if there were some problematic editing choices. I think incremental change needs to include those slightly-off-expectation expressions, or there’s going to be a lot of confusion when people try polyamory and realize triads aren’t equilateral every moment of every day and every year; that quads usually aren’t all perfectly bisexual people with perfectly equal feelings for each other.

...A wave of “getting people into the idea” with media that says “Oh, equilateral triads are amazing and how this happens” is going to land a lot of people in bad situations that leave them with a bad taste in their mouths, or in a lot of community rejection, which I think is just as bad as having been ignorant about it. Feel free to disagree, because incremental change among people who still will never try it is important to public perception; but I worry about internal community impact, and that’s potentially ugly as a side effect.

See also her recent take on Maintaining your relationships and your polycule in a pandemic (April 6.)

● Oh yes, we're back to isolation in the pandemic. Lots more of it this week. On NewNowNext, Polyamorous and Quarantined: How Are These Couples [sic] Making It Work? (April 17):

“You’d think there’d be a ton of sex with the three of us living together, but no one is ever in the mood."

By Zachary Zane

Before coronavirus (COVID-19), Simon, 46, had never lived with both his husband Alex, 45 and their shared boyfriend Jack, 38. While they expected new challenges as they transitioned to a quarantined throuple, they weren’t prepared for what actually happened: one partner feeling excluded, even though they now spend every waking moment together. “My biggest fear is that the stress of this all is going to cause further rifts for us because we spend so much time together,” says Simon.

Getty stock photo
...When you’re polyamorous, you don’t just have to navigate the feelings of one partner, you have to consider the needs of multiple. This can prove challenging when you’re self-isolating with one lover and not the other(s). It can be even worse when you’re the one who’s self-isolating alone. Or, like with Simon, the dynamics grow complicated when all parties are suddenly together 24/7, an abrupt change in pre-COVID-19 boundaries. ...

...Simon also made clear that Jack doesn’t speak on his behalf. Jack had mentioned something about the “three of us forever,” which frightened Alex, especially since they’d all been dating only six months before the quarantine. Simon iterated that he... knows their relationship with Jack might not stand the test of time.

...“From the beginning of the pandemic, things got really complicated for me and my other long-term partner,” says Jessica, 29. She’d... decided to self-isolate with the partner she’d been with for three and a half years and not the partner of nine months.

“We had this incredibly sad and difficult day where we went for a walk, not touching and maintaining six-feet distance the whole time. I told him that, because of the quarantine, I was going to be ‘flu-bonded’ to my primary partner.”

...Daniel, 37, is self-isolating in the Caribbean with one of his primary partners, Josh, 28, who he’s been seriously dating for three years. They flew there for a music festival in early March and decided to stay. While isolating abroad, Josh and Daniel grew closer, though Daniel still says his romantic life is in shambles. Two of his partners back in New York City have contracted COVID-19, one of whom is a mother of two children. While he tries his best to check in on all of his partners regularly, he feels helpless; they’re sick with a potentially life-threatening illness, and there’s nothing he can do from hundreds of miles away. ...

● Eli Sheff, on her long-running Psychology Today blog The Polyamorists Next Door: Polyamorous During the Pandemic (April 21). Kinda states the obvious, but....

Rainbow-heart polycule graphic

This is the first in a series about polyamory and COVID-19, and it addresses the advantages and disadvantages of being polyamorous during a pandemic.


...More social support during a difficult time. ... This includes not only intimate partners, but more importantly the larger network of non-sexual polyaffective relationships that make up the web of relationships that Koe Creation named a polycule.

Many of the other benefits depend on residential status....

Living Separately

These poly folks already have the skills in place to stay connected with each other, even when they are physically remote. ...

Living Together

Most obviously, it can be more fun to be on lockdown with a built-in crew for board games, cooking, socializing, and support. Social isolating with more people is less isolating!

...Having more grownups around to help wrangle the kids who are home all day. ...

...Pooling resources... Residential polycules with multiple incomes might have more financial resilience if one partner loses a job. ...


...The polycule... is vulnerable to infection both because of its large size and its permeability. ...

Living Separately

...Seeing the other person on a screen ... can be especially unsatisfying for lovers who really miss each others’ touch.

...Being prohibited from visiting can stir up issues of relationship power and hierarchies....

Living Together

...Being cooped up together can be incredibly painful for people who are having conflict with their partner(s). ... People who are anxious and afraid (and who isn’t right now?) tend to fall back on less healthy behaviors or relationship patterns. ... Worldwide there has been a rise in intimate partner violence....

...Inability to control others visiting each other during the lockdown. The resulting controversy... is so contentious that it [will require] another blog.

● On Mashable, What It's Like To Be Polyamorous During The Coronavirus Quarantine (April 19):

By Anna Iovine

...This is a question posed on the #PolyProblems Tumblr page, one of several in a post titled "Pandemic Poly Problems." ... Can you have phone sex with one partner while another is in the room? What if the partners don't know each other well?

Vicky Leta / Mashable
...There are four types of dynamics going on right now, according to relationship coach Effy Blue: People staying at home with partners but separated from others; people separated from all their partners; those polycules who decided to come together under one roof; and solo polyamorous people living alone.

...Ashley Ray, a comedian in Los Angeles, is solo polyamorous and has been since 2013. "Even, for me, given that background, I've really been struggling," she said. "If you're like me, you're going insane and you're just trying to video chat everyone you can. ... I did have one partner who very much wanted to detail the fun crazy quarantined sex he and his partner are having," she said, "and I was just like, 'Come on, you gotta shut up.'"

...Steve Dean, online dating consultant at Dateworking.com, a dating coaching and consulting business, told Mashable that he's staying at home with one partner and communicating with others virtually. ... In some cases, Dean said, social distancing has brought him closer with other partners, even those who even in normal circumstances live in different countries. "If anything, now that I have fewer things going on, every night I have more time that I can set aside for intentional heart-to-hearts and virtual chats with partners who are abroad."

Polycules living in one home, too, can have their own issues. They may be dealing with dynamics they never had to before and different distributions of labor. ... "There's a lot of work to be done there," said Blue. If relationship issues had previously gone avoided, they're bubbling up to the surface now. "People feel like they have time to talk about things without feeling like it has to be solved then and there," she said, "Because there's a sense that we're all going to be here for awhile." ...

...How it plays out will vary from person to person, but Blue believes that longtime, established polyamorous relationships will fare just fine. She compared them to lava lamps: frequently morphing and changing within an established framework.

Read on; it's much longer.

● A gripping narrative on The Greatist: I’m Polyamorous and I Don’t Live with My Partner — Here’s How We Cope During Quarantine (April 19):

By Gabrielle Smith

It’s the Sunday morning before Mayor de Blasio orders all the restaurants in NYC to close. I wake up and check my phone. I’m groggy from a late night of bartending, and it takes me a few moments to register the text that my boyfriend, A, has sent me. Woke up with a high fever. You should consider canceling your plans and self-isolating.

My heart drops. OK. Breathe, I tell myself to control the sudden spike of anxiety. I inform my roommate of the situation. I cancel my dates for the week. ... A’s messages begin to peter out — and then I start hearing from his wife.

Graphic of texting with isolated poly partners.
Brittany England
Getting texts from her isn’t abnormal. ... We operate in this fluid cell of communication, regular STD testing, and combined Google calendars, all with the idea that our love can be shared with more than one person — and, often, with each other. ... The first time B and I were alone together, she gave me a note of reassurance.

“I really like you for him,” she said. “He always comes back so happy after seeing you.”

B’s texts to me now are composed of status updates.

...I’m only in the next neighborhood. Five stops and 15 minutes of travel could take me there. But I don’t move. ...

● In the alt-weekly Chicago Reader. Polyamory during a pandemic (April 21):

By S. Nicole Lane

...For many folks, their partnerships are evolving day by day as social distancing shifts to the new normal and shelter-in-place circumstances disrupt poly formations. Polycules, constellations, and networks are all navigating the pandemic in various ways, and each has their own unique set of boundaries.

Navigating a partnership shift this invasive (and global) requires incessant communication. Starting a healthy conversation of limitations, needs, wants, and concerns is imperative when several people are involved. ... For some polycules, physical touch and intimacy may have to take a back seat for the foreseeable future. This is, of course, a strain on any relationship. Developing a plan is essential when sketching out what a pandemic polycule will look like. Technology, virtual dates, social media, and video chats are all ways to stay connected and intimate.

...Apps like Hinge have launched [online] "date-from-home" features.... For poly folks looking to seek out new crushes, this is a cute and accessible way to continue dating (and still stay isolated). However, for folks in long-term partnerships, the pandemic has introduced considerable circumstantial changes.

"I haven't seen any of my other partners for like four weeks now. We've been experimenting with remote dating," says Dee*, a Skokie resident.... Dating while isolating consists of calls, voice chats (using a program called Discord), movie nights through Netflix Party, and a few dates through Animal Crossing. Dee is currently living with her spouse, who is immunocompromised, and because Dee is seeing three other partners, she finds that strictly quarantining themselves has been the best decision. Dee and her partners practice kitchen-table polyamory, which is when all people know one another and are friends with one another. Metamours—a term that refers to your partner's partner—are all friends when practicing kitchen-table polyamory (the term is inspired by the idea that everyone in the polycule is seated together at a kitchen table). For Dee, this type of practice has been helpful while quarantined. "It's been nice having my whole polycule as a support network. We've all been able to look out for each other and those of us who are healthier/lower risk can shop for each other."

...A text conversation between two members of a poly couple shows just what kind of anxieties can occur.

Steven* and Sylvia* have been together for three years and are navigating the pandemic one day at a time. Steven has been with his nesting partner for ten years, and Sylvia, being a solo poly, has been dating a new partner for four months. "When the stay-at-home order came in, my nesting partner and I had a brief discussion that we would still see each other's partners as long as everyone was comfortable with it and ensure that we would limit as much as possible interactions outside of our 'pod' and be safe when doing so," says Steven.

Steven, his nesting partner, and their metamours are all able to work from home during isolation, but Sylvia is still working some reduced hours. At first, Steven says he had few concerns about seeing Sylvia because she was taking the proper precautions to protect herself. However, after Sylvia listened to a Dan Savage podcast that discussed the topic of dating during a pandemic, she became increasingly concerned. After hearing Savage's advice for folks not to see their partners if they don't live with them, Sylvia's views on things shifted. ... "The biggest difficulty I have been facing lately is that I am still required to work on-site at my office," she says. "Although we have less than ten people currently working in our office, and we are doing everything in our power to keep our workspace and our protocols as safe and clean as possible, I still feel that I act as the biggest threat to my partners' health as they both work from where they have been sheltering in place for nearly a month.

"After having many lengthy conversations and despite knowing the risk, both of my partners, in addition to my partner's live-in partner, have all been adamant that they would still like to see me," she says.

Having lost 75 percent of her income, her mental health has suffered. "My long-term partner has stepped up immensely and has been there for me when I have needed reassurance and emotional support; both he and his live-in partner have been like family to me through this experience...."

Rae McDaniel, a certified sex therapist and founder of Practical Audacity, says... "Alternative ways of connecting simply may not completely meet your needs. And that's OK." They say there should be an acknowledgment "that we are going through collective withdrawal and grief about not being able to be with everyone that we love.... Being forced to isolate from communities of friends and lovers alike can be extremely difficult when community is a main source of connection, meaning, and a feeling of belonging.

"...Socially distant walks can be a nice way to connect and get some fresh air at the same time. There's also the old-school love letter."...

● A followup to last week's piece about best practices for online sex parties, Eros in Isolation (by Mischa Byruck on Medium): Forbes now has a story on the growth of these all over, happening on various platforms in case Zoom and GetVokl get stuffy about hosting them: Even Sex Parties Have Moved Online As People Turn To Cybersex During Lockdown (April 16). For instance, Forbes mentions events on the poly-oriented dating site Feeld.

● Lastly: We finally have a date when the BBC's poly love series Trigonometry will become watchable in the US: May 27, when the new streaming service HBO Max becomes available to HBO subscribers (no additional charge).

A new review of Trigonometry just appeared in a binge-watch guide in The Guardian, UK edition: 'Trigonometry shows that polyamory is about love': Paapa Essiedu's lockdown TV (April 23)

Actor/director Paapa Essiedu,
"bingeing British"
...An excellent eight-part drama about a couple who both fall in love with their lodger; it is like any other love story, just with an added element that makes it a little bit more extraordinary. The writing is fantastic, it is beautifully shot in an otherworldly style, and the three central performances are wicked — there’s so much chemistry between the three of them. It draws you in as a viewer, and shows you the reality of polyamory in a non-judgmental, unsensational way.

The 'Trigonometry' polyamorous triad
Trigonometry's Ray, Kieran, and Gemma 
I recently directed a play on the same theme called Either and, as part of the research, I got the actors to watch Louis Theroux’s documentary Altered States: Love Without Limits, which makes [polyamory] sound like the most wild, hypersexual outskirts-of-society type existence. It is often seen as something really taboo and extreme; you don’t often see the idea of love being like a central pillar of that world or those relationships. I think that is what Trigonometry does that’s so brilliant: it teases out love as the thing that challenges and pushes and glues together these three characters along this journey.

[It illustrates] just how important and how brilliant British television can be.

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now! See you next Friday, unless something big happens sooner.

Send me good stuff if you see it: alan7388 (at) gmail.com.


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April 17, 2020

Friday Polynews Roundup — When this isolation ends, good long-distance sex, how to open a relationship, and more.

It's Friday Polynews Roundup time again — for April 17, 2020.

Hello, dear ones. Here's hoping you are settling in as well as you can for the long haul.

When can we expect to emerge from this isolation and resume touch, hugs, and intimacy? Not to mention in-person work, paychecks, and normal life?

Here in America society is turning against itself in yet another way: about how soon to relax safety standards. And in today's America, many of the most motivated partisans freely invent and expound "alternative facts" to deny and blow off knowledge of the realities that are becoming clearer. Surprised?

Here is the most succinct, clear statement of what we face that I have seen anywhere, and I've been studying a lot and so has my wife the biologist. It's from Michael Rios of the Center for a New Culture:

The false dichotomy is saving lives vs. saving the economy. The real dichotomy is this:

A: The economy collapsing because people are staying at home


B: The economy collapsing because people are dying in the streets when the hospitals get overwhelmed, which leads to entire sections of society cracking under the stress.

Virtually every [medical historian and] professional epidemiologist agrees on this.

What we are trying to do is flatten the curve until one of three things happens:

1. Accurate testing, for both the virus and for antibodies, free to everyone. This would allow us to segment society into those who are safe to return to work, those with an active infection, and those who still need substantial protection.


2. A treatment and cure that reduces the death rate to near zero.


3. A vaccine that is safe and effective.

Until one of those three happens, any serious reduction in the constrictions we're facing will result in economic and human devastation.

But what about a kinda not too serious reduction of the constrictions? That's where this is hurtling, for better or worse. The only way we can thread this needle with minimum catastrophe is by rigorous scientific determination of the facts, those "stubborn things",1 to steer our future around the worst catastrophes. For instance right now, after more than two months of pathetically slack testing, there's preliminary evidence finally coming in that the virus is more contagious and prevalent, and therefore less often lethal, than we knew before. If so, this will mean a lot for strategies going forward.

Meanwhile these waters are being furiously muddied by reality-hostile conspiricists and amateur Dunning-Krugerists, both from the Trumpy right throughout and behind the power structure and, far less influential but closer to me, the New Agey left. Yes I read you both, and you wouldn't believe how alike you sometimes sound. Just try to grasp the destructiveness of your confirmation biases and motivated reasoning, and until then kindly just STFU if you care about anybody. We've got to science our way through this.


On to polyamory in the news for the week.

● First off: that Polyamory and COVID-19 Town Hall and webinar that I plugged last week? It came off quite successfully last Sunday (April 12) on Zoom, with 14 community panelists and about 125 attendees. Here's the video as promised. The presentations all come first, then audience Q&A and discussion.

● Next: Cosmopolitan presents one couple's better than expected experience with remote swinging. Swinging is definitely a different form of CNM (consensual non-monogamy) but it often shades into poly. There's even a term, "swolly." COVID-19 Cancelled My Swingers' Vacay, So I Got Down at a Digital Orgy Instead (April 13).

The strategy described there is widely applicable.

By Ali Wunderman

When you’re a swinger, even a pandemic can’t stop the party, which is why I recently found myself hunched over my bathroom sink, shaving my legs for the first time in a loooong time.

...We were supposed to be celebrating our 15-year anniversary at Young Swingers Week in Jamaica at the notorious nude resort, Hedonism 2, when the lockdown began. ... In the context of lost loved ones and lost jobs, I know I can’t complain about having to postpone a weeklong beach trip, but... as COVID-19 spread through the U.S., group sex became less of an option by the minute — not just a health risk, but a moral violation.

Fortunately, the swinging community quickly turned to everyone’s new best friend, video chatting, to keep the mood alive.

...New York’s members-only love club NSFW was hosting their first-ever video play party, and we had scored an invite. I found out about the shindig through a friend who was planning to attend, and because it was the club’s first time hosting the party, they waived my one-time $25 fee. Sweet.

Preparing for the lockdown-edition of a sex-positive hangout was surprisingly similar to the real deal.... With everything properly arranged, my hubs and I sat together on the bed in front of my laptop and clicked the provided GetVokl link....

It was a mix of couples and singles, and most of us were in our early to mid-30s. The screen displayed four feeds that participants could dip in and out of, while a group chat allowed everyone in attendance to interact all at once. The organizers kicked off the event with live musicians playing in one of the feeds, and all 67 attendees soon got frisky. Those quarantined together played with each other, while solo-ers made the exhibitionists happy by showing themselves masturbating to all the hot sex going on. Like at in-person parties, it was amazing to be among people who didn't seem to possess a single sexual hang-up.

Introductions gave way to a live demonstration of power exchange and impact play, and the group’s arousal was palpable.... I had to remind myself that just because I was watching people have sex on a screen, I wasn’t watching porn — I was watching real people let loose, and it totally turned me on.

...The digital orgy — dorky as it might sound — gave us far-flung swingers a sense of community, and more importantly, it turned us all the f*ck on. TBH, the experience was, in a word, healing. Spooning in front of the computer screen, watching couples and singles around the world prioritize their pleasure for three hours on a Friday night was *exactly* what we needed. We did ~the deed~ three times during the playdate, and again as soon as we woke up the following day. ...

● Related: Eros in Isolation by Mischa Byruck, on Medium (April 15). "Best practices for online sex parties!" says Sarah Taub. "Fascinating article with implications beyond the sexual realm. Highly recommended."

Update: Rolling Stone suggested that Zoom is, or will be, using automated image recognition to censor nudity and sex parties: Virtual Sex Parties Offer Escape from Isolation — If Organizers Can Find a Home (April 15). Nope, replied PC Magazine the next day, nor does Zoom view content: Relax, Zoom Probably Isn't Going to Crack Down on Your Virtual Sex Parties (April 16). Regardless, dedicated sex-party conferencing apps are reportedly in development.

● On a site suggesting Netflix binges for the confined, here's another in the list of polyamory relationships showing up in TV series. This time it's Carla, Polo, and Christian in "Elite," which is now in Season 3. Here's Why Elite On Netflix Is Worth Watching Right Now (April 15):

By Karelle McKay

Netflix's Elite is a gripping teen drama that revolves around a murder mystery while tackling a range of topics like homophobia, drug use, classism, religion, and sexuality. The drama has captivated audiences across the streaming platform.

...The teen drama follows three working-class students (Samuel, Nadia, and Christian) that receive a scholarship to an elite high school called Las Encinas. Their presence leads to constant conflict with the wealthy students and results in the murder of a fellow student.

...Elite is not afraid to shy away from hard-hitting topics — one being sexuality. The most captivating romance is Ander (played by Arón Piper) and Omar (Omar Ayuso). They come from two different worlds. ...

...Also, the relationship between Christian, Carla, and Polo. The two rich kids, Carla and Polo, try to spice things up in their failing relationship by asking Christian to engage in a threesome, resulting in them becoming involved in a polyamorous relationship.

"Christian and Polo get in an argument. Carla stands in the middle."


● A nod to polyfolks comes in the authoritative MedicalXpress: Isolation could improve how we think about and navigate sex and relationships (April 14). They picked it up from the academic nonprofit outlet The Conversation, which is full of mostly excellent stuff.

By Victoria Brooks

...3. Non-monogamous relationships

Under [today's] unique conditions, we will be pushed to reconsider enduring questions around fidelity and non-monogamous relationships. Consider a situation where a partner within a long-term cohabiting relationship has an additional partner whom they do not live with, perhaps it is through an affair, or perhaps the relationship is polyamorous. ... Isolation and this global crisis will trigger new conversations based on people's lived experiences of the challenges and possibilities of such relationships.

● And a bit of humor from a satire site: Polyamorous Woman Quarantined with Least Favorite Boyfriend (The Hard Times, April 3).

"Maybe if I can get her to smoke a bowl and listen to some Faith No More, she’ll see my intellectual side. ... I bring something to the table. I mean, I actually did fix a wobbly table in her kitchen. You just shove some folded up paper under there and that’s it.”


● PsyPost reports on an interesting new study: What changes when couples open their relationship? Surprisingly little, new research suggests (April 16):

A new study tracked people who planned to open up their romantic relationship to include other partners for two months. The findings, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, indicate that engaging in consensual non-monogamy is associated with some increases in sexual satisfaction — but does not have much of an impact on other aspects of one’s relationship.

...The researchers recruited 233 individuals currently in a monogamous relationship who had expressed a desire to try swinging, an open relationship, or polyamory (but had not done so yet.)

...More than half of the participants, 155 individuals, reported that they had in fact opened their relationship over the two month span. The researchers found that participants who opened their relationships tended to experience positive changes in sexual satisfaction.... When it came to relationship quality and life satisfaction, on the other hand, there was no meaningful difference between those who opened their relationships and those who did not.

“On the one hand, there’s an idea out there that turning your monogamous relationship into a non-monogamous one is an effective way to ruin that relationship. On the other, consensual non-monogamy is sometimes talked about as though it’s an elixir for relationship problems. The biggest takeaway from the current data is that we found no support for either of these ideas. ...

“We did find that people who opened up their relationships were subsequently more sexually satisfied, both compared to before they had opened up, and compared to the portion of our sample who thought about opening up but didn’t. This was particularly true for people who had the goal of addressing sexual incompatibilities within their primary relationship.”

...“We specifically recruited people who were thinking about opening up their relationships, and so our participants were all at least somewhat enthusiastic about CNM by definition. The current results probably wouldn’t generalize to people who hold negative attitudes about CNM. Another major caveat is that we did not collect partner reports, and so we cannot say how our participants’ partners felt about the experience of opening up their relationships,” Joel explained.

The study, “A Prospective Investigation of the Decision to Open Up a Romantic Relationship“, was authored by Annelise Parkes Murphy, Samantha Joel, and Amy Muise.

They call their study "exploratory." I'd like to see followups after much longer than two months (I expect this is the plan), and a much larger number of subjects than 155, interviews with everyone affected, and seriously, for it to divided out by relationship type: casual FWBs for sex and dates, versus full-on romantic poly.

● From Your Tango, 7 Tips For Couples To Have Fun With Ethical Non-Monogamy (April 12):

Dr. Stacy Friedman

...Achieving a successful open relationship requires certain characteristics and skills:

    – A high degree of emotional intelligence and emotional regulation to handle strong feelings that might emerge, such as jealousy and insecurity
    – Self-awareness about your feelings, wants, and needs — in other words, your boundaries
    – Strong ability to clearly, effectively communicate
    – Basic respect for each other
    – Commitment to each other and the relationship
    – Ability to advocate for yourself

Here are 7 tips for having a successful open relationship with your partner.

1. Understand the different forms of open relationships. ... Consensual non-monogamy typically takes one of these general forms:

    – Occasional sexual play with others (sex clubs, "hall pass" sex, or allowances in long-distance relationships)
    – Partner swapping (threesomes, swinging)
    – Emotional commitments with multiple partners (polyamory, long-distance relationships)

2. Understand your reasons for having an open relationship.

...If the reason for opening the relationship is to fix a broken relationship or to keep the other person from leaving, then reconsider. Opening a damaged relationship will not repair what is broken. ... The additional stresses and high-intensity emotions almost certainly will exacerbate the problems.

Sometimes, a couple opens the relationship because one partner pressures the other into going along with the idea. This non-monogamy mismatch almost certainly will result in resentment and unhappiness.

3. Keep open communication.

The absolute most essential requirement.... "We know that communication is helpful to all couples. However, it is critical for couples in non-monogamous relationships as they navigate the extra challenges of maintaining a non-traditional relationship in a monogamy-dominated culture."

4. Establish boundaries. ...

5. Be explicit about these boundaries. ...

6. Respect your partner's limits. ...

7. Seek neutral advice. ...

The whole piece is very couple-centric, as you might expect of an article that's about opening a marriage as opposed to polyamory. And — warning — it confuses boundaries with rules. That'll cause you real troubles. Once again: Rules are requirements you place on another. Boundaries are protections you set around yourself. Those are not the same, in fact they're rather opposite.

● Also from Your Tango: another for the bulging storehouse (just a few examples) of articles themed "How poly values can help mono couples": Why 'Agreements' In A Monogamous Relationship Make Couples Honest About What They Want (April 12). Reprinted from Ravishy (April 1).

By Myisha Battle

There is a growing conversation about open and polyamorous relationships happening right now. More and more people are exploring what it’s like to allow themselves to become romantically and/or sexually involved with multiple partners.

...A relationship agreement is a framework that helps set the parameters for openness to other relationships or experiences. It consists of items that two people agree to respect during the course of their relationship.

If creating this framework helps establish a clear code of conduct for non-monogamous relationships, using relationship agreements in monogamous relationships could cut down on the emotional turmoil....

1. Relationship agreements set the tone for the relationship. ...

2. Transparency can deepen an emotional bond. ...

3. There might be some trial and error. ...

...I think this approach could be incredibly useful for monogamous couples that want to deepen their understanding of each other's sexual and emotional needs.

...The first step (which might also be the hardest) is communication. ... Brainstorming a list of things that will create a safe experience of fidelity within the relationship could help to avoid those “oh sh*t” moments as well as deepen your bond as a couple.

● Uh-oh, this is an ugly one: poly household member in the news for breaking baby's bones. One of the polyfamilies spotlighted in the British tabloids in recent months was a young woman with four guys in Jacksonville, Florida. Now one of the men, Ethan Baucom, 22, has been charged with aggravated child abuse, police said. From the Florida Times-Union (March 25):

A 22-year-old Westside Jacksonville man told an officer he “needed to tell the truth” on March 17, according to his arrest report.

While much of the report about Ethan Bishop Baucom’s charge of aggravated child abuse has been redacted, one line is not.

“He stated he believed he heard a ‘pop’ during the occurrence,” the officer wrote in the report.

The 5-week-old girl’s grandmother gave more details in an email to The Times-Union, saying the baby suffered a broken leg, arm, ribs and skull fractures.

“I am so distraught that words cannot describe,” the grandmother said. “Oh the horror of all this! I’m so overwhelmed with pain, heartache and sorrow over this.”

She said the baby is expected to recover without any permanent damage.

Baucom remains behind bars on $250,000 bail, according to jail records.

...On March 17 the baby’s mother called the Florida Department of Children and Families, saying she believed Baucom had possibly injured the child while he was baby-sitting March 12, the report said. She said Baucom told her he had squeezed the child.

Baucom told the responding detective that he was getting frustrated due to his inability to get any sleep while baby-sitting. At some point something happened that was blacked out in the report, and that’s when he said he heard the pop. The baby briefly ceased crying, then cried harder, he said.

The right wing has grabbed onto this, for instance in The Federalist: Why Child Abuse Is More Likely In Polyamorous Homes Like The Woman With Four Boyfriends (April 15)

You don’t have to care about Tory’s consensual adult relationships, but everyone should care about “unconventional” families that statistically put children in risky households. Polyamorous homes by their very nature always fall into that category.

The mountain of data on family structure reveals children fare best in the home of their married mother and father. For overall child well-being, any two (or five) will not do.

Of course, we all know heroic stepparents, but statistically, non-biologically related adults are one of the greatest predictors of child maltreatment. This ugly aspect of human nature is the very reason adoptive parents are required to undergo extensive screening, vetting, and training prior to having a child placed in their home.

...“Progressive” notions of family cannot escape the cold, hard social science that the most dangerous person in a child’s life is an unrelated cohabiting male, especially one left to care for the baby alone.

Statistically, that last is true. All the poly parents I know are very cautious about allowing anyone new to even meet young kids until the parent(s) know them very well and maybe do some background checks. This is why. Consider it a warning.

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. See you next Friday, unless something comes up sooner.


1. "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
      –John Adams, in his defense summation at the Boston Massacre trial, 1770.


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April 10, 2020

Friday Polynews Roundup — The polyam world responds to the pandemic. Corona cuddling, boundary and distance setting, more.

It's Friday Polynews Roundup again — for April 10, 2020.

Polyam disputes over quarantining and infection control appear to be growing, judging from stuff all over. And a big online discussion about this is scheduled for Sunday afternoon (April 12).

Folks, this is a time when the polyamory movement must visibly stand up for its good values. The same way it has for many years regarding STI control: Advocating, and doing, diligent risk-avoidance based on scientific medical information. With explicit communication, and the disclosure that consent requires, around your own acceptable risk levels and risk-avoiding practices. Sharing your testing and STI history if any. And setting your own personal boundaries that others may not cross. In the covid-19 situation the demands and sacrifices we're making are much greater, the stakes are much higher, but the good news is we can look forward to a time when this will all be over.

The Polyamory Leadership Network, 11 years old last month, has been modeling good standards in the coronavirus time and is about to go more public about this. The PLN consists of about 220 organizers, activists, podcasters, authors, media spokespeople, therapists, legal professionals and others (not all currently active). Membership is by an application that includes essay questions; the existing members see the application and can accept or reject. The PLN's definition of "leadership" has always been deliberately anarchic: "People who do cool things without waiting for permission." But we expect high standards of anyone who wants to wear a poly "leadership" label, and we have expelled a few who fell short.

Now it's time to show what we've got.

In that regard Chrissy Holman, who's in the thick of the crisis in New York City, and other PLN activists are holding an online Polyamory and COVID-19 Town Hall, open to the wider community, this Sunday April 12 from 1:00 to 3:30 Eastern time. It will start with many brief presentations on various relevant topics (I'll be on for a few minutes about the media environment for us at this time), followed by Q&A discussion.

UPDATE: Register to join here. Or stream it on Facebook here, but you won't be able to participate in the Q&A.

Chrissy writes,

The info session and town hall are part of a bigger strategy. [I] and Brian M. Watson will be coauthoring a pledge note to the PLN that affirms distancing and a united media front.

[I and] other academics are coauthoring a bigger article modeling ideal COVID behavior in the polyamory community that will be shopped to major media. We'll need community leaders and organizers on deck to establish and support community norms that will keep our community safer while affirming our shared values of consent, autonomy, and efficient communication. Stay tuned for a link to that discussion.


Sometimes, like people in the rest of the world, polyfolks are displaying poor standards of social distancing and infection control in these critical weeks/months.

● Dan Savage and Tristan Taormino (she was a founding PLN member) tear into such people in Savage's column being printed in alternative papers this week, as I reported here last Friday.

● Another columnist who's fielding such questions is relationship therapist and sex educator Yana Tallon-Hicks. She writes poly-friendly advice for the half-century-old alternative paper the Valley Advocate of western Massachusetts. Her latest is about setting rules and boundaries around poor distancing behavior by one's partners or metamours: Polyamorous During a Pandemic (April 1)

Hi Yana,

I’m writing to see if you have any advice for the polyamorous community during the COVID-19 outbreak. ... My partner made plans with their other partner to meet up and hang out. My partner explained that they both feel it is unfair and unreasonable not to be able to be physically intimate because neither of them have symptoms. I’ve asked my partner to talk to their other partner about his contact with other people and whether or not he has been staying home and/or keeping physical distance from others.

However, that information doesn’t seem to give me peace of mind when I know that the two of them will be physically close and intimate. It feels like that negates the efforts we’re putting towards “flattening the curve” by self-isolating, not to mention I don’t have health insurance and have a newly restored fear of getting ill....

Admittedly... I’m having a hard time distinguishing the “real” threat of the pandemic (which I know you cannot assess!) [from] my desire to be affirmed and acknowledged through my partner’s choices.

Any advice you have on balancing what seems to a public health threat and a threat to self (insecurities) would be greatly appreciated.

— Socially Distant

Between [my] clients and friends, the topic of the unique COVID-19 snafus for folks with multiple partners has been a common one. Where’s the non-monogamy manual about how to manage feelings, logistics, and safer sex when a global pandemic may force you to choose who you self-quarantine with, separates partners indefinitely due to travel restrictions and shelter-in-place orders, or otherwise makes it less than possible to maintain the same equilibrium between partners that you once did?

From where I’m sitting... not having symptoms of COVID-19 is a non-reliable bar to set, as asymptomatic folks (especially those under 50) have been pinpointed as a big part of the transmission issue.

Sex-positive communities, especially those that overlap with non-monogamy and kink, are often (when doing things right) near-experts at practicing informed consent and allowing individuals to make their own risk-aware decisions about their sex and dating lives. But COVID-19 really throws a wrench in these works because the essential informed part of “informed consent” is rapidly changing with this [new] virus. ... We can’t really safely say “I’m not coughing with a fever so if we make out, I’m not likely to pass the virus to you.” We just don’t know.

Sure, it’s great emotional practice to wonder if your anxiety about the pandemic is snowballing with your anxiety about personal insecurity and to practice ways to address the insecurities. For example, is the line between “hanging out” and “hooking up” sort of arbitrary if the 6-foot social distancing rule isn’t followed?

However, it’s well within your relationship rights to set boundaries for yourself, especially around this very serious health concern. This boundary might look like, “If you choose to go to your other partner’s place, I’d like you to stay there for two weeks to self-isolate.” Or, maybe this looks like maintaining some amount of social distancing between the two of you once your partner returns home from their hangout.

Self-isolation and polyamory in the face of the coronavirus, in the Daily Hive for Calgary, Alberta (April 6)

By Guest Author

I moved in with my boyfriend and his wife this week to isolate with them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let me back up and explain that: I am polyamorous.

I have a consistent partner, my boyfriend Dylan. We’ve been dating for almost a year. Dylan has been married to Maddy for 11 years, and has another girlfriend, Jess, who he’s been seeing for over two.

Maddy has a partner named Aaron that she’s been seeing for over two years, and Aaron has a long-term partner he lives with named Tanya — we all get along pretty well. We’re a big, odd, amazing family that we all continually choose to be a part of.

“It’s complicated” doesn’t begin to explain the wide web of partners, cohorts, and beloved friends that I have in my life. We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all of our birthdays together. Our lifestyle is a little misunderstood, plagued by bad publicity and some predatory people using the word “polyamorous” to justify abuse.

But I’ve never felt anything but loved in this group. Dylan and Maddy take extra care to make me an equal partner. They (and their other partners) added me into discussions about buying a house together, they support my writing and schoolwork, and they’re a big part of my mental health support system.

So when the coronavirus pandemic started to affect Alberta and isolation measures were announced, we knew we had to have a big discussion. We arrived at a system of co-isolation that involved me moving into Maddy and Dylan’s studio apartment with them for the foreseeable future.

Here’s why: We needed to protect one of our own.

Maddy is in the high risk category. She’s on blood thinners and has a few conditions that mean she would be extremely vulnerable if she contracted the novel coronavirus. Dylan, Aaron, Tanya, Jess, and I were all walking infection risks.

If we followed the rules exactly, I wouldn’t be able to see Dylan, Dylan wouldn’t be able to see Jess, and Maddy wouldn’t be able to see Aaron. This was a problem because we all rely on each other for support and affection. That’s why we’re poly; we love our partners and want to support them to the fullest extent. All of them. Full stop.

I was a higher infection risk than the others. Before the pandemic, I lived with an ER nurse. That meant it felt like only a matter of time before [they] got infected, exposing me to the virus. If that had happened, there was no guarantee that I would be able to see Dylan, Maddy, or the rest of the group before a vaccine was developed [and became widely available; likely 2021 or later].

We undertook some rigorous sanitizing procedures in the meantime: Everything coming into Maddy and Dylan’s apartment was sanitized, hands washed, and every person had a shower and a clean set of clothes to change into. But the risk was still there.

Then we saw Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s update on March 25. Dr. Hinshaw laid out a possible plan for two cohort families to co-isolate. This would allow kids to play together, and parents to connect and support each other.

Why wouldn’t it work for us? ... Despite Maddy being high-risk, we felt that co-isolating with Aaron and Tanya, with appropriate sanitizing procedures, would be the best possible scenario in a very scary time.

So I packed a suitcase and supplies, said goodbye to my roommate, and took over a corner of Dylan and Maddy’s living room. ...

Like any relationship, we put in the time and effort to communicate, compromise, and support each other. We just have a lot more people to do all that with.

This kind of thing (co-isolation or polyamory) doesn’t work for everyone. It can be hard, complicated, and messy.

But sometimes it works, and if you can bunk down with the people you love in a time of isolation and panic, you may be all the healthier because of it.

● Last week I posted about other stories of polyfolks dealing with the pandemic. One of those was a Vice article, How People in Polyamorous Relationships Are Navigating Lockdown (April 1). Now its author, Daisy Jones, is seeking to collect many more stories for a larger documentary film, Love in the Time of Quarantine (Facebook page). Regardless of whether you're poly, mono, LGBT, straight, or anything else, this is from her pitch:

From the mundane to the spiritual, this film will capture love stories all around the globe as we find ourselves in this period of self-isolation.

This film is shot by YOU at HOME! (with our amazing virtual guidance of course!)

Want to be part of the film? Get in touch: quarantinelovestories@gmail.com

"Corona cuddling." Michael Rios, of the Center for a New Culture, often gives lectures on bringing "safer sex" up to a standard of "safe sex," defined as matching what people call "safe driving." If your chance of being injured or killed by getting an STI on a date is less than your chance of being injured or killed in your car driving to the date, you can call it "safe sex" if you're okay with the term "safe driving."

In both cases, it's done by combining several things, such as wearing your seat belt and not getting behind the wheel tipsy and not texting and watching out for possible crazies on the road and not speeding and not running stop signs. Similarly, a high level of safe sex can be achieved by combining several smart things — condoms and other fluid barriers, asking new partners for recent test results, washing before and after, avoiding people who show signs of being reckless, knowing early symptoms and being ready to see a doctor early, etc. — even though your sex-negative high school warned you away from relying on any of those things because any one of them, by itself, is not 99.9% perfect.

By that logic, your school would have also told you not to wear a seat belt because it provides only about 50% protection against death or major injury, not to bother about driving sober because a crazy could always T-bone you at an intersection regardless.... So why do schools urge "safe" driving? Because sex negativity is a thing, and driving negativity is not.

Anywayyyy, Michael's interesting mind led him to send me this letter and ask my opinion. Sarah has a deep need for touch. Posted with the permission of everyone named:

Sarah and I were in different locations when lockdowns started happening. I still have to make long shopping trips to replenish food for the [New Culture] community in West Virginia and to stock our General Store there, so I wind up overnighting in Arlington [Virginia] sometimes, where she is staying. Our visits are designed with Covid-19 in mind: Jonica and I have a separate room in Arlington, we have our desk area that no one else goes into, and we have a separate refrigerator in the garage where no one else goes. Before [Jonica and I] head to Arlington, we prepare our food in WV so we don’t use the Arlington kitchen.

Sarah has no one in quarantine with her to touch. We came up with Corona cuddling; see the attached photo.

Footsie touch at the Chrysalis household, Arlington, Virginia.

We are both masked, and our heads are about 8 feet apart. Only feet and shins; barefoot if desired.

Is this a good option? Sarah says it is surprisingly satisfying after having no touch for more than a week. It meant a lot to me as well.

I wrote back,

First, may I say that this picture with your explanation is the most endearing, and tragic, and triumphant, and memorable thing that I have seen in days?

[Edited.] That said, "co-quarantining" — two separate households seeing only each other — is not a good idea, say epidemiologists including a poly epidemiologist. The chance of unknown or unmentioned breakdowns of quarantine in one of the households is pretty large. The situation of what we know is changing, but as of now, catching the virus by merely breathing the same air as an infected person (via "aerosolized" particles, so tiny that they go through masks and stay in the air a long time) seems to happen but only rarely (April 3). According to that second reference, the great majority of known Covid-19 cases seem to be spread through the usual routes: by being near an infected person who coughs, sneezes or otherwise sprays droplets; or by touching a surface that an infected person touched or coughed or sneezed near in the last few days and then touching your face before you wash your hands.

Of course evidence could change. I'm guessing that if you're breathing the same house air already, foot cuddling with your heads 8 feet apart wouldn't add to the risk, though doing it outdoors on blankets might be better.


Meanwhile, at last, some non-pandemic poly-in-the-news this week:

● At Ottawa's Algonquin University, the Algonquin Times tells of discovering self-acceptance and the power of polyamory by way of a long-distance friendship and rugby: For some, polyamory can bring feelings of belonging and comfort (April 9):

Daniel Harris and Brendan Irwin

By Julien St.-Jean

...“I don’t believe in a way of living for everyone,” said Daniel Harris, 36, who has considered himself polyamorous for 12 years now. “You have to find what makes you want to be better, be more caring and be stronger. And for me, that’s polyamory.”

Harris is a life coach with LiveWorkPlay, a powerlifter who is a regular at Algonquin’s Fitness Zone, an aspiring writer, a rugby player with the Ottawa Wolves and is in three separate relationships.

...For Harris’ polycule, having multiple partners means that they have more people to love and support while being loved and supported more in turn.

“It almost feels kind of like a second family in that regard,” said Brendan Irwin, 34, one of Harris’ three partners. “It’s like a chosen family aspect. It gives you this sense of belonging and comfort.”

Harris speaks proudly and lovingly about his multiple partners, but he was not always this open about who he was. ...

● Lola Phoenix in London published an unusually long and detailed Poly 101 on Medium. It's full of blunt honesty: Thirteen Mistakes People Make When Trying Polyamory (March 27). This one should go into the toolkits that people compile for poly newbies, especially for mainstreamers steeped in unconscious dominant-paradigm assumptions that they haven't yet grasped that they need to examine and dump if they want to live successfully outside the dominant paradigm. The article gets this point across subtly, in ways that won't scare or alienate such people.

It's very long, almost 13,000 words. Here are the 13 mistakes.

So, you’ve decided to give polyamory or some form of non-monogamy a shot but you’re not quite sure where to start or you might even be wondering if you’re polyamorous or not. Maybe you have read a few things here and there or nothing at all. Or maybe you have started already, and you’ve done one of the things listed below.

Either way, welcome. I’ve been writing a polyamory advice column for about three years now and responding in various polyamory communities — and I see a lot of similar questions. So, I’ve tried to summarise some of the basic mistakes or pitfalls in polyamory that many people make when they’re getting started.

1. Making rules to stop emotions.  ...Many people will begin with one rule that’s simple: “I won’t fall in love with anyone but you” or “Other relationships will only be about sex but ours will be about love.”...

2. Choosing the wrong anchor. ...Your anchor is what you’re going to hold onto when the waters of non-monogamy get extra rough. Your anchor is what polyamory brings to your life. ...

3. Not expecting to be afraid.

4. Assuming all polyam people are compatible.

5. Assuming unhappiness is a failure.

6. Thinking a triad is safer.

7. Giving your partner "permission."

8. Forcing yourself to mingle with metamours.

9. Trying to be an emotional gladiator.

10. Making it a competition.

11. Closing or vetoing a relationship.

12. Ignoring inherent power imbalances.

13. Punishing yourself for feeling.

Go settle in for a long, honest read.

● Lastly, here's the UK-tabloid polyfamily profile of the week: Couple reveal how they formed a throuple with another woman after she sent them an Instagram message asking if they wanted a relationship - and says they're proof 'love has no limits' (Daily Mail online, April 9). They're an adorable-seeming unit in Scottsdale, Arizona. With pix, pix, pix.

Polyfamily Dave, Karla, Rebecca
From left: Dave, Karla, Rebecca

...Rebecca Grossman, 31, and Dave Gilbert, 37, who met through work 12 years ago, had been together for a decade when Karla Moreno, 29, sent them an Instagram message, asking if they would be interested in a relationship with her.

After a three-day date in March 2019, the trio became inseparable, and just eight weeks later, Karla packed up her life and moved an hour down the road to Dave and Rebecca's home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Now, the trio are hoping to make their union official and start a family.

Rebecca, who identifies as bisexual, said: 'From that first date, all three of us were inseparable. We had this amazing connection.

Dave recalled: 'I was never seeking polyamory or a throuple relationship, and had always identified as monogamous.

'Rebecca introduced me to the concept, and once I'd opened up to the idea, I realized all the ways in which it added to my life rather than taking away.

...Meanwhile, retail assistant Karla, who is also bisexual, was having a similar problem. Having struggled to live monogamously, she had been in relationships with a few couples, but could not seem to strike the right dynamic.

...Having an extra person in the relationship also brings a diverse range of interests to the table, according to the throuple.

For example, Karla is a sports fanatic, so will talk to Dave about that for hours, whilst he bonds with Rebecca more over their mutual love of fashion.

All three share a king size bed every night, and do not have any rules when it comes to their sex life.

...The trio are hoping to get married this year. Aware that they will be unable to have a legal ceremony in the United States, they are currently researching to see if it is a possibility elsewhere in the world. ... If not, they will mark the marriage with a ceremony for all three of them in front of friends and family. They have not decided whether they will all have the same surname or use a hyphenated name.

...Rebecca, Karla and Dave have the support of their loved ones when it comes to their unconventional relationship. Though they were initially shocked, once they realized the strength of the bond between the trio, they were delighted.

Now, Dave's mother even has a WhatsApp group chat with Rebecca and Karla. The triad share their adventures on Instagram on @morethan2love. ...

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. See you next Friday, unless something big pops up sooner. Don't forget Sunday's poly town hall webinar.


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