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.
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)
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
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: email@example.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.
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.
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.
...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.