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.