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



August 7, 2020

Friday Polyamory News Roundup: Great NY Times feature on poly parenting. Pandemic hell choices. RA for 2020. And Covid knuckleheads turn real-life Kimchi Cuddles' daughter against her.


Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup for August 7, 2020.

●  The week's big poly-in-the-media item was this stellar piece in the New York Times: The Challenges of Polyamorous Parenting, in the Parenting section (online Aug. 4; not in a print edition.) Excerpts:


Starting a family with more than two parents can present legal and social pitfalls. Here’s how some parents are making it work.

Avary Kent, her husband, Zeke Hausfather (seated), and her partner, David Jay, drafted a co-parenting agreement that outlines their rights and preferences for raising their daughter. (Photo: Aubrey Trinnaman / New York Times)

By Cynthia McKelvey

...Though nonmonogamy seems to be on the rise — or at least society is more open about it than ever before — families consisting of three or more parents can face challenges that are in some ways different from, and similar to, those faced by divorced parents, single parents and L.G.B.T.Q. parents.

There’s very little research on families consisting of more than two romantically involved parents, according to Heath Schechinger, Ph.D., a co-chair of the Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force, Division 44 of the American Psychological Association. ...

To understand how new and prospective nonmonogamous families can take on challenges like child custody, adoption and just day-to-day life, I spoke with a sociologist, two psychologists, a lawyer and members of two nonmonogamous families.

“I would say the biggest problems that polyamorous parents face is you can only have two legal parents in most places,” said Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., a sociologist and author of “The Polyamorists Next Door,” a 15-year ethnographic study of the polyamory community. “If you have another parent that wants to take on parental rights, then one of the existing parents has to terminate parental rights prior to adding a new parent.”

...California is one of at least 12 states that has recognized families with three or more parents in some capacity, making it easier for nonmonogamous families to gain legal parenting protections.

For parents who don’t live in one of those states, or who just don’t want to go through the legal rigmarole of multiparent adoption, writing out a co-parenting agreement can help. These delineate what is expected of each parent in terms of child care, financial assistance and other day-to-day logistics. They also can create contingency plans in case a parent leaves the relationship, becomes ill or dies.

That’s what Avary Kent, her husband, Zeke Hausfather, and their co-parent, David Jay, did before Kent became pregnant with their daughter. Their co-parenting agreement outlines how they will deal with conflict, discipline, health care and what constitutes a loss of parenting status.

Polyamorous parents who are raising children as a unit must decide how open to be with family and community members. (Photo: Aubrey Trinnaman / New York Times)

These agreements are not legally binding, but they can help in situations like custody battles or if family members like grandparents object to the co-parenting agreement, according to Jonathan Lane, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who specializes in family law. ...

Coming out

Research on the effect of growing up in a nonmonogamous family on children also remains sparse, Dr. Schechinger said.

“From what we do have, there’s nothing to suggest that children in these situations are faring any better or any worse,” Dr. Schechinger said. However, research does show that families who experience prejudice — because of their sexual orientation, race, religion or other factors — do experience more stress, anxiety and depression.

That leads to the question of whether or not to come out as a nonmonogamous family. ... “I want to encourage parents to know that there’s not clear evidence that they should or should not be out. It’s situation-specific, and it’s OK for them to use their intuition about whether or not to be out,” Dr. Schechinger said. “Because in some spaces it may not be safe and then they have to remain closeted.”

Day-to-day challenges

...Amy Moors, Ph.D., a co-chair of the nonmonogamy task force with Dr. Schechinger, also said that concerns over the children are often ways to enforce prejudice over minority groups. ... She and other experts suggested that nonmonogamous families look to how gay families have fielded these sorts of objections to them parenting. This can include how to handle prejudice from family, schools and the judgment their children may face from classmates.

Selke said that she and her family made a conscious choice to surround themselves with other untraditional and L.B.G.T.Q. families, so that their twins can grow up seeing the many forms family can take.

The benefits

The nonmonogamous families interviewed cited the many benefits of co-parenting. At the top of the list was resources, in every sense: More parents mean more time, more love, more experience, more finances and, best of all, more sleep, they said.

Selke said that nonmonogamous parenting has also enabled her desire to shed some traditional gendered parenting roles. With three parents, there’s no script for the division of labor. It becomes more about who does whatever task best, who is the most available or who hates it the least.

The children also report benefits, Dr. Sheff said. As kids from these nontraditional families begin to enter school and see their peers with two parents, rather than seeing themselves as unusual, they see their peers as bereft.

“The kids come home and they’re like, ‘Oh, my poor friend, they only have two parents. Can you believe that? How did they get anything done?’” Dr. Sheff said.


Jonathan Lane, the attorney quoted, says, "I am very excited this was finally published – I was interviewed for it over a year ago!"


●  Another non-monogamy researcher, Terri Conley, is profiled at length in Bustle: How One Psychologist Upended Everything We Know About Women, Sex, & Monogamy (Aug. 4) Go read the whole story; it's long and interesting. Excerpts: 


'We Need To Rethink Casual Sex': Terri Conley during her April 2016 TED talk

When she was still in grad school, social psychologist Terri Conley, Ph.D., collected some data indicating that single people practice safer sex than those in relationships. Her methodology wasn’t perfect, and the sample was small. There was every reason to forget it. Conley couldn’t stop thinking about it.

What would be the problem with relationships, she wondered, such that people with partners were at higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases? It occurred to her that it might have something to do with the monogamy agreement — the implicit understanding, often undiscussed, that the partners in a two-person couple will only have sex with each other. She designed a study comparing safe sex practice among consensually non-monogamous people to that between people who claimed to be monogamous but were cheating. She found "a whole host of better outcomes” among the people in open relationships — more effective and frequent condom use and lower likelihood of an encounter taking place under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She submitted the paper for publication in the late aughts.

“It was like I shot the reviewers’ dog,” Conley recalls. Their responses ranged from “this paper is irresponsible” to "Oh, this must be a master's thesis” — in other words, amateur.

Suspecting that the stigma surrounding open relationships was at work, Conley took a different tack. She had been positioning the paper as a study of a sexual minority group that turned out to have safer sex than people in traditional relationships. Now, "I took exactly the same table — I did not change one data point — [and] I changed the framing to say, ‘Oh my gosh, people who commit infidelity are the worst. They're even worse than this other group [consensually non-monogamous people] that you thought was so awful.’ ” The paper was accepted.

It was the first of many times Conley would encounter outsized resistance to the work that has made her one of the most influential sexuality researchers of her era. As head of the University of Michigan’s Stigmatized Sexualities Lab, Conley observes sexual dynamics that won’t shock anyone who is on Tinder in the year 2020 but that nonetheless upend decades of received wisdom in the social sciences. Through rigorously designed studies, Conley... has empirically undermined the idea that women are too “relationship-y” to enjoy sex for its own sake and that having sex exclusively with one chosen mate is the only stable, satisfactory relationship structure. Given that everything from Christian morality to the intergenerational transfer of wealth to the wedding industrial complex is heavily invested in monogamy — "sometimes you have ideologies that control everyone,” Conley reflects — the implications of this research are vast. Colleagues across multiple subfields of psychology describe her as brilliant, fearless, and most impressively, convincing them to change their minds. Conley claims she just provided the data to support what everyone already knew: Monogamy actually isn’t great for everyone, and that really freaks some people out. ...

In 2011, she published a paper that methodically dismantled a textbook social psychology experiment, one that had propped up our most guarded assumptions about sex for a generation. ...

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

...She found that women and men are equally satisfied in consensually non-monogamous relationships, undermining the notion that women are more naturally inclined toward monogamy. She even had data on how much we don’t want to see this data: In one experiment, she showed that people consider a researcher presenting findings favoring polyamory more biased than one presenting findings in favor of monogamy. The wording the researchers used was identical.

[Paul] Abramson [of UCLA], who spent a large swath of his career studying how to reduce HIV transmission rates, compares Conley’s work to research done in the late 1950s through the ‘60s that ultimately led psychology to stop treating homosexuality as a mental illness. “Terri was attempting to undermine the moral contempt for something other than normative marriage. [She] asked, ‘Well, what does the data say?’”

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

...Now Conley is after the sacred cow that has been the backdrop of her entire career. You can’t dismantle the idea that women invariably suffer in nontraditional relationships without disproving the notion that women biologically want sex less than men, so that is Conley’s focus now. Building on her work around casual sex, she has found that gender differences in who wants sex evaporate in the presence of orgasm. If you’ve orgasmed before and expect to again, you’re more likely to say yes to sex, regardless of your identity. The explanation could be biological — maybe female bodies aren’t capable of orgasming quickly or easily outside of partnered sex — but Conley doesn’t buy it. ... “We know that women and men orgasm in the same amount of time when they're masturbating.” ...



●  Am I mistaken, or have we been hearing less about Relationship Anarchy as poly spreads to the mainstream? If you don't know what RA is about, a time will come when you should. An excellent new primer is out this week from MindBodyGreen, A Beginner's Guide To Relationship Anarchy: Examples & How To Practice (Aug. 2). Save it to send to the curious. Excerpts and section titles:


By Kesiena Boom

Kesiena Boom
...Relationship anarchy is a way of approaching relationships that rejects any rules and expectations other than the ones the involved people agree on.

This approach "encourages people to let their core values guide how they choose and craft their relationship commitments rather than relying on social norms to dictate what is right for you," Dedeker Winston, relationship coach and co-host of the podcast Multiamory, tells mbg.

People who practice relationship anarchy, sometimes abbreviated as RA, are beholden to themselves and only themselves when it comes to choosing who they conduct sexual or romantic relationships with and how they do it. Relationship anarchists look to form relationships with people that are based entirely on needs, wants, and desires rather than on socially mandated labels and expectations. Some central tenets of relationship anarchy are freedom, communication, and nonhierarchy.

An RA mindset also seeks to dissolve the strict divides between platonic friendship and sexual or romantic love that exist in wider society. Practitioners of relationship anarchy see it as superfluous at best and harmful at worst to rank relationships in order of importance according to the presence of sex or romantic love, and they reject the prioritization of romance above friendship and the elevation of the monogamous couple above all else....

The relationship anarchy manifesto.

The term "relationship anarchy" was originally coined by Andie Nordgren, who published an instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy in a pamphlet in 2006. Nordgren outlines the following principles to guide you through a relationship anarchist life:

1. Love is abundant, and every relationship is unique. ...
2. Love and respect instead of entitlement. ...
3. Find your core set of relationship values. ...
4. Heterosexism is rampant and out there, but don't let fear lead you. ...
6. Fake it till you make it. ...
7. Trust is better. ...
8. Change through communication. ...
9. Customize your commitments. ...

Relationship anarchy versus polyamory versus monogamy.

A monogamous person chooses to eschew all sexual and romantic bonds with people other than their one chosen partner. ... Winston says relationship anarchists can also engage in monogamous relationships.

Relationship anarchy thus differs from polyamory, which it is sometimes confused with. Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners involved. It is sometimes known as ethical or consensual nonmonogamy. To be polyamorous means to acknowledge that people can love more than one person simultaneously. This is different from an open relationship, in which the couple goes outside of the relationship for sex, and not necessarily for lasting and committed emotional intimacy or love.

How relationship anarchy works in practice.

..."Typical is a myth. In reality, each of our lives is unique and one-of-a-kind, which is also true for people practicing relationship anarchy,” says Anna Dow, LMFT, therapist and founder of Vast Love, a coaching and counseling practice for people navigating nonmonogamy.

She continues, "A lot of people hear the word 'anarchy' and think of radical punk rockers with tattoos and mohawks. While that's sometimes on point, the lives of relationship anarchists are also as varied as they come. Relationship anarchy is the 'choose your own adventure' version of relationships. It's a belief in coloring outside the lines and going off-trail. ...

That being said, a common thread between all relationship anarchists is the time given over to communication. Dow says one characteristic that links together those who are well suited to RA is "strong communication skills, including the abilities to empathetically listen and to authentically express one's feelings/needs in a direct way. ...

Common misconceptions.

"...Relationship anarchy is not a justification for people to do whatever they want in relationships without consideration of other people's feelings, needs, desires, or boundaries," says Dow.

It's not for those who are looking for an easy way out. ..."It's not a magic spell for reducing the amount of work that you need to put into your relationships," cautions Winston. 

[Says Josie Kearns,] “To me it means that my partners and I don’t control our relationships with other people — we set boundaries, but we don’t ask to enforce rules on each other....”


Relationship anarchy may be unfortunately named for the current times. But taken literally, the word is precisely correct: Its Greek roots mean no ranking. 


●  Autostraddle, a leading online lesbian magazine, fields (at great length) a question about roommate pandemic hell choices: Can I Tell My Poly Roommate Not to See Her Partners Because of Coronavirus? (Aug. 4)


My roommate “Nora” and I (both women in our early thirties) have been in self-isolation since mid-March. ... After an initial two-week total quarantine, I resumed seeing my partner, “Casey,” who lives alone (they have various health problems that make coronavirus significantly more risky for them). Nora recently brought up how frustrated and sad she’s been feeling about her romantic prospects as a poly person when I am able to continue my monogamous relationship. She even mentioned that she resented the fact that I could continue to see Casey (who is a relatively new partner) when she can’t continue to see her longer-term partner(s), both of whom live with their own primary partners, who in turn have other partners, etc.

She said that she couldn’t bear the thought of going the summer without some kind of in-person intimacy and that she didn’t want to be made to feel “responsible” for following isolation just so I can see Casey.... But in the current moment, our personal lives are actually mutually exclusive....

...What can I do? Do I have any rights to safety after our state issues a possibly-misguided plan to reopen? ...


...While I think you may be feeling overwhelmed, I want to resist the idea that this question is impossible just because the solution is not simple and easy (or that there even is one correct solution). ... Something my best friend and I have been saying to each other recently feels true when I read this question: “There are no good choices.” How to make the best choice for everyone involved when there are no good choices? Let’s attempt. ...

...As each day passes, it becomes clear the United States does not have a handle on the pandemic. Shelter in place was not supposed to be a new way of life indefinitely; it was meant to buy us time, to flatten the curve. The government squandered that time. I do not know when the pandemic will end, when it will be “safe” to be around each other again. But I do know that it becomes increasingly difficult to ask individuals to make huge personal sacrifices, at great cost, when it is clear the government is doing almost nothing to move us toward a different world. ... Scientists have started to talk about how we can practice harm reduction when it comes to living our lives, because the alternative is not sustainable. ...



●  You want pandemic hell choices? What about when a denialist partner turns your child against you?

The following is one of the saddest things I've seen yet. Tikva Wolf's Kimchi Cuddles poly comics are often, she says, "partly autobiographical." Such as these two latest. The Kimchi character in them is Tikva, "Vajra" is Tikva's live-in co-parent (they ended their romantic partnership a while ago but stayed on friendly terms), and their daughter is getting toward her tweens.

They live in a hippie-ish town in the South, in a county with (I looked it up) a daily covid infection rate that is currently about the South's average.


The Facebook page for this episode of the strip, with many comments and observations. Tikva posted there,


I live in an area that already had a high concentration of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists so naturally there are huge crowds thinking that their organic elderberry syrup makes them immune (and don't care to wear masks for anyone else's sake). Even many folks who are trying to be safe are in large networks they are unable to trace.


Her followup strip:

      
The Facebook page for this one. She really did kick him out. She posts, 


I am close to a lot of medical professionals, and know people who have either died or are having ongoing health problems now, so I'm taking it seriously. I don't want anyone's blood on my hands, especially if I can prevent that through taking simple precautions. And only sharing living space with people who are on the same page with safety protocols is a personal boundary of mine.


She writes to me, "I threw a whole bunch of different events from 4 months into [those] 2 comics. But I did want to talk about 2 important issues: BOUNDARIES in times of covid, and showing how poly-parenting can be more difficult right now for a multitude of reasons."

In my own part of the country (Boston area), covid-denying knuckleheads all seem to be angry Trumpies. But in some places, nice, progressive people can be just as self-deluding, conspiracy-grabbing, and dismissive of all facts and evidence that don't make them feel good. The only difference is that they frame their nonsense ("masks do more harm than good") with flowers and elderberry syrup rather than AK-47s.

America....


●  After the advice column in Slate regarding teen polys that I highlighted last week, this Dear Abby is in newspapers everywhere this week:



My 14-year-old daughter recently came out of the closet, and it has made my husband and me quite upset. She says she is "bicurious, pansexual and polyamorous." She now insists everyone call her by a gender-neutral name, gave herself a side shave and dyed her hair pink after we repeatedly told her not to. She wants us to refer to her as "they" and not "she."

Boys used to like her.... She is disrespecting us and ruining her image. ...She is now getting chubby, looks horrible and is depressed. Help!  — Dad Without Answers

Dear Dad: Your daughter may, indeed, be depressed. She's at an age where she is trying to figure out who she is, and because she has lost her friends and her parents are mad at her, I can understand why. ...


Look again. Did you notice the gender of the parents?


●  Upcoming TV, perhaps. Hollywood Reporter says "prolific writer/producer" Lena Waithe is developing series a series titled "Open" for Amazon Studios: Lena Waithe Developing Open-Marriage Drama (Aug. 3)



..."My mission is to provide a space for people to grow," says Waithe. "While making work that people can look at and say, 'That broke a barrier.' "... 

"Society has such a conservative way of looking at marriage. I do think that we as a nation need to reevaluate what marriage looks like for us as a country — because whatever we have right now, it ain’t working."



●  But here's an open-marriage couple who get a special award for classist couple privilege so shitty I thought it was a parody  except it actually seems to be real, as reported on the parenting site Kidspot.com (Aug. 4). A relative of theirs says, 


MIL explained that they have some rules and they can’t sleep with anyone who is an ‘equal.’ 

She said they only go outside the marriage with people in service-type minimum wage jobs like their maid, someone who works at their country club, or a bartender (examples she gave). She said they do that because people in those positions don’t count as “real people” so there is no danger in developing feelings.



●  This week in the British tabloids: A happy triad family in Denver got harassment mail from a stalker after their Instagram and YouTube channels became a thing, so they've gone more public than ever: Polyamorous throuple harassed for months after 'coming out' on social media (Daily Star, Aug. 3). An angry Christian, you may wonder? Nope. A letter to Janie "said that she is a fake member of the LGBTQIA community and that she didn't actually love Maggie."

Here they are. Three lovers, three cats:

MDWfeatures / @tri.adventures


That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. Stay safe, dear people, as best you can.

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