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

March 27, 2021

Major BBC article: "The rise of multi-partner relationships"

The BBC, Britain's broadcaster to the world, has put up another significant article for the growing recognition of polyamory worldwide: Ethical non-monogamy: the rise of multi-partner relationships (March 25). 

It steps off with Ian Jenkins, author of the just-published Three Dads and a Baby (see earlier post). From there it presents various other interesting and informative people — including Dossie Easton, now 77, who tells of the event that inspired her to write her seminal The Ethical Slut with Janet Hardy (first edition 1997).

It's long at 3,500 words. Save it to send to relatives who think you're a lone nut. Some bits:  

By Jessica Klein

Multi-partner relationships are on the rise, and finding their way into the mainstream. Could this new exposure change the way we look at sex and families?

(The BBC led with the new faces of gay poly domesticity: Three Dads and a Baby author Ian Jenkins (left), partners Alan and Jeremy, baby Piper, and the family woofers. Photo: Sweet Me Photography.)

...Though it’s still rare for people in polyamorous relationships to share legal parentage of their children, various forms of ‘ethical non-monogamy’ – relationships involving more than two adults who consent to the arrangement – have becoming increasingly widespread over the past decade. Multiple factors contribute to this, from the rise of multi-partner dating apps and mainstream media representation [Thank you, dear brave spokespeople] to social media and more easily accessible networks for those interested in the lifestyle. “I think a huge factor is just people's willingness to be open,” says Jenkins. “There has to be visibility.”

These cultural shifts, however, date back to free love proponents in the 1960s, who worked hard to expand our sexual boundaries from groups working all across the globe. And changes continue to happen because of people like Jenkins and his partners, whose stories help shed long-held taboos about having multiple partners.

‘This is not a new thing’: the history of non-monogamy

In 2016, a survey of nearly 9,000 single US adults showed that one in five had previously been in a consensually non-monogamous relationship. A Canadian survey came up with roughly the same numbers a year later.

...“Something else we've seen in the last decade is that Google searches for the terms ‘polyamory’ and ‘open relationships’ have increased, which demonstrates that there's more interest in this topic,” says Justin Lehmiller, social psychologist and research fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Indiana.

But people have been engaging in these types of relationships “for a really long time”, adds Lehmiller. “This is not a new thing.”


...[Dossie] Easton had been talking about ethical non-monogamy for years when she and Hardy taught a BDSM workshop at a Mensa conference in 1994 in Big Sur, outside San Francisco. While the audience wasn’t scandalised by the BDSM, they were shocked that Easton and Hardy, who were lovers at the time, did the workshop right in front of Easton’s male partner. That prompted the pair to write the book, which covers how to carry on healthy non-monogamous relationships.

The Ethical Slut [now its third, expanded and updated edition] is still somewhat required reading for people interested in the lifestyle. “Every year it sells more,” says Easton.


...The current near-mainstreaming of ethical non-monogamy, [Lehmiller] says, has happened because of both academic research that’s filtered into the public, through media and education centres, and more diverse depictions of these relationships on TV. These newer depictions go beyond HBO’s Big Love or TLC’s Sister Wives, which both follow Mormon families featuring one husband and multiple wives, to show a variety of poly relationships. Both Lucy Gillespie’s Unicornland, in which a newly single woman goes on dates with several different couples; and You Me Her, where both members of a couple fall for another woman together, are strong examples.

“The internet and more inclusive dating apps have also played a role in changing these attitudes,” says Lehmiller. ... [With new apps like Feeld and 3Fun] “there are more options for meeting and connecting,” says Lehmiller, “so it's not as much of an underground scene as it was in the past”.

Feeld is how Janie Frank, 25, met her two partners, Maggie Odell, 27, and Cody Coppola, 31, in 2016. ... Looking back, Frank [says that Feeld] introduced her to “this whole lifestyle that I didn’t know existed. Talking to people on the app… I began to realise there is a whole community for people who are ethically non-monogamous.” 

Today, Frank and Odell both have TikTok accounts, between which they have a few hundred-thousand followers. “We've been using them to try to talk about polyamory and bring awareness to it, and just normalise it and educate people on… what it can look like,” says Frank.

Some ethically non-monogamous people reach out to thank them for the representation. Others less familiar with the lifestyle comment to say they’re glad they learned about polyamory from Frank and Odell’s videos. “I had never heard about this before,” some say.  [Still!]


Is the law catching up?

The rise in ethically non-monogamous relationships is leading to legal recognition beyond Jenkins and his partners gaining parental rights to their children. In July 2020, the Somerville, Massachusetts city council voted unanimously to recognise polyamorous domestic partnerships. The city of Cambridge, which borders Somerville, recently followed suit.

This isn’t just happening in the US. In 2018, two men and a woman in a polyamorous relationship were all recognised as the legal parents of their child in Newfoundland, Canada. The year prior, three men in a relationship in Medellin, Colombia, were legally married.

These geographically disparate moves towards normalising ethical non-monogamy may help spark a more global movement. [Claudia] Zinser, in Berlin, believes the push to online meetings and communities, spurred by Covid-19, will enhance “global networks” for those who practice ethical non-monogamy. The spread of information about non-monogamy, meanwhile, “is going to give people more options for designing the type of relationship that’s right for them”, says Lehmiller. ...

Go read the whole article. It's in the BBC's "WorkLife" section, "your global guide to getting ahead; a destination for everything that you need to be more successful." 

    –  By the way, I've bought and am reading Three Dads and a Baby. In addition to being an important step for polyamory awareness and acceptance, it's also a good fun book by a kind and decent man; you'll enjoy it.

    –  "There has to be visibility," Jenkins says above. For the story of, IMO, the key person who brought the early modern poly movement out of its anti-media shell to tell its story to the world, see footnote 2 here.  

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