Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

April 23, 2021

Knockout polyam representation on the Areva Martin show. Decolonizing sex. And in the NY Times, a would-be cowgirl gets the blues.

●  Poly community builders Christopher Smith, Robyn Trask, Marina Reiko, Ruby Bouie Johnson and others did an impressive job for more than an hour on Areva Martin's influential online talkshow The Special Report ("In times of crisis, turn to people you trust").

The show has a strong following in America's Black community. Wednesday's episode is titled "Married, Dating and Polygamy," but it's heavily about polyamory. Areva introduces it with, "Is this a fad, or a movement that will permanently change the definition of families?"

Robyn and Marina (Robyn's grown daughter) start off chatting about their family lives and explaining poly basics in their friendly, disarming way. Christopher Smith then widens it through a decolonization lens to cultures worldwide through history. Ruby, the therapist who puts on the Poly Dallas Millennium conference, and therapist Zelaika Hepworth Clarke tell of their work with couples navigating non-monogamy in the current culture. Fredrik DeBoer argues for decriminalizing multiple-partner marriages.


Polyamory is, in my humble opinion, an act of resistance. We are decolonizing, and we are going back to our roots as a village. The collective. And the family isn't constrained by one man, one woman and we're going to have two kids; it's a lot more broad. There's a lot more opportunity for [kids'] role models, for many influences. You have a stronger and a more robust history, a stronger, more robust legacy you're passing on.

When people come at me and say that this is the destruction of the family, I say actually it's the expansion of the family. Because we're no longer constrained, we're more expansive, more open, more creative in what our family structures look like.

There's growing energy in the BIPOC poly world behind that wider concept. Pay attention; you'll be hearing more.

You can watch the show here:

Sometimes it's a multigenerational thing. Mom and daughter.

●  Regarding decolonization, Kim Tallbear has a long interview in Unsettle ("Indigenous affairs, cultural politics, & (de)colonization"): Kim Tallbear, The Polyamorist that Wants to Destroy Sex (Feb. 18). That headline is both overdone and underdone; what's meant is the Western paradigm of sex.

Interview by Montserrat Madariaga-Caro 

This is an English-language translation of a Spanish-language interview with me conducted by Montserrat Madariaga-Caro, and published in La Juguera Magazine, a cultural magazine based in Valparaíso, Chile. The interview was also produced as a podcast for Pterodáctilo. 

To destroy sexuality as it is known in the Western world is for Kim TallBear the same as revealing an aspect of colonialism that hits us in the most intimate: The imposition of monogamy and singular marriage as a way of domination over the land and its lives. This Dakota thinker affirms that her practice of polyamory does not focus on sex but on the multiple relationships that she maintains with different human and non-human people. ...

Kim TallBear is one of those octopus-people. With each tentacle she does something different. She is an academic, a theorist, a performer, and a tweeter. She wrote the book Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and False Promise of Genetic Science. She is the author of erotic non-fiction texts that she regularly reads at the Tipi Confessions show, which she co-produces. ...She has a blog called The Critical Polyamorist. Currently, she lives in Canada and teaches at the University of Alberta. TallBear is a tall, large, sexy woman who likes to wear big earrings and cowboy boots. She speaks without pause, except when she laughs. ...

Before we get into your work, can you talk a little bit about your upbringing, so the audience can know where you are from, and what is your relationship to indigeneity and colonization.

I grew up mostly in rural South Dakota, so I grew up between two Dakota reservations in the Northeast and the Southeast of the state, so right along the eastern Minnesota border. One of them is the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and that's where I grew up and I've many relatives there. But I am actually a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate on another reservation, which is up north on the same highway, and everybody is related between those two Dakota reservations, but our historic homelands are where Saint Paul and Minneapolis are today. In fact, downtown Saint Paul is where my fourth great grandfather’s village was, his name was Ta Oyate Duta.... He was a reluctant leader of the Dakota war of 1862 against settlers in Minnesota. ... ...Finally, in high school I thought: There’s not enough opportunities on the reservation, it’s too racist, there is nowhere to work. ... Then I went to the university, actually at Texas Christian University my fist two years of undergrad, just to get a thousand miles away from home. I knew nothing about Texas, I ended up loving it though ‘cause it's kind of like South Dakota but with more Spanish and better food, boots, and country music. It’s very much like home in many ways. Then I went to finish my undergrad to the East coast at the university of Massachusetts at Boston, where I did a Community Planning degree, and went to MIT for a Master in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy. Ended up working for tribal environmental organizations, for federal agencies on environmental science and technology projects, eventually did a PhD and wrote a book, Native American DNA. So, it's been a circuitous route throughout the work that I do.

Let’s talk about decolonizing sex. Last weekend a friend complained about people saying that they were polyamorous when really they were just sleeping with a lot of people. This friend said: "E-du-cate-your-sex!". You certainly have educated your sex. Can you share with us your take on being polyamorous.

Yeah, the common pushback by people in polyamorous communities is that this isn't just all about the sex. And stop using our words for your nefarious activities! [laughs]. Polyamorous people are largely very particular about what that term means, it means multiple loves. And it doesn't always means sex. I know polyamorous asexual people. ...So, I think that my experience with polyamory is that it's multiple loves... We actually seek the deep emotional engagement. Many of us are seeking longer term relationships, but in this kind of plural way. 

You talk about settler colonial sexuality, Could you explain what this is?

I use polyamory as a stepping stone to critique the imposition of compulsory monogamy and State-sanctioned one-on-one lifelong marriage by the settler colonial State. In Indigenous Studies and Indigenous communities we are always complaining about blood quantum and tribal citizenship rules, the colonial imposition of blood and racial ideology, and those kinds of exclusions, but going hand in hand with that was the imposition of monogamy and marriage, solo-marriage — not plural marriage like my ancestors had — we were non-monogamist. The colonists divided up the collective Indigenous land-base into 160-acre allotments that they gave to the head of household, which was always a man, and he could get 80 acres for his wife and 40 acres for each child. So here you have this imposition of heteronormative settler sexuality and family structure onto the land.

All of this stuff came together, so I don't understand how we can go after blood quantum and private property without going after monogamy and marriage. And so, many of us in Indigenous communities are so bought in, which leads to the next thing: that our sexuality has been made deviant. ...

Non-critical polyamorists don’t understand monogamy and nonmonogamy within a structural analysis of racism and settler colonialism.

This is one of the things that non-critical polyamorists do, they just have some vague notion where they blame the church. Those polyamorists don’t understand monogamy and nonmonogamy within a structural analysis of racism and settler colonialism. It isn’t just the church, it's the state, science and the church all working together in a settler structure to impose these violent gender binaries and compulsory monogamy and marriage practices onto us. And so, my own polyamory is a way of living the life I want to live, but also critically examining on a daily basis—I guess I do auto-ethnography on myself—what people are pushing against when they are doing polyamory. I think a lot of polyamorists deep down have some of the same resistance that I have but they don't have the theoretical language....

One of the theorists that I think with is my good friend David Delgado Shorter, who teaches at UCLA, and David has one article that is just called "Sexuality" and another one called "Spirituality". He looks at both sexuality and spirituality as objects that Western thinkers have cohered into these little manageable objects and concepts. And what he says is: We are not dealing with sex or spirituality at all, what we are dealing with are sets of relations, and by making sex and spirituality things or objects, or doing a lot of categorization, one actually inhibits intimacy and inhibits good relating. So, I work with that set of theories. ...

●  On the subject of representation, Raven Leilani's 2020 debut novel Luster made at least three dozen Best Books of the Year lists and continues to sell. From the Stanford Daily (Feb. 24): 

By Carly Taylor

Every so often, we’re lucky enough to encounter a writer who clearly was born to write sentences — and for me lately, that writer is Raven Leilani. In her candid, devastatingly beautiful debut novel “Luster,” Leilani tells the story of Edie, a young Black aspiring painter barely scraping by in an entry-level publishing job, who becomes involved in the (sort of) open marriage of a middle-aged wealthy white couple, Eric and Rebecca. The sheer drama of this situation is compelling enough, and Leilani uses it brilliantly to explore the complexities of class, race and their intersection. Unforeseeable circumstances push Edie into a strange existence as she toggles between near-destitution in the inner city and Eric and Rebecca’s pristine suburban home.

Says Michelle Hart in The Oprah Magazine, “An irreverent intergenerational tale of race and class that’s blisteringly smart and fan-yourself sexy.”

●  Elsewhere, from Finland comes the "Modern Love" column in today's New York Times: My Boyfriend Has Two Girlfriends. Should I Be His Third? (April 23). My title might be, "Cowgirl Gets the Blues." (A cowboy or cowgirl is a monogamous person who rides up alongside a poly herd and tries to rope one off all for themself.)

Brian Rea
By Silva Kuusniemi

I had been wandering the liquor store for some minutes when the clerk approached and asked if I needed help. I considered presenting my situation.

“Hello,” I would say. “I’m wine shopping for dinner with my boyfriend and his two partners, whom I’ll be meeting for the first time. You wouldn’t happen to stock a white wine that says, ‘I’m sorry, please like me?’ ”

...Dating someone who was already in established romantic relationships did have its perks. Having already navigated the tricky terrain of polyamory for years, Juhana was an excellent communicator and emotionally literate — a stark contrast to monoamorous men I had dated before. Also, I didn’t want to surrender time from my projects or friends, so it was a relief to have the relationship constrained to specific days of the week: Mondays and Thursdays, when Juhana’s live-in partner had regular plans.

On these days I would sometimes visit the apartment they shared, an airy flat in a woodsy suburb of Helsinki, where the windows overlooked a sea of trees. There, Juhana would cook for me. He was the type who shopped for flavored salts at specialty stores and sharpened his own knives, which he would use to mince and crush garlic into paste. ...

Though his partners weren’t there, they weren’t entirely absent, either. We ate our tofu burgers at a table between his live-in partner’s self-portraits and his second partner’s plants, which, arranged in a messy line, extended their branches at me, wilting.

Between bites, Juhana told me his partners had made fun of him for talking so much about me. “They asked if I’m planning to bring you over for dinner soon. To show you off.”

I flew past the question with a light laugh. ...


...My visions of our relationship began to metamorphose from restaurant outings and casual trips to us building a home.

These visions invariably did not feature his partners, who were becoming increasingly difficult for me to ignore. They popped up in conversation. Pictures of them dominated Juhana’s phone. Sometimes one of them would call while he was with me and, after some conversation, he would lower his phone and say, “She says hello.”

I stared back at his expectant face, mute. What could I say? “Hi, I don’t know you, but I am in bed with your boyfriend. I fantasize about him leaving you. I am jealous. I wish you didn’t exist.”

Saying anything else felt disingenuous, so I said nothing. Gradually, since their well-meaning messages went unanswered, they stopped. ...


...After a particularly turbulent week, as we lay emotionally spent on my futon, I asked Juhana what his partners thought about me. He hesitated.

“Well, mainly they are just happy we found one another,” he said. “But they are a little more wary now. They are afraid that maybe you are manipulative.”

I reprised all the ideas I had of myself — adventurous, open-minded, creative. It stung to have Machiavellian added to that list.

“I think I would like to meet your partners,” I said. “Maybe we could have that dinner sometime? I’ll bring the wine.”

“They prefer white,” Juhana said. ...

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