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

September 6, 2021

Polyamory life stories newly in the media

●  Erez Benari is an enthusiastic poly activist, highly accomplished in the tech industry and a former stand-up comedian. He was instrumental in getting poly domestic partnerships formally recognized for the 182,000 employees of Microsoft and, more recently, for the 18,000 employees of Nvidia. We'll be hearing more about him; he's in plans for an upcoming project that will benefit the poly movement as a whole. News coming fairly soon.

Meanwhile the Bellevue Chronicle, of Bellevue next to Seattle, just ran a long profile of his lifelong journey into polyamory, and his discovery of the word and the movement by way of Seattle's Center for Sex Positive Culture: Erez’s Journey to a Polyamorous Lifestyle (Sept. 3).

By Elizabeth Katona

Growing up as an outcast in Israel and showing no interest in traditional “boy” activities like sports and guns, Erez Benari preferred the company of the fictional characters he read about in science fiction novels to his classmates. ... Battling with self-esteem issues and living with neglectful parents, Erez found comfort in frequenting his local library, where he discovered and devoured any book written by [science fiction] author Robert Heinlein.... As Erez grew into a teenager in a society dominated by monogamistic values, Heinlein’s ideas shaped Erez’s personality and he began to embrace the notion that love is not something that should be limited to one person.

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. – Robert Heinlein

Commentary here by me: These days you find few polyfolks who were set on their path by Heinlein, but a generation ago they formed a significant part of the then-tiny movement. Heinlein's seminal book launching poly ideas into the science-fiction world was Stranger in a Strange Land, mostly written in the 1950s and published in 1961. The book has aged poorly IMO, with its casual sexism and its wildly wrong science-fiction assumptions about the late 20th century. Nor was it ever useful as a model for real-world poly among humans; its group of multi-loving initiates rely for nearly everything on magic psychic superpowers learned from Martians. But the central ideas in Stranger seized the hearts of countless readers, including me at 17, with almost religious conversions, and it became one of the books credited with making the Sixties happen — to the extent that in 2012, the Library of Congress included it in an exhibition of Books That Shaped America. See my 2010 article Polyamory, Robert Heinlein, and his definitive new biography.

In his late teens, Erez conformed to society’s monogamist notions, dating only one person at a time and entering a relationship where he would feel unfulfilled, but too shy to disrupt the social norms, until he met Dalit. ... His relationship with Dalit helped him to explore the world of non-monogamy and open relationships outside of what he read in Heinlein’s books. This exploration also allowed him to look internally at his own values and the type of relationships he wanted in life.

During his relationship with Dalit, Erez had already been forming a friendship with the woman who would later become his wife. ... Several years into the marriage, Erez met and became close friends with a lesbian woman. She introduced Erez to the world of LGBTQ and the spectrum of sexuality. It was then that Erez realized he was likely bisexual.

...[Later after they moved to America] he found an event called “Kink Lab”. ... During [an] event, Erez was able to get to know other participants, and many of them would speak to him or each other about visiting the “CSPC”.... Erez looked up what the “CSPC” was, and found that it’s short for The Center for Sex Positive Culture, a non-profit organization that has a club in Seattle.

...To Erez, the CSPC felt like home; a place where for the first time in his life he could feel free in his element, interact and talk with people in the community about any topic, and explore himself and his desires safely. His regular attendance at the club over the next year was filled with non-sexual group cuddle sessions and socializing with others in the community about the different types of relationships they had with each other and outside the CSPC.

In 2016, at the age of 42, Erez Benari finally begun to explore the possibility of having polyamorous relationships.

Another profile of Benari in the area, focusing on how his wife left him after deciding she wanted monogamy: Dissolution of Marriage Opens the Road to a New Life (Northwest Magazine, Sept. 7). 

●  Perhaps your relatives were watching a few days ago when local TV news programs around the country (for example ABC News 7 in Denver and CBS 6 News in Richmond, Virginia) aired this four-minute report: Study finds consensual non-monogamy is more common than people realize (Sept. 1).

It mostly centers on a happy FFM closed triad. Yes, the stereotyped couple-finds-bi-woman triad sometimes works out just fine for everyone — if all of them are right for it, and if all of them go into it clear-eyed and know what they are doing, the unicorn especially. Watch here:

This is from the accompanying article, mostly a transcript of the video:

Reported by Elizabeth Ruiz
Aaron Meir, Rachael Meir, and Kasey Kershner are in a closed poly triad. The Meirs are married and Kershner is their girlfriend. They call themselves Triad and True on social media. The three of them have been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship for more than two years.

“A triad specifically is three people who are in a relationship where we are all connected," Kershner said. "So we each have relationships in addition to our relationship altogether.”

Rachel, Kasey, Aaron

The three are exclusive with each other, which is why they call themselves a "closed poly triad."

Their story starts with the Meirs who got married 14 years ago. They say they had a very happy and healthy relationship. However, Rachael is bisexual, so they decided to search for another partner.

“If there was any void or anything that was missing, it was simply because Aaron isn’t a girl," Rachael said. "He can’t change that.”

They ultimately decided they wanted to have a deep, emotional connection with a third person in their relationship. They found Kershner on a dating app. After some serious conversations, they formed a triad.

“Rachael and I are very different people, and it’s great that Kasey is almost in the middle like from a day-to-day perspective," Aaron said. "Kasey and I love sports, Rachael hates sports, Rachael and Kasey like rom-coms, I don’t like rom-coms. It’s really nice to have that dynamic.”

Just recently, they started sharing their story with family, friends, and the world.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t get to see what relationships like ours look like because so many people hide it and it’s all very behind closed doors, smoke and mirror type of things, and it really is so much more common than people know,” Kershner said.

Researchers conducted a study to find out how common it really is. Dr. Amy Moors is a co-chair on the Committee of Consensual Non-Monogamy with the American Psychological Association.

“In this study, we found that about one out of five people in the U.S. have engaged in a consensually non-monogamous relationship at some point during their life," Dr. Moors said. "And to help put that into perspective, that’s as common as how many people own a cat in the U.S.”

Dr. Moors says her study found that one in 20 people in current relationships are engaged in a non-monogamous relationship, and one out of nine people say a non-monogamous relationship would be ideal for them.

“People engaged in consensually non-monogamous relationships [often] have really satisfying and committed and trusting relationships," Dr. Moors said. "Yet people believe that they don’t so that’s part of why the stigma is so robust surrounding these relationships.”

Kershner says she experienced the negative mental health impacts of being secretive about their triad until they finally came out. ... Now, the three say they feel a sense of relief being their true, authentic selves and they’re able to cast the hatred and misunderstandings from other people aside.

“There are fears around ‘Kasey’s 10 years younger, is she just going to replace me, is Aaron just ready for something new, is she going to come to take our money... and we’re just very open to say ‘Those are all fair, legitimate, valid questions and no, we’re just three individuals created a unique, different, non-traditional lifestyle because we have different sets of interests or different wants,” Rachael said. ...

The study discussed in the report has no particularly new news for readers here. Its sample was large (= 3,438) and was derived from the US Census to be demographically representative, but it was limited to single people. And unfortunately, the questionnaire for the subjects defined polyamory as being "in a committed, sexual and romantic relationship with multiple people at the same time" — inexplicably leaving out a key definition of all form of consensual non-monogamy, even as stated in the body of the paper itself: with the knowledge and consent of all partners. This lapse in the questionnaire muddies the results by including secret cheaters and livers of double lives.

I don't know all the research literature, but the best attempt I have seen to determine the prevalence of actual polyamory, as sharply defined in several different ways, is this one by Alicia Rubel and Tyler Burleigh. It used data gathered in 2013 but wasn't published until 2018. I'm sure the numbers in a 2021 repeat would be greater, especially the number of Americans who self-identify as poly by the standard full-knowledge-and-consent definition. Someone ought to replicate that study today (hopefully with a larger sample).

● In New York magazine's "The Cut," a time-of-covid quint didn't (spoiler here... ) survive the reopening that was afforded by them all getting vaxxed. I Dated My Entire Quarantine Pod (Sept. 3). "Our polyamorous fivesome kept me sane during the pandemic. Then the world opened up again."

By Rachel Cromidas

Plenty of other people developed pods, tight-knit groups of two to ten people who exclusively gathered together before there was a vaccine. But ours was different. Over the course of 2020, my pod became a committed, closed, polyamorous fivesome — a relationship structure that implies some exclusivity, like monogamy, except with more than two people involved. I don’t just mean a fivesome as in just sex between five people, but a full relationship, with agreements, expectations, and regular date nights that formed a protective shell against the apocalyptic world around us. It was as unlikely as anything else about 2020. ...

Read on

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September 1, 2021

Bearding cultural conservatives in their lair: Polyam activist Leanne Yau runs rings on "the UK's Fox News." And other developments.

Leanne Yau, a.k.a. Poly Philia, is a high-profile blogger and content creator energetically doing consensual-nonmonogamy education and peer support, drawing from her "life experience as a bisexual, autistic, Chinese, Gen Z, non-binary woman based in the UK." And, she's an Oxford Law graduate. Since launching her platform nine months ago it's gained almost 160,000 followers.

Last Thursday she posted,

Poly Philia logo
I'm appearing on national television tomorrow.

On the British equivalent of Fox News.

GB News is running a segment from 4-6 pm UK time called "The Afternoon Agenda by Alex Philips" and tomorrow's question is "are humans monogamous?". ... Alex Philips is pretty sex-negative and conservative (for context, in a previous episode, she compared consensual porn to violent sexual assault). ... I hope I will be able to hold my own and portray the community in as positive a light as I possibly can.

Is it a bad idea? Probably.

But do I like a challenge? Absolutely.

She floored 'em. She had lots of discussion points and explanations waiting at the ready and let them rip high-speed. Hostess Alex Philips (of Brexit Party fame) didn't even really try to tangle but just let her go. For 11½ minutes!

From the transcript

...I personally wouldn’t say that ALL humans aren’t monogamous. But I do think that more humans have the capacity or desire to be non-monogamous than they would like to admit. But obviously, because monogamy is the standard for society -- like your previous guest said, it’s put on a pedestal -- and alternatives lifestyles like swinging and polyamory and open relationships are so demonised, a lot of people don’t feel that they can express their true desires. So, a lot of them resort to being either in miserable monogamous relationships, or they resort to cheating. And obviously, that’s not great in either situation.

And basically, I started my platform to offer an ethical alternative. To say that we can preserve things like commitment, trust, communication, honesty, all these important values in relationships, but also be honest with each other that monogamy might not be the only way to achieve those things. So I’m encouraging people to have open and honest conversations with their partners about their desires.

...Polyamory is one path you could go down, but there are many types of non-monogamy. Polyamory is specifically the practice of multiple romantic relationships, but there are many non-monogamous relationships that involve one primary, romantic relationship and then multiple secondary, casual or purely sexual relationships. 

...Commitment, the idea of commitment and love, to me, isn’t the promise not to have sex with or not to fall in love with anyone else. Although, I accept that for other people, it can involve that. But I think a lot of people rely on the structure of a relationship to prove commitment instead of actually doing the meaningful work with them, emotionally, to be attuned to their partner. Commitment to me is trusting and communicating with someone consistently, making promises and following through on them, it’s caring about someone’s wellbeing, it’s being invested in their joy and happiness, showing up for them in times of need, celebrating their achievements…a lot of these things. And none of that actually requires monogamy.

....I think that while monogamy is obviously a very valid relationship style, it is not the default. It should not be the default, and I think that other people should start recognising that.

...Non-monogamy has taught me so many new things. I’ve been able to explore things with other people and be able to bring them back to my partner and enrich our relationship in turn. I think that also, seeing my partner with other people makes me happy! I think that I’m really invested in my partner’s happiness and wellbeing, and because I know that I may not be able to fulfill all of their emotional needs, I’m happy that they are getting what they want and desire from someone else! ...

Wow. See how it's done, folks.


In other news, 

●  Cosmopolitan just published an excellent, very basic Poly and ENM 101 worth passing to people who need it: What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy? (Aug. 31). Notably, it includes a section headed "What is the difference between ENM, polyamory, swinging, and an open relationship?". It may help reduce the catastrophic miscommunications that happen on dates these days when people misuse the word "polyamory" to mean different things and then think they're on the same wavelength. Oops.

The article is subheaded "For one thing, it's a relationship style becoming more popular than ever." That's the theme running through the rest of these items:

●  In Australia's Sydney Morning Herald and other papers of its chain: It takes three, baby: the rise of the throuple (Aug. 20)

By Madeleine Gray

These days, it’s difficult to capture the public imagination with something as simple as a kiss. ... A kiss between two people? Whatever. Between three? Colour me intrigued. Between chart-topping songstress Rita Ora, her boyfriend the Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi, and everyone’s favourite pansexual actress Tessa Thompson? I’ll bite. The internet gasps in delight.

...For Sydney-based sexuality and relationship coach Stephanie Rigg, a recent increase in visibility of the throuple (when all three people are intimately involved with each other, as in The Politician, say, or The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) is “symptomatic of a growing willingness to question the status quo when it comes to love, sex and relationships. We’re seeing more and more people pause before falling into traditional ‘default’ arrangements and asking themselves, ‘What do I actually want out of this?’ People are realising they can create their own rules in the relationship realm.” ...

●  So many polyam plotlines are popping up in TV series that I've stopped keeping track. But very often, they're handled poorly by writers and actors who don't seem to know what they're doing.

For instance, the Showtime series The L Word: Generation Q follows the fictional lives of a group of lesbian and bi women in Los Angeles. An AV Club reviewer writes, 'The L Word: Generation Q' bungles its polyamory storyline (Aug. 22)

By Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Generation Q has a poly problem. ... At some point between the last episode and this one [“Luck Be A Lady,” S2 E3], Alice agreed to open the relationship back up and let Nat explore polyamory. Instead of showing us that conversation—which could have touched on a lot of different aspects of polyamory/monogamy, jealousy, boundaries, and relationship structures—Generation Q just leaves it all unsaid and unseen.... Especially given how badly last episode bungled the conversation, with Nat throwing out casually biphobic remarks and Alice conflating polyamory with cheating... does Alice just not understand polyamory or do the writers not?

It’s like Generation Q wants to do a poly storyline without actually talking about polyamory. ... Generation Q doesn’t even come close to exploring what polyamory is or isn’t. And in fact, Nat and Alice are still barely talking to each other about it. ...

Meanwhile Neighbours, a long-running TV soap in Australia also aired in the UK, has been stirring buzz with a developing polyamory side-theme. In DigitalSpy, 'Neighbours' is attempting to normalise polyamory – but is the show's portrayal accurate? (Aug 26. Spoiler alert.)

By Emma Flint

...Despite there being a wait before the UK [audience] sees this threesome become official, the interest around the storyline is palpable.

Never one to shy away from embracing the rich tapestry of lifestyles, the decision to include polyamory isn't just a logical progression of the show, but a welcomed way of embracing inclusivity.

Nevertheless... questions about the accuracy of its polyamory portrayal are already being asked. ... The intricacies of this reveal have (mostly) been well received, and yet trepidation within the poly community still lurks.

The caution that some viewers are feeling comes from the element of persuasion seemingly involved with this development – both Levi and Amy aren't sure about taking this step, whereas Ned is all for it. Although it shows a discussion of options that are rarely seen, there's the issue that the two parties aren't as keen on the idea, yet still go ahead with it.

Levi, Ned, Amy

Partnered with this, you also have the uncertainty of why Ned is suggesting such a dynamic – does Ned genuinely think this relationship is right for them or is this about avoiding potential rejection?

Poly relationships aren't the black-and-white caricature that those outside of the community believe it is, they're valid experiences that have the same depth and complexities of monogamous relationships.

Unfortunately, many TV shows fail to translate this onto our screens, with most poly romances portrayed as confusing episodes of promiscuous fun. ...

To try to combat any stereotyping that may take place, Neighbours made sure to include its characters discussing the difference between thrupples (relationships with three people in them) and polyamory (desiring intimate relationships with more than one partner, but having the consent of all of them). By taking the time to explain this important distinction, the show is allowing its viewers to become familiar and more educated about what polyamory really is.

However, a brief discussion on the sofa about whether Amy, Ned, and Levi should give it a try isn't enough to truly set the groundwork for revolutionary inclusion. If Neighbours is to deliver accurate representation, then it needs to avoid opting for the all too easy conclusion of depicting polyamory as experimentation waiting to go wrong.

"TV shows often use poly as a salutary lesson, a weekly plot point, or a way to help characters strengthen their monogamous relationships," shares London-based polyamorous blogger Exhibit A.

"Someone will experiment with poly, it'll ultimately go wrong, and they'll realise that actually, they were happy with monogamy all along. That's annoying."...

If Neighbours is to really cement itself as being for diversity, then it needs to treat this developing storyline with the respect it deserves. Therefore, if Amy, Ned, and Levi ultimately fail as a relationship, there needs to be a nuance to the situation rather than relying on polyamory being the catalyst. ...

●  More bungling? Another poly-themed indie movie in the news: ‘Mark, Mary & Some Other People’ Review: A Sexy Polyamory Rom-Com That Only Fulfills Half Its Promise (IndieWire, June 10).

By Kate Erbland

...Just a few months into her union with a man she’s crazy about, a freaked-out Mary has an idea: They will open up their marriage! Mark is not exactly thrilled about the idea, but Mary pulls the strings, so off they go. In the film’s press notes, [the filmmaker Hannah] Marks notes that she’s not a practitioner of “ethical non-monogamy,” nor does she ever expect to be, but she knows many people who are, leaving her eager to make a film about this world that can fit alongside other classic rom-coms. ... Marks’ lack of lived experience shows at every turn.

As Mark and Mary try on polyamory, their predicament also makes for a canny stand-in for all sorts of relationship pitfalls and problems. Their earliest experiences are bad, sexy, silly, funny, snappy, and weird, and Marks mines them for some very relatable emotions. That doesn’t do much for the polyamory aspect, which comes to feel like just another random problem thrown into the mix of an otherwise standard-issue relationship. Soon, the couple is engaging in a series of one-upmanships that mostly feel engineered to ruin their lives....

Variety's review: A Spry Rom-Com About Monogamy (Aug. 29)

By Nick Schager

...Having just committed to arm-tattoos of each other’s names in hearts, Mark isn’t eager to share his wife with others. Yet after setting basic ground rules designed to protect their bedrock union, they embark on a nightly barrage of carnal encounters. It’s no surprise that this scenario is headed for disaster, and that said calamity will come equipped with a twist, but Rosenfield and Law are such a likable duo — he clownish and earnest in equally uninhibited fashion, she brazen and fierce with an underlying sweetness — that the film remains amusing and spry even as it coasts along a path that will feel familiar to most rom-com fans, and especially to anyone who’s seen 1994’s “Threesome” or HBO’s documentary from earlier this year, “There Is No ‘I’ in Threesome.” ...

●  Good Trouble, now in its third season, is a hit TV series on the Freeform network about two young black women making a new life in LA. Just out from ABC radio news: Good Trouble's Zuri Adele talks polyamory and how her character has evolved (Sept. 1)

Zuri Adele
By now it’s no surprise to Good Trouble fans that Malika, played by the talented Zuri Adele, is on a journey of exploring her sexuality, namely polyamory. The topic is one that Adele told ABC Audio she was excited to learn about and credits the writers for helping tackle it respectively. 

“We have some great experts who are in the writer’s room and able to chime in and give a lot of insight on polyamorous practices and, you know, proper vocabulary,” she shared. “And, also just normalizing and humanizing and making sure that we’re not fetishizing or stigmatizing polyamory in any way.” ...

●  A Yahoo News story uses the Good Trouble plotline to look a little further, in Freeform’s ‘Good Trouble’ explores polyamory in Black relationships (Sept. 1)

...Outside of the realm of television there are thriving Black polyamorous communities. Houston Texas residents Devon and Danielle Stokes-White are the founders of Black Poly Nation, an organization of roughly 34,000 members. “Black Poly Nation is the largest organization of its kind that has ever existed,” according to Devon White. The Whites started the organization two years ago out of a need to belong to a community.

“When we were introduced to polyamory it was hard to find any sense of community especially in our area so that was one of the motivating factors for us going full steam in creating a community for other likeminded people,” Stokes-White added.

As a couple they are leaders in creating a space for other polyamorous people where they can explore and learn from one another. “We spend a lot of our time creating content for the Black polyamorous community,” said Devon White. They welcome the idea that shows in the mainstream are creating a space where representation and conversation around topics that are often considered taboo can be explored. “The community that we have built is really great because you have built-in friends who understand how you are feeling,” said Stokes-White.

●  And a warning story from GO Mag ("the cultural roadmap for [queer] city girls everywhere"): Am I Doing Polyamory Wrong Or Is It Just Not Right For Me?  (Feb. 2)

Jealousy in polyamory is a common concern. How your own unique heart navigates it may determine whether polyamory is a good choice for you. 

By Chelsey Burden

If you’re in a queer dating scene, you may have noticed that polyamory is becoming more popular. (I’m using polyamory as a catchall for any kind of consensual non-monogamy.)  While obviously monogamy is still dominant in mainstream society, some people report that in their subcultures, like say, certain queer dating scenes, the pendulum has swung and polyamory feels like not just an option but the new expectation. 

With that comes a lot of us navigating new territory, maybe asking questions we’ve never asked of ourselves before. What relationship style do I prefer? Is polyamory something everyone is capable of adapting to? Does struggling with polyamory mean I’m doing it wrong or that it just isn’t right for me? 

For some people, polyamory has helped them get in touch with and communicate what they need. For others, trying polyamory helped them learn that what they need is, well, monogamy. 

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