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

March 14, 2022

Mainstream poly, anti-capitalist poly, the Harvard Law Review, and the good stuff your relatives are reading from Ask Amy right now

●  The ability to consider new information and change your view in light of actual facts and evidence is a key sign of personal integrity.

"Ask Amy" — the advice columnist Amy Dickinson, who is published in up to 200 newspapers — lays out her changed stance on polyamory in this column that your parents and sibs may be reading right now: Ask Amy: Our son and his wife just told us they’re polyamorous (week of March 7).

Thank you to the many of you who have written to Amy over the years and helped lead her to change her mind.

Dear Amy: Our son and daughter-in-law, married for about six years, recently dropped a bomb on my husband and me.

They told us they are involved in polyamorous relationships where each has another partner, lover or person they each spend a lot of time with outside of the marriage.

They tell us that this lifestyle is becoming more common. They are in their mid-30s, and don’t have children.

We are having a hard time understanding this choice and accepting what this will mean for our relationship going forward, and for our larger family. We are the only family members they have shared this information with so far, and we are sworn to secrecy.

They may have eased their consciences by telling us, but now we are left with troubling and unsettling information and no place to go with it. We assured them that we will never stop loving them, but this is awkward for us.

What can we do to ease our troubled minds?

— Bewildered Parents

Amy Dickinson

Bewildered: ...You may define marriage as monogamy until divorce or death, but as people explore their freedom to redefine the boundaries of what it means to be married, they may choose “ethical non-monogamy,” which is where they remain lovingly married, but are free to engage in other romantic relationships in a way that they believe is open and honest. They don't define this as infidelity. It is about consensual relationships.

In my opinion, the important question is how these polyamorous relationships will affect children growing up in families with three or four adults who all identify as parents and partners. If all the adults are stable, loving, and committed to the children, then I imagine the kids will be fine.

Take a breath, do some reading about polyamory, and understand that you define marriage one way, while they define it differently.

Unless you and they are religious, this doesn't make it “wrong.” It just makes it “what is.”

This is their life and their choice, and if they want to remove the taboo surrounding polyamory, you should discourage them from defining this as a deep, dark family secret.

They (not you) can explain themselves to other family members when the time comes, and yes — it's bound to be awkward … until it isn't.

● Amy is clear enough there to prompt a reaction from the distinguished president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler: 'Trust the Bible, Not Amy,' Mohler Says (Christian Headlines, March 9).

Well, do you trust the Bible? Or know someone who does? Please take it out and turn to Exodus 21:10. Here Jehovah Himself instructs men who take an additional wife to continue to support and fill the sexual needs of the first wife:

"If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights."  The word that's discreetly translated as "marital" (or "conjugal") in most English versions of the Bible explicitly means "sexual": In the original Hebrew the word is וְעֹנָתָ֖הּ (wə·‘ō·nā·ṯāh), sexual. Here's some rabbinic commentary.

● A rather different major advice columnist, Dan Savage, fields two poly questions this week: about jealousy feelings that won't fade and coming out to family too earlyPolyamorous paradise (in many alternative newsweeklies, first week of March). Here's the first of the two:

Joe Newton
...When we started dating, she said she needed us to be poly and I agreed. It was a first for both of us! I'd always been interested—my parents are queer and have been poly my whole life—so it wasn't a new concept to me. Early on, we went on some random dates, made out with some other people, but took it slow because we wanted to build a foundation of trust and love first. Now we're there.

She recently started dating a close friend of ours. In theory, I'm good with it. I adore him and he cares about us as a couple. There's lots of communication happening in all directions. We've even tossed around the idea of some threesomes or foursomes. I can't wait for the day when I am truly stoked for this, and we can all play and love on each other. But I don't want to “overcome the jealousy” or “deal with it.” I want being poly to be something that makes life amazing! But I am still being restricted by silly feelings put in my head via some nefarious patriarchal capitalist hack. Any advice for moving on as quickly as possible into a polyamorous paradise? I want to feel queerer and a little less mainstream!

—Seeking Polyamorous Effortless Wonders

No relationship—closed, open, or poly—is a paradise. Ideally a relationship brings more joy into your life than pain. ... But misunderstandings, disagreements, and hurt feelings are a part of every romantic partnership. And the longer that partnership goes on, the likelier the people in it—couple, throuple, or quad—are going to face the kind of relationship-extinction-level event that requires contrition, forgiveness, and aggressive memory-holing to survive.

As for jealousy… My husband has been with his boyfriend for five years; there are times when I see them together and I am not just happy for them, SPEW, but made happy by them. (I’m straining to avoid the term “compersion” here, or “the other c-word,” as it’s known at our house.) But there are times when I feel jealous… and if I’m still experiencing jealousy after 20+ years in an open relationship… and still experiencing jealousy after 30+ years being pretty fucking queer… I don’t think jealousy is something you need to completely overcome before opening your relationship or that that being “queerer” cures.

And it’s important to distinguish between different kinds of jealousy. There’s the healthy kind of jealousy (someone is being neglected or taken for granted, and their feelings need to be considered), there’s the unhealthy kind of jealousy (someone is controlling and manipulative, which is a red flag for abuse), and then there’s the sexy and energizing kind of jealousy (seeing your partner through another’s eyes and recognizing—or being reminded—of your partner’s desirability).

... You need to ask yourself what kind of jealousy you’re feeling at a particular moment. If it’s the healthy kind, ask for you what you need; if it’s the unhealthy kind, get your ass into therapy; if it’s the sexy and energizing kind, enjoy the ride.

And finally… It’s good that you’re taking your time, because rushing things is a good way to fuck this up. But paradoxically, if you wait until you’re no longer experiencing any jealousy—or no longer have conflicted feelings about this—you’ll never get there.

●  In a different vein, Challenging Monogamy Is a Political ActThe institution has its roots in capitalism and colonialism(Feb. 17) It's in Novara Media, "addressing the issues that are set to define the 21st century, from a crisis of capitalism to racism and climate change." It features the indigenous American activist and scholar Kim TallBear.

By Sophie K Rosa

Even among “people who consider themselves progressive […] there’s a deep resistance” to non-monogamy, says Kim TallBear, a professor at the University of Alberta, who specialises in decolonial sexualities. ...

On the left, critiques of non-monogamy and polyamory are often framed in neoliberal terms. Choosing to have sex with multiple people, or to sustain multiple romantic relationships, some argue, mirrors individualistic, free-market ideology. But according to polyamorous educator Leanne Yau, versions of both non-monogamy and monogamy can be criticised as “relationship capitalism”.

...Yau takes issue with the stereotype that non-monogamous people have shallower relationships, or that they tend to instrumentalise people. “You can commit to multiple people and accept them flaws and all,” she says. “While there are people who commodify others in non-monogamy, that also happens in monogamy.” 

Non-monogamy can be a deeply political project. 

It can be a privilege to dismiss non-monogamy as a flimsy or apolitical idea, argues TallBear. Queer people, for instance, she says, “don’t really get away with feeling like it’s irrelevant” because they don’t fit into heterosexual dictates to begin with. Race also plays a part in this. “I think many white people, especially, don’t have a sense that [non-monogamy can be] a deeply political project” for some people of colour, she says, beyond the idea that it is “vaguely pushing back against religious norms or restrictions.” 

Even among leftists, it goes widely unacknowledged that monogamy not only has its roots in capitalism, but that it was violently enforced upon colonised peoples, says TallBear. Monogamous and non-monogamous people alike often “have no sense of the way that [monogamous settler] marriage and straightness was imposed on people in order to build the nation-state.” 

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, author of The Sex Lives of African Women, explains that in Ghana, for example, British colonisers framed multiplicitous relationship structures – any alternative relational forms – as immoral, while institutionalised heterosexual monogamous marriage was seen as a civilised form of kinship. “A diversity of relationship types was lost, and a form of relationships that wasn’t native to us became what was regarded as the norm,” says Sekyiamah. ...

It’s not just for the white middle class. 

...Non-monogamy can be part of building queerer, more comradely and communal futures. When researching for her book, Sekyiamah found that the women she interviewed who “seemed to me to be the happiest women, the women with the best sex lives”, were those “not conforming to societal norms [but] trying to figure things out for themselves.”  

...But while challenging the dominance of compulsory monogamy is important both politically and in terms of building more conscious relationships, it doesn’t mean we have to pit different relationship styles against each other.

Yau says she rarely encounters non-monogamous people who are “anti-monogamy” – those who are, she says, are often “newbies”, insecure in their new way of being in a mononormative world. More often, she finds, when monogamy does come into criticism, it isn’t the idea itself that is being challenged, but “either the institution of monogamy – compulsory monogamy – [or] the toxic parts of monogamy: the idea that jealousy equals love and care, or that love is sacrifice, or that your partner should be able to meet all of your needs, or that your one romantic partner should be the sole focus of your entire existence […] or that the relationship escalator is how you should find meaning in your life.”  

Non-monogamous people are very rarely interested in replacing monogamy, but in imagining a society beyond compulsory monogamy. It isn’t all about romance and sex, either. ... Asexual and aromantic polyamorists have taught her a lot about this, [TallBear] says, through their capacity to “have multiple, caring, mutually sustainable” committed partnerships that might not include romantic love or sex at all. ...

In Yau’s view, intentional, “healthy monogamous relationships” are not so different from non-monogamous ones anyway. Whether or not you’re having sex with more than one person, you can sustain multiple close relationships. “In non-monogamy all you’re doing [differently],” she says, “is doing romantic or sexual things with more than one person.” ...

Sophie K Rosa is a freelance journalist. ... Her book, provisionally titled Radical Intimacy, will be published by Pluto Books in 2023.

Read the whole article.

●  The Harvard Law Review examines the future of legalized multiple-partner domestic partnerships such as those recently enacted in Somerville, Cambridge, and Arlington, Massachusetts. This article will be a key legal reference point going forward: Three’s Company, Too: The Emergence of Polyamorous Partnership Ordinances (March 10).

This Note examines potential legal challenges to multiple-partner domestic partnership ordinances. Part I describes communities that the ordinances serve, characterizes the discrimination and harassment that communities face, and explains what CNM people will gain from the passage of these ordinances. Part II surveys the complex legal questions that these ordinances generate, such as local government’s authority to pass them, state preemption through civil and criminal statutes, criminalization through anti-bigamy laws, and the application of comity doctrine in other cities and states. Part III evaluates approaches for addressing challenges that the ordinances may face at the municipal, state, and federal levels, such as legislative advocacy and litigation based on gay rights precedents. Ultimately, the ordinances likely will survive challenges and show that, legally speaking, “three is company, too.”

Although the article is called a "Note," it's 10,000 words long and has 186 footnotes. I guess that's a note by Harvard Law Review standards.

● Another basic, accurate poly/ non-monogamy 101, the sort we're seeing all over these days, appeared in Vice: A Monogamous Person's Guide to Exploring Non-Monogamy. "More and more people are turning to alternative relationship styles, but how should newbies approach it?" (Feb. 9, by Simon Doherty).

It quotes an interesting bit of insight from Janet Hardy, about opening couples: 

“There's nearly always going to be one partner who is more adventurous about outside relationships and one who is less so,” she says. “If you’re doing it right, you wind up with one person feeling just a little bit stretched and pushed, but within their tolerance, and one person who's feeling a little bit constrained, but within their tolerance.

“So if everybody is just a little bit unhappy, that's a good sign that you're doing it right. If one person is delighted and the other person is unhappy, then that's a good sign that you're doing it wrong.”

● Cosmopolitan has been riding the poly trend hard, with 64 online articles tagged "polyamory" in the last six years. The latest: 10 Polyamory Experts to Follow on TikTok (Feb. 2).

● But you still encounter Poly 101 pieces that are plain stupid and get almost every other sentence wrong. For instance, Multiple Lives: How Do Polyamorous Relationships Work? on the site of the Ashley Madison imitator VictoriaMilan, a cheaters' dating service ("Relive the passion. Find your affair. 6.2 million members can't be wrong.") It's a reminder that certain segments of the public are still being fed bullcrap and eating it. Maybe you can tell them by the shit sticking to their teeth when they talk. Be careful when dating.

● Since you asked... here's one more from the British tabs: a happy story that was picked up on this side of the pond by the scummy New York Post's site: I’m in love with a couple after matching with both separately on dating app (March 1).

Charlotte, Jamie and Laura. (Mercury Press & Media)

A UK woman says she’s fallen head over heels in love with a couple after matching with the pair separately — and now the smitten trio have formed a throuple.

“We all date each other, and it’s all equal,” Lora Corser, 28, told Caters News Agency of their polyamorous relationship...

“Initially, I matched with Jamie and Charlotte separately,” Corser said of the instant chemistry among the three soulmates, who live together in Leicester, East Midlands. “We weren’t ever supposed to all be in a relationship but Charlotte and I instantly hit it off.”

And while the lovestruck triumvirate initially intended to date separately, their relationship “grew naturally” to the point where the three are now inseparable.

“This is definitely the most communicative and safe relationship that I think I’ve ever been in,” gushed Farmer of their romantic triple header. ...

● Lastly: Randy Ralston just sent me this historical broadcast from his archives. It's almost 30 years old but sounds remarkably current: From KCAL-9 TV in Los Angeles, December 21, 1993: Open Relationships on the "Shirley" talk show.

I'll explain in a bit why this one is notable for poly-movement historians.

The show devoted all its 43 minutes to interviewing a long-term open MFM triad about their life together. A fourth partner of theirs, a woman who has a husband and other partners of her own, comes on partway through the show. The whole extended network is on great terms with one another.

The married couple met their other main partner at a "workshop in California" where they explored depths of communication, sexuality, and human relationships. The husband mentions Stan Dale, which confirms that these were Human Awareness Institute events, probably at Harbin Hot Springs, California. Stan Dale (1929-2007) founded and ran HAI, which became an early seedbed for the modern polyamory movement and its early message-spreaders, roots that are generally forgotten today (2022).

The people on the show may have 1970s-ish hairstyles, but they talk the talk of high-quality, best-practices, successful ethical polyamory as we see it 29 years later. Way back then, HAI set much of the movement's communicate-communicate-communicate ideology, its takes on jealousy and insecurity and how to deal with them and what they can mean, and some of today's common phraseology as you will recognize in the video.

They do not yet, however, use the word "polyamory," nor does the host or anyone else on the show. The word was still too new and unknown; it originated elsewhere just three years earlier. (Even Loving More magazine didn't settle on "polyamory" as the word for what it was doing until 1995, two years after this show aired.)

Thanks to Randy for pulling this out of his archives and YouTubing it.

More early history: I've collected significant poly-in-the-media items from before I started this blog in 2005: Older articles, for history's sake. That post is backdated "August 2005" to make it fit here chronologically.   

Also: Many other early items of polyamory in the media, as well as all kinds of early original documents, publications, personal papers, etc., are held in the Kenneth R. Haslam Collection on Polyamory in the Kinsey Institute Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Media items are listed in the Finding Aid to the collection; search the text of that .pdf document for "Series IV) Media Coverage".

And if you have any such material in some old file box (basically pre-2000), please donate it to the Kinsey collection before it is lost, so that scholars and researchers can access it for all time. Write to Kinsey's special collections librarian Liana Zhou, libknsy@indiana.edu. 


And stepping back for perspective:

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Some call us a threat to society. 

Our freedom to live in non-traditional relationships, and to speak up for ourselves about the facts of ourselves, is just one way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives and to access facts. Such a society is only possible where people have the power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to protect the rights of all. 

People who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal protections that enable them to do so, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States. They seek to stamp out people's freedom to go their own way, whether by laws, intimidation, propaganda campaigns, or, eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, this site has received far more reads from Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in Eastern Europe.

For now, you can donate to Ukrainian relief through this list of organizations vetted by the Washington Post, or many others. (Avoid scams.) Much more may yet be required of us.


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Blogger tosii2 said...

I am not sure how long I have been following this blog, but I have almost always thought your comments were 'right on'. I tend to think of you in this space as someone 'behind the scenes' who is looking at the news in a way pretty close to what I would like to think I do. I know your blog has been important to my growth as a 'person who practices polyamory'. I have really enjoyed using your posts as a 'talking point' in group discussions, often giving different perspectives than would have otherwise have come up.

Thanks for all you do!

March 14, 2022 8:33 PM  

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