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



April 24, 2022

Are people *really* swarming into CNM post-lockdown? Also: polybombing, YA fiction, and other polyamory in the news


Are scads of new people suddenly exploring consensual non-monogamy as Covid stagnation eases? Dating sites report skyrocketing statistics for multiple-partner interest. Relationship counselors describe an upsurge in questions about polyamory and other forms of CNM as people re-engage with the world. But I'm skeptical of "trends" where rumors amplify rumors. Does anyone have trustworthy data?

The latest example: In Metro UK, a free public-transit paper with a vast circulation, More people are opening up their marriages thanks to the strain of lockdowns (April 12)


By Ellen Scott

...The number of Brits considering open marriages has soared by 45%, according to sex therapist Dr Tammy Nelson, who reports a dramatic rise in calls, emails, and appointment bookings from bored married couples looking for guidance on open relationships.

Dr Tammy said: ‘People are emerging from the pandemic feeling the need to start picking out who the important people are in their lives and whether that’s sexually, emotionally, or romantically.

‘And many of them have started to outsource their needs in the shape of affairs or by discussing open relationships.’ ...

Dr Tammy, whose book Open Monogamy: A Guide to Co-Creating Your Ideal Relationship Agreement came out in January, added: ‘Couples are now keener than ever to spice things up a bit.’

...Dr Tammy says the majority of the conversations are started by men, but it’s women who tend to find more fulfilment in non-monogamy. ...


The article includes "How to start the open relationship conversation." It's totally geared to primary couples, who are Nelson's counseling clients and book audience, but to be fair, primary couples living together are more than half of the adult population (58% in the US).

The article's section heads:


Make sure you’re sure.
Think about why you want an open relationship.
Choose your moment wisely. 
Make it private.
Express your desires honestly – but with kindness.
Give your partner time to process.
Have a chat about your ‘rules’



●  Metro UK has been fascinated with polyamory for several years, as regulars here know. The same day as the above it published this tabloidy profile: Married woman gives up monogamy for four-person polycule relationship (April 12)


Spencer, Jake, Anna, and Ellie make up their polycule relationship (Spencer K / Mercury Press)

...Based in Chicago, US, costume designer Anna has three separate romantic relationships: with Jake, Spencer, and most recently, her girlfriend Ellie.

[She and husband Jake] ‘are still very much in love, but I have a whole lot of love to spare for other people as well.’

 ...Not everyone in the group is in a relationship with each other, but Anna describes theirs as a ‘kitchen table style polycule’ where everybody gets along and hangs out.

Anna added: ‘I live with Jake full time, but Ellie and Spencer live in different states, and everyone has full time jobs so it’s always quite hard to schedule separate time for each individual.

‘I would love for us all to be able to live together at some point, but that’s not really a viable option right now as everyone is on their own path in life.’

Date nights between Anna and her individual partners are usually scheduled months in advance, and when it comes to staying in the same bed, that’s really up to everyone involved.

‘When Spencer comes over, Jake tends to go and sleep on the couch,’ explained Anna.

Spencer said: ‘Jake also snores! But he’s a big cuddler as well, so it’s nice to chill with him as a friend and get a hug from him every now and then.’

Jake says he and Anna’s love is ‘pretty grounded’, and argues that polyamory ‘doesn’t work unless you make a point to understand your partner’s feelings and help them love who, and how, they want to.’

It’s this attitude that’s meant, according to Anna, ‘there’s never any jealousy in the relationship.’

She continued: ‘Polyamory really makes you look into your own feelings and where those feelings come from, it definitely puts a focus on dealing with things in a healthy way.’...



●  Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey is the therapist front-and-center in that new reality show Open House: The Great Sex Experiment now airing on the UK's Channel 4. She's there to counsel the couples who come to the show's swing-party venue, where they explore opening their relationships and maybe try threesomes on camera (in indistinct night vision). In particular, she talks directly to the viewing audience about consensual non-monogamy. The viewers may have come for the titillation, but they leave a little more educated. 

Now, in Newsweek, Bisbey tells more about herself, her work, and her take on how to open a couple relationship with a good chance of success: 'I'm a Non-Monogamous Therapist, Here Are My 4 Tips For Open Relationships'.

The section heads with the four tips are


– Know exactly what you're asking for
– Don't go for a threesome as your first non-monogamous experience
– Keep talking
– Do your own work


...but the value of the piece is her depth in discussing each point.


I have known since adolescence that I am polyamorous; I love more than one person at a time. ... My non-monogamy is what is known as "kitchen table polyamory." Everybody knows each other and we are all close. ...

...Couples who want to open up their relationship come to a retreat in the show; I meet with them, find out what they want to do and then come up with activities to help that along. ... Overall, I've worked with about 1,000 couples opening up their relationship over more than three decades of work as a therapist.

Often people I work with haven't really talked about what they want. I frequently see couples when they have attempted non-monogamy and it's gone really badly.

...I advise my clients to figure out exactly what it is they want. Do they want to do things together or separately? Are they talking about opening up for life or for the short term? Are they talking just sex or do they want to be friends with people they're having sex with. After that, there still needs to be discussion about boundaries and what comes up for people.

I worked with one couple, Mary* and John*.... Mary thought they were going to go and find someone for a threesome. Meanwhile, John wanted Mary to go off and have her dates while he had his separately. They had a completely different idea of what they were going to do.... So, they ended up in a fight.... I began by suggesting that they start with talking through why they wanted.... Then they were able to agree on what would work for both of them.


Pretty darn elementary ("communicate, communicate, communicate"), but new people constantly need to hear it anew.


This couple had also never talked about sex and they had been together for about 10 years. That's not unusual, I'm afraid.


Dear God.


Don't go for a threesome as your first non-monogamous experience

Three is an awkward number. I can't tell you the number of couples who want a threesome and are really excited about it, and then it doesn't go well because one person feels left out. ... They came and saw me and we talked about why they didn't communicate during the situation. Having sex doesn't mean you don't talk. ... The second time this couple and a third woman talked about what they wanted beforehand and during, and everybody had a wonderful time.

...One of the mistakes I see people make is having an agreement with each other about the rules they're going to have and not [regularly] reviewing that. They then go out and have other relationships but they don't continue to look at what they have agreed to. Humans are not static!

...Non-monogamy and polyamory require self development. ... I gently reminded [Jessie] that she had agreed to non-monogamy, so we looked at what her negative feelings were about. For Jessie, it felt like her husband was dating a younger version of her. She felt that all of her perceived flaws were being magnified, and that her husband was going to eventually run off with this other woman.

I call this "Monogamy hangover." Monogamy is "either/or" whereas non-monogamy is "both/and". ...

Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey is a GSRD (gender, sex, relationship diversity) therapist, sex and intimacy coach and psychologist. You can find out more at drloribethbisbey.com or follow her on Instagram @drbisbey.



●  But let's remember, a movement can succeed too much. Throughout history, you see good movements brought to ruin by poorly handling their success. Because hubris, because humans. I see the following as a distant early warning coming over our horizon: The Monogamous People Who Live in Fear of ‘Polybombing’ (Mel magazine, April 21)


Traditionalists worry that any closed relationship is at risk of being pried open against their will.

The polybomb


By Miles Klee

Reddit’s r/monogamy, in theory a small community to discuss the benefits and challenges of sharing your life with one committed long-term partner, more often devolves into angst over polyamorous arrangements. Formerly poly members share horror stories of open relationships that ended in heartbreak, while strident monogamists condemn the poly scene as a pit of selfishness, hedonism and false superiority. While it’s true that non-monogamous individuals can be a little smug or self-aggrandizing in their abandonment of traditional romantic mores, there is a tacit understanding throughout the subreddit that such a lifestyle can never be healthy or sustainable. They’re united in the corollary belief that only an asshole would want to try it. 

A newcomer lamented in a recent post that the group, instead of being “a place that supports monogamy as a normal okay thing, without shaming polyamory,” was focused on “over-generalizing and straw-manning” the practice. An established user replied that such venting was necessary, “since so many people here have been polybombed and manipulated, and so many poly people like to manipulate.”

...Someone who proposes marriage isn’t “matrimony-bombing.” These are decisions made between two adults with equal say in the matter [or ought to be. –Ed.]  But r/monogamy operates from the assumption that the “polybomb” is a concerted attack, unforgivable in its own right. 

No doubt this is partly the result of both sides’ unfortunate tendency to value their chosen paradigm by disparaging the opposite — that is, endorsements of either monogamy or polyamory may proceed from a case for why the other model is unrealistic or “wrong.” ...


Once again: Monogamy is the right choice for many people, probably most. They need to find each other. Their decisions and lives are not to be culturally dissed.

Because, courtesy aside, there is nothing so dangerous as a dominant majority who come to feel they are an aggrieved minority. Distant early warning.


● Charming new play ‘Fiveplay’ depicts housemates with benefits (DC Metro Theater Arts, April 17). It's about a rollicking queer household.


By John Stoltenberg

...Erica Smith’s charming new play Fiveplay is set in the shared household of an assortment of idiosyncratic personalities in their twenties. ...The housemates of Fiveplay are all polyamorous, which one of them helpfully explains early on, in an amusing teach-the-audience scene:

AVERY: Polyamory is being involved in multiple committed relationships at once with — and this is the most important part — the full consent of everyone involved. Also referred to as a form of ethical nonmonogamy. I’m gonna repeat that: ETHICAL nonmonogamy.

Someday some smart TV producer is going to notice the zeitgeist is ready for a sitcom based on this provocative premise — it’s only a matter of time.... Perhaps that polyamorous reimagining of Friends will be inspired by Fiveplay, who knows? ...

...Keeping track of who’s having relations with whom can get complicated. So you’ll thank me, when you see Fiveplay, for this handy color-coded diagram:


One of the most interesting things about Fiveplay is what it’s not. There’s a lot of situationally appropriate hugging, kissing, and other casual affection and a lot of banter about an upcoming special event (a house orgy they call Fucksgiving), but no clothes come off, there are no sex acts, and nobody objectifies or body-judges anyone else. The actors who very capably play the five polyamorous characters ... and the sole character not coupled lives in the moment in their interrelationships as if nothing at all out of the ordinary is going on. It’s simply their chosen everyday family, they are refreshingly at ease in it, and the eroticism between them can be sweetly funny....

When dramatic conflicts arise, it’s never about jealousy or betrayal or any stereotype one might have about these people’s multiple sex-partnering. Instead, it’s tensions and incursions from outside — an antique suspected of being haunted, the curtly texted news of a beloved grandfather’s death, the antipathy of offstage parents — all episodes that while not particularly earthmoving, illustrate how the premise of polyamorous housemates could well be deployed in a [TV] pilot. ...


Yup. I've long pictured the setup for that pilot: a big old Victorian house in a hip-ish neighborhood, full of clutter and cats and six adults embroiled in an ever-morphing constellation of relationships, with lots of kitchen-table angst and hilarity and oversharing metamours. Add a couple of super-precocious kids and a baby, weirded-out or over-eager friends and neighbors, older relatives visiting from Peoria in various states of cluelessness that requires impromptu closeting (but here come the kid-blurts) — make them quirky and mostly-lovable, and hey, you'd have the makings of "Big Bang Theory"-level success. 


●  Elsewhere in pop culture, last fall I posted about a Book Riot review, 8 Books With Love Triangles That End In Polyamory. These were all in the Young Adult (YA) genre. Now from Book Riot comes The State of Polyamory in YA Fiction (April 14).


By Tirzah Price

...The first instance of polyamory in YA that I remember reading was in Malinda Lo’s Adaptation and sequel Inheritance [where] Reese develops feelings for Amber and enters into a relationship with her even as David indicates he’d like to start a relationship with Reese. The love triangle is fraught, until it’s suggested that Reese date both Amber and David. The second book ends with an epilogue ... that informs readers that Reese has proceeded with polyamory and that while it’s not without its struggles, it’s been a happy solution. However, Lo gave little indication and details about said struggles, and I was left feeling a bit disappointed that after seeing the love triangle play out up close, we didn’t get to see the solution in action.


Also described are Rachel Hartman’s fantasy Seraphina duology and her Tess of the Road, Laura Nowlin's This Song is (Not) For You, Mary McCoy's Indestructible Object, the short-story anthology Fools in Love edited by Rebecca Podos and Ashley Herring Blake, and Xiran Jay Zhao's Iron Widow, "one of the biggest books of 2021 and an instant New York Times bestseller. Iron Widow is arguably one of the highest profile YA books with a polyamorous relationship at the center that actually plays out."


● More polycons stir from hibernation. In hopes that the pandemic will stay diminished, the annual round of polyamory conventions, retreats, campouts, and similar events is beginning to open back up. See the signs of life returning on Alan's List of Polyamory Events. Let me know if anything there is incomplete or out of date.

Most events say they will require some measures against spreading Covid including proof of vaccination. Ask about their refund policy if either you or they change plans due to pandemic developments, and I wouldn't book expensive travel yet without a refund provision. Some events are capping in-person attendance and will have an online option.


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

And on the grim new world-era we are entering... some perspective.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Some people call us a threat to society, because we live outside their worldview and expose its incompleteness. Our freedom to build non-traditional relationships, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one small way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives, to access facts, and to speak of what they know.

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 safely, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to go their own way — whether by intimidation, laws, propaganda and public incitement, or, eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, this site has received more pagereads 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.)

But that's only the start. For those of us born after World War II, this is setting up as the most consequential war of our lifetimes.

The coming era is going to require tough things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we are born into. But we do get to choose how we respond to it. Buck up and be ready.

PS: Need a little help bucking up? Play this new release from Pink Floyd. Loud.
(Another version.)


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April 7, 2022

Vogue tells our story well. So do others in the last few days.





Vogue, the heavyweight (literally) among high-fashion magazines, presents in its April issue The More the Merrier? by Michelle Ruiz. The article's  online title: Is Monogamy Over? Inside Love’s Sharing Economy. It's an outstanding piece of work: a deep dive for the curious, excellent explanations of what we're about (at least from a mainstream perspective), and the writing displays dollar-a-word polish.


And it's long: 4,000 words, spanning six pages.

It starts by following a once-lively couple into their midlife dullness. Megan and Marty reminisce about the people they used to be and feel that there's nothing ahead now but years of more years. They put a toe into swinging but find it's not what they want. Then Megan develops a crush on a guy of a new and different kind, named Kyle. The three become friends, and during a dinner visit Marty encourages the two to go ahead and kiss. And then before they quite grasp what's happening to them, they emerge blinking from a threesome. 


The experience felt transformative: “It was like reigniting the curiosity of a teenager,” Megan remembers. Questioning the confines of her marriage “was like coming into Technicolor,” she marvels, referencing the movie Pleasantville, in which rainbow hues begin to populate a puritanical, black-and-white town. Megan was alive with excitement and energy; she describes the feeling of returning to her body, as if she’d been previously numb. “I remember looking back at them at one point, and both of them looking at me,” she says of that first encounter. “It was like, Oh my God, this whole other world is out here.

Opening their relationship sparked a stream of existential questions for them, according to Megan: “Whose life are we living? What do we want?” Entrenched systems were equally open to debate. “We are in a time of questioning institutional structures like health care, education, and, yes, monogamy,” she says....“I think people are disillusioned with life right now and really starting to write their own rules.”

...In contrast to the free love of the ’60s or suburban key-party ethos of the ’70s, consensual non-monogamy in 2022 is a thoughtfully considered, typically therapized practice, complete with a tidy acronym. CNM is rooted in open relationships that aspire to be “honest, moral, and trustworthy,” says Jessica Wood, Ph.D., a sexuality and relationships researcher....


The article follows the growth of the movement in recent years, quoting such figures as CNM researchers Amy Moors and Zhana Vrangalova, legal activist Kimberly Embers, and Feeld CEO Ana Kirova. The writer tells about some of her own Connecticut friends and neighbors newly gossiping, during "the ennui of Covid," about the cultures of swinging other consensual non-monogamy.


Sex scholars studying CNM are beginning to explore the possibility that the desire to be non-monogamous is a “relationship orientation” unto itself, or may be part of sexual orientation. Creating a more nuanced definition of sexual orientation could mean asking: “Do you want no partners, or do you want to be exclusive in sexual and/or emotional ways to one partner, or open with multiple?” Moors says. As with gender and sexuality, relationships can exist on a spectrum, Vrangalova argues. “We’re not dealing with a binary world of ‘Oh, you’re monogamous,’ or ‘You’re totally open.’ There’s lots of different things in between.”

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

...Megan considers herself a better parent now that she’s polyamorous, saying she’s a more loving person in general. She and Marty give their son and daughter an age-appropriate explanation of their unconventional relationship structure or “polycule” (CNM is only the beginning of a seemingly endless glossary of terms). “At one point, when we lived in New Zealand and Kyle lived with us for about six months, they knew I might be in Kyle’s bedroom or I might be in Daddy’s bedroom,” Megan said. “We talk about ‘Mommy loves Kyle and Daddy,’ and ‘Daddy loves Mommy and Daddy loves his partner’…and they don’t know it’s not normal yet.”

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

...“This is the next wave of inquiry,” Moors agrees. “This is going to be up for national discussion in the coming decade, if not sooner.” It all amounts to a migration to the mainstream: At [Janet] Hardy and coauthor Dossie Easton’s earliest book events for The Ethical Slut, in the late ’90s, “audiences were mostly geek culture—Renaissance Fair, science-fiction conference attendees, old hippies like us,” Hardy said. Now, the crowds are much more diverse. ...

...Joli Hamilton, Ph.D., a research psychologist, told me CNM is about “returning agency” to your partner. She and her second husband, Ken, who have seven children between them, live in small-town Massachusetts. They “look like soccer parents,” she says....


The story quotes Koe Creation, author of This Heart Holds Many: My Life as the Nonbinary Millennial Child of a Polyamorous Family. Koe grew up in a Seattle nest of three moms, two dads, and their extended relationship network. This expansive early polycule, including the legendary Erosong House, had a "founder effect" that drew others to the area and contributed to Seattle earning, by around 2010, a reputation as the poly capital of America. Here's Koe, reading their words from Vogue:




-------------------
1.  No, monogamy is not "over" despite the online title and the printed cover line. Monogamy will always be the right choice for many people, perhaps most, and they need to find each other. But this is a fashion magazine, and the fashion industry is all about shaming endless container-shiploads of new clothes into landfills as fast as possible, because capitalism. So the title came naturally. </rant> 

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


●  In other big media: the World Service of BBC News broadcast a 23-minute radio program last Sunday titled Divisible Love, part of its "Deeply Human" series (April 3). It's worth a listen in your drive time. Webpage description:


Why do you love the way you do?
 
We're expected to love only one romantic partner at a time. But we can love more than one parent, sibling, and friend - so why do so many cultures demand monogamy in romance? Is it time to reconsider the old model?
 
Dessa speaks with a philosopher, an economist, and sexpert Dan Savage to talk about love, sex, and commitment.


Listen here (streaming).


●  Google Alerts doesn't serve up as many small-town newspaper profiles of local out-and-proud polyfamilies as it did a decade ago, perhaps because there are ever fewer small-town newspapers. But the genre continues. This appeared in The Gabber of Gulfport, Florida: Meet Gulfport’s Polyamorous Throuple (April 1)


Rachael Meir, Aaron Meir, and Kasey Kershne (Ran & Rami Photography)

By Abby Baker

When Rachael and Aaron Meir met in college in Colorado 20 years ago, their future seemed on track for children, the white picket fence, and everything that comes with it. 

Until they took the time to talk about what they wanted. 

...Today, the Meir’s are in a polyamorous triad relationship with Kasey Kershne. The group moved from Colorado to Gulfport three months ago.... 

Despite the Meir’s being together for nearly two decades, their relationship with Kershne is an equal one. That’s the entire idea behind ethical polyamory, says Rachael, a licensed psychologist. 

The three have separate dynamics with one another, each with their own relationship within the triad, as well as a dynamic as a group. They go on dates, scooter around town, have disagreements, triple spoon, and live a normal life like traditional couples. 

The triad cites warm weather and lower cost of living in their decision to move from Colorado to Florida, despite Colorado having a sizable polyamorous community. 

Florida, not so much. 

“A lot of Florida isn’t friendly for our situation,” Aaron said. 

Despite this, they traveled the state searching for a potential home, and settled on Gulfport.... The three of them have posted their polyamorous status on various Gulfport Facebook groups and received overwhelmingly positive responses. 

Well, not all positive, Aaron says. But for the most part, people have been understanding and [shown] willingness to learn. 

“The idea of being able to walk down the street and all be holding hands … we didn’t want to hide ourselves for any reason,” Kershne said. 

...“We did a lot of research on triads and ethical polyamory and how to do it in a way that didn’t make someone feel like they are a third, or disposable,” Rachael said. 

...“In a lot of cases, people are still living in the shadows,” Kershne said. ... But with the changing nature of societal norms, perhaps it’s not off the table. 

Find out more about the throuple on their TikTok and Instagram @triadandtrue.


That's how you can represent if you're securely out. Create a social media presence, show it to the folks at your local paper and ask if they'd like to do a writeup, and off you go.


●  An outsider looks in on us and is impressed: What I’ve Learned About Love From My Polyamorous Friends, from The Good Men Project (April 3; originally on Medium.)


Unexpected relationship insights from the world of
ethical non-monogamy.


By Sian Bennett

Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t think much about ethical non-monogamy (ENM). ... But after spending time with friends from diverse cultural backgrounds who are exploring non-traditional relationships, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of why ethical non-monogamy is an attractive option for them.

...During one of our get-togethers, it transpired that she was exploring polyamory.

I was fascinated. But I also had so many questions about its practical application. Like, how does it work? Don’t you get jealous? How many people can you date at the same time? What do you tell family or friends?

Through my new friend, I met more people exploring this lifestyle choice. Then I started noticing it almost everywhere. ... 

I clicked with people in this community because they were open-minded, non-judgmental, intelligent, respectful, interesting and inclusive. ... I became a poly-ally.

One of my first observations was that to navigate this lifestyle successfully, you must be prepared to work — on yourself, your communication, your emotional regulation and on owning your s**t. What a radical idea.

One of the things that attracted me to go deeper was the awareness and discussion around consent — in all its forms.

At its essence, consent is about boundaries. It’s about checking in with what feels OK for you and knowing how to communicate that.

...The people I’ve met are less caught up in the script of what life “should” look like. I celebrate that. ... Breaking down programming as to why things need to be a certain way can be a challenge.

...A community often becomes like a family, or tribe, due to the shared values. 

...One of the biggest takeaways from my time in Polyland is the amount of clear, honest communication that’s required to manage multiple relationships successfully.

Heck, having one successful relationship is something to celebrate. So then double that, add a few dates, plus a job, friends and other commitments… I feel tired just writing this.

...One approach that many people swear by is Nonviolent Communication. It’s a great resource for anyone that wants to communicate with their partner in a healthier way. 

...Another key takeaway from the polyamorous lifestyle is that each relationship provides something different. And that’s one of the main reasons people choose it.

...For the monogamous among us, I hope this has given you something to ponder, whether you choose to explore a different way of relating or not.


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

And on the grim new world-era we may be entering... some perspective.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Some people call us a threat to society, because we live outside their small worldview and we expose its incompletenesses. Our freedom to build non-traditional relationships, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one small way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives, to access facts, and to speak of what they know.

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 safely, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to go their own way — whether by intimidation, laws, propaganda and public incitement, or, eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, this site has received more pagereads 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.)

The coming era may require tough things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we find ourselves born into. But we do get to choose how we respond to it. Buck up and be ready.

PS: Need a little help bucking up? Play this new release from Pink Floyd. Loud.

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 SUBSCRIBE by a feed, or 
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April 1, 2022

A TV series explores newbies opening up. Expanding family law. A polyfamily survives and thrives. Good new Poly 101s, and much more.


You knew reality TV would go here eventually. Open House: The Great Sex Experiment premiers on Great Britain's Channel 4 TV tonight (April 1). The theme is newbies trying open relationships. Actually, it's couples trying threesome swinging. With sex on camera. Trailer (3:43),

"Dr Lori, the show's resident psychologist, on set with the some of the availables"



Billed as its ‘most shocking show ever’ (a bold claim from the home of Naked Attraction), the six part series invites poly-curious couples to explore and indulge in their fantasies in a luxury stately home, with intimacy therapist Dr Lori Beth on-hand to provide support and advice on opening your relationship in a safe and healthy way.

...‘I’m bisexual so I’ve always considered threesomes,’ call centre worker Mady, 20, explains. ‘We’d done so much sexually, it just felt like a natural succession to bring more people into our relationship.’

The pair, based in South Wales, had been dating for a year and a half when they were approached by the show’s team – and were curious about whether they would have sex on TV.

‘We’d never been filmed at all ever,’ Mady says. ‘...We went in with no expectations and we came out with so much more than we ever anticipated. I got so carried away, I completely forgot the cameras were there.’


The article includes a sidebar of sound advice that "couples should consider before attempting ethical non-monogamy." 

Says The Guardian,


Gird your loins: Here’s a dating show that hopes to break the taboo around polyamory. Each week, curious couples are invited to a swinging party, where they can ask others to join them for the night. Along the way, they talk things through with an intimacy therapist, Dr Lori Beth. First up, Mady and Nathan are looking for “a throuple situation”, but will they go through with it? The nightcam action is pretty awkward, but it does show the reality of what happens in such situations.


Note, you can only watch from locations in the UK or Ireland. 

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

Update the next day: Reviews of the first episode are coming in.

-- In the UK's iNews: Pure shock value, by Rachael Sigee (April 2)


[A] brightly lit drinks receptions [featured] the naffest [i.e. dopiest] “erotic” games this side of an Ann Summers party. No wonder everyone was giddy: it was the X-rated equivalent of a children’s birthday party. ...

...There is certainly space on mainstream TV to expand our understanding of sex, and the show tried to start some of those conversations, looking at why non-monogamy might appeal and what it might require: communication, trust and emotional resilience. But that nuance was overshadowed by graphic footage of the sexual encounters, which didn’t add much other than shock value.


-- The Guardian: A horribly compelling peek at threesomes, by Rebecca Nicholson


The night-vision footage of noisy, slurpy group sex has zero educational value, and it’s often unbearably awkward, but this look at couples’ journeys into non-monogamy is hard to resist.

You either love watching strangers lick cream off each other’s lips on national television in the name of a social experiment – or in the words of Boy George, you would rather have a nice cup of tea.

Open House explores what it claims is “one of society’s greatest taboos”, non-monogamy, by sending curious couples into a sort of sex retreat in a country house, where they may have their pick of a buffet of sexually liberated single people who all want to have sex with them. The sex retreat is hosted by Jess and Thom, who have been in a long-term open relationship for many years. The idea is that Jess and Thom will guide the newcomers through social gatherings and get the couples used to the idea of kissing other people, and maybe more.

There is a therapeutic element, too, by way of Dr Lori Beth Bisbey, a therapist who specialises in helping couples with their emotions around whether they want to open up their relationship or not. While she seems to have a vested interest in non-monogamy, she does talk a lot of sense about trust, communication and emotional resilience. Threesomes are a popular choice for newcomers, apparently, but harder than you might think to navigate.

...Before they dip their toes into orgiastic waters, they have a session with Dr Lori, which is gripping ... except that at the end of it, you know you’re going to get some noisy, slurpy, night-vision footage of the curious people and the sexually liberated people going at it on some soft furnishings.

...If there is a message to be taken from Open House, it’s that emotional literacy is rare, and vital, and that without good communication, couples can get themselves into all sorts of bother.

It wasn’t the sex or the erotic group games or the intimacy exercises which made this hard to watch, though. It was the sheer, unbearable awkwardness of it all. I cringed and cringed again, when feelings were hurt, when a “spare part” ceased to function in the heat of the moment....

What remains enjoyable about this – and it is horribly compelling, cringe and all – is how people respond to matters of love and lust. But does it need to be presented as some taboo-busting social experiment? Don’t be daft. This is pure entertainment. There’s no point being coy about it.




Many will, no doubt, have reached for the remote in disgust last night. Some will say it’s gratuitous and unnecessary. 

I beg to differ. I think it’s worthy of some televisual sexploration. 

...A threesome or a “throuple” (which is on a more permanent footing) stays a psychological adventure because many don’t have the courage or even imagination to turn it into a reality. And it’s for this reason that the programme is a fascinating examination of the process and all its truths. 

...For me, however, such a contemplation is unbearable. I have never, and could never, envisage a time when I would be in a committed relationship then bring a third party into that intimate, dedicated situation. 

...So I was fascinated to observe the journey the couples — all willing participants on the programme — went on. 

For some it was a long-held intrigue, for others the prospect of spicing things up. 

There was nothing gratuitous about the show, it fully honed in on the emotional aspects. And it got personal. 

Fears and jealousy were exposed which helped me see the many dimensions of such a proposition. 

And don’t be possessed by your own unconscious bias that it is only women who express emotions such as these. There are some unexpected surprises.

I always believed that people willing to explore open relationships were a certain breed, of a different ilk — they were detached in some way, maybe lacking in empathy, emotionally stunted perhaps.

What emerges from this sexual examination is that this is not true at all. The couples run the gamut of emotions — jealousy, introspection, doubt, apprehension. This is real life and people’s feelings.

And the biggest question the programme poses is whether monogamy should be consigned to the history books. Is it really natural, credible, feasible and doable for us to stay with just the one person? And when it comes to sex, limit ourselves to just the one partner? 

Some might argue the idea of monogamy is a social construct — it’s not natural. I have my feet in both camps. I enjoy the loyalty in a relationship but a glance over my shoulder at my past, it’s clear that’s not been entirely achievable.

As we are living longer and likely to have more partners, I think it’s important we explore all these possibilities.



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Elsewhere in polyamory in the news,

●  We keep seeing good, basic Poly 101s in increasing numbers. For instance, on Yahoo Life, Love without limitation: What exactly is polyamory? (March 23)


By Cathy Reay

..We are expected to hold one romantic relationship at a time. There’s even a term for it: default (or compulsory) monogamy. ...

That is, of course, unless you’re someone like me. Like many people, I practice a form of non-monogamy called polyamory. I still have loving, often long-term relationships, in which I might achieve the same or similar relationship milestones as I would in a monogamous partnership, but my love isn’t exclusively tied to one person at any one time.

...With the full consent of whomever else we are seeing at the time, we are free to explore the possibilities. Polyamory grants us the opportunity to foster multiple loving, nurturing relationships that are rewarding in different ways.

Chad Spangler, a polyamory content creator and independent artist, feels being polyamorous strengthens his relationships: “I think a lot of people see polyamory from the outside and think the quality of each relationship must be somehow diminished because feelings, intimacy and the like are distributed among multiple people. I've experienced quite the opposite. My previously monogamous relationship is better than ever because of the amount of communication polyamory requires.” ...

...As polyamory educator Leanne Yau explains..."While sex is of course a part of a loving relationship for a lot of people, the point of polyamory is to foster intimacy, connection and commitment with multiple partners.”

...It can also be hard work. Being open and honest with multiple people at a time, maintaining consistent lines of communication and coordinating schedules takes a lot of effort.

“Polyamorous people have to be extremely organized in order to maintain multiple relationships … and you are more likely to find them communicating boundaries and negotiating relationship agreements with their partners than participating in a wild hedonistic orgy on any given day,” Yau says.

In fact, sex isn’t a prerequisite of polyamory at all, and neither is romance. ... Tommie H., who is both asexual and polyamorous, says that it allows them to "have a number of different relationships that provide different things, and it's much easier to ask for what you need and [have] that be respected, rather than doing what society tells us we have to do."

They add, "This is so freeing and, in my experience, has made my relationships more intimate and healthy."...

Polyamory isn’t really for the non-committal. It takes excellent organizational skills, self-awareness and a level of vulnerability that can feel emotionally tough to work through at times. ...



●  Another example, short and direct: What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy? (March 18, PureWow)


By Angelica Pasquini
 
...In her book Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Non-monogamy, psychotherapist and trauma and relationship expert Jessica Fern shines light on how a deep dedication to communication is required in practicing ethical non-monogamy with a partner: “It is paramount for them to dialogue with their partner about whether or not that partner wants to be in the role of an attachment figure for them, as well as honestly assessing if the partner has enough time, capacity and/or space in their life and other relationships to show up to the degree required for being polysecure together.” ...



●  Four days later on the same site, the same writer went a couple steps deeper: Is Non-Hierarchical Polyamory the New Relationship Goalpost? (March 22)


Viktoriia Miroshnikova / Getty
 
By Angelica Pasquini

I first heard about non-hierarchical polyamory when one of my crushes DMed me about it. ... Non-hierarchical polyamory, a hashtag with 1.8 million views on TikTok, ... means that there is no ranking system of primary and secondary partners within romantic and/or sexual relationships. When it comes to decision making, no particular relationship is designated as having the right to set requirements or limits on the other relationships in the network. Partners and metamours (your lover’s lovers) make decisions that are intended to be collaborative and consultative rather than rule-based. ... despite traditional relationship markers such as living together, shared expenses, years spent together or co-parenting a child. 

My gut reaction to learning about non-hierarchical polyamory was surprise. ...

Much of the natural world is inclined toward establishing hierarchies. Primates, birds and wolves, for example, organize themselves into hierarchies when competing for food, space and mating partners by asserting dominance for survival. Remember the cafeteria scene in Mean Girls? That felt so real because it was.

...I think, for some members of our human species, exploring a non-hierarchical polyamory lifestyle will open doors to self-perception and acceptance that will make positive changes in our society for decades to come.



●  After two years of pandemic isolation, a polyfamily comes out the other side tested and strong: Nonmonogamous in Theory, Monogamous in Reality, in New York Magazine's TheCut.com  (March 14). The writer is a relationship advice columnist for The Valley Advocate, a half-century-old alternative weekly paper in western Massachusetts. (The illustration of her is from there.)


By Yana Tallon-Hicks

In early 2018, my partner Lex told me they were pregnant. Sitting on the stairs, they lifted up their shirt to show an early pregnancy bloat: “I mean, look at this?! How didn’t I know?” Incredibly relieved that the news they insisted on telling me in person was actually celebratory, I turned to look at Manuel, their husband and also my other partner. “I’m so happy for you two!” I said.

At this point, I had been dating Manuel and Lex, a longtime married and nonmonogamous couple with three children, for a few months. I was also newly in a relationship with my would-be boyfriend; at that point, we’d been seeing each other for a few months. Lex knew how much I wanted a baby, and they wanted to be there for me in case the news was hard to hear. Fast-forward a few months, and all four of us were shocked to learn I was pregnant, too. Despite dating for just a short time, my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to have the baby.

As partners building our families in tandem and in overlap, all 7¾ of us — Manuel, Lex, their three kids, their one-on-the-way, me, my boyfriend, and my one-on-the-way — enjoyed big dinners, community brunches, and hand-me-downs from Lex and Manuel’s older children. When Lex and Manuel’s son was born, I held his tiny, warm body against my pregnant belly, excited to meet my own little dude that coming summer.

When my son was born in June 2019, I was spoiled by all the love and support from my boyfriend, who committed to babywearing nearly 24/7, changing diapers and handling nonstop wake-ups; Manuel helped me put together furniture and planned baby-friendly outings; Lex helped me figure out breastfeeding and validated my struggles with new parenthood....

Then COVID-19 happened....

My vision of parenthood was never meant to be nuclear — it was always intended to include the Venn diagram–like overlap between my co-parenting partner and my other partners. When COVID entered the picture, what had once been an enriching community forged by two households became fractured. While it hurt to physically break off from Lex and Manuel’s family, my boyfriend and I felt that the most ethical, safest thing to do was to isolate. ...

...My caseload exploded as partners everywhere buckled under the pressure of “the new normal.”

Zooming from my now-toddler’s room, I saw monogamous couples who were rapidly trying to adjust to being each other’s singular social support, child-care provider, sexual partner, domestic chore-doer (or don’t-er), and work-from-home co-worker. Nonmonogamous clients, who I had always worked with around themes of expansive definitions of love, commitment, and partnership, were suddenly forced to close ranks and practice “nonmonogamy in theory” that was starting to look an awful lot like monogamy in reality. I could relate. ...

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

I recently started seeing someone new, and when I turned 36 in January, they organized the testing logistics so we could celebrate with Lex and Manuel, who got a sitter and came with balloons, gifts, and an offer to watch my son while I got a massage. That night, over takeout from my favorite local restaurant, my partners were sitting around my kitchen table, laughing at something funny my toddler said, and my heart and home felt warmer than it had nearly all pandemic. I watched the people who love me enjoying each other’s company, in person, for the first time in what felt like forever.

...Today, I’m rebuilding my family with these beliefs in mind: No matter the circumstances, who we are to each other — and who we allow each other to be — is worth fighting for.



●  Going the next step on that is Diana Adams, a pioneering alt-relationship lawyer and director of the Chosen Family Law Center. She has collected over 790,000 views for her Ted Talk Why US laws must expand beyond the nuclear family.

Watch to see why she's such an asset to all of us. And to see how to deliver a spot-on perfect Ted Talk, with clarity of message, arresting delivery, passion, timing, personal touches at key moments.


From its description:


The nuclear family model may no longer be the norm in the US, but it's still the basis for social and economic benefits like health care, tax breaks and citizenship. Lawyer and LBGTQIA advocate Diana Adams believes that all families, regardless of biological relationship or legal marriage, are deserving of equal legal rights and recognition. They present a vision for how US laws can benefit all families -- from same-sex bonds to multi-parent partnerships -- and explain how a more inclusive definition of family could strengthen your relationships and community.


Includes link to the transcript


●  Elsewhere: InStyle, one of America's largest traditional women's magazines (paid circulation 1.7 million), has discovered our click-generating power. Its latest: 12 Things This Polyamorous Sex Therapist Wishes People Understood About Non-Monogamy (March 18).

The therapist is Rachel Wright, who presents excellent explanations of the kind you hope your relatives are reading. The section headers speak in negative what-it's-nots rather than positive what-it-ises, always a poor approach to explanation. But the content under each header makes up for it.


Myth #1: It's unethical.
Myth #2: It's cheating.
Myth #3: There's no cheating in non-monogamous relationships.
Myth #4: You have to be part of the LGBTQ+ community to be non-monogamous.
Myth #6: It's constant orgies, all the time.
Myth #7: You have to have a high sex drive to be non-monogamous.
Myth #8: Both people in an existing relationship have to want to practice non-monogamy for it to work.
Myth #9: You have to be "not the jealous type" to be in a non-monogamous relationship.
Myth #10: Non-monogamous folks sleep with anyone and everyone who is interested.
Myth #11: Non-monogamous families can't have kids.
Myth #12: Non-monogamous folks wish you were non-monogamous, too.

...Non-monogamy, if done ethically, is a beautiful representation of security in relationships. There is freedom while also having the foundation of communication and honesty.


In the article are promos for two previous InStyle articles I haven't mentioned:



●  Lastly, this one is not poly-specific, but I think it's important for us to see and consider: Consent is not enough. We need a new sexual ethic. (Washington Post, March 17)


By Christine Emba

...Rachel (a pseudonym) reeled off a list of unhappy encounters with would-be romantic partners: sex consented to out of a misguided sense of politeness, extreme acts requested and occasionally allowed, degrading insults as things unfolded — and regrets later. “It’s not like I was being forced into anything or that I feel unsafe, but it’s not … good. And I don’t like how I feel afterwards.”

Young Americans are engaging in sexual encounters they don’t really want for reasons they don’t fully agree with. It’s a depressing state of affairs — turbocharged by pornography, which has mainstreamed ever more extreme sexual acts, and the proliferation of dating apps, which can make it seem as though new options are around every corner.

The results are widely felt. Many of my contemporaries are discouraged by the romantic landscape, its lack of trust, emotion and commitment, but... they assume that this is how things go, and that it would be unreasonable to ask for more — and rude not to go along with whatever has been requested.

...In this landscape, there is only one rule: Get consent from your partner beforehand. But the outcome is a world in which young people are both liberated and miserable. While college scandals and the #MeToo moment may have cemented a baseline rule for how to get into bed with someone without crossing legal lines, that hasn’t made the experience of dating and finding a partner simple or satisfying. ...

As Rachel told me: “Every single person I know — every woman I know — has had some questionable encounter, whether it was, like, really violent or really forceful or just kind of like, ‘Oh, I hated that. That was not fun.’”

These are typically encounters that adults have entered into willingly, in part because consent alone is the standard for good and ethical sex.

...We need a new ethic — because consent is not enough.

Even when it goes well, sex is complicated. It involves our bodies, minds and emotions, our connections to each other and our deepest selves. 

...More recently, sex educators have moved toward the “enthusiastic” formulation of consent. Again, the goal is to remove ambiguity, but it [just] sets the bar higher. ... The same complaints and confusions abound. What if one party hopes for a future together and the other does not? What counts as a relationship, and what is “casual,” if the definition isn’t mutually shared? ...

The problem with all this is that consent is a legal criterion, not an ethical one. It doesn’t tell us how we should treat each other as an interaction continues. It doesn’t provide a good road map should something go off the rails. ... And setting consent as the highest bar for any encounter effectively takes a pass on the harder questions: whether that consent was fairly obtained; whether it can ever fully convey what our partners really, ultimately, want; whether we should be doing what we’ve gotten consent to do.

More clarifications of consent — or ever-more-technical breakdowns of its different forms — won’t rebalance power differentials, explain intimacy or teach us how to care. Making the standard of consent our sole criterion for good sex punts on the question of how to conduct a relationship that affirms our fundamental personhood and human dignity. ...

This is the problem with consent: It leaves so much out. Nonconsensual sex is always wrong, full stop. But that doesn’t mean consensual sex is always right. ... And the gap between what young people want the sexual landscape to look like and what the consent paradigm offers is turning many off of sex entirely, as evidenced by falling rates of sexual activity, partnership and marriage — some have dubbed this the “sex recession” — that recently hit a 30-year low.

I asked many... what a better sexual world might look like. “Listening,” I heard. “Care,” they said. “Mutual responsibility,” some suggested. Or, as one woman plaintively put it: “Can we not just love each other for a single day?”

That question points to what looks to me like a good answer. The word “love” tends to conjure ideas of flowers, chocolate, declarations of undying devotion. But the term has a longer, more helpful history.... Aristotle talked about love as an intention to bear goodwill toward another for the sake of that person and not oneself.

Willing the good means caring enough about another person to consider how your actions (and their consequences) might affect them — and then choosing not to act if the outcome would be negative. It’s mutual concern — thinking about someone other than yourself and then working so their experience is as good as you hope yours to be. It’s taking responsibility for navigating interactions that may seem ambiguous....

...This new ethic would also acknowledge that sex is likely to be something different and more substantial than we want or expect it to be. This makes it our responsibility to make a good-faith bet on what the good actually is....

...It’s a much higher standard than consent. But consent was always the floor — it never should have been the ceiling.

[Adapted from the author's new book, Rethinking Sex: A Provocation


In fact, a whole lot of people are, like me, at least sort of demisexual: needing closeness and heart connection before sex is good or even very desirable. Some demis feel a bit ashamed about it. Don't be. The answer to many of the dilemmas that Emba describes above is the old poly mantra communicate, communicate, communicate, and good communication is enabled by closeness. It does have to be done fearlessly,  however. And remember, half of communicating is listening.

BTW, an advantage of online dating is you can choose to be really fearlessly specific in your profile and then set filters. For example, you might put "I don't do sex on the first several dates, and never unless we develop a caring personal connection." The filtering trick is to make your profile long and hide a sentence like this near the end: "To show that you've read this far and agree, put the word wombat in your reply." Set an e-mail filter to auto-delete messages coming from [dating site] if no [wombat] in the text. Never get a drive-by again!

And for people who pass the test, I also like the idea of pointing them to a "me manual."  Joreth's example.  Cunning Minx's

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And, stepping back for some perspective:

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Our existence is a threat to some people's worldviews. Our freedom to build non-traditional relationships, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is one way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's agency to create their own lives, as well as their ability to access facts and speak what they know.

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 in safety, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States. Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to go their own way — whether by intimidation, repressive laws, propaganda and incitement, or, eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, this site has received far more pagereads 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.)

More is going to be required of us in coming months and maybe years. Expect this. 

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