Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

January 1, 2024

The New Yorker's controversal article on "How Did Polyamory Become So Popular?"


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●  We start with the big New Yorker piece a lot of you are talking about. America's premier long-form magazine presents an unexpected take on How Did Polyamory Become So Popular? (online Dec. 25;  if you're blocked there read it here or in the Jan. 1-8 print issue).

Writer Jennifer Wilson argues, "Non-monogamy is increasingly being adopted not to threaten marriage but to save it."

She takes a cue from Christopher M. Gleason's new book American Poly: A History, which I reviewed last month. In the book Gleason latches onto the essential conservatism of Loving More founder Ryam Nearing's polyfidelitous family values and her centering of healthy child-rearing, and the poly movement's advocacy of honesty, forthrightness, generosity, bravery, concern for the well-being of all, and other good-character traits that people expect to hear more from the Boy Scouts or churches.

In her New Yorker article, Wilson argues that many mainstream couples are exploring consensual non-monogamy not out of any relationship radicalism but as a pressure release valve to keep closed marriages from exploding. Thereby helping to preserve the traditional institution of marriage.

This is quite at odds with the relationship radicalism of much of the poly movement, and especially with the heady utopian visions that, in the 1980s and 1990s, infused the young movement with its power and zest. Wilson is very aware of this tension.

Once the province of utopian free-love communities, consensual non-monogamy is now the stuff of Park Slope marriages and prestige television.

A conventional-looking, well-dressed couple eye-gazing, each also shown with other partners on the side (Sarah Mazzetti illustration for The New Yorker)
A rich-looking, well-dressed couple eye-gazing, each shown with other
partners on the side. (Sarah Mazzetti illustration for The New Yorker)

By Jennifer Wilson
On Season 1 of HBO’s “Succession,” the telecom heiress Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) shocked her social-climber partner, Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), by sharing her misgivings about monogamy—on their wedding night. “I’m just wondering if there’s an opportunity for something different from the whole boxed-set death march,” she confesses, still in her gown. ...

A brief scan of popular culture will tell you that Tom... is behind the times. Marriage has been drafty lately. Everywhere you turn, the door couples close behind them when they enter the sanctum of matrimony is being left ajar. Bored with the old-fashioned affair, prestige TV has traded in adultery for a newer, younger model, mining open relationships for drama. ...

She gives a long list of recent examples.

...What are all these open couples, throuples, and polycules suddenly doing in the culture, besides one another? To some extent, art is catching up with life. Fifty-one per cent of adults younger than thirty told Pew Research, in 2023, that open marriage was “acceptable,” and twenty per cent of all Americans report experimenting with some form of non-monogamy. 

... These shows, with their well-off couples ready to experiment with open relationships as a marital pick-me-up, depict the surprising fate of a radical social proposal. Non-monogamy, once the province of utopian communities like Oneida, which maligned matrimony as just another form of private ownership, is increasingly being presented not as a threat to bourgeois marriage but, rather, as a way to save the institution and all that it affords.

“American Poly” ... offers some explanations for how this came to be the state of our affairs. ... Gleason argues, persuasively, that contemporary polyamory as a set of ideas and practices was articulated by the kind of free-love advocates best positioned to survive conservative backlash in the nineteen-eighties. These tended to be socially liberal fiscal conservatives who wanted love to be as free as the market.

...As backlash to the sexual revolution took hold in the nineteen-eighties, polyamory adapted itself to the times. Gleason cites the impact of one person in particular, Ryam Nearing, a Keristan-curious woman who settled outside Eugene, Oregon, with her two “husbands.” Nearing had split off from the movement over the issues of organized religion (she found Kerista as dogmatic as the Catholicism she’d left behind) and romantic attachment. She didn’t want a best-friend identity cluster; she wanted a marriage, albeit one with two men. “Nearing was uniquely suited to fight for ethical non-monogamy within the cultural climate of the Reagan era,” Gleason explains. ...

Joined by Deborah Anapol, a polyamorous clinical psychologist, Nearing made non-monogamy the kind of life style you could bring home to Mom and Dad. In 1994, Nearing and Anapol began putting out a magazine titled Loving More. ... They emphasized [polyamory's] reliance on honesty, personal responsibility, and a structured code of ethics. This coalition of polyamorists “did not chide conservative reverence for family values,” Gleason writes. “Rather, they internalized the conservative emphasis on stability and commitment, reframing the sustainment of multiple intimate partners not as an undoing of family values but as a necessary evolution in familial dynamics that better safeguarded the family from the alienation, isolation, and economic hardships of the post-nuclear age.”

Actually, that "structured code of ethics" arose not as a political maneuver but organically, from many early polyfolks' lived experiences and bitter mistakes. It evolved from what consistently proved to work and to not work for successful multiple-loving setups within networked community. But that might have been a less provocative thesis to write about.

...So many rules! “American Poly” reveals Americans to be very American. Good Puritans, we made marriage into work and non-monogamy into even more work—something that requires scheduling software, self-help manuals, even networking events. Presumably, participants could at least skip the icebreakers.

Wilson then goes into an analysis of Molly Roden Winter's new book More: A Memoir of Open Marriage. It's set in wealthy Park Slope, Brooklyn, one of New York's most desirable neighborhoods. I haven't read it yet, but the publisher's description sounds disheartening: "Molly and Stewart, who also begins to see other people, set ground rules to start: Don’t date an ex. ... Don't go to anyone's house. And above all, don't fall in love. Spoiler alert: They end up breaking most of their rules, even the most important one."

So, the release-valve fix for a troubled marriage: an individualistic, old-culture, community-less version of what so many of us are trying to do.

Apparently Wilson feels this too. She ends,

Ultimately, Roden Winter’s memoir represents a very specific, arguably very American version of polyamory—the extension of abundance culture to all corners of the bedroom, but nowhere beyond.

I want more for polyamory than “More.” As ethical non-monogamy becomes the stuff of Park Slope marriages and luxury perfume ads, it’s worth remembering that revolutions don’t fail; they get co-opted—often by people who can afford co-ops. You can understand why Roden Winter might believe that she is ushering in a bright, abundant future by opening up her marriage. A good love affair, when you’re inside it, feels like it could change the world. But changing the world takes more than spreading the love; you have to spread the wealth, too. Maybe that’s just utopian, hippie nonsense. But what can I say? I’m a romantic. ♦

Published in the print edition of the January 1 & 8, 2024, issue, with the headline “Open Season.”

PS: And lookee this! A guy who runs a pickup-artist site called The Red Quest spotted the New Yorker article. Accordingly, he advises his predatory vagina hunters to add poly jargon to their arsenal of PUA manipulations (Dec. 26). The article, he says,

is further evidence of the mainstreaming of non-monogamy. Guys who want to get laid a lot should at least be aware of the trend, if not incorporating it outright into their seduction arts skills, which is why I wrote a free book on the subject.

Ten years ago, I’d have to elaborately explain to chicks what sex parties are, what happens at them, the problems with monogamy, &tc. They’d often initially think my propositions bizarre and low-status. Today, a lot of chicks have probably already heard about non-monogamy from TV shows and places like that, and so the explanation part is lower, but the importance of status is still high. I say “TV shows” cause most chicks aren’t sufficiently literate to have read anything about anything.

That's not a satire site. PUAs are exchanging their poly-bullshitting tactics right on the open web. 

I'll say it. My rolling-bandwagon warning from that Central Park stage 15 years ago was prescient. The people who push for years to get a bandwagon to move its wheels half an inch are rarely prepared for what to do when the bandwagon finally starts rolling. Hint: As a bandwagon gain speed, it rolls downmarket.

Update to the New Yorker article: A founder of Kerista writes in. The magazine ran this letter in its January 29, 2024, print issue:

I would like to clarify some points regarding Kerista, which Wilson refers to as a “free-love movement that grew to prominence in San Francisco in the sixties.” Although various groups adopted the Kerista moniker in the fifties and sixties, the most successful and longest-lasting was the intentional community known as the Kerista Commune, which was founded in 1971. Wilson describes Jud Presmont as Kerista’s “leader,” but the commune was started by Presmont, the cartoonist Eve Furchgott, the poet Lynne Barnes, and me. It was a group accomplishment.

Wilson emphasizes Presmont’s ideas about Western competition with the Soviets, implying that Kerista’s spirit was ultimately capitalistic. Indeed, the commune ran a successful company—circa 1990, it was Apple Computer’s twentieth-largest domestic retail distributor. But our greatest achievement, second only to the family structure we created, is that we practiced genuine economic equality. All of us enjoyed the same living standard regardless of who did what in the business.

Wilson ends her piece lamenting that “changing the world takes more than spreading the love; you have to spread the wealth, too.” We attempted to create a movement in which the savings our life style generated funded social-justice and environmental projects. We weren’t able to maintain our project for more than twenty years, but it is my deepest hope that others are inspired to build the movement that we couldn’t.

Eva Konigsberg
Portland, Ore.

●  Sign of the times, or times soon to come: a Vogue magazine advice columnist, Shon Faye, reassures a worried reader that yes, potential dates who want monogamy can still be found. How Do I Know If Non-Monogamy Is Right for Me? (Dec. 21)

Dear Shon,

I’m a lesbian who’s just turned 30, and I’m finding myself at a crossroads with dating. ... I want to meet someone and enter into a happy, healthy, monogamous relationship. The trouble is, I’m having difficulty finding it.

...I’m finding myself stuck between the world of monogamy and polyamory. Ultimately I think I’m monogamous, yet I can’t seems to find a monogamous person who aligns with my ethics, values, and what I long for in life. Often it transpires that they want children (I don’t), wish to live in the suburbs away from queer community (I do not), or they have no interest in queerness and politics.

By contrast, the polyamorous people I meet share my left-wing views and outlook on the world. I deeply cared for the polyamorous person I once dated, but I know in my heart of hearts that I’m not wired that way. My heart cannot take it.

What can be done? Is this normal? 

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Between a Rock and a Hard Place,

I have been answering people’s dilemmas for over a year now and was waiting for this moment. Non-monogamy is still a fringe practice in society as a whole, and people in non-monogamous relationships report a high degree of stigma and discrimination. For example, I have queer and trans friends who say that their families’ attitudes about them having multiple partners or open relationships were far more negative and hurtful than the response to their sexuality or trans status alone. ...  Polyamorous people are discriminated against in policy areas like adoption and legal parenthood. So it is important to acknowledge that openly engaging in ethical non-monogamy (ENM) is by no means a normative or easy path to take.

That said, for many of us younger queer and trans people living in large cities with a dense LGBTQ+ population, ethical non-monogamy is suddenly a new norm, facilitated by apps that make multiple connections easier than ever. I would say that half of my friends are non-monogamous. Give it five years and, in my social circles at least, the monogamous people will probably be in the minority. 

...I want to let you know that it is okay if polyamory isn’t for you. It doesn’t mean that you’re unenlightened or less evolved. Having multiple healthy intimate relationships is hard work! There are also thousands of acceptable reasons for why you may not feel comfortable or secure in a relationship that is not sexually and romantically exclusive. Or why you can’t will yourself into ENM simply by reading books about the topic. ...

The quality of the relationship depends on the intentions and behavior of all parties. Monogamy certainly doesn’t equate to commitment or loyalty... Polyamorous people aren’t off the hook either. I’ve observed plenty of unhealed and uncool behavior in open and polyamorous relationships. Simply calling your practice of non-monogamy “ethical” doesn’t make it so. ...

...For now, you are clear you want a monogamous relationship, so it’s a case of waiting until a person  who is open to monogamy and who shares your values comes into your life. ... Being clear about your values and your bottom lines in dating can be hard if you see the potential pool of partners shrinking as a result, but in the long term, the clarity gives you a better chance of meeting someone who truly shares them. The upside of monogamy? You only need to find one.

●  On the always-bubbling question of whether poly is a choice or an orientation, InfinitePolyam asked if I could boost her new Medium post: Stop Calling Polyamory a “Lifestyle” — An Open Letter to the Polyamorous Community (Dec. 4). Bits:

I have considered myself as non-monogamous for roughly 20+ years, first starting with an open relationship that morphed into polyamory somewhere along the way over 10 years ago. ... For me, polyamory is my orientation and how I am wired. ... That brings me to the well discussed and often hot button topic of “Is polyamory a choice or an orientation?” ... Without proper research and statistics on polyamorous people, I’d say it seems to be roughly 50/50. ...

...My personal thoughts are that it can be either, both at the same time, or anywhere else on a spectrum, and can be fluid. Some are also ambiamorous. According to Laura Boyle, “Ambiamory is a word coined by Page Turner of poly.land for those who are equally comfortable and fulfilled in monogamous or polyamorous dynamics.”

...As Laura Boyle states... “I have a distaste for tying immutability to identity. Who we are as people changes throughout our lives.” ...

●  Like a pick-me-up? Here's a dip from the river of happy-polyfamily profiles flowing from the British tabs. This one got republished by the New York Post (yes, a Murdoch property). We’re a throuple — here’s how we manage jealousy, dating and sleeping arrangements (Dec. 29)

Maggie, Janie, and Cody

A Tennessee woman is clapping back at haters who’ve hit out at her polyamorous relationship, saying she’s been part of a happy throuple for the past eight years.

Janie Frank has clocked up close to 510,000 followers on TikTok by answering questions about her unconventional relationship.

The Chattanooga-based content creator began dating partners Cody and Maggie back in 2016, with the trio declaring they “love this life they’ve created together.”

In one recent clip, Frank gave followers an inside look at the home she shared with her boyfriend and girlfriend, complete with two separate beds.

“We don’t do well all sleeping together every night,” the polyamorist proclaimed as she filmed the beds she and her lovers bunk down in.

Frank added that their household also has three felines because the “only thing we get jealous about is who is getting more cat attention.”

...In a separate viral video, Frank detailed how she left her girlfriend Maggie at home for a date adventure with her boyfriend Cody.

The video featured a screenshot sent of a text message from Maggie at home, who jokingly described herself as a “sidepiece.”

“Seems the date is going super well because you’re both texting your sidepiece right now,” Maggie wrote to Frank and Cody in a group chat titled “Best Throuple Ever.”

[And for a birthday:]
@janiecfrank Happy birthday, @Margaret French Presents ♬ I Will Love You - Gin Wigmore

●  Lastly, from the Department of Insightful Definitions,

"A boundary is something you set that requires nothing of the other person."

Dr. Becky Kennedy, on the Armchair Expert podcast


And still...

“History is coming at us fast right now.
 The geopolitical snow globe has been well and truly shaken.”
– Dominic Nichols, UK

Here again is why I end posts to this polyamory news site with Ukraine: I've seen many progressive movements die out (or be killed off) because they failed to scan the wider world accurately and understand their position in it strategically.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Increasingly powerful people call us a threat to society — because by living successfully outside their worldview, we expose its incompleteness.

Late night in Kiev on a piece of good news
Our freedom to choose our relationship structures, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one 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 possible only where people have power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to guarantee the rights of all.

Innovative people, communities, and societies who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal rights 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. Now with direct support between them.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to choose their lives — by intimidation, repressive laws, inflammatory disinformation and public incitement, abusive police power, or eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, Polyamory in the News received more pagereads from pre-invasion Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in eastern Europe.

You can donate to Ukraine relief through this updated list of vetted organizations (Nov. 2023) or elsewhere. We're giving to a big one, Razom, and to a little informal one, Pizza for Ukraine in Kharkiv, the project of an old friend of my wife (story).

But that is only the start. For those of us born since World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetime. Because we have entered another time when calculating fascism, at home and abroad, is rising and sees freedom and liberalism and social tolerance as weak, degenerate, delusional  inviting easy pushovers. As Russia thought it saw in Ukraine. The whole world is watching what we will do about it.

The coming times may require hard things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we are born into. We do get to choose how we respond to it. 

Need a little help bucking up? Take perspective. Play thisAnother version. More? Some people on the eastern front helping to hold onto an open society, a shrinking thing in the world. Maybe your granddad did the same across a trench from Hitler's troops — for you, and us, because a world fascist movement was successfully defeated that time, opening the way for the rest of the 20th century.

But the outcome didn't look good for a couple of years there, either. Popular history remembers the 1945 victory over the Nazis and the joyous homecoming. Less remembered are the defeats and grim outlook from 1941 through early 1943.

Remember, these people say they are doing it for us too. They are correct. The global struggle between a free, open future and a fearful revival of the dark past that's shaping up, including in our own country, is still in its early stages. It's likely to get worse before it gets better. The outcome is again uncertain, and it will determine the 21st century and the handling of all its other problems.


PS: Ukraine should not be idealized as the paragon of an open democratic society. For instance, see If Ukraine Wants To Stand for Liberty and Democracy, It Should Rethink Some of Its Wartime Policies. And it has quite the history of being run by corrupt oligarchs — leading to the Maidan Uprising of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and Zelensky's overwhelming election in 2019 as the anti-corruption candidate. So they're working on that. And they're now stamping hard on the old culture of petty, everyday corruption as well.  More.  More; "Ukraine shows that real development happens when people believe they have an ownership stake in their own societies."

Now, writes US war correspondent George Packer in The Atlantic, 

Here was a country with a tragic history that had at last begun to build, with great effort, a better society. What made Ukraine different from any other country I had ever seen—certainly from my own—was its spirit of constant self-improvement, which included frank self-criticism. For example, there’s no cult of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine—a number of Ukrainians told me that he had made mistakes, that they’d vote against him after the war was won. Maxim Prykupenko, a hospital director in Lviv, called Ukraine “a free country aspiring to be better all the time.” The Russians, he added, “are destroying a beautiful country for no logical reason to do it. Maybe they are destroying us just because we have a better life.”

They have a word there, with a deep history, for the horizontal, self-organized, mutual get-it-done that grows from community social trusthromada. Learn that word. It's been getting them through  to the extent they've been able. We polyfolks often dream of creating something like that community spirit in miniature, in our polycules and networks. Occasionally we succeed.


Social attitudes in Ukraine tend traditional, rooted in a thousand years of the Orthodox Church. But not bitterly so like often in the US; in the last generation the ideal of modern European civil society has become widely treasured, and social progressivism has room to thrive. The status of women is fast advancing, especially post-invasion (pre-invasion article). More than 43,000 women volunteer in the armed forces, flooding traditionally male bastions — including as combat officers, artillery gunners, tankers, battlefield medics, and snipers. (Intimidating video: "Thus the Witch has Spoken".)
Ukraine's LGBT military unicorn emblem
Ukraine's LGBT military unicorn.
The thorns and barbed wire
represent old restrictions
now being cut away. 
Some LGBT folx in the armed forces display symbols of LGBT pride on their uniforms, with official approval, whereas in Russia it's a prison-worthy crime for even a civilian to show a rainbow pin or "say gay." A report on Ukraine's LGBT+ and feminist acceptance revolutionsAnotherAnotherAnother. War changes things.

And in December 2022, Russia made it a crime not just to speak for LGBT recognition, but to speak for "non-traditional sexual relations." Pre-invasion, Russia had a visible polyamory education and awareness movement.

Polyfolks are like one ten-thousandth of what's at stake globally. Ukraine must have our full material backing for as long as it takes to will their security, freedom, and future. Speak up for it.

A Russian writer grieves: "My country has fallen out of time."

Ukrainian women soldiers in dense undergrowth
Women fighters in a trench in the Donetsk region

PPS:  US authoritarians (such as Sen. Ted Cruz) are saying that allowing women in front-line roles is a woke plot to weaken America's armed forces. Ukraine puts that shit to bed. Do you have a relative who talks like that? Send them this video link to Vidma, who commands a mortar platoon, recounting the story of one of their battles near Bakhmut.

Update January 2024: More than a year later Vidma is still alive, still directing the mortar unit (now from muddy trenches), and posting TikToks (this one's from scary minutes exposed in the open; sunrise caught three of them them out). She flaunts her sense of humor. Her young daughter has enlisted and joined them in a logistics role. Their lives and their society depend on us.

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