Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

June 22, 2024

Queer & poly animals rewrite "natural law." Research on why ENM succeeds. What an AI thinks we look like. Poly & psychedelics, new compersion book, more.


First, announcements:

  From OPEN: "The Open Workplaces Initiative is a project between OPEN and the Modern Family Institute to foster inclusive workplaces for all family and relationship structures. 

"We're thrilled to announce our new Open Workplaces Office Hours, held weekly on Wednesdays at 4 PM PST / 7 PM EST. ...Connect and collaborate with the OPEN team and other non-monogamous professionals. Join us to discuss workplace advocacy, career-building, and more!

"...Our newly updated V2 Open Workplaces Toolkit is packed with actionable guidance and template policy language.

  Also from Open:  "[Less than] FOUR WEEKS until we kick off the global Week of Visibility for Non-monogamy! July 15 - 21.

"We just published the global event directory, with over a dozen in-person and virtual events and more being added every week! It's not too late to organize something for your community, too. Check out the Event Host Guide for helpful guidance, then register your in-person event or virtual event to add it to the directory.

"Here are the awesome events and activities that members of the community have planned so far:


  • Panel: Identity & Inclusion in the Non-monogamy Movement. Tue. July 16: RSVP on Luma or Plura
  • Panel: Peek Inside our Polycule. Tue. July 16: RSVP
  • Workshop: Is There a Right Way to do Non-monogamy. Wed. July 17: RSVP on Plura
  • Workshop: Creating & Evolving Non-monogamous Boundaries. Wed. July 17: RSVP
  • Panel: Non-monogamy Myths and Misconceptions. Wed. July 17: Tune in live on IG
  • Panel: Are You Out. Thu. July 18: RSVP
  • Mass Media and Non-monogamy. Thu. July 18: RSVP
  • More events being planned including "Current Research on Consensual Non-monogamy," "The History & Culture of Non-monogamy Panel," and more – stay tuned!


  • Poly Poly Oxen Free! Wed. July 17 at Brooklyn Art Haus in Brooklyn, NY: Get tickets.
  • Picnic in the Park! Sat. July 20 at Edgewater Park in Cleveland, OH: RSVP on PluraFacebook, or Eventbrite.
  • Polyamory Picnic Social! Sat. July 20 at Victoria Park in London, England: RSVP.
  • Naughty Gym Kayak Trip! Sat. July 20 at North Alabama Canoe & Kayak in Brownsboro, AL: RSVP.
  • Sunday Rooftop Brunch! Sun. July 21 at Whiskey Business in Chicago, IL: RSVP on Plura or Facebook.
  • More events being planned in Oakland, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; Indianapolis, IN; Martigny, Switzerland; New York, NY – stay tuned!

"Share your story:

"We're inviting you to share a story that highlights your experience with non-monogamy, and a photo of you and your partner(s) and/or family. By doing so, you'll be helping to create more visibility for real-life non-monogamous families, relationships, and individuals.... Or share online with the hashtag #NonMonogamyVisibility,"

  As always, you can find the next 12 months of polyamory/ENM conventions, campouts, retreats, and other regional gatherings at Alan's List of Polyamory Events.  Any missing? Let me know! Write to alan7388 AT gmail.com


Now, on with Polyamory in the News.

● The Peacock Network is out with a fun 1-hour documentary, Queer Planet. Fun and important. Many hundreds of animal species are well documented to show homosexual and bisexual behavior and pair bonds — and also, sometimes, to form polyamorous family units raising their young. Nature is not just MF couples like you were told as a child.

So much for natural law, that 13-century concept originating from Thomas Aquinas justifying why governments should outlaw "unnatural acts." If it happens in nature it's natural by definition. Oops.

Some flamingo parents form triads and quads
to hatch and raise their chicks.

My wife Sparkle Moose is a zoologist. "Let me tell you about nature," she says with a grin. She gives talks.

This matters because at the US Supreme Court, the Federalist Society, and other centers of orthodox Catholic legal thought, there's talk of bringing back natural law (fundamental to Thomism) as a "non-religious" legal foundation for anti-gay and anti-poly laws. That lots of animals have gay sex was, in fact, one of the arguments presented to overturn anti-sodomy laws in the Supreme Court's 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision. But that was then, this is now.

The purpose of invoking natural law will be, as always, to try to hide the big guns of Catholic doctrine under secular-scientific looking camouflage netting.

As Moose can tell you, 13th-century biology is to modern biology as 13th-century astronomy is to modern astronomy. Earth does move, and bad facts still make bad law.

●  Here's a piece that's had a lot of internet notice: Why Are Non-Monogamous Relationships Thriving? A Psychologist Answers (Forbes, June 8)

"A surge in non-traditional relationships serves as an augury of
their appeal, despite the prevailing stigma. (Getty)"

By Mark Travers

Non-monogamous relationships have been gaining interest and popularity among people looking for love. ...

[But] a 2023 study published in the Journal of Family Theory and Review concluded that individuals in non-monogamous relationships are considered to be more promiscuous, perverted and untrustworthy than people in monogamous relationships. ... However, the glaring question remains—why are non-traditional relationships gaining popularity and flourishing despite unfavorable perceptions?

The following antecedents and consequences of non-monogamy help account for their surge, according to the study.

1. Why Do People Choose Non-Monogamy?

Several factors act as precursors to individuals preferring to stray from conventional relationship structures.

   –  Sexual demographics. People who are white, younger, members of sexual minority groups, non-binary or transgender are more likely to seek out non-monogamous relationships.

   –  Value-based differences. Individuals who perceive an abundance in romantic alternatives and hold liberal political and religious views are more open to breaking traditional relationship norms. ... Individuals high in openness exhibit a greater desire for non-traditional relationships, showcasing a preference for variety, change and new experiences.

   –  Unfulfilled needs also encourage individuals to gain diversity in their romantic lives. A 2020 study published in Current Sexual Health Reports found that 42% of participants believed their non-monogamous relationships provided the benefits of diversified need fulfillment. ...

2. What Do People Get From Non-Monogamy?

Non-monogamous relationships owe their popularity, in part, to the positive relationship and sexual outcomes they yield.

Individuals in non-monogamous relationships experience greater satisfaction and commitment than their monogamous counterparts. Non-traditional relationships result in greater satisfaction—boasting better communication, and more openness and need fulfillment than conventional relationships. A 2015 study published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy found that adults aged 55 and above were happier in non-exclusive, unconventional relationships compared to those in monogamous relationships. Non-monogamous older adults also reported more sexual frequency and better health than their traditional counterparts. ...

As society continues to evolve, it is essential to acknowledge and respect the diversity of relationship styles and the autonomy of individuals to choose the relationship that best suits them. It’s important to prioritize open communication, trust and mutual consent if we attempt to explore alternative ways of forming intimate connections. Engaging in thorough self-reflection and open dialogue can help establish clear boundaries and expectations. Ultimately, the success of non-monogamous relationships hinges on a foundation of honesty and empathy for all parties involved.

Two books

●  Writes longtime CNM researcher Marie Thouin to friends and colleagues,

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of the first-ever comprehensive scholarly book on compersion: What Is Compersion?: Understanding Positive Empathy in Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships.

This book is the culmination of nearly a decade of research; I consider this book a hybrid between a scholarly text and a practical roadmap on compersion. While the book is heftily referenced, the bulk of the content is based on STORIES from the study participants I interviewed between 2018 and 2023. So, I trust this book will appeal to scholars, therapists/counselors, and non-monogamous folks alike (as long as they’re at least a little bit nerdy).

From the publisher's description:

Each chapter features compelling stories from real CNM people.... Thouin addresses the broader social context, explaining how understanding compersion is a groundbreaking step toward a world that supports relational diversity and freedom. By disrupting the idea that jealousy is the only valid response to intimacy beyond monogamy, the existence and practice of compersion builds the foundation for a completely new paradigm of loving relationships. ... Indispensable for CNM individuals, therapists, counselors, and scholars, this book is also invaluable for anyone curious to learn about positive empathy, intentional relationships, and radical love.

Thouin just did a podcast interview with the Multiamory crew (June 18, Episode 484, 1 hour).

●  And here's a book for therapists being newly republicized. The Many Faces of Polyamory: Longing and Belonging in Concurrent Relationships by Magdalena J. Fosse (2021). With polyamory a hotter topic now, the book's academic publisher (Routledge) is doing a fresh sales campaign. From their press release:

[The Many Faces of Polyamory] continues to inspire clinicians and patients alike... offering fresh perspectives and clinical insights into the longing to belong within concurrent relationships. The exploration of nonmonogamy within therapeutic settings is both complex and vital in a world where traditional relational norms are changing and evolving.

...Dr. Fosse is the current president of the Psychodynamic Couple and Family Institute of New England (PCFINE), and she is devoted to educating clinicians interested in developing skills and competence in couples therapy. 

...In The Many Faces of Polyamory Dr. Fosse offers  insight into understanding the dynamics of love, sex, jealousy, and compersion among those engaged in polyamorous and consensually nonmonogamous relationships. ... providing readers with a nuanced understanding of how to navigate these relationships....

●  And on another therapeutic cutting edge, or perhaps bleeding edge: Psychedelics and polyamory: an open marriage by Jules Evans (Ecstatic Integration, June 2, paywalled.)

We know that psychedelics can shift people’s metaphysical beliefs. What about shifting their attitude to monogamy?

Do psychedelics make people more open to polyamory? That topic is very much not on the research agenda at the moment, in fact it’s barely discussed. MAPS and other campaigners want to avoid all the controversies of the 1960s, and to show that psychedelics save marriages, strengthen the military, boosts the economy, and so on. The overlap between psyc… [paywall]

Much as I'm partial to psychedelics, mixing this mix is a mental-health explosive. Standard procedure in responsible psychedelic guiding and tripsitting, professional or amateur, is the agreement "No sexual contact during the session, except [maybe] between long-established partners."

This is for hard reasons. The 1960s counterculture, for instance, was famously lax about this mix, sometimes leading to emotional wreckage and the formation of abusive cults.

Evans himself writes on his LinkedIn page,

...Based on my informal survey, a far higher percentage of psychonauts are polyamorous or practice consenting non monogamy than the general public. Do psychedelics and psychedelic culture make one more open to non-monogamy? Over 60% of my survey respondents thought so.

But survey respondents and interviewees also told me of multiple experiences of boundary violations and ethical abuses in the world of psychedelic polyamory, including therapists and guides claiming their sexual touch in psychedelic sessions can heal traumatised vulnerable people.

● Canada's CTV News interviews family-law mediator John-Paul Boyd on gaps in Canada's laws that leave multipartner families stranded. Do laws need to change as polyamory increases? (May 3, five minutes). Boyd has been studying this issue for years. You may remember him in the news for, among other things, his 2017 research report for the Vanier Institute of the Family, "Polyamory in Canada: Research on an Emerging Family Structure".

●  Says Vanity Fair, The Summer of the Throuple Is Upon Us (June 21). They mean movies and TV.

Hot girl summer is over. This year, it’s all about the ménage à trois. ... What is most thrilling is that these new throuples are also marked by power dynamics that may be even more subversive than the sight of three people sharing a kiss at the same time. ...

●  A solid Poly 101 in yet another women's fashion mag, Grazia: Here’s What Polyamory Is Like From Women Who’ve Tried It (June 14).

●  And in the makeup-and-shopping mag Allure, What Exactly Is a Polycule Anyway? (June 21). Surprisingly good, considering.


●  And now, I'm kind of astonished. I've heard lots of people's polyamory songs on YouTube, almost none of them radio quality. So how would an AI songwriting program do, based on prompts by someone who knows the subject?

Better than most! Joreth Innkeeper prompted for a song to be titled "Solo Polyamory" done in "gritty blues rock." She adjusted the lyrics and posted the result on YouTube:

Color me impressed. Joreth has presented at many polycons over the years, and the song seems to capture her attitude. Any giveaways that an AI did it? Well, the music hardly grows any more elaborate or varied as it goes on. Easy fixes: Tell it to add in a second, then third and fourth voices verse by verse. Alternate the voice additions female and male. Add a horn section to the last chorus.

Gee, that was easy to type! Maybe I have a future in music.


That spookily good result got me wondering. What does AI think polyfolks look like? Image generators get their "ideas" from what's online and in archives. So then, would an AI portray an average of how the human world thinks we look?

I went to Canva and asked it to draw "typical polyamorists today." After a few incoherent jumbles it caught on and presented...

EDIT: Google Blogger deleted the image, apparently as "misleading" -- because it showed AI-generated people? In a story about AI??

Use this QR code:

...dashing hipsters. Could be worse. It even made the woman look central and powerful. How'd it know to do that? Never mind the monster-hand hallucination draped over her shoulder. To generate images that are both creative and convincing, a neural net uses the same universal perception algorithm that psychedelics act upon in your brain.[1] Sometimes it shows.


[1] Okay, here we go down this rabbit hole according to me. Skip if not interested.

Neuroscientists, using new technologies, have been finding out fascinating things about how  brains work, and these findings have shaped artificial-intelligence strategies.

Constantly running in your brain are neural feedback loops that compare bottom-up inputs, such as from your senses or subconscious thought fragments, against top-down "priors", assumptions built up from past experience. These feedback loops test an input against priors for its likelihood to be real and, if so, worth noticing. The loops then either extinguish it as being unreal or irrelevant, or approve it and pass it up to the next, more complex level of processing -- which may extinguish it, or pass it further on up in the process of reality-development and perhaps adjust priors accordingly. All this happens very fast far below consciousness.

These neural loops have been found to continuously implement the Bayes formula, the famous equation in statistics for calculating the best likelihood from multiple pieces of uncertain or partial information. Bayesian processing is apparently built in at a fundamental level. Reportedly, if you merely put a few of the pyramidal neurons from a brain's cortex next to each other in a dish, they will find each other and start implementing the Bayes equation right there in the dish. It's what they do.

In this way your brain creates, and continually updates, a best-judgment internal model of the world around you. Evolution has powerfully selected for this reality-judging mechanism, since it gives any creature with a brain its best odds to survive and thrive as it moves through the world.

These countless Bayesian feedback loops self-adjust on the fly to try to keep up with changes and new things around you. (The term is "active inference.") The loops run at all levels, from the lowest and simplest (such as flagging lines and edges in a visual field) all the way up to the complex and abstract: "This thing is a dog", "That thing is a house", "Bob's barbecue party has started next door because voices." The loops have been measured to run very fast, at speeds of some tens of milliseconds per feedback cycle.

Next point: This process creates both your conscious perception (your experience of the outside world) and your interoception (your experience of your body and self).

The reason your brain has to create models inside your skull of the world and the self is so the brain can work with them at all. Because the neurons you think with are there inside your skull, not outside of your head in the dog or the house or your toe.

Key point: These models feel to you like they are the real world, and a distinct thing that is the self -- merely as a shortcut to not waste brainpower having to map the model to the reality piece by piece consciously in real time.

This algorithm has, at least, become the hot working hypothesis in the consciousness-studies field. And it's why implementing the same algorithm in a machine can make the machine act spookily as if it "sees" and "understands." Though often imperfectly, with hallucinations mixed in.

This scenario of multilevel Bayesian neural feedback loops, IME, also explains many, even most psychedelic phenomena. Simply posit that what psychedelic drugs do is to re-weight the feedback loops, at all levels -- either by strengthening the force of the bottom-up inputs, or by weakening the top-down priors and filters controlling what's allowed up to the next level. Or both.

That does it. It's no coincidence that the classical psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, etc.) are known to work by altering the input and output rates of those cortical pyramidal neurons.

So your "doors of perception" when tripping are not so much "cleansed," as Aldous Huxley famously put it in 1954, as reset to run freer -- to form looser, more directly bottom-up-driven constructs of reality. At every level. Which may then trigger, like a sudden revelation, the "feels real" shortcut mechanism.

This includes accepting loose inputs from normally unrelated parts of the brain or even random neural noise. These can spur unexpected novelty and creativity but would normally be extinguished.

I can even observe the "feels real" mechanism suddenly switching on and off for a hallucination: going from "That pile of stuff looks sorta like a weepy face" to "Damn, there he is, right there!" This is the same reality-making experience as in gazing at art painted on canvas, or pareidolia in clouds or tree trunks, or looking inwardly at hypnogogic imagery or lucid dreams.

Similarly, the same Bayesian model-making algorithm also creates, using your interoceptions, a working model of yourself. Which also feels real, like a conscious thing -- not just an emergent phenomenon of neural activity, a shortcut model -- that again, gives the useful working illusion that you're experiencing a direct reality.

For me, grasping this scenario has made pretty much everything while tripping more understandable, easier to work with, and sometimes even adjustable on the fly. Which I take to be evidence that this basic mechanism for psychedelic experience is correct.

But at a cost!  Me, Alan, I, am revealed as not the captain of the Ship of Alan as it navigates in the world, but as merely an internal neural model of a concrete self -- which, again as a shortcut, feels like a real, distinct thing. It's as if the ship turned transparent and I look down and see the machinery in the engine room that's actually driving everything -- physical-world neural machinery that has spun off a subjective sense of "Alan" as a byproduct, a wraithlike emergent phenomenon, to pass the best data from the instruments on the ship's empty bridge to the engine room.

Talk about existential crisis! When people tell you not to take psychedelics frivolously, listen to them.

And yet, what an incredibly rich, complex social-reality world we emergent phenomena have created among each other! How amazing is that? Don't forget, emergent phenomena themselves are genuine things.

(The usual Ukraine stuff will return next post.)


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Blogger John U said...

I just got my copy of Marie Thouin's Compersion gook I'm finding it is well written and clear and it covers a lot of interesting ground.

June 30, 2024 3:44 PM  

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