Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

October 6, 2015

"Six Things I Learned When I Catered My Partners’ Wedding"

Earlier today I mentioned that group marriages are an uncommon form of polyamory. (Technically they don't exist — polygamy is illegal — but I mean life-bonded groups that are marriages in all but law.) Then just as I was writing that, this happy triad marriage story popped up on The Good Men Project:

6 Things I Learned When I Catered My Partners’ Wedding

By JJ Vincent

When my partners got married – to each other – I learned a lot about the people around us.

...We’re a polyamorous relationship and have been for more than three years. Recently, two of the three of us decided that the time was right to get married.

I was not one of the two.

It was an easy decision, but not a light one.... Whatever reasons two people have for committing to one another, it should be done with thought, discussion, and consideration, not because of external pressures or expectations.

I brought the cupcakes.

We began to tell people; by arrangement, I did most of the telling before the ceremony, we all did afterwards. Friends, co-workers, parents, chosen family. I came away with some insights that frankly, I didn’t expect.

1. There was an automatic assumption by many that the marriage of two meant the ending of three. This wasn’t a big surprise from more casual acquaintances, although some of the people who questioned the status of our relationship know us very well.

I think this speaks to the general lack of understanding about polyamorous relationships. No big surprise. There’s not much open conversation about them... and what there is seems to focused on sex, time-sharing, and validating the feelings of the people who say, “I could never do that.” So the idea that marriage, which is still very much about “two”, could allow for a “three”, is confounding. The relationship between the three of us did not change, only the legal status of two of the people....

2. There was an unexpected amount of concern for the “third”.  And for this we were truly grateful.

On the flip side of number one, which assumed no room for a third, were the questions, “Are you okay with this?”, “Is JJ good with this?”, “How do you feel about this?” ...There was genuine concern among our friends that the “third” was okay with this decision.... We were all touched that people wanted to check-in.

3. People are still surprised when you don’t want to get married, even though they knew this, but especially when you fought for marriage equality.  One of the side effects of the right to marry is pressure on gay couples to exercise that right....

4. Parents ask the most unusual questions.  One parent doesn’t get it and wants to know what “take care of each other” means. We expected a lot of objections and questions, but not, “What do you mean, ‘they’ll take care of you’?”, and “What do you mean ‘build a future’?”, things that seem pretty self-explanatory.

One parent sent congratulations and flowers, two bouquets. He was very happy for his child, their marriage, and thank goodness he loves their spouse.

One parent, the ultra-religious one, asked if we were still all going to live in the house, if we were changing bedrooms (what parent asks about bedroom anything!), if there was a name-change or if they were hyphenating, and then got them a lovely card, handwriting a sentiment that showed she got it.

5. Congratulations (and parties) come from very unexpected places.  Like co-workers you get on with, but you aren’t sure if they get the “poly” thing.

They’ve always been nice, but we’re in the South, and for many Southern Politeness goes bone deep. So it’s all the sweeter when suddenly, unexpectedly, your partner tell you that his coworkers threw him a “Congratulations! You got married!” party…. Allies are everywhere, sometimes in unexpected forms, if you give them a chance.

6. Cupcakes make everything better.  Want to make a potentially uncomfortable situation better? Bring cupcakes.

All the better if they are in John Deere green for him, capital-P-Purple for her, and there are cookie-and-frosting sandwiches, too. We did not know how the ceremony would go. It was among a small group of friends, so that was in our favor, but you never know. Seeing it in action, with 1/3 of the relationship on the outside for the majority of the ceremony (I handed them their rings and we had a few minutes hugged together), you don’t know how people will react. When the “third” comes loaded down with frosted treats he made, it’s pretty clear he’s good with this....

JJ Vincent is a 40-something guy who lives in north Alabama with his two partners and their three dogs, five cats, and a hamster. He's a graphic designer, copyeditor, and polycrafter who is equally fond of knitting and NASCAR and gleefully surrounds himself with pink sparkly things.

Read the whole tale (October 6, 2015).


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"The Mass Exodus of Polyamorous People Towards Relationship Anarchy"

Postmodern Woman

Last April The Times in London published a seemingly nice profile of Louisa Leontiades, author of Thorntree Press's recent book The Husband Swap. The profile was prompted by the book's publicity campaign. The paper ran the story with the attractive family picture at left. Here's the article: The polyamorist’s diary: why I agreed to a ménage à quatre (April 27, 2015).

Louisa has been stewing about something ever since, and yesterday she wrote about it:

The Mass Exodus of Polyamorous People Towards Relationship Anarchy

A piece in The Times reviewed my book. It started,

“Imagine sitting on your sofa on a Sunday afternoon hearing a couple upstairs having boisterous sex. The person making the headboard rattle is your husband with another woman, but that’s OK: there is no deceit or recrimination here. Because alongside you on the sofa is said woman’s husband with whom, for several months, you too have been having an ebulliently sexual, loving relationship.”

Before I read the piece, I was overjoyed at the prospect of being featured in The Times. But I don’t know how the journalist came to this conclusion. I mentioned nothing of the sort. I do nothing of the sort. I don’t particularly want to imagine my partner and his partner having sex boisterously upstairs. Or, indeed anyone having sex boisterously within my hearing. I love sex, but I put it in the same category as Wagner: I have to be in the right mood for it. It’s not the soundtrack to my life I want on a Sunday afternoon.... But no, the media, even The Times, prefer to cast me in their Deep Throat scenarios and there’s not much I can do about it.

Despite the fact the polyamorous community says it over and over again — polyamory is ‘not just about sex’ — the monogamously inclined media (and indeed anyone who learns about polyamory for the first time) cannot get past the fact that sex is a potential component in several relationships. Yet polyamory is by definition ‘many loves’. Sex might be a component and it also might not be. So what?

Mainstream media perception and focus on sex as the principle driver of polyamorous relationships, is not only incorrect, but it has damaged the real meaning of polyamory to such a extent that I don’t know whether we can recover the word. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many previously self-defined ‘polyamorous’ folk are adopting the term ‘relationship anarchist’ instead, which we feel allows us the freedom – for the moment untainted by media misconception – to build intimate relationships and potentially a community where sex is only one of many forms of connection…. It’s a pity. Because for many this was the original intent behind the definition of polyamory in the first place.

...I have loving relationships with several friends and am developing a loving relationship with my new metamour (partner of my partner). I have a deeply loving relationship with my partner of eight years, the father of my children. I have a deeply loving relationship with my boyfriend of two years. And when I say loving, I (mostly) don’t mean sexual.

But people — even supposed friends of mine — can’t let it go…

‘We are together,’ I say, ‘because right now, we choose to be together.’

But apparently my response is not acceptable. I am not allowed to choose. The validity of my intimate relationships is only judged according to the presence or absence of sex. Here’s the thing. Polyamory might not ‘just be about the sex’, but apparently that’s all the monogamous mainstream cares about.

Go read her whole article (October 5).

This comes in the midst of a discussion in the Polyamory Leadership Network (actually a re-re-discussion) about exactly what precise definition of polyamory most of us might want to offer the public. A lot of this centers on how to say — briefly — that poly relationships are often sexual and also often not primarily sexual, in a way most people can grasp.

The thing is, most people only have one mental model where those two things are not a contradiction, and that's marriage. So, that's the model a lot of the media immediately glom onto.

But group marriages are far from the most common poly structure. And open marriages, which are almost necessarily hierarchical, are very open to mess-ups and abuses of third parties unless the couple are willing to examine and shed a lot of unspoken monogamous culture, and to study up on the hard-won poly-community wisdom on this topic. (The long-version book I recommend to people is More Than Two. The short versions are morethantwo.com and Cunning Minx's Eight Things I Wish I'd Known About Polyamory (Before I Tried It and Frakked It Up).)

Louisa comments about her piece above,

Over here in Sweden, relationship anarchy (for Relationship Anarchists) does not ‘fit inside’ polyamory. Rather, polyamory fits inside RA, given that RA does not prescribe monogamy (emotional or sexual) or polyamory (emotional or sexual). You can be a swinger and/or polyamorous and/or monogamous and any point on the LGBTQIA and Cis spectrum and still be RA. In Sweden, this movement is supportive towards less polarisation of poly vs mono and more ‘any-configuration’ living regardless of your sexual and relationship orientation. It is neutral.

It may be that Sweden is unique in this regard, but it is interesting nevertheless that this is the predominant thinking here, which is also the official (albeit not philosophical perhaps) birthplace of RA.

In my participation in the [Swedish] polyamory association, I’d say most if not all of those who attend the meetups prefer to self-define as RA.1 Our banner when we walk at Pride is "Polyamory & Relationship Anarchy" (and it’s important for many that they're separate).


1. The formulator of RA is widely taken to be Andie Nordgren in Sweden. Here's her revised definitional statement: The short instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy (July 6, 2012).



October 4, 2015

"5 Myths About Love, Sex, and Relationships That Stop Us From Accepting Polyamory"

Everyday Feminism

Sian Ferguson is a self-identified queer polyamorous student in South Africa. She's a regular writer for Everyday Feminism, which claims to be "one of the largest online feminist communities in the world" with about 2.7 million visitors a month, 70% of them under 35. She just published the piece below, which I see is spreading around:

5 Myths About Love, Sex, and Relationships That Stop Us From Accepting Polyamory

By Sian Ferguson

Whenever I tell monogamous people that I’m polyamorous, I’m always met with a lot of curiosity.

While people sometimes act in a discriminatory manner, I often get a lot of respectfully phrased questions and musings.

“How does that work though?”

“If your partner doesn’t get jealous, how do you know they’re really into you?”

“How would it work if you wanted to get married or have children?”

The more questions I get, the more I realize that society has taught us a lot of heteronormative myths about love....

1. We All Have ‘The One’/ A ‘Soulmate’

...There are a number of problems with this idea.

Firstly, it implies that a good relationship is pre-destined, rather than created and maintained through hard work.

I can’t count the number of times friends have been afraid to leave a toxic relationship because they fear their partner may be “The One.”

The opposite situation is possible, too. I had a friend who would put very little effort into relationships because they mused that if the relationship was “meant to be,” and if their partner was truly “The One,” the relationship would work out anyway.

...What if there is no “One” person out there for me, but a number of people who might be compatible with me?

2. If Your Partner Wants Someone Else, It’s Because You’re Inadequate

...If I fall in love with a new person, it’s a love independent of the one I share with my partner. My love for one person doesn’t replace the other; they simply coexist.

I’m of the belief that no single person can fulfill all of our needs and desires at once. My partner is extraordinary and incredible, and they can’t give me absolutely everything I need.

The reverse is true, too – as hard as I try, I can’t get my partner everything they want and need.

...Monogamous people might be able to relate to this, too – as much as you may love your partner, it’s important to have other friends, too, because you get different things out of different relationships.

3. Jealousy Is an Indicator of Love

If you love someone, you’d want them all to yourself. Right?

Well, no. But that’s what society teaches us.

...I’m not saying that I never get jealous – rather, I’m saying that jealousy isn’t an indicator of love.

4. A Two-Parent Home Is Better for Children

...Sometimes, families work differently, and that’s okay!

I was raised by a single mother, my grandparents, my older siblings, and extended family, and I turned out fine.

5. Marriage Is the Ultimate Demonstration of Love

I can’t count how many times people have asked me, “But who would you marry?” when they heard that I had more than one partner.

...The way society prioritizes marriage over all forms of other relationships is problematic, to say the least....

...These myths don’t only harm polyamorous people. They work together in a heteronormative culture, which ultimately harms a great deal of people.

For this reason, it’s imperative that we take notice of these myths and challenge them when they manifest....

Read the whole article (October 2, 2015).

Everyday Feminism has been getting deep into polyamory lately, and getting it right. A search turns up 11 poly-related articles on the site so far this year, after just one or two in each of the previous three years. Maybe a lot of writers are looking into it, or maybe the stats for the site have flagged it as a hot topic, or both.



October 1, 2015

"So You Want To Interview Polyamorous People?"

Longtime polyactivist Maxine Green in the UK (who originated the bunny-ears thing and draws the Chaosbunny comic) is a very out spokesperson to the media. So she gets a lot of requests. She's not shy about turning them down and advising the community to shun media opportunities that seem uninformed or exploitive.

Today she posted advice to media people themselves who wonder why they can't get polyfolks to respond:  So You Want To Interview Polyamorous People? (October 1, 2015).

I won't excerpt it, just go read it, especially if you might like to go public someday.


In the article's last section, "Where to find Poly People?" she left out something important. Robyn Trask, director of the Loving More nonprofit, maintains a resource list of excellent out polyfolks who are willing to speak to knowledgeable journalists.

If you might like to get on Robyn's list, phone her! She's a pro; she can help train you in what to ask about media outfits who come knocking, how to negotiate with them on a level footing, and basics of how to represent yourself and your message well.

That last is crucial, especially for TV. The camera is harsh. The camera never blinks. My own tips, picked up in part from pros:

● Know the audience, then dress, groom, and act like them. . . . or like the people they respect.

● Emphasize the aspects of yourself that help your message. De-emphasize aspects of yourself that distract from your message.

● Write out a bunch of key sound bites that you want to get across. (Some suggestions, though they're kind of dated.) Memorize your sound bites, and rehearse them in front of a camera or mirror. Wherever the discussion goes, turn it around into a chance to put one of them across.

● Act animated, relaxed, happy -- please not frozen. Use body language! If you're with partners, fawn over each other. You're an actor, playing a version of yourself. If you don't like it that you have to be an actor, stay off camera.

● Say not one word, display not one expression, that you don't want to see on TV! Not even after you think the interview is over. Too often, people who get furious with the media "misrepresenting" them gave the media poor material to show. They can only show what you give them. Choose what you give them.

● If you really flub something, stop midstream, pause a moment, and start over fresh. They'll only use one take. If you accidentally blurt something you don't want used, immediately say "Actually that's not true" and then start again and say what you meant to.

● Be prepared to walk away. Robyn and her partner Jesus V. Garcia were once flown expense-paid to New York for a national TV show. Backstage shortly before show was about to start, they discovered that its announced theme was sleazier than they had been led to expect. They conferred, walked out the door, hailed a cab, and flew home without looking back. They're proud of it to this day. Remember you can do that.

Anything you'd like to add? Use the comments below.


P.S.: Joreth Innkeeper, poly activist since ever, has assembled media training guides "to help you learn how to screen the media, how to craft your Public Persona, how to develop soundbites, how to dress for an interview, and how to improve your public speaking for lectures and workshops." She has provided one-on-one help in the past and "is available to come to your conference or community to provide a group Media Training workshop."



September 29, 2015

Comic: "5 Radical Ways People Do Non-Monogamy That You Need to Know About"

Everyday Feminism

As poly awareness becomes mainstream, is awareness of poly's wider potential being pushed to the margin?

This comic, by Joamette Gil on Everyday Feminism, has begun to take off. It's titled "5 Radical Ways People Do Non-Monogamy That You Need to Know About." The link. (September 27, 2015)


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September 26, 2015

In Australia, "Free love in the 21st century: Why polyamory is taking off"

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. runs a chain of newspapers in Australia. Newly up on the chain's website is a guy's story of sleeping with a poly woman. His article is well-intentioned but begins off-course in a way that I think we ought to call out.

Free love in the 21st century: Why polyamory is taking off

Polyamorous couples are free to date other people, but the key is honesty.

By Tyson Wray

Last weekend I was having pillow talk with Scarlett* (25). We had been on a date the night before. It was only our third or fourth. We had gone to the theatre, followed by a bar, then eventually back to my apartment for sex. We woke with hazy headaches, bruised bodies and whimsical conversation.

“What’s on for the rest of your weekend?” I quizzed in a hungover drawl.

“Oh, I’m just planning to spend some time with my boyfriend Chad* (29).”

...In the past decade society has seen a rise of couples (especially the more youthful) exploring polyamory and open relationships — the practice where a committed couple also separately and openly engage in dating and sexual relationships with others sometimes casual and sometimes more serious.

Open relationships, maybe — but polyamory is not defined as "where a committed couple also separately and openly engage in dating and sexual relationships". There are poly singles too, and committed triads and quads who may be open or closed, and networks of intimate friends.

When he hands the talking stick to his pillowmate and her boyfriend Chad, they explain things better:

“Poly to me is dating or otherwise being in a relationship (sexual or romantic or both) with more than one person, or being open to that,” notes Scarlett, who has dated Chad for three years. “I was still poly when I was only dating one person, the same as how dating a man doesn’t remove my queer identity. When talking about my current relationship I usually say I’m in an open relationship, because I feel like poly sometimes implies that I’m only interested in multiple committed relationships (or at least that’s how I see it used), whereas right now I’m perfectly happy casually dating or sleeping with other people while having one live-in committed relationship with Chad.”

...“I identify as a queer pansexual with an interest in various forms of fetish play,” says Chad. “Because of this I tend to think that in a lot of cases it is impossible for one partner in the traditional sense to fulfill all needs when it comes to the rather broad concept of intimacy. This is something I fell naturally into doing over time as I worked it out.”

...Of course, as with any form of relationship, boundaries must be drawn and communication is imperative.

“When I’m interested in going on a date with a new person I make sure they know about Chad right from the start, because if someone isn’t comfortable with an open relationship then they’re not the person for me. Another important thing for me is that they respect my other relationships.”

“I like to think communication between all parties is key,” says Chad. “But I also think that is true with any kind of relationship. It shouldn’t be a challenge and if it is, perhaps it’s not for you.”

...Polyamory will never be for everyone, but the same can be said for monogamy. They both fall at the opposite ends of a very broad spectrum, one that many people occupy the middle-ground of for much of their lives.

The important thing for couples like Scarlett and Chad is being upfront and honest. And there’s definitely something to be said about that.

Tyson Wray is an editor and writer from Melbourne. Find him on Twitter @tysonwray and feel free to ask him on a date.

The whole article (September 25, 2015). Comments there are not enabled.



September 23, 2015

The Game Changer, Franklin's story of his poly life, is out today.

Franklin Veaux has had more influence on polyamory than probably anyone else in the last decade — first with his popular intro-to-poly website and his prolific blogging, and then with More Than Two, published a year ago with Eve Rickert as its co-creator and deepener of ideas.

Franklin's stamp on the movement has been to spread recognition that poly relationships succeed when they put certain principles of ethics and autonomy dead center, even when this means sidelining couple privilege, one-sided rule-making, and efforts to maintain the "safety" of a primary couple at the expense of others.

Short version: ethics in relationships can be defined pretty exactly — as equal respect for everyone's agency and right to informed consent; setting your boundaries clearly and strictly in terms of your own self; and "Don't treat people as things," as items to be used. Not even the people you don't know yet.

That last surely comes from Granny Weatherwax and her definition of sin in the Terry Pratchett novels: "And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things."1

The poly movement wasn't always as receptive to these severe insights as it is now. When Franklin faced up to a moral crisis and published the Proposed Secondary's Bill of Rights in 2003, the fury it aroused in the poly world was horrific. Twelve years later it's taken as received poly wisdom.

How did Franklin get to that key turning point in 2003?

Today is the publication date for his autobiography, The Game Changer: A memoir of disruptive love. If you assumed that the Game Changer is supposed to be Franklin, no, it's his wise partner "Amber" (not her real name): a fellow giraffe, who set him on his redirected path. No relationship, poly or otherwise, is proof against a game changer, nor should it try to be.

Franklin has started a 10-day book tour of the West Coast, then he and Eve will do a joint book tour in Europe for The Game Changer and More Than Two. The schedule.


I've already posted Meg John Barker's (long) review of The Game Changer. Here are some more:

● In The Frisky, by Katie Klabusich (Sept. 14, 2015):

...A great read for anyone who’s ever felt slightly “off” or out of place — either with my brand of vague insecurity, or with an assuredness that more closely matches Veaux’s own determined approach to life and love. For me, it’s been more than just a pleasure read; when his More Than Two co-author and publicist Eve Rickert reached out to me this spring, I was navigating my first on-purpose poly relationship and getting the chance to figure out for real what I want and who I am. Being able to experience Veaux’s journey, missteps, early assumptions, and adjustments to how he approaches relationships has been invaluable.

“Amber was my giraffe. She was the first person I ever knew who really got me, understood me, saw me on a deep level,” Veaux writes. “Amber saw me. It’s impossible to express how transformative that was.

“The thing was, I was a giraffe too. And I had never believed there were other giraffes out there. Like Amber, I felt like I was living in a world of alligators. Meeting another giraffe … well, that was a very heady thing.”

...Poly people are definitely not the book’s sole audience; Veaux has plenty to offer monogamous folks as well. The emphasis on communication and consent in poly circles isn’t just for scheduling and logistics — both make relationships stronger and happier. I know, shocker, right?...

Read the whole review.

● By Louisa Leontiades:

Sometimes something happens in your life which upsets the world as you know it. For many of us in the polyamorous community, the first realisation that you can love many without cheating and in a long-term stable relationship, is such a revelation.

But one of the reasons polyamory is so powerful is that it not only upsets the biggest social norm of our time, but that it is a gift that keeps on surprising… pain, jealousy, break-ups and yes, the joy of loving many sends us on a never-ending journey of exploration of our innermost depths. Weaknesses and insecurities which may otherwise have remained hidden are exposed, and sometimes if we aren’t careful, exploited. The ‘secondary’s bill of rights’ sent the community reeling …and changed our lives....

Leaders in the polyamorous community today are those who demonstrate compassion, courage and integrity. But these things are born out of experience which – much of the time – we have to go through ourselves.

‘I hope we can learn from others’ experience.’ said Franklin. ‘Because whilst experience might be the best teacher, the price is really high. Someone has to make the mistakes, but not every single person does.’

Whole article (November 24, 2014).

● Powerful story by Rebecca Hiles: The Game Changer, AKA I Hate Franklin Veaux (June 16).

...I hate Franklin Veaux because he made me cry. Not just cry, he made me weep.

When Jon and I first started dating, I told him pretty explicitly that I wasn’t very good at monogamy. I told him all the things that could happen. All the ways I was going to break his heart. He was still good with it.... When we opened the relationship up, we didn’t have many rules. The basics of using protection and STI testing were our most important... but we only had one rule beyond that. Jon was my spouse, and I wouldn’t have any other spouse besides him.

But everything changed when I got [cancer].

I needed Kai, and I needed Jon and I needed them both to be equal and both to be my points of contact in case something went wrong. Kai was, for all intents and purposes, my second spouse. They were equal. Some people found it strange, or horrifying. They didn’t understand that even though I had been together with Kai longer, that I married Jon. They didn’t understand that my relationship with Jon (as a marriage) was no more or less important than my relationship with Kai.

I’m telling you this, because I need you to know where my brain is coming from when I am writing this review.... Sometimes you have to realize that breaking the rules of your relationships is what is going to save them....

If you are a person who believes strongly in hierarchy, this book is likely going to make you uncomfortable. It might even make you a little angry. I strongly suggest you keep reading. I strongly suggest that you find growth through the pain.... If this book makes you uncomfortable, makes you a little afraid I really, strongly suggest that you reflect on why that is....

Which brings me to how Franklin made me cry. In the book he wrote a sentence that resonated with me in a way that nothing else has in quite some time.

[Y]ou do not always get to have a comfortable relationship when you are in love with a dragonslayer.

With that quote, I was completely broken into a billion pieces because I identified so strongly with it. [The cancer-patient community often calls cancer "the dragon." —Ed.] I identified with being the dragonslayer. I immediately understood the heartbreak of being the dragonslayer, and watching someone love you, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

After reading that, I closed the book and threw it across the room. I was furious at Franklin for making me feel these feelings. I was angry at him for saying something that struck me that way. Angry at someone who has been an idol for me saying something that was so real and true and hit me in such a raw way. I was angry in much the same way that the people who were angry about the Secondary’s Bill of Rights were. But then I realized that I wasn’t angry, I was scared....

Read the whole article (June 16).

● By Elisabeth Sheff:

Reading The Game Changer was so thought provoking that it felt like having a deep and roving conversation with a very witty person about what it means to be truly authentic — only without the pressure to be clever yourself because half of it is happening inside your own head. This is a great read for anyone who has questioned the status quo or wondered what intriguing adventures wait on the road less traveled. Daring souls will appreciate Veaux’s frank wit and searing self-critique in this fascinating memoir of unruly love.

The whole review (June 12).

● By Jessica Burde of Polyamory on Purpose:

You know that “watching a train wreck in slow motion” feeling? I lost count of how often I got that reading this book. As someone whose been (more or less) involved in poly for over a decade now, I’ve made most of the easy mistakes. Franklin would start a new section with something like “and we decided this, and had no idea how we were setting ourselves up for disaster.” And I would already be mentally tracing the lines of disaster, shaking my head and thinking “Yup, I remember being that (naive/foolish/culturally brainwashed/oblivious).”

...In spite of the almost complete lack of surprise in any of the major “plot twists,” I had trouble putting the book down. As usual, Franklin has an engaging writing style, a way of working humor, self awareness, and bulls-eye insight into his narrative that makes for an engrossing read.

It seems that we, as a culture, understand that if we leave kids to teach themselves math or history or literature, few people will end up being good at those things. So we have developed formal systems of education to teach people, to help them become productive members of society. But we don’t teach them communication, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, or many other skills we need to become fully formed human beings. We leave kids to figure that stuff out on their own. The results are about what we might expect if we left them, say, to deduce the laws of algebra by themselves. The difference is that most of us need interpersonal skills a lot more than we need algebra.

Perhaps the most important thing I took away from The Game Changer is a new perspective on the poly approach to honesty and communication:

Self awareness is a prerequisite for open and honest communication. We can’t tell others the truth of our feelings and needs if we refuse to face them and admit them to ourselves.

The whole review (August 18).

● A review in Russian. Good luck using Google Translate — the book's title comes out as Mixing cards: memories of a devastating love.

● Franklin's February 2010 LiveJournal post that may have introduced the concept: Some thoughts on game-changers.


1. The full passage, from Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum. Granny says,

'. . . And that's what your holy men discuss, is it?'
'Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example.'
'And what do they think? Against it, are they?'
'It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of grey.'
'There's no greys, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is.'
'It's a lot more complicated than that—'
'No. It ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts.'
'Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes—'
'But they starts with thinking about people as things...'


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September 17, 2015

CNN mentions Twin Oaks polyamory

Remember the glowing account of childrearing at the Twin Oaks community, sometimes by poly parents, that appeared on Yahoo Parenting last June?

CNN has just published a more measured article on life at Twin Oaks by top-flight journalist Jessica Ravitz. It's a substantial piece, 3,700 words, and from what I've heard of Twin Oaks from friends who've lived there and at its offshoot Acorn, it paints a pretty realistic picture.

Gwen, who was born at Twin Oaks, practices ballet outside the Morningstar residence in 2007. (Photo by Aaron Cohen)

The story is headed, incongruously, by a separate video about the Co-Living trend among millennials and tech professionals in San Francisco — a very different crowd and a completely different economic structure. More on this in a bit.

Ravitz mentions, while describing Twin Oaks' various Small Living Groups (SLGs), "One SLG is more down with the polyamorous way of life than others. (I'm told a third of Oakers are poly.) One may not be into kids, another more kid-friendly. One might enjoy late nights and partying, while a different SLG prefers quiet."

Read the whole article (September 2015).

Longtime Twin Oaks and Acorn resident Paxus Calta blogs that the article "did a fairly good job of representing the commune.... I am glad CNN got so much right about us." But he questions the editorial confusion behind pairing the story with the San Francisco co-living video:

In both circumstances there are people living together and sharing things and selecting each other (this is my definition for intentional community.) But if the affluent residents of co-living circumstances are disagreeing about maid service, it is about how often it is necessary. Maid service is inconceivable to most income-sharing communes, not just because we don’t think we can afford it, but because we feel responsible for cleaning up our own messes.

As GPaul points out in “We are not selling a product,” the differences only start here. Co-living replicates the landlord/tenant dynamic; FEC communities largely own their own properties which are land trusts. Sharing income means you need to listen to those you live with about what their needs are, and the survival of the community depends on trust building. Sharing an expensive group house means you stay until you have a serious fight with someone living there, are bored, or find a better offer, and you are constantly on the lookout for that offer.

None of the co-living situations I have seen or read about have children. Mostly what we see is twenty-somethings appearing to live the good life. Nothing wrong with that, but for me the good life is multi-generational.


My own lifelong yearning for communal living is something I discuss with Michael Rios, who runs the Center for a New Culture based just outside Washington DC. Michael founded his first polyamorous commune as a teenager in 1964 (it lasted 30 years). He's lived in intentional communities of one kind or another all his life and has seen it all. I tell him about the times I almost applied to Twin Oaks long ago. "You wouldn't have stayed," Michael says. "You have lots of ideas and want to do them. Entrepreneurial people tend to get frustrated and leave."

It's true, I hate long meetings. I think "leadership" means "do cool stuff without waiting for permission, and see who follows."

But a big part of it, I think, is that so many ICs (intentional communities) have tied themselves to rural life where land is cheap. Think about it. The reason why the land is cheap is because no one wants to live there. The reason why no one wants to live there is because there are no jobs: no money, opportunities, career growth, urban networking, exciting chances to pursue.

In the present day and age, as far as I can tell, the folks who settle into rural communes for the long haul may be good-hearted people who seek intimate community, and appreciate a low-pressure life, going without a lot of stuff, eco-living and gardening — but also folks without much ambition or drive, or sometimes, if truth be told, ability to make it much of anywhere else.

That's fine for them. But I see the future of intentional community in the world-beaters driving the Co-Living movements in places like New York and San Francisco. And the professionals and families in the co-housing developments I've seen around Boston. Cash economy, monthly payments, and all.


And about low-tech food farming. As Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog used to advise back-to-the-landers (this is my paraphrase from memory),

Your great-grandfather was a farmer. He lived on his own land by the sweat of his brow in beautiful nature, and he called no man his boss. And just as soon as he could, he left the farm to take a factory job in the city.

Maybe your great-grandfather knew something about farming you don't.


By the way, that Yahoo Parenting article on Twin Oaks in June? Turns out it had big repercussions. ABC Nightline came knocking. "Perhaps we should have said no," relates Paxus. He tells the tale: Wrong from word 2: the Media discovers the commune. (Aug. 23, 2015).