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

January 9, 2018

Poly? Now the tabloids adore you!

Trashy tabloids used to treat poly relationships with pretend shock and smug moralizing, dwelling on misery and heartbreak to titillate their readers. Then suddenly about a decade ago, they pivoted to treat poly families as kooky but amazingly happy and successful. That's been pretty much the rule ever since.

My theory: Rupert Murdoch has never let his conservatism get in the way of using sex to sell, so his tabs decided they had the go-ahead to see if the happy-poly treatment titillated readers better. The other tabs saw what was happening and followed.

On Sunday, a lovely feature story about a cute young polyfamily appeared on the sites of three of Britain's competing bottom-feeders — the Mirror, the Sun, and the Daily Mail — and in Metro UK, given away free on public transit. Versions of the article are being reprinted in Australia, New Zealand, India, Italy, Albania, Turkey, Rwanda, by several papers in Indonesia, on a major Chinese-language site that's blocked by the Chinese government, and probably wherever else British tabloids resell their stuff.

All the versions offer abundant, happy pix of Joseph Freeney, Katie Aitchison, and Clare Verduyn, an equilateral triad of physics students at the University of Leeds, UK. They're presented as endearingly dorky medieval re-enactors with amusing housework challenges who are madly in love all around. For eight months they have lived and loved together and they sleep in a snuggle puddle under, yes, a white duvet, this one with stars and rainbows. They're given full rein to enthuse about their incredible poly happiness.

From the Daily Mail's version:

...The unconventional trio have now lived together for eight months as part of one of Britain's small number of polyamorous relationships.

Joe says, 'I love both of these women and they are in love with each other, so we're the perfect fit.

'I know a lot of people will see what we have as strange, but it works.

'It is actually the healthiest relationship I have been in as we all trust each other.

'There is something about the three-way dynamic that makes it even more passionate.'

...Clare says that far from feeling jealous about sharing her new boyfriend with another woman, the relationship has brought a level of happiness she has not experienced before — and she describes the sex as the best she's ever had.

'I won't lie, polyamory is a lot more work than monogamy,' she admits.

'There are more people's feelings to consider, more people's schedules to work around and way more time spent planning when you want to go anywhere.

...The 'throuple' — all physics students at the University of Leeds — not only share their bed, but they also go on romantic dates as a trio, take it in turns to cook and help each other with their uni work.

...The trio initially bonded after they all joined the same medieval reenactment group, dressing up as Normans and staging historically accurate battles from the 12th century.

This is their first polyamorous love affair and they all say it is the healthiest, happiest relationship they have been in.

The trio say they share a bed 'most nights' and are saving up to buy a king size bed to accommodate them.

Katie, 22, and Joe started seeing each other first, and they got to know Clare, 21, a few months later.

Joe, who is bisexual, and Katie, who identifies as pansexual, meaning she is attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender identity, used to joke about how they both fancied Clare, especially in her tight-fitting chainmail during the re-enactment sessions.

They confessed their feelings for her one night and the threesome immediately hit it off, with bisexual Clare moving in not long after.

Says Claire, 'I was attracted to them as well but I felt I couldn't initiate it because they were together and I didn't want to intrude. But Joe and Katie obviously felt the same way so it all worked out.'

Katie and Clare go shopping together and even help each other get ready on nights out.

The trio aren't ashamed of their unusual love and will hold hands in public — if the pavements are wide enough.

But there is a downside as Katie leaves half empty drinks cans around the house, Clare snores and hogs the duvet and Christmas, birthdays and Valentine's Day can be an even more expensive time of year.

However they want to show that polyamory is a perfectly acceptable life choice, and are calling for their relationship to be recognised by law, believing they should even be able to enjoy a three-way marriage.

There are many legal and financial benefits to getting married, and Katie, Clare and Joe want to be awarded the same rights as those in traditional two-person couples.

Joe says: 'I'm not that interested in marriage from a sentimental point of view, but there are practical reasons to get married too, such as the financial benefits or if one of us was in an accident and we needed the right to make decisions.

...The trio have discussed having children, but think it's 'unfair' that they wouldn't all be considered a child's legal parents.

Katie said: 'If we wished to adopt a child there would be no way to do so without having one of us miss out on being legally considered a parent or guardian.

'It does seem unfair as we are all equal partners.'

And Clare says she gets bored of people seeing Joe as the stud — and says it's the girls that are actually the luckiest.

She said: 'Last year, during exam season we all went to study together in the library and we would just walk down the street all holding hands together, it was quite funny.

'Honestly, I don't really care what anybody else thinks, it is none of their business. I have got the best of both worlds.

'Everyone is saying that Joe must be some kind of legend but I'm there like ''Excuse you!'' I have got a hot girlfriend and an awesome boyfriend. What more could you want?'

The arrangement already has financial benefits too, as the trio split their bills three ways instead of two, saving them cash.

They say a lot of people question whether their love is real, but they insist their romance is just as genuine as any relationship between two people.

...Joe says: 'I have friends in other poly relationships where there are three guys, three girls, two guys and a girl — there is just as much variation as there is in a traditional relationship,' he insists.

They admit that their lifestyle is not for everyone but say it makes them very happy — and that they want to see poly relationships acknowledged in the media and pop culture, just like gay relationships are now.

...The triad say three is definitely not the limit and that they have considered adding a fourth person to their relationship.

...They also say their parents are trying hard to understand their lifestyle.

Joe says his mum has met both the girls and loves them, while Katie says her dad is now genuinely interested and understanding of the issues that polyamorous triads face.

Joe says: 'This is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in, and it is the one where I have felt the best about myself — the girls have said the same thing.

'There is a real level of trust in this relationship that I have never had before and I think it comes from the three-person dynamic.

'I want other people to know it can work for them too.'

Now their main hope is to finally be able to afford a king-size bed on their tight student budget.


...A spokesperson from Brook, a relationship and sex advice service for young adults, said: 'Just like monogamous relationships, non-monogamous relationships can be happy and satisfying, and last just as long.

'And just like monogamous relationships they can also be difficult and challenging. The important thing in any relationship is that once you agree your relationship rules, you stick to them.

'Breaking the rules, lying, cheating or not looking after each other's feelings will all put extra strain on your relationship whether you are in a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship.'

It even comes with a sidebar box describing different versions of polyamory.

How did this glowing piece come about?
The photo credit, Triangle News, gives it away. Triangle is a UK publicity firm that "provides entertaining, reliable and shareable content for some of the world’s most popular media outlets." And it's also — in order to charge money in the opposite direction — a public relations firm that "creates eye-catching content for brands and businesses to help them stand out from the crowd." So: either the three students paid Triangle to work up a professional, global publicity campaign (totally unlikely considering what that must cost), or the company paid them to be profiled so it could sell the result to its clients.

This should not be confused with journalism, but it sure got us some good propaganda and probably earned the happy triad a nice royalty. Maybe enough for that king-size bed.


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January 7, 2018

"Why you might want to rethink monogamy in 2018"

The Conversation is a nonprofit international webmagazine meant to foster quality journalism (slogan: "academic rigor, journalistic flair"). In three years it has grown to six editions around the world, and with its free Creative Commons licensing, it claims 35 million readers for its content per month.

It just ran an article by a relationship researcher who says that a marriage's survival can depend on the couple discussing and agreeing on — early — what is fidelity and what is cheating. Is play flirting okay? Having lunch with a friend of the opposite sex? Kissing? And full consensual non-monogamy gets favorable treatment as a possible marriage strengthener.

By Lucia O'Sullivan (Professor of Psychology, University of New Brunswick)

...Research makes it clear that our best intentions are often worthless in the face of a compelling, and possibly unexpected, attraction to another person.... What’s more, an act of infidelity is often understood as the “dealbreaker” in relationships. And few people are abhorred more than those known to have “cheated.”

Despite all this, studies show that most people have in fact engaged in some type of infidelity in the past or have experienced a partner’s infidelity.

The question arises then: Is it time to ditch, or rethink, monogamy as a standard?

"Proponents of polyamory march at the 2017 Toronto Pride Parade." (Shutterstock)

...Interviews with newlyweds in the United States indicate that many people expect they and their partner will remain monogamous, despite admitting to having [themselves] experienced a range of extramarital thoughts and behaviours already, such as flirting with another or feeling aroused in the presence of another. ... Studies show that infidelity remains, year after year, the primary cause of relationship break-ups and divorce.

Now, if you factor in the distress, distrust and discord that infidelity causes to those relationships it does not destroy, you begin to understand the weight of its consequences.

...These questions are more poignant in light of research indicating that intimate relationships are becoming less rewarding over time even as our expectations of what they should deliver steadily increase.

In most Western countries, belief in the importance of monogamy is strong, yet relatively few individuals actually discuss with their partner what monogamy must entail.

...A series of studies by psychologist Ashley Thompson makes clear that we are notably inconsistent in the monogamy standards that we hold for ourselves versus those we hold for our partners. For example, we are far more lenient and tolerant in explaining our own versus our partner’s behaviour.

Those who endorse alternative approaches — such as “consensual non-monogamy” which allows for romantic or sexual relationships beyond the primary relationship, with the partner’s consent — argue that monogamous relationships are far less stable because people use jealousy, monitoring and suspicion as tools to hold their partners to this difficult standard.

Individuals in supposedly monogamous relationships are also less likely to practise safe sex when they cheat (putting their primary partner’s health at risk) than are those in consensually non-monogamous relationships.

...To discuss dealbreakers in one’s relationship, it is essential for a couple to define what constitutes a betrayal, violation of trust or act of dishonesty. If a couple can plan ahead of time for the possibility than one or both partners might have an intimate moment with another person at some point, this can reinforce the flexibility, tolerance and forgiveness required to adjust if that happens.

It all depends on the circumstances, of course, but accepting that another person might offer something that we or our partners need can leave couples better-positioned to move forward and adjust or negotiate if necessary, without an entire and irreversible relationship disintegration.

This is key: If we can admit to ourselves that a fleeting attraction, or more meaningful connection, with another partner might not irreparably harm our primary relationship — and indeed might supplement it — then our relationships might survive longer and better.

This is unlikely to be easy for most of us. ... But insisting upon a fairly unreasonable standard (lifelong exclusivity or else!) can in fact harbour the possibility of secrecy and betrayal.

The emphasis in relationships needs always to be on openness, caring and mutual consent.

This is not to say that you or your partner will ultimately connect intimately with another person in any way despite adopting a new viewpoint about exclusivity. It also does not mean you have to agree that “anything goes,” that your relationship becomes an open relationship in the broadest sense of that term, or that anyone at all can enter your private sphere.

It is wise to negotiate some guidelines with your partner — about who or what type of person might be invited to look in on that sphere, for a moment or longer, and what might be acceptable ways to connect with another person (e.g. lunch is okay, touch is out), should the need or want arise.

If you also discuss how best to talk about it, this approach can go far in keeping your relationship truthful, transparent and trusting — making the need for a dealbreaker that much less relevant altogether.

The whole article (January 1, 2018). The author has had lots to say on this over the years.

The article has been reprinted by Canada's National Post under the same title (Jan. 2); by the UK's lowbrow Daily Mail as Is monogamy bad for your mental health? Psychologist warns you should re-think fidelity for the sake of your relationship (Jan. 2); the UK's serious Independent as Why Monogamy May Not Be the Best Option for Your Relationship (Jan. 9); HuffPost Canada as Ditch The Fairy Tale Of Monogamy As The Standard For All Relationships (Jan. 3); Salon as Why you might want to rethink monogamy in 2018 (Jan. 6), and elsewhere.

O'Sullivan's advice to couples has been poly-movement doctrine from the beginning, and it may be the most important thing that we offer the wider public.


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January 1, 2018

"Pasta, parkas, polyamory: The new you in 2018"

Loving More's bold and optimistic New Year's greeting

Still we ride a wave of trendiness. When will it end? The Times in the UK this morning ranks poly in its list if four "Things that will be OK in 2018 that weren’t (necessarily) in 2017" — along with man buns, unisex loos, and anti-ageism:

Today is the day when we take stock, think about what we could have done better and what we’re determined to do differently. We’re not talking about resolutions so much as the do’s and don’ts of 2018, based on what we’ve learnt in the past 12 months.

Things that will be OK in 2018 that weren’t (necessarily) in 2017:

... ● Being polyamorous. This has been a thing for a while, apparently, but now it’s slowly edged into the normal — if you don’t mind getting screwed up and having anyone over 55 think you are deviant. Still not normal to have a doll for a girlfriend, by the way.

The whole article. (January 1, 2018. Registration wall.)

Forget the snark; the familiarization and normalization here are what matter. We're going from freaky weirdos to those cool, expert ninjas at earnest, ethical group-relationshipping. Now there's an image to resolve to live up to! Happy New Year.


Meanwhile In Style magazine, which is all about what women should wear and buy in order to conform for pete's sake, notes at year's end that "The topic of polyamory experienced a 130% increase in search frequency this year."


P. S.:  In 2017, Moose and I were proudly part of the Resistance. May 2018 be the year of The Resurgence! We're only two 300-millionths of America, but we're doing our bit with pride at what we can someday tell our grandkids. And, with a readiness for risks: "Life rewards people who move in the direction of greatest courage." One of my favorite Franklin Veaux quotes.

One of our goals for 2018: Seize back the American Flag as our symbol at every demonstration and Resurgence event.



December 28, 2017

NY Times: "Better Living Through Music, Art and Polyamory"

That's the attention-getting headline the Times uses for an art review it posted this morning. The article's beginning and ending:

By Martha Schwendener

Starting with its mouthful of a title, “Cosmic Communities: Coming Out Into Outer Space — Homofuturism, Applied Psychedelia & Magic Connectivity” at Galerie Buchholz is baldly ambitious. Organized at this Upper East Side space by the German critic Diedrich Diederichsen and Buchholz’s Christopher Müller, the exhibition offers a crash course in over a century of utopian communities that used art, sex and music as models for better living.

Isaac Abrams painted the swirling motifs of “Après Hello Dalí” (1965), featured at Galerie Buchholz. The artist operated Coda, a 1960s gallery in Manhattan devoted to psychedelic art. (Galerie Buchholz)

Their two historical touchstones are the Symbolist poet Stefan George (1868-1933) and Ugrino, a community based on free love, founded in northern Germany in 1920 by the organ builder and writer Hans Henny Jahnn (1894-1959).

George was an early German nationalist at the center of the George Circle, a group of artists, writers and thinkers who modeled themselves after Greek organizations in which younger men were intellectually and sexually initiated into the group by older members. Ugrino, centered around Jahnn and the musician Gustav Harms, was a polyamorous commune in which its members reportedly all had sex with one another. ...


...The curators attempt to draw links among all these artists, from those who broke with what the curators call the “bourgeois sexual order” to those who later produced (sometimes drug induced) psychedelia. But the questions the exhibition leaves in its wake are significant. What of Stefan George’s conservative ideas about “purifying” German language and culture, which later found full bloom in National Socialism? Are some of the ideas here actually conflicting, rather than living under the same cosmic umbrella? How do sonic frequencies, like psychedelic visual patterns, affect our psyches and serve as road maps for better living beyond the micro-communities of artists? “Cosmic Communities” rests upon a valuable trove of ideas and includes many interesting artifacts, but it feels like a sketch for an exhibition more than a fully realized one.

Read the whole article (December 28, 2017).

Funny, by these standards I guess I'm a total hippie, despite outward appearances. Psychedelics, peace and polyamory fit together for me about as naturally as protons, neutrons and electrons when it comes to grasping the cosmos — or rather the cosmos as I hope it might be on some super-deep level, in my dippier moments. I still struggle with this, with no conclusion that I can honestly consider to be likely true. Guess I'm also the total scientist (as some accuse me of being; looking at you, New Culture Summer Camp).



December 20, 2017

Poly holidays without tears: a roundup

"Every year I get a big spike in clients who are having holiday poly drama," writes Kathy Labriola, who's done group-relationship counseling in Berkeley for decades, "and I wanted to put out some general advice that may be useful to the community. The holidays seem to cause a lot of poly debacles, and some may be possible to avert."


Poly Holiday Tips

...Poly people face some unique challenges. We are trying to manage all of the usual holiday dilemmas, but with the added stress of trying to include more than one partner in our holiday plans, and to make sure no one feels neglected or disrespected. ...And for people who have only one partner, but that partner has other partners, there is the fear of being alone on a major holiday and feeling less important or demoted.

Tip One: Think through what would be ideal for you!

Many poly people say that are so worried about keeping everyone else happy that they don't even think about what they want or what would work best for them during the holiday season. Often they discover after the fact that they have busted their butts to do everything to please others, only to find that they have spent a lot of time, energy, and money doing things no one actually wanted. ...

Kathy Labriola
Tip Two: Make time for conversations with each partner (and family member) about their needs, desires, plans, hopes and fears around the upcoming holidays.

Set up a specific times with each of your partners when you can have a relaxed conversation about their needs and expectations, what is most important to them about the holidays, and how they would like to be included in your plans. It is also wise to communicate with any family members or friends who may expect to see you. ... Be clear with each person that you are not able to commit right now, and that you will have another conversation very soon to make solid plans with them; right now, you are gathering information.

Tip Three: Make a list of everything everyone is asking of you during the holidays, identify any conflicts, and think over carefully what compromises may be possible.

Tip Four: Clarify expectations about any holiday gift traditions.

Many poly people want to exchange gifts, many others hate the commercialism, don’t have the time or money, or just hate shopping. This can create a lot of stress, resentment, and disappointment if you make the wrong assumptions….

Tip Five: Whatever amount of holiday events and activities you THINK you can do, decide to do LESS than that!

Most poly people have horror stories about holiday plans that looked fine on paper but turned into a nightmare. …

Tip Six: Don’t make the holidays into a test, because if you do, your partners will fail that test.

Tip Seven: If you are thinking of including more than one partner in a holiday event, proceed with caution and talk through any potential problems.

The idea of spending holidays all together as “one big happy metamour poly family” looks great on paper, but often doesn’t work in real life. …One or more of them may not agree. …

Tip Eight: When poly holiday plans go awry, be willing to apologize for any mistakes or problems, and do aftercare as needed. ...

Her whole article, with lots of examples of these principles (December 2017).

● Cartoonist Tikva Wolf is at her best, IMO, when you can't tell whether she's being her usual bouncy helpful self or slipping a knife of sly snark between the ribs. Or both:

● From Elisabeth Sheff: Poly for the Holidays (Dec. 15, 2016):

For Poly Folks

Save Coming Out for Some Other Time

If you are not yet out to your family about being in a poly relationship, it can most likely wait for a few more weeks or months. Avoid overloading what can be an already stressful season with potentially distracting or inflammatory announcements about sexuality. That is not an absolute rule – if you end up on an after dinner walk with your favorite cousin in can be a great time to have a private chat about the loves in your life. In general, however, avoid dropping relationship bombshells at the holiday family feast.

Give your Relatives the Benefit of the Doubt

If your dad has to ask you yet again who this new person is... stifle the dramatic sigh and muster up your patience to explain kindly that you are dating this person, and yes, your/their spouse knows about it. Polyamory can be a foreign and confusing concept for many people, and especially for older relatives…. Unless they are obviously trying to be rude or hurtful, try to cultivate patience and forgiveness for family members who are slow to grasp.

Have an Escape Plan

When the benefit of the doubt has been stretched to its breaking point and relatives’ thoughtlessness or blatant malice becomes too much, be sure you can get away. [Also,] leaving a little too early is preferable to staying until alcohol-fueled tempers flare….

Moderate Mood Alteration

…Consider maintaining at least a modicum of sobriety. Not only does alcohol fog your mind so that you might not notice your partner’s desperate look of a silent plea for help when Uncle Tony comes around again… it also loosens your tongue so that you might not respond in the most thoughtful manner…. Being too drunk to drive can also seriously hamper the escape plan….

For Families with Poly Loved Ones

Invite the People Important to your Loved Ones

Even if you do not understand why your loved one is in a polyamorous relationship, please consider inviting the people they see as family members to the family event.…

Include all Partners in the Gift Exchange …

Respect Loved Ones’ Choices, even when they Differ from Yours …

Find something to do together that everyone can enjoy. From watching basketball on TV to playing a pickup game at the park or rekindling that old Scrabble rivalry…[it helps] to relax and focus on a shared activity that does not require discussing potentially sensitive topics of who is dating whom and why.

● Kamala Devi, in her current newsletter, offers her personal focus on holiday outedness (December 2017; no link):

5) Timing is essential. I came out slowly and only when I was ready. Some family members to understand and accept my lifestyle, whereas some family members may never be ready. I continue to update, educate and inform my family members, one step at a time.

4) I reassure my family of choice that even if they are not legitimized by my family of origin, that I value and love them deeply! Further, I openly process with lovers feelings of hurt or loss when our families are not ready to accept our lifestyle.

3) It helps to discuss larger social issues such as privilege and diversity. ...

2) I make a special effort to celebrate or spend time with my chosen community to counterbalance any time where I haven't felt free to be myself.

1) Regardless of anyone's reactions, I stay true to who I am.

● Prefer audio? Cunning Minx offers her five favorite Polyamory Weekly podcasts on this everlasting topic:

To make life a little easier, here are the best episodes we’ve done on poly for the holidays:

Episode 411 at 10:15, which includes advice learned from FBI hostage negotiators
Episode 345 at 3:00, in which LustyGuy and Minx share their tips for negotiating family time around the holidays while accommodating as many needs as possible
Episode 297 at 1:30, in which Joreth and Puck share their holiday advice about how to introduce partners and deal with being closeted
Episode 184 at 11:20, in which Minx gives gift and self-care advice
Episode 86 at 4:50, in which Minx advises NOT to come out during the holidays

PopSugar has apparently decided this topic draws clicks: How to Navigate Being in an Open Marriage During the Holidays (Dec. 18, 2017):

By Tara Block

…Sara and Ben (names have been changed) are a happily married millennial couple in an open relationship. Sara shares a bit about how they navigate the holiday season together and with their partners.

"Ben and I scheduled times for our usual holiday traditions (visiting particular lights in town, decorating the tree, etc.) well in advance. Having these activities mapped out allows for both of us to plan fun, new traditions with our other partners without accidentally replacing ours. For both Ben and me, it is important to talk to our partners about what things feel special to them over the holidays. With my boyfriend, it has been really romantic and exciting to get our own tree at his place, watch holiday movies, and make plans to bake treats together. None of these things are better or worse than the ways I celebrate the holidays with my husband — they are just in addition to. I'm a firm believer that two stockings are better than one.

"…It is important to both Ben and me that we respect each other's time and the time of our partners, and this means communicating about schedules often. We are both lucky to be dating people who are great communicators, so scheduling has not been much of an issue.

"…The [birth-family] members I am close to know about my open marriage and are very supportive. I have not told the people I am not close to, which includes my parents. …

"I have never met a boyfriend's family before, so I was pretty nervous to do so this year! I was very relieved that my boyfriend has two awesome, badass liberal feminist sisters who were extremely welcoming. I hope to meet his parents soon, which should be interesting, as they are pretty traditional. ...

"Perhaps I am just a nerdy optimist who always sees the bright side of things, but I feel strongly that celebrating the holidays as a poly woman is really happy and fulfilling. I got to pick out and decorate two Christmas trees and listen to way too much Vitamin String Quartet Christmas. Ben's girlfriend has been in some tough relationships in the past and mentioned that this has been her happiest holiday season in a long time. My boyfriend also said that this is one of the best times in his life. While coordinating schedules can be a bit complicated, planning things out in advance and asking the simple question of 'What's important to you?' has been extremely helpful. I have two loving partners and double the holiday traditions, so I really can't complain. ... I wouldn't trade our nontraditional life for anything."

● On the feminist site Bustle.com, 13 Polyamorous People On How They Celebrate Thanksgiving (Nov. 27, 2017), with many polyfolks' brief descriptions of their traditions — or ways of winging it.

By Kae Burdo

...Decisions around holidays can be quite loaded, as it can indicate couple's privilege or hierarchy. It can also be a fraught conversation for people who aren't welcome home for the holidays because of their relationship status or family structure.

Followup: And now she does a similar collection, How Polyamorous People Celebrate Christmas & Other Winter Holidays (Dec. 22).

● Want more? Heaps more?? Here are all my poly-holidays roundups over the years (including this one; scroll down).

● And it wouldn't be the season without another reprise of....

Anne Hunter (right) and partners, of PolyVic in Australia, issued this Christmas classic in 2007. The last verse:

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Twelve minutes alone (sigh)—
Eleven Christmas dinners
Ten jealousy cures
Nine long discussions
Eight dozen condoms
Seven GoogleCalendars
Six-handed mas-sage
Five, Ethical, Sluts!

Four sandwich hugs
Three-way snogs
Too much attention
And a quick course in polyamor-ee.



December 17, 2017

The New Yorker, reviewing Esther Perel's new infidelity book, considers the poly option, skeptically

Esther Perel began to make her name with her 2006 book Mating in Captivity, a save-your-marriage guide that tackled the all-too-human incompatibility of sexual interest and long-term monogamy. The topic was a head-turner at the time. This fall she came out with a new book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. From the Amazon blurb: "What are we to make of this time-honored taboo — universally forbidden yet universally practiced? Why do people cheat — even those in happy marriages? Do our romantic expectations of marriage set us up for betrayal? Is it possible to love more than one person at once?"

This week The New Yorker devotes a 2,500-word feature (exquisitely written as always) to the book and its subject: "In Defense of Adulterers," by Zoë Heller. Toward the very end, the article finally gets around to the obvious solution for many: some form of agreed, mutually respectful openness. Perel herself also treats the obvious as something of an afterthought.

Exquisite New Yorker illo (Luci Gutiérrez)
...Might it not be better to stop fetishizing sexual exclusivity as the sine qua non of happy relationships?

Perel is not unsympathetic to this thought, and, toward the end of her book, she devotes a brief chapter to various forms of consensual non-monogamy. She writes about couples who swing, couples who have chosen to be, in the term coined by the sex columnist Dan Savage, “monogamish,” and couples who have expanded into “triads,” “quads,” or “polyamorous pods.” (Those interested in a more comprehensive taxonomy of such arrangements may wish to consult “It’s Called ‘Polyamory,’ ” by [our very own activists!] Tamara Pincus and Rebecca Hiles, a book that provides definitions of, among other things, “designer relationships,” “relationship anarchy,” and the polyamorous “Z.”) Perel praises the efforts of all these non-monogamists “to tackle the core existential paradoxes that every couple wrestles with — security and adventure, togetherness and autonomy, stability and novelty,” and she is careful to remind the squeamish that many of these “romantic pluralists” succeed in maintaining rather higher standards of loyalty and honesty than do their monogamous counterparts.

She remains, however, appropriately skeptical about whether any relationship construct, no matter how cunningly or thoughtfully devised, can offer permanent solutions to the dilemmas of romantic love. The polyamorist aspiration to replace sexual jealousy with “compersion” (a delight in one’s partner’s sexual delight with someone else) is just that: an aspiration. People often end up in open relationships out of a desire to propitiate restless lovers, rather than through any interest of their own — with predictably miserable results. And no amount of expanding or softening the boundaries of fidelity will ever outwit the human desire to transgress. The conventional bourgeois marriage invites adultery. The earnest polyamorous setup, in which every new lover is openly acknowledged and everyone’s feelings are patiently discussed at Yalta-type summits, invites some more imaginative trespass: not using a condom, or introducing the lover to your parents. “In the realm of the erotic,” Perel writes, “negotiated freedom is not nearly as enticing as stolen pleasures.”


This — the impossibility of absolute romantic security — is the bracing moral at the center of Perel’s book. There is no “affair proof” marriage, she warns, whatever the self-help industry tries to tell you. To love is to be vulnerable....

Truth there, however.

Read the whole article (it's in the print issue dated December 18 & 25, 2017). Thanks to Dave Hall for sending the tip.


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December 15, 2017

"You, me and polyamory: Inside Philadelphia's growing nonmonogamous community"

The Living section of Philly.com, the news site incorporating the respectable Philadelphia Inquirer and the tabloid Philadelphia Daily News, profiles polyactivists Kevin and Antoinette Patterson to begin a feature on area polyfolks and what this is all about. Kevin is author of the forthcoming book Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities (Thorntree Press, March 2018).

By Anna Orso, Staff Writer

...Today Antoinette, 35, and Kevin, 38, still date other people. The parents of two continue to identify as polyamorous, meaning they maintain multiple relationships with the consent of everyone involved, and have since the beginning of their relationship 15 years ago.

Antoinette and Kevin Patterson  (photo: Anna Orso)

...Polyamory, once portrayed as the sole realm of sexually open hippies, has a very real place in Philadelphia modern life, with participants of all walks of life navigating a complicated web of sex, relationships, marriages and friendships among those who are in love or lust with romantic partners often dating each other. Philadelphia even has its own 1,000-member Facebook group: Polydelphia.

Logistics are difficult (enter elaborate Google calendars), jealousy happens, and there’s a coming-out process for people in polyamorous relationships that can open them up to criticism and judgment.

But those who are able to make it work say the benefits of living and dating openly far outweigh the drawbacks.

Antoinette, a physical therapist, and Kevin, a writer, now say polyamory is a fundamental part of who they are....

They also made the front page of the
printed Philadelphia Daily News
“I’m not trying to freak the norms,” said Kevin, who wrote a book about polyamory and race. “Like, I have a Netflix queue. I drive my kids to school every day. I am the norm.”

...The words “polyamory” and “nonmonogamy” encompass a variety of relationships, including married couples in open relationships, people who practice solo poly, and people in “triads” or “quads,” which are multiple-person relationships where everyone is romantically involved with one another. The common theme is the goal of remaining ethical — to avoid hiding relationships.

...Some studies suggest that 5 percent of Americans are in a consensual nonmonogamous relationship, but as many as one in five Americans have been in one at some point in their life. And while the reasons someone choose polyamory vary — some say it’s a deep-seeded part of their sexual orientation, others say it’s more of a relationship-style preference — the consensus among experts is that it’s not a fear of commitment. Conley said, on the contrary, “these are people that really like commitment.”

“I’m not polyamorous because I’m avoiding commitment,” Kevin Patterson said. “I’m making commitments with multiple people.”

...“A lot of people say, ‘How can you love more than one person?’” said Shallena [Everitt], an administrator for the local chapter of the group Black and Poly, which she discovered about five years ago. “You love them for different reasons and they bring different things to you.”

Kevin and Antoinette keep up with each other’s romantic lives, including each other’s sex lives. ... Kevin said if Antoinette’s boyfriend (known as Kevin’s “metamour”) decides to sleep over, “they can have the bedroom” — Kevin’s just fine in his basement man cave.

“I try to leave as much room as I can for their relationship to grow,” he said, “without my influence.”

Elisabeth Sheff, a sex education consultant and author who’s written three books on polyamory, said it’s this mentality that can make a polyamorous relationship work.

“If the metamours can’t get along, the family does not make it,” Sheff said. “If the metamours get along, then the lovers can make it through things that maybe would have otherwise broken them up.”

...Paul Beauvais [is] a 44-year-old IT architect who lives in Overbrook.... “Polyamory is really based on the idea that we shouldn’t be running relationships in a resource model,” he said. “Love is not a scarcity.”

Read the whole article (December 13, 2017). The only criticism I've seen of it is that it should have also mentioned the other Philadelphia-area poly groups.

Maybe your group can interest a newspaper writer in doing something like this. It's not hard; they're always looking for local human-interest stories.

Update January 1, 2018: The Philly article was reprinted on the Minneapolis Star Tribune site today, under the title People who practice polyamory say the lifestyle can be rewarding. Without the photos of the black people who are its main subjects, interestingly, just a generic all-white iStock graphic. Were they saving a few bucks on the photographer's reprint fee? Or were the subjects of the story too black for what they think Minnesota readers are? We'll never know, unless maybe someone in the editorial department there sends us a tip (my email is alan7388 AT gmail.com).


Also: Christopher Smith is extending the submission deadline for The Black American Polyamorous Anthology Project for one month, to January 16. The project "is an avenue for self-identifying polyamorous Blacks / African Americans / Black Americans to express — through any form, written, audio or video — their experiences."


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December 14, 2017

"Polyamory" became a top relationship search topic in 2017

We seem to be finally, actually doing it: making the whole world aware of the polyamorous possibility. That's Elisabeth Sheff's term for discovering that happy, ethical multi-loving relationships are even possible, that people are successfully doing them right now, and that maybe you can too.

Every December, Google announces the year's top trending search terms compared to the year before. In the Relationships category, Google just announced that polyamory became one of the top four topics. CNN Money reported this morning,

...According to the list of top relationship questions, [people] wanted to know how to make long distance relationships work, how to change their Facebook status, what it meant to be polyamorous or in an open relationship, and how to know when it's all over.

On Femina in India:

According to Google, the topic of polyamory saw a 130 percent rise in search frequency in 2017. Not surprising, as this year saw several new types of romances emerge. Naturally then, we were curious about how these relationships worked. ...

So the advertising agency that, a year ago, predicted polyamory would be a big deal in 2017 apparently had its research in order.

Getting here took our movement 30 years of vision, faith, and struggle, at first in a cold and isolated cultural wilderness. Now, after the last dozen years of increasing public education and advocacy, we've convinced the media — which used to be dismissive or hostile — to pay attention and report correctly what we're about. And we've reached millions of people directly, unmediated. Particular thanks go to Loving More, the 200 activists in the Polyamory Leadership Network, the now-dozens of book authors, and all of you local organizers, bloggers, writers, Meetup runners, conference producers, discussion-forum regulars, Quora explainers, and the thousands of fine representers who've bravely gone public, in ways large and small, to explain yourselves and us with clarity and integrity.

"Once it has occurred to someone that honest, openly conducted multiple-partner relationships are possible and can be managed in an ethical manner," Eli Sheff wrote in 2013, "they can never unthink that idea. They have become aware of the polyamorous possibility and, regardless of whether they consider polyamory themselves or simply reject it out of hand, they can never again be unaware of consensual nonmonogamy as an option."

So like the LGBT movement before us, I think we have created, in our time, something permanent.


But what will it yet become? A rolling bandwagon can start bounding downhill in ugly directions to a crash. It's up to us to hang on and steer the bandwagon in good directions.

How? As I've repeated in speeches ever since New York's Poly Pride in 2008,

If we are to save our defining word from a loss of meaning – the term by which we can find each other and identify ourselves – and guide this bandwagon in good directions as it gains momentum – we should, in my opinion, be taking every opportunity to do several things:

1. Keep stressing that successful polyamory requires high standards of communication, ethics, integrity, generosity, and concern for every person affected;

2. Emphasize that poly is not for everyone, and that monogamy is right and best for many. Relationship choice is the mantra we want to repeat.

3. Insist on the part of the definition that stresses respect for everyone all around and the "full knowledge and consent of all involved";

4. Expand that to not just "knowledge and consent," but well-wishing and good intention for all involved. The defining aspect of polyamory, I'm convinced — the thing that sets it apart and makes it powerful and radical and transformative — is in seeing one's metamours not as rivals to be resented or even as neutral figures to be tolerated, but as, at minimum, reasonable friends or even extended family — for whom you genuinely wish good things. And beyond that, of course, there's no limit to how close you can become. This is what differentiates poly from merely having affairs: a sense that at least to some degree, “We’re all in this together.” When this happens, poly becomes a generalization of the magic of romantic love — into something wider, and more widely applicable, than the dominant paradigm of a couple carefully walling away their particular love from anything to do with the rest of humanity.

5. Warn people that, while poly can open extraordinary new worlds of joy and wonder and may help to humanize the world, its benefits must be earned: through courage, hard relationship-honesty work, self-examination, tough personal growth, and a quick readiness to (as they say in the Marines) "choose the difficult right over the easy wrong."

So please — with the bandwagon now starting to roll fast on its own momentum, let's not let it run away from us in the coming years to the point that "polyamory" goes mass-market as something careless or trivial, or in any way less than what we know it to be.*


* Spike Lee, I'm looking at you.


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