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



August 29, 2016

F&SF "books about loving everybody"


Nisi Shawl writes fantasy and science fiction. On the website of her current publisher Tor Books, she offers some recommends for good poly tales:


Five Books about Loving Everybody 

Words are powerful magic. Finding a word — polyamory — to describe my romantic and sexual relationships made it possible to tell people what I was doing: my friends, my family, my lovers, and most importantly, myself. I was a college dropout when I first encountered the term polyamory, which we’ll define here as the conscious romantic and/or sexual involvement of three or more consenting adults.

The comic book which introduced me to the name of this concept, and which I read so eagerly, has gotten lost somewhere in my forty-plus years of raggle-taggle relocations. Its main character was named Polly,[1] and I think the front cover was mostly black…. At any rate, it left me longing for further literary examples of this newly validated category of human behavior: stories about kissing and hugging and making love with everybody, without guilt or shame. Which I both wrote and found....


Her five choices, with a paragraph or two for each, are:

Tales of Nevèryon by Samuel R. Delany (1979)

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler (2005)

“«Légendaire»”, short story by Kai Ashante Wilson (2013)

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015)

Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey (1997)


None of these recommendations are “about” polyamory. More accurately, these stories are around polyamory: loving everybody figures into what they’re about in different ways — as an exception, as a cultural marker for travelers in time and space, as a signifier of civility and sophistication, and so on. I’m sure that a thorough search would provide at least as many examples of ways of portraying polyamory in SFF as there are of practicing it.

Take my suggestions. Read them. Read my work as well, for you’ll find that, as I noted earlier, I’ve definitely written polyamory into several of the worlds I’ve imagined.


Her whole article (August 29, 2016).

And read the comments! They're by intelligent people offering many more examples, and not just Heinlein. Many of these books and stories I'd never heard of. Go add your own favorites.

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

1. That can only be Polly Morfus of Far Out West comix! The Kerista commune in San Francisco published them as as part of its abundant poly and hippie-consciousness outreach literature in the 1970s and 80s. "Even Eve" Furchgott, one of Kerista's most articulate spokespeople, wrote and drew the comix. Example. Actual paper copies are poly-historical collector's items.

But I'm pretty sure Nisi Shawl is mistaken about encountering the word polyamory there. I suspect she is misremembering polyfidelity, the term invented and promoted by the Keristans. I have never been able to find the word polyamory used prior to its invention in the late 1980s and its first publications in 1990-1992. If you know otherwise, please write me!

–Alan M.
  alan7388 (AT) gmail.com

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August 27, 2016

"Why Do We Get Jealous In Non-Monogamous Relationships? 5 Theories, Explained"

Here's quick but comprehensive overview on a perennial topic. The five theories in question come from Freud, evolutionary psychology, Ralph Hupka, Ayala Pines, and the poly movement's own longtime guru on the topic, Kathy Labriola.

Bustle is a modern online women's magazine that claims 50 million visits a month ("the destination for millennial women," it tells advertisers).


Why Do We Get Jealous In Non-Monogamous Relationships? 5 Theories, Explained


By Rachel Krantz

Recently, I've become very acquainted with a feeling that I didn't even know I had the capability to feel so strongly: jealousy. Before I decided to try non-monogamy with my current partner, I'd only experienced the feeling in fleeting moments. ... But now that my partner has gone on a few dates with someone else, I feel like I know what jealousy really is. It is a physical sensation as much as an emotional one, manifesting in the pit of my stomach and the middle of my throat.

You might wonder why, if jealousy is so intense and uncomfortable, I've been choosing to experience it. ... I suppose the short answer is that I want to know whether non-monogamy is for me, and there's no way to know except to confront these uncomfortable feelings head-on. I already know having the freedom to go out with other people has made me less afraid of commitment and more in love with my current partner. It's only when he exercises that same freedom that I find I come up against the main emotions that comprise jealousy: fear, anger, and grief.

I'm not going to lie — it's painful. But it's also been incredibly fruitful, too. I've learned a lot about my own insecurities and triggers in the last few months, and feeling myself begin to unlearn certain fears has actually been incredibly empowering. One thing I've found especially useful as I navigate this unfamiliar territory is reading some of the excellent writing that has been done about jealousy and non-monogamy. By far my favorite book has been Kathy Labriola's Love in Abundance: A Counselor's Advice on Open Relationships, as well as her accompanying The Jealousy Workbook: Exercises and Insights for Managing Open Relationships.

...Here are five theories about why we get jealous that Labriola lays out in Love in Abundance, summarized.

1. Freud's Theory: Because Mom Didn't Love You As Much As She Loved Dad

Not surprisingly, Sigmund Freud believed that the root of jealousy could be found in The Oedipal Conflict. He believed that every child "fell in love" with their parent of the opposite sex, then felt betrayed when they realized that Mom actually loved Dad, or vice versa. ...

Freud viewed jealousy as a nightmare driven by our most primal fears of inferiority, loss, and abandonment. As much as Freud may have been off about some things, I have to say, that all sounds eerily familiar to my experience of romantic jealousy.

2. Darwinian Theory: Because Jealousy Is Evolution, Baby

This is probably the theory you're most familiar with, because it tends to drive the popular narrative as to why monogamy is the "natural state" of humans. ... The basic idea behind the Darwinian theory of jealousy is that "the feeling is evolution's way of getting us to pay attention to a potential threat to the family unit," as Labriola puts it.

...We're all familiar at this point with the idea that men "naturally" want to spread as much seed as possible, while women always want to "protect" the fidelity of men, since it's far more risky for a woman to "invest" in sex.

Again, not only does this theory not account for non-hetero couples or birth control, but it also doesn't seem to account for the reality that women cheat and crave multiple partners just as much as men do. ...

[But] basically, everyone is different, and when it comes to reinforcing gender stereotypes, Darwin can be hella problematic.

3. Dr. Hupka's Theory: Because Jealousy Is A Social Construct

Dr. Ralph Hupka is a cross-cultural psychologist who has studied jealousy in societies around the world and has found that the prevalence of the feeling in a culture varies widely. Hupka found that there were certain patterns in societies like ours where jealousy was most prevalent. ...

4. Dr. Pines' Theory: Because We Have 5 Main Fears

Dr. Ayala Pines is a psychologist who specializes in studying jealousy, mostly as it pertains to monogamous couples. ...Basically, she believes the feeling is based on a unique combination of your childhood, your previous relationships, and the dynamic of your current relationship — making no experience of jealousy the same in any relationship.

Pines suggests that at the core of your jealousy lies in the trait that attracted you most to your partner in the first place. ...

5. Kathy Labriola's Theory: Because Jealousy Is A Useful Alarm System

As a counselor who works primarily with non-monogamous couples and a polyamorous person herself, Labriola says she's come to believe that jealousy is not inherently a negative emotion that we have to suppress or learn to get rid of. Instead, it is a natural response that serves the purpose of alerting us to when we don't feel safe, and drives us to pay attention to and protect our relationship, especially as other outside factors are introduced that change the dynamic. She likens jealousy to a smoke alarm — it's alerting you to potential danger, and it's telling you that you need to check whether your relationship is actually on fire, or whether it is just a false alarm. ...


That last in particular has become Accepted Poly Wisdom.

This is just a precis. Go read the whole article (August 23, 2016).

Much more about the topic on this site (includes this post; scroll down).

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August 18, 2016

The Normalization of Poly, Part 1,259


So there I was reading an article in The Atlantic about how New England suburbs are losing their young people, and bango, I hit this:


...One such leaver is Matt Kozachek, 27, who grew up in Storrs, Connecticut, attended the University of Connecticut, and lived in Groton after college, working as a software engineer. Life as a Millennial in Connecticut was boring, he says. There were no cool bars or art galleries or fun events to attend, and it was hard to make friends. What’s more, Kozachek identifies as polyamorous, and said that was taboo in Connecticut. So a year ago, he picked up and moved to San Francisco. ...


No further explanation of what the word means or why it's a big enough deal for someone to move away from their home state — even though dating several people, if that's what you thought it means, is as common as rocks and as white-bread as a Connecticut suburb. Readers are just assumed to know better.

The article: An Unsteady Future for New England's Suburbs (August 18, 2016).

(That number in the title, BTW, is the number of posts on this site.)

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August 17, 2016

"Why People Are Fighting to Get Polyamory Recognized as a Sexual Orientation"


The latest in Vice's long run of poly articles, out today, looks at the community's debate over whether poly is an innate orientation or a deliberately chosen way of relationships. The article is a surprisingly good overview to get you up to speed on the discussion. Excerpts:


Why People Are Fighting to Get Polyamory Recognized as a Sexual Orientation

A hand-tinted postcard from c.1910.

By Neil McArthur

Melissa Marie Legge always knew she was different — she just felt it, even before she knew how to talk about that feeling. "Wherever this part of me came from, it has certainly always been there, even before I had words to describe or explain it," she told VICE. "Consensual non-monogamy gives me the freedom to involve people in my life on my own terms, and to negotiate relationships individually and contextually without having to follow a social script. It's something that I value highly, and that I would say is a big part of my sexual identity overall."

That's how Marie Legge describes being polyamorous, and somewhat controversially, identity is the precise word she uses. ...

"Consensually non-monogamous clients more often than not tell me this is how they've felt their whole life," Professor Markie Twist, program coordinator for the University of Wisconsin-Stout's sex therapy program and licensed family therapist, told VICE. "When they were children, they totally felt that way. It was only when they got older that they were told you're not allowed to like more than one person at the same time."

Not everyone is on board with the drive to recognize polyamory as an orientation. In 2012, popular sex columnist Dan Savage declared that polyamory is "not a sexual orientation. It's not something you are, it's something you do." His comment touched off, in his own words, a "shitstorm." ... On her Practical Polyamory blog, poly advocate Anita Wagner wrote in response to the Savage brouhaha that by recognizing polyamory as such, non-monogamous persons can acquire a sense of identity that "becomes the bedrock upon which we can build a life that will withstand the external cultural challenges we sometimes encounter." ...

Ann Tweedy, a lawyer who has researched polyamory and the law, argued in a 2010 paper for the University of Cincinnati Law Review that if society accepted non-monogamy as an orientation, the possible legal implications could be significant. ...

Not all non-monogamists agree that reclassifying the practice as an orientation would help the community. "People have divided minds about it within polyamory communities," Christian Klesse, a senior lecturer in sociology at the UK's Manchester Metropolitan University who has researched polyamory, told VICE. "Many are attracted to the whole idea of polyamory because it does not provide fixed modes for living," or a "rigid script" for conceiving of sexual identity, he said. He thinks that "the language of sexual orientation closes down the potential of polyamory to trouble our ideas about gender, sexual attraction, and love."...

The movement for recognition also co-opts the language of LGBTQ liberation, and not everyone within that community is comfortable with this. ... Even within the LBGTQ community, consensus around the idea that sexual orientation is innate and immutable has never existed. ... Professor Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, has done extensive research documenting the extent to which sexual orientation is fluid; though polyamory has been less studied, it stands to reason that relationship orientation may be at least as malleable.

Relationship orientation very likely has one important parallel with sexual orientation: It forms a continuum, with some of us on either extreme, but most somewhere along a spectrum. As LGBTQ people begin to feel secure in their legal and social status, they may find that rigid ideas about innate orientation — be they about one's sexuality, gender, or, yes, their relationship orientation — are less important in their struggle for equal rights. ...

Neil McArthur is the director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at University of Manitoba, where his work focuses on sexual ethics and the philosophy of sexuality. Follow him on Twitter.


Read the whole article (August 17, 2016).


● Here's Klesse's paper on the subject referred to above: Polyamory: Intimate practice, identity or sexual orientation? by Christian Klesse (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK), in the journal Sexualities (January 2014; vol. 17 no. 1-2; doi:10.1177/1363460713511096). The full paper is behind a paywall — get it through a library with academic access — but here's the abstract:


Polyamory means different things to different people. While some consider polyamory to be nothing more than a convenient label for their current relationship constellations or a handy tool for communicating their willingness to enter more than one relationship at a time, others claim it as one of their core identities. Essentialist identity narratives have sustained recent arguments that polyamory is best understood as a sexual orientation and is as such comparable with homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality. Such a move would render polyamory intelligible within dominant political and legal frameworks of sexual diversity. The article surveys academic and activist discussions on sexual orientation and traces contradictory voices in current debates on polyamory. The author draws on poststructuralist ideas to show the shortcomings of sexual orientation discourses and highlights the losses which are likely to follow from pragmatic definitions of polyamory as sexual orientation.


● Some past articles and roundups of mine about poly-as-orientation news and debate.

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August 15, 2016

Poly Friendly Professionals list relaunches, and an interview with a therapist trainer


It used to be really hard to find a poly-friendly therapist. Or lawyer, or doctor, or whatever. Or even one who knew what you were talking about. Lists of poly-friendly professionals began in the 1990s, but they were sparse and often went unmaintained.

Well surprise! Geri Weitzman and friends have completely overhauled and updated Joe Decker's Poly Friendly Professionals Directory, and it boasts far more listings than I've ever seen. And for more categories of professionals than ever. Geri writes,


The Poly Friendly Professionals Directory is once again live, thanks to the efforts of hardworking volunteers. Please spread the word — first to let folks know of the directory being available again at its new URL, polyfriendly.org — and second to tell any poly-friendly professionals you might know, to ask them to submit new listings or update their old ones (instructions are at polyfriendly.org/joining.php. The listings are free). If you have questions, please contact us at polyfriendlyprofessionals (AT) gmail.com . Thanks!


Geri is the original author of the booklet What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, which you can email to your shrink so they can educate themself on their own time rather than yours. Printed copies are also available singly or in bulk from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF).

All this is introduction to an interview out last week in the alternative Tuscon Weekly — with Kate Kincaid, "a therapist specializing in counseling gender and sexual minorities, people in alternative relationship models, and issues such as infidelity, mistrust, and ineffective communication. Additionally, she provides poly/kink-awareness trainings and workshops for other counselors."


Polyamory 101: An Interview With Kate Kincaid

By Ally Booker

...Kate: I think the simplest definition is loving more than one person, but it's so much more than that! We all love more than one person, but that doesn't necessarily mean we are all polyamorous. The more nuanced definition is that it's an identity and/or lifestyle choice to ethically practice being in close, intimate, romantic or sexual relationships with more than one consenting person.

...Many seem to think poly people are a bunch of oversexed heathens, which isn't necessarily untrue, but there's a lot more to it. In fact, ethically non-monogamous people tend to be very communicative and practice safer sex practices than the general population. Another misconception is that anything goes, when in fact there are a lot of agreements and sophisticated rules of etiquette for dating within the poly community.

...Ally: What's your polyamory origin story?

Kate: I've basically been poly since 8th grade when I started dating. I was crushing hard on my boyfriend, but I also loved my neighborhood best friend too. ... It involved a lot of lying and didn't feel very good for anyone involved....

Ever since I've worked in a sex research lab, I learned that a lot of other people struggle with monogamy, so it normalized [this] for me. I used to believe everyone was non-monogamous "by nature" and I was kind of militant about it. My views on it have evolved and I now believe that some people tend towards non-monogamy and some don't, it works for some people and doesn't for others, sometimes your life is set up to be conducive to it and sometimes it isn't. It's all very fluid. ...

It feels so good to be totally honest. It challenges me to be really brave and say exactly what I want. I don't judge people doing "unethical non-monogamy" as bad people at all. I empathize with not being able to express how you feel for fear of losing or hurting your partner. But I've personally found facing this fear to be extremely rewarding. But that is not necessarily true for everyone.

Ally: I'm glad to hear you're no longer "militant" about it! One of my dear friends was in an abusive relationship that was normalized by the kink-friendly couples therapist that they visited. The therapist was so invested in being a "kink" therapist that it acted like a blinder against certain red flags.

Kate: Gah! I cringe when I hear about experiences with therapists like that. That's why I want to get more into training my colleagues! Equally enraging is seeing people hiding abuse under the guise of polyamory. ... It's so important to have help from people who can understand the difference — whether that be a good therapist or open-minded, understanding friends.

Ally: What's one thing you'd tell a polyamory "pro"?

Kate: You're never a pro. Every relationship is different and will challenge you in different ways. ...


Read the whole article (August 11, 2016).


● Lots of previous posts here tagged Therapists (including this one; scroll down).

● Also, Ryan Witherspoon last year posted a bibliography of some academic papers regarding poly and therapy:


Here are the citations I have (aside from Dr. Weitzman's work) that directly relate to therapeutic work with poly clients.

Berry, M. M. D. M., & Barker, M. (2014). Extraordinary interventions for extraordinary clients: existential sex therapy and open non-monogamy. *Sexual and Relationship Therapy*, *29*(1), 21–30. doi:1O.1080114681994.2013.866642

Davidson, J. (2002). Working with polyamorous clients in the clinical setting. *Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality*, *5*, 1–7.

Finn, M. D. (2014). Questioning the Rule-Making Imperative in Therapeutic Stabilizations of Non-Monogamous ( Open ) Relationships. *Forum: Qualitative Social Research*, *15*(3), 1–19.

Finn, M. D., Tunariu, A. D., & Lee, K. C. (2012). A critical analysis of affirmative therapeutic engagements with consensual non-monogamy. *Sexual and Relationship Therapy*, *27*(3), 205–216. doi:10.1080/14681994.2012.702893

Girard, A., & Brownlee, A. (2015). Assessment guidelines and clinical implications for therapists working with couples in sexually open
marriages. *Sexual and Relationship Therapy*, (May), 1–13. doi:10.1080/14681994.2015.1028352

Moors, A. C., & Schechinger, H. (2014). Understanding sexuality: implications of Rubin for relationship research and clinical practice. *Sexual and Relationship Therapy*, *29*(4), 476–482. doi:10.1080/14681994.2014.941347

Zimmerman, K. J. (2012). Clients in Sexually Open Relationships: Considerations for Therapists. *Journal of Feminist Family Therapy*, *24*(3), 272–289. doi:10.1080/08952833.2012.648143


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August 12, 2016

"Polyamory is about balancing individual freedom with mutual care"


The UK's New Statesman, a 103-year-old progressive weekly aligned with the Labour Party, is out today with a new polyamory article, two years after its last one. A young contributing editor explains things to the unaware:



For many in my fearful, frustrated generation, “having it all” means opting out of monogamy

The Daily Mail would have you believe that polyamory is all wild orgies. Think more tea and washing up rotas.

By Laurie Penny

Polyamory, if you believe the news­papers, is the hot new lifestyle option for affectless hipsters with alarming haircuts, or a sex cult, or both. A wave of trend articles and documentaries has thrown new light on the practice, also known as “ethical non-monogamy” – a technical term for any arrangement in which you are allowed to date and snuggle and sleep with whomever you want, as long as everyone involved is happy. Responses to this idea range from parental concern to outright panic.

Having been polyamorous for almost a decade, I spend a good deal of time explaining what it all means. When I told my editor that I wanted to write about polyamory, she adjusted her monocle, puffed on her pipe and said, “In my day, young lady, we just called it shagging around.” So I consider it my duty to her and the rest of the unenlightened to explain what’s different about how the kids are doing it these days.

...There is nothing new about shagging around. I hear that it has been popular since at least 1963. What’s new is talking about it like grown-ups. It’s the conversations. It’s the texts with your girlfriend’s boyfriend about what to get her for her birthday. It’s sharing your Google Calendars to make sure nobody feels neglected.

Over the past ten years, I have been a “single poly” with no main partner; I have been in three-person relationships; I have had open relationships and have dated people in open marriages. The best parts of those experiences have overwhelmingly been clothed ones.

There’s something profoundly millennial about polyamory, something quintessentially bound up with my fearful, frustrated, overexamined generation, with our swollen sense of consequence, our need to balance instant gratification with the impulse to do good in a world gone mad. We want the sexual adventure and the free love that our parents, at least in theory, got to enjoy, but we also have a greater understanding of what could go wrong. We want fun and freedom, but we also want a good mark in the test. We want to do the right thing.

All of this makes polyamory sound a bit nerdy, a bit swotty – and it is.... Polyamory is a great many things, but it is not cool. Talking honestly about feelings will never be cool. Spending time discussing interpersonal boundaries and setting realistic expectations wasn’t cool in the 1970s, and it isn’t cool now. It is, however, necessary.

...If there is an economic type that is over-represented among the poly people I have encountered, it is members of the precariat: what Paul Mason memorably called the middle-class “graduate with no future”.

...Not all polyamorous relationships work out – and nor do all conventional relationships. We’re making it up as we go along. It would be helpful to be able to do that without also having to deal with prejudice and suspicion. Still, it’s easy to see where the suspicion comes from. The idea of desire without bounds or limits is threatening. It is a threat to a social order that exerts control by putting fences around our fantasies. It is a threat to a society that has developed around the idea of mandatory heterosexual partnership as a way to organise households. It is threatening because it is utopian in a culture whose imagination is dystopian. Freedom is often frightening, and ­polyamory is about balancing individual freedom with mutual care. In this atomised culture, that’s a revolutionary idea.


That boldfaced definition of polyamory is already running loose on social media this evening, courtesy (as far as I can tell) of Joreth Innkeeper.

Read the whole article (August 12, 2016). It first appeared in the print issue dated August 11, 2016.

As a print mag, the New Statesman is small (33,000 circulation in 2015) but influential for its size. Its online version claimed an average of 6.3 million pageviews a week during June 2016 (in the aftermath of the Brexit vote).

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August 11, 2016

Report from the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit


A close ally of the poly movement is the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, named for the 19th-century free-love activist Victoria Woodhull. It's directed by Ricci Levy, who has spoken at many poly conferences. The Foundation's Family Matters project is especially poly-relevant; it's intended "to secure full rights, respect and recognition for all families by eliminating discrimination based on family structure."

Every August, Woodhull puts on a Sexual Freedom Summit in the Washington DC area for activists and researchers. This year's took place last weekend. I wanted to go and report on it, but couldn't. However, Billy Holder of Atlanta Poly Weekend fame was there, and he has just put up a report of his own. Here it is:

Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit Recap (August 11, 2016).

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August 3, 2016

A plug for Endless Poly Summer


If you've wondered where to find deep poly community, I'm going to put in a plug for Endless Poly Summer coming up later this month at the Abrams Creek Retreat Center in West Virginia.

It's put on by the same folks — principally Sarah Taub, Michael Rios, and Debby Sugarman — who run the Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East at the same site, which you've seen me rave about here; I've been going to it every summer since 2010.

The dates are August 19 - 24, though you can come for just the weekend. Endless Poly Summer, and their other quarterly poly events at Abrams Creek, are basically Summer Camp with a poly focus. As I've said, the New Culture values of transparency, curiosity, personal growth and self-responsibility, and its practices for community creation and relationship-skills development, are exactly right for building poly relationships and community. Guests/presenters this time include Elisabeth Sheff (author of The Polyamorists Next Door) and Mark Michaels & Patricia Johnson (Designer Relationships).




From the website: "Here is where you can meet other poly people at a deeper level, learn the skills needed to handle your relationships, and become a part of a supportive network of people who share your relationship values.... Spend up to 5 days in a rustic woods-and-water setting, hang out around a bonfire, enjoy a song circle, cuddle up at a snuggle party, learn to take your relationships to the next level, and build connections with others that last all year long! At Endless Poly Summer, we invite top-notch presenters, and live, work, learn and play together for up to 5 days or more."

The location is in the cool mountains about 2 1/2 hours west of Washington DC. The website. Facebook event page. Tell them I sent you.

Cheers,

Alan

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