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

July 30, 2006

"What can top sliced bread?"

Metro West Daily News (suburban Boston)

Never doubt the ability of a letter you write to make a difference. Three weeks ago, when the word "polyamory" made news as an entry in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (see our item here), some uninformed newspaper columnists snarked about it to the effect that older words such as "cheater," "cad," etc., serve just as well.

Well, they heard from us. And one of them did an about-face, admitted guilt, and made our letters the subject of another column:

...A few weeks ago, I thought it was a good idea to take a potshot at polyamorism. A dozen e-mails and a few phone calls later, I realized a flip sentence halfway through a column on new words added to Webster's... was a bad idea indeed.

Some responses were penned by people channeling Dan Aykroyd's "Saturday Night Live" Point-Counterpoint character of the 1970s. The words varied, but the bottom line was always, "Jane, you ignorant slut."

A few missives were more delicate, since it wouldn't be right to attack someone so obviously feeble-minded, but they called for the same thing as the Aykroyd impersonators: my head on a platter, a retraction and a three-part series on the merits of multiple partners.

Polyamory may mean having more than one meaningful relationship at a time but there's no "cheating" involved, they said. The key words I'd failed to grasp were "mutual consent" and "open."

By the time reader Ken Kupstis' e-mail arrived six days after the column ran, I figured there wasn't much he could add to the argument.

Again, I was wrong. He made me laugh.

He repeated the mantra, polyamorists promote "a decent, fair, honest lifestyle where cheating is unnecessary," but he lobbed a little humor my way.

"Can we at least have our two cents and coin a word like 'moronogamy,' the state-sanctioned practice of swearing eternal love to one person, divorcing them, then swearing eternal love to another person, repeat as (un)necessary?"

Why not? There's wit and truth in his words.

Read the whole column (dated July 30, 2006).

And remember, when something is wrong, write.


July 27, 2006

"Beyond Same-Sex Marriage"
movement launched

A large coalition of GLBT leaders and activists has issued a noteworthy manifesto (July 26, 2006), seeking to jump-start a movement past the Right's chosen battleground of same-sex marriage to a broader vision of relationship respect. The manifesto specifically includes polyamory. Here's how it was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle (July 27):

Alternative to Same-Sex Union

By Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer

The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights movement has become too narrowly focused on marriage and needs a broader vision, a coalition of 260 gay leaders and straight allies said.

A statement the coalition released Wednesday — "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships" — offers "a new vision for securing governmental and private institutional recognition of diverse kinds of partnerships, households, kinship relationships and families."

Current and former leaders of national gay rights organizations, such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, signed the 25-page statement, along with the likes of scholar Cornel West, Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem, essayist Barbara Ehrenreich and novelist Armistead Maupin.

"(Same-sex marriage) is a limited goal, and to see that goal suck up all the resources and money has been very concerning to many of us," said Joseph DeFilippis, executive director of Queers for Economic Justice in New York and an author of the statement.

The statement lists relationships and households that would not benefit from marriage, including senior citizens living together, people in polyamorous relationships, single-parent families, extended families and gay or lesbian couples who raise children with other couples, among others.

"Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others," says the statement, which lists eight central principles, including separation of church and state, access to health care and housing, recognition of interdependence as a civic principle and recognition of a variety of relationships.

You can read the full statement (and sign it if you like!), or read just a two-page summary of it, at the new BeyondMarriage.org.

Not all of the GLBT world agrees. The San Francisco Chronicle article quotes Shannon Minter of San Francisco's National Center for Lesbian Rights as saying the statement was "very poorly timed" because equality of marriage rights must come before other forms of relationship recognition.

And Chris Crain, executive editor of Window Media (owner of the Washington Blade, Southern Voice, and other gay newspapers), got very grumped out about it on the papers' blogs:

...Not only is the marriage equality effort losing out to the Hetero Right in the courts and at the ballot box, but now comes criticism from those on the Gay Left who say the institution of marriage itself unfairly privileges "conjugal relationships" over other types of family.

...Their manifesto marks the return of the gay liberationists of yore, whose predecessors since the time of Stonewall (and before) have seen battles over sex and homosexuality, gender and gender identity, as a way of liberating all of society from traditional ways of thinking that are inherently unfair, "-ist" and "-phobic."

...So what exactly do these anti-conjugalists want, other than the removal of special privileges for two-person conjugal relationships? The question isn't an easier one to answer because the manifesto often read more Pollyanna than policy.

Aside from some long-term progressive goals like universal health care, which the manifesto credits with helping bring about gay marriage in the countries where it's now legal, the aims read more like a laundry list of legalisms that boil down to "democratizing recognition and benefits."

The rights and benefits of heterosexual marriage should be extended to not just same-sex couples, but every other form of "family": senior citizens living together, adult children living with and caring for parents, grandparents caring for children, single-parent households, extended families, close friends or siblings who live together in "long-term, committed, non-conjugal relationships," and so on.

Also sure to raise an eyebrow is the inclusion of "committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner" — Pollyanna for polyamory!....

So what's the harm in the liberationists' approach? Plenty. By diverting attention from the inherent inequality of marriage for heterosexual couples but not gay couples, the anti-conjugalists rob the gay rights movement of the fairness claim that resonates with more Americans....

Grump grump. Somebody take him out for a friendly drink, okay?

See also the article on 365gay.com.

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July 26, 2006

"I Love You. And You. And You."

TV documentary, Great Britain's Channel 4

On July 26th, England's Channel 4 aired a one-hour poly documentary: "I Love You. And You. And You" (executive producer Mark Soldinger, producer/director Liz Friend, production company Firecracker Films). The show is not available outside the UK even on the internet.

Among the British polys who saw it, it was controversial, and the whole affair sparked intense discussion (see the Comments section below). The show turned out to be part of Channel 4's sleaze-oriented "Tainted Love" series — even though the film crew said, when one poly family asked directly if they were filming for this unsavory series, that they weren't.

First off, here's a review of the show from the Times of London the next morning (July 27):

A society that encourages us to want more and more might also explain a new wrinkle in the sexual revolution — polyamory, in which adults commit to more than one long-term relationship. Liz Friend’s I Love You. And You. And You (Channel 4) followed two polyamorous households in Seattle: Terisa and her two live-in boyfriends; and Jerome with his wife, two daughters and two mistresses living under the same roof. No wonder the screen kept splitting like the opening credits of The Brady Bunch. It became clear that this “ethical non-monogamy” (do Americans have legitimising terms for everything?) requires at least as many “boundaries” and rules as monogamous relationships.

At first those interviewed had the confident air of mountaineers and mathematicians who had made something complicated and scary seem simple and safe, but it soon became clear that nothing was straightforward. Terisa developed a rictus grin when one of her lovers found a possible second girlfriend. When Terisa invited her to a dinner party, she turned up with her ex-husband. We had the makings of a French sex comedy.

Jerome, a self-confessed “alpha male” who indulged in mock battles at the weekends, needed to schedule his private life much like Bill Paxton in Five’s Mormon drama Big Love. Indeed, Jerome seemed more like a polygamist as he denied his lovers other relationships while trying to hide his lifestyle from his children by making sure only his wife — the “primary partner” — was seen in his bed in the morning. As the radio alarm went off and two women tumbled out of his bedroom to retreat to the living room, Sonny and Cher were heard singing I Got You Babe. You were left wondering what self-esteem issues these women had.

Although Friend’s documentary asked pertinent questions, such as the effect on Jerome’s children (they regarded one of daddy’s lovers as the babysitter), it descended into a less satisfying random collection of testimonies from polyamorous “families” at some unexplained festival or summer camp. “Monogamy is so unnatural,” insisted one woman. But that’s what you expect someone to say who wears a T-shirt with the legend “Abstinence sucks”.

Okayyy.... And here is what one of the first commenters who saw the show writes to us:

I have to say the London Times review was not far off the mark. The show did start off with brief clips of lots of lovely people at the PolyCamp explaining what polyamory meant for them. It then followed Terisa and her two boyfriends, I think it was Scott and Doug, and their relationship for a few months. Things did get kinda strange when Doug (I think it was) wanted to get to know another woman. He brought her to the house to meet for their first date, and the poor woman was met by Doug, two dogs and Terisa... It did seem that the poor woman had been dropped somewhat in the deep end of it all and didn't like what she saw.

Don't get me started on the second family (Jerome, Francisca, Angel and Linda). It started with an introduction to them all and saying that Linda was the newest member to the family as she has only known Jerome a few months. Cut to a scene of family life with all the partners in bed with him in the middle, the alarm goes off, and Linda and Angel get out of bed. I'm thinking yeah, OK, so they gotta go to work early maybe? No; they are getting out of bed to go sleep downstairs on the couch and floor so the kids don't find out mommy and daddy have two other people in bed.

Fair enough, I suppose, if you don't want your kids finding out, but then they LIE to the kids. Daddy's first girlfriend, Angel, is known as *the babysitter*, and Linda, daddy's newest girlfriend, doesn't figure to the kids. There are *rules* that nobody apart from Francisca (the wife) is allowed to show him affection beyond a kiss on the cheek in front of the kids.

When Jerome wants *alone time* with one of the women, the other two wait downstairs to be called up! When the interviewer challenged him about the fact that none of the women are allowed relationships with other people, and that's a bit more like polygamy, his face went all strange too....

[Their whole situation] seemed a bit strained, to be honest. I wound up wondering what exactly these women get from being with an ego freak like him?

--Jenni (a.k.a. Ssshh on LiveJournal's Polyamory community)

Folks, one lesson here is that we need more good, healthy poly families willing to do media appearances, so that when reporters and producers come beating the bushes for polyfolks to interview — and this is going to happen more and more — they'll have a better chance of finding good representative people to represent us.

Second: research who you are talking to. Most media outfits are responsible and professional. Some are not. There are knowledgeable people in the poly and sexual-minority communities to ask for advice on this (start by asking here). If you want to go public, there are a couple of Yahoo groups that serve as poly speakers bureaus, more or less; contact me for information: alan7388 [at] comcast [dot] net .

To the above comments, glossolalia remarks:

I noticed your comments about "adjusted" poly families being willing to be interviewed by the media. The thing is, I am part of a triad that was also taped for the documentary, but we are so boringly free of potential drama, I don't think they found us interesting enough. We've been together for six years, have a toddler and a baby (our youngest had just come home from hospital when we were filmed), and the one secondary relationship that one of us has, is a long-term one. Not a lot of drama to catch the eye/imagination there. ;-)

Not all opinions of the show are negative. See the discussion on LiveJournal/Polyamory_uk.

Jerome himself, the "alpha male" in the second family, has written in to explain himself and his family. See comments number 5 and 16 by clicking "comments" below.

A particularly long, detailed, and insightful description of the show -- placing it in its context in the "Tainted Love" series -- came in from Emilie a week later; see comment number 17 by clicking "comments" below.

As for the show itself: If your computer's IP address is in the UK, you can register to watch Channel 4 and its archives online.

Update: As of 2013 you can watch the show on Vimeo worldwide. Or on YouTube. As of 2012 it was still occasionally being rebroadcast in British Commonwealth countries.

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July 21, 2006

Eyewitness News Investigates: Polyamory

WJZ-TV News, Baltimore

Last night at 11, the CBS TV affiliate in Baltimore aired a very nice little piece about polyamory that some of you will recognize as mostly a rebroadcast of film aired on KUTV in Salt Lake City on April 30th (see the May 1st entry in this blog). It focuses on Cat, George, and their mate and child, living in New Jersey.

The Baltimore TV station also called the Polyamory Society "right here in Maryland!" but said they got no reply. It's too bad they didn't look a little further; there are fine poly folks in Maryland who are out, articulate, and would have strengthened the report. But it was certainly a nice little vignette of what poly family life is about. Congrats to Cat for hitting the important points just right.

I hope this encourages more people to say yes to requests for interviews. (By the way, here once again is Susan Wright's first-rate advice for anyone appearing in the media.)

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July 11, 2006

"The Make Love, Not War Species"

Living on Earth, National Public Radio

Bonobos ("pygmy chimpanzees") are said to be our closest living animal relatives. They're famous for their polyamorous lifestyle that tends to create peace among themselves — in contrast to the supposedly more possessive and war-prone classical chimpanzees, the other contenders for our closest living relatives.

Eerily, much of human nature is reflected in each species. Some polyfolks say a shift toward more bonobo-like culture will be essential for Homo sapiens' long-term survival, now that our war-making tools have evolved from sticks to nuclear weapons with no end in sight. Others deride this kind of save-the-world thinking based on an idealized vision of apes. But personally, after years of pondering it, I've decided that it's probably correct. What we polys are up to — when we're at our best — is damn important.

And, as Paul Tillich said, "There were only a few thousand people in all Europe who brought about the Renaissance."

National Public Radio did a nice report last night (July 10, 2006) on the bonobos themselves, their matriarchal ways, and efforts to ensure their own survival:

These peace-loving apes live in matriarchal societies and use sex to deal with competition and anger. They reside only in a very small area of forest below the Congo River in Africa and they've been at risk in recent years because of civil unrest, logging, and hunting. The Bonobo Conservation Initiative is creating a refuge for them called the Bonobo Peace Forest. Living on Earth explores the unconventional society of the bonobo, and what it will take to save this make-love-not-war species.

Read the transcript, or listen to the audio. And do kick in a few bucks to the Bonobo Conservation Initiative.

Update August 5, 2007: The New Yorker for July 30, 2007, has a long article on bonobo research today — including our very spotty knowledge of their folkways in the wild as opposed to in captivity, and their sometimes darker, brutal behaviors that run counter to the exaggerated happy stereotype.

Update April 13, 2008: Amazingly, things are looking up for the bonobos' survival, according to a long article in Time magazine (April 10, 2008). Thank you to those who donated to the Bonobo Conservation Initiative.

...If the new model of conservation is so smart, why did it take bonobos to push us there? There's no denying that human beings are powerfully drawn to other high primates — and to bonobos perhaps most of all. Depending on which lab report you use, bonobos vie with chimpanzees for the title of man's closest relative, with a 98.4%-to-98.6% DNA match. As a result, says Coxe, understanding the bonobo is "fundamental to our understanding of ourselves."

Still, it was an understanding we came to late. Bonobos were recognized as a separate species only in 1933, less because of their subtle physical distinctions than because of their peaceable, highly sexual ways. The bonobos' best-known champion is Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University. De Waal argues that bonobos overturn established, bloody notions of the origins of man. So popular has this idea become that for humans, bonobos are now cultural — and commercial — darlings. A raw vegetarian restaurant in New York City calls itself Bonobo's. California sex therapist Susan Block has developed a conflict-resolution protocol dubbed the Bonobo Way. (Sample dictum: "You can't very well fight a war while you're having an orgasm.") But do bonobos deserve their gentle rep?

In a July 2007 article in the New Yorker, writer Ian Parker reported a bonobo pack aggressively pursuing a baby duiker — a kind of small antelope. Coxe admits that her Kokolopori researchers reported troubling behavior in one bonobo group after a female gave birth to a stillborn baby. "The other adults let her keep the dead baby for a day," she says. "Then they ate it." These reports have given rise to a prickly cultural debate, with the unknowing bonobos being recruited into America's political wars. bonobos' genteel qualities may be overstated, said a headline in the Wall Street Journal after Parker's piece appeared. De Waal shot back in eSkeptic magazine, accusing Parker of being a "revisionist." Says Coxe: "The right wing doesn't like bonobos, but open-minded liberals love them."

On my second day in the forest, a group of 21 bonobos, oblivious to the political silliness an ocean away, oblige the liberals by showing us their gentler side. A baby kisses its mother. A group of females shoo an unpopular male away with matriarchal authority. A bonobo couple, apparently enjoying a kind of ape honeymoon, share figs, nuts and shoots and hang out in the trees with moonfaced expressions before copulating twice high up in the canopy.

The truth is, of course, that 1.4% to 1.6% of DNA and millions of years of evolution equals an evolutionary ocean. Even the most liberated humans would hesitate to have sex in front of complete strangers. And bonobos aren't likely to harness fire or invent the wheel or the Internet soon. Still, for too long the study of nature has been the study of zero-sum savagery — a universal bloodlust that allows us to shrug at our own brutality, reckoning that mere animals like us can hardly be expected to do better. Discovering such close genetic cousins who behave themselves so well — even sometimes — ought to give us pause. There are already plenty of reasons to save the Congo Basin, but teaching the highest species on the planet the value of a little peace and love is one more very good one.

July 8, 2006

"Welcome to the World of Polyamory"

The Observer (London)

In tomorrow's Observer, a big, respectable, middlebrow newspaper in London, England (issue of Sunday, July 9, 2006), there's a nice long feature article in the women's section about polyamory. It's rather skeptical but covers interesting ground, treats decently the people it profiles — and most of all, introduces thousands of readers to the concept as something important and worthy of serious consideration.

...When you talk to polyamorists, they sound strangely calm and beatific, like mountaineers or mathematicians sometimes do — people who have grasped at something fiendishly complicated and scary, and rendered it simple and safe. Frankly, they do not always sound believable. But then, I come from planet monogamy. Heresies such as polyamory, quite naturally, make me feel edgy and defensive.

...Like many polyamorous men, Michael is 'out'; like many women in the same situation, Danella is not. As always, when it comes to modern sex, men are in a less precarious position; they have less to lose.

...David Buss, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, and a leading thinker on the culture of human mating, points out, 'there are no cultures in which men are not sexually jealous'.... But if partner-sharing is not a natural state, nor is monogamy.... Faithful pair-bonding for life between two people was not the norm in the Stone Age, and, arguably, it's not the norm now, in an era when half of marriages end in divorce. A brief look at Darwin tells us why.

In order to replicate his genes, the best thing a Stone Age man could do was to impregnate a woman, and provide resources to protect her and her offspring, while trying to impregnate as many other women along the way as possible. And how much have we evolved since the Stone Age? As David Buss puts it, 'The picture is not a very pretty one, but humans were not designed by natural selection to coexist in matrimonial bliss. They were designed for individual survival and genetic reproduction.'

Seen this way, monogamy is a form of civilisation — an attempt to control the rampant promiscuity and gender warfare that is man's natural state....

And that's what's interesting about polyamorists. Talk to them, and the thing they stress, above all, is the importance of order, of 'boundaries'.... 'These are things that get discussed,' says Danella. 'You have to set up boundaries. For instance, safer sex.' Some polyamorists create 'relationship documents', detailing who they've been with, when, and in what circumstances. Michael and Danella tell me that, since they moved to Medford from San Diego in the last few months, they've been 'dating' other couples in the area, but nothing has happened so far. One couple made it clear that they were only interested in a 'quad' relationship — when both couples find their counterparts attractive. But there was 'not enough compatibility.' So, at the moment, as a couple, they're single.

...'The biggest misconception about polyamory is that it equals promiscuity. People assume that we have no boundaries. We do — they're just the ones that we've put in place. For me, the golden rule is that we all look after each other. A set-up like ours is a delicate thing, so we need to be gentle with it.'

...Like Mike Shea, Julio has always seen himself as a 'poly'. 'To anyone considering becoming polyamorous: think about it very carefully,' he says. People imagine it will be the perfect solution - that they'll get one thing they need from one person, and something else from another. To a certain extent, that's true. You do get twice as much good stuff, but you also get twice as many problems. A situation like ours is fraught with ambiguity and misunderstanding, which can make for a rocky road.'

...And there are some things about polyamory you might never have thought of. Often, a 'quad' relationship starts well — each man loving each woman, and vice versa. But the women in the group are far more likely, when a bond has been formed, to experiment with each other than the men are to do likewise. 'The men want brotherhood,' Danella tells me, 'but not a sexual relationship. But the women connect more sexually.'

Read the whole article.

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July 7, 2006

"Love Unlimited: The Polyamorists"

New Scientist

The best, most important article about polyamory that I can recall appears in tomorrow's New Scientist (for July 8, 2006). Based in England, New Scientist is a large-circulation magazine for the science-reading public; it claims to be the world's "leading science and technology weekly." (Though its coverage of my own field has sometimes been sensationalist and uncritical.)

The article, by Annalee Newitz, is bannered on the magazine's cover. It centers around a pleasant dinner with a typical poly family near San Francisco, and it takes off from there:

It is hard to estimate how many polyamorists exist — there is no box for them on any national census — but the number of online resources, articles and books on the topic has exploded since the early 1990s, when the term polyamory ("poly" for short) was coined in internet newsgroups. The Ethical Slut, a 1997 book by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt that some call the "bible of poly", has sold more than 50,000 copies and is about to go into its second edition....

For psychologists and evolutionary biologists, polyamory is a rare opportunity to see, out in the open, what happens when people stop suppressing their desire for multiple partners and embrace non-monogamy. Proponents say the poly brand of open but committed relationships may be a way around infidelity because it turns an age-old problem into a solution: polyamorists are released from the burdens of traditional marriage vows, yet they seem to keep their long-term relationships intact. What makes poly enticing is the possibility of reconciling long-term stability and romantic variety.

...What evidence there is shows that poly couples stay together as long as monogamous ones — and, apparently, for good reasons. In a study published last December in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (vol 8), [Elaine] Cook analysed the relationships of seven couples who had been married for more than 10 years, and who had had additional partners for at least seven of those years. She found that most of the couples reported "love" or "connection" as important reasons for staying together. This contrasts with monogamous couples, Cook notes, who often list external factors such as religion or family as major reasons for remaining committed.

...In April, psychologist Rachel Robbins at the Mission Mental Health clinic in San Francisco conducted a survey of 250 polyamorous women. The number 1 reason they gave for being poly was "to experience different activities and explore different parts of themselves with different people". Instead of asking one person to meet all their needs, polyamorists are content with several people who each meet a few.

..."We all have our own bedrooms, which is key," Noemi says. "And our bedrooms aren't next to each other, so we have privacy," says Heather. "Also, we have a nominal schedule where Jim sleeps with Noemi and me on an every-other-night basis, and I'm with Gordon on the weekends."

"My nights without Jim are great," Noemi says with a laugh. "I get to hog the covers, and nobody snores."

...Polyamorists come to it at different points in their lives and for different reasons. Emma says she had open relationships in high school, and many people I spoke with described discovering poly in their late teens or early twenties. Most, like Jim, tried monogamy. "My first marriage was supposed to be monogamous, and I was," he recalls. "But she slept around in a cheating way. That killed the relationship."

The article goes on to ask whether poly is more sustainable than monogamy:

"Infidelity in monogamous relationships is estimated at 60 to 70 per cent, so it seems that attraction to more than one person is normal. The question is how we deal with that," says Meg Barker, a professor of psychology at London South Bank University, who presented her research into poly at the 2005 meeting of The British Psychological Society. "The evidence is overwhelming that monogamy isn't natural," says evolutionary biologist David Barash of the University of Washington, Seattle. "Lots of people believe that once they find 'the one', they'll never want anyone else. Then they're blindsided by their own inclinations to desire other attractive individuals. So it's useful to know that this behaviour is natural."

The article then goes on to discuss whether, from an evolutionary standpoint, poly is better or worse than monogamy as a mating strategy. Barash is quoted as saying "Jealousy is probably fitness enhancing," since a jealous male is more likely to ensure that his own genes are the ones that get passed on by his mate. This certainly explains why some sexual jealousy seems innate to human nature, rather than purely cultural. And the article quotes biologist Joan Roughgarden (Stanford University) as saying flat out, "Polyamory won't last. The likelihood of being able to successfully raise children in that context is very limited. My guess is that it's not an evolutionary advance, but a liability."

But, the article counters,

To others... biology is not the point. "In middle-class urban cultures, people aren't marrying for survival any more," says psychologist Dossie Easton, co-author of The Ethical Slut.... "This means we're having marriages and relationships for very different reasons than our ancestors did. We're doing it for emotional gratification." Easton sees poly as a break from the "survival strategy" traditions that created both polygamy and monogamy. "Polyamory is a cultural outgrowth of serial monogamy, or having multiple partners without necessity," she says. "Once you're released from necessity, you can start doing all kinds of original thinking."

Barker concurs. "It's assumed that jealousy is a natural response," she says, "but some polyamorous people say they hardly feel it at all. I think this gives us insight into how people can make sense of their worlds in many ways if monogamy isn't the default." She has found that when people leave traditional monogamy behind, they often rethink "givens" such as how to divide up the housework, money and childcare. Children of poly couples, for instance, tend to be raised by a small community instead of two parents.

The article concludes with a powerful statement:

Although poly is still well out of the mainstream, it has become an attractive alternative to monogamy for some. Whether it is good for society remains an open question. For now, there's a more pressing issue — is it good for you?

With the article are a couple of sidebars, including a Q&A with Dossie Easton in which she says: "There is a whole range of reasons [for choosing this lifestyle], but the highest is finding community. Poly community becomes an extended family that shares intimacy, sex, housing and child-rearing. I see non-monogamy as creating places where people can nurture relationships because they don't have to leave home, children or partner to explore themselves. They don't have to tear up their world every time they try something new."


Read the whole article. If it disappears there, you can read the text here. (One correction: the words "polyamorous" and "polyamory" were not invented by Deborah Anapol but by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart and Jennifer L. Wesp, independently of each other.)

This article ought to become the poly movement's standard explanatory handout. Combined with this week's news coverage of the word "polyamory" entering the dictionary (see two entries back), this could be the biggest attention-getter we've had since the debut of "Big Love." And a much better one too.

(New Scientist has also produced a good podcast interview with the author.)


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July 5, 2006

"Polyamory" Enters Dictionary

Associated Press

At last! The word "polyamory" has entered a major dictionary, and about time too. It also got picked for mention in an AP news story about the dictionary's new edition, along with "manga," "ringtone," and "supersize":

Following is a partial list of new words and their definitions being entered into this year's edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary....

Polyamory: The state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.

Is this really the first dictionary entry? (Wikipedia doesn't count.) Apparently so; the Macmillan English Dictionary presented this informative essay on the topic in its "Word of the Week" earlier this year (2006), apparently on Valentine's Day week:

...Though there is evidence of usage as far back as the 1960s, the word was popularised in the early nineties by US poet Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, who used it in a 1990 article entitled "A Bouquet of Lovers." In 1999, Zell-Ravenheart was allegedly asked by the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary to provide a definition of polyamory, which she defined as:

“The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.”

However, unlike the related term polygamy (having more than one husband or wife), the word polyamory and its derivatives are yet to be formally recorded in a dictionary.

Read the whole article.

Added later: Then on September 14, 2006, the Oxford English Dictionary FINALLY added "polyamory" (and -ous and -ist), via its ongoing revision and supplement series (see http://www.oed.com/help/updates/pleb-Pomak.html .) This makes the word as officially a part of the English language as you can get!


July 4, 2006

"Two Men and a Babe"

The Stranger

In Seattle's weekly alternative paper The Stranger for July 6-12, kink columnist Mistress Matisse presents another in a series of polyamory interviews — this time involving herself:

When I tell people I'm polyamorous, one of the responses I sometimes get is: "How can two men share one woman?" I don't much like the way that sounds, like I'm a Flexcar or the TV remote. Max and Monk don't share me — I share myself with both of them. (Not at the same time, however. We're not a triad.) But let me have them tell you about it themselves.

How would you describe your relationship with me?

Long-term committed partner. Primary. My true love. The person with whom I make long-term plans—retirement, joint property, travel, visiting relatives.

Monk: I'm your secondary partner, which in our case means we don't live together and we only see each other a few times a week. However, our relationship has evolved beyond just dating into a deep, long-term thing.

...What advice about jealousy would you offer someone who's beginning a poly-relationship?

Like it or not, when you date someone, you also have a relationship with their partner(s) as well. The question is, what kind of relationship? I like and respect Max, which has made things much easier. I like that we don't view each other as adversaries, or as someone that we must put up with for the sake of domestic tranquility. Treat your partner's other partners like you'd want to be treated if the roles were reversed.

Max: Expect bumps in the road. The idealized "we never have trouble" image people present probably isn't real. What's important is how you deal with the problems, not whether you have any. If you need to offer reassurance to a jealous partner, make it tangible, not just verbal, like extra time or more emphasis on communication. Know who you are and what you want, and be prepared to share that with your partners.

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