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

July 19, 2007

"Home to Mother"

The Stranger

Our favorite Seattle alternative-newsweekly columnist is out with another observation on poly:

I'm about to embark upon another adventure in polyamory — I'm going down to Georgia for a family visit, and instead of my partner Max, whom my family knows and loves, I am taking with me my other partner, Monk. This should be interesting.

...My biofamily is quite clear about the fact that they don't wish to know about the kinky side of my sexuality. But my observations of other people's coming-out experiences make me think that some families actually have an easier time accepting kink than they do polyamory.... I suspect the real difference is that kink doesn't seem to reliably make vanilla people question their own relationship choices. At least, not to a point of discomfort. But rare is the person in a long-term monogamous relationship who hasn't been attracted to another. Sometimes it's at a level that's easy to handle. But sometimes it's a mighty struggle. Seeing others apparently having their cake and eating it too — although it's not really quite that simple — can arouse sleeping resentment....

Read the whole article.

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July 13, 2007

Daytime TV: "A Husband And His Two Wives"

The Dr. Keith Ablow Show

Remember the show "My Husband's Three Wives" on The Learning Channel? It first appeared on September 24, 2006, and later in reruns. It featured a polygamist husband named Brian living in Waller, Texas, and his wives. The household got terrible reviews from poly viewers. "His attitude was so threatening in a passive-aggressive way, I thought 'cult' for a moment," wrote one. "Brainwashed women with no real say in their lives, they just revolve around him."

Brian was back on TV this afternoon (July 13, 2007), this time on the Dr. Keith Ablow Show, with his two long-term wives Pam and Kathy and their six kids. (The prospective third wife in the earlier show never joined up.) This new appearance first aired on May 14, 2007. Its promo tells how the household began 16 years ago:

When faced with infidelity, a wife’s feelings of betrayal turned into shock when her husband said he wanted to move his girlfriend into their home — and he did. Today, Dr. Keith talks to a husband, his two wives and their six children, living together under the same roof.

I caught the show's last half. Everyone seemed frozen on camera except a couple of the kids. The two wives seemed very traditional, and looked remarkably identical. The host was challenging but respectful. I heard no mention of polyamory, or signs that any of them has ever made contact with a polyamory community that might provide them (at least the women!) with some context and a wider perspective. The kids mostly said that multiple wives won't be for them when they grow up, but that they love and respect the three parents and consider the two moms as equals.

If you want to see Brian's full name, more of his life story, anonymous accusations against him, and his responses, just google "three wives" "Waller" "Brian". Blecch.

P.S. If you arrived here because you're interested in better types of multipartnering than the above, enter the word "polyamory" into Google or Wikipedia. Or better yet, browse other articles on this site (especially these), or start off with these fine entry points:

New Scientist magazine article
Franklin Veaux's poly site
The alt.polyamory home page

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July 12, 2007

"How many mates is too many?"

Miss Manners

In her newspaper advice column this week, Miss Manners addresses an increasingly frequent conundrum facing thoughtful hosts:

By Judith Martin

Dear Miss Manners: I am struggling with the invitation list to my child’s confirmation. Some of the potential invitees are members of a “poli” family.

The man is married to one woman. They live with a second woman. While I have not ever inquired about their bedding arrangements, I believe she is romantically attached to the wife. There is a third woman who dates the husband but lives elsewhere.

While they are quiet about this in their work and “in public,” most of their friends know of the arrangement. They are not sneaking around — the four of them are on excellent terms with each other. However, some of my relatives would be shocked if they knew of the relationships.

My daughter is friendly with the girlfriend, as am I. She would like to invite her. My husband and I are also friendly with the husband, whom we know through different connections. While I have met the wife and the other woman and get along with them well enough, I don’t know them well enough that I would invite them to this sort of event were it not for their family connections to the husband.

So, are the four of them a package deal? Can I invite the husband and his girlfriend? Just the girlfriend? How do I introduce them to my family?

Gentle Reader: Since you admittedly do not know the bedding arrangements of this interesting assortment, you are spared the temptation of enlivening your child’s confirmation by explaining their relationships to your relatives.

You can invite only the married couple, only their household, only one or both of the single ladies, or the whole group. But in any case, you introduce them by using their names. Miss Manners is sorry if this disappoints you.

Speaking of manners... I've often been struck by the ways in which polyamory is a throw-in-the-deep-end, crash course in applying cat-like good manners (a Robert Heinlein expression) to new and unexpected situations. Poly is too new to have yet evolved a widely understood politeness rulebook, such as exists in most other realms of society. So, we have to invent it on the fly. It's another way in which poly challenges us to grow and evolve by applying wits and good character — or else wipe out.


July 3, 2007

"Love me two (or more) times"

Orlando Weekly

The alternative newspaper of central Florida presents a big, excellent intro to poly in its July 5th issue, starting with a profile of a local woman and her two males. They're part of the network of friends and lovers who have turned Florida's Tampa-Orlando axis, not exactly a hotbed of alternative culture, into one of the most polyactive areas in the U.S.

Monogamy not cutting it? Maybe you're a polyamorist.

By Deanna Sheffield

Shara Smith looks pretty normal. She’s petite with a pale complexion and long dark hair that falls well below the waist of her thin frame. Smith is 30, outgoing, childless and has a career as a lighting and video technician.... The only hint a casual observer might have that she’s not wholly middle-of-the-road is the message on the black camisole she wears during a recent interview: “My boyfriend says I need to be more affectionate,” it reads, “so now I have 2 boyfriends.”

It’s a joke, and it isn’t a joke. Smith has two boyfriends, as well as relationships with two other men that are “not well-defined.” She’s not a cheater; she’s a polyamorist, the difference being that all her boyfriends know about her other boyfriends, and they’re cool with it.

Smith is sipping coffee at an Orlando Starbucks and holding hands with Ki, one of her boyfriends. Unlike Smith, Ki (who asked that his last name be withheld) is shy, though today he’s excited.

Smith fires up her laptop and logs on to a live chat session with Franklin Veaux, another of her beaus. (Veaux has four girlfriends himself, including Smith. Ki, who has two girlfriends and three “undefined relationships,” has never met Veaux.)

Smith turns the video camera resting on top of her computer toward Ki. Smith and Ki are holding hands as the two men wave and smile at each other. At the conclusion of the conversation, Ki asks Smith for Veaux’s number so the men can chat, and says he looks forward to visiting him if he’s ever in Atlanta, where Veaux lives.

“Generally when you’re interested in one person, you tend to like the other people that they like,” says Smith. “You don’t go in thinking they’re a threat or competition; they’re allies.”

Such is life in a polyamorous relationship.

...“Poly is not mainstream because people are not aware of it, but that’s starting to change,” Veaux says. “I think that more people are becoming aware of it and considering methods aside from traditional monogamy.”

...Smith...keeps a computerized spreadsheet of everyone she’s slept with (or even been in close quarters with) since 1989, the results of their health tests, and all of the exams she has received over the years. Her Excel document, appropriately titled “Sexual Health and History Disclosure,” doesn’t just skim the surface. It lists her last checkup... It includes a laundry list of diseases ranging from HIV to syphilis and two types of the human papillomavirus, the dates she was most recently tested for each, the results and the status of any previous diagnosis. She includes her fertility status, the fact that she is not surgically sterile, uses condoms as her preferred method of birth control, doesn’t plan to have kids, and is pro-choice.

“Things don’t usually just happen,” she says. “There’s too many people that would be affected and could get hurt.”

Read the whole article. Be the first to comment at the end, or send a letter to the editor.

This is another one to bookmark for friends and relatives.

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July 2, 2007

Polygamy roundup

Macleans, Canada's national news magazine, just printed a long feature article titled "Polygamy: Legal in Canada." It focuses on fundamentalist Mormons, Muslim immigrants, and the recent phenomenon of fundamentalist Christians setting up "Biblical" households like those of Old Testament patriarchs:

Laws against plural marriages are so rarely prosecuted that a strong case can be made that they are already de facto legal....

...Should polygamists win in court — a real possibility — Canada's already suspect polygamy law would be blown out of the water. Marriage, already open to same-sex couples, could become a very crowded institution.

...The law against polygamy especially is almost never enforced, says an analysis of the legal and social ramifications of polygamy conducted for the federal government in 2005. In rare cases of a conviction, says the study, for the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada, "the jurisprudence reveals a tendency toward relatively light penal sentences."... Marriage has already been legally redefined to include same-sex unions to meet equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in the same-sex marriage reference, the notion of a "Christian" marriage is no longer relevant. "Canada is a pluralistic society," the court ruled. "Marriage, from the perspective of the state, is a civil institution."

Polygamy [laws are] also ripe to fall to a constitutional challenge. While many experts say the guarantee of religious freedom is grounds for a challenge, the report's authors say the ban on polygamy is most likely to offend the constitutional guarantee of "liberty," the right to make key personal choices. "In Canada today," the report says, "it is difficult to conceive of a more fundamental personal choice than whom one chooses to marry."

Read the whole article (June 25, 2007).

Next up: The London Times in England ran a classic Rupert Murdoch screamer last month under a headline that the story did not bear out:

1,000 men living legally with multiple wives despite fears over exploitation

By Dominic Kennedy

Polygamous marriage is flourishing as the Government admits for the first time that nearly a thousand men are living legally with multiple wives in Britain.

Although the families are entitled to claim social security for each wife, no one has counted how many of them are on benefits.

Ministers appear to be ignoring the separate practice of unauthorised polygamy, which is said to have become commonplace in some Muslim communities. The Ministry of Justice admits that it has no estimates of numbers for these unions, which are often presided over by an Islamic cleric....

MPs and peers have struggled for years to extract figures from ministers about the extent of polygamy. The first official estimate was made in response to a freedom of information request by The Times asking for statistics on benefits that are paid to wives who share a husband.

“It is estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 valid polygamous marriages in the UK, few of whom are claiming a state benefit,” the Department for Work and Pensions said. “Because of the small numbers concerned, our IT systems do not specifically record such information.”...

From "1,000 men" in the headline, to "nearly a thousand men" in the lead, to "no estimates of numbers", to the source's actual statement: "fewer than 1,000 valid polygamous marriages in the UK.... Because of the small numbers concerned, our IT systems do not specifically record such information." In other words, maybe 600, maybe 32, who knows. This is the Murdoch version of pyramid-style news writing (grump I, the former newspaper guy).

Read the whole article (May 28, 2007).

Other recent articles:

"Suburban polygamy" (real-life Big Love households in Utah)

"Husband takes polygamy plea to Jakarta court" (Indonesia)

"Polygamy plagues Indonesian leadership"

"Is polygamy an Islamic tradition?" (Kyrgyzstan)

"Traditional African Practices and Islam" (by an embattled secular humanist leader in Nigeria)

"Kurds consider outlawing polygamy" (Kurdistan/Iraq)

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