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

July 31, 2009

Newsweek fallout? Jenny Block on AOL

AOL Health

The Newsweek online article two days ago — the one that billed polyamory on the magazine's home page as "America's Next Romantic Revolution" — continues to set things in motion. Buckets of commentaries are happening all over the place. The right-wing blogosphere is up in arms against Newsweek for printing the story, not to mention us for existing. Momlogic was moved to repost its interview with Loving More's Robyn Trask from a year ago about her life, partners, and children.

Jenny Block (author of "Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage") just wrote, "An interview with me went up on AOL.com Health a week or two ago, and then all of a sudden they put it on their homepage and my inbox is suddenly flooded!" Excerpts:

Love, Sex and Parenting in an Open Relationship


AOL Health: Why do you think monogamy isn't for you?

Jenny Block: The simplest, light-hearted answer is what my father always says, which is that I'm a lot. I'm just a lot. I have a number of different jobs, I have lots of different hobbies, I always have a lot of different friends that are all very different. So in some ways it would be really, kind of crazy for me to just pick one person. I tried. I figured everybody else does it. How special am I? Am I such a rarity that I need more than one person? But [now] I don't think I'm a rarity. I think I'm just about as typical as it gets in the needing more than one person part. It's the honesty part that I think makes [my husband and me] unusual.

AOL Health: You had several monogamous relationships before your marriage turned into an eventual open relationship. Can you explain how you progressed toward this?

Block: ...I finally approached the subject with him. I said, "I've done a bunch of reading and a bunch of research and we're really not that strange. People have open relationships. People opt to have other partners." My very sweet husband said, "Theoretically you could do that, but there are feelings and emotions and realities of life." We went back and forth for probably a year at that point. [We asked ourselves] "Does this really work? Are they these crazy people who are not like us, so it would never work?" We had this do-or-die moment. We invited my friend [Lizbeth] to join us [in a threesome] and it worked and she hung around for about six months and the three of us dated. We all kept looking at each other saying, "Is this weird? Should this be weird? Is it weird that it's not weird?" It's kind of like going to summer camp for me. I used to go to summer camp every year and everybody got along....

AOL Health: You have a daughter who is 10 years old. How much of the nuances of your marriage does she understand?

Block: I don't know. We answer all of her questions and we don't lie to her. My girlfriend is still my best friend, so it's not like she wouldn't be around. She has asked me some very pointed questions, which makes me think she's putting the pieces together. One day she asked me if three people can get married. She asked me if I love Jemma [my girlfriend] as much as I love Daddy. She said to me in the middle of dinner, "I'm really lucky because some people only have one parent and I have three." I said, "Why, do you consider all of us parents?" She said, "Sometimes Jemma makes me dinner and sometimes she picks me up from school. When Daddy cooks dinner, he says to set four places at the table. So we're a family." Kids see the truth and the happy family. That's what they see. If they see screaming and yelling and you keep saying, "No, Mommy loves Daddy," I don't think they buy it.

AOL Health: At some point are you going to tell her more about the details?

Block: Definitely. She keeps asking me when she's going to be old enough to read the book. I don't even know yet. I'm going to ask some writer friends who also have memoir pieces [what they've done]. When she asks about it and starts showing more curiosity about it and I think she's at an age when she can piece it all together, I think yes. I think it'd be kind of crazy to try to hide it.

AOL Health: Do you think she'll feel like you were lying to her?

Block: I don't think so. We told her that the book is about marriage, and about how grownups choose to love each other and some people don't agree with what Mommy says in the book. We say, "It's about grownup things and that when you're ready to talk about it, we'll talk about it." She gets the kid thing, grownup thing. She gets that stuff.

AOL Health: Have you raised her to be aware of alternative marriages and relationships?

Block: Yeah, definitely. I think that's the other thing. We have friends who are gay and lesbian. We talk about adopted families and extended families. We talk all the time about how people can choose to love who they want. Now the law doesn't always recognize those choices and she knows that too. She'll ask us questions, like we have friends who are a lesbian couple who were over one day and they were talking about other parents at the school and Emily asked, "Why do they not want [their children] to play with your daughter?" And I said, "Some people have a problem with two women being married." Her child response was, "That's just stupid." I said "Right, exactly." It's really that simple....

Read the whole long brassy interview. (It's a three-part article and the navigation may be tricky; here's all the text in one piece.)

And join the 1,000-plus comments pouring in below the interview. Remember, be polite and respectful, and represent us well; "be a credit to your kink."

Update, August 15: Jenny writes,

When AOL put their interview with me on their homepage, I received such wonderful replies, with personal stories, kind words, and questions. Because I can't answer each email personally (I wish I could...) I have partnered with yourtango.com to respond to as many of your insights and inquiries as I can. I hope you'll stop by to read my blogs and to share your own thoughts and ideas. Looking forward to seeing you there!


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July 30, 2009

Newsweek author: "The Feminist Roots of Polyamory"

Double X magazine

The author of yesterday's Newsweek online article about poly as "America's Next Romantic Revolution" has posted some of her own thoughts on the subject — in particular about the female tilt of the modern poly movement. It's some interesting background to the most important article that's appeared about us in a long while:

The Feminist Roots of Polyamory

A guest post from Newsweek writer Jessica Bennett:

I've never been in a relationship with two people at the same time, but I've spent the last two months talking about it constantly. Not because I'm obsessed with the idea — though, um, increasingly I am — but because I was writing a piece for Newsweek about one particular multi-partner family....

...And while it’s easy to brush off anything with the word “poly” as some kind of frat-house fantasy gone wild, polyamory has a decidedly feminist bent.

The key to poly relationships is gender equality, and women have been central to the creation of the practice. The word "polyamory" itself was coined by two women, in the early ’90s, and the first five books on the topic were all female-authored. Over the past year, writers like Jenny Block and Tristan Taormino, the sex columnist, have written on the topic, while celebrities Tilda Swinton (who called herself a “freak” in an interview with Double X) and Carla Bruni, the first lady of France, have spoken out in favor of open relationships. “Multiple-partner relationships have always gone on, but they have rarely had the gender equity characteristic of poly relationships,” says sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, one of the few researchers to study polyamory.

The way these families make their relationships work is perhaps the most feminine of all of this: by good old-fashioned talking....

Read her whole post (July 29, 2009) on Double X, a new online women's magazine recently started by Slate.com.

I delved into this subject myself here. That was nearly three years ago. New poly authors, organizers, and public figures have emerged since then, and yes, a large majority of them continue to be women.

Thoughts on why?



July 29, 2009

Newsweek: Polyamory is "America's Next Romantic Revolution"

Newsweek online

There's been gossip for more than a month that Newsweek magazine was interviewing people for a big article on polyamory. This morning the magazine published the article on its website, with an accompanying two-part video.

The title on Newsweek's homepage is "America's Next Romantic Revolution," and the title in the rotating feature spot is "The Next Sexual Revolution?" The article centers on Terisa Greenan's household in Seattle (on which she bases her webcast video series "Family") and works outward from there.

It's dead on-target and absolutely wonderful.

It is not in the paper magazine, however, at least not yet. Word is the writer hopes she can get it into the print edition sometime in the coming weeks. [UPDATE LATER: This never happened.]

Only You. And You. And You.

Polyamory — relationships with multiple, mutually consenting partners — has a coming-out party.

By Jessica Bennett | Newsweek Web Exclusive

July 29, 2009

Terisa Greenan and her boyfriend, Matt, are enjoying a rare day of Seattle sun, sharing a beet carpaccio on the patio of a local restaurant. Matt holds Terisa's hand, as his 6-year-old son squeezes in between the couple to give Terisa a kiss. His mother, Vera, looks over and smiles; she's there with her boyfriend, Larry. Suddenly it starts to rain, and the group must move inside. In the process, they rearrange themselves: Matt's hand touches Vera's leg. Terisa gives Larry a kiss. The child, seemingly unconcerned, puts his arms around his mother and digs into his meal.

Terisa and Matt and Vera and Larry — along with Scott, who's also at this dinner — are not swingers, per se; they aren't pursuing casual sex. Nor are they polygamists of the sort portrayed on HBO's Big Love; they aren't religious, and they don't have multiple wives. But they do believe in "ethical nonmonogamy," or engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person — based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. They are polyamorous, to use the term of art applied to multiple-partner families like theirs, and they wouldn't want to live any other way.

...It's enough to make any monogamist's head spin. But the traditionalists had better get used to it.

Researchers are just beginning to study the phenomenon, but the few who do estimate that openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city. Over the past year, books like Open, by journalist Jenny Block; Opening Up, by sex columnist Tristan Taormino; and an updated version of The Ethical Slut — widely considered the modern "poly" Bible — have helped publicize the concept. Today there are poly blogs and podcasts, local get-togethers, and an online polyamory magazine called Loving More with 15,000 regular readers....

With polyamorists' higher profile has come some growing pains. The majority of them don't seem particularly interested in pressing a political agenda; the joke in the community is that the complexities of their relationships leave little time for activism. But they are beginning to show up on the radar screen of the religious right, some of whose leaders have publicly condemned polyamory as one of a host of deviant behaviors sure to become normalized if gay marriage wins federal sanction. "This group is really rising up from the underground, emboldened by the success of the gay-marriage movement," says Glenn Stanton, the director of family studies for Focus on the Family, an evangelical Christian group. "And while there's part of me that says, 'Oh, my goodness, I don't think I could see them make grounds,' there's another part of me that says, 'Well, just watch them.' "

...Polyamory might sound like heaven to some: a variety of partners, adding spice and a respite from the familiarity and boredom that's doomed many a traditional couple. But humans are hard-wired to be jealous, and though it may be possible to overcome it, polyamorous couples are "fighting Mother Nature" when they try, says biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, a professor at Rutgers University who has long studied the chemistry of love. Polys say they aren't so much denying their biological instincts as insisting they can work around them — through open communication, patience, and honesty. Polys call this process "compersion" — or learning to find personal fulfillment in the emotional and sexual satisfaction of your partner, even if you're not the one doing the satisfying. "It's about making sure that everybody's needs are met, including your own," says Terisa. "And that's not always easy, but it's part of the fun."

It's complicated, to say the least: tending to the needs of multiple partners, figuring out what to tell the kids, making sure that nobody's feelings are hurt. "I like to call it polyagony," jokes [Ken] Haslam, the Kinsey researcher, who is himself polyamorous. "It works for some perfectly, and for others it's a f--king disaster."

...It's easy to dismiss polyamory as a kind of frat-house fantasy gone wild. But in truth, the community has a decidedly feminist bent: women have been central to its creation, and "gender equality" is a publicly recognized tenet of the practice....

...It's a new paradigm, certainly—and it does break some rules. "Polyamory scares people — it shakes up their world view," says Allena Gabosh, the director of the Seattle-based Center for Sex Positive Culture. But perhaps the practice is more natural than we think: a response to the challenges of monogamous relationships, whose shortcomings — in a culture where divorce has become a commonplace — are clear. Everyone in a relationship wrestles at some point with an eternal question: can one person really satisfy every need? Polyamorists think the answer is obvious — and that it's only a matter of time before the monogamous world sees there's more than one way to live and love....

Read the whole article (July 29, 2009).

Newsweek also put up an absolutely first-rate two-part video on the Seattle household, mixing real-life interviews with scenes from "Family":

Part 1: Love — Poly Style

Part 2: Making Poly Love Work

Newsweek also put up a slide show on the history of polygamy and multiple partnering, titled "More Ways Than Two" (starting with Rameses II in ancient Egypt). It struck me as mediocre by seeming to conflate separate topics.


Updates: 7 a.m. next morning: I see the article is now #1 on Newsweek's site in all four categories: most read, emailed, recommended, and commented. Also, it's made the front page of Digg.

-- The Fox TV network has put out a news item referencing the Newsweek article. It's remarkably objective considering it's Fox.

-- A New York Press blogger says "Newsweek Loves Group Sex". (Never mind that the folks in the article say they never sleep with more than one person.)

-- Anita Wagner discusses some of the... umm... least complimentary comments that are piling in to the Newsweek site, on her Practical Polyamory blog. The contrast in character is remarkable between the ugly negatives and the often polite, thoughtful, well-presented positives. That's also been true in the comments to past poly news articles generally. We're winning the comment wars in terms of the impressions we make on normal people; keep it up. As Emerson said, "Character is everything." As Goddess of Java says, "Be a credit to your kink."

More on this: Okay, I went googling and found where a lot of those ugly comments are coming from. Turns out the right-wing blogosphere is having conniption fits over the Newsweek article and is sending its readers there — FreeRepublic, FoxNation, TownHall, the works. I kinda suspected. (A typical Freeper: "Yes and Bestiality and Pedophilia if the Obamunists have their way. Oh I almost forgot Necrophelia.") NewsBusters did a relatively decent article.

-- A columnist in The Frisky discusses the Newsweek article:

...ever since Anya James wrote about being in a polyamorous relationship back in November, I’ve noticed that three-way relationships have been everywhere. According to a study cited in Newsweek, “openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city.”...

-- The Newsweek article prompted momlogic.com to reprint its interview from last year with Loving More's Robyn Trask about her life, partners, and children.

-- Thoughtful criticism and commentary from a basically pro-poly columnist at GetReligion.org, a site about treatment of religious issues in the media.

-- Here's a Spanish translation of the article, which appeared on the site of the weekly newsmagazine El Argentino in Buenos Aires (Aug. 26, 2009).


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July 27, 2009

Publicity in the U.K.

Times of London

The recent positive media coverage of poly groups and projects didn't just happen. Often, the people involved made it happen.

The fact is, a lot of what you see throughout the news media gets there because of people and businesses seeking publicity. They offer enticing stories, or story ideas, ready-made on a platter. From the media's viewpoint, this makes it easier and cheaper to fill up a newspaper or air time than by... well... hiring reporters.

This stinks, and it's gotten worse with the corporatization of the news in the last 30 years. But the upside is that if you want free publicity, and are diligent about seeking it, you're likely to get it.

For instance: A few months ago the Seattle Times published a great article about Terisa Greenan and her poly webseries "Family". The reason the article happened is because, Terisa says, "I did a whole press blitz where I sent hundreds of press releases to different organizations all across the country." The Seattle Times article led to the wonderful TV news report in Seattle last week about Terisa, her triad, and "Family." That report in turn got highlighted nationally on ABC News.com. (You can watch Greenan and Matt Bullen talk about making and promoting the show in a video called "Behind The Family"; scroll down to the entry for 23 July 2009.)

Last week the triad who set up Young Milwaukee Poly in January got profiled on Milwaukee TV news deliberately, to make more people aware of Young Milwaukee Poly and what it stands for.

In 2005, Loving More began mailing out press releases about its conferences. These attracted some major-media writers who did excellent work (for instance the Washington Post's long feature article about the 2008 Poly Living Conference). These articles in turn prompted other media to imitate them.

On the other hand, sometimes news media do initiate their own story ideas. Last weekend Graham Nicholls in England launched a new poly website, polyamory.org.uk. An announcement about it, along with an explanation of polyamory, was attractively featured with a photo in the Times of London. Not every new website that someone puts up gets this kind of attention:

Finding monogamy monotonous? Well, now you can escape the world of tiresome twosomes with www.polyamory.org.uk, the UK’s first website dedicated to polyamory [Ed. note: Not so.], the practice of having simultaneous loving relationships with more than one partner.

Wife-swappers and philanderers needn’t bother; “poly” devotees, whether in “triads”, “quads” or — for the truly hyperactive — “clans”, seek openness and “emotional bonds”. They view themselves as part of a boundary-pushing movement that challenges traditional relationships. If you don’t collapse from the stress of remembering who’s who at intimate moments, being polyamorous can bring “a sense of freedom and real love that transcends possessiveness and jealousy”, according to the site’s founder, Graham Nicholls....

Here's an image of the newspaper clip, with photo. It's pretty tongue-in-cheek, but it certainly gets the message out.

This one came about in a roundabout manner, says Nicholls. He was approached by a freelance journalist who wanted to write a full-size article on poly. But the Times didn't want it, "so she decided to tie a small piece in with the launch of my website." In this case, he notes, "the article resulted from general press interest in the subject, not any promotional hype on my part."


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July 26, 2009

Publicity breakout in Australia

Sun-Herald "Sunday Life" magazine

"Recently we had a big article in Sunday Life here that was the biggest-circulation poly article yet in this country," writes Niko Antalffy from Sydney, Australia. "Big exciting news for Australian polys. There were many awesome reactions, and a LOT of people have seen and read the article in Sydney and Melbourne. Yay!!"

Sunday Life is the Sunday magazine of The Sydney Morning Herald, one of the country's largest newspapers. The cover of the July 12th issue features a closeup of British actress Tilda Swinton with the headlines, "Three's Company: Tilda Swinton's Unusual Love Life" and "Plus, Meet Australia's Polyamorists".

Niko is in the second of these two articles (along with a stunning picture of her). Excerpts from it:

The New Romantics:
Meet the Polyamorists

By Claire MacDougall

...At first glance, the Fords appear to possess all the markers of a typical middle-class family.... But in this home, the idea of a nuclear family, and indeed a marriage, has been turned upside down. That's because 42-year-old business consultant Jenny Ford and her husband both have other lovers, and are free to sleep with whomever they choose. The Fords — and increasing numbers of couples like them — are polyamorous.

Jenny's husband of 21 years, and Kip Jansson, a 34-year-old IT consultant from Sweden, are her two great loves... [with whom] Ford thinks she will spend the rest of her life.... "We find that we can negotiate the time I spent with each of them in a way that works for everyone with absolutely no drama....

[Polyamory's] roots spring from many sources — the free-love era of the 1960s and '70s; gay and lesbian subcultures; New Age spiritualism; and the '90s mantra of self-development. Just don't call it swinging. Polyamorists will quickly tell you it's about relationships, honesty, communication, love and intimacy, rather than just sexual pleasure.

Sydney-based poly-friendly counselor Frances Amaroux estimates at least a quarter of her 120 clients are polyamorous and says there has been a huge spike in interest in the past two years.... Amaroux's clients in polyamorous relationships are varied, spanning all ages, genders, and sexualities. But the one thing she thinks distinguishes them is their emotional intelligence, or self-knowledge....

The Fords talked for months before they began their search for polyamorous partners, and drew up what they considered to be crucial to the continued happiness of their marriage. They then drafted some basic guidelines ("tell the truth about your thoughts, feelings, and actions" and "communicate, communicate, communicate") and imagined potential issues that could arise between them and with their lovers. Their relationship works, they believe, because "neither of us have any major insecurity about our relationship; we have no fear of losing one another," she says....

Niko Antalffy was 23 when she realised she wanted more than a monogamous relationship, but was adamant that she did not want to "cheat on people." When the 34-year-old sociologist and Sydney-based academic first learned of the concept four years ago, no polyamorous community existed in Australia.... "I was swimming against the tide all the way. It was difficult and I had to invent things for myself," she says.

...For Antalffy, having several intimate relationships has many benefits. "There is a degree of love, care and connectedness in polyamorous relationships that I have never found in [my] monogamous relationships."

As for the Fords, they say polyamory has enriched their marriage and offers them fulfilling romantic relationships. "Being poly relieves you of the crushing burden of having to be everything to somebody," says Ford. "You can be yourself and your partners can be themselves, and nobody has to try to be everything to everybody or worry about being traded in for 'someone better'."

And here's from the Tilda Swinton article:

The three-way relationship is open and amicable, Swinton has said. "The arrangement is just so sane. John and I live here with our children, and Sandro is sometimes here with us, and we travel the world together. We are all a family." [John] Byrne confirms this, saying of Kopp, "We all love him dearly."

...Swinton has since defended this unusual arrangement as a positive choice for her family. "It may seem odd, but it is certainly the best thing for the children. It's not something I try to promote as a radical lifestyle choice, but it's a situation I find very healthy. I can maintain my life with my children and their father, and spend time with the man I've become very fond of. I am very fortunate there has been a lot of understanding by the men."

The pair of articles are not online at the newspaper's site, but someone has put up images of the pages that you can read.


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July 25, 2009

Gay and straight: parallel poly worlds

Gay & Lesbian Times

In the gay world, poly exists in a rather different social context than among heteros. Not only is having multiple partners more normal and understood, it also tends to be seen as just one version of being gay — not as a person's defining relationship identity (at least among men).

However, the relationship issues that arise sound exactly the same as for vanilla hetero polys. A gay therapist discusses some of these issues in the San Diego-based Gay & Lesbian Times:

Body Mind Soul: Triple play

by John R. Ballew

Joe and Ralph are two professional guys in their late 20s. They had been lovers for five years when they met Brian. “At first we were just friends,” Ralph says. “Then we started getting naked together. The sex was what attracted us at first.” Then feelings developed between the three of them that none of them had anticipated. Brian moved in a year ago. After some initial adjustment, the three of them are now very happy.

When straight people have a relationship involving more than the customary two partners, they call it “polyamory.” We don’t use that term much as gay men, but we are at least as adventurous in trying out all the possible combinations and permutations of relationships. If two is good, then is three better?

...Relationships are complicated and plenty of work even when there are only two people in them. What’s it like when a third enters the calculations?

Richard fell in love with a couple who had been together for eight years when he met them. He was attracted to their stability and wide circle of friends. They also made him feel like the center of attention when the three of them were in bed together. They invited him to move in — first as a roommate, then as the third party in their relationship.

“I was in love with both of them,” he told me. “What I didn’t realize was that one of the two guys wasn’t so enthusiastic about the situation.... Eventually the less eager guy announced he was moving out. I was a mess! I felt abandoned and blindsided. I also felt like I was responsible for breaking up the relationship they had before they met me. I was fucked up for months after that.” Richard and the remaining partner have stayed together, but their relationship is very different from what they expected.

If you’re thinking of getting into a three-person relationship, there are certain issues to think about first:

• Not to be too cute about it, but how are you at sharing? If you had trouble sharing your toys as a young boy, you may have real trouble with not having someone’s undivided attention. (Of course, an optimist would point out you have the attention of two people, not merely one. But not all the time — trust me on this.)

• You had better not be the jealous type. How would it feel if the other two decided to do something at a time when you have to work late? Not a problem… or a source of anxiety for you?

• Remember your high school geometry. There are many types of triangles — some with equal sides, some very unequal....

• Don’t look at adding a third person as the cure-all for a two-person relationship that needs work.... Don’t even think about it.

• Make certain you and your partner both talk thoroughly and openly about your feelings. This is no time to sweep feelings under the rug. Keep the conversation going as long as necessary.

...Understand that all relationships take work, and unconventional ones often take more work to stay healthy. Some people find that having family meetings is a good ways to make sure that everyone participates in making decisions and keeping communication clear....

Read the whole article (July 23, 2009).

I recently posted more gay therapists' poly advice here.


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July 23, 2009

"Local family's lifestyle gets national attention"

KOMO-TV 4 News (Seattle)

Terisa Greenan and her webcast sitcom "Family" — the fictional adventures of Gemma, Ben and Ernie living in a vee triad — have drawn the attention of the ABC-TV affiliate in her hometown. And, says the station's report, an Oprah Winfrey producer has expressed interest in taking Greenan and her own two partners national.

Watch the broadcast (about 4 minutes). Here are excerpts from the accompanying article on the station's website, basically a transcript of the broadcast:

By Michelle Esteban

SEATTLE -- A controversial local family's story is a huge hit on YouTube and has everyone, from Oprah to the Kinsey Institute, asking just how they do what they do.

The childless family of three is polyamorous, meaning its members can have more than one romantic relationship at once.

Terisa Greenan is in love with two men, Scott and Larry, and they're both crazy about her.

..."We're all heterosexuals. I have a romantic relationship with both of them separately," said Terisa.

Terisa recently started dating a third man, and her two current partners are OK with that.

"I don't feel sexual jealousy in that way," said Scott.

And why should he? Larry and Scott date and sleep with other women, too. And of course, Terisa has no complaints.

"When I see Larry and his new girlfriend kissing or hugging and lying in bed together, and he has a smile on his face and he beams with joy, I think, 'I love him. I want him to experience that joy,'" she said.

Expert: "Most people want monogamy"

"It is not in most people's capacity to love multiple people at the same time, much less all live together as a happy family," said Dr. Pepper Schwartz, relationship specialist and sociology professor at the University of Washington.

Schwartz thinks the trio loves the security of their relationship, but aren't madly in love. She says most polyamorous relationships don't last because too many emotions get in the way.

"Most people want monogamy," she said.

Not Scott.

"We like the charge of a new relationship," he said.

To each his own, says Larry....

Web series catches attention of Oprah, Kinsey Institute

...The Web series started as a lark while Terisa was between jobs. There's no budget, and the actors and crew work solely for experience and exposure. Terisa says "Family" is about the art of filmmaking; the insight into an alternative lifestyle is just the bonus.

The seven-minute sitcoms get thousands of hits on YouTube. And it may soon be the topic of discussion on America's most popular talk show.

"Oprah Winfrey called. It was amazing, I was like, 'How on Earth did you find me?'" Terisa said.

National exposure would complicate an already-complicated lifestyle. With three people, everything, from decision making to scheduling and arguing, takes longer.

What do their parents think? Terisa and Scott's parents have accepted their lifestyle, but Larry has kept his father in the dark.

"At some point really soon, we're going have that conversation. It won't be fun," said Larry.

But Larry can tell his father that he's making history. The Web series recently grabbed the attention of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex at Indiana University.

...The institute says Terisa's work is one of a kind. The school intends to add a DVD collection of the Web series to its library as a resource.

The curator says the soap-opera format of "Family" is the first of its kind in the history of polyamorous relationships. He believes the DVD will serve as a valuable form of reference for future social historians.

As for the future of the trio, Terisa, Scott and Larry intend to grow old together.

Here's the whole article (July 22, 2009).

The KOMO-TV broadcast is also getting promoted nationally on ABC News.com (in the Health section), as the lead paragraphs of this article; the rest of the article is mostly a reprint of ABC News.com's story last month about calls for legalized polyamorous marriage.

Only a few years ago, some people were saying never, ever talk to the media because they will just trash you and trash poly. What a change.

Of course, you still have to know how to present yourself well (which does not mean "just being yourself"!), and you have to figure out the agenda of the outfit you're dealing with — and if it's a bad agenda, say no. Especially when it comes to TV, which has an eye that never blinks. Robyn Trask of Loving More has had good success coaching people to deal with TV producers on a level footing. Call her if you're ever in this position.

And also study the wise tips on appearing in the media posted by Susan Wright of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF). She has also posted some suggested sound bites to memorize.


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July 18, 2009

Young activists show how it's done

TMJ4-TV (Milwaukee)

Young Milwaukee Poly, an energetic new bunch of poly-awareness folks, gets some good local publicity on TMJ4-TV. They're featured in a 3-minute TV report that was broadcast at 10 p.m. last night (July 17, 2009). An article also appears on the station's website; it's a transcript of the video:

Big Love in Wisconsin

By Courtny Gerrish

MILWAUKEE — A wife, husband, and his girlfriend — all in the same house?! That's a typical day for one Milwaukee "family," and they aren't alone.

Boone Dryden, 28, loves being with his wife Ashley...AND his girlfriend Lyndzi Miller.... "It's normal for us. I mean we do the same thing in coffee shops, go to movies, or go out to dinner," Ashley explains.

All three practice Polyamory — having more than one intimate relationship at a time.

"There are all sorts of variations. From triads, to in our case a 'W', cuz I'm at the center, and Ashley and Lyndzi both have other relationships outside of me," Boone explains.

Lyndzi met the Dryden's two years ago. She explains her attraction to the Polyamorous lifestyle, "I keep seeing all these relationships just crash and burn, and when I thought about marriage and open relationships, it was just, well, maybe that's the way to go."

So they formed a group called "Young Milwaukee Poly," where other Polyamorous and Poly-curious people can discuss the issues they face. They meet monthly at the Tool Shed on Milwaukee's east side.

Kris Jernberg has been Poly for 10 years. She says the biggest misunderstanding is the sex issue. "I'm not a swinger. I have to have a connection with the person I'm involved with," Jernberg says.

Rachel Keuler and Jeff Bauer are newer to the lifestyle. Rachel admits the jealousy factor can be tough. "I don't think you can ever really overcome jealousy, but find a way to deal with it in a constructive manner," Rachel says.

Psychotherapist Judy Bruett is a relationship expert. She has seen many relationship scenarios, but admits Polyamory is one of the most complicated.

"It just seems like it would be asking for trouble....and you'd have to have a lot of really good, honest, communication," she warns.

In fact, that's one of Boone's main messages to the group — the importance of communication.

"We talk about everything, so I don't have to be jealous, they don't have to be jealous," Boone explains.

Even though it's not always easy, we found most people are proud to be Poly, and they aren't afraid to talk about it.

"The less shame you feel about something when you're telling someone about it, the less they're going to feel like you should be ashamed of it," Bauer points out.

Jernberg adds, "I figure the more love there is in the world, the better. Period."

...About 20 to 25 people attend the monthly meetings, and attendance continues to grow. You can find more information on their Web site, www.comingoutpoly.com.

Here's the original article.

And here's the TV broadcast. They look and sound great. Kudos for presenting our message so well! Pay attention, folks; this is how to do it.

Side note: It's interesting that so many use their full names in the media. I have an impression that young polys, raised with the internet, are more ready to be out in public, compared to older generations who may have lives more deeply invested in conventional versions of respectability.


Ashe, Boone, and Lyndzi started the discussion group last January. At that time they did a good interview with the city's weekly alternative newspaper The Shepherd Express. You can read it on ExpressMilwaukee.com, the paper's website:

All In the Family
Online Edition
By Laura Anne Stuart, MPH

...Ashe is a 22-year-old techie who's married to Boone, a 28-year-old writer and editor. Boone is dating Lyndzi, a 21-year-old student at UW-Milwaukee, and Lyndzi is dating John, a 23-year-old salesperson... Although each person in the group is not romantically involved with all three of the others, they are all friends and consider themselves a family.

...Over coffee and knitting (Ashe and Lyndzi are each working on a pair of gloves), we talked about their plans for the group.

Laura: So, why did you want to start the Young Milwaukee Poly group?

Ashe: It's extremely important to have community. The LGBT community is excellent in Milwaukee; there are so many different places to get support and related to people. There really isn't anything like that for poly people.

Boone: When you're part of a community, you can share knowledge and experiences and help someone else out. While we have different experiences in our poly relationships, we all [have] similar emotions and setbacks. Having a community can provide people to listen.

Lyndzi: For people that are new to the poly community, we've been through a lot of the ups and downs of being poly. One of the things new couples ask is, "Is this normal for this type of relationship?"

Laura: What is it like being poly in Milwaukee?

Ashe: I have not had any negative feedback. I'm out to all my friends. Most people are like, "What does that mean? How does that work?" Talking to other people in the same situation who are afraid to come out — there's a lot of fear there for no reason....

Boone: I agree and disagree.... Poly seems so foreign and beyond the norm. I've had adverse reactions, but only from a couple of people — older, more conservative. The automatic assumption was that I was having an affair and lying about the fact that my wife knew.

Ashe: Education changes everything, once people realize that it's a responsible, ethical choice and not cheating and being dishonest and hiding feelings. There's a logical reason that people choose this lifestyle — people have the capacity to love more than one person. Cheating seems more acceptable because it's been going on forever and polyamory is foreign. This is illogical!

Laura: Why did you want the group to focus on people in their 20s and 30s?

Boone: There are a lot of younger individuals who are interested [in polyamory] and probably practicing to a certain extent and don't even know it. We're trying to tell them that it's OK and pull them out of the closet. Older couples have been doing it a while and are past the point of caring what other people think. Younger people have probably only had a couple of relationships, have more questions, and want to know if things are normal. Community is the key to this. We want people to know that it's OK, they're not strange, and to let people know that there are other people like them....

The whole interview (Jan. 15, 2009).


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July 16, 2009

Katie Roiphe on Successful Open Marriages

Harper's Bazaar

The controversial feminist (some have said anti-feminist) writer Katie Roiphe has done an essay about the possibilities in building a nonmonogamous marriage. Her article is in the August 2009 issue of the high-end fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar:

Liberated in Love: Can Open Marriage Work?

...Take the unusual and much-talked-about ménage of flame-haired actress Tilda Swinton. She lives in a large, rambling house in Scotland with her twins and their father, playwright John Byrne — and her lover, Sandro Kopp, a beautiful, shaggy-haired artist nearly 20 years younger than she is, sometimes lives there too. When pressed by reporters, she has called her arrangement "sane," which is about the last word most of us would associate with that kind of home life. "We are all a family," she has said. "What you must also know is that we are all very happy."

...Is our idea of love perhaps too narrow, too literal, too unimaginative? The legendary journalist Gay Talese has been married to his glamorous editor wife, Nan, for 50 years this past June, and he is currently writing a book on their extraordinary and epic relationship. Over the years, he has had what he calls "romantic friendships" with other people, but the Taleses have maintained a closer and deeper connection than that of many more ordinary couples. "One can coast on the pillow talk of an affair for years," Talese says....

In the 1910s and '20s, it was fashionable in certain circles to carry on with this type of romantic experiment. Virginia Woolf's sister, Vanessa Bell, a ravishing, statuesque painter who liked to wear gypsyish head scarves, lived on an English country estate with her lover, Duncan Grant, his gay lover, and her children, and her husband sometimes popped by for a week or two. She believed it was more important to live fully than to be conventionally comfortable or secure. One of Bell's frequent guests and ex-flames, the art critic Roger Fry, called her unorthodox household "a triumph of reasonableness over the conventions."

Open marriages have always fascinated and unsettled us because they threaten our assumptions.... But are open marriages happy?... The fantasy that one can transcend rogue feelings like possessiveness and anger is rarely ever true, but one still can't help noticing that there are some unconventional marriages that endure where more traditional unions fail.

...It is an act of imagination to live differently from everyone else, and maybe, in rare and magnificent moments, it works.

Read the whole article.

Roiphe's most recent book is Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910-1939 (2007).

Update August 14: The article has been reprinted in MSN's Lifestyle section.


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July 12, 2009

Unveiling poly in Mexico

Various media

A glowing account of polyamory as an alternative way of life has appeared in several mainstream Mexican newspapers and news sites. The article is supposedly from the major national newspaper El Universal, but I don't find it there.


Poliamor: to love several people at once

Mexico City — Is it really possible to love two people at once? Is it promiscuous? Perverse? Those who love multiple partners at once say that to the contrary, it is healthier than hiding relationships that can hurt third parties, or fourths, or fifths.

These are polyamorists, and polyamory means having several consensual relationships at the same time, where all the people involved in the relationship are fully aware of the existence of one or more others. These relationships are not necessarily sexual.

The characteristics that determine poliamoría — a term coined in the late 80s by a pagan priestess, Morning Glory Zell — are communication, ethics, honesty, love and loyalty above fidelity. Capabilities, in many cases, quite opposite to those found in a traditional relationship.

...Poliamoristas or poliamorosos say their philosophy is only an acceptance of human nature. They say the enemy is not pure and natural sex, only deceit and betrayal, according to a study published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality on what polyamory is and isn't.

...Polyamory is just beginning to be known in Mexico, with a national website (poliamoria.com), a Yahoo discussion group, and three groups that gather to share experiences, meet others with the same preferences and make friends.

Those who live this way of love do not want the world to become "poly," as they are called, but to accept the possibility that monogamy could become an outdated option that is not keeping up with change and with modern life that needs relationship forms to evolve.

According to data from the Mexican Institute of Sexuality in Mexico City... the marriage rate is declining and although young people do not dare say they will not marry, making that decision may take decades.

There is disillusion and a crisis in the institution of marriage and monogamous marriage. Paulina Millán, a psychologist and research for Imesex, says the rule in polyamory is there are no rules; "each partner brings their own. One couple can open to a third person, or be a family of five. There is always a primary, which is the deep and close bond, and secondaries, which are satellite links."

Millan says that "we can not find everything we like and makes us happy in a single person. You can find satisfactory relationships with different people."

Included is a sidebar about a survey of 700 Mexicans taken in 2004; 64% said humans are naturally polygamous, and 51% of both men and women said it is possible to love more than one person at a time.

A second sidebar lists some pros and cons of polyamory and some psychological requirements. A third describes varieties: triads, group families, intimate networks, open couples, and polyfidelity. A fourth is titled "Poliamor vs. Swinger."

Read the whole article (in Metro Noticias de Tamaulipas, July 5, 2009, under a photo of the "Big Love" cast together in bed).


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July 8, 2009

Gay poly roundup

I spent a fun day helping staff the “Polyamory!” booth at Boston's Pride Festival last month. We seemed to fit right in — weirdness is as weirdness does, Forrest Gump might say... except maybe for the harried, suburban MF couple behind the table who were constantly chasing after their excited young kids like any couple at the Nebraska State Fair. They stood out a bit in the present surroundings, where "normal" meant sights like the elderly men marching down the midway in full leather horse gear with bits in their mouths, being directed by a horse driver tugging their reins.

We talked with loads of people and gave out flyers for Poly Boston, Family Tree, the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund, Loving More's East Coast Conference/Retreat, the Network for New Culture Summer Camp, Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. We displayed books and infinity-heart pins. I directed a sweet Quaker lady to the PolyQuakers yahoo group. The booth next to us was recruiting for a welcoming mixed-race Presbyterian church; the kids had a grand time helping the church people mass-produce pinwheels to give out; we talked church management (my wife used to be president of our UU church), and the Presbyterians seemed to come away with a very good impression of us.

So where does polyamory stand in the gay world?

Open, consensual nonmonogamy is certainly much more discussed, understood, and practiced among gays than straights. But my impression is that gay culture is so well developed at this point — while poly culture is still in its infancy — that gaydom easily fills up a person's entire queerness identity. That is, if a gay person is nonmonogamous, it's usually just viewed as an aspect of being gay. At least among men. The lesbians who stopped by our table seemed more intrigued with polyamory as a radical life in and of itself.

Or so it seemed to me. Full disclosure: I'm straight. Opinions?


Anyway, it's past time for a roundup of gay poly media items.

1. In the online version of Chicago's Windy City Times, the gay therapist who writes the "Couples Connecting" column says, "I've probably spent over 100,000 hours over the last 19 years listening and speaking with lesbians and gay men about love and relationships." Last fall he described the nonmonogamy debate:

Can gay men be monogamous?

By Bruce Koff, LCSW
Oct. 10, 2008

Of the many questions gay men face in forming romantic relationships, two are most prominent: “Can gay men be monogamous?” and “Should they be?” If you want to stir it up at a gathering of friends, go ahead and touch this “third rail” of gay male discourse and watch the sparks fly....

The open relationship argument goes something like this. Gay men, being men, are by nature inclined toward sex with multiple partners. It's not only natural, but is a vital component of urban gay male culture and offers a sexually charged counterpoint to heterosexual norms. Open relationships, it's argued, challenge traditional beliefs that equate relationship with ownership; that is, the exclusive control of one person's body by another. When men give each other permission to have sex with others, they are expressing an unselfish love that strengthens the relationship and enhances their sexual chemistry.

The monogamy side, in contrast, views a closed relationship as a more stable one in which the bonds of love are expressed and reinforced through fidelity, restraint and moderation. Some would add that monogamous relationships are more secure, that men in monogamous relationships are happier, and that monogamy fosters psychological health and inhibits the spread of HIV. Proponents of monogamy often view non-monogamy as a visceral reaction to our history of having been criminalized and stigmatized. Sex with multiple partners is a deeply ingrained response to oppression in which the gay man declares: “No one, not even a partner or spouse, can tell me what I can and can't do sexually.” While that response is understandable, the monogamist might argue that it is irrelevant to the modern gay male relationship....

Read the whole article.

Later Koff did a followup:

Non-Monogamy: Does It Work?

By Bruce Koff, LCSW
Feb. 25, 2009

...Most of the gay men I've known who've had any success with open relationships emphasize the deep level of honesty required. I have also observed several other factors that, taken together, create a set of guidelines that can work. I list them here....

— The decision to open the relationship should be a function of the strength of the relationship, not of its weakness....

— The decision to open the relationship must be mutual. Partners should have equal power in the relationship.... If you're doing this because you think you have to, don't.

— Any agreement to open the relationship should contain within it elements that recognize that the relationship comes first; that's why it's called a primary relationship. I've encountered a range of such elements....

— Any agreement should be time-limited and subject to periodic, routine discussion and review....

— Partners should agree to do nothing that could expose each other to danger or harm, such as sexually transmitted diseases, drug use or interpersonal violence....

— Most important, both partners should have already established a high level of trust in each other. The relationship should have a proven capacity to foster honesty and to deal with conflict, jealousy, competitiveness, hurt, or other types of vulnerability....

Read the whole article.


2. In The Gay and Lesbian Times this week, psychotherapist Michael Kimmel offers GLBT folks advice on how to choose whether to open or close a relationship:

A guide to infinite sexual possibilities

...Although [The Ethical Slut's] “infinite sexual possibilities” sounds great, how do you pull it off with grace and sanity?

...Let’s say you and your partner want to remain emotionally faithful but want to sexually open up your relationship. This is likely to bring major changes to all its aspects. So it’s important that you both sit down and figure out what you each mean by “emotionally faithful” and how sexually opening up your relationship is likely to change it. Ask yourselves:

• What is your intention for your relationship? Why are you still together? Is it to have fun, share great sex, deepen an emotional connection, see if you can be life partners?

• What would be the purpose of either an open relationship or of monogamy? What are the pros and cons of each?...

• What does “emotional monogamy” mean to you and your partner? If this is important to you, how can you remain emotionally committed to each other while having sex with other people?

I’ve seen many longterm emotionally monogamous relationships that are sexually “open” or periodically go through “open” periods to refresh sex that has become predictable. Depending on the value that the partners place on sex, this may or may not be a problem. Some people like consistency (e.g., I know what you like and you know what turns me on), while others thrive on change and creativity....

And... nothing is irreversible. You can always change your minds!

Read the whole article (July 2, 2009).


3. "Noah's Arc," the all-black gay drama/comedy on Canada's OutTV, is reviewed at length (with nonmonogamy mentioned) as this week's cover story in the Vancouver edition of Canada's Xtra:

“You interrupted my four-guy for this?” a more than exasperated Ricky protests as his best buds Noah, Alex and Chance summon him to a conference call....

...What “The Cosby Show” did for heightening the visibility of straight black middle-class America in the 1980s, “Noah’s Arc” does for black gay maledom.

It’s a celebratory vehicle that makes the lives and sexuality of black gay men visible to mainstream North America in general, and to African-Americans and the broader queer community in particular.

...Shortcomings aside, Noah’s Arc manages to treat several issues almost never addressed through the vehicle of black skin in the media: colourism, body image, phobia of effeminate men (cleverly dubbed effemina-phobia in the show), gaybashing, HIV/AIDS, monogamy, non-monogamy and being on the down low.

Read the whole article (July 2, 2009).


4. Dan Savage speaks. Here's a video of the gay advice columnist (of "Savage Love" fame) answering a question about poly at a recent lecture event:

I've been to poly weddings, a couple. I've never been to a poly third anniversary party? I know that's an asshole thing to say (laughs). But it's true.... I haven't seen it done successfully often.

Savage, who is proud of his own 15-year pairing, argues that even a couple-relationship has so many moving parts that it often spins out of control, so the odds are stacked against relationships that are even more complicated. Comments Mus Q. Rat, "I think he needs to get out more." Watch and leave a comment. Interestingly, Savage mentions that all his poly friends are straight.


5. Kathryn Martini (RecoveringStraightGirl.com) describes her ethical nonmonogamy for JustOut, a gay paper in Portland, Oregon, and wonders "if forbidden fruit isn’t forbidden, it may not taste as sweet."

Faithful Only Unto You?

I don’t value monogamy; I value honesty. I recently told this to my hair stylist during a coloring session. She looked at me in the mirror with a perplexed expression and didn’t know quite what to say. Her reaction was not unusual. When the subject of monogamy comes up and I answer this way, the typical response is, “You’re more evolved than I am,” followed by, “I could never do that.”

And then I ask, “Why?”

Monogamous relationships are not necessarily biologically natural, yet we as a society place an incredible amount of value on them.... Unfortunately, most people are too afraid to have an honest conversation about it with their partner.

...My wife and I have a 3,000-mile clause. If we’re more than 3,000 miles away from each other, we are free to explore anything we like, no questions asked....

More than anything, it has taken the taboo out of cheating. I know that if I wanted to be with someone else, my partner would most likely allow me to do so as long as I was up front and honest with her. This makes the idea of it almost not as interesting. People are more likely to want something they know is forbidden than something that is not — this is proven repeatedly in many different situations....

Read the whole article (April 3, 2009).


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July 5, 2009

Poly casting call for "major cable network"

We know the television biz has its eye on polyamory as a possible Next Big Thing for drama and comedy. "Big Love" has been a great success for HBO, even though it's about quasi-Mormons in Utah doing something 19th century rather than about people like viewers' own friends and neighbors. At Loving More's Poly Living Conference last winter, Reid Mihalko, who writes TV screenplays, told the crowd, "There's a lot of interest in getting this [topic] on TV, but nobody is quite biting, because nobody knows if the advertisers will want it. It's kind of happening, but you don't see it yet, because it's not on the air yet."

(Reid has co-created a pilot show of his own for a poly comedy/drama series called "Polly and Marie", and he told the crowd, "HBO almost bought" it. Watch the trailer.)

Now a serious TV production company in Seattle is putting out a poly casting call for this Wednesday, July 8th, in the form of a potluck dinner picnic at a city park. It's for a poly reality series, which they say is for "a major cable network":

Seattle based Screaming Flea Productions is casting a ground breaking new documentary series for a major cable network about people who choose a poly amorous lifestyle. We look forward to meeting anyone interested in participating. Even if you're not sure you want to participate but want to hear what we have to say, please join us! Attending the potluck does not obligate you to be in the series. The potluck will be held at 6:00 PM on Wednesday July 8th at Gasworks Park in Shelter #1. http://www.seattle.gov/parks/_images/maps/picnics/GasWorks.pdf. Producers will explain the project in detail and answer any and all questions people have. We will provide some basics for the potluck, but please feel free to bring a dish to share.

Please share this information to anyone you think may be interested!

For more information about Screaming Flea Productions, please visit our website at www.screamingflea.net.

At their site are impressive-looking lists of clients and productions, and this description:

Screaming Flea Productions is one of the country's leading producers of non-fiction television. We have produced nearly 400 hours of network programming and have over 80 years of combined television experience. Formerly known as Belo Productions, Screaming Flea is the same award-winning team, experienced storytellers with ideas and attitude, …high production value …imaginative …innovative …cutting-edge, producing programs that work and to which viewers respond.

The slogan for the series is "Real Life Big Love." Does anyone know more about it? I spotted the invitation on a FetLife poly community; does that mean they're looking for people who are... umm... unusual? (I won't say "freak show.") Can someone go to this event and report back?

And remember, "Be a credit to your kink."


UPDATE, July 10: John U went, and he reports:

At least a dozen Seattle Area polys showed up Wednesday evening, July 8, to meet with about a half dozen Screaming Flea people. As an entertainment industry professional who has worked on book, CD, and video projects over the years, I was very impressed with the Fleas. They were direct, clear, no nonsense people. I definitely felt they were trustworthy and were doing the show because they thought the public might benefit from learning about poly, not just be entertained by it.

As to their posting on Fetlife, they also posted elsewhere, on non-kink focused poly lists. They were not just looking for poly kinksters.

They are looking to get funding from a major cable channel to do a half dozen episodes for starters.

A number of us went through their screen test procedure, which was standing in front of a camera and talking for a few minutes about our poly lives. They were clear that none of this test material would make it out of their archives.

UPDATE, July 13: PolyAnna of Seattle also went, and she reports on her blog (reprinted with permission):

Okay kids, progress report time. I recently attended a casting call for a possibly upcoming poly documentary series by Screaming Flea, a Seattle film production company. I read about the event at Polyamory in the Media, another awesome poly resource on Blogspot. A very important one, I might add, so if you're not already following it, please do.

So. The basic idea is this; a number of major networks have requested that Screaming Flea put together a pitch for a polyamorous documentary series. I get the impression that the networks put in this request to multiple film production companies, though I do have to admit that I'm totally inferring that idea, the representatives of Screaming Flea did not overtly say that. So Screaming Flea had this potluck as a way to initially meet the poly community in Seattle. It turns out that none of the Screaming Flea people are poly, or at least not as far as I could tell, so they were trying to get kind of an idea of what subjects to cover and basically what kind of people would be interested in participating in a documentary of this type.

Myself and my primary partner talked to all of the members of the production company. They were very nice, and didn't seem to hold any particular presuppositions about a lifestyle that isn't exactly well represented so far. It seems that the main goal of Screaming Flea at the time of the potluck was to just meet the people, get some basic ideas of what poly means, (no small task, I know) and to make contacts with people who may be interested in being filmed for the documentary if it were to be picked up by the networks. The final thing was to get people to agree to be filmed introducing themselves and talking about their particular flavor of poly on camera so that the production company would have some footage to use to pitch to the networks to try to get the poly documentary contract.

All in all, I would say nothing negative about the event. The Screaming Flea people seemed interested in learning about poly culture. When I spoke to one of the members about how there might be a percentage of poly people who would be somewhat hesitant about participating in a documentary for legal reasons (job related, child related, etc.), they were sympathetic and made it clear that anyone with reservations should not be participating in such a project. They seemed to do a satisfactory job of expressing what the project was and why they were having the potluck. Really, the project is in very initial stages and the potluck functioned mostly as a meet and greet.

Okay. So that said, I would have to say that at this stage I'm very much supporting this project. One of the conversations that I've had multiple times at or since the potluck is how horribly poly has been represented via documentary in recent years. I even spoke to a person who participated in one such documentary and was highly misrepresented because of editing, according to him. While I realize this is a real risk as far as documentaries go, I really, really believe that quantity of poly representation in popular media is an issue right now. I would probably feel differently if the production company gave me any idea that they might demonize poly, but at this point it seems that their focus is on learning as much as they can. I very much hope that this documentary series gets off the ground. I plan on participating as much as it is possible for me to do so.

UPDATE, July 28: The producers are still looking for more people for the show. Liza at Screaming Flea Productions writes,

My name is Liza and I'm working on this project for Screaming Flea. We are still working to get people involved and would be happy to hear from anyone interested. This is definitely a work in progress and will certainly grow and change as time goes on, but the goal is to create a positive and honest portrayal of several poly families.

The challenge we face on this project is finding people who are willing to be completely open with their lives. I realize this is a private issue for many people, so I would advise anyone not wanting family members, coworkers or other people in their lives to know to not be on camera. However, for the brave non-monogamists out there, I would love to find you!

I do believe this could be an amazing show and would introduce poly to people who have never heard of it before. I think it would be awesome if that introduction is an honest portrayal and not one filled with fear or judgment.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just want more info.






July 2, 2009

The Governor Mark Sanford affair

It's been more than a week since South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's disappearance, reappearance, and tearful revelation on national TV of his tragic love affair with the Argentine woman he calls his soul mate.

Yes, he's a screwup for cheating on his wife, deserting his post, and failing to "choose the difficult right over the easy wrong" — both by his own Christian lights and my poly ones. But this isn't about another scummy politico getting nookie on the side. This is about a conservative, middle-aged man who was utterly blindsided by falling genuinely, life-changingly in love — while boxed inside an ideology of Christian monogamy that leaves him no basis to understand what happened to him, except maybe that the Devil attacked.

So, I seized on this as a teachable moment. I posted to the new Polyamory Leadership Network1 saying we ought to crank out a press release explaining that while dishonesty and cheating are never good, there are other ways to love more than one; that falling in love while partnered does not have to be a tragedy; and that some people are making it work wonderfully all around.

Robyn Trask, director of Loving More, grabbed the ball and ran with it. Within hours she wrote and sent out a press release to Loving More's list of 150 media contacts.

That was on June 25th. So far, no joy; I haven't seen a peep of mainstream-media interest in discussing the poly alternative. (However, keep an eye on Newsweek, a little bird tells us.)


Let's back up a bit. To grasp what's going on, read this Washington Post account of Sanford's incoherent, emotional press conference ("I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina so I could repeat it when I got here"). And read his leaked e-mails to Maria. Excerpts:

I remember [wife] Jenny, or someone close to me, once commenting that while my mom was pleasant and warm it was sad she had never accomplished anything of significance. I replied that they were wrong because she had the ultimate of all gifts — and that was the ability to love unconditionally. The rarest of all commodities in this world is love. It is that thing that we all yearn for at some level — to be simply loved unconditionally for nothing more than who we are — not what we can get, give or become....

How in the world this lightening [sic] strike snuck up on us I am still not quite sure.... In all my life I have lived by a code of honor and at a variety of levels know I have crossed lines I would have never imagined. I wish I could wish it away, but this soul-mate feel I alluded too is real....

I looked to where I often look for advice and counsel, and in I Corinthians 13 it simply says that, “Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude, Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things”. In this regard it is action that goes well beyond the emotion of today or tomorrow and in this light I want to look for ways to show love in helping you to live a better — not more complicated life....

I also don’t want you walking away from some guy (I take it the younger guy you mentioned at dinner) because of me — and what we both have to see as an impossible situation. I better stop now least this really sound like the Thornbirds — wherein I was always upset with Richard Chamberlain for not dropping his ambitions and running into Maggie’s arms....

...In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul. I love you ... sleep tight. M

I have to respect that, no matter what the circumstances.

Here is Loving More's press release. Excerpts:

LOVING MORE® non-profit is all too familiar with Governor Mark Sanford’s challenging situation. We are an organization that helps and supports people in finding ethical, mutually agreed-upon ways for loving more than one person in honest multi-partnered relationships. We help partners consciously negotiate their relationship styles and agreements, whether monogamy or polyamory, with ethics and integrity.

Loving More Executive Director Robyn Trask issued the following statement.

"My heart goes out to Mr. Sanford, his wife and kids, and to his lover in Argentina. In my job I am contacted by people from all walks of life going through similar challenges of loving more than one.... We live in a culture that is in denial of the fact that many people are capable of, and do find themselves, loving more than one person, and we laden them with guilt for loving. People are calling Gov. Sanford's case a "sex scandal," but if you listen to Mr. Sanford and read his words, it is obvious this not about sex but about love and connection; it would be better described as a love scandal. Is he a hypocrite? Yes, but he is also human. The real scandal is denying the impossibility for some of monogamy. What would happen if in our culture, ethical, agreed-upon polyamory were as acceptable as monogamy?

Politics aside, this is a man in crisis because we as a society have decided there is only one right way to have a loving relationship....

And she quotes Michael Rios, a Loving More and Polyamory Leadership Network member:

“I'm no fan of Sanford, nor the hypocrites of either party, but the real story here is that monogamy is *not* the right choice for a lot of people. Even with such strong convictions and so much to lose, these 'family values' types keep stepping out of line. They aren't *that* weak — a weak person couldn't have gotten to where they are.

“...There are millions of Americans of both genders who have found a way to be honest and responsible while loving more than one romantic partner. The practice of this is called 'polyamory'. When many people first encounter this idea, they realize that their style of loving is not immoral, disturbed, or inferior. Many of these people have been living this way for decades, having long-term stable relationships, raising children, and being responsible members of society....

“I keep waiting for some politician to have the guts to say (as a number of European politicians have done), 'Yes, I love both of them, and intend to keep both of them in my life.' ”

Robyn continues with the example of former Colorado Governor Roy Romer:

Loving More is aware of one politician who did just that, Colorado Governor Roy Romer in 1998. When questioned about his relationship with former aide B. J. Thornberry, he admitted to a 16-year relationship. Denying that it was an affair, Governor Romer explained that he had a close and complex relationship with Thornberry, and he further clarified that his family and wife were aware of the relationship all along and that it would continue. Romer defined to the press that marital fidelity was about “openness” and “trust”. Although there was some shock at his statements, it is interesting to note that when he acknowledged the relationship openly the press quickly lost interest.

With these latest developments involving a high-level politician who has a longstanding rhetoric of “traditional family values”, Loving More is even further committed to educating people from all walks of life about open, honest loving alternatives to monogamy. There is no one-size-fits-all model of relationship.

Read the whole press release (as it appears on the Practical Polyamory blog of Anita Wagner, one of Loving More's three-member board of trustees).


Update: On July 1st, a dumb marriage therapist on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" compared Sanford's situation to polyamory. Keith B. on the Yahoo PolyGeezers group responds,

Find the video clip at http://abcnews.go.com/gma labeled "Can Gov. Sanford Save His Marriage?" After the news clip, there's a little Q&A with 2 "experts". The woman compares the governor cheating on his wife for 8 years to polyamory. The video timer counts down, so go to about 3 minutes left and you'll get the full remark.

Her name is Dr. Bethany Marshall from Los Angeles, CA:

Flame Away!!!

Apparently the video clip is now down, but flaming is still in order.


P. S.: Here's a noteworthy essay at OpEdNews.com about the Sanford affair by Federico Moramarco, a retired English professor at San Diego State University. Excerpt:

Isn't it time that we stop talking about the sanctity of marriage in this country and start talking about the sanctity of truth?

...The data on U.S. sexual behavior is notoriously unreliable. Studies over the past several decades have produced diverse estimates of male infidelity, ranging from 25 percent to 75 percent of men cheating on their wives.... According to a recent survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 25 percent of men have had extramarital affairs, while 17 percent of women have committed adultery.... [But} why would anyone ever tell the truth about having fallen in love with someone other than one's spouse, when virtually all his fellow citizens, including the pollster taking the information, would see him/her as immoral?

I purposely used the phrase "fallen in love" rather than "cheated" because I was struck by a recent poll... among 20-29 year olds, in which 48% of respondents told an AOL Personals Survey that they believe you can be in love with more than one person at the same time....

...The reason the Sanford and Ensign affairs have aroused such enmity is not only that these men were unfaithful, but that they were also hypocritical.... But shouldn't we consider our own hypocrisy as a nation on this particular issue as well?

...The word "polyamory" has come into fashion over the last few years, although the concept has been around for a very long time....

And see nleseul's essay at Daily Kos:

...Because love isn't clean. It doesn't organize itself for our convenience into neat little social breeding units. It's terribly messy. ...Affairs, impossible choices, unrequited wishes, unfulfilled fantasies, lovers who should never have become life partners, life partners who would be better platonic, friends who might as well be lovers, temptation, surrender, guilt, loss, regret, anger, compersion, jealousy, and sometimes even happiness.... The Greeks were right in imagining it as a blind youth with a bow, firing haphazardly into crowds and laughing maniacally at the chaos that results....

More and more ordinary people... are questioning that framework. They are loving as they will and choosing paths through life that acknowledge their loves, and as a result concepts like same-sex relationships, transgenderism, polyamory, BDSM, sex work, swinging, platonic relationships, and casual hookups have come almost into the mainstream of cultural discourse....

But the culturally conservative political and cultural elite continue to lag behind the values of the broader culture. ...They simply follow the scripted rituals and hope that love will conform itself into the paths that have been chosen for them. And until one of them stands up and refuses to mouth along with the ritual, the pain will continue — for themselves, for their families, for all the people who look to them for moral leadership.


1 The Polyamory Leadership Network is a collection of poly-awareness activists who decided to get together to share ideas and resources. Its members make no claim to represent anyone but themselves; "leadership" here means "doing good stuff off your own bat without waiting for someone else."

The PLN started in October 2008 with a meeting of 34 activists in New York right after Poly Pride Weekend. The second "summit" meeting brought 64 activists to the Philadelphia area at the end of February 2009; it was held right after Loving More's Poly Living Conference in the same hotel. At this meeting, many volunteer committees and working groups were set up — for such projects as media advocacy, recruitment and training of public spokespeople, creating a speakers bureau, collecting legal resources for polyfamilies and their lawyers, outreach to and support of monogamous partners, college and TNG ("The Next Generation") outreach, creating materials for health/sex educators and therapists, fundraising, obtaining tax-exempt educational status, and other brainstorms. However, followup action has frankly been slow.

Work is done mostly through collaborative Google Groups. Membership is by invitation, and by filling out an application about yourself and your poly work. The best way to get invited is to accomplish good stuff in public that gets you noticed. Or write to me; I'm on the membership committee.


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July 1, 2009

More poly i svenska

HBL (Helsinki)
The Swedish-language newspaper HBL in Helsinki, Finland, offers "Monogamy? No Thanks!" — with a photo of four toothbrushes (teethbreesh?) sharing a cup.

By Julia Wiraeus

Why choose? The more to share love with, the better. Or so say Leo and Ida, who opened their relationship to another partner. The threesome has been discontinued, but both still have their own lovers.

"One single person cannot be all in my life. It just doesn't work," says Ida, who is approaching middle age. "Many people believe that I get jealous when Leo meets his mistress, but I lose nothing by him having it good with another."...

"I had known this person a long time and noticed that I was about to be in love," [says Leo.] Before anything got started he talked with his wife. After long talks, they opened their relationship.

To always wake up next to the same person is impossible for Saku Susi. To have and to give love is most important. That is why he stopped distinguishing between friends and partners....

Polyamori has always existed, hidden or open.... [Susi] sees all human relations as unique. They transform and grow over time without being defined in relation to others. Anarchism in general, and relationship anarchism in particular, have been of interest to him since he came into contact with the concept on the web.... Googling on "polyamoria" pops up his blog.

...Around the world are political movements that want to make it possible to register partnership with several people. On Stockholm Pride [English; Svenska], polyamorösa is on the same footing as other sexual minorities....

Read the original article (June 26, 2009), and kommentera. Thanks to Zui Muss for the tip.

The article appeared in the newspaper's magazine insert, Volt. It says you can "learn more about polyamori and Ida and Leo, and Saku Susi and Moa" in the next day's issue (June 27), but if that's online yet, I couldn't find it.

P. S.: Two years ago I posted about a TV report on Poly Pride Week in Stockholm. Can anyone add some more links to Swedish poly media?

Also: note the Polykonferens 2009 in Göteborg, Sept. 6–9.

Also: check out Polyheart.se.

Also: polyforeningen.org.


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