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

July 31, 2010

"Is Polyamory Revolutionary?"


AdBusters magazine, based in Vancouver, is “a not-for-profit, reader-supported, 120,000-circulation magazine concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces.” It claims that its online members “are a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society.”

On its website, one of its contributing editors blogs these thoughts:

Is Polyamory Revolutionary? Rupturing the consumer myth through sexual liberation.

By Micah White

...Now, four decades later, we can discern the faint stirrings of a return to the project of sexual liberation. This time, however, it is not under the flag of “free love” but of “polyamory” that the struggle will be waged.

...Sexual liberation as imagined in the 60s was heavily biased towards a vision where sexual energy was freely flowing, all partners essentially equal, and sex something that ought to be shared without restriction. Against this borderless, formless vision of sex another perspective is gaining traction: the “polyamorous” position that maintains it is the tight bonding of a group, whether it be three or four or more, that is revolutionary [apparently referring to trends in urban anarchist communities].

Polyamory is an outgrowth of the free love movement but instead of looking to the orgy as the model for rebellion, it is the notion of a tribe that excites their imagination.

...Can capitalism exist without its foundation of heterosexual monogamy? Is polyamory inherently revolutionary? To all these questions we must answer: capitalism is a master of recuperation. What first shakes it, soon motivates it, later strengthens it....

Read the whole article (July 29, 2010).


Elsewhere in the street-radical world, the occasional zine Dysophia ("the many worlds of green anarchism") published a 64-page issue in May titled Anarchy & Polyamory; download it as a .pdf. From the website:

Exploring open relationships and non-monogamy from the perspective of green anarchism, Anarchy & Polyamory is a collection of essays and articles, many new (but a few oldies), designed to be accessible to those new to both anarchism and polyamory. It is examines personal and sexual relationships through the prism of anarchism, including considering some common pitfalls and how society's hierarchies are reinforced in personal relationships.

The authors are wide ranging, mixing both past and present from Europe and the US, many talking from their own experience.

...We are are looking at doing faciliting some discussions later in the year for groups wanting to explore some of the issues raised.

Given the amount of interest and reaction already received from preview copies, we are planning a follow-up publication. So, we are interested in responses, whether challenging some of the positions taken in the articles or covering topics that the authors have missed out. We are particularly interested in material which deals with the problems of being non-monogamous in modern society, of communication with in open relations, challenging hierarchies in relationships, and how all this is informed by anarchism.

The table of contents:

● Introduction
● Green Anarchism and Polyamory
● A Personal Perspective
● Let Them Eat Cake
● Emma Goldman on Love and Marriage
● A Conversation
● Anarchy is Love, Love is Anarchy
● Eight Points on Relationship Anarchy
● The Rise of Polyamory: Leftist men’s self-serving cure-all for sexism
● A Green Anarchist Project on Freedom and Love
● Resources


It's no surprise this was published in England. The poly movement there tends to be more political than in North America, according to activists quoted in a long article in the mainstream Sunday Independent (September 13, 2009):

"British polys are often into alternative lifestyles and politics, and tend to be more radical and progressive than American polys," says [Graham] Nicholls. "Some even identify themselves as 'relationship anarchists'."

One such politically-driven poly is Owen Briggs, a 33-year-old gardener from Nottingham. "I believe in trying to break down power hierarchies in society, and that means breaking them down in my personal life as well," he says. "If I wish to try to allow others to be free, why would I want to control the people I love and care most about?"

Anarchic approaches to relationships also abound on the "queer" poly scene, which, as Johanna Samuelson and her primary partner Jonathan David explain, is a little different from the standard gay scene. "It's an inclusive, activist community which sees beyond the divide between male and female, hetero and homo," says Samuelson, a 27-year-old postgraduate student from Brighton....


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July 30, 2010

"Cowboys and Injuries: When Monogamists Pursue the Polyamorous"

The Stranger (Seattle)

Mistress Matisse, columnist for Dan Savage's alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle, addresses a common poly lament.

Cowboys and Injuries: When Monogamists Pursue the Polyamorous

There's a slang term used by polyamorous people: cowboy. Or cowgirl, as the case may be. It refers to a monogamous person who meets someone who openly identifies as polyamorous, becomes romantically involved with them, and attempts to "cut them out of the herd," meaning: persuade them to sever existing relationships and embrace monogamy. This term is not a compliment.

...Viewed through a monogamist's gaze, dropping your lasso on a wandering heart is the stuff of songs, literature, and drama. But it begs the question: Why the hell would a poly person get romantically involved with someone who is clearly monogamous in the first place?

...I can promise you, if you're poly and you're involved with someone who's not, once the hot sex cools off and reality sets in, every single problem that occurs in the relationship will somehow devolve to: You're fucking other people.

...Some monogamous people sincerely, but mistakenly, thought they'd be fine with me. But I have met a lot of cowboys and cowgirls. I vividly remember an outraged lover yelling, "I know you said that, but I thought I could turn you!" Another man said, "I viewed you as a challenge."...

Read the whole article (July 27, 2010) and the interesting comments.



July 26, 2010

"Strange Sex" freak show portrays polys beautifully

TLC (formerly The Learning Channel)

"Jaiya, Jon, and Ian have lived polyamorously for two years. But when Jaiya has Ian's baby, can they raise a baby together?"

That was the teaser for a 14-minute segment on TLC's new "Strange Sex" series last night (July 25, 2010). The series is a freak show; other scheduled topics include orgasms during childbirth, balloon fetishes, and "can doctors help a young mother who can't stop herself from urinating on her husband during intercourse?"

Nevertheless, the "Two Boyfriends and a Baby" segment was the very picture of a respectful, insightful, beautiful poly documentary.

I watched it. Jaiya and Jon met during their Tantra-teacher training and agreed to an open relationship when they got together. After a few years, they welcomed in Ian. For the last two years they've all lived together in a gorgeous California house and are raising Jaiya and Ian's year-old baby. Jaiya really wanted a baby, Jon had cold feet, so she had it with Ian. There's a hint that this situation was difficult at the time, but what we mostly see is the two men assisting in the home birth and the three of them now playing with the happy, crawly kid on the rug. Jaiya explains the easier-than-usual child care schedule with three parents. "The love is just exponential," says Ian. "It's just — wow."

The scene often cuts to a sensible, well-informed psychologist who explains that polyamory is a unique form of non-monogamy because it is based on honesty, love, and serious relationships. She describes the requirements that it places on everyone for even better communication than in good couple relationships, and some of its difficulties and benefits.

Says Ian: "None of us had a model for this growing up. It's working. But why is it working?"

Jaiya is gorgeous and articulate, a natural TV star. The men are strong, good looking, middle- and late-middle-aged professionals; you might peg Ian as a college teacher and Jon as a company president who spends a lot of time in the gym. Where did TLC find them? Do any readers here know the backstory?

The segment will surely show up in reruns (check the Strange Sex schedule; look for "Two Boyfriends and a Baby"). It's not yet free online.


A writer for Chicago Now (owned by the Chicago Tribune) got to preview the show and wrote,

[Jaiya and Jon are] a couple that met and immediately felt an instant connection to each other, forging a seemingly normal relationship. However, the twist here? Jaiya expresses to her partner that she is polyamorous and believes in multiple -- yet committed -- relationships.

A few years later, enter Ian, the man that will soon become the third point in this love triangle. And, as we come to learn, each man has his own sexual relationship with Jaiya. They live under one roof and we get a picture that they function as normally as they can. It's, as the show points out, a very specific lifestyle, that requires willing and trusting parties all around.

Truth is, this story really piqued my interest. I'm extremely conventional in my approach, so this was a tricky one to digest. I mean, it's not like casually dating a few different people. It's taking a committed relationship and saying that it's OK to have that same connection and emotional involvement with someone else. That's one I couldn't even imagine!

...After getting this little taste, I can honestly say two things: (1) The [Strange Sex] show, despite telling unusual sexual stories, definitely aims to establish a sense of normalcy to an otherwise hard-to-understand situations and (2) it offers a great deal of education about human sexuality.

Update, November 2010: Jaiya gives an interview on how her poly household handles money and financial issues: Polyamory And Money – Miss Jaiya Explains, in Out of the Storm News ("a new web publication of the Heartland Institute’s Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate"), November 17, 2010.


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July 25, 2010

Deborah Anapol's Polyamory in the 21st Century

Ask longtime polyfolks about Deborah Taj Anapol, and you may get very different reactions.

Anapol was one of the founding mothers of the modern polyamory movement in the 1980s and 1990s (along with Ryam Nearing; see my history of Loving More). Her 1992 book Love Without Limits, expanded in 1997 as Polyamory: the New Love Without Limits, was often called the movement's bible. For a while it was practically the movement's only book. If you've wondered why so many poly movers and shakers today are women, or why the community has a strong feminist character, or why it contains a strong subcurrent of New Age concepts, sacred sexuality, and tantra, you're seeing a sociological founder effect stemming in part from Anapol.1

Her enthusiastic book, articles, talks, media appearances, and workshops inspired countless people to embrace a poly life. Others were browned off. If you wonder why emotional reactions erupt in the poly world when someone mentions that they think poly is "more evolved," or against people in the movement making "woo woo" New Age health claims, you're seeing a reaction to things Anapol helped set in motion.

During the last decade she largely withdrew from the poly scene, turning to larger topics of spiritual philosophy and the relevance of wider models of love to humanity's survival and future. She moved to Hawaii, raised coffee, continued to lead occasional personal-development retreats, and published the small book The Seven Natural Laws of Love (2005).

Now she is back — older, wiser, and more detached, even skeptical. Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners takes a careful, sociologist's view of the movement that she helped create, recognizing the ways that it has and has not lived up to her initial hopes. The book may surprise her critics with its level-headed academic approach; she cannot be accused of woo-woo here.

In a blurb I wrote for the publisher, I called the book

an insightful examination of the growing polyamory movement and the people in it — their ideals, motivations, backgrounds, and actual practices....  Anapol draws on her nearly 30 years at the heart of the movement, including her experience counseling thousands of poly and would-be-poly clients and her many discussions with the movement's movers and shakers. She also examines how poly people and families deal with such issues as jealousy, time management, child rearing, and how closeted or out to be in a sometimes hostile world.

Anapol provides a straightforward examination of polyamory's costs and benefits, as well as the personality traits and good-relationship practices that have proven most likely to lead to a successful poly life. And she looks ahead to where the movement may be going, and to the benefits that this wider paradigm of loving may yet have for the future of humanity.

Recommended... both for scholars of the polyamory movement and for would-be polys seeking a good look at what they hope to join.

Click to read the book's introduction, table of contents, and part of Chapter 1.

Here's the book's Facebook page.

Here's Anapol's new "Love Without Limits" blog at Psychology Today.

Here are four short videos (2 to 5 minutes) of her speaking at the book launch about the biological basis of monogamy and polyamory, the shadow side of polyamory, polyamory and community, and poly and the next generation.


1 If you've also wondered why polyamory and neopaganism seem to go together so often, you're seeing another founder effect: from Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and friends. They advocated for polyamory starting about 40 years ago (and co-invented the word 20 years ago) while also doing much to create and shape the Neo-Pagan religious movement with their Stranger in a Strange Land-inspired Church of All Worlds.

And, do you ever wonder why the poly world is so full of computer geeks and IT professionals? One of the reasons, I'm sure, is a third founder effect: from the Kerista community in San Francisco in the 1980s, the utopian polyamorous commune that invented the words polyfidelity and compersion. Kerista inspired many key people in the West Coast social network that originated today's poly movement, including Ryam Nearing — while building a booming business selling and servicing those newfangled Apple computer thingies. At its height, reports Wired magazine, Kerista's computer business Abacus

generated $35 million in sales, employed 125 people, and serviced dozens of blue-chip corporations like Pacific Gas & Electric, United Airlines and Pacific Bell. The company ran a pair of plush training centers in San Francisco's financial district and in Santa Clara. It operated three big repair facilities and a giant warehouse. It had consulting divisions for networking and publishing, and even ran a computer temp agency.

"It was a fascinating company that people couldn't put their fingers on, for good reason," said a former commune member who asked to be referred to by his commune name, Love. "It was run by flamboyant, hippie types, who tended to be young and good looking. But they were very good at evangelizing the Mac."

...right alongside evangelizing for Keristan group marriage, even while visiting corporate workplaces. (The company's motto: "A vision with a business.") For a while Kerista was the largest Macintosh dealer in northern California and was featured three years running in Inc. magazine. As a result, utopian polys and the new breed of computer geeks intersected heavily at this formative time and place for each. A social historian would surely say this is partly why, when you talk to someone at a meetup who's brand-new to poly and may have barely been born in Kerista's time, he or she is likely to tell you, "I work in IT." Today's oaks stand where acorns once fell.


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July 21, 2010

Psychotherapists' journal explores "the New Monogamy" (meaning non-monogamy)

Psychotherapy Networker

A magazine for psychotherapists is making waves with a cover story titled "The New Monogamy: Can we have our cake and eat it too?". On the cover is a wedding cake with a bride and two grooms (photo). As the Washington Post reports (July 20, 2010),

Tammy Nelson, a Connecticut couples therapist, writes that in this new model, "outside attachments of one kind or another are allowed — as long as they don't threaten the primary connection," and that therapists ought to open their minds to these new practices so they can better relate to their patients. The juiciest part of the article is where Nelson explains some of her patients' unconventional arrangements (while maintaining their anonymity, of course) such as the couple who agree they can each have sex with other people, but only while on business trips.

Inexplicably, Nelson never uses the word "polyamory." Nor does she mention to fellow shrinks that there's already a large literature on the subject (including excellent information for psychotherapists with polyamorous clients), an enormous array of articulate poly support networks online and in real life, and a 30-year accumulation of hard won poly-community wisdom (from thousands of sometimes bitter trials and errors) about what works and doesn't. Without at least mentioning these things, I don't think she can claim to be informing her readers well.

Nevertheless, the article breaks new ground in telling therapists about what's going on in more and more of their clients' lives.

I do wonder about calling non-monogamy "the New Monogamy." Are non-vegetarians "the New Vegetarians"? To be fair, she's talking about conventional marriages in which emotional monogamy may be expected, secondary partners generally remain outside the marriage itself, and secondaries are to be dumped in a crunch. The problems that this model can raise are a whole 'nother topic....

The New Monogamy

By Tammy Nelson

Whether we like it or not, today's couples feel far less encumbered by the legal, social, and moral strictures of traditional marriage and its obligations. Increasing numbers are negotiating what they mean by "fidelity" and how they wish to define monogamy in their relationship.

If there's anything fundamental to the meaning of marriage in Western society, it's monogamy.... People no longer marry for economic, dynastic, or procreative reasons, as they did for millennia; they can't be compelled to marry by law, religion, or custom; they don't need to marry to have sex or cohabit or even produce and raise children. But throughout all of this staggering change, the requirement and expectation of monogamy as the emotional glue that keeps the whole structure of marriage from collapsing under its own weight has remained constant.

...As a culture committed, in theory, to monogamy, our actions tell a different story. It isn't just that, as therapists, we need to understand that infidelity happens — we all know that already. What some of us may not realize is how often it happens. Research varies, but according to some surveys, such as those reported by Joan Atwood and Limor Schwartz in the 2002 Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 55 percent of married women and 65 percent of married men report being unfaithful at some point in their marriage. Up to one-half of married women have at least one lover after they're married and before the age of 40.

...According to noted anthropologist and researcher Helen Fisher, extramarital affairs have always happened at this high rate, but only now are we getting a more accurate, statistically informed, picture of what's going on. Fisher also reports that what you might call this "state of affairs" holds true across at least five other cultures worldwide that she's studied.

Within our profession, virtually all couples therapists... have believed since the field's earliest days that no troubled marriage can recover as long as there's a "third party" hovering in the wings....

One major impediment to the view that an affair indicates that something is profoundly wrong in the marriage, however, is that 35 to 55 percent of people having affairs report they were happy in their marriage at the time of their infidelity. They also report good sex and rewarding family lives. So how can we continue viewing affairs as symptoms of dysfunctional marriages when apparently so many of them seem to happen to otherwise "normal," even happy couples?

...If the stories we hear from couples coming into our offices these days are any indication, we're in for a sea change. Whether we like it or not, many couples are far less encumbered with the legal, moral, and social strictures and expectations around marriage that held sway for our parents or even for us, if we were married 20 to 30 or more years ago.... Today's couples are far likelier to think about negotiating ahead of time what they mean by "fidelity" and how they define and live monogamy in their own relationship.

...Most couples practicing what I call the "new monogamy" still want a committed monogamous marriage, with the same long-term loving attachment, affection, mutual trust, and security that traditional monogamy has always promised — if not always delivered. It's just that their notions about what constitutes emotional and sexual "commitment," "fidelity," and "monogamy" itself are more expansive and varied than what we've long considered the norm.

...Within the new notion of monogamy, each partner assumes that the other is, and will remain, the main attachment, but that outside attachments of one kind or another are allowed — as long as they don't threaten the primary connection....

The key to these arrangements, and what makes them meaningful within the framework of emotional commitment, is that there can be no secrecy between partners about the arrangements. The fidelity resides in the fact that these couples work out openly and together what will be and will not be allowed in their relationships with Party C, and maybe Parties D, E, and F. To couples engaged in the new monogamy, it isn't the outside sexual relationships themselves, but the attendant secrets, lies, denial, silences, and hidden rendezvous that make them so destructive to the marriage. Rightly or wrongly, today, many couples consider that honesty and openness cleanse affairs, rendering them essentially harmless.

...New monogamists try to eliminate the gap that so often exists between explicit and implicit rules in the "old monogamy." From the viewpoint of the new monogamy, the trick is to establish and continually revisit rules to provide clear guidelines for maintaining a monogamous relationship — while keeping them loose enough to encourage growth and exploration for both partners. Some couples keep renegotiating their rules about monogamy, either directly or more subtly, as they age and pass through different developmental stages of their marriage....

...In my experience, when rules are clear beforehand, complaints of jealousy or feelings of betrayal are rare....

...In the culture of the new monogamy, couples are negotiating their fidelity in many ways that most therapists haven't explored or even considered much. When a couple tells me there's been an affair, I can't assume I know what they mean. I need to assess what exactly monogamy means to them or what constitutes a breach of fidelity to them. What are the terms of their explicit and implicit monogamy agreement?

...Although I've always thought of myself as pretty open and reasonably "hip," I've been fired by more than one couple for being perceived as too traditional. There have been times when couples have come into my office and it's been hard for me to keep my jaw from dropping open as I listened to their stories. Sometimes I ask couples to recount how they manage their relationships, not so much out of voyeuristic curiosity about the details of their sex lives as out of a fascination with how they balance the multiple levels of commitment with their various partners.... For instance, they'll explain that on those nights that they have outside partners, they'll agree that one will stay home with the kids, while the other meets the lover. Or they'll take turns having that lover at home for the night. Or sometimes they each have a lover at home on the same night, waking up in the morning to all have breakfast together.... They come to therapy not to get permission to do what they're doing, but to get their communication clear. The relationships that are working smoothly don't come into my office and I can only assume that they have found a way to balance the transparency and communication necessary to keep it all straight....

Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Center for Healing. She's the author of Getting the Sex You Want and What's Eating You?

Read the whole long article (July-August 2010 issue). Here it is in one text file. The article has also been reprinted on AlterNet (July 8, 2010), on the Progressive Radio Network site (July 9), and elsewhere. Here's the author's Facebook page.

In an online debate about whether non-monogamy has any business being called "New Monogamy," the author wrote,

Actually the new monogamy is really a way for people to conceptualize that fidelity now comes in many different packages.... Whether it is explicit and talked about and negotiated -- as in poly relationships around love and emotion, or whether it is about sex and swinging and play, or open marriage....

The new monogamy is a concept I coined which will be in my new book coming up (look for it in about a year) which basically challenges couples and therapists to look at relationships from not only a new cultural perspective to examine not only monogamy but the idea that we can have many different attachments in our lifetime....

I am trying to get the clinical world to end the pathology that is projected onto non-monogamy, since it comes in many, many different forms. That includes polyamory, but also open marriage, swinging, AND frankly -- even affairs and infidelity.

I encourage couples to make their monogamy agreements more explicit and to have that dialogue openly and often, particularly at different times throughout the lifetime of their relationship. If we can get therapists to help with that conversation, then monogamy becomes a more fluid and transparent concept instead of a one-time decision that can lead to a breach of personal integrity and sometimes an impossible standard to live up to -- or for some, a lifetime of disappointment.

See Deborah Anapol's response to the article.


The same issue of Psychotherapy Networker also has two related articles:

Foreign Affairs
By Michele Scheinkman

A popular bit of French folk wisdom says, "It's not good to speak all truths." People in many countries around the world would agree, and regard with horror the way the American therapists approach the question of infidelity.

After the Storm
By Esther Perel

As therapists, we have an unquenchable desire to find happy endings for troubled clients, especially those weathering the crisis of infidelity. But what happens months or years later to those couples once our work with them has concluded?


Also on this topic: alt-relationship researcher David Ley recently published an article on his Psychology Today blog, Why are therapists down on alternative sex? Therapist's biases prevent alternative relationships from getting help.


Update, August 6: Kamela Dolinova today posted the best takedown I've seen of sugar-coating of non-monogamy as "New Monogamy." Excerpt:

...In this world where a scandal erupts daily about some politician, preacher or other prominent figure having an affair, where 50% of marriages end in divorce... where the concept of marriage is so much more of a rarely attained ideal than a reality... why must we fight so hard to protect the idea? The striving for the ideal of marriage and monogamy is making so many people miserable, and yet they will fight tooth and nail to insist that it is the Only One True Way, no matter how you have to suffer. And then they have the nerve to take the concepts and ideas of polyamory, concepts that many of us have been beta-testing for years and finding our hearts and happiness in, and try to fold them into their definitions of monogamy.

It's not unlike the gay marriage debate itself, in which many people who are against "gay marriage" are fine with the concept of "civil unions." They just don't want their precious word adulterated. But so long as they can control the definition, it's okay to include infidelity and even emotional affairs into the umbrella of "monogamy."

Not only does this strike me as intellectual laziness, but it also smacks horribly of heterosexual privilege.... It irks me to see the straight mainstream — whether family therapists or writers of titillating memoirs — soaking up the concepts of polyamory and open marriage into their well-established, privileged models of relationship.

Read the whole post (in her Boston Open Relationships Examiner blog).


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July 12, 2010

Poly-Mono advice from Sex At Dawn author

The Stranger online

A new book is getting a lot of buzz: Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, by Christoper Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. Their most talked-about point is that our accepted beliefs about monogamy are built on falsehoods and are a recent and unnatural social construct.

I'm getting the book and will have more to say about it later. Meanwhile, from the publisher's blurb:

Ryan and Jethá's central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is. Human beings everywhere and in every era have confronted the same familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways. The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.

Sounds like my version of poly. Here's a review in Seed magazine.

Dan Savage, of "Savage Love" column fame, has been touting the book (in his hyperbolic style) as "the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948." And he invited Ryan to guest-host some advice columns on the website of The Stranger, the alternative newspaper that Savage edits in Seattle. For example:

Letter of the Day: More Advice From Sex At Dawn Coauthor Christopher Ryan

July 7, 2010

Q: I'm a 29-year-old straight male. My girlfriend and I have been together for four years... We are very much in love. However, since the beginning of our relationship, my girlfriend has told me that she is not interested in being monogamous for her entire life.... Over the course of our relationship, she has made it very clear that I am her man, her #1 priority, BUT she knows that in the future she's going to want to sleep with other guys. She also has said that I would be free to sleep with other girls.

My question is, how do I get over this terrible feeling that I get whenever I think about my girlfriend having sex with another man? I try to be open-minded, but every time the idea is presented, I get a sick feeling in my stomach....

...Am I making too big a deal out of this? I am very happy with our relationship, and our sex life. And she has told me on numerous occasions that sex with me is the best she's ever had, but also that variety is the spice of life. Which then makes me think, “Why would she want anyone else if I'm the best?” And honestly, it makes me feel as if I'm not enough.

—When The Best Isn't Enough

Christopher Ryan: Whether or not you’re making “too big a deal out of this” depends on several things. First, assuming you could overcome this sick feeling you get when the issue comes up, would you want a long term (possibly life-long) relationship with this woman, on these terms? In other words, is your reaction something you see as a weakness in yourself that you’d like to overcome, or does it represent a fundamental difference in how the two of you understand and experience sex and intimacy?

You sound like a sincere, thoughtful, self-reflective guy, so I’m going to assume the woman you love is similarly evolved, psychologically. She’s not going to change, and even if you could find a way to make her, that would only lead to resentment and disaster. Our greatest ambition for Sex at Dawn is that it will encourage young people like you to clarify their sexual nature before signing on to long term commitments they can’t get out of later without making a huge mess. [Ed. note: basically the same ambition as the whole poly awareness movement.] It sounds like she’s very clear on who she is and what kind of relationship can/cannot work for her long term, so it’s up to you to try to take it or leave it.

As to your insecurities, since she’s already risked losing you by being up-front about her unwillingness to sign on to long-term sexual monogamy, I see no reason to doubt her when she says she loves you and that her intimacy with you is far more than she has with anyone else. One of the advantages of sexual experience (which she seems to have) is that you realize that sex isn’t magical. She’s never going to leave you because another guy has a bigger Johnson or screws her better. She already knows what’s out there, and she’s found what she likes best with you. It sounds like she’s offering you emotional, but not sexual monogamy. So now you’ve got to decide whether you want to try to disentangle those two issues in your own experience.

If you do, I’d suggest seeing this as a way to deepen your connection with her. Explain that you want to really understand her experience and share yours. Ask her to tell you about her experiences with other men and notice your feelings. Are you disgusted? Turned on? Afraid? All of the above? Tell her about some of your experiences with other women and explore her reactions....

If you can develop a relationship in which sex becomes something the two of you share — even when it involves other people — you might end up with something very special. But if this sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, you might want to seriously consider looking for someone whose views on monogamy are less challenging for you.

Read the whole article (July 7, 2010).

Here's another Dan Savage column, drawing on the book to explain the unexpected reactions that a reader and her husband had to an experience of group sex.

And here's more from Savage on these themes.



July 8, 2010

"It’s very difficult in our society to untangle hardwiring from installed wiring."

The Huntington News (Northeastern University)

Another college newspaper explains what poly is about (or tries to), follows the usual formula of quoting happy practitioners and a hostile shrink, and talks to some Northeastern students-on-the-street who really don't get it.

Try to ignore the grammar and style. The whole article is saved, as far as I'm concerned, by Poly Boston activist Tom Amoroso's quote headlined above.

A Whole Lotta Love

By Marian Daniells

...Polyamory, literally meaning “loving many,” is the practice of having more than one open relationship at a time.... [Loving More] clarifies that the unconventional lifestyles are characterized by open communication and consent between all participants.

Polyamorous relationships can range from single individuals who are involved in many relationships to complex networks of adults committed to one or more consenting partners. As with conventional relationships, all polyamorous relationships are different.

“The point of our relationship is that we all seem to care for one another and work well with one another,” said Amaroso [sic], who joined the polyamorist lifestyle in 1999 and has been a member of PolyBoston ever since.

...Dr. Dan Pollets, a sex therapist from Medford, argues that polyamorists are prompted by different intentions.

“People are motivated to have their cake and eat it, too,” he said. But Amaroso said that “that’s very largely not the point…I would argue that sex is the least important part of polyamory. It’s a lot more about relationships.”

Pollets, who has more than 30 years of experience working with families and couples, advocates that conventional relationships are still most beneficial to all involved. The “pair bond,” as he calls it, “is the most adaptive, evolutionarily designed relationship.... There are some underlining psychological issues that make it difficult to be truly intimate with more than one person,” said Pollets, “People tend to get attached; that’s our hardwiring.”

...Some Students around Northeastern, however, are still a bit skeptical.

“It just seems to defeat the purpose of having a girlfriend or boyfriend,” said Andrew Bates, a middler mechanical engineering major. “I don’t think I’d try it.”

Joe Gonsalles, a middler mechanical engineering major, agrees. “I wouldn’t consider [polyamory] because it’s against the culture we have been taught…to grow up and get married,” he said. “It just sounds outlandish.”

“It’s very difficult in our [society] to untangle hardwiring from installed wiring,” Amaroso said. He claims that communication and honestly are the factors that make poly relationships work.

“It’s not as though there are no rules at all. It’s just that there are different rules,” he said.

Read the whole article (July 6, 2010).

Here's another recent college story, from The Western Front at the University of Western Washington:

The Promiscuity Pendulum

by Andrea Farrell

....McKenzie identifies as polyamorous, meaning she has multiple romantic relationships at once with different people. However, when it comes to numbers, McKenzie said she has had fewer partners than the average serial monogamist.

“Some people have four or five partners a year, but all in a row,” she said. “I have a serious long-term boyfriend of seven years. I often refer to him as my wife and call my other partners my mistresses.”

...McKenzie said she has noticed a rise in the admission of polyamory in recent years. Attitudes are changing about the once-frowned-upon polyamory scene. Many people are opening up about their open relationships, she said, and still more are putting off marriage until later in life....

While the Health Center encourages all sexually active students to use condoms in order to prevent STD transmission, in the polyamory scene, they are a must....

...McKenzie said most people accept her polyamorous lifestyle, but it is not for everyone. To be in multiple relationships takes time, communication skills and a genuine love of people.

“I’m poly because I’m a romantic,” she said. “Who doesn’t love that initial stage of a relationship when you’re unsure whether the other person feels the same way and are full of that amazing chemical giddiness?”

She said she does not want to have to sacrifice this feeling for the sake of a partner’s jealousy or insecurity.

“This person should be your partner in crime for all of your sexual adventures,” she said. “Not some sort of ball-and-chain, or lockdown situation. If your relationship is like that, you’re in a bad one.”

Andrews said that whatever you choose to do or not do, openness is the key to a happy love life.

“I am a big advocate for open expression and communication,” she said. “If we were more open and honest and healthy about our sexualities, we wouldn’t have so many problems.”

Read the whole article (May 14, 2010).

And here are all 20 student-newspaper articles collected on this site (including this one; scroll down).



July 7, 2010

"Polyamory, a Different Kind of Commitment"

The Sex Herald

For seven years an online magazine called The Sex Herald (NSFW) has billed itself as "The Adult Entertainment and News Authority." But it also has articles of wider interest to the general public.

With some misgivings, I let myself be talked into an interview for a long article on polyamory that's now up on the magazine's site. I'm relieved that it came out fine (except they screwed up the URL for this blog). Thanks to the writer for treating me and the subject decently.

Polyamory, a Different Kind of Commitment

By Laura Vladimirova

...Not to be confused with swinger’s sex parties or illegal brides in a polygamous union, it’s a commitment to intimacy and brutal honesty with several consenting partners at once. For those dedicated to the practice, the poly-lifestyle can offer sexual fulfilment, growth, love and support.

Alan, 58, publisher of the poly media watch blog www.polyamoryinthenews.com, says he’s been polyamorous since he was 17. He came to polyamory during the time of the ‘free-love’ movement. Once he experienced polyamory, though it wasn’t called that then, he was hooked. “I had been a conventional, conservative person up to then. I ended up feeling that I had a life mission to spread awareness of this wonderful and almost totally unknown possibility.”

Alan is a poly-mono switch. A lot of polys feel that it is their innate orientation is to be in open relationships, and some, like Alan, go back and forth depending on their changing [circumstances]....

Valerie, 64, another long term poly participant, knew monogamy was not for her since she was 19. “I've been poly since before we had a word for it,” she says....

Valerie and her partners, Ken and Judy, have built a life as “out” polys. They’ve been in their triad for 15 years and have two seven year old twins that they consider belong to all three of them.

“We've been remarkably fortunate,” she says of their many not always enthusiastic, but generally accepting parents and siblings. “My mother was essentially poly, too,” says Valerie, and Ken’s nephew is also “out as poly as well.”

Their status as “an intentional family of three adults” is well-known in their community. They’ve attended faculty parties as a triad, Valerie ran for city office, their various doctors are in the know, and their children’s school is well-aware of their household status....

“Of course, I live in a highly multicultural, wealthy suburb in Massachusetts,” she adds. “If I lived in backwoods Georgia things might be different.”

“A poly lifestyle is not something couples should jump into," says Sharyn Wolf, CSW, psychotherapist, relationship counselor, and author of five books, including Guerrilla Dating Tactics and This Old Spouse. “It must be carefully discussed over months.... Poly goes bad when one person in the couple is more into it and it is a purely sexual decision rather than a lifestyle choice.”...

With the first few poly relationships, there is a sense of relationship trial and error. Figuring out the best couple dynamics, sexual or otherwise, can be challenging....

Read the whole article (ads are NSFW). It's undated but appears to have gone up on April 30, 2010.


July 3, 2010

Radio Interview from New Zealand

Radio B (Auckland, NZ)

Nobody thinks twice now about listening in on any tiny radio show anywhere in the world, with perfect clarity and no special radio gear. In Auckland, New Zealand, the alternative station Radio B (95bFM) is "a sizzling casserole of New Zealand music, news and views... lodged like orange pith in your teeth... firmly on the second floor of the former student union building at the University of Auckland." On a show last Sunday:

Polyamory: literally, loving more than one person at once. But how does it work in practice? Sarah and Priscilla join us in studio to share their experiences with polyamory and maintaining polyamorous relationships.

Listen here. 47 minutes; 43 MB .mp3 file. (June 27, 2010).


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July 2, 2010

Legal analysis: "Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation"

Social Science Research Network

Attorney Ann E. Tweedy, of the California Western School of Law in San Diego, has published an important legal and sociological analysis, Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation, on SSRN, the Social Science Research Network.

The abstract:

This article examines the possibility of expanding the definition of “sexual orientation” in employment discrimination statutes to include other disfavored sexual preferences, specifically polyamory. It first looks at the fact that the current definition of “sexual orientation” is very narrow, being limited to orientations based on the sex of those to whom one is attracted, and explores some of the conceptual and functional problems with the current definition. Next the article looks at the possibility of adding polyamory to current statutory definitions of sexual orientation, examining whether polyamory is a sufficiently embedded identity to be considered a sexual orientation and the degree of discrimination that polyamorists face. After concluding that expanding current statutory definitions of sexual orientation to include polyamory would be reasonable, the article looks at some of the complications to making such a move, including potential policy implications and the conflicting evidence as to whether polys want specific legal protections.

Read the whole 73-page paper (June 29, 2010) via the "One-Click Download" link on the abstract page. It's good reading and heavily referenced. I'd say future discussions of this topic are going to begin here.