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



July 25, 2016

With three more poly stories, Vice seeks to draw readers


Vice, a Tyrannosaurus among new-media magazines, is running heavily with the poly trend, which must mean these articles get a lot of clicks. Here are Vice's three new pieces since we last looked.

This first is a rambly bunch of real-life interview condensations, not a bad read if you can get past the ugly, off-message illos.


We Talked to Polyamorous People About How They Make Their Relationships Work

Illustration by Joe Frontel

By Allison Tierney

While monogamy works for some, others spend their lives serially cheating on their partners while trying and failing to adhere to it. As an alternative, there are people who have found that some form of polyamory — of which there are many varieties — is the right choice for them. Dubbed by some media as a new sexual revolution, being more open to poly arrangements is steadily growing.

VICE spoke to people who are in poly relationships to find out the nuances of their arrangements and how they make non-monogamy work for them and their partners.

Maria*, 24

...What makes polyamorous relationships so difficult is that the rules aren't written across our society. A heterosexual, normative relationship is much easier to be in because the rules are there — that's considered cheating, that's not. You have media, you have everything in society telling you. As soon as you venture out of that one kind of relationship, you have to discuss it a painful number of times....

With my most recent relationships, the biggest issue we had was that I am impulsive.... I was on the stage on this pole, and then I just like threw my cunt in this guy's face who was right under me. I was in a skirt, and I just sat on his face in the middle of the club, then I jumped down and started kissing him. It was 1:20 AM, the club closes at 2 and, like fuck it, I am not going to go have that conversation [with Partner] right now to see if he is OK with it — I can have it in 40 minutes. As soon as the club closed, I found [Partner], and we talked.

How I want my life to be like when I'm older is to either be part of two couples who are exclusive to each other or in a three-way relationship.... It sounds like the way I'd want to be in my 70s, at the end of my days.

Dan*, 35

My girlfriend and I met at a [swinger] party, and we hit it off immediately. We've been together a year and a half. Rules are constantly evolving. The one trap I fall into sometimes is that I think [about] what would bother me and assume other people have the same things they're OK with. We have started writing down rules.... One time I did too much MDMA and wasn't really aware that she was there, and we had a conversation about that after and decided to tone down the drugs when we do things because we're not as aware about our partners and their feelings when we're really out of it.

...You have a fight and learn. That's why we started writing things down — you learn that sometimes what you're OK with, the other person isn't OK with. A lot of it is talking about individual people. I know it might sound weird to go through a roster of possibilities and say, "OK, they're fine; they're not." But that's sometimes how it has to be.

Hannah, 26

...You get to a point with dating when you're poly where you're like, "You need to be aware that in the future I may or may not want to see other people at the same time as you. You have to be OK with that if you want to date me." We got to that point, and it turns out we were both poly but at the time weren't seeing anyone else....

You have to talk to people, lots of communication — people say that's the key, and that's because it is....

I identify as solo poly, which is a little bit lesser known... Solo poly is where instead of fully combining your life with someone else, you retain your sense of autonomy. That could mean having your own place or having your own room in a place that you share with your partners, or it could just mean that you always have the last say... It also has a lot to do with avoiding a hierarchy....

Samantha, 36

There's two ways of doing things: You can have rules to start with and see if you're OK with things and then have less rules, or you can go into it with no rules and see what works.... We more plan it ahead of time and see what we're OK with.

...It can be a bit scary for people. I've been with people who really thought they wanted to take that leap, but then suddenly got really scared and decided they were never going to stop being monogamous — they were just going to cheat on partners forever because they couldn't handle living an "abnormal" way of life. The problem is you can never tell who those people are going to be....

Janet, 33

...I didn't know about "poly" until I was an adult and immediately felt relieved thinking, 'Oh, finally, this describes me completely!' ...With my current partner, I was very open about not ever loving one person at a time and that I crush easily on others. We played with poly rules and relationships, but found it hard to manage initially without really hurting each other. I then read the book The Ethical Slut, and it gave me some framework on how to make things work.

We found it was easier to open up our relationship after we got married. We were solid that we were coming home to one another every night, so it gave us the comfort and security to play knowing we were still crazy about each other....


Read more (July 7, 2016).


● The most recent one, just out:


How I Told My Husband and Boyfriend I'm Dating Another Man

Illustration by Kitron Neuschatz

By Jeff Leavell

I had a confession to make. To my husband, Alex, and our boyfriend, Jon. I was pretty sure I was having an affair, and I was pretty sure it was outside the rules of our open relationship....

Telling Jon about Conor [the affair guy] was easy.... Jon is different than Alex and me: He is easier, has less need to be in control. Alex and I are alpha, territorial.

Jon encouraged me. He enjoyed watching my new relationship develop. And that meant I had someone to share my fears and anxieties with.

I planned on spending a week in Spokane to celebrate Alex's birthday with him. I had rented a large house, so we could be alone. I knew if I let this go any longer without being honest then I was back to being a cheater.

We would probably fight, and our fights can be epic. But we would have endless conversations, too, and I loved our endless conversations. I loved nothing more than staying up all night with Alex, simply talking.

Nothing mattered if I couldn't share my feelings about Conor with Alex, but I was afraid. Recently, things had been tough between us....

On the way to Spokane, my flight got delayed in Salt Lake City. I imagined every possible outcome to the conversation we were about to have. I imagined huge, operatic screaming matches in my head. I would storm out. Alex would throw my luggage through windows. We would end up fucking on the lawn, all of Spokane cheering us on.

When I finally saw Alex at the arrivals curb, I thought I would cry. I always feel this way when I haven't seen him in a long time. All the emptiness of him being gone suddenly filling up with his presence. I suddenly felt home and safe.

We sat at the Satellite Diner in downtown Spokane, surrounded by drunk straight guys and their drunker girlfriends.

"I need to say something," I said. "But I don't want to."...


Read on (July 19). Jeff Leavell also wrote about his gay triad for Vice a year ago: How I Figured Out the Rules of My Three-Way Relationship (July 22, 2015).


● This one appeared in Vice's print issue (April 2016) as well as online:


How to Make Polyamory Work

Photo collage by Zoe Ligon
By Ana Cecilia Alvarez

...When we talk about "being open," relationships morph from systems into spaces — ones we must design and navigate.

I sat down with three friends to explore how and why people with different relationship structures make them work....

David Velasco: The vocabulary for this stuff is always so tough for me. Even the term "relationship" feels inadequate — as if "my relationship" is the only one I have, or as if all the other relationships I have in my life are somehow lesser.

I've been with one of my partners for twelve years now. From the get-go, we were basically open; we didn't like to call each other "boyfriends." We think we're two people who love each other and enjoy each other's company. We have another partner who we've been seeing together for a number of years. Figuring out how you define that has been an interesting process. Relating to this idea of "relationship models," I don't want to personally set any at all.

Ana Cecilia Alvarez: "Model" is a playful word in that way; it implies a system but also something for people to emulate, something to be followed.

Velasco: There is a very useful book for all of this. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, in the 90s — heaven to a young queer figuring his shit out. There, I found this exceptional book called The Ethical Slut. One of my partners recently downloaded the audiobook. The authors, Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy narrate it. Their voices are so soft and therapeutic, and they describe every possibility and potential in a nonjudgmental way and have great rules for negotiating conflict. One of my favorites is practicing having regular arguments with your partners. You just yell at one another in gibberish, so it gets it out of your system.

I've had conversations about monogamy and whether that would be interesting to try out for a while. There's something erotic about that arrangement.

Charlotte Shane: [Monogamy] feels quite new for me. I remember being a kid and not understanding any ideas about sexual purity. Wouldn't you want your partner to be good at sex, and isn't that only going to happen with experience? I wish that in our culture — and it might be shifting toward this anyway — the default was open relationships, and monogamy was the exception....

Jasmine Gibson: I was in a monogamous relationship once before college, and it didn't work. When people ask me how an open relationship works, they either say, "That must be so hard," or they say the opposite, "Then no one must get mad."

Alvarez: People assume that in open relationships there's either more conflict or none at all.

Gibson: I think of relationships as fluid and temporary. They can break off, or they can lull and mutate into something else. There have been periods when my partner and I wanted to just see each other, and other times when we've both been with other people. It's when we start creating boundaries that we get into trouble. "Us" is a weird, fluid, stretchy thing. That gives me peace of mind.

I think monogamy is erotic in the same way we eroticize the lone cowboy, this symbol of American exceptionalism. This idea that there is just one person who responds to all your needs, that there's only one person strong enough to fulfill whatever your desires are. It's so erotic because it's so dark....

Velasco: What about the pleasure of jealousy?

Alvarez: I hate to admit it, but I feel motivated by other people being into my partner.

Velasco: What makes admitting it uncomfortable?

Alvarez: With openness, I have to accept my real self versus my ideal self. My ideal self is very chill, and cool, and affirming, and curious — but not in a controlling way, just in an empathic way — and encouraging, and deeply secured and satisfied. My real self is insecure, fearful, and bratty....

Shane: I know what you mean about your ideal, intellectually mature self and then your emotionally real self. There's a really potent mix of fear and insecurity that can be a huge turn-on.

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

Velasco: If I have an idea of the world I'd love to inhabit, it includes as expansive an idea of family as possible.

Alvarez: This makes me think of co-parenting or fantasies of living in communal spaces where everyone's fucking everyone.

Gibson: My partner and our two lovers have playfully talked about living together in a house and co-parenting a baby. We thought that's the best way for a child to grow up — having healthy relationships with adults where who mommy or daddy is matters less than how much love the child receives.

Velasco: One of my lovers lives in the same building as me, but on a different floor, and the other lives a short bicycle ride away. I love the idea of communal living — the idea of being in proximity to everyone I love, friend and lover and in-between. Now that I am getting older, the question of children comes up more. I can't imagine a more complicated negotiation. I already think relationships are so complicated. But kids are a next-level complication....


The whole piece (online April 27, 2016).

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July 23, 2016

More poly tech stories. Including Tinder Social enabling group swipes.

Two more poly-tech stories! Mashable discovers that Google Calendar is our secret sauce late to the party), and the BBC reports on Tinder rolling out a new feature allowing groups of two, three, or four to look for others.


Why Google accidentally became the best thing to happen to polyamory

Vicky Leta / Mashable

By Ariel Bogle

Polyamory, where people have more than one romantic partner with everyone's knowledge and consent, has particularly benefited from platforms like Google Calendar and Google Keep....

There isn't a great deal of technology purpose-built to support polyamory or new types of relationships. There is the Poly Life app, but it's limited by the fact it's only available on iOS. Apps like Tinder, while they do help people find partners, don't support relationships that are already formed. [It does now; see below.]

This is where Google Calendar excels, allowing partners to work out their relationships down to the minute details. You can share all events with a partner, for example, or simply allow them to see whether you're busy or free. Alternatively, you could build an entirely separate calendar together.

Simon Hildebrandt, 37, a web developer in Sydney, and his partner have opted for full calendar sharing. "It's very much a personal choice with each person. It's something that we often discuss with people in the poly community — how open you are with multiple partners," he told Mashable Australia.

...For one 29-year-old student in western Sydney who preferred not to be named, the note-keeping app Google Keep has been particularly helpful.

On the app, which is synced to both their smartphones, she and her boyfriend keep a list of everything they've agreed to and issues they'd like to discuss. "It's mostly for agreements of what we'd like to do in our relationship," she said.

...For her, using Google Calendar is also a good way to ensure you have time for yourself, something she finds vital when negotiating with multiple partners.

"Everyone is very, very concerned about making time for everyone," she explained....

In many ways, Google Calendar seems purpose-built for polyamory. Unlike Facebook, it permits people to use multiple profiles, allowing an important delineation between work life and personal life....

A new kind of openness

For Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow (yes, it's his name), 32, a scientist in Sydney, the benefit of Google Calendar is its openness.

According to Meow, there's two broad streams of polyamory: "Kitchen table poly" and "parallel poly."

"Kitchen table poly is what we're going for, where we all sit down and talk about everything and we all make friends," he explained. "Parallel poly is more like, I would have individual relationships that don't have any relation to each other."

His arrangement is of the "kitchen table" type and he gives all his partners access to his calendar, allowing them all to check in easily and find time to meet.

"The trust is good. My partner can say 'oh, why isn't he home' and she can look at my calendar," he said. "It's a way for us to communicate without having to tell each other what we're doing all the time."

..."To some extent, I feel like the technology has enabled this lifestyle, which previously was only available to a really hardcore crowd who were willing to do a lot of hard work in terms of managing people's feelings," Hildebrandt said.

For one computer scientist in Sydney who did not want to be named, 25, it also helps alleviate the heavy lifting. "A lot of it is really stuff that's useful in mono relationships too, it's just that the organisational load is higher when you're poly."...


The whole article (July 19, 2016). Are we not geeks?

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

Tinder's new group mode, Tinder Social, isn't supposed to be about sex. (Tinder is not about sex. Right.) But it can be used that way, as the BBC reported on Thursday:


Tinder launches group dates feature

Tinder is launching a new feature that allows groups of friends to discover each other and meet up.

Until now, the app had focused on offering singles a way to find dates.

Its chief told the BBC that the move marked the "first step that we're taking to make Tinder more social and a little broader when it comes to the types of connections we want to enable".

But one expert said Tinder Social might be seen as a group sex feature.

"Tinder is seen by many as being a hook-up site," commented Ben Wood from the CCS Insight consultancy.

"So, it needs to be careful. By expanding in this direction, rather than becoming a more interesting social meeting service, it could be perceived as an orgy app."...

An earlier version of Tinder Social was tested earlier this year in Australia. It is now being rolled out in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Tinder Social is free to use but must be unlocked within the app.

To use it, users must first opt in to the feature within the existing app. Then they need to:

      – select who they are going out with; other members of the group must also be signed up to the service
      – say where they are going
      – say what they plan to do

Users can then see other groups. If a member from both sides "swipes right" to pick the other, members can then make the necessary arrangements via a group chat feature.

As a security measure, users may leave a group at any time. Furthermore, the next day, the group chat expires, and individual members need to like each other to stay in contact, assuming they have not already swapped other contact details.


The whole article (July 19, 2016). More about Tinder Social.

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July 22, 2016

New Guardian story: "How gay men are making open relationships work"


The Guardian is on a roll. Three days after it published Polyamorous in Portland: the city making open relationships easy, it's out with this piece of good news:


Sleeping with other people: how gay men are making open relationships work

A new study says non-monogamous couples can actually be closer, even as critics of open relationships argue humans are unable to separate love and sex

Non-monogamous relationships can lead to a happier, more fulfilling relationship, a study found. Illustration: Joanna Gniady

By Spencer Macnaughton in New York

Hugh McIntyre, a 26-year-old music writer, and Toph Allen, a 28-year-old epidemiologist, are in love and have an “amazing” relationship of two and a half years. One of the keys to their success: sleeping with other people.

“We wouldn’t change a thing,” says Allen, who lives in New York City with McIntyre. “We get to fulfill our desire of having sex with other people. We avoid cheating and the resentment that comes in monogamous relationships when you can’t pursue sexual urges.” Their relationship is not unusual among gay men. In 2005, a study found that more than 40% of gay men had an agreement that sex outside the relationship was permissible, while less than 5% of heterosexual and lesbian couples reported the same.

McIntyre and Allen say the strength of their bond is built on clear and open communication. And while that assertion will be perplexing or even taboo to many monogamous couples, a new study into gay couples in open relationships suggests that this skepticism is unjustified. In fact, the study says, non-monogamous couples can actually be closer than their more faithful [sic] counterparts.

In June 2015, Christopher Stults, a researcher at The Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies at New York University, launched a qualitative study of 10 gay couples in open relationships.... “We wanted to see how these relationships form and evolve over time, and examine the perceived relationship quality, relationship satisfaction, and potential risk for HIV/STI infection,” says Stults....

“My impression so far is that they don’t seem less satisfied, and it may even be that their communication is better than among monogamous couples because they’ve had to negotiate specific details,” Stults says.

...So what makes an open relationship work? Participants in Stults’ study emphasized that success is predicated on creating rules and sticking to them. For McIntyre and Allen, two rules are key: “Always tell the other person when you hook up with someone else, and always practice safe sex,” Allen says.

Critics of non-monogamous relationships argue that humans are unable to separate love and sex.... But Allen thinks it’s more complicated: “It’s true that love and sex are intertwined, but they aren’t the same thing. Love is about so much more than sex. [There’s] intimacy, friendship, mutual care and respect.”

That gay couples are leading the way in sexually progressive relationships shouldn’t be surprising, according to Bronski. “Because they’ve been excluded from traditional notions of sexual behavior, they’ve had to be trendsetters and forge their own relationship norms,” he says....


Here's the whole article (July 22, 2016). It turns out that the model they're talking about does indeed assume that love and sex will stay separate, to "protect the couple." Not poly, in other words. Can gay men separate love and sex more easily than other people? If not, good luck with that.

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New research: Yep, lots of people are open, and more are getting interested


How many Americans practice consensual nonmonogamy?

And how does interest in polyamory compare to other kinds of "CNM," as sociologists are calling it?

Short answers from new research: About 20% have had agreed-to open relationships at some time in their lives. And for the last six years, interest in polyamory specifically has been rising all across the general public.

"Consensual nonmonogamy" is a broad category. It includes not just polyamory but open relationships of other types, swinging, hall passes, and don't-ask-don't-tells. The difference is that those models do not carry polyamory's underlying ethos that among a network of lovers, "we're all in this together." This can just mean mutual respect for everyone's well-being, or perhaps friendships developing among metamours, or all the way up to group families and intimate community.

Amy C. Moors at the University of Michigan looked for how public interest in different types of CNM has changed over the last 10 years. She published her findings in the Journal of Sex Research: Has the American Public’s Interest in Information Related to Relationships Beyond “The Couple” Increased Over Time? (online May 13, 2016). The full paper is behind a paywall (get access through a library), but this is from the abstract:


...Although people engage in romance in a variety of ways, alternatives to “the couple” are largely overlooked in relationship research. Scholars and the media have recently argued that the rules of romance are changing, suggesting that interest in consensual departures from monogamy may become popular as people navigate their long-term coupling. This study utilizes Google Trends to assess Americans’ interest in seeking out information related to consensual nonmonogamous relationships across a 10-year period (2006–2015). Using anonymous Web queries from hundreds of thousands of Google search engine users, results show that searches for words related to polyamory and open relationships (but not swinging) have significantly increased over time.... Future research avenues for incorporating consensual nonmonogamous relationships into relationship science are discussed.


Here's the paper's key graphic:

Click for slightly larger view. Courtesy Journal of Sex Research

It shows that "swinging" related keyword searches plummeted by more than 50% from 2006 to 2009 (how come?) and since then have held steady. "Open relationship" related searches rose modestly over the last 10 years. Polyamory-related keyword searches stayed steady or declined a trace from 2006 to 2010, and since then have risen to new levels with some prominent spikes.

Those two big spikes that started in summer 2012 and late summer 2013 line up with the two seasons of Showtime's weekly docu-reality series Polyamory: Married & Dating. TV is clearly powerful, even a non-broadcast premium channel.

The smaller spike starting in August 2009 matches the widespread attention to Newsweek's online article that called poly "America's next romantic revolution." It felt at the time like a tipping point and still does.

The bump in the summer of 2015 coincides with the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision legalizing gay marriage, which prompted a lot of speculation about whether group marriage would be next.

Moors' full paper has had only 45 reads in the more than two months it's been out. But one of them was by a writer at the big, hip online magazine Fusion, who wrote a story that's been spreading around: What Google searches reveal about the rise of ‘open relationships’ (July 7):


By Taryn Hillin

...According to new research, more and more Americans are actively Googling information about alternatives to monogamy—and 1 in 5 Americans say they’ve engaged in consensual non-monogamous relationships IRL.

These revelations come courtesy of Amy Moors, a researcher at the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan. Moors recently conducted a study published in the Journal of Sex Research that looked into the prevalence of Google searches involving non-monogamous relationships. Her goal was to see if searches for terms like “polyamory” and “open relationships” were increasing over time, which, of course, might indicate a growing interest....

Moors analyzed 10 years of Google trends data from January 2006 to December 2015 using sets of the keywords related to polyamory, open relationships, open marriages, and swingers. In order to make sure she was looking at searches in which users had genuine interest in the topic, she also created “negative” search words to exclude certain results. For example, Moors found that a term like “open marriage” yielded a lot of results about Newt Gingrich, who famously had an affair outside his marriage. Searching celebrity gossip doesn’t really count as being interested in exploring the lifestyle, so she excluded all things Newt related (LOLz). Likewise, “open relationship” keywords also produced a plethora of Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith results—go figure!—so they were also used as exclusionary items.

...Moors found that Google searches for terms related to polyamory and open relationships indeed rose... from 2006 to 2015. Interestingly, however, searches for “swingers”-related keywords fell over time. Moors hypothesizes that this is likely due to the fact that the term itself has become outdated....

“Although the present study cannot shed light on why people are searching for more information related to polyamory and open relationships, these results do show that there is increased visibility of these types of consensual non-monogamy and likewise an interest to learn more about them,” explains Moors in the paper.


Moors' other recent paper is Prevalence of Experiences With Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships: Findings From Two National Samples of Single Americans (Journal of Sex Therapy, online April 20, 2016). From the abstract:


...More than one in five (21.9% in Study 1; 21.2% in Study 2) participants report engaging in CNM at some point in their lifetime. This proportion remained constant across age, education level, income, religion, region, political affiliation, and race, but varied with gender and sexual orientation. Specifically, men (compared to women) and people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (compared to those who identify as heterosexual) were more likely to report previous engagement in CNM. These findings suggest that a sizable and diverse proportion of U.S. adults have experienced CNM, highlighting the need to incorporate CNM into theoretical and empirical therapy and family science work.


The Fusion article continues,


Moors and her colleagues analyzed data collected in 2013 and 2014 by the Singles In America study, sponsored by Match.com. (Participants in the SIA study are not culled from Match.com—they are drawn from a nationally representative sample established by the firm Research Now.) In total, researchers looked at data on 8,718 participants in two different studies. The first consisted of 4,813 participants who were over the age of 21 and legally single, which means they could have been single, dating, or cohabiting but were not legally married to anyone. The second looked at an additional 3,905 participants who were over 18 and were functionally single at the time of the survey, meaning they were not seeing or dating anyone.

As part of the survey, all participants were asked if they “had ever had an open sexual relationship.” In the questionnaire, this was defined as “an agreed upon, sexually non-exclusive relationship.”

In the first study, 21.9% of participants answered yes. In the second, 21.2% of participants answered yes. Put simply? One in 5 [unmarried] Americans now says they have participated in a consensually non-monogamous relationship. Bazinga!


On the face of it, this result should apply to all adults, not just singles, because every married person was once single too. In fact, marrieds have had more time on average to add to their experiences.


Overall, men and folks identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual were more likely to report engaging in an open relationship; the least likely group was straight women. However, the authors urge caution about making assumptions about what “type” of person enters into a consensually non-monogamous relationships: The differences between the rates were slight, and according to the data, the rise is happening across the board.

“Despite previous speculation that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships tend to be homogeneous in terms of education, socioeconomic status and ethnicity, this proportion remained roughly constant across age, education level, income status, religion, region, political affiliation and race,” explain the researchers. It’s not just one group that’s spearheading the move toward open relationships—it’s all groups.

The biggest takeaway of all? We may just be headed toward another sexual revolution. But rather than thinking of it as a zero-sum game in which the birth of polyamory means the death of monogamy, Moors suggests we think of these shifts as making as room for everyone....


Read the whole Fusion article (July 7, 2016).

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July 20, 2016

"Polyamorous in Portland: the city making open relationships easy"


I've been away at New Culture Summer Camp East in the woods of West Virginia, blessed and bedazzled by beloved community yet again, which is why I haven't put anything up here in the last two weeks. Heaps of material have piled up! Let's start with this.

The Guardian, one of the world's great progressive newspapers — based in the UK but pushing aggressively into the US — clearly has its eye on polyamory as An Important Development. It has reported on poly repeatedly and sympathetically over the years. Yesterday (July 19, 2016) it published this:


Polyamorous in Portland: the city making open relationships easy

In Portland, Oregon – one of America’s most sexually tolerant cities – it seems you can’t throw a stone without finding a consensual non-monogamous relationship

Tamela Clover, Jeff Lords and Gaile Parker are a polyamorous threesome living in Portland. They are in a ‘V’ dynamic, with Jeffry as the pivot person. Photo: Natalie Behring for the Guardian.

By Melanie Sevcenko

When Franklin Veaux was 10 years old, his elementary school English teacher read his class a story about a princess being wooed by two princes. “I thought, princesses live in castles, and castles are big enough for all three of them, so why does she have to choose one?” he said.

Throughout his life, Franklin – now 50 and living in Portland, Oregon – has never chosen one. In fact, he’s never had a monogamous relationship in his life, even while he was married for 18 years. “Monogamy has never connected with me, it’s never made sense to me,” said Franklin, who took two dates to his high school prom and lost his virginity in a threesome.

...Polyamory is the practice of intimate relationships involving more than two people with the consent of everyone involved. In recent years, polyamory is working its way to becoming a household term. Researchers have estimated that 4 to 5% of Americans practice some form of consensual non-monogamy....

And in Portland – home to swingers’ clubs, the most strip bars per capita, and annual porn festivals – it seems you can’t throw a stone without finding a poly relationship. Although there’s no official data supporting an exact number, various Meetup groups boast a few thousand members each, while other Facebook groups have hundreds.

“Portland is an amazing place if you’re poly, oh my god,” laughed Franklin....

Polyamory in the public eye

...This spring another show, hailed as television’s first polyromantic comedy, also launched. You Me Her follows married couple Jack and Emma – attractive, suburban and professional – as they enter into a polyamorous relationship with grad student Izzy. Unsurprisingly, the show is set in Portland.

...Since airing You Me Her, [its writer-creator John Scott] Shepherd has been contacted by a number of members of the poly community. “They appreciated the creative decision to go with so-called ‘normal’ people who never thought they’d do something like this,” said Shepherd, whose show has been renewed for a second and third season. “That creative conceit seemed to reflect their experience: they don’t see themselves as ‘sex people’.”

Julie Jeske is a Portland-based counselor who works with couples identifying as poly. “Because Portland is more progressive in general, it may be easier for someone who is exploring what others may consider an alternative lifestyle,” she said. “There is more information and more support, less stigma.”

Making it work

Portland is home to numerous groups, classes, meet-ups and mailing lists dedicated to polyamory or non-monogamy, including Franklin’s Portland Polyamory Outreach Group and a student group founded by Tamela Clover, 30, a psychology and mathematics major.

“I realized pretty early on that I wanted freedom and I also wanted to be an ethical person, so I didn’t want to make commitments that I couldn’t keep … But I didn’t have a word for what I wanted,” said Tamela, who lives with her partner of seven years, Jeffry Lords, 39.

Jeffry has another partner – Gaile Parker, 31, also a psychology major – who he met on OkCupid 14 months ago. All three are in a “V” dynamic, with Jeffry as the pivot person. Gaile and Tamela are not romantically or sexually involved; they refer to each other as a metamour – the partner of one’s partner – which is similar to a family bond.

...“If you want someone to be an equal partner, I at least want them to be compatible with what I consider to be my tribe,” said Tamela. “I don’t want someone who’s going to cause a lot of discord in my other relationships.”

And then there’s the issue of jealousy....


Read on. The story is getting a lot of attention on Portland-area sites and blogs. It's also going around the religious right, as another sign that the whole world is going to hell (as it always is).


● Also recently appearing on the Guardian's website, in its "A Letter To" section ("the letter you always wanted to write"): A letter to my family – I wish I could tell you I’m in a ménage à trois (July 9).


...So we set out on a “sparkle sustaining” exploration.

...Emma and I spend time together as a couple; Emma and my husband spend time together as friends; and we all hang out as a family with our son and dogs. And yes, Emma and I have sex. My husband often joins us. My husband and I have the best sex we’ve ever had. The sparkle has turned into a raging fire.

I feel surrounded and blessed by love – not only do I bask in my husband’s but in Emma’s too. Our baby son and dog also adore her.

The sad fact is, however, that I feel I can never tell you – my family and friends – about her. About how happy she makes me and the rest of my family, how she’s strengthened the bond between my husband and me and given me a new zest for life and love.

...Would there be fewer affairs, divorce and broken families if it were deemed acceptable to live in happy tribes of multiple partners?...


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July 6, 2016

Openly poly trans woman is Colorado Dems' pic for Congress


Misty Plowright
Colorado Springs is a pretty hopeless place for a Democrat to run for Congress, but the Dems in Colorado's 5th District had a primary on June 28th and chose Misty Plowright to run against Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, the popular five-term incumbent.

Plowright is not only trans but open about her poly household with her wife and their male partner. Her campaign website says, "All 3 partners support each other emotionally, physically and financially." Two years ago, Misty and Lisa gave Sebastian a wedding ring.

All this is getting attention, the trans part more than the poly part.

In the Department of Coincidences, Misty Plowright is not to be confused with the other trans woman named Misty whom Democrats in the next-door state of Utah chose on the same day as their candidate to run against Utah Senator Mike Lee. That one is Misty K. Snow. She too faces overwhelming odds.

From an article about Plowright in The Guardian:


Transgender nominee for Congress: 'It's about damn time' politics got inclusive

...She is an unusual Democrat — an unusual politician — in ways beyond her gender identity.

A crack shot with a rifle, she does not like guns but would not take them away from others. She’d also like to own a Hello Kitty AR-15. A self-proclaimed “computer geek”, she thinks the next big civil rights movement will concern artificial intelligence and the ethical issues that will arise “if we create a sentient intelligence”.

But most of all, she was raised by a single mother who had to work three jobs and still barely got by. She remembers the month her mother earned $50 more than usual, and they lost the government benefits that helped them survive — subsidized housing, food stamps, free school lunch.

“Frankly, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of people up on Capitol Hill who know what it’s like to bust their ass and still not make ends meet,” she said. “I’ve stared at cat food and wondered if I was really that hungry. No one in Congress knows what that feels like.”

...She knows that representative Doug Lamborn will “throw the kitchen sink at me” when they face off in November.

“He’s going to attack me on the trans piece,” she said. “He’s probably not going to gender me appropriately. And he’ll hammer me on the poly bit.”

The “poly bit” Plowright was referring to is her unusual living situation, which she mentions in passing on her campaign website. She and her wife Lisa, who have been together for nine years, share their home and their life with Sebastian.

She describes him as “a gentleman we’ve known for several years. Two years ago we were in Vegas for the World Series of Poker. We got him a ring. We consider it to be our marriage to him”.

The biggest hurdle to success in November, she said, isn’t the fact that she is transgender; “a lot of the people I talk to don’t care”. And it’s not her polyamorous relationship, although she acknowledges that it “has raised a few eyebrows”.

“I think the biggest challenge to overcome”, she said, “will be the D next to my name”.


And the point in running at all in such a district?


Win or lose, [the two Mistys] have a shot at changing perceptions nationwide at a time when Americans seem increasingly receptive.

“This is smart politics,” said Ted Trimpa, a Denver-based political strategist. “Realizing you have an uphill battle, you use the platform of a race for US Congress in order for people to see that transgender people are like everyone else, with the same struggles. To see them in the flesh, in real life.

“I think it’s brilliant,” he continued. “I’m jealous I didn’t think of it”.


Read the whole article (July 4, 2016).

And at Yahoo News:




'I chose to live': Transgender congressional nominee Misty Plowright talks about her historic victory

...It seems especially fitting, then, that in the same week she became the Democratic congressional nominee for Colorado’s most conservative district, the U.S. military lifted its longtime ban on transgender troops — a move that Plowright, a veteran of the Army, called “long overdue.”

...When asked how her largely conservative constituency has responded to the fact that she and her wife of nine years are currently in a polyamorous relationship with a man, the candidate said that “so far the voters that I’ve talked to frankly don’t really care that much.”

“They’re much more interested in issues like jobs, national security, defense, guns, property rights,” she said. “They’re very interested in the issues, not so much my personal life.”

Perhaps that’s because, as Plowright pointed out, she’s long kept the two separate, choosing to focus her political platform more on the economy, for example, rather than LGBTQ rights....


I just chipped in a small campaign contribution as a show of support.

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July 2, 2016

"Why I'm Honest With My Kids About My Open Relationship"


How out to be about your polyamory to your children, and at what age, and why, are perennial topics in poly discussions.

The usual conclusions: Yes, starting young, with careful age-appropriateness, for their own self-assurance and yours.

If your situation, and your kids' situation, allow it. Kids are different, and the world's pressures can be real and complicated — though your fear may exaggerate them.

The topic has made a mainstream splash in the last two weeks as Gracie X — author of Wide Open: My Adventures in Polyamory, Open Marriage, and Loving on My Own Terms (New Harbinger, 2015) — is getting a lot of publicity for the book in the British and New York tabloid press and elsewhere, and on British TV (with an incorrect title). This sudden attention comes from press-agentry by Barcroft Media, a leading supplier of publicity material and clickbait to mass media worldwide.

Part of Barcroft's media package was this nice video of her with her husband and two kids, 11 and 16 (3:47):



Some versions of the newspaper story that Barcroft prompted came out better than others. The UK's free Metro paper (1.3 million daily copies distributed on public transit) treated the subject quite sympathetically:


Why this mum says having sex outside of her marriage makes her a better mother

By Ellen Scott

When it comes to teaching your kids to have a healthy attitude to sex, it’s all about being open and honest.

For Gracie X, that means telling her daughter about her polyamorous lifestyle upfront, and making sure there are no secrets when it comes to extramarital sex.

Gracie is part of an ethical non-monogamy community, meaning that she and her husband can have sex outside of their marriage with each other’s full knowledge and consent.

She’s also a writer, pilates teacher, and mum to 16-year-old Tallulah and 11-year-old Merlin — and she says that being non-monogamous has allowed her to be a better mother to her children.

Gracie opened her marriage with first husband, Hank, six years ago. The couple invited a man called Oz and his two children to live with them, followed by Hank’s girlfriend, Valerie, who also moved into the family home.

Eventually Gracie grew closer to Oz and Hank grew closer to Valerie, so the couple split. Gracie eventually married Oz and they moved to California together, where they continue to have an ethically non-monogamous relationship.

Gracie hasn’t hidden any of this from her children.

She says that being non-monogamous has made her a better parent and a better wife, mostly because it’s made her a happier person.

...And being non-monogamous has helped Gracie and Oz’s relationship to thrive, too.

‘Knowing that your husband is a separate sexual being is a great way of keeping the relationship alive,’ explains Gracie.

‘It makes us closer and after we’ve been with another person the passion between us when we come back together is unbelievable.

So the relationship is good for Gracie and good for Oz – but how does it affect Gracie’s children?

Gracie X, pictured with husband Oz and daughter Tallulah, 16, says that being non-monogamous makes her a better parent. (Picture: Barcroft Media)

Her daughter, Tallulah, backs up the idea that Gracie’s open attitude to sex has made their relationship better.

‘I was about ten or 11 and my parents sat me down and they told me they are going to start having special friends,’ she explained.

‘It took some getting used to but now I think being polyamorous makes her a better mother because she’s happy.

‘It’s like she’s not focused on controlling my life because she has her own life and she’s happy in her relationship.

Gracie understands that the lifestyle is not for everyone, and doesn’t expect everyone to be on board. But she hopes that by sharing her experiences with her book, Wide Open; My Adventures in Polyamory, Open Marriage and Loving on My Own Terms, she’ll be able to encourage other people to accept her choices and embrace sex positivity.

‘I love and trust my husband and we’re very open about what we’re doing, and we set parameters that we’re both comfortable with,’ says Gracie.

‘Some people are critical with the way we live but it suits us and I’ve never been happier.

‘Ethical non-monogamy is a sex-positive world; sex is seen as normal, it’s seen as healthy. I’m a sex positive parent.’


The whole piece (June 22, 2016).

The lowbrow Daily Mail (June 21) and New York Post (June 22) ran somewhat longer versions of it. The Post led its piece by calling her "a redheaded Northern California firecracker who dons black catsuits with kinky boots." Both ran lots of good-looking professional photography from Barcroft. The story has also appeared in the UK's tabloid Mirror and Daily Star, India Today, Ireland's Sunday World, La Capital in Argentina, SDP Noticias in Mexico, and surely elsewhere.

Then on Wednesday the daytime British TV show "This Morning" (on the ITV network) broadcast a 7-minute remote interview with her and her husband Oz (June 29). The interview is excellent, much better that the promo vid above, IMO:



However, the show falsely titled the segment "Having Sex With Strangers Makes Me A Better Mum" and left that title onscreen below her for the entire seven minutes! She doesn't have sex with strangers and never said she does, though the title is phrased as a direct quote. She has complained to the producers. I think she has excellent grounds to sue ITV or at least to force a public, on-air retraction and apology.

The title hasn't been changed as of July 7th, long after Gracie complained. Moreover, the blurb on the show's Hot Topics page still says she and Oz "both regularly have sex with strangers". A screenshot of this is at right; click it to enlarge. (Screenshot taken at 14:06 UTC July 2.)

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

Meanwhile, much more about poly and kids has been appearing in smaller media several steps above the tabloids and daytime TV. Roundup coming in a future post.

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July 1, 2016

Four great poly reps do a TV morning show

WJLA-TV (Washington, DC)

Remember the cool folks who did such a great job representing for us in the Washington Post last February?

This morning (July 1), some of them joined additional friends for a nearly 8-minute appearance on Good Morning Washington, broadcast on the area's ABC affiliate:



The blurb on the segment's webpage:


GMW's panel on polyamory

WASHINGTON(ABC7) — Being in love or romantically linked with multiple people, otherwise known as polyamory, has received a lot of attention over the years. But those who identify as polyamorous often report a lack of understanding from those not with the philosophy. Bennett Marschner, Sam Brehm, Vex Chat-Blanc and Zephyr spoke with GMW to discuss polyamory and debunk some myths.


Thanks folks, you did great! And yay for plugging MoreThanTwo.com!

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