Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

February 28, 2015

"What It’s Like to Be a Polyamorous Genius"

New York Magazine

(That's not him, just some illo.)

Leon Feingold, co-founder of Open Love NY, made New York Magazine's list of the city's ten interesting outlier people featured on the cover of the February 23rd issue. The hook is his extreme IQ, but his poly life, and high-end social skills after a dorky childhood, are also a source of the magazine's fascination. The collection is called "Life on the Margins of Experience." A segment from the long (4,000-word) interview:

...Also, I’m polyamorous and I think that has a lot to do with my low threshold for boredom. I think responsible non-monogamy has an amazing benefit, because one person can’t meet all your needs, or if that person exists, I haven’t met her.

When did you discover polyamory?

About eight years ago, I met a girl on OkCupid who described herself as polyamorous. I didn’t know what it was. She explained it and I was mind-blown. I was like, How can I not know that this exists?

...Everyone I was dating had something to offer. Some were gorgeous. Some were smart. Some were fun. Some were really intriguing. Some liked to go to certain parties. So seeing so many people triggered so many parts of my brain and I was really happy with it.... I have about 30 things that are important to me, and if any one of them wasn’t met, I would get antsy.

How does it work in a practical sense?

The model that works for me is a girlfriend, and I have a lot of friends who I may have sex with. A girlfriend is somebody who is the highest priority, someone I spend the bulk of my time with. When I’m in a relationship, that slot of “primary” is not available and if someone else I’m attracted to is comfortable with that, then we will pursue something. Free love only works if everyone is on the same page and comfortable and happy with it.

...There’s a saying in the non-monogamy world, which is to be successful you should date your own species. If you’re monogamous, date someone who is monogamous; if you’re non-monogamous, date someone non-monogamous. But trying to mix and match is a recipe for disaster. So far, we are trying. I do love her, but we all know that love is not what makes a relationship work.

Is intelligence the main thing you look for in a partner?

My dream has always been to marry someone who is smarter than I am. I want to be challenged and I want to be with someone who teaches me things.

Does that mean you believe in marriage? And if you were married, would you continue a polyamorous lifestyle?

Yes. I would love to get married and start a family. I can’t imagine I would ever be not poly and I can’t imagine I would ever be with a long-term partner who would expect that of me.

...You don’t want to challenge the idea that you should be married to have kids?

I wouldn’t want my kids to feel like outcasts. I was an outcast growing up and sure, it made me stronger, but I don’t know what I would answer to a kid who wondered why I wasn’t married to their mother.

...Would you feel like they might feel like outsiders if their friends found out that their dad was polyamorous, or would you keep this from them?

I'd love to raise kids without the traditional shame associated with being sex-positive — talking about sex or relationships should be as simple as talking about how their day was at school. My concern is more with the perception of others, which is probably the biggest problem for poly families. The structure itself works, but they catch a lot of flak from society. It's sad, and while I personally don't mind being a lightning rod for criticism from small-minded people, I'm not sure I'd want to subject my kids to that before they know enough to understand it themselves. Hopefully, by the time I have to think about it, poly will have gained enough widespread acceptance that I'll be able to worry about real parenting issues, like raising awesome kids who make the world a better place....

Read the whole interview (online Feb. 24, 2015).



February 24, 2015

At the Poly Living con: Addressing abuse in the poly community

I'm home from Loving More's Poly Living conference in Philadelphia. Cons often develop an informal theme, not necessarily the one on the cover of the program. At Poly Living this year, the theme that emerged was abuse in poly relationships and how the community should respond.

The theme was set by the brilliant keynote speech and workshop presentations by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, authors of the turning-point poly book More Than Two. They were onstage for a total of 3½ hours during the weekend and, as usual, held their audiences every minute.

"So there was a time, long ago, when I had this naive idea that polyamorous relationships were less likely to be abusive than monogamous relationships," Franklin said in his talk at the opening on Friday night. "Isolating a person is one of the hallmarks of abuse — so I thought, well, if you’ve got more people in a relationship, it’s harder to isolate people, right? You have more eyes on a potential problem, right?"

Against this happy effect, he said he's come to realize, there is a dark countereffect. Because abusers are often influential and charismatic, and because groupthink is one of the commonest bugs of human nature, an abuser can sway an entire group against a person he or she is mistreating, belittling, controlling, or gaslighting. (Gaslighting: Sabotaging a person's confidence in their own perceptions and memories.) This can make abuse in a poly situation much more encompassing and difficult to escape.

That was only part of Franklin's keynote; it was titled "Telling Our Stories, Changing the World." But the theme kept recurring. Since the mid-1990s, he said, "I've watched the poly community grow and change around me into this incredibly strong, vibrant thing it is now." But that strength and confidence ought to give us the courage to tackle dark sides of poly openly. For all our successes, he said, "what we have not done in our community is come to terms with the possibilities of abuse in our community. It is a mistake to think we are any more immune to abusive relationships than other relationship models." In fact, there is no research (yet) on this question at all.

The next morning, Eve and Franklin went into greater depth in their 90-minute workshop "Abuse in Poly Dynamics." It was packed. Here are Eve's 29 powerpoint slides, which are unfortunately brief (and slides 19–21 should be relabeled "Questionable Poly Advice" to match what she said about them). The discussion that followed was also productive, with many in the audience offering insights from personal experience, and psychology professionals in the audience filling in gaps.

Then on Sunday they presented "Putting the Ethics in Ethical Non-Monogamy" (a new updated version), broadening their earlier topics into wider, more general principles for defining and living the good poly life. And life in general. This too was crowded. Closing line: "Now that poly is surfacing in the world and taking off, we are at a point where we have to be clear about our ethics and values as a community, if the community is to survive and thrive."


Later they posted,

As part of our presentation on abuse in polyamorous relationships, we talked about ways communities can cultivate values that are resilient [against] beliefs that lead to abuse. One of these is to internalize and promote the Relationship Bill of Rights. We've finally made the Bill of Rights available in full on the More Than Two website: www.morethantwo.com/relationshipbillofrights.html.


Of course lots more went on at Poly Living all weekend. Four simultaneous tracks of classes/workshops ran all day, so you had to miss 3/4 of them — from coming out poly, to practicing vulnerability, to transitioning a relationship (when the black-and-white model of traditional breakups doesn't apply), jealousy management, a roundtable on poly activism, gender explorations, applying faith principles to decision-making, poly parenting, "Creating a 'New Culture' Based on Love and Freedom," and more. The total attendance for the weekend was a little over 200.

The evening after the conference, Loving More hosted an informal social gathering for Polyamory Leadership Network members, featuring get-to-know-each-other games. The PLN, by the way, defines poly "leaders" simply as "people who do cool things without waiting for permission." Is that you? You can read more and maybe send in an application.


Much of what Franklin and Eve discussed plays off Franklin's article a couple weeks ago on the MoreThanTwo site, Some thoughts on community and abuse. Excerpts (with my highlighting):

I realize [the topic] is a bit of a downer, and it’s not a lot of fun to talk about. Most of the poly community is awesome, and polyamory itself is wonderful and rewarding.

But I believe the community — by which I mean all the folks who are interested in polyamory and who get together to talk about this multiple relationship thing that we do — is at a crossroads. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am not impressed with the way the organized BDSM community walks the walk when it comes to abuse. It certainly talks the talk about consent, safety, and respect, but in more than sixty years I don’t think it’s managed to turn that talk into a meaningful culture of consent.

...Right now I think the poly community has come to a place where we can either content ourselves with talking about respect and consent the way the BDSM community has, or we can work to make it a cornerstone of the social groups we create. I look at the kink scene and the path it’s taken, and I’m afraid. I don’t want the poly scene to become like that.

...Dealing with people who abuse is hard. It’s hard to stand up and speak out when you see something happening in your community that’s not okay, but that doesn’t involve you directly. It’s hard to get involved. It’s hard to tell someone, “Look, you’re not welcome in this space because you did that thing you did.”

And hard as that is, it’s only the start.

...The thing we don’t like to admit is that people who abuse are not necessarily evil. They’re not necessarily bad people. If you ask someone, “What makes a person abuse?” you will hear a lot of answers like “some people are just monsters.” That black-and-white, Marvel Comics caricature of what “an abuser” looks like helps nobody. Often, people who abuse are friends. Often, people who abuse are themselves hurting. Often, people who abuse genuinely do have good things about them. Often, they’re not committing physical violence, and the abuse is hard to spot.

See, here’s the thing. Abusers often sincerely believe themselves to be victims.

...Every person who commits abuse that I’ve ever met, without exception, is someone who is in a lot of pain. They feel that the abuse they do isn’t abuse — it’s a reasonable and natural response to the pain they’re in.

As people working in domestic violence prevention will tell you, abuse is about power and control. Lots and lots and lots of people, abusers and non-abusers alike, believe that if your partner does or says something and it makes you feel uncomfortable, threatened, jealous, or hurt, it’s okay for you to control them in order to deal with your feelings.

Look around. This idea has a lot of social currency.... The idea that if you feel something bad, it means someone else is doing something wrong and you should be able to make them stop doing it … well, that’s the root of all abuse.

[Not quite all. Franklin pointed out during the weekend that true predators do exist: psychopaths born without a conscience (often estimated at 1% to 4% of the population), who camouflage themselves in the larger mix.]

And people who abuse genuinely feel that if they tell a partner to do something and the partner doesn’t do it, they’re the ones being abused.

There’s an essay that sums this up brilliantly at The Community Response to Abuse:

“I was victimized by acts of control” is not the same as “I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.”

Because a person who abuses is in genuine pain, and genuinely feels victimized, and sincerely cannot distinguish between “victimized by someone else’s control” and “victimized because I can’t control someone else,” it’s really, really hard to show these folks why their actions are wrong.

...In order to crack the problem of abuse, you have to cut all the way down to why we think it’s okay to control other people, and that’s extremely difficult. Look at all the people who agree with this idea! Look at how many social messages say that if someone does something that makes us uncomfortable, the best way to handle it is to control that person! Every social message we’re confronted with reinforces this idea.

So people who abuse aren’t (necessarily) monsters. They’re just like us. They’re hurting. And that presents one hell of a problem — one that we need to be able to talk about, and get a handle on, if we are to make safe spaces for survivors of abuse.

Yes, we need to be willing to step up when we see abuse.... Our first priority needs to be to protect and make safe spaces for survivors, to believe survivors, and to support survivors.

But if that’s all we do, if we think it stops there, we can end up perpetuating the cycle....

That’s not good enough.

Survivors of abuse need support. Abusers also need support. They need a different kind of support, though. They need someone to hold them accountable. They need someone to challenge their feelings of entitlement to control. They need someone to call them on their bullshit. And even if, for whatever reason, we can’t get through to them, we still need to work to change the cultural idea that controlling others because you’re hurting is okay.

...It’s not enough to cast out the person who abuses. That often does need to happen, don’t get me wrong. But that’s the beginning of accountability, not the end.

I’m not sure what the rest of the path to accountability looks like. But I really, really want to learn. And I really hope that other people in the poly community want to learn, too. I’m asking for a lot. I get that. But we need to be able to do this.

The cycle has to stop.

Really, go read the whole article (Feb. 10, 2015). He asks ask for your thoughts and input there.

● Here is the article that he references midstream: The Community Response to Abuse, by Shea Emma Fett (Jan. 30, 2015). This too is well worth your time.

● That post was a followup to Fett's Abuse in Polyamorous Relationships, including six Poly Traps (Nov. 22, 2014).

● Here are Eve and Franklin's Resources on abuse in polyamorous relationships that grew out of the weekend. See the interesting comment there, by Liz, that women and men may abuse in similar numbers, but that this is not visible because men are more able to inflict obvious injury when aggressors, and are more ashamed to admit they are being abused when victims.

● Also helping to prompt this discussion was Cunning Minx's Polyamory Weekly podcast Episode 418, Emotional Abuse in Polyamorous Relationships (Jan. 23, 2015):

An incredibly difficult topic to deal with; this episode has been months in the making....

Shannon Perez-Darby, Youth Services Program Manager for The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse, shares her advice on how to recognize abuse of all kinds and how to respond when you or someone you love might be surviving emotional abuse.

● And there's a hashtag: #AbuseInPoly


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February 21, 2015

A Poly 101 for GLBT business leaders


With its social media and slick online magazine, "dot429 creates opportunities and connections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender business leaders." The magazine just put up a very basic poly how-to, providing the conventional wisdom for those who haven't heard.

Polyamory: a primer

By Emily Rush

Polyamory can be a confusing, scary, but ultimately rewarding relationship model. However, it takes a lot of work to do successfully. So, what should someone new to the idea know about it?

The first thing to remember is that no one starts out doing this right. Even after you’ve opened up to the idea of multiple, simultaneous loving relationships, there are a lot of old monogamy-related beliefs that will take some time to reconcile. It takes time to wrap your head around this whole new way of having relationships. Be patient with yourself.

Almost above all, listen to what your head and heart are telling you....

...Now here’s the biggest part of polyamory: communication. This sounds like a no-brainer, right? Not necessarily. You need to, in some ways, re-learn how to communicate with others.... You have to learn to be okay with telling them exactly where you are emotionally. You also need to be receptive to what they’re saying.

...Know that you are not responsible for someone else’s feelings, just as they’re not responsible for yours. This is an important thing to remember. [And to take in a properly nuanced way, say I. Boy, can this be a wrecking ball in the hands of an asshole. –Alan]

Try to find a community either locally or online....

The notion of cheating takes on a whole different dynamic in poly....

...Important first date tip: let someone know you’re poly before the first date....

The whole article (Feb. 19, 2015).

For further reading she recommends MoreThanTwo.com and the Polyamory Society, but the "Polyamory Society" doesn't really exist; it's a one-man website, most of it very old, and the expensive paid membership is basically meaningless.


February 20, 2015

Playgirl touts "poly craze"

Turns out Playgirl had an enthusiastic four-page article titled "Polyamory — The New Alternative to Monogamy?" in its Nov/Dec 2014 print issue. The lead paragraph:

When you’re in love with more than one person, you are (whether you call it polyamory or not) part of the new “it” culture, one that involves complicated communication, open negotiation, and a penchant for honesty and trust. It used to be that coming out gay or lesbian was on everyone’s radar, but now polyamory has been peaking [sic] from those same sex spaces, and “coming out” has taken on new identities involving more than one lover, and sometimes lovers of multiple genders. New paradigms are being created, expanded, and explored with the hope that polyamory will spread into a broader level of acceptance.

And a bit later, "Polyamory is the latest relationship craze to hit mainstream media and the minds of many Americans."

Here's a hi-res (i.e. readable) PDF of the whole article.

Billy Holder, who's pictured in the story with two of his family members, remarks on his blog that he's not so happy with all the people in it being white middle class despite opportunities for more diversity, and with the article calling poly “a 'craze' and using terms that in many ways cut the movement’s strength and direction [like] something that may be around as long as parachute pants. A fad if you will. Even though the people interviewed had all had long-lasting Poly relationships and talked about the movement and its direction."

Otherwise, "not that much bad about it. I think overall it was a good story. It did talk about a lot of the concepts and directions poly people are coming from."


February 19, 2015

"Three men marry each other in Thailand, internet goes crazy"

Gay Star News

A story that just reached our shores:

Photo via jokebellartfc / Facebook
Three men marry each other in Thailand, internet goes crazy

By Darren Wee

Three men who married each other on Valentine’s Day have become internet sensations in Thailand after photos from their pre-wedding shoot went viral.

Netizens congratulated the men, only identified as Joke, Bell and Art, who were married in a traditional water-pouring ceremony at midnight on 15 February.

The photos show the trio in Thai and western wedding attire and the text on one reads: 'Pure love cannot be seen by your eyes. If you want to know what its worth you have to see it with your heart.'

On one TV station's Facebook page alone, a photo of the men had more than 50,000 likes and 1,000 comments.

'Love occurs unconditionally and is not limited to only two people. Love brings peace to the world,' Art commented on Facebook.

The trio reportedly spent their honeymoon in their home province of Uthai Thani.

The wedding itself was a symbolic one as gay, and threeway, relationships are not recognized in Thailand.

Here's the original, with more wedding pix (Feb. 19, 2015).

Update: Brief story on Queerty, with all the pix from the original article: Meet Joke, Bell And Art, Thailand’s New Happily Married Threesome (Feb. 20, 2015).


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NBC drama pilot to feature an open marriage

But I wouldn't expect a good open marriage. Where would the drama be? That would require imagination.

Note: "Variety estimates that only a little over a quarter of all pilots made for American television proceed to the series stage, although the figure may be even lower." (Wikipedia)

These bits are from Deadline Hollywood, taken from NBC press releases in the last week:

Rockmond Dunbar To Star In NBC Pilot ‘Love Is A Four Letter Word

By Nellie Andreeva

...Rockmond Dunbar has booked his next series regular gig, signing on as the male lead in the NBC drama pilot Love Is A Four Letter Word. The project, from playwright-TV writer Diana Son, 20th TV and Fabrik, chronicles the collision of race, sexuality and gender roles when three diverse couples put modern marriage to the test.

Dunbar will play half of the lead couple, Nick, a charismatic and charming ad agency entrepreneur whose first marriage to Julie, the mother of two of his children, broke up over his affair with Fiona, now his wife. Nick and Fiona have an open marriage, and Fiona takes full advantage of their “arrangement” — but through the years, Nick has always pined for Julie, the true love of his life.

Nadine Velazquez... will play Rebecca, a Cuban American who is deeply in love with Julie and very happy with their marriage, but doesn’t realize her wife is actively considering getting back together with her ex, Nick.

Cynthia McWilliams... will play Tandi, one half of a happy couple with a young son who is experiencing difficulties fulfilling her dream of having another child.

This is just one of 16 Pilots That Will Attempt to Fly on NBC. From that link: "The success of shows like Jane the Virgin, Blackish, Empire, and everything Shonda Rhimes does are certainly reasons NBC is looking at a series with this sort of subject matter.



February 18, 2015

"Bisexuality’s Watershed Political Moment"

The Daily Beast

Many surveys and observations suggest that about 40% of self-identified polys also self-identify as bisexual, compared to just a few percent of the general population. Meanwhile, a 2013 Pew Research study found that bis are the most numerous of the four letters in LGBT, but are much more closeted than either gays or lesbians.

So this article seems relevant. The news hook is that Kate Brown was just sworn in this morning.

Bisexuality’s Watershed Political Moment

Polls show that bisexuality is the least accepted of all sexualities. New Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who is openly bisexual and married to a man, could help change perceptions.

Michael Lloyd / The Oregonian / Landov

On February 18, former Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) will become the first publicly bisexual governor in the United States. Brown’s swearing in comes on the heels of Democrat John Kitzhaber’s resignation of the governorship Friday following allegations of corruption and influence-peddling lobbied against both him and his fiancée Cylvia Hayes. But what’s bad news for Kitzhaber is great news for the future of LGBT political representation in the United States.

And it’s even better news for bisexual Americans who are sorely lacking public visibility at a crucial moment in LGBT history.

...The occasion of the first openly bisexual governor of the United States is a cultural watershed for bisexual people in the United States, who have historically been better represented by celebrities like [David] Bowie than by politicians like Brown.

With same-sex marriage in the United States — which has traditionally been represented as an exclusively gay or lesbian issue — seeming all but inevitable in 2015 and public attention quickly turning to what Time has called “The Transgender Tipping Point,” the “B” in the LGBT is at risk of becoming lost in the shuffle. Brown’s assumption of state leadership in 2015 is a particularly fortuitous opportunity to keep bisexual people in the conversation surrounding LGBT equality, as the country’s focus shifts to the last two letters of that ubiquitous acronym.

...In 2012, the Advocate could only count five openly bisexual state officials including Brown out of the then-90 or so LGBT state-level legislators. That’s a lot less than half.

Since that time, former Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema has become the first out bisexual congresswoman but that’s the highest an openly bisexual person has climbed until now, making Brown the highest-ranking openly bisexual public official in U.S. history.

...Why are bisexual people, in particular, lagging so far behind in terms of their willingness to come out?

Brown’s own story contains one possible answer: Many bisexual men and women fear social exclusion from both straight people as well as lesbians and gay men.

...The Oregonian also reports that, in 2008, a Portland LGBT magazine advised Brown to “butch it up” if she wanted to be taken seriously as an LGBT public official.... And today, the fact that Brown is currently married to a man, Dan Little, is reportedly being raised to question her allegiance to the LGBT community....

Here's the whole article (Feb. 14, 2015).

Also, Washington Post story (Feb. 13).

Christian Science Monitor story (Feb. 15).

KOMO News in Seattle (Feb. 14).


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February 17, 2015

"Catholic church sacks woman for being too 'polyamorous' "

The Australian Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald

In Australia, a judge rules that being poly is a "behavior," not an orientation, and says that to rule otherwise would be a slippery slope to extending orientational protections to anything. The plaintiff is seeking redress after being fired from her position at a Catholic social-services agency, after they found her on the Brisbane Poly People meetup group's list of poly-friendly counselors and on its membership list.

Catholic church sacks woman for being too 'polyamorous'

The court found being polyamorous was "sexual behaviour" and not sexual orientation.

By Marianna Papadakis

A woman has lost a bid for compensation after she was sacked by a Catholic Church social services organisation for having too many sexual partners.

The woman filed the lawsuit against Brisbane-based Centacare last October claiming she was sexually discriminated against, as well as accusing the centre of breach of contract.

The woman was sacked for gross misconduct and bringing the centre into disrepute in August, 2013 after being told her "polyamorous" lifestyle was against the ethics and moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Polyamory is defined as having multiple sexual relationships or partners at the same time, with the consent of all people involved.

The woman worked at the centre from August, 2007, and had been promoted to the role of clinical practice co-ordinator in its family support division in 2009.

The centre discovered the woman's lifestyle when her contact details as a "poly-friendly" counsellor were published on a website for the Brisbane Poly Group, a site for people involved or interested in varied alternatives to monogamy.

The woman was confronted by her managers on August 5, 2013 with questions as to why her name was at the bottom of a printed list of the group's members and whether she attended for professional or personal reasons, according to the judgment by Judge Salvatore Vasta of the Federal Circuit Court on February 11.

The co-ordinator initially lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission, alleging discrimination because of her sexual orientation.

But after her claim was dismissed by an AHRC delegate, she took her legal battle to court adding she should have been given 12 months rather than five weeks of notice, that there was no valid reason to sack her and she was not afforded procedural fairness in the termination process.

Justice Salvatore Vasta dismissed the co-ordinator's appeal on the basis it had no reasonable prospects of success. He found being polyamorous was "sexual behaviour" and not sexual orientation, which involved something far more than how one behaved sexually.

"Sexual orientation is how one is, rather than how one manifests that state of being. The manifestation of that state of being can take many forms," Justice Vasta said.

He rejected the woman's argument that "sexual behaviour" was a subset of sexually orientation saying it could lead to absurd results.

"If the contention of the applicant were correct, many people whose sexual activity might label them as sado-masochists, coprophiliacs or urophiliacs could claim that such is more than mere behaviour; it is in fact their very sexual orientation," Justice Vasta said.

"If the contention were correct, then the illegal activities of paedophilia and necrophilia may have the protection of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984."

Justice Vasta also said while he lacked jurisdiction to determine the woman's claim concerning reasonable notice, it did not give him any pleasure to rule this way.

No matter what the merits or the probability of success on the substantive claim, she should be allowed to at least ventilate her grievance, he said.

The Australian Financial Review

Here's the original (Feb. 17, 2015). The article is reprinted in today's Sydney Morning Herald and perhaps elsewhere.

Another article, in Brisbane's Courier-Post, identifies the woman as Susan Bunning. It concludes with, "Judge Vasta said Ms Bunning would have to take her common law claim over alleged unreasonable notice of dismissal to the District or Magistrates Court."

Anyone here know what happens next?

I bet we haven't heard the last of this.

(Update: Dan Savage weighs in again on the poly orientation-or-choice question: Australian Judge: Polyamory Not a Sexual Orientation, Feb. 23, 2015.)


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