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

March 7, 2018

"How ‘The Bachelor’ shows we're becoming more comfortable with polyamory"

"The Bachelor" has been an unkillably popular TV series since 2002, with several spinoffs. In each season a single guy is presented with a large pool of eligible women, eliminates them one by one, and if the show goes as intended, he marries the winner. Yeah, I know. But fans stay glued.

But in 2016 the bachelor continued dating the two finalists, and as the 2018 season was drawing toward last Monday night's finale, the current guy was again saying "I love you" to two, breaking format. Then the finale itself was a newsmaking trainwreck of indecision.

There is an obvious alternative ending, right? If they all happen to be good with it?

Last week the Washington Post website addressed the possibility head-on, re-running this article from 2016 with updates. It's by Lisa Bonos, a writer for the Post's "Solo-ish" column. She has covered polyamory before.

Can you be in love with two people at once? ‘The Bachelor’ keeps raising the question.

Arie Luyendyk Jr. has said “I love you” to both finalists, Becca Kufrin and Lauren Burnham, breaking an unwritten rule of “The Bachelor” that the lead never says “I love you” back to a contestant before the finale. (Paul Hebert/ABC)


By Lisa Bonos

...If you’re dating multiple people, it’s possible to feel something deep for multiple people.

...Dating multiple people, and even committing to several people, is becoming more common. Polyamory, the practice of having multiple romantic relationships, with the knowledge of everyone involved, is becoming more mainstream. In 2016, OkCupid responded to the growth of non-monogamy by allowing its users to search as couples looking for additional partners.

[Polyamory is on the rise, but negative assumptions still exist]

For all the ways that “The Bachelor” is stuck in the past — its lack of diversity, for example, and the old-fashioned gender roles baked into the show — this however accidental and short-lived embrace of polyamory is the most progressive and interesting thing that happened during Higgins’s season [2016]. And the resurfacing with Luyendyk [2018] proves the “problem” of catching serious feelings for more than one contestant isn’t going away.

When I spent some time reporting on polyamorists around Higgins’s age, they talked a lot about what it was like to be in love with multiple people. “The love you feel feels different,” Rachel Ruvinsky, a 22-year-old polyamorist, told me, “not in terms of quantity or quality, just how it feels.”

...“One clever solution to the unique dilemma the bachelor is in would be to offer both finalists a relationship — more specifically, to be polyamorous,” says Rhonda Balzarini, a PhD candidate studying polyamorous relationships at Western University in Ontario.

Balzarini thought Higgins could actually make a fantastic mainstream ambassador for polyamory. “Ben is boring enough to sit down and have long conversations,” Balzarini told me. And because “polyamory requires you to negotiate everyone’s needs and make sure everyone feels met and understood, it requires an extreme capacity to communicate.”

If Higgins didn’t have to choose just one woman, could the three of them conceivably carry on their relationships? Balzarini thinks they could have that capacity, but it all comes down to how they handle jealousy, something that “Bachelor” contestants already know quite a bit about. ...

Might America be ready for a polyamorous Bachelor? Balzarini thought so. “We’re in need of some vocabulary to have these conversations,” she said, “because not everyone is practicing monogamy.”

The whole article (March 2, 2018). A version also appears in the WaPo's new online women's mag The Lily: How ‘The Bachelor’ shows that we are becoming more comfortable with polyamory. "Might America be ready for a polyamorous Bachelor?" (March 5).

P. S.:
Vulture describes how the show mistreats its contestants: 11 Bachelor Rules That Just Don’t Make Sense Anymore (March 9).



March 5, 2018

"Polyamory in the PRC: A brief history of sex and swinging in modern China"

If you've never heard of SupChina, you're not a serious China watcher. Founded two years ago by Anla Cheng of Sino-Century China Private Equity Partners, it has grown into a deep, fascinating read "serving the Chinese diaspora worldwide, China watchers, international businesspeople, and the global-minded Western audience."

For instance, in addition to steel tariffs and the sudden censorship of Winnie the Pooh (who has become a vehicle for satire of Xi Jinping), was this recent top story: China's national medical hotline apologizes on Weibo for discrediting donkey-hide gelatin. The understory: Officialdom slapped down doctors for reporting that a folk cure-all wealthy manufacturers have started promoting, causing its price to jump from $9 to $400 a pound, doesn't work. The most upvoted comment to the doctors' retraction on Weibo was a snark rewriting of it: “Sorry for speaking the truth without deliberate consideration. Though we quickly deleted it after it had been discovered, the post still caused severe consequences.” If your news has become the same old same old, look for outlets like this.

Which is where the following comes from. Contrary to the title, it's very long.

Polyamory In The PRC: A Brief History Of Sex And Swinging In Modern China

Article 301 of China’s 1997 Criminal Law bans “group licentiousness,” and has been used in the past to bust would-be swingers. But why?

A very different feet illustration: The stark shadows show the people caught in the spotlight of a bust with their hands up. The hands are already behind bars. (Illustration by Katie Morton)

It was women who brought down Ma Yaohai 马尧海. The older, nosier kind — not the ones he liked to watch having sex.

In 2010, the then-53-year-old bespectacled academic became the face of Chinese swinging when he was arrested for “group licentiousness.” Although one of 22 charged, it was Ma’s refusal to quietly roll over and plead guilty, coupled with his professorial status, that made him a cause célèbre; it was thusly revealed, to many in China, that orgies are technically illegal.

The case symbolized the division between an older, staunchly conservative establishment and its more progressive, post-Reform juniors, who take freewheeling, pluralistic runs at formerly forbidden fare.

Ma Yaohai
In Ma’s case, the meddling seniors won. His arrest was, Ma now believes, primarily the result of prudery and petty politics. A newly created neighborhood “senior’s court” had been “aiming to be declared a ‘Leading Work Unit,’” the professor explained over the phone. “So of course, they needed some achievement with which to get promoted. And in China, internet and mobile phones are all monitored, so they can easily find what anyone’s up to.”

...The heyday of the committees — curtains twitching and eyes widening at their neighbors’ proclivities — seems to be back. In 2016, police in northeast Heilongjiang Province sought out snitches with a sliding pay scale: Swingers fetched a bounty of 1,000 to 2,000 yuan ($150 to $300). In Kunming, the bounty was 1,000 to 3,000 yuan, while Xiamen’s flush Public Security Bureau offered “up to 10,000 yuan for information of such a kind.”

...By the time Ma’s case came to court, however, he had an older woman of a distinctly different stripe in his corner. The well-known activist and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) sexologist Li Yinhe 李银河, then 59, was a veteran of the war against wantonness. In 2007, she’d defended a woman fired for spouse swapping, arguing that it was a matter of “free will, privacy, and being an adult.” An energetic backlash to Li’s remarks called for a return to “traditional Chinese morality,” with one commenter exhorting: “Swapping husbands and wives? Why don’t they just go ahead and have sex with animals?”

Now, Li told reporters, Article 301 of the 1997 Criminal Law, banning “group licentiousness,” was a relic of the Cultural Revolution that hadn’t been applied once in more than 30 years; she then called on “the relevant departments to quickly investigate and abolish the crime of ‘group licentiousness.’”

Those who favored prosecuting Ma, and liberalism in general, evoked the end-times rhetoric of Fox News: The law must “protect the sexual relations of mainstream society,” insisted law professor Sun Guoxiang. Ma had “affected social order,” fumed another. Group sex was “decadent behavior…hindering the pursuit of the majority toward good behavior,” Ming Haoyue, a commentator, declared on Weibo. “Chaotic sexual behavior could fuel other evils.”

CASS, long considered a top academic research institute, would later come under fire from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Party’s anti-corruption squad, accused of colluding with “foreign forces,” “ideological problems,” and promoting unorthodox viewpoints online.


...While his wife shyly nodded along, Daming explained that the couple enjoyed swapping because it was “new and exciting” and, moreover, free. Some estimate that fewer than 100,000 Chinese participate in group sex, but a chat forum dedicated to swinging on the (now defunct) website “Happy Village” once had more than 380,000 registered members. Most continue to meet via hobby groups on lifestyle sites. One commenter from Zhihu, a popular Q&A site, enthused that “We’ve been swinging with my wife’s best friend and her husband for more than a year; about once every one or two months. We’d do it in our home or theirs, or whenever we’d travel together. Sometimes four of us, sometimes three. It didn’t affect either of our families. But now our child is in school, we don’t have the time.”

...It’s certainly part of the spirit of the age, though: The pursuit of profit and pleasure is perhaps the most authentic Chinese Dream. Group sex is particularly popular among the idle 富二代 (fùèrdài), or second-generation rich....

The whole article (February 13, 2018).



March 1, 2018

On the Today Show, impressive polyfamilies hit a home run

DAMN, THAT WAS GOOD! On NBC's Today Show this morning, Megyn Kelly devoted her whole 9–10 a.m. hour to exploring consensual non-monogamy, including two long, very impressive segments showcasing happy polyfamilies. The high point, in my opinion, was the 10½ minutes devoted to the quad I've been posting about recently.

Top: Ixi and Joe. Bottom: Blake and Zaeli


The four segments of the one-hour show are below. Leading off were Terri Conley, a top researcher of consensual non-monogamy, and author and therapist Stephen Snyder, both presenting solid background information and excellent perspectives:

The enthusiastic quad of Zaeli Kane (who's been in touch with Polyamory in the News for the last couple weeks and whose writings you've read here), Blake Wilson, Joe Spurr, and Ixi Kirkilis were spot-on: warm, lively, intelligent, displaying easy body language, and acting like people you'd want as friends. They inserted talking point after talking point in a completely natural manner. These folks have a real future as poly spokespeople; I hope they pursue it.

In the past I haven't had much good to say about how Adam Lyons presents with his partners Brooke Shedd and Jane Shalakhova, but here they acquitted themselves very well:

The show's website just put up a page about them: Three's company? How 1 dad, 2 moms and their kids make a family.

The fourth segment was with Robin Rinaldi, author of The Wild Oats Project. The book is a memoir of the year that she and her husband allowed each other an open marriage. It didn't end happily; she admits they did it wrong, and as a result they wound up divorcing. But even she came off as altogether poly-positive and relatable.


• One of the guests, Stephen Snyder — whom Today may have recruited to voice a religious counterpoint — has published a glowing article about the show, his fellow guests, and the polyamory option on YourTango.:

Monogamy Vs. Non-Monogamy: Is A Polyamorous Relationship Right For You?

How to know what's best for you and your partner.

By Stephen Snyder MD

When the email from NBC Today arrived last week, I knew this was going to be an interesting ride.

NBC Host Megyn Kelly was planning an episode about “consensual non-monogamy” — something I’ve discussed at length, most recently on Health.com, in a piece titled “How Do You Know Whether You’re Ready For a Three-some?” — and I'd been invited to join the discussion.

Why in the world would a traditionally religious sex therapist like myself be talking about non-monogamy? ... The reality is, more couples now are looking at alternatives to traditional monogamy.

And I believe we traditionalists should engage fully in the discussion — since we bring a somewhat different point of view.

...One, we’re now more accepting of the fact that people are sexually diverse. Once you accept the reality that some individuals just happen to be gay, bisexual, kinky, or whatever, it’s not a big jump to accepting that some folks just don’t seem to be cut out for traditional monogamy.

Still, does non-monogamy work?

Current psychological research suggests that, for some couples, indeed it can.

...[Terri Conley finds] in particular that people in what’s known as “polyamorous” relationships (more on that below) actually report less jealousy than people in strictly monogamous relationships.

On the negative side, Dr. Conley’s research clearly shows that non-monogamy is still among the most highly stigmatized things a person can do — at least in the US.

The show ended up featuring several non-traditional couples who appear to be doing quite well. And for balance, they invited journalist Robin Rinaldi ... During the year in question, Rinaldi had extra-marital relations with ten men and two women, and ended up divorcing her husband and finding happiness with one of the men she met while non-monogamous.

I was pleased to see Rinaldi featured together with these happily non-traditional couples on the show, because the contrast indicates what’s probably the most important principle for anyone considering non-monogamy:

Don’t choose non-monogomy to cure an unhappy relationship.

...According to most experts, the most enlightened approach to non-monogamy, if that’s what you feel called to do, is what’s called “polyamory.”

On the show, Dr. Conley defines polyamory as having permission to experience both sex and love outside the relationship. This distinguishes polyamory from “swinging” and “open marriage,” where usually the expectation is that you’ll only go outside your primary relationship for sex — not for love.

I prefer an alternate definition of polyamory — one that I learned from polyamorists Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. According to this alternative analysis, swinging and open relationships are really “monogamy-plus.” Like traditional monogamous relationships, they serve to privilege and protect the primary couple. The primary couples sets the rules, and the stability of their relationship is considered paramount.

Polyamorous couples tend to rely less on rules, and more on the real needs of the various people involved. These “others” are seen less as need-satisfying objects, and more as full individuals whose needs, feelings, and conflicts are given equal weight.

That involves substantially more risk, and a lot more negotiation. But the enterprise takes on a whole new ethical dimension.

I was impressed that the non-monogamous individuals who appeared on the show seemed to have crossed this ethical threshold. They took their responsibilities to each other seriously, and they seemed to act with integrity and concern for the needs of all parties involved.

...For religious people like myself, it's not an option at all. But I was impressed by the commitment of the non-traditional couples I heard from on the show, and thought we traditional folks could learn a lot from them about good communication and honestly negotiating for what we need in a relationship.

The whole article (Feb. 28, 2018).

Folks, we bowled him over. Let's never underestimate the persuasive power of good character, thoughtfulness, personal lived experience, and good hearts. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "All the world loves a lover."


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February 28, 2018

Tomorrow morning's Today Show will devote an hour to polyfamilies and non-monogamy

Remember that polyfamily of four who were going to be on NBC's Today Show two weeks ago, then the Florida school shooting preempted it?

The show is airing tomorrow (Thursday March 1), the producer tells them. It'll run from 9 to 10 a.m., the hour hosted by Megyn Kelly.

"Here's a picture of us last May buying a copy of the Times!" with them in its Sunday Magazine. "Taken at Book People in Austin, Texas. L-R: Blake Wilson, Zaeli Kane, Joe Spurr, Ixi Kirkilis."

Zaeli Kane, second from left in the photo above, just wrote:

According to the producer... the whole hour is going to be themed around non-monogamy. I know there will be another polyfidelitous family on (a throuple with kids; we met them — lovely!), and apparently they're also having "experts" to discuss it, but I don't know who they are.

The four of them were in the New York Times Sunday Magazine last May in the article "Is An Open Marriage A Happier Marriage?" That brought them to the Today Show's attention. They are living together poly-fi and raising kids, and they're deeply committed to group-family solidarity.

How much of their values and message will get on the air? One always has to wonder. Zaeli writes,

If people want to know what we thought of the segment ... they can sign up for my newsletter at tinyletter.com/zaeli -- I'll send out a digest linking to everyone's first-person reflections.

Regarding their values and message: Two weeks ago she wrote,

What you're going to see on Thursday is four consenting adults in three distinct romantic relationships, several types of friendship, and one very fluid family agreement. We hope to dispel some myths about non-monogamy -- that it's for the commitment-averse or the greedy, that it's only about sex, that it's fundamentally less stable -- and instead emphasize that for us, it is simply the result of a practice in solidarity, which happens to deepen adult relationships to intimate levels of trust.

When I say solidarity, I mean internal solidarity between our conscience and our behavior, solidarity amongst ourselves as civil sovereign beings, solidarity in and between our genders, and now, solidarity with other polyamorous families, some of whom may be hiding their light in a closet.

...Solidarity is a skill that we all should practice in whatever relationships we have. That's what we admire about polyamory, so that's where we aim to focus.

Finally I just want to tell you — when I embarked on this journey 14 years ago, probably just before you launched, I knew literally zero polyamorous people outside my own situation. Certainly no one who was "out". Eventually we figured out how to be a team, but it was like re-inventing the wheel. Doubt at every turn. It shouldn't be like that! I don't want anyone else to wonder if they're crazy for valuing more than one companion. Our hearts aren't crazy, but our expectations have gotten brittle. I'm so grateful to everyone who lives their truth, whatever that looks like, and it frees my imagination to do the same.


Our names: Zaeli Kane, Joe Spurr, Blake Wilson, Ixi Kirkilis



Watch this link for the video(s) from the Today Show after it airs. I'll also post a followup.


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February 26, 2018

More controversy over the poly feet under the white duvet

I've been running this website for 12½ years, you're reading post number 1,427, and of all of them, my post about Carrie Jenkins' takedown of the poly-feet-under-the-white-duvet trope ranks as the 6th most read.1 Clearly she hit a nerve.

The nerve jerked awake again earlier this month when the BBC and the Open Photo Project, which showcases people in open relationships, stepped on it with this:

Note the first Feet of Color we've ever seen in one of these.

The picture headlined the BBC's slideshow of Open Photo Project photos following the BBC Scotland documentary Love Unlimited: Polyamory in Scotland. Erika Kapin, who runs the Open Photo Project, felt obliged to publish a response:

BBC video feet image & response from the polyamorous community

...There has been some criticism in social media within the polyamorous community about the leading image the BBC selected for this video. ...

As many people who are involved with polyamory know, a photo of multiple pairs of feet under a bedspread is one of the main “go-to” images mainstream media choose as a photo for their articles about polyamory. As far as I have ever seen, the feet featured in these photos are always the feet of people with white skin. A quick google image search on “polyamory” yields thin, white, young people in 98% of the images.

I have been talking with a Chrissy Holman and Kevin Patterson, some leaders of local polyamorous communities, about working with them to create some stock photo options that are more diverse. That way these articles would at least have the option to be more inclusive of people of color and other demographics that are not included in most stock (specifically polyamorous) imagery.

The photo leading the BBC video was taken intentionally as a first step to create a more diverse stock photo option for articles about polyamory. We started with the multiple feet in a bed photo specifically because it is such a cliche photo in stock images relating to non-monogamy. The difference is that we included 3 pairs of feet from black folks and one pair of tattooed feet.

There were critical comments about this photo from several polyamory groups which seem to be for two reasons: The first comes from concern that multiple feet-in-a-bed photo implies group sex and that in this sex-negative culture, that will perpetuate the mainstream stigma that polyamory is all about the sex. The second reason is that people are just tired of seeing that photo because they think it’s been overdone.

To the people who are tired of the seeing the multiple feet shot, I would suggest that you may be missing the point. When you see this as just another feet shot, are you noticing that these are a diverse sets of feet? I realize that variations of this shot have been done and that is kind of the point. ...

To those who are concerned that the feet in the bed photo over-sexualizes polyamory and that is not a narrative you want the media to portray: I get your concerns. ... As a queer polyamorous woman, I understand the sex negativity that exists in our culture. This is a huge part of why I created The Open Photo Project. My goal is to share the beauty, mundanity and complexity of non-monogamous people’s lives. If you look at the images and stories in The Open Photo Project, you will find images of people feeding their kids, going grocery shopping, taking a nap, eating food, doing laundry, playing video games. You will hear their words about metamours, raising children, communicating about jealousy, coming out to parents, living with a physical disability, being a POC in the polyamorous community, raising kids as a single parent, and more. To see that one photo and judge the entire project is perpetuating the oversexualization of non-monogamy is just inaccurate. ...

Her whole statement (Feb. 16, 2018).

● Meanwhile, Kimchi Cuddles illustrates what might have really been going on with three of those stock-agency photos. Click the graphic in the link, then hover and click the right-side arrow to advance.

Here's one of them:

P.S.: Update on Cosmo UK's "Polyamory Diaries." Remember that trainwreck of a couple who, laden with monocentric baggage, opened their marriage against the husband's wishes and he's chronicling it for Cosmopolitan UK?

The third monthly installment is out and things are looking up for him, after he ditched Tinder for OKCupid and finally landed what turned out to be a one-night stand. Now that he has evened the "score" with his wife he's gone from feeling wretched to bemused, if whiplashed, and he's no longer talking "overdose of prescription sleeping pills." And, he and his wife are a little more interested in each other. "I’ve had sex with someone else and my wife’s delighted" (Feb. 23).


1. Okay, here are the five most-read posts beating number 6.

Television is clearly powerful. My top two posts are where-are-they-now followups to Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating reality series, both published months after the final second season ended in 2013. The series must be having a successful afterlife; the pageviews are still piling up as fast as ever. Number 1, number 2.

Number 5 was also about television: TLC's airing of a one-hour pilot for a poly series that never happened, Brother Husbands. And number 3 is about a celebrity, Amanda Palmer, whose open marriage was exaggerated in the public mind.

Washington Post story holds the number 4 spot, perhaps because of its evocative headline "To Be Young and Polyamorous in the Age of OkCupid" — and the adorably cuddlesome photo.



February 22, 2018

"Polyamory is on the rise, but negative assumptions still exist"

The Lily is a new online magazine from The Washington Post. It takes its name from America's first newspaper published by and for women, which helped to seed women's-rights and progressive movements from 1849 to 1853.

The "negative assumptions" in the article's title are trivialized notions of what polyamory means, now that the poly bandwagon is picking up speed and rolling downmarket.

Please remember about steering the bandwagon.

Polyamory is on the rise, but negative assumptions still exist

Illustration: Maria Corte for The Lily
By Sommer Brugal

...According to a 2016 National YouGov poll, consensual non-monogamy is on the rise. Forty-four percent of young Americans say they are open to relationships outside strict monogamy.

...Casual sex and polyamory are often considered interchangeable. Bethany says it’s a common misconception she often has to reject, especially on dating sites.

“I was very clear in new relationships,” says Bethany.

“A lot of people throw the word poly around, but I was genuinely looking for meaningful, romantic relationships. I wasn’t looking for partners to sleep around with.”

When using dating apps like Tinder, Bethany experimented with disclosing her relationship status on her profile. Including her polyamorous status on her profile, she says, often attracted men that were dismissive of her. They viewed her as someone they could simply sleep with.

“Because people assume you have other partners, [they] don’t take accountability of another’s feelings,” Bethany says. “The people you attract tend to walk all over you.”

Excuse me, people you attract who don't get what you're talking about may assume those things. Very early, ask directly: "What is 'polyamory,' as you see it?" Then be quiet and listen to what they say. Decide from there whether to smile and exit, or if they might be worth trying to coach (don't get your hopes up), or if you've found an actual co-traveller on your road.

Did it occur to her to find, or create, a good local poly community where you can be with people who understand what you're about? You need community.

Non-monogamous relationships aren’t free of the woes that befall monogamous relationships, including cheating. Sandy, a woman in her early 30s living in Washington, D.C., who is currently dating “three-ish” people, two men and one woman, says the same potential to breach the boundaries between partners exists.

If you agree to not engage emotionally with an outside partner, yet move forward to develop a romantic interest without discussing it, that boundary has been crossed. Sandy says non-monogamous relationships require more explicit communication.

While Bethany identifies as poly, Sandy views it as a framework she’s chosen to adopt. Both women believe monogamy isn’t inherent to humans and encourage people to question where their judgments and jealousies come from.

“If your first reaction [to non-monogamy] is ‘I would be so jealous,’ I invite you to really think about where your jealousy is coming from,” says Sandy. “Is it because you’re not good at something so you need to protect it?”

Addressing such insecurities, then applying that view to sexual or emotional intimacies, Sandy says, can offer insight into non-monogamous relationships and possibly boost satisfaction in your current relationship.

[‘Everyone is into polyamory these days’: 10 women talk about love]

Attitudes and perceptions toward non-monogamous relationships are changing quickly, says Terri Conley, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Michigan. Conley attributes the spark of interest to more people realizing that ultimately, they don’t feel monogamous deep down.

“[People] are attracted to others and they see that [many] monogamous relationships don’t work,” Conley says. “The only difference now is that people are more willing to be open about it.”

When asked what the future holds, Bethany and Sandy have similar responses: Monogamy is something they could entertain for some time, though not permanently.

“I don’t know what the future looks like, but I know poly isn’t something that I just won’t be one day,” Bethany says. “I want to get married, but I don’t think I’ll stop dating. Poly is who I am.”

The whole article (February 19, 2018).

● And just a bit too late for my last post, here's by another college newspaper writer: Forays into polyamory, in the University of British Columbia Ubyssey (Feb. 21)

By Annie Cavalla

Under two months ago, it was just a word. Now it’s the word. If you open my phone’s browser (and go to private mode), you’re accosted with it. If you were to take a trip inside my head, it comes up daily — more than daily, hourly — and is scrutinized minutely. It’s taken over so completely that I wanted to use it recently to introduce myself in a lab meeting to an interloping doctor. “Oh, you wanted to know about my project? Nope. But my boyfriend has another girlfriend. What’s up?”

...Life comes at you fast. ...


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February 20, 2018

Last week in poly on campus: Val's day and Relationship Anarchy

Okay, I'm posting this late Valentine's bouquet of poly in the media (mostly college media) partly so I get a chance to boost this:

Courtesy Kimchi Cuddles. Used by permission.

Please can we make "just want to eat pizza in my duck suit" a thing?

But seriously, here's other stuff worthy of note.

● A glowing article ran in The Daily Californian, the independent student newspaper of UC Berkeley: How-to for more than 2: Exploring non-monogamy (February 13, 2018).

The illustration is someone paging through two of the stereotyped mainstream stock photos for poly articles that I've railed about: the cheating-looking couple caught from behind and the famous white duvet feet.

By Michelle Zheng | Staff

I started my exploration with non-monogamy last year when my boyfriend and I decided to open up our relationship. Ironically, I felt largely alone as I waded through awful Tinder matches and dating app after dating app.

...It was through luck that I stumbled upon Organ House, a “community devoted to normalizing non-monogamy and sexual exploration.” Unlike my aforementioned encounters, there was a feeling of acceptance and approachability. They had a wealth of resources for non-monogamous scenes in the Bay.

The polyam community is one of the most welcoming and accepting, regardless of whether a non-monogamous lifestyle ultimately ends up being for you.

“It’s strange,” Danelle Suchon, another Organ House member, remarked. “When you’re honest about your sex life, it carries over into every other part in your life. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who are on the same page.”

As Valentine’s Day lurks around the corner, many are consumed by the pressures of finding their one true soulmate. So what about those who are not only without a special boo, but also are uninterested in restricting themselves to just two?


Volunteering at a polyam-friendly event, rather than diving straight in as an attendee, is an good way to start, said Suchon, because volunteers have a reason to introduce themselves to new people.

Wholesome events

I know don’t always want to work while I’m trying to mingle. Organ House hosts plenty of wholesome, dry, polyam-friendly events such as group rock-climbing. People gather for semi-monthly polyam movie nights at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland.

...If you’re looking for Valentine’s Day plans, on Feb. 15, instead of watching the awful new “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, Organ House is hosting Open Underground. ...

...All-out orgies

The Organ House organizes monthly play parties, and the ambiance has been described as warm, perfect and incredibly sultry. Obviously, you won’t be able to just waltz in to one of these, unlike when Elon Musk apparently attended one in Silicon Valley thinking it was a costume party instead. One must submit an application and be approved. ...

She gets it: You need community.

● In the Capilano Courier of Capilano University (North Vancouver, BC): Polyamory is exposing many of the flaws in the institution of monogamy

By Justin Scott / Managing Editor

Michael Fenton
Valentine’s Day is billed as an occasion for monogamous couples to celebrate their undying and exclusive love for one another, but for a growing section of society, this idea is increasingly unrelatable. “I can’t really say that I’ve ever been in a relationship that really fits the Hollywood ‘finding one true person’ model,” said Liam Helmer.... Although Helmer prefers to be called a relationship anarchist as opposed to a polyamorist, he is a member of the same community.

...“Consent becomes more important in polyamory because we don’t have the script already written for us,” Helmer explained. ... Helmer believes that one of the most important factors in a successful non-monogamous relationship is open and clear communication. Establishing boundaries and expectations between the partners and their other partners helps everyone involved avoid crossing a line.

...A 2012 survey conducted by polyamory support and advocacy group Loving More found that 49.5 per cent of those who identified as polyamorous identified as women, with just 35.4 per cent identifying as men. Another study conducted by the Vanier Institute found that the number of Canadians involved in polyamorous relationships is on the rise.

...So are the communities around them. Polyamory communities and support groups are growing as a way for members of the community to both meet each other and seek support.

...“I think the best reason to get into it is wanting to connect with real people and also push your own boundaries of what you think is possible for yourself in your life,” [Helmer] said. ...

● RA in the Vanguard of Portland State University: Relationship Anarchy: a feminist twist on relationships (Feb. 16):

By Claire Meyer

...Often confused as a synonym for polyamory, relationship anarchy is a nontraditional relationship style, whether romantic or platonic, in which a special focus is put on open communication and constant questioning of norms between partners. RA is a feminist practice in that it breaks down patriarchal relationship norms.

“I think the more you’re confronting heteronormative beliefs, the more you’re going to bump into…I don’t want to say problems, but areas where you have to work harder,” said RA practicer Kale Gosen, who identifies as a queer, non-monogamous sex-positive feminist.

“I want relationships based around consent and communication,” Gosen added. “I highly value autonomy and direct communication, and therefore I won’t ask you for permission to do things, but I will talk to you about how you feel for as long as you need to!”

RA aims to ... deconstruct and dissect what it means to be in a relationship and customize relationships to individual needs.

“The idea of developing an explicitly ethical way of doing relationships resonates with key feminist ideas around…the idea that the personal is political,” said Dr. Meg John Baker, a relationship anarchist, sex and gender therapist and senior psychology lecturer.

...“Many people think RA is for people who just want to have a lot of sex,” said Sally Eck, a Portland State professor in the women’s studies department. Eck hosts RA meetings at her home.

“If that’s all someone wants, then I think relationship anarchy is way too much work. It’s a tremendous amount of work to live your life outside of assumption.” Rather than a free-for-all, Eck looks at RA as “an opportunity for conscious relating.”

RA practice emphasizes openness, communication, respect, cooperation and consent, and the principles of relationship anarchy can be practiced by everyone, even monogamous individuals.

Swedish activist and author of the RA instructional manifesto Andie Nordgren wrote, “Relationship anarchy is not about never committing to anything — it’s about designing your own commitments with the people around you.”

● Among millennials in particular, many poly people are identifying as RA rather than polyamorous. Why? One glaring reason showed up in San Francisco State University's Golden Gate Express, in Love comes in multiples (Feb. 14)

By Dimitri Bailey

...Like [in] most relationships, the key ingredients to a healthy [poly] relationship are honesty, communication, love, compromise, and last but not least, rules and boundaries. ... In polyamorous relationships there are rules and agreements that are tailored specifically to each individual relationship.

Uninformed writers, and people latching onto reassurance for their insecurities, often declare that poly always has rules: things you impose on someone else. Rules are quite different from boundaries: things you set up around yourself to protect yourself. Many people in poly relationships do agree to rules, primary couples especially. But the idea that polys always do this is what makes poly RA people say, "I'm not polyamorous."

● In the Panther of Chapman University in the Los Angeles area): Table for five: a polyamorous Valentine’s Day (Feb. 11)

By Jade Michaels

...For Rachel Yi, a sophomore film production major, the real challenge is balancing all of her dates without letting jealousy interfere.

Yi wanted to set her own terms for dating polyamorously, when it seemed to her like monogamy was only advantageous for men “to acquire women like property.”

“I just didn’t like the idea of ‘I complete you and you complete me,’ like we aren’t truly ourselves and complete without a partner,” said Yi, who has multiple partners. ... I just want there to be more education and dialogue on the matter because I still hear the craziest preconceived notions about polyamory. I hear, ‘Isn’t polyamory just cheating?’ a lot.”

Michaela Hook, a senior creative writing major, entered a relationship believing it would be monogamous, but later discovered that her partner was polyamorous.

“I know it’s not for everyone. I’m a monogamist myself, but I wouldn’t change my girlfriend for the world and will stand with her if she ever decides to pursue another partner,” Hook said. “We both had this preconceived notion of monogamy, so when she started realizing that she could possibly have feelings for someone else while still feel the same way about me, she felt extremely guilty and ashamed.”

Though she personally doesn’t want to date multiple people, Hook supports her girlfriend by exploring and overcoming any jealousy, and by setting her own guidelines for comfort.

“(My girlfriend) emphasized that, no matter who she has feelings for, I come first, because we’re a team and she doesn’t want to be with another person if I am not OK with it,” Hook said.

So not RA, which eschews relationships being predefined as primary-secondary.

...However, not all polyamorous relationships function this way. For Yi, all her significant others are equal, and each member communicates and respects the desires of the other. This makes Valentine’s Day difficult, so she opts out of it all together to allow everyone involved in the relationship a peace of mind.

Chapman professor Cheryl Crippen, who has studied LGBTQIA+ psychology for years, believes many people attach a negative connotation to polyamory because of its misrepresentation in popular western culture.

“(In the U.S), monogamous relationships are privileged and other relationship structures are considered deviant. Polyamorous relationships are predicated on trust, honesty, transparency and commitment between those in the relationship,” Crippen said.

She believes that, despite having multiple partners, polyamorous couples do not encounter any more problems than monogamous couples do. In fact, she believes the structure of a polyamorous relationship can actually promote stronger flexibility and communication between partners.

“Individuals who thrive in poly relationships tend to have a well-defined sense of self, are secure in their relationships with their partners, and are assertive in communicating their needs,” Crippen said. ...

● Just off campus, the Philly Voice ran a first-person story that exemplifies RA: Monogamy. Polyamory. Open relationships: Redefining love on our terms (Feb. 12)

By Kristine Rose

...According to conventional wisdom, mine is a cautionary tale. I am woman who's doing it wrong when it comes to relationships. I've been with the same guy for eight years, and though we live together and are completely committed, we're probably never getting married.

We both have really close friends of the opposite sex, some of whom have even been previous romantic partners. We hang out with them alone. ... I'm currently away for the winter visiting my best friend/former roommate in another state without my partner, Sean. He will most definitely be hanging out with girls I don't know and going to strip clubs in my absence. Take a minute to gasp in horror.

The author with partner Sean
...And to make it all that much worse, I'm 28. That's only two years away from 30, and everybody knows that if you turn 30 without your life looking a certain way, you spontaneously combust.

...I've had a friend confide in me that she was afraid it was a bad sign if she didn't want to spend every waking moment with her boyfriend. She was relieved when I told her that some people just need more alone time and it was perfectly natural. Variances like this don't occur to people because they're not often talked about.

...We both have best friends who are not each other, and those friendships are equal in importance to our relationship. If one of us wants to take a trip alone or with friends, we do. If one of us wants to go out, we do. ... I would, at some point, like to live my life without the constant barrage of questions:

The author with best friend Joanna
"Is your relationship okay?"

"But...it's just so weird!"

...What I want is the type of relationship that's able to withstand – and even flourish – in these conditions. ...

Communal living

To make matters even "weirder," my partner and I have always thought the best living situation for us would be communal.

We would both prefer to live with close friends as well as each other. My best friend, Joanna, and her partner plan to join us in Philadelphia this summer. She's bought a beautiful townhouse in Fishtown which we will all live in together for (presumably) the rest of our lives. People cannot seem to wrap their heads around this at all. Honestly, I'm just as committed to my friend as I am to my partner. I can think of no happier situation than living with two of the most important people in my life. ...

Totally RA.

...There are so many unique paths you can take in life. It's important to do what feels right to you and not feel pressured to subscribe to a certain ideal. I want to encourage critical thinking and living with intention. Growing up, we are presented with one or two examples of how your life will turn out in the future, but this is only a construct. There's so much more out there if you keep an open mind.


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February 15, 2018

Another country heard from: Polyamory in Iceland

This just in from the Reykjavík Grapevine:

Interest In Polyamorous Relationships Increases Among Icelanders

By Alice Demurtas

In a country [of only 333,000] where “if you can think it, there is a Facebook group about it,” the polyamorous of Iceland have indeed created two online platforms to talk about their experiences. One of the Facebook groups, which is closed, counts 100 members, while the open one includes about 200.

María Rós Kaldalóns
The power of intimacy and love

María Rós Kaldalóns, one of the administrators of the aforementioned Facebook groups, explains that this kind of relationships is not simply the opposite of monogamy.

Instead, it needs to be explained as a natural desire to form meaningful relationships with more than one person. In a nutshell, it’s not just about sex but also about emotional connection, intimacy and love. “We reject the idea that you are meant to love only one person at the time, or that you’re bound to live with only one individual,” María Rós told RÚV [in Icelandic]. “You could be married or living with your partner but also with other people.”...

Sexuality: does it matter?

...María Rós explains that a high percentage of polyamorous people in Iceland are pansexual, ergo sexually attracted to people of any sex or gender, including transgender people, the androgynous or the gender fluid. ... “We don’t really look at one’s gender as a defining factor in a relationship.”...

A heart rock she spotted.

The whole article (February 15, 2018).