Monday, November 26, 2007

Taking Marriage Private

There's an important Op-Ed in today's NY Times by the fabulous Stephanie Coontz called Taking Marriage Private in which she advocates for the ending government's role in marriage. Coontz is a well-known author and commentator on family matters in western society. She has testified before Congress as an advisor on family matters, and her opinion on this specific matter will carry a lot of weight.

In 2004, she received the Council on Contemporary Families first-ever "Visionary Leadership" Award. She serves as a marriage consultant to The Ladies Home Journal.

From her website:

"Stephanie Coontz teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and is Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families, which she chaired from 2001-04. She is the author of Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, (Viking Press, 2005), The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (1992 and 2000, Basic Books), The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families(Basic Books, 1997), and The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families.

One of her biggest contributions is the debunking of the nostalgia surrounding the concept of the "nuclear family", i.e. one man and one woman married for life with two kids and a dog and the white picket fence, as the ultimate form of family.

What has this to do with polyamory? I am convinced that it is the only way to even the playing field that at present unfairly grants benefits to couples that other committed partnerships are denied.

For a more detailed treatise on this subject, see the 2006 visionary statement entitled Beyond Same-Sex Marriage - A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships which advocates for:

Ø Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households and families – regardless of kinship or conjugal status.

Ø Access for all, regardless of marital or citizenship status, to vital government support programs including but not limited to health care, housing, Social Security and pension plans, disaster recovery assistance, unemployment insurance and welfare assistance.

Ø Separation of church and state in all matters, including regulation and recognition of relationships, households and families.

Ø Freedom from state regulation of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities and expression.

Poly Jealousy Survey Participants Needed

Rachel Clark is a final year Applied Psychology student at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and is conducting research concerning jealousy in polyamorous relationships. Her survey is limited to questions for people who use the primary/secondary relationship structure, I imagine for good reason, since polyamorous relationships take so many forms that the data would be difficult to quantify without such specifics.

If you are in a poly relationship and use the primary/secondary model, please take a few minutes and complete the survey - it's vitally important to learn more about jealousy in poly relationships, since this is understandably the highest hurdle to cross in making polyamory work for the average poly person. You can find the survey here.

This research is especially important to me as a poly educator who regularly presents programs on resolving jealousy in polyamorous relationships and who is making plans to write a book on the subject in 2008. If this subject interests you, feel free to download my handout and bibliography on it here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Margo Explains

I'm happy to say that advice columnist Margo, on whose advice to a poly woman I recently commented, has posted a follow-up in her latest column on the offense many polyfolk took at the tone of the advice given. I very much appreciate her going to the trouble to clarify her remarks and her open minded, realistic point of view.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What I Find Exciting About Polyamory

Recently Crabmommy commented on Miriam Axel-Lute's excellent essay, And Baby Makes Four, in which Miriam talks about the benefits of poly parenting. Several of us responded with information about polyamory in general as questions by other commenters were posted. We polyfolk were focusing on the practical benefits of polyamory, but Crabmommy wanted to hear about the exciting stuff, stating that calendars and scheduling sounded very boring and like a lot of work. And of course, we polyfolk had intentionally not focused on sex when explaining our relationships.

Since Crabmommy was so respectful and seemed so sincere in her interest, here's how I responded.

It's exciting to be loved by more than one person. It's amazing to have the ardor of more than one, have more than one who is happy to kiss you hello, happy to cuddle with you, and yes, happy to make love with you. It's very validating. And it helps a lot in that we don't end up in the rut many find themselves in in long term monogamous relationships, no matter how committed and generally satisfied we are with that partnership.

Especially when we are getting involved with someone new, we have all the same falling in love excitement (we call that new relationship energy). That excitement follows us home to our existing relationships and often recharges them as well. We are grateful to our existing partners for their generosity of spirit in being willing to share us, and that enhances the existing relationship even more.

And yes, making love with and being pleasured by two people creates a lot more sexual energy and powerful loving feelings than we experience with one. This is not to put that down, one-on-one sex has it's own charm and intensity and is plenty gratifying for plenty of people, myself included. Most poly people still have sex the majority of the time with only one person at a time. Some never have sex with more than one at a time and conduct their relationships separately. That's certainly true for me and my partner these days.

It's exciting to be in relationship with someone who doesn't want to own you and who doesn't have excessive expectations about your meeting all their needs all the time, someone with the confidence to give you the gift of freedom to love others without being threatened. It's not always easy, but those who succeed at this eventually get to that point, and it's a powerful bonding experience when they do.

After having been cheated on in a former marriage, it is also exciting to me to know that the trade off for sharing my partner with others is that he's never going to cheat on me and I don't have to worry about going through that kind of betrayal and heartbreak again. There's no reason for him to.

For some it's exciting to have an extended family, a "bouquet of lovers" as Morning Glory Zell, the person who coined the term "polyamory", referred to it in her excellent essay of that title, penned in 1990. We and our partners gather with their partners for holidays, birthdays, commitment ceremonies, and so forth. It's sort of an instant group with whom to party and celebrate.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NCSF Media Update

I'm a former board member of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, a wonderful and worthy organization that supports polyamorists and other sexual minority groups. I'm also co-founder of it's foundation, The Institute for 21st Century Relationships.

One of NCSF's many services is it's regular media update, which is always informative and offers regular opportunities for writing letters to the editor and to journalists and includes instructions for effectively doing so. See the end of the article for further instructions.

Here's the current NCSF Media Update.
November 12, 2007

1. Sex school? Class dismissed
2. Forget the Pulitzers -- 'The Sexies' Want Your Best Work
3. Sex Toys 101
4. Loyola University pulls student mag's sex issue
5. Sex-Related Injuries
6. A Different Sort of Ball
7. Cheap date -- what to do?
8. The Pleasures and Dangers of Bondage
9. Bob Shell apologizes for photos, not death
10. The Sex Police

NCSF Media Updates represent a sampling of recent stories printed in US newspapers, magazines, and selected websites containing significant mention of SM-leather-fetish, polyamory, or swing issues and topics.

These stories may be positive, negative, accurate, inaccurate - or anywhere in between.

NCSF publishes the Updates to provide readers a comprehensive look at what media outlets are writing about these topics. NCSF permits and encourages readers to forward these Updates where appropriate.

Sex school? Class dismissed:
Gallery proprietor plans to challenge eviction notice over kinky seminars
by Joseph A. Gambardello
The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 10, 2007

A Rittenhouse Square co-op board is terminating the lease of an art gallery that is staging a show called Red Hot and featuring seminars on such subjects as Basic Bondage and Spanking 101.

Perry Milou, who operates Galleria 1903 at 1903 Walnut Street and is one of the exhibiting artists, said yesterday he plans to challenge the decision to end his lease.

In a letter dated Nov. 6 and now displayed in a larger form in the window of the gallery, the Rittenhouse Plaza Co-op Board gave Milou the required 90-day notice that his lease would be terminated.

Stanton Oswald, the co-op board's president, did not immediately respond to messages left at his office and home yesterday. But he told 6ABC this week it was the seminars - not the art - that prompted the action.

"This is not what we lease the space for," he said. "This is not normal activity for - quote - an art gallery."

Milou said the four-day show, which ends tomorrow, is a celebration of "love, marriage and relationships."

He said that if he had staged a baseball art show featuring seminars by members of the Phillies, he would not have received a termination letter.

"It's obvious that there is discrimination of people's sexual preference going on here, there's discrimination of the erotic art," he said.


To read this entire article, go here.
To respond, write to the author here or the editors here.

Forget the Pulitzers -- 'The Sexies' Want Your Best Work
by Joe Strupp
Editor & Publisher
November 8, 2007

NEW YORK - They will probably not get the prestige of the Pulitzer Prizes, but the new Sex-Positive Journalism Awards, which announced a call for entries this week, may well tap into a news criteria unacknowledged in the past.

The creation of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the Center for Sex and Culture, "Babeland," and journalist Miriam Axel-Lute, the awards seek to "promote fair, accurate, and non-sensationalized coverage of sexual topics," according to a release that dubs the prizes, of course, "The Sexies."

"To hear some people tell it, all of 'the media' is a degenerate, sex-drenched affair. But although there's plenty of talk about the sex lives of celebrities and a willingness to use a scandal to sell a paper, when you get into the content of actual news stories, things often take a turn for the Puritanical: Soccer moms' fabricated allegations about kids being exposed to nudity in a hotel hosting a swingers conference get printed as fact and never retracted," the release states. "Religious minorities are assumed to speak for all religious Americans, or even all Americans, when it comes to whether "abstinence" should be the teen sex-ed gold standard. Usual standards of fairness and objectivity fall prey to reporters and editors' squeamishness."

Organizers are asking potential entrants to submit their nominations here.

"For the past decade, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has dealt with media reports that include sensationalized and false information about sexual issues," says Susan Wright, NCSF spokesperson. "These articles cause harm by encouraging discrimination and persecution of adults who engage in consensual sexual expression. NCSF is proud to support the Sexies and sex-positive journalism in America."

Winners will be chosen by a group of judges that include syndicated columnist Dan Savage; Carol Queen, PhD; Liza Featherstone, journalist and author of "Sex, Lies, and Women's Magazines"; Jack Hafferkamp, a former journalist, journalism professor and co-editor/publisher of LIBIDO: The Journal of Sex and Sensibility; Judith Levine, journalist and author of the award-winning "Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex"; Doug Henwood, contributing editor to The Nation; Marty Klein, PhD, certified sex therapist and author of "America's War on Sex"; and Claire Cavanah, an activist, writer, speaker, and educator in human sexuality and a founder of

The Sexies will be given for articles in four categories: news, feature, opinion, and "unsexy." The first three categories have four divisions each: daily newspaper, weekly or biweekly newspaper, online news publication, and sex- or sexual orientation-themed news publication (any print medium).


To read this entire article, go here. To respond, write to the author here or to the editors here.

Sex Toys 101
by Lucy Moore (opinion column)
Student Life (Washington University in St. Louis)
November 6, 2007

While browsing the Internet, you might ask yourself if you have checked Facebook in the last twenty minutes or if you have visited 'I Can Has Cheezburger' to your satisfaction. Or, alternatively, you might ask yourself, "Is a vibrating penis ring what I need?" In the event that you find yourself shopping for sex toys, there are a few things you need to know.

Sex toys are not necessary to have pleasurable sex. But if you're interested in enhancing pleasure, toys and other sex aids can be useful. There are several categories to choose from. At a basic level, you have your male pleasure, female pleasure, and co-ed pleasure toys. There are toys for any level along the BDSM spectrum (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism and Masochism). There are also toys that enhance lubrication, heighten arousal points such as nipples and provide tickling sensations.

Interested in exploring sex toys? My recommendations are to try a small ribbed silicone vibrator for clitoral stimulation during sex, sensual massage oil (like Victoria's Secret's Mood in Succulent) for lubrication, warming and other foreplay, and/or the traditional set of handcuffs for role-playing or light domination (just don't lose the key!).


To read this entire article, go here. To respond, write to this address.

Loyola University pulls student mag's sex issue:
'PORNOGRAPHIC' Nude drawings too much for Jesuit school
by Dave Newbart
Chicago Sun-Times
November 4, 2007

On the front cover of the recent issue of Diminuendo, Loyola University's student literary magazine, a pencil drawing depicts the body of a woman wearing nothing but electrical tape on her nipples, straps across her body and panties with the word "slut'' on them.

Inside the magazine, another drawing shows a nude woman in high heels penetrated from behind by a naked man.

The student editors chose the pictures to illustrate their recent issue devoted to the topic of sex, which they said was a taboo topic at the Jesuit school.

But the issue caused such a firestorm that the religious leaders of the school ordered the magazine pulled from news racks across campus -- something officials say they've never before done to a student publication.

Members of the largely female staff of Diminuendo defended their decisions to publish the images -- which also included a variety of poems, essays and other pictures -- even though they knew they were pushing the envelope.

"We were just talking about sex,'' said editor in chief Bre Kidman, 19, of Rhode Island.

Both sides accuse the other of disrespecting Jesuit values: [Rev. Richard] Salmi, [Loyola's vice president for student affairs] said the drawings don't show "dignity and respect for others,'' while editors question whether the school is limiting free and open discussion.

Before editors decided to devote three of this year's issues to the separate topics of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Kidman said she wasn't sure most students even knew her quarterly literary magazine existed. It operates from a cramped room in the basement of the student union on $7,500 from the student activity fund.

They received 60 submissions to publish in the 32-page, black-and-white glossy. Student Ashley Davis submitted five drawings, including the one that ended up on the front cover, another showing the back of a woman's body in a dominatrix outfit and the picture of the couple having sex. Two other drawings she submitted -- including one depicting oral sex -- were rejected for publication.

Davis, 19, an international studies major from Portage, Ind., admitted she "wanted to spark controversy'' because "so many people are afraid to talk about sex.'' She said the underwear worn by the woman on the cover was something she has seen for sale at mainstream shops.

"I don't think of slut as a degrading term,'' she said. "It's someone who enjoys their sexuality.'' She said the art depicted women engaged in consensual sex and also in a position of power."

The uproar, she said Friday, "is a little ridiculous.''

"Labeling the woman a 'slut' as the cover does, I think, demeans women,'' said Salmi, who years ago worked as a domestic violence counselor. "I personally feel that these kinds of images lead oftentimes to abuse.''


To read this entire article, go here. To respond, write to the author here or to the editors here.

Sex-Related Injuries
by Katherine Oyster
Manitou Messenger (St. Olaf's College, MN)
November 2, 2007

One of the best things about sexual activity is that it is very physical. Sex quickens the heart rate, increases breathing and, if done vigorously enough, can actually be considered a form of cardiovascular exercise. However, like any other contact sport, what makes sex fun also makes it dangerous.

Allow me to introduce a new term to the St. Olaf Campus - sex-related injury (SRI). An SRI is a specific malady that is an instant and obvious effect of nookie. SRIs can range from the mundane to the meriting of an ER visit. They are also always fun and awkward to explain.

SRIs are nothing to be ashamed of. They can occur for a multitude of reasons: you experimented with a position that didn't work, you or your partner are inexperienced at sex, you and your partner are into S&M (sadism and masochism for those of you playing the home game) or you were just too caught up in the moment to notice risky sex behavior. Do not assume that you suck at life or in bed because of an SRI - anyone who plays the game chances an injury. Think about how many injuries or maladies you see on different Ole's bodies throughout the day - I guarantee that at least some of them are SRIs.

So, the next time you encounter an SRI on another, be as sensitive, understanding and non-judgmental about it as you can. It's simply luck of the sexual draw. And your own number might be up sooner than you think.


To read this entire article, go here. To respond, go here.

A Different Sort of Ball:
Alternative music, lifestyles explored in leather and latex
by Kurt Brighton
Fort Collins Now (Colorado)
November 2, 2007

Leather and latex and spanking - oh my!

We're definitely not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. In fact, conservative Sen. Sam Brownback of the Sunflower State would probably have a heart attack on the spot if he saw what was going on at the Fetish Ball, the latest incarnation of which is taking place at Club Osiris on Sunday, Oct. 28.

The ball is at 9 p.m. at the Fort Collins club, 2649 E. Mulberry St.

The event is a celebration of various alternative lifestyles, featuring darkwave goth/industrial DJs spinning their happy-go-lucky music and several wandering dominatrixes plying their trade. Sunday's event will also include a demonstration of shibari, a form of traditional Japanese rope bondage. And although the show promises to bring out all sorts of costumed leather and latex enthusiasts, organizers say that it's also about educating and enlightening those of us who aren't quite ready to don a leather corset - at least not yet.

"We have a very diverse crowd at these events", said Sarah, an organizer who declined to give her last name due to family and job concerns. "Some people participate, others just observe, some people dress up, where others dress casual. Either way, everyone is welcome".

In addition to making even the, er, under dressed feel welcome, the show's performer-participants are also careful about just how much they include newbies in the evening's festivities. Mistress Jae is one of the dominatrixes who will be attending, and she said she gets volunteers at every show who want to try a little spanking.

Jae won last year's Miss World Leather title - sort of a darker version of Miss America for leather enthusiastsband she spends much of her time traveling around the country to appear at various events like the Fort Collins Fetish Ball. But in addition to providing a bit of safe titillation for gawkers and leather fans alike, she said her mission is mainly to educate people about alternative lifestyles.

"It's about being an activist and helping young adults learn about alternative lifestyles", she said. "I'm out there demonstrating techniques, and showing that it's fun. Traditionally it's been people in their '30s, '40s and '50s getting into the lifestyle. Now, though, we have younger people getting into it, and I want to help them find out what resources are available out there, and show them ways to be safe".

Even if you're pretty sure that spanking and leather aren't for you, the Fetish Ball is a way to check out what normally goes on behind closed doors in a fun, safe environment. Besides, as Mistress Jae might say, how can you know won't enjoy it if you don't try it?


To read this entire article, go here. To respond write to this address.

Cheap date -- what to do?
by Jocelyn Voo
November 2, 2007

Anna Hake, 24, and her boyfriend were hunting for some interesting -- and inexpensive -- ways to spend time together. Their solution: making a date to attend the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, touted as the world's largest showcase for S&M products and culture.

"We walked by a table with floggers and whips on it, and the guy running the booth encouraged us to give it a try," says Hake, a nonprofit organization program coordinator who lives in San Francisco. "We both looked at each other and were, like, 'When in Rome...' "

Though the couple decided it ultimately wasn't for them, the experience was memorable.

"We may not be into bondage," Hake says, "but it was good for bonding."

And all it cost was a small donation that benefited local nonprofits.


To read this entire article, go here. To respond, go here or comment at bottom of the article.

The Pleasures and Dangers of Bondage
by Tristan Taormino (opinion column "Pucker Up")
The Village Voice
October 29, 2007

Last week, the autopsy report was released for Rev. Gary Aldridge, who died in June of accidental asphyxiation while engaged in self-bondage and autoerotic asphyxiation. By now, you've probably heard something about the pastor of Thorington Road Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, who was a friend of Jerry Falwell and was found dead in lots of rubber with a butt plug in his ass.

There have been plenty of blog entries about how he was yet another closeted, kinky, conservative hypocrite who preached salvation but practiced sin. But in reading the details - especially from the coroner's report - I was struck by something else: Man, this guy was really into bondage. He was found alone wearing two rubber wet suits, a face mask, a rubber head mask, rubber underwear, diving gloves, and flippers; the various ways he was restrained seem to indicate he was hogtied, which is difficult (but not impossible) to achieve by yourself. He was definitely not a novice bondage fan.

So, it seems, he died doing something he loved. Some people put themselves in bondage because that's their turn-on, but it's much more often a two- (or more) person sport. I wonder if Reverend Aldridge did it by himself because he couldn't bear the shame or potential exposure of sharing it with someone else. If he could have found someone to share his kink with, he might still be alive.

When many people recall their first experience of bondage, it usually reaches all the way back to childhood. As part of cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, or another kids' game, someone had to be restrained at some point. You'd grab a necktie or a belt or something from one of your parents' closets and tie up the bad guys. Some people look back on those experiences as fun memories; bondage enthusiasts usually remember the first time they were tied up (or tied someone else up) with a lot more detail and glee.

Browse a list of workshops at a BDSM event and you'll see just how popular and varied bondage can be: rope bondage, suspension bondage, Japanese rope bondage, metal bondage, bondage for sex, decorative bondage, creative bondage, head and face bondage, genital bondage, hand and foot bondage, body harnesses, latex bondage, and predicament bondage. Google the word "bondage" and you'll get about 32 million links. According to Alexa, the kinky bondage site (which is owned by has more traffic than


To read this entire article, go here. To respond, write to the author at this address or to the editors here.

Bob Shell apologizes for photos, not death
by Shawna Morrison
The Roanoke Times (Virginia)
October 27, 2007

RADFORD -- The Bob Shell trial was different from the start, with bondage photos displayed on the courtroom wall, a model dead of a morphine overdose, and the stark reality that it was all happening right on Main Street.

The trial continued to have its moments as Shell was formally sentenced Friday to 32 years and six months in prison -- plus a $5,000 fine -- in the accidental 2003 death of 19-year-old Marion Franklin.

Before Circuit Court Judge Joey Showalter imposed the jury-recommended sentence, Shell, a photographer with an extended following, took the stand and apologized -- not for Franklin's death, but to anyone who may have been offended by his erotic work. Some of that work was displayed in the form of four hours' worth of sexually explicit videos during his August trial.

"I never would have wanted that material shown before a public forum in any way," he said.

"Is that your biggest concern?" Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Rehak asked Shell during cross-examination.

Shell also said he wanted to convey to Franklin's family how much he shares in their grief over her death. If he'd realized how serious Franklin's drug problem was, he said, he would have pushed harder for her to get treatment.

"He's not accepted responsibility," Rehak said after the hearing.


To read this entire article, go here. To respond, write to the author at this address or the editor at this address.

The Sex Police:
An anti-porn crusader wants Kansas City juries to redefine what's obscene
by Justin Kendall
The Pitch (Kansas City, MO)
October 25, 2007

A post-lunch porn rush is under way at Hollywood at Home Movies and Magazines. A few men ranging in age from late 20s to upper 60s pass by the new releases and classics in the front of the Overland Park store. Over the course of an hour on a Tuesday afternoon, men march up the stairs at the back of the store, push through the see-through, baby-blue curtain and enter a tiny room dedicated to adult magazines and videos. They browse the movie titles, flip through the magazines and, eventually, drop $7 apiece to rent videos for four nights.

On September 25, a Johnson County grand jury indicted the video store on misdemeanor criminal charges of promoting obscenity. The store's alleged crime was renting out four allegedly obscene movies - Don't Kiss Me I'm Straight, Hellcats 12, Anal Machines and Real Female Masturbation. A man who gave his name as Sean O'Cleary rented the videos in late August and never returned them. He had paid a $100 deposit and, later, called to tell the store that he'd turned the films over to the grand jury.

The grand jury handed down 15 obscenity charges against the store and three other Johnson County businesses. They're accused of renting out racy videos, selling sex toys and displaying obnoxious Halloween costumes.

Johnson County isn't alone. Citizen petitions have forced grand juries to convene throughout Kansas. This grassroots effort is the work of Phillip Cosby, a Ned Flanders look-alike and anti-pornography crusader. The 56-year-old retired Army master sergeant is the zealous leader of the Kansas City office of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families.

Cosby calls sex shops "an open sewer," "a moral cancer" and "a wicked stronghold." He has cautioned that "a tsunami is hitting our community." He blames the sex industry for causing rape and pedophilia. (Violent secondary effects of porn consumption have been widely discredited.) He has even coined a pet name for businesses that sell adult videos or sex toys: SOBs - an acronym for "sexually oriented businesses."

The coalition's vision of community standards may not be representative of Johnson County, as a trip to Hollywood at Home and the other accused stores implies. Still, Cosby's Kansas City pornography jihad will serve as a test run for the rest of America: If he successfully shuts down the metro area's porn shops, the national office will wage similar holy wars with porn stores across the nation.

But Cosby's efforts are toothless. The Kansas obscenity statute that Cosby relies on has been ruled unconstitutional, and the stores he has targeted can beat the charges - if they choose to fight.

Cosby's strategy is possible thanks to a Kansas law that allows any citizen to convene a grand jury.

Cosby declined to discuss his strategy with The Pitch for this story, citing the paper's "bent." "We're not really moving in the same direction," he said. "I know you believe what you believe, and I believe what I believe, and I think we're just not a good fit."

After the indictments were issued, Cosby claimed in news reports that law enforcement officials were "breathing a sigh of relief" and referred to himself and his followers as "the cavalry."

It's unclear whether law enforcement considers Cosby "the cavalry." Of the dozens of stores that Cosby has targeted over the years, none has closed its doors.


To read this entire article, go here. Respond to this address or comment at bottom of article.


Feedback letters are an effective way to convey a positive image of alternate sexual practices such as SM, swinging, or polyamory. You can help to correct negative social myths and misconceptions about these types of practices. These letters help achieve the advocacy goals of the NCSF.

Generally, for a letter to be published, it's important to include your name (or first initial, last name), city and daytime phone (for verification only). For more information, go here.

Please alert us to positive, negative or neutral stories about SM, swinging and polyamory by writing to us at this address.
Comments to the editor of this Update may be sent to this address.


A project of NCSF and ITCR: The Foundation of NCSF

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) is a national organization committed to altering the political, legal, and social environment in the U.S. in order to guarantee equal rights for consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression. NCSF is primarily focused on the rights of consenting adults in the SM-leather-fetish, swing, and polyamory communities, who often face discrimination because of their sexual expression.

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom
822 Guilford Avenue, Box 127
Baltimore, MD 21202-3707
Write to us at this address.
Visit NCSF here

Friday, November 2, 2007

Polyamory Watch - a Resource for Proponents of Traditional Marriage

Maggie Gallagher, the woman who Stanley Kurtz made very happy with his slippery slope argument against same-sex marriage, operates the conservative Institute for Marriage and Public Policy based in Manassas, Virginia. Maggie and her cohorts have been belly up to the feed trough of your and my federal tax dollars pretty much since George Bush took office. They use our money to oppress stable, healthy, loving homes and families that don't look like they think they should, which is basically anything that isn't one man, one woman, til-death-do-us-part monogamy.

Maggie Gallagher, with Kurtz's support, is, have no doubt, the chicken little of the debate on marriage and public policy, and she has taken to including a section in her daily postings called "Polyamory Watch" in which she provides links to on-line news articles that reference polyamory.

Many polyfolk want nothing to do with the mainstream and prefer to stick their heads in the sand in hopes of continuing to exist under the mainstream radar. If ever there was a sign that doing so is no longer possible, it is that there is now a regular feature on the website of a hugely well-funded organization that thinks polyamory is enough of a threat to marriage to warrant its own special reporting section. I don't know whether to be pleased or appalled, but I'm definitely not surprised.

There is Such a Thing as Bad Publicity

Over the last couple of days the online poly community has been buzzing about syndicated columnist Margo's response to a letter written by a poly woman. It's not at all positive, and as we usually hear when polyamory and its believers get mangled in mainstream media, some polyfolk have trotted out that old saw about there being no such thing as bad publicity. Others say it opens an opportunity for public discourse.

But this is NOT such an opportunity, because there is no way to respond that will be published. Margo's inaccurate and snarky statements just sit there in this instance for all to see with no opportunity for public debate. Sure, we can have an interesting discussion about it within the poly community, but we are preaching to the choir. And writing to Margo to enlighten her is all well and good, but she's not likely to amend her remarks. The best we can hope for is that she speaks more knowledgably and fairly if and when the subject comes up in her column again.

It's a mistake to rationalize away our discomfort by saying there is no such thing as bad publicity. There's a big difference that makes it not true for sexual minorities, who are already publicly skewered and the subject of strong bias and condemnation such as in this situation. Yes, it's good to have people who are open minded hear the term polyamory anytime. That part can be positive if they then seek out information and resources, but there is also considerable reinforcement for harsh judgments about polyamory at play. Respected public figures and pundits hold a lot of sway in terms of how they influence public opinion, i.e. if Oprah or Dr. Phil say it, then it's true. That saying applies more accurately in neutral circumstances where public opinion is not already very negative based on public taboo and the inherent nature of the behavior to which a substantial number of people already object.

In some circumstances there IS such a thing as bad publicity - like being a congressman and being outed as a regular seeker of sex in men's restrooms in airports, for example. I don't mean to come across as defeatist here - we aren't defeated. We push forward, and some will temporarily push us back, or try to, at which time we speak up and point out the inappropriateness of the push back. Ultimately we will find more tolerance and acceptance as time passes, but public advocacy for sexual minorities and the winning over of the hearts and minds of the public is not a linear process. The fewer times respected opinion makers speak against polyamory, the faster our progress will be and the less work will have to be done to achieve it.