Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sugasm #81

Sugasm, for those unfamiliar, is a digest of sex blogs. My blog is more focused on relationship skills and activism than sex, so you don't see much from me here of an adult nature. But Sugasm is very cool, as it includes a section of the best of the week's blog posts specifically under the heading "Thoughts on Sex and Relationships", so that's where the posts I submit are categorized.

We polyfolk tend to be a sex-positive lot, so submitting my posts to Sugasm seems like a great way to reach polyfolk interested in poly relating. And we polyfolk almost always prefer to have some sex with our relationships. So, here is a repost of Sugasm's top sex blog post picks from all categories for the week, as well as all of the "Thoughts on Sex and Relationships" links. (You can find all of the week's Sugasm sex blog submissions here.)

I'll be posting this weekly - enjoy!

Sugasm: A Devilish Digest

Sugasm #81

Mon 28th May, 07

The best of this weeks blogs by the bloggers who blog them. Highlighting the top 3 posts as chosen by Sugasm participants. Want in Sugasm #82? Submit a link to your best post of the week using this form.

This Week’s Picks
Do / Do Not (lafillemariee.blogspot.com…)
“Do – stop in the hallway to kiss and fondle me before even getting to the room.”
The Red Cross of Fucking (perverselypoly.blogspot.com…)
“They can pay her a “finder’s fee,” and everybody will be happier.”
Review: The Amputee’s Guide to Sex (http://www.radicalvixen.com)
“When he first mentioned it he turned his disability into a fetish.”
Mr. Sugasm Himself
Meet Lin Chong, Dong Assistant (sugarbank.com…)
Editor’s Choice
Mothers day 3 (joeheather.blogspot.com…)

More Sugasm
Join the Sugasm
See also: Fleshbot’s Sex Blog Roundup each Tuesday and Friday (Fleshbot.com)

Thoughts on Sex and Relationships
Alpha & Beta (smart-girls.blogspot.com…)
Defining Erotic (http://www.thenaughtychick.com)
Friday (sexcakes.blogspot.com…)
I loved this then and still love it now… (darkdaughta.blogspot.com…)
The Problem with Porn Part II: Manifestations Online (un-cool.blogspot.com…)
The Sex Kitten History; The Sex Kitten Future (http://www.sex-kitten.net)
Spanked by Robin Byrd, or not that innocent (lustylady.blogspot.com…)
A Strange New World of Emotion (practicalpolyamory.blogspot.com…)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Polyamory from a Lesbian Point of View

I found a blog post today that I found quite thought provoking. In GLBT . . . P? Do Polyamorists and Lesbians Mix? Kevyn describes her newly formed lesbian group's encounter with a woman who identifies as polyamorous and whose husband(!) showed up. (I can just imagine how unpopular bringing him was, and I can't say I blame them. ) Kevyn has questions about lesbian polyamory but not much experience with or knowledge of it.

The most successful media piece on the subject is a documentary film that got a lot of play at documentary and GLBT film festivals in 2005 - award winning filmmaker Karen Everett's Women in Love distributed by Outcast Films, which is described as follows: "While examining the human ability to redefine ourselves and reshape what we think "love" means, Everett .... draw[s] on her own experience and that of her circle of lesbian, bisexual and polyamorous friends and lovers. Everett blends her own personal trials with intimate, raw and emotional moments of sexual pleasure and heart-wrenching loneliness." I saw this film and recommend it.

There are also two books specifically about lesbian polyamory:

The Lesbian Polyamory Reader: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Casual Sex by Marcia Munson and Judith P. Stelboum


Lesbian Polyfidelity: A Pleasure Guide for the Woman Whose Heart Is Open to Multiple, Concurrent Sexualoves, or How to Keep Non-Monogamy Safe, Sane, by Celeste West

So to all our lesbian sisters who are thinking of exploring polyamory, I hope these resources will give the desired perspective on the subject. And good luck!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Polyamory How-To Book - "Opening Up" by Tristan Taormino

Tristan Taormino has written and is about to have published by Cleis Press as trade paperback a new book called Opening Up - A Guide to Polyamory. Promotional announcements say it won't be out until the fall, apparently in the US, but I just found it on the Amazon UK website with a shipping date of May 25 - cool - so I ordered it. I like that Tristan's new book is said to offer "practical guidance", something that seems all too lacking in the meager pickin's of books on polyamory. Hence the title of my blog and website.

I have a couple of other poly books on order, Pagan Polyamory: Becoming a Tribe of Hearts by Raven Kaldera, and Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful by Anthony D. Ravenscroft. After I've read them, I'll write up a review for each and post it here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Monogamous Privilege

Sunday I was sitting in my local Unitarian Universalist church listening to our co-minister's excellent sermon entitled, "Solidarity - A Compelling Quandry", during which he spoke at some length on the concept of privilege and how it prevents solidarity. He defined privilege as "unearned and often unconscious advantage that can lead to a sense of entitlement" and added that "some groups benefit from unearned advantages in our cultural system, meaning that their members acquire what’s been called 'an invisible package of assets' [P. McIntosh] without doing anything, per se, to deserve it. These groups might include those with male privilege, white privilege, heterosexual privilege, wealth or class privilege, Christian privilege, ablebodied privilege, etc."

To this list I would add monogamous, or "mono", privilege.

So how does mono privilege impact polyamorists? Alas, contradictory as it may seem to other UUs, I need look no further than my own UU church. Though my primary partner and I have had preliminary discussions with our co-ministers about the subject of polyamory and our desire to feel that our relationship orientation, if you will, is welcomed and supported by our church congregation, there is a lot of work to do in order to educate church leaders and help them overcome their discomfort with the subject. (Fortunately we do have support and help from Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness.)

Considering Unitarian Universalism's strong commitment to social justice, one would think that gaining acceptance and support for polyamorists would be relatively easy. Not so, or usually not so, despite that numerous "show of hands" polls at polyamory conferences have revealed that about one third of polyamorists identify as UU. Yet we are not assured that, like all the mono folks in attendance, we can sit in church with more than one significant other and hold hands without fear of notice. Mono couples, be they opposite sex, same sex, or interracial couples, can do this - but not we polyfolk.

One Sunday during the "sharing of joys and concerns" segment of the service, a married member of our congregation shared the following as her concern. One of her church friends has revealed that they are polyamorous. She finds this to be so troubling that it warranted her sharing it with the entire congregation.

I don't mean to attack Unitarian Universalism but instead mean to use my experience there as an example of just how widespread mono privilege really is. Throughout our larger society, examples of mono privilege are so numerous as to boggle the mind, but here are the big ones:
  • Child custody - very risky for poly parents who are at the mercy of family law judges and child welfare agencies who assume without proof that poly families are poor environments for raising children; the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) reports that in one 12 month period it fielded calls for assistance from 600 poly parents facing child custody challenges. Mono couples face no such challenges;
  • Marriage laws - For all the same reasons that same-sex couples are also discriminated against, only in this instance polyfolk in relationship with two or more partners are condemned by those who embrace same-sex monogamy;
  • Job security - Polyfolk who are out at work have reported, again according to NCSF, having been terminated or denied promotions purely on the grounds of their relationship orientation. No such problem for monofolk.
  • Acceptance by friends and family - Polyfolk and their loved ones often meet with condemnation and rejection when coming out as poly to friends and family, while mono couples are congratulated and celebrated upon their engagement, marriage, etc.
  • Public displays of affection - polyfolk are often hesitant to exhibit PDAs even when in public with only one partner for fear that someone they know will see them and assume they are cheating on another partner. Monofolk have no such concerns, assuming they are not cheating.
  • Zoning laws - Poly families can encounter difficulty in finding housing that permits more than two adults to occupy the same dwelling. No problem for monofolk.
I've certainly enjoyed mono privilege at times in my life - when I was married and before I became a practicing polyamorist. Though now avowedly polyamorous, I sometimes still do benefit from it owing to the form of poly relationship I prefer, i.e. an open primary dyad, (or couple). Evenso, I am committed to working to eliminate mono privilege and every other kind of discimination against polyamorous persons, largely via NCSF, UUPA, and the Institute for 21st Century Relationships (ITCR).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Poll: 51% Lead/Would Try Poly/Swing Life

Ask Dan and Jennifer is a "Dating, Relationships, Love, and Great Sex" advice website where a poll was recently conducted with very interesting results. With more than 3,000 readers responding (and the poll still open), the question is "Would you ever consider swinging or polyamory?"

Now these folks have a very mainstream following, and no explanation or differentiation was made as to how swinging and polyamory differ, nor was there a question as to whether a responder was currently in a poly relationship, though there was such a question about swinging. The poll responses are made in that context, i.e. the respondents either do or don't know the difference. Of course, this isn't a scientifically conducted poll.

It seems that the intensity of the on-line comments on the subject is as remarkable as the results of the poll itself. I'll leave it to you to check out the comments and leave your own - here are the poll results as of March 1, 2007:

35% said that they would be willing to try swinging with the right group of people

20% said that monogamy is the only way to go

16% were strongly against it

16% are active in the swinger lifestyle and lovin’ it

13% said it’s not for them, but they don’t have a problem if someone else does it

51% of the people polled were either active in swinging or polyamory or willing to try it while only 36% were stongly against it or said that monogamy is the only way to go. The remaining 13% said that it’s not for them, but they don’t have a problem if someone else does it.

Apparently Dan and Jennifer were shocked by the results: "Wow - don’t know about you, but we expected the numbers to be a little different . It’s a close call but it looks like Swinging and Polyamory are in!"

Doesn't seem like such a close call to me. (Smile)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Good Riddance Jerry Falwell

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

And so it is for these "700 Club" words of hate and paranoia in the wake of Sept. 11 that Jerry Falwell will always be remembered. To me he is the icon of man-made religion-based bias and hatred. Not only did he use his public televangelist position to spread his messages of hate, but he brought them with him into the political realm and did his utmost of enshrine them into law, whether via his own election or his influence over Christian conservative lawmakers.

I realize that speaking ill of the dead is considered bad mojo by some, even myself, but the passing of Jerry Falwell is of such significance that it cannot be ignored. Now if only his nutcase colleague, Pat Robertson, would follow suit - the fewer religious extremist leaders there are in the spotlight, the more friendly the U.S. is likely to be toward we polyamorists.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Strange New World of Emotion

In my own experience and that of others, too, when we are new at polyamory and sorting it all out emotionally, it is not at all uncommon to experience feelings other than what we anticipate once we are actually in a set of circumstances for the first time. The good news is that you can be prepared for that possibility, thus avoiding the necessity of sorting it all out in the heat of emotion brought on by our own or a partner's unpleasant, unanticipated reaction.

Don't be too hard on yourself or your partner if one or both of you ends up in this situation. Even the most together, emotionally intelligent poly people I know say they've experienced this, especially when they were new to polyamory. It's common to sometimes underestimate the strength of the emotions that arise in new poly situations, for example, for some, the first time our partner goes out the door to be with someone new.

I've heard stories about people ending up in significant conflict with hostile accusations being made because a situation turned out differently than one was led to expect. The emotions are understandable, however unreasonable the expectation turns out to be. But that's the point - when new to poly, it's very difficult to anticipate whether an expectation is reasonable. I think the fewer expectations the better, generally speaking.

When establishing boundaries and making agreements with significant others involving emotion-laden issues, consider acknowledging the following at the outset:

“I imagine that when I'm in X situation, I'll feel Y. It's possible I'm wrong about that. Instead of developing expectations from what we believe will happen, let's agree to wait and see how it all plays out. After it does we will be in a better position to adjust our mutual agreement and understanding since we will better know what we are dealing with."

By using inclusive language, your partner(s) and you are actually affirming a mutual desire for honesty and clarity. Making such a pact can be very bonding.

Love = Sacrifice?

It is my personal belief that proving love for another through sacrificing personal happiness is not what love is. I certainly get no satisfaction out of a partner sacrificing their own happiness for me, quite the opposite. My hope and intention as a partner is to do all I can to support that which gives my partner happiness. Doing so can and has at times cost me a bit in terms of comfort level, but the discomfort always passes.

So, my personal boundary is well short of being willing to sacrifice personal happiness beyond that point. It's not that my partner(s) aren't worth some sacrifice. It's that thinking that love = sacrifice is an example of the unhealthy influence of mainstream monogamy and religious dogma-inspired life. It is anethema to the concept that love = abundance. Most mindfully poly people I know get the difference, which is significant.

A day in the life ....

So tonight will be a treat. I'm very active in the DC poly community and Chesapeake Polyamory Network ("CPN"). I have wanted for quite a while to do something with the Baltimore poly community, i.e. Baltimore Maryland Polyamory Network ("BMPN"), which has grown very active over the last couple of years. But working in spitting distance from the White House, though convenient at those times I fantasize about spitting on its principal occupant, has otherwise made it difficult for me to get to any of BMPN's gatherings.

Tonight is BMPN's second annual "You Made It" potluck dinner, the "you made it" theme referencing that dishes brought for the potluck are homemade instead of storebought. It's happening near my home in Maryland, so goody goody! This polygirl always loves interacting with polyfolk and meeting new ones. What a great way to start the weekend.

Tim and I have his kids this weekend. And tomorrow I've a movie date with my girlfriend, Cathy.

I love my poly life!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Should polyamorists seek marriage rights?

When the subject of discussion is polyamory activism, some seem to indicate that a desire for marriage equality for polys is a natural primary goal of poly activism, even a no-brainer. I remain opposed to this course of action because the corporate and big government powers that be are unlikely to let it happen. I am speaking in this instance about the well-heeled, congress-in-its-pocket health insurance industry. Unless a very, very rich polyamory activism benefactor comes along, in no way does the polyamory community have the resources to fight the kind of fight we'd have to fight to get the huge morass of a system of marriage laws, privileges and benefits retooled to fit marriages of more than two.

Of course, this is not so as regards same-sex marriage. No rewebbing need take place, merely a lifting of the one man-one woman requirement. There is much less likelihood of a negative financial impact under those circumstances than what would surely be anticipated by health insurance companies and the IRS as regards three or more equal partners or "spice".

I support a more feasible method via improving the availability and affordability of individual health insurance, together with getting state and federal government out of the marriage business. Domestic partnerships of many kinds would be recognized, and the same benefits granted now to a more narrow definition of families would become available to all intentional families.

A plan along these lines has already been put forth by a group of activists, writers and academics in 2006, a group called Beyond Same-Sex Marriage

With federal and state government out of the marriage business, marriage would become a private matter in terms of getting the blessing of religious institutions and so forth. No one's existing marriage would be harmed, and no one's right to engage in marriage would be prevented.

Polyfolk might have to go to more trouble to designate who gets what financial, parental and inheritance rights, but I'd be willing to spend some money with a good lawyer if that's all it took to have good, effective legal protection, access to fair benefits and the ability to choose who and how many partners I want, while taking power to grant relationship legitimacy out of the hands of government.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Is an Alliance between Polyamorists and Patriarchal Polygamists Likely?

In the vein of politics making strange bedfellows, forming political alliances for specifically delineated, carefully considered purposes has been historically proven to have its benefits. There certainly exist several fairly strong rational arguments that can be made for teaming up with patriarchal polygamists ("PPs"). Regardless, alliance with PPs would surely provoke an outcry in much of the feminist, egalitarian-minded polyamory community. Huge differences in community values exist that are next to impossible to simply dismiss or ignore.

People are indeed passionate about violation of their community values. Rather than coming from the rational mind, these are very much matters of the heart. So it is that rational strategy and closely-held values come in conflict here.

The problem with an alliance with PPs is that their form of non-monogamy grossly violates what I'll refer to as the spirit of polyamory ("SOP") as highly valued within the poly community itself. Note that there are many people practicing polyamory who are not denizens of the poly community - in some cases because they don't share the social POV that at least in part underpins the SOP.

I know of no organization that is in the process of forming an alliance with PPs. As a practical matter, the poly community supports no organization sufficiently to have influence over what any does. If Woodhull Freedom Foundation or or LovingMore or World Polyamory Association want to ally themselves with PPs, with enough horsepower and sufficient strategy they can certainly do it. No one can stop them (though to be fair, LovingMore probably has the most at stake.)

Whomever contemplates this approach would be well advised to both plan carefully how to explain the political expedience of it to feminist polys who highly value egalitarianism - and there are many, many of those – as well as be prepared to come under considerable criticism as they likely go it alone. Inclusiveness being also a closely held poly community value, that argument may persuade some - it would be interesting to see if it succeeded.

I'm not usually a skeptic, but on this question for purely pragmatic reasons I just don't see polyamory community support for an alliance with PPs happening anytime soon. The squick factor is just too significant. Perhaps an appeal to self-identified polys who live outside the poly community would get more traction.