Monday, March 31, 2008

The Secret of Polyamory

Here’s a secret: If you and your partner have a solid relationship and each is committed to and values the other no matter who else enters the picture, then giving your partner the gift of freedom to love others, too, frequently causes them to love you even more for giving them this gift. The abundance of love they receive as a result of your generosity is likely to secure your place in their life far better than fits of anger and jealousy ever could. This is how it works in my life and the lives of many, many other polyamorists I know.

I feel significantly more secure in my primary relationship with T than I ever felt in either of my supposedly monogamous marriages where cheating led to a lot of heartbreak. T doesn't have to cheat if he feels a strong connection to another, and neither do I. Knowing that we have this option makes us both very happy and appreciative of each other.

Jenny Block on Open Relationships in Huffington Post

Writer Jenny Block, author of the soon-to-be-published book Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, has just made her first blog post to Huffington Post as a regular there. It's called Open Relationships: What the World Already Has. In it she challenges the sanctioning of cheating over the acceptance of honest and open relationships. In one part she speculates about why people have such negative reactions to the concept of polyamory.

.... there is nothing more terrifying than feeling like you're not strong enough to go out on a limb and attempt something that might actually improve your life. Better to yell, "Freak!" at those who are trying. And then everyone doing the yelling -- unhappy, cheating, or just plain judgmental -- feel themselves in the "right" and thus in the clear.

I have another theory about why so many people react so negatively to the idea of polyamory. What if their own spouse should find the idea of polyamory appealing, especially in light of increasing acceptance of this alternative to monogamy? How will they be able to continue to enjoy the illusion of security that monogamy creates? They LIKE having a sense of ownership of their spouse. It makes them feel secure. And if they feel jealous of their spouse's appreciation of another, society says they are entirely justified in crying foul.

Thank goodness there are rules about these things, right? Polyamory is particularly troubling to those who need rules that everyone is expected to following in order to feel safe. Trouble is, one person's sense of security is another person's cage, and a cage is no place to conduct a relationship.

Some say that the potential for upsetting the emotional teacart is evidence enough that polyamory is a bad idea. I see it as evidence that the time is coming when society will re-examine its extreme expectations around love, commitment, possessiveness, and sexual and emotional exclusivity. It seems to me that possessiveness and ownership of one’s spouse is self-serving and therefore more about love of self and avoiding uncomfortable feelings than it is about love for another.

It's true that polyamory demands a lot of self-examination, self-awareness and communication to work. It's also true that jealousy in even agreed-upon polyamorous relationships sometimes occurs. It's a part of being human, a part of our emotional make-up just as much is our apparent desire to pair bond but non-exclusively. The difference for polyamorists is that we own our jealous feelings, avoid casting blame, and we learn together how to effectively resolve jealous feelings instead of allowing them to derail the relationship.

Polyamory isn’t for everyone, true, and monogamy is a legitimate choice. It’s just not the only one. As long as the people who are together agree to the same choice, it’s all good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Amelia Earhart and George Putnam - Polyamorists

I was delighted to recently come across this letter from Amelia Earhart to her fiance, George Putnam, in anticipation of their marriage, in which she says, "I shall not hold you to any midaevil (sic) code of faithfulness to me, nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly. If we can be honest I think the difficulties which arise may best be avoided should you or I become interested deeply (or in passing) in anyone else." George was her publicist.

The letter is undated. They were married on February 7, 1931. Intent on retaining her independence, she referred to the marriage as a "partnership" with "dual control."

Sadly, six years later, on July 2, 1937, with less than 7,000 miles left to reach her goal of being the first woman to fly around the world, Ms. Earhart was heard from by radio for the last time while flying over the Pacific, reporting she was low on fuel. An extensive search was unsuccessful. George had her declared dead in January, 1939, and was remarried later that year, to Jean-Marie Cosigny James. Surely Amelia would have approved.

Amelia was an adventuress and early feminist. Clearly she was a woman of courage who wasn't afraid to take risks. Those qualities are consistent with those of the women whom I most admire, including a fair number who polyamorous today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Polyamory Advocacy's Chicken-and-Egg Problem

Today the Chicago Sun-Times printed it's article on polyamory, Wedded to Variety. As it happen's, Oscar winner Tilda Swinton's poly family has become newsworthy and is responsible for this newspaper's interest in an article on Chicago-area polyamorists. (Thanks, Tilda, for setting such a great example! We love you!)

CunningMinx of the Polyamory Weekly podcast, who lives in the Chicago area, and I were interviewed and are quoted. Also, we both sought at the journalist's urging a Chicago area married poly couple to be interviewed, but with no luck. This is often what we are asked for, presumably because this form of poly family is most analogous to a monogamous married couple. The other form we are often asked for that is even harder to supply is a triad, quad, or other group of cohabitating multiples. That's because so few of them actually exist, with very few of those being made up of people who are all comfortable with being out.

Understandably, journalists don't realize that it is often very difficult to meet these demands. We educate them about the realities of poly life and about people's fears of outing themselves, especially on their home turf. The journalist typically wants a local person or persons to give the article local context. Though Paige was insistent that she must have a married couple, apparently her editor relented and decided the article was worth running without that perspective - good for them.

As long as people have to be afraid to be out as polyamorous, there is going to continue to be a conflict between the needs of polyfolk and the needs of journalists and we activists who must work with them to find suitable interviewees - a real chicken-and-egg problem. The more reasonably fair press exposure we get, the more awareness will be raised, the less stigmatized we'll eventually be, and the safer it will be to be out as a polyamorist. Yet without suitable interviewees, getting the story out becomes more difficult. Hence the chicken-and-egg reference.

The good news is that this is yet again another newspaper article that is positive and not in the least disparaging.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Harder they Come ...

If we needed another indication that sex-negativity is alive and well in America, we need look no further than today's news that New York governor Eliot Spitzer has announced his resignation following the revelation that he paid an exclusive escort service over $4,000 for a couple of hours with a sex worker on February 13 here in DC.

What a waste of talent. In the words of Reggae artist Jimmy Cliff, the harder they come the harder they fall, one and all.

Certainly what Spitzer did was wrong in that he cheated on his wife, but that could be nothing more than a private family matter if not for the fact that he broke a law he is sworn to uphold. (Clinton and Lewinsky, anyone?) He might have survived this had he not while New York Attorney General rubbed so many people the wrong way in his over-zealous enforcement of laws against corruption on Wall Street and laws against prostitution.

Everyone hates a hypocrit, and that hatred is ratched up and up and up when the hypocrit in question has used a position of power to persecute others who are no more guilty than s/he is. Spitzer's enforcement of prostitution laws went well beyond pursuing corruption against organized crime and included prosecuting sex workers and their clients.

Spitzer has certainly done liberals no favor here. As a democratic governor, he served this scandal up to the republicans on a silver platter. They immediately pounced on it and are using it as an opportuniting to exact retribution against democrats who have made hay out of sex scandals involving republican politicians.

This insanity needs to stop

Solidarity with LGBTs Against Hate Speech of Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern

Nothing inspires me to stand in solidarity with LGBTs more than the following outrage. If you haven't already heard the words of Christian Republican Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern, give them a listen.

Kern was speaking to a sympathetic audience and didn't expect that her words would end up on YouTube. Surprise! In the first two days over half a million people have listened.

What this has to do with polyamory is this - the same people who use irresponsible, dangerous words while hiding behind their right to free speech also consider polyamory to be an analogous threat to society. When the speaker using hate speech is an elected official, to me it's simply unconscionable. Their power to influence thinking can have tragic results by empowering homophobes to rationalize violence against LGBTs as justified. Sadly, Kern refuses to see this point and refuses to apologize.

Here's what you can do. It's quick and easy. Just visit, a non-profit that provides strategic, technical and financial support to openly LGBT candidates and their campaigns, and add your name to its open letter to Ms. Kern.

Interestingly, Kern is the wife of a fundamentalist Baptist minister in Oklahoma City. They are rumoured to have a gay son whom they have disowned.

And by the way, I'm a neo-Christian Unitarian Universalist (I know, I know, but we do exist). I believe in God and Jesus, but I disagree with much of what is considered Biblical and therefore truth by organized Christianity. To me that's purely attributable to organized religion's oppressive powermongering in order to control its followers.

I mean no disrespect to Christians for believing in God and following Christ's message of love. Instead I reject Biblical "truth" on certain matters, especially those concerning sexuality, that have seemed to me for all of my adult life as inconsistent with the idea that God is love.

Monday, March 10, 2008

PolyFamilies Drinking Game

Noel, a/k/a The Polyamorous Misanthrope, who it turns out is wickedly creative, has devised a drinking game based on the crazy stuff that has happened on the huge, 1,500+ member yahoogroup she frequents called PolyFamilies. It easily applies to many various online polyamory communities since we see this stuff in lots of places. I've just never seen anyone make a drinking game out of it. If it were to catch on, there'd be an awful lot of drunk poly people.

I especially enjoyed these:

Take one drink for anyone who says they've been dating three weeks, live on opposite sides of the country and use spousal titles for each other;

Take two drinks if anyone posts looking for a nice female third who doesn’t mind helping with the kids and likes three-ways;

-and last but not least-

Take two drinks every time someone thinks that Stranger in a Strange Land would work outside of fiction.

Anyone who decides to try it out is invited to let me know what happens - send pictures! (And kudos, Noel - thanks for the laughs.)

New Poly-Friendly Professionals Resource

Author, columnist, editor, and sex educator Tristan Taormino is about to unveil a website devoted to open relationships which is to include a list of professionals (therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, consultants, relationship and life coaches, doctors, lawyers, etc.) who are experienced and knowledgeable about open relationships, polyamory, nonmonogamy, swinging, etc.

If you or someone you know would like to be added to the list, here is the info you need in order to submit a listing.


-Title/Occupation/License/What You Do (examples: MSW, PhD., relationship coach)

-Location: this can be a street address or the area you serve, like New York
Metropolitan area

-Do you do phone consultations or sessions?

-Phone number(s)

-Email address


-A brief statement about experience, your practice, anything else you want to say

Please email it to this address

The site will go live in April, but Tristan will be constantly adding to the list,
so you can email the info at any time.

Many thanks to Tristan for her contributions to the polyamory community. Her book on open relationships, Opening Up, is due out on April 28, 2008.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Polyamory and Lesbian Views About Bisexual Women

A recent post to the Bisexual Forum at, When You Want Both, brought to mind my feelings of ambivalence as an out bisexual polyamorous woman and my sometimes discomfort in the past at feeling like my polyamorous side wasn't welcome in my local bisexual women's community. The AfterEllen post in question addresses lesbian community shyness about dating bisexual women for fear of being left for a man and suggests that maybe bisexual women who want relationships with both a woman and a man are polyamorous. What a concept!

There was a time in my local community when I heard more than one bisexual woman insist that she wasn't polyamorous but was instead "duogamous". As best I could tell, this term basically was intended to communicate a monogamous nature but with, um, more than one person. As a woman who embraces her poly side, I always felt it was hair-splitting and sensed that the term "polyamory" made some bi women uncomfortable.

Lesbian stereotyping bisexuals as at best unreliable, worse as fickle, and at worst as promiscuous is such an unfair burden. And the difficulty is obvious for monogamously inclined bi women who would like to be accepted by the lesbian community as potential monogamous partners.

Stereotyping polyamorists as promiscuous also creates problems for polys who aren't and don't like being portrayed as such. And we bi polys, well, we're the sleaziest, sluttiest of all - or so some assume. As a polyamory advocate I often find myself making the point that for many polyfolk, polyamory is no more about sex than monogamy is about sex. When I do, I'm usually rebutting the stereotype that polyamory is just an excuse for promiscuity - just as bi women are similarly stereotyped. The reason we feel a need to defend ourselves, whether bi or poly or both, is the same - we are all victims of a highly sex-negative culture.

What if we - both bisexuals and polyamorists - were to take a more sex-positive approach? Rather than buying into the age-old societal stereotyping of anyone who has a sexual relationship with more than one person at a time, what if we were to stand up for ourselves and challenge the stereotyping instead of bending over backward trying to convince others that we're really virtuous? I often think that virtue is overrated.

The term sex-positive is often misinterpreted to mean promiscuous, but it's really more about refusing to be shamed and choosing to see sexuality as a wholesome, healthy, positive part of life, no matter what form of sexual expression we choose or prefer, as long as it is among consenting adults. It surely would be nice if we could do so, especially within the bisexual and polyamory communities where there is so much crossover.

I get that some bi women who have both a male and a female partner don't like the idea of being labeled as polyamorous, but I also very much regret that there is such bias from one sexual minority against another. I wonder whether that was because they didn't want to be doubly saddled with the slut label. I am always hesitant to apply the polyamory label to anyone who doesn't want it, yet from a behavioral point of view, if a bisexual person has two partners with whom they are engaged in loving relationships, there is no difference between polyamory and duogamy, at least not that I can tell. Bisexuals in the polyamory community do exactly that all the time. Yet I can also see how some may think that being stereotyped as a slut simply for identifying as bisexual should be burden enough.

As a bi poly woman this has at times represented quite a conundrum for me. Sometimes as an out bi poly woman I felt a bit like the elephant in the local bisexual women's community living room. I perceive that some bi people can be uncomfortable because I raise by my very presence uncomfortable questions for them and am perhaps a reminder of the outside discrimination and stereotyping to which bisexuals are subjected both from the mainstream and from the queer community. I can see huge value in bi community as a safe haven where one can find respite from being misunderstood - at least if you don't also identify as polyamorous.

As to the lesbian stereotyping of bisexual women as more likely to leave them, ostensibly for a male partner, it seems to me that this may be an understandable but unreasonable fear. People leave relationships for all kinds of reasons. Is it really that much more likely that a monogamous bisexual woman partnered with a lesbian will leave her lesbian partner for a man than it is that the lesbian partner will leave the relationship for another lesbian? I get that the odds may seem greater simply because people attracted to both men and women have twice the options, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily more likely to want to exercise them. And I get het privilege and the resentment surrounding that issue.

Once again I have to wonder whether it's not time for monogamous and polyamorous bisexual women to stand together in solidarity and say this is who we are. We are as ethical and reliable as any other partner regardless of gender, and we are easily as capable of making a commitment - whether we are monogamous or polyamorous - as anyone else. If we prefer to have one of each (or more), we'll say so up front and not split hairs over what to call it. That's who some but not all bisexuals are. The women we date deserve to know where we stand on this subject, and whether monogamous or polyamorous, we ALL deserve first and foremost to be treated with respect as ethical, honest, sexual individuals.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

2008 Loving More Retreats

Spring is on the way, and with the return of warmer weather our thoughts turn to planning our travel and making sure we don't miss out on the outdoor events we've come to cherish. Don't forget to include the Loving More East and West Coast Retreats in your planning.

Remember to register early and save. Your doing so also helps Loving More plan and budget for the best ultimate experience for all.

Some big changes are in the works regarding the programming, particularly around more intensives where presenters work together to develop interactive programs that explore topics of interest to polyamorists more deeply. Stay tuned for more on that.

I will definitely be present at the East Coast Retreat September 5-7 north of Albany, NY at the wonderful Easton Mountain Retreat. I hope to also make it out to California for the West Coast Retreat at Brooktrails Lodge in Willits, California July 25-27.

It's a fine time to be a polyamorist! You can download the Loving More retreats flyer here. If you'd like to print it up and distribute it wherever poly people gather, please do so with our thanks.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Love Songs" French Indie Musical About Threesomes and More

A new indie musical that has already won high praise from critics is making the rounds. It is French with English subtitles and is called Love Songs. Non-monogamous straight and bisexual/homosexual relationships are the focus. It will be interesting to see where the relationships go, especially since the description of the film says up front that a couple is trying to revive their stalled relationship. We know how that usually turns out - not good, since polyamory very rarely benefits people in troubled relationships. Here's the description:

"Christophe Honore further makes a case as one of the most exciting filmmakers of our generation with the exuberant and tender LOVE SONGS (LES CHANSONS D'AMOUR). A modern day musical told through unforgettable songs sung entirely by the cast and scored by Alex Beaupain, the film has overjoyed audiences at the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals while earning recognition in its native Country with four French Cesar nominations.

In the hope of sparking their stalled relationship, Ismael (Louis Garrel of DANS PARIS, THE DREAMERS) and Julie (Ludivine Sagnier of SWIMMING POOL) enter a playful yet emotionally laced threesome with Alice (Clotilde Hesme of REGULAR LOVERS). When tragedy strikes, these young Parisians are forced to deal with the fragility of life and love. For Ismael, this means negotiating through the advances of Julie's sister (Chara Mastroianni of PERSEPOLIS) and a young college student (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet of STRAYED); one of which may offer him redemption."

I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for this one. There is a fairly lengthy trailer to see on the film's website.