Friday, May 30, 2008

Blind Devotion and Traditional Monogamous Marriage

On a poly/mono yahoogroup I manage, a subscriber wrote: " still amazes me that even among the most liberal, traditional marriage views tend to hold sway. This seems to be the last thing to change, and I wonder why?"

The idea of sharing one's partner with someone else scares the heck out of a lot of people, so much so that they dare not examine these issues too closely for fear that the monogamous marriage house of cards will come tumbling down. Many people would much rather choose denial and avoid picking at the scab of deeply-held beliefs around monogamy, even though there is considerable threat to their emotional health underneath. By this I am referring to:

-- Hypocracy in the form of cheating;

-- Reluctance to acknowledge that, especially in today's world, people and their needs can and do change, sometimes regardless of relationship situation;

-- The idea that monogamy gives right of ownership over one's partner's heart, body and soul;

-- A belief that despite the present state of monogamous marriage, it is still the only acceptable game in town and therefore the gold standard;

-- Questions around whether that fairy tale we often buy into that we'll find the perfect one for us and live happily ever after can really withstand the test of time.

For many people it feels much safer to rationalize to themselves that monogamy is the only legitimate option because choosing anything else challenges beliefs around possessiveness and that false sense of security that a marriage license often fosters. It may also open the door for their partner to express an interest on a polyamorous relationship, which is also frightening to many people.

At this time in history, traditional, unexamined, reflexive monogamy rises almost to the level of mass obsession and delusion. The European church leaders who several centuries ago set up the model of patriarchal monogamy as the only option and tied it to the soul's salvation were very crafty and understood human nature all too well. They set purity and virtue in women up as the only standard to which a woman could aspire and remain respectable. This was necessary in order to control women's sexuality, and thereby control paternity and inheritance rights. People were forbidden from thinking for themselves, and challenging church docrine was sacrilege. Any alternative relationship route was very effectively blocked with the belief that down any road besides lifelong monogamous marriage was nothing but destruction and ruin. These standards truly create the appearance of there being no way out of the monogamy trap and that monogamy is something people simply must accept regardless of its flaws. Like I said, very crafty.

Most people internalize those messages still today. They've been passed along, generation after generation, and today they are oft repeated on TV and other popular media. It feels a lot safer to go with what is considered acceptable so as to appear respectable and legitimate in one's community, and to one's family and friends. Primarily it's only those who are not especially invested in what other people think of them, who are willing to examine their own beliefs and societal messaging and stay independent in their thought processes, and who are able to step back and see what is real and what is illusion who escape the reflexive nature of committing to monogamous marriage.

DISCLAIMER: I realize that there are people who enter into monogamous marriages who are not blind to these issues and who have discussed them with their intendeds prior to marriage and chose a traditional monogamous marriage while aware that there are other legitimate options. I just wish there were more of them. These are NOT the people to whom I refer here.

As long as what's outside the walls of the house of monogamy looks like a dark forest with beasties hiding around every turn in the forest path, people are going to run screaming from it in anger and fright. It is my goal, as is that of other polyamory advocates, to shed light on those dark spots and help people understand that there is nothing to fear and that polyamory is merely another option.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Polyamory and Adult ADHD

The question of whether polyamory is a good idea or a bad one for adults with ADHD came up this week in an adult ADHD online forum. I thought I'd offer some perspective as a polyamory educator and a polyamorist who was once in love with a guy with ADHD and posted the following.

I do not recommend polyamory to people with ADHD. The problem I had with my poly guy who had ADHD is that when we were together, it was fabulous. He was intensely focused on me and us, and I'm an intensity junky.

It was a long distance relationship - we lived about 100 miles from each other - and he had two other ladies, one of which lived where he did. I was actually very happy for him for finding a woman as a primary partner where he lived - he needed the support and stability, particularly because he was underemployed and going through a very difficult divorce and child custody battle.

Anyway, the problem was that though things were great when we were together, I never heard from him otherwise. It was clear that the out of sight, out of mind phrase really applied here. At first I was hurt. Then I bought a couple of books on adult ADHD and the problem became a lot more clear.

In order to have happy polyamorous relationships, it is essential that the people involved be good at juggling time and attention. They need to be able to keep their eye on all the balls, so to speak, i.e. remain conscious of the importance of checking in with significant others regularly, remaining alert for any issues that might be brewing, and soforth.

My guy was a wonderful person, and I still think of him fondly with no animosity, but I couldn't stay in relationship with him without regular contact. I need my partners to meet me half way. It was very difficult for him to do that. Also it's pretty hard to take on the burden of doing all the reaching out if you have another relationship or two that require attention as well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Multiple O - But Will It Play in Peoria, uh, Madison?

I was pleased to see that a play entitled Multiple O, written and directed by playwrite John Sable, is currently being staged in of all places, Madison, Wisconsin. It is based on the seminal polyamory book written by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt (pen name of Dossie's partner, Janet Hardy) called The Ethical Slut.

Yesterday critic Bruce G. Bradley panned it - he clearly couldn't find much in the way of redeeming qualities. Of course, he's just one critic, and as you may see if you read the comments already made to this post, apparently what wasn't mentioned is that Bradley has a track record for panning Broom Street productions and many others in the Madison area. Also the play has been standing room only for much of its run to date, and that's great news. I hope it makes its way to the east coast so I get a chance to check it out.

I stand corrected and am glad that I do! Thanks, anonymous.

Dossie and Janet tell us they are in the process of authoring a second edition of the Ethical Slut that should be out in another year of so, in which they include poly communication exercises and an online polyamory resource list. Definitely something to look forward to.

Poly Comic Moments (as opposed to comic poly moments, which may or may not be a whole 'nother thang ......)

Check out this episode of the comic strip called The Devil's Panties by Jennie Breeden. Sure sounds like a poly reference to me, and very clever it is. I really love stuff like this.

It also brings to mind a poly-based comic that has been around for a while called Spice!, a comic strip by Julie Jacob.

There are also a couple of poly panels of the comic Strange Den by I'm not sure who since she doesn't give her name, described as "a comic strip about poly, furry, paganism, body modifications, punks, goths, raising learning disabled children, parenting, communal living and other exciting interactions with the mundane world."

Polyfolk Love OKCupid

For quite some time now, the matchmaker website of choice for polyamorists has been OKCupid. People seem to really enjoy spending time there, completing a few more of the hundreds, maybe thousands of questions you can answer that will more closely define who you are and communicate it to those who check you out.

There are many polyamorists who report that they've had their subscriptions at and declined and their money refunded because those sites didn't want to offend their monogamous clientele.

A big "ATTA BOY!" to OKCupid owner Sam Yagan for creating such a poly-friendly site. To learn more about OKCupid and the creative manner in which it appeals to a more alternative demographic, see Bonnie Ruberg's column in the Village Voice "Does OKCupid Shoot Digital Arrows?".

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dancing the May Poly & More at Sacred Sexuality Beltane

What a wonderful Free Spirit Beltane festival T and I just attended! Cat, Liam, Eve and the rest of the crew outdid themselves once again. To them I send many thanks and much gratitude. What a privilege to be present with over three hundred people who appreciate sexuality as a sacred endeavor.

I was responsible for three classes, a facilitated group discussion on Poly/Mono Relating, Cheating, and the Spirit of Love, another facilitated group discussion on Polyamory as a Spiritual Path, and a presentation based on my keynote address at the Florida Poly Retreat this past March, Polyamory in Media's Spotlight. The Polyamory as a Spiritual Path workshop was especially meaningful with lots of great sharing, discussion, and hugs. I very much enjoyed offering new programming in lieu of my usual poly jealousy and poly pitfalls workshops.

Though T and I are not especially pagan, we are definitely pagan friendly and enjoyed participating in some of the rituals, which were both meaningful and a lot of fun. The most memorable one was the gigantic May pole (carved to resemble a sacred phallus, complete with a Prince Albert piercing), and doing the May pole dance with a couple of dozen others. The end result was a beautifully executed pattern of interlaced, multicolored ribbon from the top to the bottom of this 25 foot tall telephone pole of a May pole.

Another memorable experience was the stripper pole and associated partying provided and hosted by our friends T and P. What a great opportunity for people who fantasize about dancing, stripping and seduction. These folks transformed their cabin into a very sensuous lair, complete with erotic slideshow, sexy music, mirrors so dancers could see themselves, light shows and even a "Live Nudes" neon sign. This was a great alternative in the evenings to the dungeon for those of us who aren't expecially kinky.

Speaking of which, I did visit the dungeon space Thursday evening and was treated to a lovely rope harness spectacle by the lucious Ken and Emily. Ken even wrapped me in a deliciously sensuous length of fabric that when finished and tied was a sexy halter top.

Clearly many of us were reluctant to return to the real world, including those of us who lingered on the main ritual field Sunday as long as we possibly could. (Yeah, OK, and to engage in just one more "Beltane bellow", as T calls the lusty cry of Beltane denizens frolicking on the field.)

So here I am back at my desk at work. Where are all my loving peeps? Why am I wearing clothes? (Ok, I guess that one's pretty obvious - some would say it's a good thing - lol!) And why am I not still naked and enjoying this gorgeous, sunshiny day???

Oh well, all things in balance. I thank beneficent diety for blessing us with such fabulous weather over the course of the festival, despite predictions for rain right up until the end of last week, perhaps a sign that we were indeed meant to be doing what we were doing. To every loving, warm-hearted person who attended my little program offerings and contributed so many valuable perspectives, I send both love and gratitude. Likewise to the Sandboxers and Freeheart followers who shared their meals and welcomed T and I into their delightful cabin and company. Many thanks also to Leonard for coordinating sleeping space. And a special note of thanks to Michael and Melanie for setting up and coordinating meal preparation in the outdoor community kitchen. (Especially for the morning coffee!) Special smooches to both of you!

Last but definitely not least, I want to remember Free Spirit Alliance Beltane's founder, the late, great George Marvil (who was Cat's husband) for his creativeness and his commitment in founding this festival, which is now in its eighth year. George was also a polyamory community organizer and founder of the Poly Living polyamory conference held each February in Philadelphia and now being organized by the Loving More nonprofit organization. We love and miss you, George!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Great Honor - The Kinsey Institute

My dear friend, Ken Haslam, has done the polyamory world a huge favor by establishing, funding and continuing to grow at the Kinsey Institute a collection of information, both historical and contemporary, on polyamory and the polyamory community's growth and challenges. It has been aptly named the Kenneth R. Haslam Collection on Polyamory. Of late Ken has been going about videotaping interviews with a variety of polyamory community leaders, organizers and activists. These will be invaluable to future researchers and students of alternative relating.

This weekend I sat down with Ken and his video camera and told my own personal poly story, described my activism work and shared my perspective on what the future holds for polyamory. I am honored to become a part of the documented history of the polyamory community, and in Dr. Kinsey's invaluable collection, no less! By the way, if you've never seen the Kinsey movie with Liam Neeson's excellent portrayal of this lightening rod of a man, I highly recommend it. Here's the trailer to whet your appetite:

Many thanks, hugs and kisses to Ken for all his hard work! I include his funny and informative bio here FYI. Ken Haslam, MD, is a retired anesthesiologist who for the past ten years has been living and teaching about responsible, ethical, and consensual multipartnering or Polyamory. He is a founding member and past board member of Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, and a past board member of the Institute for 21st Century Relationships and his Unitarian fellowship. He has presented many workshops, sermons, and lectures on Polyamory for the beginner and is both a practicing Poly and a rabid Poly activist. He has made most of the mistakes in the Poly life path and qualifies as a Geezer Poly…

He is single, a bachelor, but not alone having a (as she says) number one hen in the hen house for some ten years and more than one OSO (other significant other). He cheats on his Poly partners by having an ongoing torrid affair with his live aboard boat, plays the flute, is a Unitarian pagan camp-follower, spends too much time at the computer, and loves riding roller coasters. Drinks and smokes a little. His present goal in life is to be the first Unitarian heretic burned at the stake by the Unitarians.