Friday, June 20, 2008

On The Edge of Love

It seems that the people Capitol Films have an interest in plot lines that focus on the relationship dynamics of more than two. In 2007 Capitol Filmes acquired THiNKFilm, which brought us the excellent 2006 documentary film Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family, as well as the very popular sex-positive sexploration film Shortbus

Capitol Films's new release is The Edge of Love and is centered on the unconventional, wartime love life of poet Dylan Thomas and the two women who love him. Here's the trailer.

The synopsis on the movie's website reveals relationship dynamics - both joys and challenges - very familiar to polyamorists:

Two feisty, free-spirited women are connected by a brilliant, charismatic poet who loves them both.

The passion and pathos of legendary poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) is told through the lives of two extraordinary women. Vera Phillips (Keira Knightley) and Dylan were each other's first loves who feel the thunderbolt once more when they unexpectedly meet in London ten years later. Caitlin (Sienna Miller) is his adventurous wife, wily at using her beauty and always up for a bit of fun.

Despite their love-rival status, the women form a surprising friendship - and though bombs rain down on London, the trio indulge in the glory of being young, and alive. When Vera meets and marries handsome Officer William Killick (Cillian Murphy), Dylan resents his trio becoming a foursome - and Caitlin notes it.

The collapse of their group is avoided when William gets sent away to war - and the others move back to rural Wales. With Vera now heavily pregnant and missing a husband who never writes back, the battle between her heart and head becomes more intense. William's return instigates a confrontation that has long been brewing - but the savagery of his attack on Dylan finally forces Vera
to choose between the men in her life and the friend that she loves.

Desire and guilt are complicated by love and friendship in this real-life tale set in beautiful London and the majestic Welsh countryside.

I'll be keeping an eye out for this film and plan to see it at the first opportunity.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sugasm Redux

My review of Jenny Block's "Open" book is in the Sex News, Reviews and Interviews category of this week's Sugasm. Click here to see all of the categories and the links to some very fine blog posts. Many thanks to the folks at Sugasm!

Sugasm - The best of this week’s blogs by the bloggers who blog them.

This Week’s Picks

Balanced on the tip of my tongue
Impertinent Question

Mr. Sugasm Himself
Sugar Bank

Editor’s Choice
The Source of All Waters

More Sugasm
Join the Sugasm

See also: Fleshbot’s Sex Blog Roundup each Tuesday and Friday.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Loving More West Coast Conference Retreat July 25-27

I'm really looking forward to attending and presenting at Loving More's upcoming west coast conference retreat. I've attended and presented at the east coast conference retreat many times, but never the west coast con until now. Since I'm on Loving More's board of directors, it's high time I showed up for the California con. I hope you'll join me there.

IMPORTANT - the deadline for discounted registration, JULY 1, 2008, is rapidly approaching!

Loving More(R), the creator of the longest running polyamory-focused conferences, is pleased to announce the 22nd consecutive year of Loving More Conference Retreats. It's annual west coast conference is happening in northern California July 25th, through July 27th, 2008.

Since 1986 it has been the Loving More(R) mission to support and educate people about polyamory. This year this conference Retreat will again be hosted at the beautiful Brooktrails Lodge in Willits, California (about 2 hours north of the San Francisco Bay Area). Three years ago Loving More relocated the West Coast conference from its former facility at Harbin Hot Springs in order to better meet attendees' needs. This wonderful facility in the California redwoods has been chosen for its privacy and comfortable hotel-style accommodations. Reserved for conference attendees only, lodge facilities include hiking trails, hot tubs and many comfortable, cozy places to sit and connect with others. Meals and hotel-style lodging are included in the price.

Come join the fun in Willits, and experience a journey toward growth and transformation in loving partnerships. Together with the help of experienced presenters and facilitators, the Loving More(R) conference offers a unique polyamory retreat experience. As always, LM's intention is to create an opportunity for in-depth learning, personal growth, and expansion of relationship skills in a safe and loving environment. In addition to the opportunities for learning and connection, there will also be plenty of fun play time, including a Saturday evening sensual festival that attendees will help to co-create.

Workshops are designed to help polyamorous singles, couples, triads and more to learn, expand, and improve skills needed for creating satisfying romantic partnerships. Whether you are new to polyamory, just curious, or you have been in a loving network for 20 years, there will be workshops designed to address your particular needs.

Opportunities to learn:
• Polyamory skills 101
• Establishing and maintaining good boundaries with your loves
• Creating and using agreements
• Dealing with jealousy
• How to deepen intimacy with all your partners
• Negotiating—boundari es, agreements, and more
• Building trust in long term polyamory
• Expanding your horizons and facilitating personal growth
• Receiving and giving touch in a loving, respectful manner

Opportunities to experience:
• Connecting with people of like mind from across the country
• A place to be your authentic self
• Exploring possibilities in relationships
• Music, dance and play time
• Community building
• Exploring outside your comfort zone in a safe environment
• Heart- and mind-expanding workshops taught by experienced facilitators
• Tasty buffet meals prepared on-site
• Building additional intimate connections

Registration (1/1/08- 7/1/08)
Members: $335; Non-Members* : $375

Late Registration (After July 1, 2008)
Members: $375; Non-Members* : $410

(*Non-Member price includes four-issue/one year basic membership)

To Register please call Loving More at 303-543-7540
Or register at the website.

Hope to see YOU in the redwoods very soon!

Help Put Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Out of Our Misery

Many people have an interest in seeing that the youths in their lives get comprehensive sex ed and that youth in general not continue to be abandoned to the teaching of inaccurate, even dangerous behaviors with regard to protecting their sexual health. Some, like myself, also object to the ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars via the proposed Senate funding extension discussed below, since abstinence-only sex ed has been repeatedly proven not to work. (See the data in the e-mail you will generate if you are willing to take a couple of minutes and and tell your Senators where you stand on this issue - more on that below.)

If the Bill referenced below passes, we'll continue to live with and pay for the Bush Administration's foolhardy abstinence-only sex ed agenda through 2009, when W will be long gone from the White House. The Senate is accountable as well, since continuing to provide funding for these ethically bankrupt programs is no doubt an example of backroom dealing on which it must now follow through, barring an uprising of the voters against it. That's where we come in.

The following includes a live link to Advocates for Youth's web page where you can enter your zip code and have already written and customizable email letters sent to your senators letting them know where you stand on this issue. It only takes a couple of minutes.

Thanks! - Anita

June 2008

With Friends Like These!

Illustration by Victor Juhasz, from "The Senate Caves" in Rolling Stone

When it comes to sex education, it's hard to put a lot of faith in the U.S. Senate right now. After all, this is the group of "leaders" who have failed to pass the REAL Act and failed to end Title V abstinence-only programs when they had the opportunity.

Apparently, they're at it again.

Now they've reached a new low. On Thursday, June 12 the Senate will vote on an 18-month extension of Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding in its new Medicare funding package. In a bill that has nothing to do with sex education Senate Democrats decided to authorize abstinence-only-until-marriage funding through the end of 2009.

TAKE ACTION NOW: No back-door extensions for abstinence-only programs! Tell the Senate to remove the Title V extension from the Medicare package.

We've been told that they're trying to save the next president from the "controversy" of sex education.

Let's save future officials the trouble and just end all funding for these failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs!

Tell your Senator it's time to stand up to the abstinence-only lobby! No Title V extension!

After all, legislators know that 80% of parents support comprehensive sexuality education. They know that young people need information to protect themselves in the era of AIDS. And they know that abstinence-only programs simply don't work.

What they don't know, apparently, is that they have a responsibility to help protect America's youth.

It's up to us to remind them.

Donald Hitchcock
Director of Public Policy
Advocates for Youth

PS – Together, we can hold our leaders accountable. Contact your Senators today and tell them that you oppose including a Title V extension in the Medicare package.


You can help Advocates for Youth with a contribution today. To donate, visit Advocates for Youth

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Review: Swingtown

The much anticipated debut of the CBS series Swingtown has finally happened, and I can't wait to see the next episode (this Thursday at 10:00 p.m. EDT). If you missed it last Thursday and need to be brought up to speed, you will find CBS's synopsis here.

The lives of the Swingtown characters were instantaneously recognizeable to me, and I'm sure CBS is counting on attracting many of we babyboomers. The most fascinating part of the story for me is that the swinging neighbor couple, Tom and Trina Decker, appear for all the world to have a very affectionate, loving, dare I say solid relationship. CBS didn't give in to temptation to paint them as troubled or morally defective or that they are in any way heading for a marital train wreck. Such temptation is understandable, since historically it has been safer to demonstrate how behavior that is traditionally viewed as immoral will lead to personal disaster. I imagine that our generally sex-negative society made this necessary in order for the network not to alienate a great many viewers.

But hooray, it seems that the times, they are a-changing! At least so far, CBS has presented this subject in non-pejorative terms. In fact, of the three couples who are the central characters, in addition to Tom and Trina, pictured here to the left, Susan and Bruce Miller (in the middle) are clearly very happily married and evenso have the capacity to receive the idea of swinging with an open mind.

Jane and Roger Thompson, on the right, are a different matter, though. Poor Roger is the long-suffering husband of a frigid, priggish wife who runs screaming from the room when she inadvertently discovers what's going on at the Decker's party. She immediately insists that she, Roger and the Millers leave the party, but the Millers elect to stick around. In a subsequent scene Jane is seen to be frantically scrubbing the kitchen, declaring that the house is a pig stye (it's clearly already perfect, since Jane is the model wife and mother) and saying in an angry tone to Roger "Don't touch me!" when he tried to reach out and comfort her.

Another fascinating aspect of Swingtown is the sexual exploring, coming-of-age experiences of these families' teenagers. Their stories are just as important and compelling as the stories of their parents.

There is a lot of drug use portrayed (coke, weed and quaaludes.) I'm sure there are lots of conservatives who were just as scandalized by that as by the open sexuality. I recall that aspect of that time as well and think the story wouldn't be authentic if that part of life back then weren't also referenced. It is essential, in fact, as it is another example of our cultural desire in the 1970s to experiment and break away from the strict moral and social standards with which we had lived for many years prior.

I very much enjoyed being taken back to the mid 1970s - the music, the clothes, all of it. I was a young 20-something married woman at that time, a child of the 1960s and the sexual revolution, but not quite yet a mom or living in an affluent suburb, though that would soon follow. I don't recall living across the street from anyone like Tom and Trina, though I do recall some flirtation and making out with some neighbors we were close to - let's see, his name was Ralph, and hers was Sharon. Then there were Bud and Sandy, who came to our halloween party dressed as love bugs, those kind of cute but annoying, car-paint-peeling insects in central Florida that fly in swarming, procreating pairs. To this day it was the most clever couple's costume I've ever seen.

Ah, those were the days, and what an exciting time it was. Hopefully Swingtown will succeed and continue to take us back to this time of great social change that laid the groundwork for the next chapter in the sexual revolution.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Book Review: Jenny Block's Open

Jenny Block’s book, Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, is literally a revelation. Published by Seal Press in hardback, it is a memoir of her life as a mainstream bisexual woman who, try as she might, couldn’t find the kind of fairytale fulfillment promised by traditional marriage. She has a supportive husband, Christopher, and a young daughter, Emily, who are the center of her life, as they should be. But still, there were issues in her marriage, the biggest one being that she and Christopher have different needs in terms of frequency of lovemaking. She’d had relationships with women before marriage. She thought she could do without them when she decided to do what everyone thinks they are supposed to do and get married. Despite giving the traditional suburban wife and mother role a solid effort, it left her feeling so dissatisfied that something had to change or her marriage wouldn’t survive.

There is no book on polyamory and open relationships like this one. It takes tremendous courage for a mainstream woman to publicly lay her heart and soul bare as Jenny has does here. She openly shares with us her most intimate thought processes and desires through every stage of her adult life, beginning with her experiences exploring her sexuality in college, up to and including details of her and Christopher’s challenges and experiences opening their marriage.

I especially enjoyed Christopher’s afterword. Jenny is smart for including his perspective and in his words. She has been hotly criticized online for the choices she’s made by people who are convinced that Christopher and Emily are the innocent victims of Jenny’s whorish selfishness. Christopher makes it clear that he is a co-partner in this adventure, even though partnering with others is not as high a priority for him as it is for his wife.

Another of this book’s strengths is Jenny’s point of view on how multi-partnering while raising Emily is a good thing and in no way harmful. That’s because Jenny and Christopher are good parents to begin with, and every decision they’ve made has been made with Emily’s best interests in mind.

Jenny is a writer by profession. She has written for print and electronic media on a wide range of topics. She has a master’s degree in English, taught college-level composition for ten years, and has a gift for eloquently articulating the issues and intricacies with which non-monogamists grapple.

Though this is a memoir, Jenny makes the same arguments against lockstep traditional monogamy we hear from seasoned polyamorists. She cites a variety of sources to support her point of view, many of them familiar to polyamorists. And yes, Jenny uses the word polyamory to describe her marriage and relationships, especially later in the book when her sexually open marriage naturally transitions to make room for love and romance with more than one.

Having come from a mainstream background myself, I believe polyamory is a practice that would greatly benefit a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds and points of view. For me the most remarkable aspect of Jenny’s book is that it is written from the perspective of a fairly average mainstream woman living a mainstream life, her bisexuality notwithstanding. Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage may well play a pivotal role in the mainstreaming of polyamory. It has gained the attention of two mainstream women’s magazines. The June 2008 issues of Marie Claire and Glamour have interviews or shorter Q&A’s with Jenny about her book and life. The book is available on the non-fiction new release tables at Barnes & Noble and Borders. There is nothing more mainstream than that.

Look for Jenny’s regular advice column in the women’s online love and sex magazine, Tango, and for her blog posts on open marriage on Huffington Post. You can also purchase the book and read her blog on her website. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Raising Kids in Non-Traditional Families

Yesterday posted an article authored by Laird Harrison entitled Scenes from a Group Marriage. In it he articulates what it was like for him being raised in such a family as a boy. It wasn't all happy, but there were many benefits, as he demonstrates. His article also demonstrates how much need there is for resources for poly parents to learn how best to nurture their children in the face of changes in family structure.

Being the passionate poly advocate that I am, I spent a fair amount of time commenting to others' comments (as of this writing there are 127 of them) and clearing up misconceptions about polyamory and poly families. One commenter, Laurel962, is clearly passionate about traditional marriage and families and commented at length a number of times. The following is my most recent response to her.

Laurel962 wrote: "I know that a lot of people would like to get away from this, and maybe in the distant future (and gee, I hope I am dead by then!), men will get pregnant and gay couples will be able to have biological children with each other. Maybe triad marriages will be able to create chimera children composed of THREE sets of DNA."

My response: OK, get ready to keel over, then. I know a polyamorous triad of two women and one man who wanted to have a baby together. One of the women was already in menopause, and the other had fertility problems. She could gestate a baby but not conceive one. The grown daughter of the older wife donated eggs that were fertilized with the triad male's sperm in vitro and implanted into the womb of the younger triad wife. Today these three are the proud parents of six year old twins in a very stable, long-existing family. Having three parents makes caring for twins much easier. And of course, the twins are related by blood to all three parents.

Still breathing?? Sorry, I really don't mean to be disrespectful. It's just that it's time to accept that families come in many different forms and they are going to continue to do so, so you might as well get used to it.

"But until then, a child can ONLY EVER HAVE one real father and one real mother -- and no system is more ideal than to have that child concieved, born and raised by the loving, committed parents who created them out of their own unique DNA and are tied to that child by blood, history, family and genetics, as well as their own committment, responsiblity and yes, love."

Certainly it's often lovely when children grow up with their biological parents, and I would agree even optimal so long as there is no serious dysfunction within the family. But as I've demonstrated above, that doesn't necessarily mean their family must be limited to only two biological parents (or two parents, for that matter).

Neither does it mean that children cannot thrive without both biological parents. In the case of divorce, certainly there are some challenges, and how parents manage to continue to co-parent makes a huge difference.

As an example, I have one child, a daughter, who is now 31. I was divorced twice during her childhood, which I never wanted to happen, but it did. In the second marriage it wasn't my choice, and I left my first husband because he was emotionally abusive to me - I felt I couldn't risk her emotional health by continuing our marriage.

Both her father, who learned to control his own behavior around her, and her stepfather stayed involved in her life, which is true still today. She went to college, got an associates degree, a bachelor's degree, is now the mother of a two year old with another baby on the way. She is working on finishing her master's degree in security management (think Homeland Security), which she will have by the end of the year.

While her husband was deployed to Iraq four years ago, she enlisted in the Army herself, went to officer candidate school, became a commissioned officer and was honorably discharged at her request about eight months ago after attaining the rank of Captain.

Her husband (also a child of divorce) is a career Army non-commissioned officer who has served for ten years now. As an infantry squad leader he lead missions in the Sunni Triangle and came under fire every day for 14 months. Today he is responsible for some of the honor guard that carries out the ceremonial funeral duties at Arlington Cemetery, and they also attend the President at the White House. Last week he commanded the soldiers who attended the President while he laid the wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.

I'm not pro-divorce - it's a painful and difficult experience - but I am saying that children can do just fine in less than perfect family circumstances, my own family being just one example.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monica Hesse Gets Kudos from Washingtonian Magazine

On February 13, 2008, the Washington Post published a feature length article in its Style Section by Monica Hesse called Pairs with Spares which I posted about here.

Today we learn that glossy, stylish Washington Magazine has published in it's June edition an article on Monica and her considerable talents, in which it speculates as to whether she might be the journalist to save the Style Section from shrinking articles and staff.

What is remarkable about this is that Monica is at present an intern at the Post and is only 26 years old. She is clearly a superstar journalist and social commentator in the making. The polyamory community was very fortunate that she took such an interest in polyamory, in profiling the Loving More Poly Living Conference, and that she managed to convince her editor that it was worthwhile for her to spend a weekend covering it.

I was already a big fan of Monicas, and I'm very happy for her and for this prestigious recognition.

More on Tilda Swinton's Poly Family

Back in February when the fabulous actress Tilda Swinton won a best supporting actress oscar, I posted here about her win and details about her poly family and her lover, Sandro Kopp, all of which she has been very open about in the press.

Now the Australian online news source LiveNews has published an article called "Love Geometry" that tells us that Swinton's partner, John Byrne, has had another partner for two years now, 42 y.o. theatre lighting director Jeanine Davis. Byrne is quoted as saying "“It’s all very relaxed and amicable. We have not hidden away and Jeanine is very much part of my life. Tilda knows all about it and is more than happy with the situation. It’s all very relaxed and amicable. Tilda has Sandro and the arrangement works very well.”

I hope we'll see many more celebrities go public about their own open relationships - doing so will be quite a boon to mainstream tolerance and even acceptance of polyamory as a legitimate choice and relationship orientation.