Friday, March 8, 2013

Fits and Starts with lots of Pinterest

You may have noticed that I've not been putting up much new content here lately.  One reason is that there is so much going on in our growing larger poly community with more and more people covering it that what I think or focus on is less necessary.  Another is that my off-line life requires and will continue to require for a while more of my time and energy.  And then there is my Pinterest obsession, which at least includes a polyamory board.

So consider me to be on a semi- or mini-sabbatical.  I'm still here, still welcome comments to existing entries here, and I'm still giving workshops and posting to Facebook and Twitter.  I have elected in the past not to automatically cross-post Facebook status updates and/or Tweets here, but I'm thinking I may begin doing so in order to give followers one place to find out what I am focusing on these days.

I'm so happy to say that we have many wonderful newcomers to the world of polyamory advocacy and education.  And believe me, there is still plenty of need for this.  If nothing else I may need to start a "Dear Anita" column, so often do I receive pleas for advice from those who struggle with their relationship issues.  But their stories also tend to include highly sensitive information, and confidentiality is of paramount importance. 

Please take a moment to check out my blogroll in the right column here for some interesting newcomers with fresh perspectives, as well as links to veterans who are still making a huge contribution.  I welcome suggestions for additions, including your own link to your own content, and I also welcome a head-up if you find a dead link.

Interest in polyamory is still growing, and there is a lot of bad polyamory being practiced out there.  There is also a lot of bad advice in certain fora, so don't believe everything you read about what constitutes ethical non-monogamy.  If it sounds fishy, especially in a self-serving, non-egalitarian sort of way, it probably is, so be cautious as to who you get involved with and/or whose advice you decide to take.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Polyamory - It's Not Just for Baby Boomers Anymore

In his most recent entry at Polyamory in the News, Alan quotes a college student: "Every time I turn around, I feel like more of my peers are entering open relationships." A 30-something family member of mine said the very same to me just a few days ago.  Then Alan gives us a rundown of the latest poly news from college campuses.  He also includes the following quote and comment:
"This is my poly dream: that every college student in America will know the word polyamory and what it means within five years." So declared Diana Adams at a Loving More conference 4¼ years ago. Since then, more progress has happened in this direction than I expected. As the poly universe grows, its average age is certainly trending down.
I, too, witnessed Diana's passionate declaration that day.  Are we approaching our cultural tipping point, or is it maybe not too far down the road?  Time will tell.  It's very exciting to think about that, it's what I've been committed to helping facilitate for a long time now, remarking from time to time that the completion of the societal legitimization of alternatives to traditional monogamy lies in the hands of younger generations.  It's exciting to see that TNGers continue to find their voices and to be able to be a witness to that myself.  More and more they are taking their power in hand and, in so doing, making a difference for all of us. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

This Week on Savage Love: Dan Gives Poly People the Last Word on Poly as Orientation

How lovely to see that Dan Savage was as good as his word when he remarked a week or so ago in the Slog Blog that he would be giving polyamorists a chance to have their say regarding a statement he made to Polyamorous PolyMath ("PP") (scroll down to the second letter), saying that polyamory is something you do and not who you are.  The question of whether polyamorous counts as a sexual orientation added to the ensuing confusion mele', but orientation indeed it is, though a relationship orientation.  It really doesn't fit as a sexual orientation, unless you count liking to have sex with more than one person at a time.  In that case, "That's not for me", said no one, ever.  (Thanks Jimmy Fallon!)

After his brief intro, Dan published five excellent letters from people who described themselves, their poly families and their poly lives so that it is quite clear that polyamory for many people is lightyears more than merely something that we do.  I think that makes Dan a classy guy.  As he notes, he walked into this one unawares and accidentally kicked the hornet's nest.  Dang those poly people can be a feisty bunch. 

The following is my posted comment: 
"What moving words in all of those letters. And pride. Those are excellent examples of the complexity that is identity to polyamorous people, and its further complicated for people who are LGBTQ *and* polyamorous and questioning it all. I know many polyamorists who cross multiple community lines, including sexual activities like BDSM and swinging, and spiritual practices like body modification, paganism, tantra, and liberal mainstream churches like the Unitarian Universalists and the UCC. It's a great joy to be free to find out who we are in that way, and to have that freedom to live a life that is authentic to who we are. But I know you know that. Thanks, Dan..." 
To catch up with how this whole thing started and ended up getting focus at Savage Love in three successive weekly columns, check my preceeding blog posts first here, here and here

Some of Dan's readers are getting impatient with the discussion, but it is very important to correct an impression Dan erroneously made (with no malice) that spread far and wide very quickly since Savage Love is a syndicated sex advice column.   Giving an audience that false information and it coming from someone as knowledgable and respected as Dan has the potential for biased perceptions of what polyamory is, who polyamorists are, and how we love. 

On a vaguely related note, here's a quick little gem of an interview with Dan in which he gives great advice about how to be a good sex partner and the challenges of monogamy to MTV Voices interviewer (and well known sex educator) Francisco Ramirez (seen with Dan below - sorry you have to jump to the interview but the embed link MTV is providing is broken). 


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What We Do or Who We Are? Round 2 with Dan Savage

Dan Savage has included more thoughts in today's Slog Blog about the controversy he started last week in advising someone seeking his advice that polyamory is something people do and is not who they are as an identity.  He is still having a hard time grasping what many are saying.  I have written an in-depth response because the questions he asks, which seem simple to him, are anything but simple.  In comments I wrote the following.

.... Dan, I think a key component of understanding this question is the context in which died-in-the-wool (if you will) polyamorists live out their poly lives while to at least some degree swimming against the larger mainstream cultural tide.  You know, of course, what that's like.  Trusting in ourselves and our own sense of who we are and what is right for us, without shame or apology, becomes an essential component in withstanding the blow-back we get from people whose esteem we care about and whose tolerance, if not acceptance, we value.  That sense of identity becomes the bedrock upon which we can build a life that will withstand the external cultural challenges we sometimes encounter.  As I am fond of saying, polyamory ain't for sissies.  These challenges take the form of drama and rejection by one's family of origin, the loss of friends who don't approve, loss of a job because the boss starts to question our judgment, or loss of child custody due to false assumptions by family court judges. 

As you point out and as Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jetha well demonstrate in Sex at Dawn, humans are naturally non-monogamous - of course!  But over the centuries religious authorities' literal crusade to force people to conform to monogamy became a very effective barrier to patterns of relationship openness and non-monogamies of all kinds.  Still today, living a life of integrity as a polyamorist requires a significant amount of swimming against the tide, and that's putting it mildly.  

So with that perspective in mind, you asked:

"...is poly something anyone can do ...?"

Yes.  Or at least, the majority can if they want it, but not quite everyone.  In my experience, those who want it enough and who are committed to doing the work necessary to live comfortably outside the societal relationship box and make the transition from monogamy to polyamory absolutely can do it.  The exceptions are those who have significant self-esteem and/or abandonment issues.  Likewise as to those who lack self-awareness, live in denial, and don't own their own feelings.  It's also essential that we learn good communication skills.  Mental illnesses, anxiety disorders, depression, malignant narcissism, and oppositional personality disorders are generally prohibitive.  Otherwise, anyone who is reasonably well adjusted, open to new experiences and personal growth, and those who are committed to the process can do it, whether by simple choice or as an aspect of identity. 

Monogamy creates for many a desired sense of security.  Becoming good at polyamory almost always requires giving that up in order to stretch, grow and challenge internalized cultural messaging.  Failing to do this as to what is and is not ethically and morally acceptable is not an option if we are to reach a safe and secure comfort level with sharing with others our loved one's heart, time and attention.  A fair number of people find that the transition is more difficult than they imagined and tend to be those for whom a poly life is a choice.  They don't have that sense of identity that others find the need to fulfill.  No problem!  

"... or is it something some people are." 

Yes.  Or at least it is for many of us.  You've heard from quite a few people who feel a strong sense that this is exactly who they are.  It seems that like so many debates about complicated, emotionally charged subjects, the answers are not found in the black or the white but are instead found in the gray area.  Some of us are doing it because we like it but could live without it in order to gain something else of value.  Others can't imagine being any other way and make sure to choose partners who share their perspective. 

Thanks for discussing this and for considering all the feedback.   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dan Savage Responds to the Poly-As-Identity/Orientation Controversy

With regard to last week's post about Dan Savage's advice to a polyamorous person trying to cope with a monogamous partner's pressure to be monogamous, it seems that he's been hearing quite a lot from people with all sorts of perspectives.  He references this today in a blog post:
"I said 'no' in last week's Savage Love, kicking off a shitstorm in the comments thread, in my e-mail inbox, and here and there on the interwebs. (Even the right-wing nutjobs have taken notice.) At least one poly person agrees with me:
There are a few problems with describing polyamory as a sexual orientation. The first of which is that polyamory is not sexual. Polyamory is about relationships, honesty, and intimacy. Look back at the definitions given by Loving More. Not a single one mentions sex. Calling polyamory a sexual orientation is a joke.
Secondly, polyamory is not an orientation. Polyamory is not a physical desire or a feeling. While there is not complete agreement on what polyamory is, there is clear agreement about it isn’t. And it isn’t just an attraction to multiple people. As Shaun pointed out, if you define polyamory as a feeling or an inclination, then half of the country is polyamorous, which is an absurd result. Almost everyone feels attraction for multiple people at the same time. This does not make them polyamorous.
A third problem with describing poly as a sexual orientation is that being poly is nothing like being GLB. Being GLB is about the type of person to whom you are sexually attracted. Being polyamorous is about the amount of people you love. Describing polyamory as a sexual orientation suggests a false equivalence between the groups, and seems like an attempt to coopt the sympathy that the GLBT community has built up.
I'm hearing from lots of poly folks who disagree. I'm going to let them have their say in next week's Savage Love."
Dan provides a link to my and another post on this issue.  I left a comment that I hope comes across as both thoughtful and respectful.   And it's very col that he's going to let people have their say in next week's Savage Love.  Stay tuned for Round 2. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sierra Black on HuffPo With Advice on Taking More Than One Honey Home for a Visit


An excellent blog post has just been written by Sierra Black, a polyamory writer and activist in the midwest, with great advice on how to handle taking more than one partner home for a holiday celebration. 

Sierra has landed herself a blog on Huffington Post's Women's pages, and this subject is not being shyed away from.  .

So have a look, you never know when these skills will be required by your own poly life.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This Week on Savage Love: Dan Rejects Polyamorous as Identity

I have to admit I'm disappointed in Dan Savage today after reading his response to Polyamorous Polymath ("PP") in his latest column.  

Dan does not identify as polyamorous (he and hubby being "monogamish").  Instead of addressing PP's concerns, Dan quickly steps all over PP's idea that polyamory is his identity and not just a lifestyle.  Dan tells PP that polyamory is about what people do and not who they are.  In fact, he's vehement about that, and about polyamory not being a sexual orientation, which seems to be his supporting argument against polyamory as sexual identity.  (Protect your turf much, Dan?)

PP is a man who finds himself in a difficult poly/mono relationship trying to figure out how to give up polyamory in order to meet the ultimatum of his monogamous girlfriend.  PP loves her and doesn't want to have to give her up.  PP's dilemma is that he clearly believes that polyamory is a big piece of his identity, and agreeing to foresake all others feels like giving up who he is. 

PP has a tough choice to make.  Dan tries to make it sound like it's an easy one, a lifestyle choice, but he's wrong.  Many therapists would agree that giving up who we are to make someone happy is not a very healthy relationship strategy.  At some point it sounds a lot like codependence

Over the last 15 years I've met many, many polyamorous people for whom being polyamorous is to them about a lot more than what (or whom!) they do. They say emphatically that it's about who they are.  Many tried to live by mainstream society's monogamy rules because they thought they had to, but it chafed - a lot.  Many always felt like they were different and like they were the only ones who saw relationships differently.  We still have people come into our community who are delighted and relieved to have discovered they weren't alone after all. 

Is polyamory a sexual orientation?  Some will insist that it is not as to the traditional meaning of it.  Yet many polyamorists express themselves differently sexually, i.e. with more than one person at a time.  If not sexual orientation, then sexual relationship orientation or sexual relationship identity - that's how I refer to it, and I've done so for some years now. 

I expect that this point will be made much more frequently in the future as research under way now gives us more scientific insight into such questions. In the meantime, I hope Dan catches up soon because his advice basically says to PP that his identity isn't valid.  I have to wonder how Dan would feel if someone told him his identity isn't valid.