Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

February 18, 2017

Philosopher Carrie Jenkins: Make way for polyamory

Now here's some cool stuff getting attention! Carrie Jenkins is a Kind of a Big Thing philosopher at the University of British Columbia. She's an out poly with two male partners and has just published a book, What Love Is, And What It Could Be.

Let's start with a long article of hers that's going around. She originally published How a hackneyed romantic ideal is used to stigmatise polyamory in the thinky magazine Aeon. It was then picked up by the major newsmagazine The Week, which retitled it Monogamy is Out. Polyamory is In (a grabby title but not the point of the article). Yahoo News reprinted it from there.

Excerpts from the article as published in The Week:

There's no longer anything unusual about wanting an open relationship. Many who consider themselves progressive about sex, gender, love, and relationships know this. It's just that almost nobody in an open relationship wants to be open about it. What's surprising is that so many people feel the need for secrecy.

I've been out as polyamorous for years. Because of this, non-monogamous people who aren't out often feel able to talk to me about their own situations. When I go to conferences, I can't help noticing all the philosophers who are in closeted non-monogamous relationships. This discrepancy between reality and socially acknowledged reality can be disorienting; the "official" number of non-monogamous people in the room is almost always one (me).

So what's going on? No doubt there are several factors at work, but I want to talk about one that's both powerful and insidious: Non-monogamy isn't considered "romantic."

Romantic love is widely considered to be the best thing life has to offer: "Failing" at romance is often construed as failing at life. ... This monogamous ideal is supposed to appeal to women especially.

...According to the stereotypes, single women are desperate to "lock down" a man, while men are desperate to avoid commitment. There's nothing new here: Monogamy has historically been gendered. Even in situations where marrying more than one woman has been illegal, it has often been normal for men to have mistresses, but different rules have applied to women....

Our language undermines gender-related optimism about monogamous romantic ideals: there is no word for a male "mistress"; romantic comedies are "chick flicks." "Romance" novels are marketed to and consumed by women. Brides are "given away" by men to other men. ...

...Women who enter voluntarily into non-monogamous relationships are a direct challenge to the idea that women are "naturally" monogamous. They are socially penalized to maintain the status quo. A non-monogamous woman will be portrayed as debased and disgusting — a "slut." When I have discussed my open relationships online, I have been called many other colorful names.

My internet trolls focus on sex, partly because presenting non-monogamous relationships as "just sex" makes it easier to degrade them, and partly because women who violate the monogamy norm — whose sexuality is out of (someone's) control — are a threat to an ancient feeling of entitlement over women's sexuality and reproductive potential. In contrast, a non-monogamous man is, at least sometimes, liable to be regarded as a "stud."

Apart from monogamy, the only other relationship structure that controls paternity in a similar way is patriarchal polygamy, which is stigmatized in contemporary North America, for reasons including bona fide feminism as well as racism and cultural imperialism. One effect of this is that monogamy is seen as the only fair and liberal alternative.

Actually, there are many alternatives. But to tolerate them is to tolerate widespread social uncertainty about who is having sex with whom....

I believe that the "romantic-ness" of romantic love is largely socially constructed, and as such malleable. We collectively write the "script" that determines the shape of the privileged ("romantic") relationship style. This script has changed, and will continue to change. But currently that process goes on largely below the radar: We aren't supposed to see it happening, or realize that we can control it....

We must get beyond this. We need to question the limits we have placed on what counts as a "romantic" relationship. Freedom to love — the right to choose one's own relationships without fear, shame or secrecy — is critical, not just for individuals but for us all collectively. Non-conformity is the mechanism that reshapes the social construct to better represent who we are, and who we want to be. Instead of forcing our relationships to conform to what society thinks love is, we could force the image of love to conform to the realities of our relationships.

But it won't be easy. If the love of a polyamorous triad is seen as "romantic" and hence as valuable as the love of a monogamous couple, then the triad should have the same social and legal privileges as the couple....

Nor could we defend the countless ways in which non-monogamous people are stigmatized and rejected....

It's far easier to pretend that this is not really happening. Or that it's not really a big deal. Perhaps you feel that way right now: Perhaps you're thinking you don't know any non-monogamous people. But I wouldn't be too sure. Until quite recently, an awful lot of people thought that all their friends and relatives were straight.

Read the whole article in The Week (February 9, 2017) or in Aeon (February 3).

Coming next: more about the book What Love Is, And What It Could Be.


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February 14, 2017

"You Me Her," poly TV series, returns tonight for a deeper second season

Tonight (Tuesday February 14) You Me Her returns to Audience Network with the premiere episode of Season 2. It airs at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.

As noted earlier, Season 2 moves the show beyond being a novelty comedy about a three-way relationship falling together, and into a deeper exploration of a serious, living-together polyamorous triad. It's shaping up as television's first fictional series based on polyamory as a genuine way of life. It won't be the last.

Here's the Season 2 trailer (long version):

The blurb that's going around with the trailer:

Audience Network puckishly returns the polyamory comedy "You Me Her" for its second season on Valentine's Day. It stars Greg Poehler and Rachel Blanchard as a couple whose marriage has lost its fizz and Priscilla Faia as the psychology grad student/call girl whom they invite into their relationship. In its second season they deal with the logistics of being a throuple (both in bed and out) and its impact on their circle of friends when they out themselves. It's "that universal question of 'What happens when the romantic comedy fades to black?'," says creator John Scott Shepherd. "What happens after that? You know, real life sets in."

Audience Network is available to DirecTV subscribers [and on U-verse], but you can catch the first season on Netflix. (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m.)

US Weekly has another video from Season 2, a "kiss-me competition."

● A newspaper story about the actor who plays the guy of the three: 'You Me Her' star Greg Poehler talks TV threesome (Feb. 13, 2017):

If Hallmark had a card for the characters of You Me Her, it might read:

Roses are red, violets are blue
We both love you madly, and each other, too.

...You (like most of their friends) might be appalled. Or maybe you're thinking this is the Three's Company you always wanted.

Either way, Poehler wants you to know You Me Her is probably not what people who've never seen it might be imagining.

"It never really goes down that road of where you would expect of one guy with two women," he said in an interview last month. "Certainly, my character is enjoying it the least out of all three of them, pretty much in every episode this season."

...And then there are the small things. For instance, who drives? Who calls shotgun? In Tuesday's episode, Izzy sets her lovers straight on "couples privilege," pointing out that she and Rachel both "assumed the unicorn would ride in the back. The unicorn — that's me. The third." She ends up with the keys to the Land Rover, but it's the first of many negotiations to come. ...

You can check here for more showing up in the news in the next few days.

The show's Facebook page.


February 13, 2017

Poly movement arising in India

The concept of modern polyamory has been spreading in India. Here's a story out yesterday in DNA India ("Daily News & Analysis"), plus a few others.

Polyamory: When three is not a crowd

Ganesh Gamare / Thinkstock

By Pooja Bhula | Mumbai

As the buzz around polyamory gets louder and Valentine’s day gets closer, Pooja Bhula pieces together the whole picture of romance in committed, consensual, non-monogamous relationships

Movies, pop culture and some romantic literature have familiarised us with love triangles – the kind where love is mutual only between two. As sad as you may feel for the one left out and wonder why it's called a 'love' triangle at all when the third person gets none, you accept that, that's how it works....

But increasingly, researchers worldwide are suggesting that the future of love, and possibly even marriage, lies in polyamory, literally meaning 'many loves'. Some dictionaries call it the 'practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all involved', but those in 'polys' short for polyamorous relationships, say it's not just about sex. They have a deep, emotional commitment to all partners.

Mumbai-based Richa Ruia*, who's in her second poly triad, narrates her story:

Two polys, her true story

We met through Twitter. *Soham and I had similar taste in movies, music, jokes...even our ideas of love matched. Back then, in 2014, I didn't even know the word polyamory, but we discussed things like feeling strongly about two people simultaneously, the genuineness of emotions, how sex would fit into it, whether it's right or wrong and society's perceptions. And then we agreed we'd date others too. Our interest in others needn't have to mean less interest in each other; sometimes other people just tap into different aspects of your personality.

A few months later, *Aditya and I fell in "love at first sight". He and Soham had common friends. A traditional relationships person, Aditya had to grapple with the reality that I wouldn't be exclusive. Initially, I tried pushing back, worried poly may be a negative experience for him. But he appreciated my honesty and genuineness enough to give it a shot, take the risk.

Though Aditya made peace with it, some of his friends were bent on proving that "Richa's only there for the sex". But these very friends had no qualms with Soham's short affair; he wasn't boycotted from parties like I was because "he's got that reputation anyway". Thankfully, others tried to understand and not be judgemental. I've long questioned the way people look at women, and also studied gender and culture...society is steeped in slut shaming, labels and stereotypes. Why would it spare me?

In September, I moved to London for my master's. ... But I still believed in the purity of emotions we'd all shared and also in poly, which I had arrived at organically in my search of a model that made sense for the person I am. ...

Is polyamory really the future?

Before we deal with that, let's ask whether it's for everyone. No it seems. Ten to 12 of clinical psychologist Nandita Sarma's clients, who visit her for varying reasons, are polyamourous. Based on their interactions, she says, "Polys require a lot of maturity as they involve a lot of emotion, stress and exploration. You not only deal with all partners' baggages, but also their ambitions, families, friends...everyone can't handle it."

Polyamory Facebook groups are widespread – from the Philippines and Venezuela to Switzerland and Australia. Spiritual counsellor Rohit Juneja, who started one called Polyamory India in 2017, also agrees that polys are not for everyone. "Most people merely want status quo in their relationships. Polyamory isn't for them. Nor for those who want to fall in love. It's for those who want to rise in love and seek a deep, unbreakable bond."

Married, separated, polyamory-experienced and now single, Juneja is equally open to monogamy. Having moved to San Diego years ago, he explains why polys have caught on like wildfire in the West. "Fifty per cent people cheat in long-term relationships. Some stopped to think: what's happening? Many feel attracted to others despite being in relationships. Poly allows you to share it with your partner (s), removing guilt from the equation. No one has to live a fake life."

That said, in Sarma's experience, people feel "confused" and jealous, which seems only natural as is the case in monogamous relationships. But many in polys experience 'compersion'. ...

With research observing benefits of polyamory, and reports forecasting it as the future of love, dating and even families, you hope openness and freedom will prevent breakups or reduce divorce rates. But it may, or may not.

"Polyamory can't resolve problems existing in a relationship, it would worsen matters," says Sarma....

...Won't this lead to unmarried partners feeling secondary? Juneja nods, "It's possible. That's why many follow relationship anarchy. But a certificate can't hold people together. You could be married today and divorced tomorrow. It's like having kids. To be fair, you must love them all equally."

The whole article (February 12, 2017).

The article goes on to plug 3 on a Bed, "India's first polyamoric film," and to list the names of several Indian Facebook groups:

Polyamory India (support group)
Polyamory India (study group)
Polyamory Mumbai
Polyamory Punjabi
LGBT Polyamory India.

● A long feature article ran last month in Outlook India, a leading newsmagazine: Nimble Feet And Open Hearts (Jan. 2, 2017):

Somak Biswas and, in motion, Prachi Singh (Photo: Narendra Bisht)

By Stuti Agarwal

Seated in a quaint little coffee house in the heart of south Delhi, Prachi Singh and Somak Biswas could, in some ways, pass for just another dating, doting couple, one of many that seem to have taken up permanent residence on the lounge chairs of coffee bars. And yet, in the dull winter light that frames their steaming cups of coffee, it’s easy to see that there’s an indefinable, inexplicable spark to their relationship. Perhaps it’s just the way they lean into each other as they bantered. ... So, what’s their secret?

Well, says a smiling Somak, it’s an “open secret”. The fact is he and she are in an “open relationship”.

The concept of polyamory — loosely, of a relationship where three (or more!) partners isn’t a crowd — isn’t easy to grasp. But the way Somak disassembles it, it begins to make sense. Sort of. His words could almost make for a First Law of Polyamory. “I believe we are capable of loving more than one person at a time,” he says. “Every person fills a different space, and to try making one person fit all the boxes has its problems.”

...“The new understanding is that one person cannot bring everything to a relationship,” claims relationship counsellor Sanjoy Mukherjee.... “An open relationship is an understanding between two people who are equal, devoid of any hypocrisy and are making their own rules,” says social scientist Shiv Visvanathan. People are increasingly looking to experiment and break the shackles of what is perceived as normalcy, he reasons.

...But experimenting is, by definition, an act that accepts risks — and the new adherents of polyamory in India would gladly go for emotional risks they can be responsible for. “Like every relationship, open ones too have teething problems,” says Sudha Mehta, who has been in an open relationship, with one partner, for five years. And unlike with traditional one-on-one relationships, this has no set rules. “We make our own rules,” says Sudhir Rao, who is in an ­early-stage open relationship. In fact, this is what many people in open relationships find liberating: everything from start to finish is an experiment. “When I came to Delhi from Lucknow, I wanted to try out everything, including this new, simpler understanding of relationships,” says Prachi....

...Most often, there is only one rule: honesty. “The foundation is great friendship and a shared camaraderie, so we share everything,” believes Sudhir. He candidly admits to dropping his partner [off] to other guys, or picking her up late at night from their houses....

Of course, couples in open relationships make up the rules as they go along. And those rules vary from couple to couple.

...They aren’t the first ones to do it. Older instances of open marriages are not entirely unknown — such as the celebrated one involving Kuchipudi dancers Raja, Radha and Kaushalya Reddy. “I fell in love with my brother-in-law and proposed to him,” reminisces Kaushalya. Her sister Radha agreed, but laid down one condition: “You can marry him, but not dance with him.” It was perhaps their own ‘open relationship’ rule, but it’s one that Kaushalya has lingering regrets over. “My sister got married to Rajaji when they were very young,” she says. “They ran away together to build a career in dance, so I can never share the understanding they have, but I get infinite love from both.”

...Yet, the lessons from the Sandstone Retreat experiment [in 1960s California] still hold. The first trouble is how widely misunderstood the idea appears to be. “Our friends called us horny and judge us for it even after years,” says Sudha. Prachi and Somak face the same stereotyping. Ironically, almost everyone in an open relationship tends not to tell their ­families of their arrangement. ... And just as the Gay Talese ­parable showed, open relationships are not immune to notions of jealousy. “I fear every time he becomes more emotiona­lly connected with someone other than me,” adds Sudha.

...As with any relationship, existential ­questions abound. But they meet the questions with cheerful defiance.... Hours into the conversation with Prachi and Somak, the concept of an open relationship still seems ­other-worldly. But then, it fell in place in a flash. As Prachi explained her encounters with other people, she lamented the difficulty in finding girls who are “open”. I mention that a bisexual friend of mine was having much the same trouble. “You should hook these two up then,” interjected Somak. And I did, right there. That open-hearted nimbleness, in a nutshell, was what open relationships are about.

● Two good articles recently appeared on a popular health-information site:

Dos and don’ts of polyamorous relationships (Jan. 20, 2017)

Polyamorous relationships – it’s not all about sex (Jan. 20, 2017)

● There have been more. Here are all my posts tagged "India/South Asia" (including this one; scroll down). I'm sure it's very incomplete.



February 12, 2017

After outcry, Florida university restores banned poly and kink talks

You sent letters. You phoned. You helped persuade administrators at the University of North Florida to meet with students and members of the school's LGBT Resource Center about reinstating talks on polyamory, kink, and sex toys. which the administration had banned from upcoming Sex Week presentations. After the meeting, and coverage on Jacksonville TV news — and before students could organize a protest rally — the administrators caved. They restored the talks to the schedule, with "Polyamory in Practice" and "Coming Out Kinky" now listing the student-run Pride Club as their sponsors.

This is from Billy Holder, poly activist and vice-president of the Relationship Equality Foundation, which is providing the speakers for those two talks:

University of North Florida Students and Administration Reach Sex Week Compromise

The students and administration at The University of North Florida have reached a compromise to allow all three previously canceled classes to be held on campus during Sex Week. Two of these classes were being offered by Relationship Equality Foundation and one by the UNF Pride Club. Students have been told that Pride Club can host the classes and that the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Resource Center can continue to assist Pride Club in the promotion of these events. Relationship Equality Foundation is currently working with Pride Club to bring these classes to students during Sex Week. [The LGBT Resource Center is run by the university; the Pride Club is by and for students.]

For more information, please see the LGBT Center's official statement.

The Relationship Equality Foundation thanks the University for its change of heart and applauds its effort to continue to provide equal sexual education to the students of University of North Florida. The Relationship Equality Foundation also applauds the students and their efforts to ensure that their educational needs are met.

Billy adds, "We were able to educate the administration as well. Several top administrators had never heard of kink or polyamory before and now they know what they are. Thank you; we are a great community."


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February 11, 2017

Poly surfaces in the Philippines

The Philippine Star

Another glimmer from the Ear East: one of the main newspapers in the Philippines prints a discussion with a young open couple who call themselves poly. This is notable because the Philippines, long under heavy control of the Catholic Church, has been one of the most sexually repressed countries at least officially. Until recently birth control was illegal.

“We are way more open about stuff, I think. When you trust your partner enough to tell them you want to have sex with someone else, I think everything else just seems kind of easier to talk about.” (Illustration by Rob Cham)

This Modern Love

By Stefan Punongbayan

MANILA – ...In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the nursery song “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be” takes on a whole new meaning this week here at Supreme. We sat down with a not-so-conventional couple who will henceforth be known as Craig (27, straight) and Michaela (22, queer) to explore polyamory, consent, threesomes, and everything in between. Whoever said that three (or more) is a crowd?

...When did you start dabbling in polyamory? What led you to this arrangement?

Michaela: I suggested it very early on, I think we weren’t even officially boyfriend & girlfriend yet, since I had tried an open relationship-type setup before. It’s something I already knew I liked, or at least was capable of, so I offered it to Craig in case he liked it too.

Craig: This is my first. She kind of convinced me to try an open relationship. Michaela figured that we were young and can’t help it if we end up being attracted to other people. Life is a long time. This was kind of a weird safeguard from cheating, too, which I think is way more devastating emotionally. She started it out when someone asked her out. I kind of winced and had a lot of anxiety around that, but it then turned out alright. From there it kind of escalated and I dated around, we slept around, it was fun. Always use protection and don’t hurt anyone. I always make sure to disclose to anyone I am interested in that I am in an open relationship. If they are cool with that, then we just see where it goes.

M: You can’t cheat if your partner is okay with you sleeping with someone else! At least they didn’t break your trust. Sex is the least offensive part of cheating, it’s the betrayal, the lying.

...Aside from the obvious, what do think are the advantages of polyamorous relationships over traditional romantic partnerships?

We are way more open about stuff, I think. When you trust your partner enough to tell them you want to have sex with someone else, I think everything else just seems kind of easier to talk about. Way more testing for STDs because we want to be safe and make sure that nothing becomes an outbreak. Way more spending on condoms. Way more spending on dates.

M: The communication is much better between people in polyamorous relationships, and not just about the sex stuff. Plus, there’s no pressure to hide your feelings or desire for someone else, and that helps your own mental health because you’re not racked with guilt.

But aren’t relationships — or love in general — supposed to be inconvenient? ...

The best relationships aren’t! Relationships already come with a lot of problems without all the arbitrary rules we place on them. Not to say that open relationships can’t be problematic, though. But you work through it, just like every other relationship, because you feel like it’s worth it.

How do you select potential dates? Is there a vetting process of sorts that’s peculiar to the kind of relationship you have?

It’s weird because Michaela is asked out more often and I usually ask out my dates.

M: I do a lot of asking out, too! I usually let Craig know the moment I’m interested in someone, or if someone asks me out. We usually don’t veto each other’s choices, but we probably would if we knew something bad or unsettling about the new person.

C: I just tell them I’m in this situation. I don’t try to spring it on them after getting serious. Always just at the start because it’s not going to turn out good at all if there’s that dishonesty. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with their dates seeing other people, and that’s understandable. So usually I end up with people just open to the idea, or are just okay with a fubu set up.

M: It’s pretty similar to dating when you’re single, except it comes with a disclaimer that you already have a partner. Sometimes you have group dates and more people cuddling in bed.

Are your friends and respective families aware you’re going out with other people? What do they usually ask you?

Friends, yes; families, no....

Read the whole article (February 11, 2017).



ABC News: "How This Polyamorous Couple Plans to Celebrate Valentine's Day"

As Val's Day approaches, the annual uptick of poly in the media is under way. The biggest item I've seen so far is this story on the ABC News website.

The type of poly that the featured vee practices seems to me unhealthy and cringe-making, rooted in unexamined mainstream assumptions. Does a TV network's attention to it spread awareness of the "polyamorous possibility" more than it just makes poly look awkward and male-centric? Or am I being too critical of other people's poly?

In any case, I think we've succeeded pretty well by now in messaging the public about the polyamorous possibility — that happy multi-love relationships exist and can work well, maybe even for you. So in terms of media coverage, I say it's time that we push for quality over quantity.

How This Polyamorous Couple Plans to Celebrate Valentine's Day

By Joi-Marie McKenzie

...Jamal Benjamin, a 40-year-old freelance editor, is in a loving relationship with his two girlfriends, Amy (who asked ABC News to create a pseudonym for her) and Ebony Thomas.

Amy, 40, and Benjamin have two children together. Thomas, also 40, and Benjamin are parents to a 3-month-old baby girl.

The three all live in New York City and Benjamin alternates daily between the two households. When it comes to celebrating holidays, including Valentine's Day, they're pretty diplomatic.

"We alternate each year," Benjamin explained to ABC News. "I know Valentine's Day is important to [Amy] -- well, it’s more important to her eldest [10-year-old] daughter."

Benjamin and Amy, who have been together for seven years and met at a house party, plan to travel to Cuba in March to belatedly celebrate Feb. 14.

Thomas, who has been with Benjamin since 2015 after meeting through Facebook, is completely fine with that.

...All three, however, admit Mother's Day this year will be a bit tricky. Just the thought of celebrating the holiday with both girlfriends is "rough," Benjamin said.

"I'm hoping I have to work that day," he quipped. "But I really don't know how that's going to work right now because [Amy] asked that to be her day."

As for their children, Benjamin said his two kids with Amy are too young to understand the unique dynamic.

Thomas, however, said she plans to inform her newborn daughter when she gets older. "My conversation with her will be, 'Daddy has another family that he loves just like he loves us,'" she said.

Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., an expert on polyamory who's been studying sexual minority families for 20 years, told ABC News that she estimates between 1.2 and 2.4 million U.S. adults are having sexual non-monogamous relationships. Still, the number of adults who actually identify as polyamorous is a lot smaller.

"What is clear is the growing interest in consensual non-monogamy and that is clear because of the number of websites available and the traffic available of those websites, [along with] the number of meetup groups for people to meet in person and the media attention it's being given," she said.

...Still, Amy, whose mother and stepfather have been married for more than 30 years, prefers monogamy and calls her relationship "very weird."

"We had a lot of ups and downs and I've had a lot of struggle with it," she said, adding that she's accepted the lifestyle because she's in love with Benjamin.

But there are restrictions. Amy, being the first girlfriend, must approve of any future girlfriend "to see if they're somewhat suited for my family lifestyle," she explained.

"It's not carte blanche," Benjamin clarified. "I can’t just go find another girlfriend...at my age, I’m not too interested in that."

And he's fine with his girlfriends having other boyfriends "if they can handle it."...

The whole article (February 10, 2017). There's no photo of them. Ignore the embedded video — it's irrelevant.

This piece also showed up in the Daily Mail.


February 9, 2017

At the Poly Living conference, planning defense and resistance

Last Saturday at Loving More's Poly Living conference, I ran a discussion for people to air their ideas on how the poly community can respond, protect, and defend itself under the Trump administration.

Here are my notes of what folks said.


The Poly Community’s Response in the Time of Trump

Discussion session at Poly Living East, Philadelphia
February 4, 2017
Notes by Alan M.

A dozen people gathered at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning for animated discussion. Ideas that arose, sorted by category:

·       PROVIDING FOR THE COMMON DEFENSE.  We are small and insignificant compared to groups now under direct threat ­­(immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, black communities, women, etc.), and we are small even compared to other sex- and gender-related groups who face common threats with us (LGBTQ, feminists, sex educators, sex info sites, the porn industry, BDSM, etc.). We must reach out to them as mutual strategic allies even if we don’t agree on everything.
·       Jim Fleckenstein: This is especially true when facing legal threats. A common legal defense can span many diverse groups and interests. For instance: credit-card companies cutting off service to sex-positive organizations, whether the companies are driven to it by new laws or just fear.
·       Jim continued: Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General nominee, wants to crack down on porn – he has talked about reviving the Meese Commission. All sex-positive or sex-ed sites may face threats of censorship, blocking or shutdown as a result: either directly by law, or indirectly by providers’ fears.
·       Poly support organizations, which means basically Loving More, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and the Relationship Equality Foundation (REF), should ally in particular with other sex- and relationship-related groups — medical information sites, therapists, AASECT, Woodhull, etc. — for group defense. Jim will bring the poly community’s concern to the NCSF board. Susan Wright of NCSF is already very involved with the Free Speech Coalition of the adult industry.
·       Personal alliances matter a lot in building support; not just organizational alliances. For instance, Loving More is known in the Colorado LGBT world for showing up at Colorado’s Pride Fest. Work with other groups on their own projects and defense; that’s how you win friends to be there for you.
·       In building coalitions, if you are afraid of being tarred by association with kinksters, nudists, swingers, strip clubs or practically anybody else, get over it. “You have to be ready to fight back from that corner,” said Jim F.  “You have to look where you can find allies, and cultivate personal relationships with them.”
·       Also reach out to Humanist groups, because “their lawyers work day and night on separation of church and state.” The American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, American Atheists, etc. And never mind whether you’re a humanist or atheist yourself.
·       Join the Indivisible Movement. “It’s becoming a big thing” as a very broad-based coalition for resisting Trumpism in the political sphere.
·       “All over we’re seeing people come together that would never have come together before.”

·       LEGAL / POLITICAL.  Even in the absence of new laws, judges may feel empowered to rule badly in poly-related cases: discrimination in work, housing, etc., as well as the separate question of child custody in family courts. The proposed federal “Freedom of Religion Act” to legalize discrimination against LGBTs would also include us. (Not that we have much in the way of antidiscrimination law to take away.)
·       Jim pointed out that Fetlife’s owner shut down some of its more extreme fetish communities last month because of a threat that the entire site would lose its credit card processing privileges. In cases like this, said Jim, “look for allies where you least expect them.”  For instance the gun industry, facing rejection by PayPal, credit card companies, etc., has found workarounds for transaction processing through sympathetic banks.
·       Have a website? Keep safe backups of your site (on local media such as a thumb drive stored away from your computer, as well as in the cloud).
·       The way authorities often try to shut down events is through a venue’s weak point: its local liquor license.

·       LAWYERS AND LEGAL SUPPORT: Robyn Trask, director of Loving More, is compiling a list of lawyers available to handle poly cases. If you are such a lawyer, or know of any, go tell her: robyn@lovemore.com. Loving More wants a large list to refer people to wherever they are. Update: The Polyamory Leadership Network is forming a working group on lawyers and legal matters. 
·       Suggestion: we need a “What Lawyers Should Know About Polyamory” booklet along the lines of NCSF’s successful “What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory.”
·       Jim F.:  Getting a handle on the legal needs of the poly community “will be one of the outcomes of our current Legal Survey. Everybody, please go fill it out!” It currently has 600+ responses; they want 1000+. Go do the survey even if you have no known legal needs, because it asks other relevant questions. Publicize it to your communities. The survey will guide Loving More/ NCSF/ REF/ ABSC in their directions in providing joint resources for the poly community. “By next year we should be able to move on this stuff.”

·       MEDIA MESSAGING. Mischa Lin of Open Love NY said, let’s write up a document for people to use in discussions with media: talking points and sound bites about issues in the Trump climate. For instance, “The rise of fascism in this country is already impacting people like me,” and tell how.
·       Cultivate connections in the media. Know a sympathetic reporter or editor to call when you need them. Look for reporters who have covered other personal-freedom or alternative-lifestyle issues well. (You can search a reporter’s name on polyinthemedia.blogspot.com to see what they may have written about poly in the past decade.)
·       Robyn Trask continues to build Loving More’s list of good poly spokespeople she can send media to. She wants more, representing all branches of poly. This means you! Robyn has a good list of tips for dealing with the media, and helpful materials, and she’s eager to consult by phone to develop your media skills. Contact her at robyn@lovemore.com, or better, phone her at 970-667-5683.

In addition, at least four other sessions at Poly Living discussed related issues:

--     Robyn and Jesus’s “Taking Our Movement Forward” session about Loving More’s own plans,
--     Lusty Guy’s “Voter Team Meeting” about building an effective resistance,
--     A lunch meeting of 15 Polyamory Leadership Network members to discuss what was on their minds,
--     Mim Chapman’s closing keynote talk, “Rainbow Poly: Becoming Radical Defenders of Diversity.”

A few additional points gleaned from these:

·       Cunning Minx: There’s an app called Countable that serves you bills coming up in Congress and how to contact your representatives about them. Phoning is better than writing, and actually easier. You’ll get a polite staffer who listens to your request for how to vote on the bill and tallies it. Brief is fine. This may take you 15 seconds.
·       Volunteer at your LGBTQ center; you will build relationships and gain activist allies. Ditto volunteering for other activist/ political groups. In groups you’re already in, come out as poly so that they know a poly person and know you have concerns about the current environment.
·       Pick up new challenges that take you a bit out of your comfort zone. Try new projects, go new places, reach out to different kinds of people than you usually do. In diversity is strength, and “Life rewards people who move in the direction of greatest courage.”
·       Lusty guy: “Fucking vote! Turn out the vote. Run for office.”
·       “There has been incredible progress in the last 14 days, as well as incredible degradation.”
·        Lusty Guy: “Two things have been scientifically shown, over and over, to change people’s behavior more than anything else: (1) What they think people around them are doing, and (2) Thinking that someone is observing them.” Activists who know this can pretty much skip all other persuasion techniques you may have heard of.


This was the second such poly-conference discussion; I moderated the first at Beyond The Love in Columbus, Ohio, last November just after the election. Here are the notes from that.

Finally, I recommend that you read David Frum's What Effective Protest Could Look Like, in The Atlantic. Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush who is now crossing the police lines, as he puts it, to the side of the Resistance to help save the Republic. Key parts:

As I step through the police lines, I bring a message with me: Your demonstrations are engineered to fail. They didn’t stop the Iraq war. They won’t stop Donald Trump.

With the rarest exceptions — and perhaps the January 21 demonstration will prove to be one — left-liberal demonstrations are exercises in catharsis, the release of emotions. Their operating principle is self-expression, not persuasion.

It’s possible I’m not the right person to offer the following analysis. Yet it’s also a good rule to seek wisdom wherever it may be found. So here’s what I have to offer from the right, amid the storms of the Trump era:

The more conservative protests are, the more radical they are.

You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.

...Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance. Close by singing the Star Spangled Banner like these protesters at LAX.... Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.

...Donald Trump has made clear that he wants to wage a Nixon-style culture war: cops against criminals, soldiers against pacifists, hard hats against hippies. Don’t be complicit. If you want to beat him, you have to reject his categories.

...The classic military formula for success: concentrate superior force at a single point. The Occupy Wall Street movement fizzled out in large part because of its ridiculously fissiparous list of demands and its failure to generate a leadership that could cull that list into anything actionable. Successful movements are built upon concrete single demands that can readily be translated into practical action: “Votes for women.” “End the draft.” “Overturn Roe v. Wade.” “Tougher punishments for drunk driving.”

People can say “yes” to such specific demands for many different reasons. Supporters are not called upon to agree on everything, but just one thing....

So it should be for critics of President Trump. “Pass a law requiring the Treasury to release the President’s tax returns.” “An independent commission to investigate Russian meddling in the election.” “Divest from the companies.” These are limited asks with broad appeal.

Protests are fun; meetings are effective.

...Bodies in the street represent only potential power, not actual power. ... The difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party was that only the second movement translated the energy and excitement of its early mass meetings into steady organizational work aimed at winning elections.

...Protests are useful mostly to the extent that they mobilize people to participate in the follow-up meetings to realize the protest’s goals. Collect names and addresses. Form Facebook groups. Keep in touch. Don’t argue: recruit.

...Outrage may get you started, but only hope keeps you going. Hope, as Vaclav Havel insisted, is an expression of the state of our minds, not a description of the state of the world. It powers you to undertake the daunting but essential mission: unlimited efforts for limited goals. You’re not trying to save the world. Just to pass one law. It doesn’t sound like much. It could be everything.


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February 8, 2017

Pushback grows after Florida university cancels poly, kink talks

Sex Week, featuring sex-ed lectures about things college students want to know about, has become a thing on many campuses around Valentine's Day. Often included in these programs are Polyamory 101 talks.

But at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, the administration has canceled two poly and kink talks, and one on sex toys, after an outfit called the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia, ("training conservative activists, students, and leaders since 1979") published an article, UNF Sex Week promotes polyamory as 'alternative to cheating', on its site Campus Reform. The story was picked up by other right-wing media, including the Washington Times.

Pressure on the university administration, however, appears to have come from another direction: jittery business and community leaders in Jacksonville who don't want anything controversial to affect passage of a local Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) for LGBT protection. The Jacksonville City Council will vote on the ordinance on February 14th.

Administration spokespeople are saying the cancellations were merely to keep Sex Week focused on its goal of "health and wellness, relationships and intimacy, identity and orientation, safety and risk awareness, and consent." As if poly and kink education weren't about exactly those things?

"Cheating vs. Polyamory" and "Coming out Kinky" were to be offered March 8th and 9th by Kitty Chambliss and Airel Zeig, respectively, of the Relationship Equality Foundation. The REF's vice president Billy Holder, of Atlanta Poly Weekend fame, is also scheduled to present a class: "Feeling the Rush: Navigating New Relationship Energy."

This morning, Billy sent out a press release: University of North Florida Denies Students Access to Equal Sexual Education.

Billy Holder
Relationship Equality Foundation

University of North Florida Denies Students Access to Equal Sexual Education
Jacksonville, Florida, 2/8/2017  –  UNF Vice President Thomas Serwatka has decided to [cancel] two out of three of the classes offered by Relationship Equality Foundation for Sex Week UNF March 6 - 10, 2017, on the basis of unfounded fear and bias against our community and students who identify within this community. This decision came after a short series of conservative articles had been published by Campus Reform.
A piece of programming that the University of North Florida holds is its annual Sex Week, presented by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Resource Center. The Relationship Equality Foundation (REF) is a non-profit organization that deals with the continued advocacy and education of ethical non-monogamous relationships for consenting adults. The Foundation was asked if it would provide a couple of classes to complement the overall mission of Sex Week: to provide safe, consensual, and educational information in regard to sexual activities. REF gave UNF three classes, “Coming out Kinky,” “Cheating vs. Polyamory,” and “Navigating New Relationship Energy (NRE).” Two of these classes, “Coming out Kinky” and “Cheating vs. Polyamory,” were cancelled after an article by Campus Reform was published. This article was then picked up by several other conservative, right leaning, publications.
Neither the students nor REF were contacted by Campus Reform or the University to explain these classes further. [Both classes are] evidence-based education and would fulfill the overall goal of Sex Week. Currently the students are angry and feel unheard, and are exercising every resource available to them to bring these classes back. It is the belief of both REF and the students that there should be non-discriminatory sexual education for students to be a part of. Since this has occurred, several letters have been written by both students and outside organizations, including the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom, addressed to the University asking for these classes to be put back on the schedule during sex week.
According to [university] VP and Chief of Staff Tom Serwatka, the decision to cancel these classes stems from pressures from the supporters and lobbyist in favor of the HRO passage next week. We at REF believe the HRO is a great thing and hope that its passage will give our community members in intersecting communities that it covers protections they do not currently have.
Relationship Equality Foundation
The Relationship Equality Foundation, Inc.’s (REF) purpose is to provide outreach, education and support for those involved in or seeking relationships with non-traditional structures, and education and outreach to the general public about these relationships.

Billy says the student LGBT Resource Center, which runs Sex Week, is asking for letters of support for reinstating the talks, including from outside the university to show that the wider world is watching.

"A few letters of support have started coming in but more are needed!" Billy writes. "Thank you to those who have written. But many more are needed. The Administration is currently meeting to decide the fate of the entire Sex Week program, I was told. The letters are helping."

The address to write to is slgbt@unf.edu. Update: To write to the administration directly, contact Vice President Tom Serwatka, tom.serwatka@unf.edu. Be polite and respectful; represent us well.

A meeting between students and administrators is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday Feb. 9).

Update Feb. 9: The daily student newspaper, the UNF Spinnaker, now has an article: UNF Sex Week events cancelled by officials.

Update Feb. 12: After outcry, Florida university restores banned poly and kink talks.


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