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

October 21, 2016

"I don’t care if you have anal sex with her, but a picnic just seems too intimate!"

Yes, this one's couple-centric in a gritty way, but couple-plus is the commonest poly model. One of New York's leading nightlife guides gives a good plug too for Open Love NY and its long-running monthly Poly Cocktails events, the prototype for all the Poly Cocktails that have sprung up in other cities.1

Time Out New York (one in a multi-city chain) is a free weekly arts & entertainment magazine, print circulation 275,000, with a high-traffic website.

Is the article's print title a play on "Along Came Mary," or is my music getting old?

Thanks to Mischa Lin of Open Love NY for posting this photo.

NYC couples in open relationships tell all [the online title]

Monogamy is so 2015. We spoke to New York couples of a new breed—ethical nonmonogamists—about their love lives.

By Matthew Love

Try counting the number of times you or someone you know has recently come across the following on Tinder or other dating apps: a profile of a person who identifies as polyamorous or an ethical nonmonogamist. A lot, huh? From the massive, annual cuddle puddle that is Burning Man to OkCupid’s 2014 adoption of the “open relationship” designation, polyamory (roughly defined as intimate relationships involving more than two people, though its circumstances can vary widely) is slowly edging its way into the mainstream. According to this year’s annual survey Singles in America conducted by researchers at the Kinsey Institute, more than one in five people are currently or have been involved in an open relationship. What’s more, a poll of OkCupid users noted an uptick in interest regarding polyamory: In 2010, 42 percent of singles using the service would consider dating someone in an open relationship, while today more than 50 percent would....

...Advocacy group Open Love NY ... sponsors workshops and events including the increasingly popular monthly mixer Poly Cocktails. “On any particular night, we can draw upward of 500 people,” says Mischa Lin, VP and communications director of Open Love NY. “Cocktails go until midnight, but I usually peace out at 8:30pm because it gets so crowded!” And though poly culture is now more visible than ever, the different incarnations and iterations are as diverse as the city itself.

Monica Ramos

The players
Nicollette Barsamian, 25, and Jon Headlee, 30, Forest Hills, Queens

This pair brings a whole new edge to the meet-cute: Nicollette Barsamian’s friends left her in Jon Headlee’s arms outside of the party Dungeon X on Delancey Street, with a cagey, “You’re safe, right?” The two spent the night playing in the dungeon together until Barsamian choked a third person a bit too hard for their taste. (“She kind of has She-Hulk–like strength,” says Headlee.)... As far as managing judgment from peers, both are unconcerned and happy about how exciting their lives are in comparison to their contemporaries. “My first girlfriend ended up just marrying a cop and having kids,” says Headlee. “There’s an article about me in Hustler.”

The autodidacts
Logan Ford, 28, and Robert Reynolds, 37, Williamsburg

...When Logan Ford moved two hours away for undergrad, both parties knew they would need to embrace certain “freedoms” if the fledgling relationship were to survive. This was 10 years ago.... “When we first opened our relationship, there were tons of rules: never with these guys, not in these situations, blah, blah,” says Ford. ... “Now, it’s like, ‘Let’s trust one another’s good judgment.’ ” Both agree that they’ve blossomed in New York, not only as a couple but as a one that doesn’t mind other people knowing about their poly arrangement. ... “It’s just become so normal. At some point during our wedding reception, we said, ‘Let’s count all the guys at our wedding we’ve fucked around with. Oh, look, there’s a friend who had me in a sling recently, [now] having a conversation with my mom!’”

The latecomers
Carol, 46, and David, 44, West Village

“I don’t care if you have anal sex with her, but a picnic just seems too intimate!” That’s Carol, who describes herself as heteroflexible, talking to her partner, David. ... Intimacy boundaries were one of the difficulties (or in Carol’s parlance, “wonkies”) from their early days together. Neither he nor Carol had experienced a committed poly relationship until they found each other. While this open framework has provided them with what they say is the most honest relationship they’ve ever had, they also agree it’s taken time to, in David’s words, “re-engineer what we already know about committed, long-term relationships.” There have been moments of jealousy, of course, and both remember the first time they prepared for dates simultaneously. “It was like, ‘Intellectually, I know this is fine,’ but on the lizard-brain level, it wasn’t as easy,” admits Carol. ...

Read the whole piece (online October 18, 2016; print issue dated Oct. 19–25).


1. Jersey City, Albany, Chicago, Madison, Austin, Houston, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and London, as far as I know.



October 18, 2016

"The Joy of Mass Intimacy": the New York Times reviews Future Sex

Laura Berger
“I read Emily Witt’s Future Sex over the course of three days in Provincetown,” writes New York Times contributor Benoit Denizet-Lewis, “an eccentric beach town and art colony on Cape Cod — and a fitting place to delve into a book about polyamory, kink, group sex and orgasmic meditation. As I read Witt’s thoughtful and deeply personal exploration of 'the possibilities of free love' in 21st-century America, some of her themes played out around me.

A handsome gay couple discussed the rules — nearly broken after some day-drinking — of their open relationship. A young Bulgarian woman lamented to a friend that she hated her summer job, and wondered whether she could make more money webcamming for lonely men instead. ... And, after the bars let out, some gay and bisexual men biked, skipped and stumbled to a notorious cruising spot where strangers and couples looking to spice things up meet under the moonlight for an orgy on the beach.

Before moving to San Francisco in her early 30s, Witt didn’t think of herself as the orgy-attending type. ...

Most of Witt's book, it turns out, is her personal exploration of, if you're a classifier and word person like I am, CNM: consensual non-monogamy. Sociologists use this broad term because it is precisely defined. Polyamory is a special subset of it — as both the author and the reviewer understand.

Denizet-Lewis sets up the review's conclusion with a scene of women in an orgasmic meditation group, as follows:

One, Witt writes, “cried like someone who has been unhappy for a long time, has unexpectedly found solace, and now can hardly conceive of the darkness to which she had previously confined herself.”

And then:

There is very little darkness in what is probably Witt’s best chapter, a deep dive into polyamory in San Francisco. By the time she arrives in the city... it’s a playground for successful, bright-eyed young adults who have “grown up observing foreign wars, economic inequality and ecological catastrophe, crises that they earnestly discussed on their digital feeds but avoided internalizing as despair.” At first, Witt isn’t sure what to make of their sexual appetites. “Their sex lives were impossible to fathom,” she observes, “because they seemed never to have lived in darkness.”

Witt anchors this chapter inside the relationship of the young polyamorous newlyweds, who like going to Burning Man with their tribe of relentlessly cool and open-minded friends and who seem to have figured out, through trial and error and countless difficult conversations, what makes them happy in and out of bed. Witt can’t help envying their close-knit friendships and sexual frankness and openness.

Witt’s [own] sexual future — as well as the future of free love in America, which Witt only gives tangential attention to — seems less promising in comparison. “America had a lot of respect for the future of objects,” Witt writes, “and less interest in the future of human arrangements.”

Read the whole review (online October 18, 2016). A version of it will appear in print this Sunday (Oct. 23 ) in the Sunday Book Review section with the headline "The Thrill of Mass Intimacy."


A review just appeared in the UK's Financial Times: Emily Witt’s ‘Future Sex’ — an intimate history of American sexual mores (Oct. 21. May become paywalled).

...The resulting book succeeds in talking about sex without guile, vulgarity or swagger, and achieves something that is rarer than it might be: it suggests how old ideas about women and love might be put aside in favour of newer, truer, freer ones.

...Witt finds some answers in her later chapters. “Polyamory”, written in limpid, enviable sentences like a non-fiction short story, follows twenty-something Elizabeth in high-tech San Francisco and her navigation of non-monogamy from sexual jealousy to open marriage. ... Elizabeth marries in a white dress and face paint at Burning Man with the knowledge that she will have sex and even fall in love with other people. But is she simply signing up to a lifetime of delicate emotional negotiations? Witt attends a sex party with the couple and witnesses Elizabeth’s husband agree to let her go home with someone else: “It was a conversation that was difficult to listen to.”

In Future Sex, Witt has written a book that is actually about loneliness, intimacy and love’s elusiveness; capitalism, Californian utopianism and feminism; family, memory and loss. Her book expands the possibilities for women’s lives in the 21st century, and for sex’s place within them.



October 13, 2016

Wash Post: "I live with my husband and our boyfriend. Here’s how we make it work."

The gay poly writer Jeff Leavell has finally made the MSM with a piece on the website of the Washington Post. He's not shy about his struggles with jealousy.

Poly is much easier if you're naturally a low-jealousy person, but this is not required.

I live with my husband and our boyfriend. Here’s how we make it work.


By Jeff Leavell

Among those of us who are polyamorous — meaning that we carry on committed relationships with multiple people — there is a lot of talk about jealousy. It’s regarded as an emotion for the weak and unenlightened. [No it's not.]

I must be seriously unenlightened then, because I am a jealous, territorial, alpha-kind of man. My husband, Alex, and I have been together for five years. Our boyfriend, Jon, has lived with us for the past two.

For the most part we are happy. Like any relationship, we have our ups and our downs. Some days we are madly in love, other days we’d rather be left alone to watch TV, pay the bills and go about the normalcy of life.

...[However,] I still get that kind of heart-pounding and burning sensation all over my body whenever I picture either of my men with someone else. I want to stalk their lovers on Facebook. I want to follow Alex and Jon when they leave the house. Go through their phones. If I let myself, I can go a little crazy with jealousy.

The three of us met on a gay dating app, Scruff.... Jon kept coming back. For pizza and movies, sleepovers, hikes. We took a trip to Vancouver together. The three of us had our first four-way. We said “I love you.” We introduced Jon to our family members and friends as our boyfriend.

Watching Alex fall in love with Jon was a kind of strange torture. It was also beautiful. Learning to balance the torture with the beauty was a struggle.

...I have always loved the idea of monogamy — that one man would love me and only me; would want me and only me; would sacrifice everything for me, if it came to that. I loved the idea of someone being monogamous to me, I just wasn’t able to return the favor.

So opening our relationship up to include more lovers allowed Alex and me to have our own private adventures. It was also like taking a crash course in how to handle jealousy. The first time I told Alex about another guy I was dating, our relationship almost ended. When Alex told me about a new guy he had met in Seattle, I thought my world would fall apart.

Of course, my world didn’t fall apart. Instead, I had to confront my feelings. I didn’t have to confront Alex or Jon, but myself. I had to spend time alone with my fears and insecurities. Because that is all jealousy is: fear. Of being abandoned. Of not being enough. Of being alone.

And the truth is, all the things we fear might happen.... Relationships fall apart all the time.

At least Jon and Alex and I are honest with one another. I get to share my fears and my joys with them. I get to be there for them as they do the same. And I fall more in love with them as we do this.

Read the whole article (Oct. 11, 2016). It was originally titled "I'm polyamorous. Yes, I get jealous. But it's worth it."

● Jeff had another recent piece at Vice: My Advice for People Considering Polyamory (Sept. 8):

Jeff Leavell and his partners

...Basically, we tried to treat a relationship developing between three people like it was developing between two, with Alex and I as one party and Jon as the other. This, of course, is untenable. Equality is essential to making relationships work. [Make that equality of respect, dignity, and agency, say I; not necessarily time, sex, income sharing, and most everything else. No two relationships are ever the same. –Ed.]  If we were really going to do this new thing with Jon, Alex and I would have to change how our own relationship operated. But I had no role models to teach me how to do this thing — a problem I hope to address in writing about our relationship publicly.

People reach out to me all the time with questions about open and polyamorous relationships based on pieces I've written. A disproportionate number of them revolve around jealousy and insecurity: How do you avoid becoming jealous if your partner is sleeping with other men?

I've found that if I ever feel jealousy, the root of that emotion almost always comes from not feeling good enough for Jon or Alex. Jealousy always equals insecurity for me.

...But at the end of the day, it's how we react to that jealousy that matters. I constantly have to remind myself to shift the focus of my thoughts back to me: What am I really afraid of? Why do I not believe I am deserving of all this love?


People often ask me how we handled "coming out" as a polyamorous couple to our family and friends. ... Today, my advice is to use caution and not open yourself up too quickly to the scrutiny and judgment of those who love you. While they may seem normal when you're part of them, polyamorous relationships are far outside the norm, and it's hard to expect everyone to just accept what we know: that love is vast, and that there are many ways to experience and express it. Polyamory scares people. For some, it challenges everything they believe to be true about love....

● And here are two previous Vice pieces by Jeff: How I Told My Husband and Boyfriend I'm Dating Another Man (July 19, 2016), and How I Figured Out the Rules of My Three-Way Relationship (July 22, 2015).


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October 12, 2016

German government poly ad?

It's from the German Ministry of Economy and Energy. Translation: "Efficiency is conserving the energy. Not the warmth."

They look relaxed and happy. Who knows if the ad designers were thinking of polyamory specifically (can someone find them and ask?). But really, 10 or 20 years ago, would they have expected this image to connect the way it does now?

Thanks to TRNogger on reddit/r/polyamory for spotting this.



October 11, 2016

Coming Out Poly: stories and advice, Part 1

Out or closeted? How far out, and to whom? The consequences of living your life either openly or hidden can be high, or not at all, sometimes unpredictably.

● First, Bustle published quite a piece last month: I Came Out As Non-Monogamous On The Internet, And All I Got Was My Self-Respect Back (September 9, 2016):

The author and partner.
By Rachel Krantz

...In short, I was afraid of the judgment I might incur by publicly owning my choices.

I came out as ethically non-monogamous in bits and pieces, first to my friends, then in a vague allusion in a personal essay, then explicitly on my podcast Honestly Though, and then, finally, more explicitly in writing a few weeks ago.... I had been acting classically closeted, deliberately hiding aspects of my sexuality for fear of having my relationship delegitimized, of being viewed as less professional or a freak, of being trolled by readers and my parents alike.

...Literally less than five minutes after I published the piece, I received this text message from my mom, who knows I'm non-monogamous, but who I mostly don't talk with about it in detail.

You get the gist. Jewish mothers basically invented concern-trolling, but if her reaction was this immediate, I knew Facebook would be even worse.

...I've been working as an editor at Bustle for over three years now, and the pattern hasn't eluded me: the more vulnerable someone is in their writing, the more they are trolled. Rape and abortion narratives are usually the most-trolled topics. Though I write about rocking a full bush, being vegan, and have even posted pictures of myself for articles mostly-naked, I've somehow remained relatively unscathed.... Until now.

I had but one defender in the chain — a total stranger — and I was so grateful to her, not just for her support but for taking the words out of my mouth.

She said to the haters what I didn't yet feel the right to say myself: "If you hate it so deeply, perhaps confront that feeling in yourself."

Which is exactly why I will keep writing about it, even as I'm in the thick of figuring out just exactly how ethical non-monogamy works for me....

Which brings me to a few days after I'd let the comments sink in. I sent a message to my parents...

...And just like that, I created a boundary with the trolls I'd been most afraid of all along. I'd been terrified of asserting my need to stop being stalked by my parents online, and yet, once I asked, they immediately assented. My ability to finally ask them to respect my space is a direct result of some of the ways in which I've learned to communicate my needs more clearly as I negotiate the shifting boundaries of my non-monogamous relationship.

...So, no, my parents are not my intended audience, nor are people who choose fear over compassion. My intended audience are people who are also grappling with living honestly. People who don't see themselves represented enough. People who are simply curious about and respectful of other models for longterm, happy relationships. People who choose to live lives that don't necessarily conform to society's narrow prejudices. People who are sick of being told they're deviants just for being brave. People who choose love.


● When you're an entertainer who relies on public bookings, including for children's events, being publicly poly is a different leap. In the news across Canada this week is Carisa Hendrix, stage magician, fire-eater, circus performer and stunt girl, who has taken that leap with an indie movie about building her career with some of her partners. Promo:

Carisa Hendrix: Girl on Fire provides an intriguing look into the secret world of poly-sexual magician Carisa Hendrix, a woman who lives an alternative lifestyle and loves to eat fire.

Watch the trailer (2:41, MP4).

From the press release:

Calgary fire eater, magician and nonmonogamous relationship trailblazer Carisa Hendrix is the subject of a feature-length documentary airing this month (October 2016) on the Super Channel. ​Carisa Hendrix: Girl on Fire provides an intriguing look into the secret world of polyamorous entertainer Carisa Hendrix as she strives to launch her own theatrical magic show in the competitive city of Las Vegas....It also brought together the most important people in her life for the very first time, including multiple lovers from her unconventional polyamorous lifestyle....

Carisa Hendrix is a Guinness World Record holder and award-winning performer who has been featu​red in ​Ripley’s Believe it or Not and a number of television shows.

Article in the Montreal Gazette and other Canadian newspapers: Documentary looks at the fiery life of Calgary magician Carisa Hendrix (Oct. 7, 2016).

...As for her polyamory, Hendrix says since the film debuted on Super Channel earlier this month she has already received unsolicited commentary from online trolls who disapprove. This wasn’t unexpected. But Hendrix said she hopes the film also broadens people’s understanding of the lifestyle.

“I think a lot of people are already practising a certain level of openness, but don’t have a vocabulary for it,” she says. “They don’t know the words for it, so they don’t look up the literature, so they don’t have the skills and toolbox to do it in a way that’s less harmful or with a little less drama.”

“Hopefully with this documentary, people will see people actually live this way. It’s not crazy, it’s not 24-hour orgies and it’s not ridiculous sex parties. It’s a bunch of people working together in the same way that a group of friends are a bunch of people working together or a one-on-one-relationship are two people working together.”

Story on CBC News (Oct. 12).

She tells us, "I had already come out to most of my family and friends, but this documentary meant coming out to the entire magic community, some of whom have known me for years. I've always just been vague about my relationships, and now here it is for everyone to see and scrutinize."


The Guardian has a weekly feature called "A Letter To...", in which a person publishes an anonymous letter to someone they wish they could send it to. In this case, A letter to... My family: I wish I could tell you I'm in a ménage à trois (July 9, 2016)

I adore my husband of nearly two years. Despite facing the challenges of becoming new parents and a job loss, we have not lost our friendship and affection for each other. Either through brutal honesty or cynicism, however, we did quickly identify that we both feared that only sleeping with each other until “death do us part” would not be enough to sustain our sparkle.

So we set out on a “sparkle sustaining” exploration.

...The intention was never to find love or a long-term partnership. Yet after a few days of searching, there was Emma, a lovely, charming, self-deprecating, beautiful woman who made my heart flutter in the way that new love can. We hit it off immediately. But what of my husband? Did that mean I didn’t love him any more?

...I discovered that I could and did love them both. Equally, I discovered that love was infinite and boundless. My heart had room for Emma and placed her there alongside my husband and son with no competition.

Emma and I spend time together as a couple; Emma and my husband spend time together as friends; and we all hang out as a family with our son and dogs. And yes, Emma and I have sex. My husband often joins us. My husband and I have the best sex we’ve ever had. The sparkle has turned into a raging fire.

I feel surrounded and blessed by love – not only do I bask in my husband’s but in Emma’s too. Our baby son and dog also adore her.

The sad fact is, however, that I feel I can never tell you – my family and friends – about her. About how happy she makes me and the rest of my family, how she’s strengthened the bond between my husband and me and given me a new zest for life and love.

...The concept of “ethical non-monogamy” is so alien, so hidden. It’s as though we have been conditioned to value monogamy over happiness.

Would there be fewer affairs, divorce and broken families if it were deemed acceptable to live in happy tribes of multiple partners?...


● Sociologist and counselor Elisabeth Sheff has written or edited three poly books, most recently the little When Someone You Love is Polyamorous: Understanding Poly People and Relationships (2016). It's a 40-page orientation for parents and family of polyfolks, filling our long-discussed need for PFLAG-like materials. Blogging for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, Sheff offered a succinct list of coming-out issues to mull over: Top Three Considerations when Coming Out as Polyamorous (July 11, 2016). Excerpts:


· Increased intimacy – Hiding important relationships means closing off parts of your life; being honest about significant things allows greater authenticity and emotional connection....

· Explanation – ...both to explain the presence of [an unexpected person or people] and to acknowledge the importance of the relationship(s).

· Response to a threat of being outed – ...sometimes [the answer is] taking control of the situation and outing [your]selves.

· Political belief – As amply demonstrated by LGBT activists, it is difficult to take political space and organize for rights without a visible and recognizable presence in society....

· Not – If there is no real reason to come out, reconsider doing so if you are vulnerable. That vulnerability might be to losing custody of your children, losing your job, losing connections with your family and friends, or losing your housing. These things can happen when people come out as poly, so think carefully before deciding if the risks of coming out are worth the benefits.


...Most people should use caution when coming out because be identified as a sex or gender minority can be dangerous. A few of the ways to do so cautiously include:

· Selective disclosure –
Tell the people who are important and need to know that you have a poly relationship, but let them know this is sensitive information that they should not share with others until you are ready. If you are not sure if someone is safe to tell, then consider using a “litmus” question such as how that person feels about same-sex marriage or something like that....

· Matter of fact, not dramatic – If you present the information as a matter of daily life and not a cataclysmic announcement, others will be more likely to take it as a regular piece of news. Presenting it as normal part of your life can help others accept it as normal for you as well.

· Private setting – In case you or the person you tell has a strong reaction to your coming out news, consider a setting that allows some conversational privacy.


Think about what you are going to say, and plan ahead with your partners....


● A pair of more specific advice pieces, at Everyday Feminism:

Want to Come Out As Polyamorous to Your Parents, But Not Sure Where to Start? Try These 5 Tips — a long and detailed piece by Miri Mogilevsky (Jan. 30, 2016). Bits:

1. Show Them Some 101 Resources

You don’t have to do all the work of explaining polyamory to your parents yourself. Luckily, many have already invented that particular wheel.

2. Know That There Is No Right or Wrong Way to Come Out

Some people sit their parents down for a talk. Others prefer telling them over the phone or sending an e-mail. Some specifically state, “I’m polyamorous.” Others would rather simply say “So, I have two boyfriends” and leave it at that.

If you know your parents tend to misinterpret or overreact during in-person conversations, e-mail might be best....

3. Ask Your Parents What Worries or Concerns Them About Polyamory

If your parents aren’t exactly enthusiastic in response to your coming out, asking them what bothers them about polyamory can be an effective way to get to the heart of the issue (and possibly reassure them)....

4. Set Boundaries Around Conversation Topics That Feel Uncomfortable or Unsafe

...It’s okay to let them know that you’re not comfortable discussing certain topics or that you’ve already answered that question and aren’t going to argue about it again.

Here are some scripts that may help....

5. Challenge the Idea of ‘Coming Out’ If It Doesn’t Feel Right to You

Coming out – as queer, trans, polyamorous, or any other invisible identity – can be very empowering. It can feel necessarily in order to live an authentic life. It can connect you to people and resources that affirm you.

But coming out is not a necessary step in the process of discovering yourself and living the life you want to live....

Furthermore, coming out is not a singular, one-step event. You might be out to your friends, your partners’ families, and even your boss, but not to your parents. That doesn’t mean you’re “not out.” It just means you’ve chosen a way of coming out that works for you....

And the second, which I think is particularly useful: 7 Questions to Brace Yourself For When You Explain Polyamory to Your Family, by Ginny Brown (Nov. 10, 2015):

...Thinking through how you’d respond to each of these may help you prepare for the conversation.

1. ‘Aren’t You Being Exploited? / Aren’t You Exploiting Your Partner?’

2. ‘Isn’t This Immoral and Wrong?’

3. ‘But What About Our Grandchildren?’

4. ‘Do We Have to Meet Your Other Partners?’

5. ‘Is This Just About Sex and Perversion?’

6. ‘When Will You Grow Out of It?’

7. ‘How Will I Explain This to [Extended Family, Co-Workers, Whoever Else]?’

That's enough for now. More to come.



October 7, 2016

"Dear Media: Polyamory Is Not All About Sex." (And those feet pix?)

This was recommended to me as a meta article about poly in the media. Yes, the white duvets.

It appeared in the online feminist magazine The Establishment. I imported the pix from the other places that the author references in the text.

Dear Media: Polyamory Is Not All About Sex

By Carrie Jenkins

If you read about polyamory in the media, you’ve probably seen The Photo: an image of three (or more) pairs of adult feet at the end of a bed, poking out from under a white duvet.

In reality it is not one photo, but many, yet it’s a visual trope recycled so frequently and predictably that it might as well be just one. The Photo is supposed to provide a glimpse into the lives of those naughty non-monogamous people having their naughty non-monogamous sex; while only slightly risqué, it gets its point across — the point being that polyamory is all about having sex with lots of people.

You can see The Photo in action here in The Guardian, here at news.com, here at GetReligion.org, here at stuff.co.nz, here in the Georgia Straight, here at Mic, here at Cafe Mom, here in Soot Magazine, here at Role Reboot, and here at The Frisky. Sometimes it’s not feet, just three or more people in a bed—under, yes, a white duvet. (I confess I don’t own a white duvet, but I didn’t realize it was such a sine qua non of poly life.)

There is more going on here than editorial laziness. It suggests that our culture’s default visual image for polyamory is “lots of people in bed together.” This hypersexualization of polyamory might be normalized, but it’s far from harmless. Because we live in a sex-negative society, presenting poly relationships as “just” sex is a powerful way of signaling that these relationships don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

...On the whole, we tend to think that “real”-love relationships are serious — and should be shored up with social and legal privileges — whereas sex is “just” sex. When poly relationships are hypersexualized, they are also shuffled out of the realm of what we are taught to respect.

...A few months ago I gave an interview to a journalist for an article about polyamory in the print edition of Cosmopolitan UK. Her article was well-written and well-researched; it addressed various issues that can come up in poly relationships, like scheduling, jealousy, misrepresentation, and stigma. The journalist included some material from my interview on how polyamory is often stigmatized through hypersexualization and sex-negativity.

So perhaps you can imagine how demoralized I was when I saw that Cosmo had chosen to illustrate this article with full-page, full-color, graphic images of a pile of naked people in mid-orgy. And that the article itself was presented under the subheading “Young, hot and…polyamorous. Why everyone you know is getting multiple action.” Not only that, the front-page headline was “Greedy Lovers: Is a Foursome the New Threesome?” This bore no connection to the article; it was only used to play up the stereotype that poly people are sexually greedy.

Whoever was in charge of these editorial decisions made the Cosmo article into a perfect example of the exact problem I described in it. Either they didn’t read my quotes, or they didn’t care about what I said. I suppose giant orgy photos sell magazines, and what happens to people like me doesn’t matter much to Cosmo. But it matters to me. This kind of harmful imagery is partly to blame for the fact that I get called a “cum-dumpster” and a “cheap skank that bones a bunch of dudes” when I talk openly about being in two loving relationships. It’s what makes strangers feel okay about saying that my partners and I are trash, that our relationships are hopeless, that I’m only pretending to be married, that they hope I get STIs, that I already have STIs, that I’m disgusting.

It’s important to note that the harms caused by the hypersexualization of polyamory are not equally distributed among its targets. As a poly woman, you stand to be labeled a “slut” without a second thought, and there is no male equivalent. Being poly doesn’t necessarily entail having any sex (never mind nightly orgies!): It’s also consistent with being asexual, not being in any relationships, or just, you know, not having sex — like how monogamous people are sometimes allowed to be not having sex. But that’s irrelevant to how stereotypes and stigmas work....

Due to the gendered norms for sexual behavior, everything about this harms poly women far more than men. In fact, any kind of privilege can help protect you from the costs of being openly poly. It’s less costly for rich white people to be out as poly, which reinforces another stereotype: that poly people are all rich and white. (In the examples of The Photo that I listed above, you might have noticed that the feet in the bed are all as white as the bourgeois bedding from which they emerge....

Strategically devaluing disfavored relationships by “reducing” them to sex is nothing new. The same strategy has long been deployed against same-sex relationships and interracial relationships. It’s effective not only as a way of inciting disgust and disapprobation, but more insidiously as a means of othering — making the people in those relationships seem weird and alien and not like us. We fall in love and have serious relationships, but those people are lust-driven animals. It’s okay to treat them like garbage.

It is tempting to push back by demanding that poly relationships be treated as “real” love, and distanced from sex.... But it also throws sex under the bus. When sex-negativity is weaponized against us, we can run from the weapon — reinforcing its effectiveness — or we can work on disarming it....

Carrie Jenkins is a polyamorous philosophy professor currently based in Vancouver, Canada. She previously lived in Scotland, England, Wales, the U.S., and Australia so that her accent would be confusing and nobody would be able to figure out where she was from. Her book What Love Is And What It Could Be comes out in January.

Read the whole text (July 27, 2016).

And once again: Photographers, please supply the stock agencies with some better poly pix! Anyone with a camera and a good eye can do it.



October 2, 2016

Now on Showtime: "The 'Shameless' Polyamorous Throuple Next Door"

Remember the poly plot developments as Showtime's Shameless came to the end of Season 6 last spring?

Turns out those were teasers for what's coming in Season 7, starting tonight (October 2) at 9.

● On the website of NBC News:

The 'Shameless' Polyamorous Throuple Next Door

(L-R) Isidora Goreshter as Svetlana, Shanola Hampton as Veronica Fisher, and Steve Howey as Kevin Ball in "Shameless"(Cliff Lipson / Showtime)

By Trish Bendix

Showtime's family comedy, "Shameless," has quietly been one of the most boundary pushing shows on premium cable, especially when it comes to sex and relationships. The Gallaghers and their extended chosen family of friends are some of the queerest to ever exist, with Ian's coming out and subsequent relationships with men, Monica's leaving Frank for a butch trucker and then later a pixie-haired woman she met while institutionalized, and Debbie's willingness to feign interest in a woman dying of cancer in order to try and seduce her rich husband....

Season 7, premiering Sunday on Showtime, will expand on the notions of love and family with the throuple that they established at the latter half of season 6....

Polyamorous relationships are still taboo on television with little exploration given to the idea that three (or more) people can be involved romantically and sexually. But on a show like "Shameless," it's almost commonplace for an interracial couple (Kevin and Veronica, or Kev and V to those who know them well) to be partnered parents who then bring Svetlana, a Russian prostitute, to live with them after V marries Svetlana so she can stay in the country. Oh, and they have three babies to raise among them.... A modern family, indeed.

Series regular Shanola Hampton was not thrilled about the idea at first.

"I hated it, to be honest with you," she said. "I felt like Kevin and Veronica had been the stability throughout the show.... So when I saw that that love was sort of being divided or going some place else — wait a minute? Is that true for these characters? I don't know that that's right to me."

It was after she found a way to see how Veronica's love for Kevin wasn't diminished by their mutual relationship with Svetlana that she came to embrace the storyline.

"I had to make it make sense in my head," Hampton said....

"It's such an interesting dynamic between the three of us," Goreshter added....

When season 7 returns, there appears to be a harmonious hum in the threesome's household. They take turns with chores (in all senses of the word) and work together at their dive bar, The Alibi. But the actresses tease that things won't stay sane for long.

"It's not as sexy for Kev," Hampton said. "The sex is great, but you now have two women to tell you 'Why didn't you clean up the damn house?' And he's like 'Wait a minute — are ya'll ganging up on me?'"...

...And then this way it's like we're all married, so 'Why didn't we have this conversation?' And sometimes it comes up the other way where Kevin and Veronica agree on something, and Svetlana is like 'Wait a minute — we're supposed to be in a marriage, and we discuss and go through everything, but now you're not discussing this with me?'" Hampton said. "So yeah, a lot of that does come up in the dynamic of being with multiple partners."

..."That moment where they're having a beer in bed, and Svetlana is smoking a cigarette, and of all people, Veronica was asking this Russian whore ... how to be a good parent and how to love her child, and that's when I think that you started to see the walls break down for Veronica—because it's hard for her to accept anyone in her life."

...On most shows that depict polyamory (most recently ABC's "Mistresses" and Audience Network's "You Me Her"), the drama comes from... the deceit, the cheating, the lying that most people assume will ultimately push a polyamorous partnership to implode. But on "Shameless," it appears the threat comes in the form of a "mysterious visitor" who will clue viewers into Svetlana's past....

Read the whole article (October 1, 2016).

● In the Hollywood Reporter:

The Surprising Way 'Shameless' Will Tackle Polyamory in Season 7

“Polyamory is being shown in a way that hasn't been shown on television before,” star Shanola Hampton says as THR talks to all parties involved, including executive producer Nancy Pimental.

By Alyse Whitney

Polyamory may be the most normal thing to happen to Showtime's Shameless.

In season seven of the Showtime dramedy, Kevin (Steve Howey), Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter) will evolve their “thrupple” from a string of threesomes and a green-card marriage into one big happy family that includes working and raising kids together as the John Wells-produced series explores polyamory.

“Polyamory is being shown in a way that hasn't been shown on television before. It's not Big Love, where the poly aspect was all it’s about,” Hampton tells The Hollywood Reporter. “[Veronica] fell in love with a woman and her husband loved her enough to accept this relationship and add it to their own relationship. For her to make that choice, it wasn't to make it temporary — this is her new life and new family”

Adds Goreshter: "It evolved in such a slow, natural way between them, over a period of [season six], where Svetlana really integrated into their lives. It was this weird slow build so it didn't feel like, ‘Oh, we're polyamorous now.’”

Pimental credits the natural flow of the thrupple to the chemistry of the actors and the fact that the storyline happened organically. “We did not set out to have this happen. It originated when Kev and Vee had broken off and Svetlana needed a place to stay," she says.

...Although sex remains a large part of their storyline — including what the cast previews as a “giddy up” punishment scene — it’s not the focal point of their story or the series as a whole.

“Now you've gotten past the whole sex stuff, you just see them just doing the day-to-day,” Hampton previews of season seven, which kicks off Sunday. “It picks up with them doing their schedule — who's going to the bar to work, who's taking care of the kids, who’s doing breakfast, and yes, who’s having sex — and being a regular family.”

Notes Goreshter: “It's like a beautiful dance that's been choreographed, and they all work so well together. Our polyamory is not the focal point of Shameless or our storyline. It’s not thrown in your face; it's just a backdrop to our real life. It’s just there and it’s working.”

The level of love between the trio may also be directly correlated to how much they actually need one another. “It’s really hard to raise kids and have a career, so if you find another part of your tribe or another member of the village that can contribute and there's love and trust and good specs, it kind of just makes sense,” Pimental says. “I think that helps normalize it as well. It started off as a relationship out of convenience and mutual give and take of services and needs being met, and then grew into something more loving.”...

...After all of the crazy things that Shameless has gotten away with — including Frank (William H. Macy) having sex with a woman after her heart stopped, Fiona (Emmy Rossum) accidentally giving her youngest brother cocaine as well as Kev and Vee playing out a slave owner and slave sex scene — the cast jokes that this is the tamest storyline of their time on the show....

Read the whole article (Sept. 30, 2016).

● Showtime is offering tonight's Episode 1 online for free (55 minutes):


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September 23, 2016

A quad does us mighty proud in a tab

OurPolyLife's logo 
The OurPolyLife quad just got themselves a sparkling, idyllic, long newspaper profile out this morning. And in a sidebar, each of the four gets a chance to offer their own (excellent) advice for people thinking of trying the poly way of life.

The only off note is that it appears in the Daily Mirror, one of the UK's notorious tabs (though a pro-Labour one; over there, not every lowbrow tab promotes the interests of the 1%).

My husband’s in love with another woman – and it's the best thing ever

The Quad, Raymond, Alex, Jason and Carson, pose for a photo

By Sophie Evans

...Carson, who uses a pseudonym, is part of The Quad – a polyamorous foursome made up of herself, her husband Raymond, her boyfriend Jason and Jason's partner of 12 years and fiancé, Alex.

She doesn’t bat an eyelid as her spouse, Raymond, goes on ‘date nights’ with his lover, Alex, every week and even encouraged him to get a girlfriend. Likewise Raymond recently wished his wife "happy first anniversary" with her boyfriend.

While Raymond and Alex have been dating for 15 months, Carson and Jason are in their own relationship – and have been for nearly a year and a half.

But despite their happy pairings, Carson, who grew up in a "religiously conservative family", and Raymond are still blissfully married with a 13-year-old son, who has had to explain to his friends what his parents' polyamorous relationship means.

Meanwhile, Alex and Jason remain engaged.

...Remarkably, each member of The Quad is close to all of the others – including their partner's lover (whom they call their ‘meta’, short for ‘metamour’).

...They have left waiters bemused with their displays of affection in restaurants, while others have been startled to hear them gushing about their ‘meta’.

Speaking exclusively to Mirror Online, Alex said: “There are a multitude of situations that come up in polyamory that include an amusing take or funny twist simply because of their nature.

“There are also a lot of things said that you'd just never hear anywhere else or in any other circumstances. It's funny.”

...In fact, the group’s ties are so deep that Raymond once received some advice from Jason about where to place a ‘love bite’ on Carson.

He also tweeted on the couple’s one-year anniversary in April, writing: “Happy first anniversary to my wife and her boyfriend. #polyamory.”

...“Though we all like to cuddle, we almost always sleep in two separate beds because cramming four people into one bed doesn't typically make for a good night's sleep.”

...Over time, the separate pairings have acquired their own nicknames.

These include The Otters (short for ‘Significant Otters, developed from the phrase ‘Significant Others’) and The Owls (an acronym for ‘Our Wonderful Lovers’).

Jason, who is Raymond’s ‘meta’, added: “Each relationship really has its own identity from another.

“On occasion, Carson and I will spend a separate weekend evening together while Alex and Raymond will do the same.

“When we are all together as The Quad, most times, we act very much like a close family. At dinner, we take turns making it and the others do the dishes.

"We are support for one another. We are love.”

(The article reprints many of their tweets)

...Jason added: “Sex has never really been an issue, actually. In fact, when the sex has proven to be challenging is when our love, compassion, tenderness, pampering, and care for each other have been the most rewarding.

“Simple things, such as cuddling, are actually just as satisfying as sex can be.”

The Quad began after Carson became interested in polyamory and the deep "feeling of community and acceptance" that it appeared to offer....

But it’s not always fun.

One tweet reads: “Sometime being #poly means getting whiplash from the emotional rollercoaster. So thankful for the support system that keeps me buckled in.”

...Carson agreed about the impact on her son. She said: “I do think our polyamorous lifestyle has had a positive effect on him because it affords him more role models and access to a wider variety of world perspectives.

“He has more close-knit people who love him, that he can learn from, and that he can turn to if he needs extra support with something.

“He has said that Jason and Alex are like ‘second parents’ to him.”

And that sidebar:

The Quad’s advice to people considering polyamory

Carson: “Read everything you can on the subject. Check out MoreThanTwo.com, get their book, and read it twice. I would also recommend working to develop solid introspection, empathy, and communication skills. It’s important (for both you and your prospective partners) to make sure your relationship is solid before you start adding the layers of complexity that polyamory brings with it.”

Raymond: “Take your time and talk a LOT. Also, check you motivations. If your current relationship isn't fulfilling, don't expect a second one to make up for it. Polyamory is a rewarding lifestyle, but it's also incredibly difficult. It involves more communication, more time management, and more WORK than you would ever imagine going into it. I think most people have been in that situation of becoming interested in someone while in a relationship with someone else. At that point, most people see three possible choices: Reject the new love interest, leave your current partner, or cheat. Polyamory offers an alternative. It's a hard conversation, especially in a relationship that's been monogamous, but, as our experience has shown, not impossible, and may be well worth having."

Alex: “Go slow. Push the envelope, but gently. Be brutally honest with yourself and your partner(s) AT ALL TIMES. It's tough to own your own stuff, but it's absolutely necessary if you're serious about polyamory and not just playing.”

Jason: “If you find yourself being more inclined to be polyamorous be prepared, more than anything, as in any successful relationship really, to always communicate...communicate often, then clarify, and repeat. Also, as a bonus, learn your partner’s love languages. Knowing what they have as needs in how they communicate their love can help your communication abilities and provide a greater love in your relationships.”

Remarks Mar1ini in the comments,

I've known Alex and Jason for eight years. I've known Raymond and Carson--through them--for about a year now. They couldn't be happier, and I have an objective perspective on the affect this has had on Alex and Jason. I've been to functions with the Quad, and it really is amazing to watch them interact and flow.

Here's the whole article, with lots of pix (September 23, 2016). The quad was as surprised as anyone by the article popping up today. "We had no idea!" they tweet. "We spoke with a reporter several months ago, but didn't think anything would come of it. 😊" They add, "BUT, I wish we had spent more time talking about the difficulties. Not everything is rosey all the time. Jealousy is a real issue, & it doesn't go away just because you're #polyamorous. If anything it gets harder."1

The article ends with a form you can fill out to tell about your own "unconventional relationship" and, if you want, upload pix. So, it looks like this story is going to be part of a series. Wanna go for it?


1. I find it gets easier. In situations where I'm not socially expected to be jealous, it's easy for me to be my normal compersive self. Especially because I know I can talk a problem out with all concerned if I need to.


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