Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

March 2, 2015

Dilbert cartoonist: Nuclear-family marriage is poor engineering; poly tribes more optimal

Scott Adams in 2007
Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist and an advocate for creative engineering-think in real life, blogged a few days ago about the increasingly bad design of the nuclear family for today's world. In particular, he noted, the standard family model requires a catastrophically damaging divorce system for single-point failures that are common and predictable. No engineer would approve.

If we want children to be better raised and adults to be happier, he proposed an obvious solution: more tribal ways of life, including fluid relationship models that can better fit reality and provide redundancy:

Divorce is one of the most expensive, horrible, and wasteful things a person [can commonly] experience. It is terrible for the kids, terrible for finances, good for lawyers, bad for employers, etc.... And those people typically remarry and either divorce again or, all too often, live unhappily ever after. The entire process is insanely inefficient.

Unfortunately, in 2015, marriage is probably the best system we have for raising kids. But as a thought experiment, imagine that the government removes all laws favoring marriage. You get no tax breaks, no nothing. And instead the government encourages people to set up alternative social systems that solve the problems of divorce.

How do you solve the divorce problem? Ask any economist. It is quite easy. I’ll give you a solution in one word: diversification.

In marriage, if something bad happens to one person, or one person becomes a jerk, the system breaks. Any engineer will tell you that is a poorly designed system. But if, for example, you had a small tribe of people cooperating for mutual interest, a bad day for one wouldn’t be a death blow for the tribe. If your love interest hates you today, you have three others on call. If you get sick and need childcare, there are ten people ready to help.

...I won’t design a full alternative to marriage here because people are different and one solution does not fit all. The main idea is that marriage is perhaps the biggest economic problem in the country that isn’t food-related. Marriage made sense in old-timey days. But with the help of the Internet it would make more sense for people to organize around what works instead of what we know does not.

You will be tempted to point out that hippy communes didn’t catch on. I’m not talking about poorly-engineered hippy communes. That’s like comparing a Model-T to a Tesla. I think that with some creative thinking, and maybe some experimenting, society could develop modern alternatives to marriage that remove the divorce problem.

I hear whispers that these sorts of arrangements are already happening, but because non-monogamy is shamed, you don’t hear much about it. Marriage will go away eventually, as all bad systems do.... Can we speed it up?

Read Adams' whole essay (Feb. 27, 2015). The relevant part is the second half.

P.S.: Adams can get away with this stuff because, like Colbert and Stewart, he's in the comedy business. You can tell how free or unfree a society is by how important its comedians become — by how much important stuff comes from the jester.


March 1, 2015

"Polyamory is like the tech industry? WTF?!?"

429 Magazine

Remember that CNN Money piece about poly becoming a trend among Silicon Valley techies/ life-hackers/ entrepreneurs?

Emily Rush at 429 Magazine ("for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender business leaders") goes on a rant about it. It seems to have hit some triggers of hers.

Polyamory is like the tech industry? WTF?!?

By Emily Rush

Polyamory seems to be having a big boom as of late — it’s almost like you can’t throw a rock without hitting poly this and open that. It seems like it’s everywhere, especially when you look at television: From American Horror Story to Big Love to Showtime’s Polyamory, it really seems like it’s becoming quite predominant.

Another place that seems to have picked up on this is in the tech industry. CNN Money recently did a report about a tech worker who also happens to be poly…and there’s so much that feels wrong about the article.

Let’s start with a direct quote: “I think that in technology, people have higher appetites for risks. Opening up your relationship is really risky, kind of in a similar way that starting a company is really risky.”

This is what Miju Han thinks poly is.

Ohhh… where do I start?

There is so much flawed thinking in this statement that I can’t even.

So, let’s start with my poly credentials. I’ve been poly now for… oh, going on twelve years. I’ve been in a functioning poly relationship for ten years, and I’ve had another committed partner for five. I’ve read virtually every book on poly that you can imagine.... The vast majority of my friends are also poly. So, I think I might know a thing or two about it.

How about we look at calling poly “an experiment”?... First, the word “experiment.” Now, let me think where else experimentation has come up in sex and sexuality…Oh, right! Isn’t that what they say to dismiss people who are bisexual? That they’re experimenting, that it’s just a phase? Yeah…

After twelve years, I can’t say that I’m “experimenting” anymore....

Well no. An "experiment," to us techie-sciencey-geeky types (a big subset of poly) is trying something to see what happens. Because you're curious. Curious people are cool.

To say that this is an experiment is pretty insulting to those of us who have done this for years (or even decades).

Han was referring to this as a social experiment. Can modern poly work on a societal scale? That's never been tried, and it would be cool to find out.

Come on, if you’re going to claim to be poly, don’t be so ignorant of the community you’re supposedly a part of. Even worse, it might actually be insulting to your own partners, especially if they’ve been doing this longer than you.

Now, let’s talk about risk.... Calling poly “risky” is the statement that I have a bigger problem with. You know what else is risky? Job interviews. Walking down the street. Driving a car.... Is there a greater risk in poly (that would be tantamount to, say, starting a new business)?

Uh, that’s basically saying that monogamy is safe.

False dichotomy.

...Then there’s the comparison to poly being like the tech industry [and starting a company]…

I shake my head when I read this.... It once again compares poly to business.

You know what other group of people has a higher appetite for risk? Gamblers, people who play the stock market, venture capitalists.…wait, does that mean that you’ll also find a lot of poly people in the financial market as well?

In fact, surveys do find that self-identified polys tend to score high on measures of adventure-seeking and appetite for risk.

Read the whole article (Feb. 26, 2015).

Rush's previous article at 429 Magazine was the perfectly fine Polyamory: A Primer two weeks ago.

P.S.: Regarding experiments, a warning from xkcd:



February 28, 2015

"What It’s Like to Be a Polyamorous Genius"

New York Magazine

(That's not him, just some illo.)

Leon Feingold, co-founder of Open Love NY, made New York Magazine's list of the city's ten interesting outlier people featured on the cover of the February 23rd issue. The hook is his extreme IQ, but his poly life, and high-end social skills after a dorky childhood, are also a source of the magazine's fascination. The collection is called "Life on the Margins of Experience." A segment from the long (4,000-word) interview:

...Also, I’m polyamorous and I think that has a lot to do with my low threshold for boredom. I think responsible non-monogamy has an amazing benefit, because one person can’t meet all your needs, or if that person exists, I haven’t met her.

When did you discover polyamory?

About eight years ago, I met a girl on OkCupid who described herself as polyamorous. I didn’t know what it was. She explained it and I was mind-blown. I was like, How can I not know that this exists?

...Everyone I was dating had something to offer. Some were gorgeous. Some were smart. Some were fun. Some were really intriguing. Some liked to go to certain parties. So seeing so many people triggered so many parts of my brain and I was really happy with it.... I have about 30 things that are important to me, and if any one of them wasn’t met, I would get antsy.

How does it work in a practical sense?

The model that works for me is a girlfriend, and I have a lot of friends who I may have sex with. A girlfriend is somebody who is the highest priority, someone I spend the bulk of my time with. When I’m in a relationship, that slot of “primary” is not available and if someone else I’m attracted to is comfortable with that, then we will pursue something. Free love only works if everyone is on the same page and comfortable and happy with it.

...There’s a saying in the non-monogamy world, which is to be successful you should date your own species. If you’re monogamous, date someone who is monogamous; if you’re non-monogamous, date someone non-monogamous. But trying to mix and match is a recipe for disaster. So far, we are trying. I do love her, but we all know that love is not what makes a relationship work.

Is intelligence the main thing you look for in a partner?

My dream has always been to marry someone who is smarter than I am. I want to be challenged and I want to be with someone who teaches me things.

Does that mean you believe in marriage? And if you were married, would you continue a polyamorous lifestyle?

Yes. I would love to get married and start a family. I can’t imagine I would ever be not poly and I can’t imagine I would ever be with a long-term partner who would expect that of me.

...You don’t want to challenge the idea that you should be married to have kids?

I wouldn’t want my kids to feel like outcasts. I was an outcast growing up and sure, it made me stronger, but I don’t know what I would answer to a kid who wondered why I wasn’t married to their mother.

...Would you feel like they might feel like outsiders if their friends found out that their dad was polyamorous, or would you keep this from them?

I'd love to raise kids without the traditional shame associated with being sex-positive — talking about sex or relationships should be as simple as talking about how their day was at school. My concern is more with the perception of others, which is probably the biggest problem for poly families. The structure itself works, but they catch a lot of flak from society. It's sad, and while I personally don't mind being a lightning rod for criticism from small-minded people, I'm not sure I'd want to subject my kids to that before they know enough to understand it themselves. Hopefully, by the time I have to think about it, poly will have gained enough widespread acceptance that I'll be able to worry about real parenting issues, like raising awesome kids who make the world a better place....

Read the whole interview (online Feb. 24, 2015).



February 24, 2015

At the Poly Living con: Addressing abuse in the poly community

I'm home from Loving More's Poly Living conference in Philadelphia. Cons often develop an informal theme, not necessarily the one on the cover of the program. At Poly Living this year, the theme that emerged was abuse in poly relationships and how the community should respond.

The theme was set by the brilliant keynote speech and workshop presentations by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, authors of the turning-point poly book More Than Two. They were onstage for a total of 3½ hours during the weekend and, as usual, held their audiences every minute.

"So there was a time, long ago, when I had this naive idea that polyamorous relationships were less likely to be abusive than monogamous relationships," Franklin said in his talk at the opening on Friday night. "Isolating a person is one of the hallmarks of abuse — so I thought, well, if you’ve got more people in a relationship, it’s harder to isolate people, right? You have more eyes on a potential problem, right?"

Against this happy effect, he said he's come to realize, there is a dark countereffect. Because abusers are often influential and charismatic, and because groupthink is one of the commonest bugs of human nature, an abuser can sway an entire group against a person he or she is mistreating, belittling, controlling, or gaslighting. (Gaslighting: Sabotaging a person's confidence in their own perceptions and memories.) This can make abuse in a poly situation much more encompassing and difficult to escape.

That was only part of Franklin's keynote; it was titled "Telling Our Stories, Changing the World." But the theme kept recurring. Since the mid-1990s, he said, "I've watched the poly community grow and change around me into this incredibly strong, vibrant thing it is now." But that strength and confidence ought to give us the courage to tackle dark sides of poly openly. For all our successes, he said, "what we have not done in our community is come to terms with the possibilities of abuse in our community. It is a mistake to think we are any more immune to abusive relationships than other relationship models." In fact, there is no research (yet) on this question at all.

The next morning, Eve and Franklin went into greater depth in their 90-minute workshop "Abuse in Poly Dynamics." It was packed. Here are Eve's 29 powerpoint slides, which are unfortunately brief (and slides 19–21 should be relabeled "Questionable Poly Advice" to match what she said about them). The discussion that followed was also productive, with many in the audience offering insights from personal experience, and psychology professionals in the audience filling in gaps.

Then on Sunday they presented "Putting the Ethics in Ethical Non-Monogamy" (a new updated version), broadening their earlier topics into wider, more general principles for defining and living the good poly life. And life in general. This too was crowded. Closing line: "Now that poly is surfacing in the world and taking off, we are at a point where we have to be clear about our ethics and values as a community, if the community is to survive and thrive."


Later they posted,

As part of our presentation on abuse in polyamorous relationships, we talked about ways communities can cultivate values that are resilient [against] beliefs that lead to abuse. One of these is to internalize and promote the Relationship Bill of Rights. We've finally made the Bill of Rights available in full on the More Than Two website: www.morethantwo.com/relationshipbillofrights.html.


Of course lots more went on at Poly Living all weekend. Four simultaneous tracks of classes/workshops ran all day, so you had to miss 3/4 of them — from coming out poly, to practicing vulnerability, to transitioning a relationship (when the black-and-white model of traditional breakups doesn't apply), jealousy management, a roundtable on poly activism, gender explorations, applying faith principles to decision-making, poly parenting, "Creating a 'New Culture' Based on Love and Freedom," and more. The total attendance for the weekend was a little over 200.

The evening after the conference, Loving More hosted an informal social gathering for Polyamory Leadership Network members, featuring get-to-know-each-other games. The PLN, by the way, defines poly "leaders" simply as "people who do cool things without waiting for permission." Is that you? You can read more and maybe send in an application.


Much of what Franklin and Eve discussed plays off Franklin's article a couple weeks ago on the MoreThanTwo site, Some thoughts on community and abuse. Excerpts (with my highlighting):

I realize [the topic] is a bit of a downer, and it’s not a lot of fun to talk about. Most of the poly community is awesome, and polyamory itself is wonderful and rewarding.

But I believe the community — by which I mean all the folks who are interested in polyamory and who get together to talk about this multiple relationship thing that we do — is at a crossroads. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am not impressed with the way the organized BDSM community walks the walk when it comes to abuse. It certainly talks the talk about consent, safety, and respect, but in more than sixty years I don’t think it’s managed to turn that talk into a meaningful culture of consent.

...Right now I think the poly community has come to a place where we can either content ourselves with talking about respect and consent the way the BDSM community has, or we can work to make it a cornerstone of the social groups we create. I look at the kink scene and the path it’s taken, and I’m afraid. I don’t want the poly scene to become like that.

...Dealing with people who abuse is hard. It’s hard to stand up and speak out when you see something happening in your community that’s not okay, but that doesn’t involve you directly. It’s hard to get involved. It’s hard to tell someone, “Look, you’re not welcome in this space because you did that thing you did.”

And hard as that is, it’s only the start.

...The thing we don’t like to admit is that people who abuse are not necessarily evil. They’re not necessarily bad people. If you ask someone, “What makes a person abuse?” you will hear a lot of answers like “some people are just monsters.” That black-and-white, Marvel Comics caricature of what “an abuser” looks like helps nobody. Often, people who abuse are friends. Often, people who abuse are themselves hurting. Often, people who abuse genuinely do have good things about them. Often, they’re not committing physical violence, and the abuse is hard to spot.

See, here’s the thing. Abusers often sincerely believe themselves to be victims.

...Every person who commits abuse that I’ve ever met, without exception, is someone who is in a lot of pain. They feel that the abuse they do isn’t abuse — it’s a reasonable and natural response to the pain they’re in.

As people working in domestic violence prevention will tell you, abuse is about power and control. Lots and lots and lots of people, abusers and non-abusers alike, believe that if your partner does or says something and it makes you feel uncomfortable, threatened, jealous, or hurt, it’s okay for you to control them in order to deal with your feelings.

Look around. This idea has a lot of social currency.... The idea that if you feel something bad, it means someone else is doing something wrong and you should be able to make them stop doing it … well, that’s the root of all abuse.

[Not quite all. Franklin pointed out during the weekend that true predators do exist: psychopaths born without a conscience (often estimated at 1% to 4% of the population), who camouflage themselves in the larger mix.]

And people who abuse genuinely feel that if they tell a partner to do something and the partner doesn’t do it, they’re the ones being abused.

There’s an essay that sums this up brilliantly at The Community Response to Abuse:

“I was victimized by acts of control” is not the same as “I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.”

Because a person who abuses is in genuine pain, and genuinely feels victimized, and sincerely cannot distinguish between “victimized by someone else’s control” and “victimized because I can’t control someone else,” it’s really, really hard to show these folks why their actions are wrong.

...In order to crack the problem of abuse, you have to cut all the way down to why we think it’s okay to control other people, and that’s extremely difficult. Look at all the people who agree with this idea! Look at how many social messages say that if someone does something that makes us uncomfortable, the best way to handle it is to control that person! Every social message we’re confronted with reinforces this idea.

So people who abuse aren’t (necessarily) monsters. They’re just like us. They’re hurting. And that presents one hell of a problem — one that we need to be able to talk about, and get a handle on, if we are to make safe spaces for survivors of abuse.

Yes, we need to be willing to step up when we see abuse.... Our first priority needs to be to protect and make safe spaces for survivors, to believe survivors, and to support survivors.

But if that’s all we do, if we think it stops there, we can end up perpetuating the cycle....

That’s not good enough.

Survivors of abuse need support. Abusers also need support. They need a different kind of support, though. They need someone to hold them accountable. They need someone to challenge their feelings of entitlement to control. They need someone to call them on their bullshit. And even if, for whatever reason, we can’t get through to them, we still need to work to change the cultural idea that controlling others because you’re hurting is okay.

...It’s not enough to cast out the person who abuses. That often does need to happen, don’t get me wrong. But that’s the beginning of accountability, not the end.

I’m not sure what the rest of the path to accountability looks like. But I really, really want to learn. And I really hope that other people in the poly community want to learn, too. I’m asking for a lot. I get that. But we need to be able to do this.

The cycle has to stop.

Really, go read the whole article (Feb. 10, 2015). He asks ask for your thoughts and input there.

● Here is the article that he references midstream: The Community Response to Abuse, by Shea Emma Fett (Jan. 30, 2015). This too is well worth your time.

● That post was a followup to Fett's Abuse in Polyamorous Relationships, including six Poly Traps (Nov. 22, 2014).

● Here are Eve and Franklin's Resources on abuse in polyamorous relationships that grew out of the weekend. See the interesting comment there, by Liz, that women and men may abuse in similar numbers, but that this is not visible because men are more able to inflict obvious injury when aggressors, and are more ashamed to admit they are being abused when victims.

● Also helping to prompt this discussion was Cunning Minx's Polyamory Weekly podcast Episode 418, Emotional Abuse in Polyamorous Relationships (Jan. 23, 2015):

An incredibly difficult topic to deal with; this episode has been months in the making....

Shannon Perez-Darby, Youth Services Program Manager for The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse, shares her advice on how to recognize abuse of all kinds and how to respond when you or someone you love might be surviving emotional abuse.

● And there's a hashtag: #AbuseInPoly


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February 21, 2015

A Poly 101 for GLBT business leaders


With its social media and slick online magazine, "dot429 creates opportunities and connections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender business leaders." The magazine just put up a very basic poly how-to, providing the conventional wisdom for those who haven't heard.

Polyamory: a primer

By Emily Rush

Polyamory can be a confusing, scary, but ultimately rewarding relationship model. However, it takes a lot of work to do successfully. So, what should someone new to the idea know about it?

The first thing to remember is that no one starts out doing this right. Even after you’ve opened up to the idea of multiple, simultaneous loving relationships, there are a lot of old monogamy-related beliefs that will take some time to reconcile. It takes time to wrap your head around this whole new way of having relationships. Be patient with yourself.

Almost above all, listen to what your head and heart are telling you....

...Now here’s the biggest part of polyamory: communication. This sounds like a no-brainer, right? Not necessarily. You need to, in some ways, re-learn how to communicate with others.... You have to learn to be okay with telling them exactly where you are emotionally. You also need to be receptive to what they’re saying.

...Know that you are not responsible for someone else’s feelings, just as they’re not responsible for yours. This is an important thing to remember. [And to take in a properly nuanced way, say I. Boy, can this be a wrecking ball in the hands of an asshole. –Alan]

Try to find a community either locally or online....

The notion of cheating takes on a whole different dynamic in poly....

...Important first date tip: let someone know you’re poly before the first date....

The whole article (Feb. 19, 2015).

For further reading she recommends MoreThanTwo.com and the Polyamory Society, but the "Polyamory Society" doesn't really exist; it's a one-man website, most of it very old, and the expensive paid membership is basically meaningless.


February 20, 2015

Playgirl touts "poly craze"

Turns out Playgirl had an enthusiastic four-page article titled "Polyamory — The New Alternative to Monogamy?" in its Nov/Dec 2014 print issue. The lead paragraph:

When you’re in love with more than one person, you are (whether you call it polyamory or not) part of the new “it” culture, one that involves complicated communication, open negotiation, and a penchant for honesty and trust. It used to be that coming out gay or lesbian was on everyone’s radar, but now polyamory has been peaking [sic] from those same sex spaces, and “coming out” has taken on new identities involving more than one lover, and sometimes lovers of multiple genders. New paradigms are being created, expanded, and explored with the hope that polyamory will spread into a broader level of acceptance.

And a bit later, "Polyamory is the latest relationship craze to hit mainstream media and the minds of many Americans."

Here's a hi-res (i.e. readable) PDF of the whole article.

Billy Holder, who's pictured in the story with two of his family members, remarks on his blog that he's not so happy with all the people in it being white middle class despite opportunities for more diversity, and with the article calling poly “a 'craze' and using terms that in many ways cut the movement’s strength and direction [like] something that may be around as long as parachute pants. A fad if you will. Even though the people interviewed had all had long-lasting Poly relationships and talked about the movement and its direction."

Otherwise, "not that much bad about it. I think overall it was a good story. It did talk about a lot of the concepts and directions poly people are coming from."


February 19, 2015

"Three men marry each other in Thailand, internet goes crazy"

Gay Star News

A story that just reached our shores:

Photo via jokebellartfc / Facebook
Three men marry each other in Thailand, internet goes crazy

By Darren Wee

Three men who married each other on Valentine’s Day have become internet sensations in Thailand after photos from their pre-wedding shoot went viral.

Netizens congratulated the men, only identified as Joke, Bell and Art, who were married in a traditional water-pouring ceremony at midnight on 15 February.

The photos show the trio in Thai and western wedding attire and the text on one reads: 'Pure love cannot be seen by your eyes. If you want to know what its worth you have to see it with your heart.'

On one TV station's Facebook page alone, a photo of the men had more than 50,000 likes and 1,000 comments.

'Love occurs unconditionally and is not limited to only two people. Love brings peace to the world,' Art commented on Facebook.

The trio reportedly spent their honeymoon in their home province of Uthai Thani.

The wedding itself was a symbolic one as gay, and threeway, relationships are not recognized in Thailand.

Here's the original, with more wedding pix (Feb. 19, 2015).

Update: Brief story on Queerty, with all the pix from the original article: Meet Joke, Bell And Art, Thailand’s New Happily Married Threesome (Feb. 20, 2015).


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NBC drama pilot to feature an open marriage

But I wouldn't expect a good open marriage. Where would the drama be? That would require imagination.

Note: "Variety estimates that only a little over a quarter of all pilots made for American television proceed to the series stage, although the figure may be even lower." (Wikipedia)

These bits are from Deadline Hollywood, taken from NBC press releases in the last week:

Rockmond Dunbar To Star In NBC Pilot ‘Love Is A Four Letter Word

By Nellie Andreeva

...Rockmond Dunbar has booked his next series regular gig, signing on as the male lead in the NBC drama pilot Love Is A Four Letter Word. The project, from playwright-TV writer Diana Son, 20th TV and Fabrik, chronicles the collision of race, sexuality and gender roles when three diverse couples put modern marriage to the test.

Dunbar will play half of the lead couple, Nick, a charismatic and charming ad agency entrepreneur whose first marriage to Julie, the mother of two of his children, broke up over his affair with Fiona, now his wife. Nick and Fiona have an open marriage, and Fiona takes full advantage of their “arrangement” — but through the years, Nick has always pined for Julie, the true love of his life.

Nadine Velazquez... will play Rebecca, a Cuban American who is deeply in love with Julie and very happy with their marriage, but doesn’t realize her wife is actively considering getting back together with her ex, Nick.

Cynthia McWilliams... will play Tandi, one half of a happy couple with a young son who is experiencing difficulties fulfilling her dream of having another child.

This is just one of 16 Pilots That Will Attempt to Fly on NBC. From that link: "The success of shows like Jane the Virgin, Blackish, Empire, and everything Shonda Rhimes does are certainly reasons NBC is looking at a series with this sort of subject matter.