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Proposed 'sex-positive community center' gets fair hearing from Tacony residents

on Friday, 24 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Plan Philly

by Jake Blumgart

Thursday night’s community meeting in Tacony went better than anyone could have expected.


A proposal to open a private sex-positive club in the midst of a residential neighborhood would likely stir contention anywhere. In the Northeast, with its reputation as the most conservative corner of the city, such a project almost seems to court controversy.


But the sex-positive club’s lead organizer, Deborah Rose Hinchey, assuaged neighborhood fears by taking questions from a standing room only crowd for well over an hour. In the stuffy heat of the Tacony Music Hall, crammed with concerned neighbors and community activists, she faced a public reckoning with what until recently had been her private—very private—passion project.


Sex positivity is an expansive philosophy which argues that what happens between consenting adults is healthy and natural. Think anything from polyamory, or openly engaging in multiple romantic relationships, to practitioners of bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism (BDSM). And the more people are educated about such practices, the better.


For three years Hinchey and her supporters have dreamed of opening a members-only sex-positive community center. The idea is to create a gathering space outside the bars and illegal warehouse parties where many alternative sexual communities are forced to meet people who share their proclivities. Drugs and booze complicate consent, and the community center model offers a safe space where they are explicitly banned.


Six months ago, Hinchey and her comrades were approached with the idea about locating their club in the stately Victorian Tacony Music Hall in lower Northeast Philadelphia. Three months ago, the group’s benefactor, Harry Leff, purchased the building. Two months ago, they started moving in furniture.


Last week PlanPhilly broke the news that the sex positive community center hoped to open in the neighborhood. Hinchey spent much of the next ten days haunting the Tacony Facebook group and responding to freaked out commenters.


Last night, it came time to face the crowd. In less than two weeks Hinchey will have to go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment to secure a special exception to provide “live entertainment for more than 50 people.” Currently the club can operate by-right with a capacity of 50 people per floor. Currently there are less than 30 members, but eventually they’d like to have over 150 people signed up.


Getting a special exception requires a community meeting with the local Registered Community Organization (RCO). Flanked by zoning lawyers, Hinchey stood in the midst of what was once the music hall’s second floor office suite. The huge room features a winding staircase that leads up to an interior balcony, presenting Hinchey and her cohort with two levels of attendees.


As the meeting got started, a betting man might have put money on a screaming match. Numerous attendees scoffed audibly whenever Hinchey assured them there’d be no alcohol served or tolerated. A few older residents vibrated with skepticism.


But the Tacony Civic Association is bent on civility. Questions had been collected beforehand and were read by Alex Balloon of the Tacony CDC. Whenever the crowd started to get rowdy, Joseph Sannutti, president of the Tacony Civic Association, threatened to shut the whole meeting down and chuck everyone out of the building. He wields his gavel fiercely, quelling any sign of unbridled unrest.  


And then a funny thing happened as Hinchey and her zoning lawyers answered the crowd’s questions. Tacony listened. No one screamed at her. No one wailed or gnashed teeth.


A few people asked her to think of the children, but she came prepared for that one. After all, there is a daycare on the first floor.


“We want to make sure we can cohabitate in this spaces as well as possible,” said Hinchey. “We’ve worked really, really hard with them. One of the things we are doing is making sure we are never open at the same time, they close at 6:00 and we open at 7:00 on weeknights. We have separate entrances on separate streets.”


The director of the daycare walked up to Hinchey, identified herself as Monique Roye and spoke in support of the sex positive center. As far as she’s concerned, having such a conscientious tenant upstairs—one that will pay for security camera to be installed outside—would actually help her business with the influences she actually worries about.


“When I started working here we were picking up drug paraphernalia off of our playgrounds,” she said. “We were watching DEA agents knocking down doors up the street.”


With the daycare director on her side, Hinchey’s detractors’ were defanged. Her description of the membership process also seemed to help: Applicants must have the approval of two vetted persons, then their ID is taken and copied, and they are assigned an identification number to better preserve privacy—although their full information is kept on file.


Still, the meeting wasn’t without its touchy points.


At one point Hinchey said the word “bondage” and the room erupted in hoots and derisive laughter that drowned out everything else. It took the intervention of Sannutti to calm things down.


The crowd rumbled and shifted uneasily throughout the question and answer session. One person bluntly insisted that the club members would simply have a stash of booze in their cars, even if it is disallowed in the building. (Hinchey says no intoxicated person will be allowed in.) Then came the perennial Philadelphia question: Where will all the cars go? (Hinchey has been studying the parking patterns in the evenings and found non-residential blocks nearby where there are few cars at night.)


The parking questions lead Hinchey to propose a good neighbor agreement the club could sign, which could encompass any number of assurances. No parking on Longshore Ave, for example, or no loitering on the sidewalk.  


Hinchey’s calm and assured answers mostly won her an honest hearing, although by the end of the meeting the crowd still seemed skeptical as the voting began. (The results weren’t announced at the meeting and no one could confirm the results Friday morning, although Tacony Civic’s zoning spokesperson said he doubted they’d get community approval.)


“Look, as someone who grew up in the 70s-era coffee shop era in Philadelphia, and needed safe spaces, I truly respect that aspect of your mission,” said local resident Andrew Keegan.  “I think that’s commendable. If that were the limit of it, I wouldn’t be here. But there’s a sense of mission creep.”


Could Hinchey guarantee there will be no sexual activity?


No, she won’t say that. Becoming a member, or attending a function, does not guarantee anyone sex, she stressed. The center is not an attempt to monetize potential sexual encounters. But she also would not rule out sex between consenting adults in a private space.


“Sex is not prohibited within this space but it is not the purpose or intention of this space,” said Hinchey. “This space’s intention is to educate people about their bodies, about having relationships, at how to communicate effectively. Sex is not the purpose, but it is not prohibited either.”


That idea obviously made the crowd uncomfortable. A suggestion rippled through that sex should be banned at the center, at least for a few months. But Hinchey didn’t back down. Even then, despite audible dissent, there were no truly unruly outbursts.


Canvassing the crowd for opinions about what they’d just seen, a hard no vote was surprisingly hard for this reporter to come by.


“I’m really not sure whether I want to go for it or not—I just hate to see the building empty,” said Lorraine Quirk, a lifelong resident of Tacony. “The neighborhood is really turning into a drug infested neighborhood, so maybe this could be a positive thing. And her presentation was excellent. She wasn’t afraid to tell us the truth.”


Another older resident, Bill O’Drain, said he’s optimistic about the proposal. “This neighborhood is bad. I hope that somehow possibly this’ll inject some good life into a bad situation. Maybe this will work out for everyone. A win-win.” ...

Kink Is Dead! Long Live Kink!

on Friday, 24 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Two big fetish-oriented businesses have made major cutbacks—but it’s not because consumers are tired of bondage and butt plugs


by Lynsey G

It’s been almost six years since Fifty Shades of Grey burst onto the pop culture scene, launching the “mommy porn” phenomenon that saw suburban parents suddenly devouring erotica in public and discussing kinky sex practices like bondage, butt plugs, and Ben Wa balls over the dinner table. And the kink industry in America has been riding a wave of financial success ever since.

According to Fifty Shades’ publisher, Vintage Books, 150 million copies of the first book alone have been sold worldwide since its initial release in July of 2011. The first movie grossed over $571 million at the box office around the globe, and just over a month after its release, its sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, has already brought in almost $370 million worldwide. As a result of the media franchise’s unprecedented success, kink-friendly businesses like product manufacturers and retailers, workshop instructors, and professional kinksters of many stripes benefited from an uptick in interest for over half a decade.

But just as Fifty Shades Darker was about to hit theaters in early 2017, two giants of the online kink community scaled back in big ways. In early January, FetLife — the largest kinky social networking site in the world — deleted thousands of photos, groups, and entire categories of user-uploaded content without warning. About a week later,, the biggest kinky porn company in the known universe, announced that it was moving porn production out of the San Francisco Armory, where it had filmed for a decade. Company founder Peter Acworth told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s the end of an era.”

These abrupt, drastic changes from some of the world’s largest kink-based businesses raised a question: Were these sudden moves by big kinky businesses indicative of a larger trend? Had the post–Fifty Shades kink bubble of the early 2010s finally burst?

Although many kinksters don’t like to give Fifty Shades too much credit for its cultural impact — its depictions of the lifestyle, they say, are not only incorrect but potentially dangerous — others maintain that regardless of the misconceptions it conveyed, the franchise spawned a huge wave of interest in kink. But now it’s over. As one kinkster, who requested anonymity, told MEL, “Capitalism guarantees that any popular thing be allowed to rise to its level of ‘not popular enough to sustain this level of public engagement.’ I think on some level a lot of people’s curiosities have been satisfied, insofar as they were curious about kink in the first place.”

Mike Stabile,a longtime spokesperson for, said, “A lot of people came in [to the kink community] and experimented and then moved on. But the core community grew during that period — even if in the interim, the swelling went down.” recently compiled data for its 2017 “State of the Union” report. “We looked at resources for kink and fetish communities — playspaces and dungeons, doctors who are conversant in BDSM who won’t be judgmental that we pulled from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom site — and FetLife membership.”

LA was rated the kinkiest city in’s “State of the Union”

The results were dramatic: “The numbers grew in every city,” Stabile said.

But if the kinky community at FetLife has only grown, and lots of those kinksters want to watch the entertainment that provides, why the upheaval at both companies?

As it turns out, numbers — no matter how large — can be tricky for kinky businesses, especially when it comes to getting paid. The online payment industry has made no secret of its distaste for adult-oriented businesses of all kinds, charging them higher fees or outright refusing to do business with them (with Department of Justice backing), and it appears that FetLife’s massive content gutting was a result of this ongoing tension. FetLife’s John Baku wrote in a blog post to the FetLife community that early January’s deletions were due to concerns about payment processing. “We got a notice that one of our merchant accounts was shutting us down,” he said. “One of the [credit] card companies contacted them directly and told the bank to stop processing [payments] for us.”

According to Baku, the credit card company told the merchant account that their reasoning “had to do with ‘blood, needles, and vampirism’” in user-uploaded content. A few days later, another merchant account announced that it would also drop FetLife because a credit card company had reported “immoral and illegal” content on the site.

It’s not clear exactly what spurred the credit card companies to bring the hammer down on FetLife, but Colin Rowntree, the founder of (NSFW!), one of the oldest kinky porn sites on the internet, is familiar with the difficulties faced by kinky businesses online and offered some context. “Being a user-generated-content community site which accepts credit cards as a method of payment… FetLife is bound to the rules and regulations issued by MasterCard and Visa (BRAM) on what is permissible content for its members to post to their profiles,” he said. “What appears to have happened is that FetLife simply did not keep up the level of vigilance in monitoring member uploads.”

“We were not technically forced to remove anything,” Baku told MEL. “But the combination of losing our current merchant accounts and the fear of not being able to accept credit cards again is pretty much the equivalent of forcing an organization’s hand in our de facto cashless society,” so FetLife took a hatchet to its user-uploaded content.

Since the slashing of the site’s content in January, Baku says, “Some of the largest and most reputable [payment] processing companies have offered us the ability to start processing credit cards again, but due to the number of restrictions that come with accepting credit cards, we’ve decided against taking them.”

Instead, the site is accepting direct bank transfers, gift cards, Interac e-Transfers and bitcoin. It’s updated its content guidelines, which now forbid depictions of alcohol or drug use, anything that might be interpreted as hate speech (like race play), content that could be considered obscene (like incest), activity that could cause lasting bodily harm, and depictions of consensual non-consent. Some members are understandably upset, given that there are myriad kinks and fetishes involving these activities in which FetLife members participate. “When we removed content that was against the BRAM guidelines, understandably, we lost a lot of the community’s trust,” says Baku. “But now that we’ve decided to no longer rely on being able to accept credit cards, we’re working hard to regain it.”

The question now is: Is the kink community strong enough to bounce back? FetLife’s membership is higher than ever, according to the 2017 State of the Union research from, but things are changing at the biggest kinky porn company in the world, too. ...

A Bondage Sex-Cation Inspired by 'Fifty Shades' Helped Me Let Go of Control In My Relationship

on Friday, 24 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


By Carrie Borzillo

My boyfriend, John*, and I have been engaged in a weird power struggle lately. I often find myself getting frustrated that he's not taking charge, but the real issue is that I'm so consistently taking the lead with everything that he doesn't even get a chance to do so. I go overboard in correcting, controlling, and being short with him, but it has been nearly impossible to get ahold of myself.

If past years of therapy have served me well, then I can psychoanalyze this one myself: I am a quick-talking, loud Italian from the East Coast, and John is a chill, laid-back Californian. I'm simply wired faster, and because of that, I get impatient easily. Not that it makes it right.

In just 48 hours, for instance, I did the following:

Micromanaged John's packing for an upcoming trip. ("Roll your clothes so they don't wrinkle!")

Nagged him about standing up straight. ("You're going to look like a hunchback by age 60!")

Wrestled the Champagne bottle out of his grip because he was opening it wrong. ("You need to keep your hand on the cork so it doesn't fly off!")

Yes, I've been too bossy lately. And, no, I'm not proud of it.

I needed a break from my own bossiness. And I found it...

That's where our trip to Desire Riviera Maya Resort came in. Desire Riviera Maya Resort and its nearby sister hotel, Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort, are luxury, adults-only, couples-only, clothing-optional, destinations just outside of Cancun, Mexico. They're popular with swingers, polyamorous couples, and people who like to get—as Anastasia Steele would say in Fifty Shades Darker—their "kinky fuckery" on.


Maybe playing the submissive role could teach me to surrender, to let go of control, to let John lead for once. Essentially, to be a little more like submissive Anastasia Steele and less like the dominating Christian Grey, even if just for a night. It's a lot of work being in charge all the time.

John and I are not swingers. (Though there's nothing wrong with swinging.) But Desire Resorts hand-picked me to test-drive their brand new "Desire Bondage Fantasy" night, a private bondage experience guided by two of the resort's pole dancers—Amber* and Antonio*—and inspired by the Fifty Shades franchise.


The $500 fantasy night, which we were lucky enough to experience sans charge, is part of Desire Resorts' world-famous Fantasy Menu, which also features erotic massage, pole dance lessons, sex on the beach, and more. It's designed to teach you to "surrender to your partner" and "journey into a dark, erotic place."

It's hard to pass up a good sex-cation, so I opted to dive into the role of the submissive. Or, at least, to try to dive in.

As I prepped for the trip, my need for this evening became even more obvious.

Even though I've only seen the Fifty Shades films as a "hate-watcher," laughing and mocking them aloud, I do dabble in some mild BDSM from time to time. A little spanking. Some handcuffing. A good flogging is nice. Feather tickling always gets me going. Unable to control myself, I barked out the following orders:

Rule No. 1 of bondage: There is no giggling. John's a happy guy, and I love him for that, but he does tend to giggle when he should be serious, and bondage is serious business.

Rule No. 2 of bondage: No smiling! Happy-go-lucky John has a great smile, but it's not right in this scenario. "Christian Grey doesn't smile as he spanks. I need you to put your best fuck-face on, please," I said.

Rule No. 3 of bondage: He would be in charge. He would be the dominant. He would be Christian Grey. I would be the submissive. I would be Anastasia Steele. If I tried to direct him, I needed him to stop me, spank me, or gag me.

Realizing I'd already broken Rule No. 3 by telling John what to do, I went into the experience quietly but firmly repeating to myself over and over in my head: Don't micromanage. Don't correct him. Be more like Ana. Enjoy taking the backseat for once. ...

'It Was A Wonderful Adventure’: What It’s Like When You Retire From Sex Work

on Friday, 24 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


by Sirin Kale

fter a decade as a professional dominatrix, Mistress Suz knew it was time to get out of the game. "I got old," she says bluntly. Whilst her regular clients didn't mind having a 40-year-old dominatrix, the physical exertion got to be too much.


"My body was too old for it," Mistress Suz—now aged 50—remembers. "I developed a bad case of tennis elbow from wielding a whip for ten years. Then a torn rotator cuff." At a critical juncture in her life and uncertain how to proceed, Mistress Suz did what many a recent divorcee or failed novelist has done before her: She checked into a Buddhist monastery.


"Going to a monastery was a dream of mine," Mistress Suz explains. Two months later, she was running the monastery kitchen. The professional sadist had found her new calling as a professional cook.


And Mistress Suz had a talent that made her an asset to any kitchen willing to employ her—namely, her advanced rope work skills. When asked to truss a turkey breast by her head chef, Mistress Suz wowed him with how quickly she caught on. What her new co-workers didn't know was that Mistress Suz was unusually adept for a reason. In fact, she'd used the same technique on innumerable male submissives throughout her previous career.


Not all sex workers are able to put a decade of training to such spectacular use, but all pick up transferable skills that they can use in their future careers. Few sex workers stay in the industry for their whole working lives, and they leave for diverse reasons—often returning for short or extended stints from time to time.


"People leave for lots of reasons," explains Raven Bowen of the University of York. Prior to entering academia, Bowen spent decades working as an advocate with sex workers in western Canada. "If people get pregnant or fall in love, they often leave right away. Middle-class sex workers might be able to make a plan when they transition out—dabble in some square jobs, then gradually leave."


Another common motivator is a child approaching their teenage years—sex workers who aren't out to their families become fearful that their kids (and his or her cruel classmates) will find out what industry Mom really is in. Rarest of all are the clients who live out the Pretty Woman fantasy and settle down with a client, although Bowen tells me this isn't unheard of. "Clients have been central to many sex workers' experience of 'sexiting' (leaving sex work)," Bowen explains. "They may refer them to resources or even sometimes invest in their transition."


Many sex workers view the industry as a short-term stepping stone to a regular (or "straight") career, and aim to retire from sex work when they've amassed enough money to fund tuition or open a small business, for example.


"Some women work for one or two years and they know they don't want to continue after that so they'll save all their money," explains Laura Watson of the English Collective of Prostitutes. "They keep their expenses low because they're just saving money to do what they want to do afterwards, basically."


I ask what careers they transition into. "A lot go into beauty, opening nail bars or that sort of thing," Watson responds. The crucial thing—if they're working in a country where prostitution is illegal—is that they don't have a criminal record. With a criminal record, leaving the industry can become impossible. "We worked with a sex worker who was in prostitution temporarily to cover the costs of having a disabled daughter," Watson recalls. "The money was for specific items, for a short period of time. Then she got a criminal record and was basically unable to leave prostitution. That's why decriminalization is so important."


"I have a Roth IRA [a special retirement account] and a client of mine is going to help me invest a crap ton of my savings for the future," writes West Coast-based sex worker Shay over email. "I hope to be a millionaire by 45," she adds, although she acknowledges this is unlikely. Shay charges $400 an hour and $2,000 for overnights, and has a clear strategy for exiting sex work. And as any freelancer knows, having a good accountant is key. "Bookkeeping is a must. I'm terrible at it. Also, there can be no trail. I'm also terrible at that. Tax law is complicated. I know an accountant that specifically works with sex workers. She's an angel."


"Just like anyone, sex workers want to save for retirement, a home, or a career pivot," explains Marie Thomasson, a 37-year-old financial planner living in LA who specializes in helping sex workers manage their finances. "As sex workers' most marketable asset is often their body, and that's pretty much a depreciating asset, it's important to look at earnings as 'front loaded' in their career in sex work. If they choose to leave the industry or retire, planning is huge. It's critical to have a budget and adequate reserves." Keep a cool head while giving lots of head, Thomasson says, and a financially prudent sex worker might expect to retire by 35 or 40.


If you want to retire by 40, though, you've got to look after your physical and mental health. Shay has a secondary strategy for ensuring her professional success in a competitive and oftentimes physically arduous industry. "An aspect of retirement that is often overlooked is one's health," Shay comments. "In my nine months as an escort I've seen absolutely beautiful, brilliant women throw their lives away because they couldn't handle the money." ...

Will Tacony Music Hall turn into 'sex-positive community center'?

on Friday, 24 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Plan Philly


The Victorian redbrick Tacony Music Hall is an icon of this working class riverfront community in the lower Northeast. The stately bulk of the building is breathtaking, standing out from its plainspoken neighbors on Longshore Avenue. It’s the kind of building that causes newcomers to the neighborhood to stop and gaze upward in awe.


Over the decades, the Tacony Music Hall has housed retail, a library, literary society, and community organizations, and its assembly hall hosted performances and public events. It has, of late, been a real estate office and home to Tacony Community Development Corporation. Now in its third century of existence this historically-designated structure is slated for a unique new use.


If all goes according to plan, the Tacony Music Hall will be Philadelphia’s first sex positive community center.


There are a lot of rumors swirling around the neighborhood about what that means exactly. Will it be a nightclub? A swingers’ venue, like the Saints and Sinners venue that Councilman Bobby Henon helped shut down in Holmesburg last year?  


Tacony Music Hall (file)

Tacony Music Hall (file)

“All you hear is rumors, nothing concrete,” says Joseph Sannutti, president of the Tacony Civic Association. On vacation in Texas, Sannutti hasn’t been appraised of the latest community meetings on the subject, but he said that’s what he’d been hearing before he headed south.


“We were told it was going to be a lesbian, gay, transgender club—that’s their business,” says Sannutti.  “But we also heard it’s going to be a nightclub, where they sell booze and stuff. We are completely against that all together.”


The new plans for the music hall have been quietly coming together for the past few months. Now with a ZBA hearing scheduled and the community abuzz, PlanPhilly sat down with Deborah Rose Hinchey, one of the principal organizers behind the project, to talk about the future of the Tacony Music Hall.


“I had a neighbor come up to me at the space the other day and ask if we are a sex club,” says Hinchey. “I didn’t anticipate the rumors. I realized we had to get into the neighborhood and explain that we are not a swingers club or a sex club.”


Hinchey and her team aren’t planning an LGBTQ community center either, although she said the model for the new organization is based on spaces like the William Way Center in the Gayborhood.


The Tacony Music Hall will serve as a space for those who subscribe to the philosophy of sex positivity. It’s an expansive umbrella that encompasses a lot of preferences and practices, which Hinchey described as inclusive of everything from polyamory, or the practice of engaging openly in concurrent sexual relationships, to bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism (BDSM). The key organizing tenet is that sex of pretty much any kind is good and healthy as long as it’s consensual.


The community center slated for the Tacony Music Hall will hold movie nights, offer classes in different relationship practices, and parties that cater to a variety of alternative sexual communities.


Sannutti and the Tacony Civic need not worry about crazed late night dance parties though. Hinchey said alcohol and drugs would be explicitly banned from the space.


“A lot of these communities currently operate largely in bars and illegal warehouses,” says Hinchey.  “Because of the stigma attached to them, these communities have largely been forced into the shadows and the shadows are dangerous.”


Hinchey and her compatriots want to open up a space, dubbed the Philadelphia Music Hall, for people to explore sexuality outside of mainstream society in a safe and consensual fashion. They believe that booze or drugs of any kind would imperil that mission.


“Consent is a problem when alcohol is involved--any intoxicant really blurs the line,” says Hinchey. “We want people to make educated, consensual, and risk aware decisions. Not allowing intoxicants in a space infinitely improves the safety of that space.”


Not only do intoxicants complicate consent, but they also discourage the participation of sober individuals and expose these marginalized communities to interference from the state.


In addition to a ban on the sale or ingestion of intoxicants, no one under the age of 18 can enter the Philadelphia Music Hall. Participants must review the organization’s rules and regulations—such as no touching anyone without their explicit approval—and sign a waiver agreeing before entering.  


The sex positive community center will only occupy the top two floors of the three-story building, with the first floor available for rent to other businesses. Currently a daycare and the Tacony CDC operate on the ground floor. ...

"Ex-Polyamorous Trio Granted ‘Tri-Custody’ of Their Child by a New York Judge"

on Wednesday, 15 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The Cut

By Lisa Ryan

A New York judge has granted three people who had previously been in a polyamorous relationship “tri-custody” of their 10-year-old son. The New York Post reports that the Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge H. Patrick Leis III’s ruling is the first of its kind in the state.


Long Island couple Dawn and Michael Marano, who got married in 1994, befriended their downstairs neighbor Audria Garcia in 2001, according to the Post. Garcia had been living with her boyfriend at the time, but after they broke up, she moved in with the Maranos and “began to engage in intimate relations,” the ruling states. Dawn Marano had been unable to conceive, so Michael Marano and Garcia conceived a child together — a son who was born in January 2007, according to court documents.


Per the Post:

“It was agreed, before a child was conceived, that [the Maranos and Garcia] would all raise the child together as parents,” the judge said.

Garcia’s pregnancy was covered by Dawn Marano’s insurance, and the two women attended doctor appointments together and took turns feeding the baby at night, according to the Post. Eventually, Dawn and Michael Marano split up, and Garcia and Dawn Morano began a romantic relationship.


Later, Michael Marano sued Garcia for custody, and Dawn Marano filed for divorce. Michael Marano and Garcia agreed to joint custody, according to the Post, but Dawn Marano then filed another lawsuit “to secure custody rights for [the boy] because she fears that without court-ordered visitation and shared custody, her ability to remain in [the boy’s] life would be solely dependent upon obtaining the consent of either Audria or [Michael],” Judge Leis wrote. ...

"My Kids Make Me Feel Proud To Be Polyamorous"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


by Margaret E Jacobsen

Over the last four years, my family dynamic has changed because of divorce and polyamory. I'd always wanted a large family, but I believed was only attainable by having lots of kids, and polyamory was never something I thought of because I grew up in a religious and conservative environment that placed monogamy on a pedestal. Anything else was a sin; adultery. So when I began to explore non-monogamy, I was most surprised that the two easiest people to explain polyamory to were my children because my kids make me feel proud to be polyamorous. As my ex-husband and I eased into non-monogamy before separating, I remember my 4-year-old daughter asking me when I'd have a boyfriend outside her dad. I laughed and asked her why she asked me that, and she said, "I just want more adults to love me!" That comment has stayed with me and has served as the foundation for how I talk to my kids about polyamory.


The first time I talked with my children about polyamory was when my ex and I told them we'd be separating. I remember feeling slightly nervous about it, wondering if it would confuse their then-4-year-old, and then-5-year-old brains, but I'd promised myself that if I was going to practice non-monogamy, I was going to include my whole family. After all, this decision wouldn't just affect me; it'd affect all of us. So I told my both of my kids the truth: even though I was still married to their dad, I'd been dating other people, particularly my current partner, someone they'd already spent a lot of time with. When we told our kids we were separating and the reasons why, both my kids just said, "Oh, wow! We love him, that's so cool!" I remember breathing a little bit easier as we went to bed; there were no secrets between any of us anymore. It's always been important to me to have my kids be a part of this lifestyle change, and I was amazed by their reactions.



Our conversations about polyamory are different than they were when they were younger. My kids don't see a difference between polyamory and monogamy — they just see people practicing love in different ways.

After that initial conversation together, my daughter had a few more questions about loving multiple people. She wondered why more adults don't have multiple partners, which opened up a discussion about how our differences give us strengths and also set us apart. I told her that even though I felt like I was capable of loving and caring for more than one person, her dad was opposite of me, and both of those things were acceptable and valid. When we had a mother/daughter overnight trip to a hotel in town, she laid in bed next to me and said that loving a lot of people made sense in her head, and she likened it to having lots of best friends. It was amazing to hear my 5 year old express such a grown-up view on relationships and love. ...



on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


by Faye Seidler 

I’m polyamorous and I live with my two girlfriends, who both mean the world to me. They contribute to making me a better person by challenging me when I’m wrong, supporting me when I try something new, and comforting me if I fail. It has been a relationship built on trust, consent, family meetings, and more happiness than I’ve ever had at any other point in my life.


That said, it’s really hard to share any of that with people I meet. It’s easy to talk about my girlfriend, it’s easy to come out as lesbian or trans, because we have narratives for that. Even if someone doesn’t like it, they understand what it is.


But if I come out as poly, I also have to prepare to spend time in a possibly awkward conversation, trying to justify my love and how we live. It’s a conversation I often avoid having with anyone other than those I consider friends, because the frustration just isn’t worth it otherwise.


That is why I am incredibly thankful for PolyAware, an organization in our area dedicated to educating individuals about poly issues. They also provide a plethora of resources and even support for individuals looking to explore what it means to be poly. I had the honor of sitting down with the members of PolyAware, among them Ashton Shepard and Andrew C. Tyson, for questions.


High Plains Reader: What does it mean to be polyamorous?


PolyAware: Polyamory is the non-possessive, honest, responsible, and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Polyamorous individuals are like most people: they seek a fulfilling love life, only theirs can involve multiple partners while a monogamous individual has only one. It isn’t about whether polyamory or monogamy is better, it is about what is a better fit for each person.


HPR: What are the primary functions of PolyAware?


PolyAware: PolyAware is an education and advocacy group for polyamory in the Fargo-Moorhead region. We increase awareness of polyamory for anyone who wants to hear. We support legal movements to increase the rights and protection of polyamorous people. We offer support to polyamorous people in the community and we keep confidential information confidential. If it’s not small talk, we assume it’s private.


The members of PolyAware fill in where needed to accomplish those functions. Some of our tasks include scheduling events, advertising for events, coordinating with the Pride Collective, presenting at events, networking, giving advice, and posting interesting articles on our Facebook page.


HPR: What are some of the misconceptions people have about polyamory?


PolyAware: Polyamory is not cheating. Cheating implies breaking the rules, and we negotiate our own rules. Polyamory is not swinging. Swinging focuses on recreational sex, and polyamory focuses on romantic connections. That said, some poly people also swing. Polyamory is not religious, though some people practice poly as part of their religion. Polyamory is not sexist, though some people practice poly in a sexist way. Polyamory is not easy. It requires a great deal of communication, trust, and self-esteem.


HPR: What are some unique challenges in polyamorous relationships?


PolyAware: We like to say love is infinite but time is not. Juggling schedules can be a bear. Managing feelings of jealousy can be difficult and require constant communication and consent.


It’s hard to find supporting religious communities, but some pagan groups tend to be welcoming of poly individuals, and a few other congregations are discerning their stance on welcoming polyamorous folks as well.


Also, polyamory is less well understood than gender and sexual minorities, with many individuals accepting someone in the broader LGBTQ+ spectrum, but rejecting them for being poly. It unfortunately is an issue where people can be at risk of losing their friends, families, jobs, housing, spiritual communities, and children just because they have two or more significant others.


Further, polyamory is not a protected class under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and we’re likely going to be waiting a long time before polyamorous individuals can enjoy marriage equality and the privilege of having all our loved ones be able to visit us in the hospital or sharing legal custody of children in our households. ...

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