Bud Izen wasn’t prepared for the reaction he received the first time he brought his two girlfriends with him to synagogue in Eugene, Ore.
The rabbi stopped the trio in the parking lot outside the synagogue and grilled Izen’s partners about whether or not they were really Jewish. Izen hasn’t been back since, but he and his girlfriend — now his wife — still engage in polyamory, the practice of having more than one intimate partner at a time.
A number of partners have been part of the couple’s relationship since Izen, 64, and Diane Foushee, 56, first got together 3 1/2 years ago. Now they are seeking a third partner in the hopes of forming a stable three-way relationship, or triad.
“We want to use the relationship that we have to bridge our way to the next relationship,” said Foushee, “so that each of us in turn is given strength.”
Polyamory, often shortened to poly, is a term that first came into circulation in the 1990s. It is distinct from swinging in that it typically entails more than just sex, and from polygamy, where the partners are not necessarily married. Polyamorous relationships often are hierarchical, including a “primary” relationship between a couple that can be supplemented by a “secondary” relationship with a girlfriend, boyfriend or both.
Such arrangements remain far from mainstream acceptance. But in the wake of the progress made by gay and lesbian Jews in winning communal recognition for non-traditional partnerships, some polyamorous Jews are pushing to have their romantic arrangements similarly accepted.
“The only kind of queers who are generally accepted in some sects are monogamous married queers, upstanding queers,” said Mai Li Pittard, 31, a Jewish poly activist from Seattle. “Judaism right now is very oriented towards having 2.5 kids, a picket fence and a respectable job. There’s not a lot of respect for people on the fringe.”
A former editor of ModernPoly.com, a nationwide polyamory website, Pittard has been polyamorous for 10 years and is currently involved with three partners — two men and one woman. She is a violinist and vocalist in a fusion hip-hop klezmer band, the Debaucherantes, and likes to engage in culture jamming, the mixing of seemingly disparate cultural elements. Combining polyamory and Judaism is one example of that.
“For me, polyamory and Judaism make a lot of sense together,” Pittard said. “When I’m singing niggunim or hosting people at my Shabbat table, it’s just another way of experiencing a connection with a group of people.”
Pittard is frustrated by what she describes as a “white-bread,” conformist Jewish culture that refuses to accept polyamorous relationships. But some Jewish communities have been more accepting than others.
“It’s easier to be open about polyamory at temple than it is with my professional colleagues,” said Rachel, a 28-year-old San Francisco business owner who asked that her last name be withheld. “My particular segment of the Jewish community likes me because I’m different and they accept that being poly is part of that.”
Others are more conflicted about their polyamorous and Jewish identities.
Ian Osmond, 39, a Boston-area bartender and former Hebrew school teacher who has been in a polyamorous marriage for 10 years, says he believes the rabbinic ruling that prohibited polygamy nearly a millennium ago has expired. Still, Osmond worries that his behavior is inconsistent with Jewish law.
“I do feel there’s a conflict between polyamory and Judaism,” said Osmond, who is dating several women. “I feel that what we are doing is not supported by halachah.”
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of American Jewish University in Los Angeles and a longtime champion of gay inclusion in the Jewish community, draws the line when it comes to polyamory.
“First of all, the depth of the relationship is much greater if it’s monogamous,” Dorff said. “The chances that both partners are going to be able to fulfill all the obligations of a serious intimate relationship are much greater in a monogamous relationship. I would say the same to gay or straight couples: There should be one person you live your life with.” ...
We may not want to admit it, but as psychologist Jesse Bering reveals in his book, "Perv," there's a spectrum of perversion along which we all sit. But where do we draw the line between kink and the type of behavior that requires a psych evaluation?
Jesse Bering@JesseBering(New York, NY)Author of 'Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us'
Jillian Keenan@JillianKeenan(New York, NY)Journalist
Susan Wright@NCSF(Phoenix, AZ)Founder of National Coalition for Sexual Freedom; Author of 'Good Girl'
NEW YORK (AP) — David Ives' naughty "Venus in Fur" tops the list of the most produced plays nationwide during the 2013-14 season, according to the theater industry's largest trade group.
American Theatre magazine, published by Theatre Communications Group, announced the list in its October issue.
Ives' play, which explores power and powerlessness with more than a bit of sadomasochism, was a hit on Broadway and won Nina Arianda a Tony last year. Twenty-two theaters will produce "Venus in Fur" this season.
The Top 10 also includes Bruce Norris' "Clybourne Park," Katori Hall's "The Mountaintop," David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People," Jon Robin Baitz's "Other Desert Cities," Amy Herzog's "4000 Miles" and Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike."
The list was compiled from 499 member theaters. It omits holiday-themed shows and Shakespeare works. ...
Leather and latex cover some parts of the bodies at Folsom, but not the parts that society typically asks of clothing.
Some folk are bound by rope and chain — others are led by their partner by collar and leash, often wearing full-head leather masks. A woman’s limbs are arranged artistically via rope and knots before she is suspended by hooks, her bound breasts turning slightly purple. She grins wolfishly as the fellow who tied her up pinches a nipple, and she kisses him upside-down — he grips her hair in a show of both force and devotion. A beautiful transvestite rocks a lace bra and knee-high leather boots. A naked man in a ski mask stands in a window on the third floor of his apartment and jacks off what might be the largest erect dick I’ve ever seen. The crowd on the street erupts in cheers when, 15 minutes later, he cums.
These are a few of the scenes I was fortunate enough to be privy to at the Folsom Street Fair last Sunday. For those unfamiliar, FSF is an annual leather and BDSM — Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism — street fair. BDSM practitioners enjoy a myriad toys and methods, many of which I saw at FSF. But for all the variety in sexual preferences — from butt plugs that had horse tails, aerial suspensions via rope and so forth — there was one thing that all the people I saw held in common: smiles. No matter whether the party was a dom — the dominant member in a BDSM relationship — in spiked heels or a sub — the submissive — in a full-face leather dog mask, a totally naked middle-aged man getting his ass whipped cherry-red or a plainly clothed average human walking through the fair, everyone was having a good time bringing bedroom preferences to the daylight or simply watching others do so.
Nearly no one I saw was intoxicated. No one did anything to anyone without explicit consent: Nearly all the sexual activity — be it flogging, spanking or stroking — was between people who already knew each other or was within the bounds of set-up booths. I felt entirely comfortable the entire time. There I was, surrounded by people who were so open, honest and communicative about their sexuality that they chose to air it out in the sunshine. The feel of community and adventure was buzzing in the air.
Oftentimes, people associate the images I painted at the beginning of this article with a sort of deviant, seedy subculture. Part of this is institutional. Older editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychologist’s bible for mental disorders, had listed paraphilia — an umbrella term for “unusual” sex desires like fetishes, BDSM and kink — as a mental disorder. But a Dutch study published last summer found that, of the survey’s participants, BDSM practitioners scored better on measures of mental well-being and the emotional security in relationships than those who only practice “vanilla” sex. Granted, the participants self-selected into the study, so the results may not be representative of society as a whole, but it was still a refreshing shout against the historical villainization of BDSM. And maybe the sort of communication necessary for BDSM — regarding soft and hard limits, for example — does lend itself to healthier relationship skills. ...
It is not every day I can attend a discussion and learn beard pulling is as much of a turn-on as regular hair pulling. The NonNormative AntiAssimilationist group held a discussion about BDSM/kink on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
The members of N/A are an eclectic group of anti-assimilation, non-conformist students. They are advocates for non-normative lifestyles in regard to sexual orientation, religion or spirituality. Each member is involved with advocacy projects that lend a voice to those in need.
The BDSM/kink meeting was about shining light on an otherwise dim and unknown part of sexual fantasies. The N/A group is about providing a safe place where students can come to feel open and accepted and discuss these types of sexual fantasies in an open and honest way.
Having read the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series by author E.L. James, I went into this meeting hoping to gain insight into the dark mind of its main character, Christian Grey. The book portrays him as a dominant, type-A, CEO billionaire hungry for power and authority. He passes his time having kinky sex with unattached women. Is this lifestyle only about men being dominant? Is this lifestyle for females as well?
BDSM is an acronym for bondage, domination, submission and masochism. BDSM is a type of role-play or lifestyle choice between two or more individuals who use their experiences of pain and power to create sexual tension, pleasure and release.
Intimacy was defined during this discussion as anything that brings pleasure to the people involved in an interaction. Regardless of how harsh “kinky” sex, bondage, domination and submission can get, in the end it is about two people being on the same playing field and sharing a “closeness of heart.”
Bondage, role-playing and toys were among the many topics discussed, but perhaps the most important topic was how to know when your relationship has become unhealthy. This type of sexual lifestyle is all about feeling empowered by your partner, whether you are dominant or submissive. The second you are not gaining anything positive from the BDSM lifestyle, it is time to make a change.
Members of the N/A group and participants of the BDSM discussion explained that it is important to communicate effectively with your partner about the boundaries and limitations you have with this type of sexual role-playing. Contracts and safe words should be discussed. ...
The first time Danielle Ezzo met Matt and Rachel, she was relieved. The fashionable trio had met on the dating site, Nerve, and had been exchanging messages, but hadn’t yet met in real life. Ezzo, 29, recalls that evening at the Bowery Hotel in spring 2009 fondly: “I was excited that they were just as cute as their profile pictures.”
She was even happier to learn that she had that hard-to-find thing with both Matt and Rachel — chemistry. They talked about life and love and learned that they had the same ideas when it came to dating.
“I was really excited to meet people that felt the same way,” she says of her ongoing relationship with the married couple, both 34-year-old self-employed artists, who declined to use their last names because of privacy reasons.
Ezzo, also an artist, is polyamorous. Loosely speaking, she seriously dates more than one person at a time, and has an emotional, as well as a sexual connection, with her partners.
She sees Matt and Rachel separately and together, and also occasionally dates other people.
“One of the wonderful aspects of polyamory is that you do get different things from different partners, both emotionally and physically,” says Ezzo, who is in what’s known as a “triad” with Matt and Rachel.
“There are three very different dynamics, all of which are personally valuable.”
And while the arrangement may seem unusual, Ezzo insists it’s really no different than run-of-the-mill monogamy. Communication and compromise are key — for instance, when it comes to picking a flick to watch for the evening.
“They have very different styles in movies,” says Ezzo, who splits her time between New York and Boston, where she is going to school for photography at the Art Institute of Boston. “When I’m with Rachel we might [watch] a silly, fun ’80s movie, but I won’t do that silly ’80s movie with Matt. He likes strange horror flicks.”
Luckily, she says, “I like both of those things.”
Ezzo is part of a growing movement of people who are practicing consensual non-monogamy — or, in plain English, open relationships.
According to Gette Levy of Open Love NY, a local support group with more than 1,000 members, the organization has seen a steady increase in membership since forming in 2009.
“Dating has changed over the past 50 years,” says Levy. “Many adults of all ages are finding that monogamy does not suit them and is no longer a fiscal and social requirement.”
Shortly after she started seeing Matt and Rachel, Ezzo met her future husband.
“I had told him [about my lifestyle] on our first date,” she says. “He was excited to explore it.”
Her open marriage eventually fizzled for reasons not related to polyamory, but her relationship with Matt and Rachel is still going strong.
“I’ve always inherently had this notion of or had this blurred line between friendship and lovers … to me there is a huge overlap. It’s easier for me to simultaneously love multiple people,” says Ezzo.
“As a bi-sexual person, choosing is not necessarily something that I personally like to do,” she adds.
Pop-culture is having a poly moment too: TV shows like “Sister Wives” (Sundays on TLC) and “Polyamory: Married & Dating” (Thursdays on Showtime) are giving people a glimpse into the complicated sex lives of multi-partnered couples.
“The interest and the visibility around open relationships has just skyrocketed,” says sexpert Tristan Taormino, who wrote a book about the subject, “Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships.” ...
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- More than 200 people came out to Bon Air Library on Tuesday night, Sept. 24, to oppose a so called social club named Fringe Elements. Its board of directors maintains it’s a social club that is an asset to the community.
“We do classes on everything from finding out what your gender identity is and how to deal with that, as well as how to deal with yourself and the community as it changes and its expression of sexual identity changes,” Jacki Guilford said.
They are currently leasing a space on Buechel Avenue where their club meets mostly after 6 p.m., but they are facing a zoning violation. The property is not zoned for commercial business. The operators describe their club as a community center, but neighbors in the area call it a sex club. Their website allegedly promotes what some would call explicit events. A recent one, in part, was titled “Clothes Get in the Way.”
One resident brought it up during the meeting referring to the rest of the title, “A naked intimate performance.”
“He was naked,” Assistant Director Kenny Evans said.
He said that they are not an adult entertainment establishment and do not offer or engage in sex.
Residents aren’t buying it and will be voicing their concerns throughout the re-zoning process. The desired change still needs to be considered by the Board of Zoning Adjustment. The process could take months.
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and Leather Archives & Museum proudly present: “BDSM? Erotic Play? What Are the Legal Risks?”
Where: Leather Archives & Museum 6418 N. Greenview Avenue Chicago, IL 60626
When: Saturday, October 19th from 2:30-5 p.m.
followed by a wine and cheese reception for the benefit of LA&M and NCSF from 5-7 p.m.
Presentation is free of charge. Wine and cheese reception has a suggested donation of $20 and is open to the public.
You and your BDSM partner may be having a great time, but you need to know about the legal risks. Join NCSF and legal experts for an overview of issues related to federal and state laws used to prosecute consensual BDSM criminally. This interactive discussion will review pertinent state and federal laws that are used against BDSM practitioners and the current state of the law. NCSF will discuss its Consent Counts program to decriminalize consensual BDSM and the group will discuss the issue of consent and give NCSF input.
Please RSVP to Judy Guerin at
Judge Rudolph A. Serra was appointed to the 36th District Court by Governor Jennifer Granholm on June 29, 2004. Judge Serra has a Bachelor's Degree with a double major in Psychology and Communication (with Honors) and a Master's Degree in Communication, as well as a Doctorate in Law. Judge Serra is a former school board member, a former County Commissioner and a former Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Detroit. He was selected as a Michigan "Lawyer of the Year" for 2000, and received the Rev. Martin L. King Jr. Freedom Award in 2001.
Judge Serra served as a Referee for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and was a member of the State Bar of Michigan Open Justice Commission. He wrote the Civil Rights survey for The Wayne State University Law Review (published in 2005) and co-authored Chapter 3 of the latest edition of Michigan Family Law. His writing had been published by The Journal of Psychology and Christianity and by The Journal of Intergroup Relations (National Association of Human Rights Workers). Judge Serra's book, "Bag A Fag" (published by the Triangle Foundation), is recognized as one of the most authoritative sources of information about anti-gay police misconduct.
Richard O. Cunningham, B.S., M.A., J.D., has advocated for over 30 years on issues of gender, race and sex. He has played a leading role in landmark legal cases, including being the supervising attorney on the U.S. Supreme Court case to allow women in military academies and the initiating attorney for the lawsuit during the Vietnam War that resulted in the “Fairness Doctrine” to require balanced media coverage of political issues. He is senior international trade partner at Steptoe & Johnson, LLP in Washington, D.C. He is the former Chair of the Boards of the NCSF Foundation and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation. Dick is currently advising on legal and policy aspects of NCSF’s Consent Counts Project.
Judy Guerin is a well-known activist, writer, speaker and educator on issues of sexual freedom and gender expression. She is also a long-time practitioner of BDSM and sex educator on BDSM activities. She is a former board member of GenderPAC, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Forum 21. She is a former steering committee member of the National Policy Roundtable of GLBTQ/HIV groups, former executive director of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and advisor to the European Union Human Rights Commission on issues of sexual freedom and GLBTQ issues. She currently directs NCSF’s Consent Counts Project to decriminalize consensual BDSM in the U.S.