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Guest Blog: Polyamory As Orientation?

on Saturday, 08 March 2014. Hits 748

By Race Bannon

In a recent article in Modern Poly written by Saul-of-Hearts, a writer, musician and videographer based in Los Angeles and Portland, the idea that polyamory is an orientation, at least for the writer, was put forth. I posted the article titled “Polyamory As Orientation (And Why It Works For Me)” on Facebook and asked my online friends this question: “So what do you think? Is it similar to an orientation or not?”

The range of answers I got was interesting as discussions regarding polyamory often are, especially with my online friends who range from actively polyamorous to staunchly monogamous and everything in between. But one comment stood out and resonated with me the moment I read it. A friend offered this:

The writer assumes that all humans are not naturally capable of a romantic relationship with more than one individual. I don’t like the term poly. Most research into modern hunter/gatherer societies has shown that monogamy is a modern phenomenon and socially constructed for the purposes of property management and inheritance.

Monogamy isn’t an orientation, it’s conditioning.

Poly isn’t an orientation. It is our natural state.

This rings true for me. I also think being poly is our natural state and that monogamy has been imposed upon us by social conditioning. If you read heralded books like Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, they offer the same conclusion. Of course, this position is controversial for many.

But for those of us who identify as poly and who live a poly life now, or have aspirations to do so, I think adopting the mindset that being poly is a natural state while monogamy is not would serve us well. However, the only caution I would offer is that this stance should not denigrate the decision that some will make to configure their relationships in a monogamous fashion. Just because we might put forth the notion that poly is a natural state does not mean that someone’s choice to be monogamous is wrong or counter to nature, especially if that decision is truly made for reasons that work for the individuals involved and are not the result of social conditioning that makes those people miserable as they try to conform. Poly folks must always value the monogamous among us even as we live our lives in a different fashion. Diversity is the norm and therefore that means that people will decide to configure their relationships in diverse ways also. It’s all good.

With all that said, I guess the most accurate statement I can make is that poly is natural for many people. I contend it’s natural for most people, but the real point I want to make is that it’s most certainly just as natural as monogamy is and perhaps, if social conditioning weren’t a factor, might indeed by the more prevalent form of how we do relationships.

So while I don’t think of myself being polyamorous as an orientation, I do embrace the notion that my poly life is indeed a natural state. It’s certainly more natural for me than monogamy, both in terms of my sexuality and how I bond with others.

Let me know your thoughts about this by posting a comment.

International Media Update: "What one family looks like today: Three partners and kids under one roof"

on Friday, 07 March 2014. Hits 411

Globe and Mail

by Leah McLaren

I n many ways, Catherine Skinner is a typical stay-at-home mom.

The 37-year-old former actress lives with her family on a 30-acre farm in rural Ontario where she spends her days cooking, knitting and caring for three children.

She even has a mommy blog (playboymommy.com) on which she shares her housekeeping tips and photos of herself cooking in a pencil skirt like ones worn by the housewives of Mad Men.

But there is one aspect of Skinner’s life that is far from regular: Her family is polyamorous. The man she calls her husband, Nekky Jamal (37), also has a legal wife, Sarah (41).

For the past five years, since moving in with the family, Skinner has been a full partner and spouse to both of them, as well as an adopted mother to their two biological daughters, aged 8 and 10. A year and a half ago ago, she gave birth to a son, who is growing up, like his sisters, with two moms and a dad.

“What I tell the kids is that we have a unique and special family,” she says.

“Not everyone will appreciate it, and some people will be fearful of it, but to us if feels like the most natural, normal thing in the world.”

The Jamal-Skinners are part of a small but noteworthy number of families who are making the choice to raise their children in polyamorous partnerships involving three people or more. Call them bopos (bourgeois polyamorous) or polyfidelitous (the more academic term), they are the most conventional members of the “poly” sub-culture, a group that includes everything from orgy-obsessed swingers to S&M enthusiasts.

Like many polyfidelitous families, the Jamal-Skinners lead conventional lives outside of their domestic partnership. Educated, affluent, socially liberal professionals (Nekky is an eco-business consultant and Sarah is a business analyst at York University), they believe in political tolerance, private education and shielding their kids from too much TV. They do not have outside lovers, or go to sex clubs, or wear PVC clothing. As Nekky describes it, “We’re not trying to promote a particular lifestyle. We’re just adults who made a grown-up decision to raise our family a different way.”

There are no hard statistics on the number of poly families, and few polyamorists are as “out” as the Jamal-Skinners. But academic researchers estimate that anywhere from 3 to 5 per cent of the North American population engages in some kind of consensual non-monogamy.

While still uncommon, poly families have at least become more noticeable. Polyamory has been the subject of several new books in recent years. Last summer, American writer Angi Becker Stevens, wrote about life with her daughter and two male partners in a Salon essay titled My Two Husbands. The popular parenting blog Mommyish.com has a regular column penned by an anonymous writer called Polyamorous Mom. On Pinterest boards devoted to poly family life, devotees can post pictures of themselves and their spouses cuddled up in king-sized beds.

To some, polyamory is the final frontier in the battle for sexual tolerance – a fight that started with the rise of feminism and still rages in the debate over gay marriage. And their hope is that, just as society has gradually come to respect the rights of transgendered, gay and bisexual people, so too will it eventually accept the rights of people who choose to live together consensually as spouses. ...

"Who Are 'The Polyamorists Next Door'? Q&A With Author Elisabeth Sheff"

on Thursday, 06 March 2014. Hits 387

Huffington Post

By Arin Greenwood

Elisabeth Sheff's interest in polyamory isn't strictly academic. Or it wasn't, anyway.

"When I was 22 I met a man who wanted to be non-monogamous and it scared me," Sheff told The Huffington Post.

As an academic and "an intellectual, l intellectualize things that frighten me," said the former professor, now CEO and director of a think tank that deals with legal issues facing sexual minorities. "So once I realized how important it was to him and how much it terrified me, I thought that understanding it might tame it in my own mind, make it less threatening and thus 'fix' my relationship."

The relationship didn't last. But Sheff's curiosity about polyamory had staying power; she spent some 15 years studying non-monogamous families. The book she wrote based on her research -- "The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families" -- is a thoroughly interesting, deep look inside this world.

Sex and jealousy, when it's time to open up a family's Google calendar to a new partner, and why so many in the poly community are white and affluent: Sheff spoke with HuffPost about all this and more.

The Huffington Post: Is there a typical polyamorous family?

The most common form I found was the open couple, generally a female/male couple that lived together with their children and dated other people who did not live in the household with the couple and their kids. The more people in the relationship, the rarer they are and the more likely it is that the people involved will shift over time.

The open couple is likely to stay together and their dates stick around for varying amounts of time. Triads are more rare than open couples but more common than quads, and quads are more common than moresomes [a relationship with five or more adults] or intimate networks when it comes to child bearing.

Poly families’ shared characteristics include a focus on communication and honesty, emotional intimacy with kids and adults fostered through communication and honesty, sexuality kept private among the adults so kids don’t see it even though they can ask about it if they want -- and they never want to know, like any other kids, the kids in poly families do not want to know about their parents’ sex lives -- dealing with stigma from society and families of origin, challenges deciding to be out or not depending on family circumstances, location and sharing resources so that people get more attention, free time, money, rides, help with homework or life issues, and love.

What makes for a successful poly relationship? How is success defined in poly relationships?

Successful poly relationships are those that meet the participants’ needs. If they continue meeting needs then the relationships continue being successful. If they stop meeting needs because people change or their interests or needs diverge, then it does not have to mean that they failed, only that they are changing form to be something different that meets needs better –- at least in the ideal.

Sometimes they crash and burn, hurting people in the process and that is not success. But merely ending or changing form does not mean failure but rather new opportunities to be different.

Strategies for meeting needs include communicating about everything from safer sex agreements to openly discussing what everyone’s test results are and how the group is going to keep its members safe from infections, to talking about jealousy and figuring out ways to reassure jealous members and alleviate symptoms that can be fixed with doing things differently.

Polys use honesty to build trust, which is a key strategy for success, as well as self-reflection to look at one’s own part in the relationship and counseling with poly-knowledgeable therapists who can guide groups through sticky situations.

Some people worry that polyamory is bad for kids. What did you find in your research?


The kids who participated in my research were in amazingly good shape – articulate, self assured, and confident in their family’s love. This positive social outcome was helped along by their parents’ (and their own) race and class privileges because lots of these folks are white, highly educated professionals with middle class jobs, health insurance and white privilege....

"Kotango brings kink and tech together for sexual adventurers"

on Sunday, 02 March 2014. Hits 432

San Francisco Chronicle

by Kristen V. Brown

Since moving from Louisiana a few years back, William Winters has ascended to a sort of unofficial throne, the de facto king of the East Bay polyamory scene.

The poly potlucks he hosts have surged in popularity and tripled in regularity. It would appear that in the Bay Area there is an expanding interest in upending the traditional relationship.

But even in a region where alternative sexual cultures thrive in the open, the polyamory community has remained a relatively small circle. And as interest in open relationships grows, so too does a need to reach a larger, more diverse and perhaps even more vanilla crowd.

Kotango, a new social network for those who asrcibe (or aspire) to something other than monogamy, intends to do exactly that.

Imagine it as something like a kinky mashup of Facebook, OkCupid and Reddit, a place for the sexually venturesome to connect, cruise for dates and seek out advice.

Or, in the words of Polly “Superstar” Whittaker, a co-founder of the site and leader of San Francisco’s varied sex scene, it’s “kind of social networking for kinky hot nerds.”

But Kotango is also a marriage of two of the things that have come to define San Francisco most, tech and kink. It’s a startup solution to a summer of love problem.

“We wanted a safe place for people to meet, connect and share stories,” said local IT bigwig Andrew, the brains behind the site (he asked to go by first name only, as his kids aren’t aware that he and his wife have an open relationship)./p>

As the polyamory community grows, he said, it needed a “gateway,” something more approachable than sex parties or dinner with a room of open-minded strangers.

Other online fetish networks exist, but, as the Kotango website explains, “a lot of people are looking for a sexy, intelligent community without the sleaze and shame typical of many conventional dating or swingers sites.”

Mainstream social networks wouldn’t cut it, either: Facebook’s privacy settings aren’t quite private enough, and even on dating sites like OkCupid it’s hard to find like-minded individuals (polyamory, after all, isn’t just about sleeping around.)

“Even if you’re joining a closed group on Facebook, unless your privacy settings are pretty tight it will still notify your friends that you joined the group,” said Winters. “For a lot of people who aren’t out or who are just exploring this lifestyle, Kotango is a lot safer.”

More than two to ’tango

Andrew came up with the idea for the site then passed it along to Christopher Ryan, co-author of the book “Sex at Dawn” and a celebrity in the polyamory community. Kotango launched in beta last year and is slated to debut in full this spring. So far, it has attracted over 5,000 users, about 2,000 of them in the Bay Area.

Here is a snapshot of some of the happenings on the site: a query as to how to tell the kids that mom and dad are polyamorous; a nuanced discussion of the difference between jealousy and envy; and advice for newbies on managing the complex emotions of relations with multiple lovers.

There are individual profile pages, where people list their favorite books, describe their dream dinner party and identify their “relationship model” of choice. Like most dating sites, Kotango users go by avatars accompanied by headshots. There is also a calendar and group pages that serve as a directory of local polyamory events.

The site is surprisingly tame; in fact Kotango advises its members to save the sexy shots for themselves. The site’s name is a portmanteau of tango — “unlike other dances, it doesn’t have a pre-determined set of steps,” the website explains — and community, cooperation and connection. ...

"Planned "Parenthood video teaches bondage and sadomasochism to teens"

on Saturday, 01 March 2014. Hits 762

The Examiner

by Dean Chambers

Planned Parenthood has produced a video to teach teen children how to engage in bondage, dominance, and sadomasochism (BDSM), CNS News reported yesterday. The video was produced by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which received $2.75 million in taxpayer funding in 2012.

CNS describes the video as, “a video specifically aimed at teenagers that promotes bondage and sadomasochism (BDSM) and proposes "rules" to follow when engaging in these activities.”

“People sometimes think that those who practice BDSM are emotionally scarred or were once abused—not true, it’s a total myth," the host of the video, Laci Green, informs its intended audience of teens, "BDSM relies upon and creates trust," she says.

“For teens who are sexually involved, Planned Parenthood is committed to providing resources for safeguarding their emotional and physical health,” the website says.

Wikipedia defines BDSM as, “Regardless of its origin, BDSM is used as a catch-all phrase to include a wide range of activities, forms ofinterpersonal relationships, and distinct subcultures. BDSM communities generally welcome anyone with a non-normative streak who identifies with the community; this may include cross-dressers, extreme body mod enthusiasts, animal players, latex or rubber aficionados, and others.”

The video is part of what PPNNE refers to as “an innovative social education project” that is titled “A Naked Notion.” The YouTube channel for this project has been viewed one million times, PPPNE claims.

"A Naked Notion is a brand new project dedicated to frank, open conversations about sexuality," says the PPNNE webpage for the program. "It stars sex educator Laci Green and is brought to you by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.”

The best place for us “right wing extremists” is the Conservative OPEN FORUM click the LIKE button and join the discussion! ...

Huff Post Life: The Ups And Downs Of Open Relationships

on Thursday, 27 February 2014. Hits 296

Huffington Post Live

It's Hump Day, everyone, and we here at HuffPost Live would like to talk about it. Today, we discuss polyamorous relationships. Are they healthy or hurtful?

"The many possibilities of polyamory"

on Monday, 24 February 2014. Hits 373

Ka Leo O Hawai'i

by Roman Kalinowski

While traditional monogamous relationships and marriage seem to be losing popularity each year, more people are learning about the plurality of possibilities offered by polyamory, or “the love of many.” It’s time to stop treating love as if it were a scarce commodity and instead embrace it like the air we breathe.

TRIADS, QUADS AND FREE AGENTS, OH MY

 

The most common form of relationship has historically been the pair bond, as it is statistically easier to share a close relationship with one other person (or just yourself) than it is to form a meaningful relationship with multiple people. As such, most marriage and family law has yet to catch up to the modern era to fit with families with more than two parents.

While single working parents have the capability to raise a child alone, children certainly benefit from having two parents of any gender to learn from; if there are three (a “triad”) or four (a “quad”) parents in a family or household, children are almost guaranteed to have someone to play and talk with at all times. Even a mostly monogamous couple can benefit from polyamorous “free agents,” or uncommitted lovers, especially since the intense spark of passion from new love can fade with the simmering effect of long-term companionship.

LOVE IS THE DRUG

Much of the deep emotion associated with motherhood, serious commitment and friendship is based on ambient levels of the hormone oxytocin in both sexes. Oxytocin has been known to correlate strongly between people with high levels who are generally more monogamous and people with lower levels who are more promiscuous.

Similar to many other genetic and personality traits, oxytocin levels exist as a result of DNA and lifelong exposure to environment. For example, it is possible to be born with below average levels of oxytocin, which can then be supplemented by 20-minute hugs or quality conversations with a friend. Being polyamorous is very much a sexual orientation like monogamous hetero- and homosexuality, and the public needs to accept it as a viable alternative lifestyle. ...

"Forget Gay Marriage, Mainstream Media Now Pushing Polyamory"

on Saturday, 22 February 2014. Hits 654

Charisma News

by Jennifer LeClair

Gays in committed relationships have a “partner.” Polyamorous people like Diana Adams, who runs a Brooklyn-based legal firm that fights to offer traditional marriage rights to untraditional lovers, have a “primary partner.”

Primary partners because, well, polyamorists subscribe to the philosophy of being head over heels in love—or at least romantically involved—with more than one person at the same time. The Polyamory Society defines the practice as “the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously.”

“I remember from a very young age realizing that I was bisexual and that I tended to be attracted to many different people at the same time,” Adams told Roc Morin in a recent article in The Atlantic entitled "Up for Polyamory? Creating Alternatives to Marriage."

“I really think that polyamory for me is an orientation, like being heterosexual or homosexual," Adams said. "Humans in general have a hard time with monogamy. That’s always been the case. We used to have a sense that it was acceptable for husbands to go out and have other lovers, but with the shift to egalitarianism, rather than to say that woman could do that too, we’ve gone in the other direction.”

This mainstream media reporter went on to ask Adams the intimate details of her polyamorous love life, such as: What are the consequences of polyamory? What do your other lovers give you that your primary partner can’t? How do your different lovers get along with one another? What role does jealousy play in your relationships? How do you deal with those emotions? and How does your family view your lifestyle? Morin left few rocks unturned—and may have turned them if the answers weren’t potentially too pornographic for a mainstream publication.

Yes, the mainstream media is setting out to push polyamory into the mainstream in much the way it pushed gay rights. On Valentine’s Day, The Week magazine ran a piece headlined "Everything You Wanted to Know About Polyamory but Were Afraid to Ask." Yesterday, the Globe and Mail served up a Q&A about how one couple saved their marriage by embracing nonmonogamy and having sex with others. And just this morning, the Mail & Guardian published "Polyamory: Two’s Company, Three’s a Charm."

Meanwhile, sites like Live Science are working to debunk the myths around polyamory. And—would you believe it?—Scientific American last week put out an article called "New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You" that reveals about 4 to 5 percent of Americans are looking outside their relationship for love and sex—with their partner’s full permission. It goes on and on.

Of course, it didn’t just start. Woody Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona celebrated a polyamorous relationship. Slowly and steadily, the push for polyamory is rising in the media, in many ways taking a page from the gay agenda’s playbook. ...

Gays in committed relationships have a “partner.” Polyamorous people like Diana Adams, who runs a Brooklyn-based legal firm that fights to offer traditional marriage rights to untraditional lovers, have a “primary partner.”

Primary partners because, well, polyamorists subscribe to the philosophy of being head over heels in love—or at least romantically involved—with more than one person at the same time. The Polyamory Society defines the practice as “the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously.”

“I remember from a very young age realizing that I was bisexual and that I tended to be attracted to many different people at the same time,” Adams told Roc Morin in a recent article in The Atlantic entitled "Up for Polyamory? Creating Alternatives to Marriage."

“I really think that polyamory for me is an orientation, like being heterosexual or homosexual," Adams said. "Humans in general have a hard time with monogamy. That’s always been the case. We used to have a sense that it was acceptable for husbands to go out and have other lovers, but with the shift to egalitarianism, rather than to say that woman could do that too, we’ve gone in the other direction.”

This mainstream media reporter went on to ask Adams the intimate details of her polyamorous love life, such as: What are the consequences of polyamory? What do your other lovers give you that your primary partner can’t? How do your different lovers get along with one another? What role does jealousy play in your relationships? How do you deal with those emotions? and How does your family view your lifestyle? Morin left few rocks unturned—and may have turned them if the answers weren’t potentially too pornographic for a mainstream publication.

Yes, the mainstream media is setting out to push polyamory into the mainstream in much the way it pushed gay rights. On Valentine’s Day, The Week magazine ran a piece headlined "Everything You Wanted to Know About Polyamory but Were Afraid to Ask." Yesterday, the Globe and Mail served up a Q&A about how one couple saved their marriage by embracing nonmonogamy and having sex with others. And just this morning, the Mail & Guardian published "Polyamory: Two’s Company, Three’s a Charm."

Meanwhile, sites like Live Science are working to debunk the myths around polyamory. And—would you believe it?—Scientific American last week put out an article called "New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You" that reveals about 4 to 5 percent of Americans are looking outside their relationship for love and sex—with their partner’s full permission. It goes on and on.

Of course, it didn’t just start. Woody Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona celebrated a polyamorous relationship. Slowly and steadily, the push for polyamory is rising in the media, in many ways taking a page from the gay agenda’s playbook.

- See more at: http://news.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/42881-forget-gay-marriage-mainstream-media-now-pushing-polyamory#sthash.7WsF65IO.dpuf

Gays in committed relationships have a “partner.” Polyamorous people like Diana Adams, who runs a Brooklyn-based legal firm that fights to offer traditional marriage rights to untraditional lovers, have a “primary partner.”

Primary partners because, well, polyamorists subscribe to the philosophy of being head over heels in love—or at least romantically involved—with more than one person at the same time. The Polyamory Society defines the practice as “the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously.”

“I remember from a very young age realizing that I was bisexual and that I tended to be attracted to many different people at the same time,” Adams told Roc Morin in a recent article in The Atlantic entitled "Up for Polyamory? Creating Alternatives to Marriage."

“I really think that polyamory for me is an orientation, like being heterosexual or homosexual," Adams said. "Humans in general have a hard time with monogamy. That’s always been the case. We used to have a sense that it was acceptable for husbands to go out and have other lovers, but with the shift to egalitarianism, rather than to say that woman could do that too, we’ve gone in the other direction.”

This mainstream media reporter went on to ask Adams the intimate details of her polyamorous love life, such as: What are the consequences of polyamory? What do your other lovers give you that your primary partner can’t? How do your different lovers get along with one another? What role does jealousy play in your relationships? How do you deal with those emotions? and How does your family view your lifestyle? Morin left few rocks unturned—and may have turned them if the answers weren’t potentially too pornographic for a mainstream publication.

Yes, the mainstream media is setting out to push polyamory into the mainstream in much the way it pushed gay rights. On Valentine’s Day, The Week magazine ran a piece headlined "Everything You Wanted to Know About Polyamory but Were Afraid to Ask." Yesterday, the Globe and Mail served up a Q&A about how one couple saved their marriage by embracing nonmonogamy and having sex with others. And just this morning, the Mail & Guardian published "Polyamory: Two’s Company, Three’s a Charm."

Meanwhile, sites like Live Science are working to debunk the myths around polyamory. And—would you believe it?—Scientific American last week put out an article called "New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You" that reveals about 4 to 5 percent of Americans are looking outside their relationship for love and sex—with their partner’s full permission. It goes on and on.

Of course, it didn’t just start. Woody Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona celebrated a polyamorous relationship. Slowly and steadily, the push for polyamory is rising in the media, in many ways taking a page from the gay agenda’s playbook.

- See more at: http://news.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/42881-forget-gay-marriage-mainstream-media-now-pushing-polyamory#sthash.7WsF65IO.dpuf
Jennifer LeClaire
Jennifer LeClaire

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