To manage her multiple relationships, School of Engineering and Applied Science junior Arya Popescu uses Google Calendar.
Like any other busy student, Popescu has work to manage, homework to do, and assignments to complete. But despite her busy schedule, Popescu found a polyamorous niche embedded within an apparently vibrant kink and bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism community at Columbia. Sitting with me at a table outside Hartley Hall, Popescu speaks rapidly and with verve about the community, making frequent use of hand gestures.
“I found out Columbia had a kink community and was like, ‘Oh my god, this is so awesome. In that context poly is normal.”
A standard definition of polyamory, often shortened to “poly,” is non-monogamy. However, according to Popescu, this definition is too broad. She explains that while non-monogamy could be used to label every incident of infidelity or random group sex, none of these acts fall under polyamory’s umbrella. In ethical polyamory, what often looks like and is judged like deceit in fact follows consensual, pre-determined rules.
It is perhaps these loose associations, along with a traditional allegiance to monogamy, that keep polyamory from gaining popular acceptance. According to a 2015 Gallup Social Poll, while acceptance of polyamorous marriage has more than doubled since 2001, approval remains at a mere 16 percent.
Throughout our interview, Popescu repeatedly said that she didn’t view one relationship model as superior, just different from one another. Still, she believes most people take a perspective on polyamory that is too informed by monogamy.
“Really the practice of ethical polyamory involves a lot of openness and mutual communication. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, give me all the gory details.’ Other times, not so much. There’s this mindfulness and openness and active consent regarding relationship practices in the polyamorous community.”
For Popescu, this openness allows her to pursue a spectrum of relationships suited to her different desires and needs, ranging from platonic friendships to what she describes as a “primal” sexuality. On one hand, Popescu says her most intimate relationship is with someone who identifies as asexual. While she and Popescu have “played” together, Popescu says that for the most part, their relationship is platonic.
On the other hand, Popescu is president of Conversio Virium, Columbia’s BDSM and kink club. This involves being plugged into a large and private kink network, through which she can pursue many sexual, but less intimate relationships. Yet Popescu does not associate with these people much in her daily life.
Interested in observing the polyamorous scene of New York City at large, I visited Bluestockings Cafe in Midtown’s Astor Place, a bookstore where every few weeks the polyamorous club Open Love NY meets. “We try to create a nonjudgmental group that just so happens to love the same way,” Open Love NY Vice President Puck Malamud, whose pronoun is they, says. The group also aims to educate about polyamory through speakers and group discussion. ...
West Chester Township officials revoked a business permit for a previously approved swingers club scheduled to open in December.
Officials cited a dated trespassing charge against the owners when rescinding the permit, owners of The Champagne Club confirmed to FOX19 NOW.
It was standing room only during Tuesday's West Chester Township Trustees meeting and many in attendance made their opinions known on one issue in particular --- a swinger’s club setting up shop inside city limits. “I’m adamantly opposed to allowing this kind of thing into our community,” West Chester Township resident Lisa Shu said.
The club, located on Harwood Court, aligned with West Chester’s “sexually oriented business” licensing resolution. It was set to open in an industrial area permitted under the “sexually oriented business” zoning rules.
Community members raised concerns once it came to light that the club would sit about 652 feet from a daycare. The law requires that such businesses be at least 500 feet away.
“Through this recent review process, the Township discovered the law governing sexually oriented businesses may have developed a distinction between “sexual encounter establishments” and other sorts of sexually oriented businesses. This distinction identified “sexual encounter establishments,” may not be entitled the same First Amendment protection as other sexually oriented businesses,” said Township Administrator Judi Boyko.
After opinions were expressed, the board made their decision to authorize a 9 month moratorium, or temporary ban, on the issuance of a license for a sexual encounter establishment. “The moratorium tonight will allow the board of trustees time to study possible changes to West Chester’s existing zoning resolution and license resolution regarding sexual-encounter businesses,” said West Chester Board of Trustees member Mark Welch.
FOX19 NOW tried to contact the owners of the Champagne Club, so far, we haven’t heard back from them. In a press release sent out last week, they expressed their side of this matter.
The press release stated, “We have operated a private club similar to this one in Indiana for four years with absolutely no problems needing police intervention. Our members are of high standards and never create an issue for neighboring businesses.”
The president of the board said in the next 9 months, he wants to research other cities that have establishments of this nature to see how those establishments fared in the community.
Liz and Garrett have been together for nine years.
The Kansas City area couple has been married for more than seven years. They say their relationship is strong but something is missing. That something, they say, is another woman.
“If somebody told me four years ago that I’m going to be looking for another woman to share my husband with, I’d be like, 'OK, what are you smoking'" Liz jokes.
KCTV5 is not identifying the couple by their last name.
Liz and Garrett’s polyamorous lifestyle is in the minority but not as much as you may think. New York University estimates five percent of American relationships practice some form of “consensual non-monogamy.”
“It wasn’t like we went out looking for this. It kind of fell into our lap,” Garrett explains.
A few years ago Liz and Garrett had a friend. She spent a lot of time with them and soon the three found themselves in a romantic relationship. When that part of the relationship ended, the couple realized they missed her and wanted a similar relationship with someone else.
“We’re not looking for somebody to have threesomes with and one night stands. Yes, sex would be a part of the relationship, the way it is for a marriage, but that’s not the primary thing,” Liz explains.
Liz and Garrett are on the dating site Open Minded. The site launched in April and promotes polyamory, which means being romantically involved with more than one person at the same time. It does not promote polygamy.
“We like to call it, ethical cheating,” said Brook Urick, a spokesperson for the Las Vegas-based site. “There are so many people who are in relationships who are unhappy. They’re cheating and being adulterous. It would be lot easier if they were just in an open relationship and be honest about what they want with their partner.”
About 40 couples in the Kansas City area have signed up along with 70 single men and 60 single women. ...
MEET loving couple John and Claudia, who have been together for seven years — though during the past three, he has bedded more than 40 other women.
But she does not mind a bit, having had flings with more than 60 men herself in that time.
The pair are part of a growing movement called polyamory, in which couples allow each other full sexual freedom, while maintaining their love and respect for each other.
Polyamorous dating website openminded.com has 36,002 UK members out of 180,000 worldwide.
John and Claudia credit polyamory with keeping their relationship alive and are now planning to get married and have children.
They even say they would invite previous partners to the wedding.
John has often had two or three sexual partners on the go at once. But while Claudia has had more flings, she says not all of them went all the way. She adds that she enjoys the flirting and the kissing as much as a full sexual encounter.
John, 28, who runs a music studio, says: “My friends find it so hard to get their heads around it. They say, ‘You let Claudia sleep with other guys? Aren’t you jealous?’
“But allowing each other to have multiple sexual partners actually strengthens our relationship.”
Claudia, 24, an artist from Islington, North London, says: “John is the man I love but I am only human in that I still fancy other men.”
She continues: “We met when I went along to see his band playing. At the time I was only 16, and a student.
“We were instantly attracted, and we dated quite normally for four years.
“Then we were apart for a while as I was away at university and he was travelling with his band, and we both cheated on each other — bizarrely on the same day, as we later discovered.
“When we met up we confessed to each other and at first I thought it would mean the end of our relationship. But then when I examined my feelings, I realised I did not really mind or even feel jealous.
“I loved John, and I did not want us to split up. I thought about it, and suggested we stay together, but in a new model of a relationship.
“We’d both be free to see and sleep with other people, but at the same time maintain a close, loving relationship.
“I’ve been at parties where John is openly kissing another woman and my friends cannot believe I don’t mind. Likewise, John has seen me hitting on a good-looking guy, and he turns away and lets me get on with it, knowing we may well end up in bed.”
A support group called the Polyamory Society has come up with a definition of the lifestyle. It says: “Polyamory is the non-possessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. ...
Harvard University's Sex Week is in full swing, and what's a week of informing students about all things fornication without an instructive BDSM course? In the video above, watch Harvard Sex Week events coordinator Julia Lee discuss why the workshop is so important for students and how learning about it can be empowering.
In February, Robert McGarey's partner of 24 years died. It was the most devastating loss McGarey had ever encountered, and yet, there was a silver lining: "I had this profound sadness, but I don't feel lonely," McGarey told me. "I'm not without support, I'm not without companionship."
That's because he has other partners: Jane, who he's been with for 16 years, and Mary, who he's been with for eight. (Those are not their real names.) And while his grief for Pam, the girlfriend who died, was still immense, polyamory helped him deal with it.
There's not a lot of research into how poly families cope with death—probably because there's not a lot of research about how poly families choose to live. By rough estimates, there are several million poly people in the United States. And while polyamory can bring people tremendous benefits in life and in death, our social and legal systems weren't designed to deal with people with more than one romantic partner—so when one person dies, it can usher in a slew of complicating legal and emotional problems.
"Whether people realize it or not, the partner to whom they are married will have more benefits and rights once a death happens," explained Diana Adams, who runs a boutique law firm that practices "traditional and non-traditional family law with support for positive beginnings and endings of family relationships."
Since married partners rights' trump everyone else's, the non-married partners don't automatically have a say in end-of-life decisions, funeral arrangements, or inheritance. That's true for non-married monogamous relationships, too, but the problem can be exacerbated in polyamorous relationships where partners are not disclosed or acknowledged by family members. In her work, Adams has seen poly partners get muscled out of hospital visits and hospice by family members who refused to recognize a poly partner as a legitimate partner.
McGarey and his girlfriend Pam weren't married, so the decision to take her off life support had to go through Pam's two sisters. The money Pam left behind—which McGarey would've inherited had they been married—went to her sisters too, who also organized Pam's funeral.
This kind of power struggle can also happen among multiple partners who have all been romantically involved with the deceased. The only real way to ensure that everything is doled out evenly is to draft up a detailed prenuptial agreement and estate plan. Adams works with clients to employ "creative estate planning" to ensure that other partners are each acknowledged and taken care of. ...
I was definitely at the right address. Tara Indiana, a professional dominatrix, emailed it to me earlier that day. Yet all I could see was the back entrance to a Japanese restaurant and some kitchen workers on their smoke break. There was no way that the sex dungeon I was looking for was in a sushi restaurant…right? Then again, what did I know about sex dungeons? I’d only started exploring kink two weeks earlier, and now here I was searching the back of a sushi restaurant for the sign of the class I’d signed up for, “Secrets of the World’s Greatest Dominatrix.”
More from Narratively: “The Truth about New York’s Legendary ‘Mole People'”
“You looking for Cyn Studios?” asked one of the men, startling me. I nodded, and felt my confidence increase just a tiny bit; if this stranger could possibly imagine me in a room filled with whips and floggers, maybe I wasn’t so lost after all.
The man directed me up eight flights of stairs, and as I began my ascent up I awkwardly sidled past another man who glanced at me quickly and then stared, hard, at the floor. Did he think that I was a dominatrix on my way to work? To my surprise, the way he looked at me, with utter submission, made me feel powerful. And sexy. When I arrived at the top of the stairs, I felt less shaken than I had on the street, albeit out of breath.
After a woman in a business-casual outfit signed me in at the front desk, I peered into one of the studio’s rooms. It was surprisingly classy, lavishly decorated in black leather and red velvet. If you forgot about all the men that had been tied up and whipped in there, the room could almost pass for a fancy hotel lobby.
I was led into a large, open room. Behind a pillar I could spot hidden toys that must be used in some of the dominatrices’ scenes: St. Andrew’s crosses, chains, and what looked like an operating table. (I would later learn that medical play is a fetish.) On a table in the front of the room were props that I tried to pretend I’d seen a million times before — spiky collars, leather cuffs, paddles and whips to name a few. Ever the diligent student, I sat on a hard folding chair in the front row and took a deep breath, ready to begin.
There were a few other women in the class. We all smiled awkwardly at each other and made small talk while we sat in folding chairs. We pretended we weren’t about to take a class that promised to teach the psychology of a submissive male, how to manage a stable of men, and, my personal favorite, how to harness your pussy power.
I was there to finally change the pattern of my love — and sex — life. ...
The life of Catherine Robbe-Grillet makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like a Disney movie. In 1951, she became the mistress of the writer—and accomplished sadist—Alain Robbe-Grillet, whom she later married. Today, an 83-year-old widow, she is France’s most famous dominatrix. Visiting the 17th-century château where Robbe-Grillet conducts some of her rituals, Toni Bentley delves into the world of a modern-day Marquise de Sade, her relationship with the much younger Beverly Charpentier, and her journey from submission to dominance.
I am going to meet the most famous dominatrix in France. It is a gray but bright day as the taxi drives from Paris through the lush green fields of Normandy. It is late afternoon. I have been invited to dinner and don’t want to be late. The address I have been given is so abbreviated as to be comical: no numbers, no street, no postal code, just the name of the château and the province in which it resides. The G.P.S. is having none of it.
I had asked in an e-mail a month earlier if I might observe one of Madame’s sadomasochistic rituals. I was told “no one observes, there are only participants.” I replied—what the hell—that I was willing to participate, imagining that I might be given a candle to hold in a doorway. “Madame is doubtful,” I was told, “but said she will think about it. But absolutely no photographs.”
The driver finds the concealed turnoff, and I see the white gate I was looking for. A sharp right and we are thrust instantly into a Louis XIV fairy tale. An enormous horseshoe drive embraces a vast green field dotted with thousands of yellow buttercups. At its turn, the 17th-century Château du Mesnil-au-Grain sits in full glory and perfect symmetry. The black car drops me off and departs. I climb the stairs to the main entrance, where I am greeted by a tiny lady wearing a white scarf wrapped stylishly about her head, slim white cotton trousers and blouse, and a fluffy, sage-green mohair cardigan.
It is well known in France that this woman has une chambre secrète (a secret room), but no one knows quite where it is, though Edmund White has written that she “tortures” people in the “dungeon of her Norman castle.”
Catherine Robbe-Grillet is the 83-year-old widow of Alain Robbe-Grillet, theoretician, novelist, filmmaker, sadist, member of the Académie Française, and acknowledged “pope” of the avant-garde literary movement known as the nouveau roman. He is perhaps best remembered as the writer of Alain Resnais’s 1961 masterpiece, Last Year at Marienbad.
The young Robbe-Grillets bought the château in 1963, making them only its fifth owners since its construction, around 1680, and the first without aristocratic lineage. Despite their modernist leanings, the young couple dreamed of being châtelains, and thanks to a loan from Alain’s courageous publisher, Jérôme Lindon (famous as the French publisher of Samuel Beckett), the deed was done.
“Bienvenue,” Madame Robbe-Grillet says to me. (She does not speak English.) “Un petit château pour une petite dame!” (A little château for a little lady!) As she says this, she dips girlishly in a small curtsy, a charming, and disarming, gesture. The power she wields, standing at a majestic four feet eleven inches and weighing in at 88 pounds (she has worn a child’s size 10 her entire adult life), is obscured, though not for long, behind the most courteous carapace of the smallest and sweetest little old lady one might ever meet.
Having read her 1985 book, Cérémonies de Femmes (Women’s Rites), where she writes wryly, “You absolutely must believe that Sisyphus is happy!,” I knew that this lovely woman was a modern-day Marquise de Sade, and had, over the past four decades, pierced and cut some of her guests with hatpins—she has many varieties with beautiful ornaments that she keeps in a white lace pin cushion—locked others in small iron cages, crowned them with acacia thorns, handcuffed them to chains on walls, and basically beaten the shit out of a rather large number of people, male and female. ...