Ben*, 39, is no longer involved with his child's mother. Yet he has more than enough help raising his daughter — not only from his former partner, but also from the 16 other members of the wellness-focused group home that he runs.
Ben is polyamorous. At one point, he said, two partners were raising his daughter alongside him.
"I feel like she got more love and attention because she was getting it from three people instead of just me," he said in a phone interview.
In recent years, Americans have become more accepting of parental units consisting of two men or two women. But the operative word there is "two," as the concept of parenting as a partnership is still deeply ingrained in our consciousness. For this reason, parents with multiple partners have yet to receive such acceptance.
Polyamory might seem like a new and cutting-edge parenting method, but some poly parents feel their families actually represent a return to the past. As Ben pointed out, it's common in other cultures for people other than parents — such as members of extended families — to help raise children, and multi-generational households have made a resurgence in the United States.
"We're returning back to our roots," he said. "It's great for the child because they get so much exposure to so many different gifts people have that they can share with them."
While research on polyamory is limited, the population of "poly" people is growing, as is the number of children with more than two parents. That shift is altering what parenting means, both to poly people and the rest of us — and it can also serve something of a practical function.
"We wanted to have additional people included in raising the kids," explained Ifah, 38, in a phone interview. Ifah and her husband have a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old and use the site OpenMinded to meet additional partners, who sometimes end up helping with the children.
"It's especially hard when everybody's working, so that way, instead of coming home, making dinner, doing homework, doing the bedtime routine, and everything, it gets divided," she said.
While some people have expressed concern that a polyamorous lifestyle can be detrimental to children, Ifah said that's far from the case. In fact, having partners and cohabitants with kids of their own has given her children built-in friends and helped them see polyamorous households as normal.
"They know we have other relationships," Ifah explained. "Just like if you grow up with two moms or two dads. It's like, 'Yeah, my dad and my other dad.' We don't try to say it like 'This is what's right, this is what's wrong.'"
Tyler, a 30-year-old polyamorous father of three children, agreed.
"[My oldest son] doesn't understand the concept of 'normal' because all of his friends have families that are different in some way," he said in a phone interview. "They might be single parents or they might be gay or lesbian couples or they might be poly or they might be raised by their grandparents. ... All they've ever known is that a family is a group of people who love each other." ...
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“Inviting others in is the practice of accepting the discomfort of fear.”
What does “good at poly” mean? I hear this statement often. The scenario that typically precedes this self-judging statement is the person criticizing their own feelings of “jealousy, envy, or fear.”
My question is this – Who set the standard of “good at poly”? What does that look like? From my experience both personally, professionally, and from reading other’s experiences, it appears that if a person deviates from the expected outcome of absolute enthusiastic compersion (the positive feelings one gets when a lover is enjoying another relationship) or the appearance of enthusiastic compersion, they are not good at poly. There are a few words that pop into my mind when I read these words from lovers, wives, husbands, or partners who are emotionally and mentally shackled by the shame jealousy, envy, or fear and others judging, condemning, or making these statements of “how to do it better?” Some say, “you need to simply read this workbook or go to this website”…what happens if that workbook does not alleviate and erase those feelings?
I get a call or an email. I listen or read, “I read all the books and did everything they told me. Something is wrong with me that I still feel this way.”
“Not good at poly” means “I am bad at poly.” This is:
Over-identifying with The Myth
Folks berate themselves for feeling jealousy, envy, and anxiety; in turn, folks judge themselves for not being joyous and ecstatic for their partner’s prospective lover. This is compounded by the fear of sharing with their partner that this new situation is uncomfortable for them. So, the anxiety of a partner’s prospective partner; the self-imposed expectation of this is not “what a poly person is supposed to feel?;” and, possibly, the social media representation of the perfect poly couple creates an incongruence of what is and what it’s supposed to be. The self-doubt “is there something wrong with me? Am I doing this wrong?” The result of measuring and comparing others Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat posts to the how “poly people” are supposed to look is a trap. The trap is the jealousy - compersion dichotomy.
The Danger of the False Dichotomy
A dichotomy is the contrast between two opposing elements, concepts, or states. There is a false dichotomy that has been created or perpetuated in many communities - jealousy or compersion. This is the dilemma. It's the same conundrum that society has placed on intimate relationships in general – monogamous (the gold standard) or unfaithful (cheater, slut, or sociopath) or “you are just unable to commit.” The either/or, more than/less than/, and better/worse are the extremes that trap one in discontent, resentment, and gut wrenching insecurity.
Where is the humanity of those extremes?
Mindful and Present
Grounding oneself to BE in the relationship rather than DO the relationship can be more advantageous for some. This is the shift in my therapeutic approach with working with couples who are questioning, starting, and living in consensual nonmonogamous relationships. In the last few years, I have read several books on polyamory and open relationships. There is much about naming the concepts, defining the concepts, and putting into action those concepts within their relationships. It seems logistical. These books identified themselves as guides or frameworks for consensual nonmonogamous relationships.
As a result of my experience, I have created questionnaires for couples and, recently, for prospective partners, relationship dynamic genograms, conversational exercises, and the educational components for the intersectionality of power, consent, and honesty in being in a polyamorous relationship. This allows for the practice and empowerment for getting out of the dichotomy and into “holding the space for the middle.” Savoring the moments of change and staying present with “what you know to be true.” The difference is that there is no value placed on that what is within the space. The space is – what it is – in that moment.
In most polyamorous communities in the United States, the majority of the community members are either bisexual (especially the women) or heterosexual (especially the men). Both in person and online, mainstream polyamorous communities have a marked lack of people in exclusively same-sex relationships. I do not mean that people in same-sex relationships are not having consensually non-monogamous relationships, but that they are just not doing it in the mainstream poly community. This blog explores five reasons why lesbians and gay men might not appear in the mainstream US poly scene as much as their bisexual and heterosexual counterparts.
Although my research indicates that poly communities tend to have lower levels of homophobia than conventional society, it does not mean that they are without homophobia. Parallel to mainstream society, poly communities value female bisexuality and same-sex contact among women far more than same-sex interaction among men. Gay men usually do not enjoy dealing with homophobia in their social environments, so it is no surprise that they are rare in mainstream poly circles.
The flip side of homophobia is objectifying sex among women for male consumption. Given the tremendous popularity of “girl on girl” porn in the US, many heterosexual American men are obsessed with watching women have sex with each other. Even better, in many of their minds, they hope to “get in on it” with the women in a threesome where the man comes in and “finishes off” at least one of the women (I know this because they have expressed it to me in vivid detail far, far too many times). Many lesbians are tired of fending off straight guys who want a threesome with two women. Because of the comparative rarity of single women in many poly communities, lesbians would be competing with hetero men for a limited pool of bisexual women while simultaneously avoiding the enthusiastic men – too much work for too little fun. Rather, many lesbians who want polyamorous relationships socialize in lesbian groups and skip the mainstream poly scene.[i]
3. Gay men invented Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM)
When I asked a dear friend – who had been partnered with the same man for more than 10 years and both had regular flings with friends and strangers – why he and his partner did not identify as polyamorous, he responded: “Honey, we invented open relationships and certainly don’t need another label for them.” OK, so maybe they didn’t actually invent it, but research indicates that CNM is a regular feature of gay male society in the US.[ii] With community norms already in place and a social pool of potential dates already open to CNM, gay men don’t have to approach a different community to find partners or seek advice. Remaining in gay settings also means they don’t have to deal with homophobia (or at least not as much). ...
Is the military’s law making adultery a crime unconstitutional? So says a colonel who’s been charged with violating it. His motives aren’t great -- he’s trying to deflect attention from more serious charges, including rape. But he may be right. The law arguably discriminates by criminalizing only heterosexual adultery. And even if that vestigial aspect of the law could be fixed, there’s another problem: the anti-adultery law violates the fundamental right of privacy, which should extend even to armed-forces personnel, whose constitutional rights are limited by military necessity.
The issue has arisen in the context of a court-martial against U.S. Air Force Colonel Marcus Caughey. He’s been charged with rape, assault, taking a sexual selfie -- and six counts of adultery. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which governs uniformed personnel, adultery is a crime. Military prosecutors typically add the charge when a defendant is accused of other crimes. It gives them extra leverage, but also provides room for the factfinder, whether judge or jury, to reach a compromise verdict and find the defendant guilty of adultery even if it doesn’t find him guilty of rape or assault.
Caughey’s lawyers want to get rid of the adultery charge -- and, presumably, to change the narrative of the trial by refocusing attention on something other than the accusations against their client. It’s a creative argument.
The way the military adultery law works is a bit tricky, so bear with me, because it matters. Article 134 of UCMJ makes it a crime for a member of the armed forces to “prejudice good order and discipline” or “bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
That general language is then interpreted by the military to include various crimes including adultery. The military defines adultery as “sexual intercourse” when the parties are not married to each other and at least one of them is married to someone else.
But because it’s a relic of an earlier era, military law treats only heterosexual intercourse as qualifying.
That’s because in the bad old days, homosexual conduct was defined separately as “sodomy,” which was a crime distinct from adultery. That definition is still on the books, even though it would be unenforceable today.
Caughey’s lawyers say limiting the crime of adultery to heterosexuals makes the law unconstitutional because it discriminates against straight people relative to gay people.
You might find this argument laughable -- after all, the law is set up the way it is precisely because of the military’s history of anti-gay discrimination. It’s just an accident of changed constitutional circumstances that today, you can be charged with adultery only by having intercourse with someone of the opposite sex.
Or you might make the technical point that the law could in fact punish a person married to someone of the same sex if he or she had intercourse with someone of the opposite sex.
But Caughey’s argument isn’t ridiculous. There’s a long history of the courts striking down laws that discriminate on the basis of sex because they reinforce stereotypes. Arguably, this law is just as bad. It’s possible to imagine a court rejecting it.
There’s a simple remedy, however. The military could solve the problem by criminalizing all adulterous sex, whether straight or gay. And it wouldn’t require amending the UCMJ, just reinterpreting it officially.
Indeed, I can easily imagine a military court holding that, in the light of Supreme Court decisions legalizing gay sex and gay marriage, Article 134 of the UCMJ necessarily must be interpreted to extend to straight and gay people equally.
If that’s right, Caughey’s argument should lose, since the discrimination of which he complains doesn’t exist, legally speaking.
But there’s another constitutional problem, in my view more serious than the one Caughey’s lawyers raised.
The adultery prohibition violates the fundamental right to privacy, regardless of whom it covers.
In the landmark 2003 decision of Lawrence v. Texas, the court struck down laws prohibiting gay sex. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion didn’t rest on equality. Instead he wrote that the right to have sex with a consenting person of one’s choice was “central to personal dignity and autonomy.” ...
Meditation makes most Americans think of a Middle Eastern Indian or Tibetan Monk sitting in a lotus position at a monastery in the middle of nowhere, remaining still for many long, agonizing hours in their silent search for enlightenment. Most of us, however, have neither the patience nor the hip flexibility for such activities, and because we weren’t raised practicing meditation, we have only this skewed image of the practice that has been given to us by the media.
Guess what though? Driving a race car, coloring, watching a movie, or practicing BDSM can all be forms of meditation too. It’s not about the yoga poses — it’s about letting go of the relentless mind chatter and focusing solely on the present moment.
According to the Institute of Noetic Sciences,
“The most popular, widely adapted, and widely researched meditation technique in the West is known as mindfulness meditation, which is a combination of concentration and open awareness. Mindfulness is found in many contemplative traditions, but is most often identified with the Theravadan Buddhist practice of vipassana, or “insight meditation.” The practitioner focuses on an object, such as the breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, or sounds. The focus is not as narrow as in concentrative meditation, for there is a simultaneous awareness of other phenomena. This mindfulness practice is often extended to daily actions, such as eating, walking, driving, or housework.”
In my free time, I like to go rock scrambling and ride a motorcycle, both of which can be dangerous and potentially fatal if I let my attention wander. When I participate, I have to be completely focused on what I’m doing and fully mindful of my surroundings. I can’t be thinking about work, the electric bill, a boyfriend, or getting my car to the garage for a tune-up. The activity is intense and demanding, and therefore my mind is — must be — clear. When this happens, I lower my blood pressure, strengthen my immune system, and decrease my emotional anxiety just as much as if I were sitting quietly, meditating on a yoga mat.
The meditative form of BDSM is called “subspace.” My submissive clients describe it as an altered state of consciousness in which they feel completely liberated from stress. It’s a practice that allows you to completely let go of internal and external stress so that you can fully immerse yourself in the present moment. As the Dominatrix, I also experience a corresponding mental state of relaxation from my deep focus and concentration. ...
I have a pretty cane that I use during the colder seasons. It is my best friend. I walk everywhere with it and it has helped me from falling on my ass.
I also wield a flogger, handcuffs and a Hitachi magic wand. I am into orgasm denial (both giving and receiving). I also am into power play. I could go on and on about the shit I’m into, but I’ll leave it at: I am a filthy femme witchy Domme that switches between top or bottom.
Yes, I am disabled. But I am also kinky.
A lot of folks don’t realize that the two go hand in hand. Often, the articles that are out there talking about how to explore BDSM or kink don’t touch on the fact that there are disabled folks that indulge. And even more so, there are disabled folks that prefer to top and/or Dom(me). And here comes the question of: where the fuck do I go? Where are the spots I can go? How the fuck do I find play partners?
We are constantly desexualized — and we’re tired of it.
So, here are some tips for folks who are into some type of kink and want to explore, but have constantly shied away because guides like this didn’t exist for them.
While this is centered a bit towards Dom(me)s or tops, it can also apply to subs or bottoms.
Know your limits.
This is not just limited to the sub or bottom. It is important to know your limits and when you need breaks. Consent is important. Fetishization is never cute. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you are NOT obliged to continue the session. If they’re invalidating your accessibility needs, even after a discussion, leave. You don’t need to stay and tolerate someone who doesn’t accept you and treats you like a fuck toy or a burden.
Fetlife can be your friend.
Yes, Fetlife has a lot of creeps. I have the unsolicited dick pics to prove it. But Fetlife can also link you to events — like munches, where you can meet kinksters in street clothes, and play parties, where you can have a bit of fun. Often, events will mention if they’re accessible and if it is possible for you, you can meet other folks to help guide you in kink or join the journey with you. ...
The Sexual Freedom Resolution is a stand against discrimination by professionals in the field of sexuality and sexual health. This Resolution can be submitted to civil, criminal and family courts by people who are stigmatized because of their sexual expression in order to help them get a fair trial on the merits of their case. We encourage organizations that serve mental and health professionals to sign onto this resolution, as well as educational groups and Kink Aware Professionals.
To sign on, email
Sexual Freedom Resolution Working within the framework of social justice and human rights, we support the right of freedom of sexual expression among consenting adults. We affirm that sexual expression is central to the human experience, that this right is central to overall health and well-being, and that this right must be honored. We support the right to be free from discrimination, oppression, exploitation and violence due to one’s sexual expression. The best contemporary scientific evidence finds that consenting adults who practice BDSM, fetishes, cross-dressing and non-monogamy can be presumed healthy as a group. We believe that any sexuality education or therapies that treat sexual problems must avoid stigmatizing or pathologizing these forms of sexual expressions between fully informed consenting adults. As professionals in the field of sexuality and sexual health, we actively seek to destigmatize consensual sexual expression and sexual practices among consenting adults, as well as to help create and maintain safe space for those who have been traditionally marginalized.