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"Polyamory is Alive and Well in SF"

on Wednesday, 27 November 2013. Hits 984

The Bold Italic

After the Supreme Court’s Prop. 8 ruling came down in June, LGBT people in San Francisco were able to get married – for the third time. Amid the celebration, there were some wistful sentiments that maybe queerness was waning and all the gays were – as my uber-queer thesis adviser once put it – “ready to go home and cook dinner, forever.”

Unambiguously joyful or painfully heteronormative, same-sex marriage is probably here to stay this time. But there are multiple other ways of fashioning a life with one’s chosen partner, or partners. I sat down with four families or member of polyamorous groups, two all-male and two male-and-female, to gain some better insight into just how happy (and gleefully sex-positive) these enduring arrangements can be.

Who are they?:

Richard, Steven, Rob, Eric, and Paul are all between 47 and 62 years old and live in San Francisco. Richard and Steven (the daddies) have been together for 23 years and legally married in 2008, while the three boys joined in the last five or six years. Rob and Paul are collared, wearing padlocked chains that indicate they’re boys in a daddy-boy dynamic. Additionally, Paul and his separate partner of 16 years wed in October.

 

Getting together:

Rob: If somebody has a thing going on, we all make a point to show up. We have scheduled dates because if we don’t, they won’t happen.

Eric: And we’re not [gestures to include the entire family] monogamous as well. We all have fuck buddies.

Paul: There’s a lot of focused one-on-one. Not necessarily having sex, but focusing on the relationship. Which usually involves sex.

Richard: We’re not “poly-monogamous.” We interbreed with regularity, though that certainly has diminished as the intensity of the relationship among the five of us has increased.

 

Challenges:

Richard: Getting the five of us together at one time is challenging. I invited everybody up to the hot springs last year, and that was the only time we’ve actually traveled. We’re fine with that. We have to be pragmatic. I’ve noticed there are friends I don’t see very much, because there’s just less time.

 

Are you out at work?

Paul: I’m a pornographer. Of course I’m out at work.

Eric: My relationships are of great interest and vast amusement to the people I work with.

Steven: I mostly say I’m married. When I worked for AT&T, they didn’t care.

Rob: I work at a large company downtown. I wear my collar under a shirt with a collar, so it’s not in everyone’s face but not that well hidden, either.

 

Does your family know?

Paul: When my mom was alive I didn’t really talk about it. It took her 20 years to get used to the whole I-have-a-husband thing. She was 85 and I didn’t feel the need to rock her world.

Eric: Lots of my cousins and my aunts and my stepmother and father are all on Facebook and they see all of this. A year or two ago, I started getting Christmas cards from various cousins labeled “To Eric and Family.”

 

Do you envision legalized polyamory?

Richard: Three years into our relationship, Steven and I had our own Jewish-pagan ceremony. Then we got domestic-partnered. Right now we’re trying to get the boys to find boys. They need support staff, so to speak. When I’m 90, Eric will be 77, and he’s going to need someone to push my wheelchair around.

Rob: I don’t think it’s something that’s likely to happen anytime soon. And it’s really hard to be someone’s top and daddy when you’re wearing a collar. Plus I fully intend to become a cyborg at some point.

Paul: The relationship’s so fluid, I don’t know that we’d need it to be recognized. The point of poly relationships is that you define it.

***

Who they are:

Together for three years, Liesl and Steve are a couple dating another couple, Megan and Nathan, along with several other lovers whom they see less often. All are in their late twenties and live in the East Bay.

 

Getting together:

Steve: If I’m dating a girl, usually Liesl ends up dating that girl, but most of the time, if she’s dating a guy, he and I don’t play too much. Except at either end of Liesl.

Liesl: Although I’ve had lots of guys say that if they were to experiment on a guy, it’d be Steve. I was the first woman Megan had ever been with. But that’s not surprising. All the straight girls, they’re like, “Well, I’ll try this.”

 

Challenges:

Steve: The reason we’re polyamorous isn’t philosophical, it’s that we’re terrible about monogamy. But in the Bay, people have a whole idea of what that means about our relationship.

 

Are you out at work?

Liesl: In Illinois, I was out to all my co-workers and was dating Steve and the guy I was living with. My co-worker asked me, “Do you love your boyfriend?” I asked which one, because I don’t think Steve and I had said that at that point. But I said, “Yes, the one I live with, I love him.” And she said, “No, you don’t. When you love someone, it drives you crazy if they even look at someone else.” And I thought, “I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with you.”

Steve: Most people at Google aren’t, you know, Haight-Ashbury natives. They’re more conservative than I anticipated. I’m out, but it doesn’t come up that much. It’s not information they need to interact with me. A couple of people have asked weird questions, but there’s no polyamorous slur that they could use to offend me. I do try to be out to as many people as possible because I do think there is an invisibility problem to open relationships, and people assume that everyone they know is monogamous. So they only hear about open relationships when they fail. It implodes, you hear that they were open, so that must be why.

 

Does your family know?:

Liesl: When I was going to come home for Easter, my mom said on the phone, “Oh, I’ll put the air mattress out for you and R.” I said, “Well, R. can’t make it…I am bringing someone though. I thought I should tell you: Steve is my other boyfriend. I’m in an open relationship with R.” And my mom said, “Oh, I’ll put the air mattress out for you and Steve.”

Steve: I said, “Hey mom, can I to talk to you for a minute? I’m bisexual and polyamorous.” She didn’t know what polyamorous was. I said it basically means I don’t do monogamous relationships, that I have multiple partners. Her first response was, “That sounds like something a man invented.”

 

Do you envision legalized polyamory?

Liesl: I think it would be so difficult to start. We’re both dating Megan, but Nathan’s pretty straight, so I wouldn’t say that Steve and Nathan are dating. And if we got married, would Steve and Nathan be married? What does that mean for them to be married when they’re not sexually together? And although it doesn’t really apply to poly people, I’m super-excited that in California, you can have three parents.

...

"Polyamory: The End of Marriage?"

on Tuesday, 26 November 2013. Hits 399

Nightline

Some married couples are opting for live-in lovers to spice up their love lives.

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/polyamory-end-marriage-21013545

"The joyless law of sex"

on Monday, 25 November 2013. Hits 901

Washington Post

Margo Kaplan is an assistant professor of law at Rutgers School of Law-Camden. Her article “Sex-Positive Law” will appear in the New York University Law Review in April.

Emma Thompson recently declared that dancing with Prince Charles is better. Hunter S. Thompson wrote a book about how politics is better . Google lists thousands of cake recipes claiming to be better. Zeus and Hera debated whether it is better for women or for men.

But even if we can’t quite agree on what’s better than sex, the comparison suggests we take for granted that sex can be pretty good.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that our courts and legislatures are still strangely squeamish about sexual pleasure, tending to treat it as a topic to be avoided or an immoral indulgence the state should prevent. When they address sex, they often reveal their embarrassment by using Victorian-sounding euphemisms such as “an intimate relation of husband and wife” or awkwardly clinical terms such as “the physical act.” Other times, they express outright disgust. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia warned that prohibiting states from banning sodomy might harken a nightmarish future in which states could not criminalize masturbation. Imagine.

Of course, judges and politicians have made great progress as far as attitudes toward the gay community and marriage equality. Just this year, the Supreme Court struck down a ban on the federal recognition of same-sex marriages and the number of states recognizing marriage equality more than doubled. But these moves don’t further sexual freedom in itself. Rather, antiquated attitudes about sexual pleasure have allowed for the persistence of bad laws that touch on everything from free speech to how we define and punish rape.

To the extent that courts and legislatures have shown any appreciation for the value of sex, it’s usually in the context of more traditionally acceptable goals. The Supreme Court, for example, is downright reverent toward sex as a component of strong marriages and successful procreation.

In Griswold v. Connecticut (1964), the court held that a law banning the use of contraceptives unconstitutionally infringed on the right to marital privacy. But the court made clear that it was primarily interested in protecting the “sacred precincts of marital bedrooms,” not the sex that happened there or elsewhere. Writing the majority opinion, Justice William Douglas waxed rhapsodic about marriage as “a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association .?.?. for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.” The implication: Sex is bad, but marriage justifies its offense by directing it toward a socially acceptable purpose.

Eight years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird , the court struck down a Massachusetts law denying unmarried people access to contraception. The opinion was less a green light for sex outside marriage than an acknowledgment that those who insist on having sex outside marriage have a right to avoid pregnancy. In fact, the court was oddly silent about the reasons people might want to have non-procreative sex in the first place. Instead, it spoke in terms of equal protection of unmarried couples and an individual’s right to decide whether to have children. ...

"South Beloit Urges Shutdown of Emerald Lounge"

on Friday, 22 November 2013. Hits 396

WIFR.com

SOUTH BELOIT (WIFR) – A South Beloit club is fighting to stay open after the city claims the business is a sex club. The owner of that bar says the allegations aren’t true.

The Emerald Lounge in South Beloit is a very unassuming place. The jewel on the door is the only sign there’s anything inside and what’s going on indoors has the city and the club’s owner at odds.

“This place started out with six guys in a garage and we decided it was time to get out of the garage, open up our own place.”

The Lounge has a few rooms filled with a bar, couches, chairs, a pool table and a dance floor equipped with a stripper pole.

“Hey, we’re men. That doesn’t make us a sexually orientated business.”

The owner says it’s nothing more than a place for people to hang out, but city employees believe it’s a swingers club and want to shut it down.

“We don’t have a swinger club here. What we do is we throw theme parties and as you see going around the lodge if we had a swinger club, we’d have a lot more fun.”

In letters obtained by 23 News, the City calls the Emerald Lounge a sexually oriented business, citing the stripper pole and a website as evidence, a violation of city zoning codes.

“This club or whatever you want to call it doesn’t sell anything, so it doesn’t meet up to the zoning codes. Plus, it’s within a thousand feet of residences and that type of establishment isn’t allowed there,” said South Beloit Police Chief Dean Stiegmeier.

“We actually fit into their zoning regulations under their private club. That’s where we’re the loyal order emeralds. We actually filed our non-profit papers,” said the club owner.

As for the website the city cited in its cease and desist order, the owner says that the web page was made by an angry ex-member, claiming that the club’s actual website makes no mention of swingers. Chief Stiegmeier says officers haven’t had any calls to the address, however he worries something may happen.

“That type of business can lead to all types of things. Drug dealing, violence, especially if you get alcohol involved,” said Chief Stiegmeier. ...

"Polyamory, lots and lots of love"

on Sunday, 17 November 2013. Hits 566

Philly Inquirer

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 14 states and Washington D.C. An estimated six million children are being raised by gay or lesbian parents. More than twenty million are growing up with a single mother or father. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the traditional nuclear family - mom, dad, children - accounts for only 20 percent of households. This is the first in an occasional series of stories about the new modern family, one that may be living next door to you.

On Sept. 10, 2011, Deirdre Cusack, Jeremy Peirce, and Kala Pierson got married. To one another.

More than 60 friends and relatives attended their marriage ceremony at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. They smiled as the two brides, both in traditional white wedding gowns, and the groom, dapper in his tuxedo, passed Noah, their 18-month-old son, from one set of arms to another.

Today, two years later, the foursome appear to be an ordinary family living with their cats, Moonstone and Dandelion, in a single home in a Philadelphia suburb. Noah goes to a progressive day care center where he is learning Hebrew and Spanish. He loves pasta, albeit topped with brussels sprouts, and squeals with delight when he is rewarded with a chunk of licorice after success on the potty.

All three parents hold prestigious jobs - Jeremy, Noah's birth father, with degrees from Amherst and Princeton, is a biotech scientist; Kala writes classical music that has been performed in 28 countries. Deirdre, Noah's birth mother, is a data analyst. Deirdre's sister, Deborah, and Jeremy's mother, Marie, usually laden with gifts for Noah, visit often.

Still - When Kala describes her ordinary, extraordinary family, she shrugs insouciantly and says, "We make dinner for each other . . . we have sex with each other."

And that isn't all. Jeremy, Kala, and Deirdre all have "sweeties" (most of whom attended their wedding) outside their close-knit trio - two each at the moment - with one another's blessings.

All of their sweeties are also polyamorous (from the Greek and Latin "many loves"), a word defining a lifestyle that, if not increasing, is certainly more visible than ever before.

The online magazine Loving More claims more than 100,000 hits a month. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a singer, songwriter, and former first lady of France, has said, "Monogamy bores me. I am faithful . . . to myself." Each February since 2005, an annual national conference on polyamory, given by Loving More Nonprofit, is held right here in Philadelphia.

Since polyamorous "marriages" are not recognized legally and the lifestyle is not understood by much of society, most poly families walk in the shadows. Research is sparse, but studies by Terri Conley, professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan, estimate that 4.5 percent of Americans - about 13 million people - may be engaged in some form of non-monogamy including polyamory, swinging, or open relationships.

Studies by Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist formerly with Georgia State University and author of The Polyamorists Next Door, found that those who are polyamorous are likely to be well-educated, often with graduate degrees, and strongly feminist in their beliefs. As with Kala, Deirdre, and Jeremy, the vision of their primary family is usually one of commitment, deep love, and the determination to raise their children into happy, productive adulthood.

The cornerstone of polyamory is "ethical non-monogamy," involvement in intimate, loving relationships with more than one person at a time. They are not "swingers," those who casually swap partners or engage in sex as recreation. They are not polygamists, men with several subservient wives. And they disdain those who take solemn wedding vows pledging fidelity, only to betray their spouses with secret philandering.

"In our relationships, the key is honesty," Jeremy says. "I am not monogamous, nor do I want to be, and I'm up front about it. Deirdre and Kala feel the same way." ...

" Judge considers Trevor’s Toybox owner’s appeal against Pembroke zoning board"

on Thursday, 14 November 2013. Hits 753

Concord Monitor

A Merrimack County Superior Court judge yesterday stared down from his bench and addressed perfunctory questions to the lawyer for Pembroke business owner Larry Preston.

“Could these handcuffs be used for anything else?” Judge Richard McNamara asked, his voice stern.

And later, “Where else would whips be sold?”

Lawyers yesterday argued over how what they termed “the BDSM lifestyle” relates to Trevor’s Toybox, the shop where Preston hopes to sell leather clothing, handcuffs and whips on Pembroke’s Main Street.

Now, the judge will need to rule on whether the Pembroke zoning board could block Trevor’s Toybox by claiming the bondage items it would sell are sexually explicit.

In May, the zoning board barred Preston from opening the shop in the town’s central business district, where property cannot be used for “passive adult entertainment.” Pembroke’s zoning ordinances cite examples of passive adult entertainment uses, including sexual paraphernalia stores, adult video stores and adult bookstores.

The town says Trevor’s Toybox violates that ordinance because the store would sell bondage items to “cater to sexual preferences, tastes and activities,” according to court documents. The store’s business card defines the store as “meeting the demand for BDSM equipment.”

A small footnote in the town’s court filings cites an internet search for “BDSM defined,” which produced “countless pages devoted to a description of ‘bondage, dominance, submission and masochism.’ ”

“This is a retail store specializing in the sale of paraphernalia used in the erotic touching of body parts,” town attorney Chris Cole said in court.

Preston filed a lawsuit in June to reverse that decision, claiming the items he would sell in the store can easily be purchased at other businesses.

“For example, Walmart sells handcuffs,” the documents state. “A store called Party City in Manchester has children’s handcuff kits. The Army barracks in Salem has handcuffs. Tractor Supply sells whips for pigs and horses. A store called Spencer’s in Concord sells whips and handcuffs. One can buy leather jackets and leather chaps at a Harley Davidson motorcycle shop.”

The items in Trevor’s Toybox could also be used for nonsexual purposes, argued Finis Williams, Preston’s lawyer.

“If a person were to buy a leather jacket and a whip from Trevor’s Toybox so that person could be Indiana Jones for Halloween, that would not constitute a passive adult entertainment use,” the suit reads.

The Trevor’s Toybox website does sell sexually oriented items, Preston has said, but those items would not be sold in his Pembroke store. ...

International Media Update: "Out of Bounds"

on Tuesday, 12 November 2013. Hits 505

The Indian Express

In a predominantly dark photograph, a young man raises his arms as if to fight off an approaching horror. His fingers are fanned out, his wrists handcuffed, and his torso bare. This could be an image of hostility — except that the man's look, even in the darkness, hints at defiance. "He is a submissive, somebody who has surrendered to his partner and will obey every order. Surrendering to another power is a powerful act in itself, as Sufi saints and meditation practitioners have always said," says Jaya Sharma, a spokesperson of the Kinky Collective, organisers of a photography exhibition, titled "Bound to be Free", of which this image is a part. The exhibition in Delhi ended on Sunday and is now set to travel to Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai.

The Kinky Collective follow intense erotic practices termed as BDSM or Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism. These include role-playing, and acts that involve either power or pain as a means of pleasure. "We wanted to have the exhibition so that as members of the BDSM community we could represent our desires and who we are," says Sharma.

As a means of stepping out of the closet, the exhibition is a milestone. But, the 40 photographs on display — taken by members of the community, besides two professional photographers — have mixed aesthetic value. There are images with BDSM stereotypes such as stilletos, blindfolds, whips and bodies captured by amateur lensmen.

The photos, however, underline the community's core belief in consent. "In BDSM, consent is proactively sought and offered, and can be withdrawn unconditionally and instantly with the use of a single word or gesture," says Sharma, "In contrast to the construction of BDSM as anti-women and even misogynist, it is important to know that BDSM enables space for women Dominants to be completely in control, and for submissive men to be vulnerable. It is also important to challenge the typical imagination of male dominant and a woman submissive." ...

"Monogamous: To Be or Not to Be?"

on Tuesday, 12 November 2013. Hits 1005

Huffington Post

The one thing you don't expect to see in any of the Bible Belt states (most of which have amended their constitutions to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman) is an organization promoting polyamory.

Last month at Atlanta's pride parade, the group Atlanta Polyamory Inc. did just that -- and out in the light of day. The result was the shock, awe, and disgust of a mixed group.

Atlanta Polyamory Inc.'s purple-lettered banner read, "Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals."

While many religious conservatives might argue that the legalization of same-gender marriage and shows like HBO's Big Love, about a fictional polygamist Mormon family, plant seeds to destroy the conventional family unit, we have to ask ourselves whether monogamy is a natural instinct in us or a social construct devised to protect and regulate the institution of heterosexual marriage.

Being nonmonogamous in this culture carries a stigma for both heterosexuals and LGBTQs. Nonmonogamous people are widely assumed to be sexually promiscuous, sex- and love-addicted and unable to achieve emotional and sexual intimacy. But this assumption ignores the reality that some people really are in polyamorous relationships, and their ability to love more than one person at a time is not about a lust-fest for them.

Deepak Chopra, a renowned spiritual master and director of educational programs at the Chopra Center for Well Being in California, told The Advocate in 1998:

As far as monogamy is concerned, I honestly believe that human beings are not monogamous biologically; they were not created that way. However, it is certainly helpful in society and social structure ... because of the family structure. ... [W]ith gay and lesbian relationships, I think you're going to see families. You're going to see children. ... So in the interest of family structure, we've evolved biologically to the point where we are social creatures.

But the purported evolutionary benefits of monogamy have not panned out as expected. The biggest claim touted in support of monogamy is that it's the best social and psychological arrangement for children. However, if a couples is in a monogamous relationship solely for the kids, the children suffer because they witness no love, compassion or respect between the parents. ...

Latest Reader Comments

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