In the course of defending their right to treat gay people as second-class citizens, conservatives have frequently deployed slippery-slope arguments: “If we accept same-sex relationships, what will we have to tolerate next? Bestiality? Pederasty? Polygamy?” While these arguments are stupid, the people making them are not, or at least not always. They’re doing their best to trot out a parade of horribles that will shock the sensibilities of most Americans.
Clearly we should be shocked by violations of consent. (Reminder: Children and animals can’t consent!) But the inclusion of polygamy on this list is a symptom of prejudice, and not one that’s held only by conservative troglodytes.* Advocates for gay marriage, in the course of pursuing a laudable goal, sometimes made public statements disparaging non-monogamy, suggesting that state sanction of marriage would help reduce gay “promiscuity.” Slate’s own Hanna Rosin described the (relative) acceptance of non-monogamy among gay male couples as “[t]he dirty little secret about gay marriage.”
Although reliable figures are hard to come by, it’s likely that the majority of consensually non-monogamous couples in the United States are heterosexual.** These days, you know who your gay neighbors are—gay people no longer have to seek out loveless heterosexual relationships to hide behind, or move in together but pretend to be roommates. Meanwhile, you don’t know if your neighbors are poly (or whatever other term they may use), because they’re still afraid that if they don’t hide that aspect of their lives from you, something bad might happen. Those potential consequences range from having all future interactions feel awkward to having authorities take away their children.
I have identified as bisexual since my first year of college in the mid-’90s and as polyamorous since a few years after that. Over the last two decades, I have always been out as bi. I’m also lucky enough to have a supportive family, who have been accepting of my partners. If I love them, and they love me, that’s good enough for Mom and Dad. On the other hand, I have never, ever been out as poly in a workplace. Start trying to explain consensual non-monogamy, and some people—a lot of people—are going to think you’re obsessed with sex. (Never mind that I’ve been with my wife, Rose, for 10 years, have been married for three, and in all that time the two of us have dated fewer people than plenty of serially monogamous singles I know.) Some co-workers may avoid polyamorous colleagues because they’re paranoid that they may be on the prowl. Others will become distrustful because they think that poly is an attempt to re-label behavior that they consider cheating, and cheaters aren’t trustworthy.
If you’re in a vanilla relationship, you probably take it for granted that when you’re talking with a co-worker, and they say, “Hey, you’re looking sharp, are you going someplace special tonight?” you can just talk. I was asked this question recently on an afternoon when I was planning to head straight from work to a date with Dana, my partner of two and a half years, during a week when Rose was out of town. Of course, just saying where I was going isn’t enough—that just leads to, “Who with?” So I respond with something extremely vague—“Oh, a friend,”—but my mind is racing, trying to remember if I’ve mentioned that Rose is out of town, wondering if my co-worker is reading something sordid into the conversation. This sounds relatively low-stakes, but over time, the weight of many such small nuisances adds up. At first you don’t know how people might react, so you conceal things, or tell a few little white lies. Before you know it, it’s been months, or years, and maybe you might like to come out, but that would force you to admit past deceptions. So you go on, wasting energy on these internal conversations about things you don’t think you ought to be ashamed of, trying to evade questions without raising suspicion.
A few months ago, I had dinner with Dana; her husband, Aaron; and her mother. I was introduced as a friend. Beforehand, I thought this would be fine, and it mostly was. Certainly, I enjoyed meeting her mom—I care about Dana, and I want to be involved in and understand her life, including her family. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later, when I had the opportunity to introduce Dana and Aaron to my mother, that I recognized how strained that first interaction had been. As I said, I’m out to my family as poly. When I call my folks every couple of weeks to tell them what I’ve been up to, and to hear their stories about my brother and his kids, Dana’s name almost always gets mentioned, discussing something we did recently, or something we’re planning.
On the surface, the situations were nearly identical. We had a nice dinner and talked about life, work, places we’ve lived or visited, art and music. Nothing explicit about our relationship was even mentioned. But think about it: When you introduce a (monogamous) partner to your family, you don’t say, “Hi, Mom and Dad, this is Pat, who I like to have sex with sometimes!” I don’t engage in a lot of PDAs with Rose in front of our parents, either. But it was nice to sit around a table with my family, of birth and of choice, and just behave naturally. I didn’t have to worry, if I casually stroked Dana’s shoulder or used some term of endearment like sweetheart, that someone might freak out. I didn’t have to continuously monitor my behavior and words. I didn’t need to dissemble. ...
If you've been brought up in Western society your first exposure to polyamory probably occurred through pop culture. Vicky~Christina~Barcelona immortalized the triad relationship in an impossibly beautiful Caucasian Hollywoodesque fantasy, with the implicit warning that such an arrangement is unstable for the long term. Sitcoms like Friends throw in their two pence to denigrate ethical non-monogamy by presenting an episode where Chandler encounters a women in an open and honest relationship.
Chandler: So explain something to me here, uh, what kind of a relationship do you imagine us having if you already have a husband and a boyfriend?
Aurora: I suppose mainly sexual.
Monica: Oh. I'm sorry it didn't work out.
Chandler: What 'not work out'? I'm seeing her again on Thursday. Didn't you listen to the story?
Monica: Didn't you listen to the story? I mean, this is twisted! How could you get involved with a woman like this?
Pop culture would have you believe that polyamory is at best a naive delusion, at worst a morally twisted act. Apart from the small body of literature on the subject, the majority of cultural references for open and plural relationships contain harsh judgements (see comments on my last post The Hell of Monogamy for some good ones); stories of instability, betrayal and immorality. It's clear that in a world where we are taught to seek education from books and lessons, those seeking advice on how to construct and maintain multiple relationships cannot look to mainstream society for any type of guidance. Those who feel the inclination to love many, have to learn by doing, and are often shunned and shamed whilst doing so, making the pursuit of their relationships a thousand times harder. Indeed the fact that the polyamorous community is growing at all in the face of constant opposition, is a true testament to the power of love... and marginalization. The power that the world gives polyamorists by vilification turns it into a cause, spawning Poly-pride, support groups like PolyLiving and not for profit organizations like Loving More. Rendering it a more vibrant and solid community. Or is it?
Unfortunately despite all the good intentions, a minority's struggle for acceptance will always create a 'prisoners' dilemma' and this one is no different. In the non-monogamous community certain relationship configurations are more likely to be accepted if they align themselves to already existing precepts and/or paradigms. For example as the idealised Male-Female-Female triad slowly becomes more acceptable to the general public, it's no coincidence that it's also the most popular choice for many newly out-of the closet polyamorists; simply because it is the most familiar, comfortable and least controversial. To the outside world that is. Because poly-activists argue that this configuration still perpetuates male privilege (a bisexual female who gets it on with another girl, is no threat to the male ego - aka. One-Penis-Policy). Such a paradigm which is perceived to perpetuate the very patriarchy and notion of possession that polyamory tries to counteract in the first place, is one of the biggest hot potatoes.
Likewise, some proponents of polyamory like to distance themselves from promiscuity and/or swinging which are heavily frowned upon by mainstreamers - even if many polyamorists discover their inclination by through such sexual liberation in the first place. Promiscuity is harshly condemned (at least when it concerns women) and swinging is premeditated promiscuity. It is - gasp - sex for fun. Moral judgements and definitions divide the non-monogamous community because the harsh rejection by the world of the community as a whole, creates a desperate need in many to achieve acceptance at any cost. I say, the cost isn't worth it. ...
Six months into a long deployment to the Middle East last year, the top enlisted sailor aboard the Navy ship Gunston Hall jotted a Web address onto a Post-it note and handed it to a lower-ranking female sailor.
"SwingerLifestyle.com," it read.
Command Master Chief Petty Officer Kelly Smith gave her the link to the kinky dating site, the woman later told a Navy investigator, after suggesting she attend a party where couples can "swing," or swap spouses.
Her sworn statement was included in a newly released investigative report obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through the Freedom of Information Act. The internal investigation, which was launched after the woman showed the note to another sailor, revealed "a pattern of sexual harassment and fraternizing behavior" by Smith.
The ship's commanding officer, Capt. Andrew Loiselle, removed Smith from his leadership post within days last September. Smith, who has been serving shore duty in Norfolk since then, accepted nonjudicial punishment, also known as captain's mast, and is in the process of voluntarily retiring after 23 years.
Smith declined to be interviewed for this story. In a statement to the Navy investigator, however, he admitted sharing the website but denied coming on to the sailor. Smith told the investigator his wife had used the website to book a vacation to Jamaica and, later, a cruise. The website includes a travel page with links to swinger resorts and cruises, but Smith denied ever engaging in spouse-swapping.
He gave the Web link to a subordinate and suggested she book a trip, he told the investigator, to help save her troubled marriage.
The woman, whose name was redacted from the report, met with Smith in his office aboard the Gunston Hall for a checkout interview before transferring off the ship. She told him serving had been hard on her marriage, according to her statement.
"The (command master chief) started talking about his sexual orientation," the sailor said in her written statement. "He informed me he and [name redacted] were swingers. He stated he had attended 'swinger parties' and did not realize how many sailors were swingers."
In the military, adultery is a criminal offense, punishable by up to a year in prison and a dishonorable discharge. ...
Organizers of the Touch of Flavor Festival filed a lawsuit for contract breach when the venue's new management abruptly canceled the event in May.
Baltimore, MD (PRWEB) August 23, 2013
TTB Ventures LLC today announced that it has settled its lawsuit against Coppermine Field House LLC, the manager of the Clarence "Du" Burns Arena.
TTB Ventures states that they are satisfied with the settlement which resulted from a May 2013 lawsuit brought in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County (case number 03C13005461). Coppermine also issued a statement correcting "any incorrect impressions" about the Touch of Flavor Festival. Among other things, the letter acknowledges that TTB Ventures notified the original management of the nature of the event when the contract was signed.
The Touch of Flavor Festival, which was scheduled for May 17th and 18th in Baltimore, was abruptly canceled by the venue’s management company just days before the event. TTB Ventures filed a lawsuit alleging a breach of the contract they had signed with the previous management in October of 2012.
"There is a perception that businesses dealing with adult topics are still afraid to pursue issues in court, and we think that otherwise this dispute would never have progressed the way that it did," says event organizer Cassie. "We believe that both the Court’s attitude towards this issue and its quick resolution demonstrate that we have reached the point in this county where this type of discrimination can be successfully challenged. This is not just a victory for us but for anyone involved in a legal dispute because of who they are or how they live. We hope that this resolution will give others confidence that they can proceed and win if they find themselves in a similar situation."
Public interest in kink has skyrocketed over the last year with the release of books like the Fifty Shades of Grey series, which has broken sales records previously held by the Harry Potter series. The increase in interest has not been met with an increase in available education, and a recent CNN article explores an increase in handcuff emergencies since the books were released.
"Whether we've been enjoying them for a day or a decade, sometimes our relationships can use a little something extra," says Cassie. "People are intrigued and are going to try new things, with or without the education to distinguish fact from fiction. It has become vital to give people an accepting environment where they can learn how to try these new things safely. We created Touch of Flavor with the mission of teaching attendees workable knowledge and skills that create exciting and enjoyable romantic experiences."
The Touch of Flavor Festival has been rescheduled for September 7th and 8th in Baltimore, Maryland. ...
It's not my business how many partners people have, but let's not pretend that this will bring sexual equality to relationships
Polyamory is the latest subversive and a la mode sexual practice to receive extensive media coverage. It appeals as a subject for to those interested in alternative lifestyles, but also attracts commentary from some deeply unpleasant folk who have trashed it alongside gay marriage. "What next?" ask the bigoted opponents of equal marriage. "Polygamy and marriage to your brother/cat/hedge trimmer?"
It is neither my business or concern as to how many sexual partners anyone has at any one time, and I genuinely could not care less how folk organise their relationships. But the co-opting and rebranding of polygamy, so that it loses its nasty association with the oppression of the most disadvantaged women, is as irresponsible as suggesting that because some women chose to enter high-end prostitution as a social experiment, all prostitution is radical and harmless.
Caroline Humphrey, a professor of collaborative anthropology at Cambridge University, has argued in favour of the legalisation of polygamy because, according to a number of women in polygamous marriages in Russia, "half a good man is better than none at all". While polyamory is not the same as traditional polygamy – which has been practised for centuries under a strict code of patriarchy in communities where women and children have few if any rights – the co-opting of the sanitised version will further normalise a practice that is anything but liberating for women in this arrangement.
There is also the assumption that polyamory is an invention of a set of too-cool-for-school hipsters, who have recently discovered that exclusive couple-type relationships are so last season. However, it was radical feminists in the 1970s onwards that developed the notion of non-monogamy as a way to challenge patriarchal heterosexuality. The definition of polyamory as "ethical non-monogamy" currently doing the rounds sticks in my craw. Non-monogamy was deeply ethical. One could have as many sexual partners as desired but everything was honest and above board, with no one being deceived.
The type of non-monogamy radical feminists developed and practised involved no men. We were all lesbians starting off on a fairly equal playing field. Some of us involved with leftwing politics had previously been witness to or victims of men who had sexual access to as many women as they wanted, while women waited for her one partner to get round to paying her attention. In the meantime, women were pitted against each other while the men played a subtle game of divide and rule, and there were plenty of women to do the washing, childcare and provide emotional and sexual support for these oh-so alternative men. ...
A new dating website called CHRISTIANSwingers is sending ripples throughout the Christian community for offering "faithful couples" the opportunity to "hookup" with each other. One mental health professional warns the practice will lead to nothing but "pain."
The oxymoronic website brazenly declares that it was "designed to cater to the needs of those like you: devout Christian couples who still want to have an active love life and share it with another, in good faith!"
Before it details its mission, however, the website attempts to make a connection with visitors by justifying the lifestyle.
"For Christian Swingers things are not easy – often other religious people judge you, out of ignorance or envy, telling you that your lifestyle and love practices are wrong," begins the opening paragraph of the pitch.
"But the Bible teaches us 'Judge not lest ye be judged' and there's that verse about the first stone… but if you're keen on keeping your privacy, well – yours, and don't want your friends, coworkers, other PTA members or just about anyone else to know that you don't have a problem with faith and enjoying free love with other couples, this site can help you!" it boasts.
"Skip the swingers' club and meetings where you can be seen and avoid bad reputation – your personal life is something shared between you and our partner; other couples willing to join you are probably having the same problems. Visiting this site might change your life for the better," it adds.
But Louise Nielsen, a licensed Christian counselor and mental health professional of At The Crossroads Inc., dismissed the proposal as not only indecent but unbiblical and dangerous.
"Having been to seminary as well as being trained as a licensed mental health counselor, and as a Christian, it is unbiblical, it is sinful," Nielsen told The Christian Post on Thursday.
"God doesn't stop loving anyone, but it is not a behavior that is in anyway appropriate for Christians or for anyone else. It's just not. I feel sad for the people who are involved in it. I have never seen it result in anything but pain in a marriage," she noted. "It is not something that can be endorsed in a Christian context at all."
On a Facebook page promoting the concept of Christian swingers, some Christians are also airing their disapproval of the practice.
"Whoa to you sons and daughters of Satan.....many will stand before the Lord and say Lord Lord, did we not do this and that in your name.........thou shalt burn in the fires of eternity....No adulterer and no Liar will enter the Kingdom of God," wrote Peter Clarke on the page.
So much new love and sex is thriving in the four-person, two-couple pod profiled on Showtime’s reality series Polyamory: Married and Dating. Tonight’s Season 2 premiere is something of a cram session to catch us up: Kamala is dating her business partner Jason, who is 10 years her junior. Michael, Kamala’s husband, has been dating Rachel for a few months. This is his first lover outside of the pod, and Kamala is “pretty thrilled” about that. Their lovers, Jen and her husband Tahl, have been living with Michael and Kamala for about a year, nearly as long as Jen's been dating Jesse. Tahl’s new girlfriend is named Tziporah, whom Tahl describes as “my little Spanish gypsy, she’s just cute.” Tahl is also out this season as bisexual. “This is who I am. I’m a bisexual poly man,” he beams.
Like most reality television shows, Polyamory documents (ostensibly self-directed) stories woven out of interpersonal relationships. As always, certain personality types serve as perpetual plot generators. The collective capacity of Polyamory's core four to explore the depths of their polyamorous configuration, while remaining committed to each other, is as infinite as a Real Housewife’s ability to find haters, circumstances to be offended by, and meals to spoil.
But on Polyamory, the results are largely of joy and self-discovery, not turmoil and drama. Sure, jealousy tiptoes into the bedroom, boundaries are trampled, and certain sexual encounters turn out to be awkward stumbles. But for the most part, these people are having a great time. And why shouldn’t they? They get home from work and there’s a party waiting for them.
As in last season, the sex within (and without) the group is portrayed in a frequently cut, split-screen, and softcore Real Sex-esque manner. It's as potentially giggle-provoking as the phrase "making love"—a favorite euphemism on the show. But unless you are for some reason unable to access the Internet and a 14-year-old boy, you don't watch Polyamory for the sex scenes. You watch it for the conversations. What Polyamory captures so precisely is the joy of talking about sex—the great American pastime of sitting down with friends (or lovers) and unpacking whatever crazy relationship situation you find yourself in at any given moment.
There's a particular exhilaration when it comes to polyamory because there's no normative model, nor could there be. The complex interplay of feelings and comfort levels expands and alters as more people are added to the mix. A new consensus dictates new rules. And even as you determine how everything fits in the first place, you find yourself relating to society hand-in-hand-in-hand—a different way of presenting all together. My own limited but intense experiences with polyamory since the last season of this show aired made me feel like a virgin. Everything was new—worth exploring, discussing, and examining. Everything was fascinating. To consume love in such quantities is to remind yourself of capable you are as a human of generating seemingly infinite joy.
There’s always the threat, of course, of being consumed, of getting so caught up that you slip out of sync with the fellow wheels of your great love expedition. More fraught than the quad-pod is the almost impossibly attractive trio joining the show this season—mixed-martial arts-studio owner Chris, his wife and pole-dancing school owner Leigh Ann, and their girlfriend of three years, Megan. (Last season’s similarly structured “triad” of Anthony, Lindsey and Vanessa are nowhere to be found.) “I feel like an outsider in my own marriage,” laments Leigh Ann, whose studio work regularly pulls her out of the group. While the foursome is a lot looser about extra-pod play, this trio has stricter rules and is much less forgiving about breaking them. There’s no right way to conduct a polyamorous relationship, but the there are a lot of wrong ways. ...