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Articles tagged with: Polyamory

"EXAMINING THE OPEN RELATIONSHIP"

on Wednesday, 20 July 2016. Hits 149

6 ways to determine if an open relationship is for you...

JET

BY JAZZ KEYES

At the peak of racial and social trauma in the world, one could argue that the last thing society should be concerned with is who or how many people a person decides to love. Yet, sex still stands to be one of the most taboo topics in our culture. Many will reject the idea that a person can love many, but for those who choose to live this lifestyle, their decision is supported by numerous benefits.

I would have purchased front row tickets to see the reactions on people’s faces as they watched world-renowned comedian, actress, and mother, Mo’Nique boast proudly about her open marriage. In a society that promotes monogamy and marriage, the boldness it takes to hold hands on a Christian-based television show and unapologetically declare that you have chosen a nontraditional arrangement should be praised.

As a proclaimed free spirit, I honor everyone’s right to choose a life and love of that is pleasing to them. I’ve both cheated and been cheated on. I’ve been in love, and still desired the conversation, affection, or time of other people. As a woman who has done all of these things, I wonder if Mo’Nique and her husband are valid in believing that it’s best to have an open relationship.

Polyamory is defined as the desire to have more than one intimate partner. I wonder if polyamorous relationships are a relief to all the difficulties that come with monogamous relationships, or would having more than one partner only complicate things on the home front?

While many will squirm at the idea of an open relationship, I think it’s worth examining. Those who practice a non-monogamous lifestyle would argue there are multiple benefits to open relationships including:

Strengthened Communication

At the core of a polyamorous relationship is the need for strong communication. Polyamorous relationships require constant open dialogue, truthfulness, and the consideration of your partner’s feelings. The constant exchange increases trust between partners, and the free flowing transparency gives permission for emotions to be addressed in a healthy way. Polyamory allows partners to openly express their attractions, desires, wishes and needs all in a way that minimizes unhealthy emotions like insecurity and jealously that is often present in more traditional unions.

You Stop Demanding Perfection in One Person

We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. It suggests that we will never get 100% of what we need from our partners. The friction occurs when we give more attention to the 20% we don’t receive. In monogamous relationships, you simply learn to appreciate what you do have, instead of focusing on the 20% you are not receiving. In poly relationships however, instead of going without a portion of what you need in order to experience complete satisfaction, you and your partner seek 100% satisfaction by connecting with more than one person.

It’s Not All about Sex

Most rush to judgment when it comes to polygamous relationships. Despite what the consensus may be, these relationships are less about sex and more about developing healthy, rich connections with people. Polyamorous relationships allow you the freedom to exchange energy and build healthy, empowering friendships with people who serve to connect you to your higher self. These connections may never lead to sexual intimacy. ...

"Polyamorous in Portland: the city making open relationships easy"

on Tuesday, 19 July 2016. Hits 189

In Portland, Oregon – one of America’s most sexually tolerant cities – it seems you can’t throw a stone without finding a consensual non-monogamous relationship

The Guardian

by Melanie Sevcenko

hen Franklin Veaux was 10 years old, his elementary school English teacher read his class a story about a princess being wooed by two princes. “I thought, princesses live in castles, and castles are big enough for all three of them, so why does she have to choose one?” he said.

 

Throughout his life, Franklin – now 50 and living in Portland, Oregon – has never chosen one. In fact, he’s never had a monogamous relationship in his life, even while he was married for 18 years. “Monogamy has never connected with me, it’s never made sense to me,” said Franklin, who took two dates to his high school prom and lost his virginity in a threesome.

 

Yet it wasn’t until the 1990s that he found the language to describe his lifestyle. Until then, he just considered himself “open”.

 

Polyamory is the practice of intimate relationships involving more than two people with the consent of everyone involved. In recent years, polyamory is working its way to becoming a household term. Researchers have estimated that 4 to 5% of Americans practice some form of consensual non-monogamy. A 2014 blog post by Psychology Today revealed that 9.8 million people have agreed to allow satellite lovers in their relationships, which includes poly couples, swinging couples and others practicing sexual non-monogamy.

 

And in Portland – home to swingers’ clubs, the most strip bars per capita, and annual porn festivals – it seems you can’t throw a stone without finding a poly relationship. Although there’s no official data supporting an exact number, various Meetup groups boast a few thousand members each, while other Facebook groups have hundreds.

 

“Portland is an amazing place if you’re poly, oh my god,” laughed Franklin, who is rarely seen without his bunny ears. (Given to him by a lover, he refers to the ears as “sexually transmitted”, meaning his other girlfriends now wear them too.) “It’s actually one of the most poly friendly cities I’ve been to,” he said, listing Boston, Tampa, San Francisco and Vancouver, British Columbia, as other poly hotspots. As for its social acceptability, Franklin said, “a lot of it is just exposure. It was almost impossible before the advent of the internet to find other people that were polyamorous.”

 

Polyamory in the public eye

That exposure has only risen recently. Showtime’s reality TV series, Polyamory: Married and Dating, has certainly helped herald the lifestyle into homes across the US. But this spring another show, hailed as television’s first polyromantic comedy, also launched. You Me Her follows married couple Jack and Emma – attractive, suburban and professional – as they enter into a polyamorous relationship with grad student Izzy. Unsurprisingly, the show is set in Portland.

 

“I kid that I have a Portland fetish,” said You Me Her writer and creator, John Scott Shepherd. “I just dig the city for its vibe, including the social tolerance thing, like being named the gay friendliest major city in the country.” But Shepherd said he wasn’t fully aware of Portland’s poly reputation when he chose the city for the show.

 

Since airing You Me Her, he’s been contacted by a number of members of the poly community. “They appreciated the creative decision to go with so-called ‘normal’ people who never thought they’d do something like this,” said Shepherd, whose show has been renewed for a second and third season. “That creative conceit seemed to reflect their experience: they don’t see themselves as ‘sex people’.”

 

Julie Jeske is a Portland-based counselor who works with couples identifying as poly. “Because Portland is more progressive in general, it may be easier for someone who is exploring what others may consider an alternative lifestyle,” she said. “There is more information and more support, less stigma.” ...

"What Google searches reveal about the rise of ‘open relationships’"

on Saturday, 09 July 2016. Hits 266

Fusion

By Taryn Hillin

From an early age we’re taught that “happily ever after” means falling in love, getting married, and staying with that one person forever and ever. But thanks to modern medicine, ‘til death do us part can mean shacking up with the same man or woman for five to seven decades. Sure, that might sound like heaven to some—but for others, this modern-day monogamy fairytale just isn’t realistic.

 

And so, this second group has increasingly begun to seek out other arrangements. In fact, according to new research, more and more Americans are actively Googling information about alternatives to monogamy—and 1 in 5 Americans say they’ve engaged in consensual non-monogamous relationships IRL.

 

These revelations come courtesy of Amy Moors, a researcher at the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan. Moors recently conducted a study published in the Journal of Sex Research that looked into the prevalence of Google searches involving non-monogamous relationships. Her goal was to see if searches for terms like “polyamory” and “open relationships” were increasing over time, which, of course, might indicate a growing interest in consensual non-monogamous relationships.

 

For the study, Moors analyzed 10 years of Google trends data from January 2006 to December 2015 using sets of the keywords related to polyamory, open relationships, open marriages, and swingers. In order to make sure she was looking at searches in which users had genuine interest in the topic, she also created “negative” search words to exclude certain results. For example, Moors found that a term like “open marriage” yielded a lot of results about Newt Gingrich, who famously had an affair outside his marriage. Searching celebrity gossip doesn’t really count as being interested in exploring the lifestyle, so she excluded all things Newt related (LOLz). Likewise, “open relationship” keywords also produced a plethora of Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith results—go figure!—so they were also used as exclusionary items.

 

After analyzing the data, Moors found that Google searches for terms related to polyamory and open relationships indeed rose steadily from 2006 to 2015. Interestingly, however, searches for “swingers”-related keywords fell over time. Moors hypothesizes that this is likely due to the fact that the term itself has become outdated, eliciting images of 1970s swingers parties and dropping keys in bowls. Likewise, the terms “polyamory” and “open relationship” or “open marriage” are being used more and more by media and in general discussion of the lifestyle, making them more popular contemporary terms.

Of course, Google doesn’t tell us everything. As Moors points out in her study, the search data was merely a starting point to gauge broad trends.

 

“Although the present study cannot shed light on why people are searching for more information related to polyamory and open relationships, these results do show that there is increased visibility of these types of consensual non-monogamy and likewise an interest to learn more about them,” explains Moors in the paper.

 

 

What can help us gauge interest is asking people if they’ve ever participated in a consensual non-monogamous relationship—which is exactly what Moors, along with researchers from Indiana University, did in another paper, recently published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.

 

Moors and her colleagues analyzed data collected in 2013 and 2014 by the Singles In America study, sponsored by Match.com. (Participants in the SIA study are not culled from Match.com—they are drawn from a nationally representative sample established by the firm Research Now.) In total, researchers looked at data on 8,718 participants in two different studies. The first consisted of 4,813 participants who were over the age of 21 and legally single, which means they could have been single, dating, or cohabiting but were not legally married to anyone. The second looked at an additional 3,905 participants who were over 18 and were functionally single at the time of the survey, meaning they were not seeing or dating anyone.

 

As part of the survey, all participants were asked if they “had ever had an open sexual relationship.” In the questionnaire, this was defined as “an agreed upon, sexually non-exclusive relationship.”

 

In the first study, 21.9% of participants answered yes. In the second, 21.2% of participants answered yes. Put simply? One in 5 Americans now says they have participated in a consensually non-monogamous relationship. Bazinga! ...

Guest Blog: Good At Poly?

on Monday, 04 July 2016. Hits 400

by Ruby B Johnson LCSW

“Inviting others in is the practice of accepting the discomfort of fear.”

-Ruby Johnson

 

The Myth

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:

Shaming

Unrealistic

Caustic

Not kind

 

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.

 

 

"Why So Few Lesbians and Gays in Mainstream Poly Community?"

on Saturday, 02 July 2016. Hits 296

Psychology Today

by Elizabeth Sheff

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.

 

1. Homophobia

 

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.

 

2. Objectification

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). ...

"Polyamorous relationships may be the future of love"

on Saturday, 25 June 2016. Hits 367

Love doesn’t just come in pairs. Is it time that marriage laws come to recognise the fact?

BBC

By Melissa Hogenboom / Pictures by Olivia Howitt

As a child Franklin Veaux recalls hearing his school teacher read a story about a princess who had a tantalising dilemma. Two male suitors had been wooing her and she had to choose between them. Franklin wondered why she could not choose both.

This early insight was revealing. Franklin has to this day never stuck to one relationship at a time. “I have never been in a monogamous relationship in my life. When I was in high school I took two dates to my senior prom. I lost my virginity as a threesome.”

Today he lives with his long-term girlfriend in a home he shares with her other boyfriend. Occasionally his partner’s teenage daughter also stays over. He is also in four other long-distance relationships, people he sees with varying degrees of frequency.

Franklin and his girlfriends are what’s called polyamorous or “poly” as the community tends to call it. Being poly simply means you can be in more than one relationship, with the full support and trust of however many partners they choose to have.

Polyamory does not feature in any census tick box but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is on the rise. Some are even calling for it to be recognised by law following the legalisation of gay marriage in the UK and the US. All this raises of the question of whether the future of love may be very different from our current conceptions of romance.

But love has always been the same, right? A man falls for a woman, they get married, pop out a few children and stay together in a harmonious and monogamous relationship for life.

Sorry romantics. This wasn’t, and still isn’t, always the picture of love. Polygamy – where more than one spouse is allowed – was the norm for many of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Monogamy started flourishing when our ancestors began to settle down. A preference for it then appears to have arisen, among many other reasons, for economic purposes.

As many as 83% of societies around the world allow polygamy

It made it easier for fathers to divide and share valuable commodities such as land with their children. Monogamy later got hijacked by romantic love by idealistic 19th Century Victorians. “The idea of sexual exclusivity started emerging fairly late in the game,” says professor of law Hadar Aviram at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, US.

Even today monogamy is the minority relationship style around the world. Cultural estimates suggest that as many as 83% of societies around the world allow polygamy.

True romance

Now there is a fairly new player in the relationship game, at least as far as the public are concerned. In the last two decades, sociologists, legal scholars and the public have shown great interest towards polyamory and it’s making them reassess the very nature of romance.

The word polyamory was first coined in the 1960s and literally means “many loves” in Latin. That’s exactly what it is, but talking to poly individuals makes it quickly apparent that there is no one way to be poly. There are no immediate rules. Some people, like Franklin have live-in partners with additional liaisons outside the home. Others have a mixture of short and long-term relationships.

Some live in a big group with their partners and their partner’s other partner(s), so called “family style polyamory”. You get the idea. The one thing they all have in common is openness, understanding, trust and acceptance from all involved.

As you might imagine these kinds of relationships take a lot of work to maintain, so being poly is far from an easy option. For starters, to keep more than one relationship going, small logistical matters require a lot of communication. “Our relationships are a lot more challenging,” says Eve Rickert, one of Franklin’s long distance partners and co-author of their polyamory book More than Two. ...

"The truth about life in an open relationship"

on Friday, 24 June 2016. Hits 317

For growing numbers of people, monogamy just doesn't work. So what happens when you throw out the rule book? Tanya Sweeney meets the couples in love with polyamory

Independent.ie

Much as its name suggests, polyamory is the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of everyone involved. It's a different entity to 'swinging' (which is simply sex with different partners), or having a bit on the side (most polyamorous people see their partners as equal in terms of love).

Catalina Vieru, a 29-year-old European Voluntary Service worker from Dundalk, first heard the word 'polyamory' six years ago. As it happens, she was already in an open relationship with another man.

 

"I never felt like I could be monogamous," she explains. "With my ex-partner, we decided that the safest for us would be to have a sexually open relationship, meaning that it was okay for both of us to date or have sex with others, as long as we didn't get involved emotionally.

"During that time, I started wondering about what would happen if I'd allow myself to develop feelings also.

 

"After we broke up, I started dating a woman and we talked a lot about polyamory and we started dating different people and creating different bonds. What helped a lot (and still does) was a very real, authentic communication.

"We've been together for two years," she adds. "At the moment, I am also involved with three more people and a couple, and I have a different type of connection, all very special, with each of them."

 

Certainly, Catalina could be onto something: it's not likely that one lover will fulfill all needs (romantic, intellectual, sexual, emotional), and having different lovers to fulfil different needs sounds like a good way of getting most needs met. And, contrary to popular belief, a poly relationship can be every bit as loving, honest and committed as a monogamous one.

Part of the power of polyamory, say its practitioners, is that honesty, respect and communication are paramount to keeping the wheels of the relationships greased. Polyamorous people aren't oversexed or promiscuous, and no one is cheating or coercing a partner into a relationship they don't want. There is no need for clandestine encounters or affairs, because everyone in a poly relationship is on the same page.

 

Monogamous relationships aren't without their complications, certainly, but the fact that three or more people are involved in a poly relationship means that the interpersonal combinations are plentiful.

There is a 'V' (one person is the 'hinge', and has two lovers who aren't romantically involved with each other), a 'triad' or 'quad' (a relationship between three or four people). A 'W' denotes a fivesome in which two lovers have their own separate lovers.

 

"I do believe they all have the same potential of being as honest or dishonest as the monogamous relationships," says Catalina.

"If you nurture a safe space for all the people involved to feel supported, listened to, respected and valued, then you will have a committed and honest relationship, regardless of its type."

 

IT engineer Balazs Balogh, 31, originally from Hungary but living in Galway, became aware of the concept through a web-comic, and found his mind sufficiently 'blown'.

"Up until that point I believed I came up with the whole thing, then I discovered there's a worldwide community with more or less the same idea," he explains.

 

"My first tries were far from perfect; in hindsight they were rather set up to fail as my partners weren't explicitly poly themselves while being okay with the general concept.

"That's how we learn I guess.

 

"I'm married and have two kids, so that forms a foundation to build on," he adds. "I usually meet my other partners separately, and have time dedicated just for them.

 

"We've had a partner living in with us full time for a few weeks once, and I still hold that time dear. If people would've seen it they would be surprised how 'ordinary' it all was.

"One thing that particularly stuck with me was when they were cooking together while having a chat, it was so heartwarming I could've watched them for hours. There's this saying that gets thrown around a lot by poly people that by loving more, love doesn't run out, but multiplies. I felt exactly that."

 

That's not to say that complications don't arise: "Some poly people say they just don't feel jealous and never did - God, I wish I was like that, because feeling envious or jealous is really not fun," Catalina reflects.

 

"I think most of my current partners feel the same way. Once we get emotionally involved with someone, we start feeling envious when that person is seeing other people and spends time with them. I deal with it by being very self-aware and knowing that envy appears because of my fears and it has nothing to do with my partner or their partner." ...

"The Polyamorous Christian Socialist Utopia That Made Silverware for Proper Americans"

on Thursday, 23 June 2016. Hits 242

Collectors Weekly

By Lisa Hix

e first time you heard the word “Oneida,” it was probably in the context of silverware. Perhaps it was before a Christmas dinner, when your mom or grandmother instructed you get out the “good silver” made by Oneida Limited. Even though it was only silverplate rather than sterling, your family probably stored it in a velvet-lined wooden case. Or maybe you saw an ad depicting an elegant table set with Oneida flatware while flipping through the pages of “Good Housekeeping” or “Better Homes and Gardens.” You might also have encountered Oneida while watching “The Price Is Right,” enthralled by the model wowing a studio audience when she opened a chest of gleaming Oneida cutlery for the contestants to bid on.

 

In fact, Oneida is the name of a First Nations tribe that occupied much of upstate New York long before it was called upstate New York. Given those deep roots, along with its later symbolism as the brand of flatware most associated with American middle-class aspirationalism and traditional gender roles, it’s doubly ironic that Oneida Limited actually emerged from a 19th-century polyamorous communist Christian utopia known as the Oneida Community.

 

Founded in 1848, and in operation for just over three decades, the Oneida Community was profoundly revolutionary for its time, paving the way for advances in women’s and workers’ rights. At the commune headquartered on the Oneida River in upstate New York, women cut their hair short, ditched the corset, and did the same work as the men. Everyone worked four to six hours a day, and no one accumulated any material possessions—not furniture, not fine clothing, and certainly not silverware.

 

Most scandalously, commune members engaged in a system of “complex marriage,” believing that loving, open sexual relationships could bring them closer to God. They believed the liquid electricity of Jesus Christ’s spirit flowed through words and touch, and that a chain of sexual intercourse would create a spiritual battery so charged with God’s energy that the community would transcend into immortality, creating heaven on earth.

 

Ellen Wayland-Smith, a descendant of members of the Oneida commune, delves her into family’s history in her new book, Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table. Oneida’s early enterprises included canning fruits and vegetables and manufacturing animal traps, chain link, and silk sewing thread. It was Wayland-Smith’s great-great-grandfather, Charles Cragin, who in 1877 suggested the community start making spoons at its colony in Wallingford, Connecticut, near the rushing Quinnipiac River. The original polyamorous religious commune broke up in 1880 and reorganized its assets into a corporation. In the 1890s, Oneida Community, Limited, started to drop its other products to focus on the cutlery market. For roughly 100 years, the silverware corporation—which was eventually renamed Oneida Limited—thrived under the leadership of the Community’s descendants. However, the 2000s weren’t kind to Oneida, so its executives had to file for bankruptcy in 2006 and sell the brand, which is owned by a houseware conglomerate now.

 

Wayland-Smith’s book begins in July 1948, when Oneida Limited flatware manufacturer celebrated the Community’s 100th birthday and the company’s reputation as—forgive the pun—a “sterling” example of American industry. On a grandstand outside the original community’s 93,000-square foot Victorian brick home called the Mansion House in Oneida, New York, the crowd enjoyed a soprano and organist performing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the crowning of a “Silver Queen,” and a string of circus and daredevil acts. At the end of the day, attendees danced to the music of Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra. At the festivities, the company touted its patriotism and contributions to American capitalism, as well as its devotion to social equality and the golden rule. What attendees didn’t know was that a truckload of papers documenting the Oneida Community’s spiritual-sexual experiments had—just a year before—been taken to the Oneida town dump and set on fire.

 

“The burning of the papers, which happened in 1947, included original members’ diaries, letters, and the community notes and logs in terms of their sexual practices,” Wayland-Smith explains. “All of these sensitive materials were in that collection. The Oneida descendants knew about the burning, obviously. At the time, they had people knocking at their doors, trying to get access to these papers, and they thought, ‘You know what, we’re going to put an end to this for good.’ In some ways, they were intensely private people.”

 

Fortunately for Wayland-Smith, previous Oneida chronicler Spencer Klaw, and anyone else who wants to dig into the community’s history, it wasn’t all lost. While the large archive accumulated by Oneida descendant, George Wallingford Noyes, was burned, other family members held onto diaries and letters. Those, along with the myriad publications like books and newspapers the Oneida Community put out into the world, are now housed at the Oneida Community Collection at Syracuse University.

 

Oneida began—as most utopias do—with the vision of one charismatic leader, in this case, a preacher named John Humphrey Noyes. Born to a well-off family in Putney, Vermont, in 1811, Noyes, an awkward and introverted redhead, grew up lamenting his feelings of sexual frustration. When his religiously devout mother sent him to a tent revival in fall of 1831, the 20-year-old virgin discovered he could channel all his erotic energy into Christianity. ...

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