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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Poly community.

I have talked before about involvement in the Poly community. Going to parties, participation on message boards, attending socials, etc. Now I would like to ask for ideas.

There has been a bit of chatter in my area lately about creating a new Poly group to have meetings for discussion of Poly topics and general socialization with other Poly folks. We have had a couple of groups in the past which have struggled with both leadership and locations. The new group being suggested will have completely new leadership so that problem will be avoided. But location is still a concern.

In the past groups often average 12 to 15 people and sometimes almost 30. Obviously this makes having the meetings in someones living room almost impossible. Groups have also tried community centers that are alternative lifestyle friendly but those options have mostly disappeared due to business closures and the economy. Coffee shops are the most recent venue but often they don't have a good space for 12-15 people to sit as a group and the lack of privacy is concerning to some folks.

Help! Do you attend poly discussion or other events in your area? Where do you meet? Ideally space would be free or very low cost, private or semi-private, and alternative lifestyle friendly. Ideas I've seen that were dismissed are public library's, community centers, and church spaces.

Any ideas you might have would be appreciated!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Canadian Polygamy Law Reference Case

Opening arguments in the Canadian Polygamy Law Reference Case started on Monday (11.22.10) and are already looking quite interesting. (Reference Trial of s. 293 to test its constitutionality. s.293 is the Canadian law that bans polygamy).

The following blog by Nancy Mereska is so far covering the case nicely. Nancy has a seat in the courtroom and is apparently taking some awesome notes which she is then posting to the blog.
Stop Polygamy in Canada

Day 2 of the case got more interesting with B.C. Attorney General Mr. Craig Jones' opening statement including the sentence "Polygamy must be restricted to polygyny and not polyandry, polyamory, etc."

Theories are flying at why that statement would be included with some believing it a setup for failure of the criminal code. Stating it is okay for women to have multiple marriages but not men is an interesting if not blatantly discriminatory statement that has me wondering if there is still some misunderstanding of terms, the issues, or both.

Either way this is truly shaping up to be the show to watch for those interested in or practicing alternative lifestyles!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving with the Poly's!

Well it is that time of year again. Turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and all the other yummy Thanksgiving food. Black Friday and shopping until you can't stand anymore. The rush to get the Christmas presents, the tree up and decorated, lights stapled to the house. Finishing the last minute wrapping then shredding the wrapping to get to all the goodies. And finally, a big alcohol laden party to ring in a new year. Tons of fun, right!?

For polyamorists it also brings up some other things to deal with. How do you arrange time with your loves during the holidays? If you aren't *out* to everyone how will that work? And if you are out, is your family accepting enough to have you show up with your husband on one arm, your girlfriend on the other? And if you are traveling to be with family how will they accommodate the three of you? Are they aware you all share the same bed, or will they assume separate bedrooms are the order of the day?

Let's start with a simple one. You are invited to your sisters house for Thanksgiving. You are married so the expectation is you will bring your hubby. But you are poly, out to your family, and your sister makes it clear that your boyfriend is not welcome. It is a family event after all. You argue, maintaining that the Indians who dined with the Pilgrims so long ago were polyamorous so why not accept your boyfriend in the spirit of the holiday? (I'm kidding about the Indians. I have no idea if they were poly or not).

Though it would be tempting to tell your sister where she can stick that overcooked, dried out turkey leg, restrain yourself. Remember, this is your family. Even though they may try to accept your lifestyle, they may not understand it. Don't rush to tell her you won't be coming if your entire extended poly family can't come with you. And I would strongly caution you against just showing up with your poly family in tow.

Instead I would suggest letting your sister know you will come but may leave early so that you can spend time with all of the loved ones in your family. Or that you may show up late for the same reason. I might also GENTLY let her know that although she doesn't recognize your boyfriend as a member of the family, he is a part of the family to you and is expected to be a loved one for a long time. Sooner or later she will likely have a relationship with him. Does she really want it to start on a bad note?

Something I try to keep in mind during the holiday's is respect for the person hosting the event. The bottom line; it is their house, their rules. They can decide who they invite and who they don't. I don't have to like it, but I do have to respect it. And really, is it fair to get angry with them for not wanting your extended poly family in attendance? Turn that around. Would it be okay for them to be angry at you because you are poly? If you don't like their rules then you host Thanksgiving next year. Then you can make the rules.

Another thing I try to remember is that polyamory is about love. If I'm not spending the holiday's with family because I'm upset or angry, is that the spirit of the season? Is it the spirit of poly? For me it isn't. I have to live my life so I'll arrive late, leave early, or celebrate on different days. But I'll somehow find a way to love everyone in my family for the holiday's. I hope you can find a way as well!

On a side note, go back and look at the picture of a turkey above. Why did we ever decide such a weird looking bird would be good to eat?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Come together!

Polyamory is different from monogamy. That didn't surprise you did it? The people who practice polyamory are different from others as well. That shouldn't be a big surprise either. One of the things I enjoy about polyamory is the variety it brings to my life. Not that one of my partners is better than the other, but that I can appreciate their differences.

At a poly event the other night I was enjoying catching up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while, getting to know some newer friends better, and making even more new friends. That's when it struck me that polyamory hasn't just expanded the variety of my love life but that it has expanded other aspects of my life as well. There were people at the event that I never would have met except for polyamory. And there were people who on a normal day would probably never socialize, or possibly even tolerate one another, except for polyamory.

I'm a fairly conservative person in everyday life. Some of that is for the protection of my kids, and some of it is because I like my private life private. Yes, I may look like a Republican on the outside but ask any of my partners and they will be happy to tell you that is not at all how my life looks once I walk in the door of my home and most definitely is not representative of me behind the bedroom door.

As for the rest of the folks at the poly event:
-Several goth types who enjoy fetish clubs.
-A wiccan, or two, or more.
-A bi-female who hates to be labeled a bi-female and favors corsets.
-A cross-dresser or two.
-A medicinal marijuana stoner who dabbles in art and music and has taken marijuana appreciation to impressive levels.
-A bi-female metal guitarist.
-An accountant by day, BDSM playboy by night.
-An alternative lifestyle therapist who enjoys dressing provocatively and her blue collar hubby who looks a lot like another Republican.
-A heavily inked and pierced dom and her long-term boyfriend (playtoy?).
-A lawyer
And an assortment of other folks whom I couldn't begin to classify.

As I looked around at this group I was truly impressed at the variety. To think that such a widely differing group of people could be brought together by their desire to love more than one person in their life amazes me. At the same time it made me realize how these different people have educated me, broadened my horizons, gently prodded me to explore and press boundaries, and accepted one another because of their lifestyle choice. Does that happen with monogamy? Could I walk up to someone completely outside my social class, with a contradictory type of life and say "Hi. I'm monogamous." and strike up a conversation based on the commonality of our both being monogamous? I seriously doubt it. I think they would look at me funny and walk away. That's just one more reason I know polyamory is right for me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Poly will save the world!

Surprising as it may be, I'm a bit of a sci-fi movie fan. I love aliens, other worlds, space exploration, all that yummy stuff. Even more, I'm a huge End Of The World (EOTW) scenario nut. Something about EOTW movies and books that entrances me. I love digesting them, then dissecting them. Exploring all the "what if's?" and even extrapolating from the books and movies what will happen even further down the road.

Being such a big EOTW fan I watch just about every movie even remotely related to the subject that I can find. And I have also noticed a trend.

In a lot of EOTW books and movies after the decimation of most of the global population where groups of people come together there are almost always physical unions made rather quickly. I say "unions" because in some instances there are actual marriages, many instances the unions are a product of love, and in others they are simply out of convenience. Most of the time these unions are incidental to the plot with the exception of romances which are sometimes integral.

More daring EOTW films and books will touch on the subject of repopulation. The way to rebuild is to repopulate right? They may even suggest that people should make unions to begin repopulating the world. Even casual unions are acceptable.

The most adventurous of the EOTW scenarios however are much more direct. They not only recommend repopulation, but strongly encourage it. They are open about the idea that repopulation is necessary and the more partners a woman has the better the probability of pregnancy. Multiple partners are generally accepted. Small groups with skewed gender proportions often stimulate multiple partner activity even more when there is a large proportion of males to females.

It also helps that in most EOTW scenarios the surviving population would resort to martial law, bartering, and in general survival of the fittest. Males quickly become dominant and women often become prey. It makes sense that a woman would partner with the strongest available male, trading up frequently, until she felt protected. Partnering would be a means to survival.

Which leads me to the question; Is everyone Poly after the world population is decimated? After watching a few hundred films and reading a dozen books, most fiction of course, it sure looks that way. To me, it even makes some sense. But accepting that concept leads me to another question; Does how we expect to act after an EOTW event possibly indicate how we have acted in the past? Does it support theories that humans, or maybe I should say our caveman ancestors, were polyamorous? That we, humans, have suppressed our natural instinct for polyamory because of social and moral evolution?

Or is it simply that we are now intelligent enough and so dependent on a populated world, on other people to be around us and help us, that we know repopulation after the EOTW is necessary by any means including multiple-partner relationships?

What do you think? After the EOTW when you find yourself among the ten percent that survive will you do whatever you must to help repopulate the world?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Polyamory makes everything okay!

Somehow I ran across this CraigsList ad the other day:

Free bdrm for Polyamory Female (las vegas)

Date: 2010-11-08, 5:30AM PST
Reply to: see below


The title says it all so call if this is for U ladies for appointment to live in a 5000sqft luxury home.

Seriously? Maybe I'm reading a bit much into the ad but to me it says "If some hot chick wants to have sex with me she can live in my huge beautiful house rent free because I'm wealthy. She can even have other boyfriends if she wants."

Am I reading to much into it? Okay fine, maybe what it really means is, "I think poly people rock so I really want to help some poor poly girl with a free place to live since I'm wealthy. And knowing she is poly she is welcome to have other guys come over whenever she wants and of course I won't want a relationship with her at all."

Ya right. This is some poor schmuck who can't figure out how to get a girlfriend and figures that maybe if he lets one live in his house free, and lets her know she can still date other men, that she will take him up on the offer and he might get lucky. That or maybe he is a player and wants a live in playtoy while he dates other women too. Either way the ad screams "desperation" to me.

What I guess I'm really curious about though is whether there are women out there who would ever answer such an ad. To me it seems shady and sleazy on the surface, potentially dangerous and destructive underneath. Personally I can think of a lot of other ways of finding a relationship, or just sex, before responding to an ad like that.

Something else it says to me is that there is an opinion out there in the ether, hopefully not widespread, that poly women are "easy". Heck, just tell one she can have free room and board and she will be your partner right? I really don't think that is a prevalent opinion, and I hope it never is. I know the poly women I hang around with wouldn't fall into the "easy" category by a long shot.

What do you think of that ad? Am I reading it wrong?

If nothing else I hope it gives you a chuckle like it did me!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Border crossing.

Lines. Everybody has them and they all seem to be different.

Think about office supplies. Most people know it is fairly common for office supplies to be "stolen". Some people think taking a stapler is no big deal, to others it is a crime. Some will take anything they can get their hands on, others think even the removal of a single piece of paper is theft.

What about relationship lines?

A partner of mine and I have each run into something of a moral dilemma recently that has made us question our relationship lines. We have each become interested in someone who is not poly and already in a relationship. For myself, the person of interest is married. For my partner, the person of interest is in a committed relationship and lives with their partner. The people we have been interested in have both made it clear they are not poly, not really interested in becoming poly, but would like to have an affair without their partner knowing.

My partner initially refused to even consider having an affair with someone we will call Lucy. Being friends with Lucy, my partner heard a lot about Lucy's failing relationship. How they weren't having sex and the relationship appeared to be more of a financial arrangement than a love situation. Of course, my partner knew they were only getting one side of the story and probably not the whole picture. After spending some time around Lucy, my partner realized most of the story was true but still held fast and refused the affair. Before long Lucy found someone else to have an affair with but was still interested in an affair with my partner.

For me, the person of interest we will call Ethel is an old friend whom I dated in High School. Having recently become reacquainted we found that we still have strong chemistry. As with Lucy, Ethel tells of how her marriage is loveless. She is unhappy but stays because of the children. But again, that is only one side of the story. I have made it clear to Ethel that I cannot have a physical relationship with her without the consent of her husband. Like Lucy, Ethel has had affairs with others. Making things even more challenging is that I run into Ethel at play parties.

My partner and I both have the strong conviction that all parties involved know what is happening with the relationships. We don't want to help others cheat, regardless of whether they are Poly. But holding that moral ground becomes difficult when we see the people we are interested in cheating anyway. While discussing our situations my partner and I both thought; if they are going to cheat on their partner anyway then would I really be helping them cheat? Obviously that question ignores our morality and instead provides us a reason to do something that may be against our morality. But it leads to the bigger question of where the morality lines are drawn.

At what point in a moral dilemma is your morality transferred to another party?

Let's talk about Ethel again for a minute. My morality says I can't sleep with her if her husband doesn't know because that is cheating and it is wrong. But wait, I'm not having a relationship with Ethel's husband so why do I have to abide by relationship rules I can only assume he has in place? I've never spoken to him so maybe he doesn't care about monogamy. And again, I'm not in a relationship with him so why do I have to abide by any rules he may or may not have anyway? I'm wanting a relationship with Ethel so as long as she agrees to sleep with me I'm not morally doing anything wrong. She may be cheating and breaking a morality based agreement with her husband, but I'm not. And what about Ethel cheating on him regardless of whether it is with me or someone else. In that scenario would it be better if she cheated with me since I care about her instead of someone just out for meaningless sex? Maybe morality at that point suggests I should sleep with her for her own safety. (Ok, the last one was a bit of a joke).

I know what you are thinking; morality is morality and if you know it is wrong you shouldn't do it nor should you try to justify doing it by placing the morality on someone else. Now, before you start throwing stones I want you to think about some things.

Have you ever known anyone who was planning to commit a crime? Even a small one like TP'ing a house with toilet paper? (Yes, TP'ing is illegal). Maybe you have even TP'd a house yourself. Did you call the police on the person? Did you turn yourself in? Why not? You know it was wrong and I'm assuming since you are capable of reading this article you know right from wrong, which is morality.
Ever broken something and hidden the fact you broke it? Maybe a dish, or a piece of your Mom's jewelry? Maybe you dented Dad's car with a baseball? Why did you hide it? Again, you knew it was morally wrong to hide it but you did anyway.
Is it because those examples are minor you did nothing? But cheating on a partner is serious, right? Wait, is it serious? Maybe to you it is but to them it isn't. To assume cheating is serious for everyone is imparting your morality on them. Do you have the right to decide which morals can be broken for everyone and which can't?

Weigh in people. Where are your moral lines? How or where would you draw them in the examples I've given?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Normal polyform.

In geek-land, particularly database geek-land, there is a concept called Normal Form that defines how data in a relational database is stored to provide for the most logical configuration with the least amount of data duplication or for the most efficient access. There have been books written on the subject that work wonderfully as sleep aids if you are interested. I tell you this because I thought the title of this article was a cute play on the term and you should know. I'm done geeking now. Maybe.

Sometime ago I was helping a couple having some problems. The woman was a long time poly practitioner and the man was not. He was however very in touch with himself and his feelings yet couldn't understand why he was experiencing certain feelings about polyamory and his partner. In an attempt to help them both understand what might be happening we discussed a theory I have had for a long time. I don't remember how or when I first imagined the theory, and it very well may not be completely mine but, rather the mutated offspring of a college psychology class. And I warn you, unless you are interested in psychology (as I am) you may hate reading some of this stuff.

The theory, which uses another term since I haven't come up with my own yet, is called Formative Norms.
To put the formative norms concept simply: When you are young your brain makes connections between actions you see from others and develops assumptions about why those things happen. They are then reinforced when you test the assumption with positive feedback and acceptance from others. Or, they can be destroyed by negative feedback and disapproval from others. Once the connection is made in the brain, such as the belief in monogamy, related behavior is then modified to support the connection that was made. Such as: Monogamy is good so cheating must be bad. Further relative behavior adaptations would be something like: Cheating will get me in trouble, I will lose my monogamous relationship which is good, so I better not cheat or I better hide it well.

The result is a psyche that is made up of millions of little norms or rules that support one another with the basic concept supporting all those rules. Some of the little rules can be changed but to change the basic concept (norm) that created all those little rules can cause serious problems. Think of a computer; everything depends on the electrical plug. You can change programs on the computer but if you pull that plug (which we will call monogamy here) the whole computer ceases to function. The same can happen with a brain but since there is no plug to pull the brain won’t shut down. Instead it will refuse to change the basic norm (monogamy) and instead try to change all the little rules supporting the basic norm. Such as: Monogamy as the basic rule is still good but now I learn it is okay to sleep with others, so cheating is okay.

Notice I didn’t end with "sleeping with others is okay" I ended with "cheating is okay". The little rule "cheating is bad" was changed to "cheating is okay". The result is that the basic rule that "monogamy is good" still remains. We are just supporting it differently.

Now, I’m not saying the basic norm can’t be changed. What I’m saying is that changing that basic norm first requires re-writing all the rules supporting it, then it can be modified. But it takes a lot of time, a lot of patience, willingness of the person to accept change, and their ability to comprehend the change to their most basic psyche. A lot of work!

This theory, to me at least, explains why some people who were raised to believe monogamy was "the one true way" have a hard time accepting the concept of polyamory. Even those who were raised monogamously but want to try poly and understand it, because of the Formative Norms theory, may have difficulty.

What do you think of this theory? Does it help to understand psychology around monogamy and polyamory and explain the actions and feelings of some, or did I once again get lost off the reservation?

Friday, November 5, 2010

It means what?

A while back Mistress Matisse wrote a piece for "the Stranger" titled "The Great Polyamory vs. Polyfuckery Debate". Find the article here if interested:

Alan of Polyamorous Percolations of course commented on his own blog "I hope she was just having a pissy day. . ." See Alan's related blog post here if interested:

Basically Matisse seemed to be complaining that purist groups have formed who believe there is one true and right way to do Polyamory and anyone not doing it that way is wrong. She seems to be frustrated that using the term Polyamory makes her a target for these purists so instead she will use the term Nonmonogamy. But, she doesn't seem happy with the negative connotations around that word either.

Alan in his post pretty much said he didn't see the problem as Matisse did, and quoted some pretty good resources for his feeling that way.

I tend to fall somewhere in the middle with this one. That may sound vanilla but give me a second and you will find I do have a strong opinion.

I have heard the purists and myself have been one at times so I haven't had the same experiences as Alan who doesn't see the "One True Way putdowns" as he says. At the same time I think Matisse (and others) may have helped to create her own problem. (I say "may" because I don't know her personally. Given her psuedonym, I probably don’t care to either).

Here is what I think is going on. There are people out there who believe strongly in Polyamory. Call them purists if you like but what they believe is in the literal meaning of the word; multiple loves. When they see others using the word Polyamory to describe behavior like Swinging, Open Relationships, etc. they stand up and say "No, that isn't Polyamory" and end up looking like the purists mentioned in the quoted articles. What they are doing is trying to protect their lifestyle, and the word Polyamory, from corruption. Personally I don't see anything wrong with that. Think about it for a minute. If there were a lot of people practicing relationship designs with ethics different from the literal meaning of the word Polyamory, but using the word to describe their relationships, the literal meaning of Polyamory would be lost. The word would become commonly associated with a bunch of different relationship models. Not all of those models could be considered ethically or morally less desirable than Polyamory, but then again they could.

Take another look at things. Say gay rights are finally fully realized giving gay people the protections and rights they have always wanted. Gay is (roughly) two men in a relationship or two women in a relationship. Now let us pretend the BDSM community wanted those same rights and began presenting themselves as gay to get them. It wouldn't be right would it? Gay people would probably be up in arms appearing as "purists" and speaking out against the BDSM folks. In some ways, though that was an extreme example, I think that is what a lot of the Poly "purists" are doing. They don't want to end up with a default association to a group that practices an ethically, morally, or completely different type of Polyamory than is commonly practiced and understood to be Polyamory.

Speaking from my own experiences, when I have spoken up and defended Polyamory as a "purist" it hasn't been to promote the lifestyle, it has been to make it clear how I practice Polyamory or to differentiate myself from others. For example the following conversation;
Me "I am Polyamorous".
Her "Oh, so you want to marry a bunch of women".
Me "No hon, that is Polygamy" and then I explain my idea of Polyamory and the difference from Polygamy.

Does that make me a purist? Not by a long shot. I believe there are many forms of Polyamory but Polygamy doesn't fit my definition. That said, there are plenty of folks out there who believe Polygamy falls under the umbrella definition of Polyamory. I'm one of them. But I sure as heck am going to explain to someone I have that conversation with that my Polyamory is different from Polygamy because I don't want to get labeled or grouped in with Polygamists.

Now, at the same time I do believe there is a fine line between defending yourself, correcting misconceptions, and preaching a "One True Way" to do things. I have heard plenty of Polyfolk defend themselves and correct misconceptions but I rarely hear the One True Way types saying there is only one way to practice Polyamory.

Should a basic, common understanding of Polyamory be defended? I think so. I believe it necessary to lend credibility to the lifestyle. Should a one true way be assigned to the word Polyamory? In my mind no, because it invalidates the very word by doing so.

Chime in, what are your thoughts on this one?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Conversion or subversion?

There are many arguments about how long Polyamory has been alive. Some claim it has been around forever with beginnings in the animal kingdom. Others believe it was a child of the 60's that came into awareness in the 70's. And even others, I'm somewhat in this camp, believe it is still evolving. What they don't really disagree on is that the number of practicing Polyamorists is fairly low. Throw a rock in a crowd and you will likely hit a monogamous person. Throw 10 rocks in the same crowd and it is possible you will never hit a Polyamorist. Apply these odds to dating and a question or method is born; conversion.

I have known a few people who openly state they will try to convert monogamous people to polyamory. I've known a few more who will tell you they are open to dating monogamous people because "You just never know". I have even met a few who seem to think that converting anyone and everyone they can get their hands on to Polyamory is their lot in life.

I'm not convinced that conversion is the way to go. I've dated my share of monogamous people and even tried it myself for a time. When I was lucky the relationships ended quietly with both of us acknowledging the fact that we had incompatible lifestyles. When I wasn't lucky things blew up and love was replaced by bad feelings and even hatred.

Does it make sense to date a monogamous person in the hopes of converting them to Polyamory?

The downside, as I mentioned, is the relationship blowing up in your face. Assuming it blows up, if you are lucky it will happen soon. If you aren't lucky you may struggle for years before finally being forced to admit defeat. One or both of you may struggle with serious jealousy issues. Trying to solve those may result in the creation of rules designed to protect feelings and one or both of you may find the rules difficult or impossible to follow. Or you may try to take things as they come resulting in a pattern of highs and lows, giddy good times and turbulent bad times.

The upside is that you could end up with a perfectly wonderful relationship. Making a guess, by the time that happens you will have been through a lot with your new partner which would hopefully make for a fairly solid relationship.

Because I don't believe trying to convert people is a good way to go my approach is a bit different. I will date a monogamous person but with certain conditions. They must understand very clearly that I am polyamorous and that won't change. I am also very clear that if their monogamy begins to effect my other relationships that will be the end. And if I feel our relationship is hurting them morally or emotionally I will probably want to end the relationship. I also won't be a dirty secret for anyone. Spouses or other partners will need to know about and bless our relationship. If any of those things don't fit, aren't agreeable, or I don't get a sincere feeling from the other person about them I will not get involved with them. Often when I date a monogamous person I take the relationship at a very slow pace. If at any point things don't feel right I will stop and talk with them about what is happening to determine if we want to continue the relationship.

Where are you at with conversion? Good idea? Bad idea? Have you ever tried it or been the subject of a conversion?