Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan



May 27, 2015

Coming out poly while gay: "This revelation I am more fearful about"

The Guardian

The gay world is becoming less scared to show acceptance of polyamory, but it still has a ways to go. And, like straights, many still don't get the concept.

This coming-out declaration appeared yesterday on the website of the UK's big mainstream liberal newspaper. It's gotten hundreds of comments and thousands of shares and is making its way around the webs.


Dating two people at once: why I'm polyamorous and proud

Simon Copland was 16 when he came out as gay. Now – with two partners – he faces a much more difficult coming out

James, Martyn and Simon: ‘There is no limit to the amount of
love we can feel.’ (Photo: Simon Copland)

By Simon Copland

This is my coming out story. My second one. When I was 16 years old, I first came out as gay.

Coming out then was hard but this time is much harder. This revelation is something I am more fearful about, but I have to come out.

I am polyamorous.

I am dating two people at the same time – James and Martyn. They are both fully aware of and happy with the arrangement and are able to follow suit by dating or having sex with other people if they wish (as am I).

...Over the past year I have faced the same anxiety and fears as I did as a nervous gay teen. But coming out as poly has required vastly more explanation – not only have I faced the fear of people reacting badly, I have faced a barrage of questions about “how it works”. So here is the simple explanation....

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The biggest emotional challenge, however, has been the social barriers we’ve encountered. Along with the questions we’ve faced, James, Martyn and I have all faced a range of prejudice – even from those I consider to have progressive social and political values.

Unlike many others I have been very lucky. I have not lost my children, nor lost any friends or family, owing to my relationship status. But our collective coming out has been met with differing levels of hostility, derision and bewilderment.

Martyn, for example, has been told by friends that he should “be careful” that I’m not “using him”. I have had many insinuate – openly or otherwise – that I am being selfish, judging me for the way I am “treating James”. More commonly though, I have often been told how “weird” my relationships are; a subtle form of judging that follows me wherever I go.

I am not surprised by this but it hurts. And it definitely confuses. Polyamory is based on the simple principle that love is limitless. To me there is little more beautiful than that. Yet even from those who consider themselves to be “lovers, not haters” we have often faced derision and discrimination.

That is why, despite my reservations, I – like many in my community – feel an ever-greater need to be out. I write this explanation as a call to embrace poly people and our relationships....

Acceptance for me would mean making sure Martyn is treated as a full member of my family and friendship group (just as James has been), talking to me about him as one would about James, and not overwhelming me with questions about “how it works” (I don’t mind the odd question but it does get tiring). Many have already done this, but it is not something I should have to ask for. We’re not any stranger than anybody in a monogamous relationship and it would be nice to be treated like that. Relationships are infinitely diverse.

I am polyamorous and I am proud.


Read the whole article (May 26, 2015).

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May 26, 2015

A harsh rollercoaster of poly lessons: *The Husband Swap,* by Louisa Leontiades




A book is often bigger than the book itself. It may spread its ideas to millions of people who will never open it — through media coverage, author appearances, and buzz. The buzz really spreads if the book symbolizes some new idea, or discovery, or lesson that's easily talked about — boosted by media attention and the air of importance that the book's existence implies.

Louisa Leontiades
Louisa Leontiades's memoir The Husband Swap: A true story of unconventional love (second edition) has been out for less than a month, and sales can't amount to much yet. But already she has reached millions of people through media coverage of her story. More on that below.

The book's talkworthy Big Idea, however, will be quite different to different people.

Leontiades is a polyactivist writer, a widely published blogger, and chair of the National Polyamory Association in Sweden. The Husband Swap is the story of the tumultuous, catastrophically failed quad that introduced her and her husband to poly, broke four hearts and two marriages, and set her on the way toward her current joyous poly life with two men and two children.

This is Thorntree Press's heavily edited remake of the book's first edition, self-published in 2012, which was frankly an overlong first draft. As the title implies, it's the tale of two couples who combined into an unstable polycule that fissioned into two new couples flying off in different directions. Or in the poly reaction patterns described by Deborah Anapol two decades ago, a case of 2 + 2 => 2 + 2. The book unsparingly examines the volatile chemistry that took place within that reaction arrow: dazzling love, deep discovery, raging insecurities, careless bulldozing of unstated boundaries, paralyzing fear, plain nastiness (Leontiades does not spare herself in this regard), and real growth and development. This last is especially clear in the case of Louisa's nebbishy, indolent husband, who under the influence of his powerful, perfectionist bulldozer of a new partner, did a slum clearance on himself and redeveloped into the capable, successful man he should have been all along.

If you're looking for a happy poly story, this ain't it. You can see its Big Idea as being one of miserably hard trials setting brave pioneers onto better life paths with the mates they needed — or as a warning that polyamory is simply insane, and you'd be a fool to touch it.

Louisa is getting quite a bit of TV and newspaper attention, mostly in the UK where she grew up and where much of the story takes place. She is dwelling on her current excellent poly life and the message that staying true to herself and her dreams was worth it in the end.

Louisa, her current partners and daughter today. Photo: The Times (of London)

As she describes, normal people who've read the tale — or who watched the events unfold in person — were full of I-told-you-so's and are amazed that she has stuck with such a seemingly exhausting and difficult way of life. "As [a friend] trailed off trying to think of a reason [why normalcy is better]," she writes in the epilogue, "I smiled secretly to myself. You could throw anything at me now and I could undermine your argument—snap—like Miss Piggy's karate chop.

"Polyamory isn't for the faint-hearted. It can only be borne in the long term by those committed to sorting out their demons and growing almost beyond what we recognize as the basis of our humanity. But as a utopia, I still believe in it and in my life I still swear by it."

Whew.

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Selected to write the Foreword was Noel Figart, another public poly figure who came out of an exploded quad. Figart dispenses advice as The Polyamorous Misanthrope and leads the PolyFamilies Yahoo Group, which is 15 years old this month. "The love that will allow you to avoid these mistakes," she writes at the front of the book, "is a love that involves knowledge of yourself, deep understanding of your partners, a willingness to set appropriate boundaries and a huge helping of honesty — starting with yourself.

"The polyamorous community often hears that polyamory isn't easy. That's a bit disingenuous. The reality is that good relationships of any sort aren't easy. It's not necessarily that the relationships are work. It's that good relationships require you to ruthlessly and tirelessly work on yourself.

"Read this book carefully. There are excellent lessons in it, like a lovely coral reef below turbulent waves."

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Louisa's epilogue to The Husband Swap wasn't enough of an epilogue; there was still too much tumult. So she was moved to write a chapter-by-chapter companion guidebook to this edition: Lessons in Love and Life to My Younger Self. It's available as an e-book; the print edition comes out this fall.


Here she speaks across seven years to her beloved former self, like a mother to a child in a dark place, who of course cannot hear — not so much advising about the specific incidents in each chapter, but how to be the better, more insightful kind of person who would have known better the ways to navigate herself and shape her utopia.

The two books are so closely interrelated that I wish they were bound together. The next printing of The Husband Swap cries out to be one of those double-sided, turn-it-over books. The kind with the front and back being the front covers of two books, each ending where you hit the end of the other one printed upside down. At any point you can turn the book over like a stone, top to bottom, and read inward from the other front. The convenience of having the seven-years-later chapter reflections right at hand would be nice — but the symbolism of physically turning over the story, back and forth, would be arresting.

---------------------------

Okay, now about that media coverage. To help me get this piece posted, Thorntree Press co-publisher Eve Rickert and associate editor Roma have shared their record of the book's publicity so far. Here it is (with a few additions):

News Stories

● Polyamory - I love you, you and you, Lea Sauer, Café Babel, October 14, 2014.

Summary: Introduces poly to a new audience. Quotes from Louisa and Christopher Gottwald, the spokesperson for the Polyamorous Network of Germany.

Quote: “A large revolution of love will likely not take place. Monogamy is the standard and will most likely remain that way for a long time. And that's also okay. Polyamorists, after all, aren't fighting against monogamy, but rather — according to Leontiades and Gottwald — for the "freedom to decide for oneself." What's most important is tolerance and acceptance for all forms of relationships. Whether monogamous or polyamorous, open or strictly faithful. After all, a little bit of openness never hurt anyone.”


● What this woman learned from opening her marriage to another couple, Dina Rickman, website of The Independent, UK. May 1, 2015.

Summary: Interview with Louisa, asking general questions about poly and other people’s perception of it. Also gives a short summary of the book.

Quote (from Louisa): “For those it offends, any change or any difference in lifestyle or inclination that threatens the norm does threaten the establishment. Many of the minority movements have basically the same battle, where their choices, simply by being different have threatened other people’s sense of their own rightness. The mind sometimes equates being right with surviving, in order to survive people like to be right.”


● The polyamorist’s diary: why I agreed to a ménage à quatre, Carol Midgley, The Times (of London), April 27, 2015. Behind paywall. Comments Louisa, "After the sensationalism, not a bad framing of polyamory."


● Interview with This Morning on ITV (UK), May 5, 2015.

The video is only viewable in the UK, but from the opening: “To most, the thought of their other half making love to someone else is unthinkable. But to Louisa Leontiades it's a pre-requisite.”



Summary: A written version of the This Morning interview. Sensationalist.  Has incorrect stuff, says Louisa.


● Me & my two boyfriends, The Sun (UK), Feb. 2, 2015. Behind paywall.

Summary: A sweet article filling a two-page spread in the print issue.

Quote: ‘When my boyfriend Christian and I arrive at the school gates to pick up my five-year-old daughter Freya, she shouts: ‘My mummy’s here! Oh and look, there’s Christian, Mummy’s special friend!’
The other parents don’t bat an eyelid, although I don’t know what they say behind closed doors. This is because I make no secret of the fact I’m in a committed relationship with not only the father of my children, Gosta, but also Christian, who I’ve been seeing for 18 months.


● Polyamour en Suède: mieux aimer... à plusieurs? French article and video; Géopolis, February 14, 2015.

Summary: Looks like a description of Louisa’s life with her two partners and children. Includes a quote from Christian’s mother (rough translation): “This is simply a way to start a family. They love each other. Christian and Gosta are friends; Louisa loves them both  it works!”

● Las grandes lecciones que aprendió esta mujer de su matrimonio 'abierto': Louisa Leontiades, presidenta del poliamor. El Confidencial (Spain), May 16, 2015.

Quote: En "The Husband Swap" ("El intercambio de marido"), su autora rememora lo que ocurrió cuando, intentando revitalizar su vida matrimonial, decidió intercambiar a su esposo con otro hombre.

● Radio interview, The Ray D’Arcy Show (Ireland).

Summary: Pretty basic questions about poly, including how they decided who would sleep with whom, and did they get jealous, etc. About 10 minutes.

On April 29th Louisa posted,



With the storm of email that's hit my inbox over the past few days thanks to The Times article, so many magazines have contacted me. I reply with a 'That would be lovely, and I'm very willing to discuss polyamory, logistics and loving relationships etc. but I won't be going into any inside the bedroom details.' And they don't say 'We respect your privacy and understand.' Instead they say, 'Sorry, we're a populist title, so if you won't discuss your sex life, Bye Bye'.




Book Reviews

● Book Review, Barry Smiler, Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 18, February 21, 2015.

Summary: Positive review focusing on the relatability of the story.

Quote: “The description of these deeply personal interactions is what gives this book its power. And power it does have. As the story of the quad's journey unfolds, this book's well-crafted dialogue and characterizations offer solid insights into, not just these four people, and not just polyamorous people, but any of us, in any sort of relationship.”


● Book Review, The Sassy She, Lisa Lister, May 11, 2015.

Summary: Positive review, and interview with Louisa. Writer is in a monogamous relationships, and talks about how reading this book challenged her perception of relationships.

Quote:I’m GLAD her story challenged me, if I didn’t want to be challenged I’d read freakin’ Danielle Steel novels, right? We all need our perspectives challenged + our hearts opened by the real stories of women and their experiences. Louisa is a powerful storyteller –  emotional,  curious and crazy amounts o’ honest, and she sheds much-needed insight into a world most of us have only experienced through press stories, or if, like me you have a girl-crush on Chloe Sevigny, and have watched back to back Big Love.”


● Book Review, Polyamory on Purpose, Jessica Burde, Feb. 11, 2015.

Summary: Positive review, author relates back to her own experience.

Quote: “This is not a happy poly story. This is not a tale of how polyamory works, or how much more “advanced” polyamory is. Fans of HEA romance will likely be disappointed in both the ending and the brutally simple way Louisa tells her story, without the dramatics or flair of plot-driven fiction. Fans of polyamory will likely be disappointed in the ending of the relationship, the failure of the book to be a flag-waving paean to the wonders of poly life.”


● Book Review, The Brunette’s Blog, May 5, 2015.

Summary: Positive review, talks about how this books differs in that it doesn’t focus on what “mistakes” were made, but rather just tells the story of what happened.

Quote:While reading it, I experienced bubbles of delight and identification — at the weird-this-isn’t-weird feeling of coming down to breakfast with your lover and your husband and his lover, at the terror of falling in love when your relationship involves more people than just yourselves, at the back and forth of sympathy, anger, alliance, and threat you can feel toward a close metamour. It left me wanting more — more poly stories, more people writing about the specific feelings and situations that I know so well, that are so rarely reflected in literature. It felt so, so good to read someone telling a story that, while nothing like any of my stories, has many of the same notes and moments underlying it.”


● Book Review, Loving Without Boundaries blog, by Kitty Chambliss, April 8, 2015.

Quote: "I felt like I found a very close, dear comrade within the pages of that book – a friend who has shared some of my own heartache, pain as well as joy in choosing to live a polyamorous life, and then diving in courageously and unapologetically to see what happens next."



● A book review in Russian.


● The 6 Steamiest Books To Read On The Beach, Red, April 15, 2015.

Summary: Other authors on the list of 6 are Jackie Collins, Nancy Friday, Erica Jong, Shirley Conran and Janet Evanovich.

Quote: “This is an unusual one, but stay with us.” 


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Here are excerpts from both books.

Louisa's Facebook page.

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May 25, 2015

Dear Abby says, treat your parent's triad as family


Newspaper columnist Dear Abby (Jeanne Phillips) uses "triad" correctly. She advises a middle-aged dad that he should treat his own father's family of three as "a package deal" to be welcomed as guests, and never mind what the teenage granddaughters may think.


Dear Abby: Couple’s tag-along friend is too close for son’s comfort

I’m in my 40s, happily married to my wife, and we have teenage daughters. My parents divorced when I was young, and both have been remarried for years. Over the past 10 years, Dad and his wife have developed a very close “friendship” with a woman I’ll call “Bonnie.” They bought homes next door to each other, travel together, and expect Bonnie to be included in all holiday events. Bonnie has never been married and has no kids, so my parents reason that she would be alone if she’s not with them. I am not fond of this woman and I don’t like having to include her. My parents never ask if it’s OK if she comes; they just started bringing her years ago and assume she’s welcome. When I have brought up the subject, they got angry. Our daughters ask how we’re related to Bonnie. When I say she is Grandma and Grandpa’s friend, they roll their eyes because it falls short of describing what is probably a three-way. I’m tired of the situation. What can I do?

Fed Up in Phoenix


Dear Fed Up: Let your daughters — who are probably more worldly than either you or I — come to their own conclusions about Grandma and Grandpa. Whether they have formed a triad is anybody’s guess, but one thing is clear: They are a package deal. You might be happier if you concentrated less on what may (or may not) be going on between their sheets. The alternative would be to see your father, stepmother and this woman less often.


The original is on the website of the San Francisco Chronicle (May 22, 2015), the paper where her mother started the "Dear Abby" column in 1956. Three days later Google seems to indicate that this is the only place it has appeared. Huh? As of 2011 the "Dear Abby" column claimed to have "95 million readers in about 1,300 newspapers worldwide."

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May 20, 2015

NPR picks up on new triad-inspired album *Multi-Love*


This morning I posted about Ruban Nielson's album Multi-Love and its origin in the bedazzling triad that fate delivered him into. The album will be officially released next Tuesday, May 26, though you can stream it from various sites now.

This isn't just another Portland indie record for some small fanbase. It just received an excellent review on National Public Radio and notice on the website of The Guardian, one of the world's major newspapers.

● On NPR:


First Listen: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, 'Multi-Love'

Ruban Nielson (left) with other band members. (Photo: Dusdin Condren)

By Andy Beta

In 1967, while still in The Byrds, David Crosby wrote "Triad" about a ménage a trois, inspired by the counterculture notion of "free love." It was left off the band's next album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and became a point of contention when Crosby left the band. Recorded by Jefferson Airplane and performed later by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the song scans as overly simplistic at its chorus: "I don't really see / why can't we go on as three."

To hear New Zealand native and Portland resident Ruban Nielson sing it in "Multi-Love," the lead song on Unknown Mortal Orchestra's third album, said triad is decidedly more confusing, thorny and wrenching. Nielson's falsetto frays into a rasp and plea: "Multi-love got me on my knee / We were one then become three / Mama, what have you done to poor me / Now I'm half-crazy." Polyamory, which translates from Greek and Latin as "multi-love," lies at the heart of Nielson's album, documenting a moment in his life wherein his longtime marriage found itself opened to an outsider. Ecstatic and graceless, loving yet threatened, comforted yet alienated, Nielson explores these complex interactions on his strongest album to date.

Names aren't named, but the intimacy, awkwardness and emotional nakedness on display might have been hard to take were they not wrapped in the sweetest, catchiest, most impeccably crafted music Unknown Mortal Orchestra has made....

Previous UMO albums wandered into strange psychedelia and folk as ways into Nielson's mindstate.... But on Multi-Love, such foggy, wandering sounds wouldn't serve these songs about love and the emotional maturity needed to navigate it....


Read the whole review (May 17, 2015). At the top of it are links to the whole album (41 minutes) and the individual tracks.


● At The Guardian's online music section:


Unknown Mortal Orchestra — Multi-Love: Exclusive album stream

The band

For Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s third album, bandleader Ruban Nielson decided to do things a bit differently. We’re not just talking about the music... we’re talking about the relationship that inspired it — during the making of the album, Nielson and his wife both fell in love with another woman, who moved in with the couple before leaving them both confused and heartbroken.

That unique experience is poured into Multi-Love, only to be decorated with a futurist, technicolour pop palette. Have a listen, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.


The original (May 18). Listen and leave a comment.


Spin commentary, followed by a brief interview:


The title of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s latest LP, Multi-Love, may be an explicit reference to the complicated three-person live-in relationship frontman Ruban Nielson spent a year exploring, but it could just as easily be a reference to the album’s lush, layered sound. Appropriate to its name, UMO’s third album is bursting with affection for a variety of musics, both past and present: disco, power pop, prog-rock, hip-hop, and soul all among them....


Read on (May 14).

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*Multi-Love:* album inspired by an awestruck triad will be released next week

Pitchfork

Portland musician Ruban Nielson, leader of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, releases his third album on May 26th. It's Multi-Love, about the unexpectedly dazzling live-in triad that he found himself in with his wife and her girlfriend. Nielson and the story behind Multi-Love are featured in a long profile in Pitchfork, "the leading voice in independent music and beyond." Pitchfork claims "a fiercely loyal audience of more than 5 million unique visitors each month."

Update later in the morning: This is getting bigger — Multi-Love is reviewed on National Public Radio and is written up in The Guardian. More to come soon....

Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, performing in Spain in 2013.


Love Is Strange: The multitudes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Nielson

By David Bevan

...While Multi-Love, UMO’s third full-length [album], marks a thrilling departure from the bedroom psychedelia that has earned Nielson an unexpected following, it’s also an album whose backstory speaks to the manner in which he views his art, his life, and the connection between the two — a leap of faith and a leap forward. It teems with lush synths and futurist textures, hallucinogenic funk and R&B, but emotionally and lyrically, Nielson needed a light....

After touring behind his first two albums for nearly three years, Nielson arranged to take a year off, so that he could write, record, and spend more time at home with his family. But as work on Multi-Love began in earnest last year, Nielson and his wife found themselves reconsidering the outlines of their relationship. As we eat and laugh at their tiny wooden dinner table, I’m sitting in a seat that, up until very recently, was occupied by someone else, someone whose absence is palpable and whose influence can be felt throughout the record she helped shape. “It’s not that this song is about her,” Nielson sings in the album’s hypnotic title cut. “All songs are about her.”



“I’d never heard of polyamory before and I wasn’t interested in the idea of it,” Nielson tells me after dinner, during a long walk through his neighborhood. “I just wanted to pretend that no one had ever thought of it before, to stumble into it blindly.” He scratches nervously at his chest, over a tattoo of an open eye etched between his collarbones. “I feel like I’m gonna spend the rest of my life trying to live last year down. It was such a beautiful time.”

In February 2013, while exploring Tokyo on a day off from touring, Nielson wandered into a club. From across the room, he remembers spotting a strange, singularly beautiful 18-year-old woman [Laura] and then awkwardly and inexplicably waving to her the moment they made eye contact....

After taking repeated notice of their blossoming friendship, Jenny asked her husband to have Laura send along a selfie. “Wow,” she told him when it arrived. “Let me talk to her.” Nielson introduced them. Before long, Jenny and Laura started corresponding on their own — online at first, and later, through handwritten and increasingly intimate letters. It was at this point that Nielson began to worry. “They had turned into love letters,” he says. “[Jenny] told me that I could read them if I wanted to, but I didn’t and I still don’t. It’s kind of terrifying to think that she was being intimate with another person. I didn’t get angry or upset. I just thought, ‘Oh, what have I done?’”

------------------

...Jenny approached him with a plan: Laura was going to come to stay with them for a while, and the five of them [including their two kids] would try living together.

“I had two thoughts,” Nielson says, revisiting that moment. “The first was, ‘Holy shit, I I’m fucked. I’m no match for this girl.’” His second: “‘This is fate. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. If this is the end of my marriage, then this will be the album that documents it. There are a million ways for this to go wrong for my life — but there’s no way for this to go wrong for me artistically, as long as I keep my eyes open and I’m brave.”

Nielson says what followed was like “a crazy awesome dream.” The three of them bonded almost immediately, and the kids, whose response was always a major concern, took to Laura just as quickly. “‘Let’s do this forever, this is the ultimate state of being,’” he remembers thinking, that first week they were all together.

Ruban Nielson in his basement studio in Portland. (Photo by Leah Nash).

...After those first few weeks together last May, the relationship between Jenny, Laura, and Nielson began to show signs of strain. As a relative newcomer, Laura couldn’t help but feel excluded when faced with the history and understanding that Nielson and his wife had developed over more than a decade together. But some mornings, Jenny would wake up to the sound of her husband and Laura on the couch, laughing and binge-watching a television show that they started without her. Talking about his own insecurities, Nielson says, “They would discuss something feminist, and I would just sit there, like, ‘Well, I think men are shit, too, but I’m the man in the room.’” For days, he would sulk around the house while Jenny and Laura carried on, toiling in the basement rather than confronting them both with his feelings. “Think about the two most serious relationships in your life so far, and then experiencing them simultaneously,” he tells me. “It makes you wonder: How much can a human being deal with emotionally? How well-adjusted are you?”

All of it made its way into the music, just as he had planned. In August, Laura’s tourist visa expired and she was forced to leave the States until she could obtain another. For six weeks, Nielson and his wife pined for Laura as she worked on a project in the Peruvian rainforest, while also trying to carry on with their lives....

When Laura returned in September, unannounced, Nielson was committed to the idea of continuing the relationship. They all took trips together and celebrated Halloween with the kids. They told their neighbors and close friends in Portland, a few of which reacted unfavorably, out of fear....

Shortly after last Christmas, as Laura’s visa expired again, her attempts to renew it were denied and she was forced to leave once more — this time indefinitely....

When the kids ask about Laura now, Nielson and Jenny tell them that she was forced to leave. “It just got suspended in no man’s land,” Nielson says of the relationship. “It’s brutal. The reason why she’s not here is out of our control, but we’re trying not to be maudlin about it. It’s hard to say that you’re sad because there are only two people in love now instead of three. But we were all in love. It was a real thing. It worked. I’m more alive now because of it.”...


Read the whole article (May 12, 2015), with links to more of Nielson's music.

The article got him a short writeup in newspapers in New Zealand, where he grew up and used to play in the Mint Chicks.

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May 19, 2015

"Equality and polyamory: Why early humans weren't The Flintstones"

The Guardian


Caption: The “standard narrative of prehistory” presents the idea that, like Fred and Wilma, men have always gone out to hunt/work and women care for home and children. (The Guardian / Everett Collection / Rex Features)

The year 2010 marked a turning point for the polyamory movement, partly due to the publication of Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. More on this later. Memorably, the book zinged anthropology's "Flintstonization" of stone-age families — the timid, ridiculous assumption, never really stated or defended, that our prehistoric ancestors, who shaped our inherited traits, evolved in 1950s nuclear families like Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

And only had across-the-hedge chats with Barney and Betty Rubble.

This morning's Guardian uses the Flintstonization zinger to begin a long report on some new research just out. The article then takes a wider look at the likelihood that we are literally born and bred for multi-partnering.


Equality and polyamory: why early humans weren't The Flintstones

A study released last week presented evidence that prehistoric men and women lived in relative equality. But is the truth even further from the nuclear narrative?

By Simon Copland

Last week, scientists from University College London released a paper presenting evidence that men and women in early society lived in relative equality. The paper challenges much of our understanding of human history, a fact not lost on the scientists. Mark Dyble, the study’s lead author, stated “sexual equality is one of the important changes that distinguishes humans. It hasn’t really been highlighted before.”

Despite Dyble’s comments, however, this paper isn’t the first foray into the issue. In fact, it represents another shot fired in a debate between scientific and anthropological communities that has been raging for centuries. It’s a debate that asks some fundamental questions: who are we, and how did we become the society we are today?

Our modern picture of prehistoric societies, or what we can call the “standard narrative of prehistory” looks a lot like The Flintstones. The narrative goes that we have always lived in nuclear families. Men have always gone out to work or hunt, while women stayed at home to look after the house and the children. The nuclear family and the patriarchy are as old as society itself.

The narrative is multifaceted, but... can probably be traced back to Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.

The Guardian / Everett Collection / Rex Features

...Yet, for centuries many have questioned the logic, and the biology, of the standard narrative.

The first real splash in this arena came from the anthropologist Lewis Morgan, and his book Ancient Society [1877]. In the book Morgan presented the results of his study of the Iroquois, a Native American hunter-gatherer society in upstate New York. The Iroquois, Morgan observed, lived in large family units based on polyamorous relationships, in which men and women lived in general equality.

Morgan’s work hit a broader audience when it was taken up by Friedrich Engels (most famous for being the co-author of The Communist Manifesto) in his book The Origin of Family, Private Property and the State. Engels drew on Morgan’s data, as well as evidence from around the world to argue that prehistoric societies lived in what he called “primitive communism”. Other anthropologists now call this “fierce egalitarianism”: societies where families were based on polyamory and in which people lived in active equality (i.e. equality is enforced).

Morgan and Engels were not painting a picture of a “noble savage”. Humans were not egalitarian nor polyamorous because of their social conscience, but because of need. Hunter-gather societies were based largely on small roaming clans where men engaged in hunting, while women’s roles focused around gathering roots, fruit and berries, as well as looking after the “home”. In these societies community was everything. People survived through the support of their clan and therefore sharing and working within their clan was essential. This crossed over into sex as well.

Polyamory helped foster strong networks, where it became everyone’s responsibility to look after children. As Christopher Ryan states: “These overlapping, intersecting sexual relationships strengthened group cohesion and could offer a measure of security in an uncertain world.”....

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On top of Dyble’s study last week, new anthropological and scientific evidence backs up this challenge to the standard narrative. In 2012 Katherine Starkweather and Raymond Hames conducted a survey of examples on ‘non-classical polyandry’, discovering the phenomenon existed in many more societies than previously thought.

In another example Stephen Beckman and Paul Valentine examined the phenomenon of ‘partible paternity’ in tribes in South America: the belief that babies are made up from the culmination of the spermatozoa of multiple males. This belief, which is common in tribes in the Amazon requires polyamorous sexual activity by women, and that men share the load of supporting children.

And then there is the example of the Mosua in China, a society in which people are highly promiscuous and where there is no shame associated with this. Mosua women have a high level of authority, with children being looked after by a child’s mother and her relatives. Fathers have no role in the upbringing of a child — in fact the Mosua have no word to express the concept of “father”....


Read the whole article, with many links (May 19, 2015).

It includes a sidebar link to a Guardian article about modern polyamory: Being polyamorous shows there's no 'traditional' way to live (Aug. 20, 2013).

Five days ago The Guardian published another story on Dyble's research: Early men and women were equal, say scientists. "Study shows that modern hunter-gatherer tribes operate on egalitarian basis, suggesting inequality was an aberration that came with the advent of agriculture." (May 14, 2015).

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More on the significance of Sex at Dawn:

Sex at Dawn made quite a splash in the summer of 2010 and briefly got onto the New York Times bestseller list. It drew on anthropology, primate studies, and human anatomy to built a case that nuclear-family monogamy is unnatural to our species, dating only from the invention of agriculture and settled property about 10,000 years ago. The previous 99% of our evolution as a species shaped us to live a naturally polyamorous life of "fierce equality" between the sexes, living and interbreeding in hunter-gatherer bands. This remains the pattern in the few surviving hunter-gatherer societies today that continue their prehistoric way of life.

Some anthropologists and others criticized Sex at Dawn for cherry-picking its evidence, misrepresenting some of it, and overstating its case. However, its core argument has held up pretty well.

The book's impact on the poly movement was immediate. We had always labored under the dismissive criticism — and the self-doubt it raised in our own lives — that what we were doing could never really work because everyone knew that happy polyamory was contrary to human nature. I wrote at the time that Sex at Dawn


blows away the conventional wisdom that multiple relationships are unnatural or cannot fit with how humans are built. In fact, it reverses the human-nature argument 180 degrees.


It followed The Myth of Monogamy by David Barash and Judith Lipton (2002) and other works and research trending in the same direction. Since 2010, it's the remaining innate-monogamy defenders who've been thrown back on their heels, and polys have become the ones confident and on the offensive. To continue:


For most of the polyamory movement's 30-year history, advocates who have sought to give poly a theoretical foundation have generally turned to New Age or spiritual philosophies, involving things like the limitless nature of love, the spiritual heart of the universe, and other concepts that I find fairy-taley and unproductive. By unproductive I mean that theories built on them never seem to lead anywhere predictive or useful, as a good theory must.

Ryan and Jethá have now given us a theoretical underpinning that is concrete and evidence-based. They make the case that polyamory matches what human nature actually evolved to be. Seen in this light, the modern, ethical, egalitarian version of poly offers a path to a saner future — in which humans are not so perpetually conflicted with themselves, and are less driven by the insatiable needs and neuroses that in many ways are causing us to ruin the world.


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May 18, 2015

"Looks Like Love To Me" triad releases preview reel


The Looks Like Love To Me family with their two babies, who got so much press worldwide two months ago, has just released a preview of their upcoming documentary being made by Stefunny Pettee (6:49):



They're seeking a grant to complete the project. They write,


This is a "sizzler" reel created to give an overview and preview of the feature-length documentary we are creating. It is intended that the documentary should be complete in May of 2016!


Their whole post (May 16, 2015). The project's website and Facebook page.

No word yet on when their 7-minute ABC Nightline appearance will air. ABC filmed it in their home two months ago.

Here they link to all their media appearances to date. What a fine representation for polyfamilies they making to the big wide world!

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May 17, 2015

Reality star prompts a closer look at Ireland's poly community

Sunday Irish Independent


The celebrity buzz about Jade-Martina Lynch, the self-professed polyamorous cast member of Big Brother UK's new season, prompts a newspaper in her hometown of Dublin to take a look this morning at Ireland's actual poly community (which she has not been part of).

As happens so often, the writer came away impressed. Thanks, people, for representing us well.


Meeting Ireland's polyamory community: 'If you have the time you can be in love with lots of people'

By Barbara McCarthy

Some years back, I saw a wedding photo on social media of a girl I met at a festival in the Nevada desert. It grabbed my attention because it was of her, her husband and their new wife.

They had married each other in a triad ceremony in Los Angeles. After some snooping, I found out that they were on a US reality TV show about polyamory. It followed the lives of people who enjoyed several loving relationships at the same time, in many cases under one roof.

Since then polyamory has become more talked about in Ireland, and last week, the newest Irish Big Brother contestant, Jade-Martina Lynch, stated that she was polyamorous.

"My soul is just so free I can't be in a monogamous relationship," she said.

You could think that it's just an excuse for people to enjoy libidinous acts with lots of people at the same time, but it's not. Because we live in a society that favours monogamy, most of us can't get our heads around polyamory, which by definition means loving more than one person at a time and all partners knowing each other exists.

In order to find out more, I went along to a monthly meet-up. I found the attendees, who came from all ages and backgrounds, to be warm, eloquent and open. They weren't here to flirt, more to meet with like-minded souls and discuss issues pertinent to them.

"Polyamory is all about love", founder of the group, Californian somatic sexologist Randy Ralston informed me. "It's not about casual sex, swinging or cheating, rather it is about having loving, honest, deeply committed relationships. I formed the group in 2008 for anyone who doesn't feel that monogamy works for them."

The group has over 350 members, but that's not representative of how many 'poly' people live in Ireland.

...
People in the group presented a mixed bag. Some were currently single and 'poly'; in a relationship with someone who was monogamous; in a relationship with a 'poly' person and a monogamous person; in relationships with several people. "Trying to define polyamory is difficult. It manifests in various relationship forms. Sex is part of it, but it's not the focus," Ralston added.

I had many questions. "How do you meet poly people within a small community in Ireland? How do you find the time and energy? Can you be in love with more than one person at the same time?

"Yes," one erudite, liberated gentleman informed me. "You can be in love with more than one person at a time, I'm in love with two people, a woman I love is deeply in love with three people." He spoke so respectfully and lovingly of his situation, who was I to disagree. Someone likened it to having a second and third child. "You won't love them any less than your first. If you have time and energy you can be in love with many people."

But what about that old chestnut, jealousy? "It happens too. But when my partner is in a new relationship, I find it enhances our relationship," 26-year-old 'Bianca' said.

"Poly relationships aren't about tolerating other people's partners, they are about 'compersion', a term coined to represent the opposite of jealousy, which is rampant in our culture," Ralston added.

So what happens when you want to have children? "I know people in poly families and it works well. In a practical sense it means there is an extra adult in the relationship. For others, polyamory fell by the wayside for a while," says Bianca.

The reactions from monogamous people to poly arrangements are varied....


Read the rest (May 17, 2015).

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