Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

May 28, 2010

A polyamory researcher tells what she's learned

The Seattle Met

Despite the attention that polyamory is getting these days, there's little solid, real-world sociological research into it yet.

One of the few researchers working in this area is Elisabeth Sheff at Georgia State University. Here's her synopsis (as of 2007) of her research since 1996 on polyamorists and other sexual minorities (see left side of document).

Currently Sheff is conducting, among other things, a long-term study of poly families with children, tracking how both the families and the kids develop over time. Sociologists work under strict ethics rules regarding their subjects, children especially. Only recently did she gain clearance to interview children as young as six. She is looking for additional polyfamiles with kids to include in this long-term study; if interested, contact her at the address in the links above.

Meanwhile, Sheff offers some frank observations about the poly world in an interview in the Seattle Met, a glossy city magazine (June 2010 issue). She paints an unvarnished picture, but everything here strikes me as true. Excerpts:

More to Love

And much more time spent on communication.

By Kathryn Robinson

...Q: What have you learned?

Sheff: That polyamory works great for some people and is disastrous for others. Some find it an extremely fulfilling, liberating lifestyle based on really authentic, deep, emotionally intimate interactions, and are willing to put a lot of effort into that, because it is extremely time-consuming. It’s a lot of work. For others, it produces a lot of insecurity, jealousy, fighting. Some relationships break up. I would say overall, it doesn’t often turn out to be the idyllic, utopian love fest that many people want it to be. It takes a lot of effort to make it work well. It’s not just constant sex all the time; it requires a lot of communication. In fact, sometimes there’s alarmingly little sex.

So it looks like real life?

Yes! A lot!

What are the reasons people give for pursuing it?

The idea of emotional plentitude; that you don’t run out of love by just loving one person. That there’s lots of love to go around. With that comes a rejection of ownership. The idea that one can lay claim to someone else and what they can do with their body and their emotions is repugnant to these folks. So often there’s kind of a libertarian streak, a kind of ‘We’re gonna do what we want, so leave us alone!’ Some are consciously rebellious, so their polyamory is a kind of label of non-conformity to the regular, vanilla crowd. It often goes with ideas of multiplicity on other levels, so many enjoy paganism.

But many practitioners are just regular people, who feel they either have plenty of love to go around, or needs they don’t want to put all on one person. It’s a way to have more attention or different kinds of attention, or more companionship. It’s the idea that it’s too much to ask one person to be everything, so you either have to deny your needs or find a different way to get them met. Finally, [polyamory] offers a model that allows women complete access to multiplicity rather than the traditional [polygamous] model of just men having access to multiplicity.

Who does it not work for?

The ones I’ve seen as doomed are the couples who come in with a very staunch idea of what they’re looking for. Like the female-male couple, maybe married or maybe just partnered, looking for a bisexual woman to add to their relationship. They’re looking to create a triad of one man with two women. Often they have set ideas about who she’ll be and act, come looking for her, and frankly they have a hard time finding her.

So it’s a couple that wants a wife!

Yes. And it’s hard to find. Not that many women want to do that. It often leaves the bisexual woman feeling like ‘Hey! I’m not your sex toy!’ And it often leaves the couples dissatisfied....

But what about the heterosexual couple where the guy just wants freedom for both of them to pursue other love relationships outside the primary relationship?

Yes, there are folks like that. Pretty regularly it is the dude who says, ‘Let’s check this out.’ The woman is often more hesitant at first, sometimes will enter the poly community, if not kicking and screaming, at least lagging behind. Then she’ll realize, ‘Wow this is great! It’s not as scary as I thought.’ And he’ll realize, ‘Wait, this isn’t as much fun as I expected. It’s not living up to my fantasy. There’s not as much sex. Not as many partners as I thought.’

Is that common?

Enough that it’s cliché that they each do a 180....

What else changes when couples become polyamorous?

Introducing other people into the relationship almost always changes relationship dynamics. Add something else in, and everything shifts. Sometimes it’s large, sometimes minor. But sometimes it shifts in directions that change power relationships or the status quo....

How often does polyamory work?

Depends on what you mean by work. If you mean, takes some form and stays that way ‘til death do us part — extremely infrequently. But if you mean, meets the needs of the people involved for that point in time, then quite a bit. The larger the polyamorous groups get the less stable and cohesive they are. The more enduring form tends to be the open couple: The male-female couple who cohabitate, and often see additional partners. It’s the most common and appears to be the most enduring. But their cast of characters tends to shift.

And do couples of that description stay together?

Their chances of staying together depends wholly on who they are....

Sheff goes on to describe her own decidedly mixed poly history, which seems to inform the above:

I was the classic woman who came in kicking and screaming. My partner really wanted to try it, and was looking for The Unicorn but couldn’t find her. For the vast majority of the time, we just talked about polyamory and had various agreements that gradually opened our relationship, but we didn't act on it for ten years. Eventually he found a girlfriend. And I found another man, and basically he couldn’t deal with that. So ten years into it for the two of us, and at great trauma to us both, we came back to monogamy. We tried that for the next five years — and it wasn’t problematic sexually, because in reality neither of us had really been that actively polyamorous. But I felt so betrayed by his sudden turn of intention once I found another man — I couldn’t get over that. Because he had pushed it for so long, finally overcoming my resistance, and then once I began to like it he said, ‘No, let’s not do this.’ I was like, ‘No! You don’t get to make that rule!’ Finally I left him. We’ve remained good friends, but I’m really gun-shy of polyamory for myself. I’m not sure I could maintain a long-term poly relationship. I could date multiple people, yes. But the idealized poly image of having this expanded family — it is just so much work.

Read the whole article (be sure to look for the second page; the navigation isn't obvious).

The interviewer also presents a sidebar article about a conflicted poly-mono couple, friends of hers, who face some serious choices:

Big Love

For Seattle polyamorists, love is a many-partnered thing. And managing the jealousy is a full-time job.

By Kathryn Robinson

MY OLD FRIEND, whose name isn’t really Amy, had never even heard the word “polyamory” until her husband of 15 years brought it up one night, between dessert and indigestion.

...As she sat piecing together Greek and Latin roots — many? loves? — he elaborated, with all the enthusiasm of a toddler clutching a shiny trinket. Not superficial swinging, nor Big Love–style polygyny, he explained, polyamory is the umbrella term for the practice of loving more than one person at a time. He wanted her to consider the kind that would free each of them to openly pursue romantic interests in addition to the primary one at home.

“So…cheating,” Amy summarized crisply, her strawberry pound cake thudding to the bottom of her gut.

“No!” Josh corrected. “That’s just it! It’s openly loving more than one person, within a context of honest disclosure and loving agreement. It’s actually the opposite of cheating.”

...Over coffee with her the next morning... she smiled weakly and I took her hand. “Josh is a good man, Ames,” [I said]. “The only guy in the world who would ask his wife’s permission to play around. He loves you to the point of adoration, you know he does.”

Gratitude shone from her weary eyes. “I know he does. The irony is, this ‘open love’ thing appeals to him precisely because of the qualities I love best about him.”

I knew what she meant. I’ve known Amy through the long chain of cads we all dated before we were surprised by fine men, and Josh is among the finest. Kind, smart, and grounded, he is made of a nonjudgmental spirit, a large heart for people, and an integrity so genuine he would never submit blindly to any convention for its own sake. Josh is a flower child, born 10 years too late.

So it makes sense that when he heard about polyamory — from a friend who turned out to be a practitioner — it stirred something deep in him....

...“It’s all so high-minded,” she sighed, swigging her coffee. “So dripping with integrity.... I just don’t think I’m wired for it,” she murmured. “And the thing is — I’d like to be. I know Josh loves me. I love him. Because this means something to him I’d like to be able to at least try it. But I think the jealousy could destroy us.”

...And suddenly I was back in high school humanities class, learning for the first time about the philosophical underpinnings of the political theory called Communism. I’ll never forget running in the door from school that night and telling Mom and Dad all about this life-changing philosophy I’d learned. Pure classlessness, the foundation of the good society. It made so much sense!

“So great in theory,” Dad said. “And so seriously incompatible with the human heart.”

I smiled at Amy, and felt tired for her. Because I’m sure some small percentage of humans genuinely is polyamorist; women and men who, unlike Amy, really are wired that way. All she needs to do now, God help her, is figure out if Josh is one of them.

Or if he’s just, well, a guy.

Never mind the crack about guys. But the crack about communism? After 40 years of observation I'll say, at the risk of sounding like John Reed1: "I have seen the future, and it sometimes works."

Read the whole article (June 2010).


1 John Reed, colleague of Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, and Max Eastman, was the American radical journalist mixed up in the Bolshevik revolution who wrote Ten Days that Shook the World (1919) and was portrayed in the 1981 movie Reds.


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May 25, 2010

Polyfolks on NPR

Radio Netherlands Worldwide
National Public Radio (U.S.)
CBC Radio One (Canada)
ABC NewsRadio (Australia)

And the hits keep on coming. I just listened to one of the best radio interviews on polyamory that I can recall.

Many NPR stations in the U.S. carry "The State We're In" (slogan: "how we treat each other around the world"), produced by Radio Netherlands. The show's producer writes us, "I had the pleasure of interviewing Robyn Trask, Jesus Garcia and Ben Silver from Loving More for [the May 15th] programme. This is broadcast in English on many NPR stations across the USA, Asia and in Australia."

From the station's website:

Robyn and Jesus live together in Colorado, but they also have other emotional and sexual relationships. They are, in fact, polyamorous. As they tell Jonathan Groubert, they feel this arrangement has deepened their sense of intimacy, but it’s not without jealousy. We introduce Ben who is Robyn's “sweetie” and Jesus’s good friend.

Listen here. Our intrepid three start the show and go until 21:45 (with a one-minute news break). It ends with one of Ben Silver's happy, haunting poly songs: his multi-voice, interwoven "More Love."

Some excerpts:

Flirtation, love, romance and polyamory

Q: ...Listening to the both of you talk through most of this interview, a few words keep coming back. "Talk it through." "Rationalization." "Old paradigms," like monogamy. These things all keep coming through. How important is emotional maturity here? (Pause.) You're laughing.

Robyn Trask: I'd say its critical. Because without it, this can all explode spectacularly and it can be very challenging. It's like dating for the first time when you're a teenager, or in college, or whenever you started dating the first time. Most of us had a lot of what we call teen angst. Or angst over relationships, and we worried, and we fell in love, and we got hurt, and we didn't know how to deal with it. And, the same thing happens when people start exploring multipartner relationships. It's like learning relationships all over again.

The difference is that oftentimes you can't go to your parents to talk about it. Or you don't have an aunt or somebody who's been through it to go talk to and say, "Hey, I'm really having trouble with my two partners, and I'm not sure how to reconcile these feelings," because they look at you and go like "What?! You're with two partners?!"


Q: ...How about at work? Are they aware of your relationships?

Jesus V. Garcia: One thing I've found is, when you approach this with pride, and passion, and having people see you with pride and passion about what you're doing, they can't really fault you for it.


Q: ...But what does Ben think of Jesus?

Ben Silver: I got to hear a lot about the building of [Robyn's] relationship with Jesus well before I met him. So I sort of felt a warmth toward Jesus even before we met, and then when I did meet him I was delighted.

Q: ...Ben, is there a moment that has happened since you've chosen to be polyamorous that has confirmed to you: Yes, I made the right decision. That this was the best thing to do with my life.

Ben: When my son was much younger he was watching the live-action version of the Grinch movie, and in the backstory, there was something where the mayor of the town, as a kid, was vying for a relationship with someone that they both loved. I was watching this with my son and he looked at me and said, "I don't understand? If they both love her and she loves them, why can't she be with both of them?"

And I felt this moment of delight and pride that my son understood this idea of, there aren't necessarily these limitations to love. In fact, he not only understood that, the whole idea that you would have to not love someone because you loved someone else was foreign to him.

Q: Robyn, the same question to you: What one moment encapsulates for you the fact that you have made the right decision to live your life this way? And that it really matters.

Robyn: I was actually at work one day and a girlfriend of mine was over helping my husband clean the house after this party. So my husband called me up on the phone, he says "I just want to let you know that So-and-so and I were making out in the kitchen." I got this huge grin on my face, because I was really happy for him. Because I knew he liked her, I knew that she liked him, and I felt this sense of happiness for it. And I was with a group of people, I was sitting in a big circle of people when he called, and they go, "Well what are you so happy about?" And I thought, how funny it is that I really don't know how to explain to this room, "My husband has been making out in the kitchen with one of my friends, that's why I'm smiling."

In a way I relate it to children, because most people can relate to that -- watching your child take his first steps and you're all excited. It's that kind of feeling. You're happy for them.

Q: Jesus, you know I can't leave you out of this. What for you is your most important moment, your "Aha" moment?

Jesus: After I think it was the last conference, we were all in a room, Ben and Robyn were hugging and snuggling and kissing, and I walk in and they greet me with open arms, and I hug them both, and I kiss Robyn, and then Robyn goes over and kisses Ben, and then Ben reaches over and gives me a quick kiss and takes a step back and goes [joking] "Oh! -- oh my god -- I'm sorry!" I felt very flattered, Ben's a good friend, I didn't even think anything about it -- but just that one sudden shock of --

Ben: Was I that apologetic? I'm sort of surprised.

Jesus: You took a step back, you were more shocked than anything. But it was nice, the fact that the emotions were running between the three of us, that it felt good that we were just in the moment at that time.

Q: What's the next time you're all going to meet up?

Ben: September.

Q: And what's that moment going to be like, when you see each other for the first time in months?

Robyn: Lots of hugs and kisses. [Laughs.]

Listen here.

Here are pictures of the three of them, and Robyn's own comments on the interview.


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May 13, 2010

"Polyamory is the fastest growing style of relationship"

Intelligent Life online

The Economist in Great Britain, possibly the world's most respected newsmagazine, has a quarterly spinoff called Intelligent Life — a "lifestyle and culture magazine" (per its FAQ) that's sold in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, though not America.

The magazine's online version, "More Intelligent Life," has put up a long, positive overview of polyamory as something that its supposedly upscale, savvy, trendy readers ought to know about:

Love and Polyamory

By Catherine Nixey

..."Finding the right partner is hard," says Erich, a polyamorist (who prefers not to disclose his surname). "Finding the right partner whose partner is also right..." Erich shakes his head. "Now that's really hard."

...Unconventional though it may sound, polyamory — or "many loves" — is becoming more prominent. In America the poly-pride movement holds large rallies; last year Britain's first poly website was launched, and recently published poly books, such as "Open" and "The Ethical Slut", are promoting polyamory in print.... Polyamory is hardly common, but its adherents are seemingly multiplying.

Maxine Green, a 28-year-old artist with pink hair, explains why she is a polyamorist. "Monogamy just never made any sense to me," she says. "I just couldn’t imagine being with one person forever." After a moment’s thought, she says she has "two and a half" partners, including Erich.... "It's a bit like ice cream," she explains. "I love chocolate ice cream. But I wouldn't want to eat nothing else for the rest of my life."

Yet one is not usually in a position of comforting a chocolate scoop after a night out gorging on strawberry....

...Surely such arrangements invite feelings of jealousy, or insecurity? "Not at all," says Erich. "On the contrary, I feel more secure now, because I am not defined by being one half of a couple: I am complete as myself." Or, as Maxine puts it: "The knowledge that my partners return to me because they want to, rather than because they know they must, gives me a wonderful boost." Though both concede that "Polyamory is not for everyone. Some people can't cope with it."

Some argue that polyamorists have a particularly healthy approach to dealing with inevitable romantic pratfalls. "They haven't eliminated the problem of jealousy," observes Andrew Samuels, a professor of analytical psychology. "There are of course still difficulties within polyamorous relationships...but they are dealing with it rather than denying it. I have been extremely impressed by the amount of thought, care and attention that polyamorous couples expend on their relationships."

...So convinced is Erich of the virtues of polyamory that he feels it will, one day, become the norm. "Fifty years ago pre-marital chastity was unquestioned," he says. "Now it seems little more than a peculiarity...."

...The notion of polyamory is still widely greeted with scepticism. Joan Roughgarden, a biologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, [has] serious reservations about the lifestyle. "The likelihood of being able to successfully raise children in that context is very limited," she says, "My guess is that it's not an evolutionary advance, but a liability."

Samuels would disagree. "What children really need for mental well-being is love, consistency and boundaries. The sexual behaviour of the parents has absolutely no impact on a child's mental health," he says. "Indeed, if anything, the polyamorous relationships I have seen provide a more favourable environment for children because the polyamorous parents, aware of their unusual situation, think so carefully about every aspect of what they do." He is convinced this lifestyle is spreading. "Polyamory is the fastest growing style of relationship," he says....

Read the whole article, and join in the comments.

Maxine in the article writes in the comments,

Well it's a positive toned article, just a shame that so many of the quotes are incorrect or made up. Erich most certainly never said anything about "Finding the right partner whose partner is also right..." as that's nothing to do with how we do poly, and just perpetuating a popular misconception, and I certainly didn't say I couldn't imagine being with someone for the rest of my life - I certainly can, I just don't see why that means I can't love more than one person at the same time.

I can see why you did it, Catherine, in an attempt to make it easier for folks to understand, but it's just not accurate!

There is a better description of how we actually organise our relationships on my blog, emanix.livejournal.com, and here, xeromag.com/fvpoly.html....



May 8, 2010

Deborah Anapol's Return

Psychology Today online

Deborah Taj Anapol was one of the founders of today's polyamory movement back in the 1980s. She advocated widely and enthusiastically for multiple love and sacred sexuality, made early use of the internet to gather and organize like-minded people, and co-founded Loving More magazine and its conferences.1 She wrote one of our earliest books, Love Without Limits (1992; expanded and reissued as Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits in 1997).2

In later years, Anapol turned toward larger topics of New Age philosophy and the application of wider models of love to humanity's survival and future. She moved to Hawaii, raised coffee, continued to lead occasional personal-development retreats, and published the small book The Seven Natural Laws of Love (2005).

Now Anapol is returning to polyactivity, with a long view. She has a new book coming out in late June or early July: Polyamory in the 21st Century. She's doing public appearances and last Thursday began writing a column for the website of Psychology Today, called "Love Without Limits: Reports from the Relationship Frontier":

What Is Polyamory Really All About?

My position on polyamory has always been pro-choice rather than anti-monogamy, but after thirty years as a participant-observer in this strange new world it's more the case than ever that I really have no position on whether people should be monogamous or not. The truth is that it's extremely rare to find anyone who has only one sexual partner for their entire life. In fact, it's unusual to find anyone who has only one "significant other" throughout their life. So the question is not so much whether to love more than one, but whether it works better to have multiple partners sequentially or at the same time. There are definitely some people who are far better off taking it one at a time, and there are some situations which call out for other possibilities. I'm continually amazed both by the ingenuity, courage, and vulnerability of people who have made their own bodies and hearts the center for an inquiry into the true nature of love, and by the persistent self-deception, lack of integrity, and callousness others justify by calling what they are doing polyamory.

While many people define polyamory as the practice of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with everyone's full knowledge and consent, I see it differently. To me polyamory is a philosophy of loving that asks us to surrender to love. Polyamory leads us to ask, "What is the most loving and authentic way I can be present with these people and with myself at this time?"

The answer to this question may not always be obvious....

Read the whole column (May 6, 2010).

In the most recent issue of her personal newsletter, she writes that she is still wrestling with the question, "Can some combination of free love, polyamory, and polysexual expression really make a contribution to saving the planet?" To her credit, she does not fall back on any easy answer.3


And the book? I've read it and can recommend it without reservation. This is from a blurb I wrote for the publisher:

Deborah Anapol has produced a level-headed, insightful examination of the growing polyamory movement and the people in it — their ideals, motivations, backgrounds, and practices, and the increasing body of hard-won wisdom they are accumulating about what makes multiple-relationship structures fail or succeed. Anapol draws on her nearly 30 years at the heart of the movement, including her experience counseling thousands of poly and would-be-poly clients and her many discussions with the movement's movers and shakers. She also examines how poly people and families deal with such issues as jealousy, time management, child rearing, and how closeted or out to be in a sometimes hostile world.

Anapol provides a straightforward examination of polyamory's costs and benefits, as well as the personality traits and good-relationship practices that have proven most likely to lead to a successful poly life. And she looks ahead to where the movement may be going, and to the benefits that this wider paradigm of loving may have for the future of humanity.

Recommended... both for scholars of the polyamory movement and for would-be polys seeking a good look at what they hope to join.

Anapol herself describes the book as follows:

[Polyamory in the 21st Century provides an] overview of the whole range of intimate relationships that don't conform to our culture's monogamous ideal but endeavor to be honest, ethical, and consensual. It addresses the practical, the utopian, and the shadow sides of this intriguing, yet often challenging lifestyle while shedding light on the reasons people choose polyamory and how their lives have changed as a result. Drawing on recent findings from many disciplines, Polyamory in the 21st Century helps the reader comprehend the dynamics of long-term open marriages as well as more tribal and fluid intimate networks and everything in between.


1 Read more in the overview of Loving More's history that I wrote for Loving More's website.

2 Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits is almost out of print but is being retyped by volunteer Tara Shakti-Ma and should soon be available online.

3 My own tentative answer, after pondering on this for 40 years in my rationalist-scientific, anti-woowoo way, is "probably yes." In the absence of certainty, anyway, keep the faith.


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May 2, 2010

"Sex Advice from Polyamorists"


Despite the title, this is relationship advice from polyamorists. Three poly women answer similar questions with brains, clarity, and aplomb.

They're all on target, but the quickest to cut to the center seems to me to be the 21-year-old — someone the poly community hasn't heard from before to my knowledge. Sara, If you're reading this and would like to get more media gigs, please check out the Polyamory Media Association. We can send media inquiries your way, help you train to do on-camera interviews like a pro, and help you become a star.

Q: What has polyamory taught you about dating?

Sara, 21: I'm allowing myself to feel good. I'm expanding my capacity for giving and receiving love. I leave the judgment out and surround myself with non-judgmental people, poly or not.

Q: My girlfriend and I technically have an open relationship. In the beginning it was fine but three years later I can tell that she is seething when I mention my other lady friends. She is my main partner and I don't want to lose her. How do I deal with her jealousy?

A: It could just be time to go over whatever rules and boundaries that you created from the beginning. Now that you've been in the game for three years, you might have to look at those rules and reevaluate them for the present. And check in with yourself. There's something that has you talking about something that makes her upset....

Q: I know my husband is having an affair, but I don't know how to finally call him on it. What should I do?

A: Call him on it. ...The marriage may be past saving, or this could be the conversation to bring it back together.

Q: My wife and I are going to have a three-way — what's the best way to screen potential bedmates?

A: First and foremost, [you two should] sit down together and really get clear on what you both want....

Q: I recently met my boyfriend's family, and I get along great with his sisters and mother. But it seems like this is somehow annoying him. How should I address this problem?

A: You should just talk to him. I can't read his mind from here and no matter how close the two of you are, you can't either! It could be a multitude of things: jealousy, anxiety, tight briefs... You really won't know anything unless you ask him, and when you do, don't ask him in a way where you have already made up your mind.

Read the whole article (April 30, 2010); click Next for the second two people.


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May 1, 2010

Polys vs. Swingers: staring down the stereotypes

Boston Open Relationships Examiner

Kamela Dolinova's Boston Open Relationships Examiner gives a weekly listing of poly, sex-positive, and swinging events every Monday, an "Open Questions" column every Wednesday, and her thoughtful essays. The site is a fine model for what you could create in your own city, and the ready-made Examiner platform seems like an easy way to do it.

Two months ago Dolinova stirred up a hornets' nest that I had thought was going dormant, with her call for polys and swingers to collaborate better. Her article got wide attention (ahem) and kicked up a fury of discussion on various sites. Yesterday she followed up:

Swinging and poly: what's the darn difference, anyway?

A lot of people responded to my article on the conflict between swingers and polyamorists.... I want to address the issue honestly, and try to come to an understanding.

Some folks reacted in exactly the way I was attempting to problematize in the article: "But we're poly, not swingers! We're not the same! Polyamory is an identity, swinging is an activity! Not that there's anything wrong with that..." and so on. To these folks I say: yes, I know, I know.... I pointed out many of the differences between the general cultures in the article, and was merely trying to say that perhaps we could do better at working together, as we are both sexual outlaws....

The real problem... is that it's easy to pigeonhole and stereotype each group.... [Nevertheless] I'm going to lay out some generalized differences. Please note that these will very likely be incomplete, inaccurate on an individual level, and possibly insulting. I'm simply trying to lay out some of the differences as they tend to exist....

Swinging is about sex; poly is about relationships. By and large, this is true.... The problem: In making this distinction, there is often an implied condemnation of sex for sex's sake. What some poly people seem to forget is that really, sexuality is the main distinction between having multiple romantic relationships and just having a bunch of close friends.

Swingers tend to shun gay and bisexual men; poly communities embrace them. This, unfortunately, also tends to be true.... The problem? Where do I start?

...From many anecdotal reports, it seems that the usage of barriers for sexual interaction in swinger communities is a lot less de rigeur than it is in poly communities. While I'm betting that most couples who swap will throw on a condom for intercourse, things like the "glory hole" parties at Choice Social Club suggest that barriers for oral aren't exactly the norm.

...Polyamorous communities are not immune to this problem either: there are definitely more bisexual women than men in the Boston community, and gay and lesbian folk don't tend to hang around much at all. There is a growing movement toward making safer spaces for male-male sexual interaction within the Boston community, however. People's personal codes of safer sex conduct differ as well, though there's a strong tendency toward safety.

Swingers tend to be more mainstream in their everyday lives; polyamorists tend to be more alternative.... The problem: By living too far outside the mainstream, polyamorists can isolate themselves in ways that can be harmful....

On the other side, swingers can find themselves in positions of hypocrisy.... As one commenter pointed out on my previous article, it's difficult for swingers and polyfolk to be allies if swingers are unwilling to live their non-monogamy publicly.

Readers: please feel free to comment and argue away about any of this, and remember: these are blanket statements that encompass not necessarily the truth of what currently goes on in either community, but the larger view of what the differences between the communities are.

Go have at it. But read the whole article first, not just these snips.


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