Everyone is doing poly wrong and needs to die in a fire

Why we all need to do a self-check for tolerance and acceptance

There is a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many of the poly communities I’ve visited, and it’s time I brought it into the light so we can all take a good, hard look at how we’re treating each other.

cat_weidLet’s start from the basic premise: those of us participating in online forums, posting opinions on blogs or Facebook and attending conferences with poly tracks are all either practicing or interested in practicing polyamory. Or non-monogamy. Or swinging. Or open marriage. Some of us are into BDSM; some of us are into science fiction; some of us are pagan. Some of us have unusual fetishes. Some of us are disabled. Some of us are white; some are African American; some are mixed race. Some of us are wildly creative and spend our lives making beautiful art, music or film and living in humble abodes. Some of us have well-paying, 9-to-5 jobs and enjoy a traditional-looking, middle- or upper-class lifestyle.

We all have opinions, some of them quite strong. And those opinions are not all the same.

But every one of us has something in common: an interest in polyamory. And because of that, we’re weird. We are not 100% mainstream. Even those of us who have traditional jobs, traditional homes and traditional hairstyles are alternative by virtue of the fact that we are interested in, are enjoying or are openly practicing some type of ethical non-monogamy.

So why are so many of us so vehement in our desire to demean, judge and exclude others?

You’re not really poly

It’s alarmingly common during any given poly discussion group or meeting for someone to come out with a definition of polyamory that condemns, criticizes or excludes some other type of practicing polyamorist. We hear, “you’re not really poly if you don’t all live together” or “you’re not really poly if you practice don’t ask/don’t tell” or “you’re not really poly if your husband isn’t also dating as many people as you are.”

To be fair, I understand why we do this. Since polyamory is an alternative relationship structure, most of us have worked very hard at defining what polyamory is for us. We try poly once and make a mess of it. We try again, and it works better, so we decide that what we did the first time was wrong. We try again, and it works better for us, so we decide that we need to advise everyone coming after us that the way we are doing it now is the right way to do polyamory, and every other way is wrong.

But please, I beg of you, let’s stop judging others so harshly, even after we’ve discovered a brand of polyamory that works for us. Before critiquing others based on your personal definitions of what poly is or isn’t, first perform a quick self-check: would you like it if someone told you you weren’t really poly? Would you want someone telling you that your marriage wasn’t real? Would you like for someone else to define what love or commitment means for you? So let’s not impose our definitions and experiences on others.

Everyone gets to choose her own label

Having the right to self-identify is empowering to the individual. It is neither appropriate nor helpful to try to take that right away from others. We let people choose their own labels for their gender identity and for their kink identity. We don’t argue if a man who has never had sex with another man chooses to identify himself as bisexual. We don’t argue if a person who appears female asks us to use the gendered pronoun “he” for address. We offer people the freedom of gender and relationship identity; let’s please extend that same courtesy to relationship orientation as well. whhha

As individuals, it is our job to find the right relationship structure that works for us. I often say that there are as many types of polyamory (and monogamy) as there are people involved in those relationships. Everyone practices monogamy a bit differently; no two relationships look exactly the same when you delve under the surface.

The same is true for polyamory, for non-monogamy, swinging and open relationships. While there are some commonalities to those definitions, every person or group defines his own polyamory in a slightly different way. We each find a brand of non-monogamy that works for us, and we customize it to our specific situation.

So let’s please stop spending our time looking at other people’s relationships and telling them that they aren’t “really” polyamorous. Let’s give people the courtesy of self-exploration and let’s empower each individual to self-label however she sees fit.

In the BDSM world, there is a philosophy that folks are encouraged to embrace. Since BDSM involves exposure to a plethora of fetishes and kinks that we may only not share but may actively dislike, folks are encouraged to be accepting. Even when exposed to a kink that incites disgust, we are encouraged to embrace the notion of “your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is OK.” Let’s please do that with polyamory as well. Let’s stop spending our time judging others and telling them they are doing poly wrong and simply agree to say:

Your polyamory is not my polyamory, but your polyamory is OK.

Two powerful tools

When someone is kind enough to share with you his poly situation, it is our job to listen, to ask questions and to offer support if asked for it. Labels are the beginning of a discussion and an invitation to ask more questions, not the be-all and end-all. So when someone says, “I’m polyamorous,” my favorite tool to whip out is:

Tool #1: “Cool! So what does that mean to you?”

I believe it’s not anyone’s job (including mine!) to judge and tell someone she is doing poly wrong. Criticism like that only serves to puff up the speaker with a sense of power and to disempower the person sharing his story. If you truly believe that someone you’re speaking with is doing something horribly wrong, a good way to offer an option without judging is, “My experience has been… ” and share your story. See? No judgment necessary.

Tool #2: “My experience has been… “

One caveat, since I know someone will ask: yes, I do have a personal belief about a “wrong” way to do polyamory based on the dictionary definition involving the “full knowledge and consent of all parties involved.” So if, for example, a person self-identifies as poly and has an additional partner that his wife is unaware of, I personally am more inclined to label that “cheating” rather than polyamory due to the fact that his wife doesn’t have knowledge and therefore can’t consent. However, my response is not “you’re not really poly” but rather, “In my experience, poly tends to work best when everyone involved is honest, open and consenting. Have you tried talking with your wife about that?” to open up a conversation rather than impose a judgment.

Share stories, not judgments

story-lolcatI’m a big believer that sharing stories makes us all stronger. Sharing experiences of love, hope and failure in both the poly and monogamous world help all of us to understand what we are going through better and to feel, if nothing else, that we are not alone in our struggles to understand ourselves and the lifestyles we have chosen. So I believe in the power of sharing stories and asking questions rather than offering judgments.

I’ve read a few assertions from intelligent poly folk of late that claim that anyone who defines poly or poly family as [fill in the blank] is wrong and needs to “die in a fire” because that doesn’t match the writer’s or speaker’s own experience.

I don’t know about you, but I dislike it when someone who isn’t in my shoes and who hasn’t lived my life tries to tell me what my poly experience should be. It brings to mind right-wing extremists who claim that they have the right to define what marriage is for everyone else. Or what “family” or “family values” are for everyone else.

If we don’t want others to define marriage or family for us, let’s not do that to each other. The person who gets to define your brand of polyamory is YOU. No one else. And the ONLY person for whom you get to define polyamory is you. Share your definition with your loves, your partners and anyone who asks for it, but please don’t impose it on others or judge others who have chosen to do poly a different way from you. Offer to listen; offer support; offer discussion,;offer your own anecdotes. But please do not offer judgments or critiques. We have the aforementioned right-wing extremists for that.

If you don’t like it when others judge your lifestyle, maybe you should stop judging theirs.

What is right for you?

If you are lucky enough to have found a brand of non-monogamy, polyamory, swinging or open relationships that works for you, GREAT! Many of us take months or years to figure out what we need in order to be happy and healthy in our relationships. And please do share that with others when asked: many of us are looking for models, ideas and roadmaps that might work for us.

So please, share rather than critique. Listen rather than judge. And communicate your definition as an option rather than imposing it as a rule.

And as a final word, absolutely no person or concept should “die in a fire” or “burn in hell.” Let’s just say “My experience has been… “

8 Things I Wish I’d Known About Polyamory

I’m here at Winter Wickedness for the first time and having a great time! Thanks to everyone who came out to this session today.

And this was also my first time presenting a shiny, brand-new class: Eight Things I Wish I’d Known About Polyamory (Before I Tried It and Fucked It Up). The full presentation is below:

And if you’re interested in having me present at your event, contact Minx at Poly Weekly

PW 381: Poly-rope-a-palooza with Lee Harrington

LeeHarringtonbyDarrelVictorLynn11-150x150How exactly do polyamory and rope play intersect?

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1:00 Announcements and HostChat

  • Kinkfest UK will be in Birmingham July 26-27 with workshops, demos, discussions, performances and more! IndieGoGo campaign here
  • Want to help out a friend of Poly Weekly who is collecting survey responses on computer mediated communication? If you’re 18 or older and have 30 minutes, you can help out by taking this survey. Thanks!

4:45 Interview: Lee Harrington on the intersection of poly and rope

s-020-Cover2What do polyamory and rope play have in common? Whether you’re kinky or not, Lee Harrington brings some excellent insights as to how rope play can influence sensuality and communication and help us to be our authentic selves.

Lee’s Links:

32:15 Minx at Winter Wickedness

Minx will be teaching two sessions at Winter Wickedness February 7-8 in Columbus, Ohio! Classes will include Kicking Poly Drama on Its Ass and Eight Things I Wish I’d Known about Poly (Before I Tried and Fucked It Up). Both are new classes and hopefully will fit into the kink venue!

37:00 Happy Poly Moment

Angel shares a fabulous poly moment. Angel’s metamour organized a skate night with the extended poly family for a wonderful evening of Family of Choice fun!

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 373: Sex positive blowout at CatalystCon West

Cunning Minx, Dr. Jocelyn Elders, Lynn Comella at #ccon

Cunning Minx, Dr. Jocelyn Elders, Lynn Comella at #ccon

What is going on in the sex positive world?

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1:00 Host chat

Welcome to our new affiliate sponsor, GetSTDTested.com Use code “polyweekly” at checkout for a discount! Or just click on the banner in the right sidebar. :-)

5:00 Topic: Sex positive mojo at CatalystCon West

 28:15 Feedback

  • Jason in Wisconsin shares how he and his wife came to get over the poly hump
  • Herbalwise comments on the legalities of marriage from episode 354
  • Vir asks about how to cope when a partner passes away

 36:30 Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Content Creation for the Online Activist

Marketing content strategy for sex positive educators and activists

Thanks to everyone who attended and participated in this session at CatalystCon East. What a great and engaged crowd! I had a great time sharing with and learning from you all.

CatalystCon: sex-positive heaven

CatalystCon is the event for sex-positive educators and activists with the best damned content ever

I have a confession to make. Usually, I don’t go to a lot of scheduled conference sessions. I find that the best way to derive value from conferences is the impromptu, serendipitous “in the hall” moments. You know, those conversations that spring from a funny badge, a recognized screen name or a quick assist finding the bar. In fact, for many conferences, I use the 1/1/1 rule: go to one session a day (harder than it sounds, especially at BDSM events), attend one hour of a sponsored party each night, and talk to one unfamiliar person.

But those proportions simply don’t work for CatalystCon. Why? Because this conference for educators and activists determined to make a difference in the sex-positive world has content-rich sessions involving some of the best educators in the business. Instead of attending one session a day, I must allow myself to SKIP one session a day so as not to get overwhelmed with too much fantastic information and ideas!

The highlight reel

Opening festivities. Since this is a starter conference stemming from MomentumCon (around 150, I’m told), and since many of us vocal sex educators are in fact a tad introverted, the festivities kicked off not only with some great humor from Maria Falzone, but Reid Mihalko‘s fun social lubrication exercises. During these all-hands-on-deck activities, we were encouraged (nay, commanded) to interact with the cool peeps in the room in a fun and entirely non-intimidating way. In fact, Reid instituted what I believe to be the most brilliant idea of the conference, which was to invite anyone identifying as an introvert to take an “introvert bracelet,” which would encourage the rest of us to initiate conversations with them. C’mon, admit it; you totally want that for your next con, don’t you?

Marcia Baczynski at #ccon

Relationship Models for the 21st Century with Marcia Baczynski. Marcia covered some fascinating material on the historical significance and evolution of marriage, noting that what we think of as “traditional marriage” really covers only the last 50 years or so. And she shared a shorthand for that type of relationship: MMKES (married monogamous kids eternal soulmates). Nothing wrong with the model, of course, as long as we are aware (a) that it is short-lived historically and (b) it doesn’t work for everyone.

Taking Sex Ed to the Streets, a panel facilitated by Carol Queen and with panelists Dr. Robert Morgan Lawrence, Ava, Jessica Drake of Wicked Pictures and Sex Nerd Sandra. Dr. Lawrence pointed out what he calls the “Elders Effect”: once you step up to speak about any aspect of sex, you are an instant source. For most of the panelists, this happened when people started asking them about sex, and they stumbled into an education cycle. What I learned from this: there is always room for another sex-positive educator in the world.

My takeaway: Every non-faith-based study shows that sex education decreases pregnancy and STI transmission.

Megan Andelloux on Orgasm at #ccon

Orgasm as a Political Act, a diquietingly enlightening talk by the vivacious Megan Andelloux about the misconceptions in the general public based on a dearth of available sex education. Megan teaches sex education seminars to colleges and medical schools, and her disclosures of what the 20-somethings do not yet know about sexuality is frightening! (If you meet her, ask her to tell you the pine cone story. It’s horrifying.)

However, the most impactful segment of her talk was her decision to show the brief, two-minute video clip of Faces of Desire, which depicts men and woman experiencing orgasm from the neck up only, while looking directly at the camera. The reactions to the video were fascinating and ranged from arousal to disgust to violation, brilliantly making the point that not only do we all react differently to sex but that the primary value lies in having the conversation about it.

My takeaway: Think real orgasm isn’t disruptive? Think again.

Sex and the Media, a panel with Charlie Glickman, Lynn Comella and Shira Tarrant. Good discussion of how media’s purposes differ from ours and the importance of sound bites and question redirection. Shira suggests, “Thank you for asking me that. But the real question is… ”

My takeaway: The key to good messaging for any interview is to prepare the connect, lead and takeaway in advance.

SexNerdSandra's Tweet from #cconactivist

Content Creation for the Online Activist Yes, my own talk! It was my first time giving it, so of course I found a million places for improvement. But the crowd was GREAT! Thanks to @lunquil, @sexualcandor, @talesofthepack, @sexnerdsandra, @trixiefilms @marip0zo, @serviceslut @amyjogoddard for engaging, asking questions and Tweeting the shit outta the talk! The slides from the presentation are posted, and you inspired me to find other venues in which this content might be useful, such as a webinar or local sex-positive toy store event. In fact, if you have ideas on venues where this talk might be helpful, please let me know!

The entertainment Saturday night entertainment was sexy fun, with Ducky DooLittle‘s Dirty Bingo (always fun!), a little dancing, and some good, old-fashioned laughter as the best medicine in the Bawdy Storytelling series.

Chillaxing and wrapping up

Perfect place for a #ccon PW meetup!

For me, the conference ended a with mini Poly Weekly poolside meetup with attendees and locals hanging out chillaxing by the pool and hot tub for a few hours before heading back home. And to top it all off, I would be the social media dork that I am without checking my stats and sharing the most reTweeted post of the conference (although note that Charlie’s Twitter ID is actually @charlieglickman):

 Yes, according to my analytics report, that one Tweet was the top performer of the week!

CatalstCon was the perfect mix of stunning information and insights, sexy entertainment and phenomenal social opportunities. If you have a chance to attend in the future, you should.

Content creation for the online activist

Social media content creation and strategy for sex-positive activists and educators

First, thanks so much to Dee for inviting me to speak at CatalystCon, and second, thanks to everyone who attended and participated in this amazing session. I had a blast and hope you all did as well!

PW 316: Queer is a verb

Dr. Charlie Glickman on using “queer” as a verb rather than an adjective or noun; the origins of Good Vibrations

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Introduction

Under-18 warning and redirection to Scarleteen

1:00 News and host chat

  • OpenSF is June 8-10 in San Francisco

3:20 Interview: Dr. Charlie Glickman

Dr. Glickman teaches how to teach sexuality topics to adults and runs the workshops and outreach at Good Vibrations as well as the social media and web presence; he’s speaking on “Queer as a Verb” and approaching “queering” as a practice as opposed to who you have sex with. What do the mainstream-identified need to know about the queer identity in order to understand, tolerate and help; how to play with the edges; how Good Vibes came about (when women started buying toys and wouldn’t tolerate shoddy craftsmanship!).

17:45 Thanks

Thanks to Joseph for the one-time donation and welcome Clinton to the Poly Weekly Playmates!

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 315: What would monogamists do?

#mconFreshly returned from MomentumCon, a recap of the sessions on feminism, sexuality and sex-positivism today. Plus, using “what would monogamists do?” as a guiding question.

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Introduction

Under-18 warning and redirection to Scarleteen

1:00 News and host chat

20:45 Topic: What would monogamists do?

A listener writes in to ask how to act around her partner’s OSO (metamour) and challenges the What Would Monogamists Do guiding question. How much flirting is OK around your SO and OSO, and how should you act towards your metamour in social situations?

29:30 Happy Poly Moment

  • Summersnake shares a moment of compersion when sending his wife off to spend time with her sweetie
  • Don writes in to share compersion and joy at his partner’s meeting the metamours

33:25 Feedback

Taylor on controlled male orgasms through controlling the flow of chi

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Poly Weekly 267: Poly in Atlanta… and sci fi

Review: Atlanta Poly Weekend event and Triptych sci-fi novel

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Download the mp3 directly Introduction and host chat Intro, under-18 warning and re-direction to http://www.scarleteen.com; friend us on Twitter or Facebook, call 206-202-POLY with comments or discuss your own topics at the forums. Announcements

Atlanta Poly Weekend

For pix, visit my APW Facebook album. For the slides of my talks, check out Poly Dating 101 and Personal Branding for the Sex-Positive Educator.

Poly Sci-fi novel: Triptych

  • Triptych by J.M. Frey – visit for blurb and pre-orders. Nice poly love story told with true emotion, but it wasn’t necessary for the alien to be an alien.

Happy Poly Moment: Dominant Species

Feedback: 226

Getting over the fear of physical affection between a metamour and your partner

Wrap-up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at polyweekly.libsyn.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review! Want Poly Weekly for your very own? Get the Best of Poly Weekly collection from PodDisc.com Our intro and outro music is courtesy of Pacemaker Jane, “Good Suspicions.”

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