If you’d told me 15 years ago, when I was reading the Ethical Slut for the first time, that I’d have the opportunity to work with both the authors, I would not have believed you. Last year I helped out at the Radical Ecstasy weekend with Dossie Easton and next weekend I am co-facilitaing Australia’s first Polyamoury Intensive with Janet Hardy.
I never imagined I’d be doing polyamory education with community leader Anne Hunter either! I also never imagined I’d own a home or a car back then either so it’s a reflection of where I was at in my life. I had a pretty narrow focus. Opening myself up to the possibility of multiple relationships was one of the cascading taboos I was diving into. I never thought I’d love women, or eat sushi. But once I started to allow myself to be honest about my desire for the same sex, it just kept going like dominos. I became interested in BDSM, learned to do temporary body piercing at play parties and with partners. I was introduced to the joy of sushi by a friend who was a big fan of sashimi. So by the time I cottoned on to multiple relationships, it didn’t seem like a stretch.
My women’s community was all about smashing stereotypes, lots of voices for femme visibility and trans awareness, really challenging the way relationships happen in rejection of the patriarchal nuclear family. When poly relationships became the new thing, and the book The Ethical Slut was available in the Women’s bookshop, people started experimenting and taking on the concepts of multiple relationships. There was lots of joy and lots of drama, people would come to me with their drama and I became the go to person in my community for advice on poly. Fast forward 15 years and I’ve partnered with Anne Hunter, doing poly education and then we’re asked to do a weekend workshop with Janet Hardy. WOW!
Over the past few months Anne & I have been working with Janet via Skype to develop the content for the Poly Intensive. It’s been a wonderful collaborative process, learning from each other’s styles, experiences and perspective. I’m really pleased with what we’ve created and am really looking forward to working with everyone that attends the weekend to dive into topic.
Last Saturday was fun! I participated in the studio audience for the pilot of an exciting new web-TV project, Relate Your Way. Rach Wilson (a prominent leader in the swinging community) is hosting a weekly series of frank and open discussions on wide-ranging topics to do with sexuality. The show aims to make the world a better place by openly talking about sexuality and educating people to accept difference.
I like the aim. Along with its sister show, Hook Line and Sink Her (a 13-part drama series based on Carla Bonner’s book), RYW will be part of an online sex advice channel that is being launched in July. How awesome is that? Rach sees it as easily accessible education in a sex-negative and misinformed world. I think it has fabulous potential and I hope they raise the necessary funds (entirely crowd-sourced). This article lays out the objectives nicely.
Rach, Nick (her co-host) and Deb (this week’s guest) explored ‘Coming Out’ as their first topic. They looked at the number of things people might want to come out about, how to do it badly or well, and why do it at all. It was a good topic to start with in a way; the positive impact of being honest about our sexuality is the motivation for the show. The more of us who are able to come out and speak up about our alternative choices, the easier we make it for everyone else.
In the voxpops afterwards I chatted to Deb about the historical difference between swinging (traditionally heterosexual-couples-based, focused on sex, sometimes prohibition on emotional connection) and polyamory (emphasis on emotional/romantic relationships which may or may not be sexual). We noted that the lines are blurring as progressive swingers are actively seeking emotional connection to the people they swing with. In the past poly folk have had a tendency to emphatically declare “WE’RE NOT SWINGERS!” I suspect that may have been a reaction to the outdated ‘keys in the bowl’ swinging image of the sixties. More swingers and polys are recognising our similarities these days.
I had a magical experience at the studio. One woman came up to me at the end of the show and said “I’ve been wondering where I know you from. Did you run a workshop on polyamory at Confest a few years ago?” I said yes and she said “Oh I’m SO glad to meet you again. That workshop changed my life!” She went on to tell me that it had opened her eyes to so many possibilities she’d never considered before and that her life had taken a different direction from that point. She was so genuinely grateful and reiterated her thanks several times.
That is the kind of magic feedback that, in addition to warming the cockles of my heart, is why Tathra and I do what we do. Education changes people’s lives. We may never know how much or in what direction. I came away from the studio knowing that even if I never get any other feedback from any other participant, what I do is worth it.
By Anne Hunter
Just last week I bumped, once again, into the surprising (to me anyway) myth that polyamory is all about sex. I was talking to a couple I’d only just met, who made the mistake (if you’re poly-phobic) of asking me what I do. I was explaining polyamory in the context of my relationship coaching. Despite my earnest attempts to explain that it’s not, for me, primarily about sex, I think there must have been five or six different ways in which they kept coming back with uncomfortable innuendos about what my satisfaction in life comes from. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE fabulous engaged sex with luscious intimates. It’s just not the primary reason I’m poly.
It reminded me once again of how many myths there are about polyamory in wider society. Some I can think of off the top of my head are:
- You get all your sexual needs met.
- You get all your emotional needs met.
- It’s the same as cheating or sleeping around.
- You’re never lonely.
- It’s less emotionally evolved – people are only poly because they ‘can’t commit’ to one partner.
- You’re permanently sexually available to everyone and you have no taste – you’ll sleep with anyone. All poly people are having sex with everyone in their group/community.
- You can’t be trusted because you just want to use people for your own sexual gratification.
- Only a tiny, weird fraction of the community is polyamorous.
- Loving a second person must diminish the love available for the first person.
- All poly relationships have to be equal.
- If you feel jealousy you can’t possibly be polyamorous.
- You obviously don’t really love someone if you don’t feel jealous about them.
There are a couple of myths I occasionally find surfacing within some parts of the poly community as well, such as:
- There must be a particular structure and ethical framework for it to ‘count’ as polyamorous.
- You have to be in more than one relationship to identify as polyamorous – if you’re single you ‘can’t’ be poly.
- Poly people are more evolved and enlightened than the general population.
The reality is so much more glorious, I find. Poly allows so much variety and freedom of expression. Poly relationships encompass so many diverse structures, styles, flavours, levels of self-awareness and maturity, and forms of love. I love wandering through the forest of my poly friends and seeing the sturdy old relationships, the tender new green ones, the spreading relationships who welcome in and nurture others, the vines with tendrils that run everywhere, the ones in flower and the ones with bare branches.
The only things I know of that all poly folk agree on about polyamory are honesty, multiplicity, and love.
So I’m curious to hear from you. What myths have you encountered about your relationship/s?