Tag Archives: activism

Poly is Part of Our America


It’s official:  Poly IS part of America!
… or at least part of “Our America.” 😉

Tomorrow, Tuesday March 5th, [with a rebroadcast on March 12th, and perhaps more; check listings here] a whole episode devoted to polyamory will appear on the show Our America with Lisa Ling (10pm Eastern on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.)

[Check here for an update on this post], with links to videos on poly parenting, and Loving More Non-profit.

Preview: Monogamy’s Not for Everyone (“I Love You & You…&You”)


First Look: Plenty of Love to Go Around (“I Love You & You…&You”)

And Lisa Ling herself is clear that poly is not exactly the same thing as either swinging or polygamy… because she’s already done episodes on both of those. 🙂 [Hey, check it out! Reid Mihalko is front and center in his Sex Geek t-shirt in the promo pic for the Swingers Next Door episode!  Way to go, Reid. :)]

Robyn Trask of Loving More Nonprofit writes:

Loving More is very excited to announce an upcoming documentary on Polyamory. In August, 2012, we were contacted by producers from the show Our America with Lisa Ling. They were thinking of doing an episode on polyamory. We keep a list of people willing to talk to the press and TV media and set about helping them find families willing to be on camera. The more I spoke with the producers, the more interested they became in the Polyamory Movement and Loving More Nonprofit. We checked them out, as we always do, before forwarding the request. I spoke with Reid Mihalko who had worked with them on an episode about swinging. We watched the show on swinging along with several other documentary episodes of Our America and we were very impressed. We put them together with a family on the East Coast, a family of five adults all living together (Wes, Gina, Jessie, Shaun, Ginny). See their blog Polyskeptic.com

I had talked to one member of the family and to my delight they agreed to work with the Lisa Ling Show. They also filmed my family, Jesus (Chuy) my long term partner, John, whom I was in new relationship with (essentially filming a V-triad), and me as well as several people from our community here in Colorado. During the weekend Lisa did an interview with my sixteen year old daughter Marina, who has been raised in a polyamorous family. The show also found a triad in Vancouver, who I beleive all live together, to film as well. Essentially they have covered a nice cross section of polyamory in different configurations.

Working with the producers, crew and Lisa Ling, who is an award winning journalist, was a delight. We spent three full days filming at our home in Loveland, CO. Overall it was a fun experience and very different from other TV crews I have worked with. We were not able to announce it until now because we agreed to sign a nondisclosure.

We have no idea what the final film/documentary will show or how it will be edited. From experience both, in working with other television and media as well as the shows we have since watched on BDSM and a show on seniors in America, I am confident the show will be done well.

We are having a viewing party here in Colorado in north Denver. Email Robyn@lovemore.com if you are interested in the potluck/viewing party or to join Loving More Nonprofit on meetup groups Colorado. I know a few people elsewhere who are hosting a party or recording for people to see later [e.g., we’re hosting two viewings through the East Bay Poly Potluck and Discussion Group on 3/10 and 3/14; contact Dawn on her website (or by email at LoveOTB@gmail.com) for details!)]

Best wishes to all the families and poly groupings who appeared on this show.  It’s never easy to be this far outside the box (as I well know: e.g., [Nat Geo (cameo)] [Montel 2005 pt 1]). But with the risks, comes the possibility of creating a better world for all poly folks (and other relationship explorers.) Thanks to everyone involved for their part in helping it “get better” for polyamorous folks.

~♥ Dawn

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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]


Polyamorous or Non-monogamous? Online Survey!

Are you polyamorous, in an open relationship, or otherwise ethically non-monogamous (or open to being so)?  Are you interested in helping researchers understand you and your relationships better? If so, read on for information about a new study being undertaken by researchers at 4 different universities (Nicole M. Atkins, B.S. (Portland State University); Bjarne M. Holmes, Ph.D. (Champlain College); Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D. (Harvard University); Jennifer J. Harman, Ph.D. (Colorado State University). (Contact information is on the welcome page.))

An excerpt from their welcome and introduction page:

This survey is the beginning of an ongoing research effort to gain information about the community of individuals who engage in consensual, nonexclusive intimate relationships, or who are philosophically open to doing so, regardless of their current relationship configuration. We undertake this effort in order to better understand this community, its beliefs, practices, and desires, as well as its position within the larger mosaic of humanity.

With knowledge comes the ability to better serve this community, to better represent its interests in the public discourse, and to foster understanding, acceptance and nondiscrimination in the broader sphere. […]

Note that this is a fairly lengthy survey as these things go, and they want it done in one sitting, so be sure not to start it until you have enough time. The authors say:

Expect this survey to take around 35 to 60 minutes to complete. Please be sure to take it in one sitting while you are undisturbed and can privately answer the questions. We deeply appreciate your participation in this educational endeavor, thank you.

Take the survey here.

(Thanks to Tristan Taomino (author of Opening Up) for the heads-up on Twitter!)

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Still looking for a poly-themed holiday gift? You can get t-shirts and other stuff with my logo (and other poly stuff) at Zazzle. Today only (12/12/12), use code MAGICALSALES at checkout for 50% off ornaments, and 30% off mugs, to name a couple!


∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]


Poly As ID; Poly Living 2013; Harvard OKs Kink Club on Campus

Following on the discussions about polyamory as identity (or not): Dan Savage posted a few good comments from poly folk who believe that it’s possible to identify as poly and/or have poly as an orientation. Dan’s ability to take a step back and say “hey, I might be wrong here” is a big part of why many folks I know (me included) don’t just write him off altogether (despite some serious concerns about potential bigotry). Not sure he’s exactly saying that here, but at least he’s admitting that there might be another perspective, so that’s progress.

Poly Living 2013 banner

8th Annual Poly Living Conference, Feb 8-10, 2013

While I”m here, I’ll share the link to information about the upcoming Poly Living Conference in Philadelphia, February 8-10, 2013. They’ve got a great line-up of speakers, including a Keynote from Kamala Devi, lately one of the stars of the Showtime series “Polyamory: Married and Dating.”  Other presenters include Bay Area local Charles August, as well as a stellar line-up of presenters from around the country. Especially if you’re on the East Coast, you’ll want to consider attending this great conference.

And did you see the recent news from Harvard?  They’ve allowed an official Kink club on campus! I think this is great news for the wider world of alternative sexuality, and sex-positivity. For me, it begs the question, however, of whether polyamory is a “kink” at least for the purposes of this club?  What do you think?  Feel free to comment here, in private mail, or in my Facebook!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Got Jealousy? Schedule a 1/2 hour free consultation with me, and get my Jealousy Judo pdf of tools to use to manage jealousy in yourself.  Because jealousy is no fun!

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[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]


Responses to Dan Savage’s “Poly is not an identity” posts

Well, as others said elsewhere, that was anticlimactic.  Dan Savage posted his “pro-poly-identity” column, following on his letter of last week in which he baldly stated that polyamory is not an identity.  Sadly, what he posted in his actual column was pretty paltry, amounting to a couple of tweets. There are some decent comments buried in the comments section again, though.

So if you want more discussion on this issue, you might want to check out:

Anita Wagner Illig’s Practical Polyamory blog (she also posted this in the comments to Dan’s thread)

Franklin Veaux’ LiveJournal entry “Dan Savage runs off the rails.”

There are a couple of interesting comments in my own comment section in the last post as well.

I’ve got more to say on the topic of identity, but not tonight. 🙂


Here’s hoping you are happy with both what you do AND who you are, whatever those are!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Got Jealousy? Schedule a 1/2 hour free consultation with me, and get my Jealousy Judo pdf of tools to use to manage jealousy in yourself.  Because jealousy is no fun!


∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Savaging Dan: Some Thoughts on Poly as Identity

The inimitable Dan Savage has stirred things up again, this time by saying it’s not possible for polyamory to be an identity:

Poly is not a sexual identity, PP, it’s not a sexual orientation. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do. — Dan Savage, 11/21/12

For the record (although Dan’s actual advice to Polyamorous Polymath isn’t so bad — basically “if you really can’t compromise on this, then do both of you a favor and end the relationship as gracefully and as quickly as possible”), I definitely disagree with his statement around polyamory and identity. I think that you should be able to identify however you damn well please, as well as loving (and/or being sexually attracted to) whomever and however many people works for you (and for them.) I don’t think these are mutually exclusive concepts. (For some more good poly critique of Dan’s original post, check out Anita Wagner Ilig’s post in her Practical Polyamory blog.)

In a thread on the Poly Researchers list, author Meg Barker (Rewriting the Rules) said,

It is different things for different people, and sometimes at different times for the same person.
To which I added:
“…and for the same person with *different people.*”

As an example, I have some partners where the “fundamental harmonic” is kinky, and some for whom it is not. I literally cannot have vanilla sex with one partner, and I never or rarely have kinky sex with another. It’s about the dynamic BETWEEN individuals, not about some static quality of each person. The fact that there’s a “fundamental harmonic” doesn’t mean that other harmonics are less “real” or less “true” for any particular interaction.

By extension, I think it’s possible for people to be somewhere on the mono to poly/open scale, and to be in a fundamentally poly dynamic with one (or more) partner/s, and in a fundamentally mono dynamic with another.  I think they can APPEAR to change over time, much as bisexual people appear to change over time, when really, it’s more that they’re expressing different parts of themselves at different times with different people.  People are complex, after all!

I even referred to this (in a different context) a couple of months back in my blog:

“…I think it’s by far the most common case that polyamory includes sex. In my definition, polyamory most often includes sex, in the exact same way that monogamy most often includes sex, but can be experienced without it; they’re both relationship styles after all. But just as it’s possible to have a celibate or sex-free monogamous relationship,  it’s quite possible that someone might identify as polyamorous but not be having sex or in a sexual relationship.  The presence or absence of  sex is not like a light switch after all. Otherwise, we’d all walk around changing our status whenever we had a sexual encounter (or didn’t): Now polyamorous, now celibate, momentarily monogamous, polyamorous again ….” (http://blog.unchartedlove.com/?p=1594)

Ultimately, I am concluding, I do view polyamory as an orientation — whether a sexual one or “only a relationship one” pretty much doesn’t matter in this case — which might for some of us be/become an identity. As Jessica Burde said on the PLN list, I think it’s possible for poly to be BOTH “something you are” AND “something you do.”  Which, I’ll note, can be true of being “Queer” as well (much as Dan might prefer to skip over that part):  You can certainly engage in same-sex sexual behaviors, without identifying as “queer”; and you can certainly identify as gay, for instance, while not being in any currently sexual relationship whatsoever.

Sarah Taub mentioned in the version of this thread on the PLN list that she views the genesis of this tension (at least in the US, and I’ll add, possibly the driving force behind Dan’s need to exclude polyamory as an orientation or an identity) as being the struggle for rights and freedoms. The GLBT movement leaders largely chose to frame the discussion as a matter of “innate orientation,” saying that people should not be penalized for expressing their true nature (“we can’t help it.”) So therefore same-sex couples and families should not be penalized in terms of marriage rights and tax benefits, for instance, because “they can’t help being who they are.”

(This framework is, not incidentally, problematic for bisexuals (among others), since people who can choose to be in either a heterosexual or a homosexual relationship don’t fit well within an “I can’t help it” framework. This is undoubtedly at least part of why so many bi folk have felt dismissed, denigrated, or just erased by the GLBT rights activists over the years… and why poly folks and bisexuals seem to have found common cause in at least some cases.)

Polyamory banner in the 2005 SF Pride Parade

The polyamory contingent of the SF Pride Parade, on June 26 2005, marching under the registration of the Bay Area Bisexual Network (BABN.)

On the other hand, there’s another common framework for the “fairness” discussion that dates back at least to the founding of our country, which is the idea of “free choice.” This is what our doctrine of “freedom of religion” is based upon:  “everyone gets to choose whether and how to worship deity/spirit, without interference from the government” (at least in theory).

As Sarah said, GLBT activists have mostly used the first frame, and poly activists have mostly used the second.  There are some GLBT activists that choose the second frame (e.g., “everyone gets to choose whom they love, and whom they call family”), but by and large the differences in these frames can explain why the conversation comes up over and over again as a point of tension, and why (inexplicably to me, previously), so many GLBT folks seem to view polys as “the enemy” rather than natural allies.

I think ultimately, I’m with Bonefish, commenting on Dan’s blog, who says that whether or not polyamory is a sexual orientation (which arguably it’s not under most current definitions of “sexual orientation”), it most definitely CAN be an “identity.”  The point, ultimately, isn’t “orientation vs. choice.”  The point is actually that regardless of whether polyamory is something innate, or something chosen, it can still be a primary part of one’s identity. And no one — not Dan, not some church, not the government — has a right to tell me (or you!) what and who is important to me. I get to love who I love, and to say that, and I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it, nor fear consequences for speaking out about it (though this latter is still unfortunately true for many people regarding employment and child custody issues in particular. See Woodhull’s Family Matters Project for more on “rights, recognition and respect for all families.”)

To sum up, I think that with regard to the issue of polyamory as identity, Dan has his loud mouth up his proverbial backside, and people have come out in force to tell him so.  What a shame he can’t recognize polyamorous people as potential allies if you doused us in glowpaint and shone a blacklight on us! I’ll surely be looking forward to seeing the responses he posts in next week’s promised follow up on the original post!  Should be very interesting indeed….

I’d be curious to know, by the way, how you identify. Feel free to fill out this quick checkbox form if you’d like. (You don’t even have to leave your email address for this one [ETA: and I’ve even made the name field optional, too]. 🙂

May you have as much love as you want, need, and deserve (no matter what your orientation is!)

~♥ Dawn

PS: It’s kinda funny, actually, because I said some stuff recently that might be read as agreeing with Dan, that poly is something you do rather than are (here in my most recent Agreements Tip, #6.)  To clarify, though, I see it more as a case of AND rather than OR.  Yes, when making Agreements, it’s a good idea to keep sexual behaviors separate from relationship needs.  That’s more about how Agreements (especially ones around Safer Sex) work, though, and not about the validity of viewing polyamory (or GLBT, or…) as either behavior or orientation.

PPS: And as weird as it feels to say this, I find myself agreeing with Tim Graham (Note: a “right wing nutjob” according to Anita) when he says to Dan:

This seems a little bit arbitrary in the world of Anything Goes, doesn’t it? You may behave however you want sexually in Savage World, but the political dictionary is strictly maintained.
That does seem a bit odd, doesn’t it, for someone like Dan who usually argues that no one else should be allowed to comment on his chosen relationship? So who made him god … er … the editor of the “political dictionary” when it comes to polyamory??

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Create Clear Ownership of Agreements (Tip #5)

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.As mentioned in Monday’s post, I’m plugging away at finishing a draft of my Agreements Workbook.  Here’s the next installment, Tip #5:  “Create Clear Ownership of the Agreement.”

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

Thanks for reading. 🙂

~♥ Dawn

PS:  How about that election news, eh? Same sex marriage rights bills passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State! And voters also rejected a bid in Minnesota to change their constitution in order to ban same sex unions. For once I kinda hope that the conservatives are c0rrect, and rights for multiple partner unions are a mere slippery slope away, because if so, it looks like we’re picking up speed! In the meantime, you may want to check out Woodhull’s Family Matters project. They’re still looking for participants in their project based on family diversity being a human rights issue (rather than a civil rights one.)

PPS: Want to talk more specifically about your own family situation? I’ll be happy to do a mini-session for you for free. 🙂 Just drop me a line!

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5) Create Clear Ownership of the Agreements

Suppose you and your partner/s have agreed that the cat’s litterbox needs to be cleaned every day. You even wrote it down.  It’s everyone’s job, so everyone is supposed to notice that it needs to be done.  But every day, the box isn’t clean, and no one seems to know why.  The answer?  Because you didn’t create “clear ownership” of the Agreement.  Because it was “everyone’s job,” but no one’s job in particular, no one felt any particular responsibility to do it, and everyone assumed that “someone else” would take care of it. (My ex and I used to call this an “SEP field” for “Somebody Else’s Problem.”)

Kitten in a litterbox

It stinks when someone doesn’t do their job…

To create clear ownership of the Agreement, designate who is responsible for the Agreement.  In some cases, this will be one person, though who that is might change from day to day. So for example, you might create an Agreement that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Kitty’s litterbox will be cleaned by Person A, and on Mondays and Wednesdays by Person B, etc. That way, if the box isn’t clean, it’s clear who is responsible for that, and any consequences or requests can get directed to the right person.  This saves time, energy, and sometimes relationships!

It’s possible to have Agreements where more than one person “owns” the Agreement, but to do this, it’s very important that both/all people “own the Agreement 100%.”  You might think that it would be ok for two people to each own it 50%… but this just ends up being the same thing as no one owning the Agreement.  If each person owns the Agreement 100%, however, then each person will do the required action every time that they can do it, because they never assume that someone else will do it. So for instance, if everyone is responsible for keeping the counters clean, then every time each individual uses a dish, they clean it and put it in the drainer.  Each person owns their own part of that Agreement 100%. However, this only works if everyone is 100% responsible, and/or if there is some specific plan of action for what to do if someone slacks off.

Here’s an example of how this style of Agreement might work. My housemate told me a story about a shared household she lived in for a while where the rule was that no one ever left dirty dishes on the counter.  If you used it, you washed it immediately. The other housemates were empowered to put any dirty dishes on the bed of the person who left them there (assuming you could figure out who did it.) For me personally, I don’t like this version as much, because it can still end up with one person doing all or most of the work if every person isn’t 100% responsible all the time — or with all of the dishes in one person’s room and nothing to eat on! But she’s says it worked for them. For myself, I vastly prefer clear and individual ownership of each Agreement, but “your mileage may vary,” as they say!

Another challenge that arises if there isn’t clear ownership of an Agreement is that each person may be waiting for the other to do something, before moving on to the next step.  So let’s take an example of a primary couple who each have secondary partners. If we have an Agreement to only schedule dates when the other person already has a date, we might end up with no one going on dates for a long time, while each person waits for the other person to schedule a date! This is called a “bottleneck,” and it can bring things to a complete halt very quickly. (See the book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
for more about this concept.)  It might be better to frame the Agreement in a way that no one is waiting for someone else, or agree on a maximum time that you need to wait after informing your partner/s of the date proposal before you can consider it finalized. Anything that addresses the bottleneck (and doesn’t create another!) would be helpful here.

Clear ownership of the Agreement — including any sub-parts it might have, or anything that differs from one person to the next — will help keep the Agreements functional, and will help to forestall bottlenecks and other such issues.

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Keep Emotional and Safety Needs Distinct (Agreements Tip #6)]

[Previous Entry: The Fun Factor in Agreements (Tip #4)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]


Showtime Reactions: Letter to the Producer

Season 1 of “Polyamory: Married and Dating” has concluded, and the ratings were apparently high enough to warrant trying for another season.  Consequently, Natalia Garcia, the producer, has put out a casting call to pretty much every poly list she can find, asking for more people to volunteer to be on the show.  In the good news department, she’s actively seeking “more diversity” in a number of ways for the next season. In the bad news department, she’s still looking for “charismatic, healthy, and active,” which at least one other person has suggested probably still means, more or less, “thin and conventionally pretty.” The folks over at Modern Poly offered some detailed reviews of the show, and they, like me, and like others I’ve spoken with directly, were concerned over several main points, specifically a) diversity (racial, body-type, age, etc), b) what seems to me to be a heavy emphasis on sex, c) the lack of love and respect demonstrated on the screen, d) some seriously poor communication and relating shown at several points in the show, and e) that the emphasis on real sex on screen means that only a small and fairly privileged slice of the poly community — which tends to mean more white folks again — could possibly afford the potential downsides of appearing on the show.

Natalia, in response to one re-post of her casting call in a local poly list here in the SF Bay Area, wrote a short, enthusiastic letter thanking the re-poster of the casting call and encouraging people to contact her if they wanted to be considered.  I wrote back in response to some of what she wrote there, and you can see what I wrote below the jump. (BTW, I’ve copied as little as possible from that to contextualize my responses, since, although she’s posted a lot of words publicly, these weren’t in as obviously a “public” place. I think most of the rest of what she said in that email is covered in the other links here.)

I’m frustrated and disappointed, to some degree.  On the one hand, I DO sympathize with Natalia in working within the constraints of this medium. And yes, she accomplished something no one else had been able to do so far, in getting a show about polyamory onto a “mainstream” TV channel. And on the other hand, I feel she’s dismissive of some real concerns, and undercuts her own ability to make a positive difference with the show by failing to give serious consideration to these concerns. Some good was done, some bad effects also happened, and a lot more good could be done with a few tweaks to the show. All in all, I find it a mixed bag.

What do you think? Especially if you’ve seen the show, do you find the sex good, or too much?  Do YOU think this show has been a huge “win” for the poly community, or do you think it’s potentially caused some damage?  Or both, neither, or something else altogether?  I’d love to know what others think. As always, feel free to comment here, or over in my Facebook Page, LoveOTB.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well,

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’ve also just now seen that Alan of Poly in the News has done a little Q&A with Natalia, in which he’s asked some more interesting questions. FWIW, it’s not that I think there aren’t attractive people in the poly community; there surely are!  It’s that I think that showing ONLY people who are thin, beautiful, and (almost all) white, means that there are a whole lot of people in the poly community that do not see themselves represented on this show. And Natalia’s response there saying that “all other criticisms … are personal projections” is precisely what I criticize in my commentary below.  Natalia of course is correct that she has to work with whatever the media will buy (that’s the nature of commercial media after all), but she seems oblivious to the fact that she’s reinforcing these very stereotypes in her choices around what and who to show. In particular, she’s not adequately addressing the fact that by showing that much skin, and placing that much emphasis on sex, she narrows her potential participants to only those who have enough privilege to withstand this much public scrutiny, and who can manage the potential risk of losing jobs, custody of children, or other social standing by being out to this degree.  Many people of color, or people of lower socio-economic status, simply cannot afford to take this enormous risk, and therefore haven’t answered her calls.  So saying airily that “these are who came forward” just minimizes her own contribution to the narrow field of applicants, IMO.  Oh well, hopefully she’ll have better luck next time, now that the ground has been broken.

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Woodhull’s “Family Matters Project” launched

September 22, 2012
Jeffrey Montgomery
(313) 680-4061
Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

The much-anticipated launch of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance’s Family Matters Project took place at the opening plenary of this weekend’s Sexual Freedom Summit in Washington, DC. Ricci Levy, Woodhull’s Executive Director, announced the launch of the project during her opening remarks.

“Woodhull launched Family Matters to project the fundamental human right to family by eliminating discrimination based on family structure and relationship choices. In 2010, while more than half of all households counted by the US Census were family households, only 20% were what we consider traditional nuclear family households made up of a husband, a wife, and their own children. The Family Matters project will work to expand rights, respect and recognition for all families.” 

The Family Matters project will work along three strategic lines. 1) It will raise public awareness of family diversity through the sharing of stories and research and through a range of social media campaigns. 2) It will provide education about human rights at conferences and other public events. And 3) it will facilitate collaboration with human rights and social justice organizations to draft and promote model policies and legislation preventing discrimination based on family structure.

“The slogan for this project says it all,” Levy continued: “Rights, respect and recognition for every family. We focus on rights because all families deserve the same political social and economic rights regardless of their structure. We focus on respect because no family should face bullying, violence or stigmatization because of their relationship choices. We focus on recognition, because all families deserve to be recognized and taken into account, whether by the US Census Bureau, the IRS, or their neighbors and community members.”

Woodhull invites the participation of all families in kicking off this ambitious project by sharing family stories at  Family Matters Project.org

Woodhull is dedicated to sexual freedom and can be found at:  http://www.woodhullalliance.org/     This project will bring into focus all those various family structures in addition to Mom and Dad, Bob and Sis, Spot and Fluff, and the traditional white picket fence.

[thanks to Ken Haslam and others in e-mail]


How does this project affect YOUR family? What does your family look like?  How might it feel different to see your family represented?  How about just seeing another family that looks like yours? I for one am very excited about this human rights approach to family diversity. I think it allows us to side-step a lot of unnecessary discussion about religion.  Family DOES matter, and it’s a HUMAN right.

May you — and your family! — love boldly, safely, and well.

~♥ Dawn

PS: want to talk about your family, and why it matters? Feel free to drop me a line to ask for your own free 30-minute (or half-price 60 minute) session. I’m always happy to help other relationship explorers.



©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

CPAA logo

Polygamy: A Cruel Arithmetic?

CPAA logo

Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association logo

Heads-up, in particular to my Canadian poly* friends! Columbia Attorney General Craig Jones, who was the province’s representative in the polygamy law constitutional court case, has written a book about polygamy, released a few days ago:

“A Cruel Arithmetic describes how the author’s own views evolved from scepticism to a committed belief in the campaign against polygamy. This book is also an invitation to Canadians across political, philosophical, and religious spectrums to exercise their curiosity, approach the issue with an open mind, and follow along as the evidence converges to its powerful and surprising conclusion.”


[Thanks to Carole Chanteuse of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association for the tip in email.]

My own personal opinion here, is that the conclusion is not surprising at all. Unfortunately, this inability to distinguish between a valid, loving, alternative relationship style, vs. splinter groups based in patriarchy and abuse, seems rampant amongst those invested in the monogamous status quo as the only option for everyone (with absolutely no offense meant to the many thoughtful monogamous allies out there!)

The UUPA (Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness) have posted what I feel is a pretty good description of the distinctions between Polyamory and Polygamy, by Jasmine Walton. One of her main conclusions is:

Abuse must be dealt with separately from family structure. As in monogamous families, only sensational abuse makes the headlines. Polygamous families don’t want to be defined by the offenders in their communities any more than the rest of us do.

Sadly (in my opinion), Jones and others of like mind seem unable to grasp this essential point.

What do you think about all of this? Are polygamy and polyamory the same thing, or radically different?  … or some of each? Does polygamy lead inexorably to one man and many women, or might there be other ways to have multiple spouses? Are multiple-partner families necessarily headed for abuse… and/or perdition?

As always, I welcome discussion and commentary, either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’d like to discuss this more privately (or any topic related to polyamory or other forms of ethical multi-partnering), you can drop me a line to ask for your own free 30-minute (or half-price 60 minute) session. I’m always happy to help others chart their own ways to their own best life and loves.


©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

Line drawing of box with lid opening out into a heart which surrounds the box

Love Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

Love Outside the Box: Line drawing of box with lid opening out into a heart which surrounds the box

Love is nothing to be ashamed of.

That’s the thought I finally came to, at the end of my journey of processing the request made of me a few weeks ago, that in order to stay in an online course, I agree to never mention my niche or the word polyamory. I was honestly shocked to get this request; shocked and traumatized, all of my worst fears about being ‘out’ about poly come to life. Here I’d signed on to this course to become more confident in bringing my skills and talents to the world, and to help people understand the joys and challenges of polyamory and other “outside the box” forms of relating (at least as I’ve experienced them and learned over 15 years of intensive study) — and merely mentioning my niche brought down censure on my head. Was she (the course leader) right, that polyamory is “not G-rated” and inherently “squirmy”? Was I the one out of line, to think it would be ok to talk openly about polyamory?

We here in the Uncharted waters have had many a discussion (on lists, in discussion groups, on the web…) about whether sex is an inherent part of the definition of polyamory. I generally don’t think it’s required, though of course I think it’s by far the most common case that polyamory includes sex. In my definition, polyamory most often includes sex, in the exact same way that monogamy most often includes sex, but can be experienced without it; they’re both relationship styles after all. But just as it’s possible to have a celibate or sex-free monogamous relationship,  it’s quite possible that someone might identify as polyamorous but not be having sex or in a sexual relationship.  The presence or absence of  sex is not like a light switch after all. Otherwise, we’d all walk around changing our status whenever we had a sexual encounter (or didn’t): Now polyamorous, now celibate, momentarily monogamous, polyamorous again ….

Yes, of course, that’s a very extreme and somewhat silly example… but is it any more extreme and silly than presuming that because my context is “polyamorous people,” that when I talk about communication tools, they are necessarily about communicating about sex? What exactly makes polyamory “not G-rated”? For that matter, is sex itself automatically R-rated, never mentionable to anyone under 17? And if so, why do they teach about it in middle school?? I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t my mind making polyamory into a 24/7 lurid group-sex encounter. Though I will admit to amusement when viewing this old ad that was going around on Facebook a couple of weeks ago:

Hanky Panky at the Beach?

Good clean fun at the beach?

No, it seems pretty clear to me that the issue with polyamory being an unfit topic for polite dinner-table conversation was in the mind of that beholder … and unfortunately in a lot of other as-yet uneducated-about-poly minds out there. When she thought about polyamory, she felt “squirmy,” aka uncomfortable, aka shame. One of the pernicious characteristics of shame is that it is “contagious”–it spreads from person to person, often below the level of consciousness.  Her shame triggered my shame. It took me days and a lot of processing to get through it. And that’s AFTER working on this stuff for years. Shame is pretty powerful stuff.

At the Open-SF conference in June, the excellent Charlie Glickman presented a wonderful workshop entitled “Love, Sex, and Shame.” In it he talked about the manifestations of shame (e.g., closed posture, averted eyes/face, mumbling or silence, “shifty”/”squirmy”, energetic disconnection), vs. the manifestations of love (e.g., open posture, direct gaze, easy communication, groundedness/ease, energetic connection, etc). Pretty much, actively experiencing love is diametrically opposed to actively experiencing shame. It’s hard to experience both at the same time.  Isn’t that interesting?

Unfortunately, much of our culture holds that sex is inherently shameful. By extension, anything that leads to sex (with the possible exception of procreative sex between male and female spouses) is by extension inherently shameful. I think that viewpoint is de facto harmful. Certainly it was harmful to me to hear as a young person that my normal feelings and thoughts were somehow bad and wrong… that *I* was bad and wrong. It’s hard to feel love, and to express it in a healthy way, if at the core you believe yourself to be broken. It took me many years, and a lot of heartache (not to mention a lot of money spent on therapists…), to finally move beyond that toxic frame into the freedom and joy in both love and sex that I now believe to be my birthright (and that of every human being.)

For me, the path of healing wound its way through many places, starting with making a choice to find my own spirituality, and winding up most recently with me refusing to be shamed and silenced for who and how many I love. Each step has involved me finding a bit that has been shamed, and being willing to entertain the notion that it wasn’t ME who was bad and wrong… but instead the unnecessary shame that had been forced on me for no other reason than that who and what I was didn’t fit into the particular box that was on offer at the time.

Understand that I believe that not all boxes are wrong, either. Sometimes boxes (or containers, or marriages–use the word that fits for you…) are places of safety. They’re where we keep our most prized memories. They provide support and boundaries. Sometimes they’re very beautiful; sometimes strong; sometimes fragile. But not all things (nor all creatures, nor all people) fit inside of every box. You know how there’s often that one package at the holidays that just refuses to fit inside the standard boxes, so you end up wrapping a small box with a note in it, or giving them a card, or sticking a million bows on it and hiding it in the back hallway instead?  There’s nothing wrong with the gift for not fitting in that box — in fact, it might be THE best gift of them all because of the very thing that makes it not fit in the box! And there’s nothing wrong with the box either, just because that gift didn’t fit inside. It’s just a bad fit between that box, and that gift.

Well, that’s how I feel about polyamory, and about love. Polyamory is a great gift that doesn’t happen to fit the box that we got issued at the Universal Post Office. Polyamory is so chock full of LOVE that it spills out the sides and cannot be contained in the “usual” ways. (And lest you think I’m all sappy and Pollyanna (ha!) about poly, I also think that polyamory is sometimes the gift that proclaims “some assembly required” and for which the directions seem to be written in a foreign language.)  Polyamory is bold and beautiful and complicated and drama-filled and a damn AFGO (“Another F-ing Growth Opportunity!”), and the worst thing and the best thing that I’ve ever done, all at once. (No, I take that back. The best thing I’ve ever done is to birth my amazing daughter. But poly is a close second.) When you get right down to it, polyamory is just a whole lotta LOVE all squished into one package (some assembly required).

And love, my friends, is nothing to be ashamed of.

Go sing your own song. Go chart your own ways.

Bird Sculpture by Robriel Wolf, archangel.robriel@gmail.com

“A Little Bird Told Me”: Sculpture in wood, metal and glorious paint, by artist Robriel Wolf

Love boldly, safely, and well.

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’re looking for some assistance in singing your own song, you can always drop me a line to ask for your own free 30-minute (or half-price 60 minute) session. I’m always happy to help others in the Uncharted waters (to mix a couple of metaphors!) 🙂



©2012, Dawn M. Davidson