Tag Archives: monogamy

swingset on a playground

I’m Poly AND Open

swingset on a playground

“Hey, who are you calling poly?”

Are those “fighting words” on the non-monogamous playground? Why, or why not?  Below I present some of my recent thoughts on this topic.  I’d welcome your input, should you choose to share either here, or in my FB Page.

Recently — both online and in person — I’ve become aware of a trend that I find deeply disturbing.  In the past week alone, I’ve heard multiple people say that while they identify as open, in open relationships, or in some other sort of ethically non-monogamous relationship, that they don’t identify as polyamorous in particular, “because poly people act as if they’re ‘better’ than swingers or those in other sorts of  ‘open relationships.'”  Honestly, I wish I didn’t know what the speakers meant, because I so much do not agree with this sentiment. Unfortunately, I’ve seen/heard it myself… and I’ve argued against it, ad nauseum.

For context, I strongly identify as polyamorous because that has been my community for 15+ years, as well as the way that I’ve felt about my relationships pretty much all of my adult life. I believe in the possibility and practice of multiple loving relationships, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. One of the things that drove me off the poly discussion lists early on, though, was the damnable, interminable arguments about poly vs. swinging! I think that the struggles of the poly community to identify as “not swingers” are largely due to the fact that when poly was starting to cohese as an identity in the early to mid-90’s, that was the response that many “non-poly” people would have: “Oh, you mean you’re SWINGERS?” And that would come with a whole set of assumptions that just weren’t true: about key parties, wife-swapping, sex, love, and so forth. So given that context, I think it’s natural that poly-folk would respond with, “no, we’re not swingers, and here’s why.” It’s understandable.  I’ve even said it myself.  And I now see that this way of responding — at least without a lot of context — can cause unnecessary division amongst our communities.

I do think, as some folks have mentioned in some of these online discussions, that a large part of the problem comes from the US puritanical ideas about sex (as being bad, “dirty,” and/or “immoral” in any context other than procreation), and from accepting the frame that the “moral majority” has given us (see George Lakoff‘s work for more about frames.) One of the struggles of the poly community over the last 10-15 years has been to open the minds of others to the idea that we were creating a new (or arguably renewed) paradigm that wasn’t in opposition to monogamy,” NOR was it “the same as swinging,” “just a different word for polygamy,” or even the same as “open marriage” (which already had an established meaning as well.) We were trying to create something altogether different, based on fundamentally different ideals and thoughts.

So a large part of what I see some of the leaders doing here — in particular those who prefer not to identify as polyamorous, but instead as “open” —  is actually continuing this process–i.e., attempting to create an identity and form a community around the ideas of openness, honesty, and not limiting one’s number or kind of partners. I see the needs and struggles of people who identify in the manner that these folks have described — “open,” “open relationships” and/or “fluid”–as being more similar to one another (and therefore also to polyamory) than they are to the monogamous paradigm at large. It bothers me to see finger-pointing and division where I feel we should be sharing experiences and tools. I have always  felt this way, even when we were still arguing over poly vs. swinging in the late 90’s. This is nothing new, in my opinion; it’s just that now we’re having the conversation about “open relationships,” instead of “swingers.”

My personal experience of the term “open relationships” is that it’s a better term than “open marriage,” but that it’s still saddled with the history of the O’Neils’ book from the 1980’s. The farther we get away in time from its publication, the more the term “open relationship” can come into its own, discarding the older assumptions about marriage as the only legitimate context for a sexual relationship, for instance. That said, for a long time the only people I saw using that term “open relationship” were closer in practice and ideology to swingers: they had a dyadic relationship as the core assumption, which then was allowed to be “open” to other satellite relationships of some sort. In other words, first you had to have a relationship (singular) in order to “open” it.  It has been a very specific style of relationships that is NOT what I see as “polyamorous”, which involves more potential styles of relationships than a couple-centric model (e.g., a closed polyamorous triad marriage isn’t what I’d call ‘open,’ but it certainly does contain more than 2 people, which makes it not monogamous either.)

Of course, that is NOT the definition or practice of the open relationship community/ies that I see some of our local organizers suggesting, and it’s not what I’ve seen the people of this community actually doing either. What’s being developed here is a far more open usage of “open,” if you will. To reiterate, those I’ve interacted with in our local “open” community seem to be attempting to create an identity and form a community around the ideas of openness, honesty, and not limiting one’s number or kind of partners, as well as to create an atmosphere of openness in thought, and of questioning former limiting assumptions. I think that’s great, and appropriate, and I support it wholeheartedly.

What I don’t support is the idea that somehow polyamory is NOT “open” by definition, and that people who identify as “open” or being in “open relationships” are de facto “more enlightened” than “poly” people. I think that’s just continuing the whole idea of “we’re better than you” (because we’re “newer” or because we’re younger, more open-minded or not stuck in the past, or because we’re open and you’re not, or whatever…) and I think that’s BS. My own reaction to reading “hey, who are you calling poly?” was to be pissed off at polyamory being cast as something bad to be — I heard it as an insult, and I heard it as tacitly assuming that because I identify as poly that I obviously would engage in these sorts of negative behaviors that these people had encountered in the past. (Just in case it needs pointing out, if that’s really what happened — and I certainly might have read more into it than was really there — then that’s prejudice, and it’s not ok.)

So to reiterate: while I emphatically do NOT think that poly people are somehow “more enlightened” or “better” … I don’t think that people who identify as being in “open relationships” are somehow “better” either.  We’re similar in some ways, and different in others, and that leads to diversity.  While that can be challenging sometimes (differences can lead to conflict!), it’s also good, in my opinion, since it allows for more thought, more questioning, and more challenge to the status quo, which means that at the very least we’re not doomed to repeat the past for ever and ever. It may not be better, but at least we won’t be bored. ;^)

Related to that, I also don’t happen to see poly as a “subset” of open relationships, though I can understand that perspective. I see it as an overlapping set. I guess I can agree with those who have suggested that polyamory is a subset of the whole idea of “open”, and that both “open relationships” and “polyamory” are different ways to be open about love and relationships.

Others in these conversations have suggested that “open” describes a relationship, and that “polyamorous” describes a person. And that therefore, one can be both “polyamorous” (have multiple loves–of whatever kind) AND “open” (open to new people in relationship — and possibly open to new ideas and ways of relating in general.) That works for me, too.

So… what works for YOU? How do you identify, here in the Uncharted waters of love and non-monogamy? Poly, open, swinger, or something else? Or do you prefer to Love Outside the Box(es), and love without labels? Whatever your preferences, I hope you find something of value here, and are happy in your choices.

With love,

~♥ Dawn


©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

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OPEN-SF Conference June 8-10 — Join me!

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Yes, I will be presenting at the upcoming OPEN-SF Conference! Join me for what promises to be an AWESOME conference with some very unusual presentations and offerings. Not limited to “polyamory,” this conference invites and embraces all sorts of “open” and ethically non-monogamous relationships: Open marriages; open relationships; polyamory; swinging; sex-positive/sluts; friends-with-benefits; non-exclusive D/s relationships, and more! If you’re not exclusively monogamous (in some way or another), and you are open about that (with your partner/s, and possibly with others in your life), then this conference will have something to offer you.

If you register now, it’s only $60 for the whole weekend. And confidentially (and partly to help move you to register ASAP), the conference organizers are finding this all enough work that this conference may never happen again, or possibly only every few years.  So if you like what you see, vote with your feet and your wallets!  Make it a success, in numbers, in connections, and financially… and let them know that you love them for doing it!

I’ve included a slightly edited version of what I just got in email, so you can see all the awesome perks that registering now will get you. You know you want to!

Hope to see you in June!

~♥ Dawn


We have just announced our session lineup!  With this conference, we really wanted to do something different from previous poly/nonmonogamy conferences, and we have accomplished that.  In addition to the usual nonmonogamy skills workshops, and some new and advanced skill sessions, we have included a number of workshops, lectures, and panels that focus on the intersections between nonmonogamy and other groups or movements.  In addition, there are a number of sessions on sexuality (threesomes!  D/S in the bedroom!  fisting!) and various sessions that incorporate movement or the creative arts.

Check out the sessions and presenters here:

There’s no time like the present to register!  Not only should YOU register if you haven’t yet, but now is the time to get that recalcitrant friend on board!   Let them know that registering (currently $60) gets them the following things:

*  Access to over 35 excellent conference sessions on a variety of topics!
*  Two amazing keynote presentations!
*  Free entry to a Poly Speed Dating event and the Love Triangle dance club during the weekend.
*  Reduced entry to a special edition of the Friday Pink play party, and possibly another play party.
*  Reduced entry to a Cuddle Party on Sunday.
*  Access to various other social events at the hotel, yet to be announced!

Also, if you want a room at the hotel, now’s the time to book.  The Holiday Inn is close to full and we’ve lined up a backup hotel for the overflow.  Check out hotel information here:

The OpenSF Staff



©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

Polyamory Survey on Marriage (deadline 3/31!)

Want to participate in a survey about how polyamorous people feel about marriage?  Loving More Nonprofit is sponsoring a survey you might want to check out.

Take the Survey Now!


Here’s a link to the announcement from Loving More:

Deadline – Polyamory Survey on Marriage.

Loving More Sponsored Polyamory Marriage Survey

One of the main questions Loving More receives from the media and academics is how polyamorous people feel about marriage. We do not have an answer because no research has been done. The survey was designed by Curt Bergstrand, Ph.D. [author of Swinging In America: Love, Sex, and Marriage in the 21st Century] and Jim Fleckenstein [Chair, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom Foundation].

Please take a few minutes to answer the survey and to share the survey with other polyamorists. Your participation is valuable and appreciated.

Deadline to participate is March 31. 2012

Thanks for contributing to the body of knowledge around polyamory!

~♥ Dawn


©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

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Polys Between Rock and Hard Place, Canadian-Style

oday’s the big day that we’ve all been waiting for, for months, the day of the decision whether to uphold the Canadian anti-polygamy law.  Sadly, the news is very much NOT good for the polyamorous folks in Canada (and by extension and example, for anyone else): the judge upheld the law.  You can read a good analysis over in Alan’s Polyamory In the News blog: Polyamory in the News: Canadian Judge Upholds Anti-Polygamy Law. The ruling is extremely confusing, and discussion has been hot and heavy on many poly lists all day. The general conclusion, however, is that it is certainly not GOOD news for polyamorists.  Continue reading

Request for “Poly Reveal” Stories

Dear poly friends:

Do you or someone you know have a story about “coming out” about poly[/open/non-monogamous] to your primary/monogamous partner?  Are you/they willing to share that story with others? Joreth of The Inn Between is collecting these stories to show as examples to people who are beginning their poly journey from this sort of place.  See her contact info and more information below.



———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Joreth InnKeeper <joreth@techie.com>
Date: Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 11:43 AM
Subject: [PLN] Poly Reveal Stories


I’d like to collect a series of stories of people who discovered that they were interested in polyamory while currently involved in a monogamous relationship.  I’d like to hear about how you discovered you were interested in polyamory and how you brought up the subject to your spouse or partner, how they handled it, and maybe even how the transition went.I discovered polyamory while I was completely single, so this is not a topic I can speak on with any authority.  I’d like to hear the experiences of people who have gone through this.  I’d like to turn this collection into a public resource somehow, maybe as a collection of essays, or maybe just using examples woven into my own narrative.You can send them to me privately [… joreth@techie.com].  If you do not want to be named publicly, you can use a pseudonym or “anonymous”.  If you do not think you are a good writer, you can send me your story and ask me to re-write it on your behalf.  If you would like credit for your story, please include what name to attribute it to and include any other attributions you wish, such as website URL.We often talk about “coming out” to family, but we rarely talk about coming out to our long-term partners.  Usually, I only hear it in the context of newbies currently going through it, and rarely do I hear about it after everything has been resolved, so that newbies can see possible outcomes for their own journey.




Unhitched: Judith Stacey on Alternatives to Monogamy

Capital Letter In a fascinating interview of author Judith Stacey (“Unhitched” ) interviewer Tracy Clark-Flory writes:

“The sociology professor [Judith Stacey] at New York University is something of an expert on alternatives, having spent more than a decade studying everything from “monogamish” arrangements among gay men in California to polygamy in South Africa to nonmonogamous, matriarchal households in southwest China. … Stacey uses her observations to underscore just out how stifling and unstable the Western romantic ideal of marital monogamy can be for some people, as well as the vast array of romantic arrangements that are already out there in the world.

… She just wants people to be a little more honest, with themselves and their partners, about what they want and need …”

Indeed. That’s a desire that I — and I think many in the polyamory community — share.

I think I’ll be getting Unhitched soon. ;^)

Read a few excerpts of Stacey’s responses below.

“…it’s curious that the notion of fidelity should come to mean sexual exclusivity when it’s really about faithfulness. I think it should mean integrity.”

“I’m not trying to impose any standard on anyone. I’m trying to get rid of “one-size fits all,” because it doesn’t. I am in no ways opposed to monogamy, far from it, but I am really opposed to imagining that it’s the only way to live and that it’s the only way a relationship can have integrity and commitment.”

“The idea is to make the vows that you really want to keep, and to know that over the life course you might have to renegotiate them. The idea of cheating is when you break the promise and there’s only one promise you’re supposed to make — so we’re going to get a lot of promise breakers. But if you allow people to promise what they really mean to promise and are able to do, you’ll have fewer cheaters because you would have different definitions of what cheating means. Cheating would mean breaking the terms of whatever agreement is made.”

Read the whole interview here.

~♥ Dawn

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

[© 2011 Dawn M. Davidson]

Why Monogamy Is Ridiculous | Dan Savage | Big Think

A friend on FB sent me link to this piece by Dan Savage. Dan, of course, is not known for mincing words. What do you think about his statement that “Monogamy Is Ridiculous”? Agree? Disagree? Why, or why not?

Why Monogamy Is Ridiculous | Dan Savage | Big Think.