Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
As many people feared, the same-sex marriage debate has opened the door to people involved in other “alternative lifestyles” who want mainstream acceptance. A recent article appearing in Newsweek glorifying polyamory is a perfect example of how far some of them have come.
The July 29 article by Jessica Bennett features a threesome from Seattle who have been living together for a decade while dating others on the side. They all believe in “ethical non-monogamy” Bennett writes, “or engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person—based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.”
This so-called happy threesome began ten years ago when Terisa Greenan, 41, a filmmaker and actress, began dating Scott, a writer and classical-album merchant. A few years later, Scott introduced her to Larry, a software developer at Microsoft. Terisa and Larry fell in love – with Scott’s consent. Recently, Terisa decided to add another man to the mix, Matt, whose wife Vera was perfectly okay with it all. In fact, Vera eventually began to date Larry, who Terisa eventually married for tax purposes.
“If Scott starts feeling neglected, he can call the woman he’s been dating casually on the side,” Bennett writes as if there is nothing at all wrong with this bizarre arrangement, then adds as if to make it all better: “Everyone in this group is heterosexual, and they insist they never sleep with more than one person at a time.”
Traditionalists had better get used to this, Bennett warns, because there are now more than 500,000 openly polyamorous relationships to be found in the U.S. today.
A rash of books is also promoting the concept, Bennett writes, books such as Open, by journalist Jenny Block; Opening Up, by sex columnist Tristan Taormino. “An updated version of The Ethical Slut—widely considered the modern ‘poly’ Bible, have helped publicize the concept,” she writes.
“Today there are poly blogs and podcasts, local get-togethers, and an online polyamory magazine called Loving More with 15,000 regular readers,” Bennett adds.
She goes on to claim that the majority of these “families” aren’t interested in pressing a political agenda, and blames the “religious right” for trying to make it appear that way.
However, she does admit that the idea is still taboo, but suggests that “the practice is more natural than we think: a response to the challenges of monogamous relationships, whose shortcomings—in a culture where divorce has become a commonplace—are clear. Everyone in a relationship wrestles at some point with an eternal question: can one person really satisfy every need? Polyamorists think the answer is obvious—and that it’s only a matter of time before the monogamous world sees there’s more than one way to live and love.”
Unfortunately, it’s the children who are suffering most for the “non-monogamous” choices of their parents. For instance, Matt and Vera have a six year old son who they bring with them when they visit Terisa, Larry and Scott for the weekend. Recently, the boy asked his father which of the two women he loved more – his mother or Terisa. Matt said his mother “because that’s the answer he needed to hear.”
He went on to add: “We don’t do anything any regular parents of a 6-year-old wouldn’t do” – except bring him to weekend partner-swapping events.
“For the moment, it seems to be working,” Bennett states optimistically. “The child is happy, and there are two extra people to help him with his homework, or to pick him up or drop him off at school.”
The couples rightly expect the boy’s questions to increase with age, but in the long run, “what’s healthy for children is stability,” Bennett says, quoting an Rutgers anthropologist.
“When polyamorists assert that their practice requires ‘the knowledge and consent of everyone involved,’ they don’t appear to consider the needs and rights of the child,” said a posting about the article on the website of Pennsylvania for Marriage, a grassroots organization fighting for traditional marriage.
“Redefining the meaning of marriage to include same-sex partners may give the ‘green light’ for polyamorists to demand full marriage rights. Pennsylvania for Marriage supports the overwhelming number of studies that assert that married mothers and fathers provide the best environment for children to thrive.”
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