Thursday, October 18, 2012

Polyamory Rising

Thanks in no small part to the Browns and their TLC television show, "Sister Wives," awareness of consensual polygamy (especially plural marriages) is increasing. The same goes for the Showtime's Polyamory show. Both shows and related media and discussion will contribute to relationship rights for poly people, including the freedom to marry and, ultimately, full marriage equality.

The Browns lead a forum at UNLV, prompting some news coverage. Here's a report from at

Kody Brown, center, is flanked by two of his four ‘Sister Wives,” Christine, at left, and Meri, at right.
There are more than 850 societies around the world that practice polygamy, and an estimated 30,000 or more plural families living in the United States, Blumer said. However, because of a negative cultural stigma and legal concerns, most plural families live largely in secrecy.

When the Brown family came out to their monogamous friends relatives some 20 years ago, it strained relationships and broke some bonds.

The Browns also suffered repercussions when their family made national headlines after "Sister Wives" first aired. Meri lost her job, Kody lost a couple of advertising clients and Robyn had a difficult time finding work.

For a couple of years, the family also faced legal prosecution. 
How ridiculous it is that people perpetuate such bigotry.

The Browns also shared their views of what it means to be a feminist in a plural marriage and how they empathize with proponents for gay marriage.

"I believe that I was able to choose our family structure," Kody Brown said. "It should be the right of every citizen in this country to be able to choose their family structure."

The family also shared the decision to come out about their plural marriage.

"I felt like there were so many stereotypes about plural marriages," Kody Brown said. "When I talked with my children about doing the show, I said we have an opportunity to not only change our world, but to change the world for everyone else."
Good or them for expressing and promoting solidarity!

Las Vegas resident Tracy Enriquez, 47, watches "Sister Wives" regularly and said the show changed her views on plural marriage. Seeing the family in person solidified her views, she said.

"At first, I thought it was crazy, but when I saw how much they love each other, it kind of changed my views," she said. "If they don't force people into their lifestyle, I don't see anything wrong with it. I respect them."

That was just one of the examples of how they're opening minds. Good for them! The newspaper also included an edited version of question-and-answer session, and you should click through to read it...

The Kody Brown family, from left, Christine, Janelle, Kody, Robyn and Meri.

Are most people out like you are?

Kody: Almost all of our friends who are in plural marriage are closeted to some level. People are careful not to flaunt it, even in small and remote towns.

It is sad that people feel pressured to hide their marriages.
What are your views of patriarchy and feminism? Polygamy is often seen as a patriarchy and bad for women.

Janelle: Patriarchy has a very negative connotation for me. It's true that Kody is the glue that holds us together, but I definitely have my voice. I feel very liberated. I have a career, my independence and freedom. I've never had to stay at home with sick kids or worry too much about what's for dinner. I can have my cake, and eat it too.

Meri: I agree. I've become so independent in some ways.

Christine, a homemaker: I feel our family is very patriarchal, but it's exactly what I wanted. I just want to be a princess in life.
Clearly, these are women who make up their own minds.

There are negative stereotypes about polygamy. How are you different from Warren Jeffs and FLDS?

Kody: We are Fundamentalist Mormons, not the LDS or FLDS. Jeffs – who was the leader of the FLDS – built up a fiefdom around him. He took the voice away from his wives and children. My belief is that my wives should have their voice and should be able to make choices. As a family, we make choices together.

Janelle: I was able to choose my family. In some Mormon sects, marriages are arranged. In our community, we don't assign spouses. We also wait to get married after we turn 18 years old. The only common thing is we worship from the same scripture as the LDS.

Christine: We also have access to the outside world, the Internet and TV. We want the world for our children, for them to go to college and travel.

Meri: I recently ran a 5K in Utah to get people out of the FLDS. (Audience applauds.)

Janelle: Secrecy is bad, because it allowed people like Warren Jeffs to abuse. That abuse persists, because people were more afraid of the government than Jeffs.

Kody: We're don't mean to criticize the FLDS. That is a community that needs our empathy and support. We can save our criticism for their leadership.
Although the Browns prefer their marital construct be referred to as plural marriage, like all consensual polygamy, I consider it form of polyamory.  Kathy Labriola has written about "The Polyamorous Couple Next Door" at Here's Part 1...
There may be married couples right on your block, or even next door to you, who are in an open or polyamorous relationship without anyone outside the family being aware of it. In fact, it has been impossible for researchers to estimate how many couples practice some form of non-monogamy because the vast majority of these couples are very careful to keep their lifestyle secret.

As a counselor in private practice, I get calls every day from married couples all over the country who have made an agreement to allow each other to have outside sexual or romantic relationships. The usual reasons they give for keeping this from their families, friends, and  co-workers? Fears of their children being taken away from them, being ostracized by family members, being rejected by their friends, or losing their jobs. These fears are usually at least partially based on reality, as many couples have experienced negative consequences when they “came out of the closet” or if others accidentally found out about their open marriage. 
She goes on to give some examples of people involved in these relationships. And here is Part 2.

My experience counseling couples has convinced me of one thing regardless of whether your marriage is explicitly monogamous or polyamorous: If your relationship is strong, stable, and happy, your spouse is unlikely to leave you for someone else, even if they have outside partners. People generally leave their marriages because they are unhappy, not because they have another lover.
Turns out that she wrote mostly about open marriages and cheating, and not polyfidelity.

Finally, at, Alexis offered an introduction to the world of polyamory...

To use the most inclusive definition, polyamory – often shortened to ‘poly’ – is “ethical consensual nonmonogamy”. More specifically, it’s typically used to describe multiple romantic relationships; and it’s contrasted with swinging, which typically involves having multiple sexual relationships (often in the presence of emotional monogamy). However, polyamory is not ‘cheating’: ‘cheating’ involves breaking rules, and by the definition given above, polyamory only describes situations in which all involved have actively consented to the arrangement.
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