Newsweek: ‘Traditionalists Better Get Used to’ Polyamory

July 31st, 2009 8:20 AM
According to Newsweek, polyamory is here to stay and “the traditionalists had better get used to it.”

Polyamory, reporter Jessica Bennett explained in her July 29 article, is the act of “engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person – based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.”

While Bennett acknowledged that keeping track of multiple partners’ (and their partners) needs and wants isn’t for everybody, she concluded, “perhaps 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.”

Bennett offered Terisa Greenan’s arrangement as an example of a successful polyamory situation. Terisa, who is married to Larry, is also the girlfriend of Matt and Scott. Matt is married to Vera, who is dating Larry, Terisa’s husband. Matt and Vera have a child together. Terisa, Larry and Scott live together in a house in Seattle, which Matt, Vera and their child visit during weekends.

Sound creepy? Not to Bennett. And she reassured critics in both the conservative and gay movements who expressed fear of polyamorists seeking government benefits and harming their respective causes. “The majority of them don’t seem particularly interested in pressing a political agenda; the joke in the community is that the complexities of their relationships leave little time for activism.”

Bennett briefly touched on emotional ramifications of polyamorous lifestyles, such as bruised feelings when Larry called Terisa “sweetie” and how Scott sometimes “has had to put up with hearing his girlfriend have sex with someone else,” but those too were dispelled. Larry told Bennett that because everything was in the open, “it’s not as if anybody is betraying anybody else’s trust.” Terisa piped in, “We really don’t let anything go unsaid.”

Ken Haslam, a curator at the polyamory library at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and a polyamorist himself, said, “It’s all very straight forward if everybody is just honest about what’s going on in their brains – and between their legs.”

But all that communication doesn’t do polyamorist parents any good in custody cases. Bennett briefly noted that despite anecdotal research that indicates “children can do well in poly families – as long as they’re in a stable home with loving parents,” few long-term studies have been done on the subject that can hold up in court. Biological anthropologist Helen Fischer similarly touted stability as “what’s healthy for children” in the article as well. 

The “stability” statements ignore other research that has found children raised in traditional intact families have lower levels of anti-social behavior than those raised in non-traditional families. A 2004 Heritage Foundation study found that “mothers and children are safest and thrive best in a married family.”