“With affairs, you get sex. With polyamory, you get breakfast,” says Cambridge sex therapist Gina Ogden, citing a well-known poly saying. Ogden is the author of The Return of Desire, in which she dedicates a chapter to affairs and polyamory. “Polyamory isn’t a lifestyle for everybody, any more than monogamy is for everybody,” she says. “Keeping one relationship vital is a lot of work, and if you start adding more relationships, it becomes more work.” Though common descriptors used for monogamy don’t easily apply to polyamory, there is a recognizable spectrum of how open these partnerships may be. On the closed end, you might have a couple in a primary relationship who will then have one or more secondary relationships that are structured to accommodate the primary one. There’s also polyfidelity, in which three or more people are exclusive with one another. On the open end, there might be chains of people where, for example, Sue is dating Bill and Bill is dating Karen and Karen is dating Jack, who is also dating Sue.
“I’m not sure there are as many ways to be poly as there are people who are poly, but it’s close,” says Thomas Amoroso, an emergency room doctor from Somerville and member of Poly Boston. Amoroso, 48, who identifies as straight, has been in a committed relationship for five years with a woman and man who live together within walking distance of his Somerville apartment. Amoroso is only sexual with the woman, who is sexual with each of the men separately, but they all consider the others life partners. “No one has said the words ‘Till death do us part,’ but I think that’s the intent,” Amoroso says. Divorced in 1999 after 15 years of marriage, Amoroso felt unable to express his affectionate nature in the confines of a monogamous relationship. When a woman he had just begun seeing revealed she was polyamorous, the concept, new to Amoroso, resonated. Amoroso and the woman stayed together for five years, while each sustained additional relationships, including -- for her -- one with Sekora that drew Sekora and Amoroso together in a close friendship that they still maintain. For Amoroso, being poly is less about sex than the authentic expression of caring for more than one person. “People tend to harp on the sexual component,” he says, “but the relationship component is just as important.”
It’s complicated, as the poly catch phrase goes. It’s also still surprisingly closeted. Nonetheless, Valerie White, executive director of Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund in Sharon, says we are ahead of the curve in Massachusetts, particularly compared with the South, where teachers have lost their jobs and parents have lost their children for being poly. But she notes there is no push in the poly movement to legalize these relationships, largely because there’s no infrastructure for it. “It was easy to legalize gay marriage. All you had to do was change bride and groom to person A and person B. But we don’t know what multi-partnered marriage looks like,” White says.
“The gay struggle is a larger struggle, and as poly people we don’t have to be political,” says Amoroso, who, like many poly people, does see the need for a clearer legal recognition of relationships that aren’t marriages. (If one of his partners were to fall ill, for example, he would want legal visitation rights.) But he also thinks the lifestyle can gain acceptance. “Most poly relationships that I’m familiar with are heterosexual, and that’s a lot more understandable to people, even if they wouldn’t do it this way,” he says. “The fantasy of more than one boyfriend or girlfriend is fairly widespread,” he adds.
Hmm, let's see. Does the article argue that polyamory is natural? Yep. Does it argue that it's normal? Mmmhmmm. Does it argue that some people are just born--or "wired"--toward polyamory? Check. Does it argue that it ought to be legalized? Oh, yes.
Massachusetts has been pointed to, sometimes, by gay-rights advocates as the "poster state" for how gay marriage will look for America. The notion is expressed that gay marriage doesn't mean the end of religious liberty, a pro-sodomy education agenda, or the slippery slope toward polygamy or other alternative marriage types. The trouble is, the facts keep getting in the way: Catholic Charities had to choose between Catholic teaching or the ability to place children for adoption in the state of Massachusetts; websites like MassResistance started documenting the push to expose children to homosexuality in the schools; and now the Boston Globe runs a sympathetic puff-piece about polyamorous Bostonians and their "complicated" lifestyles.
The opponents of gay marriage have insisted for a long time now that the legalization of gay marriage in America will eventually mean the end of civil marriage as a recognizable institution. As the push to call every sexual and non-sexual partnership, pairing or grouping imaginable a "marriage" increases the word will become meaningless, and will eventually express a concept that is obsolete except for the very religious or those who wish to be "quaint" as they add a fourth or fifth partner to their fluid relationship grouping. The losers in this new world of meaningless marriage will be the most vulnerable, the children who will never have a sense of belonging or security as mommy's or daddy's extra husbands/wives/both drift in and out of their landscape, and as mommy and daddy themselves feel free to move away from each other and into new home-brothels full of what this book calls, perhaps unconscious of the irony, "ethical sluts."
Gay rights activists have, of course, insisted that traditional, monogamous, male-female marriage will not be affected at all by gay marriage, that there will be no societal push for legalized polygamy, polyandry, polyamory, incestuous marriage, or any other sort of relationship which is currently taboo. But they are wrong, and the Boston Globe, long a champion of gay marriage, is now coyly admitting that gay marriage was just the beginning--at least in Massachusetts, where "marriage" is starting to be a word without any meaning at all.