Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dossie on Jealousy: a synopsis of her Poly Living Workshop, 2010

One of the reasons I (and several of my friends) wanted to attend the Poly Living Conference this month was the opportunity to meet and listen to the co-author of The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton. Practically every person who explores the history and literature of polyamory has read this book, and whether or not we think of ourselves as sluts, pretty much all of us try to adhere to the ethics of open, honest relationships that bring our partners as much pleasure as they do ourselves.

Much of what Dossie has to say in her work as a writer and therapist revolves around the idea that we are not born "perfect" at what we do -- anything, even learning to love, takes work and awareness. I loved how she spoke directly and with humility about her own experiences, mistakes and challenges. Dossie definitely gets across the message that love and sex are experiences within the human realm, and therefore subject to all kinds of difficult (as well as blissful) feelings.

I decided at the last minute to attend her workshop on "Making Friends with Jealousy". After all, I've been attending and leading poly discussions on this topic for many years, not to mention wrestled with my own jealous demons over the course of my poly life -- what could possibly be said that I didn't already know? Turns out I was glad I went.

I've been feeling very scientific lately, so when Dossie announced that she was going to focus on the physiology of jealousy, I perked up. So many people try to find deeply buried emotional reasons for jealousy (and for love, and attachments in general) that coming at this most complex and frightening of emotions from the perspective of our biological self seemed somehow comforting --like maybe jealousy is something I don't need to feel so guilty about experiencing.

Dossie introduced us to our amygdala: essentially the region in our brain where emotions are experienced. There have been, she said, great advances in brain research regarding the physiological components of emotional experience via hormones (such as the stress hormone, hydrocortisone, which is produced by our adrenal glands in response to stressful situations -- essentially, our fight or flight mechanism).

So, in terms of the experience of jealousy, there is a lot going on that is autonomic, or that our bodies are doing without our even realizing it, and this affects our perception of the situation. Dossie listed several things we can do, however, to mitigate the effect of our very human reaction to what we perceive as a dangerous situation (eg. when we feel jealous):

1. Take care of yourself. Schedule times for gratification and things you love doing but don't otherwise get the chance to do. If you can do these things when your partner is out on a hot date with someone else, so much the better!

2. Create a container for your jealous emotions so that you can experience them but not allow them to spill over and affect all aspects of your life and interactions. We get in trouble, she says, when we pretend not to feel something we are actually feeling. (Dossie herself cheerfully admits that she still gets jealous, but after 40 years of working on it, "it's sort of a non-event".)

3. Because we can't solve conflicts in a state of stress, taking at least 15 minutes to calm down (through breathing, meditation, or visualization -- or, depending on personal preference, gentle exercise) will actually "reset" our amygdala and increase our capacity to calm down the next time we get stressed. I thought this was pretty cool, and it also explains why handling jealousy does get easier the longer you address it.

4. Use distraction to deflect the cyclic process of negative thought patterns. This doesn't always work, but it can be an effective tool to derail some of the negative self-esteem chatter than crops up in our minds when we're feeling like we might lose someone's love or attention.

5. Release and banish the "shoulds". There is no one "right" way to feel. Just let your feelings be what they are (this is what she means by "making friends with your jealousy"). At this point in the workshop, Dossie took us through some breathing exercises and a short guided meditation/visualization of what our own jealousy looked like. We were encouraged to try and open a dialogue with our jealousy in whatever form we envisioned it and afterwards we shared this experience with others in the room. (I liked this exercise a lot, because it reminded me of one in my Buddhist practice called: "befriending your demons".)

6. Finally, she reminded us to focus on what we can control in our lives, and to practice letting go of what we can't. As poly people, we know that we cannot (and should not try to) ever, ever control our partners' feelings. We can, however, feel pretty confident that we can control our own feelings with the help of some relatively simple tools and the knowledge that sometimes, managing scary feelings is as easy as shutting off the hormonal hot-water tap and allowing ourselves to rest.

My thanks to Dossie for leaving us with the assurance that we are all beautiful human beings who have valuable things to contribute in terms of wisdom and love.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

VanIsle-Poly Social & Discussion Group's 10th Anniversary

Friday, November 5 · 7:00pm - 11:30pm
Tudor House Sports Bar
Victoria, BC

Come and celebrate TEN YEARS of poly community building on Vancouver Island. Dancing, great food, and a call to all alumni to drop in for a visit. Birthday Girl kisses and/or poly pins to any who donate to the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association at the party. (Cash or cheque)
We've come a long way - but there's a long way to go.

Zoe Duff, moderator of Vanisle poly says:

From an idea that there must be others who shared a philosophy to meet & greets in Victoria & Nanaimo, Victoria Poly Dating group, and the seed from which sprang Victoria Poly 101, Poly Kelowna, Poly 201 and Poly Women. From camping trips, retreats, workshop weekends to Polycamp Too and beyond. Hard work and sometimes discouraging but always most delightful and definitely an exciting ride.

Thank you for all your support, interest and for being a part of this wonderful decade of poly community building. Let's PARTY!!!!!!

Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association at Loving More's Poly Living

The CPAA at Loving More Conference!

Oct 26th, 2010 

We are back home–inspired, very grateful and exhausted!  The CPAA  attended the American Poly Living 2010 conference in Seattle (organized by Loving More, the leading national polyamory organization in the US) .  And not only did we attend lots of great workshops, but Zoe and I (Carole) presented a workshop on our Canadian court case!  (here at   

Read more of this blog post on the CPAA's site, here...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Loving More workshop: Who needs a safer sex elevator speech? YOU do!!

"If someone asks what your safer-sex protocols are, can you answer in two minutes or less?"

Reid Mihalko's workshop: "Creating Your Safer Sex Elevator Speech" tells you just how to do it. Intriguing twist on that oh-so-necessary poly conversation, no? I thought so, which is why I decided to attend this workshop.

I have to confess that I managed to be late for this one, due to the fact that the friend I attended the conference with and myself were staying across town at my lover's home. I'm lucky to have a wonderful partner in Seattle, but I forget sometimes that driving across the city early in the morning (especially a foreign city) takes a bit of extra time. Oops. Anyway, breakfast was delicious and the portion of the workshop I did manage to see was great, especially the group exercise at the end.

Reid, by the way, is an engaging presenter, well-accustomed to talking about sex. He's a polyamorous sex coach, counsellor and spokesperson for healthy relationship choices. His website,, is packed with great advice and links and I recommend checking it out.

Back to the elevator speech. Reid pointed out that it's important to cultivate self knowledge before figuring out what to tell someone else about your safer sex preferences. Sounds familiar, right? It's also sort of difficult, as I found when I tried to write my own speech. To begin with, figuring out what your physical needs are should be balanced with what your emotional needs are regarding sex. Do you feel you just can't live without a fluid bond with an intimate partner? Make sure you say this, so your partner knows that condoms and testing will be mandatory with their other partners. Do you find latex sexy? Do you find condoms awkward for oral? There are many ways to work out a balance between people if you can actually start with your basic needs.

The other really important question we need to ask ourselves is: "What are you ok with getting?" Some STI's are not life threatening, but they may impose a social stigma on the person who carries the infection (HSV is one example). Since NO form of partnered sex (except maybe for web camming and mutual masturbation across the room from each other) is 100% safe, we use the term safer sex because we need to recognise as responsible adults that we are taking a risk. It's up to each of us to decide what our risk limits are and to express them clearly to our potential partners.

If this all sounds rather unsexy, Reid points out that it doesn't have to be. On the contrary, he's honed his matter-of-fact elevator speech to the point where it can actually be used as a great conversation opener at poly conventions and nightclubs. Another benefit to opening a safer sex conversation with a potential partner is that you get to see their reaction to the topic. If they seem uncomfortable or awed by your amazing sense of planning and forethought, you might want to reconsider sleeping with them, since they probably don't think much about testing or safer sex themselves. If, however, they respond with aware enthusiasm and offer their own list of requirements, it's a good bet they've given safer sex some serious thought and you're good to go!

We were then asked to write our own speeches, composed of how we describe ourselves (eg. poly, queer, kinky librarian), when we last got tested, what we were tested for and the results, our safer sex needs (eg. condoms for PIV and anal sex but not oral, disclosure of the STI status of a partner's other partners), what we like, sexually-speaking (eg. cuddling, blow jobs, spanking) and what boundaries we have that we won't cross (definitely NO sex with the cat in the room!).

The moment of truth came, and we paired up to give our elevator pitches. While it was a bit awkward starting out, it was rather fun and I relaxed once I got into it. Talking about sex -- even safer sex requirements -- can be sexy! Wow, go figure!

I think the most valuable thing I got out of the workshop was the clear message that demystifying safer sex into a planned (and not terribly long and rambling) speech helps to separate someone's STI status from their sexual attractiveness. If you're willing to be creative and communicative, there is always *something* sexy two (or more) people can figure out. And hey.. we all know how sexy communication is, don't we, poly people?

Don't let your safer sex communication style (or lack of it) limit your sexual choices!

I caught Reid presumably trying out his elevator speech on Cunning Minx during the book signing.. she seems to have found it pretty amusing!

Poly Living Conference: Workshop on Human Origins and Poly

One of the workshops I really wanted to attend was presented by Leanna Wolfe, PhD and titled:  "Human Origins and Polyamory:  when did it all begin?"   I admit I was especially interested in this workshop because I'd just read Christopher Ryan's Sex at Dawn, the book that is giving scientific credibility to the concept that coexisting peacefully with more than one sexual partner not only has historical validity, it makes anthropological and evolutionary sense as well.  (In fact, as Christopher Ryan put it in his presentation, it's the only explanation that DOES make sense for the way humans have evolved sexually when you consider the volume of research that's accumulated).  I'm not a scientist or psychologist, but I'm a good enough librarian and teacher to know the importance of research.

Leanna Wolfe is one such researcher.  She is a sexual anthropologist who works as a college professor, social theorist and clinical sexologist, and who has had a longstanding interest in polyamory both as a researcher and as a participant.  Her workshop provided factual background on the debate (which is currently heating up) on whether monogamy, or some form of non-monogamy is more "natural" to humans.  

The presentation covered a lot of material, beginning with a detailed summary of human characteristics that researchers have identified as being critical to the development of human social/sexual behaviour.  She discussed the concept of maternal provisioning (the need that mothers caring for dependent infants have for someone else to provide them with food and shelter).  There is, she says, no evidence that "sex for meat" exchanges took the form of monogamous pair bonds, and in fact there is current evidence among cultures that live primarily as "immediate return" hunter gatherers that this exchange takes the form of non-monogamous bonds within a community.

The fact of "sperm competition" (there is ample physiological evidence that this occurs in humans and in our closest primate cousins, chimpanzees and bonobos) means that successful reproduction depends on females having sex with many males within a short timespan rather than with one exclusively.  (This section of the workshop produced one of my favourite quotes of the conference:   "Sperm is complicated!" meaning that different components of human sperm serve different purposes, from blocking and attacking other males' sperm to insemination.)

Cultural and social components were also discussed in the workshop.  The feeling of NRE (New Relationship Energy) that poly people so often refer to is seen as one of the biggest challenges to the poly paradigm (though not impossible to deal with, as many of us have found).  Independence and individuality, so valued in the Western world, are cultural paradigms that can encourage monogamy, which makes being poly a challenge in a world oriented toward "coupledom" (more about this in a future blog post about Pepper Mint's workshop: "Facing a Monogamous World").  

The workshop gave a great overview of anthropological research on this fascinating topic.  In the end, Dr. Wolfe left us with the thought that whatever is most "natural" depends not only on physiological characteristics or environmental conditions, but on culture as well.  We cannot lift ourselves completely out of the context of our current cultural paradigm, but we can (and those of us who are polyamorous DO, all the time) make a conscious choice to creatively adapt a different style of sexual behaviour that feels natural for us.  Whether this style is monogamy, serial monogamy, polyamory or something completely different is up to the many factors and complexities that have combined to evolve human primates.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Loving More's Poly Living Conference, Seattle, 2010: 1st blog of many!!

Whew!  Well, I'm home from the conference and my head is spinning while my heart is happy from all that poly goodness!  I met some fantastic people and heard much poly wisdom and I'm going to be slowly uploading it all to this blog over the course of the week, so stay tuned!

My first impressions are:  "Wow!  What a lot of work conferences are to organize!"  and..  "Robyn Trask and the crew at Loving More make it look sooooo easy!"  Many many thanks and kudos to them for their accomplishment!

The conference took place over the course of a weekend, which meant six workshop slots in total (you can read about them on the conference site, here).  I attended five (ok, I was up a bit too late Saturday night to make it to the early Sunday workshops, but hopefully you'll excuse me because I'd not seen my Seattle sweetheart for several weeks..  I was, uh, busy practicing what I preach).  ;)

Most of the attendees were seasoned poly members of various polyamory and sex positive groups across the globe and many were leaders in their poly communities.  The workshops were not only informative, but were also exciting thinktanks for new and creative ideas on how to think about, learn about and teach about polyamory.  I feel privileged to have been a part of this.

Some of the poly leaders and luminaries in attendance were:  Dossie Easton, author of  The Ethical Slut, Cunning Minx, host of Polyamory Weekly podcast, Alan, the webmaster of Poly in the News, Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn, Pepper Mint, of Freaksexual, Mim Chapman, author of What Does Polyamory Look Like?, Curt Bergstrand, author of Swinging in America, and several executive committee members of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.

Over the course of the weekend I got to chat, listen to, discuss with and giggle with all of these lovely people, many of whom I look forward to seeing and working with again.  Events like Poly Living remind me that the world can be a friendlier and more connected place, not only through the magic of the internet and air transportation, but through the willingness of people to share themselves, their dreams, and their determination  to be utterly themselves regardless of what our cultural norms tell us we *should* be.  As Dossie herself said to us in her keynote speech:  Success comes from the willingness to appear foolish and to reach outside the box.

Getting to meet Christopher Ryan at the book signing was awesome!

Me, with my first edition of The Ethical Slut.

Sharing a cuddle with Dossie after she signed BOTH my editions of The Ethical Slut!

With Pepper Mint, doing some poly networking!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association news

Poly Love may be Criminalized in Canada. The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association is asking for both funds and community support to resist this attack on our community.

Please fundraise or donate! Consider holding a poly community pub night or event for the CPAA. We have been operating a very tight, totally volunteer driven campaign on a very limited budget and we’re now starting to have expenses in excess of our $1,100 of seed money. (see below for more info on what we’ve managed to do on those funds! Holy cow!) For continued effective and more fulsome representation on this issue, a donation of any amount would be very helpful. Please send a Paypal payment to or send email to for instructions on how to send a cheque.

Trial begins November 22! Consider organizing a community event that day or the weekend before to celebrate polyamory and show your support. Send us pictures or a blurb. Talk with your MLA or your MP about polyamory and tell them that loving families should not be criminalized just because they involve more than 2 adults in a marriage-like relationship. Our governments need to know that ordinary Canadians do not want poly to be criminal.

Background: As many of you will recall, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) was formed by well known people in the polyamory community to advocate for polyamory in the Canadian court case on Canada's criminal law against multiple, conjugal living arrangements and polygamy (s. 293 Criminal Code). The court is going to be giving its opinion on whether the law breaches the Charter of Rights and is unconstitutional.

The CPAA’s view is that the law absolutely affects the fundamental freedoms and rights of polyamorists and should be struck down. Loving, families should not be criminalized just because they involve more than 2 adults in a marriage-like relationship.

While the law has seldom been enforced (and was recently aimed at fundamentalist Mormons in BC), scarily it promises 5 year jail sentences to participants, and those assisting/attending celebrations. Visit the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association facebook page or our website at for more information.

Litigation activities and updates: A small group of us got together and formed the CPAA. We got:

-donated seed funds of $1100, now spent on activities (see below)

-a volunteer pro bono lawyer (for a limited amount of time)

-obtained "interested person" status in court

-did a survey of the Canadian poly community which we put into court as evidence

--found 5 witness families from across Canada to swear affidavits about their family stories into court (more volunteered too, thank you!)

--made a pre-trial application to ask the governments to clarify whether they believe polyamorous families’ are criminals under the law (application refused BUT the good news is that the application helped us clarify to media and others that polyamory is very different culturally and in practice than in religious, patriarchal polygamy).

-put into court a 500 page brief of expert and social science evidence as well as 4 books

We are now preparing for the court dates beginning November 22. This includes identifying the witnesses we propose to call and to cross-examine and preparing 2 statements of submission.

Government position: The governments of BC and Canada have so far refused to say that polyamorous conjugal households are not criminal under s. 293. Canada has said nothing about its position on the law but is expected to argue that it applies to polyamorous relationships and is constitutional. BC says s. 293 does criminalize polyamorous households. However, if necessary (if the court thinks 293 breaches the Charter of Rights), then BC might take the position that the law should not be applied to polyamorous relationships. That doesn’t make us feel very safe. Even worse, BC has since put forward evidence and made statements at the pre-trial hearing indicating it might argue that polyamory should be included in the criminal law, particularly polyamorous households in which there is one man and more than one woman (polygnous arrangements).

Please feel free to email us if you have any questions or concerns ( We also have forums open on our website

Friday, October 15, 2010

Seattle Bound for Loving More's conference!

Hey VP101ers,

I wanted to send out a GINORMOUS group hug to all of you who contributed to the generous gift of my registration fee for the Loving More Poly Living conference in Seattle this month! I had pretty much given up on going due to my abysmal financial circumstances and I am overwhelmed and touched by your gesture (along with the wondrous stealthiness of my amazing girlfriend for masterminding the whole plot behind my back). *melts*

My brain is already working overtime on everything I need to do to bring VP101 to the North American poly stage in style and I'm going to make sure I take lots of pics and video during the conference for our blog. Let's put Victoria on the poly map!!!

Your excited and still utterly stunned facilitator,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Synopsis from last night's Poly 201 discussion on: Metamours (by Zoe Duff of VanIsle Poly)

Meta- (from Greek: μετά = "after", "beyond", "with", "adjacent", "self"), is a prefix used inEnglish (and other Greek-owing languages) to indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, used to complete or add to the latter.
Amour is the French word for love, an intense feeling of affection. It may also refer to: Amour(musical), a stage musical written by Michel Legrand ...
So...."metamour" is "after the musical"? applause?  woohoo!!!   I"m the applause???  oh yeah bbbbaby    (chuckle)
Well....maybe but no... a metamour is
In a polyamorous relationship, where your lover has more than one lover, a metamour is the name given to your partner's other lover(s).
Interesting discussion at the Poly 201 group meeting last night.  This is a smaller group than the Poly 101 and more devoted to the fine tuning of practical poly than basic information and concepts.
Discussion revolved around the necessity of some relationship between ourselves and the other partners in our lovers' lives.  The relationship between same sex persons in any poly configuration being a key factor in the success of said configuration according to Deborah Anapole in her various books on the subject.  Key factors in the development of  relationships between members of the poly family around you were identified as:
1. Time to develop any kind of a relationship
2. Accessibility of the metamours to each other (less likely in a long distance scenario etc)
2. Inclination or compatibility considerations of the individuals and their relationship styles.
3. Responsibility of the linch pin (the lover who is shared) to introduce, facilitate and perhaps referree the relationship developing
4. Investment required of the metamours - (ie if the girl friend is going to be a long term hanging around the house situation then the live in partner would have greater investment in developing a friendship with her and vice versa)
5. The impact of the level of honesty in the lovers' other relationships on you as metamour and the comfort level of being everything from possibly intrusive, kind of involved to completely detached from the particulars of other relationships. (ie knowing that your partner's partner doesn't know about your relationship with her)  ( ie poking at him to call her etc and vicariously participating in the courtship)
6. The poly configuration involved.  A big poly inter-loving household requires much more relationship development than a network of lovers who might not ever come into social contact with each other.
7. Whether you are a primary partner or trying to relate to the primary partner or another non-living in the house partner.
Very interesting discussion. 
“One determined person can make a significant difference; a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”    Sonia Johnson -~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~Van Isle Polyamory

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October Poly 101 discussion (please note a change in date for this month only)

Thursday, October 21 · 6:30pm - 9:30pm

LocationCamas Books
corner of Kings and Quadra streets
Victoria, BC

More InfoTonight's topic will start out with a discussion on creating intimacy in poly relationships. We will also talk about poly terms, poly community, family and any other poly issues you want to discuss.

Due to a scheduling conflict with another group this month, Poly 101 will be held at a different date for OCTOBER ONLY. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.