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Death Is Way More Complicated When You’re Polyamorous


By Simon Davis

death become her

Screencap via ‘Death Becomes Her’

In February, Robert McGarey’s partner of 24 years died. It was the most devastating loss McGarey had ever encountered, and yet, there was a silver lining: “I had this profound sadness, but I don’t feel lonely,” McGarey told me. “I’m not without support, I’m not without companionship.”

That’s because he has other partners: Jane, who he’s been with for 16 years, and Mary, who he’s been with for eight. (Those are not their real names.) And while his grief for Pam, the girlfriend who died, was still immense, polyamory helped him deal with it.

There’s not a lot of research into how poly families cope with death—probably because there’s not a lot of research about how poly families choose to live. By rough estimates, there are several million poly people in the United States. And while polyamory can bring people tremendous benefits in life and in death, our social and legal systems weren’t designed to deal with people with more than one romantic partner—so when one person dies, it can usher in a slew of complicating legal and emotional problems.

“Whether people realize it or not, the partner to whom they are married will have more benefits and rights once a death happens,” explained Diana Adams, who runs a boutique law firm that practices “traditional and non-traditional family law with support for positive beginnings and endings of family relationships.”

Since married partners rights’ trump everyone else’s, the non-married partners don’t automatically have a say in end-of-life decisions, funeral arrangements, or inheritance. That’s true for non-married monogamous relationships, too, but the problem can be exacerbated in polyamorous relationships where partners are not disclosed or acknowledged by family members. In her work, Adams has seen poly partners get muscled out of hospital visits and hospice by family members who refused to recognize a poly partner as a legitimate partner.

McGarey and his girlfriend Pam weren’t married, so the decision to take her off life support had to go through Pam’s two sisters. The money Pam left behind—which McGarey would’ve inherited had they been married—went to her sisters too, who also organized Pam’s funeral.

This kind of power struggle can also happen among multiple partners who have all been romantically involved with the deceased. The only real way to ensure that everything is doled out evenly is to draft up a detailed prenuptial agreement and estate plan. Adams works with clients to employ “creative estate planning” to ensure that other partners are each acknowledged and taken care of.

Adams is a big proponent of structured mediation as a way of minimizing post-mortem surprises, like when families discover the existence of mysterious extra-marital partners in someone’s will. It’s much better to have those conversations in life than on someone’s deathbed, or after death.

But many poly people remain closeted in life and in death, according to sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, who has studied polyamorous families for 15 years and authored The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families. A person might have a public primary partner—someone they’re married to, for example—plus other private relationships. That can make it harder to grieve when one of the non-primary partners dies, because others don’t recognize the relationship as “real” or legitimate in the way the death of a spouse might be.

Take, for example, something like an employee bereavement policy. Guidelines from the Society for Human Resource Management spell out the length of time off given in the event of the death of a loved one: a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Unsurprisingly, extra-marital boyfriend or girlfriend is not on the list. (Actually, “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” aren’t on the list at all.) It’s possible for an employee to explain unique circumstances to an employer, but in her research, Sheff has found that some poly people prefer not to “out” themselves this way. People still disapprove of extra-marital affairs and some poly people, according to Sheff, have even lost their jobs from being outed, due to corporate “morality clauses.”

It’s similar, she says, to the experiences of same-sex couples who are closeted. “It’s much less so now because they’re more acknowledged and recognized, but 20 years ago, it was routine for [the family of the deceased] to muscle out the partner and ignore their wishes—even if [the deceased] hadn’t seen their family for years and years,” Sheff said. “They would come and descend on the funeral and take over. Or when the person was in the ICU. That same vulnerability that gays and lesbians have moved away from to some extent is still potentially very problematic for polyamorous people.”

Legal recognition of polyamorous unions could provide some relief. After the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, calls for legalizing plural marriage have only become louder. Adams noted that an argument put forth in Chief Justice John Roberts’s 2015 dissent may provide a legal foothold for legalization advocates. “As Roberts points out, if there’s going to be a rejection of some of the traditional man-woman elements of marriage… those same arguments could easily be applied to three or four-person unions,” she said in an interview with US News & World Report earlier this year.

In 2006, Melissa Hall’s husband Paul died at the age of 52. Both were polyamorous, but Paul’s death presented “no special problems,” since they were legally married and Hall had all the rights of a spouse. Instead, she found unexpected benefits in dealing with her husband’s death: In particular, she told me that “being poly made it easier to love again.” Since they had both dated other people during their life together, Hall knew her husband’s death wouldn’t stop her from dating again.

In traditional relationships, it’s not uncommon for people to impose dating restrictions on themselves to honor the desires of their dead spouses, or to feel guilty when they start dating again. Of course, you don’t win if you don’t date either, as people eventually get on your case to “move on with your life.” All this goes out the window when you’re polyamorous, where dating doesn’t necessarily signal the end of an arbitrary acceptable period of mourning.

More partners in a relationship can certainly mean more support. It can also mean more people dying, and with that comes more grief. In an article about loss among polys published in the polyamory magazine Loving More, one man wrote: “Those of us who have practiced polyamory through our lifetime must be grateful for the abundance of love in our lives. But having those wonderful other loves means we must accept a little more grieving as well, when our times come.”

Is the trade off worth it? McGarey certainly seems to think so. “There is more grieving, but… we are held and cradled in the love of other people at the same time.”

He compares his relationship to the Disney movie Up, which starts with a guy falling in love and marrying his childhood sweetheart. “And then [she] dies, and he turns into this grumpy old man because he lost his love,” McGarey said. “I don’t see myself turning into a grumpy old man. I don’t know if I can attribute that to poly, but maybe that’s why.”

Complete Article HERE!

These Volunteers Give Handjobs to the Severely Disabled

By Nelson Moura and Yun jie Zou


Hand Angels helping Andy from his wheelchair into bed.

Andy is a muscular dystrophy patient who lives with his parents in southern Taiwan. Due to his severe physical disability, he was home-schooled and couldn’t leave his house alone, so never really had the opportunity to develop either an active social life or a romantic relationship.

When the Taiwanese NGO Hand Angel—an organization promoting the sexual rights of disabled people—first spoke to Andy, they realized this situation meant he’d also never been able to have a frank conversation with anyone about his sexuality. And as a young gay man who didn’t want to speak to his parents about his feelings, this wasn’t exactly the healthiest situation to be in.

So, over the course of a few months, representatives from the NGO counseled Andy online, helping him to understand his own sexuality and place in the world. Next, they “smuggled” him out of his house and took him to a motel for a handjob.

Taiwan—officially known as the Republic of China—has one of the best health systems in the world; its million or so disabled citizens receive some of the most thorough medical attention you’ll find, including everything from long-term care to traditional herbal medicine. What they don’t receive from this system, however, is any kind of aid when it comes to slightly more intimate issues, namely: orgasms.

It was for this reason that a group of social campaigners and volunteers took it upon themselves to create Hand Angel, an NGO whose main service is giving handjobs to the severely disabled. Members say that their work raises awareness of the fact that disabled people are often depicted as desexualized—as well as having their sexuality constantly neglected—despite the fact they share exactly the same desires as anybody else.

In the Netherlands, the national health system provides a grant scheme for people with disabilities to receive public money to pay for sexual services up to 12 times a year. In Taiwan, sex remains a taboo, and some Buddhists—the sovereign state’s primary religion—believe that someone suffering from a disability means they’re paying for bad deeds in a past life. So not the best mix for those like Andy, really.

“I can’t tell my parents that I also have sexual desires, and I can’t come out of the closet in front them,” he told me. “My family’s care puts lots of pressure [on me] and sabotages me from normal romantic relations.”

Vincent, the 50-year-old founder of Hand Angel, lost his legs to polio and says his disability allows him to better empathize with applicants’ needs, without any of the patronization disabled people can sometimes face. He emphasized that “disabled people share the same physical and emotional needs as any others, and therefore should have the right to pursue them.”

In order to decide who’s entitled to use their services, Hand Angel first assess an applicant’s level of disability. The person has to be recognized by the government as having a serious physical impairment, but can’t be mentally disabled. Once they’re cleared, the service is totally free, but each applicant can only receive three bouts of sexual stimulation.

Volunteers—the group of 10 people actually giving the handjobs—come from varied backgrounds; some are gay, some are straight, some are disabled, some are PhD students, some are social campaigners and some work in the media. It’s made very clear to me that these volunteers only use their hands for second-base kind of stuff—that hugging, caressing, and kissing on the face are all fine, but anything penetrative (fingering, oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex) is not.


The hands of Hand Angel volunteers

When Hand Angel took Andy to the motel, the volunteer caressed him thoroughly and gave him a handjob. He described the intimacy being so intense that, for a minute, he believed he was in love. He knew it was only temporary, of course, but the experience provided him with an emotional connection he’d never felt before.

This is part of Hand Angel’s mission: not just providing a sexual service, but also bringing forth an emotional and social transformation in applicants.

“[Andy] was very introverted before, and didn’t really know how to interact with people,” said Vincent. “However, through months of talking online, I discovered something changed inside him. When our group was reported by the media and got lots of criticism, I saw Andy joined the public debate and argued with those [critical] internet users, trying to illustrate his opinions.”

In Taiwan, where a discussion of sexuality is restrained by strict moral codes, there was also plenty of mockery leveled at Hand Angel. Internet users starting posting comments like: “Do they also offer ‘Mouth Angels?'”; “I’m retarded; can I apply for Hand Angel service, too?”; and “Only three times in a lifetime?”

There even appeared to be negativity on an official level. The executive secretary of the Taipei United Social Wealth Alliance, Yi-Ting Hu, commented on the NGO, saying: “Speaking from personal opinion, I don’t think we need to bring up disabled people’s sexuality as an independent issue. There are more important and urgent problems we need to deal with. Don’t you think if you advocate their sexual rights, it is like another form of discrimination?”

Of course, he seemed to only be proving Hand Angels’ point; to suggest that advocating a disabled person’s sexual rights is a form of discrimination is, first, patronizing in itself, and secondly, just completely bizarre—how is consensually receiving a handjob in any way discriminatory?

Andy summed it up: “I didn’t feel I was the target of pity. The whole process was full of respect and equality. This might be deemed as controversial by society, but as long as you’re willing to look into it, what we desire is no different from others. Just ask yourself: do you need to consult your parents before having sex?”

Complete Article HERE!

A Poisonous Relationship

Name: Clare
Gender: Female
Age: 40
Location: St Louis
My best friend can’t bring herself to sever her ties with her ex-boyfriend. Even though their last attempted reunion ended in a very violent fight. My friend has this weird nostalgia for the relationship she had with her ex at the beginning. Back then, before he started drinking and drugging, they did have a couple of good years, but that was a long time ago. I’m very concerned for my friend. She’s often depressed and she is pulling away from her friends. I think she is seriously considering getting back with her no-good, two-timing ex. I know that my role as a friend is to love and support her, but her ex is not to be trusted. I fear as much for her safety as for her heart. What’s a friend to do?

So many things are going on here, Clare. It’s hard to know where to begin. Your friend can’t sever her ties with her ex because she doesn’t want to. Even if she wanted to end it once and for all, it’s not an easy thing to do.

Anyone who has been there will tell ya that quitin’ a bad relationship is as difficult as quitin’ booze or dope…maybe even harder. Most folks in poisonous relationships can’t extricate themselves because they are part of the toxicity. Bad relationships, like the good ones, are completely dependent on the participation of both individuals in the couple. Each one feeds off the other and each one’s bad behaviors rewards and facilitates the pathologies of the other.

crying girl

There is no such thing as a good, psychologically healthy person in a bad relationship. There may be one in the couple that is less culpable, or less abusive, or less self-destructive, but there is never one that is without blame.

Like all junkies, your friend is hooked. Her depression and withdrawal are outward signs of the pathology. Nothing is gonna change this for her until she acknowledges that she is caught in a downward spiral. Domestic violence — and we ought to label the nature of your friend’s relationship for what it is — will escalate. It always does. Will your friend get out in time? There’s no guarantee. Is there anything you can do? Well that, Clare, is a more difficult question to answer. If you do too much you are at risk of supporting her habit. Or worse, you could be co-opted into the pathological dynamic of the relationship.

The best you can do is to tell your friend how you feel about her predicament. Speak your mind in no uncertain terms. If you decide to confront your friend with an intervention, I suggest that you have some well-considered resources to hand her while you are doing so. For example, you could do some legwork and find some local domestic violence resources — a hot line, a shelter, counseling referrals and the like. Once you make this intervention and it’s over, drop it. Drop it for good. This is the hardest thing a friend has to do, but constantly badgering someone in your friend’s condition is counterproductive. If you can’t stand to witness the self-destruction, take your leave of the friendship and hope for the best.

However you play this, don’t hold your breath for a happy ending. They happen sometime, of course, but real life is so not like the movies.

Good luck

This Sex Researcher Says Scientists Are Scared of Criticizing Monogamy

Monogamous people catch STDs just as often as swingers, but use condoms and get tested less often, a new survey suggests. Some sex researchers say a scholarly bias toward monogamy makes studies like this all too rare.


People in monogamous relationships catch sexually transmitted diseases just as often as those in open relationships, a new survey suggests, largely due to infidelity spreading infections.

Reported in the current Journal of Sexual Medicine, the survey of 554 people found that monogamous couples are less likely to use condoms and get tested for STDs — even when they’re not being faithful to their partner.

“It turns out that when monogamous people cheat, they don’t seem to be very good about using condoms,” Justin Lehmiller, a psychologist at Ball State University and author of the study, told BuzzFeed News by email. “People in open relationships seem to take a lot of precautions to reduce their sexual health risks.”

The finding matters because people who think they are in monogamous relationships may face higher odds of an infection than they suspect, Lehmiller and other researchers told BuzzFeed News. And a stigma around open relationships that views such couples as irresponsible — even among researchers who conduct studies — may be skewing the evidence.

One in four of the 351 monogamous-relationship participants in Lehmiller’s survey said they had cheated on their partners, similar to rates of sexual infidelity reported in other surveys. About 1 in 5, whether monogamous or not, reported they had been diagnosed with an STD. Participants averaged between 26 to 27 years old, and most (70%) were women.

For people in supposedly exclusive relationships, Lehmiller said, “this risk is compounded by the fact that cheaters are less likely to get tested for (STDs), so when they pick something up, they are probably less likely to find out about it before passing it along.”

Psychologist Terri Conley of the University of Michigan told BuzzFeed News that the survey results echoed her team’s findings in a 2012 Journal of Sexual Medicine study that found people in open relationships were more likely to use condoms correctly in sexual encounters than people in exclusive relationships.

To bolster confidence in the results, Conley said, more funding is needed to test research subjects for STDs directly, rather than relying on their own notoriously unreliable self reporting of infections.

She compared just assuming that monogamous relationships are safer to assuming abstinence education will really stop teenagers from having sex: “Sure, abstinence would be great, but we know that isn’t reality.”

To put it another way, Lehmiller said, “there’s a potential danger in monogamy in that if your partner puts you at risk by cheating, you’re unlikely to find out until it’s too late.”

Sex researchers don’t want to criticize monogamy, Conley added, making funding a definitive study more difficult.

In a commentary on Lehmiller’s study in Journal of Sexual Medicine, Conley argued that sex researchers are “committed to the the belief that monogamy is best” and are “reluctant to consider contradictory evidence.”

“I’m not saying monogamy is bad,” Conley said. “What I found is that the level of hostility among reviewers to suggesting people in consensual non-monogamous relationships are more responsible is really over the top.”

Conley said she initially struggled to publish her 2012 study. When she changed the framing of its conclusion to find that “cheaters” in monogamous relationships were more irresponsible, the study was suddenly published.

“Even in a scientific review process, challenging researchers’ preconceived notions is perilous,” she wrote in her commentary.

Other relationship researchers disagree, however, saying that sociologists have cast shade on monogamy — finding declines in happiness, sexual satisfaction, and frequency of intercourse — for decades. “This is about as widespread a finding as one gets,” Harry Reis, a psychologist at the University of Rochester, told BuzzFeed News. He called the idea that social scientists are biased against studies showing the value of non-monogamous relationships was “poppycock.”

Sex researcher Debbie Herbernick of Indiana University echoed this view, saying funding is not an issue: “I’ve never seen much negative reaction or pushback.”

More critically, Reis said, reviewers might be dubious about the data collected on open relationships, given their relative rarity making reliable data collection difficult.

Although Lehmiller published his study, he agreed with Conley that a stigma still marks open relationships, even in science. “People, including many sex researchers,” he said, “have a tendency to put monogamy on a pedestal and to be very judgmental when it comes to consensual non-monogamy.”

Complete Article HERE!

Because Jesus says so!

And now a message from above…


don't masturbate

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