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Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Happy Triad

The very first case study Full Marriage Equality ever did was of his personal friends, a consanguinamorous triad.
Meet Melissa. [...] [I]magine a bright, beautiful, healthy, kind young woman who has matured from a fairly happy childhood. She has received a Sociology degree from a top university and is working on her Masters in addition to having started her career.
A couple of years ago, Melissa met an older woman - older to her, anyway - named Linda and felt an instant connection with her. It turns out the feeling was mutual. They found that they were attracted to each other in many ways, including physically – after all, both Linda and Melissa are what most people would consider attractive. They would have married if they could, but they can’t. It isn’t because they are both women. Women can marry each other in several places in the United States. It is because Linda is Melissa’s biological mother, and the law will not allow them to marry.
Melissa was raised mainly by her paternal grandparents, who fought for custody of Melissa. At the time, Linda was still a teenager, and from very modest means, while Melissa’s paternal grandparents were very well off and had excellent legal representation, and to be fair, were capable of providing Melissa with an intact, stable home with two parents. Melissa’s father, tragically, died young.
But this isn’t the whole story. Linda had previously given birth by the same father, her teenaged sweetheart. When Linda’s mother found out she was impregnated at age 15, she sent Linda away from her sweetheart to be with relatives in another state. Linda’s sweetheart was kept in the dark about her pregnancy. He did not know where she was, or that she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Matthew, who was put up for adoption. At 18, Linda, as a legal adult, reunited with her sweetheart, and that is when she got pregnant by him a second time.
Things got tumultuous. After the dust settled, Linda had lost her sweetheart to death and Melissa to her sweetheart’s parents. Linda had a tough time moving forward. But she did. She became an accomplished professional and a good citizen, contributing to her community. She attracted lots of romantic interest, and discovered that she was not only attracted to men. But she never quite found someone with whom she wanted to share the rest of her life, until Melissa came back into her life.
Linda and Melissa found that one of the things they have in common is their attraction to both men and women. Since they had already fallen in love with each other despite legal and social discouragements, it wasn’t too surprising that when Matthew made contact with Linda, his birth mother, and met both her and Melissa, that they all fell in love with each other. They want to share their life together.
[...] Linda, Matthew, and Melissa agreed to let me interview them for this blog. As I have said before, these are not their real names because these consenting, taxpaying adults need to protect themselves from oppression, harassment, prejudice, and bigotry.

Cosmopolitan interviews some polyamorous women

Cosmopolitan recently did an interview with a few polyamorous women. This is part of the recent trending popularity of polyamory in the media.
Imagine if your "one and only" was one of many? Polyamorous people believe that you can love more than one person (sexually and/or romantically) at a time. In this week's Sex Talk Realness, speaks with four women about what it's really like to be polyamorous.
[...] What does your relationship look like?
Woman A: I was usually in a primary relationship with one or two other relationships that were more casual. I did not partake in any group-dating situations.
Woman B: It's about respecting a relationship for what it is, and not needing it to be labeled, necessarily, for it to be important. I have been with my girlfriend on than off for five years now. We are both open to other relationships, though at present we're not in other relationships. I have dated and hooked up with people a lot more than my girlfriend has, but she is looking for dating and sexual possibilities more now too.
I have had some other serious relationships in the time that she and I have been together. Because they were briefer, sometimes they felt a lot less solid or like I knew my other partners not as well as I do my girlfriend. But I am always looking for more closeness with other people. I really wish I had other close partners I lived with!
Woman C: Currently I am married to my husband of five years. We have both had other relationships in the past, and he currently has girlfriend who he has been with for a year and a half. He doesn't love his girlfriend less than he loves me; we have distinct relationships that are both deserving of time and attention. I am not currently in another relationship, though that could change.
Woman D: Neither of us believe in a primary/secondary model of relationships. In practice this has yet to be truly tested. The relationship between us is one where we consider each other to be life partners — we are engaged — however, we remain open to either or both of us forming a similar relationship with someone else.
Do you have any rules you never break in your relationships?
Woman A: We avoid setting lists of rules; simply an expectation of treating people with respect and relying on trust.
Woman B: I care about values more than rules, if that makes any sense. I don't want to abuse or be abused by my partners. I want to work through problems that come up as much as possible. I want a mutual attention to honesty and introspection. I want us to trust each other as much as we can.
Woman C: We don't use the word "rule." But for myself, one boundary is only having unbarriered sex with my husband so long as he is having barriered sex with his other partners. Another is STI testing before going beyond kissing on the mouth.
Woman D: Honesty and respect are foremost in all things. If anyone was ever uncomfortable with something or wanted to make or change rules and boundaries, that is something that would need to be discussed as soon as possible.

How do you deal with jealousy?
Woman A: Jealousy doesn't tend to happen when you have trust, honesty, and respect. And when it does, you're with someone you can talk it through with until you handle it as a couple, or group, or however.
Woman B: I used to think that polyamory necessitated a complete lack of jealousy. But I think that it merely provides a more honest and reflective framework to deal with jealousy. The idea isn't to never experience jealousy. It's just about learning to analyze why you feel jealous, and figure out how to deal with feeling threatened.
Woman C: I have gotten a lot out of Franklin Veaux's website and book More Than Two, which helped me to think about the root of my feelings (Is it feeling ignored? Anger at an unmet expectation?) and also about my own self-worth.
Woman D: I own it as an emotion of mine, not an action of theirs, and ensure that it doesn't sound like an accusation [when I bring it up with them]. Identify the root cause inside of myself and remind myself of my value. I may also need to talk about the jealousy with one of my friends.

Kickstarter: "Twice", a film about polyamorous love and heartbreak in Paris

Twice is a film in production about polyamorous love and heartbreak in Paris, written by and starring a polyamorous woman. She's currently trying to kickstart the second half of the film's budget. Here's the pitch:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The slippery slope from same-sex marriage to polygamy

Via Full Marriage Equality, a great commentary on the slippery slope of same-sex marriage:
We’ve all heard it before: “If we allow gay marriage, next thing people will be trying to legalize polygamy!” Which statement will get one of two responses from pro-marriage-equality folks: “That’s ridiculous!” or “Uh… yeah?” You may guess that I’m in the latter category, and you’d be right. But then the stereotypical protester will say, “And next thing they’ll allow a man to marry a dog, or an eight-year-old!”
[...] Well, I’ll tell you: totally fallacious. And that’s because there’s a big brick wall about halfway down the slippery slope. And on that wall, in bold capital letters, are the words “CONSENTING ADULTS.” Consent is the watchword of modern sexual ethics. It’s the difference between BDSM and abuse. It’s the difference between polyamory and cheating. It’s the difference between rape and… sex. Anything two (or more) able, informed adults give consent to in private is generally considered okay. [...] There’s a little philosophical room around the question of who is able to give consent, but it’s generally understood that children, animals, and the severely mentally impaired (either permanently or temporarily, as by alcohol) are not.
[...] It’s hard to imagine what other questions can sensibly be invoked. People who argue the gay marriage -> polygamy -> pedophilia -> bestiality slippery slope are usually correlating these four very different behaviors because all of them seem “unnatural.” But “natural” and “unnatural” are subjective and mostly meaningless categories. “That’s not natural” really just means “That makes me uncomfortable.” And I hope we can all agree that an individual’s sense of comfort or discomfort makes for a really lousy moral guide. Someone might say, “But that goes against my religious code!” Fine, then don’t do that, and encourage your religious brethren not to do it either. But that has nothing to do with whether a thing should be legal or acceptable in the culture outside your religion.
[...] The question with gay marriage has been, “Is it healthy for a child to be raised by same-sex parents?” The preliminary results are in on that one, and the answer is yes. Whenever society takes up the question of polygamy, the same question will be asked, and I think that’s fair. With polygamy, there are additional questions raised, relating to things like citizenship and insurance benefits. But all these questions can and should be answered with hard evidence and studies, not on the basis of people’s gut sense of comfort or discomfort.
[...] Suppose study after study showed that children, in fact, do better when raised by same-sex parents, or polyamorous parents. (I can think of several reasons why either might be so.) How much better would it have to be before you’d support a ban on heterosexual monogamy? We’ve known for decades that children do better when raised by two parents rather than one, but no sane person suggests a law preventing single people from having children. We hold very highly the rights of heterosexual people to live, love, and create families as they see fit. In time, I hope that consenting adults of any number and gender are given the same level of respect.
The fallacy of the “animal marriage” argument has been pointed out before.

I cannot possibly stress how much I agree with this. 

Increasing acceptance for polyamory and polygamy

First, among green party members in New Zealand, acceptance of polygamy is fairly high, and increasing among younger voters.
Voters at the upcoming election this year could be forgiven for wondering with a new poll discovering one in four Green voters wants a law change to support polygamy. The poll, undertaken by David Farrar’s Curia Research, surveyed 1022 people on their attitudes to redefining marriage to include multiple wives or husbands…and found support for the idea was strongest – at 25% – among Green voters. Overall, national support for polygamy is running at 10% in New Zealand and growing rapidly among the under 30s, where 16% of respondents support the idea.
Then, in the US, the acceptability of polygamy has been increasing, to an average of 14% of respondents in 2014.
Additionally, a few widely condemned actions, such as polygamy, have become slightly less taboo. Five percent of Americans viewed polygamy as morally acceptable in 2006, but that is now at 14%. The rise could be attributed to polygamist families being the subject of television shows — with the HBO TV show “Big Love” one example — thus removing some of the stigma.
Acceptbility poll results by party affiliation
 This bodes well for the long-run future of non-monogamous marriage in the West.

A man who was in a stable homosexual triad for 41 years

Bob met Don in 1966, and then met Keith five years later in 1971. After being together for 46 years, they had to say goodbye to Don, but he and Keith remain.
Polyamory has been happening more frequently and has been acceptable for longer in the queer community than the straight community. I'm glad that acceptance for both queer and poly people has been increasing so much in the past few years. Still, there's a long way to go on both fronts - after all, they could not get married to their third husband, and even if they were 30 now and in a polyamorous relationship, they would probably have to hide it from certain people. Certainly, till death they did not part.

"The Women's Kingdom": The Mosuo of China

In the mountains of western China, the Mosuo have a social practice unlike any other ever known to exist. Land is passed down matrilineally, and there is no official recognition of marriage. All children live and work on their mother’s land. At night, men travel to visit their lovers, and return home before morning. Men aren’t required to raise their children. Instead, the mother’s brothers raise the children. Women generally have equal status with men. All long-term relationships are based on mutual love, not social obligation, since economic security is not based on sexual relationships. Tourism, however, is now disrupting Mosuo life, introducing pollution, venereal disease, and prostitution.

"Polyamory and Pregnancy: Legal Stuff"

Without full marriage equality, polyamorous/polygamous families face even more legal complications than they should.
Once again, full marriage equality is to protect children. Multiple paternity is a necessity for modern societies, given the complex families constructed by even monogamous heterosexual couples, let alone polycules.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Marriage, control, exclusion, and murder

This is definitely important. Not only is it wrapped up in issues of sexism, and women's sexual and romantic rights, but it fundamentally violates the whole idea of full marriage equality: the right to choose who you love and spend your life with.
A young couple in Pakistan were tied up and had their throats slit with scythes after they married for love, police said Saturday.
[...] The girl's mother and father lured the couple home late on Thursday with the promise that their marriage would receive a family blessing, said local police official Rana Zashid. "When the couple reached there, they tied them with ropes," he said. "He (the girl's father) cut their throats." Police arrested the family, who said they had been embarrassed by the marriage of their daughter, named Muafia Hussein, to a man from a less important tribe.
[...] Pakistani law means that even if a woman's killer is convicted, her family are able to forgive the killer. Many families simply nominate a member to do the killing, then formally forgive the killer. That's what happened earlier this week, a lawyer said, when a tribal council in central Pakistan's Muzaffargarh district sentenced another young couple to death for marrying for love.
[...] The 19-year-old girl's family came to take her from her husband's family, swearing on the Koran that they would not harm her and would hold a proper wedding ceremony, he said. "During this the girl shouted, cried and mourned for her life and her husband's life because she knew that they will kill both of them," he said. The girl, named Mehreen Bibi, was shot by a member of her family when she returned home, police said. Her husband went into hiding and her father registered the murder complaint so he could forgive the killer, Kiyyani said. "That will end the case," he said.
That first case really gets at the core issue: the freedom to marry undermines parents' ability to use their children as economic and political tools. Many, many societies throughout most of history have had some form of arranged marriage, and violation of the parental prerogative to control their children's marriages has been punished with varying severity. The more politically and economically useful arranged marriage is to the broader family, the more severe the punishment in that culture ends up being. The burden of this usually falls hardest on daughters. The man involved is frequently seen as an interloper or thief.

Such systems of marital control are deeply tied historically to the desire to control people's sexuality. (And they can even survive the advent of entirely new religious world views.) Traditionally sex and reproduction were controlled through marriage. When marriage is seen as a fundamental part of how the social order perpetuates itself - how parents, elders, and elites ensure their own survival and accrue power - then any sexual or romantic behavior outside of certain bounds violates society's sexual control of its members, and thus the ability of elites to control their children's reproductive lives. If the forbidden sexual behavior is also preferred only by a minority, like consanguinamory or homoromanticism, then its rarity also helps construct the view that it's abnormal and disgusting.

This is why, in societies with very tightly controlled arranged marriage, you're much more likely to see the cultural denigration of romantic love and love marriages. The rise of Protestantism coincided with the rise of absolute monarchy and the eventual rise of the Nation State. It's no coincidence that Protestant monarchs seized Catholic assets and annulled Catholic laws. It's also no coincidence that Henry VIII's Protestant Anglican church made the Monarch its head. It jived perfectly with the idea of absolute Monarchy: that the Monarch was granted authority by God.

It was during that time that marriage laws in Europe became their most onerous. When one violated the will of one's parents, one wasn't simply violating custom or religious doctrine (which one technically wouldn't be under Catholicism), one was violating the will of the State. By controlling something as fundamental as the right to build families, the State was establishing its newly constructed, centralized authority. The Catholic church and Catholic nations followed suit.

And this gets at what marriage freedom is all about: the right to construct one's family as one sees fit, and the right to have that family validated by the state and be allowed to participate fully in civil society. When regressives talk about gay marriage, and how children need "one father and one mother," what they're really talking about is the reproduction of a certain kind of society, generation upon generation, through a certain kind of family. To acknowledge alternative family structures, particularly in the context of reproduction and adoption, is to acknowledge the validity of an alternate kind of society.

Unfortunately for regressives, that battle was lost hundreds of years ago. We're already living in that alternate society. Their conception relates to a specific vision built in the 1500s and 1600s. Enlightenment and Romantic thought have already transformed the way we envision ourselves. By returning power to the individual, the legitimacy of authority has been stolen from the State and other large, coercive social institutions. It doesn't mean individuals don't have a broader obligation to their fellows or to society, but the State no longer has a monopoly on how that obligation is defined.

This is tangentially related to a prohibition on homosexuality. The idea of controlling people's sexuality, and in particular their long term romantic relationships and families, is related to the desire to determine who gets to build what kinds of families. However, homosexual sex is not in-and-of-itself a challenge to that order, any more than concubines are. Homosexual sex cannot produce children, and thus the real danger is not homosexuality, but homoromanticism. This is why some very patriarchal societies, which relied heavily on arranged marriage, did not have any problem with homosexuality.

Consanguinamory is tied directly to the heart of this. When the econo-political status quo was maintained by strictly defined racial categories, interracial marriage became banned. To intermarry across racial lines is to blur those racial lines, and thus to integrate the two communities and subtly over time bring the whole system crashing down.

Similarly, since "incest" taboos are historically related to who you're not allowed to marry, and especially who you're not allowed to have children with, it has functioned as a key delineator of social groups, and a weapon by the elite. They could violate it themselves, enhancing their appearance of being above natural and social laws, while enforcing them against everyone else based on what served their own interests. As the political structure and economic needs of societies have changed, so have their taboos, with consanguineous marriage sometimes being disadvantageous, and sometimes being advantageous.

We're already in a brave new world. There's no going back. And thank god for that, because the world's a better place for it. Now we just have to finish the job.

The nature and history of jealousy

This whole article jives so much with my world-view it's crazy.
The first question people ask my polyamorous family is “How do you handle the jealousy?” Befuddled, we answer, “What jealousy?”
I am lucky; I live with the two loves of my life.  I am smitten with my husband of 16 years, and adore my partner of four.  The three of us depend upon and nurture each other; we are a family. When my partner and I hadn’t had a date in a while, my husband encouraged us to take a holiday at the art museum, knowing how the visual connects us. When my husband and I hit an emotional snag in discussing our issues, my partner helped us to sort it out and come together.
[...] The existing polyamory advice literature pushes individualistic solutions to jealousy. Polyamory gurus such as Dossie Easton (“The Ethical Slut”), Deborah Anapol (“Love Without Limits”) and, more recently, Franklin Veaux (“More Than Two”) advocate personal responsibility as the solution to insecurity.  You must “work through” your jealousy, making sure to not “control” your partner, all the while viewing the experience of jealousy through a lens of personal growth. My family has never needed to rely on these individualistic methods because jealousy is a social problem, not an individual one, and so are the solutions.
Prescribing of individualistic methods for management of jealousy is nothing new. It can be traced to the decline of the family economy in the 18th and 19th centuries. Peter N. Stearn’s “Jealousy: The Evolution of an Emotion in American History” argues that prior to the 18th century in the U.S. and Europe, jealousy was much less of a problem.  Living in close-knit social and economic communities with prescribed roles did not leave room for fears of losing one’s significant others to rivals. Husband and wife teams were viewed as units (rather than as two individuals) embedded within a communal structure. Sure, individuals didn’t have a whole heck of a lot of autonomy, but they did have the security of knowing their spousal relationship unit was recognized, supported and held accountable to the community.
With the shift from family- and community-based institutions to wage work in urban environments, middle-class families began functioning within spheres separated by gender (with women being relegated to the home). Spouses overlapped less in daily life, which meant less communal support, monitoring and recognition of relationships. It is widely recognized that the emergence of a capitalist economy caused women to lose economic and social power relative to men. But the emergence of separate spheres also deprived both women and men of the communal support for their relationships, which had once made jealousy a non-issue.
[...] Quick, guess the time period of the following quotes:
1). “Jealousy is an emotion that arises inside you; no person and no behavior can ‘make’ you jealous. Like it or not, the only person who can make that jealousy hurt less or go away is you.”
2). “Jealousy is almost always a mark of immaturity and insecurity. As we grow confident of love and of our loved one, we are not jealous.”
3). Jealousy is “undesirable, a festering spot in every personality so affected.”
The first is contemporary, taken from the poly bible “The Ethical Slut.” The second is from a mainstream 1950s relationship advice manual, and the third is a commentary from Margaret Mead in the 1930s. Note that only the first quote addresses a non-monogamous audience. Polyamory advice on jealousy is not radical when held up to this light; it is simply part of the larger 20th century context of demonizing jealousy and demanding personal responsibility for its eradication. Instead of locating jealousy within the structural changes of the 19th and 20th centuries, there has been an erroneous tendency to look inward for its causes and cures.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Building a Family, But Denied the Right to Marry

From Full Marriage Equality:
I currently live with my half-brother/husband, as I have for the last five years and our [4-year-old] son. [...] My oldest son lives with us [...]. In 2013, the court granted us joint custody of three of my husband's grandchildren and, later, a baby. [The kids] all know that we are in a relationship and have never asked any questions. They are happy, doing well in school, and are overall well-adjusted.
[...] Our relationship has been both romantic and sexual since April 2010. He is older than me by 28 years. Our dad got started early and quit late. [laughs] [...] [My mother] disliked my brother the most and frequently spoke badly of him to me whenever I would ask about him. I saw him only twice that I remember growing up. Once when I was around three or four, and again when I was around eleven or twelve. Both were very brief meetings. [...] Other than that, my childhood was pretty normal until my dad died when I was fifteen and my mom kicked me out a year later. She went kind of crazy for a while but I don’t hold that against her.
[...] When I was 19 my sister asked if I wanted to go see him. I was so excited to finally be able to spend time with my brother. But when we pulled up and I saw him standing outside I immediately thought, “He is so hot. I want to be with him. Too bad he’s my brother.” When I stepped out of the car though, our eyes met and I was certain by the look in his eyes that he was feeling the same thing I was feeling. So I had some idea that it could turn sexual, and I certainly hoped it would, but I couldn’t be 100% sure.
We started talking and texting every day. He would come pick me up and we would go out to lunch or to a local lake park and hang out by the water. It was wonderful. I made the remark once or twice to friends that I felt like I was dating my brother. I even stayed the night a couple of times. [...] We would cuddle in bed and months later he even told me, “I knew that first time that you spent the night and you laid your head on my chest and put your arm across me the way a woman does a man that I was in trouble.”
After about three weeks of texts that others would have sworn were between long lost lovers, a couple of sleepovers, and seeing each other nearly every day, the talk came. He sent me a text that saying that he loved me and I said I love him too. He said "No, I think I love you more than I should." I just replied, “I know. I think I love you more than I should too.”
[...] We agreed that he would pick me up that Saturday and take me to a fireworks show, and we would see what happened then. We cuddled together, held hands, and watched the fireworks. When we got to the car we just leaned in at the same time and kissed each other. We had a pretty heavy make out session and then he took me home. I called him before he even left my neighborhood and told him to come back and get me. I missed him terribly already. He picked me up, I went home with him [...]. I moved in with him two weeks later and we have been together ever since.
[...] Prior to this, I had never been sexually attracted to any of my family, but one of my cousins asked me out once when I was eleven. When I was 17, two of my first cousins started dating and I saw no issue with it. They were happy, and that was what mattered. They now have two healthy children together and have been living as husband and wife for at least seven years. [...] I probably know more people like us, they just haven’t revealed it.
[...] We have one son together, unplanned but not unwanted, and he is perfectly healthy and very smart. [...] We want a little girl and had planned on trying, but then we had to take custody of the other kids and it’s not affordable anymore. If the other kids ever get to go back to their mom, then we are definitely going to try. We have discussed going on and trying now anyway.
[...] Our dad’s family is perfectly OK with it and even supportive. They were even excited to see our son when they met him. My sister knows and is also very supportive. Even my oldest son’s father knows and he is fine with it. He has become a good friend and I talk to him when I need someone different to listen. I recently told my mom and she has nothing but bad things to say to me so we are not speaking at this point. She is trying to make me choose, but she doesn’t seem to realize that if she does, she is going to lose every time. I refuse to give up my life, happiness, family, and the greatest love I have ever known just to please someone else. [...] We are very blessed and we do not take this for granted. We act like a couple everywhere we go because anyone that matters now knows. Everyone else just assumes we are a normal couple.
[...] Maybe [critics] should try to just not love the person they are with and see how that works out for them. No one is preying on anyone in this relationship. I wanted him as soon as I saw him, and he felt the same way. [...] It is not our faults that we never got to build that familial bond with one another, and it is not our faults that we still don’t feel that bond. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support non-GSA consanguineous couples as well, but I think the laws are exceptionally ridiculous to criminalize GSA consanguineous couples because of all of the broken homes, unplanned pregnancies, and egg and sperm donations we have today.
[...] I want nothing more than to marry the man I love. I never thought I could love or be loved as much as I have the in last five years. I’m sure there are many more years to come. [...] He is the love of my life and I couldn’t have built a better husband for me or father for our son. [...] We still talk about marriage though and will likely have some type of ceremony of our own.

"'Kissing Cousins' Breed More Kids"

Further research confirms what was already observed across nature: couplings between 3rd- or 4th-cousins produce a greater number of successful offspring than between more distantly related individuals.
While the thought of searching for a potential mate at a family reunion might sound repulsive to some, researchers in Iceland report that "kissing cousins" may produce more children and grandchildren than unrelated couples. A study released Thursday in the journal Science found that marriages between third or fourth cousins in Iceland tended to produce more children and grandchildren than those between completely unrelated individuals.
Researchers at the deCODE Genetics company in Reykjavik mapped out kinship among all known Icelandic couples whose members were born between 1800 and 1965. They then compared the numbers of children and grandchildren descended from these 160,811 couples. Researchers were shocked to find that for women born between 1800 and 1824, marriages between third cousins produced an average of 4.04 children and 9.17 grandchildren, while marriages between eighth cousins or more distantly related couples had averages of only 3.34 children and 7.31 grandchildren. For women born between 1925 and 1949, with mates related at the degree of third cousins, the average number of children and grandchildren were 3.27 and 6.64, compared with 2.45 and 4.86 for those with mates who were eighth cousins, or more distantly related.
"These are counterintuitive, almost dislikable results," said Dr. Kari Stefansson, senior author of the paper on the study. Dislikable, because our intuition is that the more closely related you are to your mate, the higher the chances of passing along the unfortunate traits so often associated with inbreeding. Researchers believe the trend toward a more prodigious relationship with a not-so-distant relative must have a biological basis, though scientists have not identified exactly what biological mechanism could be behind this.
[...] Marriage, it turns out, is not an exact science. For example, a 1991 study also published in Science found that, in Asian and African populations, marriages between related individuals also produced more offspring. However, researchers only evaluated relationships no more distant than second cousins, and the populations they studied showed great socioeconomic disparity. In the most recent study, researchers sought to eliminate some of these confounders by limiting their study to only the Icelandic population — a country of relative socioeconomic homogeneity, where there is little variation in family size, use of contraceptives, or marriage practices. [...] According to Stefansson, these results are particularly striking in their consistency throughout time, even as socioeconomic factors in Iceland began to change.
Results showed that marriages between third or fourth cousins produced more offspring than unrelated couples from the years when Iceland was a predominantly poor and rural country up until the present-day era of a highly urbanized society, with one of the highest standards of living in the world. Now, many gene experts are scratching their heads while trying to explain the biological mechanism behind these results. [...] According to Stefansson, the reason that related couples were more biologically successful may be because these couples have "just right" genes when combined — not too similar, but not too dissimilar, either.
[...] However, Buehler added he "can't think of any genetic explanation for why the third or fourth cousins would have more babies." Instead, Buehler supposed that related couples might shack up more often, simply because of pheromones. "Maybe what we're seeing here is biologic attraction," Buehler said. "If you really look alike, feel alike and think alike, then maybe you have sex more often and have more babies. We do know that there are pheromones which cause attraction, and I wouldn't be surprised if related people have higher sexual desire for one another."
But despite the inability to offer a concrete biological explanation for these findings, Stefansson strongly believes this study has implications on the genetic future of the global population. "The take-home message is that ... we, as a society of [the] 21st century, have basically ruled against the marriages of closely related couples, because we do not look at it as desirable that closely related people have children," Stefansson said. "But in spite of the fact that bringing together two alleles of a recessive trait may be bad, there is clearly some biological wisdom in the union of relatively closely related people."

Friday, February 13, 2015

For queer people, no gender difference in preference for non-monogamy

Results show that sexual minority men and women hold similar attitudes toward [consensual non-monogamy] and similar levels of desire to engage in these types of relationships. Additionally, there were no differences between male and female sexual minorities’ desire to engage in sexual and romantic types of consensual non-monogamy (polyamory) or sexual-oriented types of consensual non-monogamy (swinging). There were also no differences in preference for specific types of love styles among LGB individuals. In sum, it is not just gay men who express interest in these types of relationships.
- Amy C. Moors et al., "It's Not Just a Gay Male Thing: Sexual Minority Women and Men are Equally Attracted to Consensual Non-Monogamy"

Consanguinamory Happens, and Sometimes Children Are a Result

Via Full Marriage Equality:
A History Of Incest
Incest is defined as having sexual relations with close family members, and throughout the majority of the world the practice is not only taboo but also illegal. [Yes, but it's a slim majority.] However, just because people won’t admit to partaking in incest does not mean that the practice does not occur. In some circumstances, incest is a necessity  and multiple studies have shown that offspring of distant relatives are actually healthier than the general population.
There is usually more of an evolutionary advantage to diversifying the gene pool, [wrong, it's diversifying the genes of your offspring that counts,] and for this reason incest in not very popular in species who practice sexual reproduction. [That depends as well.] However, in species where there is no natural advantage to genetic diversity, incest still exists. For example, Dr. Nathaniel Wheelwright, an evolutionary biologist at Bowdoin College in Maine who focuses on sexual reproduction, described asexual reproduction to LiveScience  as “the ultimate incest” because an organism is breeding with itself. "You can still see species asexually reproducing, or cloning themselves, in situations where there is no advantage to [sex]," Wheelwright explained, "and you can see species that commit incest where there is no penalty to inbreeding."
Kissing Cousins
[...] When you have an even smaller gene pool, such as two first relatives, the chances of inheriting these recessive conditions may skyrocket to 50/50. Interestingly though, this is not the case for all inherited disease, as many need generations of inbreeding before they can ever be expressed. A 2008 study on 48 cases of incest found that the risk for birth defects is around two percent in the general population but rises to only four percent between first cousins. However, due to the sensitivity of the subject, there was no information available for the children of incest between closer relations.
What Draws Some To Incest
It’s believed that we have a biological defense against close forms of incest, since these are the cases most likely to end in genetically compromised offspring. LiveScience reported that Finnish sociologist Edward Westermarck suggested that growing up in the same house puts people off from developing sexual feelings. This remains even in cases where children are not directly related. When close incest does occur, that is, sexual relations between first relations such as brother and sister or father and daughter, it is more likely due to a psychological phenomenon than a biological attraction. Genetic attraction occurs when two relatives who have been separated for the majority of their life meet for the first time and experience an intense emotional attraction. As reported by The Guardian, it occurs in around 50 percent of reunions between close relatives separated at birth.

[...] It’s when these individuals act on those feeling that GSA becomes incest. Soll explained that this jump to incest is most common in brother-sister relationships, although it’s unknown why. According to one brother and sister relationship, the intense attraction is rooted in their physical resemblance. "It's like kissing myself," a woman who goes by the name "Rachel" told ABC News of her intimacy with her brother "Shawn."
It's known that animals, including humans, have various sexual impulses. Some urge us to seek out more genetically similarity (and thus more closely related) to us, while others urge us to seek genetic novelty. In the wild, usually a balance between the two is optimal. It's also not unheard of for people to experience this in inverse: when they look in the mirror, they see their lover in themselves, a sort of inverse of narcissism. I'd also like to point out that plenty of couples, including GSA couples, do not look similar at all.

The point is, it's complicated.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Scientists Find Mammal Species that Practices Incest Frequently"

This isn't all that surprising. Every time such evidence comes out, everybody's flabbergasted because they're not paying attention to all the other cases. As genetic studies of animal mating patterns improve, we'll likely find more and more cases like this.

Endogamy is a risky proposition, but everything in life is. The question for everything in evolution is: how risky, and for what reward? Endogamy and exogamy are just mating strategies. How often a species practices endogamy is related to the specific evolutionary circumstances of that species, including the social environment, which determine if and when mating with a close relative is worth the gamble. For some species the cost is too high. For others, it's not. And for still others, it's in between. I wonder where humans fall on that spectrum?

"PhD Studentship: The impacts of cooperation on inbreeding depression in the wild"

Isn't it great, how humans are able to get extended family - parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, in-laws - to help raise our children? Social factors are extremely important for the success of human genes, more than for most species.

This is exactly the kind of research needed. Hopefully there will be more and more like this in the coming years as evolutionary biologists start to realize how badly understood endogamy is. I hope this project gets plenty of funding.

"Inbreeding Helps African Fish, Scientists Say"

Research on one species of African cichlid has revealed how social factors can sometimes make mating with a close relative evolutionarily advantageous.
Animals in the wild often avoid close kin as mates, as inbreeding causes harmful genes that might otherwise recede into the background to manifest in progeny more often. While animal breeders often practice inbreeding to cultivate desirable traits, they must then cull unfit offspring. However, recent theoretical predictions suggest that, at times, the benefits of inbreeding might outweigh the costs. Now evolutionary biologist Timo Thünken at the University of Bonn in Germany and his colleagues has discovered real-life evidence in support of these predictions. The scientists investigated the African cichlid Pelvicachromis taeniatus, a small monogamous fish that lives in the rivers and creeks of Cameroon and Nigeria. Males occupy caves, while females compete with each other for males.
"We initially wanted to investigate whether P. taeniatus avoid kin as mating partners, because it has been shown in other species that inbred offspring have disadvantages--for example, increased mortality," Thünken said. "First, we conducted a female choice experiment," he recalled. This involved aquariums with breeding caves for males and hiding places for rejected females. Against our expectations, females did not avoid brothers, but even preferred them," Thünken told LiveScience. This proved true in 17 of 23 experiments.
Both parents in the species care for their young to protect them against predators, the researchers noted. This requires high levels of cooperation. Since kinship generally favors cooperation, Thünken and his colleagues theorized related parents did a better job of cooperating than non-kin. Their observations supported their ideas, finding that inbreeding pairs spent significantly more time accompanying their free-swimming young. They also discovered males of inbreeding pairs spent significantly more time guarding breeding caves and were half as likely to attack their mates. The researchers curiously found that inbreeding did not appear to lead to higher rates of harmful gene expression. However, Thünken and his colleagues noted inbreeding might affect traits they have not yet studied, such as the fertility of offspring.
The scientists plan to look next at the level of inbreeding in natural populations of the fish, the fitness consequences of inbreeding and the mechanisms of kin recognition in the species.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Black & Poly" on polyamory awareness in the African-American community

A blogger for Black & Poly discusses his experience of being African-American and polyamorous, and the need he perceived for better education within the African-American community about polyamory.

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Is Polygamy the Next Gay Marriage?"

This is a great article, from queer writer Sally Kohn, on the real connection between same-sex marriage and full marriage equality.
(Also, Sally Kohn is pretty awesome.)

Polygamy among the Wodaabe: men wearing makeup, and women choosing their husbands

Among the Wodaabe of Niger, it’s the men who wear makeup in the hopes of attracting a woman. They practice polygyny, but aren’t strictly patriarchal. Every year all the men and women gather for a festival in which women choose men. If a woman chooses a new man at the festival, she can just go with him and become his wife instead. Divorce is done without much fuss, and women stay in marriages for as many years as they want.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Fundamentalist Mormon community of Centennial Park

This is fascinating to me. I think poly* marriage is the one issue that unites radicals on the social right and radicals on the social left. I think these families really do show that, aside from the sexist and homophobic requirements that plural marriage be heterosexual with one male head of the household, many of the practical emotional needs or religious polygamous families are the same as those of polyamorous families. We just need to ensure that women's consent in entering marriages, and their right to leave marriages, are respected.

"The Slippery Slope to Polygamy and Incest"

A law professor and supporter of same-sex marriage acknowledges that the slippery slope isn't all that scary. This is so on point.
You know those opponents of marriage equality who said government approval of same-sex marriage might erode bans on polygamous and incestuous marriages? They’re right. As a matter of constitutional rationale, there is indeed a slippery slope between recognizing same-sex marriages and allowing marriages among more than two people and between consenting adults who are related. 
The left is in this bind in part because our arguments for expanding the marriage right to same-sex couples have been so compelling. Marriage, we’ve said, is about defining one’s own family and consecrating a union based on love. We’ve voiced these arguments in constitutional terms, using claims arising from the doctrines of “fundamental rights” and equal protection. [...] Because it’s so important, government can restrict marriage only by showing a truly compelling justification.
[...] [The "ickiness"] argument goes something like this: “Well, gay marriage is one thing. But incest and polygamy are icky.” I understand this visceral response. But of course this is the same kind of repulsion that has been standing in the way of LGBTQ rights for decades, and which motivated anti-miscegenation statutes before that. This kind of argument makes us sound dangerously close to those who oppose same-sex marriage by claiming it is “unnatural.” 
[...] Incest raises the risk of birth defects, or so we’ve been told. But the risks are reportedly small, and probably less than for parents over forty, or smokers, or those with certain hereditary diseases. [...] This is the kind of thing we usually leave for people to decide for themselves. Here, too, the argument that marriage is about protecting the children sounds eerily familiar to the arguments trotted out against same-sex couples for years. And even if we wanted to intervene to protect the potential offspring of incestuous couples, there are things we could do (mandatory genetic counseling, for example) short of outright bans on their marriages.
[...] Perhaps polygamous and incestuous bonds are more likely to be coercive, especially for the women involved. Polygamy is often used to bolster a misogynistic, male-dominated family structure; incest is frequently the product or symptom of abuse and subjugation. [Wrong: likely a majority of familial sexual abuse is by siblings, and a minority of sibling sexual contact is non-consensual.] [...] And while polygamous marriages may more likely embody traditional stereotypes and roles, since when has that been a matter of government concern? As long as each individual who enters into a polyamorous relationship does so freely, and as long as divorce is available if they want out, then arguments from coercion are not particularly powerful.
[...] If the coercion argument doesn’t persuade, we could swing the other way and say sexual orientation is hard wired, but polygamy and incest are choices. [...] Maybe I am speaking out of school here, but arguments for marriage equality do not really depend on the claim that people have no choice about who they are. [...] Let’s be honest: If science revealed tomorrow that sexual orientation is fluid and changeable, the arguments in favor of marriage equality would essentially be the same, wouldn’t they? Just like our arguments for religious liberty do not depend on whether people are destined by biology to be a Methodist, our arguments about the liberty to marry need not depend on science.
[...] We can continue to search for differences that make sense as a matter of constitutional principle. Or we can fess up. We can admit our arguments in favor of marriage equality inexorably lead us to a broader battle in favor of allowing people to define their marriages, and their families, by their own lights.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fraternal polyandry in the Himalayas

In the Himalayas, fraternal polyandry (brothers marrying the same woman) is still practiced. Polyandry in Nepal is interesting. They also have polygynous and monogamous marriages too. Non-monogamy is an ancient, global practice.

An Atlanta poly family in the news

More amazing coverage of real-life poly* people. This family's awesome, live in Atlanta, Georgia, and their daughter is so badass.

Dan Savage on monogamy and polyamory

Dan Savage lays down wisdom on non-monogamy. I, personally, think monogamish relationships are the direction Western society broadly is heading (and is secretly close to being there).

The history and psychology of polygamy

A woman in ancient China might bring one or more of her sisters to her husband's home as backup wives. Eskimo couples often had cospousal arrangements, in which each partner had sexual relations with the other's spouse. In Tibet and parts of India, Kashmir, and Nepal, a woman may be married to two or more brothers, all of whom share sexual access to her. [...]
In other cultures, individuals often find such practices normal and comforting. The children of Eskimo cospouses felt that they shared a special bond, and society viewed them as siblings. Among Tibetan brothers who share the same wife, sexual jealousy is rare.
In some cultures, cowives see one another as allies, rather than rivals. In Botswana, women add an interesting wrinkle to the old European saying "Woman's work is never done." There they say: "Without cowives, a woman's work is never done." A researcher who worked with the Cheyenne Indians of the United States in the 1930s and 1940s told of a chief who tried to get rid of two of his three wives. All three women defied him, saying that if he sent two of them away, he would have to give away the third as well.
-  Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, a History

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Interviews about polyamory

Even more pieces on poly* people. This seems to be quite the trend these days. It’s nice to see real people in the media.

The wives from "My Five Wives" discuss why they've remained polygamous

The Williams, from “My Five Wives”, discuss why they all chose to maarry, even after leaving the Fundamentalist Mormon Church.

"Polyamorous Family Raising 11 Year-Old Girl"

It's always nice to see polyamorous families with kids. I have yet to see a polyamorous family that is bad for its kids. Everything that defines a polyamorous family - multiple adults present, honesty, communication, resilience of key relationships, etc. - are good things for a kid to have in their life. Certainly, most kids of polyamorous families won't have to deal with divorce the way modern kids of monogamists do all the time. Maybe this is my inner conservatism, but one of the things I love most about polyamory and polygamy is the increased support network for children. Big, communal households are the way most humans have lived before industrialization, and they're very good for us.

"A Different Look at Modern Polygamy"

This is why they're my favorite polygamists in the public eye. They're so liberal and secular that at this point they're practically polyamorous. But god, it seems like so much work! I'm breaking into a nervous sweat just watching them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Show: "Candy Boy"

Candy Boy 00 -prologue- (english subs)

One of the things I've been thinking about is the relationship between the queer community and the consanguinamorous. The overlap between the queer community and the consanguinamorous isn't going to be very large. Both parties would have to be the same sex, and have same-sex attractions, and find that other particular person appealing in spite of social taboo and (sometimes) the Westermark Effect. Then there's the fact that consanguinamorous heterosexuals get caught more, because they're the ones having their own biological children.

What I'm getting at here is that I think there's too little visibility for same-sex, consanguinamorous relationships in popular culture, especially healthy ones. Opposite-sex couples are usually depicted as mentally ill or dysfunctional, but the average depiction skews much worse for same-sex couples. I also think that heterosexuals interested in or accepting of consanguinamory tend to be more visible online.

So with that, I'm going to try to find media and accounts that deal specifically with queer consanguinamory in a positive way. My first entry is "Candy Boy", a Japanese animated slice-of-life miniseries that focuses on the romantic relationship between twin sisters attending art school in Tokyo, and the enamored freshman girl that stalks/befriends them. It shows a very open, loving, normal and normalized relationship. That's rare, even in Japanese media. (As a heads up, slice-of-life series are about the pleasure and drama inherent in little everyday moments. If the idea of watching two girls go shopping together and talking about their childhood bores you, then the whole show will.)

This is the first extra episode (a prequel episode). The full miniseries can be found here (日本語のアニメ). (The credits don't regularly come at the end of each episode, sometimes they're in the middle, so don't stop watching until you're sure an episode is over, because there's probably more.)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Film: "From Beginning to End"

This is the trailer for From Beginning to End (a.k.a. Do Começo ao Fim), a Brazilian movie about two half-brothers who fall in love the moment they set eyes on each other. (FYI, there's a brief NSFW shot in the trailer.) The movie is about their family, and the maturation of their relationship. Not only is it a great depiction of a gay relationship, but it is the single most positive depiction of consanguinamory I have ever seen. Period. The parents are wary, but ultimately accepting, and at no point does anyone try to shame them or break them up. There is no character, family-member, friend, or acquaintance, who is not a source of support. This is what I want our culture to look like. The film is not about bigotry, it's about their love, and how its strength is both a blessing and a curse which they have to manage. It's about the choices we make in our lives. It's amazing. This is my third attempt to highlight positive examples of same-sex consanguinamory in media. You can watch the film here.

Edit: I do admit, this is a really sappy film in many ways. But that's the point. It's the Kate and Leopold of consanguinamory. Out of all the films I've written about on my blog, How I Live Now is my favorite, and the only one I would recommend to someone who doesn't care about consanguinamory. It's by far the most entertaining. However, it is also the movie in which consanguinamory plays the smallest role. I have different standards for stories about consanguinamory, because there are so few depictions, and most of the depictions are awful and deal in stereotypes. From Beginning to End is cheesy, but it's the single most positive portrayal of consanguinamory in existence, at the moment, and so it has a special place.

Film: "Forbidden Relations"

"Visszaesok" (a.k.a. "Forbidden Relations) is a film made in 1983 Leninist Hungary, based on the real case of half-siblings who fell in love when they met as adults, and were thrown in jail repeatedly for refusing to abort their children. This is the second trial scene, and even though the movie is three decades old, the arguments made in it are still relevant. Watch the movie here. (Trigger warning: The gender relations in Hungary at the time were hardly progressive. There's one scene where they argue and he hits her.)

Film: "Shameless"

This is the movie "Shameless", by Polish director Michal Kwiecinsk. (You can watch it here.)

I have to say, I was surprised at how good a movie it is. It revolves around Tadzik, and his older half-sister Ana. He’s been in love with her his whole life, and she knows it, but she keeps pushing him farther away. Sometime in the past she kicked him out of her house, though it’s never explained why. (My guess is that they became too “close”, and she was uncomfortable with her own emotions.) When he visits unannounced over summer break, he finds that she’s engaged to the head of a local Neo-Nazi group. Tadzik is also befriended by Irmina, the daughter of a local Roma family. She bristles under the sexism in her family, and falls in love with Tadzik, possibly seeing him as a way out. During all this, her family is under constant attack by the Neo-Nazis. Rescuing Ana from her fiancée becomes Tadzik’s obsession, at the expense of everyone else.

I’ve watched quite a few movies involving consanguinamory. Usually, they’re melodramatic and try to make it seem inherently wrong or dysfunctional. "Shameless" doesn’t fall into any trap. It doesn’t have an agenda either way, to make it seem positive or negative. It just is. Kwiecinsk has said that he was just trying to depict life in Poland as it actually is, and that lack of agenda really helps the movie. It deals with consanguinamory, sexism, arranged marriage, racism, abusive relationships, sexual harassment, poverty, and political corruption.

So, yeah. I think it's a good movie.

Edit (SPOILERS): One scene in the movie has been bothering me. It's a weirdly racist scene, thematically out of place in the movie. I've been trying to figure out why it's there. I think perhaps it's to show that Ana sort of agrees with her boyfriend because of the one guy who harasses her, and that she doesn't deserve the pedestal that Tadzik puts her on. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that the movie is trying to portray three primary characters whose motivations and behavior are sometimes sympathetic, and sometimes problematic. Tadzik's sometimes sweet, sometimes creepy behavior towards Ana is a good example of that.

Film: "Starcrossed"

This a short film called "Starcrossed". In less than 15 minutes, it covers harmful gender standards, homosexuality, consanguinamory, and the damage done by social stigma. This is part of my attempt to highlight positive same-sex consanguinamory in media. (While not pornographic, this is definitely NSFW.)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A deleted scene from "The L Word"

It's at the 3 minutes, 11 seconds mark. Too bad it was deleted, it would've added extra authenticity. Maybe opened up some people's minds. This kind of thing is more common than people realize.

Film: "The Unspeakable Act"

One of the funny things about being in love with your brother is that you can say almost anything you want about him, to anyone you want, because no-one wants to go there. People will bend over backwards to put the blandest possible interpretation on whatever you say.
- The Unspeakable Act

One of the most hipster movies I've ever seen, but dryly funny. Also, a pretty good psychological character study, except for the whole "it's an expression of narcissism" implication. (Watch it here.)

Full marriage equality makes sense, but the criticisms of it don't.

This photo set was originally from here, but was modified by me to include consanguinamory.