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In this episode of Sexplanations, Lindsey chats a bit about Polyamory. What it means, how to find your community, and just what the heck Polytana is.

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Host: Dr. Lindsey Doe

Directing/Filming/Editing/Graphics: Nicholas Jenkins

Original Title Design: Michael Aranda

Executive Producer: Hank Green

Polyamory refers to wanting, having, or accepting more than one intimate romantic relationship at a time. In 84% of cultures worldwide, you can engage in this and other non-monogamous relationships, but it's illegal to marry more than one person in most Western countries.

What else do I want you to know about poly? 

I want you to know it isn't scary or threatening to your own monogamy. I want you to know that I came to understand it, so you're also capable of understanding it. 


I grew up learning that finding a partner was what you strived for: one person whose one person is me. This is called monogamy. I also grew up believing you waited until marriage to have sex, and you had sex with that one person for the rest of your life. And when my hormones kicked in and I wanted to have sex with all the thing, that didn't make any sense, why my biology and physiology were telling me one thing, but society was telling me something else. I understood how you need to have a govern on human behavior, we can't just do whatever we want, but if naturally I was experiencing a desire for more than one mate, then there was probably more to sexuality than what I had learned thus far.


So when I started to study relationships years later, and I learned about cultures in other parts of the world where polygamy was accepted and men had multiple wives, I could hold that in tandem with monogamy and not judge it as superior or inferior.

There are all sorts of neat things about poly, like differences between polygyny and polyandry and polygamy and polyamory.

So you know polygamy is multiple spouses, wives, husbands, people in marriages.

Polygyny is a specific kind of polygamy of having more than one wife, sometimes a broader definition of more than one woman. I remember it because 'gyn' means female, like gynecologist is the female doctor. This, by the way, occurs in 4 out of 5 cultures worldwide.

Polyandry, which is far, far less common, exists in less than 1% of human cultures. This is multiple male mates or husbands. I remember this one because androgen is the male hormone, polyANDRY.

Polypany is what I call it if you want to partner with all the things.

And polyamory, again, is multiple loves. Amore, love. Not necessarily sex partners or spouses.

All of this was fascinating, but something for far-away lands. It wasn't until my doctoral program, when I was 25, that I met an openly poly person, one of my colleagues who was partnered. A very happy strong woman had two partners who were not partnered with each other. What I now know of as a V. Her, them.

I learned from her how to teach pre- and anorgasmic women to orgasm, I learned about body image and independence, being a strong sexual female who wasn't going to be defined by society.

In my brains I'm thinking "if this amazing person is poly, then poly might be amazing too." Plus, now poly wasn't something outside of my North American culture that's something that people on the other side of the ocean are doing. It's right here, it's happening right here!

What I hadn't recognized until this experience is that the poly community was simmering underground all around me. So I created a group, a network of people to connect in a safe, come-as-you-are space. I named the group Polytana. So if you think of our state's name, Montana, mon, one, the poly group was named Polytana.

I would host and organize monthly potlucks, off-premise meetings, meaning there's no sex on-site, they would bring the food and share with one another. It's a metaphor. And if you're Drax...

I taught them what I was learning about the original poly communes, like the Keristas, and they taught me about their modern relationship dynamics of polyfidelity and Doctor Who. It was so cool, these people came from all over, driving from other states, north, south, east, west, and I was amazed.

Soon we were throwing parties for close to 200 and educating each other more and more about the diversity of relationships. One isn't better than the other, one is different than the other. I got to put more faces to poly, and I was really impacted by that.

I thought that with monogamy you were looking for your other half, that you are not complete until you've found that other person, the Jerry Maguire kind of romance. The two of you come together, you're one couple, you consummate and become one. And when I learned about poly, it wasn't that you had a single heart and you were cutting it into chunks and everyone got less, it was that you were sharing one heart with all the people.

The same way I can talk to this person with my whole mouth, and this person and this person, and it doesn't detract from those conversations. Having conversations with multiple people doesn't make the conversation less valuable. You're not getting a cut of this person, you never had a cut. I think that's it! We're all whole people who choose to add to one another.

The pain is in the resistance to reality, not the reality itself. So I would say, for people who want to identify as poly and adopt that lifestyle, that getting access to the poly community is absolutely essential. To have the mastery of experience, people who have gone before you, who have done the troubleshooting, who can talk to your partners about you and with you, who can support you and the ones who can be there if you change your mind. Not that you're changing who you are but you're changing how you express yourself. Finding those is a simple search for polyamory. I know the resources in the northwest, but it isn't just here. Seek it out, ask questions, and stay curious.