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Two Speaking gigs – University of Baltimore and MIT

i quite like public speaking, especially when it is on topics i am passionate about.  I have two gigs coming up and i wanted to brag about them here.


My charming and talented lover Bryonna at UB is organizing this first event.  My part of the presentation is just before the “cuddle in” part and while i will certainly talk about the basics of consent and why it is important, my real agenda is to use transparency tools and milling activities to build trust among these somewhat daring participants.

An earlier event is the workshop GPaul and i are doing at MIT on how intentional community and sharing technologies are the solution to Climate Disruption.

Workshop Poster-page-001


OK Cupid Blues and Greens

[It turn out, as a novice user, i significantly over-simplified both the status and the politics of the polyamory identity/recognition struggle within OK Cupid in this post.  Fortunately, my new friend Tara has added a long comment to this this post which gives the background and history.  In this case you might want to read the comments to this post before the post itself.]

Some months back i joined a secret polyamory group on Facebook (which means it can only be seen by its members).  One of the interesting aspects of this group was that there was an internal list of links to people’s OK Cupid (OCK) profiles and a few other links.  Many dating sites and sex positive social network sites use pseudonyms to hide people’s identity, so this key inside the secret poly group was quite valuable in seeing who was in the group and how they present themselves.   Almost everyone had an OKC profile, so i thought i should get one as well. Once i put it up, Cassandra heavily edited it for me.

What should your partner be doing of a Friday Night?

What should your partner be doing of a Friday Night?

One of the problems with OKC is that it was not designed to match poly people very well.  Under relationship status you could be single or married or dating, but there was no “Open Relationship” option, which is quite important to dating sites.  OKC fixed that this week.  We will see if this leads to a different experience for me with the system.

okcupid triad

i must confess an odd relationship with the OKC system.  i want to be validated by having people who it seems i am good matches with, but i am not super interested in finding romantic partners this way, at least i don’t think i am.  It has been slightly frustrating to find people who are 95% matches who have no interest in polyamory, since i have answered a number of questions about this, it seems like there is something wrong with the OKC weighting algorithm (or perhaps everyone else is just dodging all the questions on poly).

OKCupid key words

OK Cupid does have a number of revealing and curious statistics about it’s own users.  For example if your desire is to get a lot of messages from OKC as a straight female user, then you are much better off with some people thinking you attractive and others thinking you are ugly, then you are with the same number of people finding you beautiful but many men finding you cute.

OKC paradox questions

OKC paradoxical answers

The service is free.  You can add your own questions and answer the ones you like.  It is in pretty wide use (which is important for network effects).  It does not discriminate against non-heterosexual users (as a surprising number of dating sites do).  And while it is not the only game in town, it is a good game.  If you want to be in this world at all.

Other Polyamory Blog Posts:

And the latest news from Scientific American:  Polyamory may be Good for You







My Driving with Dream

For once I was happy to be forced to drive slowly.

We had just finished a pretty rich Point A meeting with the Washington DC group and an even more successful mini-communities conference in NYC.  I was exhausted, but excited to have some hours in the snow storm to chat with ex-Twin Oaker Dream.  In many ways the trip is like the 1981 movie “My Dinner with Andre“, where Dream was playing the slightly other worldly stage director Andre Gregory.

We don't call him Dream for nothing

We don’t call him Dream for nothing

Dream reminded me of transformative moments in his life, about feeling a Kundalini energy awakening in his body, while in bed aboard the USS Missouri just before it was struck by missiles during the first Gulf War.  About falling in love with East Wind while at UMass Darmouth and struggling to decide if he should return to school.  About hearing a word in a dream “Constatic” whispered to him.  Constatic contrasts the unique experience of ecstatic, with a collective euphoric state, which he would only learn was a real (though very rarely used) word many years later.

kundalini colors

Dream and I have quite similar tastes in a number of things.  We both loved Being John Malcovich and the new movie Her, where the hero falls in love with his AI operating system.  We were excited about the ideas in Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and the works of Huxley.  We shared a number of attractions to people in communities.

annisa and dream

Anissa and Dream circa 2005

Without even a masters degree, Dream has somehow managed to secure teaching positions at both MIT and Harvard.  Some combination of daring, charm and a highly accessible presentation style is what makes this story believable.  But it is Dream’s imagination which makes him such good company for a long drive.  He has all manner of wild ideas, some of which just might be huge, if they got the right attention.  In this I also see the parts of myself I like best.

Dream is all about empowering kids using long-lever computer tools.  Well after midnight when I finally left him behind at Morningstar, he had assembled a group of kids, including Willow to work with his new educational tech tool, called scratch.  And within minutes of them working together my son was saying “I want to put up my own website.”  And with inspiring teachers like Dream, it can’t be long before this is happening.  

i want to build my own website

i want to build my own website

[Edited by Vermin F. Cockwolf]

Old Guard and Young Turks

It was perhaps a dozen years ago at a heated polyamory discussion dinner. There was a flirtatious communard who was known to be in a long-term committed relationship and their partner was quite jealous of their attractions outside their established relationship.  One side of our divided conversation were people who believed that the responsibility for caring for that relationship was on the shared flirtatious partner. It was on this person to know, respect and communicate any agreements or boundaries the pre-existing relationship placed on the new connection. The other position was that it was good poly practice to communicate directly with your intimate’s other partners, especially if they are known to be jealous, so no one is surprised, everyone is on the same page and the new affair does not have an acidic effect on the existing romance.  The group that was advocating for direct inquiry of the jealous partner was the older demographic at the table.  I will call this group the Old Guard.

process no sex

And there was kind of a “guardian” feeling to this concern.  Poly is an ambitious relationship model.  You are assuming that you can do better than upbringing.  That you can transcend the perhaps 30% of all pop songs which promote exclusive romantic role models, or the 50% of soap operas which play off jealousy as a central theme.  Not only do you have to be better, but the people you are playing with are going to have to be above average in their response to potentially highly charged emotional circumstances.

Remember the classical trajectory of new intimacies.  They start with honeymoons.  During this period we tend to be in significant denial about there being any flaws to our new partners.  They are wonderful, their feet don’t stink, they treat you like you really deserve to be treated.  And while you are wearing these rose colored glasses the existing (in this case jealous) partner can be completely reasonably worried that you would want to spend all your time with this shiny new relationship, rather than the grumpy old one with demanding attention, needing processing and not very fun.

nice image, logistics nightmare

nice image, logistics nightmare

Everyone in the old guard claimed to be not just taking care of the other partner, they were also taking care of the notion of polyamory being a responsible and sustainable relationship model.  While it might be fun to jump on a discovered attraction at a party, the clean up can be a nightmare.

funny and fairly accurate

funny and fairly accurate

The young Turks thought differently (they were mostly 20-something so the label seemed apt at the time).   We are adults, we are responsible for our relationships.  If someone says they are romantically available to play it is untrusting and perhaps even insulting to say, “oh i have to go make sure i have permission from your main squeeze.”  The young Turks thought they were being mature and respectful, the old guard thought the Turks represented the wild, wild west of intimacy frontiers. And while i have my own opinion, i can fully see why both sides believe theirs is a fair and reasonable position.

So you think relationship models are simple?

So you think relationship models are simple?

I am happy that there is again a polyamory discussion group at Twin Oaks, which Sky started up again.  It happens on Tuesdays at dinner.

Shal who was at this polyamory dinner so long ago and thinks deeply about these issues had this to say about guards and Turks.

I understand the perspective of assuming new flame can be responsible for their own situation, but we know that is not always how it turns out.  After all, the shared lover is looking at the situation with rose colored glasses too.
I agree with the reasons you speak of to be checking in with established intimates of a new flame.   And there are some reasons that you did not mention why I think it is wise to be considerate of other partners of a new lover or potential lover.   If the topic comes up at the new poly dinner I will mention these.It is not just about whether one gets the ok to start the relationship or not.   There are many situations in life when one is more likely to feel ok with a change if one is asked first rather than the change being made without asking.   I think this is also true of new relationships with one’s partner.  If the other intimate of a new flame is asked nicely, and especially if co is assured co’s situation will be considered and cared about in the decisions made in the future (if that is true), co is more likely to feel ok with the proposed new relationship.  And then the new relationship is more likely to go well.  So I see such an approach as a wise mix of altruism and self-interest.

Also when in such a situation I would want my new lover’s life to go well, not just when co is with me but also in broader ways.   And if co’s current relationship blows up it would cause much unhappiness to this person I care a lot about.  So checking in with partners’ partners is not just caring for and about the other intimate one is checking in with, it is also and more importantly caring for and about the person one is getting emotionally involved with.

I call such an approach “cooperative poly”.
Shal plays it safe and smart on the ice.  With new member Rachel

Shal plays it safe and smart on the ice. With new member Rachel

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Legacy of Trust: MetaBehaviorism

“Meta” is a curious and rich word.  It is classically defined as a prefix which means after or beyond.  I think its more interesting aspects are self referential like metadata – data about data.  Perhaps a metabag would be a bag full of bags.  My son seems to be becoming a metabehaviorist.  By which i mean a behaviorist employing these practices on himself.  Or perhaps this is autobehaviorism?

But let me begin at the beginning.  Willow’s parents have this approach which most would consider daring.  As much as possible we don’t tell him what to do, we work with him to find out the things he wants to do.  He rarely takes showers or baths. He largely does not clean up his room, but can be convinced sometimes.  We do try to help him make informed decisions.  As early as 5 years old, he suggested and volunteered to stop eating sugar and dairy and to drink tea to help get over his cold at the time.

This is what extraordinary kids look like: Gwen, Willow and Rowan.

This is what extraordinary kids look like: Gwen, Willow and Rowan.

The other day he was working with Hawina on homeschooling and they had decided some time back that he would do homework.  And the system which they came up with (with Willow doing his homework every other day) was not working.  Hawina said, “What do you think we should do?”

Willow replied, “I think i should have a weekly homework deadline, and if it is not finished by the deadline, i don’t get any screen time until i complete it.”  Hawina was surprised by this proposal, but felt like it was a good one and they quickly agreed on it.   [Screen time is the amount of time Willow can spend on his computer, typically playing games or watching Star Trek or Modern Family.]

We hope we can continue this extraordinarily trusting and flexible parenting style.  What increases the chances that this will work is Willow’s own (somewhat odd) selecting behaviorist solutions to be run on himself.

Rat race or self correcting liberation?

Rat race or self correcting liberation?


I’ve been writing about Willow since before he could read.  With most people who i know, i ask them to review blog posts before i post them, if I mention their name in anything other than the most trivial way.  Because i had been doing this for so long with Willow i had, until the last couple of posts i wrote about him, not been consulting with Willow on what i was writing about him.

I’ve now cleaned up my act.  He reviewed this post, pulled out a couple of points i thought were interesting, but he did not want in it.  Future posts mentioning him in any significant way will have his approval before posting.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

The Joy of Lex

“The most interesting list is not the very long list of diseases where cannabis is an effective treatment.  The most interesting list is the impressive list where cannabis is the only effective treatment.”  And with this intro you are thrown into the colorful world of Lex Pelger.

Lex at Burning Man

Lex at Burning Man

A writer, scientist and world traveler, Lex believes that the way you change the world is by finding and telling the right stories.  His search for these stories has taken him to the slums of India, where he covered the struggle of Tibetans until his second arrest got him deported.

He hitched to Mexico and across the US which he calls the kingdom of fear.  He is a man of many loves.

In Asian fishing village

In an abandoned fort in Turkey

One of his major loves is the story of cannabis and its healing properties.  He says:

If Western medicine tells us anything about cannabis it’s that it cures, prevents & treats cancer. There’s abundant evidence in human trials across a wide range of cancer types that THC and CBD induce apoptosis in cancer cells. The cancer cells shut down their mitochondrial engines as the tumor shrinks and perhaps dies.

Lex at the ill fated Villages in the Sky BM camp in 2009.  Folding fingerbooks next to me.

Lex at the ill fated Villages in the Sky Burning Man camp in 2009. Folding fingerbooks next to me.

He is a most gracious host in Brooklyn, where several of us stayed after the last Point A meeting, along with half a dozen couchsurfers in his crowded 2 bedroom flat.

What has inspired this post is his most recent article in Ladybud magazine:  The War on Weed is a War on the Elderly.  If you have aging friends or parents or are concerned with issues of public health, i would strongly encourage you to read it.  But if you don’t have time, let me share the part i found most compelling:

Cannabis helps with so many basic problems of aging: it lowers inflammation across the body, lessening aches, migraines and arthritis. By itself, it’s helpful against pain and it enhances the other painkillers so a patient needs less addictive opiates with just a few puffs of pot. It eases nausea from chemotherapy, treats sleep apnea, raises bone density for osteoporosis and protects the GI tract. It prevents heart attacks and lessens the neurotoxicity of strokes if applied immediately (the federal Health & Human Services even has a patent for this cannabinoid neuroprotection. This makes it even more ironic when the DEA claims ‘no medical benefit’). For as yet unknown reasons, cannabis works especially well for movement disorders like Parkinson’s and the self-attacking autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease. Cannabis slows the viruses of herpes and HIV, the prions of Mad Cow disease and even destroys the MRSA bacteria in a test tube (this drug resistant staph infection now kills more people than HIV every year and we have no new antibiotics left to kill it – except for the cannabinoids from that wicked weed). Our brain overflows with cannabinoid receptors that protect against MS, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Cannabis attacks and prevents cancer by several different pathways and it often eases depression.

Poster boy for a better world

Poster boy for a better world

My father died of Parkinson’s and the last part of his life was especially difficult.  With persistence and luck the stories Lex is telling will change the world to ease the pain and suffering of folks like my dad.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Freegantown – epic Kids Play

If you are in the area (Charlottesville/Central VA) and you feel like you have some sense as to what community life is like, you should come see the Sunday Jan 26th performance of Freegantown (if you have not already missed it, this is likely today for you).

Rowan, Kaya, Zadek, Evan, Willow and Ezra in Freegantown - Circa 2014

Rowan, Kaya, Zadek, Evan, Willow and Ezra in Freegantown – Circa 2014

Willow (who’s full name is Willow Star Falcon-Flansburgh) plays the villainous ex-communard who goes off to work for  evil corporation Traitor Joes.  His name is Dark Star in the play.  This 30 minute performance, complete with a start up song with Evan on ukulele, is the best kid theater i have seen and some of the best theater to come out of the commune.

I won’t spoil the plot which teases all manner of commune customs and practices and includes blatant calls from the kids for more bandwidth in the community.   But I will say this performance is a bit of insider ball, if you know nothing about the communes, about our pocket dramas around guests or our practices around dumpstering food, you will miss some parts of the story.    None the less i would encourage you to come.

i will post more pictures (Hawina took some and Sky will tomorrow – all the Star parents are super proud this evening) and possibly get up the video of it.  Aubby did and amazing job writing mostly and directing the piece.  Ezra wrote and performed the musical accompaniment.

This could be the beginning of something big

This could be the beginning of something big

So be there ZK dining hall Sunday Jan 26th high noon – show starts on time.  There is no charge for this performance, and if you wanted to leave a donation, that would be great.

Not Pretty

[This post is under reconstruction and reconsideration]

Willow’s only interview

My son understands the idea of labor credits.  [Twin Oaks and Acorn require people to work a quota of labor credits to maintain membership.]  He has to earn a small number of them to satisfy the communities child labor obligations (mostly the kids are responsible for their schooling efforts, but a handful of hours are requested working around the farm, the number increases slowly at the kids get older).  His current quota is about 5 hours a week.
Willow makes his weekly labor credits cooking lunch with Sky, cleaning Tupelo with me and at the Star Family regular K shift.  He has had this labor requirement for quite a long time.  When he was 5 years old he had an obligation to the community for a single hour of work a week.  When i told him that doing interviews with the various types of reporters who come through the community were labor creditable, he decided to do one.
Willow on Paxus - Circa 2007

Willow on Paxus – Circa 2007

A collection of NYU students came down and did a video of communards and they were especially interested in catching Willow on film. Here is the totality of the interview:
NYU College student:  Willow what do you want to tell to the world?
Willow (immediately):  More trees, less cars!
NYU College student:  Great – anything else?
Willow:  When you get that right we can talk again.
With this Willow retired from doing interviews, despite them being relatively easy labor credits.
Sometimes the Trees do win

Sometimes the Trees do win.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Green Light Consent

“Can i touch you there” i asked as we became more sexual

erotic couple“Are you going to keep asking that?” Jena replied

“It is my culture.” i answered

“It is not mine, please stop.” But her smile was clearly not a “no”

After our fun and exhausting evening of love making, we spoke longer about consent.  What we established was Jena was offering something which i am calling “green light consent” which means all of the following:

  1. You are invited to initiate any type of physical intimacy, without asking
  2. You will keep your senses up to make sure what you are doing is desired
  3. It is on the person offering the green light to stop verbally or physically things they don’t want to happen (or don’t yet want to happen) early
  4. And because of the green light, they send these stop signals without resentment or upset.

The last point is especially important.  Love making for many is a flow experience. Many also know early on that they want to have a robust sexual experience with their new partners and don’t especially want to be checking in at each point.   But if you are going to drive without metaphorical seat belts, you need to handle mistakes gracefully.  Perhaps your new partner bites you too hard or has surprised you in an uncomfortable way, if you don’t want to be interrupted by these check in questions, you need to make complete agreements at first or you need to respond to mistakes without blame.

Can we say all these things without words?

Can we say all these things without words?

We are trying to build a new healthy consent culture.  But just writing “consent is sexy”  in lots of places is not enough.  Part of what is going on is that since there have been so many date rapes, so many failures to get consent, so much poor communication – with the new consent norms are designed to be more careful and intentional.  This is approach is sometimes called the Oberlin Model where some of the pioneering work on healthy consent has been done. 

And many people are not used to asking before they touch someone they are attracted to or granting permission for contact, especially people who formed there sexually active identities before these new norms were established.

And what this lovely evening with Jena reminded me is that we probably need lots of different types of consent models, rather than pretending one size fits all.

But learn many languages



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