A HISTORY OF LOVING MORE
By Alan M.
The idea of openly and deeply loving more than one person at a time, sometimes together as a group, is as old as history. This expansion of love beyond the pair-bond into unexpected, wider possibilities goes back at least to the experiences of agape among groups of early Christians. Nineteenth-century America saw the founding of several utopian communities inspired by such visions, such as Brook Farm and the Oneida Community. That century was also when the “free love” movement was born, led by such figures as John Humphrey Noyes and Victoria Woodhull.
Today many people associate the term “free love” with the upsurge of the counterculture in the 1960s. Many discovered the life-changing possibilities of expansive loving networks during that time. Two particular inspirations were the science-fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (1961) and the novel The Harrad Experiment by Robert H. Rimmer (1966). In 1972 the bestselling book Open Marriage by Nena and George O’Neill brought the concept of mutually agreed-upon multiple relating, with the full knowledge and free consent of all concerned, into a more mainstream context.
Today’s polyamory movement, however, has its clear origins in the 1980s. And the Loving More organization played a central role in it from the start.
By the early 1980s, alternative lifestyles largely seemed to have disappeared from public view. But an energetic and visionary woman named Ryam Nearing, living in a triad group marriage with her two husbands in Oregon, was collecting information and building a network of like-minded folks. Nearing had also been involved with people around the influential Kerista community, which made its home in the San Francisco area from 1971 to 1991. Kerista advocated for a highly structured form of group marriage among sexually closed groups, and it invented the term “polyfidelity” for this arrangement. Nearing defined “polyfidelity” as a relationship among three or more lovers who agreed to have no sexual involvements outside the group. As she sought out people interested in such ideas, she received many inquiries and expressions of support from around the nation.
In 1984 Nearing published the first edition of her book The Polyfidelity Primer. That autumn she formed an organization dedicated to non-monogamy called Polyfidelitous Educational Productions (PEP), with a newsletter, PEPtalk for the Polyfidelitous. Its first issue was eight pages printed on colored paper, and it offered a subscription for $9 a year. In 1991 the organization took the name Loving More: a Group Marriage Journal & Network.
Meanwhile another visionary woman, Deborah Anapol, was also building networks of people inspired by expanded intimacy and sacred sexuality. Anapol became a pioneer in using the internet and e-mail, still in their infancy, to build these networks. She founded a business called the IntiNet Resource Center (IRC), published a long-running newsletter named Floodtide, and began to teach workshops and seminars about polyamory and sacred sexuality.
A key event took place in September 1993, at a conference titled “The Body Sacred” at the Christian-founded Kirkridge retreat center in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Anapol helped to organize the conference around the theme of “Sexuality and Spirituality.” (As she remembers it, “Bob Francoeur invited me to attend a 90’s reunion of sexual revolutionaries at Kirkridge Retreat Center.”) Its stated purpose was to brainstorm ways to further rebuild networks of people interested in sacred sexuality and multiple love and to bring these movements back into public visibility.
One of the speakers was Robert Rimmer, who by then had authored not only The Harrad Experiment but many other novels exploring group relationships. Rimmer had lived in a group marriage of four near Boston. Another notable speaker was Prof. Robert T. Francouer, a married Catholic historian and former priest. Francouer spoke on sex-education efforts worldwide and on his belief that the growing empowerment of women would be key to healthier new attitudes toward sex and relationships. Rimmer spoke of how a new generation was discovering his books, and how “the sexual revolution was really only a rebellion.” He praised Anapol and Nearing for being “the younger generation who’re saner, who give me hope.” Both he and Francouer urged, pleaded, for the two to join efforts and take the movement to the next level.
At the closing session of the conference, the featured presenters urged the formation of a national activist organization and journal as top priorities. Ultimately Deborah and Ryam were the people who brought this vision to fruition, by merging the IntiNet Resource Center with PEP.
Deborah and Ryam soon began producing Loving More as a substantial magazine. The first magazine-style issue was dated Winter 1995. Within a year it was an ambitious quarterly of 44 pages including a glossy cover.
The Loving More organization also organized a major gathering in the fall of 1994 at the Rowe Conference Center in western Massachusetts, which drew prestigious poly-inspired presenters and participants from a wide variety of alternative communities and points of view. This unparalleled event really heralded Loving More’s birth.
Growth and Transitions
“People always imagine that the pull to poly lovestyles is the simple allure of more sex,” wrote Nearing in the Winter 1996 issue. “But what we see is that frequently folks are drawn to this lifestyle because of their philosophical beliefs, political principles, or divine inspiration. Their life values, rather than their gonads, lead them to make poly choices. . . . If the heady flavor of idealism leaves a wonderful taste in your mouth, then you can hardly feel comfortable not integrating it into your real life and real relationships.”
By the end of the magazine’s first year, Nearing purchased Anapol’s half of the business to take full ownership of Loving More; Anapol continued to collaborate and write for the magazine for years. Nearing published it from Boulder, Colorado, after moving there from Hawaii. The magazine often met its quarterly schedule in its early years, but publication later became more irregular — partly because poly news and information were becoming abundantly available on the rapidly growing internet. Thirty-two issues of Loving More magazine appeared from winter 1995 to winter 2003, followed by six more through 2008. In 2009 the decision was made to continue Loving More as an online electronic magazine. The first electronic issue was Number 39: Summer 2009. Due to the increasing costs of printing and production, and the ubiquity of the internet, the magazine has now evolved to be the Loving More PEP Talk online magazine on the website. This change has allowed the magazine’s content to be free to the public for the first time.
After two decades of hard work, Nearing retired from Loving More around 2001 and sold it to staffer Mary Wolf; they had known each other since at least 1994. The departure of the energetic Nearing was a serious loss; Wolf had trouble running the organization in the style of Nearing and her partners, and she in turn sold it in November 2004 to Robyn Trask, the present-day executive director. Trask, inspired by a women’s support group that Nearing hosted, had been running a poly support group since 1999 and had begun presenting workshops at Loving More conferences in July 2003. She pulled the organization back to productivity, though the magazine no longer came out as often.
Despite the visibility of the magazine, the mainstay of Loving More (and its precursors) has always been its conferences: gatherings of poly-minded people drawn together to share experiences, provide mutual support, and look for like-minded friends and partners. These gatherings often centered on discussions and workshops about the practicalities of polyamorous life. (The earliest went under the name PEPCon before taking on the Loving More name.) They provided, and continue to provide, settings where people can share the growing body of community knowledge, often very hard-won, about the most frequent poly pitfalls and paths to success.
The word polyamory itself was invented only after these developments were well under way. The words “polyamorous” and “polyamory” were coined independently in 1990 and 1992 by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart and Jennifer L. Wesp, respectively. Morning Glory was and is a lifetime partner of Oberon Zell-Ravenheart; the two were among the creators of the modern Neo-Pagan religious movement and in particular the Church of All Worlds, a group originally inspired by Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Wesp had an entirely different background. She invented the word polyamory “from the blue,” she says, in the midst of what she calls a “flame war” about the morality of non-monogamy on an early internet discussion group. Soon afterward (in May 1992) Wesp created a Usenet newsgroup named alt.polyamory. It became a major poly site on the internet and apparently did the most to popularize the word.
After floundering with various terminologies since the 1960s, the movement finally had a clear, defining name. Members of Loving More decided to adopt “polyamory” as their term of choice during a conference in 1995.
Loving More Today
After purchasing Loving More in 2004, Trask updated the group’s website and moved its “LoveList” discussion group offsite to become a Yahoo Group, where it remains today. In 2005 she embarked on an effort to increase outreach to the mainstream world by sending press releases to major media about Loving More’s conferences, events, and philosophy. These resulted in lengthy, surprisingly positive articles in the Denver Post and the Baltimore Sun, and other media followed on. In July 2005 Trask appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club,” a major TV outlet for the religious right. Despite obvious philosophical differences, the appearance went remarkably well; Trask was able to explain the concepts behind polyamory to more than a million evangelical Christians.
The mainstream media had always given occasional attention to the polyamory movement, but 2006 was something of a watershed. More outlets discovered the polyamory community and began covering it with greater sophistication and even-handedness, from newspapers and television to New Scientist magazine. The word itself finally entered mainstream dictionaries that year, with some fanfare. Since then Loving More has been an essential go-to place both for reporters looking for information on polyamory, and for polyfolk who get approached by the media and want coaching on how to deal on an even footing with reporters or TV producers.
Financially, Loving More has always struggled to break even at best. It relies heavily on donations from members and supporters, and on unpaid labor and large financial sacrifices by volunteer staff. Recognizing this reality, in June 2006 Loving More reincorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in Colorado. In 2010 it received nonprofit 501(c)3 status under federal tax law, retroactive to June 2006. In July 2008, Trask and Jesus V. Garcia, her partner and fellow Loving More board member, relocated from Boulder to Loveland, Colorado, bringing the Loving More office with them. In April 2010 the office moved out of their house to space in nearby Fort Collins.
The annual Loving More conferences often took place in northern California, but by 1999 a second, parallel summer weekend conference was also happening on the East Coast. In January 2007 the organization hosted the first of its one-day Loving Choices hotel seminars, as a more direct outreach to the public and to therapeutic professionals seeking to learn about polyamory. In February 2008 Loving More took over the annual Poly Living Conference in Philadelphia (which had begun in 2005), following the death in 2006 of Poly Living’s founder and organizer, George Marvil.
As of 2013, Loving More was running its annual summer Conference Retreat in rural upstate New York every September, and Poly Living in a hotel in Philadelphia every February. Poly Living grew from , and was preparing to put on the first Poly Living West conference, at a hotel in Seattle October 22-24, 2010.
In October 2008 the Loving More board of directors (then Robyn Trask, Jesus V. Garcia, and Anita Wagner) joined in the first National Polyamory Leadership Summit, held in New York City. There, about 48 people brainstormed and volunteered for many polyamory-education and -awareness projects, both in Loving More and independently as the NPLS — which was soon renamed the Polyamory Leadership Network (PLN). In March 2009 and February 2010 Loving More sponsored the second and third Polyamory Leadership Network summit meetings, held outside Philadelphia immediately following the Poly Living conferences in the same hotel. Another PLN summit was held in for Seattle in October 2010 following the Poly Living West conference there, and regional meetings were held in Philadelphia and Atlanta in 2012. Loving More and PLN will continue working closely together.
Both organizations have adopted, in their mission statements, promotion of the acceptance of relationship choice — in recognition that polyamory is right for some people and monogamy is right for others, and that an informed, ethical choice for one or the other as a relationship develops is a matter for personal examination and discussion.
As for the future of this movement? It’s yet to be written! We intend to be part of enabling and establishing knowledge and freedom in relationship and family styles in the 21st century and, we hope, ages beyond.
Care to join us?
Update March 2013: Loving More Nonprofit launched a reworked, modernized, CMS-based website to better meet the needs of the growing community. The updated website allows video integration, and in the coming months will be adding modules specifically for members, with classes and education. ~Robyn Trask
Corrections? Additions? Please write to Alan M., the author, at alan7388 (at) gmail.com.
Further reading on polyamory history: “Polyamory and Alternative Non-Monogamy” by James R. Fleckenstein.