VANCOUVER - While Canada's polyamorists — people with multiple partners outside a religious context — do not face criminalization as do polygamists, it is not enough for them to be considered "just not illegal," they said on Sunday.
As the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association wrapped up its three-day convention, the first of it's kind to be held in Canada, the association's director and conference chair Zoe Duff said polyamorists hope to one day gain the same legal recognition as other couples.
"It would be nice...to have households where our spouses are equal under the law, and moving forward in terms of pensions, and inheritances and property division," she said.
Unlike polygamy, there is no law in Canada that specifically bans polyamory. Polyamorists also distinguish themselves from polygamists, saying that while polygamy consists of men taking multiple wives usually within a religious context, polyamory is consensual, secular and egalitarian.
"There's informed consent between the partners, so you can have multiple partners but they all know what's going on, they most often know each other," said Duff. "There's back-and-forth input in terms of what people are comfortable with at the get go. None of that will be found in polygamy at all."
Polyamory came to the forefront in 2011, when B.C. Supreme Court upheld Canada's polygamy law after the province launched a constitutional reference case to clarify the law. At the time, the polyamory community was worried it would be targeted if the law was upheld.
The constitutionality case was prompted after polygamy charges against two leaders of divided factions of the Mormon sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, were thrown out in 2009.
The sect, prominent in the tiny community of Bountiful in southeastern B.C., condones polygamy. However, prosecution against the two rival leaders, Winston Blackmore and James Oler, failed because the court ruled that their rights were violated when the government chose its prosecutors.
Two years later, B.C. Supreme Court concluded that even though the ban against polygamy infringes on religious freedoms, the harms associated with the practice, such as child brides and sexual abuse, outweigh those rights.
The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association was an intervenor in the 2011 case, and saw the B.C. Supreme Court decision as a victory because the decision also concluded that anti-polygamy laws shouldn't apply to polyamorous couples unless they decide to get married.
Duff said the judge was unclear on what he meant with regards to marriage, however she added that striving for that clarity, and eventually for legal status, won't be happening anytime soon. For the time being, the polyamorous community is focusing on raising awareness about the movement, connecting people within the community with each other, and providing people with resources such as legal advice or counselling.
The three-day convention, called “Claiming our Right to Love," included workshops on how to deal with jealousy within a polyamorist relationship, how family laws affect polyamorist households, and how newcomers to existing polyamorist relationships can be treated ethically.
Tiffany Sostar, a Calgary-based student activist and panelist at the convention, said consensual, non-monogamous relationships have been happening for many years. However, polyamory has gained more public profile recently, and Sostar said the practice is becoming more acceptable within mainstream society.
Last year, Sostar brought home two partners to her family's Easter Dinner, explaining to her mother that she believes polyamory is an ethical alternative to monogamy, and that she loves multiple people.
"Even though she struggled with it, she handled it quite well," said Sostar. "She said, 'I don't understand, but I don't understand a lot of things that you do and I still love you.'"
Still, Sostar says there are those who are not so accepting, and who can only equate having multiple partners with cheating.
"Probably the most negative response I got was when someone said that when they think of that type of person, they think of cesspools of disease, which was pretty awful," said Sostar. "And actually, I think it was grossly misinformed since the poly community tends to talk quite openly about safer sex practices and risk management."
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BEST: A Whole Slew Of Sex-Positive Movies
Okay, this is more a series of moments than a single moment. 2012 brought a refreshing number of films that tackled formerly taboo aspects of sexuality. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/the-sessions-review-helen-hunt-john-hawkes_n_1969584.html">"The Sessions"</a> explored an unconventional love story between a physically disabled man and his sex surrogate, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/18/for-a-good-time-call-katie-anne-naylon-phone-sex_n_1803089.html">"For A Good Time Call"</a> showcased the rewards female friendship, as hilariously revealed through the two main characters' adventures as phone sex operators. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ryan/magic-mike-my-date-with-a_b_1629479.html">"Magic Mike"</a> took on the world of male strippers, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/03/malgorzata-szumowska-elles-juliette-binoche-joanna-kulig-anais-demoustier_n_1469094.html">"Elles"</a> complicated the notion that student prostitutes are victims, and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/hysteria-tanya-wexler-vibrator_n_1514213.html">"Hysteria"</a> told the story of the invention of the vibrator with humor and wit. If you haven't seen these films, we recommend you go rent them ASAP.
BEST: J.K. Rowling Writes A Dirty Novel
The famous "Harry Potter" author proved her, um, flexibility by publishing her first novel for adults, which turned out to be very, very adult. According to Gawker's count, <a href="http://gawker.com/5947016/how-dirty-is-jk-rowlings-new-book-the-casual-vacancy-by-the-numbers">"The Casual Vacancy" contains the word</a> "breast" 17 times, "condom" 10 times, "c*nt" 8 times, "f*ck" 214 times and some variation of "penis" 10 times. We're not at Hogwarts anymore.
BEST: Ryan Lochte Plays A "Sex Idiot"
When <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/30-rock-ryan-lochte-sex-idiot_n_1985169.html">Ryan Lochte played a "sex idiot"</a> on an episode of "30 Rock" in October, it seemed to meta to be true. It definitely was the role of a lifetime for the Olympic swimmer. The more Lochte we have in our lives, the better.
BEST: Trojan Gives Away Free Vibrators
Valiant effort, Trojan! The condom company set up carts in New York City in August, where they <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/trojan-vibrator-giveaway-oked-brief-shutdown-meatpacking-district_n_1765340.html">gave away thousands of free vibrators</a> to some very lucky passersby. On the first day, the carts got shut down, but by the next day -- with proper permits in stow -- Trojan successfully gave women a whole lot of pleasure.
BEST: Obama Acknowledges That Contraception Is An Economic Issue
Women are well aware of the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/contraception-financial-educational-security_n_1917535.html">financial value of contraception</a>, but in an election year when some GOP politicians showed so little understanding of women's bodies, lives and choices (more on that later), it especially behooved the incumbent Democratic president to spell it out. Obama acknowledged the economic side of <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/oct/17/barack-obama/obama-says-romney-suggested-employers-should-be-ab/">birth control access</a> during a presidential debate in October. He said: <blockquote>In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured. Because this is not just a -- a health issue, it's an economic issue for women. It makes a difference.</blockquote>
BEST: British Company Makes Most Amazing Tampon Commercial Ever
In October, Bodyform, a British feminine hygiene company, responded to a snarky comment made on the company's Facebook page with a brilliant, hilarious video that poked fun at both feminine hygiene ads with their clear blue liquid and outdoor activities and the idea that these ads have actually deceived anyone about what periods involve. If you haven't seen it, go <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/bodyform-feminine-hygiene_n_1970565.html">watch it right now</a>.
BEST: Olivia Wilde Teaches Us That 'You Can't Lie To Your Vagina'
Olivia Wilde became our new favorite person when she performed an honest and poignant monologue at Glamour's "These Girls," a night of monologues written by, for and about young women. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/olivia-wilde-rashida-jones-zosia-mamet-glamour-these-girls_n_1951752.html">Wilde spoke openly</a> about her divorce and the difficult process of admitting to yourself when a relationship isn't working. "You can lie to your relatives at Christmas dinner and tell them that 'everything on the home front's just peachy!' but you cannot lie to your vagina," she said. We agree.
BEST: Zosia Mamet Rails On Dating Norms
In October, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/olivia-wilde-rashida-jones-zosia-mamet-glamour-these-girls_n_1951752.html">Zosia Mamet</a> uttered one of our favorite quotes about dating at Glamour's "These Girls" event. After discussing a particular date during which a boy suggested they spend a day together having room service at a hotel -- and then suggested that her father (David Mamet) pay for it all, Mamet said: "If you slept in my bed and Lewis and Clarked my body ... it might be nice for you to offer to buy me breakfast the next morning. Or a protein bar."
BEST: Adele Again Proves Herself A Body Image Hero
In November, <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/news/adele-i-would-only-lose-weight-if-it-affected-my-health-or-sex-life-2012911#ixzz2F3faS7XD">Adele spoke out</a> about the media's non-stop discussion of her weight since her hit-filled album "21" catapulted her to musical superstar status in early 2011. "I've always been a size 14-16 and been fine with it. I would only lose weight if it affected my health or sex life, which it doesn't," she said, according to<em> Us Weekly</em>. We couldn't possibly love Adele more.
BEST: Television Wades Into Murky Sexual Territory
TV shows pushed the boundaries of what we normally see and discuss on the small-screen when it comes to sexuality. "Mad Men" explored a <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/10/mad-men-finale-and-video-of-best-season-5-moments.html">dominant-submissive sexual dynamic</a> between Don Draper and his wife Megan, and Joan was pressured to prostitute herself for a business deal, while Kalinda on "The Good Wife" got into the very complicated <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/10/14/the_good_wife_s_kalinda_has_rough_sex_with_her_ex_husband_and_it_makes_no.html">intersection between eroticism and violence</a>. These scenarios weren't necessarily empowering or desirable for the female characters involved, but they did show that sex can take a turn that isn't empowering or romantic, and that whether or not that's a bad thing isn't always clear.
BEST: Liz Lemon Uses Office Supply Shopping As Foreplay
No words necessary. Just <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lu408y9SYQ">WATCH</a>.
BEST: Caitlin Moran Outlines Her Thoughts On The Porn Industry
Caitlin Moran made her thoughts on porn known In her laugh-out-loud amazing book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Woman-Caitlin-Moran/dp/0062124293">"How To Be A Woman."</a> (Although the book came out last year in Britain, it wasn't published in the U.S. until this year, so it makes our list.) This is one of our favorite excerpts: <blockquote>In a world where you can get a spare kidney, a black-market Picasso, or a ticket to ride into space, why can't I see some actual sex? Some actual f**king from people who actually want to f**k each other? Some chick in an outfit I halfway respect, having the time of her life? I have MONEY. I'm willing to PAY for this. I AM NOW A 35-YEAR-OLD WOMAN, AND I JUST WANT A MULTIBILLION-DOLLAR INTERNATIONAL PORN INDUSTRY WHERE I CAN SEE A WOMAN COME. I just want to see a good time. </blockquote>
BEST: Cindy Gallop Champions 'Real' Sex
52-year-old <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/fashion/cindy-gallops-online-effort-to-promote-real-not-porn-fed-sex.html?_r=0">Cindy Gallop is on a mission</a> to show the masses what "real" sex looks like, and thereby counteract the influence of porn on individuals' sex lives. She told the <em>New York Times</em> that many young people are being taught that "what you see in hard-core pornography is the way that you have sex.” In response, Gallup launched MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, a website full of erotic videos submitted by real people. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/fashion/cindy-gallops-online-effort-to-promote-real-not-porn-fed-sex.html?_r=0">According to the <em>New York Times</em></a>' Cara Buckley, "Compared with the harsh lens of mainstream pornography, the videos come across as sweet, earnest, languid, playful and deeply human." If this gets us closer to Caitlin Moran's vision, we're all for it.
BEST: "Sexy Baby"
Also in porn: After watching high school girls dancing on poles in a club in Florida, photographer Ronna Gradus and journalist Jill Bauer began working on a documentary that would demonstrate the way the porn industry affects ordinary women and girls. The film follows a retired adult entertainer, a 22-year-old young woman who has chosen to have labiaplasty and a precocious 12-year-old Manhattan school girl. Together their stories cast in stark relief how the contemporary porn industry has changed the way women and men evaluate women's bodies and how young women learn to be sexual.
WORST: Kristen Stewart Shamed For Being A 'Trampire'
After photos emerged showing actress Kristen Stewart cheating on longtime boyfriend Robert Pattinson, she was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nico-lang/trampires-why-the-slut-sh_b_1850940.html">called a "whore," a "homewrecker" and a "trampire,"</a> and as a result was <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/kristen-stewart-dropped-snow-white-sequel-hemsworth-361945">dropped from the sequel</a> of "Snow White and the Huntsman." Blogger <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nico-lang/trampires-why-the-slut-sh_b_1850940.html">Nico Lang summed up</a> one of the most disturbing aspects of the shaming Stewart endured. He wrote: <blockquote>... for young women, the culture of slut shaming that the Kristen Stewart scandal represents won't go away. I might not be concerned for K-Stew, but I am concerned for all the young women today who are tuned into this scandal, ones who are learning that it's not okay to screw up, ever.</blockquote>
WORST: Nora Ephron Dies
When <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/nora-ephron-dead-dies-age-71_n_1627757.html">Nora Ephron died</a> in June, we lost not only a great filmmaker, screenwriter and author, but a woman with a lot of wise <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/nora-ephron-love-sex-quotes_n_1628857.html">thoughts on love and sex</a>. Here is one of our favorite Ephron quotes: "In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind."
WORST: The Men Of The Republican Party Reveal They Have No Idea How The Female Reproductive System Works
In the lead up to the November 2012 presidential and congressional elections, a number of GOP politicians revealed how shockingly little they know about pregnancy and rape. Among the <a href="http://jezebel.com/5958480/team-rape-lost-big-last-night">worst offenders</a> were Missouri Republican Congressman<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/19/todd-akin-abortion-legitimate-rape_n_1807381.html"> Todd Akin</a>, Indiana Republican candidate for Congress <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/richard-mourdock-abortion_n_2007482.html">Richard Mourdock</a>, Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/tom-smith-rape_n_1834234.html">Tom Smith</a>, Iowa Republican Congressman<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/steve-king-todd-akin_n_1819049.html"> Steve King</a> and Illinois Republican Congressman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/joe-walsh-abortion-exception_n_1983701.html">Joe Walsh</a>. All but King lost their election bids on November 6th.
WORST: Stars Don't Know How To Keep Nude Photos Private
Judging from the large volume of accidental nude photos that got Tweeted this year, it's clear that celebrities need a lesson or two in sexting etiquette. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/alison-pill-topless-actress-tweets-nude-photo_n_1878377.html">Allison Pill</a>, <a href="http://perezhilton.com/2010-05-28-hacker-posts-topless-photos-of-hayley-williams-on-her-twitter-account#.UM-ig5Pjkgt">Hayley Williams</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/17/tori-spellings-husband-dean-mcdermott-tweets-her-boobs_n_1099621.html">Dean McDermott</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/09/annalynne-mccord-tweets-topless-photo-at-random-fan_n_1194671.html">AnnaLynne McCord</a>, we're looking at you.)
WORST: Ryan Lochte's Mom Discusses His One-Night Stands
During the Summer Olympics Ryan Lochte simultaneously became the best and worst public figure ever. We were endlessly entertained by his <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/amyodell/ryan-lochte-great-at-swimming-less-great-at-talk">interview skills</a>, his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/ryan-lochte-grill-london-olympics-photos_n_1719116.html">fashion choices</a> and his easy-on-the-eyes face and bod. But we had to draw the line at his<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/ike-lochte-ryans-mom-talks-one-night-stands-single-girlfriend-today-show_n_1733433.html"> mother discussing his sex and dating life</a> on national television. TMI.
WORST: Anne Romney Refuses To Acknowledge That Women Care About Birth Control Access
In September, a reporter asked <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/07/ann-romney-marriage-rights-birth-control-arent-economic-issues-for-women/">Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, about birth control access and its economic impact on women</a>. She responded, "You’re asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about. This election is going to be about the economy and jobs." Actually, as a September study showed, women consider access to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/contraception-financial-educational-security_n_1917535.html">contraception very important to maintaining their financial independence</a>. And judging <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/gender-gap-2012-election-obama_n_2086004.html">by the way women voted</a>, contraception <em>was</em> in part what this election was about. Watch a video of the interview <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/07/ann-romney-gay-marriage-contraception_n_1865430.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003">here</a>.
BOTH: "Girls" Portrays Bad Sex Truthfully, Critics Say It's Not So
We loved that <a href="http://www.indiewire.com/article/television/good-side-of-bad-sex-in-girls"> Lena Dunham's breakout hit "Girls"</a> portrayed early twenty-something sex as it often is, ranging from awkward and uncomfortable to unsexy and basically bad. We also applaud Dunham for putting her own normal, health body on camera, often in the nude, in a culture where airtime is usually reserved exclusively for waifish women. What we didn't love was some critics' <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/roiphe/2012/04/why_is_the_sex_on_the_new_hbo_show_girls_so_unfun_.html">shock at the mediocre to disappointing sex</a> portrayed, and especially claims that Dunham is wrong, that it <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/roiphe/2012/04/why_is_the_sex_on_the_new_hbo_show_girls_so_unfun_.html">isn't actually that way</a>. We remember being 22 and 24, and we can state without hesitation: sex in your early 20s is often that way.
BOTH: Women Make "Fifty Shades Of Grey" A Bestseller
Who knew E.L. James would go from unknown Brit to household name in less than a year? The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/02/fifty-shades-of-grey-women-erotica_n_1316392.html">erotic novel</a> topped the <em>New York Times</em>' bestseller list and got lots of women (and men) thinking about what they wanted from their sex lives --- and that's a great thing. Less great: The degree to which the trilogy is about all of the gifts Christian Gray buys for Anastasia; Ana's unrealistic ability to orgasm in any position, on command; the wider cultural implications of the notion that women just want to be dominated; and the simple fact that, for all of its Charlie-Tango-Red-Room-Of-Pain appeal, <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/the-15-bestworst-lines-from-erotic-bestseller-fif">"Fifty Shades" isn't very well written -- at all.
BOTH?: The Porn Search Engine
Despite the plethora of easily accessible online pornography, this year it got even easier to get the specific XXX content Internet users desire. In September, a <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/the-15-bestworst-lines-from-erotic-bestseller-fif">porn-only search engine</a> (Search.xxx) launched. Helpful functionality, or will this expand porn's influence on real sexual relationships? Remains to be seen.
BOTH: "Female Viagra" Enters Clinical Trials -- In Nasal Spray Form
Depending on how you look at it, either nasal sprays got a lot more sexy this year, or performance-enhancing drugs got a lot less. In October, a drug called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/female-viagra-nasal-spray-sexual-arousal-tefina_n_2050075.html">Tefina, meant to boost female arousal</a>, entered clinical trials. Sounds promising, but seriously ... couldn't we get it in pill form?
BOTH: Scientists Investigate The Female Orgasm
The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/g-spot-exist-study-skeptics_n_1451742.html">G-spot is real</a>, maybe. But the orgasm you may or may not have there is completely <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emma-gray/female-orgasm-vaginal-debate_b_1417377.html">distinct</a> from the clitoral orgasm. Also, women can have <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/19/orgasm-exercise-coregasm-female-orgasm_n_1365669.html">orgasms from exercise</a>, dubbed "coregasms." And apparently, according to proponents of a Viagra-like drug for women, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/female-viagra-nasal-spray-sexual-arousal-tefina_n_2050075.html">43 percent of women</a> suffer from some form of female sexual dysfunction. It's great that researchers are interested in female sexuality, but making whether or not women orgasm into a problem to be studied and solved suggests that certain ways of being sexual are good and some are pathological. And you know the last thing women need? One more entity informing them that they need to be fixed.