Category Archives: diversity

Polyphobia, Prejudice, & Discrimination: New Psychology Today Blog from Dr. Eli Sheff



In my most recent blog on Psychology Today I explore the experiences that polyamorous folks report with prejudice and discrimination.


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Well & Good Interviews Dr. Eli Sheff on Open Relationship Pros & Cons


Zoe Weiner at Well and Good interviewed me recently about when open relationships work, and when they don’t.


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Cronica Post Foro: Reflections on Conference in Spain



I just returned to the United States from the first annual Foro Poliamor in Spain, and was completely charmed by it all – the people I met, the places they showed me, and the conference itself.

If you have never been to Spain and could possibly travel there, I strongly suggest that you try to find somehow, someway to get there. It is a lovely, diverse, delightful country with friendly people and incredible places to visit. Going for the Foro is the perfect excuse to explore this incredible country!



The Catalunya region of Spain is gorgeous and diverse. A charming mix of ancient and ultra-modern, Barcelona is the transit, tourist, and business capitol of the region. The Foro Poliamor conference met at the delightful Hotel Cardos in the Pyrenees Mountains. Roughly three hours from Barcelona by car, the mountains have lovely trees and burbling brooks in the summer and skiing in the winter. With barely any competing light and clear air, the night sky in the Pyrenees is so dark and clear that you can see the band of the Milky Way standing stark amid the most stars I have ever seen.


Hotel Cardos

FORO 01 grounds .jpgHotel Cardos is a charming, quirky, and comfortable hotel with a lovely deck, swimming pool, gardens, and grounds. A collectors’ dream, Hotel Cardos boasts a diverse and fascinating array of objects (especially nativity figures), sculptures, and wall-art gracing each of its six floors. The dining room offers a large and inviting space with a central buffet for breakfast, and long tables where lunch and dinner are served. The staff are delightful, incredibly friendly, and accommodating, and helped to create a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Inviting sleeping rooms provided comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and windows with gorgeous mountain views of the fierce late June sun during the day and lovely cooling breezes at night. The grounds of Hotel Cardos are filled with delightful nooks and crannies, from a fountain grotto with elaborate stone designs to a gazebo surrounded by trees and horses in the field next to the pool. Indoor spaces provide a wide range of places to hang out – among them the Piano room for big meetings and social chatting, the Zen room for quite thinking, reading, or meditation, the Botanica space that straddled the sunroom and stone patio, or the underground discotheque complete with lights and sound system.


 Foro Poliamor Conference

A three-day fiesta of thoughts and interactions, learning and socializing – what’s not to like? In fact, the entire conference was lovely, from the flexible nature of the programming to the delightful conversations around delicious food. There were two organized tracks – four workshops with me and four workshops with Nico Castellanos. My workshops covered types of CNM and when they work (or not), a brief history of CNM and its place in social change, dealing with jealousy, and children in polyamorous families. Nico Castellanos presented workshops on four-hand massage, BDSM for the curious, conscious touch, and a sensory journey.

A third track was organized by the folks who came to the conference in the moment, with people writing suggestions for what they would like to discuss and others offering expertise in specific topics. I attended one of the open track sessions on ninja training led by the impressive and intrepid Irene and it kicked my ass, even though I was not in time to meet them for the running portion of the workout. Doing the stairs, jumping up and down a bench (except in my case more stepping up and down) and lifting blocks of concrete from a squat or in a lunge was more than enough for me. By the time we got to repeatedly jumping in the pool and lifting ourselves up using upper body strength I decided I might just stay in the pool for a while. Everyone was jovial and encouraging, some joining me in the pool to luxuriate in the delightful water and others continuing their (grueling I must say) workout. That moment was characteristic of the Foro for me – I was free to do as I wished with the delight and support from those around me in a relaxed learning and collaborative environment. Non-ninja-related topics included dancing, defining and establishing consent, working through the emotional pain that can come with polyamorous relationships, and many more.



There were many fun opportunities for relaxed socializing. Meals at long tables encouraged spontaneous conversations with folks who ended up next to each other, and the swimming pool and patio offered many opportunities to lounge and chat. A costume party Saturday night had everyone cross-dressing and boogieing in the disco and watching the absolutely incredible (I cannot sufficiently express how truly amazing) night sky.



While I learned a little bit of Spanish as an exchange student in Guadalajara, it was not even enough to really communicate then and I have forgotten most of it in the intervening years. Even with such limited skills, I was able to communicate easily with people at the conference because many of them spoke at least some English. During my workshops the Foro provided someone to translate between English and Spanish, and they even gave me a personal translator during the group meetings who whispered to me in English. In the rare case that the person I was chatting with could not understand my broken Spanish and could not speak to me in English, there was always someone else nearby who was happy to translate on the fly. Overall, I found the language quite easy to navigate and people happy to help me through stumbles.


The next Foro happens in June of 2018. Tickets to Barcelona are not all that expensive, especially if you start looking for deals early. If you start saving today, you might be able to travel to Spain next year for the Foro. In my experience, it was totally worth the time, effort, and expense to get there for the amazing experience.



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Women’s Health Magazine Interviews Dr. Eli Sheff



Alexandria Gomez from Women’s Health Magazine interviewed me recently for a piece on polyamory and consensual non-monogamy. You can find the article here.


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Psych2go Interviews Dr. Eli Sheff



Julia Vergari at Psych2go recently interviewed me about how polyamory affects people and published her thoughts recently on Psych2go. You can check it out here

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Accessible Multi-linking & Polyamory Virtual Con Still Accepting Panelist Submissions




Good news for anyone who is interested in polyamory but find Cons inaccessible for a variety of reasons. The Accessible Multi-linking and Polyamory Virtual Con, is taking place November 3 – 5 at an Internet-capable screen near you. AMaP is a fully online con designed to be accessible to people who usually can’t make in-person cons.



If you want to, consider submitting a workshop or presentation proposal for the con. The theme this year is Silenced Voices, and organizers are inviting all to participate with a special emphasis on diversity and folks who do not traditionally have access to the cultural megaphone.

If you are interested, but not sure how running an online workshop can work, you can see our short example



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10 Things Well-Meaning White People Should Stop Doing

As a white liberal – and I mean whiiiiiiiiite some lily white shit white – I never intend to be racist. As a white, lower-middle-class, cis-gendered woman, I have been marinated in white privilege since I was born. Squaring these two opposites – not wanting to be a racist but having white privilege in a decidedly racist society – is challenging. When swimming upstream against cultural conditioning that reinforces colorblind racism and actively works to keep white privilege invisible, knowing what to do and say can be difficult for ordinary white folks.


images.jpgUnfortunately, there is a lot of room white us white people to offend people of color because we are all too often ignorant of their sub-cultural realities, values, and experiences. White privilege means we don’t have to learn about people of color to survive, at least not in the way that children of color must learn to deal with white society on its terms or be crushed under its boot heel.[i]


Some of the things on this list come from my own personal experience, and some from listening to people of color talk about their experiences with white people who are often well meaning but say or do incredibly stupid racist shit that gets old, especially because it is the same thing all the time. Although I have not made all of the mistakes on this list, I have certainly made some of them. Because I live in Atlanta and hang out with mostly white or Black people, this list emphasizes racism towards Black people a bit more than others. Also, racism towards Black folks has a special kind of uber-virulence that shapes other forms of racism in the US. I hope this list proves useful to you in avoiding these common mistakes.


Yo White People, Avoid Doing This


  1. Turn down the music

If you are hanging out with people of color and the music is too loud for you, suck it up. Do not touch the dial. Do not ask for the music to be turned down. You are not the queen or king of this domain to demand that it be changed to suit your needs. You can move away from the speaker and/or just develop some tolerance for louder music. If it really becomes an issue, get some cool earplugs that look like ear buds to wear when you in that situation.


  1. Explain to a person of color (POC) how what just happened or that thing that person said was not racist

Whitesplaining, according to Maisha Johnson, is a form of privileged explaining (like mansplaining) in which white folks believe that they are “somehow more qualified to speak about a marginalized group than a person who belongs to that group.” Johnson   identifies the signs of whitesplaining as “ a condescending tone and paternalistic assumption that a person of color doesn’t know enough to accurately articulate their own experience.

We white people are not the arbiters of what is racist and what is not racist. If you have whitesplained, most likely you did not mean it as racist, but that does not mean it was not racist in its outcome. If it is racist to a person of color, then it is legit racist whether you meant it to be so or not. All sorts of things that white people do not see as racist have a racist impact on people of color. We are shielded from knowing that by white privilege, which allows us to focus on our intent rather than the impact.

For instance, when my son called my girlfriend-at-the-time/now wife (who is Black) a “big dyke” in jest, I thought I could make it all better by saying “He didn’t mean it that way,” meaning that he did not intend it as racism. While I had the best of intentions to explain that he was raised hippie and we joked about things like that to destigmatize language, the impact was to prioritize what he meant over what she experienced. Saying he doesn’t mean it that way is white privilege saying I want to define the situation, and I say that intent is what really matters. So as long as I don’t mean it to be racist, then it’s not racist. Right? Not really, it is still racist because it lands as racist with POC. To ignore the impact or expect it to simply shift as soon as the person of color comes to understand how you meant it is an expression of white privilege.

Instead – listen to what the other person is saying, ask them questions about how they feel and what they mean, and apologize.


  1. Assume it is this person’s job to be your personal Black History Month dictionary

People of color are not obligated to educate us white folks on their ways, thoughts, history, language, music, or traditions. Take it upon yourself to actively broaden your horizons instead of passively expecting POC to interpret for you. See a movie, read a book, attend a lecture – work to expand your understanding of the lives of POC as they experience things. The Internet reigns — use it to educate yourself with search terms like:

  • anti-racist
  • color-blind racism
  • diversity
  • history, culture, or language + (insert diverse groups here)
  • white-privilege (which also shows the white supremacists sometimes, for another view on white privilege as something to be preserved and reinforced),


  1. Tell other people that you are broke if you have cash in your pocket, money in savings, investments, own a home, etc.

download.jpgWhite people broke is not the same thing as POC broke, and saying you are broke when you actually have money is obnoxious. It is even worse when you do so in the presence of people who know a whole different level of brokenness.


  1. Ask “Where are you really from?”

When you are chatting with someone and ask them where they are from, believe their answer. If they tell you they are from Cleveland and they look like an Asian Pacific Islander, believe them. There are people of Asian descent living in Cleveland, who are from Cleveland in the sense that they live there, grew up there, and might have been born there. Asking where someone is really from implies that they are not to be trusted when they offer their first response and that they do not really belong here, they are not one of “us.”


  1. Use the N word

Under no circumstances can white people use the n word. Not in song titles, not in song lyrics, not in conversation, not in jest, and not in irony. Simply do not say it. Ever.


  1. Assume that all POC know each other just because they are of the same race or ethnicity

images.jpgPOC are as diverse and widespread as anyone else, and they are not all members of the same club. While they may all experience various levels of racism, that is where the similarity ends. By assuming that all Black people know each other, you are putting them all in the same box and applying a false homogeneity. This erases that person’s individuality and makes them just a member of a group based on their race.


  1. Remain in a cocoon of whiteness

If you are white and living in the United States, chances are very high that you can choose to spend most of your time with other white people, eating white food, and watching white tv in your white neighborhood in a house that you got because your family was not redlined from that neighborhood. Whiteness is so pervasive in many ways that you have to actively choose to broaden your horizons. Go to new places where you are not in the majority, and see how other people live and how it feels to be a minority in that space.


  1. Talk so much

Be quiet and listen, especially if you are nervous. White privilege makes it seem natural for white people to constantly want to tell other people about their ideas, experiences, perceptions, and values. The thing is, POC have also been marinated in white culture so they know all about us. We white folks are not a mystery to POC, and we need to stop talking so much because it keeps us from listening.


  1. Ask to touch a Black person’s hair

White people are fascinated with the various textures that Black hair can achieve. Asking to touch their hair may seem innocuous or even a sign of interest in attempting to get to know about POC, but it does not come across that way to the majority of Black folks – especially Black women. Instead, it is objectifying and rude. How would you feel if your ears stuck out more than the dominant cultural images, and people you did not even know whose ears were close to their heads constantly asked to touch your ears? Chances are good that you would feel objectified or irritated, and that the constancy of the interaction would reinforce for you just how much you differ from the dominant cultural expectations.

[i] Social class obviously makes a big difference, and rich people always have more choices than poor folks. Even so, wealthy people of color still experience racism, and poor white people still have white privilege.


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