The Death of Innocence

The police say Krystal Voss shook her son hard enough to kill him. The evidence says something else.

"I told him that I would need to talk to my husband about it," Voss says, "that I wouldn't cheat and that we had to start out on a friendship basis."

The two began talking on the phone regularly, with Gaston's blessing. Before long, Voss says, Ramirez told her that he and his wife had an open relationship, too.

"He said that at one point she had a partner, and it didn't work out very well," Voss remembers. "He said, 'I don't understand how your husband isn't jealous.' He told me he wanted to show his wife he could bring in another partner and have it be a positive experience."

John Johnston
All natural: Krystal Voss and Damien Gaston met at 
Wild Oats. Their son, Kyran, was born at home.
All natural: Krystal Voss and Damien Gaston met at Wild Oats. Their son, Kyran, was born at home.

The subject of sexual jealousy comes up often on the Loving More Web site, which is dedicated to the notion of "growing beyond jealousy and possession in relationships."

In answer to Frequently Asked Question #7 ("What about Jealousy?"), the site explains that if you're in a committed relationship and your loving partner happens to get intimate with someone else -- well, you might feel threatened, maybe even a little pissed off, but don't worry. "Working through this is one of the greatest rewards of multi-partner relating," the text burbles, in much the same cheery tone that your dentist might explain that having a root canal is one of the greatest rewards of multi-tooth decay.

Based in Boulder, Loving More promotes the-more-the-merrier intimacy among consenting adults, also known as polyamory. The organization publishes a magazine, hosts conferences and workshops, and acts as "a national clearinghouse and public forum for the polyamorous movement." That movement's message boils down to this: Monogamy is for hopeless squares, who trudge through life tormented by unrealized desires or skulk about engaging in disastrous acts of adultery and divorce. Truly enlightened beings can learn to explore different kinds of intimacy with multiple partners in an ethical, honest and spiritually satisfying fashion.

"No one person can meet all your needs," declares the Loving More FAQ, which advances the notion that reasonable partners should have a "commitment to love," not each other.

Such abstractions abound on the Loving More site, which is about as sexy as a lecture on Shaker furniture. The group has a horror of swingers, casual sex or sluttiness of any kind, viewing such couplings as the desperate thrashings of benighted hedonists. Still, its high-minded evangelizing has found a receptive audience among people who consider the notion of fidelity to one partner for life (or even just to one at a time) to be burdensome, intolerable or downright hypocritical.

Polyamory appealed to Krystal Voss for several reasons: She'd always been attracted to females as well as males, and her unhappy first marriage, entered into when she was still a teenager, convinced her that she didn't want to limit herself that way ever again. She and her handfasting partner visited the Loving More chat rooms, met like-minded couples and gave jealousy the bum's rush. (Her e-mail name summed up her embrace of the lifestyle: evrykndalv, short for Every Kind of Love.)

When she became involved with Gaston, Voss was clear about her polyness. "We had an agreement that, because of my bisexual nature, we could have an open marriage," she says.

"We had an absolute commitment to each other, but there are different ways to interpret that," Gaston adds. "There are responsibilities you have to your children, and a need for the freedom to seek love wherever you might find it. I've developed my beliefs on tribal cultures. My feeling is, if it's kept discreet and you don't lose track of your responsibilities, you can still have a functioning marriage and family."

Ramirez's interest in Voss was the first practical test of the couple's beliefs. The attraction was mutual and immediate.

"I don't understand it to this day," Voss says now. "I don't know how to describe it except as otherworldly. It seemed like we had a connection. We'd get into each other's philosophies, and he was fun to talk to. It felt like we knew each other before."

She and her husband talked over the possibility of her "getting to know Pat in that way," Voss says, but within certain guidelines. There would be no secret meetings, no sneaking around. Voss wrote a letter to Ramirez's wife, giving her phone number and address. Several get-togethers followed, in Alamosa and Denver. Yet the sexual relationship lasted only a few weeks. (Ramirez declined to comment for this article, referring all questions to his attorney, who also declined to comment.)

"We happened to get intimate three times," Voss says. "All the intimacy ended two months before Kyran got hurt. We decided, 'This really isn't working. We just need to stay friends.'"

Breaking off the sexual relationship was mostly Ramirez's idea, she adds. "But we both agreed that with our responsibilities, the added sexual aspect was just overbearing," she says. "His wife wasn't super-happy with it. I think she thought there was a lot more sex than there was."

There were no hard feelings, apparently, about the decision; in fact, Ramirez still volunteered to baby-sit on occasion. Voss already had an arrangement with a mother and daughter to watch her son while she worked, but she'd seen Ramirez playing with his own daughters and considered him to be a good parent. She was impressed by how he looked after Kyran, too, making sure that he was wearing sunscreen or that his fingernails were clean -- even if he did protest that Voss and Gaston were "spoiling" the boy by being overprotective.

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