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August 30, 2012
New Jersey newspaper columnist comes around
A month ago I mentioned a New Jersey newspaper columnist's dismissive freakout about the concept behind Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating. Apparently some of you wrote him well-considered letters, enough that he's now written a second, much more conciliatory column about your responses. What struck him in particular was how closeted poly people feel they need to be, unlike people who just date around.
Multiple lovers, stuck in the closet
By Jeff Edelstein
So a few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the Showtime reality show “Polyamory: Married and Dating” and, you know, had some fun with it. After all, it is a show about a bunch of people having sex with a bunch of people of other. Fun.
Anyway, little did I know that real polyamorous people — you know, those not having sex on camera for money — are, in large part, completely, 100 percent “in the closet.” Their families don’t know. Their employers don’t know. No one knows....
Why? Because they’re fearful their families would shun them, their employers would fire them, everyone will look at them like sex-crazed fiends....
“This lifestyle choice isn’t all hedonism and group sex,” one “poly” person told me via Facebook. “It’s mostly based on all the normal, mundane yet wonderful stuff you ‘monos’ experience on a daily basis (like) grocery shopping, TV, spats over who has to mow the lawn. I felt compelled to let you know that the ‘everyone sleeps with everyone’ style of polyamory depicted in the show is not indicative of every poly relationship out there.”
Another poly person echoes the point.
“It is like any other group dynamic,” she said. “OK, so that is over-simplifying it, but it is true.”
And both these people were adamant about staying anonymous.
“I myself am afraid to ‘come out’ as poly at my place of work for fear that someone’s small-minded judgement might cost me my job,” one said.
Same goes for the other person, who at first posted her thoughts on my Facebook page.
“I realized that it may cause problems where I work,” she said. “I have no problem answering any questions about it, but I work for the state and, well, you understand, I hope.”
Actually, I didn’t understand, but I do now....
All throughout history — both human and American — there have been people who didn’t fit into whatever the norms were of that time. In time, the norms change, and we change with them. Gay people certainly know what I’m talking about here.
And maybe it’s time we all try to let go of all the rest. Who cares if someone is poly, or gay, or bisexual, or asexual, or, or, or, or.
“Sometimes it is annoying when my friends and family ask when I am going to settle down and finally get this out of my system,” said one of those poly people above. “So are the looks I get when I show up to a BBQ held by and attended by friends I have had for 20 plus years with the man I live with and a man I am dating. Other people are uncomfortable but we aren’t.”
Well, I’m going to try and not be uncomfortable by the way anyone lives their sexual lives. I still don’t get rooting for [both] the Yankees and Eagles, but one thing at a time. I can only emotionally grow so much in one column.
Three-person civil union sparks controversy in Brazil
"I think we have some news from Brazil that might be interesting," wrote Daniela, our correspondent there, a few days ago:
A poly family of three went to a Notary and Registry office to register their polyamorous union and make provisions about their assets, etc., a few months ago. This has just hit the news in the last couple of days. In Brazil you can live in "união estável" (stable union) and be recognized as a family under the law. People make a declaration in the Notary and Registry office to facilitate the recognition of the union.... The law is about a man and a woman living like a family, but recently same-sex couples started to declare their unions and fought for the same rights; the Federal court has ruled in their favour. This poly family is going through the same route....
The three write, “For the first time in history we got a document with a state seal/stamp (which means it’s suitable for legal purposes) declaring as legal a polyamorous relationship.”
Daniela sends these news stories about the triad's registration and its ambiguous legal status. Below each is a machine-English rendition by Google Translate:
Update, August 29: Daniela now writes, "It looks like polyamory has become the topic of the month in the media in Brazil. There are stories, good and bad, everywhere: newspapers, weekly magazines, religious channels... But there is one that I find really nice. A magazine directed towards schools and educators has published an article explaining what is polyamory in a simple, clear and unbiased way:
Polyamory is a movement that emerged in the eighties in the United States, with its first international conference held in 2005 in Hamburg, Germany. [News to me. --Ed.] Unlike romantic monogamy, it believes that it is more happy, healthy and natural for people to love and be loved by more than one person at the same time. Unlike the free love, this kind of relationship places more emphasis on friendship and companionship, not necessarily or only sex, not encouraging promiscuous relationships. Thus, it argues for the possibility of responsible, deep and lasting relationships with two or more partners simultaneously. Whereas one person cannot complement another in all respects, nor meet all needs, poliamoristas believe that their lifestyle avoids the need for the constant and obsessive quest to find someone perfect, recognizing the limitations of one another and is therefore more sensitive/accommodating of defects and differences between partners. Also, [they say] polyamory breaks the fear of loneliness, abandonment and betrayal that they say is typical of monogamous relationships. Accordingly, they argue that their viewpoint allows romantic partners to be more honest with each other, and loyalty seen as synonymous with trust....
Update, August 29: BBC Brasil has published an interview with the public notary, Claudia do Nascimento Domingues:
Season 1 of Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating concluded last night with Episode 7. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
It's midnight. We see Tahl sneaking out of bed while Jen sleeps. He steps outdoors and over to Kamala and Michael's side of the house. When Kamala asks him whether Jen is away, he says yes. This is important: they all know that Jen and Tahl have an agreement that he will spend nights with her when she's home. So, I was wrong earlier in saying Kamala and Michael were being complicit in his sneaking. The rule isn't for no sex, it's for no spending the night away from Jen unless she's out of the house.
And they all make love. In a side comment, Kamala tells the camera how sweet it is to have the two guys in her together at once, like one "supercock."
Next morning: Jen wakes up alone. Goes looking for Tahl. And finds him in the others' bed:
Right after the video clip above: "I have one fucking boundary one boundary! since I've been living here. And you can’t honor that?!"
Speaking of boundaries... notice how Kamala immediately offers Jen a hug, Jen says she actually doesn't feel like a hug right now, and Kamala comes over and does it anyway? Urk. A lot of us have had a lot of boundary training about things like hugs.
Two hours to the north in Los Angeles, the Lindsey-Vanessa-Anthony triad are outside in the sun discussing ideas for their wedding ceremony. Lindsey: "We're pioneers, We're almost making it up as we go along." Vanessa wants to enlist Kamala and her mad ceremony skills. The discussion ends with Lindsey and Vanessa making love (within an inch of an NC-17 rating) while Anthony caresses and cuddles from the side.
Back to Drama House: Jen and Tahl are fighting about Tahl sneaking and then lying to Kamala and Michael. Your basic walking-around couple's fight he weasels about whether he really lied (yes he did), then gets into how she has so many rules and that whenever he tries to bring this up, she shuts him down. But, right now she just wants to be alone for a while. He leaves.
And in walks Kamala to talk Jen into coming along to Los Angeles for the triad's group-wedding planning, as was originally intended, because "I can't just go off and do this while my house is having chaos" (quotes are not necessarily exact). Kamala goes on to say she feels she'll have to skip it herself if Jen won't come. Pressure, maybe?
There follows an awful, tense, silent, two-hour car ride of the four of them, "the worst car ride ever" says Tahl in a side comment.
Michael, attempting humor: "So, how about them Padres?"
In the triad's sunny back yard, Kamala works with the three to create a handfasting ceremony with a triangle of their hands holding each others' wrists. They love it.
They were planning to hold the ceremony all alone, it now turns out. Kamala asks if the quad can be witnesses, since they're going through troubled times themselves (pushy maybe?). The trio glance around at each other and say yes.
On the big day, the triad show up all in red. They are spectacular. "A revolutionary color," explains Vanessa. "It means we're passionate and unafraid." Hands bound in a triangle with a white sash, they say their vows in unison, ending with, "I vow to commit myself to these people until the end of time."
And remember their three-way ring-tattoo plan? They've changed the design. At the tattoo parlor, we see the striking new result being applied: three black lines around the finger, with a red star "for revolution." It's beautiful. (Sorry I have no pix!)
Back among the quad: Jen and Tahl have had it all out his lying, her restrictive rules. He has groveled and promised never to lie again, "cross my heart and hope to die." She has agreed that he can have one night a week away if it's scheduled in advance. She tells us she decided "it's not worth throwing away" their two years together as a quad just because of people's mistakes.
As the show draws to its end, in their final statements Kamala is joyous with relief: "Bring it on! We can get through anything together!" Jen is more circumspect: "It will take time to see if this is the right decision. I'll decide that then." (Not necessarily exact quotes.)
The filming of the show ended months ago. For now it looks like Jen has stayed; the quad just did a TV appearance on HLN's Dr. Drew Show together and just went to a filming for the Ricki Lake Show. Jen is sporting new blue hair. I hope the others are accommodating her wishes better and that Kamala has taken on board not to try to run things so much. Although I have to admit, the times when we've seen her being pushy, the directions of push have always turned out to be right ones as far as we've seen. But with what collateral damage?
Will the show be renewed for a second season? Producer-director Natalia Garcia says Showtime hasn't announced a decision.
Photo: Michael posted yesterday, "Gone with the Polys. This is the historic set for Gone with the Wind. Ricki Lake show shot next door."
Also: The quad has rented the Victory Theater in San Diego this Sunday evening, August 26, for a season finale viewing party of the final episodes, followed by a Q&A discussion with the cast and the director. I wish I were there.
Anthony and Vanessa of the triad are interviewed on KPFA public radio. (Starts at 1:30; 30 minutes long. Available until Sept. 9, 2012.) They are delighted with the series's director and with the effectiveness it has had for outreach and education despite the limitations of the reality-TV medium. Vanessa: "This is a show that is trying to start the conversation, not to be any kind of completion." We also hear more of their revolutionary/political side. They get a better chance here than on the show to reveal their smartness and depth.
Congratulations to all seven for their bravery, dedication, perseverance, and resolution to show their innermost hearts and natures to a critical world.
So I needn't have worried. Kamala, Michael, Jen, and Tahl handled the Dr. Drew Show on HLN very well just now, getting their message out past a skeptical host and partly winning over a hostile relationship "expert."
You can watch 2 minutes of it here:
For the first half hour, before the guests came on, the host and his stable of three advice-givers answered pathetic calls from viewers about cheaters, the cheated upon, abuse victims who put up with cheating because of low self-esteem, cheaters and cheatees pathologically following the cheating ways of their scummy parents who watches this show, I wondered?
Then our quad came on as guests for the second half hour. By way of introduction, the show played many bits from the promos for Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating where the four co-star. These, thankfully, went a long way toward setting the scene for what loving poly is about in contrast to the awfulness of the first half hour.
Then, Dr. Drew to Tahl:
"You are on record as saying 'Monogamy destroys families.' How?"
In an early promo Tahl indeed said this jokingly (and has taken heat for it from the poly community), but he fielded the ball. He explained that when someone falls in love in the conventional model of an existing relationship, it has to end in tragedy: either lost love or the wreck of the existing family. But those don't have to be the choices, he explained: "We can bring the love into the family and keep the family dynamics."
A caller: How do you explain it to your kids?
Kamala ran with this one, telling how their 5-year-old has known nothing but a large family of caring parental figures around him and thrives in it what he'll someday have to be told is that most other kids aren't so lucky.
One of Dr. Drew's skeptical advice experts informed the four that these things don't last. Michael replied "I've been polyamorous for 15 years" (and married to Kamala for 10), and said that it has only gotten easier and better. Kamala talked about jealousy and compersion and drew the host into discussing the new word. Jen, who is certainly having some (justifiable) trust and jealousy situations in the Showtime storyline right now, said that she is probably the most prone to jealousy of the four; "it comes up, we communicate about it, and I feel better." She said all four are committed to staying a part of each other's lives for life, even if the present relationships transform into some other form.
The skeptical advice expert, Simone Bienne, declared, "Having it all is a slogan that proved to be dead back in the 90s." She called polyamory a security blanket for people who want to be insulated from having to be close to one person. Kamala responded: "It's not an easy path, and it's not for everybody. But I have been doing it for 15 years, and when I started I had no role models. I am so proud now to be able to model that for others." [Not necessarily the exact quote but close.]
A caller said that crap like this show is what desensitizes kids and make them turn out bad, and it shouldn't be on TV. Drew got in a dig about STDs in everybody's body fluids. Between that and the sudden ad breaks they didn't get to say all they could (have snappy sound bites rehearsed for all the likely questions, people!), but they overcame Simone in the end; she admitted that with these unusually together people, "it works for these guys," but before viewers get ideas of trying it, it could be a pathology for people coming from "a pathology space."
Which is true.
Points to the quad for grasping that on TV, your body language says more than your words. They were all holding hands for most of the half hour. That's all that most viewers will remember.
Hey guys, despite a few momentary ragged edges you did good. You can be proud.
The final episode of Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating airs in less than 24 hours, on Thursday August 23 at 11 p.m. Eastern time. One of its promos seems to raise the possibility of an imminent breakup or at least a "transition," but their Dr. Drew appearance (months after the Showtime series was in the can) certainly doesn't look like that.
Showtime's poly quad goes on Dr. Drew tonight. Uh-oh.
The quad from Showtime's now-concluding Polyamory: Married and Dating (the final episode airs tomorrow night, Thursday Aug. 23) will appear tonight (Wednesday) at 9:00 Eastern on HCN's Dr. Drew Show.
HCN is an offshoot of CNN; you can watch it online. "Dr. Drew" is a call-in guest show heavy on celebrities, sex, and weight loss, along with his plugs for psychiatric meds and weight-loss treatments.1
Chatter on the Polyamory Leadership Network is that Dr. Drew is known for being very hostile to non-monogamy, and that the quad better have a plan in place and sound bites on the tips of their lips.
Tonight on the Dr Drew Show: It's been called "shocking," "titillating" and "cringe-inducing" -- Showtime’s new series called "Polyamory: Married and Dating" -- real-life couples that seek relationships with other lovers. Dr. Drew asks them how they make their lifestyle work in a world built for monogamy.
Should be interesting. I've said before, TV is the medium where nothing you can do can keep you from looking bad against a genuinely hostile host; he writes the video editor's paycheck. I feel for the members of our quad too much to just break out the popcorn....
---------------------------- 1.GlaxoSmithKline reportedly paid Dr. Drew $275,000 to push Wellbutrin, and Janssen Pharmaceutica, which markets lap-band surgery, paid him $115,000. (See refs 45, 46, 47.)
Best yet: the Coming Out episode on Showtime's Polyamory
Last Thursday's episode of Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating (Episode 6, "Radical Honesty," the next to last) shows our triad and quad families making dreaded visits to the parents of three of their members to come out as poly. It's the best, most serious, most moving episode yet.
The show's director-producer, Natalia Garcia, thinks so too. She told us, "It's extremely emotional, the families are at their rawest. I am so proud of them and I cry every time I see that episode."
Natalia Garcia (front center) with the San Diego quad.
For the moment, non-Showtime subscribers willing to watch pirated content may be able to see Episode 6 (and several others) by googling for "Polyamory: Married & Dating".
At the outset, we see Lindsey and Anthony of the triad driving north and discussing how tough it will be for the three of them to announce their poly "wedding" engagement to Anthony's mom and dad and to Lindsey's mother. "I just wish it was over."
But Anthony's mother has known their third, Vanessa, since she was a child, and has known how close the three of them have long been. As they all sit in the living room, Vanessa nervously, hesitantly takes the lead. "I have a toast to make. We just had our three-year anniversary. I asked Linds and Anth to make a life commitment. To me. To have a ceremony of some kind. So, we’re calling ourselves engaged."
And it turns out the parents are thrilled. Mom: "I’m all over this! I love weddings and celebrations!" Dad: "I’ve always felt that your commitment is sincere, serious, more perhaps than most people that I know." He is more skeptical of their plans to get matching ring-finger tattoos than anything else. He begins a dad-lecture on the permanence of tattoos if a relationship doesn't work out, and Vanessa steps in. "We could make decisions that look like a breakup, but one of the interesting things about the way poly works is that we could stay in each others lives. We’re not going to leave each other even if the relationship transitions. That’s the commitment that we’re making." Dad is wowed over.
Next up: the visit to Lindsey's mom, who turns out to be even more delighted. "I'm proud of you! It's not exactly a surprise, though." Ever since Lindsey was 18 she's known how close she and Vanessa were. "I'm gaining a daughter!" My wife Sparkle Moose, who's watching the TV with me: "Oh, it's so hard to shock boomer parents." (We are boomer parents.)
Things go harder with Tahl's parents. Tahl's wife Jen has flatly declared she thinks this is a bad move, that his mom and dad might not want to know:
Jen is especially worried that his parents — Shlomo and Pnina, conservative, observant Jews — might break off from her as their daughter-in-law. Nevertheless the four decide to explain their situation at Friday evening Shabbat dinner. "All my life this is when we all get together and talk about family issues," Tahl explains. "So Friday night it is."
As the four are driving over, Tahl gets a text from his father. Tahl's uncle's son in Israel has seen Tahl naked on a "swinger website." The news is all over the family. We see Tahl in another of his "Oh, fuck" moments. This will not make it easier.
After Shabbat ritual and too long a spell of strained small talk, Tahl finally mans up: "So, we talk about the elephant in the room?" He explains that after meeting Kamala and Michael three years ago they fell in love with them, and are having a relationship with them, and have moved in together.
More stunned silence. Mom to Tahl and Jen: "How can your relationship be strong when you're not a proper couple?" But she is forgiving. "Do I think it's a good thing? No. It goes against everything that I've been brought up. But the way we live and the way I live isn't necessarily what suits you. You're my child and you know that I adore you. But you're an adult, and you must do whatever is best for you… You are my oldest son. What can I tell you. We're here for you."
Dad is quieter.
Update: Kamala told me much later that we see this dinner live as it actually happened; Tahl's parents did not know what the dinner was about and only knew that a camera crew was coming along with them because the crew was making a film about the two couples' friendship. And, she said, the reason why this is the one episode with no sex or nudity is because producer Natalia Garcia wanted Tahl's parents to be able to watch it.
Near the beginning of the episode, we see the quad on the beach helping 5-year-old Devin fly a kite. On Friday Kamala posted, "My inbox is swamped with fear related to my son's involvement in the 'coming out' episode of Polyamory. Here is my official response." More seriously, here's her essay earlier this month, Poly Parenting Philosophy: How I'm Raising My Son.
The series has social networks and blogs abuzz, though I still haven't seen any real major-media treatments of it. A couple's-therapy team has put up this thoughtful message for people who are inspired by the show to rush into poly themselves:
With the recent debut of Showtime’s new docu-series... we’ve been getting a lot of questions about the nature of polyamory....
Our fear is that a lot of people will see the TV show — and much like the country’s reaction to the book 50 Shades of Grey — will immediately dive into “trying out” poly in their own relationships. Keep in mind that bringing new people into your currently monogamous relationship IS NOT the same as reading 50 Shades and deciding to try a few kinky games with your partner. Polyamory is not something people can try, like taking golf lessons. Poly partners are people, not golf clubs you can sell at a garage sale if you figure out you’re no good at it. Our advice for couples who watch the TV show and find themselves intrigued by the concept of consensual non-monogamy is to NOT try this at home — not until you’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of talking....
They go on to lay out some wise questions to ask and think about. Read the whole article. This deserves to be spread.
From a long article on the website of Colorado's 303 Magazine ("Fashion. Culture. Style."):
Even though polyamory may have become a household word since the recent premiere of Showtime’s reality series Polyamory: Married & Dating, my spell check continues to reject the word. So in case you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, perhaps I should define it.... I think we all have much to learn from the concept of polyamory.
...Dr. Anapol told me that she believes polyamory is about allowing the truth of the relationship to define the form it takes, rather than some traditional and unexamined idea of what a committed relationship should look like. “If people are consciously choosing monogamy they will be much more satisfied than if they are doing it just because their parents or our society has deemed monogamy the only way to live”....
Generally, I have slightly more regard for the 6 month old burrito inexorably stuck to the bottom of my apartment's garbage dumpster than I do for reality TV, but found out just yesterday they decided to go make one about my own particular alternative lifestyle of choice....
Show got off to kind of a rocky start, with the VAST amounts of group sex scenes and the triad couple already getting into some drama regarding someone dating outside the group, both the stereotypical image people get when they think about these relationships, but the ship has righted itself. ACTUAL relationship issues have reared themselves, and all of them have been handled with love, understanding, and a ton of straightforward communication; there's a ton of sweet moments between the couples, and their family members....
The last episode had three members of the cast coming out to their parents, and it's immensely touching and satisfying to see how it all plays out. My mother still doesn't know, and that might not be likely to change... but to see that it really is not just terribly similar to coming out as gay, but that there was love and support from the parents no matter what, was quite heartening.
So, yeah. Show's good, deserves some attention, here and elsewhere, and it's probably done more to show polyamory in a positive, respectful light than any other piece of mainstream media so far.
...After some research on the net, [I discover that] Jen actually works with Tahl's parents. Yea that is going to be fun going into the office the next day....
Kamala, I know you have a really good heart but you came off mean when not reckoning Jen's concerns. I will blame it on the editing (or maybe not).
...On a personal note: Coming out is not easy. I have family members and dear friends who know about my life and it makes it awkward to be around them because they dont understand. I have been called a disgrace, a slut, a whore, a sex addict, and I have even had an intervention done. Anne Rice in Exit to Eden said - "You only hurt the ones you love when you tell them something which may they won't or can't understand." ...While I am very envious of the Triad's [parents'] reaction - the reaction of Tahl's parents was more real.
For the summer, Showtime has come up with a new way to reel me in.... In last night’s episode, Lindsey and Tahl decided to “come out” to their parents. Tahl is from a Jewish/Zimbabwean home and was petrified about having the conversation with his ultra conservative parents, while Lindsey was not sure what to expect from her mum. Whether it was for TV or not and I would like to hope that it was not, I was extremely touched by each parents’ level of acceptance of their children...
The most comprehensive reviews of the series with a detailed plot synopsis of each episode, thoughtful commentary, and links to other reviews continue to be the ones being posted by Jessica Karels at Modern Poly: Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Jessica also notes,
Go to the show's Facebook page and Like them... you'll get to see some of the interesting conversations between the show's viewers and the cast. There have been a couple of conversations where viewer perceptions of what's going on differ from the messages that were intended with the show. I also recommend investigating GetGlue, a social media tool for sharing what books, music, and TV shows you're interested in.
The final Episode 7 airs this Thursday, August 23. It looks like the triad, which started the series on the shakiest ground of the two families, is going to have a fairy-tale happy ending, while the quad, which started the season at the top of their game with two longtime poly experts among the four, is now Officially In Trouble:
Will Jen finally walk? Should she?
If you are in driving distance of San Diego, you can discuss the situation, and the ultimate outcome after the series was filmed, with the quad itself! Kamala and friends have rented the Victory Theater this Sunday evening, August 26, for a season finale viewing party of Episodes 5, 6 and 7, followed by a discussion session with director-producer Natalia Garcia and the members of the quad.
Gay throuple profiled, and more gay non-monogamy news. Get used to it.
New York magazine
Gay culture is distinct enough from what we call the poly community that it has evolved its own word for a triad: a "throuple."
Following our last post about an MMM partnership in the media (and the one before that), New York magazine now profiles another, in depth.
He & He & He
By Molly Young
Benny Morecock is in a “throuple” with two partners [photo above]. Their family business is a gay-porn company in Long Island City. The Cleavers they’re not — and yet their home life seems positively wholesome.
Benjamine Heath is a tall and flower-shaped 25-year-old who moved to New York from Arizona with one friend, no high-school degree, and a Starbucks job transfer. That was eight years ago. Now he helps his boyfriend, Jason, run one of the only gay-porn studios in New York City — a successful midsize company called CockyBoys. His nom de porn is “Benny Morecock,” and his title is creative director.
...As he speaks, a man pops into the office to give Benny a kiss. “I’m Adrian,” the man says.
“My boyfriend,” Benny adds. “One of them.”
And here lies a second explanation for Benny’s — and, by extension, CockyBoys’ — microfame. Adrian explains that he is driving upstate to the house that he shares with Benny, who is now puppyishly tugging on Adrian’s hand, and Jason, who is the CEO of CockyBoys. The three men have been together for just over four years — a “throuple,” Benny calls it, putting air quotes around the dumb word. Their throuplehood is more or less a permanent domestic arrangement. The three men work together, raise dogs together, sleep together, miss one another, collect art together, travel together, bring each other glasses of water, and, in general, exemplify a modern, adult relationship.
Except that there are three of them.
It began in 2008, when Jason went to get his hair cut at Bumble and Bumble....
A week after their first date, Benny and Jason hung out again, and this time Adrian joined in. “I’ve had three-ways where there are limbs everywhere and it’s really awkward,” Benny remembers. “You come out of it like, ‘God, that was stressful.’ But not with them.” A sexual relationship began, and continued, and although none of the men can isolate a specific moment when the couple turned into a throuple, there was a point, they all agree, at which everyone became sufficiently in love with each other to give it a name.
...Benny was not the first to say I love you....
It is important, perhaps, that each pair within the throuple has a private bond: Jason and Adrian have their history, Jason and Benny work together, and Benny and Adrian are close in age. Benny tells me there is zero jealousy among the three. “That’s probably the thing that leaves people the most incredulous,” he says....
The throuple’s house upstate is a rambling place with rooms for every mood and plenty of lawn for the dogs to run around on. There’s a pool, a formal garden, a sunroom, a balcony, and a veranda—throwbacks to a genteel era of differentiated leisure zones. The place is capacious enough to be spooky in winter and guest-friendly in summer. When I show up for a weekend visit, Benny pours bourbons and takes me on a tour of the throuple’s art collection, of which Jason is head curator....
...When the relationship started, the three would have sex several times a week. The arrangement offered a titillating enhancement of sexual permutations. These days, as with most long-term relationships, the lovemaking has slowed. “Sex is somewhat sporadic,” says Benny. The throuple rarely has sex as a threesome any more. Instead, “it’s evolved into more individual relationships between the three of us,” he says. “We all go through our sexual phases, and appetites change.”...
As I fall asleep, I can hear the men laughing at a TV show downstairs and playing with the dogs. It feels like a celebratory night (pizza, ice cream, bourbon) but also, internally, a destabilizing one. Does throuplehood raise or lower the stakes of being in a relationship? If one of the men defects, do they all break up? What’s it like to inhabit a category of relationship that is entirely different from that of everyone you know?
Still, the impression I have from spending time with Benny, Jason, and Adrian over the past months is that the men are glisteningly, boringly happy. This seems to be the consensus. “No matter how hard I try, I can’t wrap my head around it,” says Paper’s Elliott. “It’s amazing. It’s modern. There’s nothing sensational about them — the relationship isn’t theater. It just works.” Maybe the best way to understand how a throuple functions — or at least how this throuple functions — is to imagine a healthy couple, then factor in the sexual variety of a third partner, and then factor in the stability of a third partner. It’s strange but true: In tripod manner, a third leg appears to be a good method of favorably distributing tension.
A great deal of their success, I am sure, rests upon the fact that traditional biological parenthood is off the table. (The only other throuple I’ve known was a trio of lesbians who walked their dogs together on the beach.) It may also owe thanks to their immersion in a business where unconventional sex is exempt from moralization.... For his part, Jason describes the whole arrangement as feeling perfectly normal. “We rarely all three fight at the same time,” he says....
Meanwhile: Have you seen the kerfuffle over the boyfriend of newly-out TV host Anderson Cooper being photographed kissing another man? Writes the editor of Huffington Post/ Gay Voices:
What Those Photos of Anderson Cooper's Boyfriend Kissing Another Man Could Teach America
...Almost immediately my Facebook feed was filled with comments gushing sympathy for Cooper, who, it was assumed, must be locked away in his multimillion-dollar bedroom, alternately sobbing and stuffing his face with thousands of woe-is-me calories in an attempt to dull the pain of this awesome betrayal.... and just weeks after he had so bravely ventured out of the closet (and just weeks before he and [boyfriend Ben] Maisani were supposedly going to get hitched).
...But I wasn't thinking about any of that. I was having fantasies about what a radical moment this could be for America. Just days after Mary Gonzalez came out as the United States' first openly pansexual politician (and in Texas, no less!), we were suddenly being gifted with another chance to challenge how we think about sex, love, relationships, and what it means to be queer in this country.
Because... there's a very good chance that for Maisani, like many gay men in long-term, healthy, committed relationships, a make-out session in the park is not only acceptable but just another typical Saturday-afternoon activity.
It can be hard for some people -- both straight and queer -- to fathom that a non-monogamous relationship could not only function satisfactorily but be an ideal arrangement. But in the queer community, which has fewer hangups and restrictions on sex and less rigid parameters on with whom and how we love and lust, open relationships have long provided the stability of partnership with the excitement of being able to meet and sleep with other people.
So instead of assuming that Maisani was cheating on Cooper, as almost all the media outlets have done, why not assume that Cooper knew exactly where his boyfriend was and had simply said, "Have fun with Bob. I'll see you later tonight. Oh, and can you pick up some more milk? We're almost out"?
Because most of America isn't ready for that....
Even some queer people worry about what the larger consequences of non-monogamy could be....
But in my fantasies, we're not gunning for gay acceptance -- especially not if the only way we're granted it is by "behaving ourselves" and struggling to fit into a heteronormative mold (which, as far as I can tell, hasn't really benefited heterosexual people very well, either). Instead, I want us to be pushing for queer liberation, which, to me, has always meant that when it comes to sex and love, we all get to do whatever we want with whomever we want as long as we're not hurting anyone....
Some of the celebrity press is saying Cooper and his fiancé don't have an open relationship, but the New York Daily News gossip columnist says they do.
Reminder: Tomorrow night (Thursday August 16) Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating airs the episode that producer-director Natalia Garcia tells us is her favorite:
I will say that my favorite episode is Episode 6 -- "Radical Honesty." It's extremely emotional, the families are at their rawest. I am so proud of them and I cry every time I see that episode. I hope everyone catches that one.
Here's a bunch of new material on Showtime's groundbreaking series Polyamory: Married and Dating. Episode 5 just aired, out of the 7 that are scheduled.
First, some recaps:
After a low-excitement but educational Episode 3 (showing a lot of poly relationship discussions and negotiations), tension and drama return in Episode 4.
We see the Vanessa-Lindsey-Anthony triad go through a crucial turning point in its three-year existence. Vanessa plans to get down on her knee and propose that Anthony and Lindsey (who are married) "marry" her too. With a public ceremony, an exchange of vows and rings, and by the three of them presenting themselves to the world as a unit henceforth.
She springs her surprise on them at a formal dinner in a restaurant in front of a gathering of their closest friends.
I'm reminded of the guys who propose to their girlfriends at baseball games on TV, with the announcer cheering them on, a microphone in her face, the scoreboard displaying their closeups, and 30,000 spectators hollering.
Baaaad poly, say I.
[Update: Anthony has posted that in fact the three of them had discussed the marriage proposal at some length beforehand. I guess this is an example of how you never know what the video editing has done to the reality.]
In the trailers, we've already seen a flash of Anthony's distressed-looking reaction: "Holy shiiiit."
But in the actual scene, we see that post initial shock, Anthony and Lindsey are screamingly delighted. (We've seen the two of them already talking privately about making it a group marriage.) Vanessa puts inscribed paper rings on the fingers of all three, and announces that they'll all have these "rings" tattooed on their fingers. Remind me never to get in a relationship with someone who requires I get their tattoo. But they all seem delighted with the idea as a symbol of their commitment forever and ever. Phew. Vanessa sure lucked out.
They and two of their dearest friends at the proposal dinner celebrate that night with a happy fivesome in one big bed.
Meanwhile, at the Kamala-Michael-Tahl-Jen quad: Kamala has been working through her feelings of possessiveness and jealousy pretty impressively. She has decided to set Michael up with a "tea and chat" date with her utterly hot special girlfriend Roxanne, whom Michael has long been interested in. All goes well. We see Kamala processing at home with Jen and Tahl while the date is in friendly, kissy progress. These people generally seem to know what they're doing better than the triad.
Episode 5 aired on Thursday and is now re-airing. It is the first in which the two groups meet.
Jen in the quad, who was the most reluctant to merge households, has been feeling out of sorts with the new group-living situation. She feels she's losing touch with Tahl and is no longer running her own home (true on both counts). To help the transition, Kamala and crew organize a housewarming party as a way of announcing to their friends and the San Diego poly community that the household is now the equal home of four.
Immediately there's a problem. Tahl wants to invite an old ex whom he once lied about to Jen and "fucked up with." Jen doesn't want to see her, doesn't want her coming into her home. Long discussion short: Tahl declares "This is where I’m drawing the line. This is all our house, and I’m not going to be told who I can’t have in the house." Kamala, who should know better, butts in rather than out. Upshot: Jen backs down as usual. The more I see of Tahl the less I like him.
But in the end it goes well. As pretty much everything among these people eventually does. The old ex brings Jen flowers. They all have a good time through the evening.
The party is also, in part, the biweekly San Diego poly discussion group. We learn that this is the first contact with the wider poly community that Anthony, Vanessa, and Lindsey have had! No wonder they've been blundering like newbies in the wilderness. They're nervous as they drive there, hoping that they'll find community where they can connect and draw wisdom and support, but are prepared for disappointment. They come away thrilled to have found even more than they hoped.
A new topic is coming up with them, and they bring it up to the discussion group. Should Lindsey come out to her birth family? Her folks are the last ones in their group to know....
And, we will soon find out, Tahl feels it's time for him to some out to his parents too. Jen once again looks glum: "I think it's a bad idea. Why do they need to know? I mean, I bet they don't even want to know." Stay tuned for Episode 6:
The show's director-producer, Natalia Garcia, tells us that Episode 6 (coming up this Thursday August 16) is especially dear to her heart. She writes,
I will say that my favorite episode is Episode 6 -- "Radical Honesty." It's extremely emotional, the families are at their rawest. I am so proud of them and I cry every time I see that episode. I hope everyone catches that one.
My own view remains that for all the imperfections and humanity of the cast, the show is the best thing that has happened for public understanding of polyamory in ages.
For that matter, it models thoughtful relationship work in general better than anything I recall on TV.
Meanwhile, lots of noteworthy stuff has accumulated since my last post about the show.
Jessica Karels' summaries and commentaries at Modern Poly continue: Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
She writes, "I watch the show anywhere from 3 to 6 times in the process of writing my reviews. My husband and his girlfriend keep having the luck of walking in either right before or during one of the sex scenes. The household joke is that me 'writing the review' is an excuse to watch softcore poly-porn ;)"
TheBlackLeatherBelt is a poly/kinky gal named Lily who's posting satirical but detailed summaries of each episode, including dialog because "you see, children, on the West Coast they have Tantra. And here on the East Coast, we have Snark." Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Update:6, 7.
Listen to Cunning Minx's and Lusty Guy's thought-provoking audio review of the series on Minx's Polyamory Weekly podcast, Episode #329: "Reality: Polyamory on Showtime" (July 31, 2012). Show notes. Minx and Guy make a great podcast pair.
Says Time Warner Cable's RoadRunner site:
You Can Love Polyamory Without Other Shows Getting Jealous
...Don't tune in expecting wild swinging debauchery, though. Polyamory focuses on how these complex relationships work through carefully laid boundaries between each person. Though this sometimes causes the show to drag in places, there's still that "LOOK HOW WEIRD FACTOR" keeping you glued to the screen.
Anthony of the show's triad posts on Facebook (Aug. 4, 2012):
After looking today at the incredible number of tweets about Polyamory: Married and Dating, and reading all these people who'd never heard of it, are thinking about these things for the first time, and how important and monumentous of a moment that is for the civil rights and social legitimacy of poly people, I feel really grateful to and proud of Showtime, the production company BermanBraun, and the creator Natalia Garcia for taking the risk. I wish the poly community members who nitpick about the "message it's sending" would step back and realize it did something huge and unprecedented just by putting the word in countless people's mouths for the first time.
In that regard, Polyamory in the News is getting about 150 extra visitors a day from people googling for the show.
On the other hand, the show is making fewer waves in the media that I expected. The Gawker review is the only serious notice I've seen in even semi-major, semi-mainstream media.
Can't get Showtime? Here are all the official video clips from the series, adding up to about 18 minutes of trailers so far (August 11). They're faster-paced than the actual show but give a pretty good look at what's going on, minus most of the sex scenes.
But my favorite clip isn't there; it's the one from the quad's relationship-agreement discussion at the top of the Gawker review, here. If there's one clip from the series to show people what poly life is about, this is it.
Two unrelated articles about polyamory in Ireland have come out almost at once: in the mainstream Herald of Dublin, and in Hot Press, Ireland's answer to Rolling Stone. The photo above is from the latter.
First, in the Herald's "Lifestyle" section:
Is this the end of fidelity?
AFTER decades of research and whole tomes being written on the subject, the jury is still out on whether humans can still be faithful to one person.... Between a bounty of technology and a general relaxing of social mores, the temptation to stray is stronger than ever before.... When it comes to love and marriage, the Irish have come a long way ... but those conservative values and traditions still seem to hold firm.
However, there is an alternative to the clandestine encounters and the soul-sapping subterfuge. If one option for those in love is to forsake all others in a relationship and another is to commit infidelity with others being (hopefully) none the wiser, yet another option is the open relationship.
...Can the Irish -- who have been shackled to traditional ideas about marriage for centuries -- really get behind such a progressive idea?
...As a relationship counsellor, Tony Moore of Relationships Ireland has encountered numerous couples that have forged ahead with an open arrangement. "Usually the man wants to make a move to an open relationship," he states. "The reasons are plentiful; boredom, curiosity and so on.
"In my experience, he tries to convince his partner and she'll go along with it initially but feelings eventually come into it. Many couples have a sexual open relationship but the emotional side always comes into it. He doesn't want to be found out, if he can bring her along with him, it eases his conscience a bit. Besides, seeing your partner have sex with another woman is a classic male fantasy."
But can these relationships work in Ireland? "On the one hand, it's thousands of years of tradition to battle against," he explains.
...He adds: "I've never come across an individual where this has ended happily. I've seen countless couples come to me with this type of arrangement and it ends in misery."
However, and railing against the social norms, a growing number of Irish people are finding an alternative path that works for them. Dubliner 20-something Alison (no surname at her request) is part of Ireland's community of practising polyamorists; people who have relationships with more than one person at a time.
"I always knew from a young age, around 16, that it didn't make sense to me to be with one person and close myself off to everyone else," she says. "A monogamous relationship is not what I want to do.
"I found out about polyamory a few years ago and it was like, 'this is how I want my life to be'. I'll never be happy in a relationship where you're obliged to love one person and you're closed off to everything else. There's nothing wrong with loving just one person, but this is just the way it is for me."
Yet, as Alison attests, polyamory is deeply misunderstood in this country.... "A lot of people don't know what it means, and they think it's the same thing as swinging," she explains. "When I first came out to friends they were like, 'oh, you're a swinger'. They used to think 'that's not going to last', or 'it must be all about sex'. I've no problem with anyone who wants to have that, but (polyamory) is about having long and committed relationships. It's about having a relationship that's open and honest and everyone involved knows the score."...
...This doesn't result in a threesome or group sex situation. In fact, Alison admits that with the 'metamour' -- the other partner -- friendship often blossoms.
...Alison, who admits that she initially felt "closeted" after making the decision to live a polyamorous life, is now part of a 300-strong support group in Dublin. "It isn't a dating group, more like a support network where we meet and chat," she says.
"There are people of all ages in it, from 18-year-olds to people with grandchildren. It's very multicultural and multi-national ... maybe because travel opens the mind. But everyone has regular lives. It's the person you meet or work with every day."
...So far, so intriguing ... and at a time where monogamy seems harder and harder to swallow for most people, there is an argument to be made that Alison and her fellow polyamorists are ahead of the societal curve....
Read the whole article (July 24, 2012). It appears to be unsigned.
Randy, an organizer of the Dublin poly group in the story, writes: "I wanted to let you know about an article that appears in the Irish (mostly music) magazine Hot Press. It features an interview with an open all-female triad; two of the people were/are in our Irish polyamory group. Interestingly, no mention of our 4.5-year and still-going-strong poly group with monthly meetings, social events, etc..."
Here are bits. The article is not on the Hot Press website yet, but you can click on the pages below for readable blowups.
Three's Not a Crowd
By Anne Sexton
On the contrary! Where polyamorists are concerned, there's beauty in numbers. Ariel, Maki and Aoife talk about the special pleasures and challenges involved in having multiple partners.
...To people with a conventional view of sex and relationships, this might seem somewhat complicated, and potentially a recipe for disaster but watching their interaction it is obvious that for these friends, polyamory means more, not less, intimacy.
..."In polyamory there is no real standard model of relationship," says Maki, "so rather than have any kind of unspoken ideas of what the relationship should be, you really have to communicate to work out what the relationship is going to be."...
...Aoife agrees. "Obviously it's nice to have the option to have lots of lovely relationships with more than one person and that's great! But for me, as somebody who has been in poly and mono relationships, one thing that comes through is that we're making it up as we go along. We create the relationship to suit ourselves. Not in a selfish way, but we build a relationship together."
...Some people see polyamory as a choice; others see it as a sexual identity, the same as being hetereoesxual or homosexual. Again, Aoife offers a common sense view.
"I first found out about polyamory when I was 16, Aoife recalls, "and I thought, 'Oh! That sounds like an idea! It depends. All the relationships I've had haven't been poly because sometimes you end up with people who are monogamous. I am as happy in poly as I am in any other relationship configuration."
Ariel agrees that polyamoy or monogamy is not necessarily an either/or issue. "I hate the whole thing where it is you are either monogamous or poly and that's who you are. It is an essentialist thing. I hate the idea that nobody ever changes."
The small community of polyfolks in South Africa, a country of 49 million, has shown how dedicated people can spread a compelling idea.
Their last media splash was in the South African edition of Cosmopolitan. Now City Press, a mass newspaper (readership 2.5 million) aimed at the country's 80% black population, presents a fine poly-profile article by the same writer. It covers all the right bases.
Modern, egalitarian, gender-neutral polyamory is a noteworthy introduction to Africa for its contrasts to traditional patriarchal polygamy, an ancient fact of life in many regions. South African President Jacob Zuma, for instance, has four wives. This is legal and is generally considered acceptable or only mildly embarrassing.
South Africa is the only country on the continent with a visible polyamory movement as far as I can tell.
Poly puts the kettle on
By Eugene Botha
Lifestyle for people who want a whole lotta love gains a whole lotta traction.
Imagine being a married man with a boyfriend on the side, a girlfriend you and your wife share and a clutch of casual lovers -- and everybody is happy.
That’s what 31-year-old Capetonian Arno Breedt has as a polyamorist, a lifestyle choice made by an increasing number of South Africans.
Polyamory means “many loves”, and is an alternative relationship model in which followers have more than one loving, committed sexual relationship at a time, with the full knowledge and consent of all involved.
“Some of the core values of polyamory include honesty, openness, absolute equality of the sexes, sanctity of personal boundaries and being encouraged to make up your own damn mind about your own damn body and not being dictated to by society,” says Breedt.
His wife of eight years, Christel Breedt (28), says it works for them -- and many others.
“There is certainly a sizeable non-monogamy contingent in Cape Town and we have been receiving increasing interest from people over time,” she says.... “Arno and I prefer to have more than one partner and we are secure enough in our commitment to allow each other this kind of freedom.”
Raam Naicker, a moderator of South African online polyamory group Zapoly, agrees that polyamory is on the rise in the country but has been well hidden.
“Many people will not openly admit to it for fear of retribution,” he says.
Christel says most of those who subscribe to the group’s mailing list are over 35, although there are some younger subscribers....
...But it doesn’t work for everyone, with jealousy being the main reason many opt out.
“Everyone always asks first about jealousy, but surprisingly that is not much of a problem for us,” says Christel.
“When it does happen it is usually because some need has been left uncommunicated and thus unmet. Communication really is the central core of polyamory.”
Update: The article got Christel and Arno a spot on the Redi Tlhabi radio talk show on August 31, airing on TalkRadio 702 in the Johannesburg area and 567 CapeTalk in Capetown. "We definitely kicked ass!" says Christel. Listen here.