Poly? Now the tabloids adore you!
Trashy tabloids used to treat poly relationships with pretend shock and smug moralizing, dwelling on misery and heartbreak to titillate their readers. Then suddenly about a decade ago, they pivoted to treat poly families as kooky but amazingly happy and successful. That's been pretty much the rule ever since.
My theory: Rupert Murdoch has never let his conservatism get in the way of using sex to sell, so his tabs decided they had the go-ahead to see if the happy-poly treatment titillated readers better. The other tabs saw what was happening and followed.
On Sunday, a lovely feature story about a cute young polyfamily appeared on the sites of three of Britain's competing bottom-feeders — the Mirror, the Sun, and the Daily Mail — and in Metro UK, given away free on public transit. Versions of the article are being reprinted in Australia, New Zealand, India, Italy, Albania, Turkey, Rwanda, by several papers in Indonesia, on a major Chinese-language site that's blocked by the Chinese government, and probably wherever else British tabloids resell their stuff.
All the versions offer abundant, happy pix of Joseph Freeney, Katie Aitchison, and Clare Verduyn, an equilateral triad of physics students at the University of Leeds, UK. They're presented as endearingly dorky medieval re-enactors with amusing housework challenges who are madly in love all around. For eight months they have lived and loved together and they sleep in a snuggle puddle under, yes, a white duvet, this one with stars and rainbows. They're given full rein to enthuse about their incredible poly happiness.
From the Daily Mail's version:
...The unconventional trio have now lived together for eight months as part of one of Britain's small number of polyamorous relationships.
Joe says, 'I love both of these women and they are in love with each other, so we're the perfect fit.
'I know a lot of people will see what we have as strange, but it works.
'It is actually the healthiest relationship I have been in as we all trust each other.
'There is something about the three-way dynamic that makes it even more passionate.'
...Clare says that far from feeling jealous about sharing her new boyfriend with another woman, the relationship has brought a level of happiness she has not experienced before — and she describes the sex as the best she's ever had.
'I won't lie, polyamory is a lot more work than monogamy,' she admits.
'There are more people's feelings to consider, more people's schedules to work around and way more time spent planning when you want to go anywhere.
...The 'throuple' — all physics students at the University of Leeds — not only share their bed, but they also go on romantic dates as a trio, take it in turns to cook and help each other with their uni work.
...The trio initially bonded after they all joined the same medieval reenactment group, dressing up as Normans and staging historically accurate battles from the 12th century.
The trio say they share a bed 'most nights' and are saving up to buy a king size bed to accommodate them.
Katie, 22, and Joe started seeing each other first, and they got to know Clare, 21, a few months later.
Joe, who is bisexual, and Katie, who identifies as pansexual, meaning she is attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender identity, used to joke about how they both fancied Clare, especially in her tight-fitting chainmail during the re-enactment sessions.
They confessed their feelings for her one night and the threesome immediately hit it off, with bisexual Clare moving in not long after.
Says Claire, 'I was attracted to them as well but I felt I couldn't initiate it because they were together and I didn't want to intrude. But Joe and Katie obviously felt the same way so it all worked out.'
Katie and Clare go shopping together and even help each other get ready on nights out.
But there is a downside as Katie leaves half empty drinks cans around the house, Clare snores and hogs the duvet and Christmas, birthdays and Valentine's Day can be an even more expensive time of year.
However they want to show that polyamory is a perfectly acceptable life choice, and are calling for their relationship to be recognised by law, believing they should even be able to enjoy a three-way marriage.
There are many legal and financial benefits to getting married, and Katie, Clare and Joe want to be awarded the same rights as those in traditional two-person couples.
Joe says: 'I'm not that interested in marriage from a sentimental point of view, but there are practical reasons to get married too, such as the financial benefits or if one of us was in an accident and we needed the right to make decisions.
...The trio have discussed having children, but think it's 'unfair' that they wouldn't all be considered a child's legal parents.
Katie said: 'If we wished to adopt a child there would be no way to do so without having one of us miss out on being legally considered a parent or guardian.
'It does seem unfair as we are all equal partners.'
And Clare says she gets bored of people seeing Joe as the stud — and says it's the girls that are actually the luckiest.
She said: 'Last year, during exam season we all went to study together in the library and we would just walk down the street all holding hands together, it was quite funny.
'Honestly, I don't really care what anybody else thinks, it is none of their business. I have got the best of both worlds.
'Everyone is saying that Joe must be some kind of legend but I'm there like ''Excuse you!'' I have got a hot girlfriend and an awesome boyfriend. What more could you want?'
The arrangement already has financial benefits too, as the trio split their bills three ways instead of two, saving them cash.
They say a lot of people question whether their love is real, but they insist their romance is just as genuine as any relationship between two people.
...Joe says: 'I have friends in other poly relationships where there are three guys, three girls, two guys and a girl — there is just as much variation as there is in a traditional relationship,' he insists.
They admit that their lifestyle is not for everyone but say it makes them very happy — and that they want to see poly relationships acknowledged in the media and pop culture, just like gay relationships are now.
...The triad say three is definitely not the limit and that they have considered adding a fourth person to their relationship.
...They also say their parents are trying hard to understand their lifestyle.
Joe says his mum has met both the girls and loves them, while Katie says her dad is now genuinely interested and understanding of the issues that polyamorous triads face.
Joe says: 'This is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in, and it is the one where I have felt the best about myself — the girls have said the same thing.
'There is a real level of trust in this relationship that I have never had before and I think it comes from the three-person dynamic.
'I want other people to know it can work for them too.'
Now their main hope is to finally be able to afford a king-size bed on their tight student budget.
...A spokesperson from Brook, a relationship and sex advice service for young adults, said: 'Just like monogamous relationships, non-monogamous relationships can be happy and satisfying, and last just as long.
'And just like monogamous relationships they can also be difficult and challenging. The important thing in any relationship is that once you agree your relationship rules, you stick to them.
'Breaking the rules, lying, cheating or not looking after each other's feelings will all put extra strain on your relationship whether you are in a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship.'
It even comes with a sidebar box describing different versions of polyamory.
How did this glowing piece come about? The photo credit, Triangle News, gives it away. Triangle is a UK publicity firm that "provides entertaining, reliable and shareable content for some of the world’s most popular media outlets." And it's also — in order to charge money in the opposite direction — a public relations firm that "creates eye-catching content for brands and businesses to help them stand out from the crowd." So: either the three students paid Triangle to work up a professional, global publicity campaign (totally unlikely considering what that must cost), or the company paid them to be profiled so it could sell the result to its clients.
This should not be confused with journalism, but it sure got us some good propaganda and probably earned the happy triad a nice royalty. Maybe enough for that king-size bed.