Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

July 29, 2012

Does TIME magazine read
Polyamory in the News?

The current issue of Time magazine (dated August 6th) features a four-page, 2,500-word article about Mormon polygamists seeking recognition, focusing on the Joe Darger family in Utah. It also goes out of its way to tell about the increasingly visible polyamory movement. Though unfortunately, it sometimes intermixes the two.

For the poly sections, I was pleased to see that the writer may have taken leads from this website. I could be imagining it... but how many other sources have publicized the claim (by people who say they were there) that when members of the Kerista commune invented the word "compersion," they were using a Ouija board?

So far, Time has put only a seven-paragraph teaser publicly online (including a video of the Dargers and their school-bus-size load of children). The article is only in the paper magazine or online for paper-magazine subscribers.

Some parts:

I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do: Polygamy Raises Its Profile in America

Why once secretive plural families like the Dargers of Utah are coming out of the shadows and beginning to advocate for their way of life.

By Belinda Luscombe

...Proponents of defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman have long argued that if we entertain variations on that theme, like gay marriage, the institution will soon become unrecognizable. "If you think it's O.K. for two [men to marry], then you have to differentiate with me as to why it's not O.K. for three," said former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on the campaign trail, echoing a common refrain....

Close observers of the marital topography are noticing a shift in attitudes toward polygamy and its sister wife, polyamory, which can roughly be defined as having multiple lovers by mutual agreement. Partly this is a result of a decades-long wholesale rethinking of the institution of marriage and who society and the courts say can engage in it. But it's also a result of more exposure to polygamous lifestyles. Some polygamists, sensing unsteadiness in the big ship monogamy that has always blocked their passage to the oceans of normality, are trying to navigate their way to validation of their version of family.

...Studies have shown that gay characters on TV in the 2000s measurably decreased viewers' negative feelings toward gays. If that holds true for multipartner unions as well, then [Kody] Brown and his ilk have reason to feel encouraged. There are screen representations of polygamous lifestyles aplenty, including other TV shows such as Polyamory: Married and Dating and The Girls Next Door and movies like the recent Oliver Stone film Savages and Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona....

In 2010 the Columbia Law Review, taking into account both fundamentalist Mormons and the growing number of Muslim immigrants, estimated that 30,000 to 100,000 U.S. families practice plural marriage. Deborah Anapol, author of Polyamory in the 21st Century, puts the percentage of polyamorists at 0.5% to 3.5% of the population [which would mean about 1 to 8 million U.S. adults]. That's a guess, but there are signs the figure is growing. Polyamorous groups report upticks in the number of local chapters and attendance at their meetings, conferences and marches. In May the American Psychiatric Association included a forum on polyamory at its annual meeting. Nonmonogamists are becoming increasingly vocal in defending their lifestyle. How fringe can a cultural practice be, after all, when it's part of the family history of both of this year's presidential candidates?

Perhaps nobody is as dedicated to being radically nonfringe as Joe Darger. A friendly, energetic, 43-year-old building contractor, he wants to be the guy people think of when they conjure up images of a polygamist....

Alternatives to Marriage

Across the country, just outside Boston, the Dargers have an ally of sorts in Thomas Amoroso. An emergency physician, Amoroso has a live-in girlfriend, Katherine, who has a live-in husband, Matt. (Amoroso also has another girlfriend.) [We know them. Sparkle Moose and I brought food to the housewarming potluck for their new house last year, along with a big crowd of other Poly Boston people that totally jammed the place.] They don't seek attention, but they're not averse to it. "We routinely walk down the sidewalk hand in hand in hand," says Matt, although he and Katherine would prefer that their last name not be made public.

The trio, who got together at a science-fiction convention (polyamorists are often fans of the works of Robert Heinlein [see my article!]), have tried to mimic marriage as much as they can. They've bought a house together. They are one another's health care proxies. Matt and Katherine are trying to have a baby, and Amoroso is looking forward to co-parenting. "If we lived in a society that permitted plural marriage, it's something I'd think about," says Matt. "But we live together, we support each other, we spend time together, so I've got the stuff I want."

Amoroso and Darger don't know each other, and there's not much else they'd agree on, but they're brothers in arms in the fight against what they see as a monogamy monopoly. Amoroso served on the board of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, and he speaks at conventions about his living arrangement. "Our lives are much the same as other people's," he says. "It's important to me that there's understanding and acceptance." The reaction he gets from most people, including his family and employers, is raised-eyebrow acceptance: "It wouldn't work for me, but if it makes you happy ..."

...Why do some people want multiple life partners when most of us can barely deal with one? Both fundamentalist Mormons and polyamorists argue that having several partners requires people to be more loving and generous and to learn to overcome jealousy. There's a term polyamorists use for enjoying their lover's happiness with another: compersion. (The word is thought by some to have originated in the '80s at a San Francisco commune by people using a Ouija board.) Fundamentalist Mormons believe the practice mirrors the selfless interconnectedness that will exist in heaven. They call it "living the principle."

Compersion and living the principle sound noble. The results often aren't. "When plural marriage works, it can be much more rewarding," says Darger. "But I think getting it there is not three times as hard. It's to the third power as hard."...

The article then goes on to describe the uglier sides of polygamy among fundamentalist Mormons and other patriarchal societies.

Among the key distinctions it fails to make is that while traditional patriarchal polygamy results in gender imbalance and an excess of left-out single men, modern secular polyamory is fiercely egalitarian, often feminist-oriented, and seems to spawn as many MMF households as FFM ones.


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July 28, 2012

"Sister Wives" lawsuit, relevant to us, looks likely to proceed

Following a hearing on Wednesday, it seems likely that the "Sister Wives" federal lawsuit to overturn Utah's very broad bigamy statute, and by extension similar ones nationwide, will go forward. If so it may set a precedent for polyfamilies for either good or ill.

First the backstory. This is from an AP news article on Wednesday:

'Sister Wives' family challenges Utah bigamy law

By Brian Skoloff

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Kody Brown and his four wives want what any family wants, to live in the privacy of their own home free from government intrusion, and out from under the threat of criminal prosecution for — as they see it — just loving each other.

The polygamous family, stars of the TLC show "Sister Wives," has sued Utah and the county they fled from, hoping to persuade a federal judge to overturn the state's bigamy law as unconstitutional.

The case could potentially decriminalize a way of life for tens of thousands of self-described Mormon fundamentalists, most of whom live in Utah where bigamy is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The state, meanwhile, has publicly said it won't prosecute consenting adult polygamists unless there are other crimes involved, but insists the law doesn't overreach....

A hearing was set for Wednesday on a motion to dismiss the case after prosecutors in Utah County, where the family had been living until last year, announced no criminal charges would be filed against the Browns under the state's bigamy statute....

The move came after [Utah Attorney General Mark] Shurtleff assured the Browns they wouldn't be prosecuted by the state under his policy that consenting adult polygamists won't be charged as long as they're not committing other crimes.

[Utah County Attorney Jeff] Buhman is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed outright. He claims the Browns have no standing since they are no longer subject to prosecution.

No matter, claims their attorney, Washington, D.C., constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley.

Brown and his wives — Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn — remain victims and continue to live under the stigma of being considered felons, Turley said, noting they fled to Nevada last year....

While all states outlaw bigamy, some like Utah have laws that not only prohibit citizens from having more than one marriage license, but also make it illegal to even purport to be married to multiple partners. Utah's bigamy statute even bans unmarried adults from living together and having a sexual relationship....

Read the whole article (July 25, 2012).

That's the background. At Wednesday's hearing, the judge seemed inclined to let the Browns' lawsuit proceed:

Judge seems reluctant to toss ‘Sister Wives’ lawsuit

By Ben Winslow

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge appeared reluctant to toss a lawsuit filed against Utah by a reality TV polygamist and his four wives.

...The state argued the Brown’s lawsuit is “moot,” because the polygamous family is no longer under threat of prosecution.

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups appeared skeptical.

“Why shouldn’t the court believe this is a ruse to avoid having the issue reviewed?” he asked lawyers for the state.

In fiery arguments with the judge, the state argued that both Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff have adopted policies that do not prosecute polygamy alone. Waddoups was combative, suggesting the state was trying to avoid having an “issue of importance” reviewed.

“Utah County does not want to prosecute the practice of polygamy,” assistant Utah Attorney General Jerrold Jensen told the judge.

“But it reserves the right to do so,” Waddoups shot back.

Jonathan Turley, a lawyer for the Brown family, told the judge that another prosecutor could decide to go after the polygamists.

“This law dangles like a Damocles sword over this family’s heads, by a very thin thread,” he said. “That thread is prosecutorial discretion.”

In taking the case under advisement, Waddoups told lawyers it was “an important issue to many people.”...

A decision on the “Sister Wives lawsuit” is not expected for several weeks....

Read the whole article (July 25, 2012).

Here is the motion to dismiss. In Turley's blog post Wednesday about the case, he includes a link to his response memo.

Thanks to Vrimj of the Polyamory Leadership Network for bird-dogging this case all along. Polygamy aside, the case is directly relevant to the legality of polyfamilies living together in some states. I attended her presentation about it at Atlanta Poly Weekend last March. Here's the summary I put up at the time:

...Vrimj, polyactivist and legal eagle, gave a rundown of the Kody Brown polygamy case in Utah — which promises, or threatens, to have a direct effect on us.... Legally speaking, the Brown family (originalist Mormons) are identical to a secular poly household. They assert only one legal marriage within the group; the other wives don't claim to be more than Kody's single girlfriends under the law. But they're illegal anyway by living together and also by "purporting to be married" spiritually [in the eyes of God according to their sect of Mormonism].

For better or worse, said Vrimj, "this case is the most exciting thing that's happened on a polyamory legal front in the U.S. in quite a long time." Living with partners and/or informally calling them spouses (spice) will either be legalized in the states that now outlaw it, or will be affirmed as criminal. "Either way it's going to affect us."



July 27, 2012

"Showtime’s Polyamory Is Trashy, Profound and the Best Reality Show on TV"


This review, written by an outsider to poly on an important website covering the media industry, illustrates the power of the Showtime series (which just aired its third episode) to put our concepts into mainstream play.

Showtime’s Polyamory Is Trashy, Profound and the Best Reality Show on TV

By Rich Juzwiak

Just as the concept of polyamory is many things to many people, so is Showtime's current series Polyamory: Married & Dating. It's alternately hilarious, shocking, poignant, titillating and cringe-inducing. But it's also important.

...It works not just as the freak show that we've come to expect from reality TV, but also on a political level. The slippery slope anti-equality argument stating that if gays are allowed to marry, then soon we'll have to allow multiple partners to as well, is bullshit not just for side-stepping the issue.... There is no legitimate ethical argument against the kind of configurations you see presented on Polyamory. If you don't want polyamory, stay out of a triad. Simple.

...The lives portrayed here are perfectly suited for the format. Reality TV typically forces its participants to examine themselves closely.... At the very least, [they] are made to sit through marathon interviews picking apart the nuances of their behavior and its motivation. Never have I seen a situation that naturally fits this format as well as that of Showtime's currently airing. As Tahl explains in the video above, "Jen and I have our rules. Mike and Kamala have their rules, but now not only are you just bringing two couples together – it's a four-way dynamic. And so, it makes it more complicated." With their intricate configuration, these people would have to openly and routinely examine their and their partners' emotional situations, with or without cameras pointed at them. The show was already going on.

The emotional articulation of the four described people makes for riveting viewing – not since the early days of The Real World have I been so obsessed with watching people sit around and babble about themselves and their lives, nor have I so deeply lamented that they only do it for 30 minutes once a week. Their self-consumption is infectious.

Keeping track of the rules makes this non-competition series something of a game. As it unfurls steadily, slowly revealing new offshoot scenarios that can affect or avoid the central relationship dynamic, Polyamory builds intrigue.... At one point, when Kamala is riding Tahl, she asks, "Do you need me to slow down, Jen?" Jen responds, "Um," and then murmurs yes, spoiling the entire point of everything.

...You could create a drinking game... from just taking a shot every time someone says something that was spawned from, and exists only in, this universe (Kamala: "When Michael said that I was acting monogamous, I was like, who are you talking about? I'm the queen of poly. Who are you calling mono?"). Even better is the poly lingo. The male-female-female thruple of Anthony, Lindsay (a married couple) and Vanessa (their girlfriend) regularly say things like "honoring the function of the triad" and "new relationship energy" and, "I think you can be grateful about this pain."

...While the show illustrates the emotional complications and possible turmoil that result from loving more than one person, it humanizes those involved to a degree that we've never seen. It is at once a cautionary tale and an argument for the freedom to participate in these kinds of living/loving situations. As such, it is as complicated, strange, hilarious and involving as these situations clearly are themselves.

Read the whole review (July 26, 2012).

Go to the review and play the new 2-minute video there, from which the frame above is taken. It shows the quad having a serious poly relationship-agreement discussion out on their patio. No wonder the reviewer's mind was blown. For the first time, right on TV, it's showing the world how people can actually do this thing.


By the way, Episode 3 last night seemed to me a bit flat. We see lots of processing and relationship check-ins among each of the two family groups, without much dramatic arc of buildup and release across the show's half hour. Viewers may wonder, do polys spend all their time talking about relationships? (When they're not having sex?) (Answer: probably more than most.)

Poly lists are having some heated discussions about whether the show represents us poorly by displaying too much drama and imperfection. Come on, people. A good show is about storytelling. That means at least some conflict, drama, and resolution, as storytellers have known since Homer. Gossip had it that the (mild) drama in Kamala's family over her not wanting to share Roxanne was deliberately exaggerated in order to meet the storytelling needs of the show; else where would be the story? (Update: Director/producer Natalia Garcia, who was there, tells us that the situation was very real and nothing was made more dramatic.)

I come away from Episode 3 confirmed in thinking that the show is a much bigger plus for us than a minus. But this is irrelevant — we can't dictate how the media treat us, we have no right to, and the horse is already out of the barn. I hope our movement is secure enough to grasp this. What we can do is do our own parts to represent ourselves well and try to influence portrayals of us favorably — respecting that the media's interests don't always align with ours and that this is as it should be. It's their job to do their own job.


Which brings up a practical issue. Who will be on Season 2, if Polyamory: Married & Dating is renewed? The producers will probably want to introduce new characters. Could this be you?

If you decide you'd like to try out, I strongly recommend that your first move be to contact Joreth of the Polyamory Media Association for some background realities, coaching, and advice.


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July 26, 2012

Detailed examinations of Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating

Note: Episode 3 of the series, titled "Poly Lovers," airs tonight (Thursday July 26) at 11 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times. It will be re-aired several times in the coming week; see schedule (under "Ways to Watch" and "On TV," click "All Airings").

Watch a trailer for Episode 3 below (1 minute. If this version doesn't play, you can watch it on YouTube worldwide.)

Seven episodes will air this first season of the series. Whether it's renewed for a second season will depend on how big an audience it gets — and that will depend in part on how much buzz for it you spread around.


While I've been mostly offline in the woods at the Network for a New Culture's Summer Camp East, Jessica Karels has been doing an admirable job of covering, in depth, Showtime's new reality series Polyamory: Married and Dating. She's posting her stuff at Modern Poly ("the pulse of the polyamory movement"), which she played a large role in founding and where she's now chief technical officer.

Modern Poly, incidentally, is serious about becoming a major nexus of the community. It runs the now-indispensable Poly Group Registry of local discussion/ social/ support groups (go add yours if it's not there already), is building a stable of regular high-quality writers, and recently incorporated as a 501(c)4 nonprofit, one that is allowed to engage in political activity. Statement of purpose: "Advocating for choice in relationships and equal rights across families."

For each episode of the series Jess is providing

● A detailed plot synopsis,

● Thoughtful commentary on aspects of poly that the episode raises and how they're being presented to the public, and

● Links to all other reviews and commentary she can find.

I don't often think someone does my job better than I could, but here it is. So that's where I'll direct you for the best coverage of the Showtime series:

Polyamory: Married and Dating — Episode 1 Review

Polyamory: Married and Dating — Episode 2 Review

Also: Jessica plans interviews with members of the show's cast and possibly the director. Check back for more articles.

Some updates:

Polyamory: Married and Dating — Episode 3 Review

Polyamory: Married and Dating — Episode 4 Review

Polyamory: Married and Dating — Episode 5 Review

July 31: Jessica has just put up her promised compilation of Online Reactions to Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating, with discussion.

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 ;)"

A review of the show by Team Triad, "three lovely people who love each other...and love to talk."

TheBlackLeatherBelt is a poly gal who's posting satirical but detailed recaps of all three episodes so far (with quotes) — 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, 6, 7.

Here is Cunning Minx's and Lusty Guy's audio review of the series on Minx's Polyamory Weekly podcast, Episode #329: "Reality: Polyamory on Showtime" (July 31, 2012). Show notes.

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.

A writer at the feminist ontheragmag.com is fascinated and freaked and wants Jen to run away.

In Trenton, New Jersey, a newspaper columnist stuck in old culture freaks out completely.

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 its sending' would step back and realize it just did something huge and unprecedented just by putting the word in countless people's mouths for the first time.

Can't get Showtime? Here are all the officially available video clips from the series, adding up to about 18 minutes of trailers and teasers so far (August 10). 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.


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July 20, 2012

Deborah Anapol, others assess Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating

Psychology Today blogs

Deborah Anapol can claim credit for co-founding the modern polyamory movement in the 1980s and 1990s before the word existed (along with Ryam Nearing; see my history of Loving More). Her 1992 book Love Without Limits, expanded in 1997 as Polyamory: the New Love Without Limits, was often called the movement's bible. For a while it was practically the movement's only book. So she comes with a long perspective on this thing. In recent years she has written thoughtfully on ways that it has and has not lived up to early hopes and dreams, such as in her 2010 book Polyamory in the 21st Century.

Now that TV's first reality show about polyfamilies is on the air (see my previous post), Anapol offers her judgments of it on her blog at Psychology Today magazine. Bits:

...In the 80’s, 90’s and into the early 2000’s, I appeared on a lot of television talk shows and a few documentaries, mostly as an expert on polyamory, but I don’t have any experience at all with reality TV... apart from watching a few episodes of the most popular shows and talking with a half dozen producers over the years who thought that a reality TV series on polyamory would be a big hit.

None of those conversations ever led to a show getting on the air so far as I know, although a few pilots were shot and at least one contract signed. So it’s quite a breakthrough to see Polyamory: Married and Dating airing on Showtime after all these years.... I need to make it very clear that I am not involved in any way with [the] show, but I do know the San Diego cast and their community quite well....

I’ll say that Polyamory: Married and Dating is a far better portrayal of polyamory than I feared and not so good as I had hoped, judging from the first episode, which aired July 12.

...The preview for episode #2 has Kamala Devi refusing to share her new girlfriend, Roxie, with her husband Michael, again defying viewers’ preconceived notions about the likely challenges of polyamory. My insider information leads me to suspect that the Roxie drama is at least somewhat contrived, but the demands for special treatment are classic, and at the very least we see “asking for what you want” role-modeled perfectly. At any rate Michael and Kamala are both good enough actors to make it look real, but more about that later....

...In my opinion, Polyamory: Married and Dating succeeds brilliantly at introducing seven main characters in less than thirty minutes. That they manage to present a true-to-life portrait of polyamory as it’s commonly practiced along with some glimpses of hot group sex is a minor miracle. But then, this is the bonobo tribe. And it’s certainly more enjoyable than parading a poly family or two out to be interviewed by a talk show host and then letting a hostile audience have at them as was the style back in the day....

...I suspect that we’ll have to wait at least another decade to see polyamory as I’d like to see it portrayed on television, but [this] is a really great start.

Read the whole article (July 19, 2012).


Meanwhile, I'm still away in the woods at the Network for a New Culture's Summer Camp East amid rain, daily ZEGG Forum sessions, personal-exploration workshops and impossibly full schedules with 70 of my beloved community (at least half of them poly, something that develops so naturally in a group like this). We're sharing life, relationship, and communal-living histories, skills, and insights in a geodesic dome deep in the forest — a 10-day experiment in exploring curiosity- and transparency-based community.

With no TV and text-only internet.

So if you saw Episode 2, could you post about it here in the comments?

It's raining again now — gotta check my tent.

Added July 21: Poly activist Jessica Karels at Modern Poly posts an in-depth review, with observations for the movement and links to other reviews: Polyamory: Married and Dating, Episode 1 Review.

Added July 24: Commentary on Episode 2 by Maria Padhila at Planet Waves.


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July 13, 2012

Showtime's Polyamory series begins: Impressions.

Update July 18: If you don't get Showtime, you may be able to watch the show (for now) by searching YouTube for the phrase "Polyamory: Married and Dating". This may also work for Episode 2, which airs tomorrow night July 19 (and which I'll miss -- I'm away from TV and fast internet.)


So I just watched Episode 1 of Showtime's new reality series Polyamory: Married and Dating. We follow two families: the triad of Lindsey, Anthony (who are married) and Vanessa, and the quad of Kamala and Michael (married with 5-year-old Devin) and Tahl and Jennifer (also married; on the left in the photo above). Both groups are deeply in love and have been together long enough to have settled into their patterns and ways; we're seeing them long after the get-together stage.

First reactions:

-- Sigh of relief. The show is just as good, nonexploitive, and real as the trailers led us to hope.

-- There sure are a lot of soft-core group sex scenes. They're portrayed sweetly and briefly but frankly, as part of the ongoing relationships and discussions that are happening among everybody and as genuine expressions of shared love and playfulness — as Kamala has been telling her fan base in the last couple weeks.

-- I was struck by how the group sex sometimes functioned as it does among bonobos — as a means to diffuse group tensions and reinforce bonds among the group. Yes, couples sometimes use sex this way too. But I felt I was watching something deep in our ancient nature.

Just when the show had gone on being lovey for so long that it was in danger of looking like propaganda for poly perfection, comes the conflict. The Lindsey-Vanessa-Anthony triad is rocked by Lindsey's admission that she has totally fallen for an outside guy, Krystoff, which she tells the others awfully late in the game. The triad has rules, and while I didn't hear anyone say "No surprises," that seems to be the biggest one she broke. Vanessa, in particular, is hurt and jealous about Lindsey almost ignoring her (they are in a bi relationship) while skyping and texting to Krystoff "constantly" in giggly NRE. Vanessa and Anthony ask Lindsey to take a break from Krystoff. She resists, and we see a cut to her telling the camera that she feels that her thing with Krystoff is big enough that "it's worth pissing my partners off a little for him."

But finally she agrees. They did, after all, set up a rule giving each other veto power. It was a tough family meeting — but it also looked like a model of honest layings-out of problems and resentments with respectful, open-hearted communication. Watch, people, this is how it's done. Oh, and it was followed by bonobo sex.

But we wonder, will Lindsey follow through? Where is this going to lead?

Meanwhile, We see Kamala and Michael making their big will-you-move-in-and-live-with-us? proposal to Jennifer and Tahl.

Kamala has predicted, correctly, that Tahl will be gung-ho and the questionable one will be Jen. Tahl has been telling Jen about wanting to live in community ever since they married, years ago; Jen has only recently come around to an interest in the idea. We watch another deep group family discussion, unrestrained in the saying of difficult things but with mutual heartfulness and civility. Jen explains that she fears a housing merger might mean she loses her level of daily connection with Tahl. (Cut to Jen telling the camera: "If you're not willing to do personal work, then polyamory is definitely not for you.")

And again, the holdout comes around. Jen agrees, and yes, the big move-in will happen.

But the issues are on the table, they're examining the elephant in the room under bright light (and it remains visible in their first day together in the new home), and we wonder what is coming next for these people. Aside from more bonobo sex.


And now, I am just about to leave the internet behind (almost) for ten days of exploring life-in-community and personal-work stuff myself at the Network for a New Culture's Summer Camp East, in the mountain wilds of West Virginia. So, please put your own impressions in the comments here and continue the discussion.

And, here's a Google News search that will show links to recent news coverage of the show, with the most recent first.

Here's one outsider's early review on a TV-programming website.

Here's the show's website. Click "About" for brief profiles of the seven characters, "Video" for clips including two from the second episode (where the Lindsey drama indeed escalates), and "Ways to Watch" for the first week's rerun schedule and on-demand purchasing (which I haven't tried. How well does this work?)

There will be seven weekly episodes through August 23.

Critics with only a passing interest in the subject may call this first episode tame, as reality shows go (sex aside) — polys sit (or lie cuddling) and talk and process a whole lot. We knew that.

But almost never before have we watched it on television.

P.S. July 16: A columnist at the big conservative site Town Hall declares, after learning about the show (and this website), The Next Sexual Revolution Has Arrived. He does not sound like a happy camper. A lot of his commenters seem to be obsessed with animals.


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July 12, 2012

Footage from Showtime's Polyamory series; premieres tonight
(Thursday July 12).

A quad in love work out their relationships, sex patterns, life issues, and their plans to move in together while as many as 10 cameras watch. From left: Jennifer Gold, Tahl Gruer, Kamala Devi, and Michael McClure.

Ever since Showtime announced its reality series Polyamory: Married and Dating, starring two families including Kamala Devi, Michael McClure and their pod of lovers, a lot of people in the poly community have been apprehensive, or cynical, about whether any reality show is going to portray polyfolks well.

The first episode is on tonight, Thursday July 12, at 11 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time. It will rerun many times in the next few days (schedule; click on "All Airings"). It will continue for seven weekly episodes through August 23.

The series will break new ground in introducing modern polyamory to a mass audience. Nothing like this has ever appeared on television. (Sister Wives and Big Love come from a very different place of religious patriarchal polygamy.) Showtime, a premium paid cable channel, reaches 21 million households, small compared to the broadcast networks but in cable's top tier importance-wise.

The people featured in the Polyamory series, at least the ones I've talked to, are deeply dedicated to portraying poly life accurately and representing our deepest ideals. In this respect we could hardly hope for better people to become polyamory's new face to the world.

On the other hand, some have expressed concern that the show's abundant sex scenes will distract from the messages of love, honesty, transparent communication, and tribal community. Will viewers who look at the pictures more than they listen to the words come away thinking poly is just about orgies of Southern California beautiful people?

Addressing this concern, Kamala has posted:

Working with the director, Natalia Garcia, was a rich learning experience for me. She is a spiritually minded woman of vision, who is committed to women's liberation and conflict resolution. The polyamorous community is blessed to have an ally in Hollywood who is not afraid of sex, nor obsessed by it either.

Yes. This is a sexually explicit, adult content show. And the sex scenes tastefully and truthfully depict long term relationships making love in various combinations. We artfully show and frankly discuss lesbian sex, threesomes, foursomes and more! The show is also family oriented, and focuses on communication, conflict resolution and above all, LOVE.

Others have expressed concern that some of the stars' devotion to tantra theory and practice might give the impression that polys all have to be into some kind of New Age woo. And there are tantra figures out there who have sometimes given the subject a poor reputation.

Well folks, I wouldn't worry. Showtime has put out a new, longer, 3-minute trailer, and based on this, the series looks like it'll be a home run:

(If that Flash version doesn't work, here it is on YouTube.

They say such great stuff! And then here's the final minute wrapping up:

Narrator: The polyamorous lifestyle may shock some. But with American divorce rates hovering around 50 percent, these families are on the front line of a growing revolution in the traditional monogamous relationship.

Michael: I want people to know it's okay to live a life this way, it can be good. Because it is. It's beautiful. We love it.

Jennifer: I want people to know that monogamy isn't the only way.

Vanessa: If it were socially acceptable, I think there would be way more poly people.

Tahl: It feels like how we really should all be living.

Natalia Garcia, director: I really believe that a lot of people are going to watch this show and their jaws are going to drop. And they're also probably going to wonder, Am I poly?

Narrator: Follow two not-so-typical families--

--Kamala: Mommy and Daddy and going to ask Jen and Tahl to come and live with us. How would you like that? Kid: Yeah. I like 'em.

Narrator: --that are changing the way America thinks about love.

Here are the show's website and Facebook fan page.

Here are my previous posts on the series, with more info, videos, and commentary: June 27, June 17.


Unfortunately, right after Episode 1 I'm disappearing for 10 days to the Network For a New Culture's Summer Camp East in the West Virginia woods with very little internet access. So don't expect much from Polyamory in the News during that time.

Instead, here's a Google News search that will collect recent news coverage of the show at any time, with the most recent first.


OpenSF Conference update: Pepper Mint posts that his Open SF Conference June 8-10 ended up $4,210 in the red after expenses of $28,401. He is asking for donations from those who appreciated the conference in order to square up and get a running start on the next OpenSF in 2014. You can donate to Polyamorous Productions Inc., the nonprofit that handled the conference (not tax deductible). I've done so. The page has breakdowns of the 2012 expenses and income.


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July 6, 2012

Savages movie and its star triad

Oliver Stone's new movie Savages opened today, and reviews pour in. Its stars are a poly triad of weed growers/dealers who run afoul of a Mexican cartel. What's noteworthy here is that their tightly bonded V relationship is just treated as part of the story rather than a focus of attention, as if viewers know all about these things and need no explanation.

Reviewer Marshall Fine at the Huffington Post thinks the actors are duds:

...This film by Oliver Stone, based on a snappy novel by Don Winslow (who co-wrote the script with Shane Salerno), springs to life when the action gets cracking -- and settles into stoned somnolence when it turns its attention back to its central trio.

The story focuses on the romantic triad of Ophelia (or "O," as everyone calls her) played with uninviting dimness by Blake Lively; Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a stoner mercenary; and Ben (Aaron Johnson), a genius botanist with do-gooder, nonviolent impulses. They live together, love together -- well, not quite the whole polyamorous package because, while Chon and Ben both are boning O, they don't seem to have eyes for each other.

...This movie shifts into neutral whenever it zooms in on the three amigos, living large in Laguna Beach, where Ben's plant-breeding and Chon's business acumen have turned Ben's unique marijuana hybrid into the weed of choice for surfers and businessmen alike in smoke-happy SoCal. It's a sweet life -- until it's not.

Because now the Mexican cartel wants in.... When Stone can focus on the brutal violence of action setpieces... Savages jumps to life. Stone is in his element, cranking up the graphic imagery of what bullets do to flesh in ways that seem particularly shocking in the moment....

Kitsch finds one note -- anger -- to play as the unstoppable Chon. Lively tries to name that tune in even fewer notes, playing O as a total blank. She succeeds, creating a zero at the center of the film -- and, as a result, you continually wonder just why these two guys are risking life, limb and commerce for this dimwit....

Maybe the actors didn't know how to play a devoted triad, one in which (SPOILER COMING!) if one man dies, the other man and woman would commit suicide together out of grief. Here's an interview with the two guys that suggests they really didn't get it:

Q: ...Do you think that’s really possible to share a girlfriend without any jealousy like that?

Aaron Johnson: No, I don’t think it is [laughs]. Yeah, I think that says a lot about these guys that there’s no shame in their relationship, no jealousy, and it’s a bond that’s stronger than that.... I think she’s just fucking greedy, to be honest [laughs].

Ditto with Blake Lively, who plays the gal of the trio. In a different interview she also betrays cluelessness:

Lively said she and her co-stars found it challenging to understand "how three people can be in love."

"I think that what we finally learned after hours of trying to learn how to explain it is that you can't explain it - you just need to see it," she told OnTheRedCarpet.com. "And how do you see it? These three people love each other but why do they need each other? Because they never had that love from anyone else."

On the other hand, Franklin Veaux (of More than Two web fame) thinks they did fine:

I actually thought the three main characters did an excellent job; the way they deliver their dialog, for example, really suggests a lot of subtext and history to me.

Now, it could be that I'm projecting into their characters. But it also could be that the critics who accuse them of weak performances were expecting to see things -- drama, jealousy, anger, resentment -- that weren't there in the relationship. I think there's an expectation that if you have two people in love with a third, there is supposed to be tension or conflict between them...so when there wasn't any in the movie, the critics assumed it was because the actors couldn't portray it, not because the characters didn't have it.

I found the relationships between the main characters to be among the healthiest and most functional romantic relationships I've seen in any Hollywood movie. Perhaps the difficulty the critics are having is simply that healthy relationships tend not to be interesting?

So many articles on the movie are popping up that I'm not keeping track. Click here for hundreds of Google News results, with the most recent first.

Here's a review of reviews.

Poly writer Maria Padhila at Planet Waves loved the Savages book (2010) well before the movie appeared. See her article about both.

The movie is "rated R for strong brutal and grisly violence" etc. with torture, blood, death — "from brain matter to eye sockets" notes one review.



July 2, 2012

"What We Can All Learn from the Poly Lifestyle"

OutFront Colorado

More poly-positivity in the gay world, this time in a spiffy looking gay magazine published in Denver. The title above is the cover line. From the article inside:

Sharing is caring: Monogamous couples could benefit from polyamorous communication skills

By Shanna Katz, M.Ed, ACS

Gone are the days of marriage defined as “between a man and a woman.” For some, also gone are the days of a relationship refering to just two people. From swinging couples who enjoy a fun night of partner swapping to polyamorous triads, quads and moresomes, the concept of consensual non-monogamy is gaining force.

There is still little research on consensual non-monogamy and on the LGBTQ community as a whole, and what has been done has usually been done with a huge bias in mind. Assumptions frame the studies, which are full of hinky approaches: That clearly, gay men are hypersexual. Let’s prove this by showing that they just can’t stay in a monogamous relationships. It’s hard to track how many LGBT people live non-monogamous lifestyles, and how – or why – they choose it.

Like the word queer, consensual non-monogamy is an umbrella term that can refer to a slew of different relationship constructs.... But for all, the number-one priority is communication, according to relationship and intimacy therapist Dr. Jenni Skyler of Boulder.

“Those who already operate from a place of non-monogamy, or are making the move to do so from a place of safety and trust, often find great benefits in the relationship as it pertains to communication,” Skyler said. “In short, non-monogamous relationships force partners to communicate deeply and to work with jealousy.”

That’s hardly something driven by lust. Dr. Skyler argues “monogamous couples could take some lessons in communication from successful non-monogamous couples because all of us can benefit from deep, transparent communication.”

...For David Washburn, 50, of Lakewood, the idea of loving multiple people was one that developed from a much younger age. He shares, “I lived most of my life knowing that I felt love for more than one person at a time, and yet felt societal pressure to choose, and to hide my bisexuality as well.” Despite these social norms, 12 years ago he perused a relationship with a bisexual couples and ended up meeting his wife. Six years ago, they opened up their relationship. By choosing consensual non-monogamy, he has also been able to experiment with and accept his orientation; “I feel the primary benefit of being non-monogamous is being able to live my life truthfully. I have been able to have a couple of relationships with men … I reconnected with someone whom I had loved during my first marriage.”

It’s important to note that non-monogamy, while a very valid choice for many folks, is not without its pitfalls....

...Whether you decide to stick with just one partner or to open up your life to a variety of lovers, partners and friends with benefits, it boils to communication. In the world of sexuality and relationships, communication is always key.

Shanna Katz, M.Ed, ACS is a Colorado native, fierce femme and board certified sexologist. She believes strongly in open source, accessible sexuality education, and loves teaching adults how to optimize their sex lives.

Read the whole article (June 20, 2012).


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