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

June 5, 2008

"Swingtown" and poly

Tonight at 10 (check your local listings) the 1-hour drama series Swingtown premiers on CBS. That's right, a broadcast TV network, and the one with the oldest, least-hip demographic.

Swingtown is about couples involved in suburban mate-swapping in the 1970s. According to early reviews, the show has been made safe for mass consumption by (1) setting the whole phenomenon resolutely in the past, using every 70s cliche you can think of (the hair, the mustaches, the shag rugs) and a background of golden oldies tunes, and (2) making the motivations of the people seem shallow. But that's second-hand opinion from a couple of early reviewers. Judge for yourself.

Will this redound on today's poly movement? Watch for the media to get the poly concept wrong, and be ready to jump in with comments and corrections.

If you miss the first episode, you can watch it on the CBS website.

This morning's Newark Star-Ledger starts off dumb but improves from there and closes with a very intelligent quote from Deborah Anapol:

Polyamory is the new 'swing'

Thursday, June 5, 2008

With all due respect to the, er, motion of the ocean, it's the quantity of the waves that count for some sexual adventurers.

Too vague? Okay, you come up with a peppy opener about swinging that's suitable for a family newspaper. But why are we bothering to beat around the bush? CBS sure isn't: "Swingtown," an hour-long relationship drama about mate-swapping in the 1970s, premieres tonight at 10, shedding a lava lamp on the sexual revolution in the suburbs....

There's no hard evidence that casual swinging is on the upswing, or that more people are looking for mates in the plural, a practice known as polyamory, or "many loves" (sort of like polygamy, minus the religious underpinnings and exploitation commonly associated with it, not to mention the bad clothes).

But some sexuality experts say that major societal, medical and technological changes over the last century have contributed to decline in expectations of lifelong monogamy: extended life expectancy, available, effective and cheap birth control, early puberty, increased opportunities for women in the workplace, advances in fertility treatments, and, last but not least, the internet.

"I think it's leading toward quiet variations in lifestyles," said Robert T. Francoeur, a professor emeritus of biology at Fairleigh Dickinson University.... "I don't think we realize to what extent sexual relationships, intimacy and concepts of marriage are going to change. I don't think we realize how much things have already changed."

Swinging entered the public consciousness in the late 1960s.... The provenance of polyamory, in which a person forges emotional and sexual connections with two or more people, is less clear, although the term is thought to have been coined nearly 20 years ago.

...Polyamory is not a lifestyle one can slip into easily. Think one relationship is hard? Try balancing the emotional and physical needs of three or four people. (Not to mention the division of labor: "It's just like every other relationship, there's just three or four people in it," Tom said. "You argue over whose turn it is to wash the dishes like everyone else.")

Prominent polyamorist Deborah Taj Anapol is a psychologist and relationship coach in San Francisco and the author of "The New Love Without Limits," and the co-founder of "Loving More Magazine."

"A lot of people are just not equipped to have more than one relationship at a time," said Anapol, who was born in Camden.

If you're interested, the first step is to have an open and honest discussion with your current partner about the possibility. If you can't get that far, she advised, stay monogamous.

"Polyamory to me is really a spiritual path," she said. "It's a tremendous growth opportunity. It will show you very very quickly any area where you're insecure. Any old wounds that you have will come to the surface, any weak spots in your relationship will come forward. Basically polyamory will show more quickly than just about anything else all the unfinished business you have in your life."

Read the whole article.

I'm not even going to try to post about all the Swingtown stories coming in. Read 'em here. Go have fun.


Blogger Barbarian said...

Wow, I'm actually somewhat impressed -- particularly where they directly mentioned the difference between polyamory and polygamy.

June 05, 2008 9:52 AM  
Blogger Anita Wagner said...

I've seen the pilot. There is little resemblance to the polyaamory of today - maybe that will change as the series progresses.

They did a good job of keeping the story in the past as stated. It's really rather icky, with some of the guys wearing gold chains, leisure suits and having lots of exposed chest hair. The main female swinging character goes around with a perpetual smug sort of smile on her face. Then there's the expected prudish female character who literally runs screaming from the room. The stereotyping is very offputting.

What will also be interesting to see is what the swing community of today thinks about it.

June 05, 2008 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Happy said...

I saw this preview on TV a few days ago, right after I'd finished watching a dvd on two episodes of Big Love that came in my friend's Netflix. I caught only one single stereotype so far: Swingers are constantly in one big orgies or parties.

My boyfriend and I are occasional swingers, and I'm really the only one prying through the topics of polyamory. I see huge distinctions, but I also see very subtle swinging stereotypes coming from the poly groups.

For some of the swingers (I'd say at least mature, experienced swingers), the focus is sexual, yes, but also experimentation and intimacy. We date, hang out, click with some couples, and then it takes awhile before we actually progress to sex. We almost always end up becoming close friends. We usually end up in small groups, having quiet dinner or movie nights.

The serious difference I really see is that sex isn't the main focus for poly and the bond is less shallow. Rather than close friends, polies become much more.

Correct me if I'm wrong? I'm learning here. ;D Good article.

June 08, 2008 12:46 PM  
Blogger Alan said...


> I see huge distinctions, but I
> also see very subtle swinging
> stereotypes coming from the
> poly groups.

Hi! This is Alan. I'd say yes, polys are more about falling in love and having deeper relationships. (Sex is not even a requirement, exactly). However, there is a quite a bit of crossover from the swinging world, and some people declare themselves in the middle: "swollies."

The most consistent differences I think are cultural, not behavioral.

June 08, 2008 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Steve Anderson said...

Hey, what's icky about chest hair?

June 18, 2008 4:42 PM  
Blogger Bree said...

Hi Alan. Long time reader here - don't think I've posted a comment yet. I would love to hear your take on Swingtown now that the 13-episode arc has run its course. I agreed with some of the initial sentiments here that it seemed stereotyped and shallow at first, but I think it actually proved to be a very positive portrayal of open relationships (not necessarily of polyamory per se) and of the larger themes of authenticity and honesty in relationships. Trina and Tom, the swinging couple, turned out not to be just "lures into the lifestyle" but to be the couple with the most integrity in terms of negotiating through their conflicts.

I'm hoping the show gets revived - the first season is now being re-aired on Bravo. I just wrote a blurb at my blog as well.

Cheers - and thanks for being out there! --Bree

October 04, 2008 6:15 PM  

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