Polys: Winning the Race to Define Ourselves... So Far
At Poly Living, Anita Wagner and I presented a workshop titled "Polyamory in the Media's Spotlight." One theme that we and the audience discussed was the surprising fairness, and even positivity, with which mainstream media are covering the poly movement. This despite the fact that we're challenging bedrock assumptions about civilized behavior, human nature, and morality.
So why are we getting such good treatment?
In the audience was Pepper Mint from San Francisco, whose long and influential essay "The Strange Credibility of Polyamory" proposes some answers. I have two more answers of my own. But I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop for the anti-poly backlash to begin and it keeps not happening.
This matters a lot. Because right now, as modern, ethical, egalitarian polyamorists, we are getting to have the first word. We are defining ourselves to the world before our opponents can.
Politicians spend millions trying to grab that advantage.
Contrast this to what the gay movement dealt with. When gay liberation got rolling in 1969, homosexuals were already sharply defined in the public mind: as pathetic, awful people. Those images have taken decades to beat back. But until recently, there was no cultural image of what modern, ethical, egalitarian polyamorists look like. Because most people never knew they could exist.
So I see a race underway: to entrench accurate images of ourselves in the culture before our opponents can plant awful images of us instead. So far, we're winning. This will be our best defense against future hysterias, witch hunts, and moral panics.
Want to help? Would you like to train up as a public poly spokesperson doing media appearances? If you are presentable, articulate, self-disciplined, a good role model, and committed to spreading polyamory education and awareness (admit it, that covers a lot of you!), then help is available. Joreth of the Polyamory Leadership Network has just put up a website for the new Polyamory Media Association. Check it out, register (for free) to access the materials, and contact her. And, please pass around the link: PolyMediaAssociation.com.
In addition, Robyn Trask of Loving More has already been providing TV coaching, and help in negotiating with reporters and TV producers on an even basis, for several years. She has experience in how to obtain fair treatment, and how to spot warning signs that you'll be treated badly and should stay away.
A rough guideline: Television is the hardest medium to do well and the easiest to look bad on if untrained. Print is better, depending on the writer's agenda. Radio is easiest even with a hostile interviewer if it's a live conversation that can't be hacked up by editing.
All of this comes to mind as another positive poly story popped up this morning in an unlikely, very mass medium.
The Sun is one of the trashiest tabloid newspapers in Great Britain, the land that invented the trashy tabloid. It's best known for its "page 3 girls" showing their bare tits. It's currently aligned with the Conservative Party and is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Yet here it is with a nice, positive intro-to-poly feature:
I kiss my man goodnight, shut the door... and sleep with my other lover
By Nikki Watkins | Feb. 24, 2010
PADDING around the living room in her dressing gown, Julieanne Rennie gives her boyfriend of six years a kiss goodnight.
Then the 26-year-old turns and walks to the bedroom, hand in hand with another man.
For most men the idea of their girlfriend spending the night with somebody else would be unthinkable.
But for Chris Healy it is a regular occurrence - because Julieanne's other lover lives with them.
Julieanne, carer Chris, 29, and NHS worker Rick Maclennan, 35, practise "polyamory" - they have more than one long-term partner.
..."I am affectionate with Rick or Chris in front of the other, kissing or holding hands," [says Julieanne], "but anything more intimate is strictly for behind closed doors. For us, it's about far more than just sleeping with other people. We all believe that you can be in love with more than one person at once, and that you can meet lots of soulmates throughout your life."
Chris and Julieanne discussed the idea of opening up their relationship a few months after meeting at college.... But their first attempts at seeing other people did not go well.... "We realised we needed to start from scratch and do it properly.... I sat down and started researching open relationships online."
It was here they discovered "polyamory" - a term to describe "responsible non-monogamy".
...They decided to try once again to make an open relationship work and agreed they would always have to be honest about who they were seeing and how they felt.
..."Once we started telling people, other couples we know came out of the closet to us and said they saw other people too. We had had no idea because none of them were 'out' to many people.
...Rick adds: "Polyamory sounds complicated but I've found this my easiest relationship because we're so honest the whole time. In the six months I've been with Julieanne I've actually spoken about my feelings more than I did in my two marriages combined."
...It was the boys who suggested living together.... The transition has gone so well he has now moved in permanently.
Julieanne says: "The problem with dating multiple people is time, but living together has helped that."
...Julieanne hopes that polyamory will become more accepted by society.
She says: "I've read articles claiming it will be the next sexual revolution.
"I'm sure there are people who could be really happy living like us and just don't realise it's an option."
Read the whole article (Feb. 24, 2010), and see how nice the three of them appear in the pictures! Could that be you?
In a parallel vein, three months ago the Sun's sister tabloid the News of the World ran a similarly long and positive feature article on another happy poly household.