Poly couples describe their lives on Australian national TV
|Pete and Anne|
Australia's version of the BBC profiled six poly folks yesterday for the closing segment of its "7.30" news-feature show. The news hook was the slippery-slope argument against gay marriage that's been happening in Australia's parliamentary politics. Three couples talk about their poly lives, loves, challenges, and rewards. They come off as warm, devoted, and nonthreatening, the latter perhaps because we are never shown more than one man and one woman together onscreen. Was this a choice by the producers to make them look normal, which they certainly do, or were other partners just not interested in being on the national tube?
Watch it here. It's 6:19 long. The link includes a transcript. (April 4, 2013.) (If that link fails, find the video by scrolling down in "Latest Program" on the right here, or watch it as an mp4 vodcast here.)
The Oz poly community seems delighted with the result, with some reservation about the het couple-centeredness. "All of you guys did so well, what a success for the poly cause!" posted one organizer. "I was hoping for a great segment and this certainly brings the true values of poly home.... Unfortunately always a lot of good material is [cut]. However, you all did an awesome job! Proud to be poly tonight."
Another who watched it with his two partners writes us,
I cringed a little at the introduction where they talked about "polyamorous couples". It just seemed a little out of place and likely to blur poly with swinging or open-relationships. In the segment itself, the distinction between poly and swinging was at least clarified.
P. saw it as a very light piece, and I remarked to W. that they seemed to be getting a free ride and not being challenged at all — something unusual for this TV program. W. replied that since the default position of the media is to cast poly in a negative light, it was simply good to see positive coverage.
It’s probably the sort of thing I’d consider sending my parents to watch to ease them into the idea. We get to hear from some articulate couples about why they chose poly and what it means for them.
On the flip side, despite one couple talking about looking to form a triad, the focus on ‘couples’ in the segment risks reinforcing the model of ‘primary’ couples and secondary partners. P. commented on the lack of visibility of other partners in the segment. Similarly, although one of the women talked about having had a girlfriend, there wasn’t much of a look in for queer polyamory.
Overall, I think it was a positive thing for poly in Australia, but also highlighted areas where there is still work to be done.
The show invited viewers to join a Facebook conversation with the participants (starts April 4). There are 143 comments, mostly positive or neutral.
If Anne and Pete look somehow familiar, maybe you're remembering them from the classic Twelve Poly Days of Christmas video that they and two other partners made in 2007. It's been going around during the Christmas season ever since. And you may remember Darren from this newspaper feature last January.
From the transcript:
Can you fall in love with multiple partners at the same time?
Reporter: Monique Schafter
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: ...The word "polyamory" recently appeared in Australia public life when Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi suggested that legalising gay marriage could eventually lead to three or four people marrying each other.
But what exactly is polyamory? Monique Schafter spoke to couples in multiple relationships.
...ANNE: ...The best thing about being polyamorous is that it's such a rich life. So, like, Pete and I love having philosophical debates about all sorts of things until two o'clock in the morning, and I have another partner who's completely different to that.
DARREN: I also hold a belief that it's unrealistic for people or one person to fulfil every want and need of another person. ... Yeah, there are challenges, but I had challenges when I was in a monogamous marriage. Scheduling is a challenging thing at times. That's part of the reason why we both desire to have a triad, a live-in triad, or potentially even a quad, because you get the leverage of time. So, previously I've had relationships where I've been basically in two households and dividing my time pretty much equally between the two. That was really tough.
PETE: Early in our relationship, I had a lot of difficulty with jealously. When Anne saw somebody else I was very - I was green and my stomach was churning. It was very stressful.
VANESSA: Generally if Shane's met someone new, my initial reaction is one of just pure emotion. I get very overwhelmed and lots of crying and my brain flips a switch and I suddenly hear everything positive turns into something negative about me. And then slowly by slowly the rational side comes back in.
ANNE: It's just great when you get to the point of security in your relationship where you can really enjoy watching them connect with someone else. Love it.
...DARREN: I'm having a relationship because I want that. I love Jen. We are building something really special here. And could it go guts up? Yes, it could. Any relationship can.
JENNIFER: We don't begrudge people that are happy in monogamy and that's what they want to do. It's all about being happy and comfortable with whatever relationship they want to be in....