With three more poly stories, Vice seeks to draw readers
Vice, a Tyrannosaurus among new-media magazines, is running heavily with the poly trend, which must mean these articles get a lot of clicks. Here are Vice's three new pieces since we last looked.
● This first is a rambly bunch of real-life interview condensations, not a bad read if you can get past the ugly, off-message illos.
We Talked to Polyamorous People About How They Make Their Relationships Work
Illustration by Joe Frontel
By Allison Tierney
While monogamy works for some, others spend their lives serially cheating on their partners while trying and failing to adhere to it. As an alternative, there are people who have found that some form of polyamory — of which there are many varieties — is the right choice for them. Dubbed by some media as a new sexual revolution, being more open to poly arrangements is steadily growing.
VICE spoke to people who are in poly relationships to find out the nuances of their arrangements and how they make non-monogamy work for them and their partners.
...What makes polyamorous relationships so difficult is that the rules aren't written across our society. A heterosexual, normative relationship is much easier to be in because the rules are there — that's considered cheating, that's not. You have media, you have everything in society telling you. As soon as you venture out of that one kind of relationship, you have to discuss it a painful number of times....
With my most recent relationships, the biggest issue we had was that I am impulsive.... I was on the stage on this pole, and then I just like threw my cunt in this guy's face who was right under me. I was in a skirt, and I just sat on his face in the middle of the club, then I jumped down and started kissing him. It was 1:20 AM, the club closes at 2 and, like fuck it, I am not going to go have that conversation [with Partner] right now to see if he is OK with it — I can have it in 40 minutes. As soon as the club closed, I found [Partner], and we talked.
How I want my life to be like when I'm older is to either be part of two couples who are exclusive to each other or in a three-way relationship.... It sounds like the way I'd want to be in my 70s, at the end of my days.
My girlfriend and I met at a [swinger] party, and we hit it off immediately. We've been together a year and a half. Rules are constantly evolving. The one trap I fall into sometimes is that I think [about] what would bother me and assume other people have the same things they're OK with. We have started writing down rules.... One time I did too much MDMA and wasn't really aware that she was there, and we had a conversation about that after and decided to tone down the drugs when we do things because we're not as aware about our partners and their feelings when we're really out of it.
...You have a fight and learn. That's why we started writing things down — you learn that sometimes what you're OK with, the other person isn't OK with. A lot of it is talking about individual people. I know it might sound weird to go through a roster of possibilities and say, "OK, they're fine; they're not." But that's sometimes how it has to be.
...You get to a point with dating when you're poly where you're like, "You need to be aware that in the future I may or may not want to see other people at the same time as you. You have to be OK with that if you want to date me." We got to that point, and it turns out we were both poly but at the time weren't seeing anyone else....
You have to talk to people, lots of communication — people say that's the key, and that's because it is....
I identify as solo poly, which is a little bit lesser known... Solo poly is where instead of fully combining your life with someone else, you retain your sense of autonomy. That could mean having your own place or having your own room in a place that you share with your partners, or it could just mean that you always have the last say... It also has a lot to do with avoiding a hierarchy....
There's two ways of doing things: You can have rules to start with and see if you're OK with things and then have less rules, or you can go into it with no rules and see what works.... We more plan it ahead of time and see what we're OK with.
...It can be a bit scary for people. I've been with people who really thought they wanted to take that leap, but then suddenly got really scared and decided they were never going to stop being monogamous — they were just going to cheat on partners forever because they couldn't handle living an "abnormal" way of life. The problem is you can never tell who those people are going to be....
...I didn't know about "poly" until I was an adult and immediately felt relieved thinking, 'Oh, finally, this describes me completely!' ...With my current partner, I was very open about not ever loving one person at a time and that I crush easily on others. We played with poly rules and relationships, but found it hard to manage initially without really hurting each other. I then read the book The Ethical Slut, and it gave me some framework on how to make things work.
We found it was easier to open up our relationship after we got married. We were solid that we were coming home to one another every night, so it gave us the comfort and security to play knowing we were still crazy about each other....
Read more (July 7, 2016).
● The most recent one, just out:
How I Told My Husband and Boyfriend I'm Dating Another Man
Illustration by Kitron Neuschatz
By Jeff Leavell
I had a confession to make. To my husband, Alex, and our boyfriend, Jon. I was pretty sure I was having an affair, and I was pretty sure it was outside the rules of our open relationship....
Telling Jon about Conor [the affair guy] was easy.... Jon is different than Alex and me: He is easier, has less need to be in control. Alex and I are alpha, territorial.
Jon encouraged me. He enjoyed watching my new relationship develop. And that meant I had someone to share my fears and anxieties with.
I planned on spending a week in Spokane to celebrate Alex's birthday with him. I had rented a large house, so we could be alone. I knew if I let this go any longer without being honest then I was back to being a cheater.
We would probably fight, and our fights can be epic. But we would have endless conversations, too, and I loved our endless conversations. I loved nothing more than staying up all night with Alex, simply talking.
Nothing mattered if I couldn't share my feelings about Conor with Alex, but I was afraid. Recently, things had been tough between us....
On the way to Spokane, my flight got delayed in Salt Lake City. I imagined every possible outcome to the conversation we were about to have. I imagined huge, operatic screaming matches in my head. I would storm out. Alex would throw my luggage through windows. We would end up fucking on the lawn, all of Spokane cheering us on.
When I finally saw Alex at the arrivals curb, I thought I would cry. I always feel this way when I haven't seen him in a long time. All the emptiness of him being gone suddenly filling up with his presence. I suddenly felt home and safe.
We sat at the Satellite Diner in downtown Spokane, surrounded by drunk straight guys and their drunker girlfriends.
"I need to say something," I said. "But I don't want to."...
Read on (July 19). Jeff Leavell also wrote about his gay triad for Vice a year ago: How I Figured Out the Rules of My Three-Way Relationship (July 22, 2015).
● This one appeared in Vice's print issue (April 2016) as well as online:
How to Make Polyamory Work
By Ana Cecilia Alvarez
Photo collage by Zoe Ligon
...When we talk about "being open," relationships morph from systems into spaces — ones we must design and navigate.
I sat down with three friends to explore how and why people with different relationship structures make them work....
David Velasco: The vocabulary for this stuff is always so tough for me. Even the term "relationship" feels inadequate — as if "my relationship" is the only one I have, or as if all the other relationships I have in my life are somehow lesser.
I've been with one of my partners for twelve years now. From the get-go, we were basically open; we didn't like to call each other "boyfriends." We think we're two people who love each other and enjoy each other's company. We have another partner who we've been seeing together for a number of years. Figuring out how you define that has been an interesting process. Relating to this idea of "relationship models," I don't want to personally set any at all.
Ana Cecilia Alvarez: "Model" is a playful word in that way; it implies a system but also something for people to emulate, something to be followed.
Velasco: There is a very useful book for all of this. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, in the 90s — heaven to a young queer figuring his shit out. There, I found this exceptional book called The Ethical Slut. One of my partners recently downloaded the audiobook. The authors, Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy narrate it. Their voices are so soft and therapeutic, and they describe every possibility and potential in a nonjudgmental way and have great rules for negotiating conflict. One of my favorites is practicing having regular arguments with your partners. You just yell at one another in gibberish, so it gets it out of your system.
I've had conversations about monogamy and whether that would be interesting to try out for a while. There's something erotic about that arrangement.
Charlotte Shane: [Monogamy] feels quite new for me. I remember being a kid and not understanding any ideas about sexual purity. Wouldn't you want your partner to be good at sex, and isn't that only going to happen with experience? I wish that in our culture — and it might be shifting toward this anyway — the default was open relationships, and monogamy was the exception....
Jasmine Gibson: I was in a monogamous relationship once before college, and it didn't work. When people ask me how an open relationship works, they either say, "That must be so hard," or they say the opposite, "Then no one must get mad."
Alvarez: People assume that in open relationships there's either more conflict or none at all.
Gibson: I think of relationships as fluid and temporary. They can break off, or they can lull and mutate into something else. There have been periods when my partner and I wanted to just see each other, and other times when we've both been with other people. It's when we start creating boundaries that we get into trouble. "Us" is a weird, fluid, stretchy thing. That gives me peace of mind.
I think monogamy is erotic in the same way we eroticize the lone cowboy, this symbol of American exceptionalism. This idea that there is just one person who responds to all your needs, that there's only one person strong enough to fulfill whatever your desires are. It's so erotic because it's so dark....
Velasco: What about the pleasure of jealousy?
Alvarez: I hate to admit it, but I feel motivated by other people being into my partner.
Velasco: What makes admitting it uncomfortable?
Alvarez: With openness, I have to accept my real self versus my ideal self. My ideal self is very chill, and cool, and affirming, and curious — but not in a controlling way, just in an empathic way — and encouraging, and deeply secured and satisfied. My real self is insecure, fearful, and bratty....
Shane: I know what you mean about your ideal, intellectually mature self and then your emotionally real self. There's a really potent mix of fear and insecurity that can be a huge turn-on.
Velasco: If I have an idea of the world I'd love to inhabit, it includes as expansive an idea of family as possible.
Alvarez: This makes me think of co-parenting or fantasies of living in communal spaces where everyone's fucking everyone.
Gibson: My partner and our two lovers have playfully talked about living together in a house and co-parenting a baby. We thought that's the best way for a child to grow up — having healthy relationships with adults where who mommy or daddy is matters less than how much love the child receives.
Velasco: One of my lovers lives in the same building as me, but on a different floor, and the other lives a short bicycle ride away. I love the idea of communal living — the idea of being in proximity to everyone I love, friend and lover and in-between. Now that I am getting older, the question of children comes up more. I can't imagine a more complicated negotiation. I already think relationships are so complicated. But kids are a next-level complication....
The whole piece (online April 27, 2016).
Labels: Ethical Slut