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

November 20, 2017

"Body Music," non-traditional love stories, reviewed on NPR

A National Public Radio reviewer enthuses over Julie Maroh's new graphic-novel collection of love tales, many of them queer or non-traditional. As, for instance, in Maroh's cover illustration:

The setting is Montreal.

In 'Body Music,' Love Is Sweet, Sexy And A Touch Sentimental

By Etelka Lehoczky

Julie Maroh, French
writer and cartoonist
Body Music [is] a collection of 21 vignettes about love ... real people in love — bumbling along, second-guessing themselves and hurting each other — but their pure hearts and capacity for self-scrutiny set them apart from most of the lovers you'll encounter in real life. How often, really, do we act as our best selves in our amorous pursuits? Maroh imagines a world in which we almost always do.

The stories here are simple. Two people click at a baseball game in a city park. A cyclist stews about a lovers' quarrel. A couple try to recreate the conditions under which they first met. Maroh brings fervent lyricism to each situation, vaulting the characters into flights of eloquence. ... She's just so achingly sincere in her fondness for her characters, you feel like the worst kind of cynic for resisting her.

...An explicit lesbian love scene, two men's flirtation on a dancefloor and other erotic moments are deeply intimate, making the reader feel a bit of an intruder's thrill. Other times, though, Maroh all too clearly addresses her audience; in some stories — particularly those about polyamory and transgender identity — the characters are so noble, they start to sound like goody-two-shoes types in a kids' book meant to inculcate enlightened values.

But that's understandable. It's hard to be idealistic without giving way to preachiness from time to time. Body Music may be a little too sugary, but its sweetness is craveable for good reason.

Read the whole review (November 17, 2017).

● Vulture.com, in 8 Comics to Read (and One Comics Movie to Watch) in November, had these remarks:

...A tender and soft-edged meditation on unconventional love and sex. ... Despite the running theme of intimacy between people who aren’t straight, cis, and white, [Body Music] doesn’t feel performatively woke. Perhaps that has something to do with the sumptuous artwork, with its pillowy lines, luscious sex scenes, and Greek-sculpture facial acting. Buy this one for someone who needs proof that comics can deal with identity politics without feeling stilted and aggravating.

● Maroh posts one of her tales in its entirety on Buzzfeed: "Back at Dawn", an episode of jealousy in a now-gay couple. What they're doing with their hands is sign language.



November 19, 2017

"How movies brought polyamory into the mainstream"

That's the title of a Guardian article appearing as Professor Marston and the Wonder Women plays in the UK and elsewhere overseas, after doing terribly at the box office in the US.

It's a catchy title, but the article doesn't live up to it. General-audience movies practically never portrayed modern polyamory pre-Marston; as genuine, serious romances and partnerships worthy of an audience's respect. Even those that come within striking distance (starting with Design for Living in 1933) have generally played multi-relationships for laughs — a novelty gimmick — usually with an unhappy ending, sometimes involving gunshots.

Instead, credit 30 years of word-spreading, seed-planting, and activism by countless inspired polyfolks going back at least to Ryam Nearing, Deborah Anapol, Morning Glory and Oberon Zell, Robert H. Rimmer and many others great and small, in growing numbers. I'm looking at you, dear readers. Thank You.


How movies brought polyamory into the mainstream

Non-monogamous relationships used to be portrayed as disastrous in film. But with Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, is there a shift towards greater acceptance?

By Anna Smith

...[Marston] may be the most positive depiction of polyamory – the state of being in love with more than one person – in mainstream film to date. ... It is an accessible, occasionally moving film that treats the three-way relationship much like a typical movie coupling. This makes it decidedly atypical in the history of cinema.

Think of movie threesomes and you might picture Denise Richards, Matt Dillon and Neve Campbell writhing around in a swimming pool in Wild Things. ... In comedies, they are played for laughs: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill and Elisabeth Moss had a clumsy romp in Get Him to the Greek, which also served a common dramatic purpose: to reinforce the relationship between a heterosexual couple, rather than enhance it. As Meg-John Barker, author of Rewriting the Rules, a guide to the changing nature of modern relationships, puts it: “A person being in love with two people at once is a staple of much drama, from romcoms and soap operas to advice columns and tabloid news headlines. Almost always, they are forced to choose one person and to let go of the other.”

...There are, of course, other films that have taken a less judgmental approach to polyamory. The buoyant British comedy-drama Rita, Sue and Bob Too saw two teenaged girls on a council estate sharing the same man.... Henry & June documented Henry and June Miller’s relationship with Anaïs Nin. The Dreamers, starring Eva Green, Michael Pitt and Louis Garrel, was an arty erotic drama about a love triangle, but a troubled and incestuous one. The 1994 comedy-drama Threesome with Lara Flynn Boyle, Josh Charles and Stephen Baldwin was inspired by director Andrew Fleming’s own experiences. Oliver Stone’s Savages, which cast Blake Lively as the girlfriend of pot dealers Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, may have shown the three living together in bliss, but things ended badly — as they have done in everything from the 1962 film Jules et Jim to the recent erotic French film Love.

“Sometimes open relationships are represented but they end in tragedy or difficulty, like in The Ice Storm or Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” says Barker. “There are a few more positive depictions of open non-monogamy in films like Shortbus, Kinsey, Summer Lovers, or – kind of – Her.

The 2006 film Shortbus was certainly one of the more cheerfully liberal depictions of polyamory in film; colourfully detailing a group of New Yorkers exploring multiple partners through sex salons. But, just as many films aimed more specifically at the gay market have been, it was a niche arthouse movie, preaching to the converted. Professor Marston plays it straight enough to reach a more conservative crowd, indicating that polyamory might be going more mainstream. And the chances are the subject will crop up again in Chanya Button’s upcoming Vita & Virginia, the story of Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki), and aristocrat Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton), who had an open relationship with her husband, Harold Nicolson.

Experts feel this may represent a real-life shift towards greater acceptance. “Things are changing slowly,” says Barker. “When I started studying this area 15 years ago, virtually all the reporting around polyamory was sensationalist and negative, saying it could never work, or it was ‘taking all the fun out of affairs’. Now we have a wealth of research on just how common polyamory is (about 5% of people in the US are openly non-monogamous), and about how positive polyamorous families can be for children.” ...

The whole article (November 16, 2017).

Barker has posted their whole email interview with the writer (Nov. 17). Barker is on the road this fall to promote their newest book, How to Understand your Gender (co-authored with Alex Iantaffi).



November 13, 2017

Marston movie makes waves abroad: "The case for polyamorous marriage"

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women has now opened in the UK, Australia, and Europe. Mainstream reviewers, like those in the US last month, are discussing the movie's triad household as if it's a fairly widely understood concept. Here are lots of reviews worldwide since November 5th. Peruse at your leisure.

The UK's Telegraph, normally a very conservative paper, used its own positive review of the movie (four stars out of five) as the jumping-off for a separate, meditative, 1,600-word article introducing polyamory and its attractive qualities to unaware readers:

Can threesomes work? Professor Marston, Wonder Woman, and the case for polyamorous marriage

Mary Shelley, Lord Bryon, and Claire Clairmont (Getty)

By Rebecca Hawkes

...Being a polyamorist means being in a committed, meaningful relationship with more than one person at a time, in which everyone involved is comfortable with the group relationship. In love with both your wife and your secret girlfriend? That’s not polyamory; just adultery. Living harmoniously with your wife and girlfriend in a loving, mutually satisfying threesome? That’s probably polyamory.

...The film, [Niko] Bell writes, is “emotional porn for poly people… It’s a big, wet, effusive kiss to the ideals of contemporary polyamory”.

...The word “polyamory” may be a relatively recent one, first coined in the 1990s, but polyamory itself has probably always been a part of human culture.... But part of the problem for those looking to retell these stories for a modern audience is that examples of historical polyamorous relationships which aren’t obviously exploitative, and which reflect at least some modern ideals surrounding love, are hard to find. ["Aren't obviously exploitative"? See Franklin Veaux's takedown of how William and Elizabeth Marston treated Olive Byrne, below.]

...Some historians ... believe that the poet [Percy Bysshe] Shelley, the author Mary Shelley, her step-sister Claire Clairmont and Lord Byron, radical freethinkers of their own age, may have indulged in some form of polyamory, although this interpretation of their relationship is disputed by others.

...Today, a surprising number of people see polyamorous relationships as "an ethical alternative to infidelity" and live very happily within them. According to a 2014 study, in the US alone there are 9.8 million in relationships involving "satellite lovers"; no wonder there are increasing calls for polyamorists to be allowed to marry each other legally.

Another study, by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli of Deakin University in Australia, has even found that children can thrive in such an environment: “Research shows that most children are really happy growing up with lots of adults, in fact most kids love it,” she said.

...Purists might insist it is wrong of us to impose our own values on the past, but box office returns say otherwise. Perhaps it’s high time that polyamory, niche as it may be, received its own quirky, almost-true Hollywood fairy tale.

The whole article (November 10, 2017. Registration wall).

We can quibble with the implication that polyfolks usually live in group households; most don't. The most common form today is a primary open marriage with everyone as friends – or, especially among the young, a larger intimate network that is less hierarchical, more changeable, and trails off into the meta-metamour distance.1

However, Loving More's big surveys in 2000 and 2012 found that within the self-identified poly community, a group-relationship household is the ideal for many more polyfolks than manage to put one together. It's a high hurdle for the just the right (unusual) people with the right skills and compatibility to find each other at the same time, and then for the practicalities of combining households to work for all of them at once.


1. What distinguishes polyamory from other forms of consensual non-monogamy ("CNM" in sociology-speak) is an ethic that at least to some degree, "We're all in this together."


● Poly writer Franklin Veaux, among others, points out the gross power and consent violations in how William and Elizabeth began their relationship with his student. Franklin goes into full snark mode in his review Professor Marston and the Great Unicorn Hunt (Nov. 13, 2017):

...PROFESSOR MARSTON: My new undergrad psychology student is hot.

ELIZABETH MARSTON: I’ve got bad news and good news. The bad news is this is the [1920s], which means Harvard won’t give me a Ph.D. because I’m a woman. The good news is that this is the [1920s], which means there’s no such thing as an ethics review board, so if you want to sexually groom and then experiment on your undergrad student in really creepy ways that totally objectify her and violate her consent, that’s okay. Also, I have no concept of sexual jealousy.

The polyamorous people in the audience CHEER

ELIZABETH MARSTON: I also have no concept of consent.

PROFESSOR MARSTON: Awesome! This will be fun. What is your name, hot undergrad student?

UNICORN: You may call me Unicorn. My mother and aunt are the best-known feminists of this decade. I was raised in a convent, so I am sexually naive and trusting. Plus, I just starred in Fifty Shades Darker, so I have a totally fucked perception of how consent is supposed to work. Also, it kinda makes me this film’s version of the Born Sexy Yesterday trope. ...


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November 11, 2017

Dan Savage on monogamy on PBS NewsHour

"Sometimes I 100% agree with Dan and sometimes I want to punch him in the face. This video is such an agree," writes OhMori on reddit/r/polyamory.

The 6-minute segment, aired on PBS NewsHour November 10th, doesn't mention the polyamory option. But it's serious mainstream exposure for perhaps the central idea of our movement (IMO), summed up in the segment's online blurb:

"Some people wind up making monogamous commitments because the culture says this is what 'good people' do," says Dan Savage. "But it should be a choice that each couple makes."

Which means discussing it, early — and understanding the many possible alternatives.

The video (6:15) is only on Facebook as best I can tell. Here's the link:



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November 4, 2017

A religious revelation about polyamory

The first glimmer of my poly beliefs came when I was a very little boy. My mom told me that a neighbor, whose wife had died and gone to Heaven, had remarried. I puzzled to myself over a serious question. When they all finally met up in Heaven, which one would be the real wife, and which would be left cruelly and tragically alone? The only logical answer, I concluded, was that they would all love each other together.

It was years before I realized that not just angels, but we poor humans, can sometimes make it work right here.

Poly relationship counselor Page Turner, who runs the Poly.Land website and wrote her fictionalized autobiography Poly Land, went with a partner to her grandfather's Catholic funeral. The priest who officiated was thinking like little me, and Page wonders why the religious are scared to think the next logical thought. She's a very good writer.

A Polyamorous Heaven: Funerals Don’t Come With Trigger Warnings

By Page Turner

I’m sitting up as straight as I can on the pew while my mother sobs on my left. Skyspook is on my right, his hands folded in his lap.

We’re sitting in the front row. My grandmother sits on the other side of my mother. All 5′ 10″ of her in a gray pantsuit. My grandmother doesn’t cry. Not that I can see anyway. Skyspook later tells me that he can see it in smaller expressions on her face. ...

Clyde Robinson / CC BY
...The priest delivers a sermon about Christ and eternal life, inviting us to pray for my grandfather’s soul so that he may be reunited with all his loved ones in heaven and that we, too, may join him and all others we love in the afterlife.

All others? I wonder suddenly.

Because, you see, this is my grandmother’s second time being widowed. ... Any heaven that they’re part of will be filled with multiple loves.

The pastor knows all of this. ... In that moment, it occurs to me that the heaven the pastor describes is rather polyamorous.

And thinking back on conversations I’ve had with others — some of them very religious — few to none have had a problem with widowed folks remarrying (provided at least a short grieving period had passed). They don’t think of this eventual reunion in heaven as awkward for all involved.

Meanwhile, nonmonogamy on Earth — especially the consensual, honest kind — is regarded by those same folks as the work of Satan.

...As the pastor blesses the sacramental bread and wine, I wonder why we consider what is standard in heaven to be so far beneath us here on Earth.

Read her whole, longer post (October 23, 2017).


On a related subject, an article on Loving More's site: Grief and Loss Among the Polys, by John Ullman.

...Those of us who have practiced polyamory through our lifetime must be grateful for the abundance of love in our lives. But having those wonderful other loves means we must accept a little more grieving as well. ...


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November 1, 2017

Thanks, folks! Mayim Bialik admits her errors about poly and open relationships

Actress Mayim Bialik is best known as the nerdy Amy Fowler on "The Big Bang Theory," one of the most-watched shows on television. Bialik runs a site called GrokNation where she expounds on various, often geeky topics. Back on June 4th she posted this video about open relationships and why she thought they couldn't work:

Summary: They can't work because she can't imagine it, and because pop-anthropology theories. So real-world observations of, well, us, don't matter. This while Bialik claims to think like a scientist.

You gave her quite an earful! One example, from Matthew Facciani (who's not poly): Three Reasons Why Mayim Bialik’s Video About Open Relationships Is Terrible

The video is a bit hard to follow because her points are all over the place, but she first starts arguing that ... because men continuously produce sperm, they are wired to have sex continuously. Conversely, women have to be more selective with their partners because they have one egg. ... To make all this worse, she tries to justify her argument by stating she is a scientist, but cites exactly zero scientific studies.

...Polyamory isn’t just about sex anyway. Ask any polyamorous person and they’ll tell you. Also, open relationships do not always mean someone is polyamorous, but she conflates the two terms....

Cunning Minx of Polyamory Weekly took it apart in her Episode 521: Responding to Mayim Bialik (June 19). She lists six naive fallacies that Bialik blunders into, such as, "4. If a lifestyle wouldn’t work for me, it couldn’t possibly work for anyone else."

And Joreth Innkeeper:

Please sit down and shut up. You're making educated white women look bad. Your biology is outdated, your sex and gender essentialism is outdated, your anthropology is outdated, your psychology is outdated, and your sex education is way outdated.

AND you make the same mistake as so many others before you of believing that, assuming even all your so-called "facts" were completely true, that humans stopped evolving millions of years ago around the point at which we split from apes and that our brains aren't incredibly plastic and highly susceptible to non-genetic influences like culture and higher-order thinking.

You're just so wrong on so many points that it would take me forever to correct you on each one. You're not just wrong, you're fractally wrong. Every single thing you said was wrong. ...

Bialik heard from so many people that she did something remarkable these days: She admitted that she was wrong. Rather thoroughly, and she quoted some of you. This video (Sept. 14) has had 644,000 views, compared to 374,000 for the older original.

This kerfuffle was recently overshadowed by a bigger one, when Bialik wrote an op-ed for the New York Times remarking that she escaped harassment in Hollywood because she looks plain by Hollywood standards and dresses and acts modestly. She took shit for inadvertent victim blaming, apologized poorly, then apologized a second time better.

She also seems to have come around, I think, regarding her embarrassing past as an anti-vaxxer.

So, here's some respect for a rare public figure who's willing to correct high-profile errors made in public. (But it might be better to get stuff right the first time.)