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