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

September 6, 2021

Polyamory life stories newly in the media

●  Erez Benari is an enthusiastic poly activist, highly accomplished in the tech industry and a former stand-up comedian. He was instrumental in getting poly domestic partnerships formally recognized for the 182,000 employees of Microsoft and, more recently, for the 18,000 employees of Nvidia. We'll be hearing more about him; he's in plans for an upcoming project that will benefit the poly movement as a whole. News coming fairly soon.

Meanwhile the Bellevue Chronicle, of Bellevue next to Seattle, just ran a long profile of his lifelong journey into polyamory, and his discovery of the word and the movement by way of Seattle's Center for Sex Positive Culture: Erez’s Journey to a Polyamorous Lifestyle (Sept. 3).

By Elizabeth Katona

Growing up as an outcast in Israel and showing no interest in traditional “boy” activities like sports and guns, Erez Benari preferred the company of the fictional characters he read about in science fiction novels to his classmates. ... Battling with self-esteem issues and living with neglectful parents, Erez found comfort in frequenting his local library, where he discovered and devoured any book written by [science fiction] author Robert Heinlein.... As Erez grew into a teenager in a society dominated by monogamistic values, Heinlein’s ideas shaped Erez’s personality and he began to embrace the notion that love is not something that should be limited to one person.

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. – Robert Heinlein

Commentary here by me: These days you find few polyfolks who were set on their path by Heinlein, but a generation ago they formed a significant part of the then-tiny movement. Heinlein's seminal book launching poly ideas into the science-fiction world was Stranger in a Strange Land, mostly written in the 1950s and published in 1961. The book has aged poorly IMO, with its casual sexism and its wildly wrong science-fiction assumptions about the late 20th century. Nor was it ever useful as a model for real-world poly among humans; its group of multi-loving initiates rely for nearly everything on magic psychic superpowers learned from Martians. But the central ideas in Stranger seized the hearts of countless readers, including me at 17, with almost religious conversions, and it became one of the books credited with making the Sixties happen — to the extent that in 2012, the Library of Congress included it in an exhibition of Books That Shaped America. See my 2010 article Polyamory, Robert Heinlein, and his definitive new biography.

In his late teens, Erez conformed to society’s monogamist notions, dating only one person at a time and entering a relationship where he would feel unfulfilled, but too shy to disrupt the social norms, until he met Dalit. ... His relationship with Dalit helped him to explore the world of non-monogamy and open relationships outside of what he read in Heinlein’s books. This exploration also allowed him to look internally at his own values and the type of relationships he wanted in life.

During his relationship with Dalit, Erez had already been forming a friendship with the woman who would later become his wife. ... Several years into the marriage, Erez met and became close friends with a lesbian woman. She introduced Erez to the world of LGBTQ and the spectrum of sexuality. It was then that Erez realized he was likely bisexual.

...[Later after they moved to America] he found an event called “Kink Lab”. ... During [an] event, Erez was able to get to know other participants, and many of them would speak to him or each other about visiting the “CSPC”.... Erez looked up what the “CSPC” was, and found that it’s short for The Center for Sex Positive Culture, a non-profit organization that has a club in Seattle.

...To Erez, the CSPC felt like home; a place where for the first time in his life he could feel free in his element, interact and talk with people in the community about any topic, and explore himself and his desires safely. His regular attendance at the club over the next year was filled with non-sexual group cuddle sessions and socializing with others in the community about the different types of relationships they had with each other and outside the CSPC.

In 2016, at the age of 42, Erez Benari finally begun to explore the possibility of having polyamorous relationships.

Another profile of Benari in the area, focusing on how his wife left him after deciding she wanted monogamy: Dissolution of Marriage Opens the Road to a New Life (Northwest Magazine, Sept. 7). 

●  Perhaps your relatives were watching a few days ago when local TV news programs around the country (for example ABC News 7 in Denver and CBS 6 News in Richmond, Virginia) aired this four-minute report: Study finds consensual non-monogamy is more common than people realize (Sept. 1).

It mostly centers on a happy FFM closed triad. Yes, the stereotyped couple-finds-bi-woman triad sometimes works out just fine for everyone — if all of them are right for it, and if all of them go into it clear-eyed and know what they are doing, the unicorn especially. Watch here:

This is from the accompanying article, mostly a transcript of the video:

Reported by Elizabeth Ruiz
Aaron Meir, Rachael Meir, and Kasey Kershner are in a closed poly triad. The Meirs are married and Kershner is their girlfriend. They call themselves Triad and True on social media. The three of them have been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship for more than two years.

“A triad specifically is three people who are in a relationship where we are all connected," Kershner said. "So we each have relationships in addition to our relationship altogether.”

Rachel, Kasey, Aaron

The three are exclusive with each other, which is why they call themselves a "closed poly triad."

Their story starts with the Meirs who got married 14 years ago. They say they had a very happy and healthy relationship. However, Rachael is bisexual, so they decided to search for another partner.

“If there was any void or anything that was missing, it was simply because Aaron isn’t a girl," Rachael said. "He can’t change that.”

They ultimately decided they wanted to have a deep, emotional connection with a third person in their relationship. They found Kershner on a dating app. After some serious conversations, they formed a triad.

“Rachael and I are very different people, and it’s great that Kasey is almost in the middle like from a day-to-day perspective," Aaron said. "Kasey and I love sports, Rachael hates sports, Rachael and Kasey like rom-coms, I don’t like rom-coms. It’s really nice to have that dynamic.”

Just recently, they started sharing their story with family, friends, and the world.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t get to see what relationships like ours look like because so many people hide it and it’s all very behind closed doors, smoke and mirror type of things, and it really is so much more common than people know,” Kershner said.

Researchers conducted a study to find out how common it really is. Dr. Amy Moors is a co-chair on the Committee of Consensual Non-Monogamy with the American Psychological Association.

“In this study, we found that about one out of five people in the U.S. have engaged in a consensually non-monogamous relationship at some point during their life," Dr. Moors said. "And to help put that into perspective, that’s as common as how many people own a cat in the U.S.”

Dr. Moors says her study found that one in 20 people in current relationships are engaged in a non-monogamous relationship, and one out of nine people say a non-monogamous relationship would be ideal for them.

“People engaged in consensually non-monogamous relationships [often] have really satisfying and committed and trusting relationships," Dr. Moors said. "Yet people believe that they don’t so that’s part of why the stigma is so robust surrounding these relationships.”

Kershner says she experienced the negative mental health impacts of being secretive about their triad until they finally came out. ... Now, the three say they feel a sense of relief being their true, authentic selves and they’re able to cast the hatred and misunderstandings from other people aside.

“There are fears around ‘Kasey’s 10 years younger, is she just going to replace me, is Aaron just ready for something new, is she going to come to take our money... and we’re just very open to say ‘Those are all fair, legitimate, valid questions and no, we’re just three individuals created a unique, different, non-traditional lifestyle because we have different sets of interests or different wants,” Rachael said. ...

The study discussed in the report has no particularly new news for readers here. Its sample was large (= 3,438) and was derived from the US Census to be demographically representative, but it was limited to single people. And unfortunately, the questionnaire for the subjects defined polyamory as being "in a committed, sexual and romantic relationship with multiple people at the same time" — inexplicably leaving out a key definition of all form of consensual non-monogamy, even as stated in the body of the paper itself: with the knowledge and consent of all partners. This lapse in the questionnaire muddies the results by including secret cheaters and livers of double lives.

I don't know all the research literature, but the best attempt I have seen to determine the prevalence of actual polyamory, as sharply defined in several different ways, is this one by Alicia Rubel and Tyler Burleigh. It used data gathered in 2013 but wasn't published until 2018. I'm sure the numbers in a 2021 repeat would be greater, especially the number of Americans who self-identify as poly by the standard full-knowledge-and-consent definition. Someone ought to replicate that study today (hopefully with a larger sample).

● In New York magazine's "The Cut," a time-of-covid quint didn't (spoiler here... ) survive the reopening that was afforded by them all getting vaxxed. I Dated My Entire Quarantine Pod (Sept. 3). "Our polyamorous fivesome kept me sane during the pandemic. Then the world opened up again."

By Rachel Cromidas

Plenty of other people developed pods, tight-knit groups of two to ten people who exclusively gathered together before there was a vaccine. But ours was different. Over the course of 2020, my pod became a committed, closed, polyamorous fivesome — a relationship structure that implies some exclusivity, like monogamy, except with more than two people involved. I don’t just mean a fivesome as in just sex between five people, but a full relationship, with agreements, expectations, and regular date nights that formed a protective shell against the apocalyptic world around us. It was as unlikely as anything else about 2020. ...

Read on

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September 1, 2021

Bearding cultural conservatives in their lair: Polyam activist Leanne Yau runs rings on "the UK's Fox News." And other developments.

Leanne Yau, a.k.a. Poly Philia, is a high-profile blogger and content creator energetically doing consensual-nonmonogamy education and peer support, drawing from her "life experience as a bisexual, autistic, Chinese, Gen Z, non-binary woman based in the UK." And, she's an Oxford Law graduate. Since launching her platform nine months ago it's gained almost 160,000 followers.

Last Thursday she posted,

Poly Philia logo
I'm appearing on national television tomorrow.

On the British equivalent of Fox News.

GB News is running a segment from 4-6 pm UK time called "The Afternoon Agenda by Alex Philips" and tomorrow's question is "are humans monogamous?". ... Alex Philips is pretty sex-negative and conservative (for context, in a previous episode, she compared consensual porn to violent sexual assault). ... I hope I will be able to hold my own and portray the community in as positive a light as I possibly can.

Is it a bad idea? Probably.

But do I like a challenge? Absolutely.

She floored 'em. She had lots of discussion points and explanations waiting at the ready and let them rip high-speed. Hostess Alex Philips (of Brexit Party fame) didn't even really try to tangle but just let her go. For 11½ minutes!

From the transcript

...I personally wouldn’t say that ALL humans aren’t monogamous. But I do think that more humans have the capacity or desire to be non-monogamous than they would like to admit. But obviously, because monogamy is the standard for society -- like your previous guest said, it’s put on a pedestal -- and alternatives lifestyles like swinging and polyamory and open relationships are so demonised, a lot of people don’t feel that they can express their true desires. So, a lot of them resort to being either in miserable monogamous relationships, or they resort to cheating. And obviously, that’s not great in either situation.

And basically, I started my platform to offer an ethical alternative. To say that we can preserve things like commitment, trust, communication, honesty, all these important values in relationships, but also be honest with each other that monogamy might not be the only way to achieve those things. So I’m encouraging people to have open and honest conversations with their partners about their desires.

...Polyamory is one path you could go down, but there are many types of non-monogamy. Polyamory is specifically the practice of multiple romantic relationships, but there are many non-monogamous relationships that involve one primary, romantic relationship and then multiple secondary, casual or purely sexual relationships. 

...Commitment, the idea of commitment and love, to me, isn’t the promise not to have sex with or not to fall in love with anyone else. Although, I accept that for other people, it can involve that. But I think a lot of people rely on the structure of a relationship to prove commitment instead of actually doing the meaningful work with them, emotionally, to be attuned to their partner. Commitment to me is trusting and communicating with someone consistently, making promises and following through on them, it’s caring about someone’s wellbeing, it’s being invested in their joy and happiness, showing up for them in times of need, celebrating their achievements…a lot of these things. And none of that actually requires monogamy.

....I think that while monogamy is obviously a very valid relationship style, it is not the default. It should not be the default, and I think that other people should start recognising that.

...Non-monogamy has taught me so many new things. I’ve been able to explore things with other people and be able to bring them back to my partner and enrich our relationship in turn. I think that also, seeing my partner with other people makes me happy! I think that I’m really invested in my partner’s happiness and wellbeing, and because I know that I may not be able to fulfill all of their emotional needs, I’m happy that they are getting what they want and desire from someone else! ...

Wow. See how it's done, folks.


In other news, 

●  Cosmopolitan just published an excellent, very basic Poly and ENM 101 worth passing to people who need it: What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy? (Aug. 31). Notably, it includes a section headed "What is the difference between ENM, polyamory, swinging, and an open relationship?". It may help reduce the catastrophic miscommunications that happen on dates these days when people misuse the word "polyamory" to mean different things and then think they're on the same wavelength. Oops.

The article is subheaded "For one thing, it's a relationship style becoming more popular than ever." That's the theme running through the rest of these items:

●  In Australia's Sydney Morning Herald and other papers of its chain: It takes three, baby: the rise of the throuple (Aug. 20)

By Madeleine Gray

These days, it’s difficult to capture the public imagination with something as simple as a kiss. ... A kiss between two people? Whatever. Between three? Colour me intrigued. Between chart-topping songstress Rita Ora, her boyfriend the Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi, and everyone’s favourite pansexual actress Tessa Thompson? I’ll bite. The internet gasps in delight.

...For Sydney-based sexuality and relationship coach Stephanie Rigg, a recent increase in visibility of the throuple (when all three people are intimately involved with each other, as in The Politician, say, or The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) is “symptomatic of a growing willingness to question the status quo when it comes to love, sex and relationships. We’re seeing more and more people pause before falling into traditional ‘default’ arrangements and asking themselves, ‘What do I actually want out of this?’ People are realising they can create their own rules in the relationship realm.” ...

●  So many polyam plotlines are popping up in TV series that I've stopped keeping track. But very often, they're handled poorly by writers and actors who don't seem to know what they're doing.

For instance, the Showtime series The L Word: Generation Q follows the fictional lives of a group of lesbian and bi women in Los Angeles. An AV Club reviewer writes, 'The L Word: Generation Q' bungles its polyamory storyline (Aug. 22)

By Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Generation Q has a poly problem. ... At some point between the last episode and this one [“Luck Be A Lady,” S2 E3], Alice agreed to open the relationship back up and let Nat explore polyamory. Instead of showing us that conversation—which could have touched on a lot of different aspects of polyamory/monogamy, jealousy, boundaries, and relationship structures—Generation Q just leaves it all unsaid and unseen.... Especially given how badly last episode bungled the conversation, with Nat throwing out casually biphobic remarks and Alice conflating polyamory with cheating... does Alice just not understand polyamory or do the writers not?

It’s like Generation Q wants to do a poly storyline without actually talking about polyamory. ... Generation Q doesn’t even come close to exploring what polyamory is or isn’t. And in fact, Nat and Alice are still barely talking to each other about it. ...

Meanwhile Neighbours, a long-running TV soap in Australia also aired in the UK, has been stirring buzz with a developing polyamory side-theme. In DigitalSpy, 'Neighbours' is attempting to normalise polyamory – but is the show's portrayal accurate? (Aug 26. Spoiler alert.)

By Emma Flint

...Despite there being a wait before the UK [audience] sees this threesome become official, the interest around the storyline is palpable.

Never one to shy away from embracing the rich tapestry of lifestyles, the decision to include polyamory isn't just a logical progression of the show, but a welcomed way of embracing inclusivity.

Nevertheless... questions about the accuracy of its polyamory portrayal are already being asked. ... The intricacies of this reveal have (mostly) been well received, and yet trepidation within the poly community still lurks.

The caution that some viewers are feeling comes from the element of persuasion seemingly involved with this development – both Levi and Amy aren't sure about taking this step, whereas Ned is all for it. Although it shows a discussion of options that are rarely seen, there's the issue that the two parties aren't as keen on the idea, yet still go ahead with it.

Levi, Ned, Amy

Partnered with this, you also have the uncertainty of why Ned is suggesting such a dynamic – does Ned genuinely think this relationship is right for them or is this about avoiding potential rejection?

Poly relationships aren't the black-and-white caricature that those outside of the community believe it is, they're valid experiences that have the same depth and complexities of monogamous relationships.

Unfortunately, many TV shows fail to translate this onto our screens, with most poly romances portrayed as confusing episodes of promiscuous fun. ...

To try to combat any stereotyping that may take place, Neighbours made sure to include its characters discussing the difference between thrupples (relationships with three people in them) and polyamory (desiring intimate relationships with more than one partner, but having the consent of all of them). By taking the time to explain this important distinction, the show is allowing its viewers to become familiar and more educated about what polyamory really is.

However, a brief discussion on the sofa about whether Amy, Ned, and Levi should give it a try isn't enough to truly set the groundwork for revolutionary inclusion. If Neighbours is to deliver accurate representation, then it needs to avoid opting for the all too easy conclusion of depicting polyamory as experimentation waiting to go wrong.

"TV shows often use poly as a salutary lesson, a weekly plot point, or a way to help characters strengthen their monogamous relationships," shares London-based polyamorous blogger Exhibit A.

"Someone will experiment with poly, it'll ultimately go wrong, and they'll realise that actually, they were happy with monogamy all along. That's annoying."...

If Neighbours is to really cement itself as being for diversity, then it needs to treat this developing storyline with the respect it deserves. Therefore, if Amy, Ned, and Levi ultimately fail as a relationship, there needs to be a nuance to the situation rather than relying on polyamory being the catalyst. ...

●  More bungling? Another poly-themed indie movie in the news: ‘Mark, Mary & Some Other People’ Review: A Sexy Polyamory Rom-Com That Only Fulfills Half Its Promise (IndieWire, June 10).

By Kate Erbland

...Just a few months into her union with a man she’s crazy about, a freaked-out Mary has an idea: They will open up their marriage! Mark is not exactly thrilled about the idea, but Mary pulls the strings, so off they go. In the film’s press notes, [the filmmaker Hannah] Marks notes that she’s not a practitioner of “ethical non-monogamy,” nor does she ever expect to be, but she knows many people who are, leaving her eager to make a film about this world that can fit alongside other classic rom-coms. ... Marks’ lack of lived experience shows at every turn.

As Mark and Mary try on polyamory, their predicament also makes for a canny stand-in for all sorts of relationship pitfalls and problems. Their earliest experiences are bad, sexy, silly, funny, snappy, and weird, and Marks mines them for some very relatable emotions. That doesn’t do much for the polyamory aspect, which comes to feel like just another random problem thrown into the mix of an otherwise standard-issue relationship. Soon, the couple is engaging in a series of one-upmanships that mostly feel engineered to ruin their lives....

Variety's review: A Spry Rom-Com About Monogamy (Aug. 29)

By Nick Schager

...Having just committed to arm-tattoos of each other’s names in hearts, Mark isn’t eager to share his wife with others. Yet after setting basic ground rules designed to protect their bedrock union, they embark on a nightly barrage of carnal encounters. It’s no surprise that this scenario is headed for disaster, and that said calamity will come equipped with a twist, but Rosenfield and Law are such a likable duo — he clownish and earnest in equally uninhibited fashion, she brazen and fierce with an underlying sweetness — that the film remains amusing and spry even as it coasts along a path that will feel familiar to most rom-com fans, and especially to anyone who’s seen 1994’s “Threesome” or HBO’s documentary from earlier this year, “There Is No ‘I’ in Threesome.” ...

●  Good Trouble, now in its third season, is a hit TV series on the Freeform network about two young black women making a new life in LA. Just out from ABC radio news: Good Trouble's Zuri Adele talks polyamory and how her character has evolved (Sept. 1)

Zuri Adele
By now it’s no surprise to Good Trouble fans that Malika, played by the talented Zuri Adele, is on a journey of exploring her sexuality, namely polyamory. The topic is one that Adele told ABC Audio she was excited to learn about and credits the writers for helping tackle it respectively. 

“We have some great experts who are in the writer’s room and able to chime in and give a lot of insight on polyamorous practices and, you know, proper vocabulary,” she shared. “And, also just normalizing and humanizing and making sure that we’re not fetishizing or stigmatizing polyamory in any way.” ...

●  A Yahoo News story uses the Good Trouble plotline to look a little further, in Freeform’s ‘Good Trouble’ explores polyamory in Black relationships (Sept. 1)

...Outside of the realm of television there are thriving Black polyamorous communities. Houston Texas residents Devon and Danielle Stokes-White are the founders of Black Poly Nation, an organization of roughly 34,000 members. “Black Poly Nation is the largest organization of its kind that has ever existed,” according to Devon White. The Whites started the organization two years ago out of a need to belong to a community.

“When we were introduced to polyamory it was hard to find any sense of community especially in our area so that was one of the motivating factors for us going full steam in creating a community for other likeminded people,” Stokes-White added.

As a couple they are leaders in creating a space for other polyamorous people where they can explore and learn from one another. “We spend a lot of our time creating content for the Black polyamorous community,” said Devon White. They welcome the idea that shows in the mainstream are creating a space where representation and conversation around topics that are often considered taboo can be explored. “The community that we have built is really great because you have built-in friends who understand how you are feeling,” said Stokes-White.

●  And a warning story from GO Mag ("the cultural roadmap for [queer] city girls everywhere"): Am I Doing Polyamory Wrong Or Is It Just Not Right For Me?  (Feb. 2)

Jealousy in polyamory is a common concern. How your own unique heart navigates it may determine whether polyamory is a good choice for you. 

By Chelsey Burden

If you’re in a queer dating scene, you may have noticed that polyamory is becoming more popular. (I’m using polyamory as a catchall for any kind of consensual non-monogamy.)  While obviously monogamy is still dominant in mainstream society, some people report that in their subcultures, like say, certain queer dating scenes, the pendulum has swung and polyamory feels like not just an option but the new expectation. 

With that comes a lot of us navigating new territory, maybe asking questions we’ve never asked of ourselves before. What relationship style do I prefer? Is polyamory something everyone is capable of adapting to? Does struggling with polyamory mean I’m doing it wrong or that it just isn’t right for me? 

For some people, polyamory has helped them get in touch with and communicate what they need. For others, trying polyamory helped them learn that what they need is, well, monogamy. 

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August 25, 2021

Poly-themed movie 'Ma Belle, Ma Beauty' opens in theaters. "How polyamorous people are dating again after vaccination." And other polyamory in the news

●  Remember the early press last winter about the indie movie Ma Belle, My Beauty? It just opened in theaters in the US and is getting some notice in major media.

– Here are excerpts from the long, positive writeup on the NBC News site, in its NBC Out section: 'Ma Belle, My Beauty' brings queer polyamory to the big screen (Aug. 19)

By Max Gao

...[Filmmaker Marion Hill's] “Ma Belle, My Beauty” — which won the Audience Award in the NEXT category at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and premieres in theaters Friday (Aug. 20, 2021) — follows Bertie (Idella Johnson) and Lane (Hannah Pepper), two formerly polyamorous lovers who reunite for the first time in years at the insistence of Bertie’s husband, Fred (Lucien Guignard).

Bertie and Lane

Two years after Lane gratuitously disappeared from their lives in New Orleans, Bertie and Fred have gotten married and moved to Fred’s family home in the French countryside. ...Fred decides to enlist Lane’s help to get Bertie out of a creative and emotional rut. But when Bertie refuses to buy into Lane’s attempts to re-create their old carefree dynamic, Lane begins seeing a stunning Israeli ex-soldier named Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon), which quickly reignites dormant jealousies.

...Unlike traditional casting processes, in which writers or directors try to match actors with specific characters, Hill said that, while she had an outline for the story, she always intended to collaborate with actors to create characters that rang true to their own experiences. That meant “incorporating parts of their personality, their gender, their background, their race and culture into what was going on in the script,” she said.

[...Said Hill,] “The whole film is referring to this relationship they shared in the past and watching them kind of figure out how to be with each other now. They’re just in this room sharing the most powerful, intimate version of what they have, so that really influenced the lighting, and we wanted it to feel dark and almost chilling.”

In terms of blocking the scene, Hill said it was always important to emphasize the contrasting power and sexual dynamics between Bertie and Lane by showcasing “the subtleties of how their bodies are moving together, how they're speaking to each other, and seeing who is seeming really comfortable in what moment.” ...

“This is them in a vacuum, and there’s no one watching them,” she said. “That scene is our look into the depth of what they have, what they share.” ...

Hill said she also had to do some research about polyamory while she was writing the screenplay. ... “I think what was most eye-opening for me when I was learning about polyamory for the first time was how much of it is communication and is consent-based rather than sex-based,” she said. “I wanted to also kind of explore the beauty of polyamorous partnerships that might not be sexual, like the Fred and Lane relationship, which again comes out of tremendous trust and empathy and kind of the sense of family that, historically, we haven’t really seen when it comes to relationships involving more than two” people.

– And this review just appeared in the Washington Post (Aug. 24): This polyamorous romance, set in the South of France, captures the pleasures of late summer. The reviewer gives it only two stars out of four.

By Ann Hornaday

“Ma Belle, My Beauty” comes pre-drenched in the languid pleasures of late summer; for anyone looking for a respite from and a celebration of the season’s drowsiest dog days, it works a trick.

...Their band is scheduled for a European tour in just a few weeks, but Bertie has been avoiding rehearsals. In an attempt to jump-start her creative juices, Fred extends an invitation to Lane (Hannah Pepper), who was Bertie’s lover in a polyamorous — but decidedly mono-directional — relationship back in NOLA.

Mono-directional because, although Fred and Lane enjoy an easygoing friendship, it’s Bertie they both love. As the hot summer days wear on, the dynamics get dicier and more delicate, with Lane plainly longing to resuscitate what she and Bertie once had, Bertie harboring submerged yearnings and jealousies, and Fred — well, Fred’s just enjoying all the food, wine and music his community has to offer, with an occasional dip in the local river for refreshment.

At its best, “Ma Belle, My Beauty” perfectly captures the casually cosmopolitan rhythms of expat life at its most bohemian and low-key sybaritic. ... Reminiscent of the sun-kissed films of Eric Rohmer, “Ma Belle, My Beauty” is a movie best appreciated simply by sinking into its sensuous pleasures, rather than expecting narrative novelty or emotional fireworks.

Indeed, what story there is in “Ma Belle, My Beauty” turns out to be blandly conventional, despite its unconventional contours. The relaxation that Hill conveys so well eventually gives way to lethargy, as Bertie and Lane’s psychodrama plays itself out. Although Johnson and Pepper are terrific actors, Hill hasn’t given them much to portray as characters; the depths of their bond and betrayals are kept vexingly opaque.

Rather than a meditation on desire, “Ma Belle, My Beauty” becomes a portrait of how people simultaneously crave intimacy and keep each other at bay. Viewers may wish there were more to it, but what’s there is teasingly intriguing. “Ma Belle, My Beauty” may be a mere bagatelle, but it’s a diverting and attractive one.

Unrated. In English, French and Spanish with subtitles. Contains brief strong language, nudity and sexuality. 93 minutes.

– Trailer:

[Director ]Marion Hill ... feels stretched thin in the end product, and it’s the writing that ultimately suffers. The performances are wound tight and the setting is undeniably gorgeous, but Ma Belle, My Beauty feels uninterested in its characters’ motivations and their main source of conflict—how to manuever the complicated cogs of the polyamorous machine.

A Beautiful Depiction of Love in Its Many Variations

By Dan Skip Allen

I've been watching movies for quite a long time and I've seen a lot of films come out. Usually, you hear about great films because of word of mouth, but sometimes they slip under the radar. Ma Belle, My Beauty is one such film.

...[Marion] Hill demonstrates her ability to ramp up the tension throughout the film through various conversations of what the motivations between the women truly are. Why did certain people come back? To make up for previous mistakes or get into new relationships that tear down the previous ones? The dialogue works so well among all the cast. The actors can believe what they are saying. The passion that stems from it is incredible. 

This is one of the most realistic films about love and its many variations I've seen in years. ...

ScreenRant (Aug. 22):

Marion Hill Directs Delicate, Honest Romantic Drama

By Ferdosa Abdi

Director Marion Hill does a lot with a little to transport the audience to this place and to be with these characters through effective visual storytelling and sound design. It is as if Hill was a documentarian embedded amongst a lively community and just happened to have an interesting story unfold before her camera. ...

Hill does well to not force feed her audience the backstory for this throuple. Casual conversations between the characters reveal the three were in a polyamorous relationship — specifically, Bertie was dating Lane and Fred, who were not romantically involved with each other. Although Lane and Fred don’t ever get romantic and remain in a platonic friendship, there is mutual respect. For those who are unfamiliar with polyamory, this is perhaps the most straightforward depiction that doesn't try to justify any of these character’s choices or judges them.

...What’s beautiful about this film is the delicate and honest depiction of people grappling with their emotions and not necessarily going about their problems the “right” way. Many people are Bertie, bottling up tough emotions, withdrawing, and not seeking help. Many are Fred, outsourcing help, attempting to roll past any inconvenience with a smile on their face for the sake of those they care about. And many people are Lane, simply deflecting, running away, and being somewhat reckless with other people's feelings. ... This film is not just a love story, it’s a story about love.

The Daily Californian, the student newspaper of UC Berkeley (Sept. 1):

By  Chloe Forssell

One of the bigger disappointments in the film is the degree to which Hill misses the mark when it comes to the polyamorous relationship. Hill works so hard to create a script that doesn’t sensationalize a polyamorous relationship that the potential for deeper conflicts is zapped out of the narrative. There is no room for the relationship to breathe and no chance for nuances; this film could have broken ground, but instead, it fell flat. 

Hill herself says polyamory is “a world in which respect and communication and self-love are the driving force. Those are things people in all relationships should be thinking about more. For me, it’s expanded how I move through the world generally.”


On to some other poly in the media!

Dating multiple partners was hard enough before a pandemic. With vaccines in arms, the community is adjusting to its new normal.

Kasia Popova /Adobe

...Now, with vaccines in arms, the community is starting to feel safe enough to start dating again.

"This time last year, every visit with a partner was a complex calculation of risk and timing," says Praveen, a Bay Area polyamory veteran of five years.

"We had to book Airbnbs out in the country to navigate one of my partner's testing schedules as an essential worker."

...Partners had to ask themselves tough questions: Do we want to continue our relationship virtually? Should we break up? When can I kiss you again?

Trust [is] the name of the game.... Nearly everyone asked variations of "Are you vaccinated? Do you want to come over, or should we go for a walk?"

But in many ways, the poly community was better prepared for these conversations than most.

Conversations about STD transmission are commonplace between non-monogamous partners. The preventative measures that stop chlamydia from coming home applied well to COVID-19. Frequent testing, open conversations and non-judgmental disclosure are the cornerstone tools for keeping all partners healthy and safe.

"We had a situation for a while where we all got tested for COVID-19 about every other week.  My primary partner and I would go once every two weeks. Our partners were both getting tests weekly," said Eric.... "We never spent time out of one another's homes. We got to be intimate quickly because there literally was nothing else to do but watch Netflix and have sex. Now we actually go out to places, have social gatherings and introduce them to our friends."

...For many polyamorous people, the transition back to dating is as difficult as stopping in the first place. Partners express increased intensity in feelings of jealousy or anxiety after a long period without change.

"We're all trying to put the constellation of our relationships back together while still being mindful that most of us are different than we were a year ago," says Rachel, an Atlanta-based queer and polyamorous dater....

●  Someone who never imagined that poly relationships would work for her found herself in the middle of them working: I am in a polyamorous relationship with my boyfriend and his girlfriend (HuffPost, April 23, recently reprinted other places). 

I never planned on it, but it’s where I am, and more and more it feels like family.

Placebo365/ Getty
By Rebecca Jane Stokes

For the past two years, I have been the third member of a polycule ... a cute name for a network of people who are connected through their romantic partners in a polyamorous relationship. In our case, my boyfriend has a girlfriend. She is not my girlfriend, but we do get along really well.

When I started dating my boyfriend, I was on the rebound. ... His profile was direct. He was in a polyamorous relationship with his live-in girlfriend of eight years. That was something Becca the Serious Dater would have viewed as a dealbreaker. But Becca on the Rebound thought, “Eff it, we won’t be together long enough for any of that to even matter.” ...

The joke was on me: Rob and I connected in a real way, and we decided to give the relationship a shot. I learned really fast that to Rob ― and to any polyamorous person worth their salt ― openness and communication are key. To that end, it was important to Rob that I meet his other girlfriend pretty quickly. After about a week of dating, he invited us both out to dinner where we got to know each other.

I anticipated a weirdness like none I had ever known before … but it didn’t happen.

I kept telling myself that the second this felt strange or bad I was done. It’s a mindset I still keep, and I’m still waiting to feel like this is all too much for me. Feels like I’ll be waiting a while! ... I’m living the non-monogamous life, and to be honest, it’s pretty different from what I expected.

I like to describe non-monogamous living as an umbrella. That umbrella covers all sorts of people who engage in anything other than monogamous relationships: swingers, polyamorists, those in open marriages, those in open relationships and more.

...When I stay at his place, I sleep in the same bed with him and his other girlfriend. He’s in the middle (in utter heaven). We all think female-male-female threesomes are hot, and we do from time to time have sex all together, though it’s more common for us to have sex separately, if adjacently, to each other.

We are all allowed to date whomever we want to date. If we are going to have sex with someone with whom we aren’t in a committed relationship, condoms are a must. If we plan on beginning a relationship, we introduce that person into the dynamic relatively quickly ― it just works easier for us. ... This is the relationship that works best for me, and I’ll talk about this stuff to anyone who will listen. 

...I have to say that when I want to talk about my boyfriend, I feel exceptionally spoiled to have another woman I can turn to WHO TOTALLY GETS IT! AND HIM! ...

Notice how she called polyamory just one thing under the umbrella of consensual non-monogamy, alongside "swingers, those in open marriages, those in open relationships, and more."

Good for her. I'm a lifelong word person; since 1973 the world has paid me a good living to edit text to be more precise, clear, and incisive. So I was long concerned that as the polyamory movement grew and popularized, the meaning of "polyamory" could blur and come unmoored from our movement's powerful ideas, leaving no word to google them by.

I'm less worried now, because media new and old — under the watchful tutelage and corrections by so many of you! — have been trained to get the concepts right: if it's polyamory it's fully informed, fully consensual, ands carries an ethos of mutual respect and good will throughout a romantic network, at least as the ideal. Nowadays the media usually get this right by themselves.

●  For instance, Lifehacker is a popular site for everyday shortcuts and explanations: The Difference Between Polyamory, Swinging, and an Open Relationship (May 21)

By Sam Blum

...Polyamory “is a form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) with emotionally intimate relationships among multiple people that can also be sexual and/or romantic partners.”  The whole enterprise functions according to “shared agreements about sex and relationships” between the people [says ] Elisabeth Sheff...  “Dating as a polyamorous person means you’re not looking for just one person to share a romantic or sexual connection with.”  Obviously, this dynamic necessitates a lot of trust, communication, and consent between all parties. If jealousy starts to arise, which is understandable for most people, it’s likely to erode the trust necessary for such an arrangement to function, so experienced poly people in successful relationships become great at communicating what they want and need from everyone involved. ...

Open relationships are a bit different, in that the term usually applies to [less intertwined] sexual endeavors. ... Typically, open relationships function according to strict rules . ... 

Swinging typically involves a monogamous couple searching together for a sexual partner who isn’t involved in their relationship. ... Swinging can be a lifestyle unto itself. And in fact, many of its adherents refer to it as exactly that. ... While it definitely borrows some aspects from open relationships, swinging is purely transactional and, as a result, naturally thrives within its own particular communities.

“Swingers are typically heterosexual couples and individuals with a variety of forms of ‘swapping’ or exchanging partners.” ...

While all of these relationship categories are contingent upon the preferences of those involved, there’s one overarching theme uniting them: Trust. It’s imperative to be respectful and get the consent of everyone involved in any relationship, no matter how many people are involved. 


And some random bits:

●  Sign of the times: Investment News, for financial planning advisers, presents An Atlanta adviser takes pride in serving polyamorous clients overlooked by traditional planners (Aug. 13).

●  Sara Valta, Finnish cartoonist whom we have seen before, has started a weekly autobiographical Polyamory Comics about her communal vee. That link is to the English version, but she's got a book of them coming out in Finnish.

BTW, the Queer Comics Database has a polyamory tag, though it's often applied for flimsy reasons.

●  So it's not just me and mine! I ran across this from Page Turner of Poly.Land: Most of the Polyamorous People I Know Are Some Degree of Demisexual (Jan. 4).

● The British tabloids, as they churn out endless happy-polyfamily profiles, aren't always just spotlighting the young. A middle-aged and elderly triad (56, 45 and 69) got featured in the Daily Mail: Woman who lives with a polyamorous couple reveals she has a 'sex contract' that schedules sex with the man on set week nights, his girlfriend on a Friday and dates as a trio on Mondays. They're in Portland, Oregon:

Cliff, Melanie, Charity

And okay... for the record... here some of the many other tabloid profiles since my last batch. I've long since quit trying to keep track of them all.

–  Inside the fascinating life of California woman who raised a son with TWO live-in lesbian lovers in the early 1900s after marrying a man to get pregnant. A California man found a century-old family photo and investigated his unusual forebears. He said he "wanted to shed light on lesbian erasure in family histories."

That's it for now. Love to you all.

 Don't miss Polyamory in the News!



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August 13, 2021

At Harvard Law School: "Working to offer legal protections for people in polyamorous relationships"

Harvard Law Today

There's nothing like having your legal cause picked up at a world-renowned law school to bring attention to your nascent issue.

Remember SomervilleCambridge, and Arlington, Mass.? Each enacted laws within the last 14 months so that three or more people living in polyamorous and other multiple partnerships can get recognized as actual, legal domestic partners, with rights and benefits accruing thereto. It's a long way from group marriage, but hey.

Aiding the last two of those drives, and now aiding other local poly-rights efforts gathering steam around the United States, is PLAC, the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition.

PLAC was born late last year under the umbrella of the Harvard Law School's LGBTQA+ Advocacy Clinic. Its founders included the Clinic's own founder, Alexander Chen, Esq., along with some well-known figures in poly and queer chosen-family law: Kimberly Rhoten, Esq.; Heron Greenesmith, Esq.; Diana Adams, Esq.; Andy Izenson, Esq.; and Dr. Heath Schechinger, who co-chairs the American Psychological Association's Division 44 Committee on Consensual Non-Monogamy.

Pretty impressive crew. Details.

Now Harvard Law Today, an official Harvard Law School publication, has published this laudatory article with a lot of the background: Polyamory and the law. (Aug. 3)

Alexander Chen '15, director of the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic at HLS, is working with students to offer legal protections for people in polyamorous relationships.

Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash
By Elaine McArdle

Natasha Aggarwal LL.M. ’21 didn’t know much about polyamory until last spring, when she became a clinical student in the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. But after working at the clinic with the newly created Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, Aggarwal, a corporate lawyer from India who came to HLS last year to study feminist theory, says: “Now I feel very, very strongly about it.”

Natasha Aggarwal, class of 2021

“People have been fired from work because their boss discovered they were polyamorous,” says Aggarwal, who is continuing her work as a summer fellow in the clinic. “It’s a problem for health insurance, for living arrangements such as leases and deeds,” she says, naming “a few of the areas that need legal protection.”

Polyamory is a form of non-monogamous relationship involving more than two adult partners at the same time, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved, according to Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, also known as PLAC, which was established in the fall of 2020 by a psychologist and five lawyers focused on LGBTQ+ issues....

These types of relationships are becoming increasingly common, according to PLAC, which notes that 4 to 5 percent of people in the U.S. are in a consensual non-monogamous relationship. Polyamory stands out from other such relationships, PLAC explains, because polyamorists tend to be open to falling in love with more than one person. ...Yet... polyamorous relationships have few legal protections and people and families face discrimination in such basic needs as jobs, housing, and obtaining health insurance for more than one partner.

Formed as a coalition of academic and legal professionals, PLAC works to advance the civil and human rights of polyamorous people, communities, and families through legislative advocacy, public policy, and public education. Now, after years of stasis in the movement for rights, the past year has seen unprecedented success. ...

...PLAC worked on both the Cambridge and Arlington efforts, and is now working with advocates in California on domestic partnerships and non-discrimination legislation.

“After Somerville, there was a huge wave of excitement within the polyamorous community because there had been almost no movement in the political and legislative realms for a long time,” says Chen.

Alexander Chen, class of 2015

...But there’s much more work to be done, including advocating for non-discrimination laws at the state and federal levels, advocates say. “It’s pretty simple, I think,” says [Arlington Representative Town Meeting member Amos] Meeks, who has lived with two partners since 2018. “We’re a family, we care deeply about each other, we share expenses and live in the same household and share all the little aspects of life together, but that’s not recognized under existing laws in any way. There’s no recognition and there’s no protection.”

Last spring, PLAC held a media training for people and families in polyamorous relationships. “We had over 40 people attend from the community who were interested in telling their stories,” says Chen, and clinical students followed up by interviewing them and transcribing their stories. ... Polyamorous people are also “very worried about getting fired from their jobs. There are stories of people who put that they were open to non-monogamous relationships on an online dating app and it got back to their boss and they got fired.”

...Polyamory is not only an important frontier in the battle for civil and human rights, but the related legal issues offer an exceptional educational opportunity for HLS clinical students, says Chen. Since last fall, clinical students have worked with city attorneys’ offices in California and Massachusetts to advance polyamorous-friendly legislation, including laws that prohibit discrimination based on relationship structures. Aggarwal has done both advocacy and research for the project, including interviewing people “with very sad stories of discrimination.”

“Pedagogically, it is really interesting. I think students have really enjoyed [working on polyamory rights] for a couple of different reasons,” says Chen.... “For one thing, the legal issues are very novel so it’s very intellectually interesting.” In addition, because they are focused on municipalities, students are learning about different kinds of governance structures, and learning how to build coalitions as they work to get local laws passed. 

A core question for the clinic is imagining the future of LGBTQ+ advocacy, “and how we make sure our work remains relevant and exciting,” says Chen. As part of an academic research institution, “we are able to take on some things that are a little bit harder for some others to take on.”

...With a number of impact litigation cases as well as advocacy work, the clinic is growing rapidly. A new clinical instructor has been hired, and the clinic has expanded from six students in the spring to ten this coming fall. The PLAC project “is one of several projects we have that are blowing up,” says Chen, “so we’ll have plenty of work.”

Read the whole thing

●  Among the outlets quickly noticing this article was the bioethics site BioEdge: Harvard Law School promotes legal rights for polyamory (Aug. 7)

Harvard University is a greenhouse for thought-leaders. So an initiative promoting polyamory rights at Harvard Law School suggests that a new set of civil and human rights is in the making.

...[PLAC's] head, Alexander Chen, who was the first openly trans editor of the Harvard Law Review, told Harvard Law Today that empirical research supports polyamory. “This research shows that these types of relationships are not unhealthy for families and children and can be healthy and stable,” says Chen. ...

●  Also taking note were cultural conservative outlets, such as the Washington Examiner newspaper: Will Polyamory Be the Next 'Win' for Love? (Aug. 6)

We are just six years away from love’s last big win in the Supreme Court, and already love is on the warpath again.

...There is a lot of doubt about how much "love" really has to do with some people’s push for so-called “consensually nonmonogamous” relationships. First of all, it should be noted that of all “nonmonogamous” relationships, the vast majority of them, two-thirds, are nonconsensual. ...

So consensual multi-lovers who are all good with it are bad because non-consensual cheaters are bad even if actual consensual groups aren't cheating. Okayyy... Be prepared to engage with this kind of logic. It's not that hard.

 Don't miss Polyamory in the News!



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