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

January 8, 2009

Poly and family in Esquire magazine

"It may have started with Big Love, which starts up again this month," writes Steven Marche in the January Esquire. He argues that pop culture's increasing fascination with family-structure weirdness "reveal[s] a change in the American home":

Tolstoy began Anna Karenina with the famous line, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Which sounds terrific but is bullshit when you think about it. Unhappy families are all booze and cheating and fighting about money — all the tiresome same. Happy families are the weird ones, all inside gestures and codes of their own, distinct ecologies of need and habit and desire, and the history of the American sitcom has been the gradual acceptance of this complicated truth....

...Not since the time of Utah's entry into the Union has the subject of plural marriage consumed so much psychic energy. "Big Love" begins its third season this month on HBO, David Ebershoff's "The 19th Wife" made fall's best-seller lists.... These pop-culture polygamists have something to sell — namely, the promise of one big happy family — and Americans are buying....

...It's no coincidence that the creators of "Big Love" and "The 19th Wife" are all gay — gay men know about illicit love and households with complicated sexual economies.

...That great bellwether of social change, The New York Times Styles section, recently devoted 1,200 words to the current popularity of polyamory, which shows that polygamy is legal de facto if not de jure. And look who's likely to show up at George Clooney's villa at Lake Como these days: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who've sworn off marriage until same-sex couples are guaranteed the same right, and Tilda Swinton, who sometimes lives with the 68-year-old father of her twins and a 30-year-old artist-actor. Martha Nussbaum, the leading feminist intellectual of our time, recently came out in favor of not just polygamy but the 19th-century Mormon model of polygamy. In a recent article for the Philadelphia Inquirer [May 22, 2008; text is here], she argued that polygamy is not inherently more patriarchal than monogamy....

...The fact that mainstream audiences respond to such blue-sky depictions proves that Americans are desperate to believe in a happy family again — any happy family. Far from declining under this revolution in who lives with whom, the American family is resurgent, even as it splinters into kaleidoscopically shifting arrangements of varying sizes and shapes and intensities. The Henricksons and the schlubs of "Two and a Half Men" are the happiest families on television not despite their confusing arrangements but exactly because they've opted out of the standard lifestyle....

I'll buy it. What originally attracted me to the idea of poly, way back when, wasn't the idea of sleeping with two girlfriends but having a big Robert Heinlein science-fiction family.

Read the whole article.

P.S.: Right in line with this idea is Terisa Greenan's poly sitcom on the web, "Family".


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Blogger Mab said...

"having a big Robert Heinlein science-fiction family."

I can relate to that; what draws me is something along those lines: feeling loved and giving loved to as many people as possible until I feel a surfeit of contentment. In an ideal world, I suppose.

January 08, 2009 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, Alan, you hit the nail on the head and you've linked to a great article.

January 09, 2009 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Families expand as consciousness expands. But I am so afraid of my husband's desire for poly that I just may conquer the last remaining storehouse of Western Cultural Brainwashing within me. I know why I am afraid - it's one too many seasons of the Cosby Show! LOL! We have all been dupped! Monogamy seems to be similar to television - used to keep peons in check! http://jujumama.wordpress.com

January 11, 2009 3:43 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

> But I am so afraid of my husband's
> desire for poly that I just may
> conquer the last remaining
> storehouse of Western Cultural
> Brainwashing within me.

Hi. I just have to comment on this. Maybe it's western cultural brainwashing -- or maybe polyamory just isn't right for you. And that's okay, there is nothing wrong with you. Don't let yourself be pressured into it by ideological bullshitting if your gut is saying this just ain't for you.

Best of luck,


January 12, 2009 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But then again, maybe monogamy is not really a choice in a society where it is virtually mandatory.

You can't "trust your gut" on everything. That is what racist employers do when they decide not to hire people of different races. They trust their gut.

On an issue as complex as this, I would encourage really debating the issue, as Kenya seems to be doing

January 14, 2009 7:45 PM  
Blogger jss said...

According to some Brit scholars ... polys live longer, too. ;-)


OK, so that's polygamous men ... but one can extrapolate? ;-)

January 19, 2009 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What originally attracted me to the idea of poly, way back when, was...having a big Robert Heinlein science-fiction family."

YES, this. ;p

My man and I are functionally mono, but we're open to the idea that we may someday meet "miss right [for us]"

Heinlein is certainly a driving factor. ;)

June 16, 2009 2:45 AM  

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