Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

March 2, 2011

Charlie Sheen, Hollywood's polyamorous tiger-blood loony

If you haven't been watching the news in the last few days, you've missed the coverage of the spectacular trainwreck that is actor Charlie Sheen. Imagine a cokehead in the last stages of paranoid megalomania — he rages on TV that "My fangs are dripping tiger blood," calls himself a "high-priest Vatican assassin warlock" with "Adonis DNA," and accidentally jams a water bottle into his eye when he tries to wash his face on camera. He also claims he's drug-free now.

Sheen recently snatched his twin toddlers from his ex-wife. Fearing for their safety, yesterday she had police retrieve them. She claims he told her, "I will cut your head off, put it in a box and send it to your mom."

Sheen lives with two "goddesses" in what some of the media are correctly calling — oh dear — a polyamorous relationship.

Last night ABC's "20/20" had him on as a circus freak. From rival CBS News:

Charlie Sheen animatedly discussed his polyamorous living situation, his children and the cancellation of his CBS show "Two and a Half Men" on ABC's "20/20" Tuesday night.

Sheen's two live-in girlfriends, Natalie Kenly, a graphic designer, and Rachel Oberlin, a porn star, who he refers to as his "goddesses" also appeared on the program....

Read the whole article (March 2, 2011). Another bit: "I don't sleep," said Sheen. "I wait, I sleep on cars, on couches, I sleep when I can."

Here's a relatively sane interview with MSNBC that features him and the two women together at home. They portray themselves as what could pass for a decent poly household if you knew nothing more than this clip, such as that Sheen has a long history of assaulting women.

Here's more from Britain's Daily Mail about the head-cutting-off business (March 2, 2011). See all you want anywhere in the news today, where he's being compared to Muammar Gaddafi. (And take New York Magazine's quote quiz, It’s Time to Play ‘Sheen, Beck, or Qaddafi?’).

Yeah, as the word "polyamorous" goes mainstream, we can't help how it appears or who with, as I've feared starting three years ago. At least it's not appearing here much. But I'm nervous that this guy could do for us what Charles Manson did for hippies. (For instance, see newspaper cartoon.)

As I've argued, we can set ourselves apart from this kind of thing by stressing at every opportunity the thoughtfulness, consideration, respect, communication, self-knowledge, and goodwill that are required to make polyamory work well. And by setting good examples.

At least the world seems to be seeing this as a "coked-out celebrity loses it" story rather than about polyamory directly. Sheen himself is using the word "polygamy." And he's comparing himself to Hugh Hefner, never quite our role model.



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Anonymous Anonymous said...

He and Gadhafi are made-for-each-other buddies in a padded cell. Think of the movie!

March 02, 2011 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before we flip out here, I see you recognize this does fit the definition of "polyamorous." At least the "with the knowledge and consent of all concerned" part.

But the love part? Can a narcissistic lunatic be said to love at all? Are those two women in it for anything but the money and the ride? And the book deals they're going to get when this is over? Blehh.

March 02, 2011 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Marjorie the Medium said...

Looks like you're on the money about his coke head. The Daily Mail has this quote: 'I probably took more than anybody could survive... I was bangin' seven-gram rocks and finishing them because that's how I roll. I have one speed, one gear.'

And people used to say coke was harmless?

March 02, 2011 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Richard H said...

As with out and apolitical homosexuals, not every poly person is going to see themselves as a representative for some kind of movement; some people just wanna have sex with lots of people. As poly continues to break into the public consciousness, more (and more famous) experimenters are going to make the same cock-up of nonmonogamy as the rest of us got to do in our early poly careers, well and safely outside the spotlight.

Poly people are going to have to deal with the "commitment-phobic nympho" label in the same way that LGBT people deal with the "child molester" label. It's wrong, but unconsciously associating any non-heteronormative people with the nastiest of deviants is typically easier for than confronting patterns of possessiveness and control.

March 02, 2011 3:51 PM  
Blogger John Mason said...

Polyamory should NOT be connected with screwballs like Charlie Sheen OR Gadaffi.

March 02, 2011 10:16 PM  
Blogger Rathowyn said...

This isn't exactly desirable press coverage, no, but it does serve to outline one thing: polyamory is a state (or choice or orientation, call it what you will) that can appear ANYwhere. Even seriously screwed up people like Mr. Charles Sheen.

He's (presumably) heterosexual as well but I'm willing to bet while there are guys out there saying 'This guy makes us men look bad,' they're not saying, 'This guy makes heterosexuals look bad.'

He might be actually polyamorous. If he is, good on him. Hooray for Charlie Sheen. But the bigger issue with that man is certainly NOT his polyamorous relationship. Hopefully people won't forget to mention that.

March 02, 2011 10:38 PM  
Anonymous kendermouse said...

Yeah... just glad that the news on him is mostly dealing with his downward spiral, and not his relationships. The less we hear of him being poly, unless/until he gets his act together, the better, I say. In fact, I'm going to give my usual behavior of tweeting a link to the entries here a pass, for just that reason.

Also, I feel horribly for his poor children. (Seriously- what is it with bigger male names in Hollywood doing horrible things where their kids are concerned these last few years? Yeesh.)

Beyond that, can I say it makes me really sad, because he's one of those I grew up watching? Plus, this is all going down at the same time as the whole 'Corey Haim getting snubbed in the memorials' thing. I miss my 80's stars. T_T

March 03, 2011 2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Charlie Sheen lives a poly relationship. Good for him!

And with that, I'd like to raise a cautionary finger and say "let's watch it so we don't become too full of ourselves."
After all, what are we saying here, "we don't really want to acknowledge Charlie as poly, because we don't like him in general"? Why would we need to do a holier-than-thou act like that?

There's a part of what Alan writes regarding this that I think need commenting:

"As I've argued, we can set ourselves apart from this kind of thing by stressing at every opportunity the thoughtfulness, consideration, respect, communication, self-knowledge, and goodwill that are required to make polyamory work well. And by setting good examples."

I'd like to argue that this holds for any relationship form, not just polyamory, but also monoamory and what else there is.

March 03, 2011 3:21 AM  
Anonymous ok321go said...

Many of my friends on FB are calling it polygamous, not polyamorous. I'm pretty sure they're equating polygamy with "just in it for the power/money/sex". But then again, I don't live in the states and get all my media from the interwebs.

March 03, 2011 3:25 AM  
Anonymous Ivo said...

I'm mostly happy with everybody calling it polygamy.

Legally and morally we're pretty vulnerable as a community and as individuals, so I would argue that it's not really (holier-than-thou) arrogance, but self-preservation and publicity awareness that makes us want to distance ourselves.

There are even more reasons, when you look at the details.

It seems like this relationship really is polygamy. Given a choice of definitions, it doesn't match well with polyamory, at least on the important quality of egalitarianism. At no point did I get the impression that Charlie is sharing the ladies with anyone.

Rachel, a bisexual porn star who is committed enough to consider marrying him, says that a man (not a person) "...should be able to be with as many women as he likes".

The other girl is Natalie, who Sheen very recently paid $30,000 to spend time with him. Now, at 24, she's hanging around a Fricking Rock Star from Mars and his hot girlfriend in a palace of a house, probably having a pretty good time. In interviews she defends the arrangement but doesn't sound confident about her status there. I think when the heat rises she might bolt.

By its umbrella term definition, this may be polyamory. But by lacking gender equality, self-determination, free choice for all involved and equal respect among partners, this is more like traditional polygamy. Enter the payment to Natalie, and we have a Hollywood half-porn half-nut couple who hired a prostitute for a little fun and companionship.

March 03, 2011 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My intial response was "NO! THIS IS BAD!" But I've calmed myself down for reasons Richard H and richard described above.

I saw this

And, really, if it wasn't "Charlie Sheen" and "former porn star Bree Olsen," I would think these people are saying constructive things.

March 03, 2011 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There can be poly lunatics and poly violent people. Can't pick and choose. :)

March 04, 2011 1:26 AM  
Blogger Anita Wagner Illig said...

Richard said "And with that, I'd like to raise a cautionary finger and say 'let's watch it so we don't become too full of ourselves.' After all, what are we saying here, 'we don't really want to acknowledge Charlie as poly, because we don't like him in general'? Why would we need to do a holier-than-thou act like that?"

I didn't hear anything like that in what Alan wrote. Of course, I've had the pleasure of knowing him personally for some years now. If you happened to know Alan, too, you would have the pleasure of knowing just how savvy he is on exactly such issues. He is a voice for both justice and reason, always inclusive.

Alan also knows a lot about this poly in the media stuff, and I agree with him that considering what a troubled guy Sheen really is, which is clear from his speech, he is the last person we would choose to make a great first impression and be an effective poly poster boy.

March 04, 2011 2:02 PM  
Anonymous GoddessofJava said...

Rotten monogamous marriages and reprehensible spouses aren't NOT monogamous because the people are misbehaving.

March 04, 2011 5:53 PM  
Anonymous t in pdx said...

I'm not thrilled by Sheen being called poly, but I don't see a heck of a lot of harm coming from it in the long term. The dude is self destructing and most people seem focused on the self destruction vs. the specifics of his sex life. In his case poly just isn't a particularly descriptive term. It seems like he has two women he's sleeping with, I don't see much about mutual love, respect or understanding.

To me poly implies a degree of egalitarian stability that seems to be lacking, but I don't know the people involved or what they have going. So, Sheen and Co. might be poly in letter, but perhaps not in spirit. And frankly, as long as it's all consensual and there is no more domestic violence I don't really care what is happening.

What I'd really love to see is a positive, sane, coherent celebrity touting their functional, sane relationship. Not sure if and when this will happen. Mainstream press could be very good for the poly movement if it can find people to raise the profile while looking like a family any grand mother would love.

With Sheen, poly or not, it's just a reminder why you 'don't stick it in the crazy' (in a gender/orientation neutral sense and all that) poly or not.

March 07, 2011 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Dawn Davidson said...

"What I'd really love to see is a positive, sane, coherent celebrity touting their functional, sane relationship. Not sure if and when this will happen."

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett have a functional, sane, and polyamorous/open relationship. Anita Wagner blogged about it a while back in this article:

In general, though, functional relationships don't make news. Dysfunctional ones do. No one stares at cars that are on the road, proceeding at the speed limit and abiding by all laws. We stare at the ones that are a flaming wreck. Same with relationships.

March 07, 2011 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Ivo said...

This is too somber of a thread.

Q: Exactly how much cocaine did Charlie Sheen consume?

A: Enough to kill two and a half men!!!

Thank you Deni for that one.

March 08, 2011 12:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would like to interject a thought on this matter. I don't seen this as Charlie Sheen's polyamory that is on trial. I see a VERY mental ill and addicted human who is polyamorous. I think evidence of his polyamory is historical. He was rarely monogamous with the knowledge of those he was married to. I see this as two things happening simultaneously--1. Polyamory is being used as yet another deviant lens through which to view Sheen and 2. Mental health and addiction are not being taken seriously enough here or by the actor himself. If Sheen came out as only polyamorous with no further intersecting deviancies, he would be cast in a similar light as fellow non-monogamists, Polygamists (though I claim no affiliation or correspondence of belief with the religiosity of the aforementioned group). He would be seen as deviant for his sexuality, not for his flagrant addiction fueled appearances on television.

Be careful not to conflate polyamory with other social forces so as not to perpetuate polyamory as a lifestyle that only caters to those who are afflicted. We are a community of all kinds. Let's make sure this man receives proper treatment (and, this can only be done by Sheen admitting that he, indeed, is addicted--in short, he needs to want to be clean) and let polyamory continue to be a safe-space for non-monagamists of various sorts.

March 08, 2011 12:46 PM  

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