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

July 13, 2012

Showtime's Polyamory series begins: Impressions.

Update July 18: If you don't get Showtime, you may be able to watch the show (for now) by searching YouTube for the phrase "Polyamory: Married and Dating". This may also work for Episode 2, which airs tomorrow night July 19 (and which I'll miss -- I'm away from TV and fast internet.)


So I just watched Episode 1 of Showtime's new reality series Polyamory: Married and Dating. We follow two families: the triad of Lindsey, Anthony (who are married) and Vanessa, and the quad of Kamala and Michael (married with 5-year-old Devin) and Tahl and Jennifer (also married; on the left in the photo above). Both groups are deeply in love and have been together long enough to have settled into their patterns and ways; we're seeing them long after the get-together stage.

First reactions:

-- Sigh of relief. The show is just as good, nonexploitive, and real as the trailers led us to hope.

-- There sure are a lot of soft-core group sex scenes. They're portrayed sweetly and briefly but frankly, as part of the ongoing relationships and discussions that are happening among everybody and as genuine expressions of shared love and playfulness — as Kamala has been telling her fan base in the last couple weeks.

-- I was struck by how the group sex sometimes functioned as it does among bonobos — as a means to diffuse group tensions and reinforce bonds among the group. Yes, couples sometimes use sex this way too. But I felt I was watching something deep in our ancient nature.

Just when the show had gone on being lovey for so long that it was in danger of looking like propaganda for poly perfection, comes the conflict. The Lindsey-Vanessa-Anthony triad is rocked by Lindsey's admission that she has totally fallen for an outside guy, Krystoff, which she tells the others awfully late in the game. The triad has rules, and while I didn't hear anyone say "No surprises," that seems to be the biggest one she broke. Vanessa, in particular, is hurt and jealous about Lindsey almost ignoring her (they are in a bi relationship) while skyping and texting to Krystoff "constantly" in giggly NRE. Vanessa and Anthony ask Lindsey to take a break from Krystoff. She resists, and we see a cut to her telling the camera that she feels that her thing with Krystoff is big enough that "it's worth pissing my partners off a little for him."

But finally she agrees. They did, after all, set up a rule giving each other veto power. It was a tough family meeting — but it also looked like a model of honest layings-out of problems and resentments with respectful, open-hearted communication. Watch, people, this is how it's done. Oh, and it was followed by bonobo sex.

But we wonder, will Lindsey follow through? Where is this going to lead?

Meanwhile, We see Kamala and Michael making their big will-you-move-in-and-live-with-us? proposal to Jennifer and Tahl.

Kamala has predicted, correctly, that Tahl will be gung-ho and the questionable one will be Jen. Tahl has been telling Jen about wanting to live in community ever since they married, years ago; Jen has only recently come around to an interest in the idea. We watch another deep group family discussion, unrestrained in the saying of difficult things but with mutual heartfulness and civility. Jen explains that she fears a housing merger might mean she loses her level of daily connection with Tahl. (Cut to Jen telling the camera: "If you're not willing to do personal work, then polyamory is definitely not for you.")

And again, the holdout comes around. Jen agrees, and yes, the big move-in will happen.

But the issues are on the table, they're examining the elephant in the room under bright light (and it remains visible in their first day together in the new home), and we wonder what is coming next for these people. Aside from more bonobo sex.


And now, I am just about to leave the internet behind (almost) for ten days of exploring life-in-community and personal-work stuff myself at the Network for a New Culture's Summer Camp East, in the mountain wilds of West Virginia. So, please put your own impressions in the comments here and continue the discussion.

And, here's a Google News search that will show links to recent news coverage of the show, with the most recent first.

Here's one outsider's early review on a TV-programming website.

Here's the show's website. Click "About" for brief profiles of the seven characters, "Video" for clips including two from the second episode (where the Lindsey drama indeed escalates), and "Ways to Watch" for the first week's rerun schedule and on-demand purchasing (which I haven't tried. How well does this work?)

There will be seven weekly episodes through August 23.

Critics with only a passing interest in the subject may call this first episode tame, as reality shows go (sex aside) — polys sit (or lie cuddling) and talk and process a whole lot. We knew that.

But almost never before have we watched it on television.

P.S. July 16: A columnist at the big conservative site Town Hall declares, after learning about the show (and this website), The Next Sexual Revolution Has Arrived. He does not sound like a happy camper. A lot of his commenters seem to be obsessed with animals.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure enough, that first reviewer in the link was distracted by the sex scenes, and then blamed the show for not being able to decide whether it was about relationships or soft-core porn. Sigh. Doesn't she know that real people in relationships HAVE sex? That it's ACTUALLY A PART of relationships??

July 13, 2012 2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I guess I've been doing polyamory wrong for the last 17 years; despite my having a husband of 13 years & boyfriend of 9 years, each of whom have another long-term relationship with other ladies (and I'm friends with both of them), and all of us occasionally dating others as well, none of us do group sex. We also don't have drama, or the level of angst that these people seem to nurture. Hey, and that could explain why we aren't starring in a "reality" tv show!

July 13, 2012 6:05 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

> But almost never before have we
> seen it on television.

If you're wondering when we've EVER seen it before, I was thinking of this:


July 13, 2012 7:55 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Exactly. I'd bet the majority of polys are hetero and have relationships one-on-one, but we make for crappy cable TV. Not that I don't think it's good that this is being aired. If they don't bring in anyone like us, however, I think that it will leave viewers with a skewed impression.

July 13, 2012 8:02 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Can this be viewed anywhere on the Net? We don't have cable.

July 13, 2012 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Jessica K said...

I think they did a good job at depicting the honest/raw issues that come out in polyamorous relationships. I'm looking forward to writing my own review after this weekend.

My main concern with the series so far is the veiled (and sometimes not so veiled) jabs at monogamy, as that may alienate some viewers. Right in the beginning there's 2 comments that stand out (forgot if it was Michael or Anthony that says them) - one about how monogamy destroys families and the other on how one of the characters sees polyamory as normal/natural and that monogamy is freaky. There's also a comment made in the Lindsey/Anthony/Vanessa arc about how Lindsey and Krystoff are off in their own "monogamous coccoon" (jealous response to the NRE).

So far the social media response to the series has ranged from positive to curious.

July 13, 2012 9:03 AM  
Blogger Skeeter Sanders said...

I have cable, but I don't subscribe to Showtime (I'm rarely at home long enough to bother spendig the extra $$$ to carry the premium channels). So I'm wondering, too, if this series is available fore viewing online (Hulu?).

July 13, 2012 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a happily married man in a triad with two women and I was cringing during the introduction that screamed group sex, not polyamory. I realize sex sells, but this cast from Cali certainly isn't representative of this segment of society. It seems to miss any concept of commitment or exclusivity as characters freely go out and pick up more partners. Living this alternative lifestyle means you are polyamorous, not promiscuous. Unfortunately this show looks headed towards doing this topic a disservice by failing to differentiate between the poly and swinger communities. I suppose our otherwise dull lives just don't make for good ratings though.

July 13, 2012 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Chai said...

I think the show is dreadful. The "soft core porn" is very off-putting. Inviting cameras into your intimate loving sexual relating...is not very "intimate" and looks a lot like poly-fuckery to me and many others. The drama... oh dear. I know it's a TV show, but this is nuts. It makes poly people look like candidates for the Jerry Springer Show. This will push polyAMORY back into the closet.

July 16, 2012 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was lucky and watch the show at the World Poly Conference... WITH all the stars and more of their 'pod'.

Getting to talk with Kamal/michael and all the others and here of how the NETWORK pushed the sex seines to the forefront and other interference by the network. But even so they did get to portray their relationships very accurately!!! In person, they are amazing!!! And oh so real! I just walked in the door from the conference, have lots to do and I'll post more later!

July 17, 2012 12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mean this comment to be cute, but I would have to say that
ANY INDIVIDUAL has his or her own closets. Isn't it about TIME we SToPPed thinking that anyway of structuring relationship is NORMAL. IF YOU THINK IT IS, JUST CHECK OUT FREUD'S CHILDHOOD WITH HIS FATHER!!!!
Then when you are done with that, consider some of the topics that Judith Levine mentions in her book,

It's not about the sex anymore, it really isn't. It's about love and how as a society we masturbate to millions of dollars of mindless, useless, soap operas that don't do anything but force the vast majority of a sex obsessed culture into mistrust and mindless oblivion.

I give the people in this show a HIGH FIVE!!! It is far from perfect, but in our society after the so-called sexual revolution and the "love revolution which hasn't happened yet" it's at least a step FORWARD!!!!

And yes, I am NOT A ROBOT.

July 17, 2012 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing soft-core porn is an excuse for titillation. Sex is about connection and relatedness not where you put the pee pee!!!!! GET IT!!!

July 17, 2012 5:37 PM  
Blogger Anita Wagner Illig said...

Oh my. It's amazing to me how much sex negativity still exists even in the poly world.

Let's be real here. Some poly people ARE promiscuous, and that's how they like it. Not my thing, but I know many, many people who engage in group sex who are also polyamorous. They are in committed day-to-day relationships with their poly partners AND they like having sex with other people, too. Sometimes relationships develop that way.

I'm rather philosophical about the sex in the series. I have no doubt that Showtime approached this as requiring it in order to engage the audience and to balance out the drama. Sex and drama is what sells, and it's the price we pay for free media exposure that our community would never pay for in a million years. It will enlighten a huge segment of the mainstream population and demonstrate that contrary to the status quo, there are legit alternatives to monogamy. It will certainly start a lot of discussions between people that might not happen otherwise. I dare say a lot of them will even think what they are seeing is beautiful and not gratuitous. I don't see it as gratuitous at all myself.

Chai said: "It makes poly people look like candidates for the Jerry Springer Show. This will push polyAMORY back into the closet."

As a media spokesperson I can promise you that this is not at all the case. First of all, have you ever actually WATCHED Jerry Springer? The people he brought on his show were a bunch of ignorant trash, and I think it does the people in this series, who have opened their very lives to the public, a great disservice to compare them to Springer's "guests".

And the very idea that the poly world, as big as it is today, is going to tuck its tail between its legs and run back into the closet is absurd. The poly world I know and move about in looks nothing like that, and I move in very large circles and from coast to coast. So let's not let our fears cause us to go all Chicken Little on everybody.

Jessica, I agree about the negative comments about monogamy. In fact, I absolutely cringed at them. Anthony was definitely the guy saying all that shit. Would have loved to have been able to offer some coaching to these people so they didn't even inadvertently say things that are unnecessary and damaging. Smugly alienating people is not going to help us find acceptance. As far as I'm concerned it isn't the sex that will damage our image nearly so much as the hostile messaging about monogamy.

July 18, 2012 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I began to watch because I wanted to learn more about the culture, perspectives and lifestyle of polys. The sex scenes really got in the way of that. I don't think this is going to be a good way to educate and inform others. /c: bummer.

July 18, 2012 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monogamy is just as diversified as the term polyamory. Monogamy's main objective is the commitment of the primary couple - with the implication of sexual exclusivity. However, we if applied absolute sexual fidelity to the spouses of a monogamous relationship, the majority of "monogamous" relationships currently and from the past, would not meet the narrow definition of monogamy. Every time a spouse had sex with someone outside the marriage, then the relationship is no longer considered monogamous? - then few relationships from the past would meet this criteria.
Therefore, people in monogamous relationships - even with the best of intentions at sexual exclusivity - sometimes have sex with someone outside the relationship and this would not alter the relationship status to poly-amorous. There are also couples who practice various forms of "Open marriage" or open monogamy, where monogamy applies to the committed relationship emotionally and responsibility wise. Some practice "don't ask, don't tell," but practice safe sex, do not procreate with someone else and do not let it interfere with the primary relationship and related responsibilities (generally limiting it to sex).
I saw the show, and found both relationships more stifling than monogamy with all the rules. In the triad, they all have to give permission to the relationship?

July 21, 2012 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Dawn Davidson said...

"In the triad, they all have to give permission to the [new] relationship" -- YES, if that's what their agreements are! Some polyamorous relationships are just as structured as monogamous relationships, but with more people. You wouldn't assume that a "monogamous" couple would allow outside relationships without consulting with the other, right? This would be similar. Of course, there are MANY ways to "do" poly: Some have very different structures, or no written agreements at all. Some aren't couple or triad based. Some are networks, some are tribes, some are multiple closed (or open) marriages. Lots of different ways to do poly, and this show covers just two, and they're pretty closely related versions at that. Still, it's a good start....

July 23, 2012 9:46 PM  

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