Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

October 29, 2017

Spike Lee's new "polyamorous, pansexual" Netflix series, "She's Gotta Have It"

Remember Spike Lee's movie She's Gotta Have It from 1986? Nola Darling, free and independent, juggled three male lovers; each was jealous of the others and wanted her all for himself. She finally gave up her lifestyle, chose one like she was supposed to, then announced she'd be celibate, and that didn't work either. Not exactly a poly-themed flick.

Now Lee is bringing Nola back in a Netflix series with the same name. It releases on Thanksgiving Day (November 23). Nola, played this time by DeWanda Wise, has the same three guys. The movie launched Lee's career; will his approach to multi-relationshipping have evolved in the last 31 years?

This series is going to affect us, because its publicity uses our identity and language front and center. “As a sex-positive, polyamorous pansexual,” Nola declares in the short promo below, “monogamy never even seemed like a remote possibility.”

Here's the full trailer they took that from:

She's certainly self-assured. “I’m not a freak, I’m not a sex addict, and I’m damn sure nobody’s property.”

We're also introduced to the three very different men:

This will be interesting — maybe a great solopoly representation, maybe a problem where we'll have to correct a public misuse of our defining term, maybe something else. More to come.


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October 23, 2017

Marston movie wins more poly plaudits, sinks at box office; director and angry granddaughter face off in print

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women continues to get good notices, especially from the polyamory world, even as attendance sinks after a poor opening week. Perhaps one problem was that four other biopics opened the same week, based on characters from Thurgood Marshall to Winnie the Pooh. This week Marston is showing in 959 theaters compared to 1,229 when it opened. Go see it while you can. You really don't want to miss this.

Vice discusses how thoughtfully and respectfully the movie treats a poly relationship compared to every other cinema treatment before now:

'Professor Marston' Is a Trailblazer for Polyamory in Film (Oct. 19):

By Jill Gutowitz

...It's not often the poly community sees themselves represented fairly on screen, but Professor Marston's message is clear: Polyamory is both sustainable and respectable.

..."I didn't necessarily come at it as, 'I want to tell a poly story,'" [director Angela] Robinson told me. "I wanted to tell a very organic love story between three people." Robinson said she's been surprised and warmed by the film's warm reception from polyamorous and queer critics, and agrees that she hasn't seen any other films that portray polyamory quite like Professor Marston does.

"I have never seen polyamory centered or treated with respect in a movie before ever in my life," Gaby Dunn told me. Dunn, a bisexual YouTuber and author (I Hate Everyone But You), has advocated for polyamory much of her adult life. "It was beautiful to see that yes, you can love more than one person, and have a family, and be happy."

It's more often that characters will use polyamory as a cheap plot device or for comic relief, with filmmakers asking the audience to laugh at a polyamorous character's misgivings rather than connect with them emotionally. Take the idea of a "hall pass," like in the 2011 film Hall Pass, or the 2017 film Permission, in which an open marriage is used as a device for the primary partners to come back to each other. Or Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) or Swinging With the Finkels (2011) which explore swinging. Films like these treat polyamory with the gravitas that television's Arrested Development gives to Lindsay and Tobias Fünke, who open their marriage and constantly sabotage each other (or themselves) in their search for casual sex....

Non-committal sex with multiple partners pops up throughout film history, especially in comedies, like Friends With Benefits (2011) and No Strings Attached (2011). The 2015 dramedy Sleeping With Other People follows a womanizer who meets his match in a serial cheater, but they ultimately find monogamy in each other. Communal living situations have been touched on, like in David Wain's Wanderlust (2012). However, the people of the commune are seen as freakish by the conventional protagonists, and the male character is shamed for his wandering mind and libido. And unlike A Home at the End of the World (2004), Professor Marston's poly relationship doesn't break due to jealousy.

...The few times when polyamory has been portrayed positively in film, it hasn't been placed front-and-center in quite the way it is in Professor Marston. Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) features a polyamorous triad that's balanced, respectful, and doesn't crumble due to monogamous covetousness — but it's not a driving plot. Conversely, Oliver Stone's Savages (2012) positions a polyamorous triad as the central focus, but the film was criticized by bloggers in the community for its nebulous, thoughtless view of multiple partner-relationships.

The most notable difference between Professor Marston & The Wonder Women and its predecessors is the role of the female gaze. While films like Savages and Vicky Cristina Barcelona feel voyeuristic and at times lewd, sex scenes in Professor Marston overflow with intimacy, sensuality and respect. This was intentional; Robinson told VICE that she focused on shooting the characters' faces and desires, rather than their body parts....

● Leigh Monson at BirthMoviesDeath.com adds Design for Living and 5 to 7 to the list of movie comparisons: Professor Marston And The Polyamorous Perspective (Oct. 12).

The Wonder Woman creator's biopic is an enormous milestone in representation. ... Non-monogamous relationships [have been] almost exclusively the purview of lying cheaters — which is not polyamory, that's just cheating — and bizarre weirdos meant to be an object of derision or comic relief. (The sexually aggressive swingers from Rough Night come to mind.)

● Sophie Cundall makes similar movie comparisons, adding to the list À Trois on y Va (released in English as All About Them): The Power of Three (Oct. 21).

● Joreth Innkeeper, in her series of Poly-ish Movie Reviews, sees a particular reflection in the movie of real poly life: Episode 29 – Professor Marston & The Wonder Women (Oct. 17):

The modern poly movement is largely considered to be a feminist movement. Most of its more vocal "leaders" are women and nonbinary people, with only a handful of cismale names attached to the shaping of our communities and our philosophies. ... When women find a community that embraces our sexuality and our relationship freedom, we choose multiple partnerships of our own. ... [When men] attempt to form harems through the poly community, they often find it backfiring on them, as the women discover themselves and their power through the love of other people and the supportive network that polyamory provides....

I felt this fact of the polyamory experience was paralleled in the movie itself. The movie title only names the man and implies the women, but throughout the movie, it is the women who drive the relationship. I feel that this is the experience of many women in the poly community — overlooked and dismissed by society as being accessories to the men's fantasy, but in reality being the driving force in their own relationships. Bill Marston, as the person with the most social power, gives the women the space to decide their fate, and make decisions they do. ...

● Here's an unusual negative review of the movie, in the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times: 'Victoria & Abdul' beats the heck out of 'Prof. Marston' (Oct. 18):

By Bruce C. Steele

...While "Victoria" combines nuggets of amazing historical truth and filmmaker creativity to create touching, funny encounters between people whom moviegoers quickly care about, "Marston" seems unable to figure out even what factoids might intrigue viewers.

It's even less able to give its fine cast any consistent, evolving people to play. The central threesome talk in cliches and make repeated snap decisions that seem to come from nowhere, only to contradict themselves minutes later.

"Marston" is structured according to the professor's DISC theory, dividing human behavior into Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance. But Marston is chiefly reminiscent of Greg Kinnear's crackpot motivational speaker from "Little Miss Sunshine" — all gimmick and no substance — so using his half-baked theory to guide the screenplay is forced and foolish. ...


Meanwhile, William and Elizabeth Marston's granddaughter Christie Marston continues to object to the movie portraying Elizabeth and Olive as a romantic couple, rather that just sisterly housemates sharing a husband. I've pointed out some of the reasons to think that this blander version is a real stretch; so has Wonder Women book author Noah Berlatsky.

Least convincing is Christie's memory that in their elderly years, Elizabeth and Olive didn't present as anything more than sisterly best friends living together. By then they would have spent decades acting that role, which would have been necessary in an era when homosexual relations were not only scandalous but a crime punishable by years in prison.

In fact, Elizabeth and Olive were extremely private about the nature of the household; they even kept the parentage of Olive's children secret from all the children long after they were grown. Biographer Jill Lepore reports that "[Olive] Byrne’s sons didn’t find out that Marston was their father until 1963 — when Holloway finally admitted it — and only after she extracted a promise that no one would raise the subject ever again." Elizabeth was 60 by that time.1

Elizabeth's son Pete (Christie Marston's father) told Lepore in 2014, "The whys and wherefores of the family arrangements were never discussed with the kids — ever."2

A few days ago the Hollywood Reporter gave Christie Marston and director Angela Robinson guest columns to state their viewpoints, published at the same time. This is Christie's most coherent presentation I've seen. The women's relationship aside, she clearly has the facts with her when she disputes the liberties Robinson took with details of how the Wonder Woman character was created. She also says that she's involved with another proposed treatment of the story that's currently being shopped around by a woman unnamed.

What 'Professor Marston' Misses About Wonder Woman's Origins (Guest Column)

...It was a rude surprise to see the film promoted as "the true story." The filmmakers had no contact with the family or people who knew them. When questioned about that, writer/director Angela Robinson said in an interview with Vulture, “It was a conscious choice because I really just wanted to have my own interpretation of the story.”

...The film depicts Elizabeth and Dots [Olive] as lovers, with William as a third party in their beds. It loosely, with no attention to fact, shows the Wonder Woman comic book being created based upon the threesome’s relationship.

There are two major areas which are wrongly presented; the relationship and Wonder Woman’s origin. While the imaginary of sexual relationships can be overlooked, the "alternative facts" presented about Wonder Woman’s origin are simply unacceptable. ...

...The relationship

Robinson's basis for turning my grandmother and Dots into lovers may be that they continued to live together after William's death. The reality of the matter was that there really were not a lot of options at that immediate point in time. There were kids to feed and bills to pay. Gram worked while Dots directed the four kids. After the kids were out of the house, the two women chose to share a household. They were best friends, so close as to be sisters.

For those assuming that a grandchild could or would not know anything about their grandmother’s sex life, I should explain that my knowledge of my grandmother is not as a child, but as an adult. Mine is not the viewpoint of a small child with a sweet old lady grandmother. We had a very close relationship. Gram’s three or four week visits several times a year gave us plenty of time to discuss all the woes of mankind. Silly societal taboos on sex and sexual preferences was a topic we covered thoroughly. Gram was very open minded, and conversed clearly and freely. Gram was a firm believer that people should do whatever they damned well pleased; the only stipulation being maturity and consent. Gram and Dots not only lacked that connectivity which couples have, but would have had no reason to hide.

As to arguments that the relationship as imagined by Robinson's film could possibly be true: I do agree that nobody can ever say what somebody else lived. I can never swear that she and Olive never connected sexually, but I can say with 99.99 percent certainty that they did not. It’s sad, really; it would have been a nice boon for them if they could have been lovers as well.

Something that I came to realize over the past few days in the wake of the new film is just how much interest people have in the Marston family. People have been asking me about the family for years, but it had never really hit me until now. There were so many fans disappointed to learn that the film was not true; they had planned on seeing it to find out more about the family and how Wonder Woman came to exist.

To all of the many who told me that I needed to get the true story out, I will say this: There is a project being pitched which I will endorse if it comes to fruition. It comes from many, many years of very extensive research by a woman of integrity. ...

Read the whole column (Oct. 20).

Robinson's statement:

'Professor Marston' Director on Finding the True Story of Wonder Woman's Creator (Guest Column)

I spent eight years bringing Professor Marston and the Wonder Women to the screen. The film is about the man who created Wonder Woman and the two women in his life that inspired one of the most iconic, incredible superheroes of our time. When I first learned of the story, it looked like it was a story of a man who had a wife and a mistress. Then I came across this one core sentence… Olive and Elizabeth lived together for 38 years after Marston died. That was the moment I realized I was writing a love story. Three people came together and formed a family. Marston drew inspiration out of his beautiful, complicated life.

My film is based on a true story. I conducted firsthand research for the film. I’ve read everything there is to read on the subject including all of William Moulton Marston’s writings. There are some known facts about Marston and his family. But like any work based on history, I took creative license to best tell the story from my own personal understanding and point of view.

I very much understand if the Marston family, friends or fans have issues with the liberties I took to craft this film. That is fair game. But I am alarmed that some of the intense focus of criticism is around my portrayal of Olive and Elizabeth as bisexual and their relationship with William Moulton Marston as polyamorous. I did not arrive at that conclusion in a vacuum. It is not “wishful thinking.” There is ample evidence to support this interpretation and many Wonder Woman scholars agree with me. As Noah Bertlatsky, writes in his article on my film: “Why have people been so reticent about acknowledging that Elizabeth and Olive were lovers, when Elizabeth and Olive were obviously lovers? In her 1990’s The Epistemology of the Closet, Eve Sedgwick argues that the refusal to admit that figures in the past were gay is part of the way the dominant culture represses and denies homosexuality.” At this very moment, issues of silence and shame are at the forefront of our cultural discussion, and it’s important to look at how silencing happens despite how good-intentioned the motives are behind the silencing. The character of Wonder Woman has been whitewashed at many points throughout her history, and from my vantage, there has been a systematic “whitewashing” of the Marstons’ queerness.

I made several attempts to contact Marston’s granddaughter, Christie Marston, both directly and through intermediaries, to screen the film and discuss it before it was released in theaters. She did not respond to my efforts to connect and to my knowledge has not seen the film. I have a lot of compassion for the family because it must be alienating to see people you love depicted on screen, but I proudly stand by my interpretation. ...

Read the whole column (Oct. 20).

Hopefully, with all the new interest in Wonder Woman and the remarkable family who birthed her, more materials may emerge that will settle the question of the women's actual relationship once and for all.

Update Nov. 1: More of William Marston's personal papers are becoming available. Harvard's Schlesinger Library has announced that it is sorting and preparing two collection of his papers recently donated by Olive's two sons. The library says it will make them available within the next few months. The library also says that additional papers are being donated by other members of his family (Harvard Gazette, Sept. 7, 2017).


1. Lepore gives another example of Elizabeth's compulsive closeting, even decades later, in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air" (Oct. 27, 2014). The subject here is Olive's signature wide bracelets, which became Wonder Woman's bullet deflectors. Says Lepore,

[William Marston] gave them to Olive Byrne in 1928.... And in the Family Circle magazine story from the 1940s, he says [to Olive], "You know, Wonder Woman's bracelets are based on yours." And so it's not like a disputed thing. But the funny thing is, even that, the family kind of erases — or Elizabeth Holloway erases, because decades later when she's asked about Wonder Woman's bracelets — this woman from Berkeley who's writing a PhD dissertation in the 1970s about Wonder Woman writes to Marston-Holloway and says, "Where did Wonder Woman get her bracelets?" — Holloway says "Oh, a student of Dr. Marston's used to wear them." Like, she's been living with Olive Byrne for decades at that point! They're really committed to keeping the family story a secret.

2. Lepore also notes,

In 1926, Olive Byrne, then twenty-two, moved in with Marston and Holloway; they lived as a threesome, “with love making for all,” as Holloway later said. Olive Byrne is the mother of two of Marston’s four children; the children had three parents. “Both Mommies and poor old Dad” is how Marston put it.

Incidentally, Lepore ends an article in The Smithsonian (October 2014) with this:

“Anniversary, which we forgot entirely,” Olive Byrne wrote in her secret diary in 1936. (The diary remains in family hands.) ... Byrne died in 1990, at the age of 86. She and Holloway had been living together in an apartment in Tampa. While Byrne was in the hospital, dying, Holloway fell and broke her hip; she was admitted to the same hospital. They were in separate rooms. They’d lived together for 64 years. When Holloway, in her hospital bed, was told that Byrne had died, she sang a poem by Tennyson: “Sunset and the evening star, / And one clear call for me! / And may there be no moaning of the bar, / When I put out to sea.”


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October 17, 2017

Professor Marston's opening weekend, and facts it gets wrong and right

Moose and I saw Professor Marston and the Wonder Women — and yes by damn, it's the loveliest, most down to earth, most kind and moving representation of a polyfamily ever to appear on screen as far as I know. All those mainstream reviews I've been posting here? It's at least as good as they led us to expect.

Polyfolks are telling of literally crying at finally seeing such a straightforward representation of what they're about. (For instance, a thread on reddit/r/polyamory.)

But when we saw the movie late Thursday night at a suburban multiplex, we and a group of three were the only people in the seats. Other folks tell of poor attendance where they saw it. The box office from opening weekend was disappointing, even for an arty indie biopic, at $736,883. Further proof that good reviews (which were predicted to result in a $2-$3 million opening weekend) don't mean good attendance.

Folks, word of mouth is king. Get the word out — to your friends, Facebook and Twitter networks, on your blogs and podcasts. And if you haven't seen it yourself, do so ASAP both to support it and to catch it on the big screen in case it closes early. Facebook page. Theaters, times, tickets.


Another thing that's come up is that the granddaughter of William and Elizabeth, Christie Marston, is on a campaign against the movie and its director for jiggering details of history for the sake of story. Which like all biopics, it does. Though I don't think a movie "based on the true story of," such as this, should ever be billed as "the true story of," which in a number of particulars it's not. Some of its marketing said it is.

But Christie seems most upset that the movie portrays Elizabeth and Olive as being in a bisexual relationship — which they apparently were, as Noah Berlatsky makes clear again in an article yesterday in The Verge (see below.) Christie Marston, now elderly, was not yet born at the time of the events. She was close to her grandmother in adulthood (Elizabeth lived to 100), but her grandmother did not talk to her about her sex life. Though she did say elsewhere, of those early days in the household, that there was "lovemaking for all." Christie seems to say that descendants have a right to prevent upsetting portrayals of their forebears, even when there's persuasive evidence.

Berlatsky, who has researched and written about Wonder Women's origins for years, cuts to the chase (spoilers ahead):

The crucial thing the new Wonder Woman movie gets right about the character’s history

Historians are reluctant to admit how a long-term polygamous relationship formed Wonder Woman, but Professor Marston and the Wonder Women dives in without shame.

Like most based-on-a-true-story biographical films, Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is only loosely connected to actual events. Psychology professor William Moulton Marston (played by Luke Evans in the film) did create the comic book character Wonder Woman, and he did live in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall) and their grad student Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). Everything else in the movie, though, is up for grabs.

Robinson frames her film around the explicit war against Marston’s life and work. But in spite of complaints about the bondage in the Wonder Woman comics, Marston was never seriously threatened with being fired from the title he created. The comics sold too well, and he was too skilled at defending his work. In spite of the sultry lie detector scenes in the film, the lie detector Marston created never worked [well, only a bit --Ed.] and certainly wasn’t instrumental in getting William, Elizabeth, and Olive to declare their feelings for each other. So far as anyone knows, no neighbor ever wandered into the Marston household and found Marston, Elizabeth, and Olive having kinky costumed sex. William and Elizabeth didn’t subsequently split up with Olive, even temporarily. And as the photos over the closing credits prove, Elizabeth, Olive, and William did not look anything like glamorous movie stars.

But the movie depicts one important thing accurately: Elizabeth and Olive were bisexual. They didn’t just have separate sexual relationships with William. They had a sexual relationship with each other.

This doesn’t seem like it should be a controversial point. As the film notes, Elizabeth and Olive named their children after each other. After William died in 1947, the two women lived together for almost 40 years.

And there’s substantial evidence that the Marstons were aware of lesbian relationships and approved of them. Marston wrote extensively about female-on-female attraction in his scholarly work, going so far as to discuss the mechanics of tribadism and female oral sex. He presented lesbian sex as normal and healthy, and even suggested that half of all women were lesbians. Olive helped him research sorority initiation rituals; they concluded that the rituals were sites of intense same-sex eroticism. In one passage in his academic work, Marston describes two women making love in front of him. It isn’t difficult to figure out who those women were.

DC Comics
And this isn’t even getting into Marston’s erotic novel about Julius Caesar in which he describes lesbianism as “perfect,” nor the Wonder Woman comics, in which women tie each other up, spank each other, and dress up as deer in order to mime eating one another. Marston was an enthusiastic lesbophiliac who lived with two women in a polyamorous relationship. People have to be really committed to not seeing the obvious to not see the obvious. Yet, despite all of this, scholars and fans have still been remarkably reluctant to acknowledge that Elizabeth and Olive were lovers.

The Marston family’s polyamory was probably first discussed publicly by Les Daniels in his Complete History of Wonder Woman in 2004. ... Jill Lepore’s recent wildly popular Marston biography, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, includes accounts of naked feminist New Age sex parties.

...Why have people been so reticent about acknowledging that Elizabeth and Olive were lovers, when Elizabeth and Olive were obviously lovers? In 1990’s The Epistemology of the Close, Eve Sedgwick argues that the refusal to admit that figures in the past were gay is part of the way the dominant culture represses and denies homosexuality. Sedgwick says scholarship and history respond to gay people in the past by commanding, “Don’t ask. Or, less laconically: You shouldn’t know.” Because of stigma, queer people had to hide — and then historians use their lack of clear visibility as false proof that they didn’t exist. ...

The assumption behind this sort of high barrier to belief is that there’s something shameful about same-sex attraction. In the case of the Marstons, bisexuality is somehow even more verboten than polyamory. That attitude isn’t just homophobic, it’s also a betrayal of Marston’s entire life’s work. In his scholarly writing and his comics, Marston insistently, deliberately portrayed lesbianism as normal and good. He encouraged children to see diverse erotic possibilities as fun, enjoyable, and exciting, not shameful or dangerous. And he insisted that women were powerful, loving, and in control of their own desires.

...Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is really more about Elizabeth and Olive’s love than it is about Marston, and that’s a choice Marston himself would have strongly approved of. We don’t know that Marston lost his job because of his polyamory, as the movie claims, nor is there evidence that the family’s neighbors shunned them. But the fact that Elizabeth and Olive’s relationship has been denied for so long suggests the effect homophobia and the need for secrecy had on their lives. Director Angela Robinson, a lesbian herself, opens the closet door, and presents the love of William, Olive, and Elizabeth, not as shameful, but as courageous and beautiful. Inevitably, the film gets a lot wrong, but it does get that much right.

Noah Berlatsky is the author of Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics [2014].

Read the whole article (October 16, 2017).

She started out not just heroic but whimsical, playful, and weird.

P.S.: As if to make Berlatsky's point, The Catholic News Service instructs Catholics to avert their eyes from the movie (Oct. 13).

Lots more news and reviews since my last Google News link. (This link is for October 15th onward).


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October 15, 2017

Dan Savage column: "Poly Wants"

Many alternative newspapers

The "Savage Love" advice column is all polyamory this week, with letters from people who have blundered into all too typical hierarchical-poly messups.

Such problems are why some polyfolks refuse to get involved with a newbie primary couple, or maybe any primary couple — because in a pinch, all the couple's talk of their commitment to compassion, communication, honesty, and the Rickert-Veaux basis of ethics, don't treat people as things, may go out the window.

Abbreviated excerpts:

Joe Newton / The Stranger
I'm a 25-year-old woman currently in a poly relationship with a married man roughly 20 years my senior. This has by far been the best relationship I've ever had. However, something has me a bit on edge. [His wife said] she didn't want to go [to the restaurant I thought she'd like] because she didn't want "sloppy seconds." It made me feel dirty. Additionally, the way he brushed this off means this isn't the first time. I go out of my way to show him places I think they would like to go together. ... I hesitate to bring this up, because when I have needs or concerns, they label me as difficult or needy. ...

—Treated With Outrage

I'm having a hard time reconciling these two statements, TWO: "This has by far been the best relationship I've ever had" and "when I have needs or concerns, they label me as difficult or needy." I suppose it's possible all your past relationships have been so bad that your best-relationship-ever bar is set tragically low. But taking a partner's needs and concerns seriously is one of the hallmarks of a good relationship, to say nothing of a "best relationship ever."

...It's a really bad sign that your boyfriend's wife compared eating in a restaurant you visited with him to fucking a hole that someone else just fucked, i.e., "sloppy seconds." ... Some people are poly under duress (PUD), i.e., they agreed to open up a marriage or relationship not because it's what they want, but because they were given an ultimatum: We're open/poly or we're over. ... PUDs [often] engage in small acts of sabotage to signal their unhappiness — their perfectly understandable unhappiness. ... The most common form of PUD sabotage? Making their primary partner's secondary partner(s) feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. ...

My wife said she didn't care who I slept with soon after we met. ... After a couple years of playing together with others in private and in clubs, she said she wanted to open our relationship. I got a girlfriend, had fun until the new relationship energy (NRE) wore off, and ended things. Then ... I got a new girlfriend. ...

Here's the problem: Last night, my wife confessed to me that being in an open relationship was making her miserable. ... I told my wife that I would break up with my girlfriend immediately. ... But my wife told me not to break up with my girlfriend. I don't want to string my girlfriend along and tell her everything is fine — but my wife, who doesn't want to be poly any more, is telling me not to break up with my girlfriend.

—Dude Isn't Content Knowing Priority Is Crushingly Sad

Your wife may want you to dump your girlfriend without having to feel responsible for your girlfriend's broken heart, DICKPICS, so she tells you she's miserable and doesn't want to be poly anymore, and then tells you not to end things. Or maybe this is a test: Dumping a girlfriend you didn't have to dump would signal to your wife that ... you will prioritize her happiness when she won't. ...

I don't know if I'm poly or not. I mean, Jesus H. Christ, this has been so difficult. How do I know when to go back to monogamy?

—Pretty Over Lusty Yearnings

...If the polyamorous model is making you miserable, POLY, it might not be right for you.

But you should ask yourself whether polyamory is making you miserable or if the people you are doing polyamory with are making you miserable. People in awful monogamous relationships rarely blame monogamy — even when monogamy is a factor — but the stigma against nontraditional relationship models, to say nothing of sex-negativity, often lead people to blame polyamory for their misery when the actual cause isn't the model, POLY, it's the people.

The whole column (week of October 11, 2017).



October 14, 2017

" ‘Monogamish’: The Polyamorous Revolution in One Entertaining and Stylish Documentary"

And in smaller-movie news—

Two and a half years after its kickstarter began, and two years after it premiered at the Rome Film Festival, Tao Ruspoli's documentary Monogamish is finally showing in the United States. It's playing at New York's Roxy Cinema Tribeca through October 19th, then goes on tour. Upcoming screenings.

The movie features several of the poly world's most visible movers and shakers, including Diana Adams, Dossie Easton, Christopher Ryan, Stephanie Coontz, and the coiner of the word "monogamish," Dan Savage. From the blurb:

Independent filmmaker and son-of-an-Italian-Prince Tao Ruspoli takes to the road to talk to his relatives, advice columnists, psychologists, historians, anthropologists, artists, philosophers, sex workers, sex therapists, and ordinary couples about love, sex & monogamy in our culture. What he discovers about his very unconventional family, and about the history and psychology of love and marriage, leads him to question the ideal of monogamy, and the traditional family values that go with it.


IndieWire published its review this morning:

The Polyamorous Revolution in One Entertaining and Stylish Documentary

This new documentary is more than just a primer on non-traditional relationships — though it does that well, too.

By Jude Dry

“Being in love is like being high,” says Roberta Haze, a California-based costume designer sporting purple hair and layers of hoop wearings. “That has to transform into love, because that stays. Like snorting coke, it’s not a state that you can live in all the time.”

...“Every new relationship that’s sexual is kind of an adventure, and then the adventure goes away,” [Dan] Savage tells Ruspoli. “Then it’s just kind of where you live, and then it’s not an adventure. And how can you continue to surprise each other? Without feeling like you have to pull rabbits out of a hat all the time.”

Ruspoli appears on camera as a boyishly charming and somewhat befuddled 40-something, easy to root for by the way he wears his heart on his sleeve. ...

“Our economic system is based on an idea of a male breadwinner supporting a wife and children,” says lawyer Diana Adams. “This is a way governments can privatize dependency and not have to take care of single mothers and their children… Having the government say, ‘Why don’t you get into a sexual relationship with a man who will support you,” is the equivalent to the government being a pimp to poor women in America.”

The interviews in the film touch briefly but profoundly on every major alternative philosophy surrounding marriage, feminism, sexuality, and relationships. “Monogamish” is like a starter course in the prevailing thinking around non-monogamy as taught by its foremost writers, philosophers, and therapists. ...

[Esther Perel:] “In one relationship, we want security, stability, dependability, all the anchoring, grounding experiences of life. At the same time, we also want our love life to bring with it mystery and awe and novelty and surprise and the unexpected and that which fuels desire. We are basically asking one person to give us two sets of fundamental human needs — it isn’t a problem that you solve, it’s a paradox that you manage.”

Following a touching “aha” moment for Ruspoli, Savage sums it up succinctly: “The culture says sex is so unimportant that you shouldn’t prioritize it in a marriage, but sex is so hugely important that you can’t have it with anyone else.

Ruspoli’s presence in the film elevates “Monogamish” beyond the predictable talking heads documentary. ...

Grade: B+

The whole review (October 14, 2017).

 Diana Adams and others in the movie will appear in person at the 8 o'clock New York showings on October 15 and 16. She posts,

This is the most nuanced and high-level view of consensual nonmonogamy as part of cultural change that I've ever seen, and I highly recommend it. I'll be speaking after the Oct. 15 and 16 shows which each start at 8 p.m. On the 15th I'll be speaking with the director Tao Ruspoli and Daniel Pinchbeck, and on the 16th with Tao and Christopher Ryan. I highly recommend buying tickets before it sells out. I hope you'll join us!

More info about the movie.  WebsiteFacebook page.

Update: Salon posts a video interview with Tao Ruspoli (Oct. 13).


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October 12, 2017

The Professor Marston poly triad movie finally hits the big screen

The first truly poly movie to reach mainstream theaters is turning into a bigger deal than I expected. The media are now full of reviews and interviews about Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: the New York Times, NPR, Washington PostLA Times, The Atlantic, Canada's National Post.... Here's a Google News search restricted October 11-14.

I particularly like the piece in today's Guardian, which finally explains a bit about Marston's pet "DISC theory" of how feminism could save the world:

Polyamory, bondage and feminism: the film that tells Wonder Woman's story

...“He thought: men won’t give up their power unless women learn to sexually dominate or use what he called ‘captivation emotion’ — basically, to take the power away from men for their own good,” says Angela Robinson, writer-director.

...A polyamorous relationship in the 1920s was radical but not much more than Marston’s Disc theory, which stood for dominance, inducement, submission and compliance. Marston believed in dominance and submission but only when the dominant figure used inducement — which he argued that women were far better at — to gain submission. If someone was forced into compliance (the more male approach), it was accompanied by a simmering resentment.

Even more subversive was Wonder Woman herself, whom Marston created in 1941 as a propaganda vehicle for his ideas. He filled the comics with images that were deemed to have deviant sexual undertones, from homosexuality to spanking and bondage — lots and lots of bondage.

“The comics are wild, they’re insane,” [co-star Bella] Heathcote says. “It’s not surprising Marston got called before a tribunal — they’re overtly sexual and there are so many bondage elements.”...

As to the business of whether Elizabeth and Olive had an actual lesbian sexual relationship: I've come around to the view that while the circumstantial evidence is powerful — lesbianism was a big part of the household's ideology from the very start; the two women lived together in a classic "Boston marriage" for 38 years after Marston died; Elizabeth reminisced that there was "lovemaking for all" — the case is not directly documented. The household was very circumspect about what the world could find out. In any event, this was a poly triad in every real sense — with deep, shared, emotional intimacy all around. I have friends who've been living in a vee triad for over 20 years, raising kids like the Marstons, and they get furious if anyone suggests they aren't a "true" triad just because the women don't get into each others' bits.1

...Robinson reshaped the characters to fit the story she wanted to tell. ... “The Marstons led an incredible sprawling tale of a life, and this film is just a haiku of their life,” Robinson says. “I tried to distill the most essential story I wanted to tell, which was about how the love affair between Marston, Elizabeth and Olive came together to create Wonder Woman.”

[Co-star] Rebecca Hall says she was fascinated by the idea that Wonder Woman was “written by a guy who wanted to teach boys that it’s all right to have women in positions of power, that you can be saved, and that women can be strong”.

...“It is timely as an examination of what feminism is and for re-conceiving what a family is,” Amy Redford, a producer, adds.

The whole article (October 12, 2017).

The movie opens Friday October 13th in the US and Canada (runs in Canada only until the 19th); Nov. 9 in Australia, and Nov. 10 in the UK. Where it's showing in your area and when.

● The three stars appeared yesterday on NBC's Today Show:

● Again, the movie offers great opportunities for poly people to come forward and have their say. For instance, just up this afternoon.

And for years to come, it will provide a cultural reference to help explain what we're about.


1. There's more in Jill Lepore's 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, as Noah Berlatsky summarized in an article in the Atlantic, The Free Love Experiment That Created Wonder Woman (online Oct. 17, 2014):

Lepore reports... that the Marstons had a polyamorous relationship with another woman, Marjorie Wilkes Huntley, before they met Byrne, and that she remained an on-and-off member of the family long after Byrne arrived, helping out with the inking and lettering of the Wonder Woman comics in the 1940s, and occasionally staying with Holloway and Byrne after Marston's death. Further, Huntley, Byrne, Holloway, and Marston all participated in what Lepore describes as a "sex cult" in 1925-26 at the home of Marston's aunt Carolyn. [Typewritten minutes of the group's meetings, amounting to 95 pages,  were kept and still exist.] Participants celebrated female sexual power, dominance, submission and love by forming “Love Units” consisting of multiple partners, including Love Girls who "do not … practice … concealment of the love organs."...


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October 11, 2017

"I watched the new Wonder Woman biopic with a room full of polyamorous people"

Rebecca Hall, Angela Robinson, and Like Evans take questions
at New York Comic Com (Getty)

Remember that big group of polyfolks in Vancouver who got invited to an advance screening of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women? It happened, and with them was the longtime poly-beat reporter for Canada's queer newspaper Xtra.

I watched the new Wonder Woman biopic with a room full of polyamorous people

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is the first Hollywood film to target the poly market

By Niko Bell

...The film won’t be released to the general public until Oct. 13, but Sony Pictures [the distributor in Canada; in the US it's Annapurna Pictures] arranged this special screening a week early for the Vancouver polyamorous community, with free tickets for all 50 polyamorous people who showed up.

New (sleaze-ish?) movie poster
...Polyamorists... aren’t accustomed to special attention from big companies, Trini tells me. Along with many other poly people I speak to tonight, she’s thrilled that Sony went out of its way to target the polyamorous market.

She shuffles out to collect her boyfriend and popcorn just as an authoritative grey-haired woman wearing a Vancouver Polyamory button takes the stage.

“We are going to see if this movie plays into the stereotypes that we are all so used to, or if it expands on poly as a new form of relationship,” she announces, as a Sony rep stands awkwardly beside her. The audience, most in their 40s or 50s, with a narrow row of young people at the front, chuckle and clap politely.

The lights dim. A title card flashes on the screen informing us that the film is based on a true story. ...

...The rest of the film is pure pornography. Not that it’s sexually explicit; there’s a little bit of spanking, light bondage, and a nipple thrown in here and there. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is emotional porn for poly people. It’s a big, wet, effusive kiss to the ideals of contemporary polyamory, full of stand-up-and-applaud lines like, “I don’t experience sexual jealousy. Who am I to fight nature? I’m your wife, not your jailer.” As she delivers this line, Holloway (played by Rebecca Hall) might as well have turned to the audience and given a big wink.

And like the early Wonder Woman comics, the film is glorious, entertaining, thrilling pornography. During one set-piece threesome sex scene in the costume room of a college theatre, I swear I could hear our audience holding their collective breath.

Inevitably, the glorification of Marston and his unconventional family comes at the expense of the truth.

I won’t go into the many ugly, inconvenient parts of Marston’s life that would have ruined the glowing tribute had they been included — from Marston’s racism or questionable feminist principles to the third woman whom the film omits entirely. You’re better off reading Katha Pollitt and Noah Berlatsky’s treatment at The Atlantic, or diving into Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a lie, but golly is it a beautiful one.

As the credits roll, I turn to Terrence Anderson, a 28-year-old polyamorous man with ginger hair and thick-rimmed glasses.

“I was expecting it to be terrible, and I liked it a lot. I have some gripes, but if you put it in context for the time, it was solid,” he tells me. “It landed really well.”

Anderson says he knows that a lot of the film was fictional, but that it feels good to see a film that validates his polyamorous experience.

“The best thing I’ve seen before this was Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and that movie was terrible,” he laughs.

The whole article (October 6, 2017).

● Here's the movie's final pre-release trailer:


Last night (October 10), star Luke Evans was on The Late Show with Steve Colbert. The 7-minute video (the part about the movie begins at 3:10).

Google News turns up lots of stuff published in these last days pre-release; that link gives items dated October 9-13. Samples:

Miami New Times, Houston Press, and other alternative weeklies in the New Times chain: The Homey, Polyamorous Pleasures of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Oct. 9):

By April Wolfe

...achingly normal, in a good way.... [Robinson's] choice to play safe with this romance is inspired.... Even your prudish grandparents might find themselves cheering on this crew.

...Robinson takes full advantage of the fact that these characters are psychological pioneers, who quickly process emotions and feelings, leading to rapid-fire exchanges and surprising character responses. Early on, when Elizabeth bluntly tells Olive not to sleep with her husband, it’s relatively easy for Elizabeth to examine her feelings — and then apologize to Olive. Elizabeth goes back on that edict very quickly, of course....

Out magazine at New York Comic Con: Origin Story Writer & Director Blames Misogyny For Wonder Woman Film Delay (Oct. 9):

...“I do think that there’s something incredibly radical about the storytelling in [the Marston] movie, and it’s certainly what drew me to it,” said Hall. “I think to tell a story about an unconventional love relationship and not make it the central focus of the story or make it the problem of their relationship… it’s not detached or alienated, it takes you along on the ride and says love these people and accept that they are in a real loving relationship.”

Robinson was excited to tell the story of a queer relationship ahead of its time, especially in 2017 when the vocabulary surrounding such a relationship has expanded and it’s better understood. ... “The history of shooting any sort of poly or kink relationship on film is pretty dismal. I made an across the board directorial decision that I didn’t want to ‘otherise’ their experience – nothing like, ‘oh, aren’t they weird,’ – I didn’t want to treat that at all.”...

● The mainstream news site NJ.com: Comics, stripped (Oct. 10):

Although Jill Lepore's 2014 "The Secret History of Wonder Woman" had already explored this material -- and with a definitely more suspicious eye -- Angela Robinson's "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" takes a more original, and even romantic approach.

Because to her, this is all a love story.

In real life, Marston was a bit of a huckster, but Robinson glides past that to present a gentler tale. Marston -- and his partners, Elizabeth Holloway and Olive Byrne -- are simply, genuinely, in love, one for all and all for one. And as they create a secret life, together, they live an even more fabulous one through fantasy.

...Marston's slightly cracked psychological theories revolved around dominance and submission, and Robinson's smart script shows just how complex those simple ideas can be. Is Marston, the strutting male, ever really in charge? Is his wife, Holloway, quite the fierce force she pretends to be? Or is the simple, cow-eyed Byrne really the boss of both?

Robinson's small, fine cast gives those ideas life. Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall perfectly embody the smart bohemian couple, brilliant about everything but, perhaps, their own motivations; Hall, a terrific actress, completely captures the impatience and outrage of a superior woman kept constantly in a second-class position, all raw nerves and sharp edges.

And Bella Heathcote gives a tremulous warmth to Olive, an innocent student soon doing graduate studies in the human heart. She has enormous eyes, and for much of her career, in the sort of parts she's gotten, that's all she's needed. But here she uses them -- daring about in fear, looking up in devotion, looking down in cool control.

The unconventional love story at the heart of this -- and the three actors who act it out -- help paper over some of the other problems. (Chief among them is the gimmick of having Marston interviewed by a humorless censor, played by Connie Britton; the situation seems fake, and the back-and-forth cutting is more of a distraction than anything else.)

Of course, there are some other things that feel slightly false here, too (the trio have bad habit of forgetting to lock the doors before they get frisky). And, true to Hollywood conventions, everyone is at least three times better-looking than the real people. ...

...And, in the end, it's a nice tribute not only to one of the comics' greatest characters (and this year's favorite movie hero) but the sort of truly unhindered, uncensored imagination that makes all fiction possible -- and all love real.

Rated R. The film contains nudity, sexual situations, strong language and brief violence.

● Vulture.com quizzes Robinson about the movie's historical accuracy, and Robinson cops to artistic interpretation: Angela Robinson Defends Her Interpretation of Lead Characters’ Sexuality (Oct. 8):

By Abraham Riesman

The atmosphere got a little tense during an otherwise cheery Sunday afternoon New York Comic Con panel about the upcoming biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. ... The first question at the panel came from pop-culture scholar Travis Langley, who recently co-edited a book about Wonder Woman’s history and psychological significance. He took issue with the fact that the movie depicts Holloway and Byrne as being lovers, when there’s no public record of that being the case — it’s only known that Marston was sexually involved with both of them individually. How, he asked, did Robinson come to that conclusion? [Langley blogs further here. Then again, Jill Lepore reports that the real Elizabeth Holloway, later in life, said that among the three there was "lovemaking for all."  – Ed.]

“That’s a difficult question, because I did talk to a source who said that that was her interpretation,” Robinson replied. “I think that there’s a lot of facts that are indisputable about the Marstons, and I feel like there’s a lot of room for interpretation.” Later, another questioner brought the topic back up and pointed out that Jill Lepore’s 2014 history of the Marston triad — unrelated to Robinson’s film, which the auteur began years prior to the book’s release — didn’t come to the same conclusion. “I think you can kind of go back and forth, debating some of the finer points, but for me, as a filmmaker, that was what I wanted to do,” Robinson replied. "...There’s certain facts that are indisputable about the Marstons’ lives, which everybody agrees on, and there are certain ones that are open to interpretation. You know what I mean? It’s how you choose to interpret those facts. So that’s how I chose to interpret them. That, I don’t know how else to say except that it’s open to interpretation.

Were you nervous about portraying those kinds of speculative interpretations, given that they were about real people with surviving family?

[Long pause.] In a way. I felt like I kind of went on my own journey, discovering, trying to do detective work, and what I came to was that the Marstons were these wonderful people with a lot of love in their life. I was especially struck by the fact that Elizabeth and Olive lived together for 38 years after Marston died. So, to me, I wanted to tell a story about that love and what I thought was happening.

What interactions have you had with Warner Bros., given that they own the character of Wonder Woman?

I recently showed the movie to [Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice writer/director] Zack Snyder and [producer] Deborah Snyder, and they loved it. Zack is gonna endorse it. You’re actually hearing this first!

My knowledge of the Marstons mainly came from Jill Lepore’s book about them, and one thing that struck me about how she interpreted William was that she seemed to think he was a bit of a grifter and exaggerator. That doesn’t seem to be your view. Do you feel that Lepore’s interpretation was unfair?

I think there’s a lot of different ways to tell the Marston story. I really do. I feel like they lived an expansive life. He’s a polarizing person. I think, for me, it’s which choices, which version of the story do you tell. ... I chose to tell the story of what I felt like was the core, which is this love story, and his theories, and how he created Wonder Woman to be, really specifically, a vehicle for his ideas. They thought their ideas could save the world in a very literal way: They thought they could change hearts and minds through psychology, through this pop-culture phenomenon, to help end war and bring about peace on the planet. ... I do feel like I give his ideas a rigorous airing. I surround him with strong female characters who are constantly taking him to task and challenging him about how problematic a lot of what he … Which I feel, myself, as a person, in how contradictory his ideas are. I tried to talk in the movie about his own misogyny and how it’s embedded within his feminism. Also, men and women: that Elizabeth and Marston aren’t playing on a level playing field, and talking about entitlement. There’s a lot of ideas within it, but ultimately, what I took from spending that much time thinking about the Marstons is that they were good people who loved their kids, who were free thinkers. ...

To what extent did you want to tell a story that was a positive depiction of polyamory?

I’m really happy that it’s being embraced by the poly community and that some people are telling me it’s the only positive depiction they’ve seen. I didn’t realize that when we were making it. We have all this contemporary language to describe what the Marstons were doing, like poly and kink and BDSM. But they didn’t have that language then. Lesbian was barely an identity at the time. The word had just been created in that usage. So, to me, they were just doing what they were doing. They didn’t have any of this. It was just that they fell in love and they had to figure out how to be together, quite literally, in the world.

In other words: “Now that we’ve found love, what are we gonna do with it?”

Exactly! ...

Where the movie is showing in your area.



October 6, 2017

"Quietly revolutionary": Washington Post on the Marston movie

The chief film critic at the Washington Post has this to say:

How two new movies prove to be quietly radical in their depiction of gay relationships

By Ann Hornaday

Two of the most trailblazing movies this season are quietly revolutionary, not because of their potentially controversial content, but because of their utterly uncontroversial form.

The period films “Battle of the Sexes,” set in the 1970s, and “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” which spans the 1920s and the 1940s, feature protagonists exploring sexual relationships that strayed from the heteronormative strictures of those eras. In “Battle,” Emma Stone portrays tennis player Billie Jean King as she embarks on her first lesbian romance; in “Marston,” Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and his wife, Elizabeth, create a domestic and physical ménage à trois with a younger woman.

What’s quietly radical about both movies is that they use relatively conservative film vernaculars to depict stories in which sexuality isn’t “other-ized,” but a healthy part of the lives that include work, family, creativity and enterprise. “Battle of the Sexes” possesses the swiftly moving drama, sprightly humor and bright tone of a mainstream crowd-pleaser; “Professor Marston,” for its part, has the period sheen and restraint of a classic art house awards contender.

At a time when representation has gained steady traction in Hollywood, it’s often seen as a victory when a film features a leading character who isn’t white, male or straight. But both “Battle” and “Marston” go beyond mere box-checking to explore how aspects of identity — in this case, sexual orientation — can be depicted, not as an issue, a problem or even the defining facet of a character’s life, but an organic, un-neurotic piece of a larger whole.

...In “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” which opens Oct. 13, writer-director Angela Robinson handles potentially lascivious or voyeuristic material with tact and taste. ... Robinson... was determined to present her title characters not as figures of titillation or psychological obsession but intelligent and self-aware scholars who simply wanted to live honestly and in good faith with their hearts’ desires. The result is a film that, despite its sometime outre subject matter, feels improbably old-fashioned, sincere and wholesome.

...“Battle of the Sexes” and “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” are the most recent of a long line of breakthrough movies representing gay life.... What sets “Battle” and “Marston” apart are narrative and aesthetic values that could easily be described as conventional — even conservative.

“I made a very specific directorial decision to not put quotes around anything,” Robinson explained. “I [decided to] treat these characters the way your standard prestige biopic would. I very specifically chose to tell the story like you would tell ‘The Imitation Game’ or any other movies of this ilk. To me, that in and of itself was subversive.”

The whole article (October 5, 2017).

● The Boston Globe interviews Robinson: ‘Professor Marston’ reveals what wasn’t in ‘Wonder Woman’ (Oct. 6):

By Meredith Goldstein

Angela Robinson on set
..."My whole life I’ve just been a huge Wonder Woman fan. A friend of mine gave me this Wonder Woman book [by Les Daniels] and I stumbled upon a chapter about the Marstons, and how they formed a family together . . . and I literally couldn’t believe it. This was probably like a decade ago. I was just blown away, and it always stuck with me. Then a different friend encouraged me to write a movie about it, so I set about the process.

The world seems to want Wonder Woman now. Even before the big movie, there was the book by Jill Lepore (“The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” 2014).

There was the Jill Lepore book. Grant Morrison did a graphic novel called “Earth One,” reincorporating Marston’s themes. A bunch of people kind of found their way to this exploration of the Marstons, and that was kind of exciting.

You write Marston as this incredible man, especially when it comes to women. But his history with feminism is complicated. At one point in this film, a character basically says, “Does Wonder Woman have to wear a bikini?”

A. The character of William Moulton Marston was so compelling to me because I think he’s full of contradictions. He had these incredible, feminist ideas, and then he had ideas [that were] seemingly contradictory. It was kind of a soup of ideas about women and feminism — and bondage and pop culture. I ultimately came to love both the character I portrayed and the man that I researched....



October 5, 2017

In Ireland's largest newspaper, "Woman opens up about the benefits of polyamory"

The Irish Independent

Irish society has, in the last few decades, thrown off with a vengeance much of the Catholic Church's historical oppression and domination, especially after the exposure of floods of horrors that the Irish Church long perpetrated and concealed. I know that's harshing on some people's faith, but there is no honest way to say it nicely. Today Ireland is a much freer and more open society.

Emotional challenges: Beth says being polyamorous forces you to deal with insecurities.

One sign is that Ireland's largest, most established newspaper just published, in print and online, the story below, told by a lady who is not afraid to be out about her life and practice.

What it feels like to have more than one partner – one woman opens up about the benefits of polyamory

Tired of conventional romances, sex coach Beth Wallace embraced polyamory – being in more than one relationship at a time – and has reaped the emotional rewards

By Beth Wallace

...The idea that you meet someone, marry them, have kids and stay together until the day you die — that works for some people, but I think it's a relationship choice that's largely born out of societal norms and expectations. If you throw out that rule book of what a relationship 'should' look like, then what goes in its place?

Polyamory means quite simply having a loving relationship with more than one person at a time, or being open to having a love relationship with more than one person at a time. Imagine a monogamous relationship and then imagine that with several people.

...In my 40s I met a man who was already in an open relationship and if I wanted to be in a relationship with him then I had to be okay with how his life was already set up. That took a while to get my head around. We would be out for dinner with 12 or so people including his wife and he and I would leave together to be with each other for the night and she was fine with it. ... It redefined for me what love is.

In my experience, polyamory is something like being gay, lesbian or bi, it's an orientation, it's who I am, not something that I do. ... If you're a polyamorous person who finds it easy to love and be intimate with, and find a connection with, lots of people, you can't switch that off just because someone isn't okay with it, because then you're going to feel like you're not being true to yourself.

People make a lot of assumptions. One of the most common reactions I get from women is that they think the men I'm involved with 'just want to have their cake and eat it'. I find that very insulting because they're assuming the male in whatever group of people it is the one calling all the shots, which isn't my experience.

...In fact there's so much discussion around boundaries, and time planning that goes on, there's often more talking than sex. People assume being polyamorous is all about getting as much sex as you can, but it's not like swinging or open relationships which tend to be more about sex, being polyamorous is about having a full-on relationship.

It can be a logistical nightmare. Three relationships at once is my max. Recently I was seeing three men, two in Ireland and one outside the country. Each relationship offered me something different. With one of them, we had lots of fun. He was quite a bit younger than me and it was a very fun-based relationship where we laughed a lot and did fun, stupid things. The second guy was quite a bit older and we would have very deep meaningful conversations about life and spirituality, he brought out the philosophical aspect of my personality. The other guy was an artist who brought out the creative side of who I am.

It can be the most emotionally challenging and difficult relationship to be in, because it really forces you to be vulnerable and deal with insecurities and excruciating jealousies. But, done right, polyamory can teach you to be an excellent communicator, very self-aware and good at listening. It also offers a very deep love for people that transcends what a relationship 'should' look like. ...

...I think Ireland is becoming more open to non-traditional relationships. My family has mixed feelings about me being polyamorous varying from 'sure whatever, if it works for you, great!' through to 'don't talk to me about it'. Most of my friends are absolutely fine with my choices, although I reckon a few think, 'Oh Beth just hasn't met the right man yet, she'll settle down when she does' — good luck with that!"

Beth runs a relationship course on polyamory; see www.bethwallace.org.

The whole article (online October 4, 2017; in the print issue October 3 across a two-page spread).

The poly movement in Ireland has had other media attention in recent years, most of it quite positive. (In the link, scroll down.)



October 3, 2017

"Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" indeed seems impressive, as polyamory communities organize for when it hits theaters

It looks like we will not be disappointed by the first true poly-romance movie ever to reach mainstream cinemas. More reviews are coming in — nearly all positive, some of them raves.

Local polyactivists are organizing group viewings and in some cases press availabilities in their areas. Including at select advance screenings before opening night (October 13 in the US). See the end of this post for more.

But first,

● At CBR.com, Professor Marston and The Wonder Women (Sept. 28, 2017):

By Kristy Puchko

I struggle to remember where I first heard the story behind the creation of Wonder Woman. I do recall it being told to me in hushed tones, as if the character’s origin was full of shameful secrets... and thereby [called] into question feminists’ embrace of the lasso-swinging Amazon. But in writer/director Angela Robinson’s brilliant biopic Professor Marston and The Wonder Women, the incredible and true story of a three-way romance that birthed one of the world’s most iconic superheroes is told with warmth, humor and a sex-positive attitude that smirks at such narrow-minded assertions. Simply put: Professor Marston and The Wonder Women is fierce, feminist and fantastic.

...On its surface, [it] feels like a traditional biopic. The film is shot in a warm color palette that’s gorgeous and glowing. The costumes are delicate and era-appropriate. A framing device allows flashbacks so decades can be easily jumped about, sticking only to the most formative moments. There’ are poignant close-ups of beautiful actors, and rousing speeches about love, life and society, with one turn in particular seemingly poised for Oscar attention. But just beneath the surface is something more subversive, modern and delectably nerdy.

...“Sexy biopic” seems an oxymoron for a subgenre so notoriously staid, but Robinson manages this sensational feat with the help of an extraordinary cast. Too often romantic leads are beautiful, but have no spark. Here, Evans, Hall and Heathcote share an intoxicating chemistry that loads every scene with verve and allure.

...I love this movie. More than that, I’m in awe of it. By nestling a story of unconventional true love in the cozy and familiar package of a prestige biopic, Robinson welcomes audiences into the Marston family’s story with a graceful gravitas. She unfurls fleshed out and flawed characters with compassion and passion. She makes no excuses for their sex lives, because none are needed. She gives us a love story that’s smoking hot with sex appeal, and bursting with emotion. Best of all, she gives us a proudly queer romance that’s an absolute crowd pleaser, and easily one of the best films of the year.

● Here's a newly released clip from the movie: "Women Should Create Their Own Destiny" (0:39):

MovieWeb: A Different Kind of Superhero Movie (Sept. 27):

By Ryan Scott

...Timing is helpful, but making a good movie is much more important and there's no question that has been accomplished here as well.

...Don't expect to see some fluffy story about a down on his luck writer who somehow manages to create the most influential female comic book character ever. This is a story of a very complicated, progressive relationship between three people that is sexual, funny, charming, poignant and truly daring in many ways.

...There are things that viewers will see in this movie that challenge convention and, truthfully, may upset some. Especially some of those who hold more traditional values that also love Wonder Woman. That said, this is also a very important story for the times we live in. Having a female director tell this particular story, which involves a husband and wife who invite a young woman into their relationship long term, a legitimate love triangle, truly gives this movie a voice that it needs.

As with any biopic, it rides or dies with the performances. ... If any of these [three] core performances didn't work, the movie would fall apart. The movie does not fall apart at any phase.

... At the end of the day, this is a very compelling story that was adapted beautifully for the big screen. It may shock some, but the way in which the story naturally challenges social norms and ideas is the real heart and soul of this movie. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is, to put it simply, wonderful.

● A Consequences of Sound reviewer: "Effective, if overly polite" (Sept. 16):

In 1945, at a time when irate citizens are collecting and burning the Wonder Woman issues in their communities, the man behind the comics, Dr. William Marston (Luke Evans), is forced to defend his creation to a committee concerned with the morality of American youth. ...

As Professor Marston begins to explain the genesis of the character and mount a passionate defense of her importance, Professor Marston flashes back to 1928 at Radcliffe... [when he and his wife Elizabeth] embark on a professionally and personally rewarding relationship that will redefine themselves and the comic industry ... the true-life origin story of how a kinky, loving and lifelong relationship between William, Elizabeth, and Olive inspired the most popular female superhero of all time.

...Professor Marston is as traditional in structure as it is divergent in content. And, arguably, that is in itself subversive. Angela Robinson, who wrote and directed the film, has managed to take what could have been a tawdry or salacious look into Wonder Woman’s naughty roots and give her real-life characters — and their genuine love for each other — the same amount of respect that any vanilla, monogamous heterosexual historical figure would receive. When portraying their professional lives, Robinson keeps the focus on their collective genius and the work they produce. In their personal lives, the threesome’s developing love is received and portrayed earnestly, with no winking asides, leering exploitation, or even any undue dwelling on the price that the three of them pay for building a family together.


...The level of love and respect that William, Elizabeth, and Olive have for each other is still rare to see on film. They are intellectual equals and even partners in their shared lives — and, when they’re not, it’s an actual issue up for discussion. This dynamic also comes across in the sex scenes; there is maybe no better and sadder testament to the current state of the Hollywood love scene than the sheer relief with which many critics have already praised Marston’s threesomes for their obvious concern for female pleasure and agency. It’s also refreshing how the creative process is portrayed here, not as a sudden strike of genius, or a response to outside influences, but as the evolution of ideas and ideals through which William explores the world with his partners.

While the ideas of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women are inspired, though, the execution of it is somewhat less so. The film is well-made and well-performed ... but the narrative structure often runs like clockwork to the point of tedium. Montages of what should be truly interesting material, such as the two academics and their assistant developing and testing the lie detector, proceed at a paint-by-numbers pace. The musical cues are hokey, and the soundtrack could easily double as a generic greatest-hits collection of the jazz era. The film’s efforts to juxtapose 1945 paeans to Wonder Woman and the strong and brilliant womanhood of her character with moments that illustrate similar qualities in the women in his life are rousing enough, but also heavy-handed.

...It’s a film with a good thesis and great representation for the sort of ideas and people who are often relegated to the shadows of polite society. But somewhere, lurking in all of this awards-worthy respectability, is a story that could be every bit as revolutionary and stimulating (both intellectually and sexually) as Wonder Woman was when she first premiered. It would be wonderful to see that version onscreen, someday.

Rating: B-

AV Club: Female directors bring kinky Wonder Women and bloody Revenge to Fantastic Fest (Sept. 27):

By Katie Rife

...As a member of the LGBTQ community, Robinson says she made a conscious choice to film the movie in a conventional Hollywood style, rich with period details (fans of ‘30s and ‘40s vintage fashion are in for a treat) but shot and scored with a generic, glossy “awards movie” sheen. According to Robinson, her intent was to normalize a polyamorous BDSM relationship by treating it just like any other period romance. And indeed, the film is one of the most kink-and poly-positive movies I’ve ever seen, period, let alone one distributed by a major indie like Annapurna. The problem is, Robinson won’t be there to explain her choice to audiences who see the film at their local multiplex.

Vanyaland: Fantastic Fest Review: Rebecca Hall steals the delightful ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ (Oct. 2):

By Nick Johnston

...Yes, the Hot Wonder Woman Creator Who Fucks movie is solid, and you should see it at your earliest convenience.

...The triumvirate at the film’s core are uniformly well-cast, though it’s not without some Hollywood revisionism (let’s be frank, it’d probably be Tom Wilkinson playing Marston as he’s shown in the credits, not the trim and fit Evans as the film would have you believe), but it’s Hall who is the standout here. She’s brilliantly magnetic and sardonic, with a dry wit and the intelligence to perpetually match it, and her cycle of shame about the relationship between the three of them serves to give the film a decent structure, and her character’s arc sustains the runtime.

...Her portrayal of Elizabeth Marston owes as much to Hepburn and Harlow as it does the actual person she’s seeing to portray here, and Evans, wisely, plays it straight, as he goes for the kind of Cary Grant stability that works so well in this time period. ... It’s a blissful screwball comedy that’s a bit derailed by the nature of the biopic beast....

Professor Marston works best when it’s not concerned with the iconography of the star-spangled Amazon.... Outside of the framing device used to throw the whole film in motion, her creation could easily take a backseat.... Yet that might actually be a sign of the film’s success: I gave a shit about the characters outside of the context of what they had done with their lives, which is something that biopics traditionally fail at.... I wanted their romance to succeed, and for them to live happily in defiance of the system, and the Wonder Woman moments were, honestly, an intrusion upon that love story.

Plenty of criticism has already been hurled at Robinson and her cohorts for making this traditionally, with the standards and tropes of your average romantic biopic, but the director insists (and I agree) that it’s part of the point: That telling this story in the most conventional of ways establishes it as a love as relatable as any other. And on that level, Professor Marston succeeds wildly, with its deeply affable characters and loving story rhythms, even if it’s central conceit (and greatest reason for existing) doesn’t totally gel together. Even with all of that, it may very well be the best Wonder Woman-related film of the year.

● An interview with Bella Heathcote, who plays Olive, at FilmInk in her native country Australia (where the movie will be released on November 9th): Polyamory, Suffragettes and Wonder Women (Sept. 22):

By Chris Daniel and Gill Pringle

...“We just need to be more accepting of love and about what love is. If you look at the origins of Wonder Woman, she is a strong female character, not a sex icon,” says Bella Heathcote doing press duties for her latest role.

"...Her portrayal in the script is actually a lot different to the real-life counterpart. After a time, I came to the conclusion that I was just playing a fictional character, because the conditions were the same. I was reading the Jill Lepore book [The Secret History of Wonder Woman] and [Olive] was a lot more comfortable with her mother and her aunt’s background, and was actually getting the pill for students at the University. She was really sporty, quite masculine, went through a stage where she dressed like a boy. I guess at that age she was more comfortable than how she was portrayed in this film.

"...I think [director] Angela wanted Olive and Elizabeth to feel very different. ... There’s something about her, she’s completely open and completely vulnerable, and there is a sort of bravery within that, just to be able to own your feelings. ... It’s a great role, because we watch Olive grow up during the film. We start out with her being really unsure about herself and then she grows into a really confident woman who fights for what she wants. It’s difficult to find a character arc like that. The relationship between the three characters is really interesting and fun to explore."

Did you three do any chemistry testing before the film?

No, we didn’t actually, we just did a rehearsal. It was amazing how quickly we went into the dynamic of the roles, and I felt immediately at ease with both of them. ...

Polyamorous relationships like this in the modern day aren’t very common, so back then it was even more shocking.

There was actually someone working on the crew that was in a polyamorous relationship so we were pushing them for information. ... Olive’s connection within the relationship, in my mind, is more drawn towards Elizabeth. I feel that somehow they managed to negotiate it so that the romantic alliances worked. I’m really fascinated by the idea, because I always thought someone would feel left out. This relationship worked for them.

Can you talk more about the relationship?

I think the relationship is like a tripod. ... Olive’s role in the relationship is to be the homemaker, raising the children whilst the other two work, but she’s also trying to keep Marston and Elizabeth interested. There’s definitely the sexual aspect of the relationship, but I think they all compliment each other with their intellect and dispositions.

With a film dealing with such strong female characters, how do you see it being directed by a woman?

I can’t imagine this film being directed by anyone other than Angela. She is a strong female, so she was a great figure to have on set. She knows these women, and they are really important to her. She... directed sex scenes that made them feel normal. When I watch a sex scene in a film, [I] can see two actors clamping their jaw and just trying to get through it, [then] the sex scene ends and their characters pick up again. ...

● In the UT Daily Texan: Groundbreaking look at Wonder Woman’s creator (Sept. 27):

By Justin Jones

...Handled with any less sensitivity and tenderness, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” would slip into sexual fantasy, but the film crafts an earnest, loving relationship that just happens to include three people.

...When “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” focuses on a loving romantic relationship between three people, it’s an amazing, groundbreaking film. But when it’s actually about Wonder Woman, the film hits the brakes and tells a story it seems like Robinson feels obligated to tell, rather than something she wants to tell.

Crafting a believable, emotional and highly sexual relationship between three individuals is a nearly impossible task, and on that front, the movie miraculously succeeds. It is only when the film cares more about comic books that it suffers and falls into the arena of conventional historical biopics.

● The movie's Facebook page.

All posts here about the movie (including this one; scroll down).


● So: Will you get up a group from your poly community for opening night? That's Friday October 13 in the US, ten days.

Want to be a voice in your local media? This is a real opportunity. Call entertainment reporters at your local papers and TV stations and find one who'll meet your group in the theater lobby to get real polyfolks' reactions after the show. I bet you'll find one who'll jump at the chance; this is the kind of local human-interest angle reporters go for.

Here in the Boston area, Polyamory New England is already trying to do this.

In Canada, Sony Pictures, the distributor there, has reached out on its own to the poly community to offer invitations to special advance showings. Steve K of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) wrote to the Polyamory Leadership Network:

In both Vancouver and Montreal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the distributor of the film, has taken the initiative to invite local polyamorists to a special advance screening. In Vancouver, people less shy and more "out" plan to attend the advance screening wearing polyamory pins and ready to do interviews.

In Toronto, the film aired during the Toronto International Film Festival and airs again October 11 at the Toronto LGBT Film Festival.

In the US the distributor is Annapurna Pictures. Call them at 310-385-7701, ask for the publicity department, and ask them about advance screenings in your area. Remind them that their counterparts in Canada are inviting poly groups to advance screenings, especially groups with people willing to talk to reporters on the spot. "There's a lot of poly-community enthusiasm building for this movie. Can you help us out here?"