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

March 19, 2018

Nico Tortorella and Bethany Meyers, poly TV-star couple, back in the news as they marry

When a celebrity makes news as "polyamorous," you never know what you're gonna get — often a cringe-y misuse of the word. But actor and TV star Nico Tortorella (of the Younger series) and life partner Bethany Meyers use it accurately for themselves. They're excellent public representatives of the primary-secondary version of poly — or if you don't like hierarchical language, the "anchor and satellites" version.

Here's more since my post about them last summer, when they made the cover of The Advocate.

● They're in the spotlight right now for announcing that after 12 years, they just got married. They've published the story of the wedding and their lives leading up to it in the online queer magazine them: Inside Nico Tortorella and Bethany Meyers' Private, Epic Wedding (March 17, 2018).

After crowning each other at the courthouse. (Victoria Matthews photo)

They alternate narrating; here's from Bethany early in the piece:

If you had to label it, Nico and I are in a queer polyamorous relationship. Labels that help people understand, but not labels that define us. Most think we planned this and one day decided we would be multiple-love kind of people. We didn’t. It’s just the way our relationship developed over 12 years. We became polyamorous without ever really trying, and we let each other go so often; I guess we finally realized it’s the reason we are impenetrable. It’s hard to break something that bends.

As written up in People: Younger’s Nico Tortorella Got Married 'for Real' to Partner in Matching 'Genderblending Ensembles' (March 17)

...While Tortorella and Meyers don’t seek to put labels on themselves or each other, they added that they understand the world’s need for [labels].

“I can be emotionally, physically attracted to men,” he continued. “I can be emotionally, physically attracted to women. The ‘B’ in LGBTQ-plus has been fought for, for so long. I’m not going to be the person that’s like, ‘No, I need a ‘P,’ I need another letter!’ I stand by people that have paved this way for somebody like me.”

● In Women's Health, Bethany goes into greater depth: ‘I’m In A Polyamorous Relationship — Here’s How It Works’ (online March 12):

I’ve been in a polyamorous relationship for almost 12 years, but my partner, Nico, and I didn’t always call it that. In fact, we adopted the "poly" label more as a way to help others understand our relationship, but we just view each other as partners.

We met in college. I was drawn to him because he was one of the first people who challenged the ultra-conservative beliefs I had grown up with, in a noninvasive way. He introduced me to things I now love, like yoga, and there was an instant connection. But our relationship has always been really unique.

...We love each other and are family, but we both believe in letting the other live the life that makes them happy. We realized pretty early that we can’t satisfy each other’s every need, especially when we were living so far away from each other. So we got really honest about dating other people and letting those people into each other’s lives.

That’s just progressed over the last 12 years, so it’s funny to now be putting a polyamorous label on it, when we didn’t have a big conversation about entering into a poly relationship. It’s just what worked for us and it’s where we’ve landed.

But that’s not to say it’s been easy. Nico and I have to operate with full transparency. No Saran Wrap, nothing. I’ve learned that when people find out about things after the fact, it’s incredibly hurtful. But if you’re up front about new partners, you can work through those emotions.

So when I’m going to a party to meet people, Nico knows about that. It’s not a secret. And it’s not a secret to anyone I meet there that I’m with Nico. I would never take someone home unless Nico and I had talked about it first.

Yes, jealousy happens — it’s a human emotion, and we all have that desire to be number one. I’ve found that being really honest about what’s going on in our lives helps combat that.

It’s also important to understand each other’s boundaries. Nico and I have been together for so long that we just get it, and we don’t have to check in with each other about those things a lot. But I dated another woman who was super monogamy-oriented, and I’m not, and we had to set up boundaries that worked for us. We had a zip code rule — we couldn’t date anyone else in the New York area, and that was hard for me. We were never able to find a sweet spot with the boundaries that worked for both of us, and that’s why it didn't last.

[The Most Common Misconceptions About Polyamory]

That’s one of the hardest parts of being polyamorous — finding the right people. There are a lot of people who think they can do this, and then emotions get involved and they can’t. You have to find people who are really in touch with themselves and how they feel.

When I meet someone I’m into, I try to be really upfront but casual at the same time. I’m not exactly yelling, “I’m poly! Wanna be my second girlfriend? It’ll be great!” That’s a lot. But I try to talk about my relationship as realistically as possible. I talk about Nico the way he is. He’s a great person; Nico is an addition to the team, not a subtraction from the team. He’s a support person for me, so it actually is a very positive place to be in.

The label is the scariest thing. People hear “polyamorous” and they think it’s people having sex like crazy and that’s just not how it is.

For Nico and I, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. I feel safe in our relationship. In monogamy, there’s often this fear of “But what if they leave me?” With polyamory, that fear is gone because no one needs to cheat or lie, and we’ve built this place of trust where we can really talk about what’s working and what’s not working. And that feels like a better place for me. Being poly allows us to be authentic and explore what makes us happy in our lives in a way I didn’t feel like I could in monogamous relationships.

Being open about our relationship has been hard on some people in our lives (my family didn't welcome us at our holiday celebrations this year), but mostly, the feedback we’ve gotten has been amazing. ...

We feel like it’s important to talk about it and normalize it, especially because we look like a straight couple in a photo, and we don’t identify with that at all. Being able to sort of get away with that when we’re walking down the street or traveling gives us privileges that most queer people don’t have, but it’s also important to show that being poly and queer can look a lot of different ways.

● Also in Women's Health: This Polyamorous Actor Just Gave A Glimpse Into What Life With Multiple Partners Is Like (Nov. 14, 2017).

Family dynamics are tough and it’s pretty much a given that your family is never going to get you 100 percent. That said, you'd hope that they’d support you most of the time...especially around the holidays.

Unfortunately, Younger actor Nico Tortorella and his partner of 11 years, fitness and wellness entrepreneur Bethany Meyers, say their decision to be open about being polyamorous makes them unwelcome with her family this holiday season.

“Honestly, it’s kind of a sensitive topic right this second,” Nico told People at an event on Monday. “Because of all the attention that the relationship has gotten recently, we are coming up to the holiday season and because of certain things that were said, Bethany and I are not necessarily, completely welcome in her family celebrations this year.”

In July, Nico and Bethany opened up about their sexuality to The Advocate. Nico said at the time that he identifies as pansexual (meaning he’s attracted to everyone regardless of their gender identity or sex) while Bethany identifies as gay.

The couple also opened up about dating other people — Bethany said she’s happy to have casual sex, while Nico prefers to be in love first. “For me, sex is such an explosive exchange of energy between two people that if you’re not connected, energetically, before you have sex, it can be damaging,” he said. (He also added that he has no issues with casual sex — it's just not for him.)

And criticism from family aside, navigating how to best navigate their 11-year relationship hasn't been simple: “I think we’re raised with this idea that you’re supposed to go and find ‘the one,’ especially women,” Bethany said during Nico's podcast, The Love Bomb. “You’re looking for your Prince Charming. You need to be proposed to. There’s this one person you’re searching to find, so the idea of finding a stability partner, and having other things on top of that, feels too messy.”

Still, neither Bethany nor Nico regrets being open about their polyamorous relationship. “It just means we have to talk about it more. There are millions of people in non-traditional relationships that get cut off from their families every single day and it’s not okay,” Nico told People. ...

● That earlier People story: Nico Tortorella Defends Being a Polyamorist (Sept. 13, 2017).

“I’m not in an open relationship so I can go out and just f— whoever I want,” Tortotella explains in the Bravo clip. “For me, it’s more about the ability to emotionally connect with people outside of my primary partner.”

● The Bravo clip, ending with a snappy comeback:


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March 7, 2018

"How ‘The Bachelor’ shows we're becoming more comfortable with polyamory"

"The Bachelor" has been an unkillably popular TV series since 2002, with several spinoffs. In each season a single guy is presented with a large pool of eligible women, eliminates them one by one, and if the show goes as intended, he marries the winner. Yeah, I know. But fans stay glued.

But in 2016 the bachelor continued dating the two finalists, and as the 2018 season was drawing toward last Monday night's finale, the current guy was again saying "I love you" to two, breaking format. Then the finale itself was a newsmaking trainwreck of indecision.

There is an obvious alternative ending, right? If they all happen to be good with it?

Last week the Washington Post website addressed the possibility head-on, re-running this article from 2016 with updates. It's by Lisa Bonos, a writer for the Post's "Solo-ish" column. She has covered polyamory before.

Can you be in love with two people at once? ‘The Bachelor’ keeps raising the question.

Arie Luyendyk Jr. has said “I love you” to both finalists, Becca Kufrin and Lauren Burnham, breaking an unwritten rule of “The Bachelor” that the lead never says “I love you” back to a contestant before the finale. (Paul Hebert/ABC)


By Lisa Bonos

...If you’re dating multiple people, it’s possible to feel something deep for multiple people.

...Dating multiple people, and even committing to several people, is becoming more common. Polyamory, the practice of having multiple romantic relationships, with the knowledge of everyone involved, is becoming more mainstream. In 2016, OkCupid responded to the growth of non-monogamy by allowing its users to search as couples looking for additional partners.

[Polyamory is on the rise, but negative assumptions still exist]

For all the ways that “The Bachelor” is stuck in the past — its lack of diversity, for example, and the old-fashioned gender roles baked into the show — this however accidental and short-lived embrace of polyamory is the most progressive and interesting thing that happened during Higgins’s season [2016]. And the resurfacing with Luyendyk [2018] proves the “problem” of catching serious feelings for more than one contestant isn’t going away.

When I spent some time reporting on polyamorists around Higgins’s age, they talked a lot about what it was like to be in love with multiple people. “The love you feel feels different,” Rachel Ruvinsky, a 22-year-old polyamorist, told me, “not in terms of quantity or quality, just how it feels.”

...“One clever solution to the unique dilemma the bachelor is in would be to offer both finalists a relationship — more specifically, to be polyamorous,” says Rhonda Balzarini, a PhD candidate studying polyamorous relationships at Western University in Ontario.

Balzarini thought Higgins could actually make a fantastic mainstream ambassador for polyamory. “Ben is boring enough to sit down and have long conversations,” Balzarini told me. And because “polyamory requires you to negotiate everyone’s needs and make sure everyone feels met and understood, it requires an extreme capacity to communicate.”

If Higgins didn’t have to choose just one woman, could the three of them conceivably carry on their relationships? Balzarini thinks they could have that capacity, but it all comes down to how they handle jealousy, something that “Bachelor” contestants already know quite a bit about. ...

Might America be ready for a polyamorous Bachelor? Balzarini thought so. “We’re in need of some vocabulary to have these conversations,” she said, “because not everyone is practicing monogamy.”

The whole article (March 2, 2018). A version also appears in the WaPo's new online women's mag The Lily: How ‘The Bachelor’ shows that we are becoming more comfortable with polyamory. "Might America be ready for a polyamorous Bachelor?" (March 5).

P. S.:
Vulture describes how the show mistreats its contestants: 11 Bachelor Rules That Just Don’t Make Sense Anymore (March 9).



March 5, 2018

"Polyamory in the PRC: A brief history of sex and swinging in modern China"

If you've never heard of SupChina, you're not a serious China watcher. Founded two years ago by Anla Cheng of Sino-Century China Private Equity Partners, it has grown into a deep, fascinating read "serving the Chinese diaspora worldwide, China watchers, international businesspeople, and the global-minded Western audience."

For instance, in addition to steel tariffs and the sudden censorship of Winnie the Pooh (who has become a vehicle for satire of Xi Jinping), was this recent top story: China's national medical hotline apologizes on Weibo for discrediting donkey-hide gelatin. The understory: Officialdom slapped down doctors for reporting that a folk cure-all wealthy manufacturers have started promoting, causing its price to jump from $9 to $400 a pound, doesn't work. The most upvoted comment to the doctors' retraction on Weibo was a snark rewriting of it: “Sorry for speaking the truth without deliberate consideration. Though we quickly deleted it after it had been discovered, the post still caused severe consequences.” If your news has become the same old same old, look for outlets like this.

Which is where the following comes from. Contrary to the title, it's very long.

Polyamory In The PRC: A Brief History Of Sex And Swinging In Modern China

Article 301 of China’s 1997 Criminal Law bans “group licentiousness,” and has been used in the past to bust would-be swingers. But why?

A very different feet illustration: The stark shadows show the people caught in the spotlight of a bust with their hands up. The hands are already behind bars. (Illustration by Katie Morton)

It was women who brought down Ma Yaohai 马尧海. The older, nosier kind — not the ones he liked to watch having sex.

In 2010, the then-53-year-old bespectacled academic became the face of Chinese swinging when he was arrested for “group licentiousness.” Although one of 22 charged, it was Ma’s refusal to quietly roll over and plead guilty, coupled with his professorial status, that made him a cause célèbre; it was thusly revealed, to many in China, that orgies are technically illegal.

The case symbolized the division between an older, staunchly conservative establishment and its more progressive, post-Reform juniors, who take freewheeling, pluralistic runs at formerly forbidden fare.

Ma Yaohai
In Ma’s case, the meddling seniors won. His arrest was, Ma now believes, primarily the result of prudery and petty politics. A newly created neighborhood “senior’s court” had been “aiming to be declared a ‘Leading Work Unit,’” the professor explained over the phone. “So of course, they needed some achievement with which to get promoted. And in China, internet and mobile phones are all monitored, so they can easily find what anyone’s up to.”

...The heyday of the committees — curtains twitching and eyes widening at their neighbors’ proclivities — seems to be back. In 2016, police in northeast Heilongjiang Province sought out snitches with a sliding pay scale: Swingers fetched a bounty of 1,000 to 2,000 yuan ($150 to $300). In Kunming, the bounty was 1,000 to 3,000 yuan, while Xiamen’s flush Public Security Bureau offered “up to 10,000 yuan for information of such a kind.”

...By the time Ma’s case came to court, however, he had an older woman of a distinctly different stripe in his corner. The well-known activist and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) sexologist Li Yinhe 李银河, then 59, was a veteran of the war against wantonness. In 2007, she’d defended a woman fired for spouse swapping, arguing that it was a matter of “free will, privacy, and being an adult.” An energetic backlash to Li’s remarks called for a return to “traditional Chinese morality,” with one commenter exhorting: “Swapping husbands and wives? Why don’t they just go ahead and have sex with animals?”

Now, Li told reporters, Article 301 of the 1997 Criminal Law, banning “group licentiousness,” was a relic of the Cultural Revolution that hadn’t been applied once in more than 30 years; she then called on “the relevant departments to quickly investigate and abolish the crime of ‘group licentiousness.’”

Those who favored prosecuting Ma, and liberalism in general, evoked the end-times rhetoric of Fox News: The law must “protect the sexual relations of mainstream society,” insisted law professor Sun Guoxiang. Ma had “affected social order,” fumed another. Group sex was “decadent behavior…hindering the pursuit of the majority toward good behavior,” Ming Haoyue, a commentator, declared on Weibo. “Chaotic sexual behavior could fuel other evils.”

CASS, long considered a top academic research institute, would later come under fire from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Party’s anti-corruption squad, accused of colluding with “foreign forces,” “ideological problems,” and promoting unorthodox viewpoints online.


...While his wife shyly nodded along, Daming explained that the couple enjoyed swapping because it was “new and exciting” and, moreover, free. Some estimate that fewer than 100,000 Chinese participate in group sex, but a chat forum dedicated to swinging on the (now defunct) website “Happy Village” once had more than 380,000 registered members. Most continue to meet via hobby groups on lifestyle sites. One commenter from Zhihu, a popular Q&A site, enthused that “We’ve been swinging with my wife’s best friend and her husband for more than a year; about once every one or two months. We’d do it in our home or theirs, or whenever we’d travel together. Sometimes four of us, sometimes three. It didn’t affect either of our families. But now our child is in school, we don’t have the time.”

...It’s certainly part of the spirit of the age, though: The pursuit of profit and pleasure is perhaps the most authentic Chinese Dream. Group sex is particularly popular among the idle 富二代 (fùèrdài), or second-generation rich....

The whole article (February 13, 2018).



March 1, 2018

On the Today Show, impressive polyfamilies hit a home run

DAMN, THAT WAS GOOD! On NBC's Today Show this morning, Megyn Kelly devoted her whole 9–10 a.m. hour to exploring consensual non-monogamy, including two long, very impressive segments showcasing happy polyfamilies. The high point, in my opinion, was the 10½ minutes devoted to the quad I've been posting about recently.

Top: Ixi and Joe. Bottom: Blake and Zaeli


The four segments of the one-hour show are below. Leading off were Terri Conley, a top researcher of consensual non-monogamy, and author and therapist Stephen Snyder, both presenting solid background information and excellent perspectives:

The enthusiastic quad of Zaeli Kane (who's been in touch with Polyamory in the News for the last couple weeks and whose writings you've read here), Blake Wilson, Joe Spurr, and Ixi Kirkilis were spot-on: warm, lively, intelligent, displaying easy body language, and acting like people you'd want as friends. They inserted talking point after talking point in a completely natural manner. These folks have a real future as poly spokespeople; I hope they pursue it.

In the past I haven't had much good to say about how Adam Lyons presents with his partners Brooke Shedd and Jane Shalakhova, but here they acquitted themselves very well:

The show's website just put up a page about them: Three's company? How 1 dad, 2 moms and their kids make a family.

The fourth segment was with Robin Rinaldi, author of The Wild Oats Project. The book is a memoir of the year that she and her husband allowed each other an open marriage. It didn't end happily; she admits they did it wrong, and as a result they wound up divorcing. But even she came off as altogether poly-positive and relatable.


• One of the guests, Stephen Snyder — whom Today may have recruited to voice a religious counterpoint — has published a glowing article about the show, his fellow guests, and the polyamory option on YourTango.:

Monogamy Vs. Non-Monogamy: Is A Polyamorous Relationship Right For You?

How to know what's best for you and your partner.

By Stephen Snyder MD

When the email from NBC Today arrived last week, I knew this was going to be an interesting ride.

NBC Host Megyn Kelly was planning an episode about “consensual non-monogamy” — something I’ve discussed at length, most recently on Health.com, in a piece titled “How Do You Know Whether You’re Ready For a Three-some?” — and I'd been invited to join the discussion.

Why in the world would a traditionally religious sex therapist like myself be talking about non-monogamy? ... The reality is, more couples now are looking at alternatives to traditional monogamy.

And I believe we traditionalists should engage fully in the discussion — since we bring a somewhat different point of view.

...One, we’re now more accepting of the fact that people are sexually diverse. Once you accept the reality that some individuals just happen to be gay, bisexual, kinky, or whatever, it’s not a big jump to accepting that some folks just don’t seem to be cut out for traditional monogamy.

Still, does non-monogamy work?

Current psychological research suggests that, for some couples, indeed it can.

...[Terri Conley finds] in particular that people in what’s known as “polyamorous” relationships (more on that below) actually report less jealousy than people in strictly monogamous relationships.

On the negative side, Dr. Conley’s research clearly shows that non-monogamy is still among the most highly stigmatized things a person can do — at least in the US.

The show ended up featuring several non-traditional couples who appear to be doing quite well. And for balance, they invited journalist Robin Rinaldi ... During the year in question, Rinaldi had extra-marital relations with ten men and two women, and ended up divorcing her husband and finding happiness with one of the men she met while non-monogamous.

I was pleased to see Rinaldi featured together with these happily non-traditional couples on the show, because the contrast indicates what’s probably the most important principle for anyone considering non-monogamy:

Don’t choose non-monogomy to cure an unhappy relationship.

...According to most experts, the most enlightened approach to non-monogamy, if that’s what you feel called to do, is what’s called “polyamory.”

On the show, Dr. Conley defines polyamory as having permission to experience both sex and love outside the relationship. This distinguishes polyamory from “swinging” and “open marriage,” where usually the expectation is that you’ll only go outside your primary relationship for sex — not for love.

I prefer an alternate definition of polyamory — one that I learned from polyamorists Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. According to this alternative analysis, swinging and open relationships are really “monogamy-plus.” Like traditional monogamous relationships, they serve to privilege and protect the primary couple. The primary couples sets the rules, and the stability of their relationship is considered paramount.

Polyamorous couples tend to rely less on rules, and more on the real needs of the various people involved. These “others” are seen less as need-satisfying objects, and more as full individuals whose needs, feelings, and conflicts are given equal weight.

That involves substantially more risk, and a lot more negotiation. But the enterprise takes on a whole new ethical dimension.

I was impressed that the non-monogamous individuals who appeared on the show seemed to have crossed this ethical threshold. They took their responsibilities to each other seriously, and they seemed to act with integrity and concern for the needs of all parties involved.

...For religious people like myself, it's not an option at all. But I was impressed by the commitment of the non-traditional couples I heard from on the show, and thought we traditional folks could learn a lot from them about good communication and honestly negotiating for what we need in a relationship.

The whole article (Feb. 28, 2018).

Folks, we bowled him over. Let's never underestimate the persuasive power of good character, thoughtfulness, personal lived experience, and good hearts. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "All the world loves a lover."


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