Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

April 23, 2019

We're moving from Stage 2 to Stage 3 polyamory. An example in an upscale city mag.

At last week's Rocky Mountain Poly Living conference in Denver, Leanna Wolfe — a poly anthropologist and sexologist active in the movement almost since its birth in the 1980s — spoke on what she called the three historical stages of polyamory in Western culture.

Her Stage 1 was mostly male-centric (my paraphrase). She described it as running through the Oneida Colony and other utopian communities of the 19th century through the free-love beliefs and attitudes that exploded in the 1960s.

Stage 2 has been what we call the modern poly movement: strongly feminist in its origins and growth, born in the mid-1980s and running until more or less now. Its founders, organizers, media spokespeople, bloggers, podcasters, book authors and opinion leaders have been mostly women (the ratio by my count is about 3 to 1). Its ideology has been gender-egalitarian, communication-centric, and consent-based since before consent culture was a thing. Like Stage 1, Stage 2 has been something of a counterculture that sees itself apart from mainstream society.

The May 2019 issue
The current Stage 3 is the mainstreaming of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) in its various forms, including polyamory, into the general culture. This shift is well under way and bodes to take over the conversation in coming years — for better and for worse, as I've been speechifying about since 2008.
Stage 3 typically involves mainstream couples who have little or no experience in questioning dominant paradigms. They consider opening their marriages for any number of reasons, with dreams of a new society not on the front burner. Couples in this position are primed to walk straight into the traps of couple privilege/ unicorning, and to bring along lots of unexamined cultural baggage from monogamism.

This is why I thought that More Than Two, published in 2014, was exactly the book needed for this era. It pounds relentlessly on avoiding the mindsets and assumptions that trip up so many of the Stage 3 types we're seeing now. That angers some of the book's readers, which says to me it's on target.

This morning, Chicago Magazine — the glossy, upscale city mag of the town and its burbs — posted a long self-portrait of a would-be Stage 3-er, a moderately bigtime book author, considering joining the poly world. The article is also in the magazine's May 2019 print issue. Excerpts:

Married With Benefits

Author Kim Brooks takes a very personal journey into Chicago’s burgeoning world of consensual nonmonogamy.

Chicago mag / Martha Williams

My date with David began the way most first dates do, except for the fact that I brought flowers for his wife. I knew Kate wouldn’t be there. She was gone for the weekend, attending an out-of-state polyamory conference with her boyfriend. David and Kate live in a single-family home they renovated in Pilsen. As David showed me around, he mentioned that the small carriage house out back was one of the features that had attracted them to the property. He told me Kate liked to joke that eventually they could have one of their other partners move in. It was the perfect setup: a shared space, shared lives, a feeling of community and connection. Separate but close.

Author Kim Brooks
I’d had coffee with Kate a few weeks before, and she’d expressed a similar sentiment. “My parents are married, they stayed married, but they hated each other,” she’d told me. “They didn’t want to spend time with us. I didn’t get along with my brother and sister. So I had a family, but I felt so alone. I always envied the families where they had cousins and aunts and uncles over all the time, a whole tribe of people.” Polyamory — the practice of having multiple sexual partners where all involved are willing participants — seemed to offer what she’d long felt was missing from traditional family structures.

David found a vase for the flowers and told me Kate would appreciate them. “She loves that sort of thing,” he said. He made us margaritas, and we talked for a while, though not too loudly because David and Kate’s 18-month-old son was asleep in the nursery. ...

David and I had met several times for coffee and once for lunch. Our conversations had been warm and friendly. Now, though, I was nervous and a little nauseous. The house felt like another woman’s home. True, she knew I was there, but that didn’t assuage my sense of discombobulation. What was I doing? I had my own home with my own family. I had my husband of 15 years, and there was also the man I’d been dating for several months since my husband and I had opened our marriage. I was in love with that other man, but he was out on a date with another woman he’d been seeing. My husband was also dating other women. ... I tried to focus on David and enjoy my drink, but I kept thinking of these other men in my life, wondering what they were doing. I felt insecure, jealous, panicky.

A year or so earlier, I hadn’t really known about consensual nonmonogamists — as practitioners of polyamory are often called — much less that (as I’d soon learn) a whole community of them in Chicago organizes monthly meetings, social outings, and support groups. When I read an essay five years ago on Salon about a woman who lived with her husband and her boyfriend, I’d thought why. Also, how. ...

If I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a moment, and tried to forget everything I’d learned about relationships in the past 39 years — as a daughter and a wife and, most recently, an author writing about marriage and parenting — and let go of every rule and every assumption about what love and dating are supposed to look like, then there was nothing unusual at all about what I was seeing and doing. Perhaps it would be easier with another margarita. ...

She interviews Sophie Lucido Johnson, the "Chicago artist and polyamorist who recently published Many Love, an illustrated book about her experiences practicing poly."

Johnson told me over coffee that for her, polyamory means treating her friends more like lovers and her lovers more like friends. “Which is not to say I have sex with my friends! I don’t. But my friendships are as important to me as my other relationships.”

She emphasized that embracing polyamory was not just an affirmation of a different lifestyle but also a negation of the kinds of relationships she didn’t want. ...

In some ways, that was how I became interested in polyamory, too. In the years leading up to opening our marriage — a decision we’d arrived at without any clear road map, much less the support of a whole community of like-minded people — my husband and I had been trying everything we could think of to make our marriage work. ...

... I’ve since wondered how unhappy we could have been if we were soaking in a tub together, holding each other’s wrinkled feet. Or maybe more to the point: What was the nature of this unhappiness? I couldn’t quite name it, but many of the poly people I spoke to could.

Take Eric, for example, a north suburban high school teacher whose friends call him the Mayor of Poly Town for his uncanny ability to draw people into the fold. He told me how before he went to his first poly support group meeting, he assumed there was something wrong with him: “I’d always felt like such a freak, like I was just doing relationships wrong.”

...The idea of monogamy had always felt impossible to [Eric], but he assumed this was a thing about him he had to hide. He had no vocabulary for what he felt — this longing to have different types of relationships with different types of partners, this suspicion that no single relationship was ever going to meet all his needs. He had cheated because it never occurred to him that there was any alternative, a community of sex-positive people who eschewed monogamy but still maintained open, honest, and meaningful relationships.

I'm glad to see her emphasizing the importance of poly community. Your own friends and lovers are fine, but if there's one thing I urge people new to this, it's "connect with the poly community." You need community.

It was a few months after this conversation that he discovered the Chicago Polyamory Meetup, a group with more than 3,000 members that hosts a monthly cocktail party, a “newbie” support group, karaoke hours, and other social and educational events. “Suddenly I was in a room full of people who were describing that they had experienced the world in a way I always had.” More important, he said, was that they weren’t lying or hiding this part of themselves. They were talking, negotiating, writing their own scripts. “It was just revelatory,” he told me. “I didn’t feel alone.”

The cocktail parties, held at the Lake View bar Matilda, attract a mix of newcomers and longtime members, who wear glow bracelets to stand out to those who might have questions. On many of the tables, organizers place laminated placards detailing rules of etiquette. The guidelines emphasize consent (“Please be sure to ask and wait for a yes before hugging or initiating any physical contact”) and communication (“Get to know your fellow attendees by asking respectful questions and listening carefully”). One attendee told me the rules are a response to some problems the group encountered early on, namely that “people think polyamory means easy sex.”

And this:

The answer to nearly all of the questions or problems raised was communication. “There’s a saying in polyamory,” one of the mentoring attendees said, “that if you’re not talking too much, you’re probably not talking enough.” With open communication, so the poly philosophy holds, jealousies can be worked through, insecurities overcome, needs and wants negotiated, boundaries established and respected. A support group regular named Stephanie told me that polyamory had taught her how important direct communication is: “It’s about owning your own shit instead of expecting people to guess what you’re feeling.”

And this too:

One point that emerged repeatedly was that most people blindly follow societal norms. A healthy relationship, we’re told, is one that progresses in a timely fashion from dating to exclusivity to cohabitation to marriage to kids to retirement to death. “In my marriage,” one woman told me, “I was on autopilot most of the time. In polyamory, there is no autopilot. The rules of each relationship are made from scratch.

It all sounded freeing to me, but I wondered, Do these people have children? (Many did, I learned.) Do they have bills that need paying and front stoops that need shoveling and groceries that need buying? One of the lessons I’d internalized since starting a family was that time was a scarce commodity. I was surprised and also a little jealous that these polyamorists had the leisure to spend so much energy customizing their relationships. And so at one point in the meeting, I asked the question that had been in the back of my mind for months: “Isn’t it all a lot of work?”

“Yes,” a woman across the room answered. “But it’s the work people should be doing in monogamy. It’s the work of building healthy relationships.” ...

The article winds up with her own angsty journey.

Ideologically, at least, I was on board. And yet that night in Pilsen with David, I’d found myself struggling not to cry into my taco. I felt like an impostor in someone else’s home and couldn’t stop asking myself, How did I get here?

...One polyamorous friend suggested that the only antidote was seeing other people [than David]. Polyamory wasn’t just about replacing one all-consuming relationship with another, she said. It was vaster and lighter than that. ...

...Over the course of the next year, as I began exploring the poly community more purposefully, he and I texted and sometimes sexted halfheartedly, starting and stalling but never gaining momentum. ... Was I a polyamorous anarchist trapped in an unsatisfying monogamous arrangement? Or was I a bored and bitter housewife, sexually frustrated and emotionally disconnected from her husband? ... Despite all David’s wonderful qualities and all the work he’d done to practice nonmonogamy with her, he still didn’t do his own laundry. If I started dating David, would I one day find myself sorting his socks? Who would sort mine and my children’s while I was dating him? Like so many women my age or older, I’d been socialized to believe that part of what made men love women was the caretaking and the labor they performed — domestic labor, emotional labor, invisible labor. Could polyamory cure such deeply internalized ideas? My own experience suggested not: A few weeks earlier, I’d already started making soup for my lover. I phoned a girlfriend as I stirred tomatoes in a stockpot.

“You’re not supposed to make your lover soup, Kim. You take a lover because you’re tired of making soup, not to make more soup.”

“I know, I know,” I said, stirring. ...

I asked my friend if she thought my dissatisfaction was with marriage or with my own codependency.

“It hardly matters,” she answered. “A codependent is to marriage as an alcoholic is to an all-night bar.” ...

No spoilers about how it ends. See the whole article, all 5,000 words (online April 23, 2019).

"Kim Brooks is the author of Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear, an NPR Best Book of the Year.... Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Chicago Magazine, Salon, Buzzfeed, and other publications. She has spoken as a guest on CBS This Morning, PBS Newshour, 20/20, NPR’s All Things Considered, Good Morning America, the Brian Lehr Show, and many other radio shows and podcasts. Her novel, The Houseguest, was published in 2016."



April 13, 2019

"How Polyamory Changed the World"

I'm at Loving More's Rocky Mountain Poly Living convention in Denver, sitting and typing amid a burble of happy, chattering polyfolks waiting for the next session to begin.

Bob McGarey (left), with Loving More's Robyn Trask
and Jesus Garcia on Friday night.
Last night longtime poly educator Robert McGarey gave a keynote talk. His Polyamory Communication Survival Kit (1999) was one of the first poly books published after the word was invented (now there are about 50), and it's as good as ever. He has long been on the board of the Association for Humanistic Psychology and just became its co-president.

He offered a broad, bold perspective on what we here at the conference, and you dear readers, have accomplished in the last couple of decades.

How Polyamory Changed the World

If your personal life or your feelings about yourself changed in a major way because you learned that polyamory existed and that there are other people in the world who are poly, raise your hand and keep it up for a minute.

[Most of the audience did.]

How has poly changed the world? Look around you. It has made an enormous difference in the personal lives of these people and the lives of thousands of others. There are stories all around us right here that attest to the impact on our personal worlds. But tonight we're going beyond those stories, to talk about the impact poly has had on the world writ large.

Poly has profoundly affected how the world views jealousy, Established Relationship Energy, and monogamism.


Before poly, jealousy was a terrifying emotion that destroyed countless lives. It was wielded as a weapon to control and manipulate. It was seen as justification for emotional and physical brutality. And most importantly, it was seen as an emotion over which we have no influence or control, an emotion which forces us to behave cruelly. For millennia, it was an emotion to be feared, suppressed, denied, or run away from. It was our enemy.

But poly gave an unexpected and profound gift to the world. Starting perhaps with Deborah Anapol, polys have begun to declare that jealousy need not be our enemy, but rather a key to understanding more about what is happening in the relationship and what to do about it.

For the first time in the history of the world, we have come to see jealousy in a different light. Because of poly, jealousy is no longer a dragon we must cower from or slay. It has now become a dragon we can train and make friends with. Poly gave the world a new way to deal with jealousy, and that's the first way it has changed the world.


When I did my first workshop on New Relationship Energy vs. Established Relationship Energy, I had never heard anyone talk about Established Relationship Energy (or ERE) and its importance in poly relationships.

I would love to hear more people talking about ERE, because it's a powerful and often unrecognized force in poly relationships. Besides, it's awesome!

I had a married client come in who had fallen in love with a younger woman, and he desperately wanted to get divorced and start his life anew with her. He was deep in the throes of New Relationship Energy, NRE.

Over the last two years his NRE calmed down, and he has started to remember the profound connection he has with his wife from their decades together. He saw that the established relationship was uniquely and brilliantly valuable, even though it didn't have the pizzazz conferred by NRE.

The younger woman and my client are still connected, but he's no longer willing to destroy the connection he has with his wife. He enjoys the dazzling NRE but doesn't lose track of the support and comfort of ERE. He finally realized that NRE and ERE can live happily together, and it saved his marriage.

We as a culture are beginning to learn that we don't have to give up one type of love to have the other. That's another way poly is changing the world.

And finally, MONOGAMISM.

Monogamism is the fervent belief that monogamy is the only way to have a satisfying, lasting, ethical relationship. There are thousands of families in the U.S. right now that are in danger of exploding because one partner loves another person. That emotion creates a hazardous, unacceptable, intolerable situation that results in broken families, broken finances, and hearts that are broken for a lifetime and never recover.

It is simply not true that a human can only love one person at a time in an ethical way, and as we change that expectation in our culture, with the help of organizations like Loving More, we change the lives of thousands of people and create a more humane culture for future generations.

Poly directly confronts monogamism, and in the process opens up possibilities for love and connection that did not exist before. Poly provides an alternative that is more humane; an alternative that is bursting with possibilities and that allows us to be more fully alive.

SO, poly tames the dragon of jealousy, reminds us of the value of established relationships, and tears down the prejudice of monogamism. By attending this conference and continuing to create healthy, open relationships, YOU are how polyamory is changing the world. Thank YOU.

Robert McGarey, M.A., founded and runs the Human Potential Center in Austin, Texas, "which presents programs designed to spark the creativity, love and playfulness of the human spirit."


Labels: , ,

April 9, 2019

"You Me Her" Season 4 premiers, and other polyamory on TV

Darko Sikman/ AT&T AUDIENCE Network

The "polyromantic comedy" series You Me Her opens its fourth season tonight (Tuesday April 9) at 10 on AT&T's Audience Network. There is no other show like it on television.

Season 1 was about a troubled couple who, independently, fell for the same third person by way of comic flukes: a novelty gimmick. But creator/producer John Scott Shepherd soon realized that the show was onto something bigger. Season 2 began straight off with the three together in a serious, all-around polyamorous relationship, and things have grown from there.

Life, of course, hasn't been easy for them. Tonight's opening of Season 4 is titled "Triangular Peg, Meet Round World." Season 5 is already scheduled for 2020.

Trailer for Season 4:

Rather than say more I'll send you to Paste magazine yesterday, The Charming Poly Rom-Com You Me Her Reveals the Biggest Problem with 'Peak TV' (April 8, 2019). The "problem" in the title is that a remarkable show like this can go undiscovered on an obscure channel like Audience.


By LaToya Ferguson

...Though the first season leans on the characters’ sexual relationship(s) more than subsequent seasons, You Me Her is not a show about sex and titillation. It’s about romance and love and all that crap: The series is so committed to the rom-com genre that there’s even, at one point, a last-minute dash to the airport. ...

...The series itself roots for its protagonists to make their unconventional relationship work. It doesn’t make it easy for them to do so, but it is invested in their success: While the phrase “just a phase” may have come up, Shepherd and company make perfectly clear that it’s not the answer, and if the series entertains the idea, it’s ultimately to topple it.

...Their (very supportive) friends wonder how they can even function in the world, throuple or not. Indeed, the supporting cast is as integral to the series as the leads: Jack, Emma, and Izzy are each allowed to have substantial, separate relationships with their best friends ... which is another way You Me Her stands out from other rom-coms.

...For a comedy series about polyamory that doesn’t shame it or make it a punchline to be this far under the radar is baffling. ... This is a light romantic comedy about three people who are in love with each other, one that explores the spectrum of sexuality and identity and self-discovery in a way that doesn’t often get explored in more mainstream series. And it’s also not as though the cast is a bunch of total unknowns ... But the conundrum of “peak TV” is that the proliferation of series and networks/platforms has made accessing specific shows more difficult. ...

AUDIENCE [Network]... lacks what’s called “brand awareness.” ... There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s an audience for the series, and its five-season run on AUDIENCE suggests that it’s something of a hit for the network. But the series is only available to watch via AT&T video platforms like DirecTV and U-Verse, international (not American) Netflix, or DVD. ...  You Me Her is, sadly, an object lesson in how shows fall through the cracks when there’s more TV — and more good TV — than ever.

● Five-minute vid on Cheddar.com: 'You Me Her' Stars Talk About The Love and Drama of Season Four (April 8):

Rachel Blanchard (Emma) says here, "I hope that people in the polyamorous community see themselves reflected in what we're sharing on screen."

Priscilla Faia (Izzy) says, "Since the show has aired we've had so many people [in the community] that contact us and talk to us about it. We're so grateful and lucky we get to be involved that way."

● On the Daily Brief: ‘You Me Her’ Wonders If Polyamory Can Survive the Suburbs (March 12).

...At the end of last season, the three sealed the deal with an impromptu commitment ceremony at a pizza joint. Now that they are back living their settled lives in the suburbs, how will they handle new people who are curious about their lifestyle and might be interested in joining in?

● More on the show's Twitter.

Update May 10: Says Hollywood Reporter today, "'You Me Her' Ending With Season 5 on AT&T's Audience Network. With season five set to begin filming on May 21, the network opted to make it the last run. There's no word yet on a premiere date or episode count for the final season. Past seasons have run for 10 episodes." Article.


Meanwhile, to expand our view, polyamory in one form or another is finally infiltrating television more widely. For instance, these have been in the media just since the start of 2019:

Now Apocalypse, recently launched on Starz, is reviewed by a Slate writer: How Now Apocalypse Creator Gregg Araki Foresaw Our Pansexual Present (March 27).

    – And on Hidden Remote, The 3 main reasons you need to be watching Now Apocalypse (April 1).

Siren is in its second season on Freeform.  Says TVLine, Siren Season 2 Is Giving Us TV's First Polyamorous Mermaid Thruple (Jan. 24).

    – On Syfy's site, Siren Turns Its Mermaids into Pansexual, Polyamorous Killers (Feb. 27).

    – A rave on the feminist The Mary Sue: Siren’s Polyamorous Relationship Is One of the Most Refreshing Queer Relationships on TV (Feb. 5).

    – Update June 13, 2019: A long, detailed, positive review on Paste.com: From Ecoterrorism to Polyamory, the Second Season of Siren Continues to Transcend Expectation. "Freeform’s quiet, murderous mermaid series has only gotten bolder and more interesting as it’s found its sealegs."

    – Update June 14: Breaking into the bigtime? TV Guide interviews the actress who plays the show's lead character Ryn, the deadly mermaid in a poly triad: Siren's Alex Roe is Proud to Portray TV's Most Interesting Polyamorous Relationship.

Future Man. As Pride.com notes, Polyamorous Families Thrive in Hulu's Post-Apocalyptic Comedy (Jan. 16).

● The Wanderlust series (BBC, Netflix) has been dissed in poly circles for cringiness, but Canada's National Post said Netflix's Wanderlust offers an honest examination and a unique discussion around polyamory (Jan. 2).

    – Poly comedian and activist Kate Smurthwaite discusses Wanderlust and delivers this memorable line: "It demonstrates one of the most important axioms of the media: If you want to know how to do something, don't look at the mainstream media [such as that]. Wanderlust is sort of a master class in how not to do open relationships":

● I'd never heard of the long-running teen soap Hollyoaks on British TV (Channel 4), but a couple months ago came this: Hollyoaks lines up polyamorous relationship storyline for Tom Cunningham (Digital Spy, Feb. 15).

    – And, Hollyoaks spoilers: Soap to explore polyamory storyline between Tom, Peri and Harley (Metro UK, Feb. 14).

    – But this is a soap opera, so of course the poly relationship didn't last long: Hollyoaks star Mollie Lambert speaks out after Harley Frater's surprise exit (Digital Spy, March 9).

● Teasings of a polyamory direction coming on the macabre Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix, Hulu), on Digital Spy: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina needs to be brave and subvert the 'love triangle' (April 5). "Give the people what they want."

● A distant early alert about The Simpsons is getting a lot of notice this week in the queer press (and, furiously, on Breitbart). First out in Metro UK: The Simpsons showrunner teases Lisa’s sexuality and could become polyamorous president (April 2).

The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean has high hopes for Lisa in her future – and has backed up the suggestion she could become the first polyamorous bisexual president. Despite being stuck aged eight for the past 30 years, smart-alec Lisa Simpson is clearly wise beyond her years, and thanks to the magic of flash-forwards and dream sequences, we’ve been given glimpses to who she could become as an adult. ... Al also confirmed that the team were looking to bring more diversity to the show – including more LGBT characters. ... Lisa was seen in a flash forward card to have been in a throuple. ...

Future Simpsons family portrait? Bart looks jealous of Lisa's triad. (Fox) 


● Don't forget about three indie webseries that have been out for a while: Compersion, Unicornland, and 195 Lewis. At last February's Poly Living con in Philadelphia, Ruby Johnson of Poly Dallas called 195 Lewis "my idea of the most realistic portrayal of positive black poly community," with its highlighting of "the mutual support and community solidarity." She called 195 Lewis "a cult classic" among women of color. "The first couple episodes are a bit rough technically, but it gets better."


● Oh, while we're at it, here's The Daily Dot's pick of the nine Best Sex-Positive TV Shows on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime (March 14).


Labels: , ,