Friday Polynews Roundup — Not all polyfamilies are FMF throuples, upcoming in TV and film, and a future of extended chosen family.
It's Friday Polynews Roundup time, for March 6, 2020.
First up are some items from the TV and pop-culture fronts and a new book. Next, not all polyfamily profiles are of FMF triads. And then, a long and important piece by a major, conservative-ish columnist on the need for, and the growing future of, alternative chosen-family structures (like some of ours!) to replace the "failed nuclear family."
● For the record: The first media item about about poly and the coronavirus that's crossed my screen — it surely won't be the last — is this humor piece in Northern Star, a small regional newspaper in Australia: 7 very Northern Rivers ways to stop coronavirus spread. "...2. Dear free spirits, stay within the confines of your polyamorous list of four mainstay partners please. If you can." (March 4, paywalled.)
● BET (Black Entertainment Television) will air its original movie Open on March 14th. From BlackFilm: Trailer To BET Original Movie “Open” (March 1)
...As a child of divorce and a woman noticing the infidelities in the world, main character Wren (Essence Atkins) decides to ask her husband Cameron (Keith Robinson) for an open marriage, after eight years, to avoid the pain of him cheating behind her back. Navigating the struggles of her bakery business, social life and marriage, Wren finally thinks she has it all figured out until she reconnects with a childhood friend. Looking through the lens of polygamy [sic], ‘Open’ teaches viewers the full scope of these oftentimes taboo relationships.
The film will premiere on Saturday, March 14th at 8PM on BET & BET HER.
● The fifth and last season of You Me Her will premiere June 1st. You Me Her is TV's first self-described "polyromantic comedy." A couple hired an escort to try to revive their sex lives, and by the end of Season 1 they had become a solid triad facing the world as three. Reviewers have called it a gem of a show limited by the small reach of the Audience network, but Season 5 will reportedly be on Netflix.
The entertainment-biz site Deadline wrote last year,
Season 4 sees them settling back into the ‘burbs to live a tweaked version of the conventional “married with children” life. The scenario begs the questions: Are “the accidental polyamorists” trying to jam a triangular peg into a round-hole world? Will they break the neighborhood, their peculiar romance, or both?
You Me Her's official site. There you can watch the first two episodes of seasons 1 through 4 for free; for the rest you have to subscribe.
● How often do comic-book storylines get attention outside the hot nests of fandom? Vice reports, Wolverine Might Be a Sexually Fluid Mutant in a Throuple — Deal With It (March 3)
A new issue of 'X-Men' suggests the thicc-clawed Marvel superhero is hitting the sheets with Cyclops, and fans are losing it.
by Alex Zaragoza
There's drama afoot in the X-Men world.... Marvel has created a major stir that the X-Men hero is gay or bisexual and possibly even in a polyamorous relationship with Cyclops (aka Scott Summers), as insinuated in a scene from the latest issue of the comic, X-Men #7, released on February 26. ...
In the book, the X-Men are hanging in their retreat on the lunar island of Krakoa, where readers see Logan's bedroom is attached to Scott's and Jean Grey's boudoir via a connecting door, like adjoining hotel rooms. The two have a suggestive exchange about Logan's body hair — and how it makes it "too hot for [the] covers" when he sleeps, as Scott says — while gazing into space. As they continue to muse about the beautiful 'scenery,' Logan mentions Jean Grey in a bikini, to which Scott replies "Scott in a Speedo." To this, Logan flirtatiously responds, “Heh. Well, who could say no to that?” ...
Another report on this breaking news, illustrated. Representation or trendsploitation? Surely a line exists.
Meanwhile in the DC universe, from BleedingCool.com, "Advocating for Space-Age Wiccan Polyamory in Green Lantern Season 2 #2".
● Speaking of trendsploitation, the British tabloids, in their endless fascination for profiling polyfamilies, are not entirely stuck on FMF triads. For instance on February 29 the Daily Star put up this nice, homey vid of a very gay MMF triad:
They're in New York. Turns out the vid is republished from November 2017, when Barcroft Media added it to its offerings. Barcroft is one of the major content suppliers to the tabloids.
● And here's an MFM family with kids in the Mirror: Polyamorous 'thruple' raising kids but won't reveal father to avoid favouritism (June 13, 2019)
Doug, Alexia, and Jacob with their three kids. (Grayson Beras/ Barcroft Media)
...They've shared the same bed in Maumee, Ohio, since a binding ceremony in July 2016.
"It was a wedding without the legal marriage certificate.
"A lot of males when they find out that I have two husbands, they always say: 'do you want a third?'
...Alexia [also] has a one-year-old daughter, Tegan, but she would not tell reporters who her biological father is.
The mother said: "We don't want any favouritism. We want all of our children and dads to be equal.
"Our kids were older when Jake came into our lives. So they just call Jake by his first name. Doug is their biological father so obviously he is called Dad.
"Tegan will be calling both of them 'Dad'. They were both there in the delivery room while I was giving birth."
...Doug, 33, said: "When you have the people that are with you as long as we have been together, I mean honestly we always ask where that person’s at. Where’s Doug at? Where’s Alexia at? When are they going to get home? So is three a crowd?
"It’s not a crowd for us, it’s comfortable."
● And an MFFM quad in the Daily Star: Woman who shares a bed with two boyfriends and girlfriend gushes about 'amazing' love life (June 14, 2019)
Jeremy, Amelia, Laurel, and Doug (HotSpot Media)
[Says Amelia,] "I asked her if she was bisexual as I had an instant attraction to her. "Thankfully she said she was - I was so excited!
"Eventually we invited Laurel into the relationship and our feelings just grew. The three of us became intimate and would share a bed. It was an amazing experience."
Everything was going swimmingly until Laurel started dating Jeremy Lankenau, 35, in March 2018.
After a brief moment of jealousy, Amelia decided to start dating Jeremy too – making the foursome a quad.
She confessed: "At first I was really jealous that Laurel had a new boyfriend. They were spending all their time together and I felt left out. But I was open about my feelings and we all agreed we needed to balance our time with each other better.
"And when I met him, and spent time with him, I realised how lovely he was...."
The foursome have sex together – although Jeremy and Billy aren’t intimate with each other.
They function as a quad, which is hard for some to get their heads around.
Amelia said: "Being intimate with three people feels completely natural. I am so in love with them all - it's a lovely feeling.
..."We all hold hands and kiss when we go out, you can tell how in love we are.
"We do get funny looks sometimes, but we just laugh it off.
"We are used to it."
A Happy Life in an Open Relationship: The Essential Guide to a Healthy and Fulfilling Nonmonogamous Love Life officially publishes March 10 and is now available from Amazon. Wenzel, at right, is a certified sex therapist in Winnipeg. She was just interviewed in Daily Xtra, a major Canadian queer paper: Yes, you can have a healthy, happy open relationship. Here’s how (March 2).
Wenzel, who is bipoly — a person who is bisexual and polyamorous — was featured alongside her husband in a 2017 New York Times article titled, “Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?” While her book provides skillful advice and exercises for how to navigate the world of open relationships, she also shares her own experience: One year into dating her now-husband, he asked if she’d consider an open relationship. Wenzel, who had been monogamous until that point, agreed, and says it’s positively changed her life—and strengthened her relationship. ...
● Last we come to the cover story in the March issue of The Atlantic, one of America's big-thought magazines for well over a century: The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake, by New York Times columnist David Brooks. Although Brooks does not mention polyamory among his alternatives, he examines many of the social ills, and growing efforts to beat them by forming extended chosen families, that make poly households an attractive way of life for many of us. Brooks is a prominent conservative-ish writer who is not afraid to stray across ideological lines.
These excerpts summarize the piece, but really, go read it all.
The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal for the past half century has been a catastrophe for many. It’s time to figure out better ways to live together.
The scene is one many of us have somewhere in our family history: Dozens of people celebrating Thanksgiving or some other holiday around a makeshift stretch of family tables — siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts. The grandparents are telling the old family stories for the 37th time. ...
Weronika Gęsicka; Alamy
...The family, once a dense cluster of many siblings and extended kin, [has been] fragmenting into ever smaller and more fragile forms. The initial result of that fragmentation, the nuclear family, didn’t seem so bad. But then, because the nuclear family is so brittle, the fragmentation continued. In many sectors of society, nuclear families fragmented into single-parent families, single-parent families into chaotic families or no families.
...This article is about that process, and the devastation it has wrought — and about how Americans are now groping to build new kinds of family and find better ways to live.
The Era of Extended Clans
Through the early parts of American history, most people lived in what, by today’s standards, were big, sprawling households. In 1800, three-quarters of American workers were farmers. Most of the other quarter worked in small family businesses, like dry-goods stores. People needed a lot of labor to run these enterprises. It was not uncommon for married couples to have seven or eight children. In addition, there might be stray aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as unrelated servants, apprentices, and farmhands. ...
Extended families have two great strengths. The first is resilience. ... Your spouse and children come first, but there are also cousins, in-laws, grandparents — a complex web of relationships among, say, seven, 10, or 20 people. If a mother dies, siblings, uncles, aunts, and grandparents are there to step in. If a relationship between a father and a child ruptures, others can fill the breach. ...
A detached nuclear family, by contrast, is an intense set of relationships among, say, four people. If one relationship breaks, there are no shock absorbers. In a nuclear family, the end of the marriage means the end of the family as it was previously understood.
The second great strength of extended families is their socializing force. Multiple adults teach children right from wrong, how to behave toward others, how to be kind. ...
But while extended families have strengths, they can also be exhausting and stifling. They allow little privacy; you are forced to be in daily intimate contact with people you didn’t choose. There’s more stability but less mobility. Family bonds are thicker, but individual choice is diminished. ...
The Short, Happy Life of the Nuclear Family
For a time, it all seemed to work. From 1950 to 1965, divorce rates dropped, fertility rates rose, and the American nuclear family seemed to be in wonderful shape. ... When we think of the American family, many of us still revert to this ideal. When we have debates about how to strengthen the family, we are thinking of the two-parent nuclear family ... even though this wasn’t the way most humans lived during the tens of thousands of years before 1950, and it isn’t the way most humans have lived during the 55 years since 1965.
...The period from 1950 to 1965 demonstrated that a stable society can be built around nuclear families — so long as women are relegated to the household, nuclear families are so intertwined [with others] that they are basically extended families by another name, and every economic and sociological condition in society is working together to support the institution.
But these conditions did not last.... Some of the strains were economic.... The major strains were cultural. Society became more individualistic and more self-oriented.... This cultural shift was very good for some adults, but it was not so good for families generally.
... Finally, over the past two generations, families have grown more unequal. America now has two entirely different family regimes. Among the highly educated, family patterns are almost as stable as they were in the 1950s; among the less fortunate, family life is often utter chaos. There’s a reason for that divide: Affluent people have the resources to effectively buy extended family, in order to shore themselves up. Think of all the child-rearing labor affluent parents now buy that used to be done by extended kin.... In 1970, the family structures of the rich and poor did not differ that greatly. Now there is a chasm between them.
...The period when the nuclear family flourished was not normal. It was a freakish historical moment when all of society conspired to obscure its essential fragility.
...The good news is that human beings adapt, even if politics are slow to do so. When one family form stops working, people cast about for something new—sometimes finding it in something very old.
...For vast stretches of human history people lived in extended families consisting of not just people they were related to but people they chose to cooperate with. ...
Recent signs suggest at least the possibility that a new family paradigm is emerging. ... In reaction to family chaos, accumulating evidence suggests, the prioritization of family is beginning to make a comeback. Americans are experimenting with new forms of kinship and extended family in search of stability.
...The revival of the extended family has largely been driven by young adults moving back home. ... Another chunk of the revival is attributable to seniors moving in with their children.
...[But] the most interesting extended families are those that stretch across kinship lines. The past several years have seen the rise of new living arrangements that bring nonbiological kin into family or familylike relationships. On the website CoAbode, single mothers can find other single mothers interested in sharing a home. All across the country, you can find co-housing projects, in which groups of adults live as members of an extended family, with separate sleeping quarters and shared communal areas. Common, a real-estate-development company that launched in 2015, operates more than 25 co-housing communities, in six cities, where young singles can live this way. Common also recently teamed up with another developer, Tishman Speyer, to launch Kin, a co-housing community for young parents.
And I'll add that in the co-housing communities I'm familiar with around Greater Boston, poly households are common and accepted.
At a co-housing community in Oakland, California, called Temescal Commons, the 23 members, ranging in age from 1 to 83, live in a complex with nine housing units. This is not some rich Bay Area hipster commune. The apartments are small, and the residents are middle- and working-class. They have a shared courtyard and a shared industrial-size kitchen where residents prepare a communal dinner on Thursday and Sunday nights. Upkeep is a shared responsibility. The adults babysit one another’s children, and members borrow sugar and milk from one another. The older parents counsel the younger ones. When members of this extended family have suffered bouts of unemployment or major health crises, the whole clan has rallied together.
...As Martin was talking, I was struck by one crucial difference between the old extended families... and the new ones of today: the role of women. ... Today’s extended-family living arrangements have much more diverse gender roles. And yet in at least one respect, the new families Americans are forming would look familiar to our hunter-gatherer ancestors from eons ago. That’s because they are chosen families — they transcend traditional kinship lines.
The modern chosen-family movement came to prominence in San Francisco in the 1980s among gay men and lesbians, many of whom had become estranged from their biological families and had only one another for support in coping with the trauma of the AIDS crisis. In her book, Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship, the anthropologist Kath Weston writes, “The families I saw gay men and lesbians creating in the Bay Area tended to have extremely fluid boundaries, not unlike kinship organization among sectors of the African-American, American Indian, and white working class.”
...Over the past several decades, the decline of the nuclear family has created an epidemic of trauma — millions have been set adrift because what should have been the most loving and secure relationship in their life broke. Slowly, but with increasing frequency, these drifting individuals are coming together to create forged families. These forged families have a feeling of determined commitment. The members of your chosen family are the people who will show up for you no matter what. ...
Two years ago, I started something called Weave: The Social Fabric Project. Weave exists to support and draw attention to people and organizations around the country who are building community. Over time, my colleagues and I have realized that one thing most of the Weavers have in common is this: They provide the kind of care to nonkin that many of us provide only to kin....
You may be part of a forged family yourself. I am. In 2015, I was invited to the house of a couple named Kathy and David, who had created an extended-family-like group in D.C. called All Our Kids, or AOK-DC. ... By the time I joined them, roughly 25 kids were having dinner every Thursday night, and several of them were sleeping in the basement.
I joined the community and never left — they became my chosen family. We have dinner together on Thursday nights, celebrate holidays together, and vacation together. The kids call Kathy and David Mom and Dad. In the early days, the adults in our clan served as parental figures for the young people — replacing their broken cellphones, supporting them when depression struck, raising money for their college tuition. When a young woman in our group needed a new kidney, David gave her one of his.
...The experience has convinced me that everybody should have membership in a forged family with people completely unlike themselves.
Ever since I started working on this article, a chart has been haunting me. It plots the percentage of people living alone in a country against that nation’s GDP. There’s a strong correlation. ... That chart suggests two things, especially in the American context. First, the market wants us to live alone or with just a few people. That way we are mobile, unattached, and uncommitted, able to devote an enormous number of hours to our jobs. Second, when people who are raised in developed countries get money, they buy privacy.
For the privileged, this sort of works. ... For those who are not privileged, the era of the isolated nuclear family has been a catastrophe. ... Many of our other problems — with education, mental health, addiction, the quality of the labor force—stem from that crumbling. We’ve left behind the nuclear-family paradigm of 1955. For most people it’s not coming back. Americans are hungering to live in extended and forged families, in ways that are new and ancient at the same time. ...
And that's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. See you next Friday, unless something big comes up sooner.