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

April 24, 2020

Friday Polynews Roundup — Happy-poly media as a two-edged sword, quarantine tales and recommends, a date for 'Trigonometry', and more.

It's Friday Polynews Roundup again — for April 24, 2020. Welcome back.

Is good media treatment of poly a double-edged sword? Public-relations experts say that the way you get the public to grasp a new concept is to tell them, "It's just like this thing you already know, but with one new twist." For instance, gay marriage.

But if the new thing actually requires a deeper paradigm adjustment to get it right, is that just asking for trouble? Might you leave people stranded on the wrong shore? Think of the stereotypical unicorn-hunting couple.

The thoughtful Ready For Polyamory blog comes from Laura Boyle, a relationship/sexuality educator and presenter at polycons. She and her polycule had a mostly positive experience being featured in one of those countless happy-polyfamily profiles that the British tabloids keep cranking out. (For instance. More.) Yes, she writes, media treatments like that help to educate the public about who we are and to destigmatize us — including, I might add, to our relatives, friends, employers, and other people who really matter. But the narrowness of such treatments can make them a double-edged sword. This week she writes about the sword's other sharp edge: Advertising Polyamory (April 20).

I have a deeply complicated relationship with all the press (especially tabloid press) that polyamory has received lately. It’s a necessary and positive step to have Super Wholesome Polyamorous People in articles and on video as Very Happy, with maybe a throwaway line that “jealousy happens but hardly ever anymore and we work through that.” [It's] really important to public perception. [Eventually], one of the crappy attempts at a polyamory show like You Me Her (all offense meant, that show was AWFUL) is going to be a little better, take off, and be our Will and Grace, made of all delightfully presented stereotypes, run for too many seasons, and make moms in the Midwest who think they’ve never met one of us realize it won’t be so bad when they do. Or, when we come out to them, they won’t panic; they’ve “heard of this.”

“Laura,” you might say, “that’s all good news. Why on Earth would you have a problem with that?”

Well, I’m in the awkward position of having done this long enough to know that the formats easiest to understand on TV are the hardest to make work in real life, and I worry about what that does when we don’t meet our stereotypes. ...

[In 10 or 20 years] do we get our mothers going “Ugh, you can’t do monogamy right, you can’t do polyamory right, when are you going to find a nice couple and settle down?” Do the long-chain, wide-network-polycule types get ignored and forgotten, and parallel[-poly] folks get treated like shit, when monogamy+1, and two couples getting together to make a quad, become acceptable? Like out leatherfolk got treated at some city’s pride parades in 2019, because we need to be more family-friendly now? Or is it ok because those [big poly] networks still have chunks where people are small-polycule-family-units in appearance, and my mother can still hope I’ll find a stepdad or two for my kid, and my place as the end of a chain is just a phase? ...Those questions bother me both personally and on a grand scale.

Logically, I 100% understand that change is incremental, and that public perception change is the most so. ... So, when members of my polycule were approached to do a tabloid video a couple years ago, I didn’t say “Oh my gosh, don’t do it!” — I said, “Please include me.” I wanted to show that people can have happy family lives and still have outside partners. It still came out as super wholesome, it still got a bunch of views and media attention, mostly positive, and it seems to have landed as similarly easy to understand, even if there were some problematic editing choices. I think incremental change needs to include those slightly-off-expectation expressions, or there’s going to be a lot of confusion when people try polyamory and realize triads aren’t equilateral every moment of every day and every year; that quads usually aren’t all perfectly bisexual people with perfectly equal feelings for each other.

...A wave of “getting people into the idea” with media that says “Oh, equilateral triads are amazing and how this happens” is going to land a lot of people in bad situations that leave them with a bad taste in their mouths, or in a lot of community rejection, which I think is just as bad as having been ignorant about it. Feel free to disagree, because incremental change among people who still will never try it is important to public perception; but I worry about internal community impact, and that’s potentially ugly as a side effect.

See also her recent take on Maintaining your relationships and your polycule in a pandemic (April 6.)

● Oh yes, we're back to isolation in the pandemic. Lots more of it this week. On NewNowNext, Polyamorous and Quarantined: How Are These Couples [sic] Making It Work? (April 17):

“You’d think there’d be a ton of sex with the three of us living together, but no one is ever in the mood."

By Zachary Zane

Before coronavirus (COVID-19), Simon, 46, had never lived with both his husband Alex, 45 and their shared boyfriend Jack, 38. While they expected new challenges as they transitioned to a quarantined throuple, they weren’t prepared for what actually happened: one partner feeling excluded, even though they now spend every waking moment together. “My biggest fear is that the stress of this all is going to cause further rifts for us because we spend so much time together,” says Simon.

Getty stock photo
...When you’re polyamorous, you don’t just have to navigate the feelings of one partner, you have to consider the needs of multiple. This can prove challenging when you’re self-isolating with one lover and not the other(s). It can be even worse when you’re the one who’s self-isolating alone. Or, like with Simon, the dynamics grow complicated when all parties are suddenly together 24/7, an abrupt change in pre-COVID-19 boundaries. ...

...Simon also made clear that Jack doesn’t speak on his behalf. Jack had mentioned something about the “three of us forever,” which frightened Alex, especially since they’d all been dating only six months before the quarantine. Simon iterated that he... knows their relationship with Jack might not stand the test of time.

...“From the beginning of the pandemic, things got really complicated for me and my other long-term partner,” says Jessica, 29. She’d... decided to self-isolate with the partner she’d been with for three and a half years and not the partner of nine months.

“We had this incredibly sad and difficult day where we went for a walk, not touching and maintaining six-feet distance the whole time. I told him that, because of the quarantine, I was going to be ‘flu-bonded’ to my primary partner.”

...Daniel, 37, is self-isolating in the Caribbean with one of his primary partners, Josh, 28, who he’s been seriously dating for three years. They flew there for a music festival in early March and decided to stay. While isolating abroad, Josh and Daniel grew closer, though Daniel still says his romantic life is in shambles. Two of his partners back in New York City have contracted COVID-19, one of whom is a mother of two children. While he tries his best to check in on all of his partners regularly, he feels helpless; they’re sick with a potentially life-threatening illness, and there’s nothing he can do from hundreds of miles away. ...

● Eli Sheff, on her long-running Psychology Today blog The Polyamorists Next Door: Polyamorous During the Pandemic (April 21). Kinda states the obvious, but....

Rainbow-heart polycule graphic

This is the first in a series about polyamory and COVID-19, and it addresses the advantages and disadvantages of being polyamorous during a pandemic.


...More social support during a difficult time. ... This includes not only intimate partners, but more importantly the larger network of non-sexual polyaffective relationships that make up the web of relationships that Koe Creation named a polycule.

Many of the other benefits depend on residential status....

Living Separately

These poly folks already have the skills in place to stay connected with each other, even when they are physically remote. ...

Living Together

Most obviously, it can be more fun to be on lockdown with a built-in crew for board games, cooking, socializing, and support. Social isolating with more people is less isolating!

...Having more grownups around to help wrangle the kids who are home all day. ...

...Pooling resources... Residential polycules with multiple incomes might have more financial resilience if one partner loses a job. ...


...The polycule... is vulnerable to infection both because of its large size and its permeability. ...

Living Separately

...Seeing the other person on a screen ... can be especially unsatisfying for lovers who really miss each others’ touch.

...Being prohibited from visiting can stir up issues of relationship power and hierarchies....

Living Together

...Being cooped up together can be incredibly painful for people who are having conflict with their partner(s). ... People who are anxious and afraid (and who isn’t right now?) tend to fall back on less healthy behaviors or relationship patterns. ... Worldwide there has been a rise in intimate partner violence....

...Inability to control others visiting each other during the lockdown. The resulting controversy... is so contentious that it [will require] another blog.

● On Mashable, What It's Like To Be Polyamorous During The Coronavirus Quarantine (April 19):

By Anna Iovine

...This is a question posed on the #PolyProblems Tumblr page, one of several in a post titled "Pandemic Poly Problems." ... Can you have phone sex with one partner while another is in the room? What if the partners don't know each other well?

Vicky Leta / Mashable
...There are four types of dynamics going on right now, according to relationship coach Effy Blue: People staying at home with partners but separated from others; people separated from all their partners; those polycules who decided to come together under one roof; and solo polyamorous people living alone.

...Ashley Ray, a comedian in Los Angeles, is solo polyamorous and has been since 2013. "Even, for me, given that background, I've really been struggling," she said. "If you're like me, you're going insane and you're just trying to video chat everyone you can. ... I did have one partner who very much wanted to detail the fun crazy quarantined sex he and his partner are having," she said, "and I was just like, 'Come on, you gotta shut up.'"

...Steve Dean, online dating consultant at Dateworking.com, a dating coaching and consulting business, told Mashable that he's staying at home with one partner and communicating with others virtually. ... In some cases, Dean said, social distancing has brought him closer with other partners, even those who even in normal circumstances live in different countries. "If anything, now that I have fewer things going on, every night I have more time that I can set aside for intentional heart-to-hearts and virtual chats with partners who are abroad."

Polycules living in one home, too, can have their own issues. They may be dealing with dynamics they never had to before and different distributions of labor. ... "There's a lot of work to be done there," said Blue. If relationship issues had previously gone avoided, they're bubbling up to the surface now. "People feel like they have time to talk about things without feeling like it has to be solved then and there," she said, "Because there's a sense that we're all going to be here for awhile." ...

...How it plays out will vary from person to person, but Blue believes that longtime, established polyamorous relationships will fare just fine. She compared them to lava lamps: frequently morphing and changing within an established framework.

Read on; it's much longer.

● A gripping narrative on The Greatist: I’m Polyamorous and I Don’t Live with My Partner — Here’s How We Cope During Quarantine (April 19):

By Gabrielle Smith

It’s the Sunday morning before Mayor de Blasio orders all the restaurants in NYC to close. I wake up and check my phone. I’m groggy from a late night of bartending, and it takes me a few moments to register the text that my boyfriend, A, has sent me. Woke up with a high fever. You should consider canceling your plans and self-isolating.

My heart drops. OK. Breathe, I tell myself to control the sudden spike of anxiety. I inform my roommate of the situation. I cancel my dates for the week. ... A’s messages begin to peter out — and then I start hearing from his wife.

Graphic of texting with isolated poly partners.
Brittany England
Getting texts from her isn’t abnormal. ... We operate in this fluid cell of communication, regular STD testing, and combined Google calendars, all with the idea that our love can be shared with more than one person — and, often, with each other. ... The first time B and I were alone together, she gave me a note of reassurance.

“I really like you for him,” she said. “He always comes back so happy after seeing you.”

B’s texts to me now are composed of status updates.

...I’m only in the next neighborhood. Five stops and 15 minutes of travel could take me there. But I don’t move. ...

● In the alt-weekly Chicago Reader. Polyamory during a pandemic (April 21):

By S. Nicole Lane

...For many folks, their partnerships are evolving day by day as social distancing shifts to the new normal and shelter-in-place circumstances disrupt poly formations. Polycules, constellations, and networks are all navigating the pandemic in various ways, and each has their own unique set of boundaries.

Navigating a partnership shift this invasive (and global) requires incessant communication. Starting a healthy conversation of limitations, needs, wants, and concerns is imperative when several people are involved. ... For some polycules, physical touch and intimacy may have to take a back seat for the foreseeable future. This is, of course, a strain on any relationship. Developing a plan is essential when sketching out what a pandemic polycule will look like. Technology, virtual dates, social media, and video chats are all ways to stay connected and intimate.

...Apps like Hinge have launched [online] "date-from-home" features.... For poly folks looking to seek out new crushes, this is a cute and accessible way to continue dating (and still stay isolated). However, for folks in long-term partnerships, the pandemic has introduced considerable circumstantial changes.

"I haven't seen any of my other partners for like four weeks now. We've been experimenting with remote dating," says Dee*, a Skokie resident.... Dating while isolating consists of calls, voice chats (using a program called Discord), movie nights through Netflix Party, and a few dates through Animal Crossing. Dee is currently living with her spouse, who is immunocompromised, and because Dee is seeing three other partners, she finds that strictly quarantining themselves has been the best decision. Dee and her partners practice kitchen-table polyamory, which is when all people know one another and are friends with one another. Metamours—a term that refers to your partner's partner—are all friends when practicing kitchen-table polyamory (the term is inspired by the idea that everyone in the polycule is seated together at a kitchen table). For Dee, this type of practice has been helpful while quarantined. "It's been nice having my whole polycule as a support network. We've all been able to look out for each other and those of us who are healthier/lower risk can shop for each other."

...A text conversation between two members of a poly couple shows just what kind of anxieties can occur.

Steven* and Sylvia* have been together for three years and are navigating the pandemic one day at a time. Steven has been with his nesting partner for ten years, and Sylvia, being a solo poly, has been dating a new partner for four months. "When the stay-at-home order came in, my nesting partner and I had a brief discussion that we would still see each other's partners as long as everyone was comfortable with it and ensure that we would limit as much as possible interactions outside of our 'pod' and be safe when doing so," says Steven.

Steven, his nesting partner, and their metamours are all able to work from home during isolation, but Sylvia is still working some reduced hours. At first, Steven says he had few concerns about seeing Sylvia because she was taking the proper precautions to protect herself. However, after Sylvia listened to a Dan Savage podcast that discussed the topic of dating during a pandemic, she became increasingly concerned. After hearing Savage's advice for folks not to see their partners if they don't live with them, Sylvia's views on things shifted. ... "The biggest difficulty I have been facing lately is that I am still required to work on-site at my office," she says. "Although we have less than ten people currently working in our office, and we are doing everything in our power to keep our workspace and our protocols as safe and clean as possible, I still feel that I act as the biggest threat to my partners' health as they both work from where they have been sheltering in place for nearly a month.

"After having many lengthy conversations and despite knowing the risk, both of my partners, in addition to my partner's live-in partner, have all been adamant that they would still like to see me," she says.

Having lost 75 percent of her income, her mental health has suffered. "My long-term partner has stepped up immensely and has been there for me when I have needed reassurance and emotional support; both he and his live-in partner have been like family to me through this experience...."

Rae McDaniel, a certified sex therapist and founder of Practical Audacity, says... "Alternative ways of connecting simply may not completely meet your needs. And that's OK." They say there should be an acknowledgment "that we are going through collective withdrawal and grief about not being able to be with everyone that we love.... Being forced to isolate from communities of friends and lovers alike can be extremely difficult when community is a main source of connection, meaning, and a feeling of belonging.

"...Socially distant walks can be a nice way to connect and get some fresh air at the same time. There's also the old-school love letter."...

● A followup to last week's piece about best practices for online sex parties, Eros in Isolation (by Mischa Byruck on Medium): Forbes now has a story on the growth of these all over, happening on various platforms in case Zoom and GetVokl get stuffy about hosting them: Even Sex Parties Have Moved Online As People Turn To Cybersex During Lockdown (April 16). For instance, Forbes mentions events on the poly-oriented dating site Feeld.

● Lastly: We finally have a date when the BBC's poly love series Trigonometry will become watchable in the US: May 27, when the new streaming service HBO Max becomes available to HBO subscribers (no additional charge).

A new review of Trigonometry just appeared in a binge-watch guide in The Guardian, UK edition: 'Trigonometry shows that polyamory is about love': Paapa Essiedu's lockdown TV (April 23)

Actor/director Paapa Essiedu,
"bingeing British"
...An excellent eight-part drama about a couple who both fall in love with their lodger; it is like any other love story, just with an added element that makes it a little bit more extraordinary. The writing is fantastic, it is beautifully shot in an otherworldly style, and the three central performances are wicked — there’s so much chemistry between the three of them. It draws you in as a viewer, and shows you the reality of polyamory in a non-judgmental, unsensational way.

The 'Trigonometry' polyamorous triad
Trigonometry's Ray, Kieran, and Gemma 
I recently directed a play on the same theme called Either and, as part of the research, I got the actors to watch Louis Theroux’s documentary Altered States: Love Without Limits, which makes [polyamory] sound like the most wild, hypersexual outskirts-of-society type existence. It is often seen as something really taboo and extreme; you don’t often see the idea of love being like a central pillar of that world or those relationships. I think that is what Trigonometry does that’s so brilliant: it teases out love as the thing that challenges and pushes and glues together these three characters along this journey.

[It illustrates] just how important and how brilliant British television can be.

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now! See you next Friday, unless something big happens sooner.

Send me good stuff if you see it: alan7388 (at) gmail.com.


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Blogger Dr. Muscle said...

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May 10, 2020 12:24 AM  

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