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

August 28, 2020

Friday Polynews Roundup: The instructive Jerry Falwell implosion, poly role models for school podding, unicorn problems analyzed, and more

Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup for August 28, 2020.

The hottest non-monogamy topic in the news this week has to be the spectacular implosion of Jerry Falwell, Jr. — possibly America's most powerful evangelical leader, and the boss of Liberty University (training "champions for Christ," with 85,000 students including online). He was a key early backer of Trump in 2016 and a major factor in bringing conservative evangelicals into Trumpland.

You've seen the headlines and pictures. Maybe heard that drunken, slurred radio interview. Maybe you've seen the many accounts of ripoffs, corruption, and intimidation.

Tame by comparison: unzipped on a yacht with a
woman not his wife. He expels students for less.

But the grand finale came early this week when a young former hotel pool boy went public, describing the cuckolding-kink relationship that Falwell and his wife drew him into in 2012. It continued for seven years. The young hunk would ball Mrs. Falwell while Jerry "watched from a corner," sometimes taking photos and/or videos. And now other, unrelated allegations of supposedly forbidden sex are coming out of the woodwork.

Under Falwell's leadership, Liberty University — widely described as run by a culture of fear — punishes or expels students and faculty who attempt, or just speak up for, even ordinary, respectful lovemaking anywhere outside of marriage.

A debate sprang up on the Polyamory Leadership Network over whether there's a teachable moment here for our issues. The general sense was "Hell no!" If nothing else, the ugly power differential overwhelms everything. A 20-year-old hotel worker versus a man who commands millions of loyal followers and is now buddies with the President? And, Falwell seems to consider Liberty's $1.6 billion endowment fund to be the next closest thing to his personal spending money. Yet according to the pool boy, the last straw was that Falwell stiffed him on a business deal and thought he could get away with it. Because power.

While the PLN debated, however, Lux Alptraum took the opportunity. NBC News published her piece Tuesday in the "Think" opinion section of its website. She cuts to the heart of it. Excerpts:

The Falwell affair shows non-monogamy isn't rare — but it does challenge social norms

Monogamous marriage is still considered a bedrock of modern society, whether you're liberal or conservative. Maybe it's time to rethink that.

By Lux Alptraum

On Monday, long-circulated rumors about evangelical leader and now former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. burst into public view, which may end up costing Falwell both his job and, perhaps, his political reputation.

According to what a former business associate, Giancarlo Granda, told Reuters, Falwell and his wife, Becki — who met Granda while he was working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel — had spent years engaging in a sexual practice known as cuckoldry, with Granda serving as the “bull” with Becki as Jerry allegedly looked on. While Jerry Falwell ultimately acknowledged a sexual relationship between his wife and Granda, he contested Granda’s version of the events and said in a statement Sunday that he hadn’t been a consenting participant but a beleaguered husband who’d been cheated on by his beloved wife.

The Falwells are hardly the first prominent political couple to possibly have a sex life that strains the boundaries of monogamy. ...

Yet even as non-monogamy runs rampant in Washington, D.C., it’s difficult to imagine it ever being openly accepted. ...

It feels worth asking why.

...A 2018 peer-reviewed study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior, based on a 2012 study of partnered Americans, suggests that, at any given point, 89 percent are actively monogamous, while 4 percent are consensually non-monogamous and 8 percent are actively non-consensually non-monogamous. ... [I'm amazed that cheaters supposedly outnumber CNM people by a mere 2 to 1. Can that possibly be right? People notoriously shade the truth when speaking to pollsters about their personal lives. –Ed.]

...The story that Jerry Falwell tells about the affair is one where the couple retains their fealty to the idea, if not the actual practice, of monogamous marriage — and to Falwell's stereotypically masculine role in that marriage.

That is very, very different from Granda’s tale of happy rejection of monogamous norms — which is a significant distinction, particularly for an evangelical leader like Falwell. Because whatever else it might be, monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a bedrock of the patriarchy. And a political establishment that’s willing to put a public commitment to monogamy aside is one that’s willing to truly challenge men’s power and dominion over women, their bodies and their sexuality ... which is something American society doesn’t seem quite yet ready to do.

This is not to say that all monogamous marriages are inherently patriarchal, or that casting off the shackles of monogamy suddenly renders your relationship egalitarian.... But monogamous heterosexual marriage as an institution has long been used to police the sexual behavior of women, with tools ranging from virginity pledges to slut-shaming employed to keep the ladies in line.

And, as a concept, monogamy is supposedly gender blind but, in practice, its social enforcement tends to favor men....

What would it have meant for Jerry Falwell Jr. to openly admit that he enjoys watching his wife in the arms of another man? It would mean, certainly, a major challenge to the rigid sexual norms he's publicly supported for decades. But it would also mean challenging his own status as the patriarch within his family and society at large, acknowledging that the family structure and sexual roles on which men have based society for millennia just don’t really work for him and, likely, for many other people.

...We’ll continue to have “sex scandals” in which ostensibly monogamous political figures sheepishly admit their monogamy has been more aspirational than actual. And we’ll continue to uphold monogamous, heterosexual marriage as a goal and even a requirement for everyone's supposed happiness, rather than reject it as the ill-fitting, repressive and punitive institution that it has been since its beginning.

Lux Alptraum is a writer and producer who served as development producer for Fusion’s Peabody-nominated show "Sex.Right.Now.” Her first book, "Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex — And the Truths They Reveal,” explores our cultural obsession with feminine deceit.

Read her whole article (Aug. 25). 

Incidentally, this thing keeps getting bigger. What happened to those years of photos/videos that Falwell supposedly took of Granda doing his wife? Apparently a Miami lawyer was holding some of them. And guess what: Donald Trump knows the story of what happened to these compromising materials from there, according to Trump's longtime lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen. Because Cohen says that he was dispatched on a mission to fix the problem. He was supposed to make the items go away, and he says he did; he says he got their owner to destroy them. One wonders how he performed this persuasion; right afterward, the lawyer went to the extreme of changing his name. The Miami Herald says the lawyer "said he opted to switch identities after Cohen got involved over the photos." 

After that, Jerry Falwell, who had been preparing to back Ted Cruz for president, switched allegiance to Trump. Rod Dreher, writing this week in The American Conservative, is one of many people across the political spectrum to connect the dots:

It raises an important question too about whether or not the Trump campaign used knowledge of the Falwells’ affair to pressure Jerry Jr. to endorse Trump. Former Trump legal fixer Michael Cohen told Tom Arnold that he handled a situation down in Florida in which somebody had some compromising boudoir shots of Becki Falwell that he (Cohen) had to obtain. Funnily enough, right after that, Jerry Jr., who was lined up to endorse Ted Cruz for president, flip-flopped to Trump. Amazing, eh?

And now Cohen is in the news confirming again that yes indeed, he was sent to get those pix. The link is to a Miami Herald story about this ongoing development.

Also from Dreher,

Here’s a video on the Trump YouTube channel, of Becki Falwell, Giancarlo Granda’s former mistress and a board member of Women For Trump, joining Lara Trump in 2019 to talk about strengthening families. Wonder how much longer that's going to stay there?


Phew. Moving on to healthier topics,

●  A new genre of poly-in-the-media seems to be developing: parenting magazines and parenting websites talking about how poly ideals can model useful practices not just for mono couples who want to better their relationship skills, but also for managing podded households with kids. Last week we saw Here’s How Being Polyamorous Prepared Me For Parenting, from HuffPost Personal. Now comes, in Romper, What Can Polyamorous Families Teach Us About Pod Schools? (Aug. 24).

"Stock photo for illustrative purposes only. Posed by model. Getty Images"

By Jamie Kenney

One set of parents, in a committed relationship with their school — that is just one possible arrangement among many, in a year that has seen the rise of learning pods; multiple families banding together to hire a tutor to teach their children at home.

...How can multiple families juggle the mix of egos, group dynamics, and communication styles? For insight, I spoke to polyamorous moms — couples in relationships with other couples or individuals. Both pods and polyamory involve an unorthodox arrangement of interconnected adults coming together in a way that fulfills their needs. Both can complicate existing relationships and, if not approached mindfully, become a minefield of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. They can also be very rewarding.

Pod learning isn’t intimate to the same extent as polyamory, but it’s still a meaningful relationship that requires a lot of mindfulness, communication, and trust, as these three poly moms explain. They offered advice on what “pod families” might expect, and how to avoid common pitfalls of sharing your life with multiple people.

Assume Nothing (And Get It In Writing)....

“Being poly is about 5% fun sex and 95% insane communication and negotiation,” says Erin S. ... “You need to be heard, consent, discuss, be honest, and feel comfortable and confident with what you want and your goals..

...If even well-meaning enthusiasm gets ahead of planning and logistics, it’s not going to work out. She recommends would-be pods take a page from the Polyamory Playbook and write out actual contracts — complete with rules, plans, schedules, and even mission statements — before classes get started. Though not legally binding, they nevertheless outline clear boundaries, expectations, and goals upfront.

 ...To set yourself up for success, she recommends parents “do the hard work in the beginning so that you don’t get stuck questioning things later on.”

Conversations About Health Don’t Have To Be Awkward....

...Cait says anyone in a learning pod should take note and not shy from questions that might seem invasive. “You have to ask how many other people have you been seeing? When is the last time you got tested? Have you been tested for antibodies?”

Contact tracing is a de facto part of the poly community even under normal circumstances....

Lean On One Another’s Strengths....

...“In polyamory and study pods, it’s about finding people who are all complementary to each other, who you can work with in close quarters and also gain something new or needed.”

Perri is currently discussing podding with some members of her friend group, where all the adults will pitch in and teach different subjects. She thinks her poly lifestyle lends itself well to this kind of communalism. The dynamic is familiar: she and her partners are used to, knowing when to step up or step back when working as a group. ...

She advises people keep an open mind. “Even if you disagree, make sure to point out any valid parts of other stances before you state your own case. It makes it easier to find a compromise when everyone knows what they agree on.”

●  An overlapping genre is non-monogamy during Covid-19. Here's from Vice this week: How to Safely Practice Non-Monogamy During the Pandemic (Aug. 28). The writer uses the term "polyamory" a lot, but in fact she is talking mostly about the more individualistic phone-hookup and swing cultures. Which the graphic suggests:

Cathryn Virginia

If you're polyamorous, social distancing probably means fewer in-person hookups – but, as with anything else in an open relationship, communication will keep things sexy.

By Penda N'diaye

...The way people are relating to and adjusting their boundaries with their partners, as is necessary for a more socially distanced version of polyamory, may be taking some extra thought right now. ... If it’s time to renegotiate previous boundaries and get a little more creative about when and how often you spend time with multiple partners, here's how to think about respecting everyone involved.

Figure out what kind of safety measures everyone can agree on before anything else.

Your poly lifestyle is not worth other people getting COVID. If you do intend to see multiple partners in any way, shape, or form—which is hella risky, and which you probably shouldn't—make sure everyone's on the same page, and take meticulous safety measures.

...Unless your alternative partners are willing to move in and commit to an exclusive relationship within your polyamory bubble or polycule, body-to-body sexual contact with them is probably not doable, and everyone needs to have a straightforward discussion about that. ...

Ask questions of all of your partners if you go forward with continuing to be with them physically. You'll need to know:

“Who else are you sleeping with?”

“How many partners have you had in the last month?”

“What safety precautions are you taking?”

When each additional person opens you up to the risks of their own network, the space for error can compound very quickly....

Communicate with all your partners about how emotionally involved you want to be with each respective person, and vice versa. 

If you and your partners decide to abstain from sexual and physical contact for health reasons, it doesn’t mean your relationships have to be placed on hold. ...

...“We’re not having much human connection at the moment, [so] sometimes the lines between physical and emotional intimacy get blurred because we’re craving human touch and human interaction,” Hall said. ...

Create a schedule—or, at least, discuss timing—with your partners.

...Smith shares her personal Google Calendar with her partner, and he and his wife share theirs with her. “We have to be very candid, to the point that if I spend time with any friend, or partner, I put it into the calendar, as well as any social engagements. Even before quarantining, we relied on this system to organize our schedules and designate when we would spend time together.”

“By looking at the calendar, my partner and his wife can make a judgment call like, 'Hey, maybe you’ve been seeing too many people. Can you get tested before we meet up again?'”

...Above all... be patient with yourself and others as everyone adapts. It’s an opportunity to take stock of what feels good about being with—and how to be respectful toward—each person in your life that you're into having sex with (even if that's just in your iMessage inbox or voice notes). 

●  On a more perennial topic, Abby Moss reports to HuffPost UK readers why unicorn fantasies so often end poorly: Why Being The 'Unicorn' In A Threesome Isn't Always A Magical Experience (Aug. 26)

...According to one study, 95% of men and 87% of women have fantasised about sex with multiple partners. Dating app Feeld (which has been called “Tinder for threesomes”) has more than 200,000 weekly users, 3Fun encourages users to browse and “meet open-minded hot couples and singles nearby”. Meanwhile, hookup and swingers’ site Adult Friend Finder has a staggering 80 million users worldwide. [Again, we're talking mostly hookup culture, not polyamory.]

...Cath*, 30, used to meet couples through dating apps. But after a series of unpleasant experiences she now steers clear of “unicorn hunters”.

“I’ve had situations where the male part of a couple has pushed my boundaries too far, even when I’ve been asking him to stop,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“It can be alienating being that third party. I slept with one couple who did try hard to include me. In the morning the woman went out and bought us all breakfast, but the night before I’d really felt like I was just there to fulfil their fantasy and in the morning I couldn’t wait to get out of there.”

This feeling is echoed by Kate*, 27, who has also stopped meeting couples after one too many bad experiences. “I’ve been made to feel like an unpaid sex worker at best, and a human sex toy at worst,” she says. “Too many couples don’t understand how to treat a third person with respect.”

Dr Ryan Scoats, a lecturer in sociology at Coventry University who holds the world’s first PhD in threesomes, has interviewed hundreds of threesome participants, from those in existing relationships to people who’ve had more casual hookups, as well as studying more than 200 qualitative surveys of people’s sex lives.

The fact that many threesome horror stories are told by women could be partly down to the types of threesomes people are having in the first place, he says.

...“Historically, certainly for 50 or more years, we’ve seen a tying together of masculinity and homophobia”, says Dr Scoats, who suggests that while women have not been constrained in the same way, “women’s sexuality is encouraged from the perspective of the male gaze”.

This can be connected to perceptions of emotional security and threat, he adds. “Women’s bisexuality is often not taken seriously, so it’s not seen as a threat to [a] relationship. This can be problematic when it leads to the man involved in the threesome feeling that the threesome is all for him.”

...Feeld’s user guidelines encourage inclusivity and openness to other people and minds, but also stipulate: “no one owes you anything” and “consent is key”.

...Certified sexologist and feminist writer Gigi Engle says that planning, as well as clear communication, is one of the most important parts of any threesome. ...

...Boundary crossing in threesomes can be emotional as much as sexual. For Gemma*, 29, a recent encounter with a couple went wrong when they expected more from her than she was comfortable with. What began as a casual sex arrangement became more serious when the couple asked her to join them on holiday.

“I wasn’t comfortable with that and didn’t want anything more than a casual relationship, which I’d explained to them from the start. They got quite upset and couldn’t understand why I wanted to have that boundary,” she says.

...The terms “unicorn” and “unicorn hunters” may seen harmless, but Engle argues they are symptomatic of the way society often views sexually-empowered women. “The problem is we don’t have adequate language to talk about sex and sexuality in the first place. So, we fill the space with language that’s fun and cutesy,” says Engle.

“It’s really important to question the terms we use. Using a term like ‘unicorn’ really shows where people think the power lies. In this case, it’s all with the couple, and it implies that they don’t need to treat that third individual like a person… or even that to do so would threaten their relationship.”...

That's it for this week's Friday Polynews Roundup. Stay healthy. Mens sana in corpore sano. And to that, add spiritus sanus. Healthy mind, body, and soul. You deserve nothing less, dear people.


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Blogger John U said...

I may be in a bad mood today, but that article, at best, belongs in Swinging in the News, and at worst it's a lot of garbage. Statements like "why unicorn fantasies so often end poorly" begs the question compared two what? Two couple hookups, two person hookups. Just because someone calls themselves an expert doesn't mean they have good data to back up their statements.

August 28, 2020 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a proud unicorn and I've had very good experiences but I'm very clear about boundaries and always have a good talk before anything takes place to get everyone's expectations out in the open. I meet them first and get an idea of their intentions. If I get a negative vibe I politely decline. Communication is key. With that said, threesomes can be very fulfilling for all parties involved if handled correctly.

August 30, 2020 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Clam Chowda said...

Rod Dreher posted that video of "Becki joining Lara Trump in 2019 to talk about strengthening families" as an example of hypocrisy, no doubt. Not at all! Crime families -- and that thing about Cohen and the pix is straight out of The Godfather -- always need strengthening. LOTSA strengthening....

August 30, 2020 4:36 PM  

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