Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 28, 2021

Today is Metamour Day! Share it out. Info, links, and background.

Metamour mug from BashfulBatCreations

February 28 is Metamour Day, "Honoring Polyamory's Most Distinctive Relationships." It's Valentine's Day times two.

And once again the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) has come up with a bunch of goodies for you to pass along. 

NCSF picked up this idea and made it a thing starting two years ago. Now a lot of polyfolks are committed to keeping it going forever. Share it out from NCSF's Facebook or from their Twitter rather than from here, to help make those trend today. And browse and use the tags  #metamour and #MetamourDay

Now read on. To begin with, here's NCSF's press release: 

Same graphic in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Maltese.

In honor of interpersonal relationship diversity, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) celebrates February 28th as Metamour Day.

“As consensual non-monogamy becomes more common, we need to honor these relationships,” says Ceyda Kirin, Director of Metamour Day and NCSF Board Member. “And with the added stress and isolation caused by the pandemic, now more than ever we need to acknowledge and celebrate our partner’s partners.”

Metamour Day is a way to appreciate the special role of a metamour, your partner’s partner, and to acknowledge the supportive and beneficial impact of non-monogamy on our collective lives. It’s about communal appreciation of our family structures, rather than forced compersion (the opposite of “jealousy” or a positive emotional reaction to a loved one’s other relationship).

Check out the Metamour Day page to find more information and how you can participate, including downloading our new Metamour Day image in English, Spanish, French, Norwegian, as well as Metamour Day Cards by Anna D. Hirsch with PositivelyPolyAnna.com. You can also see our new What is a Metamour? video.

The press release en Español.


So why is this thing important?

Because look at that slogan: Honoring Polyamory's Most Distinctive Relationships.

Which is precisely on target.

Your metamour is your lover's other lover. The defining aspect of polyamory – the thing that distinguishes it from other forms of consensual non-monogamy such as open relationships and swinging – is the understanding that your metas are significant full persons in regard to you, who require, at minimum, your consideration, respect, and basic good will.

Even if you hardly know them and/or don't much like them, and even if ordinary politeness is as far as you go. A lot like extended family. Because polyamory carries an implicit ethic that for better or worse, "We're all in this together."

And of course, there's absolutely no limit to how close you and your metas can become if you both wish. 
Card from OurBackPockets. See others there too.
Polyamory is the only model of romantic love – that magical thing that has enraptured and tormented and motivated humanity since humanity began – that generalizes (as mathematicians would say) romantic love to a larger realm of relationships beyond the private couple-love where most societies have rigorously and fearfully walled it away.

Consider, for instance, that the basic human emotion called compersion did not even have a word, as far as I know, until roughly 1980. (Yes the Buddhists have mudita, but that is not specific to romantic love.) For every emotion word in English at least, there was always a word for the opposite emotion (happy/sad, anxious/calm, etc.) except for the one emotion of romantic jealousy. Until as late as about 1980. 
● Let's move on to Elisabeth Sheff's seminal article from the first Metamour Day, Delighting in Your Beloveds’ Other Lovers (Feb. 26, 2019). It's also excellent to share out. Here's some of it:

For more than 20 years I have been studying polyamorous families with kids, and I have seen them face the usual difficulties that come with life – illness, economic challenges, divorce, disability, and the like. What has stood out to me about these families who remain together in long-term polycules – some of them for 60 or more years – is that the metamour relationships make or break the family over the long term. These emotionally intimate, non-sexual chosen family relationships are so important in polyamorous families that I made up the word polyaffective to describe them.

Positive polyaffective relationships among metamours who become chosen family over time are the backbone of the poly family. Metamours who can’t stand each other and are never able to establish comfort (much less delight) in each others’ presence are not going to happily coexist over the long term. Metamours who add value to each others’ lives, however, can not only support each other when life inevitably throws them a curve ball, but also support the polyamorous relationship with their mutual partner if it falls on hard times.

...By promoting Metamour Day, NCSF hopes “to foster positive relationships between you and your metamours, whatever that might look like. It is not about forced compersion. It’s about communal appreciation within our family structures."

If you are lucky enough to have a metamour with whom you share compersion, celebrate them on February 28!

● That bit about "the metamour relationships make or break the family over the long term"? That's not just Sheff's observation of the families in her own long-term study. Joanna Iwanowska of the University of Warsaw published a paper titled Metamour Connections as the Underpinning of the Fabric of Polyamory.

"These bonds are significant and constitutive of polyamory," she writes;

...Polyamory stresses not so much the openness to having multiple romantic relationships, but the openness to having metamour relationships with other people. It is this second kind of openness – the openness to metamour contact and communication – that singles out a polyamorous person among other people who might be open to a multiplicity of romantic and/or sexual relationships, e.g. from such a monogamist who leads a double life.

...In a paper that appeared in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Luke Brunning (2016) writes that “the presence of a third party is a constitutive feature of polyamory” (p. 9), and the third party is typically one’s metamour or a potential metamour. ... In addition to that, I argue that accepting the prospect of one’s partner dating another person entails agreeing to be in a relationship with this person, even if this relationship might remain indirect....  Metamour connections are the underpinning of the fabric of polyamory, and they deserve as much academic attention and research as the polyamorous romantic connections. ...

The paper gets way more academical than I can follow (you need to know your Seneca and your Aristotelian tree model of reality), but those are the basic ideas.

● Cartoonist Tikva Wolf writes, "When things are good, bask in the joy!"

Courtesy KimchiCuddles.com, used by permission. Here are all the Kimchi Cuddles comics tagged metamour, 87 of them. That's 9% of Tikva's output of 938 strips since she started drawing them in 2013.

● From The Establishment, a women's site on Medium.com, Why You Should Meet Your Partner’s Lovers (March 10, 2016)

By Kit O'Connell

Two months ago, my lovers met over tacos.

...I was confident they’d get along. Besides the obvious, they have several things in common: They both love cats, feminism, and, of course, Tex-Mex food. This would give us at least three topics to talk about, even if things got awkward.

Why Meeting Metamours Matters

...In my experience and for many polyamorous folk I know, meeting other lovers can alleviate jealousy and reduce relationship drama. Until you meet, “the other” is a scary unknown; if we let our imaginations run away, we can inflate them into something perfect and unattainable, and most importantly, better than me. But when you do meet, you find out they’re just another human.

“Keeping them at arm’s length, never experiencing their actual humanity as a person, limits the potential of that relationship,” said Kiki Christie, a polyamorous and sex positive relationship educator from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

“One of my early relationships was with a couple that was married,” Kiki told me. “I got to know my partner’s wife really well. They were living in a different city, so every time I went to visit him I would spend time with her, because it was at their home.”

Because they shared each other’s company so often, she felt safe bringing up problems and dealing with difficult emotions.

“Being in a familiar relationship with my partner’s partner, with her, meant that I felt more open about talking about my feelings to both of them. I didn’t feel like my communication had to be mitigated at all,” Kiki said. “If I had an issue I could speak directly.”

Anna Hirsch
Genuine affection and connection blossomed between Kiki and her partner’s wife. They became such close friends that “we spent some holiday time together without my partner around. We just became very comfortable with each other. In fact he and I broke up, and she and I are still very good friends.”
Like Kiki, I shared a partner with a metamour for years. Our relationship remained platonic, but the intimacy we formed was genuine. We even had pet names for each other. The friendship outlasted our mutual relationship too, and we even got matching tattoos.

As Kiki said of her friendship, “It was its own relationship and it ultimately enhanced the poly relationship.”

Challenges And Fears

...“There’s going to be metamours that you don’t really click with, that you don’t want to be friends with, or that you might not even like all that much,” [Kiki] cautioned. “So how do you manage to still have a sustainable relationship through that? Focusing on people as individuals can help.”

...Even when I’ve felt jealous of one of my metamours, witnessing their small gestures of kindness and affection together during a meeting helps me open my heart to a better understanding of what my partner sees in them. When I’m challenged by difficult emotions, I focus on my partner’s happiness and often find I can share in it a little.

As Kiki explained, mutual respect is key when metamour relationships are challenging:

“If you’re constantly thinking of this person as someone who’s attached to my partner, or someone you’re not relating to one-on-one as an individual, even if you don’t particularly get along with them or see eye-to-eye with them, you’re not giving them or the relationship the respect it deserves. It’s like a relationship with a coworker you don’t get along with — you still have to see them as a person.”

Especially when there’s tension or distrust, we both believe metamour meetings can be crucial. ...

● Kiki Christie's The Benefits of Metamours, a list of six:

1. Backup, with benefits. ...like when (I've actually heard this one) "I don't like anal sex but my partner does, so when he finds a partner who likes it, I cheer and feel compersive!" Can also be applied to more mundane but equally subjective activities like skiing, movie-going, an affinity for jazz or love of dogs. ...

2. The Emergency Contact. ...

3. The Distraction. Someone who you know loves your partner who will go on a date with them while you're on a date with a Very Hot New Person.

4. The FWB for a threesome weekend, etc. Why not? ...

5.The sister/brother/wife/husband you always dreamed of. Share the pain, the joys, the chores and burping the baby. We. Are. Family. (If you can't hear funky music by now, you're younger than I am, but that's okay, sister)!

6. This is the biggest one, and the one I'm not at all inclined to make fun of. It's more than family. It is, in fact, true intimacy -- with someone your intimate partner is intimate with. With someone who loves your partner so much -- as you love them so much -- that the love just carries on over to everyone who is doing the loving.

● Best-case scenario, by Tikva:

Small bumpersticker from Cafepress

NCSF's Metamour Day logo on mug

  More: Here are some Metamour Day Things To Do suggestions from NCSF. Take a look at  PolyAnna's Metamour Day cards (left side) and print one out for your meta(s). And there's other swag to browse from NCSFCafePressZazzle, and Etsy.

●  And lastly, a warning: Metamour relations cannot be forced. You need to allow them to find their natural level.

Many metas have little or no interest in each other's company, and that's okay. No matter how much you may wish they did. Overbearing pressure for closeness between unwilling metas is a Known Creepy Thing. Open the door, yes. Encourage, yes. But don't try to drag someone through that door. There is something more important than love, and that is respect.  

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February 26, 2021

Polysecure? Jessica Fern's groundbreaking book on attachment and polyamory

Psychotherapy has a depressingly low cure rate. That's slowly improving, but it seems to stay about 100 years behind physical-body medicine in terms of curing and preventing the disorders it confronts, as opposed to just helping patients cope. Its many different methods don't seem to matter much; studies keep finding that effectiveness mostly depends on the therapist's bond with the patient. Kind of at the level of your great-great-grandparents' family medical doctor with his comforting black bag in 1921.

Therapies based on attachment theory, however, have earned a better reputation. Research evidence supports their usefulness and the underlying rationale, and the relationship-therapy world has taken this on board.

Attachment theory is based on findings that a young child's relationship with their earliest primary caregiver, especially during times of stress, seems to shape how they will relate to other people for life. These early experiences are said to result in four basic attachment styles, called secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-anxious, and insecure-disorganized. Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) for troubled couples is rooted in this.

My introduction to this came from presentations given at polyamory conventions by Jessica Fern, a poly psychotherapist from Boulder, Colorado. She has broken new ground by extending attachment theory into practices for people in polyamory and other forms of consensual non-monogamy. Poly life can certainly test people's skills at managing complex intimate relationships jumbled up with issues of one's own psyche, at advanced levels.

And now Fern is out with her awaited book.

Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma, and Consensual Nonmonogamy (Thorntree Press, 2020) is smart, readable, path-setting, and deeply caring. And practical. She presents abundant material that will inform poly-friendly therapists everywhere, and she offers six particular strategies that will help polyfolks and their beloveds to become more "polysecure" in their relationships.

She writes:

"I've combed through the literature on the conditions needed to create secure attachment in adult romantic relationships and considered what I've experienced and witnessed in the polyamory partnerships that I've counseled." The six practices she has come up with get the acronym "HEARTS, which I use to encapsulate the different ingredients, skills, capacities and ways of being required for secure functioning in multiple attachment-based partnerships."


Lindsay Hayes, a grad student working on an MA in counseling psychology with plans to open a therapy practice for polyfolks, interviewed Fern about the book. I said I'd be grateful if she would guest-post her interview here, and she said yes! So here you go.


An Interview with Jessica Fern, Author of PolySecure

By Lindsay Hayes

In 2014, Jessica Fern found that her therapy practice was getting an abundance of clients wanting to know more about polyamory. After one particular week in which three separate sets of clients brought up polyamory in their sessions, she knew she needed to learn more. While she had been aware of the practice, Fern knew she needed to do more in-depth reading. She read books such as Sex at Dawn to further enhance her effectiveness as a therapist. To her surprise, she found that what she was learning had as much personal relevance as it did professionally. 

Jessica Fern
In her book Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma, and Consensual Nonmonogamy, Jessica Fern provides a new model for those in, or considering being in, polyamorous relationships. The book takes a well-known psychotherapy methodology, Attachment Theory, and applies it to polyamory. A goal of the book is to help those in relationships foster what's called secure attachment. The underlying, and most important, goal is to help people form a secure attachment with themselves and their own emotional wellbeing. “Knowing how to stand securely on your own two feet and how to be your own safe haven...is fundamental,” Fern writes. 

These ideas, based on her work as a therapist, were further developed as she began to speak at polyamory conferences. “I gave a talk at Southwest Love Fest in 2019 titled Cultivating Secure Attachment in Polyamorous Relationships. We had to move rooms at the last minute because there were so many people wanting to hear the talk. Here I am, looking out at a room of 200 people who are like ‘Help us! This poly stuff is hard,’ ” she told me, recalling the experience. “I wrote this for them.”

It's her first book. When I asked about the process of writing it, she said “Writing the book energized me.” In the past she’d found writing projects tiresome. With this book she was determined to enjoy the process. Even getting stuck was sometimes rewarding. “There was this one moment in the book where I was super stuck. I didn’t know how to make one section of the book transition into the rest. I was stuck. And then I heard this inner voice that asked me to ‘just read it in the future.’ So I meditated and tried to read it. The next morning as I was drifting in and out of sleep, I saw that page that I needed. That moment was really fun.”

Fern tells me she also wrote it with fellow therapists in mind. Her clients and other people tell her stories of therapists ill-equipped to deal with or even hostile to polyamory. As a trained therapist, she is keenly aware of how underserved this population is. Research on polyamory is lacking compared with monogamy, and psychological and therapeutic education is similarly lacking -- though that should be changing rapidly with the American Psychological Association's new Committee on Consensual Non-monogamy. One of the committee's missions is to "promote the development and delivery of affirmative psychological services to CNM-identified individuals.

Fern thinks the shortage of knowledgeable therapists is one reason for the enthusiastic reaction her book has elicited. “ ‘I wish this book had been around years ago’ is something I’ve heard quite a few times, she says. So I think the book did what I was hoping for -- it filled a gap in poly literature.”  

Before wrapping up our conversation, I asked what it was like to do a book tour during a pandemic. “This might sound bad, but it made it easier!” Rather than worrying about time off work for travel, figuring out childcare arrangements, and other logistics, she enjoyed being able to do virtual interviews and talks. “It’s actually great. Except when people want signed copies,” she laughed.

Lindsay Hayes is a student, adjunct instructor, writer, consultant, and bunny mom extraordinaire. She holds an MA in communication and is currently working on her MA in counseling psychology. She looks forward to opening her private therapy practice to help poly folks iron out life’s inevitable wrinkles. Her master’s thesis is a year-long narrative inquiry of polyamorous individuals.


UPDATE: A positive review of the book by the editor of Greater Good magazine, Jeremy Adam Smith: What Polyamory Can Teach Us About Secure Attachment (March 26, 2021). "A new book provides lessons for everyone about cultivating strong emotional attachments with romantic partners."

In many ways, monogamy tries to externally create the conditions for secure attachment even when the individuals involved do not internally have secure attachment styles: legal marriage, home ownership, sexual exclusivity, and children stitch people together to a degree that is difficult to unravel. As Fern warns, however, this structure provides only the illusion of emotional security....

Greater Good is a publication of Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. "The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society." 

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February 23, 2021

Action call: Did you grow up in a polyam family? Ask Amy wants to hear your experience.

Two weeks ago in newspapers all over, the advice columnist Ask Amy (Amy Dickinson) advised an aghast mom to accept her adult son's polycule into the family, as he requested.

Amy used to be actively hostile and dismissive toward polyamory and people who defend it. In recent years she has moderated though remains somewhat skeptical.

At the bottom of her column now out she writes,

I don’t believe that polyamory is the gateway to happiness, but that same caution would also apply to many conventional marriages.

I’d love to hear from people who grew up in polyamorous households.

...Email to askamy@amydickinson.com , or by mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

If that's you, please tell her how your family worked out for you; she seems to be still forming her opinions. She will surely hear from many children of ordinary cheaters and secret affair-havers who are not us. If you grew up in an openly polyamorous family with good values, she needs to hear your voice.

A couple of sentences will get your message across, but I'm sure any length will be welcome. The address is above.

Forward this to anyone you know for whom it is relevant. 

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February 18, 2021

Exciting poly-rights law project coming, seeks your stories for media push

This announcement and call for volunteers comes from alternative-family activist and attorney Diana Adams of the Chosen Family Law Center.

Poly in Public: A Media Training for
People with Stories of Discrimination

Founded by Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic and the Chosen Family Law Center, the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition is made up of long-time advocates for the rights of polyamorous communities who are supporting the passage of laws in various states to recognize polyamorous families.

We are seeking polyamorous people to speak to news and media publications about their personal experiences to fight for change. 

Particularly, we are looking for people who can share stories about:

·  Health insurance coverage & health care access- inability to cover more than one partner 
·  Housing discrimination 
·  Hospital visitation issues with more than one partner 
·  Employment discrimination 
·  Child custody challenges 
·  Any other challenges with lack of recognition of more than one partnership

Join us for a free workshop Friday February 26th from 12:00 - 1:30 pm EST, where you can learn more about our work and have help thinking through how and if you want to share your story. It's most helpful to hear stories from people who would be comfortable sharing their names and faces if possible, but we are also open to hearing from those who wish to remain anonymous. Here's a helpful article by Executive Director of Chosen Family Law Center Diana Adams on how to decide whether it's safe for you to come out publicly as poly.

If have a story to share and/or want to RSVP to learn more, please email contact@chosenfamilylawcenter.org with 'Poly Media' in the subject line. 

Diana Adams, Esq., Executive Director
Chosen Family Law Center, Inc.

This is going to be a big deal. Expect to hear a lot more about it in months to come.

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February 13, 2021

The QAnon Member of Congress and the "polyamorous tantric sex guru"

Newly elected Congresswomen Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and her husband Perry Greene

See new updates at end.

Hot on the web today are headlines about the newly elected Republican QAnon congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, she of the Jewish space lasers setting California wildfires, hitting us in the eye with this: "Greene 'openly cheated' on her husband of 25 years with a polyamorous tantric sex guru".

Once again not the representation for poly we might have wanted, but there it is. The story broke in the scandal-sheet Daily Mail and is now delighting much of the internet.

The stuff happened about a decade ago after the family-values militant had become a baptized evangelical, but before QAnon, Trump, and maybe the rest of her current politics. The gym hunks in the story declined to comment but did not deny it.

Gotta like the attitude of the self-identified poly guy, though! This picture of Craig Ivey is making the rounds:

Maybe second thoughts about the representation after all?    

...Then after ending her affair with him, the mom-of-three moved on to a gym manager behind her husband's back.

...Craig Ivey, the tantric sex practitioner, said: 'I will not respond to anything about this,' while the other man, Justin Tway, said: 'I have no interest in talking about anything to do with that woman. Everything with her comes to no good.'

...On Instagram, Ivey calls himself The Tantric Warrior, describing himself as 'Living a warrior lifestyle while finding tantric love'. He also participates in reenactments of medieval battles and teaches sword fighting. 

Since his affair with Taylor Greene, Ivey, 42, has moved to Washington State. ... He has now set up a gladiator bootcamp called The Ludus.

...Ivey is currently living in a trailer in Renton, Washington, but along with a girlfriend and another couple, he has bought a house in Buckley, an hour south of Seattle, which he says he wants to turn into a polyamorous commune.  


Updates: From Uproxx, Feb. 17:

Due to his newfound notoriety, [Ivey] has started an OnlyFans page, and he’s actually calling himself “The Polyamorous Tantric Sex Guru” while claiming to live a life filled with “adventure, magic, nature, dance, armored combat, creativity, sensuality, experiences, seeking knowledge, movement, gleaning wisdom, teaching, stoicism, fun, playfulness, and most importantly love for all creatures and human beings.”

..The Daily Mail reveals from Ivey’s various social media posts that he remembers Greene as “a kind spirit that wanted to help people through building community and reaching health goals.” The two never discussed politics, though, and he’s now sad at what he’s seeing from her.

“It does sadden me to see the type of person she has chosen to become,” Ivey relayed. “I feel like I knew her at her best and unfortunately she has drifted far from that life. I still wish her the best.”

From Meaww, Feb. 17:

He has shared, “Am I a Tantric Sex guru? Fuck no. I found Tantra about 4 years ago. My beautiful and Amazing friend invited me to do a 4 day Tantra Festival in Oregon.” He continues, “Tantra is one of those things that forces you to face a level of intimacy that is hard to imagine, especially with yourself, Tantra is mostly known for its sexual sie but that is just a small piece. It teaches you to be truthful with yourself and not be afraid of being your best human.”

He also identifies himself as “poly”. Ivey noted, “After years of serial  monogamy, I realized that it wasn’t working for me and I started looking at other ways to being in relationships. Poly fit.”

See his full statement about his discovery of polyamory, learning how to do it well for all concerned, his regret of where Taylor Greene's head has gone, and where he's at today. Two panels from it:

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February 11, 2021

Polyamory and CNM are centered in two four new films, one now on TV

At the 2021 Sundance film festival, which took place online two weeks ago, at least two new independent movies premiered that revolve around polyam and open relationships.

One of them, There Is No "I" in Threesome, first airs tonight on HBO Max. Sadly, early reports sound like it's nothing to get excited about.

This is a 1½ hour documentary about an engaged couple who temporarily opened their relationship, apparently for a poor reason, and then found themselves in too deep. From what I've read their emotional intelligence seems cringingly below par.

Note: The guy in the couple is a film director and his fiancée is an actress. They self-documented their entire "monogam-ish" project from the start and sold it to HBO. Not the best motivation for opening one's relationship, IMO, and not exactly respectful of whatever other parties might get involved with them.

Except that the main other party who showed up was also a director by trade, so maybe they were all in on it from the start.

In today's New York Times: 

A director and his fiancée chronicle their yearlong open relationship in this documentary that offers a clever examination of perspective.

By Natalia Winkelman

...The director Jan Oliver Lucks, who goes by Ollie, and his fiancée Zoe are taking the plunge into an open relationship. Living on opposite sides of New Zealand, the long-distance duo are free to date and sleep with other people for a year leading up to their wedding. Using iPhones, they will each record the experience: Ollie hopes the documentary will make them poster children for an enriching alternative to monogamy.

Ollie and Zoe prove a sweet match, but as they coo and cuddle, they can be difficult to root for. Both are attention-seeking and excessively admiring of their project, and the home video of their hangouts tends toward indulgence. They may aim to present polyamory as tenable and fulfilling, but it comes off more as a risky experiment — particularly once Zoe’s fling with a theater director named Tom develops into a serious romance that strains her bond with Ollie.

But as our central couple’s connection falters, the documentary evolves into an astute examination of perspective. ... As the film’s director and narrator, Ollie controls the story, and he uses this role to showcase his jealousy and his hurt. His cleverness culminates in the documentary’s startling final act, where Ollie shows how the artifice of filmmaking can mirror the lies we tell ourselves about love.

Two-minute trailer:

Says a reviewer in The Daily Beast who's hostile to the whole idea: They Decided to Have Sex With Other People. Disaster Ensued. (Jan. 31):

By Nick Schager

...Through intimate home movie footage of their life together and apart, all of it shot on iPhones for maximum confessional intimacy, it details the ups and downs of their attempt to remain true to one another while also allowing space in their bed for others. ... Yet by its conclusion, what it ultimately turns out to be is something knottier, and more intriguing: a warts-and-all portrait of personal and creative arrogance and narcissism, and the damage invariably wrought by such qualities.

[It] begins with Ollie and Zoe at the top of a towering indoor high dive, where they disrobe, strap on GoPros, and prepare to leap. As this sight suggests, their film is a venture of total exposure, just as their impending jump to the pool below is meant to speak to their joint leap into a polyamorous unknown. That Zoe doesn’t join Ollie in taking that plunge, then, proves an immediate tip-off to the trouble ahead. ...

A writer for MSN Entertainment has a more sympathetic take: Engaged Couple Gets Experimental in Clever Documentary (Jan. 31)

By Elizabeth Weitzman

...The likeably awkward Ollie feels that he missed out sexually during his 20s, and he sees the next 12 months as his last chance to explore before committing to one person forever. Zoe, a beguiling extrovert, is game. So they establish a "monogam-ish manifesto" and set out to "make the most of our bodies while they're still stretchy."

[However,] Ollie and Zoe eventually discover what his mother could have told them from the start: The path they've planned is more complex than they expected.

"Being polyamorous means choosing to reject monotony," Ollie explains to the audience. "That means we have to negotiate jealousy instead. Which is just an emotion you can train yourself to overcome. Right?"

Actually, he's not entirely wrong. There is jealousy, and it is overcome. ... But much to both Ollie and Zoe's surprise, love proves more cumbersome than envy. Even as Ollie works hard to keep boundaries around his relationship with Siobhan, Zoe finds herself drawn more and more deeply to Tom, another director.

And it is here that we have to note... the couple we're so invested in is, indeed, keeping secrets. And not from each other, but from us, the audience. ... When it turns out that we're being misled in a very significant way, some viewers may feel genuinely betrayed.

UPDATE:  On Cosmopolitan's site, Gabrielle Smith does a thorough takedown of so many things wrong with this film: 9 Reasons HBO Max's New Documentary "There's No 'I' in Threesome" Made Me Want to Literally Scream (Feb. 15). Pass that on. Link to it in comments you post about the film or in others' comments you see. 

SPOILER: (Last chance to cover your eyes.) That ending that may leave viewers feeling "genuinely betrayed" is an admission that this "documentary" is fake. The woman is not Zoe but an actress hired later to play her. The real Zoe broke up with him along the way and took her half of the footage with her. Story in The Guardian.  


Also premiering at Sundance was a not-cringy-sounding film that might be a better watch: Ma Belle, My Beauty"A surprise reunion in the South of France reignites passions and jealousies between two women who were formerly polyamorous lovers."

 In Seattle's alt-weekly The Stranger, Ma Belle, My Beauty Is the Queer, Poly Escape We Needed  (Jan. 31)

By Jasmyne Keimig

First-time writer-director Marion Hill's sun-dappled feature Ma Belle, My Beauty is a fun and engaging study of queer relationships, polyamory, and how fucking SICK slurping wine in the French countryside can look.

The film opens with Fred and Bertie (Lucien Guignard and Idella Johnson), two recently married musicians who live in Fred's parents' beautiful farmhouse in the south of France. A depressed Bertie feels like a stranger in a strange land, hardly finding the will to sing despite her upcoming tour. In an attempt to raise her spirits, Fred invites their ex-lover from their life in New Orleans, Lane (Hannah Pepper-Cunningham), to the property as a surprise. Sensuous parties, heartbreak revisited, strained silences, soaring music, and really hot sex ensue.

[Director] Hill does well because Ma Belle, My Beauty does not attempt to be the tentpole film for queer, polyamorous storylines. While fundamental to the plot, the film treats their threeway relationship as means to explore the threads that bind the characters together rather than a starter guide for the poly-curious monogamous crowd. It deftly explores jealousy, but never between Bertie, Lane, and Fred, who all have an easiness and respect for each other that feels refreshing. ...

In Hollywood Reporter: 'Ma Belle, My Beauty': Film Review (Feb. 8)

By Boyd van Hoeij

...Stories about three-way relationships... often lure viewers into their web with the promise of liberating or kinky goings-on before things fall apart and a much more conventional sense of morality rears its ugly head.

It is thus refreshing to see a film... which tries to grapple with the realities of a polyamorous relationship without selling the threesome’s arrangement as something beguilingly unconventional that’s only fun to watch when other people do it. It’s a shame then, that easy access to the material’s profound emotional authenticity is sometimes hampered by writer-director-editor Marion Hill’s storytelling inexperience. ...

[Bertie is] an increasingly isolated African-American woman adrift amid gorgeous foreign surroundings. Then fellow New Orleans gal Lane (Hannah Pepper) suddenly shows up out of nowhere with her rucksack and a smile. It takes a while to work out that Fred has asked the woman Bertie had a relationship with at the same time as Fred did when they all lived in the States to come and visit them to ... help chase away Bertie’s blues. ...Hill, credited not only as the sole screenwriter but also as her own editor, often seems too close to the material to facilitate audience understanding. ...

...The actors have an easy energy with one another that honors their character’s complicated past and the details of their relationships are revealed with a nice subtlety. The movie works best when the film’s central women are playing power games with one another — each trying to win the desire of the other while pretending they couldn’t care less. All the while Fred is just sort of floating around totally confused with what his wife wants or how they can proceed with their life. Again, this is not about him. Even if they are in his parents’ house.

...Noa’s arrival does shake up Lane and Bertie’s relationship adding a fourth to the already complicated three. It’s here the film shows the endless possibilities of a cinema truly open to polyamory. Love triangles — love quadrangles — are so much more delicious when multiple people can be involved. Yes, we need more bisexual and polyamorous representation for political reasons, but we also need it for better stories!

This is very clearly a movie made by a queer person. That’s evident in the relationship dynamics and the costuming, the casting and the gaze. Look, when a character takes a strap-on out of her backpack in the middle of a sex scene you know you’re in good hands. It’s that authenticity that elevates the film.

Authentic stories about polyamorous relationships are still all too rare, especially ones that prioritize the experiences of queer women and non-binary people, especially ones with a queer Black woman protagonist. So while the film is not without its flaws and missteps, it’s hard not to be grateful to enter its world of sex and feelings and food and nature. ... And it looks way more fun in the south of France!

from Variety Feb. 18:

Good Deed Entertainment has nabbed North American rights to “Ma Belle, My Beauty,” a queer polyamorous love story....

The film ... won the Audience Award in the NEXT category at the festival. It will next screen at the South by Southwest Film Festival in the “Festival Favorites” section.

...“Our entire team has fallen for this film, its characters, and its grounded, refreshing portrait of relationships and romance,” Good Deed Entertainment CEO Scott Donley said. “We are honored to help bring Marion’s film to audiences this year.” 

And later in Elle, from a Black critic in New York: How the Non-Monogamous Black Woman at the Center of Ma Belle, My Beauty Empowered Me, by Patrice Peck (March 5). "In protagonist Bertie, I felt the relief of living life on one’s own terms." 


UPDATE LATER: And here's a third film in this new genre also reviewed briefly in today's  New York Times:

 ‘Show Me What You Got’ Review: Modern Love in Black and White. (Feb. 11). The movie has been circulating in indie backwaters for more than a year; its official opening night is tomorrow, February 12.

The film follows three wayward souls who meet and enter a polyamorous relationship in Los Angeles.

By Lovia Gyarkye

“Show Me What You Got” revels in the erotic: fiery kisses, entangled limbs, endless caressing. But the film, which follows three wayward souls in Los Angeles who meet and enter a polyamorous relationship, struggles when it comes to making viewers care about more than just sex.

After attending a string of terrible business meetings on behalf of his father, an Italian soap opera star, Marcello (Mattia Minasi) meets Nassim (Neyssan Falahi), a struggling actor and semiprofessional fighter, on the beach. ... Two become three when the pair meet Christine (Cristina Rambaldi), an artist grieving her grandfather, at the coffee shop where she works. The three eventually fall in love, and Svetlana Cvetko, the director and cinematographer, renders their courtship beautifully. They meditate on their fears at Christine’s art show, laugh at the beach and talk dreams over eggs and toast.

Billed as an ode to Francois Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim,” “Show Me What You Got” embraces the experimentalism of the French New Wave, but leaves much to be desired when it comes to exploring the inner lives of Marcello, Nassim and Christine. The three millennials remain sketches, as if the fact that they are in a throuple relieves the screenplay of character development. Attempts to weave their stories together, either explicitly through the narrator’s exposition or more subtly through the cinematography, don’t always work. As a result, while aspects of the characters’ relationship are gorgeously captured, the moments that test their bond feel forced.

Not rated. In English, Italian and French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.

It also got a review in the Los Angeles Times (Feb. 12): A polyamorous relationship is laid bare in 'Show Me What You Got'.

...But the film’s higher aims never take hold. The breeziness feels at odds with implied gravitas. An omniscient narrator tells us what each character is feeling, negating any subtext. What’s presented as a pure form of love too often feels like handsome strangers taking an erotic tumble in a fragrance ad. Cvetko’s black-and-white photography, though gorgeous, reinforces that sense through a boilerplate view of L.A. — Hollywood, beach, downtown, desert. ...




Diana Adams posts,

Trust me, watch Lust Life Love[when/where available; add it to your imdb watchlist --Ed.]. 

It's a romantic drama about a bisexual polyamorous woman falling in love with a monogamous man, set in 2010s NY polyamory scene. It skillfully explains a lot of polyamory concepts (like compersion, and what negotiating agreements looks like), while giving one of the best portrayals of the joys and pains of polyamory I've ever seen. It doesn't try to advocate that its painless or that its ill-fated -- it just shares a realistic depiction of a challenging romance.

It was also totally surreal for me to watch this and be surprised to see a scene at the party I co-hosted and co-founded in 2007,  the original Poly Cocktails at Madame X; 14 years ago to the day of our first Poly Cocktails on Vday 2007 in NYC.  I watched this alone in a pandemic in Germany and it felt like I was watching a history of a magical time in history that I was part of and is now passed. Sigh. I miss you all so much. Made me so nostalgic.



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February 9, 2021

In newspapers all over, Ask Amy advises aghast mom to accept the family polycule

I haven't posted much lately because I've been deep in a huge book-editing job that's past deadline. But two recent items:


●  Be heard on DC's poly rights initiative.  Last week I posted about Chris Smith and Ben Schenker's legislation proposed to the Washington, DC, City Council to expand domestic partnership and anti-discrimination laws to include multi-partnered relationships. Their proposal is called the Right to Family Amendment Act of 2021.

Chris posts the positive reply he received from an office of the DC city government — inviting anyone with something to say about this to submit testimony, in person or in writing, at a committee hearing to take place on March 5:

Today I received this from the DC Government:

“Thanks to you and Benjamin for this thoughtful proposal. I am a new staffer for the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities, which Councilmember White chairs and which assumed responsibility for overseeing the Office of Human Rights earlier this year. ... We will review the issues you raised below with the Councilmember as we consider ways to strengthen the DCHRA. 

“In the meantime, the Council’s annual Performance Oversight cycle is underway, and the Committee will hold a hearing with representatives of agencies including OHR on Friday, March 5.  If you are interested in raising awareness of these issues at that hearing, please find participation instructions for the Committee on page 10 of the attached notice.”...

Read Chris's whole postincluding how to submit written material, testify live, and view the hearing. He says, "If you are a clinician, lawyer, or academic that specializes in relationship structure and/or a DC resident, please submit a testimony, sign up to testify live and/or post on social media, and encourage others to watch, submit and testify.

"Spread the word, flood social and regular media and let’s change the world."

Also, Heath Schechinger comments, 

DC is not alone. Organizers in other cities across the US are preparing to do this same. Somerville [Mass.] already passed a multi-partner domestic partnership ordinance, Cambridge is next. CNM anti-discrimination is gaining momentum.

●  "Ask Amy" is treating us better.  Amy Dickinson, one of America's most-read newspaper advice columnists, had a burr under her saddle against polyamory and open relationships for many years. She has tangled with many of you who've written asking her to take polyamorous relationships seriously, and she once snipped at my "little newsletter," meaning this blog (yay recognition!). In more recent times, though, she's finally been getting the message that poly people are for real.

In newspapers today across the country, Amy fields a letter from an elderly parent who's aghast at her son and daughter-in-law coming out to her about being poly and asking that their other partners be accepted by the family: Ask Amy: Polyamory creates an extra family challenge (Feb. 9).

Amy turns over almost her whole reply to the capable hands of Elisabeth Sheff:

Dear Amy: My son and his wife have been married for almost 10 years. Recently, his wife explained to me that they are polyamorous. I did not really know what this was. She explained it and said that she wants to be honest with everyone.

I was in total shock. ... I love them both. I want them to be happy. They were married in her church, and I do not understand this.

I want to be a part of their lives, but I do not know that I can cope with them bringing other intimate partners to our family gatherings, which is one of the things she says she would like to do.

I don't know anyone who has experienced this. How can I keep my relationship with my son? My daughter-in-law wants open and honest acceptance. She says they have the right to live their lives the way they want to. But do I have any rights to what I am feeling about all of this?

I am in shock and trying to process this. ...

— Confused Mom

Amy Dickinson
Confused Mom: A polyamorous relationship is one that has more than two partners, where, for instance, a couple will bring another adult into their intimate life as a partner.

I shared your question with sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, author of “When Someone You Love is Polyamorous” (2016, Thorntree Press). Sheff and I agree that you deserve lots of credit for your kindness to your son and willingness to accept his family.

Her response: “This is a great first reaction if you want to maintain positive relationships with sex and gender minority family members. Acceptance doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and I suggest that you all take smaller steps of getting to know each other at first. For instance, instead of meeting for the first time at Grandma’s 90th birthday or Passover dinner, meet the son, daughter-in-law and their partners on Zoom for a chat, in the park for a walk, on the porch for cup of coffee, or eventually a restaurant for a regular dinner a couple of times. This allows you to establish a connection, chat with less pressure and talk about boundaries before plunging into a big family gathering, which is already kind of stressful, even if it is fun.

“At the same time, educate yourself on consensual nonmonogamy by reading and asking your son and his wife questions about their lives. There are hundreds of websites and social media pages devoted to polyamory and even more for other forms of CNM (consensual nonmonogamy).

“Finally, give yourself some credit for trying to understand, as well as some patience if it takes you, and them, a little while to adjust to this new family style.”


BTW, about that book When Someone You Love Is Polyamorous. Sheff wrote it for parents and other birth family members of newly out polyfolks, just like PFLAG has literature for the families of people who've come out as L, G, B, or T.  It's small (41 pages), cheap ($6.99), and highly recommended.  

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