You knew reality TV would go here eventually. Open House: The Great Sex Experiment
premiers on Great Britain's Channel 4 TV tonight (April 1). The theme is newbies trying open relationships. Actually, it's couples trying threesome swinging. With sex on camera. Trailer
"Dr Lori, the show's resident psychologist, on set with the
some of the availables"
Billed as its ‘most shocking show ever’ (a bold claim from the home of
Naked Attraction), the six part series invites poly-curious couples to explore and indulge in their fantasies in a
luxury stately home, with intimacy therapist Dr Lori Beth on-hand to
provide support and advice on opening your relationship in a safe and healthy
...‘I’m bisexual so I’ve always considered threesomes,’ call centre worker
Mady, 20, explains. ‘We’d done so much sexually, it just felt like a
natural succession to bring more people into our relationship.’
The pair, based in South Wales, had been dating for a year and a half when
they were approached by the show’s team – and were curious about whether
they would have sex on TV.
‘We’d never been filmed at all ever,’ Mady says. ‘...We went in with no
expectations and we came out with so much more than we ever anticipated. I
got so carried away, I completely forgot the cameras were there.’
The article includes a sidebar of sound advice that "couples should consider
before attempting ethical non-monogamy."
Says The Guardian,
Gird your loins: Here’s a dating show that hopes to break the taboo around
polyamory. Each week, curious couples are invited to a swinging party, where
they can ask others to join them for the night. Along the way, they talk
things through with an intimacy therapist, Dr Lori Beth. First up, Mady and
Nathan are looking for “a throuple situation”, but will they go through with
it? The nightcam action is pretty awkward, but it does show the reality of
what happens in such situations.
Note, you can only watch from locations in the UK or Ireland.
Update the next day: Reviews of the first episode are coming in.
[A] brightly lit drinks receptions [featured] the naffest [i.e. dopiest] “erotic” games this side of an Ann Summers party. No wonder everyone was giddy: it was the X-rated equivalent of a children’s birthday party. ...
...There is certainly space on mainstream TV to expand our understanding of sex, and the show tried to start some of those conversations, looking at why non-monogamy might appeal and what it might require: communication, trust and emotional resilience. But that nuance was overshadowed by graphic footage of the sexual encounters, which didn’t add much other than shock value.
The night-vision footage of noisy, slurpy group sex has zero educational value, and it’s often unbearably awkward, but this look at couples’ journeys into non-monogamy is hard to resist.
You either love watching strangers lick cream off each other’s lips on national television in the name of a social experiment – or in the words of Boy George, you would rather have a nice cup of tea.
Open House explores what it claims is “one of society’s greatest taboos”, non-monogamy, by sending curious couples into a sort of sex retreat in a country house, where they may have their pick of a buffet of sexually liberated single people who all want to have sex with them. The sex retreat is hosted by Jess and Thom, who have been in a long-term open relationship for many years. The idea is that Jess and Thom will guide the newcomers through social gatherings and get the couples used to the idea of kissing other people, and maybe more.
There is a therapeutic element, too, by way of Dr Lori Beth Bisbey, a therapist who specialises in helping couples with their emotions around whether they want to open up their relationship or not. While she seems to have a vested interest in non-monogamy, she does talk a lot of sense about trust, communication and emotional resilience. Threesomes are a popular choice for newcomers, apparently, but harder than you might think to navigate.
...Before they dip their toes into orgiastic waters, they have a session with Dr Lori, which is gripping ... except that at the end of it, you know you’re going to get some noisy, slurpy, night-vision footage of the curious people and the sexually liberated people going at it on some soft furnishings.
...If there is a message to be taken from Open House, it’s that emotional literacy is rare, and vital, and that without good communication, couples can get themselves into all sorts of bother.
It wasn’t the sex or the erotic group games or the intimacy exercises which made this hard to watch, though. It was the sheer, unbearable awkwardness of it all. I cringed and cringed again, when feelings were hurt, when a “spare part” ceased to function in the heat of the moment....
What remains enjoyable about this – and it is horribly compelling, cringe and all – is how people respond to matters of love and lust. But does it need to be presented as some taboo-busting social experiment? Don’t be daft. This is pure entertainment. There’s no point being coy about it.
Many will, no doubt, have reached for the remote in disgust last night. Some will say it’s gratuitous and unnecessary.
I beg to differ. I think it’s worthy of some televisual sexploration.
...A threesome or a “throuple” (which is on a more permanent footing) stays a psychological adventure because many don’t have the courage or even imagination to turn it into a reality. And it’s for this reason that the programme is a fascinating examination of the process and all its truths.
...For me, however, such a contemplation is unbearable. I have never, and could never, envisage a time when I would be in a committed relationship then bring a third party into that intimate, dedicated situation.
...So I was fascinated to observe the journey the couples — all willing participants on the programme — went on.
For some it was a long-held intrigue, for others the prospect of spicing things up.
There was nothing gratuitous about the show, it fully honed in on the emotional aspects. And it got personal.
Fears and jealousy were exposed which helped me see the many dimensions of such a proposition.
And don’t be possessed by your own unconscious bias that it is only women who express emotions such as these. There are some unexpected surprises.
I always believed that people willing to explore open relationships were a certain breed, of a different ilk — they were detached in some way, maybe lacking in empathy, emotionally stunted perhaps.
What emerges from this sexual examination is that this is not true at all. The couples run the gamut of emotions — jealousy, introspection, doubt, apprehension. This is real life and people’s feelings.
And the biggest question the programme poses is whether monogamy should be consigned to the history books. Is it really natural, credible, feasible and doable for us to stay with just the one person? And when it comes to sex, limit ourselves to just the one partner?
Some might argue the idea of monogamy is a social construct — it’s not natural. I have my feet in both camps. I enjoy the loyalty in a relationship but a glance over my shoulder at my past, it’s clear that’s not been entirely achievable.
As we are living longer and likely to have more partners, I think it’s important we explore all these possibilities.
Elsewhere in polyamory in the news,
By Cathy Reay
..We are expected to hold one romantic relationship at a time. There’s even
a term for it: default (or compulsory) monogamy. ...
That is, of course, unless you’re someone like me. Like many people, I
practice a form of non-monogamy called polyamory. I still have loving, often
long-term relationships, in which I might achieve the same or similar
relationship milestones as I would in a monogamous partnership, but my love
isn’t exclusively tied to one person at any one time.
...With the full consent of whomever else we are seeing at the time, we are
free to explore the possibilities. Polyamory grants us the opportunity to
foster multiple loving, nurturing relationships that are rewarding in
Chad Spangler, a polyamory content creator and independent artist, feels
being polyamorous strengthens his relationships: “I think a lot of people
see polyamory from the outside and think the quality of each relationship
must be somehow diminished because feelings, intimacy and the like are
distributed among multiple people. I've experienced quite the opposite. My
previously monogamous relationship is better than ever because of the amount
of communication polyamory requires.” ...
...As polyamory educator Leanne Yau explains..."While sex is of course a
part of a loving relationship for a lot of people, the point of polyamory is
to foster intimacy, connection and commitment with multiple
...It can also be hard work. Being open and honest with multiple people at a
time, maintaining consistent lines of communication and coordinating
schedules takes a lot of effort.
“Polyamorous people have to be extremely organized in order to maintain
multiple relationships … and you are more likely to find them communicating
boundaries and negotiating relationship agreements with their partners than
participating in a wild hedonistic orgy on any given day,” Yau says.
In fact, sex isn’t a prerequisite of polyamory at all, and neither is
romance. ... Tommie H., who is both asexual and polyamorous, says that it
allows them to "have a number of different relationships that provide
different things, and it's much easier to ask for what you need and [have]
that be respected, rather than doing what society tells us we have to do."
They add, "This is so freeing and, in my experience, has made my
relationships more intimate and healthy."...
Polyamory isn’t really for the non-committal. It takes excellent
organizational skills, self-awareness and a level of vulnerability
that can feel emotionally tough to work through at times. ...
By Angelica Pasquini
...In her book
Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Non-monogamy
, psychotherapist and trauma and relationship expert Jessica Fern shines
light on how a deep dedication to communication
is required in
practicing ethical non-monogamy with a partner: “It is paramount for them to
dialogue with their partner about whether or not that partner wants to be in
the role of an attachment figure for them, as well as honestly assessing if
the partner has enough time, capacity and/or space in their life and other
relationships to show up to the degree required for being polysecure
Viktoriia Miroshnikova / Getty
By Angelica Pasquini
I first heard about non-hierarchical polyamory when one of my crushes DMed
me about it. ... Non-hierarchical polyamory, a
with 1.8 million views on TikTok, ... means that there is no ranking system
of primary and secondary partners within romantic and/or sexual
relationships. When it comes to decision making, no particular relationship
is designated as having the right to set requirements or limits on the other
relationships in the network. Partners and metamours (your lover’s lovers)
make decisions that are intended to be collaborative and consultative rather
than rule-based. ... despite traditional relationship markers such as living
together, shared expenses, years spent together or co-parenting a
My gut reaction to learning about non-hierarchical polyamory was surprise.
Much of the natural world is inclined toward establishing hierarchies.
Primates, birds and wolves, for example, organize themselves into
hierarchies when competing for food, space and mating partners by asserting
dominance for survival. Remember the cafeteria scene in Mean Girls? That
felt so real because it was.
...I think, for some members of our human species, exploring a
non-hierarchical polyamory lifestyle will open doors to self-perception and
acceptance that will make positive changes in our society for decades to
By Yana Tallon-Hicks
In early 2018, my partner Lex told me they were pregnant. Sitting on the
stairs, they lifted up their shirt to show an early pregnancy bloat: “I
mean, look at this?! How didn’t I know?” Incredibly relieved that the news
they insisted on telling me in person was actually celebratory, I turned to
look at Manuel, their husband and also my other partner. “I’m so happy for
you two!” I said.
At this point, I had been dating Manuel and Lex, a longtime married and
nonmonogamous couple with three children, for a few months. I was also newly
in a relationship with my would-be boyfriend; at that point, we’d been
seeing each other for a few months. Lex knew how much I wanted a baby, and
they wanted to be there for me in case the news was hard to hear.
Fast-forward a few months, and all four of us were shocked to learn I was
pregnant, too. Despite dating for just a short time, my boyfriend and I
decided we wanted to have the baby.
As partners building our families in tandem and in overlap, all 7¾ of us —
Manuel, Lex, their three kids, their one-on-the-way, me, my boyfriend, and
my one-on-the-way — enjoyed big dinners, community brunches, and
hand-me-downs from Lex and Manuel’s older children. When Lex and Manuel’s
son was born, I held his tiny, warm body against my pregnant belly, excited
to meet my own little dude that coming summer.
When my son was born in June 2019, I was spoiled by all the love and support
from my boyfriend, who committed to babywearing nearly 24/7, changing
diapers and handling nonstop wake-ups; Manuel helped me put together
furniture and planned baby-friendly outings; Lex helped me figure out
breastfeeding and validated my struggles with new parenthood....
Then COVID-19 happened....
My vision of parenthood was never meant to be nuclear — it was always
intended to include the Venn diagram–like overlap between my co-parenting
partner and my other partners. When COVID entered the picture, what had once
been an enriching community forged by two households became fractured. While
it hurt to physically break off from Lex and Manuel’s family, my boyfriend
and I felt that the most ethical, safest thing to do was to isolate. ...
...My caseload exploded as partners everywhere buckled under the pressure of
“the new normal.”
Zooming from my now-toddler’s room, I saw monogamous couples who were
rapidly trying to adjust to being each other’s singular social support,
child-care provider, sexual partner, domestic chore-doer (or don’t-er), and
work-from-home co-worker. Nonmonogamous clients, who I had always worked
with around themes of expansive definitions of love, commitment, and
partnership, were suddenly forced to close ranks and practice “nonmonogamy
in theory” that was starting to look an awful lot like monogamy in reality.
I could relate. ...
I recently started seeing someone new, and when I turned 36 in January, they
organized the testing logistics so we could celebrate with Lex and Manuel,
who got a sitter and came with balloons, gifts, and an offer to watch my son
while I got a massage. That night, over takeout from my favorite local
restaurant, my partners were sitting around my kitchen table, laughing at
something funny my toddler said, and my heart and home felt warmer than it
had nearly all pandemic. I watched the people who love me enjoying each
other’s company, in person, for the first time in what felt like forever.
...Today, I’m rebuilding my family with these beliefs in mind: No matter the
circumstances, who we are to each other — and who we allow each other to be
— is worth fighting for.
Watch to see why she's such an asset to all of us. And to see how
to deliver a spot-on perfect Ted Talk, with clarity of message,
arresting delivery, passion, timing, personal touches at key moments.
From its description:
The nuclear family model may no longer be the norm in the US, but it's still
the basis for social and economic benefits like health care, tax breaks and
citizenship. Lawyer and LBGTQIA advocate Diana Adams believes that all
families, regardless of biological relationship or legal marriage, are
deserving of equal legal rights and recognition. They present a vision for
how US laws can benefit all families -- from same-sex bonds to multi-parent
partnerships -- and explain how a more inclusive definition of family could
strengthen your relationships and community.
The therapist is Rachel Wright, who presents excellent explanations of the
kind you hope your relatives are reading. The section headers speak in
negative what-it's-nots rather than positive what-it-ises, always a poor
approach to explanation. But the content under each header makes up for it.
Myth #1: It's unethical.
Myth #2: It's cheating.
Myth #3: There's no cheating in non-monogamous relationships.
Myth #4: You have to be part of the LGBTQ+ community to be
Myth #6: It's constant orgies, all the time.
Myth #7: You have to have a high sex drive to be non-monogamous.
Myth #8: Both people in an existing relationship have to want to practice
non-monogamy for it to work.
Myth #9: You have to be "not the jealous type" to be in a non-monogamous
Myth #10: Non-monogamous folks sleep with anyone and everyone who is
Myth #11: Non-monogamous families can't have kids.
Myth #12: Non-monogamous folks wish you were non-monogamous, too.
...Non-monogamy, if done ethically, is a beautiful representation of
security in relationships. There is freedom while also having the foundation
of communication and honesty.
In the article are promos for two previous InStyle articles I
By Christine Emba
...Rachel (a pseudonym) reeled off a list of unhappy encounters with
would-be romantic partners: sex consented to out of a misguided sense of
politeness, extreme acts requested and occasionally allowed, degrading
insults as things unfolded — and regrets later. “It’s not like I was being
forced into anything or that I feel unsafe, but it’s not … good. And I don’t
like how I feel afterwards.”
Young Americans are
engaging in sexual encounters they don’t really want for reasons they
don’t fully agree with.
It’s a depressing state of affairs — turbocharged by pornography, which has
mainstreamed ever more extreme sexual acts, and the proliferation of dating
apps, which can make it seem as though new options are around every corner.
The results are widely felt. Many of my contemporaries are discouraged by
the romantic landscape, its lack of trust, emotion and commitment, but...
they assume that this is how things go, and that it would be unreasonable to
ask for more — and rude not to go along with whatever has been requested.
...In this landscape, there is only one rule: Get consent from your partner
beforehand. But the outcome is a world in which young people are both
liberated and miserable. While college scandals and the #MeToo moment may
have cemented a baseline rule for how to get into bed with someone without
crossing legal lines, that hasn’t made the experience of dating and finding
a partner simple or satisfying. ...
As Rachel told me: “Every single person I know — every woman I know — has
had some questionable encounter, whether it was, like, really violent or
really forceful or just kind of like, ‘Oh, I hated that. That was not fun.’”
These are typically encounters that adults have entered into willingly, in
part because consent alone is the standard for good and ethical sex.
...We need a new ethic — because consent is not enough.
Even when it goes well, sex is complicated. It involves our bodies, minds
and emotions, our connections to each other and our deepest selves.
...More recently, sex educators have moved toward the “enthusiastic”
formulation of consent. Again, the goal is to remove ambiguity, but it
[just] sets the bar higher. ... The same complaints and confusions abound.
What if one party hopes for a future together and the other does not? What
counts as a relationship, and what is “casual,” if the definition isn’t
mutually shared? ...
The problem with all this is that
consent is a legal criterion, not an ethical one. It doesn’t tell us
how we should treat each other as an interaction continues. It
doesn’t provide a good road map should something go off the rails. ... And
setting consent as the highest bar for any encounter effectively takes a
pass on the harder questions: whether that consent was
fairly obtained; whether it can ever fully convey what our partners
really, ultimately, want; whether we should be doing what
we’ve gotten consent to do.
More clarifications of consent — or ever-more-technical breakdowns of its
different forms — won’t
rebalance power differentials, explain intimacy or teach us
how to care. Making the standard of consent our sole criterion for
good sex punts on the question of how to conduct a relationship that affirms
our fundamental personhood and human dignity. ...
This is the problem with consent: It leaves so much out. Nonconsensual sex
is always wrong, full stop. But that doesn’t mean consensual sex is always
right. ... And the gap between what young people want the sexual landscape
to look like and what the consent paradigm offers is turning many off of sex
entirely, as evidenced by falling rates of sexual activity, partnership and
marriage — some have dubbed this the “sex recession” — that recently hit a
I asked many... what a better sexual world might look like. “Listening,” I
heard. “Care,” they said. “Mutual responsibility,” some suggested. Or, as
one woman plaintively put it: “Can we not just love each other for a single
That question points to what looks to me like a good answer. The word “love”
tends to conjure ideas of flowers, chocolate, declarations of undying
devotion. But the term has a longer, more helpful history.... Aristotle
talked about love as an intention to bear goodwill toward another for the
sake of that person and not oneself.
Willing the good means caring enough about another person to consider how
your actions (and their consequences) might affect them — and then choosing
not to act if the outcome would be negative. It’s mutual concern — thinking
about someone other than yourself and then working so their experience is as
good as you hope yours to be. It’s taking responsibility for navigating
interactions that may seem ambiguous....
...This new ethic would also acknowledge that sex is likely to be something
different and more substantial than we want or expect it to be. This makes
it our responsibility to make a good-faith bet on what the good actually
...It’s a much higher standard than consent. But consent was always the
floor — it never should have been the ceiling.
[Adapted from the author's new book, Rethinking Sex: A
In fact, a whole lot of people are, like me, at least sort of
demisexual: needing closeness and heart connection before sex is good or even
very desirable. Some demis feel a bit ashamed about it. Don't be. The answer to
many of the dilemmas that Emba describes above is the old poly mantra communicate, communicate, communicate, and good communication is enabled by closeness. It does have to
be done fearlessly, however. And remember, half of communicating is listening.
BTW, an advantage of online dating is you can choose to be really fearlessly specific in your profile and then set filters. For
example, you might put "I don't do sex on the first several dates, and never
unless we develop a caring personal connection." The filtering trick is to
make your profile long and hide a sentence like this near the end:
"To show that you've read this far and agree, put the word wombat in your
reply." Set an e-mail filter to auto-delete messages coming from
[dating site] if no [wombat] in the text. Never get a drive-by
And, stepping back for some perspective:
We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule
breakers. Our existence is a threat to some people's worldviews. Our
freedom to build non-traditional relationships, and to speak up for
ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is one way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's agency to create their own lives, as well as their ability to access facts and speak what they know.
Such a society is only possible where people have the power to govern
themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed
to protect the rights of all.
People who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic
structures and legal protections that enable them to do
so in safety, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing
in power around the world and in our own United States. Such rulers and
would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to go their own
way — whether by intimidation, repressive laws, propaganda and
incitement, or, eventually, artillery.
For what it's worth, this site has received far more pagereads from Ukraine
over the years (56,400) than from any other country in Eastern Europe.
More is going to be required of us in coming months and maybe years. Expect this.
Don't miss Polyamory in the News!
Labels: #Poly101, #PolyLegal, dating, Diana Adams, legal, poly101, TV