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



April 1, 2022

A TV series explores newbies opening up. Expanding family law. A polyfamily survives and thrives. Good new Poly 101s, and much more.


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 (3:43),

"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 way.

...‘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. 

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Update the next day: Reviews of the first episode are coming in.

-- In the UK's iNews: Pure shock value, by Rachael Sigee (April 2)


[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 Guardian: A horribly compelling peek at threesomes, by Rebecca Nicholson


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.



Update May 20: The show ended its six episodes on a chaotic note: 'Open House: The Great Sex Experiment' ends in chaos as drunk participant tussled with security then tried to drive home. (The Sun, May 20.) Typical dumb-guy shit; mildly popcorn worthy. 


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Elsewhere in polyamory in the news,

●  We keep seeing good, basic Poly 101s in increasing numbers. For instance, on Yahoo Life, Love without limitation: What exactly is polyamory? (March 23)


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 different ways.

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 partners.”

...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. ...



●  Another example, short and direct: What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy? (March 18, PureWow)


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 together.” ...



●  Four days later on the same site, the same writer went a couple steps deeper: Is Non-Hierarchical Polyamory the New Relationship Goalpost? (March 22)


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 hashtag 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 child. 

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 come.



●  After two years of pandemic isolation, a polyfamily comes out the other side tested and strong: Nonmonogamous in Theory, Monogamous in Reality, in New York Magazine's TheCut.com  (March 14). The writer is a relationship advice columnist for The Valley Advocate, a half-century-old alternative weekly paper in western Massachusetts. (The illustration of her is from there.)


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. ...

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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.



●  Going the next step on that is Diana Adams, a pioneering alt-relationship lawyer and director of the Chosen Family Law Center. She has collected over 790,000 views for her Ted Talk Why US laws must expand beyond the nuclear family.

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.


Includes link to the transcript


●  Elsewhere: InStyle, one of America's largest traditional women's magazines (paid circulation 1.7 million), has discovered our click-generating power. Its latest: 12 Things This Polyamorous Sex Therapist Wishes People Understood About Non-Monogamy (March 18).

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 non-monogamous.
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 relationship.
Myth #10: Non-monogamous folks sleep with anyone and everyone who is interested.
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 haven't mentioned:



●  Lastly, this one is not poly-specific, but I think it's important for us to see and consider: Consent is not enough. We need a new sexual ethic. (Washington Post, March 17)


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 30-year low.

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 day?”

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 is....

...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 Provocation


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 again!

And for people who pass the test, I also like the idea of pointing them to a "me manual."  Joreth's example.  Cunning Minx's

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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.

For now, you can donate to Ukrainian relief through this list of organizations vetted by the Washington Post, or many others. (Avoid scams.)

More is going to be required of us in coming months and maybe years. Expect this. 

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