I’m generally a big fan of Salon. Their political writing is usually rather engaging (even if it is admittedly one-sided), and Glenn Greenwald is one of the best bloggers on the planet. Their life and culture writers are always interesting. And their recent focus on human love and sexuality has been, for the most part, some of the best I’ve seen on a relatively mainstream site.
However, they just posted an article from a writer detailing his “disastrous” experience with polyamory:
Rachael and I saw the last translucent veil separating us from our friends ripped away. We hung a welcome sign on our bed. Jason and Mandy jumped right in. High as I was, the sex had a dreamy quality, as though I was watching myself perform pornography through a Vaseline-coated camera lens.
Then, just as Christian predicted, things came undone. I happened upon Rachael and Jason having sex in the poolside shower. I tried to ignore the stab of jealousy and resentment. But I couldn’t. Mandy, jacked up on nearly everything, woke me up in the middle of the night to see the stars. We jumped in the pool and had sex as the sun came up. Mandy’s sex with Jason was raw, animal-like, but with me she was tender and sweet, a perfect counterpoint to her rock-hard body.
Oh gods… not this. The whole article is mostly in the same vein, describing a series of drugged-up experiences in which a man and his wife had random sex with other drugged-up people and the ensuing guilt and bad feelings that neither party is apparently equipped to deal with.
I’m not denying that these things happen. I’m not denying that there are right ways and wrong ways to go about incorporating others into a relationship. But it is slightly upsetting to me that there is so little positive depiction of polyamory in the media. The surprisingly complex portrayals in HBO’s recently-concluded Big Love notwithstanding, media portrayals of “extra” people in a relationship are mostly just lurid stories of infidelity on the part of right-wing politicians and shallow celebrities with nothing in the way of balance.
I recently encountered an essay by JT Eberhard describing his experience with polyamory, and he is famously open about his personal life. When I read the Salon story, my mind flashed back to JT’s post, and I realized how important such openness is. I’ll save my stories for another post, but I do want to make a few points in response to the Salon article.
Our society has a very narrow view of what a relationship is supposed to be. Two people fall in love, and they stay together and remain faithful to one another forever and ever. If one of them strays, it’s a terrible thing, and causes damage to the relationship and loads of heartache. If things get bad between the two (and only two) people in a relationship, they either work them out, or break up, or stay miserable forever. If one partner is in any way attracted to another person, it can prompt jealousy on the part of the other partner.
This narrow view of relationships has the benefit of utter simplicity, but it certainly does not always promote happiness for everyone involved. Some people (possibly even a majority) prefer the simplicity, and it works for them. I thought it worked for me. But then my partner and I realized that the occasional threesome could be a lot of fun. And then we talked about things and realized that we trusted each other with other people even when we weren’t there. And then I fell in love with Cedric. Every moment that Cedric and Matt and I spend together is glorious. I am happier with both of them in my life.
This is the kind of testimony that seems to get lost every time the media covers polyamory. We hear about the jealousy, and the cheating, and the lack of respect, and every other bad thing, but we never hear about the other side of it.