Showtime’s Polyamory series: It’s Educational TV!

“You should really watch the second episode of the poly reality show,” I told Issac.

“Sure, I’ll watch it,” he said. “That woman Kamala, she’s hot!

Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.
Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.

So part of that is just to tease me, but I’m not going to lie — they are a particularly hot group of people they got to host the camera crew in Polyamory: Married and Dating, a half-hour reality show on Showtime on Thursdays. This makes it a pleasure to watch in other ways than just that it seems to be on track to give a pretty good look at some of the realities of living this way.

But it’s got plenty of eye candy. I watch installments twice, because frankly, I’m distracted by the clothes. Not only is she hot, but Kamala really knows how to accessorize. The people in it are healthy and fit and mostly naturally beautiful (the women in the triad wear more makeup, but that’s their choice) — what I call “European-movie beautiful.” Real, responsive and engaged, on top of having interesting features.

The only thing that’s not quite on target is: when do these folks work? But that’s the problem with all reality shows (I say boldly, having watched, like, seven random episodes of reality shows in my whole life). If anyone made a reality show that revealed the humiliating and numbing time suck that is most of our daily (or nightly) jobs (or two jobs — and if you’re an exception, I’m happy for you), it would either never sell or be like watching that video in the horror movie The Ring — it would kill anyone who watched it.

The second episode was titled “Poly Rules” — that’s rules as a noun, not as an adjective. As in, who’s making them and who’s breaking them.

I really like the commentary of Alan P in Polyamory in the News (nearly always, but about this show in particular). He writes:

There sure are a lot of soft-core group sex scenes. They’re portrayed sweetly and briefly but frankly, as part of the ongoing relationships and discussions that are happening among everybody and as genuine expressions of shared love and playfulness — as Kamala has been telling her fan base in the last couple weeks.

I was struck by how the group sex sometimes functioned as it does among bonobos — as a means to diffuse group tensions and reinforce bonds among the group. Yes, couples sometimes use sex this way too. But I felt I was watching something deep in our ancient nature.

The bonobos are known as the peace primates who according to stereotype live in constant hippie commune mode and keep the peace through lots of sex and sensuality and body contact (as well as strong roles and boundaries). With all the tension engendered (hmmm) in this world by the fears and realities of violence, maybe the bonobo method would be useful to learn. What I’m usually coming from is this: “I’m so tense from work and driving I’m about to explode and if you come near me I’ll scream!” This causes a lot of trouble and strife in all my relationships.

I’m thinking of doing some reading, including going back and carefully reading Sex at Dawn, and then making a conscious effort to give the bonobo method a try, in a sort of personally controlled experiment. Even though monkeys creep me out. (I know, it’s evil, I should love them, probably lots of projection shit to that one, but too bad.) I’ll let you know how it comes out and throw some more bonobo info out there, maybe next month.

There’s also a lot of preening that goes on. When relationships are a big priority to you, you want to be in a physical state that means you can have people close and touching at any given moment. It means being healthy, fit, good to the touch and good to the smell and taste.

But now it’s time to get sexy with the rules. Here are the show highlights:

First, the quad: Kamala and Michael (married) and Tal and Jen (married) are in a quad and newly moved in together. Kamala has a girlfriend, Roxanne, whom she does not want to share with the rest of the quad. Michael’s got issues with this. The four have a really good, honest talk, opening up some ways they hadn’t even known they felt. You can see Kamala start to well up and even spill over as she expresses her needs and realizes what she’s feeling. It’s brave work. She says, in a cut-in edit:

“When Michael said that I was acting monogamous [about not sharing], I was like: ‘Who are you talking about? I’m the queen of poly! Who are you calling mono?’ It really actually hurt.”

Michael says something that I know from personal experience hurts to hear: “It does seem like you’re making some rules for yourself that you’re not allowing others to have.”

Kamala explains: “Her [Roxanne’s] love makes me feel so special. It’s like old programming, that somehow sharing her love with someone else is going to take away our love.”

The result is Kamala agrees to be open to what might happen. Those are the rules. Of course, it’s not brought up what Roxanne wants in this situation (you can’t get everything on camera). If Isaac had a girlfriend who was not attracted to me, I wouldn’t accuse him of not sharing, for instance. But it’s a pretty neat look at the conflicts and tensions and how they’re resolved.

Meanwhile, in the triad of Anthony, Vanessa and Lindsey, the problem is similar: Lindsey has taken up with a boyfriend and is in the throes of pink fuzzies and not paying enough attention to her triad mates.

Their rules were that the triad comes first, and that they had all given each other veto power over new relationships. Anthony and Vanessa ask Lindsey to back off from her new boyfriend for a while. Instead of telling him, she waits a few days and then meets him at a coffee shop, to tell him in person. Except they get distracted by canoodling. I know how that goes. Let’s avoid that difficult conversation part and just be all smoochy or program the calendar or something, yeah, that’s it!

So Anthony and Vanessa ride their motorcycles (!) to the coffee shop for a smooch intervention. They explain to new boyfriend (Krystoff) why they’re there. Krystoff says he thinks he gets it, but that he had understood that not everything they did needed to have the permission of the triad. He’s like a lot of people encountering this. He’s not a dick — he doesn’t want to hurt anyone — he just isn’t sure of all the rights and wrongs in the situation. Vanessa explains that in this case, it’s a bigger issue than rules and permissions for individual activities. It’s about the triad relationship, and that needs repair. Krystoff, bless his heart, asks what he and Lindsey can do to help that repair. It’s time for Lindsey to speak up and say the hard part.

She needs to not see him for a while, cool things down, and concentrate on her triad relationship. And then, something great happens — Vanessa and Anthony leave and give Krystoff and Lindsey some time alone to talk, and say their temporary (maybe, who knows?) goodbyes. I loved that. They leave with kindness, not in a huff.

When all three are home later, Vanessa asks Lindsey how she’s feeling. “It’s painful,” she says. That’s true, too. It’s painful not being with someone you love in order not to hurt someone else you love. But it can be done, and it can bring you closer to everyone involved, and denying the pain won’t get you anywhere closer to that point.

I’m going to be all stereotypical and show my age here, maybe, but it was oddly refreshing to see the woman be the jealous one and the one who was making the rules. In fact, in both the groups, the women are in many ways driving the deal. As the two were leaving the coffee shop, I was seeing in Krystoff’s expression a struggle between “damn, that Anthony’s got it made” and “damn, two hot babes are four times the trouble.”

This is why it always surprises me when people say I’m being “taken advantage of” or when I hear similar things said about other relationships. Or “he gets everything,” meaning he gets to have strange AND have a committed woman who may even have a girlfriend over once in a while.

There’s a line in the movie Marnie (I know some Hitchcock movies by heart) where one of the ripped-off bosses is remembering the lovely, larcenous Marnie and grumbles that she was “always pulling her skirt down over her knees, as if they were some kind of national treasure.” Not that THAT script is any model on which to run a life, but we are taught pretty hard to guard our treasure, and rarely taught worthwhile ways to share it. Yet here, in a cable TV show, some of those ways are coming across. Amazing.

1 thought on “Showtime’s Polyamory series: It’s Educational TV!”

  1. Very, very interesting to me. Very helpful. Mono- or poly–it is work and at times painful. Thanks for the perspective, for the truth and also for the courage and willingness to explore finding something that works for everyone..

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