There are a lot of errors and misleading information on TV shows and movies about Polyamory (unsurprisingly) They generally do not do a very good job of representing the whole community because (a) it is very hetero-sexist and (b) poly people have lives to attend to around sex just like everyone else (also Julia correctly assumed) – the white/hetero/sex focus of the show is what appeals to the mainstream because it validates primary couples and tells them it is OK to have multiple partners for sex (like: swinging and adultery) . Also many polyamorous relationships are ‘closed’ relationships not ‘open’ in that there are ground rules as to when/how/why/who/where/what can happen before another partner is taken on by an individual or a group – this is in the interest of respect for feelings, safe sex and protection of the core group.
These errors are typical because they reflect mainstream misconceptions about alternative forms of intimacy: • “the new swingers”: was on the byline and as one of the interviewees pointed out – polyamory is different from swinging – but only slightly. Both forms of relationship involve all partners as consensual, whether or not they are involved in sexual intimacies or not – they are recognized, respected and there are many discussions as to what is okay and not okay – which is different for every group.
• “open marriage”: polyamory is not a form of marriage – that is polygamy – polyamory is much more – it is an identity, a philosophy, a lifestyle, and a form of intimacy. One does not have to be be ‘married’ (in any sense of the word) to be be polyamorous.
• polygamy: is NOT about ONE man get a lot of hot young wives – that is *polygyny* (and the wives are not always young or what mainstream America would consider ‘hot”). Polygamy simply refers to plural marriages, and includes women taking many husbands as in Nepal, as well as a man taking many wives – however in polyamory communities there are many genders involved. If one wishes to refer specifically to women taking many husbands it is referred to as *polyandry* and is generally not included in the countries that hold that Polygamy as legal. Polygamy has ancient roots in many cultures and is even recognized a s a legitimate form of marriage by Australia and the UK, in addition to being legal in many other countries.
• So-called news and reality shows both usually present a model of polyamory as involving a primary couple (ie: married couple) hetero sexual couple who “have sex with others”. This is also incorrect. Polyamory is inclusive and diverse and practised by couples as well as singles (ie: no one is ‘married’ de facto or otherwise) and is probably an even more popular in other cultural and LGBT communities than among white, married, hetero couples. * the jealousy and fears that are often discussed are typical of hetero-normative discourse because it is based on competition and other tenets of capitalism – like scarcity and ownership – it is part of social construction and how we are conditioned to think.
These shows also generally fail (purposely I am sure) to acknowledge that: a) 45-55% of people in so-called monogamous are/or have indulge(d) in adultery b) monogamous relationships can end for the same reasons that polyamorous relationships do c) 40-60% of mononormative marriages end in divorce in under ten years d) there is little research on alternative forms for comparisons.
Lastly – the main couple on the tv show “Polyamory” are new age-Californians also involved in sex-positive practises and trends like so-called tantric sex. Kamala Devi is an intimacy coach and her ‘name’ is actually more like a title as it is part of her profession, as ‘devi’ is the female aspect of the divine and ‘kamala’ is the hindu world for the lotus flower (and popular Hindu girls name). The tantric sex movement in North America is a complete construction loosely based on Hindu and Buddhist religious rites and philosophies. (but that is another topic). I am sure that being openly ‘poly’ and on TV has helped her business (she calls herself a coach, author and ‘goddess’ on her website). Many poly-people are not, because there is no legislation to protect their rights and many fear losing custody of their children or discrimination in a mono-normative society. And of course the show focuses almost completely on their sex lives – so the show is more akin to a ‘peep show’ as is much of TV.
An interesting ‘webisode’ that is actually produced and acted in by poly people can be found on YouTube under 3 Dog Pictures – there are two episodes every month that are under 10-mins long (that get better and more interesting after the first few!)