RE: Portland Poly Party Segment on Sexcetera
Nancy just came into the office with the footage from this weekend and told me about the event and I am very concerned that we may not have a story--I have to look at the tapes but my understanding is that there was very little nudity and no sex (which is what Sexcetera is all about).
My understanding before we went to Portland was that there would be nudity and at least "cuddling"--that evidently didn't happen Saturday night. Why not? I need to know what did happen vs. what was planned.
Very little nudity?
I'd lost a couple hours worth of memory during the party due to an unfortunate combination of prescription drugs and non-prescription alcohol, but I definitely remember nudity. Lots of it. Some of it mine. When I invited the Playboy channel to our polyamory party (individuals involved in non-monogamous relationships) to shoot a segment for Sexcetera (a show which explores different sexual lifestyles) I knew they wanted sexy action, but actual sex? Had I ever promised them actual sex? I certainly didn't remember doing so, nor did anyone who'd heard me discuss the matter. I tend to remember when I've promised someone sex. If not, they usually remind me right away. Besides, I'd previously hooked Sexcetera up with plenty of porn stars for some of their past segments. And porn stars we were not. We were the real thing.
E-mailing her back, I suggested that Perri consider the possibility that there had been nudity and cuddling aplenty. However, since the single camera arrived four hours late (as did the rest of the crew) it might have missed it while focusing on the interview segments. There was, I reminded her, a party going on at the same time as the interviews.
And what a party it had been. Possibly one of the best of the season. Just not the kind of party (i.e. a no-holds-barred orgy straight off the set of Caligula) the Playboy Channel hoped it would be. With poly, you get sex--and a whole lot more.
Where do you get this stuff from?
"The more you love, the more you can love and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just."--Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love.
When I read those words for the first time I was too young to do more than absorb their surface meaning. The idea made sense to me, however--in spite of the fact I lived in a family where it seemed as though no one loved any one very much at all. But I was a bright, if socially awkward kid, and read enough books to convince myself that if there were people in the world who truly did experience love, surely there should be no reason for them not to share that precious resource with more than one person.
I blame it all on my father, of course. It was he who handed me my first science-fiction books and fantasy comics. It was he who showed me movies with horrible and heavenly special effects. He introduced me to wonderful new ideas about how life could be different--wonderful new ideas that would have made my ever-so-Roman-Catholic mother scream (and often did). Wonderful ideas that my increasingly bitter and hostile father would never have dreamed of trying to put into action, no matter how much they appealed to him.
By the time I'd read those words a second time, I'd experienced a lot of sex and had been on the giving and receiving end of a lot of jealousy and insecurity. I still had not, however, enjoyed much in the way of love. When I came across those words on a set of collector's posters while sorting belongings in my basement, I was in a long-term monogamous relationship with a very nice man who seemed to be moving in a different direction from my own.
The different directions and the monogamy were starting to chafe for me. I dreamed of a life where I could feel free to spend time with more than one person and not be seen as "cheating" on any of them. Although I knew my partner enjoyed science-fiction, it seemed odd to me that a person who was so married to the concept of monogamy should own an attractively and professionally produced series of calligraphied Heinlein quotes from Time Enough for Love, a book that strongly endorsed a form of responsible non-monogamy.
It's been nearly two decades since I found those prettily painted posters and there's been plenty of water running both under and over (if not also around and through) any number of bridges since then. Like many other writers, artists, and other creative-types before me, I've found that some form of responsible non-monogamy seems to work best for all involved. Which is not to say that it's always easy. Things that matter are rarely easy to achieve, no matter what the promotional material may claim.
My first, official introduction to the concept of poly (something of an umbrella term covering a variety of different forms of responsible non-monogamy) had been through friends who were involved in the practice. I wasn't wild about how it worked for them, so I had something of an attitude against it, although I still secretly found it fascinating. I soon went online and met other poly practitioners via local BBS systems. I also quickly learned that this form of loving, like most others, has its philosophical divisions. Divisions sometimes fairly venomously defended by the various factions--and not only against genuine attack.
As any "newbie" venturing online or into a new subculture can attest, making mistakes or doing things differently can sometimes attract attention from folks happy to call you on any mistakes, real or imagined. Like monogamous folk, some multi-partner practitioners think they've got the One-Size-Fits-All Answer to Love. Life is not all roses and sunshine in the land of "many loves," apparently. However, I found that oddly reassuring. So many members of the poly community are soft-spoken, earth-toned, pagan-spirited Pacific-Northwest types that my cynical heart, knowing my many flaws, was a little pleased to see that "the lifestyle" included cranky, unpleasant people as well as sweet-tempered, accommodating folk. I like to think that the early days of being told I was "doing poly wrong" helped prepare me for dealing with the inevitable criticisms and frustrations that come alone with being a sex writer. But I digress.
Introduction to the Internet expanded my exposure to others who embrace this ancient form of emotional and physical expression. It also hinted at a vast array of relationship customizations. The more people I met or read about, the more variations on the theme I uncovered. Confusing? Sure. But I immediately liked the idea that relationships could be formed around the humans involved and not vice versa. It's never been my experience that emotional involvement progress in a neat, linear fashion. Yet the structures within which we categorize those relationships tend to be rigid; labeling feelings or activities that fall outside the boundaries of what is considered appropriate to be "bad" and "wrong."
The monogamous relationship model I'd been presented all my life viewed change as a danger and growth as a potential threat. Given that half of all married people have cheated on their partner at least once and most people engage in a form of "serial monogamy," I'd say I'm not the only person who's wondered if it's reasonable to expect one individual to fulfill all of my needs. And I do mean needs, not just desires--although there's plenty of room for fulfilling desires, as well.
Raising children, recovering from abuse, easing the last days of elderly parents, coping with unorthodox work schedules--each of these activities is complex and can take a toll on an individual or couple's health and happiness. For this reason, many persons inclined toward multiple-partner relationships/households find the poly model is more supportive of family. Obviously, the more people available to counsel, to care, to plan and to contribute--the less stress on each individual.
Enough Philosophy Already...
What About the Sex?
Poly sounds pretty sexy when it's sold that way, doesn't it? But that's probably one of the reasons the Playboy Channel's Sexcetera crew found filming a local poly party so challenging. Okay, the fact they showed up late didn't help. And not having a second camera didn't help. But not having a sound understanding of the community they were about to enter definitely didn't help most of all.
When most people think about responsible non-monogamy/poly relationships, they aren't thinking about raising children, paying mortgages, dealing with jealousy, or relocating a household together. They're thinking about the hot monkey love that they figure must come with a couple extra hot and horny honeys. And sometimes the monkeys do get hot. But most of the time they talk. In fact, one of the mottoes of responsible non-monogamy is "communicate, communicate, communicate." Dawn, a local poly, adds that "You have to be willing to work through your own shit. The more I believe in myself and allow myself to grow, the better my relationships get. Own up to your jealousy, then work through it. If you stay jealous, you hurt yourself, your partners, and things fall apart."
This less romantic aspect of poly inspired Quinn, an occasionally local poly comedian to quip, "Polyamory: now you can have the tedium of marriage without giving up the pain of dating." Sam Phillips, our Playboy Channel Sexcetera host, had no idea what to expect when she met us. Working on a series that covers saucy topics like swinging, transsexuals, midget porn stars, and foot fetish videos didn't prepare her for the articulate, laid-back sexual/social community that welcomed her to our party in a beautiful country home. Indicating little patience or preference for the lines she scripted for the program, Sam instead seemed to find the non-naked interview segment more interesting than any of the NC-17 aspects of the evening. We heard, "Really? How interesting!" more often then we heard "We need more nudity!"--which could explain why we didn't realize they wanted more nudity.
Not that there wasn't plenty of nudity, had the cameras been paying attention. Because a healthy diet contributes to a healthy mind, we prepared a delicious snack tray of cheeses, vegetables, fruits, and other munchables--presented on an ever-so-appealingly nude human buffet table. Guests socialized and smooched while lifting edibles to their lips or bringing their lips down to the buffet for a more direct sampling.
Constance, another area poly lady, believes that "the problem with loving more people is that you have to read all the horoscopes." She may be right, but another problem is that it increases the number of people taking up space in the hot tub. It was filled to capacity with gleaming, naked skin the night the Sexcetera crew showed up. Somehow their cameras missed at least one hot tub related orgasm, however. And they were long gone when the overnight guests were lulled to or kept from their sleep by hours of orgasmic, puppy pile antics. Not that there was any nudity or sex, of course.
Okay, So What's Your Point?
In the morning, after the guests had found their clothing (there's still a leather coat and a purple blouse with owners unaccounted for--the hostess was told she could keep the industrial strength vibrator) everyone enjoyed a slow recovery and a delicious breakfast. According to Bonnie, the party hostess, a big part of the attraction of poly is its encouragement of physical contact between friends. "I find that, as a society, we are starved for touch. Intimate contact with others, physically and emotionally, is highly regulated. Touch is a form of communication and bonding. I don't wish to limit my communication with artificial boundaries. I can enjoy my relationships for all they can be. Poly gives me a chance to practice what I believe. For me, poly has to do with ownership of my feelings and how I express them. That also means I own the responsibility of my actions."
Perhaps it's this embracing of responsibility, as well as pleasure, that makes the poly lifestyle so appealing to an increasing number of people. I'm not the only person to grow up in an emotionally twisted family, and even those whose families were healthy have plenty to learn about love and friendship. Because responsibility is so important to most poly folk, stories like Thor's are not uncommon. "The more we have encountered intimacy in our relationships with others," he says, "the more we have been able to experience it with each other. The more love and pleasure we experience in other relationships, the more we've been able to achieve that same level of fulfillment within our relationship."
That's the kind of thing you can't capture on camera or easily communicate via television, no matter how much nudity or sex you package it along with.
"And what if we don't succeed? Then we must risk it anyway. Then it is our duty by our behavior and by our dedication to demonstrate that man's freedom still exists. We must do it for the sake of life itself--no one can absolve us of this responsibility." Christl Probst.