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

December 17, 2017

The New Yorker, reviewing Esther Perel's new infidelity book, considers the poly option, skeptically

Esther Perel began making her name with her 2006 book Mating in Captivity, a save-your-marriage guide tackling the all-too-human incompatibility of sexual interest and long-term monogamy. The topic was a head-turner at the time. This fall she came out with a new book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. From the Amazon blurb, "What are we to make of this time-honored taboo — universally forbidden yet universally practiced? Why do people cheat — even those in happy marriages? Do our romantic expectations of marriage set us up for betrayal? Is it possible to love more than one person at once?"

This week The New Yorker devotes a 2,500-word feature (exquisitely written as always) to the book and its subject: "In Defense of Adulterers," by Zoë Heller. Toward the very end, the article finally gets around to the obvious solution for many: some form of agreed, mutually respectful openness. Perel herself also treats this idea as something of an afterthought.

Exquisite New Yorker illo (Luci Gutiérrez)
...Might it not be better to stop fetishizing sexual exclusivity as the sine qua non of happy relationships?

Perel is not unsympathetic to this thought, and, toward the end of her book, she devotes a brief chapter to various forms of consensual non-monogamy. She writes about couples who swing, couples who have chosen to be, in the term coined by the sex columnist Dan Savage, “monogamish,” and couples who have expanded into “triads,” “quads,” or “polyamorous pods.” (Those interested in a more comprehensive taxonomy of such arrangements may wish to consult “It’s Called ‘Polyamory,’ ” by [our very own activists!] Tamara Pincus and Rebecca Hiles, a book that provides definitions of, among other things, “designer relationships,” “relationship anarchy,” and the polyamorous “Z.”) Perel praises the efforts of all these non-monogamists “to tackle the core existential paradoxes that every couple wrestles with — security and adventure, togetherness and autonomy, stability and novelty,” and she is careful to remind the squeamish that many of these “romantic pluralists” succeed in maintaining rather higher standards of loyalty and honesty than do their monogamous counterparts.

She remains, however, appropriately skeptical about whether any relationship construct, no matter how cunningly or thoughtfully devised, can offer permanent solutions to the dilemmas of romantic love. The polyamorist aspiration to replace sexual jealousy with “compersion” (a delight in one’s partner’s sexual delight with someone else) is just that: an aspiration. People often end up in open relationships out of a desire to propitiate restless lovers, rather than through any interest of their own — with predictably miserable results. And no amount of expanding or softening the boundaries of fidelity will ever outwit the human desire to transgress. The conventional bourgeois marriage invites adultery. The earnest polyamorous setup, in which every new lover is openly acknowledged and everyone’s feelings are patiently discussed at Yalta-type summits, invites some more imaginative trespass: not using a condom, or introducing the lover to your parents. “In the realm of the erotic,” Perel writes, “negotiated freedom is not nearly as enticing as stolen pleasures.”


This — the impossibility of absolute romantic security — is the bracing moral at the center of Perel’s book. There is no “affair proof” marriage, she warns, whatever the self-help industry tries to tell you. To love is to be vulnerable....

Truth there, however.

Read the whole article (it's in the print issue dated December 18 & 25, 2017). Thanks to Dave Hall for sending the tip.


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December 15, 2017

"You, me and polyamory: Inside Philadelphia's growing nonmonogamous community"

The Living section of Philly.com, the news site incorporating the respectable Philadelphia Inquirer and the tabloid Philadelphia Daily News, profiles polyactivists Kevin and Antoinette Patterson to begin a feature on area polyfolks and what this is all about. Kevin is author of the forthcoming book Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities (Thorntree Press, March 2018).

By Anna Orso, Staff Writer

...Today Antoinette, 35, and Kevin, 38, still date other people. The parents of two continue to identify as polyamorous, meaning they maintain multiple relationships with the consent of everyone involved, and have since the beginning of their relationship 15 years ago.

Antoinette and Kevin Patterson  (photo: Anna Orso)

...Polyamory, once portrayed as the sole realm of sexually open hippies, has a very real place in Philadelphia modern life, with participants of all walks of life navigating a complicated web of sex, relationships, marriages and friendships among those who are in love or lust with romantic partners often dating each other. Philadelphia even has its own 1,000-member Facebook group: Polydelphia.

Logistics are difficult (enter elaborate Google calendars), jealousy happens, and there’s a coming-out process for people in polyamorous relationships that can open them up to criticism and judgment.

But those who are able to make it work say the benefits of living and dating openly far outweigh the drawbacks.

Antoinette, a physical therapist, and Kevin, a writer, now say polyamory is a fundamental part of who they are....

They also made the front page of the
printed Philadelphia Daily News
“I’m not trying to freak the norms,” said Kevin, who wrote a book about polyamory and race. “Like, I have a Netflix queue. I drive my kids to school every day. I am the norm.”

...The words “polyamory” and “nonmonogamy” encompass a variety of relationships, including married couples in open relationships, people who practice solo poly, and people in “triads” or “quads,” which are multiple-person relationships where everyone is romantically involved with one another. The common theme is the goal of remaining ethical — to avoid hiding relationships.

...Some studies suggest that 5 percent of Americans are in a consensual nonmonogamous relationship, but as many as one in five Americans have been in one at some point in their life. And while the reasons someone choose polyamory vary — some say it’s a deep-seeded part of their sexual orientation, others say it’s more of a relationship-style preference — the consensus among experts is that it’s not a fear of commitment. Conley said, on the contrary, “these are people that really like commitment.”

“I’m not polyamorous because I’m avoiding commitment,” Kevin Patterson said. “I’m making commitments with multiple people.”

...“A lot of people say, ‘How can you love more than one person?’” said Shallena [Everitt], an administrator for the local chapter of the group Black and Poly, which she discovered about five years ago. “You love them for different reasons and they bring different things to you.”

Kevin and Antoinette keep up with each other’s romantic lives, including each other’s sex lives. ... Kevin said if Antoinette’s boyfriend (known as Kevin’s “metamour”) decides to sleep over, “they can have the bedroom” — Kevin’s just fine in his basement man cave.

“I try to leave as much room as I can for their relationship to grow,” he said, “without my influence.”

Elisabeth Sheff, a sex education consultant and author who’s written three books on polyamory, said it’s this mentality that can make a polyamorous relationship work.

“If the metamours can’t get along, the family does not make it,” Sheff said. “If the metamours get along, then the lovers can make it through things that maybe would have otherwise broken them up.”

...Paul Beauvais [is] a 44-year-old IT architect who lives in Overbrook.... “Polyamory is really based on the idea that we shouldn’t be running relationships in a resource model,” he said. “Love is not a scarcity.”

Read the whole article (December 13, 2017). The only criticism I've seen of it is that it should have also mentioned the other Philadelphia-area poly groups.

Maybe your group can interest a newspaper writer in doing something like this. It's not hard; they're always looking for local human-interest stories.


Also: Christopher Smith is extending the submission deadline for The Black American Polyamorous Anthology Project for one month, to January 16. The project "is an avenue for self-identifying polyamorous Blacks / African Americans / Black Americans to express — through any form, written, audio or video — their experiences."


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December 14, 2017

"Polyamory" became a top relationship search topic in 2017

We seem to be finally, actually doing it: making the whole world aware of the polyamorous possibility. That's Elisabeth Sheff's term for discovering that happy, ethical multi-loving relationships are even possible, that people are successfully doing them right now, and that maybe you can too.

Every December, Google announces the year's top trending search terms compared to the year before. In the Relationships category, Google just announced that polyamory became one of the top four topics. CNN Money reported this morning,

...According to the list of top relationship questions, [people] wanted to know how to make long distance relationships work, how to change their Facebook status, what it meant to be polyamorous or in an open relationship, and how to know when it's all over.

On Femina in India:

According to Google, the topic of polyamory saw a 130 percent rise in search frequency in 2017. Not surprising, as this year saw several new types of romances emerge. Naturally then, we were curious about how these relationships worked. ...

So the advertising agency that, a year ago, predicted polyamory would be a big deal in 2017 apparently had its research in order.

Getting here took our movement 30 years of vision, faith, and struggle, at first in a cold and isolated cultural wilderness. Now, after the last dozen years of increasing public education and advocacy, we've convinced the media — which used to be dismissive or hostile — to pay attention and report correctly what we're about. And we've reached millions of people directly, unmediated. Particular thanks go to Loving More, the 200 activists in the Polyamory Leadership Network, the now-dozens of book authors, and all of you local organizers, bloggers, writers, Meetup runners, conference producers, discussion-forum regulars, Quora explainers, and the thousands of fine representers who've bravely gone public, in ways large and small, to explain yourselves and us with clarity and integrity.

"Once it has occurred to someone that honest, openly conducted multiple-partner relationships are possible and can be managed in an ethical manner," Eli Sheff wrote in 2013, "they can never unthink that idea. They have become aware of the polyamorous possibility and, regardless of whether they consider polyamory themselves or simply reject it out of hand, they can never again be unaware of consensual nonmonogamy as an option."

So like the LGBT movement before us, I think we have created, in our time, something permanent.


But what will it yet become? A rolling bandwagon can start bounding downhill in ugly directions to a crash. It's up to us to hang on and steer the bandwagon in good directions.

How? As I've repeated in speeches ever since New York's Poly Pride in 2008,

If we are to save our defining word from a loss of meaning – the term by which we can find each other and identify ourselves – and guide this bandwagon in good directions as it gains momentum – we should, in my opinion, be taking every opportunity to do several things:

1. Keep stressing that successful polyamory requires high standards of communication, ethics, integrity, generosity, and concern for every person affected;

2. Emphasize that poly is not for everyone, and that monogamy is right and best for many. Relationship choice is the mantra we want to repeat.

3. Insist on the part of the definition that stresses respect for everyone all around and the "full knowledge and consent of all involved";

4. Expand that to not just "knowledge and consent," but well-wishing and good intention for all involved. The defining aspect of polyamory, I'm convinced — the thing that sets it apart and makes it powerful and radical and transformative — is in seeing one's metamours not as rivals to be resented or even as neutral figures to be tolerated, but as, at minimum, reasonable friends or even extended family — for whom you genuinely wish good things. And beyond that, of course, there's no limit to how close you can become. This is what differentiates poly from merely having affairs: a sense that at least to some degree, “We’re all in this together.” When this happens, poly becomes a generalization of the magic of romantic love — into something wider, and more widely applicable, than the dominant paradigm of a couple carefully walling away their particular love from anything to do with the rest of humanity.

5. Warn people that, while poly can open extraordinary new worlds of joy and wonder and may help to humanize the world, its benefits must be earned: through courage, hard relationship-honesty work, self-examination, tough personal growth, and a quick readiness to (as they say in the Marines) "choose the difficult right over the easy wrong."

So please — with the bandwagon now starting to roll fast on its own momentum, let's not let it run away from us in the coming years to the point that "polyamory" goes mass-market as something careless or trivial, or in any way less than what we know it to be.*


* Spike Lee, I'm looking at you.


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December 12, 2017

More on Spike Lee's non-poly not-so-feminism

When Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It series came out on Netflix two weeks ago — a rework of his movie from 31 years back, with a new, "polyamorous pansexual" Nola Darling for today's world — I quoted Lee from a Vice interview"I have no idea what the word “polyamory” means. What is it? Polly wants a cracker? What are you talking about? [Laughs.]"

The new Nola is certainly a self-assured woman in full charge of herself. But after a first wave of positive reviews for the show's feminist intent — and high hopes from the poly world — we're seeing a lot of critical second thoughts. Especially from the black, queer and/or poly women who could have been its biggest fans.

Let's dive in. (Spoilers ahead.)

Autostraddle, "the world’s most popular lesbian website," presents a discussion, Spike Lee’s Queer-ish Remake of “She’s Gotta Have It” Would Have Been Better Without Spike Lee (December 11, 2017):

By Carmen Phillips and Alaina

...The new She’s Gotta Have It has sparked a nuanced discussion among black women and black queer folks, with some calling the series “a feminist breakthrough⁠” and others pointing out that it maligns representations of queerness and polyamory. ...

Spike Lee in 2012
Carmen: I have a lot of conflicting feelings about Spike Lee. I think he’s one of the most important black filmmakers of the last 30 years, but also he has been incredibly damaging when it comes to the portrayals of black women. ...

Alaina: [The series displays] a clear lack of perspective from actual black queer women. In the 1980s, Nola being an upper middle class black woman who was slept around felt radical and innovative to viewers, and in the remake, Nola’s pansexuality and polyamory is [still] framed as what makes her radical. I have to believe that there were no queer women in the writers room, because had there been there’s no way that queerness would’ve been equated with radicalness. Because yes, being queer is fun and amazing, but it’s also regular as hell! The idea that queerness isn’t regular or normal has kept a lot of people in the closet for a long time, and Lee is furthering that misconception through his characterization of Nola.

I was also troubled by the way that Nola’s polyamory is attached with her queer identity because of the ways it furthered the idea that non-monosexual and non-monogamous folks don’t know what they want. ... This shit pissed me off! Polyamory takes so much work! [And] people don’t date women because they want a self-care break from men! There wasn’t a person behind these sexualities, there was a stereotype....

Carmen: So, I’m not polyamorous, and one of the reasons I’m not sure if polyamory would work for me is because, as you mentioned, it takes a lot of emotional and physical work. That wasn’t shown in the series at all. ... I think it’s worth paying attention to the nuance between being a single woman who is casually dating multiple people ... and being polyamorous. She’s Gotta Have It conflates the two in ways that are absolutely damaging.

Alaina: Shemekka is the show’s only representation of a poor black woman living in Brooklyn, and her desires are at best mocked; at worst, they almost kill her. It’s as if Spike Lee really doesn’t think that women, especially poor women, know what they want to be happy, and that it’s his job to teach them what they really want by showing what can go wrong when a woman attempts to change herself. ...

Shemekka (left) and Nola (center) after a dance class

● In a very different place, the student newspaper of Oxford University, Cherwell, says Spike Lee Doesn't Have It (Dec. 11):

By Imogen Edwards-Lawrence

“I’m a sex positive polyamorous pansexual, and monogamy never even seemed like a remote possibility.” ... This bold assertion of female sexual empowerment caused a wide range of groups, from women of colour to the LGBTQ+ community, to eagerly anticipate the show’s supposedly revolutionary portrayal, not only of the lives of contemporary black women, but more broadly of the usually side-lined polyamory.

...In reality, Spike Lee’s series becomes a classic case of using labels for the sake of branding....

Lee creates a jarring divide between Nola’s polyamorous existence and her attraction to women. ... Nola is not capable of reconciling polyamory and attraction to her own gender, as all of her encounters with Opal are predicated on her desire to be monogamous.

...The role of women as sexual agents has clearly evolved since the original film. ... And yet, the constant assertion that her polyamory is equatable to fear of commitment, along with the continual pressure from each man to enstate himself as her singular partner, highlights a deficit in Lee’s understanding of the nuances of a polyamorous existence. ...

● On the Black Youth Project site, Veronica Morris Moore writes He’s gotta stop it (Dec. 12), including,

Nola isn’t polyamorous, she’s a toxic intimacy vampire.

...Labeling Nola as a sex positive, polyamorous pansexual is the ultimate clickbait for the New Millennium. A ton of hopeful Black sex positive, non-monogamous, queer, trans, and non-linear people have just been catfished.

We highly anticipated (with reservations) the release of this series with the expectation that we could fall in love with a show on a major platform that finally, FINALLY, affirmed the ways we give and receive love and engage in sex that are not rooted in heteronormative traditions.

...Polyamory is more than just having multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge of all involved. It’s a romantic belief system that there are infinite ways to ethically and responsibly cultivate and sustain intimate relationships that are lively and profound, without the limitations of monogamy (and heteropatriarchy). Polyamorous and non-monogamous people, while dating and having sex with multiple people, also build long-term relationships and sometimes unorthodox families.

Instead of adhering to an ethical polyamory belief system, Nola presents as nothing more than a stereotypical cliché. An idea of how monogamous people assume most polyamorous lovers are. ...

● A reviewer at HelloGiggles.com: Is Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It" really as feminist as it thinks it is? (Nov. 30):

By Tiffany Curtis

...On the surface, the She’s Gotta Have It reboot appears to be making strides for the very fact that we have a Black millennial female lead who boldly declares her sexuality and refuses to be placed into neat, conventional boxes. Nola juggles multiple men without catching feelings, lets her type 3 curls run free, and spends the entire first season trying to reclaim what it means to be a woman of color who enjoys having sex often, while moving about the world with little personal responsibility.

But it turns out, Spike Lee’s heavy-handed brand of feminism may not be as powerful as it claims.

...Lee is a very much a 60-year-old man trying to rewrite a 1980s character for a Millennial audience. It can be felt in his treatment of [the catcalling] plot line, where Nola makes bold sentiments and a bold anti-street-harassment [campaign] only to have it overshadowed by her being painted as a damsel in distress by men in interactions that are supposed to feel liberated and empowered. And that line of failure continues throughout the show.

...If there was ever an example of feminism being driven by the male gaze, it can be seen in the uncomfortable scene in which Shemekka receives illegal butt injections. The climax in Episode Six comes when a silicone-filled Shemekka’s butt literally erupts after she performs a dance routine. ... While illegal plastic surgery is a reality, Lee’s attempt to grapple with this for a twenty-something audience feels more like a parable that uses mansplaining to shame women who want to change their appearance....

...Between Nola’s judgment of Shemekka’s vulnerability and painting an Afro onto her portrait when she wanted a weave, her dismissal of Clorinda’s feelings for Mars, and her using Opal as a means of sexual detox from the men in her life, it becomes evident that the female interactions and friendships are pretty shady. ... So much of the series gets bogged down by male-centric views, and Black female sexuality is still depicted as a commodity that features bisexuality as a novelty and not-so-subtle warnings about being a sex-positive Black woman. ...

BitchMedia: “She's Gotta Have It” Butchers Polyamory and Queerness (Nov. 29):

By Evette Dionne

...Throughout the series, Darling maintains strict rules designed to keep her men from overlapping in her “loving bed.”

For instance, she ... refuses to go on dates with her partners; never has sex with two of them in the same day; and requires them to call before coming to her house. Darling’s rules are designed to maintain ownership over her body, her time, and her agency, but when translated on-screen, her decision-making seems primarily rooted in her own insecurities, narcissism, and inability to communicate — all of which must be sidelined to negotiate successful polyamorous relationships. None of the people Darling is intimate with are polyamorous, so each of them is pressuring her to be monogamous.

...When Darling embarks on a “radical self-care” journey and swears off having sex with men, she falls back into an one-sided sexual relationship with Gilstrap. ... But again, everything about her relationship with Gilstrap is about her. ... When she’s on a break from having sex with men, Gilstrap is a viable option. When she needs to be bailed out of jail, Gilstrap is someone she can turn to. But when she’s not feeling vulnerable, Gilstrap is put into rotation, just like her other partners. If polyamorous relationships are predicated on boundaries and communication, Darling fails time and time again to take her partners into account when she’s making decisions that impact them. ...

Nowhere is this emotional disconnect more present than when she invites Overstreet, Blackmon, and Childs to her house for Thanksgiving without telling them they’ll be meeting each other. Darling never asks them if they want to meet or gave them a choice in the matter. ... That ironclad selfishness ... is framed as a revolutionary step forward for sex-positive Black women. In some respects it is, but it also leaves no room for her partners' desires and wishes.

Nola painting

...There’s a poignant scene midway through the series when the new Nola Darling meets the original Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns). A chill went over me. It’s a reminder that a lot has shifted over the past 31 years, particularly as it relates to how we understand Black women’s sexuality. The new Nola Darling exists in Brooklyn with a carefreeness and freedom that wasn’t imaginable in 1986, let alone a part of our cultural landscape. Yet, as much progress as She’s Gotta Have It has made, there’s still something missing — a polyamory and sexual fluidity that’s not rooted in selfishness, uncertainty, and narcissism.

Refinery 29 on that climactic dinner in the final episode: The Most Awkward, Empowering Thanksgiving Ever (Nov. 23):

...Despite the fact the dinner gave me physical anxiety, [it's] also the most empowering, joyful episode of the entire season.

Although the men ... try to make Thanksgiving about themselves, the event couldn’t have less to do with them. Rather, it’s about Nola exploring what makes her happy and whom she wants to spend her time with. If one of these men chooses to judge her on her preferences, he can kick rocks.

That’s why it’s so satisfying to hear the answer to Greer’s sexist screech during dinner, “What kind of a lady–?” Nola cuts [him] off [and says] “–Acts like a man?” That’s the root of all three of these suitors' problems. Nola is treating them all the way stereotypically commitment-averse men treat the women who are interested in them, and she’s not apologizing for it.

AV Club: She’s Gotta Have It explores the men’s inner lives but it feels too late (Dec. 11):

Greer and Nola

...Polyamory allows for romantic intimacy, and if you can show me a straight woman in her mid-twenties that isn’t excited that a man wants to take her on ... dates, I can show you a god damn liar. There’s no explanation for why Nola rejects Greer. There’s an invisible line that these men keep crossing and she rejects them. Without knowing what that line is, Nola is just infuriating. For someone who supposedly loves sex, we don’t see her having much sex or enjoying it very much. Nola feels like a liberated, sexual woman written by someone who is scandalized by casual sex.

● A HuffPost reviewer: Spike Lee’s ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ Show Is Black Art That’s Free To Be Mediocre (Dec. 7, 2017):

By Zeba Blay

...Nola is not so much a sex-positive, polyamorous, pansexual, black feminist 20-something artist living in Brooklyn as she is the idea of one.

...Nola ― and, indeed, everyone around her ― talks in hashtags, dresses like an Afropunk attendee, and makes constant pop culture and film references that are supposed to seem worldly and cultured but just read as random and superfluous. ... Nola declares herself to be proudly sex-positive, polyamorous and queer, and yet the lack of transparency between herself and her lovers throughout the series suggests that not only Nola, but the show’s creators, aren’t quite sure what to make of these concepts.

...“She’s Gotta Have It” has moments of genuine brilliance: Anthony Ramos’ weird, hilarious performance as one of Nola’s lovers; the excellent soundtrack of entirely of black music; the commentary on gentrification in Fort Greene, police brutality and Donald Trump; DeWanda Wise’s everything.

With Mars (Anthony Ramos)

But the show’s flaws are numerous, and it has rightly been called out for them ― for its limited representation of queer black female sexuality, for its unconscious misogyny, for its shallow radicalism. ...

The Atlantic hosted a thoughtful, nuanced roundtable of four of its black writers: Does She's Gotta Have It Live Up to Its Promise? The last paragraph:

...So much time [in the series] is spent exploring some of the original themes and tenets of the film, and how they fit into the present day, that the series misses plenty of new chances to advance the current conversation about black womanhood, sexuality, gentrification, power, and community in a deeply meaningful way. And that’s a shame, because the moment is ripe for a truly innovative look at all those issues, no less from an artist like Lee.

Don't get the wrong idea — these reviews have good things to say too. But in all of it, I haven't heard a peep that this self-described "polyamorous" series doesn't set back public understanding of polyamory.


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December 8, 2017

A sudden abundance of black & poly film and webseries

We're in a rich moment for video/film explorations of consensual non-monogamy in the black community. Spike Lee's not-so-poly She's Gotta Have It, on Netflix, is getting the most attention with its famous maker and its strong "polyamorous, pansexual" lady star. But here are two other video series, and a documentary, which deserve more notice than they've had so far.

195 Lewis is an explicitly poly webseries; it follows a black lesbian couple trying to practice radical honesty in their newly polyamorous relationship. Here's its review in Colorlines: A Black Queer Couple Candidly Explores Polyamory in '195 Lewis' (November 17, 2017):

Director Chanelle Aponte Pearson shares how her all-Black LGBTQ creative team brought their truth to the five-part web series.

By Sameer Rao

Black women like Chanelle Aponte Pearson rarely see the rich complexity of their lives featured in narrative television. So Pearson and a group of LGBTQ artists poured their multi-dimensional lives into “195 Lewis,” a new scripted miniseries that debuted online last night (November 16).

The five-episode show takes its name from the address in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where much of the plot takes place. It stars show co-creator Rae Leone Allen and actress Sirita Wright (“See You Next Tuesday”) as Yuri and Camille, respectively, two Black women in a romantic and newly polyamorous relationship. The series follows the pair’s struggles with jealousy and self-doubt....

“Rae and Yaani constantly joke that, when they moved to Brooklyn [from the South], they weren’t used to experiencing what they saw here,” Pearson says. “They pulled from new experiences with these things, like polyamory, open relationships and radical honesty. And I certainly pulled from my experience navigating polyamory for several years.”

Pearson adds that they want to portray polyamory with a nuance that it rarely receives on screen, especially for queer Black people.

“We didn’t want to make it seem that poly relationships are more moral or involved than other relationships,” she says. “This is one poly story, not the definitive one — this is not the only way that you go about navigating an open relationship. That’s also true in how the characters try to figure out how it works for them. Just because you have a particular intention for what you want your relationship to be doesn’t mean that things don’t change and evolve — especially when you’re working with something that isn’t traditionally understood or even accepted. I hope that the audience sees that these people are, at the end of the day, trying their best.”

Pearson simultaneously acknowledges that “195 Lewis” speaks to the real difficulty that LGBTQ people of color endure when they reject the relationship standards that the world places on them. “We’re trying to throw [society’s] scripts out completely and create our own roadmaps to what love, compassion, care and family mean for us,” she says.

“195 Lewis” debuted online through MVMT Films, the production company that Pearson operates with co-producer Terance Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty) and other Black multimedia artists.

On Indiewire, ‘195 Lewis’ Explores Polyamory With the Style of a Lesbian ‘Insecure’ (Nov. 16)

By Jude Dry

If Issa Rae were a queer woman, “Insecure” might look more like “195 Lewis,” a show so stylish, sexy, and assured that it has steadily built momentum by word of mouth since its festival premiere over a year ago. ...

...In the exclusive clip below, newbie Kris is schooled in the five kinds of lesbians. The scene illustrates many of the show’s finest attributes: Funny, visually compelling, and with a distinctly queer point of view. Check it out:

At FilmSchoolRejects.com, Meet ‘195 Lewis,’ The Next Breakout Webseries (Nov. 16)

By Sarah Foulkes

This webseries may be made by queer black women for queer black women, but its quality is something anyone can see.

...The show manages to beautifully open up the safe world that the characters have carved for themselves to an audience with a similar lived experience, or with enough respectful curiosity to watch and listen. Above all, the series is about black intimacy, black female intimacy. It hits record on a world that has existed for decades but has only until recently been overlooked.

● Next up: Jackie Stone's 13-episode series Compersion. It's been available for more than a year on her Enchant TV site, on YouTube, and elsewhere. Longtime California polyactivist Pepper Mint calls it

my favorite poly web series so far. There are certainly painful moments in it, but they are painful to me specifically because they so accurately reflect the transition into polyamory. And the acting is great, and the cinematography is good. ... While this series hasn't seen a lot of exposure in the mainstream poly community, it's all over the black-and-poly communities.

Pepper adds, "It hurt to watch — and that's because it was an accurate picture of the difficulties trying to open a relationship."

Here's Episode 1:

Here are all 13 episodes.

Joreth Innkeeper on her Poly-ish Movie Reviews site writes,

...The fact that it's still a hetero couple "opening up" their marriage a reasonable compromise for me. This show is already blowing past so many other cultural tropes that I'm totally willing to hear this story be told again, because it's being told from a different, under-represented perspective.

...I am going to harp on one particular conversation in one episode, so that is kinda spoilery. By the 4th episode, there is an acceptance of sorts. ... We're now at the point where that dating has been given the green light. Through a series of cut-backs, we see part of the conversation where the couple moves into acceptance and planning. And here is my criticism: the conversation is absolutely typical of everything I'm against in the poly community. ...

The whole review.

● Next: Poly Love, a 27-minute documentary film that was recently picked up by Amazon Prime:

The blurb: "A documentary that approaches polyamory from the intimate point of view of an Afro-American family who decided to live an authentic life without denying the option of diversity in their love and family."

Evita Sawyers, one of its subjects, writes, "Back in 2015 my husband, our then partner, and myself participated in a documentary about our polyamorous family. It was a film school thesis for an up-and-coming director by the name of Michelle Flores. She did a very good job and it just got picked up by Amazon. I think it is important to have depictions of African-American people living polyamorously.

● And while we're at it, black comedian DeRay Davis has been making a splash coming out as poly. In the Atlanta Black Star, Are Three-Way Relationships the New Thing? DeRay Davis’ Unconventional Relationship Sparks Discussion (Nov. 11):

By Daryl Nelson

...“Living with two women in a polyamorous relationship is perfectly fine, and people shouldn’t be shocked that it works,” Davis said during a recent stop on the daytime talk show “The Real.”

At the moment, he’s in a relationship and lives with two women, 26-year-old Caro Peguero and 24-year-old Coco Crawford, and the union was captured on the Oxygen docu-series “Living with Funny” last year.

On “The Real,” Davis said that everyone in his household lives harmoniously, and he shunned the playboy image that some people may have of him.

“I’ve been with one for about five years, the other one for almost two and half years now,” he explained. “They’re very comfortable, ’cause I’m very open. I don’t make it where it’s all, ‘Oooh, look what I’m doing.’ I’m not a player.”


...The comedian’s Oxygen show, as well as his recent interview, comes on the heels of multiple person relationships making headlines and being on TV.

For example, R. Kelly has been famously accused of having several women, known as “sister wives,” living in his Georgia and Chicago homes. Not to mention, there’s a storyline on the show “Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta” that involves music manager Rodney Bullock, Jasmine Washington and Keanna Arnold in a three-way relationship that people have been buzzing about.

Then, there was that recent episode of the MTV show “Catfish,” where a guy named Wayne asked a woman named Robin if she’d move in with him and his other girlfriends. “I’ve never just been solidly committed to one girl,” said Wayne during the episode. “I like to have more than one girlfriend at a time. … We could be one happy family all in one household.”

Robin ultimately declined his offer and ended their relationship.

The HBO series “Insecure” touched on polyamory as well, when the characters Molly and Dro hooked up, although there wasn’t any cohabitation going on between them and Dro’s wife.

There are also sites like Black & Poly that cater to Black people interested in polyamory, and long-running matchmaking site OkCupid has a section that caters to folks seeking that type of romance as well.

All of these things combined could lead one to believe that polyamorous relationships are a growing trend in the U.S., but according to relationship expert Dr. Tiffanie Henry — who runs a private practice in Fayetteville, Ga. and a site called My Intimate Details — that may not be the case.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a growing trend,” she said in an exclusive interview. “I just think people are more comfortable talking about different ways of love and loving people. Just like there was a time when people didn’t necessarily admit or talk about same-sex relationships, but now people are very comfortable or more comfortable with being out, with talking about their relationships and the dynamics of their relationships — whether it’s being in a same-sex relationship, whether it’s being open to kink or BDSM or having multiple partners.” ...

● Meanwhile, Kenya and Carl Stevens, longtime advocates and coaches for poly and open relationships, have a 24-minute video out, which comes via their recent publicity campaign:

Others I missed?



December 5, 2017

"Polyamory in Silicon Valley," supposedly the epicenter of the relationship future

The Sunday Times (UK)

One of Britain's major respectable dailies, in its Sunday edition two days ago, published an outsider's look at the supposed cutting edge of the polyamory movement. (The Brits seem to be even more in awe of Silicon Valley than we Easterners.) The article starts off sensationally, then snarkily, but we win the writer's heart in the end.

Polyamory in Silicon Valley

Among the tech set, having more than one partner isn’t sleazy like the swingers of old — rather it’s a political movement that could reimagine our communities

The article's lead picture, above, was probably supposed to mean something. (Credit: Lukasz Wierzbowski)

By Laura Pullman

Orgy Ben and Orgy Kate, as they’ve called themselves on their name badges, have taken me under their wing at a sex party in downtown San Francisco. It’s immediately clear that my pleather Zara trousers aren’t going to cut it — the event’s website wasn’t lying when it promised “leatherfolk, kinksters and perverts”. In one room, half-naked women writhe, suspended from scaffolding, while bumbling boy scouts below wrestle with knots. ... [More material possibly NSFW] ... A pale, purple-haired man introduces himself as a polyamory expert called Pepper Mint. I flee the building.

Baaaad reporter. The Pepper Mint (his real name) you fled from meeting is a friendly, level-headed, respected leader in the Bay Area kink and poly communities who earned his status through years of rigorous ethics in community building and consent enforcement. He's a non-monogamy conference organizer and recent guidebook author and knows the jumping Bay Area scene inside out. (Disclosure: I edited the book, and we're two thirds of the membership committee of the Polyamory Leadership Network, where he took the lead in cleaning up two wrenching nonconsent cases.) He could have been your premier source.

Polyamory is an increasingly hot topic in San Francisco and among the Silicon Valley set, and I’m curious why, whether it can work, and the general ins and outs. It’s not just in forward-thinking California that people are exploring new relationship models. It’s also a growing trend in Britain — largely among London’s hipster and queer scenes.

...Unlike the pampas-grass swinging of old, poly, as it’s dubbed, is not all about the sex. For some, it’s about building deeper relationships and creating varied social structures. As the joke goes: “Swingers have sex, polys have conversation.” Indeed, not all poly people are into kinky “play parties”, as they are creepily called out here — but in for a penny and all that.

...Recent estimates suggest that there could be up to 2.4m polyamorous relationships in America — there are no figures for the UK. In a place proud of its free-love, beat-poet, counter-culture history, it’s a fair assumption that a sizeable chunk of those threesome/foursome/moresome relationships are blossoming here in San Francisco, not to mention the “I want it all” Silicon Valley sorts dipping their toes in the poly pool.

In her book The State of Affairs, the relationship therapist Esther Perel points out that many people embarking on a poly lifestyle “do so with an entrepreneurial mind-set that aspires to a greater freedom of choice, authenticity and flexibility”, hence its popularity with the tech set. Chris Messina, 37, who has worked at Google and Uber, believes the relationship between polyamory and the tech world is correlation, not causation, and breaks down the different tribes. ... Over dinner in Dogpatch, an up-and-coming area in east San Francisco, he tells me: “In the city, the poly scene is more about a different set of behavioural norms or politics, and rejecting patriarchy. It’s about inclusion, egalitarianism and post gender. Plus creating shared homes and alternative structures for bringing people together. Whereas the Silicon Valley approach is much more pragmatic.” People in tech, he says, are typically “maximalists” seeking as many experiences as possible.

...It’s not hippie cool to discuss such banal matters, but what about the green-eyed monster? Polyamorists attempt to transcend, or simply accept, jealousy. Others claim to not experience it. Kate says the only time she’s been frustrated is when Ben dated a “homely looking” frump: “I just didn’t get what he saw in her.” ...

...Eric, 29, and Zarinah Agnew, 36, became non-monogamous after meeting in a commune in the city six years ago. “This isn’t about fun and pleasure, it’s a political thing,” says Zarinah, a British scientist. Rogers is similarly energised by this new frontier: “One amazing thing about San Francisco right now is the high density of people who aren’t just doing whatever they want and enjoying themselves in a hedonistic fashion, but also really thinking critically about how to build this into a thing that has a future.”

Co-parenting — collectively bringing up children — is a major element of this reimagining of community. Eve, 41, a Swiss-Italian music teacher, tells me that many people, herself included, move here for the poly scene. She currently co-parents the children of two of her different partners: seven-year-old twins and a three-year-old girl. Her co-parenting duties, in truth, sound largely like free childcare.

“All these monogamous parents are struggling, and there’s no system in place to network and help each other out,” she says. It’s a complicated area, with issues about parental legality for starters, but Eve and others are adamant that it’s beneficial for children and adults alike. And perhaps it could provide an antidote to that modern malaise, loneliness. Certainly, the atomisation of families — people now often live miles away from their relatives — and the decline of the church have left many yearning for a deeper belonging.

...After my brief foray into the poly community, it’s apparent that organisation and honest conversations are the keystones. Dr Alison Ash, a sexual empowerment coach and committed non-monogamist, says: “For non-monogamy to work, there has to be a high level of self-reflection, deep self-awareness and a lot of skilled communication. It’s about knowing your boundaries and capacity, and then being willing to share and express them.”

Messina, who is currently experiencing a rough patch with Amy, is explicit about how difficult having more than one partner can be. “It requires a lot of work, for you to be mature, to know your shit, know how you behave and what motivates you,” he says.

Heading to the airport, I spot a billboard for a software company that reads: “Polydataorus — the data warehouse open to all data.” There’s no doubt San Francisco is embarking on another exciting cycle of freer love. I reflect on how my initial assumption that polyamory was all about sex with mitigated loyalty and commitment was knee-jerk and misguided. Poly means different things to different people: finding freedom, building communities, co-parenting and, hopefully, some kinky sex, too. ... As Tolstoy never wrote: monogamous relationships are all alike; every non-monogamous relationship is non-monogamous in its own way.

Read the whole article (December 3, 2017. Registration wall.)

This isn't the first major-media treatment of Silicon Valley as a view of our poly future. Here are stories on CNN Money (with video), a CNN followup, in Wired, and in Emily Witt's book Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love.


On the same day, diving downmarket on British newsstands, browsers also found this in the soft-porn news tabloid The Sun (owned by the same Rupert Murdoch who now owns The Times):

What is ‘unicorn hunting’? The new couples trend that doesn’t always end well

Again with the feet. (Getty)

By Rachel Moore

YOU may never have heard of it, but “unicorn hunting” is the latest trend among couples looking to spice up their love life.

With a rise in the popularity of “polyamorous” relationships, couples are on the look out for a third person in order to become a “throuple.”

"Unicorn hunting" is where a male/female couple look to find one person who they can permanently invite into their relationship.

...People who go "unicorn hunting" are specifically looking for a bisexual woman.

The number of straight couples only looking to find a "unicorn" has reached such high numbers that many polyamorous people see it as a cliche.

Surprisingly, unicorn hunting isn't a casual affair.

The couple expect their "unicorn" to be both sexually and romantically exclusive. They also demand that a unicorn is attracted to them both equally and interested in only having group sex. [Not always, but too often. –Ed.]

But the couple are not looking to bring her fully into their relationship. In fact, their aim is to not let the "unicorn" come between them.

Finding someone who meets all the criteria is as hard as you might imagine.... An anonymous polyamorous man told Business Insider that he has never known a straight couple, searching for a bisexual woman, to have worked out.

...While the female in the couple is often reluctant at first, she can end up enjoying it more and more.

Meanwhile their male counterpart becomes jealous which causes tensions in the relationship.

If one partner is enjoying the new found freedom of polyamory more than the other, it can lead them to return to monogamy or even worse, break up. ...

The whole article (December 3, 2017).


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November 23, 2017

How poly, really, is "She's Gotta Have It," Spike Lee's "polyamorous, pansexual" Netflix series?

Spike Lee's new series She's Gotta Have It went up on Netflix on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, and the amount of media it's getting is impressive.

It's a reboot of Lee's 1986 movie, but times have changed. "As a sex-positive, polyamorous pansexual," declares centerpiece Nola Darling, "monogamy never even seemed like a remote possibility." The media are quoting that line all over the place.

With all this attention, will the series clarify or confuse what "polyamory" means to the public ear? She mispronounces polyamorous, not a good sign. Vice published an interview with Lee and DeWanda Wise, who plays Nola:

VICE: You both have spouses and are in monogamous relationships. But the character DeWanda Wise plays is Nola Darling, who is polyamorous.

Spike Lee:
I have no idea what the word “polyamory” means. What is it? Polly wants a cracker? What are you talking about? [Laughs.]

DeWanda Wise:
I married young, true. Nola's just more transparent about dating multiple people, which is something a lot of people do today. I have friends in committed, polyamorous relationships. It’s more prevalent. I haven’t seen any examples of polyamory in TV or film in 1986 other than She’s Gotta Have It, which is depicted in a real way.

From Wired's review:

To consider anything about She’s Gotta Have It ... first requires one address its final episode. It’s Thanksgiving night and Nola Darling has summoned her three suitors to dinner. Up until this point, they’d yet to cross paths, and only vaguely knew of each other through Nola’s mention of dating other men. All season the show had been building to this juncture, and its occurrence is all the more surprising because it’s Nola who methodically gathers her trio of lovers in one place, the refuge of her Brooklyn apartment.

“What’s the real purpose of inviting all three of us here?” asks Jaime, a sensible and sometimes dull Wall Street business type. Nola’s response, layered and selfish, but not unreasonable, lands like a punch to the gut. She acknowledges having “messed up,” but refuses to linger over past mistakes. Opposed to one man, she instead chooses herself. “What kind of lady,” begins Greer, the most immodest of her lovers— but Nola cuts him off, ironclad and unapologetic, leveraging control: “...Acts like a man?”

The series, much like Lee’s original film was 30 years ago, is a seductive case study in power dynamics, masked as a savvy rom-com. The crux of Nola’s story, the symbolism that is to be mined from her impassioned travails, is really about the redistribution of authority, and the reimagining of female desire as something more entangled, impulsive, and ideologically liberated.

The whole review (Nov. 22).

Commenter Almontas on reddit/r/polyamory sums things up:

I love the show but certainly is not an accurate poly representation. They are all still coming from a monogamy angle and the only reason she sleeps with all of those men is with the condition there's no emotional connection.

I would certainly recommend it and see it as a positive step towards accepting non-monogamy...poly itself may have to wait a little bit.

Tolu Igun at the University of Wisconsin's Badger Herald: (Nov. 29):

...Lee portrays Nola’s relationships as a polyamorous lifestyle, but he needs to think about the negative implications that can have on the already existing polyamorous community. I would not consider Nola’s relationships as polyamory at all and neither should other people who watch this show.

...Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners. This last part of the definition is key because in Nola’s situation, Jamie, Mars and Greer do not meet until the final episode of season one.

...The unawareness of one another for these four lovers cannot equate to polyamory because this would suggest that they are all in the relationship together when really they are all in it for Nola.

Bitch Media: “She's Gotta Have It” Butchers Polyamory and Queerness (Nov. 29).


Sex-positive and feminist the show certainly is. Here's one of three articles in the New York Times in the last week:

Spike Lee’s Feminist Breakthrough

In her studio.

By Salamishah Tilletnov

“As a sex positive, polyamorous, pansexual,” Nola Darling boldly declares in the fourth episode, “words like monogamy have never even seemed like a remote possibility.”

..Billed as a “seriously sexy comedy” in 1986, the movie revolved around Nola’s romantic relationships with three men — the poetic and overly possessive Jamie Overstreet, the narcissistic Greer Childs and the unemployed hip-hop aficionado Mars Blackmon (played by Mr. Lee). A budding artist living in Brooklyn, Nola was, Mr. Lee noted at the time, “a young black woman who’s really leading her life like a man, in control, with three men dangling at her fingertips.” He continued, “That paradox is funny, it’s really crazy.”

In a television landscape in which African-American female characters on shows like BET’s “Being Mary Jane,” HBO’s “Insecure” and ABC’s “Scandal” unabashedly establish their sexual freedom by having multiple male partners — or, in the case of Netflix’s “Master of None” and OWN’s “Queen Sugar,” also have several female ones — Nola’s sexuality no longer feels comedic or unconventional. It feels right at home, just one part of a young, black, female artist’s identity.

The surprising result: Spike Lee has made his most feminist heroine yet.

Critics have long noted Mr. Lee’s “woman problem.” In 2009, during the 20th anniversary of Mr. Lee’s most celebrated film, “Do the Right Thing,” the journalist Teresa Wiltz observed, “When it comes to his female characters, it’s as though Lee can’t decide whether to worship them or punish them.”

...“I’m 30 years older, and the world has changed,” Mr. Lee said. “I think that Nola’s character is such a strong character. She is a woman who is juggling three men, and I think there are more women like that now. But the way those women are judged hasn’t necessarily changed as far as men go.”

...The show does not only expand Nola’s sexual universe, it also pays attention to the ways in which her and other black female characters’ bodies are constantly under surveillance (by white shopkeepers), exploited (at a local burlesque club or on reality TV), threatened (by police officers) and even assaulted (by everyday men on the street). ...

Read the whole article (Nov. 19 print issue). The other two NYT articles: ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ on Netflix Is a Bold Reboot From Spike Lee (Nov. 22 print issue), and a long retrospective feature, The Culture Caught Up With Spike Lee — Now What? (Nov. 21 online; to appear in the Nov. 26 NYT Sunday Magazine).


Another one, introducing the three very different men:

● In Canada's national Globe & Mail: She’s Gotta have It is breezy yet serious-minded on urban life and love (Nov. 21)

...Nola lives her sex life to the fullest, largely with three male boyfriends who compete for her attention, for her admiration and, some of them, for her heart. Each man offers Nola something specific. Each also lacks something that the other offers. Nola is not in the least bothered by the openness of her love life. She is honest and secure in her choices, specifically her issues with monogamous relationships.

The set-up for the series is that Nola has agreed to have her life documented. She talks directly to the camera sometimes, as do other characters. "Folks think they know me," Nola says at the start. "They don't. I consider myself abnormal. But who wants to be like everybody else?"

The resulting series is a heady, often gorgeous, concoction. It is, visually, a love letter to Brooklyn, an area that Lee paints in wistful, melancholy colours. Lee remains one of those directors who take enormous and sensual pleasure in presenting places they love.

There is a lot of sly humour in the series, too. Nola makes plain her impatience at the everyday harassment she gets on the street, from men of all ages, and from women. But even that is done by Lee with a certain air of rueful tribute to the idiocy of men, especially older men.

Nola's three partners also get plenty of time to exhibit their characteristics. The most genuinely engaging and charismatic is Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos). He's the character played by Spike Lee himself in the original film, and he represents youth and, in a way, tradition, since he's so attached to his local neighbourhood. There is the preening, conceited Greer (Cleo Anthony), a guy who is fabulously handsome but so aware of it that Nola rolls her eyes before she actually gets down to enjoying his body. The most complex male, in the first few episodes, might be the married businessman Jamie (Canadian Lyriq Bent, who is truly outstanding). And then Nola's occasional girlfriends also get the attention of both Nola and the camera. ...

Hello Beautiful talks to the star: DeWanda Wise Says ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ Is A Love Letter To Black Women:

DeWanda Wise at right  (Johnny Nunez/Getty)

By Starrene Rhett Rocque

...The TV adaptation of Spike Lee’s seminal 1986 film centers around Nola Darling, a polyamorous woman with three boyfriends, who refuses to answer to anyone, especially the men who want to lock her down, about the unusual choices she makes in her love life.

However, with the series reboot comes adapting to the times, and Spike Lee tapped into the #BlackGirlMagic machine to make sure that Nola Darling 2017 resonates with a millennial generation of women who are all about discourse and moving the zeitgeist in a progressive direction.

...“[Nola Darling] really is this icon of being able to just be who you are,” says Eisa Davis, who is part of the predominately black women-led writing team....

Many, many more.


This is just one of several black explorations of consensual non-monogamy recently in theaters and/or streaming: 195 Lewis, Compersion, and Poly Love. More on these soon! (Did I miss any?)


P.S. on another topic: It's Thanksgiving in the US but it's National Polyamory Day in Canada, by recent declaration of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association. "On this day in 2011, BC’s Supreme Court ruled that Canada’s so called “anti-polygamy law” does not apply to unformalized polyamorous households — clarifying that polyamory, as it is typically practiced in Canada, is legal and not a criminal act."

Save the date. We're starting to see some movement toward making November 23 Polyamory Day, at least informally, in the US and worldwide.

Steve Ks of the CPAA notes, "There is already an International Solo Polyamory Day observed on September 24. There has also been a “Polyamory Pride Day” promoted for June 11 as part of Pride Week."


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November 20, 2017

"Body Music," non-traditional love stories, reviewed on NPR

A National Public Radio reviewer enthuses over Julie Maroh's new graphic-novel collection of love tales, many of them queer or non-traditional. As, for instance, in Maroh's cover illustration:

The setting is Montreal.

In 'Body Music,' Love Is Sweet, Sexy And A Touch Sentimental

By Etelka Lehoczky

Julie Maroh, French
writer and cartoonist
Body Music [is] a collection of 21 vignettes about love ... real people in love — bumbling along, second-guessing themselves and hurting each other — but their pure hearts and capacity for self-scrutiny set them apart from most of the lovers you'll encounter in real life. How often, really, do we act as our best selves in our amorous pursuits? Maroh imagines a world in which we almost always do.

The stories here are simple. Two people click at a baseball game in a city park. A cyclist stews about a lovers' quarrel. A couple try to recreate the conditions under which they first met. Maroh brings fervent lyricism to each situation, vaulting the characters into flights of eloquence. ... She's just so achingly sincere in her fondness for her characters, you feel like the worst kind of cynic for resisting her.

...An explicit lesbian love scene, two men's flirtation on a dancefloor and other erotic moments are deeply intimate, making the reader feel a bit of an intruder's thrill. Other times, though, Maroh all too clearly addresses her audience; in some stories — particularly those about polyamory and transgender identity — the characters are so noble, they start to sound like goody-two-shoes types in a kids' book meant to inculcate enlightened values.

But that's understandable. It's hard to be idealistic without giving way to preachiness from time to time. Body Music may be a little too sugary, but its sweetness is craveable for good reason.

Read the whole review (November 17, 2017).

● Vulture.com, in 8 Comics to Read (and One Comics Movie to Watch) in November, had these remarks:

...A tender and soft-edged meditation on unconventional love and sex. ... Despite the running theme of intimacy between people who aren’t straight, cis, and white, [Body Music] doesn’t feel performatively woke. Perhaps that has something to do with the sumptuous artwork, with its pillowy lines, luscious sex scenes, and Greek-sculpture facial acting. Buy this one for someone who needs proof that comics can deal with identity politics without feeling stilted and aggravating.

● Some friendly criticism in The Rice Thresher at Rice University: ​Julie Maroh’s ‘Body Music’ is a longed-for ode to queerness (Nov. 28):

...While she is mostly successful in tackling a large undertaking, there are still some shortcomings from a craft perspective. Beyond the common theme of love and relationships, there is little consistent structure, leading to vignettes that felt out of place or simply submerged among their counterparts. Furthermore, some of the stories are so touching that, at times, they become almost saccharine, even in the most agonizing moments. This sort of romanticizing equates anxiety and fear with passion, or leads to characters keying the words “I still love you” into their ex-lover’s car. Perhaps we are meant to get lost in the moments of tragic romance or idealized claims about human nature, but at times they are simply difficult to buy into.

Another complaint that Maroh frequently garners from casual readers is in regards to her artistic style. It’s simultaneously shocking and scrupulous, and may admittedly be off-putting to comic fans who could see it as lurid compared to the polished and aggressively colorful pages of a commercial comic book. But Maroh has intentionally skirted idealistic cultural tendencies in which “bodies are luscious, photo-shopped within an inch of their lives” in the portrayal of her characters. Instead, she has characters whose appearances refuse gender stereotyping; lovers lying naked and panting, unselfconscious of their weight; transgender individuals with scars after top surgery; people in wheelchairs on their way to concerts. ... “Body Music” asserts there is no need to be embarrassed by one’s body or appearance, and instead chooses to worship what it is capable of and what bursting emotions it contains.

● Maroh posts one of her tales in its entirety on Buzzfeed: "Back at Dawn", an episode of jealousy in a now-gay couple. What they're doing with their hands is sign language.