The concept of polyamory as depicted on Showtime is a wonder to behold.
What is polyamory? It’s being in love or romantically involved with more than one person, with the agreement of all parties. Conceptually, it’s about more than sex. It’s about love. And Showtime got in on the game with a short-lived series called Married & Dating.
For most of us, polyamory would be fraught with danger. But the series portrays two very earnest couples practicing what they call polyamory. I have chosen my words carefully: what they call.
The San Diego “pod” consists of two married couples and their various girlfriends and boy friends, and a more pretentious bunch I’ve rarely seen. Half the group seem to be psychologists or want to be, and there’s constant talk of “process” and “I hear that.” At least by the women.
To the four of them, love and sex are exactly the same thing. When Michael talks about “going deep” in a relationship, it’s all about sex. When Kamala talks about wanting to get to know Michael’s new girlfriend before having a threesome, that means saying “hi” and jumping into bed together.
But when Michael and girlfriend seem to be having too good a time, Kamala freaks out and says she needs to feel more “emotionally connected” to the girlfriend. They then stop having sex and the three of them spoon. That’s how they emotionally connect.
Am I the only one who finds this bizarre? I’m not even a traditional thinker, and I find it bizarre.
Jen, the other wife, engages in Season 2 with an insipid guy who has a list of rules of what she can or can not do, all revolving around sex, of course. For a so-called evolved polyamorous woman, Jen accepts this rather easily and we see the guy’s struggle with sharing her. I had to wonder why this couple even got together, given those philosophic differences.
So what is polyamory, really? If you go by what we see on this show, it’s all about the sex. Conversations are always rife with psychobabble and sound rather self-conscious. At least as depicted by Showtime, a network which never misses an opportunity to show almost explicit sex, this couple comes across as a caricature of themselves and provide what’s probably a misleading view of polyamory.
Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, another married couple featured are being filmed, along with their girlfriend. They are impossibly good looking with young bodies to die for and hair that could be in any shampoo commercial. Because this is an incredibly attractive trio, Showtime made sure to include a lot of soft porn footage.
On the other hand…
This trio, though, struggled on camera with very real relationship issues that went beyond who was getting more attention in bed than others. One of the women was growing a business and had less time to devote to hanging around together than the other two. Her husband seemed tone deaf to this and spent more and more time with the third woman. Wife then met someone else and got involved outside the trio, without telling them.
The struggle wasn’t as much about sex as it was about relationship, as any of us monogamous couples might experience it. Listening, really hearing, having our needs met, problem solving, jealousy all became part of this trio’s more realistic story line.
Its death was a mercy
The show ended five years ago after two mini-seasons and, as we might have predicted, Jen and her husband have divorced and the Hollywood trio also went through a transition.
Is it really possible or even practical to be romantically involved with more than one person? The TLC network shows us it is with its Sister Wives series about a Mormon family with one husband and four wives.
In this show, it’s not about the sex. (God, spare me the image of Kody having sex with any of his wives.)
It’s about the family. It’s about the relationships. It’s about a commitment. These aren’t impossibly beautiful people, they’re normal folks. I’ve tuned in and out of this series over the years and come to see how polygamy might actually work in a practical sense.
I get that these networks like the shock value of these shows and how they translate to potential ratings. But at least for me, they both made me think about the concept of relationships and marriage. And that is a worthwhile purpose.