Angel of Harem

A disturbing shadow falls across the world of polyamory:

Franklin Veaux’s work has shed light. His writings about polyamory have been valuable resources that have helped countless people find their way to happier, more fulfilling polyamorous relationships.

But:

Six women have come forward with stories of experiences with Franklin that do not align with his public persona, his self-described stories of his relationships, or the values stated in his writing.

How odd. Men who hang out at the intersection of unconstrained sex, feminism, and lefty politics are usually such genuine people.

The women’s experiences indicate that Franklin has patterns of manipulation, gaslighting, and lying; leverages his multiple partners against one another; tests or ignores boundaries; pathologizes his partners’ normal emotions and weaponizes their mental illnesses; exploits women financially; uses women’s ideas and experiences in his work without permission or credit; grooms significantly younger, less experienced, or vulnerable women; lacks awareness of power dynamics and consent; has involved women in group sex and other sexual activities that they experienced as coercive; and accepts no responsibility for the harm he causes by engaging in these behaviors — often blaming other women, or the harmed women themselves, for that harm.

Man who is best known for running harems turns out to be a bit of a cad. Who would have guessed?

These behaviors escalate when Franklin lives with a partner, and he becomes verbally abusive when his nesting relationships end. The severity of this pattern is illustrated by the fact that none of his former nesting partners will be alone with him. Two of them, over a decade apart, fled the homes they shared with him at the end of the relationships. Their written records from the time of leaving him show evidence of trauma.

This chap is best known for his book which argues the case for “ethical polyamory”. That would be like me writing a book called The Case for Holding One’s Counsel.

The women who have told their stories describe effects on them that range from lingering confusion and self-doubt all the way to self-harm, suicidal ideation, lasting trauma requiring years or decades to repair, and long-lasting or permanent damage to their ability to trust others, enjoy intimacy, or enter into healthy romantic relationships.

Well yes, that’s what polyamory does. Although I’d not like to be the psychiatrist picking through the rubble trying to separate the damage inflicted by polyamory from that which was the reason for attempting it in the first place.

Many people throughout many polyamorous scenes — including every member of this group, and some of the harmed women themselves — have played a role in amplifying Franklin’s narrative and expanding his reach.

Indeed, whereas those who consistently rail against polyamory are the true heroes. Time for a self-portrait:

Ahem, where were we?

Moreover, Franklin is far from the only person with social capital to have wielded it in harmful ways,

Social capital = a sizeable store of woke lefty political boilerplate automatically deployed immediately on sighting a dim feminist with daddy issues.

nor are his former partners the only people to have experienced this particular kind of harm in polyamorous relationships.

I don’t suppose any of these woman are going to take some responsibility for their predicament, are they?

We hope that this moment can be used to propel forward the hard conversations that will lead to collective healing, accountability and transformation.

Or you could just quit obviously harmful, self-destructive, impulsive behaviour.

Polyamory is not an organized movement. We have no governing body to which we can petition for a process of justice.

What would you name a body set up to regulate polyamory? Offmeds?

We must rely on a loose network of organizers, spokespeople and other “leaders” to hear the women’s voices and take action that moves us all toward greater healing and safety.

Leaders like Franklin Veaux with his theories on ethical polyamory?

We therefore must ask our fellow activists, speakers, organizers and leaders, as individuals, to support our call for justice.

I thought polyamory was all about free love and transcending jealousy. This author sounds like hubby died and left her out of the will.

Franklin can be charming and kind. He has helped many people, and many people — especially people who have never been romantically involved with him, or who have spent only short periods of time with him — have had nothing but good experiences with him. Many of the women he’s harmed also experienced idyllic early relationships with him.

In that fleeting period where she was, being new, at the head of his roster.

Idyllic “vacation” relationships are especially easy to sustain over many years when a partner is long-distance.

Relationship are easy to sustain when it’s not actually a relationship.

His long-distance partners, and partners who have not been through the end of an invested relationship with him, may never have experienced the kinds of harm from him experienced by those who became more entwined.

It sounds as though this chap was running a cult. Which now I think about it, he was.

It is, as Franklin himself has written, possible for him to be simultaneously easy to love and dangerous to love.

This is consistent with the theory that a handful of men who get into polyamory are just regular, a-hole alpha males who’ve found a way to shag lots of women. A lot of polyamorist groups feature one man who gets all the sex while everyone else gets all the headaches.

Many people have tried many times over many years to explain to Franklin the harm he has caused and offer him a chance to change, with no effect.

And why should he, if women are queuing up to sleep with him?

He has been offered, and refused, a community accountability process at least once.

Sensible chap. Can you imagine what that would look like?

Nevertheless, we, and the women themselves, believe strongly that no one is disposable, and that a path to accountability — separate from the process of supporting the survivors — should be open to Franklin.

I think they’ve inadvertently founded a church.

Therefore, as a final gesture of goodwill, we have sent Franklin a call-in letter naming the harm done, asking that he initiate his own accountability process, and outlining what accountability would look like to the survivors. He has indicated via a public Quora post that he declines, but we stand ready to liaise with his accountability team should he change his mind.

If your sex life is such that you need to maintain an accountability team to deal with complaints, you may have gone off the deep end some time ago. Remember, folks: polyamory is perfectly normal and we mustn’t judge.

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32 thoughts on “Angel of Harem

  1. Coincidentally I was reading a random thread on Quora a day or two ago about locksmiths and I saw a reply that in the first line stated:

    My partner Zaiah’s other boyfriend is a locksmith. We were talking about exactly this last night.

    Which stood out, as it had no relevance to the question and seemed liked someone who likes to project their lifestyle every opportunity they get.

    After reading about polyamory from this blog, I tried to guess where this author was from and low and behold I was correct – the author lives in Portland.

    The profile described them as a small business owner, sexuality educator, writer – obviously.
    It also states they have also written for Slate, Huff Po and 9 others – even more obviously.

    If we played polyamory bingo around here, this would have been a full house.

    Well as you can guess the author was Franklin Veaux

  2. After reading about polyamory from this blog, I tried to guess where this author was from and low and behold I was correct – the author lives in Portland.

    Is it Howard Roark? 🙂

    Well as you can guess the author was Franklin Veaux

    Heh! I’d heard of his book somewhere, but can’t remember where.

  3. Sorta related. A couple of years back I got chatting to someone on Twitter who very quickly invited me onto her podcast, which she does with a male friend of hers and another woman. I said yes then did some research and found it was basically three Americans who looked a bit…odd…sitting around chatting via Skype and posting the whole thing on YouTube. I couldn’t actually do it because of the time differences and other commitments, and then the woman disappeared from Twitter so I sacked it off altogether.

    About a year later I started seeing the bloke’s name trending in my timeline and it turned out the whole lot of them were into polyamory and his behaviour had become so controlling that the woman I initially talked to had to go into hiding. The entire basket of dirty laundry was aired on Twitter in real time, and none of it surprised me. I had no idea they were into polyamory when I first bumped into them online – I don’t know how I find these people.

  4. Kudos for the funniest line I’ve seen in a while:

    What would you name a body set up to regulate polyamory? Offmeds?

  5. Jim +1

    Amazing how it’s all his fault – none of these women seem to be aware that getting involved in this set up might be a bit, you know, dodgy? Unless of course you already have zero self awareness at best or serious mental problems at worst. And that’s not necessarily a recipe for a happy monogamous relationship let alone polyamory.

  6. lacks awareness of power dynamics and consent

    Sounds like he’s perfectly aware of the power dynamics, and is using them to his advantage.

    Seriously though, what’s going on in Portland? Is it something in the water?

  7. Man’s a dude. Dumb heifers are the losers. As ever in polyamory, one person gets all the shagging and the others share the grief.

  8. @ Jimmers:

    Amazing how it’s all his fault – none of these women seem to be aware that getting involved in this set up might be a bit, you know, dodgy? Unless of course you already have zero self awareness at best or serious mental problems at worst. And that’s not necessarily a recipe for a happy monogamous relationship let alone polyamory.

    I suspect it’s too much progressive “right side of history” Kool-Aid. “Well, obviously those previous generations were all bigoted misogynists, so they can’t have anything to teach us about relationships. Who cares if they all thought that polygamy led to loads of problems and heartbreak? We enlightened, rational twenty-first-century-ers are immune from such things!”

  9. “Franklin has patterns of manipulation, gaslighting, and lying; leverages his multiple partners against one another; tests or ignores boundaries; pathologizes his partners’ normal emotions and weaponizes their mental illnesses; exploits women financially; uses women’s ideas and experiences in his work without permission or credit; grooms significantly younger, less experienced, or vulnerable women; lacks awareness of power dynamics and consent; has involved women in group sex and other sexual activities that they experienced as coercive; and accepts no responsibility for the harm he causes”

    Never heard of this guy but I’m starting to admire him the more I hear. That’s the point isn’t it? Respect!

  10. Whilst the OffMeds line is good, I was going to comment that I’m beginning to suspect Tim has hired a subeditor: his headlines have been on fire for the last couple of days….

  11. Incidentally Tim, should you change your WordPress settings so that titles appear in your url? I’m no expert but I’ve been told this is good for SEO (if you’re advertising on this site might as well make the most of it) and anyway your site links are pretty cryptic at the moment. If you’re putting effort into the headlines why not flaunt them?

    On your line about whether they have accidentally founded a church… Well they have set up a system of cultural, social, ethical and in some cases spiritual norms so it might not be far off. Other counter-cultures or alternative culture movements too. In the case of the hippies it might be more obvious. But there’s a (surprisingly frequently downloaded!) PhD thesis here about BDSM as a “lived religious experience”: http://oro.open.ac.uk/51554/

    Suspect similar claims would apply to poly relationships.

  12. A fairly obvious downside to having multiple relationships is multiple vengeful exes. Although I am amused that they’re trying to form a harem HR department to report him to.

  13. These women willingly ‘transgressed’ the long defeated old rules of our society in order to feel the cheap thrill of pseudo-rebellion. They deserve only scorn and mockery, only to be the butt of jokes and to live as cautionary tales. I mean really, everyone knows anything other than monogamy is bad- period. These idiots deprived worthy young men of wives in order to play make-believe. Those young men are the only victims here.

  14. WhoCares: “These idiots deprived worthy young men of wives in order to play make-believe. Those young men are the only victims here.”

    Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Those young men have been spared aggravating relationships with mad women, thanks to Franklin’s selflessness 😉

    There’s a comment under the original piece where one of Franklin’s supporters accuses the piece’s author of being the abusive one. This is just a messy break-up, just involving an unusual number of people.

  15. “These idiots deprived worthy young men of wives in order to play make-believe. Those young men are the only victims here.”

    Or you could say that those young men dodged an entire belt of bullets……………

  16. Although I am amused that they’re trying to form a harem HR department to report him to.

    Don’t call this the Ex-wives Club. That is completely different. These young women avoided the problems of their mothers by not subscribing to patriarchal relationships.

  17. Is it Howard Roark? 🙂

    Well, you’ve exposed me! I’ve been at your blog for the polyamory posts all this time.

    I don’t even know if I’ve met polyamorous people. I’m so clueless about this stuff. Staying out of Portland proper is probably key to this. Where I live just outside of Portland, you’d probably get shot for it.

    I still go back to the standard theme regarding this topic as well as having affairs: I can barely handle one relationship, I shudder at managing another at the same time.

  18. “an accountability team to deal with complaints”

    Does that sound like lots of exciting jobs for all those intersectionality PhDs? Looks like the emergent ecosystem may become self-sustaining after all. As long as they don’t need to eat, that is.

  19. Pingback: Random Thoughts | Rotten Chestnuts

  20. This is just a messy break-up, just involving an unusual number of people.

    I’ve tongue-in-cheek accused our illustrious host of Crimestop before, and I don’t want to sound critical or ungrateful for his writings here, which provide nearly as much entertainment as David Thompson’s blog. But just for a moment, take the polyamory out of it and assume this was written by a single woman about her ex, a successful, well-known and well-respected niche author.

    How much credence would you give her claims? Or would you perhaps suspect that she was shading the truth a bit (or a lot) to make her ex seem like a horrible person and herself like a poor sainted victim when the truth is likely rather more nuanced?

    Now, put the BPD back in – with all its attendant deceit, manipulation, outright fabulism and narcissistic persecution complexes – and are we still willing to take their accusations at face value?

    It’s a messy breakup involving deeply dysfunctional and self-destructive people. All of them are lying.

  21. “It’s a messy breakup involving deeply dysfunctional and self-destructive people. All of them are lying.”

    That’s true of most breakups, messy or otherwise. There are just more people involved in this one, and they are all crazy, so the lies are easier to spot.

    /cynic

  22. “Nesting Relationships “. Really? Ye Gods.

    These people are mad and yet believe they are superior. Go figure.

  23. When it comes to relationships, all people are lying all of the time. Including to themselves. Few relationships would survive the truth.

  24. @Recusant:

    Nesting Relationships

    Yup, of all the stupid crap I’ve seen on the interwebs this week, this is the stupidest.

  25. How much credence would you give her claims?

    None at all, but I’m not going to go that far into it. I’ll just assume they’re all nutters.

  26. Incidentally Tim, should you change your WordPress settings so that titles appear in your url?

    That’s a good idea and I could, but it would knock out all the permalinks people have set up elsewhere. 🙁

  27. See, here’s the thing about all this… Weirdness. The polyamorists are groping towards a solution to something that you have to acknowledge actually exists, which is that people in general are pretty much incapable of actually keeping their damn words to others, and cleaving unto one particular hole or member.

    The polyamorists aren’t doing it right, either, but they are at least recognizing the fact that most men and women simply can’t (or, won’t…) stick to a single partner. Lifelong monogamy is an ideal that the majority simply cannot or will not do more than pay lip service to. You’re lucky if the randy little bastards manage serial monogamy, with minor little infidelities on the edges of the relationships. One man-one woman for life is unusual enough of a phenomenon that 60-year anniversaries make the papers.

    I’m rather dubious of the proposition that polyamory as conceived by a lot of these idiots is workable, in any way, shape, or form. On the flip side of all that, I have to point out that the monogamous aren’t really doing things much better–Dear God, if I ever have to write down the various and sundry idiocies and peccadilloes I’ve been forced to observe and pick up the pieces from while serving as a first-line leader in the US Army, the sheer Peyton Place of it all would likely cause an intellectual black hole to form. Soap opera plots have nothing on real life; screenwriters have to make logical sense, see, or they won’t sell their scripts. Real life? Oh, sweet babbling baby Jesus… There have been times where I wanted to seek divorce from the rest of the human race, simply to disassociate myself from the lot of you.

    Oh, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a purely American syndrome, my friends from the UK: I have sat down with British senior NCOs over more than a few beers, compared notes, and come to the conclusion with them that the “idiot junior enlisted” syndrome is prevalent the world ’round. And, further, that that snapshot of human behavior is pretty much the norm, across most of the human condition.

    The only thing that really separates the polyamorists from the “rest of you (us, unfortunately–That divorce proceeding I allude to earlier hasn’t quite gone through, as of yet…)” is that they’re a bit more visible about things, and suffer from a jejune need to inflict their internal thoughts on the rest of us. Believe me, were you to be able to access similar meanderings from some of the purportedly monogamous lotharios and trollops, you’d find just as much to disturb your viscera.

    Thankfully, however, most of them lack the literacy necessary to inflict their rich inner lives on the rest of us.

  28. If I were looking for a representative sample of Mankind, grunts in their twenties is not exactly where I’d start. Also, 60th anniversaries are noteworthy because they imply that two people have both made it to 80 years of age, and neither one of them has done anything foolish enough to be newsworthy in all those years.

    Let’s face it — middle-aged farts who’ve been happily married for twenty-odd years don’t exactly make for must-see entertainment. Thus, they are mostly forgotten and invisible.

  29. Can I just say, having dealt with soldiers in their early 20s, they have nothing on an 18 year old sailor, just arrived in somewhere foreign with a couple of months pay burning a hole in his (thankfully not ‘hers’ in my day …) pockets.

    The memories of the detritus of days 2 and 3 in port, or, worse still being Officer of the Day, still makes me shudder.

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