A member of YouTube’s skeptic community has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a woman, who has since been identified as his female YouTube co-host. Better known as “RDP” or Skeptic Feminist on social media, 29-year-old Aleksandr Kolpakov was arrested by police and is currently being held in Mesa County, Colorado jail on suspicion of second-degree murder.
The victim was identified this Monday afternoon as 31-year-old Heather Anable, a co-streamer in Kolpakov’s videos who viewers knew as “Ivy.” The coroner’s office ruled her death a homicide. Anable was shot multiple times in the neck and chest.
I saw something breaking on Twitter last night about this and couldn’t work out what was going on, so I lost interest. Or rather, I did until I found that Kolpakov and his victim were in a polyamorous relationship with another of their co-hosts of the Skeptic Feminist channel. Here is a video of Anable spelling out the virtues of ‘committed polyamory’ while Kolpakov sits beside her.
According to Twitter, Kolpakov is a US Army veteran and suffers from PTSD as a result of his service in Iraq. As Nikw211 remarks:
I find it quite hard to imagine how the particular stresses and strains involved in living in a polyamorous relationship would have been helpful for the stress levels of someone with an already imbalanced mental state.
Whether Kolpakov has PTSD or not will no doubt be confirmed or otherwise in his trial, but it seems almost certain that he did shoot and kill his lover. For a trio that made themselves vaguely famous by telling everyone that their polyamorous setup was full of advantages and based firmly in love this is a rather ironic ending, albeit tragic.
Once trans issues become passé, poly living will be the hot new fashion. Gotta keep the sexual revolution chugging along, after all. I’ve seen a fewmoreenthusiasticpieces over the last year or so trying to stir up interest.
Tui wasn’t wrong. The New York Times is but the latest mainstream publication to ask:
Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?
Daniel, then a 27-year-old who worked in information technology…
Now this may not be relevant, but both the former partners of the polyamorous woman I knew worked in IT. And it goes without saying that they, like the people in this article, lived in New York.
But as with any happy marriage, there were frustrations. Daniel liked sex, and not long after they were married, it became clear that Elizabeth’s interest in it had cooled. She thought hers was the normal response: She was raised by strict Catholics, she would tell Daniel, as if that explained it, and she never saw her own parents hold hands, much less kiss. It was not as if she and Daniel never had sex, but when they did, Daniel often felt lonely in his desire for something more — not necessarily exotic sex but sex in which both partners cared about it, and cared about each other, with one of those interests fueling the other.
So a man gets married and soon gets bored of banging his wife and wouldn’t mind sleeping with other women. How very unusual.
Elizabeth, baffled by Daniel’s disappointment, wondered: How great does sex have to be for a person to be happy? Daniel wondered: Don’t I have the right to care this much about sex, about intimacy?
Woman frets over whether she’s making her man happy in the bed. Man belatedly realises that getting married impacts one’s sex life. This is some groundbreaking stuff right here.
Occasionally, when he decided the answer was yes, and he felt some vital part of himself dwindling, Daniel would think about a radical possibility: opening up their marriage to other relationships.
Man fails to understand that being married is a trade-off.
He would poke around on the internet and read about other couples’ arrangements. It was both an outlandish idea and, to him, a totally rational one. He eventually even wrote about it in 2009 for a friend who had a blog about sexuality. “As our culture becomes more accepting of choices outside the norm, nonmonogamy will expand as an acceptable choice, and the world will have to change as a result,” he predicted.
Some of us are incapable of holding down a normal, functioning relationship and attempt to address severe self-esteem issues with meaningless sex. We demand the rest of society approves of our lifestyle.
He was in his late 30s when he decided to broach the subject with Elizabeth gingerly: Do you ever miss that energy you feel when you’re in love with someone for the first time? They had two children, and he pointed out that having the second did not detract from how much they loved the first one. “Love is additive,” he told her. “It is not finite.”
He’s using his wife’s love of their children in attempt to convince her to let him go and shag other women. Lovely.
He was not surprised when Elizabeth rejected the idea; he had mostly raised it as a way of communicating the urgency of his needs.
Man tells wife about his need to shag other women, wife doesn’t take it well.
Elizabeth did not resent him for bringing it up, but felt stuck: She was not even sure what, exactly, he wanted from her, or how she could give it.
Yes, she’s confused: that’s what happens when you’re stuck with a manipulative shit of a husband.
In the fall of 2015, Elizabeth met a man at a Parkinson’s fund-raiser. Joseph … asked her to tea once, and then a second time. They understood something profound about each other but also barely knew each other, which allowed for a lightness between them, pure fun in the face of everything. They met once more, and that afternoon, in the parking lot, he kissed her beside his car, someone else’s mouth on hers for the first time in 24 years. It did not occur to her to resist. Hadn’t Daniel wanted an open marriage?
Woman rejects concept of open marriage but cops off with a bloke offering her tea at a charity bash. Remember, these polyamory types are perfectly normal, just like you and me.
Elizabeth did not announce that the friendship was turning romantic, but she did not deny it either, when Daniel, uneasy with the frequency of her visits with Joseph, confronted her. That she intended to keep seeing Joseph despite Daniel’s obvious distress shamed him: He was suddenly an outsider in his own marriage, scrambling for scraps of information and a sense of control.
Man who wanted an open marriage fails to understand it’s a two-way street.
This was not at all what Daniel had in mind when he proposed opening the marriage.
No, he thought he’d be banging waitresses and cheerleaders. Instead he’s been cuckolded.
They had not agreed on anything ahead of time; they had not, as a couple, talked about their commitment to each other, about how they would manage and tend to each other’s feelings.
That’s because they weren’t in an open marriage: he suggested it, she said no, and then she went and had an affair. Hubby is now playing catch-up and trying to apply labels which don’t fit.
“It wasn’t like we had a conversation about it,” Daniel said the first time I met him, in April 2016, when they were just starting to put that painful period of their relationship behind them. “It was more like: This is what I’m doing — deal with it.”
Wonderful. What a lovely couple. I’m at a loss to decide who is the bigger selfish, narcissistic, shit here.
Elizabeth’s intransigence, and Daniel’s pain, had brought them back into couples therapy. After several months of surveying the situation, which seemed to be deadlocked, the therapist told them in early March 2016 that she thought they were most likely heading for divorce.
I wonder how much they paid their therapist before she reached this conclusion?
For several nights following that therapy session, they talked in their bedroom, with an attention they had not given each other in years, sitting on the strip of rug between the foot of their bed and the wall. The sex, too, was different, more varied, as if reflecting the inventing going on in their marriage. Elizabeth was still someone’s wife, still her children’s mother, but now she was also somebody’s girlfriend, desired and desiring; now her own marriage was also new to her.
Hmmm. I think the journalist ought to have expressed a little skepticism at this point, don’t you?
When I met Elizabeth and Daniel, Elizabeth had already received Daniel’s permission to keep seeing Joseph
She was seeing him anyway, IIRC.
Daniel was contemplating how he might, in turn, meet someone.
I bet he was. Like a lot of middle-aged men who bail on their marriages in the hope of getting hot and sweaty with pretty young things, he found the reality to be somewhat brutal. I only hope he didn’t grow a pony tail and start wearing hoodies.
Their marriage had already strained to accommodate another person, someone whom Elizabeth would meet while Daniel was at work, whom she texted in the car while her husband drove.
This must do wonders for the self-esteem, which likely wasn’t very high to begin with. I wonder how his “love is not finite” analogy is holding up at this point.
But Daniel said he was past the point of fear. “Basically you could say maybe we loved each other before all this — but maybe we were just asleep. And maybe being asleep is more dangerous and worse to you as a person than what’s going on right now. I want to be married, and I don’t want anything to happen to us. But I have no idea what would happen either way. Would you rather be asleep and have things fall apart? Or rather be alive and have things fall apart?”
Yeah, that therapist really helped, didn’t she?
“The new monogamy is, baldly speaking, the recognition that, for an increasing number of couples, marital attachment involves a more fluid idea of connection to the primary partner than is true of the ‘old monogamy,’ … Within the new notion of monogamy, each partner assumes that the other is, and will remain, the main attachment, but that outside attachments of one kind or another are allowed — as long as they don’t threaten the primary connection.”
In short, the “new monogamy” accepts “But she meant nothing to me!” at face value.
The spectrum of those attachments included one-night stands and ongoing relationships; as she understood it, honesty and transparency, rather than fidelity, were the guiding principles underlying the healthiest of these kinds of marriages.
I wonder just how healthy the healthiest of these marriages are?
The couples did not perceive their desire to see other people as a symptom of dysfunction but rather as a fairly typical human need that they thought they were up to the challenge of navigating.
Well, yes. Everyone would like the freedom to fuck whoever they want if the opportunity arises, but that’s something you give up in order to be in a relationship. You hope that the overall benefits of being with one person are greater than being single and free to do what you like. Nobody says monogamy is easy, but it’s a trade-off. If you could get the benefits of a monogamous relationship without the downsides, everyone would do it.
Terms have long existed for arrangements similar to those she was seeing — they could fall under the category of polyamory, which involves more than one loving relationship, or the more all-encompassing term, consensual nonmonogamy, which also includes more casual sex outside of marriage or a relationship.
Polyfuckery would be a better description for a lot of these arrangements. Or simply shagging around.
Divorce, or not marrying in the first place, might seem like a more logical response to a desire for openness. But even as marriage rates have declined in this country, the institution has retained a seductive status for Americans.
People still believe in marital arrangements that have gone on for millennia. Who would have thought?
And yet the tradition is nonetheless at odds, he argues, with the country’s emphasis on individualism, a tension that leads to high rates of divorce but also to remarriage, with worrisome outcomes for finances and children.
Ah, this old chestnut: traditional marriages often fail so polyamorous ones are worth considering. What nobody ever does is closely examine the rate at which polyamorous relationships fail, the mental state of the people involved in them, and the effect on any children unfortunate enough to be caught up in them.
And yet open marriages — and to a lesser degree open but nonmarital committed relationships — are still considered so taboo that many of the people I interviewed over the last year resisted giving their names, for fear of social disapprobation and of jeopardizing their jobs.
Here’s my own position: I have no objection to consenting adults doing what the hell they like, but don’t try to sell me polyamory as a viable option for those seeking a normal, functioning relationship.
It is no surprise that most conservatives would perceive the concept as a degradation of marriage, of a key foundation of society.
And you know what, perhaps they’re onto something?
But even among progressives I talked to, the subject typically provoked a curled lip or a slack jaw. The thought bubble, or expressed thought: How? How could any married person be comfortable with, or encouraging of, a spouse’s extramarital sex? The subject seemed offensive to many at some primal level, or at least ridiculously self-indulgent, as if those involved — working, married people, people with children — were indecently preoccupied with sexual adventure instead of channeling their energies toward, say, their children, or composting.
An admission, at last, that those who practice polyamory are rather different from the rest of us and are capable of mentally accepting things which most people would find abhorrent.
It was several months after he posted his profile that Daniel went on a date with a woman he met on the site, someone who was also in an open marriage. … Drinks flowed, and around midnight, Daniel found himself in a Ford Explorer, kissing a woman who was not his wife for the first time in 25 years.
Two middle-aged people copping off in an SUV on the first date after meeting online. Anyone who thinks polyamory lacks class better think again.
They were still making awkward conversation at a bar when a woman sitting nearby asked how long they had been together. Daniel and his date exchanged glances; Daniel shrugged, as if to say: “Go ahead.” “He’s married to someone else,” his date said. “I’m married to someone else. We’re on our first date.”
The first rule of polyamory: advertise it to the whole world.
Susan Wenzel, a therapist in Winnipeg, Canada … felt equipped to manage the arrangement, and she and her boyfriend cautiously agreed that they could see other people, so long as those relationships remained casual. Susan did not feel it detracted from the strength of their relationship when she started seeing someone who is, like her, an immigrant from Kenya. But when that faded and her live-in boyfriend started dating someone, she found that jealousy hijacked the relationship.
Meaningless extra-marital sex with African immigrants have detrimental effects on the marriage. Who knew?
She sought therapy with Nelson, working by Skype to identify the source of her own jealousy.
I have no words…
She also had two young children from a previous marriage who lived with them…
Lucky them. And let me tell you how surprised I am to find that a practitioner of polyamory has a feeble track record in holding down a lasting, stable relationship.
She eventually wrote her boyfriend’s female friend a note of apology, adding that she had resolved a lot of her own insecurities.
All perfectly normal, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
The chief adjustment she and her boyfriend made was the one that seemed the least likely: They married, a year and a half after they first opened their relationship. Her boyfriend felt, for the first time, happy to commit to a woman he loved, knowing he had the freedom he wanted; and the symbolism of marriage gave Susan enough security that she could grant him that freedom, and exercise it herself.
Or, more likely, it was a vain attempt to put a veneer of respectability on a degenerate lifestyle that was causing them to be shut out of ordinary society.
In August, Elizabeth and Daniel made a road trip to a Lower East Side bar in New York to attend Poly Cocktails, a monthly event founded in 2007 for people who are interested in nonmonogamy, or practicing it.
A pickup party, in other words. Not exactly low-key types these polyamorists, are they?
For the most part, the socializing was studiously nonsexual, but a young woman with a retro look — red lipstick, baby-doll dress — was flirting with a tall man in a sleeveless T-shirt, a 45-year-old dad from brownstone Brooklyn, a musician with a corporate day job.
Brooklyn. Where else? And what’s the betting the girl in question has some sort of severe Cluster B personality disorder and enough daddy issues to fill a book? Can we come back and see how she’s doing in ten years time?
Elizabeth and Daniel had ostensibly come to be among people who would not judge them.
Meaning, form opinions as to their chosen lifestyle and characters.
Instead he spent most of the evening talking to a married woman who complained that she felt underappreciated by the crowd at the bar.
Woman who goes to a party for those who practice indiscriminate sex feels underappreciated.
Conventional wisdom has it that men are more likely than women to crave, even need, variety in their sex lives. But of the 25 couples I encountered, a majority of the relationships were opened at the initiation of the women; only in six cases had it been the men.
When I last wrote about polyamory I said:
It is almost a certainty that the men in a polyamorous relationship will be noodle-armed omegas of hipster persuasion. On the odd occasion this rule doesn’t apply, he will be an astonishingly ugly, middle-aged man with a pot belly and wearing bad knitwear.
Look at the pictures in the article then tell me I’m wrong.
It occurred to me that I should probably tell people what this book I’m writing is about. So here’s a synopsis:
A middle-aged divorcee living in London meets Katya, an intriguing Russian-American woman some eight years his junior on a popular online dating site. With her facial piercings, bohemian style, and artsy outlook she is not his usual type but the two get along fabulously well and soon they are embarked on what promises to be a healthy, long-term relationship.
Then one morning, after a romantic night together, Katya reveals a secret about her past which destroys all his assumptions and makes him realise that he doesn’t know this woman at all. Only he is hopelessly in love, and so instead of leaving he decides to stay with her in the hope her past is behind her and there are no more secrets to be revealed. But the more he learns about Katya the more questions are raised: why did she divorce her husband back in New York? Why is she so drawn to the Burning Man festival that takes place each year in Nevada’s Black Rock desert? And why is she with him in the first place?
In an effort to find out he accompanies her to Brooklyn and enters the world which has shaped her life since she fled Moscow and her estranged family a decade before. What he discovers forces him to confront his own weaknesses and insecurities and question just how far he is willing to go in accepting Katya once the truth is known.
The book is written in the first person and is set on the Eurostar between Paris and London where the protagonist is recounting his experience to some friends, a married couple, he met by chance at Gare du Nord. The actual story takes place in London, moves to New York, and then comes back to London with a brief visit to Vilnius somewhere in the middle.
The themes that are touched on are, to varying degrees (I can’t list all of them because of spoilers): the middle-age dating scene for men, online dating, what men expect from romantic partners in middle-age, the difference in mindset between men in their twenties and middle-aged men vis-a-vis romantic relations, women’s sexual history and how men view them, Russian women and other aspects of Russia, third-wave feminism (and its effect on young women), drug use, sex, artsy types, Burning Man, Brooklyn’s arts scene, and the general interaction between a man and a woman from very different worlds when they attempt to form a relationship.
I appreciate it might not be everybody’s cup of tea but I wrote it mainly because I reckoned I had a complete story with this one, and that’s half the battle. I’ve kept it as realistic as possible in the hope that people – both men and women – will be able to relate to the characters and situations, or at least find it interesting. I am confident that I am saying something different, stuff that hasn’t been put into writing before, at least not in novel format. I’m also confident that the story is interesting enough and my writing is good enough that people will like it.
Having spent ten years fucking about, I now want men to take me seriously.
I like Italian food/travel/sunshine/music.
Who doesn't? I just have no imagination whatsoever.
I might not reply straight away.
I am far too busy and far too important to make the minimal effort to respond to those showing interest in me in a timely manner. How come I still haven't met anyone?
Must have good manners and be polite.
I find myself attracting rude, abusive people. None of this has anything to do with my personality.
Look at how cool and edgy I am by using descriptions of myself that most people won't understand, thus proving themselves to be less enlightened than I.
I hate smokers!
The lack of men in my life has led to me trawling the internet to meet strangers, but I'll throw up extra barriers anyway just to make it a bit harder.
I'm looking for someone non-judgemental.
I have issues dating from childhood that were never properly dealt with, and these have led me to engage in extremely dubious sexual practices with substandard men almost non-stop since I was 16, which in turn has left me mentally scarred and not speaking to my parents. I am currently in therapy. Kindly disregard all this when considering me for a lifetime together.
Married men: no thanks!
Having found myself in a demographic that overwhelmingly attracts married men looking for a bit on the side, I'll pretend they are a minor nuisance distracting me from all those single guys that are lining up around the block.
Please read my profile!
Anyone who contacts me must immediately know exactly what I want, even if my profile is as contradictory and confusing as a tax declaration form.
Must have good personal hygiene.
My last boyfriend stank to high heaven. I lived with him for three years anyway.
No bad habits.
I will complain incessantly about every tiny thing I don't like.
No time wasters!
I am incapable of compromise; only perfection will do.
A couple of years back I met, very briefly, a young Russian woman here in Paris. She was about 30 years old and was, in her words, “looking to settle down”. The method she used in going about this business was to meet men in any way possible, but mainly using dating sites, and ascertain whether they were suitable.
One of her criteria was that they were “serious”. The age range she was looking at was between 30 and 40, although between 33 and 43 was probably more realistic. She told me she’d not had much success since she quit living with an Irish guy who “wasn’t serious”. Before that she was seeing a Frenchman who needed to be ordered to take a shower. That was about as much as I could ascertain regarding her track record with men.
It didn’t take long to understand why she was struggling. She insisted that she would not sleep with any man who did not commit himself to her in a long-term relationship, by which she meant something not far short of promises to marry her. She wanted marriage and kids, she told me, and didn’t have time to waste on guys who just wanted sex. I asked her if she thought she was likely to find a man who would commit to her with such certainty before he’d even slept with her. She seemed the think she would. I asked what sort of man she expected to find in his mid to late thirties who was looking for marriage, she said:
“Somebody who wants to settle down but hasn’t met the right woman yet.”
I thought about it, weighed up the pros and cons, and then decided to break her heart. I did so by gently explaining how men actually get married, as follows.
A guy will spend his early to mid twenties in and out of relationships of varying levels of seriousness, shagging around a bit, basically enjoying himself with little interest in settling down. Then as he gradually moves between 25 and 30 he starts to take life a little more seriously: career, finances, etc. and he gets less and less interested in going to bars, clubs, and meeting random women. If for no other reason, he does this because the hangovers start to hurt. Around about 28 or 29 he notices his mates are all getting long-term girlfriends, then engaged, then married and for the past year or more the group of lads he used to go on the piss with has dwindled almost to nothing. Parties now consist of going to somebody’s house or a pub with partners in tow, not fourteen lads on the lash for a week in Faliraki.
At some point in this period he’ll have the following conversation with himself:
“I’m not sure if I want to settle down just yet, but everyone else seems to be. I’ve been with my current girlfriend for two years now, and she’s a great girl. Sure, there are probably others better looking but I can trust her and she doesn’t drive me fucking nuts. She’s also got a half-decent job, which helps. She’d probably make a good mother, and I’ll want kids at some point. And I really don’t fancy having to go out to clubs or go internet dating to find somebody else; firstly it’s a pain in the arse and I’ve not done that in years, and secondly am I likely to find somebody better? Probably not. Yeah, this one seems okay. I reckon I should think about asking her to marry me.”
By the time they’re in their late twenties or early thirties, they’re married. Sure, there are some hold-outs who keep up the single life into their mid-thirties before settling down. There are others who keep it going indefinitely and never settle down, and I’ll come back to them later. In my experience, almost all of my male friends of my generation got married in this fashion. Recently I was asked if I had any single male friends. I don’t, and not only that: none of my friends has been single for about 10 years! I’m almost 40, so basically nearly every guy I knew (with very few exceptions) was married by their early thirties. Which means in most cases they first met their partners in their mid to late twenties.
My Russian acquaintance really didn’t want to hear this, and nor did she want to hear what men don’t say to themselves:
“Hey, I had a fun time shagging around for 15 years, it was a blast. But I woke up one morning about a year ago and thought I ought to settle down. I was 35, after all. The only problem was, I hadn’t met the right woman yet. The cocktail waitress had great tits but was so thick she didn’t know to come in from the rain. That American girl was heaps of fun what with her tattoos and red hair and she was amazing in bed, but hell she’d done the Orgy Dome at Burning Man and I’m looking for the mother of my kids here! And Jane from college was a sweetheart, but she’s a bit…well, plain. No, I need to get out there and find the right woman for me! I’ll start looking tomorrow.”
I don’t know a single, solitary guy who did this. Well, perhaps one. But he was one of those guys who got women so easily that he didn’t feel the need to hang onto them because he could always pick up another five minutes later. He is now settled with a kid.
That’s not to say there are no single guys out there in their mid to late thirties looking to date. There are, and there is no shortage of them. But they fall into one of three categories:
1. The guys I mentioned earlier who will never settle down, at least not in the way women want them to. These are not going to be hanging around some Russian chick who isn’t putting out until promises of marriage are made. I’d say 30-40% of single guys in this age group in any given city fall into this category.
2. Guys who desperately want to settle down but no woman will touch them with a barge pole and they’ve been single for a decade, not counting the girl he met in a bar in Pattaya. These guys probably make up 60-70% of those on the market. One of the most difficult things in life for a woman in her thirties to accept, to the extent that very few of them do, is the fact that their dating pool is now made up almost exclusively of these men.
3. Decent, successful men who have recently come out of a long-term relationship and enough time has passed that they want to get back into another. There are about twelve of these guys around at any given time and they stay single for about five minutes. They will be looking for women ten years younger, and they’ll find them queuing up.
My Russian acquaintance took serious exception to this, to the point she told me to fuck off and never to speak to her again. I doubt she’d have reacted like this if what I had said wasn’t true.
Staying on the subject of sex and relationships and messed up women, I have been forwarded this article on Scarlett Johansson in which she is quoted as saying:
I don’t think it’s natural to be a monogamous person. I might be skewered for that, but I think it’s work. It’s a lot of work…And the fact that it is such work for so many people—for everyone—the fact of that proves that it is not a natural thing. It’s something I have a lot of respect for and have participated in, but I think it definitely goes against some instinct to look beyond.
So anything that is hard work is unnatural? As the opening line in a Universal Loafer’s Charter this would take some beating but it’s clearly bollocks. Pretty much anything worth doing requires effort, including getting yourself fed.
Well, some have gotten animal about insisting that monogamy is unnatural, pointing to examples in the animal kingdom.
On that basis eating one’s own turds is also natural. Should we be more open to this? Finding lunch partners might be problematic following adoption of such practices, but with enough education and a few Supreme Court rulings these issues can be overcome.
On the other side of the argument, people have pointed to the health benefits of monogamy, such as … offering more emotional and mental stability and comfort. Emotional and mental stability can in turn have a range of health benefits…
The final answer may be that monogamy is both natural and unnatural. Natural for some. Unnatural for others.
Ultimately, what’s natural depends on the individual and what fits the individual. It’s better to know where people really stand and let them choose the situation that works best for them as long as they are not hurting others (e.g., having multiple partners without appropriate protection and precaution can hurt others).
Well, yes. But that’s the issue, isn’t it? I am quite happy for people to engage in the wonders of polyamory and shun monogamy if it makes them happy, but I am permitted to be skeptical about those who, for no apparent reason, doth protest too much in telling me how great it is. Taking Scarlett Johansson as an example, I would have held her comments in higher regard had she said them when she was 21 and looked like this:
Than having been twice divorced at 32 and looking like this:
True, she now has the wisdom of experience under her belt but cynics might think that, having fucked up two marriages and is now staring down the barrel of middle age and diminishing professional appeal, by declaring monogamy as unnatural she is looking to shift the blame for her own failings and, perhaps, launch a secondary career as an angry, bitter celebrity with a lesbian haircut turning up at wimmin’s marches denouncing The Patriarchy.
Look, I get marriage and monogamy isn’t for everybody, and perhaps it isn’t “natural”. And I am quite prepared to believe that there are plenty of well-adjusted, normal people who are perfectly happy who have chosen to live in an alternative manner. Good for them. But it remains the case, at least in my experience, that most people are happiest in a normal, functioning, monogamous relationship despite all the difficulties involved in maintaining one. The vast majority of people would find the idea of their loving partner sleeping with somebody else to be abhorrent, and the jealousy and anger will bubble up from something deep inside them that has very much been put there by nature and not social conditioning. If celebrities want to make statements denouncing monogamy and authors want to pen articles assuring everybody that shagging around doesn’t cause friction with their own partners, then fine. But the rest of us are entitled to point out that their advice is hardly a universal blueprint for personal happiness and question their motives for imparting it.
Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins and I have plans to meet her boyfriend for lunch…Her husband, Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, is out of town at a conference for the weekend
Before I traveled to meet her in Vancouver last June, she told me on the phone that most “mono” people misunderstand the challenges of polyamory — the practice of being openly involved romantically with more than one person at a time. “People ask, ‘Tell me about the downsides,’ ” Jenkins says. “They expect the answer to be that it’s so hard jealousy-wise. But the most common answer is timing and scheduling. I’m a fairly organized person, so I don’t find it super challenging.”
Okay, I’m seeing a pattern here. Every time I hear or read somebody explaining polyamory they stress that the main drawback is the logistical nightmare it represents in terms of scheduling, keeping everyone partnered-up, and presumably doing the laundry (although nobody ever mentions that). I have no doubt that this is true, that juggling multiple partners requires a lot of planning and organisation. But what I have noticed is this is usually thrust forward as the only drawback: issues such as jealousy, emotional stress, interpersonal conflicts, finances (who pays the rent?), communication, and adhering to the ground rules are rarely mentioned at all. Are we to believe these things – which exist aplenty in monogamous relationships – are not present and exacerbated in polyamorous ones? I’ve seen this gambit so many times that I am starting to believe it is thrown out there as a red herring: distract the readers with the “surprising” logistical problems and skirt around the rest.
“See,” says Jenkins, gesturing at the living room as she clips on Mezzo’s leash, “We’re a very boring and respectable couple!”
You see this a lot too: people in polyamorous relationships insist on telling everyone that their arrangement is perfectly normal and respectable. In my experience, such qualities in people do not need to be advertised and especially not by the individuals themselves.
Jenkins wrote about polyamory because she felt she had to: She and her husband were tired of living in the closet.
This is a common theme too: we live a normal, boring, respectable life but feel the need to go around with a megaphone telling everyone about it.
On the front porch are a swing and a coffee table with an ashtray on it. The ashtray is full, as if they have just had a party, or someone has been sitting out there, for a long time, thinking, while gazing into the street.
Or nobody has bothered doing any cleaning in a while.
Despite the personal clarity that she has gained on these points, socially the relationship has not been easy. Even in liberal settings, where people might not blink at the idea of a friend sleeping around or dating someone of the same gender, Jenkins says that “mononormativity” persists: The ruling assumption is that a person can be in love with only one other person at a time.
Hmmm. I’d like to hear what was actually said. I don’t think anyone has an issue with somebody loving two people at once: love triangles have been a staple of literature since quill was first put to parchment. What people find odd is the idea that you can sleep with someone you claim to be in love with one day, cheerfully wave them off the next in the full knowledge they will shag somebody else, and be happy about it.
She recalls a colleague becoming extremely discomfited recently at her husband’s birthday party, when Hsu introduced himself as “Carrie’s boyfriend.”
“Hey! We have unusual sleeping arrangements that we just spring on unsuspecting guests in the middle of a party! Look how edgy we are!”
Still, Jenkins believes that we are in urgent need of a more expansive concept of love.
Jenkins did not set out to become a love expert. After growing up in Wales…
What was I saying in my previous post about polyamorists often being people who have experienced severe childhood trauma? Speaking of stereotypes, here’s a photo of the happy three:
When I met Emily Witt six years ago, I felt that touch of vertigo that comes when you realize you’re in the presence of a highly sophisticated and committed mind. Witt is an alumnus of Brown, the Columbia School of Journalism, and Cambridge. So she did not strike me as the sort of person who would get high and have sex in the “orgy dome” of Burning Man with a person she’d just met.
Ah yes, the Burning Man orgy dome.
We met for coffee last week in Brooklyn to talk about Future Sex and how to approach writing about female sexuality.
Brooklyn, eh? Now there’s a surprise!
In the book, you describe being on drugs in vivid detail, but you don’t describe actually having sex.
Drugs? More surprises!
You know, somebody could write a book about Burning Man, orgies, polyamory, and drug-taking and the sort of individual that emerges from the wreckage in middle-age. It could even be set in Brooklyn, at least in part. Thankfully for mankind I was born to shoulder this burden, but I’m beginning to worry that it’ll be irreparably clichéd by the time it’s finished.
I’ve written about polyamory, the practice of having more than one sexual partner in a relationship, on this blog before: here and here. The interest I have in this subject is mainly one of morbid curiosity triggered by my having inadvertently gotten to know a woman who spent most of her twenties in polyamorous relationships and I became fascinated by the mental gymnastics required to maintain one.
The other night I was flicking around through Sky looking for some rubbish to watch and I stumbled across a show called Brother Husbands on TLC. The show concerns an American woman who lives with two men, one of whom is her husband and the other her lover. The title of the show is a play on the term “sister wives” which Mormon polygamists use for their multiple wives. I decided to watch it to see if any of it married up (‘scuse the pun) with what I already knew about polyamorists.
The first, and probably only, surprising thing about the show is that the woman, who goes by the name of Amanda Liston, is quite attractive:
Although I keep reading articles explaining that women engaged in polyamory can be young and cute (and the woman I referred to earlier was not ugly), most of the time they look more like this:
I suspect the general attractiveness of the leading lady in Brother Husbands was the crucial factor in the programme being made. If she was a warpig, it is unlikely anyone would have watched it for long.
But that was about it in terms of surprises. Amanda’s two lovers look like this (the husband is the one in the middle):
It is almost a certainty that the men in a polyamorous relationship will be noodle-armed omegas of hipster persuasion (note the similarity with those in the other photo). On the odd occasion this rule doesn’t apply, he will be an astonishingly ugly, middle-aged man with a pot belly and wearing bad knitwear. As “The Inimitable Steve” once put it at Tim Worstall’s:
The males – “men” would be over-egging it – mostly look like they came straight out of central casting for a 1970’s Public Information Film warning kiddies about paedos.
The sleeping arrangements insofar as Amanda’s relationship is concerned is for her to sleep with one guy for three nights followed by the other for three nights, and then all three of them climb into the same bed for one night (Amanda goes in the middle). Amanda is in her mid to late twenties and has two children from the husband and triplets from the other fella. They live in a large house somewhere in what I guess is flyover country (I doubt they could afford to live on the coasts).
Both of the men were whiny as hell, and it was obvious that Amanda wore the trousers in that household. I speculated early on that the husband, Chad, was actually gay as he appeared about as straight as Graham Norton. Both he and Amanda mentioned a Christian upbringing, and I understand he was raised in a foster home (probably run along Christian lines). Sure enough, thanks to further investigation carried out by my research assistant who guffawed along with me while we watched the show, it turns out he is bisexual. My guess is that Chad is actually out-and-out gay but his Christian upbringing doesn’t allow him to express it, and so he got married to somebody from his church group. This is probably why he had few objections when this other chap called Jeremy entered their lives and announced one day that he was in love with Amanda. As far as Chad is concerned, having another man in his bed is all fine and dandy and probably what he wanted all along.
Jeremy looks as depressed as hell and is as whiny as Chad. I expect he entered into this relationship, also via this church group, because he has no chance whatsoever of getting laid any other way. He didn’t smile once during the entire show and if I read headlines in a few years saying he’s slaughtered the entire family with a large carving knife nobody will be less surprised than me. If part of the arrangement is an agreement to be Chad’s top for one night a week, we can bring this butchery forward by a few months.
The last non-surprise came yesterday when my research assistant uncovered this article, which reveals that Amanda and Chad got married on an MTV reality TV show, and she had been on another reality TV show called King of the Nerds. In other words, she’s an attention whore.
Back in June when I was trying to get my head around this polyamory lark I entered into some online discussions with people who had some experience in the practice, mainly via friends and relatives who’d gotten into it. They said the attractive people who enter into polyamorous relationships are generally Cluster B types, possibly with a history of mental illness and childhood sexual abuse. For the rest, a combination of their personalities, physical appearance, and low self-esteem means this is probably all they can get. One of the points mentioned was that polyamory can work, but those who make a success of it practice it in a very low-key, very individualistic manner to the degree that nobody other than their close friends and relatives would know about it. Baring all on a TV show, writing about polyamorous lifestyles in columns (see Laurie Penny, who fits the bill on almost every measure), joining polyamorous “communities”, and having weddings in Central Park with all the various lovers invited for group photos appear more like acts of desperate attention-seeking than an alternative to a normal, functioning relationship.
During some of my online discussions (which David Thompson generously hosted in his comment section) somebody mentioned a documentary made in 2002 called When Two Won’t Do about polyamorous relationships in Canada and the US. I haven’t yet seen it, but I am contemplating purchasing it from Vimeo (this discussion on polyamory forms part of the book I am writing, hence all of this is research in a way). The producer is a woman from Montreal who covers who own polyamorous relationships as well as others. Here is how I saw it described:
People in the poly community praise it as a realistic and positive treatment of the lifestyle. Normal people see it for what it is: a collection of deeply dysfunctional people with severe self-esteem issues desperately self-soothing with meaningless sex. One of the subjects commits suicide during the filming; that’s included in the film with virtually no impact or comment despite it being directly related to the stress of trying to maintain the fiction of the non-monogamous relationship.
Back in April I had barely heard of polyamory, but as I said, the subject was kind of forced on me one evening. Since then, nothing I have seen has convinced me that the following statement, offered by the same person who I quoted above, is untrue:
Broadly, the best way to describe polyamory is that it’s a coping mechanism, not a lifestyle choice.
“Men are so judgmental!” she wailed. “They are always judging us!” This was relayed to me by a woman in her mid-thirties who had been single for a while and was looking for a partner.
“I know,” I nodded sympathetically. “It’s most odd that a middle aged man who has accumulated substantial assets and enjoys a certain reputation both professionally and socially should carry out some sort of character assessment on those who he is looking to share his entire life with. Me, I just don’t get it.”
There is a phrase I hear and read quite a lot these days, and when I hear it I find it is always worth looking at who is saying it and why. That phrase is: “Don’t judge!”
On one level I can agree with the sentiment behind it. As I wrote here, one of the principles of freedom and liberty is that two consenting adults ought to be able to do what the hell they like with one another (provided they don’t frighten the horses) free of societal judgement that comes in the form of laws and penalties. So from that perspective I quite agree with the sentiment behind the words “Don’t judge!”
Unfortunately, that’s not how the phrase gets used. Usually it is deployed against an individual who might be about to reach a conclusion as to somebody’s character that is at odd’s with the person saying it. Two things annoy me about this phrase.
Firstly, let’s be honest here. Everybody judges everybody, all the time. It is as reflexive to humans as breathing: any kind of interaction between people involves the gathering of information, categorising it, and drawing conclusions based upon it. Some of these processes are entirely subconcious and happen in milliseconds.
He’s handsome. He’s tall. She looks happy. That man wants my attention. I like her glasses. She likes me. He is trustworthy. We could get along. Nice coat. Awful hair.
Human interaction is literally impossible without judging people. So saying “Don’t judge!” is like saying “Don’t look and think!”
Also, take a look at who is using this phrase the most often. Chances are…nay, scratch that. It is a guarantee that those who use this phrase are themselves the most judgmental people you’re every likely to come across. Next time you hear somebody saying “Don’t judge!” ask them what they think of white, male Republicans in South Carolina. Or people who own guns. Or Leave voters. What they mean is “Don’t judge us, but we will judge you!”
But that’s the minor point of this post; the main one is what I referred to in the opening exchange.
It is one thing for society to judge and impose laws restricting individual freedoms. But as Maggie pointed out, society is merely the term used to describe the aggregate of individual actions and behaviours. And on that basis I don’t think there is anything wrong whatsoever in individuals judging the behaviour of others and treating them accordingly. Indeed, it is perfectly consistent with the rights of free individuals to do so. And if this aggregates across society to mean society as a whole judges certain behaviours, then so be it. Provided no laws are passed banning these behaviours, then the principles of freedom and liberty are upheld. Each individual makes their own choices regarding who they interact with and on what level, and if they have judged certain behaviours to be beyond the pale then that is their right. You wouldn’t expect a hardcore, third-wave feminist to associate with an anti-abortion campaigner. And you wouldn’t expect somebody with a functioning brain to associate with a hardcore, third-wave feminist.
Only what’s happened is some people have been encouraged to adopt certain behaviours that are frowned upon by most of society, and later on discover that this is causing them some problems, particularly when it comes to finding a partner. This is partly what I was referring to in my post about chivalry:
Now I’m something between a libertarian and a classical liberal, and so I believe that if these women – or any others – want to drink themselves into oblivion on alcoholic mouthwash and make idiots of themselves in kebab houses at 3am, that’s their business. But such liberties are also extended to those of us who observe such behaviour and pass judgement, which includes deciding how such women ought to be treated in terms of subsequent personal relations.
Similarly, if a young woman is going to exercise her right to be promiscuous in her twenties and do things which most of society considers shameful, then she is going to struggle to find somebody to take her seriously as a partner in later years. All of this depends on the individuals concerned and the specific circumstances of course, but my general point is true enough that those who are running into such problems have had to invent the refrain “Don’t judge!” (For all those who might be thinking a double-standard is at play here, would any woman take a man seriously if he said “I spent the past ten years shagging around, mainly with much younger girls, but now I want to settle down. Hey, don’t judge!”? No, they wouldn’t.)
What they are effectively doing is admitting they have done something shameful and they don’t want this taken into consideration by anyone evaluating their suitability for a relationship – be it romantic, platonic, or business. By using the phrase “Don’t judge!” they are implying the other person is doing something wrong: he or she is being “judgemental”, which to some is a sin worse than infanticide.
But as I implied at the beginning, you’d be incredibly foolish not to judge if you’re considering a serious relationship with somebody. Some say judge, others say carry out sensible due diligence. It’s an odd idea that somebody’s past behaviour and overall character shouldn’t be taken into consideration in such circumstances. People change, people move on, unfortunate things happen. In my experience folk can be pretty forgiving, and a willingness to compromise is one of the foundations of any relationship.
But if somebody is telling you “Don’t judge!” when you barely know them or – worse – they are telling you “Don’t judge!” in relation to their friend, then the best course of action is to start running in the opposite direction and keep going until you reach the sea.
Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as “infertile” if they do not have children but want to become a parent, the World Health Organisation is to announce.
In a move which dramatically changes the definition of infertility, the WHO will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition.
The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual “the right to reproduce”.
Until now, the WHO’s definition of infertility – which it classes as a disability – has been the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.
But the new standard suggests that the inability to find a suitable sexual partner – or the lack of sexual relationships which could achieve conception – could be considered an equal disability.
That’s generally the problem with insisting somebody has the right to do something that requires the cooperation of one or more people. It’s why the right to get married was so stupid: what if you’re too damned obnoxious to find a willing partner? Have your rights been violated? Apparently so:
Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, said “It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change.
“It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to healthcare. It sets an international legal standard. Countries are bound by it.”
Okay, marvellous. So what do we do about this?
In the UK, it is illegal to pay surrogates, resulting in a severe shortage of women wanting to take on the role. Similarly, there is a national shortage of sperm and eggs, with donors only able to receive expenses.
There is a shortage of sperm and eggs – which I suspect exists pretty much everywhere – and now the WHO is saying everybody has a right to somebody else’s, and countries are legally bound to provide them. Presumably if they can’t make up the shortfall in the private sector, governments are going to have to create state enterprises in which people are employed to sit around doing nothing but wanking all day.