So much new love and sex is thriving in the four-person, two-couple pod profiled on Showtime’s reality series Polyamory: Married and Dating. Tonight’s Season 2 premiere is something of a cram session to catch us up: Kamala is dating her business partner Jason, who is 10 years her junior. Michael, Kamala’s husband, has been dating Rachel for a few months. This is his first lover outside of the pod, and Kamala is “pretty thrilled” about that. Their lovers, Jen and her husband Tahl, have been living with Michael and Kamala for about a year, nearly as long as Jen's been dating Jesse. Tahl’s new girlfriend is named Tziporah, whom Tahl describes as “my little Spanish gypsy, she’s just cute.” Tahl is also out this season as bisexual. “This is who I am. I’m a bisexual poly man,” he beams.
Like most reality television shows, Polyamory documents (ostensibly self-directed) stories woven out of interpersonal relationships. As always, certain personality types serve as perpetual plot generators. The collective capacity of Polyamory's core four to explore the depths of their polyamorous configuration, while remaining committed to each other, is as infinite as a Real Housewife’s ability to find haters, circumstances to be offended by, and meals to spoil.
But on Polyamory, the results are largely of joy and self-discovery, not turmoil and drama. Sure, jealousy tiptoes into the bedroom, boundaries are trampled, and certain sexual encounters turn out to be awkward stumbles. But for the most part, these people are having a great time. And why shouldn’t they? They get home from work and there’s a party waiting for them.
As in last season, the sex within (and without) the group is portrayed in a frequently cut, split-screen, and softcore Real Sex-esque manner. It's as potentially giggle-provoking as the phrase "making love"—a favorite euphemism on the show. But unless you are for some reason unable to access the Internet and a 14-year-old boy, you don't watch Polyamory for the sex scenes. You watch it for the conversations. What Polyamory captures so precisely is the joy of talking about sex—the great American pastime of sitting down with friends (or lovers) and unpacking whatever crazy relationship situation you find yourself in at any given moment.
There's a particular exhilaration when it comes to polyamory because there's no normative model, nor could there be. The complex interplay of feelings and comfort levels expands and alters as more people are added to the mix. A new consensus dictates new rules. And even as you determine how everything fits in the first place, you find yourself relating to society hand-in-hand-in-hand—a different way of presenting all together. My own limited but intense experiences with polyamory since the last season of this show aired made me feel like a virgin. Everything was new—worth exploring, discussing, and examining. Everything was fascinating. To consume love in such quantities is to remind yourself of capable you are as a human of generating seemingly infinite joy.
There’s always the threat, of course, of being consumed, of getting so caught up that you slip out of sync with the fellow wheels of your great love expedition. More fraught than the quad-pod is the almost impossibly attractive trio joining the show this season—mixed-martial arts-studio owner Chris, his wife and pole-dancing school owner Leigh Ann, and their girlfriend of three years, Megan. (Last season’s similarly structured “triad” of Anthony, Lindsey and Vanessa are nowhere to be found.) “I feel like an outsider in my own marriage,” laments Leigh Ann, whose studio work regularly pulls her out of the group. While the foursome is a lot looser about extra-pod play, this trio has stricter rules and is much less forgiving about breaking them. There’s no right way to conduct a polyamorous relationship, but the there are a lot of wrong ways. ...