So it was around January of this year when my then-partner, A, was approached through Polytical.org by a producer looking for polyamorous people to appear on a new TV show.
Now I, to begin with, was skeptical. There were two main reasons for this:
One: the title of the show was ‘OMG!’
Two: it was hosted by Peaches Geldof.
It all sounded a bit too Jeremy Kyle-esque for my liking. But we were assured it was nothing like that, so we (me, A, and a couple of poly friends) went for an informal chat at the ITV Studios in London to see what it was all about.
Sufficiently reassured we’d get to tell our story entirely in our own words, I agreed to an interview. Then came the Débâcle of the Cuddle Party. Having read the Poly Dictionary online, the producer had latched on to this idea and wanted us to stage a ‘cuddle party.’ Their reasoning was that showing people just hanging out in groups or living normal lives (which, let’s face it, is what a lot of people’s poly relationships look like on a day-to-day basis…) wouldn’t be visual enough for TV. On some level I could understand the reasoning, but it still wasn’t sitting right with me. My boyfriend Nomad flat-out refused to have anything to do with the show at this point (good call. I wish I’d done the same.) A small group willing to do the cuddle party was found. I said I’d still do the interview, but wasn’t comfortable with this part, and – after quite a bit of nagging and me standing my ground – they accepted this.
They (the producer and director and a camera crew) came round to mine and A’s flat and interviewed me. They were actually pretty respectful, seemed genuinely interested and mostly let me talk. They even accepted it when I politely declined to discuss the sexual side of my relationships for national TV. So far, so good. Less good when, at the end of a two-and-a-half hour interview, they got me to keep saying contrived lines picked out from everything I’d said and taken out of context, over and over until they got a take they liked.
Now after Nomad dropped out, they were piling pressure on me to pressure him (‘he’ll listen to you, you’re his girlfriend!’) Um, Hell no!
At this point, they’d got my interview, but I said I wasn’t going to talk to them in the studio, having seen their methods and massively disapproving. Should have been the end of it. Oh, no. You see, they really needed us, or they basically didn’t have a show. So I kept saying no. Cue pleading, cajoling and guilt-trips (‘my career is on the line!’) They tried to bribe Nomad into doing it, in exchange for a professional speaking piece on the radio. Tempting, no? But he turned it down, and rightly so in my opinion. We thought the matter was closed. Still no. The producer called me one Saturday morning, offering me £1000 for a couple of hours of my time in the studio. Was I tempted? Heck yes I was! Poor student and everything. But we deliberated it as a Tribe and came to the unanimous verdict that it wasn’t worth it. I would not be a sell-out. The producer got a…. stern talking to from my awesome metamour. And that was that.
So we spent a few weeks anxiously awaiting for the thing to air with the footage they had.
Between this whole ridiculous escapade and the actual airing of the show, we were also watching as other media coverage unfolded.
“Peaches put off by fetish cuddle party!”
Um, a cuddling fetish? What? Now, I love cuddles. I love cuddles more than most things in the world. But ‘cuddling’ is not a fetish, for goodness’ sake!
Then Ms. Geldof slated us on the show ‘This Morning.’ To be fair, the presenters egged her on somewhat (‘people who live this kind of lifestyle…. don’t exactly tend to be gorgeous, do they?’) There is something really, really fury-inducing in watching a celebrity slate your partner on national TV. I was livid. What I didn’t realise until very recently (like, 3 weeks ago max – my friend and I found the clip during some Youtube browsing) was that she also did a similar thing on ANOTHER show. Grrr. So many kinds of grr.
Then the damn thing finally aired in mid-March. On the phone to each other, them in Oxford and me in Winchester, my partner, metamour and I watched it on ITV Player. We stopped to laugh at how terrible it was. I stopped to cry a bit. We got through the 15 minute or so clip.
So what did we have? Shots of me and A (broken up by this point,) being cute and couply. Ouch. A painfully staged cuddle party. Snippets of my interview. The bits where I talked about how much I loved A, taken entirely out of the context in which I meant them – that I loved him and we were committed, but that that didn’t mean I couldn’t love others too! Mentions of my other partners? Any of the cool stuff I’d given them about metamours, Tribe, jealousy and compersion? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Some women posing as an expert, taking about ‘belonging to one person but having sex with whoever you want!’ Fail. So, so many levels of fail. And knee-jerk, closed-minded responses of people in the studio.
Conclusion? It was…. an experience, and one I am rather keen not to repeat! I’m not saying that I will never talk to the media about poly stuff again, but I will be much, much more cynical and careful in the future. Let’s face it – we’re far too likely to be used as sensationalism and gatuitous shock-value.
Maybe one day, a vaguely accurate and fair representation of us will appear in mainstream media. Until then, I’ll write my own stuff, thank you very much.