Excerpt from my diary:
John was up early (big surprise). He had a 7:00 am interview with an English production company looking to push the same ol’ song and dance storyline—hot young couples trying out swinging for the first time.
While I understand from a ratings and drama fueled motive why the media uses this same format when it comes to swinging, it’s still like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. You don’t get to the marrow of the lifestyle using this vantage point. My experience has shown me that most television outlets only want to show the surface of swinging—the first time trying something approach. I mean, if you want a true swinging documentary, you would show the couples who have a history with swinging. You would showcase the years of trial and error, joy, and unconditional love these open minded individuals invested in this viable relationship model.
But change is hard. Part of the difficulty is in how change is perceived… especially when the media is involved. Those of us in consensual non-monogamous relationships have simply tweaked a few of the ways in which we define our union from others’. Unfortunately, it would be these variations, these modifications that result in ridicule or judgement from outside opinion. This view, in MY opinion is reinforced each and every time one of these programs surfaces. We’re still not taken seriously, nor does the media combat the “oddity” view of swingers with anything substantial. The only takeaway the media gives the viewers with these tailored storylines is the same old swinger stereotype the audience already believes.
Why are we letting media/religion/etc. drive the consensual non-monogamous bus?
This is yet one more reason John and I (and everyone else who supports this community) needs to keep on keeping on.
Sure, I get it, giving the lifestyle a go can be exciting and fraught with enticing drama. The viewer will be enthralled watching couples (or anyone for that matter) struggle with something new, but it’s the underbelly of consensual non-monogamy where the true story lies. Couples who’ve “mastered” the relationship are stories the media should be showcasing. I’ve always said, “Do you realize how amazing and in-depth a partnership has to be in order to even consider swinging? The love, trust, compassion, empathy, honesty, and compersion involved?!”
Do you ever read about swinging from this standpoint in everyday media? Sometimes, but primarily you see a massive concentration on sex! What are we, giggling pre-teens who’ve stumbled upon a nudey magazine? Is it really such a stretch to expect adults to approach an alternate relationship model without such juvenile and closed-minded responses? Don’t even get me started on the whole having multiple sex partners topic. Show me a person who is confining themselves to only one sexual partner in life and I can show you a hypocrite. Splitting hairs with me no longer works. Trying to separate yourself from the similarities of CNM and serial monogamy is just semantics.
But change is change I guess, even if the modification is based in vicissitude. Sometimes simply bringing to light a different way of life can be the necessitative groundwork. An open relationship for many does run against the grain. Committed relationships with “open borders” is met with skepticism from those lacking in enough positive examples (ahem media) to reinforce a positive narrative. You can’t rely on success stories if no one (cough cough media cough) is bringing the lifestyle to light from a success viewpoint.
How can you spread the message if those professing to care about your voice refuse to take the message seriously? This would be my question to the media. What’s your intent with this story? Do you want to expose the legitimacy of swinging or continue to wallow around in the novelty? Isn’t this in large part what the LGBTQ community endured for years? The same media outlets who today stand behind these individuals and couples are the same media who fed off the controversy! Think about that for a minute.
This is the crossroads—the space between CNM staying on the outskirts of acceptance through indifference and/or the unflattering glare of the interrogation spotlight and distinguishing the lifestyle as a viable relationship model to be taken seriously. Where’s the balance? How much of this imbalance is self imposed? Don’t we have our fair share of swingers who themselves perceive their own behavior as suspect? Is this suspect perception along the same lines as a cheater in his/her bid to maintain a monogamous image? Isn’t the world victim to those who struggle to accept their own behavior? So how is it that these are the same people society wants to nominate as poster images? It’s like saying an abusive parent proves that having children is a bad idea. Most of us would say, “An abusive parent is a horrible example, not an accurate view of parenthood.” Yet we’ll pull the most controversial examples in other areas of life and attempt to portray these examples as the norm. The media does (or did) this all the time with the gay community. Portraying them as flamboyant, flighty, and very “Bird Cage.” Is this a fair interpretation? Hardly.
Ugh! Growing pains. Maybe this is what’s happening with CNM? We’re growing. Growing out of the box society has stuffed us in. While those of us inside the box understand the benefits of a CNM relationship, those peering inside don’t. So we deal with the questions, the preconceived conclusions, and the backlash of change.
While society works on scooting over to make room for yet another change, change viewed often times as a threat to a base set of beliefs generations have grown up relying on, the rest of us who embrace this change wait…
Yes, change is difficult. We go kicking and screaming into change, convinced that change will break us and devour our core. But change gets to the core of our empathy; a softening of our edges so as not to cut off those around us by our own beliefs. I should be able to live my life by the guidelines that I’ve accepted without my beliefs impinging on your freedom to believe in what you believe. For instance, someone else’s monogamy doesn’t threaten my non-monogamous life, nor should it. If this holds true, then my non-monogamous life shouldn’t be of any consequence in your decision to operate under a monogamous platform.
If the media continues to sensationalize the storyline, swinging will never be an acceptable relationship option in society. The media could be a powerful ally if they would portray the lifestyle honestly. Look at the reality polygamy shows that are on the air right now… they dig into the heart and soul of those families. These programs have given society a different viewpoint on polygamy and polygamous families. Why can’t the media do the same for us? We should all be able to come to our own conclusions about how to navigate our journey, without fear.
John and Jackie Melfi are married swingers and in an open relationship. They were featured in an ABC News Nightline special report “Getting ‘Naughty in N’Awlins’: Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention” and are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, and Austin and the award-winning blog Openlove101.com with over 20 years of combined experience in open relationships and coaching thousands of couples.