Sex on the Tube

by Staff Writer

There is a new trend among TV documentaries on alternatives to monogamous heterosexual relationships. ABC’s Primetime led a discussion among a group of swingers. WE’s Secret Lives of Women documented both the lives of swingers and then a documentary on the BDSM lifestyle. Tonight, VH1 presented a documentary (”Women seeking women: A bi-curious journey”) that followed the lives of 4 bi-curious women and their husbands on a weekend getaway designed to help them unlock their fantasies.

I am of two minds on this kind of program. I think it is an incredible opportunity to show those who speak of “family values” and the “moral fabric” of our society that these lifestyle decisions are made by people that are incredibly normal, grounded, intelligent, productive members of society. However, that opportunity is not often harnessed in that way. Rather, in some cases, the programs take the conservative slant from the beginning, going for shock value and pure exploitative, entertainment purposes. They ask probative questions, framed in such a way that the viewer forms an opinion before they even hear the answer. Or, as on the Dr. Keith Ablow show, two months ago about “A New Monogamy” they interviewed one couple that wasn’t so new to the lifestyle that it wasn’t an informative opinion. They offered forth very naive, often irresponsible answers that only fueled the audience’s apprehensions and questions.

I was so upset with the Primetime special on swingers that I wrote this email:

I was a little disappointed to watch the Primetime segment last night on the swinger lifestyle. Though the segment did devote sufficient time to talking about the subject, I found the host to be argumentative and biased. He seemed to not represent, but give voice to one point of view (”conservative” and “family values” are the buzz words that come to mind). That aside, the group of swingers responding to what were very pointed questions about the lifestyle, did so in a one-dimensional way. As a swinger myself, there is much depth to swinging that was not elaborated on. The connection I feel with my partner is inviolate. When we bring lovers into our bed (be they a couple, a man, or a woman) we do so to share our love with them. We do so to explore each other’s sexuality and create intimacy in addition to what we share. The deep, revealing discussions that ensue about our encounter after it is over are of incredible vulnerability and sharing with my partner. It is both indescribable and sacred as are many things about our relationship.

The question about whether or not we share the lifestyle with our children was absurd. Just as any couple keeps their sexual life separate from their children, we operated with the same level of modesty and prudence as any other parent when our children were young. In fact, I challenge you to have picked my very conservative appearance out from the other mommies at the playground. It was as though the perception is that on the daily family schedule “orgy” happens right after math homework. How swingers act as adults in their adult life is not indicative of what they reveal to their children. However, we didn’t model an uptight view of love and intimacy. We did advocate that our children discover in all ways what suits them best in life. Be it religion, sexual experience, career, or family….there are countless possibilities open to our children.

At the core of it all, we are not “outsiders.” We are parents, best friends, lovers, and husband/wife. We have view on sex that is outside the norm. Undoubtedly, every person on earth has some view that doesn’t conform to what society thinks should occur. Ours isn’t any more immoral or wrong–unless you think it your place to pass judgment on another human being. And, well that’s an entirely different topic.

And so I ask, why on earth do people within these sexual groups agree to be involved in these programs? And the answers that I have read in the forums I belong to range from:

“To put a face on the lifestyle…”

“To help educate the public and bring life to what is seen as a subversive culture…”

And, this evening, I find myself thinking, why? Do we need more members? Do we care what the conservative folk would think about us if we didn’t share? Does a well-edited, one hour program really do justice to any opinion we are trying to portray or are we falling victim to the hype of a pop culture’s fascination?

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10 Responses to “Sex on the Tube”

  1. Anastasia Says:

    It’s hard with documentaries, that are edited. It’s important for a lifestyle to be presented as it is, without judgment, warts and all. On the other hand, I do have issues with any documentaries that try to sell lifestyles, when every lifestyle has its own Pandora’s Box, even vanilla lifestyles, that are supposedly vanilla or a labelled as such, even though no one can truly know what goes on behind closed doors.

  2. Lola David Says:

    Anastasia, that’s exactly my point. If no one can truly know what goes on behind closed doors, even the most thoughtful of documentaries is without purpose. It is as though you’re sketching the composition of a fresco, never to finish it.

    And, who is the intended audience, after all…the general public? If so, their content is disorganized and way off the mark in most cases, giving a disjointed perspective.

    If their audience is (and I doubt this) people already participating in the lifestyle, we have more discreet ways of helping new individuals orient themselves.

  3. tom paine Says:

    You can’t win.
    “Montel” did a show on polyamory some time back, and it was fairly balanced, though the audience tore into the polys interviewed like Romans at the coliseum. You could hardly expect otherwise.
    We have a judgmental streak in our genes that requires us to hunt down and kill (at least intellectually) the “other.” The good news is, we’re not doing this actively like our ancestors did on the steppes of Asia, putting the women into slavery and piling up the skulls of the men and boys. No, now we do it metaphorically.
    I loathe the way “the lifestyle” is portrayed in the media, but I’m not sure that telling them you and J are sharing love with the people you fuck is the answer. What’s wrong with being bad????

  4. Lola David Says:

    What’s wrong with just leaving it unexplained…a culture that only opens up to people who are of like minds. Some of the swingers on a large site J and I belong to feel it their duty to go out and educate the masses.

    I say to hell with them. Those who are not educated in these ways choose not to be and are unreachable anyway…

    Their arms are crossed [legs too] and minds set before you even open your mouth.

    No, trying to “witness” to those that don’t know any better and are not of an open mind is not the way to go. You’d have better luck trying to fill up the Mediterranean with sand.

    Shows that are putting on these “documentaries” are turning these individuals into circus freaks, editing out their humanity and the richness and fullness that these sexual activities have brought to their lives. The show last night on VH1 focused on four couples…but they concentrated on the couple where the man was not ok with his wife’s bi-curiosity.

  5. tom paine Says:

    Remember, I was a journalist in another life, so I understand the impulse to look for controversy. A piece about four couples who are exploring the woman’s bi-curiosity without conflict would be dull, dull, dreadfully dull.
    The reason Michael Palin wanted to be a lion tamer.
    But I digress.
    Did you know that they leave lots of booze around the sets of the teen reality shows hoping to lubricate the hostilities and fee up the vocal cords of the participants?
    If there’s no conflict, there’s no story, correct?
    Witness. That’s a Christian term. Talk about turning it on its head!

  6. Lola David Says:

    It is a twisted joy of mine to interject religion into conversations such as this…gives me a chuckle.

    You are absolutely right about what they are doing, conflict, booze and all. They focused on alocoholic beverages last night in this documentary as well…As though you have to be plied with alcohol to take the bi-sexual plunge.

  7. tom paine Says:

    As though you have to be plied with alcohol to take the bi-sexual plunge.
    As C. mentioned the other night, many people need a little drink or two to lower their inhibitions. The real question is: does the drink allow us to do what we want (but fear) to do, or does it induce us to do things others want us to do, but which are outside our real nature?
    In our youth, she slept with other women, often in circumstances she didn’t enjoy, and knowing that I was egging her own. Yet the orgasms were real (I was there sometimes), and the interest in same-sex affairs genuine.

  8. Lola David Says:

    No, my concern is that “documentaries” focus on that, as though the two go hand in hand. As you read in A Lusty Lush it’s actually quite common for folk to refuse to drink, lest they become unable to perform or kicked out of the party.

    What was interesting about the show last night was that the bisexual encounters for the women were totally focused on them. The men did NOT participate at all, thus no egging on. It seemed to be a true celebration of a woman’s body, without the pressure from a man to do certain things. That said, it was strange that they took their hubby to Jamaica and he had no participation in the festivities!

  9. tom paine Says:

    There is a wide range of “egging on” scenarios. One is the BF or husband standing over the women issuing commands or rubbing their backs, etc.
    The other is encouraging the woman to explore her bisexual interests. The latter was more what I did. In fact, I once pushed another man’s hand away from C. and his wife while C. was fingering and kissing her. He took umbrage and pulled her away.
    Talk about taking your ball and going home in a snit!

  10. Between the Sheets » Blog Archive » A Tale of Persuasion, Part I Says:

    [...] A Tale of Persuasion, Part I December 7th, 2006 by Lola David Today on commentary for Sex on the Tube, Tom Paine and I spoke of bi-sexual experiences and what is often the dynamic in female encounters with men “egging on” the women and guiding the interaction. [...]

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