Cyber Swing/Polyamory Resource Center
Promoting Intimacy and Other-Centered Sexuality
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Leeza Show On Polyamory - Some lessons to be learned
Polyamory was quite well represented on the Leeza show by Sasha and Janet Lessin, Harry Toney and his mate, and Deborah Anapol, which aired in December, 1999. However, Leeza and the audience did their best to just sensationalize the issues. Why should we be surprised. Education isn't the goal of talk shows, these days, but sensationalism. And sexual ideas really draws audiences and sells for advertisers.
Polyamory came out well in some ways, not in others. It wasn't as bad as what would happen on Jerry Springer. There was actually some intelligent discussion. However they unsurprisingly emphased the stuff that sells - sex. And they did their best to exploit the shock value of non-monogamous people.
Leeza was one of the worst of the idiots when she asked 'if we let poly happen, what's to stop people from having sex with animals, or with children?"
From discussions after the show it seems like that question if almost planned to shock people as it has been asked on other shows also. In latter discussions a good answer to that illogical question might have been that it is just as likely or unlikely for polyamorous people to have sex with animals and/or be child molesters as it is for monogamous people to have sex with animals or be child molesters. One thing has nothing whatsoever to do with the other.
Then of course they staged a 4some at a place set up by the show. In my view, the poly folks should have refused to let them be used that way for the sensationalism. They did the group naked in bed thing, with the group kiss to keep the sex interest. That focused the entire show on sex instead of love and other more important issues of polyamory. Their attempts to talk about relationships was overrun it seemed by the sensational sex aspects the audience gasped at.
And in line with the sex theme, the two couples poly's talked about their interest in tantric sex
On the positive side....once they got the sexual sensationalism out of the way:
There was another sharp poly family on briefly who were in a long term open marriage and their daughter who is monogamous.. It showed that a child reared in poly could be so normal and make her own relationship style choices.
Dr. Deborah Anapol, was witty and she made a great comment that since children tend to rebel, the best way to ensure they'll grow up monogamous is to be a poly parent. She has good sound bite responses since she has had so much media experience. But as someone said, "Dr Deb had it right - short sound bites - that's why Leeza didn't much like her, I think. She came across waaayyy too normal and credible, and the audience liked her."
The poly's were very thoughtful and well-spoken. But it's hard to get many people to do these shows, because of the problems it can cause. We know that well from April's case after appearing on a talk show and her children were taken from her, even though they were not at all involved in any sexuality - but were thought to be abused simply because the children had two caring men in the home instead of just one.
The poly folks emphasized many times that they felt poly had made them better partners and better people than they thought they had been before.
The opposition guest (forgot his name) kept going on about commitment but never answered the poly audience member who asked where his commitment was on his first 3 marriages. He was a radio talk show host who claimed to have tried group sex, but only when single. Of course group sex and poly are hardly the same, but most people assume it is the same. One wise audience member said, "Well, the difference for me is that I'm not looking for mate #5 within *my* monogamous marriage."
Some one in the audience ridiculed a BBW poly woman, seemly wondering how a large woman could attract not just one, but more than one lover. Also a black women was quite vicious. Overall it was clear, that the audience were quite shocked at the idea of poly.
As one poly said, "It really bears exploring why--what is it about sex that freaks people out so. Also there remains a big confusion around morality having to do with sex. Deborah Anapol and the daughter raised by poly parents (Regina), did a great job showing that being moral (honest, loving, a 'good' person) is not a factor of what kind of sex one's parents have, or the kind of sex one has."
In discussing the show, Ryam co-founder of Loving more said:
"I got annoyed, yet again, at how much time I spent with the producers and they didn't reflect any of it or show the LM magazine they begged us to specially fed ex them for the show. I have to thank all the pioneering brave folks who went on this tv show, altho I am reminded why I'm never going to again. It's just not worth the circus atmosphere of these pieces for me."
The following are "borrowed" very good remarks by various folks on the lovemore mailing list, that had a great deal of wisdom we could all benefit from in discussing the Leeza poly show: Note that there are many misspellings, but since they are quoted I have not changed any of the spelling or grammar errors - as if I don't make the same errors:)
The audience on the whole (save for one conservatively dressed woman), both black and white, were very against poly. It really bears exploring why--what is it about sex that freaks people out so.
That seems to always be the case when multiple relationships are discussed on talkshows, and I don't think it's the sex as much as the poly that scares people. Some former lovers of ours made the talk show circuit about six years ago, usually sharing the stage with the triadic-marriage of David and Nina Hartley and Bobbie Lillie. On several of the talkshows, the studio audience basically supported gay and transexual guests but vented its rage on the poly families and swingers.
As I've pointed out before, we polys threaten the very foundations of most people's belief structures, fears and insecurities. Most couples aren't afraid their spouses will become gay or want to change sexes, but are big-time afraid that their partner might have an affair and discover that they prefer another person. And considering NRE (New Relationship Energy), it's probably a fairly valid fear, especially for someone who has no background in multiple relationships. It's quite natural for humans (or many other animals) to launch into viscious attacks on that which they most fear.
The problem mainly, as I saw it, was that the 'sex' aspect was viewed at the onset of the show (first segment). (a better result may have been obtained if they)... first stressed the "loving, caring" connection that people make before jumping into bed with each other.
Some excellent comments on the positive impact such a show can have, even with its sensationalism:
From a former Fundamentalist Christian:
There's a good deal of doubt in my mind as to there being any value in the "Christians and lions" phenomenon that is the contemporary TV talk show. However, I do think that media coverage of polyamory in general does have a constructive function. I think of it not as propaganda but as outreach.
Somewhere out in Leeza's audience, however good or bad the show may have been, there was probably some person (and hopefully more than one) who was thinking, "My God! I'm not crazy after all! It *is* possible to love more than one other person at a time, and there are other people out there who are actually doing it. How wonderful to know I'm not all alone in the world any more." There's a very strong social system in which people help each other and to challege some of the evanglical beliefs can threaten our social links. Most of the studying are limited to few popluar books, such as New International Version Bible or King James' Bible, Moody Monthly, Christianity Today, Charle Colson (yes, that Watergate guy) and most importantly, Francis A. Schaeffer. We didn't even study the Bible all this closely, we use the Bible study aids more than we use our own senses. In a way, we have regressed to a childish emotional stage in which fear and desire to please our "Daddy" is the norm.
In this tight, narrow world, it's very easy to repress our natural opinions or feelings. We are afraid of losing friends and so we repress our natural self and pray harder and study the Bible harder. But like Jung said, sooner or later the repressed desires and fear will return with force that can be truely shocking. Some people fall completely apart and do weird things. Some become abortion bomber. Some commit murder. Most just become blind with prejudice, from mild to extreme. I suspect that your ranting fundamentalist is expressing his own fears of the power of free love because to embracing it would be to undo the entire social and mental structure of his life. Same thing happens on the show. Certainly, some former Christian girlfriends I have were attracted by and are fearful of my open lifestyle.
Other comments on how to best have this outreach to open minded people that might be helped:
In articles and books. They give us the best chance to reach an educated crowd that is probably most open to such things. (Most studies have shown college graduates gennerally more open to alternative sexuality, etc. than the lesser educated.) And it's imperative that we get some articles on polyamory, group marriages, intentional communities and alternative families in the women's magazines, preferably by female writers/spokepersons who are into poly themselves. As I wrote earlier today, books and articles give the audience time to digest and reflect upon the material presented.
I, too, have some misgivings about tabloid style shows. But then I met a short order cook in Tennessee who admitted to me that he and his wife were considering an intimate relationship with the waitress he worked with and her husband, both of who were close friends with he and his wife. Where did he get the idea to even talk about this with his wife? It all started, he told me, from a Jerry Springer episode they watched. The episode was the usual craziness, he said, but it did get he and his wife talking about the subject.
I do believe that the more people see this subject out there, the more normal it will become. Homosexuality and bisexuality is much more acceptable in most circles this past decade and a half due in large part to the extensive media and public relationhs work that the gay community has done.
Talk shows, imo, are demographically one of the poorest places to get a balanced forum...since the hosts usually, or often, have an agenda that may too often include the sensational scenario ('much' more exciting for the great unwashed "National Enquirer" -loving American TV couch potatoe guest audience) and never really reaching the strata of 'awake' people (who seldom, if ever, waste time with talk shows) and who may be far more inclined to experience interest than knee jerk fundamentalist revulsion.
When we were watching the tape last night, I suggested that any exposure might help people who felt isolated find the poly community. I share Ryam's dismay that not only didn't they mention "Loving More" magazine, they didn't give any gateway to poly info, beyond mentioning Deborah Anapol's book.
I also think we need to have a small core of media savy polys to go on these shows. I think the guys who were on Leeza did a TERRIFIC job. They overcame hostility and stupidity and generally looked good. With some training and preparation, however, it could have been much more informative.
The statistic that the show put up on the screen indicated, as I read it, that about 27% of those polled found polyamory to be a possible lifestyle choice. I think that's a pretty significant figure.
At one conference the most fun workshop on the topic we ever did was when we set up a fake talk show and had shills in the audience ask the usual terrible questions. It was a big laugh to play it out within a large poly audience who were free to hoot and jeer the questions rather than our answers! We also were free to do something akin to "Mad's snappy answers to stupid questions" which wouldn't go over too well on reg tv. Altho I'm not one to take shit from anybody and have made some pretty tough responses when accused of things on a talk show-- like "being the cause of aids."
The people you saw doing the show, aside from a few "vigins" have all been involved with polyamory in a fairly public way for many years, so no question is very new to them. I first met Deborah Anapol on a tv show in the early 80s on the topic. And luckily most polys are quite smart and can think on their feet.
The real trick is to learn to talk in sound bites. You may have noticed Henry on the show trying to present larger concepts and he kept getting cut off. Practicing one line answers to all the common questions is very very useful.
Soundbites that sound hackneyed are either delivered poorly, written/conceived poorly, or unauthentic. It's hard for people to communicate what they want when many/most times on a tv show you have only a few seconds to get across a major point. Unless of course you are in one of the first segments which are much longer than the later ones in the hour.
I don't think practicing something to death is that useful, but knowing the key points or approach you want to take in answering a question can certainly help you actually get something on the air instead of being cut off.
Ryam (co-founder of Loving More)
Another reply on public board:
Well After having seen a feeding frenzy on Leeza several years ago where they had yoyo's whipping the audience up psychologically against Bi's and poly's, I've lost ANY interest in TV shows on alternative subjects. The whole thing was choreographed, and even the "audience questioners" were all in the green room before the show and got the questions they were supposed to ask, along with a paycheck. This included one so called Bi activist who started screaming at the poly women on stage that they needed to learn to commit and stop being homophobic...Nice to get shot in the back by your own army...
One of the best well organized polyamory groups in the U.S. with a great deal of excellent material is Loving more whose website is lovemore.com
ANOTHER GUEST TRICKED INTO A LEEZA "FREEKSHOW" SHOW FILES LAWSUIT FOR FRAUD THAT SHOWS HOW FAR SHOW WILL GO FOR SENSATIONAL RATINGS
A former guest on Leeza Gibbons's talk show is suing the host for allegedly duping her into appearing on the program, a "freakshow" that left the woman permanently damaged with psychiatric and emotional injuries.
49-year-old Wanda Reed--who has battled anorexia and bulimia--and her daughter went on the show thinking they were going to talk about the hereditary nature of eating disorders.
Instead, according to this excerpt from a Los Angeles Superior Court complaint, Leeza pit Wanda against daughter Tammy for some old fashioned daytime sensationalism even after a warning about potential suicide. The Leeza staff in follow-up was totally arrogant and their advice was: "get over it".
The detailed complaint is reproduced at
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