There’s a strange thing that happens to writers who are in the public eye.
I’ve been writing about polyamory for many years, starting in the late 90s, when I first started talking about polyamory on Xeromag. The Web site started out as a site for the small-press magazine my former business partner and I are doing, and each of us wrote a little bit about ourselves. I wrote a page on polyamory and another on BDSM. I wasn’t really expecting to reach a large audience, and I was not really writing it for anyone in particular; mostly, I was writing the things I wished I could go back in time and tell myself ten years earlier.
But the things I wrote connected with a lot of people. Pretty soon, the Xeromag site became that site about polyamory–oh, and something about a magazine too. In 2006, the polyamory content was getting so much traffic that the rest of the site was groaning under the load, so I moved all the polyamory content to its own server and its own domain at morethantwo.com.
In 2012, I started dating Eve Rickert. In 2013, she said “Hey Franklin, we should write a book together!” In 2014, we published More Than Two.
Like the Web site, the book exploded, becoming far more popular than even our most optimistic hopes. In 2015, we did a tour of Europe to support the book. We dragged our suitcases around the streets of Amsterdam and Berlin, Bruges and Rome, Madrid and London, talking to people–sometimes through translators–about intimate details of our lives and experiences.
Then the funny thing happened.
When you write about your life in a way that resonates with people, it creates this weird sort of situation where fans of your work feel like they know you, even though you don’t know them. It’s a strange and disconcerting experience to talk to a complete stranger who knows intimate details of your life and feels connected to you. It plays tricks on your mind. Human beings are social animals, hard-wired to attach emotionally and form intimate bonds with other people, but our emotional selves never evolved to cope with the Internet and mass media.
Most folks navigate this very well. We met tons of fantastic people and had some unforgettable experiences, and even though our book tours have been miserable, uncomfortable things that have left us physically and emotionally exhausted, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
But sometimes, that weird one-sided intimacy creates some weird, messed-up situations. The border between self and other can get fuzzy, and when it does, that one-sided intimacy can lead to some dark places.
A person who feels like they know you can feel entitled to you. And that can cause a lot of damage. Entitlement is the soil in which abusive behavior grows.
Eve has written about a situation playing out in the Italian poly scene that’s creating knock-on effects all the way across the ocean. And, as is often the case with these sorts of situations, there’s a lot of speculation, a lot of rumor, and a lot of storytelling going on. (We humans are a storytelling species. We invent stories to explain the world, often without even being aware of it.)
I urge everyone to read her essay, which you can find here. I support what she says.
It started small. Little things, not a problem on their own, but in retrospect pointing to poor boundaries, to that fuzzy distinction between self and others. One of the people who helped organize our book event in Rome, Mr. Boschetto, did a lot of work to help make the More Than Two book event successful. However, in the process, he also sought to attach himself more to us than we realized, involving himself more and more closely with us without really getting consent first. Like all creeping boundary violations, this happened gradually enough that we didn’t recognize it at first.
Things came to a head with the Italian-language version of More Than Two, which has turned into a nightmare. The Italian publisher has not abided by the terms of our contract, a matter that we’re still resolving. On top of that, Mr. Boschetto added a foreword to the book without prior consent, perhaps assuming there was greater personal connection than there was.
Okay, I get it, shit happens, and sometimes boundaries get muddled, and you work it out and move on. But in the past week, things have come off the rails in a spectacular way, one that makes it hard to assume good intent. People who have been trying to work with us to resolve the matter—people we specifically reached out to to help—have been barred from Italian poly events for working with us.
And now, we’re told (and Eve has seen), he’s taken to threatening people who disagree with him under Italy’s antiquated libel laws, under which a person can be imprisoned for saying something that offends another person even if what is said is true.
It’s impossible to reconcile these actions–banning people from events for working with someone in a professional capacity, threatening to have people imprisoned for saying things he doesn’t like–with someone whose heart is in the right place. The poly community can survive a lot, but no community can stay healthy if it silences dissent.