In February 2019, testimonies and stories of abuse were publicly released by some of the ex-partners of Franklin Veaux, one of the co-authors of the extremely popular book on polyamory More Than Two. In fact, one of the people that came forward was the other co-author of More Than Two, Eve Rickert. These former partners came together to tell their stories over the past year, with the majority of the details posted at or linked to from polyamory-metoo.com. In the wake of this, many people have been reeling, and trying to parse how they should move forward. Some people are shaken because of trust placed in someone that placed himself in a position of authority. Others are simply questioning whether they should read or recommend More Than Two anymore.
Personal Biases and Context
I’m writing this article to give my own personal opinion on the topic. Though I have written the majority of the articles on this site, there are other authors’ articles posted as well, and I would like to make it clear that this post does not necessarily reflect their opinions or stance on the issue. I also know that I’m not necessarily influential in the polyamorous community, and I am not an expert. I am not writing this to turn any tide, but rather to give context to anyone that happens to read this site.
I have no direct connection with any of the people involved in the ongoing accountability process regarding Franklin Veaux, either in the survivor pod or the accountability pod. I have read the entirety of the accounts on the website linked above, and have been following other reactions and information elsewhere online, including statements from Franklin and his accountability pod. I am neither judge nor jury, and I am not here to condemn or accuse. That said, I stand firm in my beliefs that you should believe and support survivors when they come forward. That does not mean blindly believing everything they say or shunning the person they accuse. It means listening and understanding that their story and perspective is valid, and not dismissing them, especially if you just don’t want to believe it’s true. This said, I believe the survivors and their stories, and there is enough corroborating evidence elsewhere, including in Franklin Veaux’s own words, that makes me believe this will stand up to scrutiny as the story evolves. I have also personally been a victim of abuse and abusive tactics similar to those outlined in the survivors’ stories, sometimes where my abuser was inspired by Franklin’s own writing.
A Brief History
More Than Two was released five years ago, at a time when there were very few resources available for polyamorous people, and there were almost no books available on the subject. What books there were could be helpful, but they rarely got into practical advice about how to practice polyamory. The Ethical Slut was, at the time, considered the “poly bible” and while it was helpful, it had less in the way of practical advice and more in the way of philosophical understanding (To their credit, the authors of The Ethical Slut released a third edition of the book in 2017 that had far more practical advice and was more inclusive, and I highly recommend the third edition to anyone; it’s the one with the purple cover). Opening Up was also an available popular resource, but its advice leaned towards hierarchical polyamory. This works for some people, but there was little indication that there were other options, so people that didn’t want hierarchies may have felt that they were doing polyamory the “wrong” way, and others may not have understood that there were even other options.
Enter More Than Two. It was released after a successful crowdfunding campaign which helped drum up interest and excitement. When it was published, it almost instantly became the go-to resource for polyamorous people. It gave a different perspective than the common resources at the time. Though much of the basis of the book was in articles on the More Than Two website already, having a book was a very helpful way to connect the ideas.
Over time, many of the opinions and much of the advice from the book became part of the general polyamorous community’s ideas of what is right or at the very least what is default. It almost became the common sense of the community. This is why it may have been so shocking and destabilizing to many in the community when the survivors came forward; did we really take the advice of an abuser as gospel?
To complicate matters, as previously mentioned, the co-author Eve Rickert was one of those that came forward. This is what truly made things difficult for many people. How much of the writing was in her voice? How much of it did she truly believe? Should we recommend the book, which could help spread more of an abuser’s advice and manipulation, or should we tell people to avoid it, possibly financially harming a survivor of the abuser and to some extent silencing her?
What Should We Do?
Honestly? That’s not a question for me to answer. You should do what seems right to you, in the context of all this information. That said, there are some perspectives to take into consideration.
Recently, Eve wrote on this very topic, on the fifth anniversary of More Than Two’s publication. This made the answer clearer, to me. She wrote about how she came to understand how the book caused harm, and how it harmed her. She made it clear that the book was “very heavily skewed toward a certain dynamic—[their] dynamic. Which became abusive.” That said, she also points out how it has helped many people. How any tool can be used as a weapon by someone acting in bad faith. More Than Two is not inherently bad, however, it relies on a perspective that can have more potential to cause harm than others.
If you’re wondering how to handle it due to financial concerns (that is, wanting to support the survivors or conversely not wanting to financially support an abuser), it’s still murky. The royalties are still split 50/50 between Eve and Franklin. The majority of the revenue still goes towards Thorntree Press, the publishing company they co-founded. Eve has 75% ownership, Franklin 25%. This revenue goes towards helping to publish other books and does not go directly to the two of them.
Further, members of the survivor pod have given their opinions on More Than Two. To summarize, they generally recommend that if you do read More Than Two, do so with caveats and keeping the context in mind. There can be helpful information in there, but it is interwoven with language and advice that can be invalidating or twisted. They recommend that if you do read the book, also read the survivor stories to give perspective, clarity, and understanding about the writing and why it was expressed the way it was.
Personally? I have stopped explicitly recommending More Than Two. There are many other great resources and books about polyamory now. Much of the information I found helpful and valuable in More Than Two is echoed in other resources. If I hear someone recommend More Than Two, I will respond giving the context of the survivors’ stories and the caveat that if you read it now, take their stories into account, and read with a very critical eye. Can it still be helpful? Absolutely. Just don’t use it as your only resource, and always keep the context in mind.
To quote Eve:
“So I guess all I can say is: It’s flawed. Maybe it’ll help you. I hope it will. But be careful. Read other things. Take what works for you from each. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right to you, listen to that feeling.
“Your relationships should feel good. They should take care of you. They should be the safe, stable places where you gain the strength to deal with whatever battles you need to fight out in the world. They shouldn’t be the battles you’re fighting. If that’s what’s happening, and the tools you’re using aren’t helping, find other tools. You deserve to be happy.”