I’ve just discovered Unicornland, a new show about that elusive character in adult play circles – the unicorn, which means a single woman looking to play with couples. The main character Annie is exploring her sexuality after a divorce and each episode is a different sexual adventure.
The show is created and produced by Lucy Gillespie, and shot by a mostly female crew, which I love. I also love that’s it’s very sex-positive and celebrates the social diversity of New York City including not only trans and genderqueer people, but disabled actors as well. Sex and disability is one of the most important topics for me, as I believe everyone has some form of disability or limitation when it comes to love, intimacy and sex.
Watching the show got me curious about the motivations of its creator, so I reached out to find out! Here is my interview with the talented creator, Lucy Gillespie.
Dr. Ava Cadell: What do you hope viewers will learn and take away from the series?
Lucy Gilespie: I hope people watching Unicornland will come to appreciate how many ways there are to love. That we live in a society that places strict expectations on how relationships “should” function, especially for women. That maybe these expectations and standards are no longer serving us. That maybe they’re constrictive and destructive emotionally, psychologically, and a hindrance to social progress.
Mainly, I want people to get a sense of how supple love is. That jealousy is not the be-all end-all. Jealousy is a flashlight that exposes dark places! That kink is not shameful. In fact, true love is most joyful when we share, acknowledge and fulfill one another’s deepest needs, wants and pleasures.
I hope the viewers will talk about what they want, and have maybe never asked for. I hope that viewers will be inspired to love more deeply in whatever way serves them.
AC: How can the older generation of poly people identify with the characters in the series?
LG: It’s true that most couples in the series are in their 30s. Most are childless. All live in New York (or nearby). In spite of that, I believe the fundamental principles of communication and trust are the same in all non-monogamous relationships.
Also, the series is not about polyamory. It’s about Annie realizing that sexual exploration is the journey she must take to evolve. I think that’s something everyone can identify with, whether they’re a teenager just starting to date, or a retired polyamorous couple navigating new needs and issues with long-standing rules.
AC: What are some relationship benefits and consequences of polyamory?
LG: The benefits of exploring new relationship models are a greater ability to accept and appreciate your partners, because they aren’t responsible for *all* your needs. By having more sexual experiences, it is possible to develop a greater awareness about the context of your sexuality and the skills you bring to a relationship. You see yourself more clearly; what you tolerate, what you don’t, your behavior, your patterns. With more experience comes more more awareness, more knowledge about the world, and a deeper understanding of people.
The consequences are that a commitment to personal grow means you don’t get to stay comfortable. It’s true that dysfunctional heteronormative relationships can last forever, spiraling more tightly inwards with no outside interference to break negative cycles. Dysfunctional polyamorous relationships break down fast, as they’re exposed to more criticism and more parties’ opinions. That means individuals must come face to face more frequently with their personal bullshit, and the need to address it. There are exceptions to this of course, but you can’t sit in your bullshit or rest on your laurels if you’re committed to ethical non-monogamy.
And there are also risks, which are different from consequences, but which cannot be left out of this conversation. Everything from STDs to physical, sexual and psychological abuse to hypocrisy to brainwashing to being alienated from your family and friends, to being profiled as a result of being “out”, to being spectacularly heartbroken, to getting jealous, to having to deal with brand new emotions and feeling like a teenager, to just being really really distracted a lot of the time. My partner and I are currently monogamous, partly because it takes so much time and commitment to do non-monogamy right.
AC: How does this lifestyle enhance sexual satisfaction for women?
LG: Because it encourages you to be proactive about fucking! Too many women are quiet about sex and timid about asking for what they want. I know because I was real quiet, and didn’t want to bother anyone–and I’m no shrinking violet! Even as a confident extrovert, I felt a duty to prioritize my boyfriend or husband’s sexual needs over my own.
It’s difficult to give a catch all answer to this because so many women have abuse stories. The scene is not a haven. Nowhere is truly a haven except for your own mind and the constant gardening of a willingness to commit to self-care and self-improvement. So I don’t mean to say that the scene is a place where you can heal… But for me it was healing. It allowed me to re-learn love, sex and relationships.
AC: How would you recommend that someone who wants to explore poly by bringing someone new into the relationship communicate their desires to their partner?
LG: Communication first and foremost. Talk it to death. Why, how, what, when. Be overly communicative about your fantasies. If your partner is not interested in something, point blank end-of-story, and that thing is meaningful to you, then maybe the relationship is over. More likely, your partner is (after the freak out of that initial question) interested, with reservations. Talk through those reservations and figure out what you can change in your daily life that will reinforce the strength of your relationship. Once you’ve gotten to a place where you have a strong, supple safety net of trust and an established vocabulary for how to talk through potential pitfalls, then try going to a sex party.
I recommend sex parties above unicorning for couples who are new to non-monogamy. It’s a way to “have the conversations” visually. What you see will trigger emotions – negative and positive – that you could not and did not predict. And you can go to a sex party and be tourists and voyeurs (don’t listen to anyone who tells you you can’t. They’re assholes). Providing you’re not disrespectful or creepy, it’s totally OK to be a closed couple – or even single – at a sex party. Know your boundaries and uphold them. That’s key to building trust.
Once you’ve discussed and then confirmed your feelings and interests, and maybe made a friend at a sex party or at a Munch (non-sexual gathering of poly people – usually cocktails or a brunch at a public venue), then start to experiment with your more specific desires.
Just as going from being single to being in a relationship causes all kinds of friction and issues; going from being monogamous to non-monogamous causes the same thing. And it takes just as long to get used to, if not longer.
Lucy Gillespie is an Anglo-American playwright, screenwriter and producer currently based in New York. An alum of the Obie-award winning Youngblood Playwrights Group, Lucy has held residencies at MacDowell and Byrdcliffe. She received her MFA from NYU in Dramatic Writing as a Goldberg Fellow in 2014. She is the creator and producer of “Unicornland.” Follow on Twitter @unicornwithus