“Paula’s” Relationship Testimony With Franklin Veaux

The first-person testimony of “Paula,” as interviewed by Kali Tal on October 28, 2019. Paula has edited this transcript for clarity and privacy.

Paula: We met over OkCupid, I think it’s been over 12 years now. I had no idea who he was. I had had some interaction with the poly community, but not a lot. He was just a random guy that I met on OkCupid, and he was in Florida, where I was visiting my family—he knew a lot of the same people that I knew.

He’d been vouched for by mutual friends, and that’s kind of how we started talking. I met Amber and Amy the very first time I met him. They were all hanging out together in Florida. At the time, I was going to Atlanta a lot for work; as a result, we were able to see each other quite often.

We ended up dating for about two years while he was in Atlanta. He and Amber were not, at the time—the words he used were that she wasn’t a primary partner, but was still very much a part of his life. But the first part of the time that I was dating him, I’d come down there, and it was like, “Oh, hey, his other partner’s here. Okay. That was not expected, but you gotta run with it.”

I think for me a couple of the big key points were the financial abuse, which I didn’t recognize at the time. For one, I was flying down there every month, and he wasn’t making any money because he was working for Spectrum. And it was always, “Oh, I’m going to come up and see you when I have money.”

But if we wanted to go out to eat, if we wanted to do anything while I was there, I had to pay for it. And so it got to the point of, “Well, I can’t come down there, but I can fly you up.” So I flew him up to my city a whole bunch of times and then he would mention, “Oh, I’m going to go see all these other people while I’m here.” This was super irritating when I was the one who flew him up, so we could have quality time—but if I mentioned it, I was “trying to control” or being jealous.

And the promise was always, “You are going to be the first person I see when I have money; I’m going to fly out. I’ll fly to you.”

Of course, what ended up happening is, the first person he flew to see was either Vera or Mia, who he cheated on me with outside of the boundaries of our negotiated relationship.

At the time, he and I were in a fluid-bonded relationship. I was the only one at the time, which I was okay with. I was not okay with the extended group and potentially having fluid bonds with people I had never even met.  What ended up happening was that I flew him up, we went to a munch, and at the munch, he starts talking about, “Oh yeah, I had a great scene, two weekends ago in LA with this sex editor.” And it turns out that they had had oral sex, which was a direct boundary of the HPV boundaries. And I was absolutely irate, because not only did he not tell me this, but he and I had had sex prior to this happening. I told him, “What the fuck? You’ve now put me at risk.”

I got gaslighted for being mad about it. “Oh, well that was never negotiated.”“Yes, yes, the boundaries were, before you break our fluid bond, you need to let me know. Not to say yes or no, but I need to be aware so that I can make the choices about whether or not I can continue with you. You have cheated.” 

One of the things that always made me really mad is that he always insisted he’s never cheated. That’s a flat-out lie and he’s full of crap.

He also posted about me, nonconsensually, and frequently. I was mortified when I realized how many of my acquaintances had read about our intimate relations—but he tried to justify it as part of a D/s relationship.

He was the first partner that I’d ever engaged in kink with. It had been something I was interested in, fascinated by. He portrayed himself as this utmost expert and domly dom, and he was terrible. He was terrible at it and did not have the requisite skillset to go along with his claims or what he wanted to attempt, which was dangerous.

Kali: Can you tell me more about “terrible,” cause that’s big.

Paula: Didn’t care about what I wanted to get out of the experience. Things like, he wanted to do orgasm denial, and I’d tell him, “That isn’t going to work for me. That’s not going to be satisfying.” He didn’t care, but presented it as though I should be excited because that’s how D/s worked. I learned after him that it normally isn’t, unless previously negotiated.

And so his idea of fun would be “I’m going to get off a couple of times, and you’re just going to go to sleep.” I’d tell him, “This is not what we negotiated. That’s not okay.”

He had ideas of what being a domly dom was. And none of those seemed to relate to what I was actually interested in. He’d decide, “Oh, we’ll do a public flogging scene.” But he had terrible control of his whips. I remember having welts up and down my side from where I got wrapped with the flogger. It wasn’t until later, where I was with someone who actually knew what they were doing, that I realized that’s not what’s supposed to happen. Unless you like that, right? If you negotiate that that’s what you want, then it is totally fine. But that was not my expectation. He would say “oops!” while presenting himself online as this ultimate authority.

The one really dark thing I remember, was his fascination with “pushing shiny buttons” regardless of boundaries. I have a real paranoia of needles, and he posted about it on LJ  with pictures of my back, and he told me, “I’m going to do acupuncture needles on you. There’s a shiny irrational trigger, and I have to push that button.” So he did, and I didn’t want it. But yet he posted on LJ about what a great dom he was and how he had to push these buttons. And I read it now, and it’s so squicky.

This was all nonconsensual. And he’s presenting himself as though he’s this end-all be-all of sex knowledge and kink. The first rule should really be: talk to, and listen to, your bottom. Unless pushing that button is negotiated, or you have otherwise received carte blanche, don’t do it. He used it as a “life lesson” post to all these people who applauded his behavior.

And the really funny part is, he would talk about scenes we’d had in public spaces, and friends who were there who knew what had happened would see him post and would privately comment to me, “What the heck is his deal? That’s not what actually happened.” But nobody called him on it. Nobody called him on his bullshit. I mean I would poke a little bit, “The way you are presenting yourself is not what you’re actually doing.”

Kali: Do you have a theory about that?

Paula: My perception was that he felt like he always needed to be the expert. He always had to be an expert on everything, even though he wasn’t. He’s a chronic mansplainer, even though he would probably never use those terms. He could never recognize others’ needs or expertise, because he was so caught up in his fantasy world on the messaging he was giving to other people.

Kali: Do you have a theory about why people put up with it?

Paula: He’s very charismatic. And I think about, why did I date him for two years? He was charismatic, I was lonely, and when he turned his attention on you, it felt good.

I didn’t know anything about his following. But then once you become aware of it, it’s like, “Oh, this person that supposedly knows what they’re doing is paying attention to me.” And that felt nice. And there wasn’t a huge age difference between us, but there was a little bit, I think he was 41 at the time, and I was 35 I think. So not as big as some of his later age differences.

But he just was very good at brushing everybody else’s concerns under the rug and presenting himself as, he knows all these people, he knows all the things. Now I recognize it as gaslighting, but at the time I didn’t see it that way. It’s just, this is someone who knows more than I do, and I gotta follow along. And that’s what I did.

We ended up breaking up when he moved to Portland. He would go months without contacting me. I had to do all of the work. I did a test where I didn’t contact him for a month to see if he’d notice. He didn’t. It isn’t a relationship when only one side is putting in any work. The relationship was whatever effort I put into it, and I can’t even tell you how many thousands of dollars I spent on him. I took him to San Francisco, I took him to Florida, I took him to my city multiple times.

And he would talk about how hard it was, that he didn’t do long distance well. And he had asked about coming to my city and living with me, and I was like, “No.”

And Amy and I ended up getting into it big time, because I was not out as poly. Amy did not like that I was not out as poly and that I was concerned about keeping my job—which was a great career. I was not about to give that up just to be out in a relationship that wasn’t necessarily a significant part of my day-to-day life. I didn’t feel the need to be a poly warrior. It’s part of my identity, it’s not my entire identity.

She told me, “If he moves in with you, then he is going to give up part of himself. What are you going to do if he wants to be on a TV show?”

I said, “Just not let them film in my house.”

“Oh, that’s not acceptable, you’re going to turn him into someone he’s not.”

“I think it’s acceptable to maintain boundaries around your personal space. I’m not saying he can’t interview with people and can’t be a poly activist, but he doesn’t need to do it in my home.”

That response was never ok with her. 

Kali: So how did you wind up here, talking to me?

Paula: When I saw Eve’s post—as soon as it got published, I got pinged by a bunch of people telling me “Oh my God, you have to read this.” My gut reaction was, “Holy crap.” Yes, he did that, and he did that to me. I just never looked at it through that lens.

It  was very emotional at first. I don’t want to think about myself as a victim. I am someone who dated Franklin, who got dealt a shitty hand and who recovered from it and learned lessons. I made some choices, and he did some really shitty things to me, but I learned not to indulge that behavior going forward. And I want people to take away from this too: what are the warning signs? So that they can get themselves out if they see themselves in a similar situation.

I posted on Eve’s note, “Oh my God. Yeah, I’m one of the women.” And I went to the form and I sent a recap of some of the more egregious behaviors that Franklin had engaged in. That’s how I got connected to everybody.

There were a couple of people who were peripheral—so Oliver. He used to date Amber, and then they broke up. But he came forward in part because reading that, he had recognized the behaviors. And he came forward to corroborate. And when Louisa told me that, that made me cry, that this wasn’t just in  my head. Somebody else—and this is going to sound bad, but a male—recognized the behavior, and it was shitty. There were a couple other people who told me, “We saw it, we recognized it at the time.”

The attitudes were different. You see it through a different lens now. And I have the luxury of having 12 years of healing and learning.

But I left the poly community after Franklin. I felt burned, and mostly left the kink community, too.  One, I was a little bit embarrassed—Franklin posted a lot about me on LiveJournal. And he knew that I was really uncomfortable with having him put all of these details of our sex life in public. There were girls who stalked me on LiveJournal because of what he posted.

Kali: So what was that dynamic? He would post these things and you would react or not react?

Paula: I went along with it, because I didn’t want to be the bad girlfriend…in private I told him, “Hey, I don’t really like you sharing this level of detail.” And he’d say, “Ooh, it’s a button. It’s a button I can push. This is something from our BDSM kink relationship that I can use as a trigger, as a way of keeping you on edge and uncomfortable.”

And so even though I was uncomfortable with it, it was communicated to me that  it was part of a BDSM relationship. And he was going to do it, because it was a control mechanism. And I should be excited by that. I should be excited by him taking this control over something I wasn’t comfortable with.

Kali: So what was your goal with the BDSM relationship? If it had gone the way you wanted, how would it have gone?

Paula: I’m not really what I’d call a submissive. I was a bottom, and I would’ve wanted the physical scene. Not emotional manipulation or to serve him—that’s not my kink. It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted the physical interaction as an emotional release when I was physically with someone, and then the scene would be over. And then aftercare would have been nice, but I didn’t really understand the concept of aftercare until after I got done with the relationship with Franklin. That wasn’t something that he really communicated or talked about.

Kali: And so his interest was much more psychological?

Paula: I can’t speak for him, but that was certainly the perception that he gave on LiveJournal. I was his slave, and there were buttons, he had posted a lot about buttons, “shiny buttons that I can push.” And to me, well yeah, shiny button is something you should be respectful about. If you think someone has a trigger around something, that doesn’t mean that you go out and try and trigger that person because they have a fear of needles. It means that you’re respectful about it, and maybe you have a conversation.

And these were skills that I didn’t learn until after Franklin. I thought I was really bad at poly. I think one of the things Eve said is, “I thought I was really bad at poly.” When I got out of the relationship with Franklin, I realized that actually I’m not, but he just made it very difficult.

Kali: So Franklin talks in his work a lot about women’s jealousy. Did that factor into your relationship at all?

Paula: He thought I was jealous of his time. When he cheated on me, he thought I was being jealous, and he made me get on a Skype with the girl he cheated with so that we could resolve it between the two of us. Not that he would apologize, because he never apologizes. He would never admit that he did something wrong, but it was up to me to resolve with her what they did.

He thought that I was jealous. And I’m like, “No, I’m not jealous. I would’ve been perfectly happy that you had a great time with this new person if you hadn’t violated the sexual boundaries that we had in place, because now my health is at risk.”

I think he thought that I was jealous of Amy. And I told him, “No.” I didn’t like the way she treated me.

He  just expected that whatever he wants out of the partners who are there at the same time, they will go along with, and if there’s friction, it’s a problem with you. He never recognized that he had  any obligation to get involved. The advantage of flying him places was that generally I had him to myself, unless while he was there, he was also going on a date with someone else—which happened. I flew him to my city, and he met this person, and “I need to have a date with her.”  So, dismissive of any needs I might have.

Kali: So did you talk to him about that when that happened, or was that just like…?

Paula: I did. And like anything else, he’d just brush it off.  There’s, “You can choose to behave how you want to behave, but you can’t control me.”

And I remember, I was so miserable—and I’ll never forget this, because it was around the time that he was trying to convince me that he should come to my city. “I don’t know if I can do this.” And he made me feel like the bad guy, that I wasn’t okay with everything that he wanted to do. 

It sticks out very distinctly, because this wasn’t something I’d experienced before. I am not normally a depressed or suicidal person. But I remember sitting on the top of a parking deck and thinking, “I could just be done with this if I drove my car off the side of the parking deck.” And that is the only relationship that I’ve ever had that has gotten me so deep into my head thinking, “God, what the F, what am I doing? Why am I such a bad partner? That I can’t accept this part of him.”

That was probably the lowest it got. And then pretty shortly after that, he moved to Portland and didn’t communicate at all for two months. And I said,  “Okay, I’m done. Obviously he will only be a partner in whatever way I’m willing to contribute.”

He always called himself polysaturated. Internally, I always thought, “You’re poly-lazy, is what you are. You’re willing to let all the women in your life do all of the emotional labor and do all of the work of maintaining the relationship. And when push comes to shove and things are difficult, you’re just completely absent.” 

And so I just ignored him and didn’t communicate. And I had posted something like, “Franklin and I aren’t together anymore.” Didn’t even bother to message him directly. “You know what? If he actually reaches out to me, then I’ll tell him that we’re broken up.”

I never heard from him. Vera reached out, which was very sweet. She said something like, “I understand that you consider yourself broken up from Franklin.”

I said, “I was really looking forward to being your metamour. When the person you’re dating can’t even message you for two months, I think it’s a pretty clear indicator that there’s not a relationship there anymore.”

And she said “Okay, well that’s fair.”

I ended it with,  “If Franklin wants to talk to me, he can make the effort.” And that was it.

I think it helped that I didn’t know who he was, going into the relationship. After we broke up, I had zero contact with him. I was out there last year, and Vera reached out to  ask if I wanted to hang out with them. Honestly, I found excuses to do other things. I appreciated that she reached out, but wouldn’t it have been appropriate for the person I dated to actually be the one to do that work?

I had asked him to take down some of the LJ  stuff and he was like, “Oh, no, button!” I think Louisa did the count. There’s like something like 15 or more. There’s a lot of written instances where he mentioned me by name with sexual things online, and it’s like, dude.

Kali: And those you did ask him to take down?

Paula: You know, it’s been so long. I’d asked him not to post them in the first place, so he might have a different recollection. The last time we talked about it, he’s like, “You say you don’t like it, but you enjoy the attention.” He’s so convinced that he knows how women think.

And there’s probably a little part of it at one point in time that may have had a ring of truth to it, because it was new. It was exciting. Franklin was paying attention to me. And then I started getting the icky side effect of him posting very private things.  I was not ok with it.

I’m trying to be fair. Lens of 12 years ago, right?

Kali: So what were the fangirls like?

Paula: They were creepy. They’d want to friend me on LiveJournal. “Oh, what’s it like being with Franklin?” Or the stalkery girl who had a serious drug problem and wanted to come hang out with us when he visited,  then was trying to get my address. I tried to distance myself, because she at the time was posting some very destructive, pretty scary behaviors. I had unfriended her, and then she still kept trying to find me through alternate methods, like Facebook and other stuff. People would just want to be friends with me because I was dating him.

Kali: And did you talk to Franklin about any of this?

Paula: We had talked about the scary drug girl, and he was like, “Oh yeah, she’s a little weird, just ignore her.” But that was kind of the extent of the conversation.

It was hard to actually get him to have a conversation that wasn’t him pontificating about something, right?

A lot was me feeling like I didn’t know very much about the community. So, “Okay, I need to learn. I’m learning from my partner, who knows so much more”—until I realized that a lot of what he was spouting was complete BS.

I took him to a nice restaurant, and he  did not know how to behave properly. I was so embarrassed. And so I’d think, “Okay, I can’t take you into a nice restaurant, because you don’t know how to behave like a civilized human being with decent manners. And I don’t care what culture expects, but I’m your partner, and I expect you to behave like a reasonable human being.”

Kali: So how was he behaving?

Paula: He liked to, as he said, push my buttons by talking about sexual things in public places, in areas where people could overhear, and that was inappropriate.  My issue with that—and I did talk to him about this on numerous occasions—is that “You are nonconsensually involving people in play that they did not agree to. And they may be seeing what’s going on and thinking there’s a problem. You could traumatize other people.”

In fact, most of my friends here refused to go out to dinner with us, because it was such an issue. And then you’re bringing public play to people who have not agreed to it, and he’d be like, “Oh, she disobeyed, she’s going to have to get down on her knees under the table.” And of course, none of that ever happened. But he would say that, and it would make other people extraordinarily uncomfortable because they weren’t kinky, they weren’t poly.

They were some of my dearest friends, and he’d be saying these terribly inappropriate things, which in the context of a munch or kinky poly people might’ve been okay, but he didn’t care that his audience was inappropriate for that comment. And he was just gonna say it anyway.

And they all hated him. Most of my friends were super happy when we broke up. So okay, lesson learned, like, trust the friends!

But yeah, we’re at a nice restaurant. He’d reach out and tweak my nipple or, just behave in ways that you don’t behave in public at a nice place unless it’s been previously consented to.

Maybe this is me being snobby, and maybe I should feel bad about it, but we were in a nice elevator, and he’s pontificating about the style, and he was just completely wrong and had no background, but he was so convinced that he knew all about this and speaking super loudly. And I was just like, “Oh god, it’s really embarrassing, because you really have no idea what you’re talking about.”

It was very cringey, and now I see him doing the same thing online. I can’t even look at his Quora responses, because nothing’s changed.  He’s still shouting about things he doesn’t know anything about, but because he speaks really loud and he speaks well, people believe him. So that is a long, long, long, long long-term trend.

And he presented himself as though he  was a kink god. My friends who actually knew kink, saw him tie or saw him flog, told me afterwards that, “He’s really terrible.” And I’m not trying to bash him, it’s just that I don’t like the fact that he presented himself as something that he wasn’t, in ways that both either physically injured me or impacted me at the time.

I always thought he was just the crappy ex-boyfriend. I mean lessons learned, don’t date someone who’s not a good human.

Kali: So did you have issues with poly, a disjunct between what Franklin said about it and what was actually happening?

Paula: Yeah.  He gives great poly advice. He doesn’t live his own advice at all. The communication between partners—I think some of his advice is valid, but he wouldn’t take any responsibility for his own actions, ever. It was always somebody else’s fault, and you could never, never put any controls on him. And I always thought it was a little unreasonable to expect that. Yes, I can control my actions, and I can control what I’m doing. And no, I can’t control you, but it’s freaking okay to call somebody out when they’re behaving like an asshole. And he would never tolerate that.

Kali: Were there occasions you remember that you tried?

Paula: I think the biggest one was when I was getting a lot of crap from Amy. And particularly about not being out in poly. I mean it was constant buffering of, “It’s not okay, you’re hurting the rest of us by not being out.” And first of all I can’t—if I am out as poly, the place I was working for is super conservative, I could lose my job. There is no legal protection. I like making money. I like having the flexibility to travel, which by the way, Bucko, you can’t do unless I’m paying for it.

So that that was really an issue when I tried to talk to him about it, and it was always a case of, “You’re the one at fault. You’re the one who’s not trying hard enough. Maybe you’re jealous.”

I think I existed in kind of a unique place in time in that I was as primary as Franklin is ever going to have with, at least at the time, a long-distance partner.

He did meet the girl with the bunny ears for the first time when we were together at a con. I remember it made an impression. He was completely, Franklin excited about the new person, and I commented, “Dude, you can’t even maintain the relationships you have.”

Lauren was there. He wasn’t paying attention to her. She got really upset,  which we then had to deal with, but he would never recognize that his behavior caused problems. It’s always, “You need to work harder at something.” Like your relationship with the metamours—not “I have an obligation to as an equal partner in this to do something about it.”

And I remember Lauren freaking out,  and the way Franklin presented it was, Lauren was jealous of me and the sexual relationship that I had with Franklin. Why he didn’t resolve that with her instead of dragging me into it, I don’t understand.

Lauren and I get along great. We stayed in contact, she came out and visited me after Franklin and I broke up. But at the time, “Why am I getting sucked into this emotional vortex? Why are you not dealing with your girlfriend?”

Kali: So did you do any comparing notes with his other partners at the time?

Paula: Not so much. Amber was always very standoffish. And she was going to school, so she was in that heart of grad school craziness and very uncommunicative.

I knew that there was a 50-50 chance that she would be there when I showed up on a random weekend to see him. But when that happened, the expectation was that all three of us would sleep in the same bed, which was a little weird—nothing ever happened. But I remember that being very strange. “I don’t know who this person is. I’ll just sleep on the couch, it’s fine.”

Kali: When you said it was an expectation, where did that come from?

Paula: I think he was just like, “Well, you’ll be sleeping on the couch, or on the giant bed with us.” And I was like, “Or you can sleep on the couch!” But it was just like, now there’s suddenly another person here that I didn’t expect.

But I always knew that Amber was, in his unspoken hierarchy, on the top of the pyramid, even though they might not have a physical relationship. And so that was always fine.

There was Lauren, who, like I said, I got along fine with, and she and I actually compared notes and talked quite a bit. But that was work that she and I did. Not that Franklin was involved in. And she and I would talk about Franklin being a dick, because we were both long-distance, that he wasn’t communicating, or that he expected us to do all the work of maintaining the relationship.

And Amy was just the person in Florida who didn’t like me because I wasn’t out.

I didn’t even know that Vera existed. That was a surprise, that apparently she’d been part of his world for years. I don’t know if they met about the same time that he and I did or before, but he sprung that on me at one point. “What do you mean, you’ve got a partner on the West Coast?” That might’ve been a nice thing to mention to your partner…

And he’s like, “Well, I haven’t actually met her.”

And she and I had talked a little bit, but other than that, it wasn’t really until she came down and then hung out a little bit at my place on their way to Portland that we’d really had any interaction.

Kali: You mentioned that it was very clear you that Amber was at the top of a hierarchy. And hierarchy is an interesting word to use, because that’s a word that Franklin explicitly avoids.

Paula: He does, which I always thought was really funny.

Kali: So was there an unspoken hierarchy, and was this known generally among the women or—

Paula: Yeah, I think it was unspoken. I mean, I think it was that Franklin, when he talked about her, put her up on such a pedestal that even when he told me that they weren’t partners anymore in whatever weird way that they were existing, I also knew that if Amber needed something, that Franklin would drop everything. She would take priority over anybody else in the world. It was a very weird thing. I just remember thinking that that was weird—but I always liked her. She was always cordial when I met her, just not someone you could easily talk to. She’s just really smart. And she was also dating Oliver at the time, who I really liked.

I think the best part of Franklin is maintaining friendships with a bunch of really quality people who stayed in my life even if they’re no longer in his life, which I always thought was hilarious.

On his LiveJournal you’ll start getting into bunches of stuff about me. I showed it to my therapist, and she’s told me, “This is classic grooming behavior. All of the language he uses about you is the language predators used to groom their victims.”

Kali: And when did you show that to your therapist?

Paula: After all of this happened. I told her about the Eve post, “Hey, I was contacted. I dunno if I want to get involved in this project,” because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to dig it all up again, after being over it. I asked her to take a look at it, andI sent her some articles and some of the LJ posts, and she was like, “Oh my god.” As a professional who deals with trauma and victims.

And she told me,  “If I read this, I would assume that it was a predator.”

He definitely fabricated some things. He wanted to make himself look really good that he was a super domly dom. I talked to people who were in my city afterwards who were there, and told them that someone needs to call him out on his bullshit other than me.” Cause I felt like if I did it, he would just dismiss it. And if you look in a couple of the LJ comments now, you can see a couple people push back little bit—but very, very slight.

And that was the start of the “Okay, is this real?” He was very good at telling stories, and very charismatic. He just does not listen to other people. He has a story that he wants to tell about any situation he’s in, and he ignores other perspectives: here’s what he wants the world to know about that particular situation, and that’s what he tells. And it doesn’t matter if there is a corroborating detail, or if someone else has a completely different take on it.

Somebody can say something to him, and it becomes his.

I understand that he is making quite a bit of money from a story that he wrote on one of the erotica sites that came out of a birthday present that he wrote for me.

So he’s like, “I can’t give you anything.” “You could write me a story.” And at the time, I was really interested in going to London, and I was interested in power exchange. And so with those guidelines, he wrote the first couple chapters in those stories, and those were supposed to be my birthday present. So I find it very interesting that he monetized it.

I have not gone back and read the rest of it, because one of those things he was supposed to do was finish it. And he had never finished it while we were dating.  It was always very frustrating for me. This was one simple thing he could do for his partner, but he couldn’t put in that time. And so he went back and did that afterwards.

It’s  just…part of that erasure? I guess that’s the only way I can think about it. He’s like, “I will take what I need from this relationship and take advantage of it. And then forget that you had a part in it.”

I think Franklin was always, “My way of poly is the best way.” And at the time that I was dating Franklin, I had another friend who was in San Francisco and dating a fairly high-profile poly person who literally posted their poly house rules on the door, and I didn’t have a good way to compare that extreme rules-based poly to Franklin.

So it was this dichotomy between strict, rules-based poly and “we will have a time for the thinking and the examining of all the things,” versus the Franklin form of poly, which is “we’re not actually going to think deeply about anything except agreeing with the way that Franklin thinks.” I had one really bad example to compare to. The Franklin example looked good in comparison. “Maybe this is not unreasonable. Maybe this is the enlightened way to conduct poly.”

Particularly the financial stuff was huge, and I did not recognize it for what it was until that article came out, recognized that, “Oh my god, yes, that was financial abuse.”

He took me for so much money. But at the time, if I wanted to spend time with my partner, I had to do it.  Not maybe, “My partner should suck it up and figure out a way to get a real job and manage himself like an adult.”

Kali: Did it feel transactional to you at the time?

Paula: A little bit. If I want to spend time with him, I needed to do these things, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to spend time together—he just never made any effort. So unless I made the effort, then it wasn’t going to be a relationship. I’m still shocked that there are women who were in the relationship when I was there who are still there despite that behavior. Why would you tolerate that?

Kali: So you saw that behavior not just addressed to you, but to the other women that he was also with?

Paula: Well, he never planned anything. It was as though he was a child who was incapable of doing adult things, and “Isn’t that cute?” Like, “Oh, I can’t cook anything. Isn’t that cute? I don’t even know how to make mac and cheese. Ha ha ha.”

And I’m like, “Seriously, you can feed yourself.” And he’s like, “Welllll, I”—I’m like, “You can read the back.” I remember having this conversation. “You can read the back of the box of macaroni and cheese and figure out how to put it in a pot.” He’s like, “I’m gonna burn it.” I’m like, “You can’t burn boiling water.”

I mean, you present yourself like you’re so knowledgeable, and then you’re such a freaking idiot about little things.

Each woman in his world had a different role to play. It was very obvious that Amy was the poly activism, social media partner, right? She was the one who was going to be out with him and talk about the right way to be poly and interested in doing the news and the publicity. And of course Franklin eats up any attention. So he was super happy to have someone to do that with. Amber was always the “Here is my guiding light of brilliance and this is what I aspire to be in the world and aren’t I such a good feminist because I’m holding up a woman on this pedestal.” I was the successful businessperson who had the money to do the stuff that he wanted to do, so that he couldn’t be arsed to get a real job.

But each person had a role, I think. And Lauren was the partner who lived locally, and so she was the one who could come help take care of him. That’s why she and I talked a lot more. He took advantage of her goodwill, as well.

Kali: So when you went to visit, was any cleaning done, and who did it?

Paula: I never cleaned his place. I think Lauren did some, I think Amber did some when she visited. A lot of times the place was a disaster. 

I had real issues with how he was taking care of his cats. In fact, one of his cats got out, and he was like, “Eh.” And that’s one of the times I got really, really upset with him, because I’m like, “Your cat got out.” He’s like, “Oh, he’s living his best life. I saw him a couple times in the parking lot, but he’s living his best life outside.”

And I’m like, “No. That is an indoor cat. You need to go get off your ass and figure out how to trap the cat and put him back inside.” And that was always one of those things that really made me angry. You can piss off me or people all you want, but if you’ve got an animal in your life, you take care of that animal. And he was always sort of like, “Meh.” So to see him posting with all these cats right now, I’m always like, how’s he doing taking care of those cats? Because his history with animals is not great.

Kali: Did anything happen to the cats, or were they just sort of—

Paula: The cat got outside and was never rescued, so he was just like, “No, I think he’s happier outside.” 

No, that’s not how this works. I always worried about food. I don’t remember ever buying food for them. I think he had food, but just things like shots and basic adulting.

Kali: So you mentioned getting mad about the cat. What was his response to anger?

Paula: It’s always, “You’ve got to control that.” You know, “It’s not about me.”

He’s very gaslighty. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m doing the best thing for the cat. The cat should be out. He’s so much happier outside.”

And so I just let it go. He was a brick. There was no getting through to him. If it was not an idea that he could claim as his own, he would never align or agree to acknowledging that it came from you.

I just recall thinking that he was way overcommitted, and if he had so much going on that he needed to get his head out of his ass and figure out how to be better to his partners. I never thought it was fair how it was on me to maintain the relationship.  If you’re actually interested, reach out, do some of the work of contacting me.

I think that’s for me what finally did it. I was just so sick of not hearing from him. So like, “Eh, screw him. If he can’t be bothered, I’ve got other things to spend my time on right now.”

It was just very emotional at the beginning. Like when we first started going through this, just because it made me re-examine a lot from a different lens, and it was like, “Oh, gross, yuck.” And context was everything. You sometimes feel a little stupid that, man, why didn’t I recognize it at the time? But 12 years ago, culture around this stuff was different. He was a shitty boyfriend who has a global platform. And he did some nonconsensual, crappy things.