Was Heinlein into polyamory IRL?

After a long moratorium on reading anything by Heinlein (after forcing my way through the execrable Glory Road and The Number of the Beast), I’ve decided to finally break down and start reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

And golly gee, imagine my surprise to discover that it’s chockablock with clunky female characters and gleeful descriptions of open marriages. :rolleyes:

Regarding the open marriages bit…I’m not poly myself, but Heinlein’s work just rings false somehow. It comes across like a Mary Sue; as if he’s worked everything out with diagrams on graph paper but doesn’t actually have any pragmatic experience.

So what’s the deal? Was this just a thing that Heinlein did in the abstract, or did he actually have any personal experience?

Yes. In his long lost novel, which was rediscovered and published just a few years ago We The Living, the editor states that RAH had an open marriage with his wife Ginny. And if you think that the books of his you’ve read so far are bad, then stay away from We, as I had to skip whole sections of the book, because it was 99% economic and political discussions. There’s bits and pieces here and there that he cribbed for his later works, but just huge chunks of the book are devoted to one character explaining to another character how the economy of the future works.

I kind of got the impression that RAH was all for polyamory, but only if the women were hot.

I was told that it was Heinlein’s second marriage (to Leslyn) that was an open marriage. Was the third marriage (to Ginny) also an open marriage? The first marriage was over so quickly who knows what it was?

That’s the way I read the editorial comments in We. Apparently, with Leslyn, he was fairly open about that fact that theirs was an open marriage. However, something happened when that marriage broke apart and Heinlein apparently tried to scrub all record of her out of his life, and he then went “quiet” about the nature of his marriage with Ginny.

I have always assumed that his first wife was the inspiration for Grace Farnham, Mrs. Royer, the woman who wouldn’t share a compartment with Sir Isaac, Mrs. Hergensheimer, etc.

Nah, pretty sure the marriage w/Ginny was NOT an open one. Will doublecheck. Think the open one was just with Leslyn. Will check back after I look through my Heinleiniana.

Sir Rhosis

Why would his first wife, Eleanor, be an inspiration for anything? Are you confusing her with his second wife, Leslyn? BrotherCadfael, could you explain what you mean by that? As you can see, the first marriage only lasted a year:


I believe Wendell has nailed it. It’s an open secret among Heinlein fans that his marriage to Leslyn was an open one. (For what it’s worth, the divorce is rumored to have had nothing to do with their sex lives, but was largely due to Leslyn’s supposed alcoholism at the time. I report this only as rumor, hence all the weasel words.)

It’s worth noting that despite Ginny’s political conservatism, she was a very open-minded individual towards new ideas and concepts, a Goldwater libertarian conservative of the sort not to be confused with those who have made “conservative” a dirty word to many Dopers today. From this, I think it can be said that it’s not beyond the realms of probability that te third marriage was at least for a time an open one, but my impression is that they were both deeply in love and not particularly interested in such relationships IRL, while being open-minded toward them in later fiction. Much of Heinlein’s reticence about his past was not due to personal embarrassment but rather to the economic and social realities of the time – a leading author of children’s books, which was how he was generally viewed during the 1950s, could not at that time have a past full of radical politics and sexual peccadillos (at least what would be categorized as such by 1950s establishment views).

I always wondered why Heinlein never had any kids.

Polycarp, that’s the impression I got from reading Expanded Universe and his memoirs (published posthumously by Ginnie; possibly not an unbiased editing, but I like to think she published what he wrote without changing the tone).

For people who want to pooh-pooh his writing about open relationships in spite of maybe not having actually been in any: he didn’t live to be 2,000 years old or fly a spaceship, either, but he did a pretty good job writing about that…

Well, none that we (heh-heh) know about.

You’ve got it backwards; the reason I suspected he hadn’t been in any open relationships was because his writing about them is so poor. If his rhetoric had been better, I never would have thought about it in the first place.

Much in the same way that I have a hard time believing Piers Anthony has ever actually had sex or met a woman.

According to what I read in Expanded Universe he and Ginny tried for years to have children but never succeeded. Cause of the infertility was either unknown or not revealed.

Somewhere I read a friend of Heinlein’s comments who’d known RAH when he was married to Leslyn (if not Eleanor) and the wife was variously described as “a bitch” and “crazy.” IIRC, both his previous wives were described as redheads, so it would seem that RAH had a bit of a thing for redheads (completely understandable, of course).

F U Shakespeare has discussed some of his experiences with open relationships, and according to him, it seems that most of the folks involved tend to be of the conservative mindset.

RAH was a backer of Upton Sinclair before WWII, and many people have said that his politics “flipped” after the war, while other people have claimed that this wasn’t a “flipping” as more of a case of RAH feeling that so long as the US faced the threat from the USSR, his ideals were not conductive to the long term survival of the US.

In “Expanded Universe” you can see some indications of the change in his beliefs. In one non-fiction essay he argues that the existence of atomic bombs makes a World State a necessity for human survival (this was before any other nation had atomic bombs). In later fiction and non-fiction, he was against a World State. I suspect that his trip around the world may have had something to do with the change

Could be, but there were also times when RAH didn’t quite understand the culture he was visiting. In his Expanded Universe, he talks about being in the Soviet Union, and questioning the tour guide about John Paul Jones helping the Russian Navy in its formative years. The tour guide stamps her foot and shouts, “Nyet!” and goes on to deny that John Paul Jones had anything to do with the Russian Navy. RAH uses this as evidence that the people of the USSR actually believe the propaganda produced by the government, forgetting that said tour guide would not have gotten what surely must have been a cushy job if she did not vigorously defend the state’s view on things.

It’s been a long time since I read it, and I admittedly found the pidgin English an irritating barrier to comprehension, but my recollection is that Harsh Mistress features multiple marriages, not open ones. I.e., closer to Big Love than to The Ice Storm.

You’re suggesting Anthony never tied his secretary in a nude spread-eagle because she’s been brainwashed into becoming an assassin whenever vaginally penetrated?
Well, score one for me, and I haven’t even been published yet.