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Distress from suppressing polyattraction instincts in Greece
The following thesis investigates the polyattraction instincts in the Greek population, instincts of attraction toward multiple individuals. Does the suppression of polyattraction affect individuals in Greece? The hypothesis is that the suppression of polyattraction instincts, negatively affects people’s psyche, causing distress. The researcher used the Polyattraction Instinct Suppression Scale (POISS) to respond to the question. The term polyattraction is defined and related concepts are discussed. Snowball sampling was applied, and a quantitative method of analysis was used, to allow generalization. This study is placed in a society based on monogamy and aims to the general public. 256 out of the 319 participants (80%) presented polyattraction instincts, a significantly high percentage. Only 63 individuals (20%) did not present any polyattraction traits at all. 206 out of the 256 individuals (80%) suppressed their polyattraction instincts in Greece with distressful responses associated. Reasons that influenced the suppression, like mono-normativity in Greece and the partner’s perceived emotions influenced the rates of polyattraction suppression. Younger individuals were slightly more interested in expressing their polyattraction instincts than older individuals. Individuals with higher education had increased suppression rates instead of the ones with lower education. The suppression rate in men was slightly higher than in women and men were more likely to have polyattraction instincts, too.
“It’s a Little Bit Tricky”: Results from the POLYamorous Childbearing and Birth Experiences Study (POLYBABES)
Samantha Landry, Erika Arseneau & Elizabeth K. Darling
The number of polyamorous people in Canada is growing steadily, and many polyamorous people are of childbearing age and report living with children. Experiences of polyamorous families, particularly those related to pregnancy and childbirth, have thus far been underrepresented in the literature. The POLYamorous Childbearing and Birth Experiences Study (POLYBABES) sought to explore the pregnancy and birth experiences of polyamorous people. Having previously reported findings relating to experiences with the health system and healthcare providers, this article specifically focuses on the social aspects of polyamorous families’ experiences. We explored the impact of polyamory on one’s self identity, relationship structures, and experiences navigating the social world. Anyone who self-identified as polyamorous during pregnancy and birth, gave birth in Canada within 5 years, and received some prenatal care was eligible to participate in this study. Participants were recruited through social media and interviewed online or in person. Twenty-four participants were interviewed (11 birthing people and 13 of their partners). Thematic analysis was used to explore the data, and four primary themes were identified: deliberately planning families, more is more, presenting polyamory, and living in a mononormative world. Each theme was further broken down into a number of sub-themes. We also collaborated with research participants to create a glossary of terms. By exploring the pregnancy and birth experiences of polyamorous families and focusing on participant voices, this research adds to the limited research on polyamorous families and contributes to the process of breaking down stigma associated with alternative family structures. Further, by creating an accessible glossary of terms, researchers and lay persons alike have been given access to a meaningful resource.
“Storming then Performing”: Historical Non-Monogamy and Metamour Collaboration
Brian M Watson, Sarah Stein Lubrano
We present the results of an investigation into the biographies, letters, and archives of approximately 50 well-known figures in Western intellectual and artistic history in the post-Enlightenment era. In this article, in the interest of space, we have limited our remarks to the biographies and partners of Virginia Woolf, Frida Kahlo, Max Weber, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Moulton Marston, Erwin Schrodinger, and Victor Hugo. While some of these non-monogamous relationships are well known, some of the evidence of their existence has been ignored, misrecognized, or intentionally obscured. The results of this survey demonstrate that contemporary patterns of non-monogamies are deeply rooted in historical precedence. Our hope is that by outlining some of the themes in our historical findings we can help modern researchers better interpret their own quantitative and qualitative research. Additionally, we look particularly closely at relationships between metamours. A great deal of previous psychological and sexological research has focused on competitive behavior in sex and relationships, particularly competition between rivals. However, relatively little attention has been given to collaborative (or symbiotic) behavior. Our research has located a wealth of examples of metamours supporting one another in material, social, and psychological ways throughout their lives. Furthermore, we suggest that while our existing societal and social-scientific norms primarily focus on competitive sexual behaviors, much can be learnt from historically documented practices of consensual non-monogamy. These practices-however flawed-point to potentially emancipatory ways of living, loving and building relationships, families, and communities-as some contemporary research has demonstrated. Moreover, a future world might benefit from a turn to far more collaborative relationships-and such behavior is well within the realm of possibility.
The Vices and Virtues of Consensual Non-Monogamy:A Relational Dimension Investigation
Thomas R. Brooks, Jennifer Shaw, Stephen Reysen & Tracy B. Henley
The purpose of the present study was to examine associations between heterosexual consensually non-monogamous (CNM) and monogamous relationships and variables relating to relationship functioning and individual well-being. Participants (N = 555) were solicited online and asked to rate a number of items regarding their type of relationship, satisfaction, commitment, trust, conflict resolution style, and well-being. As compared to participants in monogamous relationships, people who participated in CNM reported more satisfaction, commitment, intimacy, passion, and love. Additionally, participants in CNM favoured positive problem-solving with their partners, while monogamous participants preferred withdrawal tactics. Lastly, CNM participants also reported higher psychological well-being. Collectively, the results support past findings of overall health and functionality of CNM relationships, which deviates from the mononormative assumptions of our society.
Eroticism Versus Nurturance. How Eroticism and Nurturance Differs in Polyamorous and Monogamous Relationships
Rhonda N. Balzarini1 , Christoffer Dharma, Amy Muise1, and Taylor Kohut
Romantic partners provide both erotic and nurturing experiences, though these may emerge more strongly in different phases of a relationship. Unlike individuals in monogamous relationships, those in polyamorous relationships can pursue multiple romantic relationships simultaneously, potentially allowing them to experience higher levels of eroticism and nurturance. This research examined eroticism and nurturance among individuals in polyamorous and monogamous relationships. As expected, polyamorous participants experienced less eroticism but more nurturance in their relationships with their primary partner compared to secondary. Furthermore, people in polyamorous relationships reported more nurturance with primary partners and eroticism with secondary partners compared to people in monogamous relationships. These findings suggest that polyamory may provide a unique opportunity for individuals to experience both eroticism and nurturance simultaneously.
Relationship Trajectories in the Margins: Considerations of the Structure and Course of Nonmonogamous Relationships
Terri D. Conley, Jennifer L. Piemonte, and Staci Gusakova
As researchers who study alternatives to monogamy, we find Eastwick et al.’s (this issue) framework compelling. Our particular interest is in the application of the framework to relationships that do not fit the monogamous norm. How might relationship trajectories apply in relationships that do not follow culturally prescribed trajectories? In this commentary we consider three broad categories of relationships that do not adhere to traditional monogamy scripts: hook-ups, consensual and nonconsensual dyadic-based nonmonogamy, and polyamory.
Satisfaction in Consensual Nonmonogamy
Curtis Garner, Chelsi Goddard, Adrienne Patridge
Inaccurate stigmas and stereotypes may prevent individuals involved in consensual nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships from getting the counseling they seek when facing relational issues. Misperceptions regarding the satisfaction level of individuals in CNM relationships may perpetuate stereotypes and complicate therapeutic care. The current research attempted to determine the satisfaction levels of those involved in CNM relationships using the Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS) and the Relational Assessment Questionnaire. Results of N ¼ 150 find a mean of 4.12 (0.76) on the RAS for the CNM group indicating no difference in satisfaction between the CNM sample and individuals identifying as monogamous. This research offers important considerations for counselors in reviewing biases and judgments they may hold in working with this population and contributes to the dearth of literature on CNM populations.
The Religious and Philosophical Characteristics in a Consensually Nonmonogamous Sample
Akhila E. A. Kolesar, Seth T. Pardo
Consensual nonmonogamy refers to the variety of ways people partner romantically and/or sexually with multiple others. This study examined the spiritual identities of people who self-identify as consensually and openly partnered with more than one person, as well as if and how these identities changed since childhood. Moreover, to deepen previous transpersonal research that investigated how nonmonogamous paradigms of loving contribute to spiritual development, the study also examined between group differences of whether nonmonogamous sexual behavior and spirituality are emotionally linked. Data were gathered from 484 participants;
they were mostly college-educated, Caucasian, bisexual women in their 30s, who were raised in moderately conservative, Judeo-Christian households. The majority self-identified as polyamorous. Between-group differences tests revealed that participants reported lower degrees of religiosity and greater degrees of liberalism since childhood, and a change from more traditional to nonreligious but spiritual values in adulthood. Data also suggested that pagan spiritualities may provide more supportive philosophical and spiritual frameworks that normalize and validate nonmonogamous behavior, nonheterosexual interests, sexual desire, and the sacredness of sexuality. Clinical implications of these findings are discussed.
Compulsory Monogamy and Polyamorous Existence
This article examines the construction of monogamy as a social institution through various discursive fields. It shows how religion, sexology, psychology, law and popular science all play a part in the normalisation and naturalisation of monogamy as the only normal, healthy and moral way to maintain a romantic relationship. It goes to further show how a traditional gender binary and a sexual double standard are constructed as a part of this mononormativity in each and every one of those discursive fields. Following that, the article looks into polyamory through a queer and feminist lens, and explores its theoretical potential in subverting these patriarchal conceptions. It then suggests the idea of the ‘polyamorous continuum’ and the ‘polyamorous existence’ as an alternative paradigm to the institution of monogamy. It is a paradigm that allows for a broader spectrum of relationship formations, including ones that feature elements of sexual and/or romantic exclusivity, which are bereft of the patriarchal elements of mononormativity.
Demographic Comparison of American Individuals in Polyamorous and Monogamous Relationships
Rhonda N. Balzarini, Christoffer Dharma, Taylor Kohut, Bjarne M. Holmes, Lorne Campbell, Justin J. Lehmiller & Jennifer J. Harman
Research on polyamorous relationships has increased substantially over the past decade. This work has documented how polyamory is practiced and why individuals might pursue such arrangements. However, there is a lack of a systematic investigation of who is in polyamorous relationships and how they might differ from individuals in monogamous relationships. The present study is one of the first to address this by comparing the demographic backgrounds of individuals in polyamorous (N = 2,428) and monogamous (N = 539) relationships in the United States. Compared to participants in monogamous relationships, those in polyamorous relationships were more likely to report minority sexual identities. Despite similar age distributions, individuals in polyamorous relationships were more likely to report being in a civil union, being divorced, and earning less than $40,000 per year compared to individuals in monogamous relationships. People in polyamorous relationships were also more likely to select “other” options for most demographic characteristics, suggesting that they tend to choose less traditional response options in general. The current research highlights several demographic differences that need to be considered and potentially controlled for in future comparisons of polyamorous and monogamous relationships.
Dimming the “Halo” Around Monogamy: Re-assessing Stigma Surrounding Consensually Non-monogamous Romantic Relationships as a Function of Personal Relationship Orientation
Rhonda N. Balzarini, Erin J. Shumlich, Taylor Kohut and Lorne Campbell
Previous research suggests that both monogamous and consensually non-monogamous (CNM) participants rate monogamous targets more positively. However, this pattern of stigma toward CNM relationships and the “halo effect” surrounding monogamy is at odds with the view that people typically favor members from their own groups over members of other groups. In the current research, we sought to re-examine the halo effect, using a more direct measure of stigma (i.e., desired social distance), in a methodological context that differentiates between the three most common types of CNM relationships. A convenience sample (N = 641) of individuals who self-identified as monogamous (n = 447), open (n = 80), polyamorous (n = 62), or swinger (n = 52) provided social distance ratings in response to these same relationship orientations in a counterbalanced order. Congruent with prior findings, CNM participants favored monogamous targets over CNM targets as a broad category (replicating the halo effect). However, results indicated this effect dissipated when participants were asked to differentiate between relationships they identify with, and other CNM relationships. Furthermore, supplementary findings suggest that monogamous targets were perceived to be the least promiscuous and were associated with the lowest perceived sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates, while swinger targets were perceived as the most promiscuous and were associated with the highest perceived STI rates. Consequently, our results imply social distance is partly attributable to the perception of STI risk, but not perceptions of promiscuity.
Harmful and helpful therapy practices with consensually non-monogamous clients: Toward an inclusive framework
Heath A. Schechinger, John Kitchener Sakaluk, Amy C. Moors
Perceptions of exemplary and inappropriate practices predicted therapist helpfulness ratings and whether participants prematurely terminated their therapeutic relationships. Qualitative results point toward the importance of having/pursuing knowledge about CNM and using affirming, nonjudgmental practices.
Metamour Connections as the Underpinning of the Fabric of Polyamory
This paper has a double purpose. Firstly, it is meant to present an intellectual tool for analyzing the possibilities in the way relationships evolve; I call this tool the tree model of proximity. (The name comes from the fact that the development of this tool has been inspired by an Aristotelian idea, which has come to be referred to as the tree model of reality.) The tree model of proximity is a tool for modeling interpersonal closeness and understanding how closeness arises via consensual decisions. Secondly, this paper is an attempt to apply the tool to analyze a specific kind of relationship within the polyamorous conceptual framework: a metamour relationship, meaning a non-romantic bond between persons x and z, who are both romantic partners of person y. By focusing my analysis on metamour relationships, I wish to draw attention to them. I claim that although romantic bonds typically rouse more interest when discussing and defining polyamory, we should not underestimate the importance of non-romantic connections within the polyamorous network. Despite being less visible, these bonds are significant and constitutive of polyamory.
‘My partner was just all over her’: Jealousy, Communication and Rules in Mixed-Sex Threesomes
Ryan Scoats, E. Anderson
Drawing on findings from interviews with 28 men and women, this study explores experiences related to communication and jealousy in mixed-sex threesomes. Findings suggest that those in relationships often experience feelings of exclusion when engaging in threesomes, although open communication is a method by which the negative effects may be mitigated. Some romantic couples agree on particular rules during their threesomes, symbolically demonstrating the specialness of the relationship as well as protecting it from further progression into non-monogamy. Although communication appeared less important for those having threesomes when not in a relationship, it still played a role in determining participants’ use of contraception whether the threesome occurred while in a relationship or not. Study findings are contextualised using the concept of monogamism, with it being suggested that threesomes involving romantic couples can serve to help maintain institutional monogamy, rather than trouble it.
Pleasure, risk perception and consent among group sex party attendees in a small Canadian Urban Centre
From a health perspective, group sex parties represent risk environments, as multiple sexual partners and polysubstance use associated with these parties may present risk practices for sexually transmitted infection (STI) transmission. At the same time, group sex parties exemplify sex as recreation, expressed in contemporary sociological theory as sex as leisure or play. In this paper, we report on the findings of an exploratory qualitative study conducted with group sex party attendees and hosts/organisers in a mid-sized Canadian city. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with thirteen individuals identified several sexual communities based on gender composition, sexual orientation, and sexual practice, with variation among and within groups in terms of sexual consent and STI disclosure. All the interviewees discussed at length issues of harm reduction and consent, suggesting that these factors contribute to participants’ group sex party experiences regardless of their sexual community. These insights highlight the potential use of group sex parties as avenues to understanding the integration of harm reduction practices with the pursuit of sexual pleasure, information applicable in the context of a wide range of sexuality education programmes.
The Kintsugi Art of Care: Unraveling Consent in Ethical Non-Monogamies
Making a contribution to the sociology of intimacy, this article aims to present how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer people live their ethical non-monogamous relationships in Italy. Giving great space to the concept of consent through the literature on the ethics
of care, I will refer to different conceptualizations of critical consent given by feminist and BDSM communities, spaces in which ethics is based on unveiling power structures through the focus on consent. In fact, the centrality of the collective dimension in embracing ethical non-monogamies appears fundamental, challenging the self-help – and neoliberal –literature according to which polyamory is just a personal choice. Afterwards, I will deepen the concept of care, developing it through its means of communication, attentiveness, responsibility, and responsiveness within relationships. Presented this way, care recognizes us all as interdependent: at the same time, care-givers and care-receivers. I suggest that this interdependency is symbolized by the kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a mix of golden powder, a representation of the manifold matrix of care, composed of care-giving, care-receiving, and care for oneself.
“Three (Is Not a Crowd)”: An Analysis of Tom Tykwer’s Polyamorous Film Three
Many contemporary films about non-monogamies still depict them as adultery or side-notes of an ‘unconventional lifestyle’, but Tom Tykwer’s Three manages to be a trailblazer for a more realistic and mature portrayal of polyamorous relationships in cinema. Centred on an upper-middle class, childless, hetero couple in their early 40s who get romantically and sexually involved with the same man, the film narrative follows the transformation from a monogamous to a polyamorous relationship. This paper uses critical discursive analysis (CDA) for the analysis and finds that Three, besides dismantling monogamy as a futile intimate arrangement, also addresses social issues, such as mononormative adultery, male bisexuality, changes of emotional and sexual selfhood, ageism, childlessness, pregnancy and body image, and new familial forms.
Sexual satisfaction among individuals in monogamous and consensually non-monogamous relationships
Terri D. Conley, Jennifer L. Piemonte, Staci Gusakova, Jennifer D. Rubin
Monogamous people reported slightly lower sexual satisfaction and lower orgasm rates than those who are CNM. Swingers consistently reported higher sexual satisfaction than monogamous individuals, whereas those in open relationships had equivalent levels of satisfaction to those in monogamous relationships. Relationship satisfaction did not differ between CNM and monogamous groups.
Coming out Through an Intersectional Perspective: Narratives of Bisexuality and Polyamory in Italy
Through an intersectional perspective, the author analyzes what it means to perform a bisexual and polyamorous identity in the Italian familistic welfare regime. Considering the intersections of polyamory and bisexuality, the author employs the Greimas semiotic square to read the process of coming out experienced by people who shared their experiences on polyamory: two interviewees define themselves as bisexual ciswomen, and one self-defines as a transsexual gay man in a primary relationship with a self-defined bisexual cisman. Afterwards, the author explores how they live their intimate lives through compulsory invisibility, coming out, and staying invisible. Finally, the author focuses on how the existence of non-normative communities opens up the possibility of meeting other bisexual people in a context where there are no bisexual communitie, and argues that this process allows people to self-identify as bisexual and polyamorous in the public sphere.
How Complex Is Your Love? The Case of Romantic Compromises and Polyamory
Ben-Ze’ev, A. & Brunning, L.
This article highlights a somewhat neglected aspect of love (and of emotions in general): their complexity. We suggest distinguishing between three major related types of emotional complexity: emotional diversity, emotional ambivalence, and emotional behavior. The notion of emotional complexity has far-reaching implications for understanding emotions and our wellbeing. This is illustrated by examining the notion of emotional complexity in two common yet complex phenomena in the romantic realm: romantic compromises and polyamory.
“I think that I’m not a relationship person”: Bisexual women’s accounts of (internalised) binegativity in non-monogamous relationship narratives
This article explores how women (who either had relationships experiences with more than one gender or broadly defined themselves as bisexual) link their non-monogamous relationships with their bisexuality and analyses how these accounts could be argued to reflect these women’s (internalised) binegativity. While binegativity is widely researched, there is a lack of qualitative empirical work on the complexity of bisexual lives in general and of internalised binegativity in particular. This article contributes to these areas of research by drawing on interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to analyse nine qualitative interviews from an ongoing study of bisexual women in Austria. For some of these women, their experiences of non-monogamous relationship forms were linked to (internalised) binegativity, expectations of rejection and concealment of one’s identity; for others, they presented a form of agency. The women showed a range of reactions and strategies related to the positioning of bisexuality and (internalised) binegativity, particularly regarding unfaithfulness: Adoption of binegative self-attributions, excusing the antibisexual notions of others, and engaging in additional emotion work to ensure faithfulness to their partners.
Investigation of Consensually Nonmonogamous Relationships: Theories, Methods, and New Directions
Terri D. Conley, Jes L. Matsick, Amy C. Moors, and Ali Ziegler
The premise that monogamy is the exemplary form of romantic partnership underlies much theory and research on relationship quality. This bias has prompted methodological issues that make it difficult to effectively address the quality of nonmonogamous relationships. We found few differences in relationship functioning between individuals engaged in monogamy and those in CNM relationships. Researchers presenting findings favoring polyamory were perceived as more biased than researchers presenting findings favoring monogamy.
Perceptions of primary and secondary relationships in polyamory
Rhonda N. Balzarini, Lorne Campbell, Taylor Kohut, Bjarne M. Holmes, Justin J. Lehmiller, Jennifer J. Harman, Nicole Atkins
Participants reported less stigma as well as more investment, satisfaction, commitment and greater communication about the relationship with primary compared to secondary relationships, but a greater proportion of time on sexual activity with secondary compared to primary relationships.
Relationship Structure, Relationship Texture: Case Studies in Non/Monogamies Research
This article develops case studies from qualitative interviews with people in negotiated non-monogamous relationships to ask what discursive or practical factors besides non/monogamy might play a role in assessments of a relationship’s structure or worth. Beginning with an auto-ethnographic reflection on the way the ‘significance’ was recognised and misrecognised in one polyamorous ‘thrupple’, I introduce three case studies of people in negotiated non-monogamous relationships in order to bring a cultural studies method of the particular to the study of intimacy. For the individuals in these case studies, the practice and experience of non/monogamy is inextricably
linked to the ideas and practices surrounding gender, sexuality, sex work, friendship, HIV status and ability. Sketching a middle path between the romantic’s dream of love as a state of exception or exemption from the social and the theorist’s map of the patterned effects of hetero- and mono-normativities, this paper attends to the contingency, flexibility and incoherence which so often underpins the sense we make of relationships, even as that sense is shaped by the practices, ideals and institutions of intimacy, love and friendship.
Unique and Shared Relationship Benefits of Consensually Non-Monogamous and Monogamous Relationships A Review and Insights for Moving Forward
Amy C. Moors, Jes L. Matsick, and Heath A. Schechinger
The increased media and public curiosity on the topic of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) presents an interesting case, given that
these types of relationships are highly stigmatized. In the present review piece, we first situate common themes of benefits that people believe are afforded to them by their CNM relationships within the current state of the literature to provide insight into unique and shared (with monogamy) relationship benefits. This approach helps uncover relationship benefits and theoretical advances for research on CNM by highlighting some of the key features of CNM relationships that people find rewarding, including need fulfillment, variety of activities, and personal growth and development. Second, we discuss common misconceptions about CNM and stigma toward CNM. Finally, we conclude with future directions and recommendations for scholars interested in pursuing research on CNM.
Why Two in One flesh? The Western Case for Monogamy over Polygamy
John Witte, Jr.
Questions about polygamy are likely to dominate Western family law in the next generation. Two generations ago, contraception, abortion, and women’s rights were the hot topics. This past generation, children’s rights and same-sex rights have dominated public deliberation and litigation. On the frontier of Western family law are hard questions about extending the forms of valid marriage to include polygamy and extending the forums of marital governance to include religious and cultural legal systems that countenance polygamy. This Article analyzes the 1,850 year tradition of Western laws against polygamy and the growing constitutional and cultural pressures to reform these laws today. I show how the traditional Western cases against polygamy and same-sex unions used strikingly different arguments drawn from the Bible, nature, rights, harm, and symbolism. I conclude that, because these arguments are so different, Western nations can responsibly hold the line against polygamy, even if they choose to accept same-sex marriage and its accompanying norms of sexual liberty, domestic autonomy, equality, and nondiscrimination. I reject ideological arguments, pro and con, that anti-polygamy laws are a form of traditional Christian morality. I reject slippery slope arguments, from the right and the left, that acceptance of same-sex marriage must inevitably lead to acceptance of polygamous marriage. And I reject arguments from domestic and international sources that religious freedom norms command the accommodation, if not validation, of religious polygamy. The West may, and in my view should, politely say no to polygamy. An Appendix to the Article provides a detailed guide to different forms and terms of plural marriage discussed and prohibited in the West—real polygamy, constructive polygamy, successive polygamy, and clerical polygamy.
Around Consensual Nonmonogamies: Assessing Attitudes Toward Nonexclusive Relationships
Katarzyna Grunt-Mejer, Christine Campbell
Consensual nonmonogamy is a term used to describe intimate romantic relationships that are sexually and=or emotionally nonexclusive. The present study examined the social norms that are violated by different forms of consensual nonmonogamy and the negative judgments that result. We asked 375 participants to rate hypothetical vignettes of people involved in one of five relationship types (monogamy, polyamory, open relationship, swinging, and cheating) on items related to relationship satisfaction, morality, and cognitive abilities. The monogamous couple was perceived most favorably, followed by the polyamorous couple, then the open and swinging couples who were rated equally. Participants judged the cheating couple most negatively. Although social norms of sexual and emotional monogamy are important, we conclude that the aspect that has the most effect on judgments is whether the relationship structure has been agreed to by all parties.
Asexual Polyamory: Potential Challenges and Benefits
As is true for a wide range of diverse sexualities, polyamory is a relationship style that may be well suited for some asexual people but less so for others. Understanding the motivations that draw many asexuals to polyamory and the specific ways in which this kind of relationship can be difficult for them is a cornerstone both for providing culturally competent support and for conducting inclusive research. Three recommendations are offered below to help professionals and community members to better serve asexual and polyamorous individuals.
First, a clinician working with an asexual client should not assume what kinds of relationships the client may be a part of, or what the client’s reasons are for choosing such relationships. The clinician should also remain sensitive to aspects of relationships that may be particularly emotional for specific clients.
Researchers studying nonmonogamy can be diligent in deciding what varieties of intimate relationships to be included in their work and communicating these decisions clearly throughout the research process. If a study is limited to looking at sexual relationships, potential participants should be aware of this limitation, and research reports should be clear that the particular study does not necessarily encompass the potential richness and diversity of polyamory.
Finally, professionals advocating for asexuals through writing or speaking should strive to better reflect the full scope of experiences and insights that are represented within this community. Researchers can continue examining these rich and diverse experiences with additional study. While this paper offers insights regarding potential challenges and benefits of asexual people in polyamorous relationships, much more research is needed that focuses on the overlap between these communities. Particularly, research utilizing larger sample sizes that explores challenges and benefits, as suggested here, is warranted and useful.
Beyond Inclusion: Non-monogamies and the Borders of Citizenship
Pablo Perez Navarro
This paper aims to understand the extent to which monogamy operates not only as a constitutive element of marriage-like institutions but also as a meta-judicial source of frequently overlooked forms of state violence. Drawing on the case of the Spanish law, it explores the privilege-driven logic that regulates the access to a complex set of economic benefits and legal protections, including immigration related rights, in order to show the extent to which monogamy is part of the grounding structure of an exclusionary constitutional citizenship. In addition, drawing on semi-structured interviews held with Spanish poly activists and biographical interviews held with LGBTQ non-monogamous people, it offers a view of non-monogamous communities as paramount spaces of resistance when it comes to re-imagining the relationship between the state and the intimate realm, beyond the mere inclusion of poly and other non-monogamous intimate relationships in certain pieces of legislation.
Positive Identity Experiences of Young Bisexual and Other Nonmonosexual People: A Qualitative Inquiry
Corey E. Flanders PhD, Lesley A. Tarasoff MA, PhD Candidate, Melissa Marie Legge MSW, PhD Candidate, Margaret Robinson PhD & Giselle Gos PhD
The majority of LGBTQ psychological research focuses on dysfunction. The exclusion of strengths-based perspectives in LGBTQ psychology limits the understanding of LGBTQ mental health. In this article we report experiences that young bisexual and other nonmonosexual people perceive as affirming of their sexual identity. A 28-day, daily diary study was used to investigate whether bisexual-identified participants encountered positive experiences related to their sexual identity, and which type of experiences they perceived to be positive. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, participants’ experiences were organized according to a social ecological model. Experiences were reported at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and institutional levels, but most positive sexual identity experiences occurred at the interpersonal level. Implications for positive health outcome research and the integration of positive psychology with LGBTQ psychology are discussed, as well as study limitations.
Prevalence of Experiences With Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships: Findings From Two National Samples of Single Americans
M. L. Haupert, Amanda N. Gesselman, Amy C. Moors, Helen E. Fisher, Justin R. Garcia
More than one in five participants report engaging in CNM at some point in their lifetime. This proportion remained constant across age, education level, income, religion, region, political affiliation, and race, but varied with gender and sexual orientation. Specifically, men (compared to women) and people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (compared to those who identify as heterosexual) were more likely to report previous engagement in CNM.
Tensions of subjectivity: The instability of queer polyamorous identity and community
Krista L Benson
The experiences of polyamorous queer people highlights and extends existing questions around subjectivity and identity. This article examines a case study of three polyamorous and queer-identified women and their experiences and brings them into conversation with existing queer feminist scholarship theorizing subjectivity and happiness. In this analysis, I highlight the points of commonality and disjuncture in these women’s experiences and identities. By doing this, I am attentive to the available subject-positions for polyamorous people, their desires for sameness or commonality, and the ways that these desires are often disappointed.
Fraught Intimacies: Non/Monogamy in the Public Sphere
The sexual adventures of television characters. Dating websites for married women. News reports on raids of polygamous communities. Reality shows about polyamorists. It seems that non- monogamy is everywhere: in popular culture, in the news, and before the courts. In Fraught Intimacies, Nathan Rambukkana delves into North American society’s fixation with monogamy and its attendant fascination with non-monogamy. Drawing on media coverage, popular culture, and recent court cases, he examines how polygamy, adultery, and polyamory are represented in the public sphere and the effect this in having on intimate relationships and aspects of contemporary Western society. As this book demonstrates, although monogamy is considered and presented as the norm in Western society, many kinds of sexual and romantic relationships exist within its borders. Rambukkana’s intricate analysis reveals how some forms of non-monogamy are tacitly accepted, even glamourized, while others are vilified and reviled. By questioning what this says how about intimacy, power and privilege, this book offers an innovative framework for understanding the place of non-monogamy in Western society, particularly in relation to race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, and citizenship status. Timely and controversial, this book makes a stimulating and sophisticated argument for why we need to reconsider how we talk – and think – about non-monogamy.
Monogamy versus Consensual Non-Monogamy: Alternative Approaches to Pursuing a Strategically Pluralistic Mating Strategy
Justin K. Mogilski1, Stacy L. Memering, Lisa L. M. Welling, Todd K. Shackelford
This study examined the frequency of partner-directed mate retention behaviors and several self- and partner-rated romantic relationship evaluations (i.e.., sociosexuality, relationship satisfaction, mate value, and partner ideal measures) within monogamous and consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships. Measures were compared (1) between monogamous and CNM participants
and (2) between two concurrent partners within each CNM relationship (i.e., primary and secondary partners). We found that individuals in currently monogamous relationships (n = 123) performed more mate retention behaviors compared to those currently in CNM relationships (n =76). Within CNM relationships, participants reported engaging in more mate retention behaviors with primary partners compared to secondary partners. Likewise, CNM participants reported talking about their extra-dyadic sexual experiences and downplaying these sexual experiences more often with their primary partner compared to their secondary partner. There were no
significant differences between ratings of monogamous and primary partners in participants’ overall relationship satisfaction. However, monogamous participants reported less satisfaction with the amount of communication and openness they had with their partner compared to CNM participants’ reports of their primary, but not secondary, partner. By comparison, CNM participants reported higher overall relationship satisfaction with primary compared to secondary partners and considered their primary partner to be more desirable as a long-term mate than their secondary partner. We interpret these results within the context of previous research on monogamous and CNM relationships and hypothesize that these relationship configurations are alternative strategies for pursuing a strategically pluralistic mating strategy.
More Oxygen Please!: How Polyamorous Relationship Strategies Might Oxygenate Marriage
To us, the verdict delivered by Finkel and colleagues—that our romantic relationships are being suffocated by the demands of ﬁnances, family, and unrealistic expectations—seems undeniable. We believe that stable long-term relationships (romantic and sexual, or otherwise) are beneﬁcial to individuals and society and that attention to the goal of maintaining these relationships is a worthy endeavor. After we reviewed the problems with contemporary marriage outlined by Finkel and colleagues, we propose that polyamory could provide beneﬁts to monogamous marriage to help reorganize how and from whom people can meet their higher altitude needs—without placing the sole responsibility on their romantic partner. In addition, we believe this hypothesis is compelling enough to warrant future research. We counsel relationship researchers to consider a wide diversity of relational arrangements and the beneﬁts that those relationships afford in an effort to address these thorny issues.
Review of “More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory” by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert
Markie L . C . Twist
In their book, Rewriting the Rules: An Integrative Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships , Dr. Meg (John) Barker (2013) makes the case that we are in a state of great ﬂux, transition, and uncertainty in our understanding of relationships; a state in which the rules that have characterized both mono- andmulti-partnered relationships need to be addressed. In my (MLCB) and my colleagues’ work, we have argued that this state of great change in relation-ships is most likely related to a number of things. For example, the advent of new media and related technologies has allowed for global connectivity, while the increase in multicultural partnerships, as well as greater visibility in the diversity of sexual and gender identities, has allowed for a shift in how we conceptualize traditional gender roles (Blumer, 2014; Haym, Blumer, &Prouty, 2013). With these societal shifts, it is almost as if one’s thinking about relationships cannot help but be inﬂuenced. As these changes have been occurring, the traditional understandings of relationships in this country, pre-dominately characterized by mononormativity (Barker & Langdridge, 2010;Pieper & Bauer, 2005), monogamous privilege (Blumer, Haym, Zimmerman,& Prouty, 2014; Davis, 2011), and monogamism (Anderson, 2010), have been challenged. Indeed, an increasing number of people are now challenging this traditional, dominantly held belief about relationships and, thus, are practicing a new version of monogamy known as “monogamish” or “the new monogamy” (Madsen, 2011; Nelson, 2010). To contextualize the number of non-monogamous folks in this country, current estimates suggest that roughly 4–5% of the population identify as polyamorous (Conley, Moors, Matsick, & Ziegler, 2013), and as many as 100,000 identify as polygamous(Jankowiak, 2008).
Attached to monogamy? Avoidance predicts willingness to engage (but not actual engagement) in consensual non- monogamy
Amy C. Moors, Terri D. Conley, Robin S. Edelstein and William J. Chopik
A sizeable minority of people engage in CNM and report high levels of satisfaction. Among individuals who had never engaged in CNM, avoidance was robustly linked to more positive attitudes and greater willingness to engage in CNM. However, avoidant individuals were less likely to engage in CNM than in monogamous relationships.
‘I’m not a lesbian; I’m just a freak’: A Pilot Study of the Experiences of Women in Assumed-Monogamous Other-Sex Unions Seeking Secret Same-Sex Encounters Online, their Negotiation of Sexual Desire, and Meaning-Making of Sexual Identity.
Alicia M Walker
This pilot study looked to examine the experiences of women who are “undercover,” the meaning-making of their sexual identity, how they came to negotiate their same-sex sexual desires alongside their primary other-sex unions, and their experience of a secret, compartmentalized life. The study sought to understand their experiences as well as their meaning-making in the course of maintaining a public heterosexual persona while balancing their secret desire for sex with women. The thirty-four women in this study report lifelong incidence of attraction to and encounters with other women as well as men. They are not transitioning toward a lesbian identity nor experiencing fluidity; rather, clandestine encounters are part of an ongoing means to negotiate their opposite-sex marriages. For them, our culture’s limited notions of sexual identity are less than useful. It was important to their self-concept that their sexuality be understood in terms of its intensity and their desire for frequency and diversity of acts. They defined themselves on their own terms and by their sexual personalities and inclination toward what they considered “hypersexuality” or “freakiness.” Despite conventional ideas that women are emotionally driven in their extra-relational affairs and need to “fall in love” to participate in extra-relational sexual activity, all of the women were clear in their desire to limit their association with their same-sex partners to sexual encounters only.
It’s Not Just a Gay Male Thing: Sexual Minority Women and Men are Equally Attracted to Consensual Non-monogamy
Amy C. Moors, Jennifer D. Rubin, Jes L. Matsick, Ali Ziegler & Terri D. Conley
Concerned with the invisibility of non-gay male interests in alternatives to monogamy, the present study empirically examines three questions: Are there differences between female and male sexual minorities in a) attitudes toward consensual non-monogamy, and b) desire to engage in different types of consensual non-monogamy (e.g., sexual and romantic/polyamory versus sexual only/swinging), and c) schemas for love? An online community sample of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals (n = 111) were recruited for a study about attitudes toward relationships. Results show that sexual minority men and women hold similar attitudes toward CNM and similar levels of desire to engage in these types of relationships. Additionally, there were no differences between male and female sexual minorities’ desire to engage in sexual and romantic types of consensual non-monogamy (polyamory) or sexual-oriented types of consensual non-monogamy (swinging). There were also no differences in preference for specific types of love styles among LGB individuals. In sum, it is not just gay men who express interest in these types of relationships.
More Oxygen Please!: How Polyamorous Relationship Strategies Might Oxygenate Marriage
Terri D. Conley, Amy C. Moors
A number of principles of polyamory are consistent with the guidelines delineated by Finkel and colleagues as a means to revive the beleaguered institution of marriage. Specifically, polyamory promotes: meaningful communication between partners, extensive social support networks, creative methods of sidestepping excessive financial and household work obligations, and engagement in exciting new (relationship) experiences. Moreover, practicing polyamory may alleviate or, at least manage, one of the major sources of tension in monogamous relations: attraction to others.
My spivak is bigger than yours: (mis-)representations of polyamory in the portuguese LGBT movement and mononormative rhetorics
In this paper, I seek to contextualize the fight for the (already accomplished) legal recognition of same-sex marriage in Portugal within the wider frame of LGBT activism in this country (Cascais, 2006), and in the interplay of several differently positioned activists. Within this frame, I will analyze how the theoretical work of Miguel Vale de Almeida (2008), in seeking to legitimize the fight for monogamous same-sex marriage, seems to have engaged in identitary Othering and misrepresentation vis-à-vis polyamory. Such misrepresentation is contingent to the non-empirical confounding of polyamory and polygamy, along with the essentializing of gendered dynamics in intimate relationships, and the erasure of lesbian and gay ethical non-monogamous relationships. Thus, by deploying similar straw-men fallacies as those used by conservatives to fight against LGBT rights, polyamory is (apparently) successfully critiqued and shown to
have to subsume or silence itself to an alleged strategic essentialism required for passing legislation in favor of same-sex marriage.
This paper concludes with a reflection of the (political) dangers of petitioning for silence of Othered identities, and how such petitions are based on the same identitary violence and disciplining that LGBT movements have been trying to fight for decades, and that draws on homonationalism, homonormativity and heterosexual privileges to affirm itself.
On the Margins: Considering Diversity among Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships
Jennifer D. Rubin, Amy C. Moors, Jes L. Matsick, Ali Ziegler & Terri D. Conley
Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) encompasses romantic relationships in which all partners agree that engaging in sexual and/or romantic relationships with other people is allowed and part of their relationship arrangement (Conley, Moors, Matsick & Ziegler, 2012). Previous research indicates that individuals who participate in CNM relationships are demographically homogenous (Sheff & Hammers, 2010; Sheff, 2005); however, we argue that this may be an artifact of community-based recruitment strategies that have created an inaccurate reflection of people who engage in CNM. To achieve a more nuanced understanding of the identities of individuals engaged in departures from monogamy, the present study provides a comparative analysis of descriptive statistics of those in CNM relationships and those in monogamous relationships. Using data from two large online samples, we examined the extent to which individuals with certain demographic variables (gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and age) are over- or under-represented in CNM and monogamous relationships. Overall, we aim to promote future research of CNM that is more inclusive of diverse identities.
“Open marriages” once referred to marriages of individuals who were free to choose to be married. In contrast, closed marriages referred to something akin to arranged marriages. The 1972 release of N. O’Neill and G. O’Neill’s book Open Marriage redeﬁned the term. The best-selling American book was oriented toward reimagining marriage so its participants could develop personal lives outside marriage, but one chapter inadvertently redeﬁned marriage and monogamy. Open marriages are now ingrained in American culture. Ripe with personal and social tensions, open marriages are engaged in a variety of ways and experienced with varying degrees of success and failure.
Polyamory Research in Context: A Critical Literature Review
Polyamory, the love of more than one person at a time, has seen an increase in practice and research over the past four decades. However, much of the early research has been the “self-help” or personal account genre. Current research is beginning to explore a
myriad of topics via academic/social science methods, like jealousy, social norms, and safety. This paper will explore three topics: normativity, stigma, and diversity in the context of polyamory through a literature review that will uncover several crucial gaps for future research.
There’s no limit to your love – scripting the polyamorous self
This article explores how the polyamorous self gets storied on NSFW (not safe for work) blogs of tumblr., and the ways the scripting involved in this practice reconfigures the meanings attached to one’s self, body and sexuality. The article relies case-based narrative analysis,whenIwork the interface of ethnographic material (two year field study), textual blog content, images and individual and group interviews with polyamorous bloggers. I contextualize it via concepts of sexual scripting (Gagnon & Simon, 1973), elements of Foucault’s (1988) technologies of herself – particularly critical self-awareness self-care and Koskela’s (2004) concept of ›empowering exhibitionism‹. Sexual and romantic behaviors are often cloaked in silence and executed in privacy because of feelings of guilt and anxiety, especially so in the case of practices that fall outside of the mono-normative grand narrative stillcultivatedinoursociety.Online Can Challenge the scripted norms that regulate sexual behavior and our identities as sexual beings.
Debating Polyamory as Research: an Auto-Ethnographic Account of a Round-Table on Polyamory and Lesbianism
Daniel Santos Cardoso, Inês Rôlo Martins
Stemming from the auto-ethnographic telling of a round-table organized by a lesbian-focused activist group in Lisbon, Portugal, the authors reflect on the intersections between doing research, spreading that research, doing activism and working with / listening to sexual minorities as a way of critically involving the LGBT community and their concerns in the scientific process. As we’ll see, conflicting political and identity agendas might create tension between different minorities, and even the reinstatement of (homo-)normativity. We claim that only through debate, exposure and recognition (which mixes research, scientific dissemination and activism) can enable us to think in a way that includes others’ perspectives, but that the modes of performing debate also need to be critically reflected upon, keeping in sight the ethical concern for the intimate citizenship of those represented (and of those absent).
Love and sex: polyamorous relationships are perceived more favourably than swinging and open relationships
Jes L. Matsicka, Terri D. Conleya, Ali Zieglera, Amy C. Moorsa & Jennifer D. Rubina
Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) refers to romantic relationships in which all partners agree to engage in sexual, romantic and/or emotional relationships with others. Within the general framework of CNM, subtypes of relationships differ in the extent to which partners intend for love and emotional involvement to be a part of their multiple relationships (that is, some relationships may prioritise love over sex with multiple partners, or vice versa). The present study examined whether individuals were more likely to stigmatise relationships that: (i) focus on loving more than one person (which is characteristic of polyamory), (ii) focus on having sex without love (which is characteristic of swinging lifestyles), or (iii) involve having sex without love without a partner’s participation (which is characteristic of open relationships). In the present research, participants were assigned to read a definition of one of the three CNM relationship types (i.e. a swinging, polyamorous or open relationship) and to indicate their attitudes towards individuals who participate in those relationships. Results show that swingers were overwhelmingly perceived more negatively (e.g. less responsible) than individuals in polyamorous relationships and that people in open relationships were sometimes perceived more negatively (e.g. less moral) than people in polyamorous relationships. Overall, findings suggest that people are more uncomfortable with the idea of strictly sexual relationships (i.e. swinging relationships) than relationships involving multiple romantic/emotional attachments (i.e. polyamorous relationships).
Polyamory and Monogamy as Strategic Identities
Increasingly, challengers to antipolygamy legislation have framed polyamory as a sexual orientation, arguing that some people are immutably predisposed toward forming multiple relationships. Drawing on a qualitative study of 40 bisexual women in Toronto, Canada, this article argues that polyamory and monogamy are better viewed as strategies of sexual expression rather than as immutable orientations. Such an approach accommodates identity shifts between monogamy and polyamory that enable women to manage and negotiate their visibility as bisexuals. Viewing monogamy and polyamory as strategic identities can help health care practitioners more accurately assess their clients’ needs and health risks.
Stigma Toward Individuals Engaged in Consensual Nonmonogamy: Robust and Worthy of Additional Research
Amy C. Moors, Jes L. Matsick, Ali Ziegler, Jennifer D. Rubin, and Terri D. Conley
In our target article, “The Fewer the Merrier: Assessing Stigma Surrounding Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships,” we documented a robust stigma toward consensual nonmonogamous relationships and a halo surrounding monogamous relationships. In the present piece, we respond to six commentaries of our target article with the aim of promoting future research and policy change. First, we address questions and concerns raised by commentators using existing data and found that regardless of perceived relationship happiness, sexual orientation, or gender (of experimental targets), individuals in consensual nonmonogamous relationships were more negatively viewed on a variety of qualities (both relationship-specific and nonrelationship specific) compared to those in monogamous relationships. Second, we suggest productive future research avenues with regards to implications for social change, and strengthening methodology used in consensual nonmonogamous research. Finally, we consider common ground among the commentators as an avenue to promote coalition building through the examinations of prejudice toward individuals in nonnormative romantic relationships. We conclude that this is only the beginning of a fruitful line of research and argue that the stigma toward departures from monogamy is robust and, of course, worthy of additional research.
The association of an open relationship orientation with health and happiness in a sample of older U.S. adults
Sexual activity over the life course is strongly associated with better health and greater personal happiness, yet the sexuality of aging adults has been a neglected topic. There is a lack of research on those with a consensually non-exclusive sexual relationship style regardless of age. This research examines whether such an orientation has positive effects on sexual frequency, health and personal happiness, and how this might inform counselors and therapists providing services to older adults. The authors collected 502 responses via an online survey from individuals aged 55 and older residing in the United States who engage in consensually non-exclusive sexual relationships. Self-reported health and happiness, number of sexual partners, and sexual frequency were compared with 723 similar respondents from the nationally representative 2012 United States (US) General Social Survey. Key findings were: irrespective of formal relationship status, the non-exclusive sample reported significantly more sexual partners, more sexual frequency, better health, and were much more likely to have had an HIV test than the general US population; the nonexclusive sample also reported being significantly happier than the general population, with the exception of married men, who reported being as happy as the general population sample; and regression analyses suggest that the factors which predict better health and happiness differ between the general population and those who participate in consensually non-exclusive sexual relationships. In summary, this study examines sexuality among the healthy aging population. Participation (or interest in participation), in consensual non-exclusive sexual relationship styles can be rewarding and contribute to personal health and happiness, as much as or more than monogamous marriages. Keywords: optimal aging; optimal sexuality; sexual frequency; non-exclusive relationships; non-monogamy; sexual satisfaction; HIV testing; gerotranscendence
What Do Polys Want?: A National Survey of a Hidden Population
Jim Fleckenstein, Curtis R. Bergstrand, Derrell W. Cox II
Compared with the general adult population represented by the GSS, the LM sample is younger, more educated, happier, healthier, and more sexually active with more people. The findings from comparison between the GSS and the LM responses are a little curious. A number of the questions asked indicated significant differences between LM and GSS respondents, but other, similar questions resulted in very different trends, especially when asked about happiness versus satisfaction with health, friendships, romance, marriage, etc. We suspect that a couple of important factors relevant to the LM sample may be driving these curious results. One may be that the LM population is less influenced by social desirability bias than the GSS respondents. That is, while the general population may be inclined to answer “Great” or “Fine” to the question, “How are you?”, LM respondents may just as well give a thoughtful and truthful answer in line with a widely-held value of rigorous honesty within the polyamorous community. Another, but related, factor may be related to the significantly higher educational status of LM respondents and their highly rational assessment of all questions posed to them. In the words of one long-term polyamory activist and advocate, Jim Fleckenstein, poly folk have a life- and relationship-orientation that is “deliberative, ruminative, and picky.” They have deep friendships and connections, but they also have high expectations for these interpersonal relationships.
Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities, and Sacred Nonmonogamy: The Religious Impact of Heinlein’s and Starhawk’s Fiction
Christine Hoff Kraemer
Contemporary Paganism’s emphasis on sacred story and narrative has led to an interdependent relationship with popular media. Pagans draw inspiration from ction and also bring their practices to life in popular novels. Robert Heinlein’s 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land has had a major impact on the practice of ethical nonmonogamy in the Pagan community, an impact that is reflected in Starhawk’s 1993 The Fifth Sacred Thing. Along with liturgical echoes from Stranger, Starhawk’s novel contains sacred sex practices similar to those Heinlein describes. Unlike Heinlein, however, Starhawk is writing from life; The Fifth Sacred Thing rejects the developing real-life norms of her San Francisco-based Pagan community. Both novels also follow the generic conventions of the American utopian novel, a literary form that has influenced communal and millennial movements of the past. Together, Heinlein and Starhawk’s novels demonstrate how fiction can inspire religious practice that then appears again in fiction.
Polyamory and the Media
As the polyamory movement continues to develop, so too, does its media representation. Conservative views of complete rejection betray deep anxieties about the future of relationships and condemn polyamory on moralistic grounds. Titillating representations are only able to superficially grapple with the complexities of polyamory. They continue to retreat into the false duality of the cheating/monogamy system in their attempt at understanding polyamory’s challenge to the cultural conformity of monogamy. Positive representations show the possibility of understanding polyamory on its own terms without fear for other relationship forms. Finally the gay and lesbian movement and polyamory share the source of their oppression but experience discrimination on a different basis. Both face the dilemmas that ‘mainstreaming’ may pose and have to negotiate the terms of their potential acceptance.
Polyamory as a sexual orientation
This Article examines, from a theoretical standpoint, the possibility of expanding the definition of “sexual orientation” in employment discrimination statutes to include other disfavored sexual preferences, specifically polyamory. First, it examines the current, very narrow
definition of sexual orientation, which is limited to orientations that are based on the sex of those to whom one is attracted, and explores
some of the conceptual and functional problems with the current definition. Next the Article looks at the possibility of adding polyamory to current statutory definitions of sexual orientation, examining whether polyamory is a sufficiently embedded identity to be considered a sexual orientation and the degree of discrimination that polyamorists face. After concluding that such an expansion would be reasonable, the Article briefly outlines some issues for further investigation, including potential policy implications and the conflicting evidence as to whether polyamorists want specific legal protections.
What’s queer about non-monogamy now?
This chapter is an attempt to move beyond popular narratives that position nonmonogamy as nothing more than a personal sexual preference. Instead I want to place non-monogamy into a broader queer political agenda; and aim to see the rejection of monogamy as a political act. I have chosen to focus specifically upon polyamory and potential future moves towards political mobilization. Currently polyamory is a sexual story about interpersonal relations, but what happens when we begin to scale our sexual stories ‘upwards’ to ‘wider’ societal concerns? Although polyamory may be a burgeoning ‘sexual story’ (see Ritchie, this volume), current ways of talking about sex and love are too narrow and individualized. This limits the potential impacts of nonmonogamy as a critique of broader structural relations. Putting the politics back in to polyamory opens up the possibility for different stories to be told and alternative affinities to be made. However, at the same time we must address the false assumption that those who practice non-monogamy will have an inherent commitment to wider political change (see Aviram, this volume). I therefore suggest that there is a need to differentiate between a rejection of monogamy and a rejection of ‘mononormativity’ (Pieper and Bauer, 2006). By making this distinction we can begin to map out a vision of what a politics of anti-mononormativity could become (whilst separating it from the rather more ‘normative’ lifestyles of those who may simply be nonmonogamous). So in attempting to ask ‘what’s queer about non-monogamy now?’ we must first begin with a thorough critique of mononormativity itself. In our attempts to ‘understand non-monogamy’ there is a danger that we can still inadvertently position it as ‘other’; as something that needs explaining (and perhaps excusing). Without a critique of mononormativity we risk leaving monogamy as a practice that requires no explanation or critique. I aim to challenge the myth that monogamy serves the ‘common good’, and to demonstrate that compulsory monogamy disadvantages not just the polyamorist, but a whole host of people whose lives and loves fall outside of this conventional dyadic ideal. This chapter will be split broadly into three strands. Firstly I am going to outline how certain forms of polyamory may support rather than challenge existing sexual norms. Yet although popular narratives of polyamory are often criticized for their apolitical stance, I feel that polyamory could still be a highly useful term for queer politics. I shall therefore move on to ask what could be considered ‘queer’ about non-monogamy. In this section I shall give a brief summary of the position of non-monogamy within queer politics, and highlight some of the problems with a simplistic division between the normative and the anti-normative. Here I aim to outline some of the problems of narrowing our political agendas down to solely a matter of radical
sexual practice. Having set out my theoretical background I shall then put forward some suggestions about what a politics of anti-mononormativity could become. Ultimately I argue that our discussions about ‘mononormativity’ should not just be 1 ‘Mononormativity’ is the presumption of coupledom, and the unfair discrimination against those whose relationships do not fit into the conventional couple form. limited to a matter of sexual politics; in order to make a queer political intervention, polyamorous politics must make a move from identity to affinity.
PhD Dissertation: Turning Points in Identity and Theology: Bisexual Women Choosing Between Monogamous and Polyamorous Relationships
Margaret Anne Robinson
This study contributes to the development of nascent bisexual theology by examining bisexual women’s lives in relation to the stereotype that bisexuals desire concurrent male and female partners. Building on qualitative email interviews with forty bisexual women in the Greater Toronto Area, this thesis finds that monogamy and polyamory function as strategic identities. If bisexual theology is to speak authentically to the needs of bisexual women, it must provide a critical analysis of these identities, understand and respond to their role in shaping communities, moral agency and theological knowledge.Chapter One sets the conflation of bisexuality with polyamory in its political and theological context. Four characteristics of Catholic sexual ethics—their foundational, sacramental, social, and moral character—frame this investigation about bisexual women as subjects of theological enterprise. The conflation of bisexuality and polyamory is posed as the key challenge for both secular politics and articulating a bisexual theological perspective. Chapter Two provides a methodological overview of the qualitative research project using voice centred relational analysis (VCRA) as an appropriate tool to conduct and analyse the interviews in their social context. Chapter Three summarises the results of the VCRA analysis and highlights key themes from the interviews. Chapter Four relates the results of the primary research to the theological writing of Robert Goss and Marcella Althaus-Reid by examining five common elements in their work to assess how their work meets the challenges raised by the interview analysis. The final chapter relates these common elements in the work of Goss and Althaus-Reid to the four characteristics of Catholic sexual ethics outlined in Chapter One to emphasize the importance of building bisexual women’s communities and how this relates to the development of bisexual theology. The thesis concludes with concrete recommendations for bisexual women’s community building and offers directions for further bisexual theological work.
Transformative Potential or Social Exclusion? The Case of Polyamory
Yet, it would be unwise for several reasons to completely discard polyamory as another way of normalizing relationships. What I most like about the concept of big households is that they somehow go against the nuclear family as the most normative unit of consumption. If for nothing else, polyamorous households are worth the consideration, because they reduce the number of households by increasing them, consequently, they reduce the costs of living and the measure of consumption. In this indirect way, they may have the potential to very slowly undermine the existing social order by conforming to the consumptive logic of capitalism much less than a nuclear household. The mental health of the participants in polyamorous families is something not to be shunned either. If, as Easton proposes, jealousy is indeed something culturally constructed, and the parties in polyamorous relationships feel they can handle it and turn it to compersion, all the better. That probably will not lead to the disappearance of mental and other health problems that derive from jealousy in other “normal” cases, but at least a small part of societies may be saved from the negative effects of jealousy, both on a personal and on a relational level (and here I also consider the patriarchal repercussions of the cultural construction of jealousy). Also, as Newitz recalls Meg Barker’s words, “when people leave traditional monogamy behind, they often rethink ‘givens’ such as how to divide up the housework, money and childcare. Children of poly couples, for instance, tend to be raised by a small community instead of two parents”. If polyamorous households foster the “reconsideration” of the division of unpaid labour, and it leads to the actual redistribution of such labour regardless of gender, then polyamory has the potential to meaningfully contribute to social change, albeit on a domestic level. It is most likely that polyamory – especially at its present rate – will not turn out as politically potent and transformative as its advocates may want to believe. Still, it may become more significant than it currently is while “travelling” as a concept from sporadic to mainstream discourse and practice. But as I see it now, polyamory is more of a lifestyle choice for a select number of social groups, a phenomenon significant on an individual level, rather than something that may serve as a starting point for progressive policy making or structural change. As Klesse et al. also conclude, polyamory’s “appeal to a psychologistic individualism and liberal contractarianism may ultimately work to increase the ‘sexual privileges’ of white, non-trans, middle-class people”, and polyamory must entail much more than this in order to “go beyond a mere increase in minoritized faces and bodies and embrace real structural changes in poly discourse and scenes”.
Hot bi babes and feminist families: Polyamorous women speak out
‘Polyamory’ refers to the open acceptance of multiple romantic/sexual relationships. Whilst it is often seen, from the outside, as fulfilling men’s fantasies (representing the possibility of infidelity without guilt and having sex with more than one woman), many within the polyamorous community regard it as a more ‘feminine’ way of managing relationships, with much emphasis placed on the importance of open communication, the expression of emotions, and support networks. Most published writers on the topic have been women (Anapol, 1997; Easton and Liszt, 1997). Jackson and Scott (2004) and Robinson (1997) argue that it is important for heterosexual women to explore non-monogamy in order to radically re-work gendered power relationships, whilst Munsen and Stelboum (1999) propose that non-monogamy should be part of a lesbian feminist agenda. This paper presents an analysis of a focus group discussion with polyamorous women about these issues.
Polyamory and its ‘Others’: Contesting the Terms of Non-Monogamy
Drawing on qualitative in-depth interviews with bisexual-identified practitioners of polyamory in the UK, this article shows that love, intimacy and friendship are salient themes in polyamory discourses. An exploration of the question of how respondents define polyamory with regard to different ‘styles of non-monogamy’ reveals that the boundaries of polyamory are contested within the movement that has formed around this concept. The prevalent definition of polyamory as ‘responsible non-monogamy’ usually goes hand in hand with a rejection of more sex- or pleasure-centred forms of non-monogamy, such as ‘casual sex’, ‘swinging’, or ‘promiscuity’. The author argues that the salience of the relational ideologies of love and intimacy hampers the potential of polyamory to ground a truly pluralistic
Poly/logue: A Critical Introduction to Polyamory Special Issue Editors
津如 林, Christian Klesse
Polyamory describes a form of relationship where it is possible, valid and worthwhile to maintain (usually long-term) intimate and sexual relationships with multiple partners simultaneously. Nevertheless, debates around polyamory have often suffered from an evasion of power in the ultimate and community contexts within which the concept arose. In this introduction, we trace the political contexts in which polyamory arose, investigate their implicit assumptions from an intersectional, multi-issue perspective, and position ourselves socially and politically as editors of this special issue. We hope to provide a critical introduction to polyamory.
Intro Plural Loves: Bi and Poly Utopias for a New Millennium
“Can bisexuals be monogamous?” The embattled question lingered in the air as I participated in the support meetings and socials of the Bisexual Forum of San Diego, where local bis in a crisis came to heal their wounds and find a community they could call home. A young man felt dejected for his boyfriend and girlfriend had eloped together. A woman’s lesbian friends no longer talked to her for she had fallen in love with a man. We were in the early 1990sand bisexuality was emerging as a self-defined identity. The bisexual move-ment was waiting to happen, as bis felt invisible in conventional gay and les-bian communities and scapegoated by heterosexual society for passing theallegedAIDSviruson.Withapositiveinfluencefromsecond-wavefeminism,with the space for queer discourse opened by the gay and lesbian liberation movement, bisexuality’s claims to a legitimate place in the queer community were being heeded, as that community itself became inclusive of bis and transgendered people. The double pressure from invisibility and scapegoating outed bis who had previously passed as straight or gay, politicizing them into participants and organizers for the movement. It was the beginning of a trajectory during which many other assumptions about the modalities of erotic and romantic love would be questioned. By focusing on intersections of and convergences between bisexuality and polyamory, this collection aspires to indicate the endpoint of this trajectory, showing how the trajectory itself has changed the terms of the debate, providing enthralling answers all along.
Uncomfortable Bridges: The Bisexual Politics of Outing Polyamory
This article discusses the relationship between polyamory and bisexuality in the context of the formation of the Trent Polyamory Society, a university discussion and social group. Through a discussion of the rationale and goals of the group, and the diverse reactions to its formation, this article explores the parallels between coming out as polyamorous and coming out as bisexual. Both polyamorists and bisexuals occupy liminal subject positions (most notably between straight and queer cultural values and practices). Just as bisexuality is an uncomfortable bridge between straight and queer culture, polyamory (or public polyamory) can be seen as an attempt to ‘tame’ a culture of radicalsex, or to universalize a lesbian feminist practice. A pressure to be(come) bisexual within polyamory is discussed with reference to a similar pressure within 1970s feminism to be(come) lesbian.