Live Science: "Polyamory Stigma Lessens with Familiarity"
The above may seem obvious to us, but research supports it: publicly out polyfolks help all of us. And so does in-depth treatment of poly in the media.
Watch for this article to turn up elsewhere this Valentine's Day week. That's what happened when Live Science produced pieces about poly around Valentine's Day two years ago: see New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You and 5 Myths About Polyamory Debunked. Live Science is a news-feature service as well as, it claims, "one of the largest science sites on the internet" with 8 million monthly viewers.
The article is by Stephanie Pappas, the author of the previous two.
Polyamory Stigma Lessens with Familiarity
By Stephanie Pappas
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Could you juggle multiple romantic relationships at one time — if each of your partners knew about the others? How about setting up your household as a triad, rather than a couple?
And what do you think of people who do such things?
Chances are, the more you know about the relationship style called polyamory, the more accepting you are of such setups, according to new research. The findings echo what psychologists know about how people respond to gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities: The greater the familiarity, the less severe the stigma.
"If people know even one gay person that they like in their life — a friend, a relative — their attitudes are much more favorable," said study [co-]researcher Traci Giuliano, a psychologist at Southwestern University in Texas. Likewise, the study found that "the more aware people were of polyamory, the more positive their attitudes were," Giuliano told Live Science.
Polyamory is often confused with swinging, but the terms are not interchangeable. Unlike swingers, who go outside their primary relationship for sex only, polyamorous people maintain simultaneous romantic ties, all with the consent and knowledge of everyone involved.
It's unclear how many people identify themselves as polyamorous, but a 2013 study in the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy estimated that between 4 percent and 5 percent of people in the United States are involved in some sort of consensually nonmonogamous relationship.
What's clear is that polyamory is moving out of the underground.... However, polyamory remains stigmatized: A 2013 survey [2013 was the publication date] of nearly 4,000 polyamorous people found that 28.5 percent had personally experienced discrimination because of their relationship style.
...For the study, she and her colleagues gave 100 people between ages 18 and 63 an online survey about their understanding and attitudes toward polyamory. The researchers found that 60 percent of the respondents knew what the term meant, and 30 percent personally knew someone who had been or was in a polyamorous relationship. [I wonder how that sample was chosen??]
People's perceptions of the polyamorous individuals were somewhat negative, however. Polyamorous people were seen as being particularly promiscuous, as having high sex drives and as participating in unsafe sex. (The latter is particularly untrue, Giuliano noted, as a basic tenant of polyamory is communication about sexual practices. A 2012 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that polyamorous people are actually better about protecting themselves against sexually transmitted infections than are nominally "monogamous" people who cheat on their partners.)
...The next step was to see if those attitudes would budge.
In a second survey, the researchers recruited 196 people, 18 to 79 years old. A third of the participants read a brief definition of polyamory and then answered questions; another third got a longer, more in-depth description of polyamory. A final third saw a definition and then were encouraged to think about the pros and cons of monogamy in their own lives.
The people in the group that read the in-depth definition as well as those in the thought-exercise group exhibited more positive attitudes toward polyamory afterward, the researchers reported.
The results show that people's perceptions can change, Giuliano said. "There are things that we can do to improve people's attitudes," she said.
...She said she'd next like to study how particular facets of polyamorous relationships lessen such stigma. Perhaps people are open to polyamory only up to a certain number of people in the relationship, or if it involves people of only certain sexual orientations, for example, she said....
The researchers reported their findings online Jan. 30 in the journal Psychology & Sexuality.
Read the whole article (Feb. 9, 2015).
Here's the link to the published study: Three’s a crowd: public awareness and (mis)perceptions of polyamory (published online Jan. 30, 2015). The abstract is free, but the main article is behind a paywall unless you have access through a library account.
The same authors have another paper that was also just up: Development of a brief measure of attitudes towards polyamory (published online Feb. 5, 2015).