Elisabeth Sheff on diversity in the poly world
The Polyamorists Next Door. A number of her papers, presentations, media appearances, and essays are available on her website.
Last week she put up a short overview of a sometimes sensitive topic:
Diversity and Polyamory
Polyamory is a form of non-monogamy in which both women and men maintain openly conducted romantic, sexual, and/or emotionally intimate relationships. While it has been around in various forms for far longer, polyamory has burst on to the social scene in the last 10 years like never before.
In my 15-year study of polyamorists, I have found that diversity can mean three things. First, as an element of social diversity, polys join the ever-increasing cadre of what used to be called alternative families but are now rapidly becoming the norm. Second, poly relationships are quite diverse in the ways people structure their relationships and lead their lives. Third, diversity among poly people is a complex issue: they are quite varied in some ways, and homogenous in others.
...If current trends continue, the number of poly relationships will rise dramatically as members of the general public discover what I call the polyamorous possibility, or the option of adding openly conducted non-monogamy to the relational menu that used to only include being single, being monogamous, or cheating (and now also includes hooking up for certain age groups)....
While polyamory is a coherent relationship style in that polys share a common focus on honesty, emotional intimacy, gender equality, and openness to multiple partners, the ways in which people actually practice polyamory vary dramatically....
Although there is wide variation among poly relationships themselves, the people in mainstream poly communities share some significant similarities. The vast majority are white, middle or upper middle class people in their early 30s to mid 60s with high levels of education, who typically live in urban or suburban areas, and often work at professional jobs in information technology, education, or healthcare. As a whole they tend to be either non-religious or practice uncommon religions like Paganism, Unitarian Universalism, or Buddhism (although there are a smattering of Christians and a few Jews, too). While the absence of religion may signal the lack of a conventional moral framework, most polyamorists invest themselves in developing extensive ethical frameworks that structure their interactions and provide them (and their children) with guidelines for how to treat other people and live their lives.
Does this mean that there are no people of color, working class people, or Christians practicing polyamory? Certainly not. But it does mean that they do not appear in large numbers in mainstream poly communities. More diverse people might have poly relationships and not label them as such, or establish their own poly social groups independent from the mainstream communities....
Read her whole article (July 20, 2013).