Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

June 24, 2019

"4 Clear Glasses Frames that say ‘I haven’t tried polyamory, but I’ve watched many VICE docs on the matter’."

This ad had me for a bit. I mean, capitalism, right?



It just appeared on a feminist site named Reductress. It's a 5-page click-by-click, because capitalism:



Aaaand now that we're off and running, a backlogged collection of poly humor from all over:

● From KamalaDevi McClure's Most Poly Man in the World top ten:

He's so honest, when he masturbates with his right hand, he tells his left.

Every time he sneezes, someone, somewhere stops cheating.

When he goes to the zoo, the bonobos watch him. ...

● On Clickhole, Experts Warn That This Polyamorous Relationship Could Expand To Cover All Of Seattle By 2021 (July 12, 2017)

West Coasters... you’re going to want to be prepared. When Adam and Kelsie started dating outside of their relationship in 2014, few expected it would grow to involve more than some close friends and Tinder matches. Today, though, experts are warning that at its current rate of growth, their polyamorous relationship could expand to cover all of Seattle by 2021.

Folks, this is not a drill.

Adam and Kelsie first came to the attention of University of Washington researchers last year, when it was discovered that their dating network already extended through almost the entirety of Seattle’s circus arts community, and was rapidly encompassing its live lit scene. It soon became clear that between their book groups, Catan tournaments, Kelsie’s aerial silk classes, kink meet-ups, burner parties, and Adam’s job at Microsoft, the couple’s vectors for expansion were virtually limitless. ...

Still not convinced? Take a look at this chart tracking Adam and Kelsie’s rapidly expanding dating lives:

“As more and more individuals realize that love’s not some resource to hoard, I think we’re going to see a snowball effect,” said Dr. Eileen Callahan.... “You don’t want to be caught off guard.  Make a plan with your loved ones for if and when you discover that monogamy is an outmoded institution for the accumulation of property, and run regular drills.” ...

● Speaking of uncontrollable spreadings, this thing is just a week old AFIAK and if you haven't been hit with it yet, now you are. You have 30 seconds.


Ada Powers
● A banquet of snark with some uncomfortable hard kernels and a dash of the bitters: The Only Poly People You’ll Ever Date, by Ada Powers (July 20, 2016). The Elder Hippie with Limitless Sexual Appetite. The Manic Poly Dream Girlfriend. The Uncomfortably Hierarchical Couple. The Relationship, and Actual, Anarchist. ...

Turns out this is the same Ada Powers behind The Coffee Break Primer on Polyamory (2016), the best compact Poly 101 for the newly curious on the entire internet IMO. You may remember it as the article with this haunting illo of teaching astronaut moves to a 1920s audience:

Joseba Elorza

● This one, of course, gets rediscovered every Thanksgiving:

● And a classic from The Onion: I'm In An Open Relationship With The Lord:

By Bonnie Nordstrum, Polytheist

...It all started when I was 16 and first asked Jesus to enter my heart. It was incredible. He filled me up with His love.... Soon the honeymoon period ended, however. Whenever I spoke to Him, He seemed distracted and distant — sometimes I wondered if He was listening at all.... A few months later, I made a potentially disastrous discovery: I found out I wasn't the only one He was sanctifying.

...I was devastated. Here I had let Him into my soul in the most intimate way possible, and He had betrayed our personal bond by accepting the thanks and adulation of Sally, and God knows how many others as well. So I steeled myself... opened up my Bible, and confronted Him. In His divinely inspired scriptures, I learned that I hadn't driven Him to seek out others.... It was part of who He was.

...To be honest, I'd been flirting with polytheism all along by accepting the doctrine of the Trinity and simultaneously worshipping the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If I could see all three of them as viable deities, why not others?

...The Lord my God is a jealous God, and He didn't like the idea at first. He made it very clear that I should take no God before Him — but he never mentioned anything about taking one after Him!... So I've gone to Native American drum circles, New Age channeling workshops, and Shinto temples. I even spent a weekend in a no-holds-barred, worship free-for-all with two dozen Hindu gods! And now that I've opened myself up to exciting new spiritual experiences, our bond is stronger than ever.

Some may think it's strange, but I'm no longer worried about other people's unenlightened moralizing. My spiritual life is better then ever! I love God — heck, I love all of them — and I am one deeply, deeply fulfilled woman.

The whole thing. Post to friends and family if you dare.


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June 16, 2019

Words matter: Polyamory vs. open relationship vs. monogamish vs. CNM...

Vero Romero/ Refinery29
It's not just that I'm a wordie by trade. I'm a stickler about accurate use of polyamory because when an idea gets its own word, the idea becomes thinkable and transmissible and real. But only as long as the word keeps its meaning. George Orwell had a lot to say about that: Political leaders who can blur what words mean can control not only what people are able to say, but what people are even able to think.

So I've long feared that if we ever lose our defining word to widespread misuse, such as if it comes to mean plain old screwing around, we will lose not only our ability to google and discover each other, we will lose the growing public understanding of what ethical, honest polyamory is all about. And even our own self-identity.

So last month when someone posted this question on Quora, I answered.

Q. Do the words Polyamory and Promiscuity mean essentially the same for all intents and purposes?

A. No. Polyamory is one type of consensual non-monogamy (CNM to sociologists) — the type in which people have multiple romantic-love relationships with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

Other types of CNM include swinging (recreational sex, usually by couples at swing parties) and open relationships (where the additional relationships tend to be more compartmentalized than in polyamory, and often less deep). As the name implies, polyamory means multi-love. Sex is usually an important part of the picture but not always; some poly relationships are platonic.

Polyamorous arrangements may sometimes become group relationships, such as triads, quads, polyfamilies, or more often, looser intimate networks. Whether or not this happens, a defining characteristic of polyamory is an ethic that, to at least some degree, “We’re all in this together,” and that everyone involved needs to display, at minimum, respect and consideration for everyone else. "Open relationship" does not carry this implication.

A recently coined distinction that many find useful is kitchen table poly, suggesting a bunch of lovers and metamours happily gabbing over breakfast, versus parallel poly, in which the relationships are more separate, overlapping common ideas about open relationships.

Consensual non-monogamy itself is one type of non-monogamy in general — a larger category that also includes cheating and, for singles, simply dating around.

[Edited since original post.]

My concern has lessened in recent years. The expanding poly community has held pretty firmly to its defining identity while remaining friendly with the other flavors of CNM, which define themselves as they like. And of course there are many overlaps and partial cases.

And the media? They're often obtuse about matters that are off their beaten path, but they've been surprisingly good about getting this one mostly right.

I'm sure this is because of our community's diligence in representing poly accurately and calling out ignorant misuses of the word when we see them. Thank you, dear people!

So here's a collection of how media have been defining poly and other branches of CNM in the last year or so. They range from sort of okay to spot-on. How would you grade them? This is long; settle in.

● In the feminist Refinery29: Swinger, Monogamish, & 6 Other Words For Open Relationships (May 10, 2019). My grade: A.

By Kasandra Brabaw

When you're taking your first timid steps into the land of open relationships... you'll likely be inundated with a whole new lexicon of terms. ...They each have a different meaning and set of rules attached. So, which word is right for you and your boo's new situation?...

Swinger: A swinger is someone who has multiple sexual relationships outside of their primary romantic relationship(s). Swingers usually don't have emotional connections to people outside of their romantic relationship(s). Some swingers have sex only with close friends (friends-first swinging), and some have sex with strangers or go to swing clubs for the purpose of finding sex with other swingers.

Open relationship: "Open relationship" is sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe any relationship that isn't sexually and/or romantically monogamous, including polyamory. Open relationship is also sometimes used to describe non-monogamous relationships that aren't polyamorous, meaning that people are allowed sexual experiences outside of their relationship but not love or romance.

Monogamish: Sex columnist Dan Savage coined the term "monogamish" to mean "mostly monogamous with a little squish around the edges."...

Polyamorous: The roots of the word "polyamory" literally mean "many love," and that's an accurate description. Polyamorous relationships are different from most other open relationships because it's the intention of partners in a polyamorous relationship not only to have sex outside of their primary partnerships, but also to find love.

There are many variations of polyamorous relationships. Some are poly and closed, meaning that the group has decided not to have sex with or find relationships with anyone else. Some are poly and open, meaning partners in the group could still have outside sex and relationships. Some include just three people, some include many different people. Some can have all partners on equal footing and some consist of a primary relationship with secondary relationships branching out from there.

Ethical Non-monogamy: Ethical or responsible non-monogamy can describe pretty much all open and polyamorous relationships. It is a term that sets these kinds of relationships apart from cheating by demanding that every partner in an ethically non-monogamous relationship know and agree to their partner's outside sexual ventures. ...

Polyfidelity: Polyfidelity is one form of polyamory, and could also be called a closed polyamorous relationship. Polyfidelitous relationships involve more than two people, but don't allow for partners in the relationship to have sex or relationships with people outside of the already established group. ...

Polygamy: The roots of the word polygamy means "many marriage." So, people in a polygamous partnership will have multiple spouses or be one of multiple spouses. ...

Relationship Anarchy: While polyamorous relationships thrive on guidelines and "rules" for the partners involved [Sometimes, sometimes not! –Ed.], relationship anarchists believe that there should be no rules or expectations in any kind of relationship, nor that any one type of relationship holds precedence over another. A relationship anarchist might see a platonic friend as having the same level of importance as a sexual partner, for example. And they wouldn't feel constrained to monogamy, because they believe that everyone should be able to seek relationships spontaneously.

● Earlier on Refinery29, by the same author: What's The Difference Between Polyamory & An Open Relationship? (Jan. 30, 2018). I give this one an A+.

...When consensual non-monogamy started to finally get some screen time in popular shows like Broad City, more and more people were suddenly having conversations about polyamory and open relationships.

...But the show didn't show a polyamorous relationship. Even though both fall under the umbrella of consensual non-monogamy, polyamory and open relationships are two very different things.

Lula Hyres
For many people, being polyamorous is an important part of their identity, not just a word to describe having multiple sexual or romantic partners at the same time. "Being polyamorous feels hard-wired to their love-lives," says sexuality educator Aida Manduley, MSW. Meanwhile, people in an open relationship don't necessarily think of non-monogamy as part of their identity as much as a personal preference.

...[But] the main difference comes down to commitment. For people in an open relationship, connections made outside of the relationship are usually just about sex. They're not looking for another person to love or build a second relationship with, and they likely wouldn't introduce the people they have sex with to their primary partner. "Open relationships are more likely to have a 'don't ask, don't tell' rule....

Meanwhile, the word "polyamory" literally means "many loves" and that's a good working definition. Instead of just looking for sex outside of their primary partnership, poly people are often looking for love. It's not about having one night stands with your partner's permission, it's about creating deep emotional and romantic bonds with multiple people and forming a tight-knit community. It's more of a culture in that way, says Kate Stewart, a counselor and dating coach who works with polyamorous couples. The poly community in Seattle, where she lives, is incredibly close. "Everyone knows each other, they hang out together, they party together," she says. ...

So, why are the nit-picky differences between these two words so important? Because words have power in creating and finding community. That's also why it's important to have accurate depictions of polyamory on television and in other forms of media, because so many of us begin to understand who we are through what we see. If there's nowhere for polyamorous people to see a love that looks like theirs (or at least, the kind of love they want to have), then it's unlikely that they'll ever find the community they need.

● Says bi poly writer Zachary Zane in Prevention, a health-supplement magazine: What’s the Difference Between Ethical Non-Monogamy, Polyamory, and Open Relationships? (June 11, 2019). I give it a B+.

...People aren’t just in open relationships, they’re in polyamorous, swinging, polyfidelitous, and monogamish relationships too. (And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. ...)

The distinctions [are] necessary to differentiate the important nuances between each type of sexual and romantic connection. ...

Ethical non-monogamy is an umbrella term for all types of relationships that aren’t monogamous, meaning it includes every single defined term below. The word “ethical” is thrown in to make it abundantly clear that non-monogamy differs from cheating and lying to your partner. ... [False. "Non-monogamy" means everything that's not monogamy  by definition!  including cheating.]

Open relationship. Most simply, an open relationship is one where you can sleep with folks outside of your primary relationship or marriage. People in open relationships typically keep their relationships with others strictly sexual. They’re not trying to date or fall in love with another person — although that sometimes can happen — which can complicate things. ...

Swinging falls under the larger “open” umbrella, but has more specific guidelines. As Gigi Engle, a certified sex coach and educator, tells Prevention.com: “Swinging is when a committed couple engages in sexual activities with others as a form of recreation. ... It's an activity a couple does together and is usually considered part of their shared sex life.”

Monogamish. ...Relationships that are, for the most part, monogamous, but allow for little acts of sexual indiscretion (with the partner’s knowledge). Folks in monogamish relationships don’t often have sex outside the relationship. When they do, it’s usually when one person is out of town for work. The sexual flings with others are, for lack of a better word, meaningless. ...

Polyamory. ...Those who are in a polyamorous relationship have an intimate, romantic, and/or sexual relationship with more than one person. [People can also] claim the poly label because they want to make it clear that they are open to the idea of loving more than one person at a time — and so too are their partners. ...

With ethical non-monogamy, things can also change over time. What starts as an open relationship can evolve into a polyamorous one. Or, after years of being polyamorous, you and your partner can decide you’d like to go back to being monogamous, or something else entirely. ...

● In Men's Health at your supermarket checkout: Everything to Know About Non-Monogamous Relationships, Including Polyamory, Open Relationships, and More (April 24, 2019). Grade: B-.

By Charlotte Grainger

...It can be hard to get your head around the labels, and how they actually play out in practice. ... Sexologist Stella Anna Sonnenbaum walks Men’s Health through the different types of non-monogamous relationships and what makes them unique.

PeopleImages/ Getty
Open Relationships. ... The term is not as clear-cut as it may sound. In fact, it can actually be applied to a variety of relationship styles, all of which have one oh-so-important thing in common.

“It means that you are not in an exclusive relationship with your partner,” Sonnenbaum explains. “It usually refers to sexuality, so either one or both partners have the option to have sex with other people outside of the relationship.”

...Monogamish partners are mainly monogamous in their sexual choices. However, as the name suggests, they may both be willing to stray from this when the mood takes them. ... “What we say in monogamish relationships is, ‘I choose to be with you. I may have sex with other people, but I choose to put you first.’”

"Swinging" may conjure images of fish bowls filled with car keys, but it doesn't have to be that way. The contemporary incarnation of this relationship choice could mean a range of things, including having a long-term arrangement with another couple. ... [In fact, long-term pairs of swinging couples sometimes become poly quads in all but what they call themselves. –Ed.]

Polyamory. This type of non-monogamous relationship style allows partners the freedom to have multiple romantic and sexual relationships at the same time.

"It could be a couple having romantic and sexual bonds with other people outside of the relationship, but it could also be a single person who has multiple romantic and sexual relationships...,” Sonnenbaum says. Every polyamorous situation is a little bit different. Here, four polyamorous people explain what their love lives are like.

Hierarchical Polyamory. But wait just a minute — what about setting some ground rules here? Well, that’s where hierarchical polyamory comes into play. This next choice means that couples decide which of their relationships is their major focus, i.e. the ‘primary relationship,’ but can still have other relationships outside of that.

Polyfidelity ... may sound a lot like polyamory, [but] while polyamory is considered an "open" relationship style, polyfidelity is "closed," in that the multiple people involved do not have relationships with people outside their group. [Actually, polyfi is almost always considered a subset of polyam, not a separate thing.]

Relationship Anarchy ... throws the rulebook straight out of the window. Yes, relationship anarchy is just that: an entirely open sexual situation. In short, people can have sexual and romantic interactions with whoever they want and ditch the labels. ... [Actually, RA is a developed philosophy that individualizes all relationships, from sexual to birth-family to work-related. See the first bullet item above.]

● On Page Turner's ever-insightful Poly.Land:  What’s the Difference Between Polyamory & an Open Relationship? (April 1, 2019). Gets an A+ for combining linguistic precision with real-world flexibility.

Q: I have been thinking of something for the past week or so, and it has been scratching at my mind and I’m not really sure why because I don’t really care about labels. ...

When you talk about “open relationships,” there are a couple of ways of looking at it. In one view, “open” is a modifier of relationship, explaining whether the people involved are allowed to have additional partners. So in a certain sense, all relationships are either open or closed.

patchok/ CC BY
Polyamory (except for polyfidelity, a form of non-monogamy where people have more than one partner but can’t seek new ones) is a form of relationship that is open.

So polyamory is a form of open relationship.

However, “open relationship” is also used as a phrase colloquially by some people to describe relationships that are sexually open but not emotionally open.

...But not all people who are saying that they’re in “open relationships” are polyamorous. Which might make it so polyamorous people could find it less helpful to identify themselves as being in an open relationship (although in a technical sense they are, since their relationships aren’t closed). ...

Descriptive Versus Prescriptive Labeling

In general, I take the stance that there isn’t necessarily objectively one right label to use in any given situation. Instead, the right label is a matter of who you’re talking with and what you’re trying to communicate to them. This is known in linguistics as being descriptive about labeling rather than prescriptive. ...

● In The Independent, one of the UK's leading newspapers: What Is Polyamory and How Does It Work? (Nov. 5, 2018). The Independent may excel at government and politics, but this piece gets a C- for klutziness overall. Relevant bits for our purposes here:

By Chelsea Ritschel

...Polyamory, which is defined as loving more than one person, is often mistakenly considered the same as an open relationship — which is not always the case.

In reality, polyamorous relationships are unique in that they are comprised of multiple, loving partnerships.

For some people, a polyamorous relationship involves being in a relationship with multiple people, but having one main partner. For others, polyamory is the possibility of being in two completely separate relationships.

“The fundamental philosophy of polyamory is that sexual love shouldn’t be confined to the strictures of monogamy, but expressed freely and fully,” Winter told The Independent. “Another tenant [sic] of polyamory is that both individuals know of their partner’s lovers."

While the boundaries in polyamory are different from monogamous relationships, they do still exist — whether by defining who can enter into a relationship or putting limits on how much time can be spent with each partner. [The more of this the worse your chances of it working! –Ed.]

“On one hand, polyamory removes the secrecy and betrayal of trust that surrounds an affair,” she said. “On the other hand, managing compersion (finding joy from a loved one's pleasure in another) is the stumbling block that trips up most polygamists [sic].”

How is polyamory different from an open relationship?

In polyamorous relationships, it is not completely about sex, whereas an open relationship is typically defined as having outside sexual relationships that do not form into relationships.

With polyamory, the point is to have multiple relationships — as love and emotional connections are the driving forces. ... [At least she got that part basically right, though reality is not always so simple.]

● In the Irish Examiner, in Is fidelity old school, as – it appears – open relationships become more common? (Jan. 9, 2019):

...Polyamory in all its ethical-non monogamy shouldn’t be confused with having an open relationship. In the latter, sex with others is part of the package. Falling in love is not. ...

● On a site called The Manual: What Is Polyamory and How Does It Work? (undated, 2019)

Kitchen table (Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty)
...An open relationship tends to have the most rules in order to preserve the core relationship. Rules can range from not sleeping with friends, to restricting queer/pansexual/bisexual people, to only dating people of their gender.

...Polyamory tends to focus more on romantic relationships, but it can include casual partners. The main schools of polyamory are hierarchical, anarchic, egalitarian, and solo-polyamory. ... [Which the story goes on to describe.]

● On Quora, Michael Rios of Network for a New Culture brought a deeper perspective when answering What is the difference between open marriage, swinging and polyamory? They look the same on the outside. (Nov. 4, 2018)

...Polyamory is really about creating a chosen extended family, without the restrictions of sexual exclusivity. This creates an open field for emotional intimacy with each person who becomes part of your chosen family; and new relationships, whether or not they are sexual, are not seen as a threat to existing relationships.

Most of these relationships are likely to also be sexual partnerships at one time or another. But at any given time, some will have a sexual dimension, others haven’t yet, others never will (and this is known by both persons), and some were sexual partners, but no longer are. ...

● In Women's Health, What's the Difference between a Polyamorous and an Open Relationship? (April 2, 2018). The article merits an A; this is just one bit:

For once, the ambiguity of this overused stock photo is relevant to the story. (Getty)

By Kristin Canning

...While the two share some similar characteristics, they’re very different. “An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexual relationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, loving relationships with multiple people,” says Renee Divine, L.M.F.T., a sex and relationships therapist in Minneapolis, MN.

Both open and poly relationships are forms of consensual non-monogamy, and technically, polyamory can be a type of open relationship, but expectations tend to be different when it comes to these relationship styles.

Are you looking for more love or more sex? ...

● Carol Queen describes a more realistic (that is, "descriptive") fluidity in the open-vs-poly distinction, as quoted in the Daily Dot: What it takes to make an open relationship work" (July 13, 2018). Overall, grade A. Two pieces of it:

GoodFreePhoto/Creative Commons  (CC-BY)

...“An open relationship is basically any relationship that isn’t undergirded by expectations of monogamy and exclusivity,” author and sexologist Carol Queen told the Daily Dot. “They can take many forms, and can range from casual ‘friends with benefits’ connections to solid, lasting (and non-monogamous) relationships.”

...“Some open relationships are more casual, but others are very deep and committed.”

Polyamory, which translates to “loving many” is one way to be open. ... “Polyamory is generally understood to involve people engaged in more than one relationship in a way that’s consensual, negotiated, ongoing to some extent, and honest....”

Queen says some poly folks view various partners as an extended family. “Think a big Thanksgiving dinner full of everyone’s lovers and lovers’ lovers,” she says. “Others keep their other partnerships more separated.”

Regardless of the way a person approaches polyamory, the unifying theme is loving relationships. Polyamorous people aren’t just having casual sex with different people at the same time. Instead, they’re establishing multiple, emotionally invested partnerships with all participants’ full knowledge and consent.

● In the feminist online mag Bustle, Lea Rose Emery explained things this way in her introduction to 13 People On Reddit Share Why They're In An Open Relationship (June 4, 2018). A for clarity.

While open relationships can involve being romantically and emotionally monogamous, with the freedom to explore sexually, polyamory is a type of open relationship that's typically about having long-term, multiple meaningful relationships with people.

According to Poly-Coach, polyamory is often associated with the idea of being "in love" with more than one person, which open relationships aren't always, even if there may be some level of emotional connection. Although Poly-Coach emphasizes that every poly or open relationship will be shaped by the people in that relationship. ...

Getting your definitions of "open" and "poly" right is crucial when you're dating, but that's only half of it. The other half? Making sure you each understand the other's definitions!

How? Ask. And ask in practical terms; don't be theoretical or you're liable to get book-learning in response. Instead ask, "How do you do poly?" Then listen very carefully. If you hear a deal breaker, be ready to accept that you've just heard a deal breaker.

Elite Daily posted How To Write A Dating App Bio For An Open Relationship That's Fully Transparent (May 7, 2018):

By Annie Foskett

I cohost a podcast about dating. ... I spoke to relationship coach specializing in open relationships Effy Blue, and licensed psychotherapist and dating coach, Shaina Singh, LCSW about the right way to introduce an open relationship when using dating apps. ...


While the words are often interchanged, being in an open relationship and being polyamorous can mean two different things. "Open relationships are relationships that are not defined by sexual fidelity where the couple mutually agrees to have sexual relationships beyond the dyad [pair]," explains Blue. "Some people use 'open relationship' and 'polyamory' synonymously. Open relationships being only about sex outside the relationship and polyamory being multiple romantic and loving relationships pursued simultaneously." She adds that it is important to have a conversation to understand what a person means by "open relationship," as there are multiple definitions.

Be honest with a potential partner about exactly what you and your current partner's arrangement is. ... "A good way to handle these initial conversations is to invite potential dating partners to have a conversation about what your open relationship means to you. The key is to invite rather than impose."

If you're new to open relationships, or if you've matched with someone whose bio mentions an open relationship, and you're not sure if you're ready to be in one, take a look at Effy Blue's 7 Tips for Dating In Open Relationships. It's a free download that will help you navigate the language around opening a relationship up on dating apps. ...

● Finally, for completeness of the record, here's an earlier post on media definitions of polyamory that I did a year ago.

I'm not obsessive, oh no, not me.


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June 11, 2019

As unicorn hunting spreads,
Vice nails it.

Remember when polyamory was so obscure that anyone who'd heard of it was almost surely a kind, big-hearted utopian dreamer who got it the same way you did? Or so it seems through the rosy lenses of memory.

People entering the scene today have never known a time when you didn't need to be so cautious as you do now.

As ever, deep and honest communication from Day 1 about who you are, what you want, and what you don't is crucial. As ever, this means knowing yourself and standing up for yourself — and speaking with integrity. But nowadays a lot of clueless ordinaries and outright bullshitters are using the polyamory buzzword to suggest that they are something they are not.

Fortunately many media are educating about this, such as Vice yesterday. Excerpts:

Bisexual Women Explain Why They Hate Being 'Unicorn Hunted' for Threesomes

Ella Strickland de Souza

As nonmonogamous dating and polyamory have become more popular, the practice of couples using dating apps to deceive women into being their mythical 'third' is on the rise.

By Sophie Hemery

Chloe*, who is bisexual, had her dating app set to exclude men when she matched with Cat. Though Cat's profile mentioned being interested in "someone to join" her and her boyfriend, it also said she was up for dating solo. Chloe clarified that she wasn't interested in a threesome, and the two of them shared what she describes as "fast-track intimacy." Two dates and some sex later, Cat abruptly called things off over text.

"I did feel a bit let down because I’d allowed myself to be vulnerable," Chloe tells me. But it wasn’t until one more text came that she felt actual animosity. "It was something along the lines of: 'I hope this isn’t too much, but would you be up for meeting me and my boyfriend?' " Chloe was angry and hurt. "I feel like the connection we shared was actually just to manipulate me into a threesome. To reel me in." Upon reflection, she feels the experience was "toxic and actually kind of dehumanizing."

As nonmonogamous dating and polyamory have become more popular in recent years, sex educator Ruby Rare tells me that having a threesome with another woman has become something of a gateway drug for heterosexual couples.... "The reality is that there are lots of people getting involved in these conversations who might not have much education" around sexuality, gender, and feminism — which isn’t surprising, considering the state of sex-ed in schools.

..."Unicorn hunting refers to people looking for somebody to be the perfect fit for what they want sexually or romantically," says author and academic-activist Meg-John Barker. "Often the phrase is used in the context of man/woman couples who are searching for a 'hot bi babe' who will fancy them both equally and join them for a threesome. ...

"Some of the criticism of unicorn hunting is about it coming from a heteronormative standpoint, where the needs of the man/woman couple is prioritized and where there might be a sense that it's for the man's benefit — wanting to see his partner with another woman," Barker adds. "Where his partner's sexuality is assumed to be flexible in a way his is not. Perhaps even all about his desire, not hers, and not the other woman's."

...Even users of lesbian dating apps such as HER aren't safe, with many users reporting unicorn hunters commonly popping up in their potential matches.

In response to the proliferation of unicorn hunting on all kinds of dating apps, there is a Facebook community with over 9,000 members devoted to sharing experiences of being "hunted." Some women-who-date-women now feel compelled to open their app profiles with lines like "I am not your unicorn," "No, I don't want to meet/fuck your boyfriend," and, "No threesomes please." ...

Francesca — who had a threesome she feels was "very male gaze-y," after being unicorn hunted online — says she feels bisexual women are hunted most often in this way because they "are seen as greedy and promiscuous and always up for sex" according to societal stereotypes. "A lot of it feels really essentializing and potentially exploitative," she says. ...

"Hitting people up for threesomes isn’t a very consensual thing to do unless they have specifically said in their profile that they are open to this," says sex educator Justin Hancock. ...

Zoë... says her main problem with it is that couples are usually deceitful in their approach, and end up reinforcing oppressive structures such as patriarchy and heteronormativity.

"I find that typically guys use their girlfriends as bait," she says. ... Zoë has been "duped quite a few times in what is supposedly a queer space. ... I really have a problem with the duplicitous approach that couples have, to move under the radar in queer or progressive sexuality spaces."...

Holly experienced this dynamic after matching with Clara, who was in a nonmonogamous relationship with a man. Her and Clara became close, and it was only after two years of dating and friendship that she "suddenly realized that the plan the whole time… was just to get me to sleep with her boyfriend."

In Priya’s case, initially she was interested in having a threesome with the couple who sought her out online—but in the end she found their approach disrespectful. While she had been enjoying getting to know the woman over text, one day "the woman disappeared and suddenly the man took over." Priya said this felt "weird," like her connection with the woman was insignificant. ...

This kind of treatment has left much of the queer community with a sour taste surrounding unicorn hunting. "A couple looking for someone together isn’t inherently problematic," says Zoë, "but the idea that: 'This is my partner, and this is someone I’m just fucking who I don’t really give a shit about but is fulfilling my needs right now.' ...


Luna Matatas — who describes herself as "a card carrying unicorn"—started teaching workshops on pleasurable group sex after a "ton of terrible" experiences. "I'd say 95 percent of the time, I felt like I was being invited into a couples' space as an 'invited intruder' — sort of like, 'We want you here, but don't get too close, don't take up too much space with your desires…"

Luna can now spot red flags on app profiles — such as those asking for "no drama" and not detailing anything about their interests or positive traits

"When I teach, it's the exact same problems that come up all the time — the couples are usually very protective around their own needs and desires… and they forget that the other person is not just there to serve them." She urges couples to think about what they’re offering someone else. Her own best threesome felt positive from the outset.... And crucially, she says, the couple "recognized their couples' privilege." The couple put her comfort and pleasure at the center of the experience, and they were "treating me and them like three separate people."

...And if a couple would prefer someone to enact their fantasy? Maybe they should consider paying a sex worker rather than asking a bisexual woman to do it for free.

Follow Sophie Hemery on Twitter.

The whole article (June 10, 2019).

● Also, wise advice from Page Turner on her Poly.Land site: 10 Questions to Ask a Couple in Order to Vet Them for Dating (Feb. 7, 2019).

● Happy, healthy unicorning does happen, as I've said before. Some women (and bi guys) find that being a couple's secondary or friend-with-benefits fits into their life well. But they take care to maintain their independence and autonomy. They tend to be fearless about rooting out unexamined couply assumptions and spreading them on the table under a bright light for discussion. Such intentional unicorns, being on the good side of a supply/demand imbalance, can pick their couples as carefully as they like. And/or have as many as they want.

● Last year I posted a news-article roundup titled Unicorn Hunting as a Widely Recognized Thing. It became the 5th most read of my 1,536 Polyamory in the News posts since I started this thing in 2005.

● Of course Kimchi Cuddles has many comics on the topic (click back through "previous"). For instance...

Kimchi Cuddles, used by permission. Click to enlarge.



June 4, 2019

Refinery 29: "The Best Dating Apps For Non-Monogamous Couples"

Here's a signal boost for an article yesterday in the feminist Refinery 29 — because so many of you bemoan the limited poly-specific dating pool, and the annoyance and drama that arise from casting nets that, however well you try to craft them, drag up the wrong fish.

The Best Dating Apps For Non-Monogamous Couples [and poly singles, might I add? –Ed.]

By Erika W. Smith

...Polyamory is typically defined as being in multiple romantic relationships at the same time, with everyone knowing and consenting. Ethical non-monogamy is an umbrella term that encompasses a lot more — polyamory, as well as swinging, having threesomes, and having occasional casual sex outside a relationship (which Dan Savage calls “monogamish”). In other words, ethical non-monogamy is anything outside of a monogamous relationship, with everyone involved knowing and consenting. ...

In recent years, some mainstream dating apps have made tweaks to be more welcoming to polyamorous couples [sic]. In 2016, OkCupid added a feature allowing people who list themselves as “in an open relationship,” “married,” or “seeing someone” to link their profiles to their primary partner’s. Other apps, such as Feeld, have been developed with non-monogamy in mind.

...Be honest in your bio. Say what you're looking for, not what you're NOT looking for. [And, I might add, specify exactly what "polyamory" means for you.] Be kind. Don't get overzealous with swiping, because there won't be a perfect person waiting there. ...

Then comes a click-along slide show (because capitalism) briefly describing Feeld, OKCupid, PolyFinda, Tinder, and #open. Those are their logos above.

The article (June 3, 2019).

My previous posts about poly dating.


Labels: ,

June 1, 2019

"Estimate of Number of Non-Monogamous People in US." New updates.

Eli Sheff signing a book at a polycon
My last post was about guesses of how many people will be open or polyamorous in the future. Here's an update on the prevalence of polys today, from sociologist Elisabeth Sheff. She posted it a few days ago on her Psychology Today blogsite The Polyamorists Next Door, which she maintains with a steady stream of important and useful stuff.

Updated Estimate of Number of Non-Monogamous People in U.S.

In a previous blog [2014] I explained the challenges of estimating the number of polyamorous people, including who to count and how to count them. Since then, scholars have tackled these challenges and come up with some surprising results that document the number of people involved in consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships in the United States.

As I explain in Seven Forms of Non-Monogamy, consensual non-monogamies take a range of forms including swinging, polygamy, open relationships, polyamory, monogamish relationships, and relationship anarchy. ... Rubin and colleagues defined CNM as “any relationship agreement in which the partners openly agree to have more than one sexual or romantic relationship(s).”

Lifetime Experience

Using two separate samples based on the US Census, Haupert and colleagues found that fully one-fifth of the population in the United States (21.9% in the first sample and 21.2% in the second sample) has engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point in their lives. The percent of the population reporting some experience with CNM remained remarkably stable across many categories such as age, race, social class, religion, region, education level, and political affiliation. ...

A different research team found similar results.... Rubin and colleagues found that men were slightly more likely than women to engage in CNM, and thought that might be due to the prevalence of CNM among gay men and/or lingering stigma from a sexual double standard that judges women more harshly than men for [reporting their] promiscuity.

In practical terms, that means — no matter where you live, how old you are, your race, or what kind of religious or political affiliations you have — at least one in five of your friends, neighbors, family members, or coworkers has tried swinging, had a threesome, or been in an open relationship of some sort.


More people try CNM at some point across their lifetime than are currently in a CNM relationship at any single point in time. Rubin and colleagues found that 4% to 5% of the population of the United States was currently involved in a CNM relationship. While that might sound like a small number of people, it is larger than the entire bisexual, lesbian, and gay population combined.

Probable Underestimate

Even though the number of people reporting current or lifetime experiences with consensual non-monogamies is considerably higher than anticipated, it is probably a significant underestimate. There are several reasons for this. ...

Read on (May 27, 2019).

Also: Ryan Witherspoon posted yesterday on the PolyResearchers list,

Nationally representative data from American samples indicates that 4% of relationships are open/non-monogamous in some way (Levine, Herbenick, Martinez, Fu, & Dodge, 2018), which matches the percentage found in a representative Canadian sample (Fairbrother, Hart, & Fairbrother, 2019).

Furthermore, multiple representative studies have found that approximately one in five adults report prior engagement in a consensually non-monogamous relationship (Fairbrother et al., 2019; Haupert, Gesselman, Moors, Fisher,
& Garcia, 2016).

Regarding LGB populations, the only nationally representative data to date indicates that 32% of gay men, 5% of lesbians, and 22% of bisexual identified people reported being in open relationships (Levine et al., 2018). Other, non-representative studies have found higher rates of engagement in consensual non-monogamy among LGB people. Regardless, it’s safe to say that prevalence of consensual non-monogamy is higher in LGB populations than among heterosexuals.

We currently lack enough data to say what proportions of these relationships are polyamorous vs. swinger vs. open, etc.


Fairbrother, N., Hart, T. A., & Fairbrother, M. (2019). Open Relationship Prevalence, Characteristics, and Correlates in a Nationally Representative Sample of Canadian Adults. Journal of Sex Research, 0 (00), 1–10.. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2019.1580667

Haupert, M., Gesselman, A., Moors, A., Fisher, H., & Garcia, J. (2016). Prevalence of Experiences with Consensual Non-monogamous Relationships: Findings from Two Nationally Representative Samples of Single Americans. Journal
of Sex & Marital Therapy, 0715
(May), 00–00.

Levine, E. C., Herbenick, D., Martinez, O., Fu, T. C., & Dodge, B. (2018). Open Relationships, Nonconsensual Nonmonogamy, and Monogamy Among U.S. Adults: Findings from the 2012 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47 (5), 1439–1450.


Also in recent polyamory research news: Rhonda Balzarini (York University, Toronto) and colleagues recently published a report titled Eroticism Versus Nurturance: How Eroticism and Nurturance Differ in Polyamorous and Monogamous Relationships.

In polyspeak, that means NRE (new-relationship energy) versus ERE (established-relationship energy).

Here's a popular summary of their paper by Balzarini herself, on PsyPost:

People in polyamorous relationships diversify their need fulfillment across multiple partners

Andriy Petrenko

New research provides insight into why some people choose to have multiple romantic relationships at the same time. The findings suggest that this arrangement — known as polyamory or consensual non-monogamy — can help individuals have a greater set of their needs met.

Our new study, which has been published in Social Psychology, was the first to examine the roles that different partners within polyamorous relationships play in meeting a person’s needs for eroticism and nurturance.

Often, in relationships, the sexual intensity is high in the early stages — couples tend to have frequent sex and report high desire and passion. But as the relationship progresses, the sexual intensity tends to fade, while comfort, closeness, and intimacy tend to increase.

...In polyamorous relationships, where all parties agree that additional sexual or romantic relationships are permitted, partners may be more likely to have these needs met simultaneously, since they can diversify the fulfilment of their needs via multiple relationships.

The growing body of research on consensually non-monogamous relationships has found that polyamorous relationships can be as satisfying and intimate as monogamous relationships, but in my work, I want to understand the factors that are linked with satisfaction and intimacy in polyamorous relationships.

One of the unique aspects of polyamorous relationships is that couples can diversify sexual and relational need fulfillment across different partners, but we know little from a research perspective about how people do this. ... We recruited a large sample of individuals who were in monogamous (N = 2,183) and polyamorous (N = 1,168) relationships. ...

Our results suggest that people who are polyamorous and have multiple relationships experience greater nurturance with primary partners (compared to secondary and monogamous partners) and greater eroticism with secondary partners (compared to primary and monogamous partners). Furthermore, we found that eroticism and nurturance were in most instances associated with reports of closeness and sexual satisfaction — so experiencing those sexual steamy feelings for a partner, as well as experiencing emotional support, security, and care, seem to benefit our relationships.

One key takeaway is that people in polyamorous relationships do seem ... to experience the best of both worlds. ...

...We saw mixed results when testing how having needs met in one relationship was associated with satisfaction and closeness in the other relationship. For example, we found that when polyamorous individuals reported more eroticism with their secondary partner, they reported greater closeness with a primary partner. However, greater eroticism with a primary partner was associated with less closeness with the secondary partner.

Taken together, these findings suggest that although multiple relationship may help individuals meet their needs for eroticism and nurturance, experiences with one partner do not always enhance a concurrent relationship, though more research is needed to understand how having one’s needs met across multiple relationships is associated with intimacy and satisfaction in each relationship, as well as overall need fulfillment.

As with any study, there are several caveats and future directions that arise from this work. ...

The whole article (May 21, 2019).

Their research report in Social Psychology (online April 17).