Family, Human Rights, recent, Sex

Polyamory Is Growing—And We Need To Get Serious About It

We need to talk about polyamory. It’s the biggest sexual revolution since the 1960s. It’s surprisingly common among Millennials and Gen Z. It’s often misunderstood and stigmatized by mainstream monogamist culture. Some people think polyamory is the best way to integrate sexual freedom, honesty, openness, and commitment. Others think it’s an existential threat to Western Civilization.

We should take existential risks seriously. Global thermonuclear war, genetically engineered bioweapons, and artificial general intelligence could exterminate our species. But whenever I tweet about polyamory, my conservative followers react as if polyamory is a fourth existential threat. They view monogamy as the foundation of Western Civilization. Any threat to monogamy is, they think, a threat to love, marriage, family, culture, reason, nation, and gene pool. Are they right?  

The Polyamory Revolution

More people than ever are pursuing polyamorous, open, or swinging relationships. With the growing number of polyamorous relationships, we need to get serious about analyzing the costs and benefits of polyamory—not just for individuals, but for families, cultures, and nations. 

Sex-positive activists often argue that sexual relationships are matters of individual choice, and nobody else’s business. Yet sexual relationships can impose good and bad side-effects (“positive and negative externalities”) on children, communities, economies, civilizations, and future generations. Mating markets matter. Sexual ethics matter. Reproductive choices matter. Families matter. That’s why we evolved instincts to stick our noses into other people’s sex lives, and why human sexuality has often been the most controversial domain of human politics and religion.

So what is polyamory and how does it work? 

Polyamorous or open relationships are usually based on “consensual non-monogamy“—the idea that relationships can be loving, committed, and serious, without being sexually exclusive. It’s a more libertarian approach to sexuality, in which people can negotiate custom relationships, like contracts between firms or treaties between countries, while still retaining some sexual sovereignty and freedom of mate choice. Polyamory takes freedom of association seriously—not just in social and political life, but in the sexual realm. If you can choose to have more than one child, more than one friend, and more than one work colleague, you should be free to choose more than one sexual partner.

Among Millennials and Gen Z, consensual non-monogamy often takes the form of polyamory, with people having multiple parallel relationships; among older people, it often takes the form of swinging among married couples. (In this essay, I’ll use “polyamory” and “poly” as umbrella terms for all kinds of consensual non-monogamy.)

Openness to polyamory is already common among younger American adults:

  • About 4 percent to 5 percent of all adults are currently in open or poly relationships;
  • About 20 percent have tried some kind of open or poly relationship at some point;
  • Among adults aged 18-44, 17 percent have had sex with someone else with the consent of their partner, up from 9 percent among adults aged 45-54;
  • About 28 percent of adults say it is not natural for human beings to be faithful to only one person;
  • About 29 percent of adults under 30 consider open relationships to be morally acceptable—compared to only 6 percent of adults over 65.

Polyamory is still a smallish subculture, but it is already much more common than being gay or lesbian. Americans think that about 24 percent of people are gay or lesbian, but the true percentage is closer to 2 percent. Thus, among America’s 83 million Millennials, 24 million are sympathetic to poly ideals, 17 million have tried poly, and 4 million are currently poly—compared to 3 million who are gay/lesbian. When I taught my university course on “Polyamory and Open Sexuality” in 2017, my undergrads were astonished that being poly was more common than being gay—even though most of them personally had more poly friends than gay friends. 

Why Polyamory Is Hard

Poly relationships can work very well for some people. I’ve been in a successful open relationship for five years, and we’re getting married next month. Poly people report relationship satisfaction as high as or higher than monogamous people, often with different partners fulfilling different needs. But poly relationships are hard for several reasons. 

Poly people have to learn to manage their sexual jealousy, by minimizing it and/or eroticizing it. Sexual jealousy has deep evolutionary roots, with clear adaptive functions in increasing paternity certainty, protecting pair bonds, and reducing STI transmission. Jealousy is instinctive and hard to manage. But lots of emotions that we learn to manage also have deep evolutionary roots. Kids learn to manage their anger, teens learn to manage their moodiness, and married people learn to manage their irritability, but many adults have never seriously tried to manage their jealousy.

Poly people also have to negotiate and nurture their custom relationships without having good role models, social norms, sexual scripts, or social support. Polyamory is almost invisible in mainstream media, and the few reality TV shows about polyamory play up the “poly drama” rather than exemplifying good relationship skills. Also, too many poly advocates do so much progressive virtue-signaling that they’re not seen as credible spokespeople by mainstream folks. Most doctors, therapists and mental health professionals are ignorant about poly, and many are biased against poly relationships, so aren’t much help to poly people seeking guidance.

Further, poly people need to manage trade-offs in time, energy, money, and mating effort among multiple partners, who are also trying to do the same with their own partners. Naïve polyamorists say “Love is infinite,” and the polyamory logo is a heart with an infinity symbol. However, true romance requires costly commitment-signals, so every concrete manifestation of love involves limited resources. Love may not be the zero-sum game that monogamists often imagine, but it still involves real costs, real trade-offs, and sometimes real heartbreak.

Finally, there’s the intense social disapproval of polyamory, which is heavily stigmatized—more stigmatized in some ways than any sex, race, class, religion, political attitude, or sexual orientation. Conservative and religious people are especially hostile to polyamory. Poly also lacks the legal status of being a protected minority, so poly people can be denied housing, jobs, and child custody just for being poly. The political status of polyamory is comparable to that of homosexuality before the 1969 Stonewall riots that launched the gay rights movement. 

Many people try open relationships without doing their research, and they often fail. Poly doesn’t have a civilizational support system yet. We’re not brought up to know how it could work. It’s tough to be gay in a straight world; it’s tough to be a sex-positive woman in a slut-shaming world; it’s tough to be polyamorous in a monogamist world. Imagine if your culture’s norm was polyamory, and you were trying to invent monogamy from scratch, without any of monogamy’s religious, legal, cultural, or media infrastructure. You would probably have a high failure rate too. 

Other poly people do their research, read blogs and books, find like-minded friends and mentors, join poly networks, and practice their relationship skills. They often find that poly relationships offer the best of both worlds—the long-term loving commitment of pair bonds, plus the excitement of sexual variety, the charm of recreational intimacy, and the power of social networking through threesomes.

In my academic research and popular science books, I’ve argued that a lot of human behavior is driven (unconsciously) by mating effort—the drive to show off our mental traits and moral virtues to attract sexual partners. These are costly signals, and we only bother to display them when they can yield mating payoffs. Monogamous exclusivity reduces those incentives. As mating effort gives way to parenting effort, traditional married couples often get lazy about their intellectual, social, and political lives. By contrast, open relationships incentivize people to stay healthy, fit, creative, and funny, because they’re always in the mating market.  

The Benefits of Monogamy

Pair bonds go back millions of years in mammals, and at least two million years in our lineage. However, cultural institutions of monogamy seem to have developed only since the rise of Holocene agriculture and urbanization in the last 10,000 years, and they became civilizationally central only in the last couple of thousand years, as in ancient Greece and Rome. 

Monogamous societies flourished. That’s no accident. It’s important to acknowledge that the only societies that have ever succeeded in becoming large-scale technological civilizations were the ones that adopted monogamous marriage as the gold standard for long-term pair bonds and family formation.

Of course, married people often had affairs, men visited sex workers, and elites often acted polygynous or polyamorous in secret, even as they promoted monogamy in public. But monogamy has, historically and normatively, been central to complex societies. So, is polyamory a serious threat to civilization?

Well, monogamy solved some specific problems that might not be as relevant anymore.

Monogamy increased paternity certainty—a man’s confidence that his kids are really his—thereby increasing paternal investment. If you know you’re the real dad, you’re likely to be a better dad. But with condoms, contraception, and paternity testing, this is less of a concern—at least at the rational level.

Monogamy reduced the spread of sexually transmitted infections that could undermine women’s fertility. However, STIs have become much less common over the last few centuries. STIs now are more easily avoided with vaccines, PReP, condoms, and safer sex, and are more treatable with medications. Poly people are generally very safety-conscious about STIs, and have infection rates no higher than monogamists.  

Maybe most importantly, monogamy reduced the ability of high-status males to monopolize women, and helped to equalize mating opportunities. This decreased violent competition among males. Jordan Peterson has been especially vocal about the sexual-egalitarian and violence-reduction benefits of monogamy. Many “Red Pill” guys in the Manosphere are terrified that polyamory will expand the sexual underclass of male incels, but they usually confuse polyamory with polygyny. Polygyny makes it harder for lower-mate-value men to find partners, but polyamory actually makes it easier, because these guys don’t have to be good enough to be a woman’s primary partner. Also, as Steven Pinker has shown, aggression rates have already dropped a hundredfold in the last thousand years, and the state has gotten better at deterring violence with surveillance, police, courts, and jails. Some of the more neurotic polyamorists enjoy maximizing the “poly drama” in their lives, but it rarely leads to spousal homicide. 

The Benefits of Marriage

Some of the benefits of monogamy (sexual exclusivity) are conflated with the benefits of marriage (socially validated, ritualized, long-term pair bonds), but the two served rather different civilizational functions. 

Marriage customs helped reinforce commitment in pair bonds so couples stayed together while raising kids. These “commitment devices” and “public displays of connection” included costly marriage ceremonies with vows, witnesses, and emotionally powerful traditions, marriage laws and contracts that made divorce difficult and costly, and pro-marriage propaganda throughout our civilization, with many high-status married role models and religious justifications.

It’s important not to confuse these marriage customs with monogamy itself. Many polyamorous people get married and raise kids. They can take advantage of all the commitment devices that help maintain long-term pair bonds, without buying into the sexual exclusivity. (My fiancée and I have been doing that during months of wedding planning.) Commitment doesn’t require exclusivity, and exclusivity doesn’t guarantee commitment. At least in principle, marriage isn’t restricted to monogamy, any more than it’s restricted to heterosexuality. (I’m not arguing here for “plural marriage” among multiple people, only for open marriage among pair-bonded couples; plural marriage raises a whole other set of legal, familial, and cultural complications.)

Monogamous marriages can be wonderful, and bring many benefits, but they can also be frustrating, boring, and fragile. They often become asexual, and many married people are no longer hot for their spouses. Monogamously married people can get lazy about their personal habits, career ambitions, and social networks. When “infidelity” is catastrophized as the deepest betrayal that can possibly befall a married couple, a single affair can blow them apart. The claim that “50 percent of marriages end in divorce” is overblown—the divorce rate is much lower among college-educated people who marry when they’re older than 24, who aren’t pregnant when they marry, who have decent jobs, and whose spouses are the same race and religion. Still, monogamous marriage has its problems, as every observant human has learned.

Open marriages can be more resilient and exciting. Interactions with “secondary partners” can put the spark back into the marriage bed. Polyamorous people have incentives to sustain their mate value—to stay more energetic, vivid, and attractive. Since polyamorists communicate more openly about their sexual fantasies, porn use, flirtations, and other partners, they learn through experience that their partner can feel desire for others, and it doesn’t necessarily threaten their family. 

Just as polyamory can learn a lot from monogamous marriage traditions about how to sustain long-term, pronatalist pair-bonds, monogamous marriages can learn a lot from poly relationships about communication, honesty, jealousy-management, and how to keep the sexual spark alive.

How to Avoid a New Culture War over Sexuality

I don’t know what percentage of Americans will adopt open relationships in the next twenty years, but it will almost certainly increase. To avoid a new “culture war” over sexuality, I think it’s important for conservatives and religious people to understand that polyamorous openness can be integrated with marital commitment, family values, and pronatalism. It’s not helpful when the Catholic League, for example, denounces the new American Psychological Association’s Consensual Non-Monogamy Task Force (which I’m on), as evidence that the APA is “having a mental breakdown.” Historically, married Christians have been prominent in the swinger community, and have found ways to integrate sexual variety, family values, and Christian spirituality.  

Monogamy and polyamory also have a common enemy: the impulsive, short-term, alcohol-fueled casual sex culture of bars, clubs, frat parties, and Tinder. It’s possible to make a compelling ethical case for monogamy. It’s also possible to make a compelling ethical case for polyamory. I don’t think it’s possible to make a compelling ethical case for a sexual culture centered around drunken hook-ups. (Casual sex can be great, but the current American culture around casual sex rarely partakes of that greatness.)

The trouble is, most poly people are on the far-Left politically, and are atheist or New Age spiritually. Many polyamorists see poly as part of a broader progressive movement to undermine religion, capitalism, patriarchy, and the gender binary. The Green polyamorists who catastrophize about global warming are often anti-natalist and anti-family. Given the stigma against poly, the poly people willing to appear on TV are often young, eccentric “poly activists,” rather than mature professionals who happen to be poly.  This makes open relationships look like some bizarre, unsustainable variety of Leftist virtue-signaling. But it’s a mistake to think that’s all it is, for three reasons.

For a start, most middle-aged polyamorists (especially swingers) are middle-class professionals, who are centrist or conservative. Many are religious. They offer an existence proof that sexual exclusivity is not required for long-term relationships, and that familial responsibility can co-exist with some degree of sexual freedom. 

Also, most marriages between gay men are open to some degree—they’re ‘monogamish’ (as Dan Savage says), not monogamous. If gay marriages can handle some openness, maybe straight marriages can too. 

Finally, research by Justin Lehmiller shows that conservative people have more sexual fantasies about threesomes and group sex than liberal people do—the desire for openness is there, but it isn’t acted on or shared with the partner. This creates secrecy, hypocrisy, and emotional distance in conservative marriages that could be resolved through a bit more openness. 

Polyamory is coming. We could continue to ignore it. We could continue confusing libertarian polyamory with oppressive patriarchal polygamy. We could continue conflating ethical non-monogamy with unethical hook-up culture. We could misconstrue poly as an existential threat to Western Civilization, as if it’s more dangerous as nuclear war or Artificial Intelligence. 

But maybe we should be smarter about how we handle polyamory. Polyamory, at best, offers a new ethical vision of sexual relationships that prioritizes radical honesty, sexual sovereignty, freedom of association, and social networking. Poly is, admittedly, an experiment. Polyamory would not have been possible before the invention of contraception, condoms, STI testing, the evolutionary psychology insights needed to manage sexual jealousy, and the Google Calendar app to manage dates. 

Polyamory Needs Your Guidance 

Here’s the thing: polyamory’s potential as a social experiment is being squandered by many current polyamorists—many of whom belong to the radical Left politically. Widespread, sustainable poly may not be possible without some wise and sympathetic guidance from conservatives, centrists, libertarians, Christians, and other good folks who may think, at first glance, that poly seems insane or evil.

Poly needs libertarians who can explore how freedom of choice, freedom of association, and the non-aggression principle can extend into the realm of sexual relationships. Poly needs “TradLife” pronatalists willing to find common ground with the communitarian child-rearing favored by many poly families. Poly needs Christian ethicists who can imagine a more romantic interpretation of “Love they neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22: 39). Poly needs centrists who recognize that poly relationships are powerful ways to build bridges across partisan divides. 

Polyamory is going mainstream, like it or not. You already have poly neighbors and coworkers, whether you know it or not. Many of your own kids are likely to end up in poly relationships. Many of you might end up in poly relationships, sooner or later. 

This won’t be a personal or national catastrophe. It won’t be an existential threat to Western Civilization. But if we don’t figure out how to integrate polyamory with our best traditions of commitment, marriage, parenting, and family values, there will be a culture war about sexuality that makes the 1960s look like the calm before a category 5 hurricane.


Geoffrey Miller is a psychology professor at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of The Mating Mind, Mating Intelligence, Spent, What Women Want, and Virtue Signaling. His research has focused on evolutionary psychology, mate choice, human sexuality, intelligence, consumer behavior, and Effective Altruism. His website is; his Twitter is @primalpoly. 

Photo by Boxflip/Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Unconvincing. For well-adjusted, reasonable people, as the author presumably is, this may work well enough. For most people, particularly the poor, it will be devastating, further eroding norms that are a much-needed source of stability. Theodore Dalrymple has written quite effectively on this sort of thing (see Life at the Bottom, inter alia).

    Though I do think we have here yet another threat to Western civilisation, I don’t think we’re in for a cat 5 cultural war over it - our norms are now sufficiently weak that I don’t expect a great fight.

  2. Lot’s of Asperger-y types do this. Usually what you’ll get is one low to mediocre looking Potterhead chick who shacks up with a couple of neck-beards. They have lots of “furbabies” and one of the neckbands works the help desk down at the local community college so he purchases her costumes and tickets for Comic-Cons and such.

    THEY tell everyone that their relationship is “Polyamorous”.

    They also talk about affordable housing, sustainability, diversity and “authentic” Turkish food.

  3. " …because these guys don’t have to be good enough to be a woman’s primary partner. "
    Let me guess how this plays out in real life, the younger fitter partners get the sex and the older “not good enough” member in this Ménage à Trois gets to work full time and mow the lawn. That is hardly sustainable. Polygamy is a true social evil and is one of the reasons the Middle East is in such a mess. In a dimorphic species such as ours with a statistically equal number of males and females born at the same time pare bonding takes on a biological and evolutionary determinist quality that some hippie free love fad does not possess.

  4. The article says conservatives and religious people frown on polyamory. That is false. Mormons and certain Islamic groups are very big on polyamory, and they are very conservative groups. That doesn’t mean it’s right, but it means that it’s not a right/left issue. Harems are polyamorous relationships. Usually, a rich guy can afford to be polyamorous. The author’s statistics are also suspect, because he doesn’t cite the source of his evidence. He makes a lot of claims without any evidence backing him up. Where’s he pulling the info. from? His hat?

    He says we can deal with jealousy, like we deal with irritability in a marriage. Jealousy and irritability are two very different qualities.

    Children would very much complicate matters. Who’s the baby daddy? Who gets custody if one partner decides he/she wants a divorce? What would be the division of property in a divorce? I can see lawyers rubbing their hands in glee.

  5. While I don’t think polyamory is a suitable strategy for building a functional society, this was at least one of the more interesting and direct opinion pieces to appear on Quillette in some time. It’s at least a real subject. While the author writes intelligently, and does make a real bid to weigh the pros and cons, there are a number of factors he failed to consider.

    1. Monogamous marriages exist not so much for the couple but their offspring. Monogamy provides a stable home. Not altogether possible if mommy and daddy place priority nurturing their nether regions rather than their children;
    2. Paternity tests might identify the biological parent, but what if the mother keeps the baby of a different father. How does that not lead to immense complications?
    3. Why is jealousy management deemed a possible and practical option by the author but controlling your lust is not? And why would Generation Y, a generation often accused of narcissism, immaturity and a long list of emotional triggers, be the one best equipped to handle jealousy?
    4. Monogamy also offers some safety. Never mind STDs, what happens if one or the other “spouse” fucks a stalker?
    5. If you had a society that encouraged polyamory, what’s to stop me from going over to the author’s fiancee while he is eating dinner with her and be all “hey, baby” with her? After all, no one is taken.
    6. There needs to be some control in a society. You can leave some space for deviance but you can’t make deviance the norm.
    7. Also, if no one is taken and children are taught they don’t need to curb their desires, why stop at sex, why not take what ever you see lying around unattended etc.
  6. To me this feels like a cop-out. It is a coping mechanism for the too many choice paradox, and running away from responsibility. It is an excuse not to be respectful and responsible for another. What do you do when one lover needs help with groceries while the other invites you for hard booze and sex?
    If it were possible it would require very high intelligence, and equal access to all partners. It would only further drive distrust, inequality and grudge.

  7. This sounds like a 21st century version of the 1960’s “Free Love” movement. It is basically an excuse to screw whoever you want to. It makes being single more fun, but make marriage less attractive, more complicated, and therefore harder.

    Let’s face it, marriage is hard enough between two people. Add a third or fourth into the mix, and the odds of everyone working things out goes down substantially. But kids need stability, not a changing cast of care-givers. Yes, some >2 adult households can work things out, but “divorces” will be much more common than among 2-adult pairings.

    If you are not having kids this is less of an issue, but then you won’t be represented in the next generation anyway.

  8. The most useful declaration in this article is that homosexuals are actually about 2% of the population.

    As for the “data” on polyamory, I am highly skeptical. Simply going on two dates with two different people met through online dating sites in the same week is not the same as having two “relationships”. The true threshold for “polyamory working” would have to be everyone involved knowing about the other partners. Usually, that’s not the case.

    Having mistresses is not new, and it is not a “sexual orientation”.

    As for its potential, the biological imperative to reproduce includes, for men, a need to ensure that a woman’s offspring are his. For men to unlearn this desire for their women to be exclusive requires overcoming some powerful programming; something very unlikely to be achieved without serious emotional side effects.

  9. Polyamory has always raised my suspicions since it’s proponents will constantly say it’s a force for liberation, yet without fail, Polygamous societies are supremely restrictive on women. I personally think if polyamory is widely accepted in the West, within the span of a few generations we would see an exponential increase in clans which resemble those prevalent in Bigamist LDS-descended communities. We’ve already seen a frankly disturbing willingness among young women in the United States to sign up for “Sugar Dating” websites as well as dropping coded language into their profiles on more tame platforms. I see these women being quite happy to sign up for system where they can share their daddy’s health insurance in addition to the keys to the Mercedes. There are instances where people find lasting happiness through this slightly convoluted form of prostitution, I can admit that, if only to keep from being bombarded by links to “Perfect May-September” relationships cataloged on Instagram. I can also admit to being unaware of any society to feature equitable polygamy more recent than the Celts circa 100 A.D. (On the record, anyway, I understand the Sex-Pottery found in Northwest South America suggests there may have been some equity between male and female partners, but the Iberian conquerors made no effort to produce something equivalent to the profiles of the Celts offered by Roman Historians.)

    After finishing the article, the first thing I thought of was Phylis Chesler’s piece on the world of The Handmaid’s Tale where she counted the ways in which it was incongruous with what women experience in the West. I figured without widespread adoption of Religions permissive of polygamy, the United States could never openly foster Harems. An entirely secular society would still confine such things to the shadowy worlds of men like Warren Jeffs and Jeffrey Epstein. This article gives me pause, however. In fact, it has increased my aversion to polyamory, since acceptance of the practice could well result in a world where a young woman every bit as naive as Miss Chesler circa 1960, could experience all the same abuses endured in Afghanistan right here at home.

  10. Some posters here are saying how this would complicate marriage, but they forget that the author specifically said he wasn’t talking about polygamy. I suppose he thinks our Muslim friends will just agree with him that polygamy raises all kinds of negative issues not at all related to what he’s talking about, and that they won’t use articles like this as a wedge to try and gain legal polygamy in the west as it complies with sharia.

    Take a look at the photo accompanying the article–a woman with two men–and consider his words about eroticizing jealousy. There is a push to bring the cuckold lifestyle to the mainstream, but with the sexes reversed from the traditional (I’d say more natural) form of ploygamy we see all over the world already.

    I’ve heard it said that both monogamy and nonmonogamy are equally natural. Serial monogamy seems to be the common compromise between the two. What I havent heard of (and please feel free to enlighten me–I’m admittedly not the most knowlegable about history and other cultures) is a model where women get harems of men. It’s where this push toward cuckdom is intended to go, and it’s about the most unnatural thing I can imagine, moreso than homosexuality or transgenderism. Don’t get me wrong: cuckoldry is totally natural and happens all the time. Hearts are broken and weak men are doormats every day. But they want us to accept and embrace it as something good and desirable. This article is just more evidence of the left’s war on normalcy itself.

  11. There’s a trope that poly people are like vegans - you can count on them telling you all about it. This try-out for the Oppression Olympics sure counts.

    I never considered myself poly, but I was in an open relationship for several years, longer than I’ve been with my husband. My experience is that it is only sustainable, at least as a woman, if you don’t really care about your partner. It is only desirable if you are unsatisfied with your partner. Perhaps for men it’s different, because of their different mating strategies, but that still bodes poorly for the stability of poly relationships, and for the author’s marriage, for that matter.

    I’ve had friends and acquaintances in the open/poly market, and like I was at the time, they were damaged, insecure, and “virtue” signalling to make up for it. The claim is that you’re so comfortable and confident in your relationship and in yourself that you don’t feel threatened, but the reality is that it is emotionally easier to give permission to your partner to have sex with other people than to suspect they are doing it behind your back. Open and poly are natural choices for those who don’t trust their partners and don’t love themselves enough to believe they can find someone trustworthy. Knowledge gives some semblance of control.

    As the author describes, poly is a fad belonging to the leftist fringe. His statistics suggest people try it out when they’re young and leftist, but desist when they get older, more comfortable with themselves, and meet someone they can actually fully commit to. Far from promulgating this awkward phase in modern young people’s lives, conservatives should be showing them the light at the end of the tunnel: you don’t need to be a pink-haired non-binary polygamous SJW to get attention. Adult life is rewarding in a deeper way.

  12. It didn’t come off as “think about it.” It came off as “It’s inevitable, choke on it!”

    Instead of treating a fad among disaffected youth as “the future”, maybe we should treat it as the symptom of decay that it is.

  13. Thus, among America’s 83 million Millennials, 24 million are sympathetic to poly ideals, 17 million have tried poly, and 4 million are currently poly—compared to 3 million who are gay/lesbian.

    I strongly doubt that polyamory is anywhere near as prominent as people believe it to be. The figures given in the article extrapolate a number of small, likely inaccurate, surveys. And ‘trying’ or being ‘sympathetic’ to polyamory is hardly evidence of a growing number of practitioners - just that the community is more tolerant (at least publicly) of unorthodox relationships.

    I know of several men who were in ‘open’ relationships (with one claiming to be a polyamorist), and over time it became blindingly obvious that all of them felt pressured by their (female) partner to enter this arrangement, rather than truly believing in the concept. Honestly, it was quite sad seeing some of them being manipulated by their partners, who selfishly wanted the benefits of a monogamous relationship while having other sexual partners at will. The views of their ‘main’ partner weren’t all that important, nor did anyone appear to call out such self-centred, disrespectful behaviour.

    Exacerbating matters was the apparent belief amongst peers that, because it was the woman demanding the ‘polyamorous’ relationship, it was somehow acceptable to ignore what the male partner felt. If the roles were reversed (aka fundamentalist Mormons or Muslims) I have no doubt that the woman’s friends and family would be accusing her polyamorist male partner of brainwashing or psychologically abusing her, and the community would actually listen!

    Polyamory is going mainstream, like it or not. You already have poly neighbors and coworkers, whether you know it or not. Many of your own kids are likely to end up in poly relationships. Many of you might end up in poly relationships, sooner or later.

    It’s not going mainstream. In time it will become pretty clear that this form of relationship is unstable, unworkable and unfair, and–like the free love movement before it–will fade away, with only a handful of devoted believers remaining. Unfortunately there will be a fair few suckers who will be screwed over (no pun intended) by their partners into embracing this lifestyle, and will be left damaged and hurt when it inevitably fails. That’s what we need to prepare for, not some unprecedented growth of poly relationships.

  14. The author hasn’t had kids yet. Heck, he hasn’t even married yet. But here he is, extolling the supposed virtues of 'polyamory". He wants us to believe that a 22 year old with no responsibilities who is sleeping with several partners at once, is the same thing as a 35 year old couple with three children doing the same thing. I’m not going to tell him what to do in the privacy of the bedroom, and who knows, maybe this works for some people. But that’s not at all the same as pretending this is a viable, stable, functioning movement, good for society overall. It’s not.

    What this article comes across as is a) a way for the author to justify his own sexual kinks by trying to argue it’s totally normal and cool and a rising movement ‘more common than being gay or lesbian’-- implying that it’s not only normal , but a civil rights issue like being gay b) a way to justify his indoctrination of impressionable students, as he implicitly boasts (as a mother who is going heavily into debt to pay for my kids’ education, I would be horrified if they had to listen to such propaganda trying to normalize this).

    I am by no means a sexual naif. Throughout history, a portion of couples have had at least one ‘straying’ partner. But that doesn’t mean we have to celebrate it and act as though it’s some sort of stable, sane choice, good for the kids and the stability of the family unit.

    The other thing this does is utterly ignore biology. It’s bad for women because on average we are more emotionally attached to our sexual partners and thus this arrangement leaves us vulnerable to broken hearts at the very least, not to mention sexual diseases. And once we become mothers, I think the last thing most of us want is a husband who, while we are changing at poopy diaper at 3 am, is out shtupping another woman. Yes, some religions indoctrinate their women to believe polygamy is an awesome thing, but most don’t, and this author doesn’t even argue this is a religious choice.

    It’s also bad for men, as, frankly, they wont’ know who the father is once the baby is conceived. And they are subject to venereal diseases too.

    As far as the stats, as I alluded to above, a 22 year old with several partners is not at all the same thing as a married couple (a triple?) with kids. And even in the case of young people, it’s hugely irresponsible to teach them that a relationship’s purpose is individual pleasure, that all one must think of is oneself and one’s desires. That’s not how a family works. A family works based on shared values and vision, and sacrifice of the parents for their kids. None of that fits into his argument, except that the ‘shared values’ is basically, “I like sleeping with other men/women, so I will, and you can too!” Instead he is teaching students to be selfish and prepping them to fail in raising their children, and then patting himself on the back.

    Finally, please dont’ tell me “we need to” do anything (“we need to get serious about it”). I realize this phrase has become common, but I find it totally obnoxious. There is no ‘we’; and you have not been voted in to tell me I “need” to do anything.

  15. Yes. Yes. Yes. This deserves to be said so much more. I really friggin hate the “we need” trope in modern essay writing. No, we dont “need” to talk about this or that, we don’t “need” to respect this or that opinion. We don’t “need” to listen to this or that person. It’s so fucking patronising and lazy. It’s also often used as a Trojan horse comment, where we all know that the “we need to talk about XYZ” actually means “You need to listen to what I say”.

    It’s the author’s job to convince the readers his or her ideas have some merit. The readers don’t need to to anything and are free to leave as they please. So don’t tell us we need to do anything.

    Only my wife has the right to use the “we need” phrase.

Continue the discussion in Quillette Circle

209 more replies


Comments have moved to our forum