Polyamory

Author’s note: It is worth exploring the history of Polyamory in popular culture. My own bias views the recent growth and popularity of non-monogamy as a reflection of late capitalist values, marking declines in intimacy, weakening of solid bonds and the commercialization of feelings. It is not my belief that confluent love is contributing to a community of trust and security.

In polyamory literature and conversation, I have noticed attempts to rationalize feelings of love, avoid certain relationship “codes” and prevent a certain type of feeling from developing (‘compersion’ instead of ‘jealousy’).

Did you know: The word ‘Compersion’ comes from the Kerista community, a utopian community started in New York 1956 by John Peltz “Bro Jud” Presmont. Throughout much of its history, Kerista was centered on the ideals of polyfidelity. The commune developed an entire vocabulary around alternative lifestyles. Kerista accumulated a codified social contract over its history with which all members were expected to agree and comply, at all times. For example:

  • Total rationality at all times
  • Search for truth through the elimination of contradictions
  • No jealousy, no anger, no rivalry, no profanity, no flippancy, no masturbation
    Kerista.commune – The Historical Record

Conversations with friends practicing or interested in polyamory have shown difficulties in defining the meaning of their relationships and I have found congruence between the scientific literature and this reality. Others participate in nonmonogamous dating scenes using a moral reasoning that enables the simultaneous separation of sex from emotion and the normalization of sex without commitment. Below is my exploration of the theme of polyamory through this lens.


Polyamory refers to multiple, committed, love-based relationships with the consent of all the partners.

Jealousy is managed, supressed or channelled into compersion in polyamorous relationships: “The most striking aspect of polyamory’s ‘hard work ‘ concerns the management of jealousy. In academic and self-help literature on polyamory, jealousy has received ample attention. The literature assumes that jealousy is a heteronormative emotional socialization which is based on ideas of possession and betrayal. People experiencing these emotions are encouraged to instead learn to experience joy for the partner’s love of another (compersion). ” (Deri, 2015; Mint, P, 2010; Veaux et al., 2014).

Social movements around gender and sexuality (actions, discourse and cultural imaginaries) do not unfold independently from economic processes, market forces, state or class politics). With regard to the study of polyamory, economic questions are virtually unexplored territory (Klesse, 2014).

A majority of those practicing polyamory are composed of predominantly white subjects and occupy advanced socio economic position: “Research into polyamory has mostly drawn a rather homogeneous picture of polyamory networks or communities (Klesse 2007; Ritchie and Barker 2007; Wosik-Correa 2010).
Sheff and Hammers’ (2011) review of 36 research studies into polyamory and BDSM shows that most of them present research samples composed of predominantly white subjects holding above-average educational qualifications and occupying advanced socio economic position. Weber also points out that poly households have higher income levels than the general population.
(Klesse, 2014).

Why racial homogonity?

People in polyamorous relations have trouble defining their relationships: “As was the case for their definitions of love, the way people in consensual nonmonogamies define their relationships is somewhat blurred. For example, many respondents clearly stated that they found it hard to draw a clear line between love and friendship. (Roodsaz, 2022)

  • “I think of love and friendship more as a continuum than a dichotomy”
  • “I think I’ve always been… involved in relationships that I call friendships but that look very much like those that I call loves, right?… “

Deri, J. (2015). Love’s refraction: Jealousy and compersion in queer women’s polyamorous relationships. Toronto: University
of Toronto Press.

Mint, P. (2010). The power mechanisms of jealousy. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.), Understanding non-monogamies
(pp. 201–206). New York: Routledge.

Veaux, F., Hardy, J., & Gill, T. (2014). More than two: A practical guide to ethical polyamory. Portland: Thorntree Press.)

Bibliography

Klesse, C. (2014). Poly Economics—Capitalism, Class, and Polyamory. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society27(2), 203–220. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-013-9157-4

Braida, N., Matta, E., & Paccagnella, L. (2023). Loving in Consensual Non-Monogamies: Challenging the Validity of Sternberg’s Triangular Love Scale. Sexuality & Culture27(5), 1828–1847. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-023-10092-0

Roodsaz, R. (2022). The “hard work” of polyamory: ethnographic accounts of intimacy and difference in the Netherlands. Journal of Gender Studies31(7), 874–887. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2022.2098094

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