Just how common is ethical non-monogamy or consensual non-monogamy? That’s a very good question and one that science has tried to grapple with for a very long time. By the very nature of consensual non-monogamy, pinning down the numbers of people practicing it has been traditionally quite difficult.
In 2016, LiveScience reported that about 5% of the American population was non-monogamous via their best estimations at the time, and these numbers turned out to be accurate. While 5% of the American population sounds rather insignificant, it’s larger than the entire lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations combined.
As most of us know, and as I’ve mentioned, non-monogamy has been on the rise for quite some time with amazing rapidity. It’s possible that we’ve collectively begun to tap into the dormant free-love practitioners within ourselves and that many of us are finally starting to give up on the idea of total possession of our partner’s body.
LiveScience also reported that polyamory may, in fact, be good for you, something that polyamorists such as myself, Elle Beau, and other writers have said time and again, and they even noted the lack of jealousy as being one of the running themes which served as a ticket to happiness for many poly people:
“If you ask most people how they’d feel if their partner had sex with or fell in love with someone else, the responses would be pretty negative: fear, anger, jealousy, rejection. Ask a polyamorous person the same question, and they’re more likely to tell you they’d be thrilled. It’s a concept called ‘compersion,’ which means the joy felt when a partner discovers love outside of you. It’s similar to the feeling the typical person might get after finding out their best friend scored her dream job.”
To me, it makes sense given the other current themes throughout our running cultural shifts that we can observe in society today. One of those themes is feminism, and I’ve stated before that while not inextricably intertwined, the rise in feminism and the concurrent rise in ethical non-monogamy likely share extremely similar values and root causes, like women reclaiming their bodily autonomy and demanding that their sexuality be recognized, even if that includes the very sensible position of being attracted to more than one person.
Did you know that women are twice as likely as men to suggest opening a relationship up and going poly? While this isn’t my experience, it seems to be the fact of the matter, that as women collectively reflect upon and revolutionize their lives, expanding their sexuality is just one part of the bigger picture.
There are many other causes for the surge in popularity over the last several decades, such as Millennials getting older after having grown up in the infancy of the information age, with all of the media pertaining to sexual health and happiness at their fingertips. By most statistical and scientific measures, ethical non-monogamists are quite a bit happier than their monogamous counterparts.
Updated numbers published yesterday from multiple studies suggest that 20% of the population at the very least, and likely much more due to underreporting, has engaged in consensual non-monogamy, regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, creed, or socio-economic status, regardless of age or where they live.
What’s important about these numbers and quite different from previous estimates is that the criteria has changed. Before, statisticians and scientists generally questioned all sorts of non-monogamy, including cases of monogamous infidelity or cheating as being non-monogamy. Current, updated numbers from both studies factored in only cases of consensual non-monogamy, which are basically cases where people sleep with other people outside of their primary or non-hierarchical relationship with the full consent of their partner.
This means, of course, that while the numbers effectively remain the same, the dynamics of what’s happening are radically different, and one of those big dynamics is quite obviously consent. Sexual practitioners and couples seem to have become more comfortable with opening up and discussing their desire to have a sexual or romantic engagement with multiple people at the same time.
Even when accounting for the reluctance to report things which are attached to a social stigma and making corrections for that bias, 5% of the population suggest that consensual non-monogamy is still a minority relationship dynamic, but nonetheless, one that’s on the rise.
Polyamory and the Sexual Revolution of Women
How Polyamory Shaped My Views on the Human Sexes
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