Friday, May 6, 2011

Varying Definitions of Non-Monogamy

Non-monogamy has many, many different forms. Even within the existing descriptors for non-monogamy there lacks a consistency of definition (Frank & DeLamater, 2010; Emens, 2004; Kleese, 2006; Block, 2009; Black, 2006). However, some rough guidelines can be sketched with existing definitions as a quide, which I will be attempting to do here.
Swinging: As informed by McDonald (2010) and Phillips (2010), swingers consist of couples who have sexual-only connections with other couples or individuals. Swingers see themselves as monogamous, because they envision non-monogamy in an emotional context, and see swinging as a couples activity. There are many parallels between swingers and gay men non-monogamies (Adam, 2010), with the exception being that gay men don't make their sexual experiences a couple's activity. As such, I will describe swinging as follows: A dyadic, mono-normative relationship that is sexually open, but not emotionally open.
Polyfidelity: Sexually and emotionally closed, however non-dyadic partnerships (Black, 2006). Mormon polygamy fits within this category, despite the emphasis on religion. Though the Mormon Polygamy emphasis on religious beliefs can be a definitive difference in seeing how legality can affect non-monogamy (Emens, 2004) I chose to lump them together because of the otherwise similarities.
Polyamory: Sexually and emotionally open, forming non-dyadic partnerships. However I will say this definition is strongly debated (Frank & DeLamater, 2010; Emens, 2004; Kleese, 2006; Block, 2009; Black, 2006), this definition seems to be a natural fit when put up against the other definitions.
Open Relationship: Sexually and emotionally open, forming dyadic partnerships. Though much literature would consider this to be polyamory (Anapol, 2010; Easton & Hardy, 2009), or blurring the definitions together (Block, 2009) there are enough legal/practical/structural differences between open relationships and polyamory (in these definitions) to separate the two. For example, open relationships will usually not have to worry about bigamy laws, as there is usually no cohabitation going on beyond the dyadic couple (Block, 2009).
Infidelity: Sexually and emotionally closed dyadic relationships where one or both partners are having an extra relationship outside of the dyad against standing monogamy principles, usually discreetly. Ok, I know, why is this on here? It's immoral, reprehensible, and deceptive. Be that as it may, it IS a form of non-monogamy that IS practiced, and it IS affected by the same laws that affect other non-monogamies. Hence I include it.
I'm thinking that this will be the framework that I analyze future non-monogamous perspectives from, a kind of non-monogamy sub-cultures if you will.
Adam, B. D. (2010). Relationship innovation in male couples. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 55-69). New York, NY: Routledge.
Anapol, D. (2010). Polyamory in the 21st century: Love and intimacy with multiple partners. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Black, D. M. (2006). Beyond child bride polygamy: Polyamory, unique familial constructions, and the law. Journal of Law & Family Studies, 8, 497-508. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from LexisNexis.
Block, J. (2009). And then we were poly. In R. Walker (Ed.), One big happy family: 18 writers talk about polyamory, open adoption, mixed marriage, househusbandry, single motherhood, and other realities of truly modern love. (pp. 1-16). New York, NY: The Penguin Group.
Easton, D. & Hardy, J. (2009). The ethical slut: A practical guide to polyamory, open relationships & other adventures (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
Emens, E. F. (2004). Monogamy’s law: Compulsory monogamy and polyamorous existence. New York University Review of Law & Social Change, 29(277). Retrieved April 25, 2011, from SSRN.
Frank, K. & DeLamater, J. (2010). Deconstructing monogamy: Boundaries, identities, and fluidities across relationships. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 9-20). New York, NY: Routledge.
Klesse, C. (2006). Polyamory and its 'others': Contesting the terms of non-monogamy. Sexualities, 9(565). Retrieved from Sage Journal's Online on April 25, 2011.
McDonald, D. (2010). Swinging: Pushing the boundaries of monogamy?. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 70-81). New York, NY: Routledge.
Phillips, S. (2010). There were three in bed: Discursive desire and the sex lives of swingers. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 82-86). New York, NY: Routledge.

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