A New Monogamy? The Rising Popularity Of Open Relationships

Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is growing in prevalence in western society.  This relationship orientation practised by many individuals across the world.  There exists numerous motives why individuals choose CNM as a way of engaging intimately with other people. It could be thought of as a new monogamy.

Great relationship satisfaction is reported by many practising non-monogamy. Stigmatization of consensual non-monogamy is widespread in western culture, with a monogamous and heteronormative idea of relationships often resulting in prejudice to those who identify outside this relationship frame.

Different ways of engaging in CNM have with them different levels of prejudice.  Both from the monogamous and non-monogamous populations in western culture. This stigmatization extends into the health care system as well as in academic research.  Wth prejudices around CNM affecting those individuals in these relationships in a multitude of ways.

What exactly is Consensual Non-monogamy? 

Monogamy is defined as a practice of being in a committed romantic and/or sexual relationship with one individual.

CNM involves sexual or romantic relationships with others outside of a relationship with the consent of all in involved.  Dynamics of these configurations differing with each individual.  CNM can include polyamory, open relationships or swinging.  With different definitions describing each of these ways of being consensually non-monogamous.

  • Polyamory involves multiple relationships with an emotional connection.
  • Swinging describes a couple participating in sexual experiences with others with both partners present.
  • An open relationship consists of a couple participating in sexual experiences without the other partner being present.

Despite monogamy being the most common relationship dynamic in western society, CNM is growing in prevalence.

a new monogamy
Image: Two Guys One Girl

Is Non-Monogamy a New Monogamy? 

There have been various studies comparing the relationship satisfaction of monogamous and non-monogamous individuals.  These indicate that on average those in CNM relationships report feeling equally as satisfied in their relationships as individuals in monogamous relationships.

Perceptions of wild jealousy and relational disturbances in CNM relationships are commonly held by many in western society.  Research indicates this is not always the case.  Feelings of joy and pleasure have been widely reported by individuals in CNM relationships when describing the reaction to partners being intimately involved with other people.

Jealousy leads to Less Satisfaction

Despite jealousy being positively correlated with relationship longevity (which is theorised as being a beneficial evolutionary trait) jealousy also leads to lower relationship satisfaction.

Research has shown that those in consensual non-monogamous relationships reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction and lower levels of jealousy. Perceptions that monogamous relationships are more satisfying are widespread.  But this is not represented in the research when comparing non-monogamous and monogamous individuals.

Reasons Why People Choose CNM Relationships

Research exploring the reasoning behind individuals choosing consensual non-monogamy has established several theories as to why polyamory specifically could be considered a sexual orientation.

For some people who are a polyamorist and in a  polyamorous relationship, it is linked to their identity.  For others polyamory is a convenient label that describes the dynamics of their multiple relationships.

Polyamory as a sexual identity is debatable.  With some individuals claiming it to be an engrained defining aspect of who they are.  Whilst others view it as a relationship orientation they have chosen.

Whether one considers consensual non-monogamy as an identifying aspect of who they are.  Or whether it simply defines their relationship style is up to the individual to decide.

a new monogamy
Two women with one man threesome

Stigmatization of Consensual Non-monogamy

A great deal of prejudice exists in society towards individuals who are engaging in some form of CNM.  With those committed to non-monogamy reporting a great deal of discrimination because of their relationship choices.

A cultural norm of monogamy has resulted in this way being the most widely acceptable in western cultures.  Which ultimately leads to those outside of this relationship style receiving scrutiny because of the dynamics of their relationships.

A study showed that individuals with certain traits such as political conservatism or religiosity were more likely to judge polyamory negatively.  With individuals who had been previously exposed to polyamorous relationships having generally more positive attitudes towards these consensual non-monogamous relationships.

Western Misconceptions

There exist misperceptions in western culture of monogamous relationships being the ideal, with beliefs around a healthy relationship seen as existing between a man and a woman. CNM challenges the idea that a heteronormative, monogamous relationship is the only possible healthy relationship dynamic.

Different ways of being consensually non-monogamous have varying degrees of stigmatization.  With swinging and open relationships being judged more negatively than polyamory.  Polyamory involves relationships with a component of love and emotion.  Whereas swinging and open relationships involved sexual engagements with others.

Polyamory was seen as the most acceptable form of CNM

Certainly love and emotion can be involved in swinging and open relationships – the emphasis is not on this generally speaking.  As well as stigmatization from the general public, these judgements exist amongst the consensual non-monogamous population.

With research indicating that some polyamorists negatively judge those practicing swinging or open relating.

Negative Repercussions

Stigmatisation of consensual non-monogamous relationships has many negative repercussions to individuals in this population.  Along with discrimination from general society, non-monogamous individuals report a lack of acceptance from family and friends.

This lack of support can lead to lower levels of self-esteem and poorer self-reported health symptoms.  Prejudice and stigmatisation has also been associated with chronic stress.  With this negatively affecting individual’s mental and physical health.

Some individuals in non-monogamous relationships will avoid disclosing the dynamics of their relationships to others for fear of discrimination.  This then leads to a lack of transparency that those in monogamous relationships have with their relationships.  Despite the negative repercussions that correlate with the discrimination of non-monogamous people the benefits of this relationships style outweigh the negatives for many people.

Consensual Non-Monogamy and Health Care

Due to the lack of awareness and acceptance of CNM by much of western society, those in consensual non-monogamous relationships can encounter misunderstandings from certain health care providers.

Romantic relationships and sexual encounters outside of a monogamous relationship can often be viewed as a symptom of a difficult relationship despite these being agreed upon in CNM.  An idea of non-monogamy being unhealthy can be carried by some therapists.  This then is resulting in difficulties accessing bias free and supportive therapeutic interventions during times of relationship instability. It can cause individuals in consensual non-monogamous relationships to be reluctant accessing therapy when needed.

Greater Knowledge and Understanding is Necessary

Creating greater knowledge and understanding of consensual non-monogamy is necessary in western cultures.  In order to ensure the health and well-being of individuals living in this relationship style.

Its growth in western society shows it is becoming more acceptable.  But there is still a great way to go to ensure less stigmatisation upon this population.

a new monogamy

Consent, Respect and Oversharing!

I know it’s an exciting time coming into an adult shop and finally being able to open up and talk about the thing we all love to do.  But don’t want to talk about….


I understand that I may overshare a little.  But it’s my job to overshare so that you know exactly what it is you’re spending your hard earn money on. Now, when I say overshare I don’t mean you telling me the things that you are into because I asked you these questions.  And therefore, I am consenting to hear whatever the answer may be.

What I’m talking about are the situations like where you’ve asked for my opinion on what butt plug you should get your wife.  As I’m showing you, you think it’s time to tell me all the stories about your wife’s past and how well you make her orgasm now….

*Coughs awkwardly*

  1. Do you think your wife would be happy that you’re sharing these stories with me?
  2. Did I ask for this story?
  3. Even if you were telling me stories about your own sexual past, did you ask me if I was ok with listening to them first?

Funny thing is if you had asked if I was ok with listening to a story, I most probably would have been intrigued.  And asked you to go on but instead you have thrown me off and made me feel super uncomfortable.

Just going to leave this definition here because it seems like a lot of people forget it.

Definition of Consent

Consent, kənˈsɛnt – noun
“Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.”

It isn’t even just consent, it’s common decency.

Just because I work in an adult shop doesn’t mean I want to listen to the ins and outs of your sex life.  I get paid just like any normal retail worker…. NOT A SEX WORKER OR THERAPIST!

No, I am not here to make you feel better about the things you choose to do in the bedroom.  And I definitely don’t want to know how many times you made your fuck buddy cum last night…..

Don’t Get Me Wrong, I Love Being Able to Have Open Conversations

I absolutely love being able to have conversations with customers that are comfortable enough to open up about what they are into.  This is so that I am able to help choose the best products for them.

In return, if I can relate with what they need and if I have used a product in that department I will open up and recommend a sex toy that I personally own and have enjoyed.

Now, with these customers, I have asked a series of questions that I have consented to listen to the answer to.  Before I tell them any of my recommendations I will ask if I can do so beforehand.

These are my favorite kinds of customer interactions!

I could spend hours going on about my beloved sex toy collection. Recommending sex toys to the groups of customers that come in looking for a good quality sex toy and that are consenting for me to do so.

What Makes Me Uncomfortable

What I am not comfortable with is the same male customer coming into the store constantly.

Conveniently asking for all my recommendations on great female toys.  Him asking if I have ever used them myself and what my experience was like.  Just so that he can pick a sex toy for his mysterious wife that has never ever come into the store with him and him constantly never purchasing anything!!

Do you think I don’t see what you are doing?

I am not here for a free boner sir and you are just taking advantage of my kindness! I also don’t appreciate 70-year-old men asking me to put their new cock plugs in for them.  While I am down here on my knees trying to reach and grab what you have chosen from the back of the damn cabinet….


I’d rather just lay and on the floor and die slowly now.  But instead, I will laugh uncomfortably, stay silent until you leave the store. And pray that I’ll never have to be the one to serve you again.

This situation happened to me when I was only weeks into working in an adult shop.  If that happened to me now I’d tell him his gross, disrespectful and needs an attitude change before he walks into the store again.

I’ve grown some serious balls over the past few years

From dealing with these creeps and I am not afraid anymore to tell you if I think you’re acting like a disrespectful pig.  I want you to know that you can’t just walk into somebody else’s space and do whatever you want for your own personal enjoyment.

That’s not how life works and I refuse to allow you to walk out thinking otherwise.

We have a lot of customers that appreciate and thank me and the other staff members.

a new monogamy

They tell us how much they appreciate having someone serving them that makes them feel comfortable.  Rather than your stereotypical adult shops with a creepy person staring at you from behind the counter. I’ve even had plenty of crappy experiences in dodgy adult shops myself.

So, instead of taking advantage of the kind people willing to open up and help you.  Maybe appreciate and respect them like you would expect for yourself if you were in their shoes.

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