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I learn a great many new words as I cruise the Web collecting examples of usage for my posts. This week I learned polyamory:

polyamory: the fact of having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals, viewed as an alternative to monogamy, especially in regard to matters of sexual fidelity; the custom or practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned.

The adjective is polyamorous.

An article in The Atlantic describes the living conditions of three people who practice polyamory:

All three live there together, but they aren’t roommates—they’re lovers. Or rather, Jonica and Michael are. And Sarah and Michael are. And so are Sarah and whomever she happens to bring home some weekends. And Michael and whomever he might be courting. They’re polyamorous.

According to the Atlantic article,

Polyamorous people still face plenty of stigmas, but some studies suggest they handle certain relationship challenges better than monogamous people do.

This new demographic has already acquired a shortened form in headlines:

Poly demographic survey in the UK

What Do Polys Want?: An Overview of the 2012 Loving More Survey

Academic papers are being written on the polyamorous life style:

Not Monogamous? Not a Problem: A Quantitative Analysis of the Prevalence of Polyamory

The words polyamory and polyamorous show up on the Ngram Viewer in the 1980s, rising precipitately in the 1990s.

Here are some more familiar terms used to describe various types of sexual relationship that differ from monogamy:

extramarital sex

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3 thoughts on “Polyamory”

  1. Nothing wrong with the good old words promiscuous / promiscuity. No need to let the AIDS epidemic tarnish a good word.

    Then there’s also the noun libertine, which usually has this sense.

  2. One needs only read a few Robert Heinlen books to encounter examples of polyamory, all of which are described as positive relationships. This wasn’t new in the ’80s.

  3. There is nothing wrong with the words promiscuous or libertine, but they do not mean the same thing that the word polyamory does, regardless of how one feels about the merits of the practice.

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