As a person dating in the greater Portland metropolitan area, I am confronted with/participating in polyamory on the regular — to an extent I don’t think is necessarily reflective of the current consensually non-monogamous climate across the nation. But, I do think it is safe to say that the lifestyle is rising in popularity and acceptance across the country. For some people, that means swinging. But, there are also polyfidelity, open relationships, and relationship anarchy to consider. Ah, the many flavors of multiple partners.
Finding the exact numbers for the percentage of the population practicing non-monogamy is vexingly difficult, but researchers estimate it’s about four to five percent of Americans. And, further, a new study shows they are experiencing significantly higher rates of sexual satisfaction than their monogamous counterparts. Looking for more and better orgasms? Consider reconfiguring your approach to relationships.
Published recently in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the study had two primary components. Firstly, authors recruited participants online from places like Craigslist (RIP the personals) and non-monogamous communities. Then, the group was divided into a monogamous faction and a consensually non-monogamous (CNM) one.
Overall, 617 CNM individuals and 1,507 monogamous participants answered a survey that included queries about sexual frequency and satisfaction. However, participants who identified as CNM were only included if they confirmed having a primary partner and whose primary partner figure into their answers, which means relationship anarchists weren’t included. Half of the CNM group identified as poly, a quarter as being in open relationships, and the final quarter as swingers.
Compared to monogamous people, polyamorous folks reported much higher rates of sexual satisfaction (because… duh!). 84 percent of poly people reported orgasming in their last encounter compared to 72 percent of monogamous people. There was no difference in frequency between these two groups. However, people who identified as swingers reported greater satisfaction in their sex lives and a greater amount of sex than monogamous respondents.
People who self-identified as being in open relationships didn’t show the same elevated levels of satisfaction and frequency as other people in the CNM group. They reported nearly the same levels of satisfaction as monogamous participants and the same regularity. Although, they did report having experienced an orgasm during their last sexual encounter at a greater rate (83 percent) and monogamous folks (72 percent). Those key parties are clearly ending happily.
To replicate the findings, the researchers did it all over again using people who were not specifically targeted for CNM or primarily heterosexual. The results were the same: CNM people were trouncing monogamous ones when it came to sexual frequency and satisfaction.
What about relationship satisfaction though? That varied. Though poly people were sexually satisfied in big numbers, they reported lower relationship satisfaction than monogamous peeps. Swingers had roughly the same level of relationship satisfaction as monogamous participants.
That’s a bit of a conundrum. Why are non-monogamous peoples reporting higher sexual satisfaction and lower relationship satisfaction than non-monogamous people?
“Consensually non-monogamous people may gravitate to sexual variety, and non-monogamy provides a certain amount of that,” says Terri Conley, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan. “People who are consensually non-monogamous may also think that having a good sex life is particularly important.”
Sexual variety, frequent orgasms, increased sexual satisfaction…remind us, why are people monogamous again?