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Love and sex: Polyamorous relationships are perceived more favourably than swinging and open relationships

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Love and sex: Polyamorous relationships are perceived more favourably than swinging and open relationships
  This article was downloaded by: [Jes Matsick]On: 03 September 2013, At: 08:03Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Psychology & Sexuality Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rpse20 Love and sex: polyamorousrelationships are perceived morefavourably than swinging and openrelationships Jes L. Matsick a , Terri D. Conley a , Ali Ziegler a , Amy C. Moors a  &Jennifer D. Rubin aa  Departments of Psychology and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USAPublished online: 02 Sep 2013. To cite this article:  Psychology & Sexuality (2013): Love and sex: polyamorous relationships areperceived more favourably than swinging and open relationships, Psychology & Sexuality To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19419899.2013.832934 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions   Psychology & Sexuality , 2013http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19419899.2013.832934 Love and sex: polyamorous relationships are perceived morefavourably than swinging and open relationships Jes L. Matsick*, Terri D. Conley, Ali Ziegler, Amy C. Moors and Jennifer D. Rubin  Departments of Psychology and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA (  Received 31 July 2013; accepted 6 August 2013 )Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) refers to romantic relationships in which all part-ners agree to engage in sexual, romantic and  / or emotional relationships with others.Within the general framework of CNM, subtypes of relationships differ in the extent towhich partners intend for love and emotional involvement to be a part of their multiplerelationships (that is, some relationships may prioritise love over sex with multiple part-ners, or vice versa). The present study examined whether individuals were more likelyto stigmatise relationships that: (i) focus on loving more than one person (which ischaracteristic of polyamory), (ii) focus on having sex without love (which is character-istic of swinging lifestyles), or (iii) involve having sex without love without a partner’s participation (which is characteristic of open relationships). In the present research, participants were assigned to read a definition of one of the three CNM relationshiptypes (i.e. a swinging, polyamorous or open relationship) and to indicate their attitudestowards individuals who participate in those relationships. Results show that swingerswere overwhelmingly perceived more negatively (e.g. less  responsible ) than individu-als in polyamorous relationships and that people in open relationships were sometimes perceived more negatively (e.g. less  moral  ) than people in polyamorous relationships.Overall, findings suggest that people are more uncomfortable with the idea of strictlysexual relationships (i.e. swinging relationships) than relationships involving multipleromantic / emotional attachments (i.e. polyamorous relationships). Keywords:  consensual non-monogamy; love; swinging; polyamory; societal attitudes Evaluating love and sex: societal attitudes towards consensually non-monogamousrelationship configurations Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) encompasses a broad range of relationships in whichall individuals in the relationship(s) agree to engage in multiple sexual, romantic,and  / or emotional relationships with others (Barker & Langdridge, 2010a; Conley, Moors,Matsick, & Ziegler, 2012; Conley, Ziegler, Moors, Matsick, & Valentine, 2013). Whether  CNM relationships are referred to as  intentional non-monogamy  (Noël, 2006),  nonsecret negotiated non-monogamy  (Jamieson, 2004) or   responsible non-monogamy  (Anapol, 1997;Klesse, 2006; Lano & Parry, 1995), the commonality across these relationship styles is that all partners are aware of and are in agreement with the non-monogamous aspect (be itemotional and  / or sexual) of their relationship arrangements.Despite the lack of consideration given to CNM in academic circles (Barker &Langdridge, 2010b; Conley et al., 2013; Rubin, 2001), emerging evidence indicates that *Corresponding author. Email: jmatsick@umich.edu © 2013 Taylor & Francis    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   J  e  s   M  a   t  s   i  c   k   ]  a   t   0   8  :   0   3   0   3   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  2  J.L. Matsick   et al. people are actively engaging in and identifying with CNM relationships. Researchers havefound that roughly 4–5% of online samples identify as CNM, which is a figure comparabletotheestimatednumericrepresentationofindividualswhoidentifyaslesbian,gay,bisexualand  / or queer (Conley, Moors, Matsick, & Ziegler, 2011; Rubin, Moors, Matsick, Ziegler, & Conley, under review). Given a growing trend towards involvement in this relationshipstyle, it is important to define the unique features that characterise different types of CNMrelationships. However, creating an accurate and comprehensive definition of CNM does present some difficulty. Across CNM relationships, individuals adopt divergent identitiesand arrangements of partners that lead to distinct CNM relationship configurations. As aresult, we often conceptualise relationship agreements on a continuum, with one pole rep-resenting monogamous unions (i.e. sexual and romantic exclusivity) and the other polerepresenting CNM relationships. Although CNM relationships have more in common withone another than monogamy, such that partners have open and honest agreements to engagein extra-dyadic relationships, there are differences between different subtypes of CNMrelationships. Previously, research has shown a robust halo effect that surrounds monog-amous relationships and, likewise, stigma surrounding CNM relationships (Conley et al.,2012; Moors, Matsick, Ziegler, Rubin, & Conley, 2013). However, it is unknown if peo- ple unilaterally stigmatise CNM relationships, or if some CNM relationships are perceived more or less favourably than others. Thus, in the present study, we focus on the three mainsubtypes of CNM: swinging, polyamory and open relationships.  Defining consensually non-monogamous relationship types A main characteristic of swinging relationships is engaging in sex with other people insocial settings, including swinging parties or conventions (Jenks, 1998; Smith & Smith,1970). Swinging behaviours might involve couples exchanging partners with another cou- ple solely for sexual purposes or inviting a third person to engage in sexual activities withthe couple (Buunk & van Driel, 1989; Walshok, 1971). Research from the 1970s indicates that approximately 2% of married couples in the United States were involved in a swing-ing relationship (e.g. Bartell, 1970; Cole & Spaniard, 1974), although these estimates are outdated. A more recent appraisal of swinging prevalence can be estimated from the morethan 7 million profiles that exist on  Swingers Date Club , a website that provides onlinedating services and travel resources to people who seek (consensual) sexual relationshipsoutside of a dyad (Sklar, 2010).Unlike swingers, those engaged in polyamorous relationships are more likely todescribe their multiple relationships as having a romantic or emotional component, rather than being strictly sexual (Haritaworn, Lin, & Klesse, 2006; Klesse, 2006; Sheff, 2005; Sheff & Hammers, 2011). Within polyamorous relationships, partners might engage inseveral relationships simultaneously that are emotionally, romantically, and  / or sexuallyintimate. Additionally, partners may intend to maintain those relationships for the longterm (Klesse, 2006). Such relationship agreements might include one or two ‘primary’  partners and other ‘secondary’ partners, triads in which three people are involved witheach other and quads (i.e. an arrangement in which two couples are involved with eachother; Barker, 2005; Jamieson, 2004). While polyamory and swinging are well defined, the meaning of the term ‘open rela-tionship’ is somewhat more contested. The term open relationship has sometimes beenused as an umbrella term for consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships (e.g.in describing relationships between gay men; Kurdek & Schmitt, 1986). Conversely, thisterm has also been used to refer to an arrangement whereby the relationship partners seek     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   J  e  s   M  a   t  s   i  c   k   ]  a   t   0   8  :   0   3   0   3   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3   Psychology & Sexuality  3sexual ( neither   romantic nor loving) relationships independently from one another (in con-trast to swingers, who may pursue extra-dyadic sexual relationships while their partnersare present). For the purposes of this study, we will be using the latter definition of openrelationships.  Prioritising emotional versus sexual intimacy Taken together, the defining characteristics of swinging, polyamorous and open relation-ships differ in the extent to which partners intend for love and emotional involvementto be part of their multiple relationships. 1 Those who engage in polyamory embrace theidea of having multiple  loving   relationships or ‘many loves’ (e.g. Haritaworn et al., 2006).However, not all people who are in CNM relationships espouse this perspective; somecouples may prefer to have a loving, emotional attachment only to each other (thoughthey still desire sexual relationships outside the partnership). Therefore, in other typesof relationship configurations (e.g. swinging relationships), emotional or loving intimacyis not characteristic of the extra-dyadic encounters of a couple. In particular, the extra-dyadic relationships of swingers and those in open relationships are more directly related to sex rather than establishing emotional or romantic connections with new partners (i.e.emphasising ‘emotional monogamy’ Bergstrand & Williams, 2000). For instance, swingersmay become friends with other swinging couples; yet, oftentimes, swinging partners mayenforce a relationship agreement that limits the amount of emotional connection permitted  between a partner and a non-primary or spousal partner (Bergstrand & Williams, 2000). In the current research, we addressed perceptions of different types of CNM rela-tionships and, in particular, we were interested in how people respond differently torelationships that are exclusively sexual versus those that are more emotionally involved.It seems possible that people could feel more negatively towards polyamorous couples because they challenge the ideology that everyone has only ‘one true love’ (e.g. Medora,Larson,Hortaˇcsu,&Dave,2002) byengaginginmultiplelovingrelationships.Ontheother  hand, people might feel more negatively towards swingers or people in open relationships because they contest the belief that sex should only happen in the context of a committed,loving, and intimate relationship (Peplau, Rubin, & Hill, 1977). That is, swinging and open relationships challenge the notion that sex should be a meaningful experience reserved for only romantic partners that are in love with one another. By examining perceptions of dif-ferent types of CNM couples, this research provides insight into which ideology appearsto be stronger: the idea of having only one true love, or the idea that sex should only occur within the context of love.  Perceptions of CNM relationships Previous research has demonstrated that people have overwhelmingly negative reactionstowardsCNM relationshipsandthosewhoareinvolved inthem(Conleyetal., 2012; Moorset al., 2013). In a series of studies, Conley et al. (2012) demonstrated that people engaged in CNM are thought to have poorer relationships, to be less responsible and to be per-ceived more negatively on completely arbitrary traits (such as dog-walking abilities) than people who are described as being monogamous in their relationships. However, in thesestudies, the description of the CNM relationship did not specify the type of CNM (e.g. a polyamorous relationship as opposed to an open relationship). The current study attends tothis limitation by distinguishing between the types of CNM and investigating differencesin attitudes towards subtypes of CNM.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   J  e  s   M  a   t  s   i  c   k   ]  a   t   0   8  :   0   3   0   3   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  4  J.L. Matsick   et al.Although no research has directly compared societal perceptions of various CNM rela-tionships, there is evidence to suggest that swingers are generally seen in a negative light(see Jenks, 1998 for a review). For instance, Jenks (1998) found that swingers were per- ceived as deviant in relation to sex behaviours and personality qualities. Non-swingersoverestimated swingers’ use of alcohol and other drugs, liberalism, ethnic diversity and affiliation with the Democratic Party compared to what swingers actually reported (Jenks,1985, 1998). Likewise, non-swingers perceived swinging couples as being in greater need of counselling than other couples and believed that couples decide to swing or openup their relationships because they are in search of relief from an unhappy relationshiptogether (Anapol, 1997; Easton & Hardy, 2009; Jenks, 1985); however, empirical research has shown that swingers report similar levels of relationship satisfaction as non-swingingcouples (Dixon, 1985; Jenks, 1985). Overall, society’s perceptions of swingers are likely inaccurate which, we argue, unjustly contributes to the stigma surrounding CNM.Perhaps more alarming is that people in other types of CNM relationships similarlyendorse society’s negative attitudes towards swingers. In 44 interviews with people whohave been in a CNM relationship, Klesse (2006) found that individuals in polyamorousrelationships held negative attitudes towards swingers. Specifically, individuals engaged in polyamory explained their negative views of swinging stem from the notion that swingersengage in casual, recreational sex rather than meaningful, emotional and sexual rela-tionships (more frequently found in polyamorous relationships). However, the idea thatswinging relationships are evaluated negatively because they emphasise sex over love – and, thus, violate the belief that sex should exist in the context of a loving relationship – has not, to our knowledge, been empirically tested. Further, we know of no researchthat has compared perceptions of people in polyamorous relationships and in open rela-tionships. Thus, the current research not only addresses the issue of which type of CNMrelationships is perceived the most negatively but also investigates perceptions of differ-ent types of relationships in order to indirectly assess and compare beliefs about love and sexuality.Examining perceptions of different types of CNM couples can help social scientistsunderstand the lifestyles and associated ideologies that are most threatening to membersof the public. This could help identify which CNM groups might be targeted for discrim-ination and help identify which groups might best politically represent CNM, or whichideologies might be best for CNM people to emphasise if CNM people desire to be moreactive in seeking civil rights. On a more conceptual level, examining these issues can provide us with a greater understanding of the different types of love beliefs that guide people’s perceptions of relationships and the people in them. The current research The purpose of the current research is to investigate societal attitudes towards individu-als in various CNM relationship configurations. Participants indicated the extent to whichthey believed people in the specified type of relationship (swinging, polyamorous, or openrelationship) possessed a number of positive and negative characteristics. 2 Method The current study is part of a larger project involving multiple collaborators. For this rea-son, our srcinal sample size was large (  N   = 2277). In the present research, we randomlyselected 5% of the srcinal sample for analysis.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   J  e  s   M  a   t  s   i  c   k   ]  a   t   0   8  :   0   3   0   3   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3
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