In previous part, I discussed how 19th century non-monogamist groups related to each other. Now, because I don’t know enough about the 20th century, I am skipping straight to the 21st century.
The Asexual and Aromantic Communities
Hey! I am asexual and aromantic. Anyway, this is the largest group I am aware of in the United States in the 21st century which embraces non-gamy (i.e. simply not entering sexual and/or romantic relationships). However, the asexual and aromantic communities are based on people’s identities, not their relationship patterns – there are aces and aros who do pursue sexual and/or romantic relationships for various reasons. So why am I pegging this as a non-gamy group? Because pursuing a sexually/romantically monogamous relationship is not the norm in this community. Though most aces and aros have no objection to other people pursuing monogamy, sexual and/or romantic monogamy is not what most people in these communities pursue.
The Swinging Community
This a group of people who openly pursue multiple sexual relationships, though they tend to have more restrictions on romantic availability. I don’t know much about them, so I am just going to note that they exist.
The Polyamory Community
This is a group of people who openly pursue multiple sexual and romantic relationships. They tend to be affluent, politically ‘liberal’, have a high level of formal education, and to say that being open to love/sex from multiple people is liberating in some fashion. They have their own set of jargon to describe their relationships (look up the word ‘metamour’ for an example). An important value in this community is honesty – which is not to say that it always put in practice (these are people, not perfect beings) – but rather that people should tell all of their sexual/romantic partners about what sexual/romantic relationships they are having or pursuing.
Working Class / Low Income Non-monogamy
People who identify with ‘polyamory’ tend to belong to the upper middle class or ‘creative’ class. That is not to say that they are the only ones in United States society who pursue multiple sexual relationships in an open and honest way (by ‘open and honest’ I mean that there is no attempt to hide sexual relationships from one’s sexual/romantic partners). In fact, I know from some conversations I’ve had with working class and low income people that some of them also do their own version of ‘poly’. However, they tend not to writes books, blogs, create organizations around it, etc., possibly because they are dedicating more of their efforts to economic survival than organizing communities around non-monogamy. I don’t know much about them, but I also want to note that they also exist.
The above is not intended to be an exhaustive list, and if you think I should mention any other 21st century groups which practice and/or promote non-monogamy, please drop a comment!
Comparing and Contrasting the 19th Century and 20th Century Groups
The 19th century and 21st century groups have a number of striking parallels. For example, both the asexual/aromantic and polyamory communities tend to have a lot of concern about social justice (I don’t know enough about the other groups I mentioned to comment), have a tendency to be veg*n of some kind (I wrote a whole series of posts about the asexual community and veg*nism), and a disproportionate number of members are atheist or otherwise non-religious, or practice a non-conventional one (such as, in the 21st century, paganism). In short, people who openly participate in these communities, both in the 19th or 21st century, are people who are interested in deviating from or critiquing social norms beyond simply not doing monogamy.
The big difference between these groups in the 19th century and the 21st century is that, in the 19th century, these groups tended to go out and form their own communes. This is also a trend with some of the 20th century non-monogamy groups. However, 21st non-monogamy groups seem a lot less interested in separating from mainstream society and creating communes. The 21st century groups are also much less inclined to connect their refusal of monogamy to critiques of the economic system or private property, which may also be another reason that the 21st century groups are a lot more comfortable with staying in mainstream society. In fact, the 21st century groups put a lot of effort into making it easier for themselves to blend into mainstream society by trying to make mainstream society a more friendly place for themselves.
Though this is less true of the poly groups, asexual and aromantic groups claim that their community is tied to an orientation or intrinsic identity rather than a relationship pattern. Though the orientation and relationship patterns are related, it is the orientation which is treated as the defining feature of the communities. I am not aware of any 19th century group which was like this.
In the next post, I will discuss how the asexual and polyamory communities relate to each other (I am picking those two because I know enough about how those two relate to each other to feel comfortable commenting upon it, not because the other groups are less important).