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Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D. Sex and Culture Lecture Series September 13, 2011 Are Polyamory and Cheating All that Different?

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Presentation on theme: "Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D. Sex and Culture Lecture Series September 13, 2011 Are Polyamory and Cheating All that Different?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D. Sex and Culture Lecture Series September 13, 2011 Are Polyamory and Cheating All that Different?

2 Definitions of Polyamory Responsible/ethical/honest non-monogamy A deep, emotional, sometimes physical relationship with more than one partner simultaneously Relationship with multiple people in which everyone knows about each other and is okay about it. Having multiple concurrent romantic relationships with the full informed, uncoerced consent of all parties.

3 Definitions of Polyamory Believing that we can love more than one person at the same time, with or without sexual engagement. An exploration into conscious relating that doesn't subscribe to the conventional paradigm of lifelong marriage. Rather than revolving around the couple, it revolves around the individual as a whole and evolving person. Based on non-possessive love.

4 Demographics of Polyamory in America Between 2% and 3.5% of Americans identify as polyamorous (Anapol, 2010) 94.3% Caucasian (Wolfe, 2003) Well-Educated 99% have attended college 40% have graduated degrees

5 How Common is Cheating? Infidelity occurs in less than 25% of committed relationships- -National Opinion Research Center 2003 Study 30-60% of Americans will engage in infidelity at some point in their marriages – Buss and Shackelford, 1997 Infidelity is more common for people under 30 The Internet has made it easier for cheating minded people to find each other…



8 Evidence of Non-Monogamy 3. Sperm Competition 1. Sexual Dimorphism 2. Testicle Size

9 Brain Chemistry of Romantic Love Lust Attraction phaseAttachment phase

10 Poly Configurations Open Couple Independent Single Primary and Secondary Partners Multiple Primary Partners Triad -- V or Quad Intimate Network

11 Poly Speak: The Language of Polyamory Compersion loving empathy for one’s partner being loved/engaged by others New Relationship Energy (NRE) Limerence Other Significant Other (OSO) Primary, Secondary, Tertiary maintain social family hierarchy Polyfidelity sexually faithful to one’s family

12 Poly Cultural Conventions Embrace Poly Culture Jealousy Management Compersion NRE Management Disclosure Transparency Consensuality

13 Poly Cultural Practices New partners incorporated for novelty NOT to displace/replace long term ones Disinterest in Western culture’s celebration of “the one.” NRE viewed as a temporary state, not a reason to disrupt one’s home life. Avoidance of romantic love roller coasters

14 Overview 1,715 Cheaters (reporting having one or more secret lovers) 174 Polyamorists (describing full-disclosure polyamory as their current relationship agreement) Surveyed between August 10, 2010 and May 8, 2011 In partnership with Avid Media (Ashley Madison)

15 Demographics Average 17 lifetime sexual partners 51.3% Male - 48.4% Female -.3% Transgender 59.1% between 40 – 59 years old 81% Caucasian 7.1% Hispanic 4.1% African American 2.8% Asian 2.8% Mixed

16 Relationship Status

17 Sexual Orientation

18 Sexual Activities

19 Frequency of Sex with Home Partner/Spouse

20 Outside Lover(s)?

21 Happiness in Current Relationship

22 Contributions to Relationship Happiness

23 Measure of a Successful Relationship

24 Other Couples More Oral Sex?

25 If Partner Refuses Oral Sex…

26 Reasons to Go Outside for Oral Sex

27 If Partner Refuses Anal Play…

28 Conclusions Poly People are less likely to be married than people who cheat (44% vs. 77%) Poly People are more to be bisexual (29% vs. 9%) and less likely to be heterosexual (59% vs. 90%) than people who cheat. Poly people are more likely to engage in alternative sexual practices than cheaters including mutual masturbation (85% vs. 62%), anal play (61% vs. 45%) and BDSM (42% vs. 14%)

29 Conclusions Poly people have much more frequent sex with their home partners than people who cheat (mode-every other day or twice weekly vs. weekly-monthly-rarely) People who cheat are more likely to have outside lover(s) (84% vs. 70%) Poly people are twice as happy in their home relationships (75% vs. 36%) Poly people place more value on love, trust and spirituality than people who cheat. People who cheat place more value on financial security, parenting and their spouse’s appearance than poly people.

30 Conclusions Poly people are twice as likely to believe that they have more oral sex than other couples do (47% vs. 24%) People who cheat are twice as likely to believe that they have less oral sex than other couples do (32% vs. 17%) If a partner refuses oral sex, 55% of poly people and 15% of cheaters would seek an open (poly) lover. 48% of cheaters and 8% of poly people would seek a sexual affair. Just 4% of both cohorts would purchase the services of a sex worker/prostitute. If a partner refused anal play, poly people were again more inclined to seek an open lover (32% vs. 6%) while cheaters were more likely to pursue a sexual affair (16% vs. 5%)

31 Comments from Poly People I'm involved in mutable affairs with younger men because I have a high sex drive for a 62 yr old woman. Often men are married to women they love and have children with but are unfulfilled in the bedroom. They are attracted to me because I'm a good confidant and sexually liberated. They stay married, I stay single. We each get our sexual needs met. Its a win/win. Its too bad getting your sexual needs met outside of marriage is considered "cheating" rather than what it is.........getting needs met and enhancing ones sex life. Female, 62 Poly has been wonderful. How can you be all things to your mate? I love to open up the possibilities to women when they are in control of letting go...and do...and I can take them on an adventure of loving more and opening up their mind and body to intimacy - taking them on this adventure of joy and pleasure, that is outside their previous realm of reality. Male, 64

32 Comments from Poly People Love the connections I have made via Ashley Madison....have actually met several women and engaged in intimate acts with one in addition to the one I am seeing now. Soooo re-assuring and exciting to know that other women out there who are "normal" want an intimate connection with other women and still love and want intimacy with their husbands. Feared I was unreasonable and that what I wanted was not possible. Female, 37

33 Comments from Cheaters Life is short have an affair Male, 48 I think sex is a very important part of a happy marriage/relationship. We have been married for 7 years and my husband seems to have lost all interest. This is the first time I've had an affair and it has been very difficult because of the guilt. I really love my husband and I wish that he would put forth the effort to help our sex life. Female, 27 Women need to be taught about the male sex drive in sex ed. Every girlfriend that I ever had was shocked when I explained how we get hard all on our own without being aroused and that we wake up with wood and have to "deal with it.“ It never ends for us, and they think we're all sex-crazed dogs but it never occurs to them that we don't want to be this way either! We pledge to care for each other in marriage, effectively entrusting our erections to our wives and because they don't understand our situation, they hang us out to dry. First you make us swear never to fuck anyone else and then we can't even fuck you. Male, 28

34 Comments from Cheaters I feel there are many men and women out there around my age where one partner or the other is no longer engaging in sexual affection with their spouse. Society says "get a divorce." That sounds really good, if you don't mind the devastating impact to your finances and the children and grandchildren taking sides. It is a tough situation and I am sure I am not alone. I don't want to drop a bomb into the middle of my life, destroying finances, etc. But I desperately need the loving connection that comes from having a loving, sexually active friendship with a special woman in my life. Male, 55 I went on to Ashley Madison because I was getting no sex from husband. I found a great lover and friend. We enjoy each other so much and give each other what we both need. Both our spouses are prudish when it comes to sex. We are together a year now, yet we are both still married. It is sad when you meet someone who is so perfect for you knowing you can’t be with them like you desire. For now we just enjoy what we have and try to be careful. Female 37

35 Comments from Cheaters Thanks to Ashley Madison I have a large pool of like-minded, married, adultery neophytes to choose from. It's easy for me to weed out the more experienced or "gamer” types and concentrate on finding men who have never or seldom had an adulterous relationship: that's my target population. Ashley Madison's existence means I have a very happy, healthy sex life with partners who adore me well into my middle age; a miracle in today's youth oriented society. My partners are often 20 years younger than me and are none the wiser as to my chronological age. This only enhances my enjoyment in life at an age most women have decided not to have sex ever again, or simply can't find exciting partners whose attention helps them maintain joy in feeling fully alive. I believe my story and happy experiences are an anomaly in contemporary society...and I am fully cognizant and grateful I'm a happy, sexy, extremely youthful early 60's woman often mistaken for someone 20 years younger. Female, 62 The human primate is not monogamous by nature. It is not just the male, it is not just the female, it is both. It transcends ethnic groups, social groups, religious groups and political groups. Sex is simply the desire that binds us all. It is more than reproductive, it is less than sacred. It is universal. It is the human condition. Male, 64

36 Reflections Both Polyamory and Cheating address the dopamine void in long term relationships with new lovers Both Cheaters and Open Couples seek to maintain the status and security of their home relationships The key difference between polyamory and cheating is their approaches to disclosure. Poly People tend to have positive feelings towards their home partners and their home relationships and engage in their culturally valued practice of compersion. Cheaters fear that disclosure would cause severe discomfort (e.g. an emotional meltdown) The Polyamory emotional journey can be both painful and rewarding. Dark Night of the Soul Emerge as a Emotionally and Erotically Independent Being

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