A study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, entitled "Unfaithful Individuals are Less Likely to Practice Safer Sex Than Openly Nonmonogamous Individuals," has determined just that. Researchers Terri D. Conley, Amy C. Moors, Ali Ziegler, and Constantina Karathanasis undertook the study in order to determine whether sexually unfaithful individuals or negotiated non-monogamous individuals would be more likely utilize safer sex methods. In their introduction, they state:
Given the prevalence and harm of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there is a need to examine safer sex strategies in the context of romantic relationships and extradyadic sexual encounters . . . little research has addressed the sexual health ramifications of sexually unfaithful partners and members of other high-risk nonmonogamous lifestyles.
Researchers gave an anonymous, online sexual health questionnaire to several hundred sexually unfaithful individuals and individuals with a negotiated non-monogamous agreement. In the end, sexually unfaithful participants demonstrated significantly lower rates of risk reduction behaviors in both their primary relationships and their extradyadic sexual experiences. They were also less likely to undergo frequent STI testing and to discuss safer sex concerns with new partners.
Unfortunately, access to the study is restricted to those with institutional access, a society membership, or those who wish to pay for a 24-hour period of access, but the abstract can be found online.
Despite its ominous title of "The New Sex: Strange Arrangements," last Friday's episode of 20/20 included a pretty reasonable 7-minute segment on a poly network. One of the interviewees was Sierra Black, a woman who has written several wonderful articles about parenting in an open marriage, for sites such as Salon and Babble.
You can watch the episode on ABC's site or on Hulu, and ABC's article about the open relationship segment is a fairly direct reflection of the segment.
The interviewees do a great job of dispelling the myths that are thrown at them, like that they're committing adultery and must have jealousy issues. And although the interviewer, Elizabeth Vargas, calls their open relationship a "marital merry-go-round" that's "a tad kooky," the tone of the segment is not especially judgmental -- and generally allows the folks speak for themselves. Especially touching was the moment when Vargas spoke to one of Sierra's daughters:
You might think Sierra and Martin's daughters think their parents' arrangement is unusual, but when "20/20" anchor Elizabeth Vargas asked their daughter, Rio, if she thought her family was different from other families, she replied, "Not really."
Rio's definition of an open marriage was fairly precise, for a 7-year-old: "Your parent or one of your parents is dating a different person that's not part of your family," she said.
Black was content with the outcome of the interview, writing on her blog:
I did this because I wanted to give mainstream America a peek at a healthy, happy, thriving circle of poly families. It's my hope that we’ve done just that, and that this is a step toward a future where news shows won't want to do segments on how "kooky" polyamory is, because it's just a thing some people do. I am fairly confident positive portrayals on TV can make a difference, and I'm grateful to ABC for their approach in this one.
Among many comments on a blog post called "If no one's being hurt, God's okay with your sexuality," gay Christian author John Shore found one that really intrigued him. It was from a woman in a relationship with two people -- thanking him for mentioning polyamory in his post. She wrote, "I didn't even know what that was, until I was in it." He responded by asking to interview her, and the interview was posted on the Huffington Post.
The three-person relationship came together slowly, the woman explains. She had just escaped an abusive marriage when she began spending even more time with her best friend and her best friend's husband. Falling in love as a triad was never on their radars, and they were all raised to believe that romantic love was a two-person deal. But the three realized they had feelings for each other, and after much discussion, they decided to enter into a relationship together.
Now they live together as a blended, polyfidelitous family with eight children. Unfortunately, they live in an extremely conservative, deeply religious, and considerably homophobic part of the South, where they stay in the closet to avoid discrimination. The woman explains the tough situation this way:
I love our life together. I love our big, happy home. But I do not love the fact that I live in a community that would rather me live as a struggling single mom to four children than to have the support of two adults who love me dearly as a life partner. The fact that my community would believe wholeheartedly that my sexual relationship with my abusive ex-husband was righteous but that my sexual relationship with two committed life partners (if they knew about it) is unrighteous, just seems so hypocritical.
Be sure to read the whole interview on the Huffington Post.
ELIXHER is a website that publishes thought-provoking content relevant to the black queer community and experience. Ashley Young, a black feminist queer dyke, poet, writer, and teaching artist, wrote a wonderful piece about her experience discovering and embracing polyamory.
Young recounts how she first met her partner, Sara, in college. Sara was poly but Young was not, so Sara put her non-monogamous nature on hold until Young was ready to delve into it. After some road bumps, the couple came to a satisfying polyamorous arrangement.
But what makes our relationship special is the fact that we are more than just partners -- we are best friends, lovers, sister girls, queer buddies, playmates, road dogs, femme bitches and the list goes on. Being able to explore relationships with other people helps our relationship grow. We share stories of other lovers as sister girls, flirt with men, women and gender variant folks as queer buddies and encourage each other’s sexual adventures as best friends.
Read the whole thing at ELIXHER.