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Sexual Informatics: Non-Monogamy

I've been told, many times, that the word "polyamory" is not really necessary, as it's simply a synonym for "open relationship" or "swinging" (or, depending on the person talking to me, "cheating"). This idea seems to assume that there's really only one kind of non-monogamy, which is kind of silly.

I started thinking lately about the various ways in which a relationship can be non-monogamous, and the intersections between different sorts of non-monogamy, and after tinkering around with the notion for a while I've come up with this diagram.

A relationship can be non-monogamous without being open; cheating relationships, polyfidelitous relationships, and religious polygyny are all examples. I've made polyamory and swinging separate and nonoverlapping here, though of course a person can be polyamorous and also be a swinger (they're two different behaviors engaged in by the same person, just as a person can be a swinger and also be a cheater, and so on).

BDSM throws a monkeywrench into the issue because there are so many ways that people involved in BDSM can be non-monogamous. I've seen people who play at play parties with other folks but don't do so outside play parties and don't form relationships; that sort of arrangement overlaps with swinging. I've seen various flavors of polyamorous and polyfi BDSM relationships. I've seen closed-group non-monogamy that isn't quite polyamory and looks more like closed-group swinging, though God knows there's some overlap between closed-group swinging and polyfi; I've known closed group swingers whose groups stay stable for longer than most marriages do. And there's a sliver of non-monogamous BDSM relationships that don't intersect with anything else; "I'll arrange a gang bang for you and you'll LIKE IT," ferinstance.

And then there's con sex, which overlaps with a whole lot of other stuff. But someone could probably write an entire book about con sex. And now that I think about it, I'd probably read it.


( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 18th, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)
I totally snarfed at "Con Sex" but...

The 100 mile rule? Soft Swinging? I don't know these terms.
Mar. 18th, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC)
"Hundred mile rules" or "hundred mile agreements" are relationship agreements, sometimes tacit, that say that when one member of a couple is out of town (on business trips, or on military deployment, or whatever), it's OK to get some nookie on the side, as long as it doesn't come back when the person returns home.

Soft swinging is the practice of going to public venues for sex (swing clubs, play parties, and so on), but only having sex with your partner, not with other people there.
Mar. 18th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
one wonders why it's considered swinging at all - sounds more like a voyeur kink.
Mar. 19th, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
I believe there's generally making out with other people to some degree or another.
Mar. 18th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
'Nother poster? :)
Mar. 18th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
Yes, please. Want copy!!!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 18th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
Yep! Also sometimes used by military people when someone is on deployment.
Mar. 18th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
LoL once I figured out what "con sex" was... I giggled. ^_^

Nice poster on relationships, tho.
Mar. 18th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
I still haven't figured out what CON is
-your overly innocent reader.
Mar. 18th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
Sex at conventions--such as science fiction conventions, BDSM conventions, or whatever. What happens at Dragon*Con, stays at Dragon*Con, y'know?
Mar. 19th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
Mar. 18th, 2010 08:35 pm (UTC)
interesting diagram, glad you left this post open for linking purposes.
Mar. 18th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
Interesting visual, thank you. May I ask why you inculded Religious polygamy, but not the labels out there for the various configuartions(polyandry, polygyny, bigamy etc)
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 18th, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
Seems like that could fit into a lot of places -- I'd still call that an open relationship, it just has pretty specific boundaries; or it could be a closed poly relationship that hasn't found a third yet, right?
Mar. 18th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
So you fit in on the very edge of closed-group swinging? Interesting, I might have pegged you differently. ;)
Mar. 19th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
*rimshot!* :D

I totally got the reference. Cause I'm perverted like that. ;)
Apr. 13th, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
Heh, I think that's what's known as a signature ;-)

Nicely spotted though - made me chuckle. :)
Apr. 13th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
Mar. 19th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
I've made polyamory and swinging separate and nonoverlapping here, though of course a person can be polyamorous and also be a swinger
The general consensus of poly people seems to be that casual sex between close friends is polyamory.
The general consensus of swingers seems to be that casual sex between close friends is swinging.
I do identify as both poly and a swinger, and I suspect poly people just accept it as poly because they don't disapprove of it.

I do think casual sex without ruling out progressing to serious relationships is a clear area of overlap, though.
Mar. 19th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
I absolutely love your overlapping diagrams. Make more!

Also, hell, I'd read it.
Mar. 19th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
Totally cool, can i repost your diagram?
Mar. 19th, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
Re: question
Absolutely! :)
Mar. 19th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
"But someone could probably write an entire book about con sex."

Mar. 20th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
Great! But you know what's missing? Scale. The area of the shapes should represent how common the relationships are. For example, from what I understand, DADT is way more commonly found than polyamory, but it's not reflected in this graph.

Is it even true, btw? I know we don't yet have serious research and stats, but even your hunch would be very valuable, I think. You meet a lot of people in various open relationships.
Mar. 21st, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC)
It's been my experience that the don't ask don't tell type of nonmonofgamy is pretty much prettified cheating...
Mar. 24th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
I so love your diagrams! Hope you're having a great birthday!
Mar. 28th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
I have had SOOOOO many conversations about con sex lately! Heehee!!!
(And yeah, I'd read it, too. Hell, I'd probably write a chapter or two.)
Apr. 13th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
A friend commented yesterday that this hurt his brain - apparently using more than five colours on a group diagram is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
(My response, of course: more please!)
Apr. 20th, 2010 02:19 am (UTC)
Thanks for the education. I thought it was sex between prison convicts. If it isn't, where does that go on the map?
May. 14th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
This is beyond awesome. I would like to vote for the big glossy poster, please.
Jul. 24th, 2010 01:18 pm (UTC)
@skittenwench: in my experience, DADT lends itself more to 100-mile-rule type arrangements and less to polyfidelity. It's rare to find a set of people who are both DADT and in multiple longer-term-committed relationships. But cheating is a different thing entirely; consent is the tipping point. When partners don't want to know/think about their partners' otherloves, those relationships aren't supported in the context of the primary, and may even require lying in the primary context to maintain the DT agreement. It's unusual for that to be a sustainable arrangement, so if DADT persists, the outside dalliances rarely can.
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
poly swinger
I consider myself both poly and a swinger.
Have lived in a triad (long term) currently date in a quad situation and off and on we play in swingers circles and hit the party scene.
Currently we (4 of us) are just sticking to eachother, but it will most likely go back to swinging when spring is in the air.

The funny thing is that because I swing and self label as poly I get to know a lot of people from both camps.
Ive met poly people that have way more casual sex than many swingers and swingers that need a much stronger connection with sex partners than many who call themselves poly.
Oct. 24th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
Re: poly swinger
I've had that same experience as well--both in meeting poly folks who really like casual sex, and in meeting swingers who require a level of non-sexual connection in order to have sex with people. The newest version of the map shows an intersection between swinging and poly for just that reason. :)
Feb. 4th, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)
Soft swap
After eight years in the swing lifestyle, I believe the understanding here of soft swap is not quite correct. Generally, soft swap means swapping partners for sexual play that includes everything except for penis/vaginal penetration. Pleasuring to orgasm with your hands, fingers, tongue and lips are all part of it.
Feb. 4th, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Soft swap
Interesting. I wonder if it's a regional variation? The swing community in Tampa seems to use the expression differently.
Sep. 6th, 2014 10:58 pm (UTC)
Con Sex
I was thinking "Convict Sex" at first, which also overlaps with several things.
( 37 comments — Leave a comment )