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Consensual Non-monogamy: A Novel Explanation Against Moral Stigma

The umbrella term of “consensual non-monogamy” covers everything from the casual sex of swingers to the loving, long-term relationships of polyamorists. If it involves more than two people, sex or love, and everyone has consented, then it’s CNM.

These relationships are more common than you likely think. Research shows something like 5% of Americans are involved in this type of arrangement at any given time and about one in five has engaged in some form of consensual non-monogamy in their lifetime.

“Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is an increasingly popular romantic relationship practice in societies historically predominated by monogamy. CNM refers to any romantic relationship where people form consensually non-exclusive romantic or sexual partnerships,” said lead researcher Justin K. Mogilski of the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie.

“Research documents that those who pursue CNM are the target of significantly greater moral condemnation than those in monogamous relationships. However, people’s perceptions of CNM tend to be discordant with its actual practices and outcomes. For example, CNM individuals are presumed to have worse sexual health than monogamous individuals yet report similar or better sexual health practices compared to those in monogamous relationships.”

“They also report unique benefits from forming multiple intimate relationships such as diversified need fulfillment, more frequent social opportunities, and more fluid sexual expression. And these benefits are associated with relatively greater relationship satisfaction, particularly when an individual’s personality is matched to their relationship structure (e.g., when someone with greater interest in casual sex pursues CNM),” Mogilski told PsyPost.


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