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-   -   What to say to people who assume poly = group sex? (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=48566)

MeeraReed 06-10-2013 02:30 AM

What to say to people who assume poly = group sex?
This is kind of a non-problem, yet it's coming up in my life a lot lately as I am trying to be more open with friends/family about my dating life and to identify as poly.

The issue is, when I say "polyamory" people hear "group sex." To be truthful, that's what I myself assumed polyamorous meant when I first heard the word, several years ago.

Actually, I think the problem is the word itself. Yes, "amorous" does mean "loving," but usually we only use the word "amorous" as a comical euphemism for sexual/horny. Plus, the root "amor" really refers to explicitly sexual love.

(Also, the word "polyamory" has always sounded silly and awkward to me with its odd mishmash of Greek and Latin roots. But that's really a totally different gripe, only suitable for a linguistics conference.)

Anyway...there was a post on another thread today wherein a mono person mentioned that when she describes her partner's poly relationships, people are like, "Oh, you all get it on together, then." I guess this is just because everyone has heard of threesomes, but not everyone knows that people can date more than one person separately??? People know what swinging is, but can't envision just normal dating of more than one person?

Or is it that people can't imagine that you could be okay with your partner seeing other people--unless you were having sex with them too?

One of my personal experiences with this: For the last year, I have been trying to explain my dating life to my supportive but somewhat clueless mother. She and I used to be close, but it feels awkward when I try to talk to her about my dating life or my guy (whom she has met and likes). Only recently did I figure out that she was making all sorts of odd assumptions, namely that what I'm doing must be group sex/threesomes with my guy & his other women. Which is a pretty odd assumption, given that I have never been bi or into women! I guess I wasn't explaining it right.

(Also, if I was having group sex & threesomes, that wouldn't really be anything I need to share with my mother! I was trying to share my approach to relationships with her and to discuss my relationship style. She has met my guy several times, I expect him to be in my life for a while, and I had wanted to be honest with my mom about our open relationship....oh well. Guess I don't need to overshare anymore!)

LovingRadiance 06-10-2013 02:33 AM

I generally don't say we are poly or open or whatever.
I just explain that I have a bf and a dh. Yes we live together, we have our own rooms and no they aren't bi.
But people always ask questions about what they don't understand. I just try to describe our dynamic clearly.

YouAreHere 06-10-2013 02:42 AM

Yep, that was me. I got one "EEEEW, so you all have sex?" and a small handful of, "Oh, so you all (ahem ahem)...?" (as in "get together")

The last time I mentioned it to friends, I used the "open" term and then explained it was more like two committed relationships than casual ones. That seemed to work, and the friends who met and liked him, seemed to talk just as highly of him afterward (after being faux-annoyed with me for not telling them about the relationship structure itself for a while). I think I'll be going with this approach in the future. "Poly" seems to be a loaded word.

BoringGuy 06-10-2013 02:47 AM


Originally Posted by LovingRadiance (Post 208889)
I generally don't say we are poly or open or whatever.
I just explain that I have a bf and a dh.

But people always ask questions about what they don't understand. I just try to describe our dynamic clearly.


Originally Posted by YouAreHere (Post 208892)
I used the "open" term
"Poly" seems to be a loaded word.

Me too, but I do use "open relationship". I'm not sure if it's just where I live and who I talk to, but this seems to get the message across effectively. I think that's because it uses terminology that is familiar to most people, even if the concept can be somewhat disconcerting for them. However, I am not aware of anyone I've spoken with about my own experiences who perceives it as "group sex".

Unlike those who are worried about being "judged" and alienated by their family/friends/communities, my experience has been that people simply are curious and want to ask me lots of questions, which i don't mind answering. Of course, I remind them that I don't speak for a group, I speak only for myself.

LovingRadiance 06-10-2013 02:54 AM

I haven't met with judgment either. Just confusion and curiosity.
I rarely tell people any identifier.

Meet someone, start talking, family comes up (happens a lot in class at beginning of semesters). I say "I live in the valley with my husband, boyfriend and our kids"
Usually they ask some form of "you have a husband and a bf?!?!"
I say yes.
They ask some form of "how do THEY feel about it?"
I respond with a shrug, it was complicated to begin with, jealousy, insecurity, fear. But, I love them both and we have kids-so we were all motivated to figure out how to make it work.
Sometimes they get the nerve to inquire about our sleeping arrangements. I explain the guys are both straight, we all have our own rooms.

BoringGuy 06-10-2013 03:09 AM

I get: "So where's S?"

Me: "On a date."

"Really? Again? Same person?"

Me: "Um, ya, it's their anniversary."

"Oh. Ok. But what about you? Why aren't you with your other partner now?"


YouAreHere 06-10-2013 03:19 AM

I've gotten that one too, but differently... The friends who see me as a victim have said in the past that it'd be better if I had someone else too, so I wouldn't be alone when my partner isn't around.


I got cats instead.

BoringGuy 06-10-2013 03:21 AM


Originally Posted by YouAreHere (Post 208901)
I got cats instead.

I have cats too; not instead. Or I should say - they have me.

nycindie 06-10-2013 03:35 AM

"What to say to people who assume poly = group sex?"

Um, this might work: "No, it's not." ;)

Seriously, though - I rarely use the terms polyamorous or non-monogamous. I just say that "we're not exclusive." Talking about exclusivity, or not being exclusive sounds more like it's about dating rather than fucking, I think.

Eponine 06-10-2013 04:28 AM

I think the media representations of polyamory contribute to this misconception. This article about "polynormativity" is spot on (if it's too long for you, jump to the fourth point: "Polyamory is heterosexual(-ish). Also, cute and young and white. Also new and exciting and sexy!"). Also, the media seems to be especially interested in the group marriage kind of polyamory (even though it's not the most common arrangement), so that combined with the emphasis on sex leads to the common assumption poly = group sex.

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