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Predictors of Perceived Stigmatization within Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships

Authors:
  • The Center for Positive Sexuality

Abstract

Predictors of Perceived Stigmatization within Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships
Ryan G. Witherspoon, M.A.
California School of Professional Psychology
Alliant International University
Predictors of Perceived Stigmatization within
Consensually Non-Monogamous Populations
Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM)
4-5% of American adults may be engaged in CNM relationships.
(Conley, Moors, et al., 2013; Conley, Ziegler, Moors, Matsick, & Valentine, 2013)
Large percentages of LGB relationships may be CNM.
(c.f., Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Bonello, 2009; Munson & Stelboum, 1999; Wosick-Correa,
2007)
CNM often broken down into: polyamory, swinging, open
relationships. (Conley, Moors, et al., 2013; Matsick, Conley, Ziegler, Moors, & Rubin,
2013)
Prevalence of CNM in two large general samples did not differ
when using behavioral vs. identity-based assessments. (Rubin,
Moors, Matsick, & Conley, 2014)
But….this basic taxonomy has yet to be empirically validated as
matching CNM participants’ views of themselves or the definitions
researchers ascribe to these labels.
Stigmatization of CNM
CNM relationships heavily stigmatized compared to monogamous
ones. (Conley, Moors, et al., 2013; Moors, Matsick, Ziegler, Rubin, & Conley, 2013)
Prejudice against CNM extended to perceptions of the individuals
involved in those relationships. (Conley, Moors, et al., 2013)
CNM relationships also rated more negatively on arbitrary qualities,
indicating possible ‘halo effect’ surrounding monogamy. (Conley, Moors,
et al., 2013)
CNM individuals have reported suffering acts of prejudice and
discrimination due to their lifestyle. (Weber, 2002; Wright, 2008)
CNM sub-types may be differentially stigmatized by general public:
Two studies found polyamory less stigmatized than swinging or
open relationships. (Grunt-Mejer & Campbell, 2015; Matsick et al., 2013)
Unanswered Questions
Do the CNM practices and identities of participants align with the
tripartite model?
What predicts greater CNM-related perceived stigma and
experiences of discrimination, harassment, and violence (DHV)?
Are there differences between CNM subtypes regarding:
Perceived stigmatization (of the individual).
Perceived stigmatization (of CNM group).
Experiences of DHV.
Level of outness about CNM.
Importance of CNM to sense of identity.
The Present Study
Internet-based survey. Exploratory. Correlational design.
Control Variables:
Age, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Race/Ethnicity, Income,
Education, Personality (Big 5).
Independent & Dependent Variables:
Outness about CNM. (OI; Mohr & Fassinger, 2000)
Salience of CNM identity. (CSES; Luhtanen & Crocker, 1992)
Perceived stigmatization due to CNM. (SCQ; Pinel, 1999)
Experiences of DHV due to CNM. (adapted from Cox et al., 2009)
Length of CNM identification
Multi-partner cohabitation
Presence of children at home
Participants
1,582 self-identified CNM adults
living in USA.
Age: M = 36.7, SD = 10.5
(range 18-80)
Gender
Identity
%
#
Female 57.5 909
Male 35.4 560
Non-Binary 5.2 83
Trans (M + F) 1.9 30
Sexual
Orientation
%
#
Bisexual/
Pansexual 51.8 819
Heterosexual 35.7 564
Gay/Lesbian 5.5 87
Other 4.3 68
Queer 2.8 44
Race/
Ethnicity
%
#
Caucasian 86 1361
Black/AA 3.9 61
Latino/Hispanic 3.9 61
Mixed Race 3.3 52
Other 3.0 47
Participants
Income: Median = $40k
2013 US median income = $28.8k
0.6
3.4 24.8
8.2 30.5
8.5 16.1
8
0 10 20 30 40
Some H.S.
H.S. Grad
Some College
AA Degree
BA/BS Degree
Some Grad School
MA/MS Degree
Doctoral Degree
% of Sample
Education
29%
71%
2014 U.S. Average
Tripartite CNM Taxonomy
Polyamorous relationship definition: A person (or couple, if applicable) is involved in
multiple simultaneous relationships that are romantic in nature and may also be sexual.
These relationships usually involve sex, but do not have to. All parties involved understand
and agree to the lack of sexual and/or romantic exclusivity. A key factor is the desire to
have multiple relationships that are romantic/emotional in nature, not just sexual.
Swinging relationship definition: A couple desires to have sexual relationships with people
other than their primary partner (i.e., spouse or significant other), and typically engage in
these sexual relationships at parties, social settings, or group/couple dates. All parties
involved understand and agree to the lack of sexual exclusivity. Key factors are that the
couple views consensually non-monogamous activities as something they usually do
together, like a recreational activity, and that the outside relationships are only sexual, not
romantic/emotional.
Open relationship definition: A couple desires to have sexual relationships with someone
other than their primary partner (i.e., spouse or significant other), and there is an agreement
where one or both partners may individually pursue outside sexual relationships. All parties
involved understand and agree to the lack of sexual exclusivity. Key factors are that
individual members of the couple typically pursue outside sexual relationships independently,
for example without their primary partner present, and that these outside relationships are
only sexual, not romantic/emotional.
CNM Identifications Participants Could
Choose From
Polyamorous
Swinger
Open Relationship
Relationship Anarchy
Monogamish
A couple that is primarily monogamous, but occasionally allows an outside
sexual partner, either independently or together as a couple.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
A couple agrees that each member is free to pursue outside sexual
relationships, but that the members of the couple will keep the details of
these outside sexual relationships hidden from each other.
Poly-Mono
A couple in which one partner maintains outside polyamorous relationships
with the knowledge and consent of their primary partner, who is
monogamous and does not maintain any outside romantic or sexual
relationships.
Other
Pearson Χ2 (14, N = 1,582) = 885.79, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .529
66.9
11.7 13.6
0.3
25.5
1.9
11.4 16.6
41.6
9
0.7 0.5
2.4
41.4
25.7
2.3 2.1 4.2
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Polyamory Practices
Open Rel. Practices
%
Polyamorous
Swinger
Open Relationship
Relationship Anarchy
Monogamish
None of the Above
CNM Self-Identification
Endorsed CNM Practices vs. CNM Self-Identification
82.6
13.8 22.4
0.3
25.5
1.9
14.8
58.6
71.5
2.3 2.1 4.2
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
Polyamory
Practices
Swinging
Practices
Open Rel.
Practices
%
Self-Endorsed CNM Practices
Condensed CNM Identity vs. Practices
Polyamorous
Swinger
Open Relationship
None of the Above
CNM Identity
Pearson Χ2 (6, N = 1,582) = 741.98, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .484
Experiences of DHV due to CNM
54.7% reported at least 1 type of DHV.
26.4% reported 3 or more types of DHV.
Percentage of sample reporting 1 or more experience of:
29.1% - Verbal Harassment
23.7% - Internet Harassment
16.5% - Discrimination by a medical doctor
14.2% - Discrimination by a mental health practitioner
19.7% - Sexual Harassment*
10.0% - Stalking
8.1% - Divorce
5.1% - Rape or sexual assault
3.9% - Physical assault
2.0% - Temporary or permanent loss of child custody
What predicts anti-CNM stigma & DHV?
Hierarchical multiple regressions were run:
Outcome Variables:
Perceived Stigma (SCQ)
Experiences of DHV
Step 1 (control variables):
Age
Gender Identity
Sexual Orientation
Race/Ethnicity
Income
Education
Personality (Big 5)
Step 2 (independent variables):
Multi-partner cohabitation
Children at home
Length of CNM Identification
Outness about CNM
Importance of CNM to Identity
What predicts stigma and/or DHV?
βSig.
Zero-
order
Partial βSig.
Zero-
order
Partial
.076 .012 .115 .065
Bisexual/ Pansexual .164 .000 .187 .141
Other Orient. .097 .000 .060 .097
.055 .026 .047 .057
Black/AA
Mixed Race .093 .005 .122 .097
.184 .000 .144 .136
Openness
Conscientiousness .069 .005 .053 .072
.137 .000 .172 .128
Neuroticism .062 .021 .072 .059
Multi-Cohabitation .054 .027 .100 .057
Children at Home
Length of CNM ID .143 .000 .165 .126
Outness .167 .000 .229 .168
Perceived Stigma
R2 = .098, Adj. R2 = .083
R2 = .142, Adj. R2 = .129
Experiences of DHV
32.95
31.41
30.18
33.14
32.87
30.82
29.88
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
Poly
Swing
Open Rel.
Other
SCQ
CNM Type and Perceived Stigma (SCQ)
CNM Practices
CNM Identity
Practices η2 = .012, Identity η2 = .014
2.07
1.40 1.17
2.07
1.67
1.36
2.68
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
Poly
Swing
Open Rel.
Other
Types of DHV Reported
CNM Type and Experiences of DHV
CNM Practices
CNM Identity
Practices η2 = .015, Identity η2 = .014
2.61
1.93 2.01
2.64
1.77
2.10
2.57
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
Poly
Swing
Open Rel.
Other
Mean OI
CNM Type and Outness
CNM Practices
CNM Identity
Practices η2 = .055, Identity η2 = .054
16.05
14.83 14.72
16.05
15.53
15.13
14.75
14
14.5
15
15.5
16
16.5
Poly
Swing
Open Rel.
Other
CSES Identity
CNM Type and Identity Salience
CNM Practices
CNM Identity
Practices η2 = .01, Identity η2 = .006
Implications
Overall impression: Huge within-group variability! Missing third variables?
Question about utility, validity of Open Relationship category in CNM taxonomy.
Research shows polyamory less stigmatized than swinging, open relationships.
However:
Polyamorous participants in this sample reported slightly higher levels of
perceived stigmatization and DHV events, compared to other CNM types.
Poly participants also reported higher levels of outness & CNM identity salience.
Mediation was not statistically significant – possibly due to small effect sizes.
CNM identity salience predicted > perceived stigma. The more important CNM is
to one’s identity, the more sensitive one is to feeling stigmatized due to it.
DHV experiences were predicted by both level of outness as well as how long a
participant had identified as CNM. Both factors could be seen as enhancing one’s
exposure to CNM-related discriminatory events.
Identifying outside the tripartite model = More out, less salient to overall identity,
less perceived stigma, but more DHV experiences.
Future work should investigate the effects of minority stress on CNM populations,
as well as potential coping, resilience, and strength factors.
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Ryan G. Witherspoon, M.A.
RyanWitherspoon@gmail.com
www.RyanWitherspoon.com
Thank You!
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Thesis
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Polyamory is a type of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) in which participants engage in multiple simultaneous romantic and often sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all involved. CNM practitioners in general, and polyamorous people in specific, appear to be highly stigmatized due to their relational practices, and to frequently encounter CNM-related discrimination, harassment, and violence (DHV). Conceptualizing this dynamic via minority stress theory predicts that this stigma and DHV will lead to negative mental health outcomes for polyamorous individuals. However, recent research has begun to identify possible sources of resilience and strength within polyamorous populations, which may ameliorate these negative effects, as well as enhance satisfaction with CNM and quality of life. This study investigated these hypotheses in a sample of 1,176 polyamorous American adults utilizing structural equation modeling (SEM). Two structural models were proposed and tested, one for polyamorous resilience and one for polyamorous strengths. Four constructs were assessed as potential resilience and strength factors: mindfulness, cognitive flexibility, a positive CNM identity, and connection to a supportive CNM community. Results indicate that CNM-related minority stress was positively related to increased psychological distress, such as higher self-reported depression and anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness was found to have both direct and moderating effects on the relationship between minority stress and psychological distress, such that higher mindfulness attenuated the negative impact of minority stress. Cognitive flexibility also displayed direct and moderating effects, but in the opposite than predicted direction. Regarding polyamorous strengths, mindfulness was found to positively impact overall satisfaction with CNM as well as life satisfaction. In addition, greater connection to a supportive CNM community correlated with having a more positive sense of CNM identity, which in turn was related to higher satisfaction with CNM. Overall satisfaction with CNM was related to greater life satisfaction. Clinical and research implications of these findings are discussed, with an emphasis on improving cultural competence for clinicians working with this unique and under-served population.
Thesis
Des critiques à l’encontre de la monogamie, considérée comme l’unique forme relationnelle dans notre société, ont vu le jour. L’exclusivité émotionnelle et sexuelle ne semble plus réaliste et les mouvements d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes auraient entrainé une remise en question de ce mode relationnel. Ainsi, les configurations relationnelles se sont diversifiées dans notre société et se regroupent sous le terme de non-monogamies consensuelles. Le polyamour est l’une de ces configurations, et consiste en la possibilité d’entretenir plusieurs relations simultanées. Par le biais d’une recherche exploratoire avec huit personnes pratiquant le polyamour, cette étude examine les caractéristiques individuelles, les valeurs et les traits de personnalité saillants des individus. Aussi, cette recherche vise à comprendre la manière dont les individus polyamoureux prennent conscience de leur volonté d’entretenir plusieurs relations simultanées, et la manière dont ces relations sont vécues. Les résultats ont montré que les individus accordent peu d’importance à la religion, présentent un haut niveau d’éducation et valorisent peu les contacts familiaux. Les individus sont caractérisés par une grande indépendance, une tendance à expérimenter les émotions positives, une grande ouverture aux nouveautés et un faible conformisme. L’entrée dans le polyamour a été graduelle pour la majorité des sujets, qui expriment avoir dû déconstruire les normes sociétales. Ces dernières peuvent engendrer plusieurs préjugés à l’encontre des relations polyamoureuses, de la part de la société et de l’entourage proche. Ces préjugés peuvent impacter la manière de vivre les relations (de manière affichée ou secrète) mais n’impacteraient en revanche pas le fait de pratiquer le polyamour, suggérant que ces aspects négatifs seraient plus faibles que les apports positifs découlant de ce mode relationnel. Mots-clés : polyamour, non-monogamie consensuelle, exploratoire, vécu, motivations, préjugés, amours plurielles, valeurs, personnalité
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Reviews theoretical and research evidence on internalized homophobia (IH; the internalization of societal antihomosexual attitudes) and describes findings from different investigations of IH in a community sample of New York City gay and bisexual men. Two cohorts of Ss, 1 aged 18–75 yrs and the other aged 18–24 yrs, were followed for 7 and 2 yrs, respectively, as part of the Longitudinal AIDS Impact Project. Relationships were assessed between IH and intimacy, sexual behavior, and AIDS-related risk taking. More than two-thirds of both cohorts experienced some level of IH. Findings suggest that, although often of low level, IH is common among many gay and bisexual men who have apparently accepted their homosexual orientation, and that IH continues to be manifested in gay and bisexual men even after they have come out. In addition, IH was found to be a predictor of mental health problems, intimacy problems, and AIDS-related risk-taking behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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This chapter provides an introduction to and overview of stigma. (from the chapter) Topics include: what is stigma?; types and dimensions of stigma; functions of stigmatizing others; a conceptual framework (the perceiver–target dimension, the personal–group based identity dimension, the affective–cognitive–behavioral dimension, advantages of the 3-dimensional framework, limitations of the framework). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved) (chapter)
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Prejudice against fat people was compared with symbolic racism. An anti-fat attitudes questionnaire was developed and used in several studies testing the notion that antipathy toward fat people is part of an "ideology of blame." Three commonalities between antifat attitudes and racism were explored: (a) the association between values, beliefs, and the rejection of a stigmatized group, (b) the old-fashioned antipathy toward deviance of many sorts, and (c) the lack of self-interest in out-group antipathy. Parallels were found on all 3 dimensions. No in-group bias was shown by fat people. Fatism appears to behave much like symbolic racism, but with less of the negative social desirability of racism.
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In the field of social sciences, there has been a renewed interest in studying prejudice and discrimination as stressors and assessing their impact on various health outcomes. This raises a need for theoretically based and psychometrically sound measures of prejudice. As researchers approach this task, there are several conceptual issues that need to be addressed. The author describes 3 such issues related to (1) individual versus structural measures of the impact of prejudice, (2) objective versus subjective assessments of stress, and (3) measures of major events versus everyday discrimination. How researchers approach the problem of measurement depends on the specific study aims, but they must consider these conceptual issues and understand the advantages and limitations of various approaches to the study of prejudice as stress.
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In the context of recent debates about same‐sex marriage, consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships have recently begun making their way into media discussions. In the current research, we investigated whether stigma is attached to these nonnormative romantic relationships and, conversely, whether halo effects surround monogamous relationships. In Study 1 we analyzed open‐ended responses to the question “what are the benefits of monogamy?”. The most commonly mentioned benefits included the promotion of commitment and health (especially the prevention of sexually transmitted infections [STIs]). In Study 2, descriptions of CNM relationships were strongly stigmatized and a substantial halo effect surrounded monogamous relationships. Specifically, monogamous relationships were rated more positively than CNM relationships on every dimension (both relationship‐relevant and arbitrary relationship‐irrelevant factors) that we examined and across diverse social groups, including CNM individuals themselves. In Study 3, we conducted a person perception study in which participants provided their impressions of a monogamous or a CNM relationship. The monogamous couple was rated overwhelmingly more favorably than the CNM relationship. Finally, in Study 4, we replicated the findings with a set of traits that were generated with regard to relationships in general (rather than monogamous relationships, specifically) and with a broader set of arbitrary traits. Across all studies, the results consistently demonstrated stigma surrounding CNM and a halo effect surrounding monogamy. Implications for future research examining similarities and differences between monogamous and CNM relationships are discussed.
Article
Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) refers to romantic relationships in which all partners agree to engage in sexual, romantic and/or emotional relationships with others. Within the general framework of CNM, subtypes of relationships differ in the extent to which partners intend for love and emotional involvement to be a part of their multiple relationships (that is, some relationships may prioritise love over sex with multiple partners, or vice versa). The present study examined whether individuals were more likely to stigmatise relationships that: (i) focus on loving more than one person (which is characteristic of polyamory), (ii) focus on having sex without love (which is characteristic of swinging lifestyles), or (iii) involve having sex without love without a partner’s participation (which is characteristic of open relationships). In the present research, participants were assigned to read a definition of one of the three CNM relationship types (i.e. a swinging, polyamorous or open relationship) and to indicate their attitudes towards individuals who participate in those relationships. Results show that swingers were overwhelmingly perceived more negatively (e.g. less responsible) than individuals in polyamorous relationships and that people in open relationships were sometimes perceived more negatively (e.g. less moral) than people in polyamorous relationships. Overall, findings suggest that people are more uncomfortable with the idea of strictly sexual relationships (i.e. swinging relationships) than relationships involving multiple romantic/emotional attachments (i.e. polyamorous relationships).
Article
In our target article, “The Fewer the Merrier: Assessing Stigma Surrounding Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships,” we documented a robust stigma toward consensual nonmonogamous relationships and a halo surrounding monogamous relationships. In the present piece, we respond to six commentaries of our target article with the aim of promoting future research and policy change. First, we address questions and concerns raised by commentators using existing data and found that regardless of perceived relationship happiness, sexual orientation, or gender (of experimental targets), individuals in consensual nonmonogamous relationships were more negatively viewed on a variety of qualities (both relationship-specific and nonrelationship specific) compared to those in monogamous relationships. Second, we suggest productive future research avenues with regards to implications for social change, and strengthening methodology used in consensual nonmonogamous research. Finally, we consider common ground among the commentators as an avenue to promote coalition building through the examinations of prejudice toward individuals in nonnormative romantic relationships. We conclude that this is only the beginning of a fruitful line of research and argue that the stigma toward departures from monogamy is robust and, of course, worthy of additional research.
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Stigma and Sexual Orientation contributes toward the deeper understanding of homophobia, and provides insight into the issue of prejudice in general. Discussions include the nature of antigay prejudice, stereotypes, and behaviors; the consequences of homophobia and related phenomena on the well-being of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals; and the critical need for psychology and science to confront homophobia and related issues. This book examines issue complexities and equips the reader with insights necessary to better assist members of this population. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This is my partner, and this is my… partner's partner: Constructing a polyamorous identity in a monogamous world
  • M Barker
 Barker, M. (2004). This is my partner, and this is my… partner's partner: Constructing a polyamorous identity in a monogamous world. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 18, 75-88. doi:10.1080/10720530590523107