People Living Poly

(In the United States in 2009, the number of people living polyamorous was estimated at half a million, according to Jessica Bennett @jess7bennett in The Daily Beast: Only You. And You. And You. (Jul 28, 2009)

Page (2004) found that 33% of her bisexual sample of 217 participants were involved in a polyamorous relationship, and 54% considered this type of relationship ideal. West (1996) reported that 20% of her lesbian respondents were polyamorous, while Blumstein and Schwartz (1983) found that 28% of the lesbian couples in their sample were. Blumstein and Schwartz found that 65% of the gay male couples in their study were polyamorous, and that 15-28% of their heterosexual couples had "an understanding that allows non-monogamy under some circumstances" (p.312).

Earlier this year, an Internet survey of 1,100 polyamorists conducted by Melissa Mitchell at Simon Fraser University – the largest academic survey of polyamorists to date – found that majority of poly individuals (64 per cent) have two partners, with 61 per cent of the women identifying their two closest partners as both men and 86 per cent of men identifying their two closest partners as both women.

The majority of the women in the sample identified as bisexual (68 per cent), while bisexual men are less frequent (39 per cent) and exclusive homosexuals are rare (3.9 per cent for women and 2.9 per cent for men).

The study found that on average, polyamorists spend more time with and feel more committed to their primary partners than their secondary partners, though they may find secondary partners better satisfy their sexual needs. Seventy per cent of the sample live with their closest partner and 47 per cent are married to him/her. The average relationship length was nine years for closest partners and 2.5 years for second-closest partners.

The researchers note that because the survey is self-selected, it doesn’t provide a representative sample, but Dr. Sheff says the SFU results line up with those of other studies, such as the 71 focus interviews she conducted with Midwestern and Californian polyamorists from 1996 to 2009.

Dr. Sheff says that despite the pronounced importance of gender equality to polyamorists, it’s not unusual for men to be drawn to it because they believe that it will lead to easy sex or sex with multiple women.

But philanderers and pickup artists have a difficult time meeting the emotional demands of a polyamorous lifestyle and are eventually turned off – or ostracized – by the community.