The Roaring 20s 2.0 — Consensual Non-Monogamy becoming Mainstream in the Post-Pandemic Social Media Age
BY OONAGH O’SULLIVAN
Yesterday was a big day for those in the lifestyle! “Felt like a normal Tuesday to me…” I hear you trail off. Yet on this average Tuesday, the consensual non-monogamous (also known as ethical non-monogamy) lifestyle was gifted almost 3,500 words as well as a mention on the front cover of one of the most well-known magazines in the mainstream media Vogue. The lengthy and well-researched article written by Michelle Ruiz, gives a perspective on the lifestyle mostly from the point-of-view of the Bhatias‘ (a now polycule) journey into the consensual non-monogamous lifestyle.
The article also includes some perspectives from well-known researchers, authors, and advocates such as Justin Lehmiller, one of the country’s leading experts on human sexuality and author of Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire, Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, an adjunct professor of human sexuality at New York University and author who researches non-monogamy, Janet Hardy co-author of Ethical Slut one of the earliest and seminal works on the non-monogamous lifestyle, and Amy Moors, PhD., an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Chapman University and co-chair of the American Psychological Association Division 44 Committee on Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM)
The piece published yesterday invites readers to question the status quo by likening relationship structures with more institutional structures such as health care, education, and politics.
“The swelling impulse to challenge the status quo, from systemic racism and criminal justice to #MeToo’s reckoning on sexist abuse, had crept into her sex life and relationship style: “I think people are disillusioned with life right now and really starting to write their own rules,” ~ Megan says
The idea that relationship by design might be at the heart of a greater societal revolution is cool, and something we’ve all known for a while, right!? ;) Those who live the ethically non-monogamous lifestyle consciously know how much we must reclaim the responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, projections, and wounding and that it is up to us to dismantle the internal beliefs that have been conditioned by the harmful structures and systems our whole unsustainable culture has been built upon. No one else is going to save us, and no one else is going to change the world. It is up to us to start creating the world we wish to participate in and this all begins with our relationships — with ourselves and others.
The article reveals how the pandemic has created the time and space for people to reassess what they are doing with their lives, their choices and how they want to live in this world in relation to others and the earth. We are in the middle of the “Great Resignation”, right!? This newfound time and space left a lot of people questioning what they actually want from life and whether or not their needs and desires are truly being fulfilled, with many realizing that their primary romantic relationships were fulfilling all of their needs — sexual and otherwise.
Because so much of our lives transitioned onto the online realm over the last two years, it’s no wonder that multimedia has contributed to this huge shift in how people are wanting to engage in relationships and express their sexuality. Social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have normalized, and educated millions on, many social issues such as racism, LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights, and climate justice.
The article suggested that many people within the activist community who identify as queer are more likely to live an ethically non-monogamous lifestyle, which research shows to be true. It seems that when someone is comfortable with stepping outside certain societal norms (for example heteronormativity), they are more likely to explore pushing the boundaries of other norms (e.g., living a non-monogamous lifestyle).
Links between the CNM and queer communities abound: The Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 chipped at the foundation of husband-and-wife as gold standard, according to Moors, “allowing us to have conversations about different transformations of family life.” It’s also true that the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities are twice as likely to practice CNM than their heterosexual counterparts, according to research.
We find this to be fascinating and can see a parallel between the times we find ourselves in now, compared to 100 years ago in the 1920s where the post-war melting pot caused everything in society to change. We now find ourselves in a similar space, where somehow anything seems possible. With the instability of many external circumstances and the opportunity to somehow face our own mortality throughout the pandemic, it is becoming more and more clear that life is what we make it. We ultimately hold the power and responsibility to create the work, relationship, and lifestyle structures that hold meaning to us. We are living through a time like no other where certain systems are collapsing, paving the way for new ways of being to become the norm.
Although it is clear that ethical non-monogamy is on the rise since March 2020, It’s not the first time Vogue has covered non-monogamy, with British Vogue and Vogue India having covered similar themes. Even Teen Vogue has had their say on how polyamory and other non-monogamous structures are normally covered in the mainstream media. Other popular media outlets such as Glamour, the BBC, and the New York Times have also written in recent years about the choice to live in a relationship by design rather than blindly following societal norms.
Even the mainstream online dating culture is shifting with these times with more and more apps geared toward people who practice ethical non-monogamy such as #open. There is clearly a huge rise in the lifestyle, with many new podcasts, blogs, and youtube channels dedicated to sharing the reality of this way of living. However, the lifestyle is not without challenges, with many creators, researchers, and advocates still being censored by the mainstream. #open have shared about their difficulties with getting funding and being visible within people’s search engines due to the fact that they don’t share user data with the likes of Facebook and Google.
In 2021 the #open app saw a whopping 111,565 profiles created with an additional 31,108 profiles created in the first 3 months of 2022. This 12% increase so far this year, suggests that there are indeed more people seeking a relationship by design than ever before.
However, the team is still committed to serving the increasing number of people who chose to live consensual non-monogamous lifestyles. It is clear that the pandemic has marked a turning point historically and sociologically, will the normalization of non-monogamy be one of the consequences? Are the tides turning on how the mainstream views non-monogamy? Are we heading into a new era of the Roarin’ 20s where the lifestyle is at the core of the social change needed for it to be socially acceptable to love whomever you wish however you wish? Are we heading toward a more #open and accepting society?
We hope so! (We’re game for other forms of social and artistic revolution too!)
For more about #open, or to download the app today, check out www.hashtagopen.com.