Dating & Relationships

Who’s Most Likely To Have A Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationship?

November 29, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller


Consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships are those in which all of the partners involved agree to have sexual and/or romantic relationships with other persons. This can take many forms, from swinging to polyamory to cuckolding to open relationships. Research suggests that approximately one-fifth of Americans have previously been in some type of CNM relationship, whereas about 5% are currently in such a relationship.

Who’s most likely to have experience with consensual non-monogamy? Are there certain demographic traits or characteristics linked to this relationship practice? A recent review paper published in the journal Current Sexual Health Reports explored this very question. Here’s what the authors found:

· Gender: Most studies have found that men are more likely than women to engage in CNM relationships. This is a pattern that holds regardless of sexual orientation.

· Sexual orientation: Sexual minorities are more likely than heterosexual persons to have had a CNM relationship—a finding that holds true regardless of gender. However, it appears that bisexuals tend to have more experience with CNM relationships compared to gays and lesbians. That said, it’s important to note that while a higher percentage of sexual minorities seem to practice consensual non-monogamy, most people involved in CNM relationships actually identify as heterosexual given that the base rate of heterosexuality in the population is so much higher.

· Race and ethnicity: Some studies of CNM relationships have found that participants tend to be overwhelmingly White, especially those practicing polyamory. However, other studies have found that persons of color are just as likely as Whites to engage in consensual non-monogamy. The percentage of racial minorities present in studies of CNM relationships seems to vary based on the focus of the study and the recruitment techniques employed. As a result, it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusions about how race and ethnicity are related to consensual non-monogamy.

· Other demographic factors: The limited data that exist have not found consistent links between consensual non-monogamy and other demographic characteristics, including education level, income, religious background, political affiliation, and geographic location.

Bottom line: the fact that few reliable links emerged between demographic characteristics and consensual non-monogamy suggests that those who are practicing CNM relationships are probably a pretty diverse group in terms of their backgrounds.

That said, while few demographic factors are linked to consensual non-monogamy, several personality factors are associated with it. To learn more about this, check out this article.

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To learn more about this research, see: Haupert, M. L., Moors, A. C., Gesselman, A. N., & Garcia, J. R. (2017). Estimates and correlates of engagement in consensually non-monogamous relationships. Current Sexual Health Reports, 9(3), 155-165.

Image Credit: 123RF

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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