Bit by bit, the field of sex and relationships is being pushed past its old, stale boundaries as people begin coming forward to talk about their unconventional, taboo, marginalized, and/or all of the above sex and dating paradigms. These seven things we learned about polyamory in 2016, for example, prove the benefits of people living openly outside of social norms. Once-harshly-judged relationship types are beginning to make their way into mainstream conversations in a more nuanced way than salacious and one-dimensional clickbait which creates a sideshow out of the very community it's trying to "expose."
Psychologists, sociologists, and other researchers are finally beginning to take notice of how many people are talking about living in relationships outside a monogamous framework, too. They're starting to study larger and larger population samples to try and get some hard science behind how many people polyamory truly works for and what its benefits and disadvantages really are.
Of course, we're only starting to scratch the surface on the data collection and those doing the fledgeling work of studying polyamory from a scientific perspective are still outliers, trailblazing in their fields. So, much of the poly wisdom we do have simply comes from longtime practitioners and newbies alike, generously sharing their perspectives with the internet in listicles like poly myths that need to be busted, common judgements and how to respond, and terms to know so everyone can participate in informed conversations, regardless of what relationship types people prefer. All of these resource types are valuable, but here's what else we learned about polyamory in 2016:
1Advertisers Are Bringing Polyamory Out Of The Closet
Once known exclusively as the hookup site for cheating spouses, AshleyMadison.com responded to its devastating 2014 hack with a rebrand that included positioning itself as a more honest relationship platform. Its new commercials hint at a more consensual open marriage dynamic, in some cases, explicitly catering to polyamorous couples. It's a smart move to pivot away from its once "taboo," secretive purpose to offer the same services in the sunny light of honesty.
2The Most Polyamorous States
We learned from a data analysis conducted by OpenMinded.com (an open relationship dating site) that the most polyamorous states are California, whence 14 percent of its members hail, New York (9.56 percent) and Texas (7.36 percent).
OpenMinded spokesperson Angela Jacob Bermudo pointed out that it's not just liberal, coastal elite attitude that correlates with more poly people: "When states do well economically, its residents are able to focus on other forms of fulfillment." This is probably also just true of people — those who are not having existential career or financial crises are more emotionally available to open up new possibilities in other parts of their lives.
3Polyamory Is Omnipresent Among Many Identity Groups
A data crunch of two Match "Singles in America" surveys published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that as many as one in five people have participated in polyamorous relationships, and that "this proportion remained constant across age, education level, income, religion, region, political affiliation, and race." Men and LGB-identified folks were more likely to be poly than women and straight-identified folks, but the race and class information was enlightening.
4Young People Are More Likely To Be Polyamorous
Another YouGov poll found that 17 percent of people aged 18 to 44 had engaged in sex with someone other than their partner with their partner's consent. This was six points higher than the national average it found of 11 percent.
5The Most Polyamorous Astrological Signs
Another part of OpenMinded's data analysis found that Capricorns were more likely to be polyamorous than other signs in the zodiac. Taurus and Aquarius joined them at the top of the list, while Sagittarius was the least likely to be poly.
6Dating Apps Are Becoming More Inclusive Of Polyamory
In 2016, OkCupid rolled out a new feature for couples to link their user profiles. While users could always identify as being "in an open relationship" on the app, this new feature let them declare whom they were in an open relationship with and if they were looking to date as a couple or separately.
7People Are Seeking Out More Information About Polyamory
A study published this year in the Journal of Sex Research looked at Google trends for the search terms "polyamory" and "open relationship" from 2006 to 2015 and found interest in the ideas steadily rising over the past ten years. Searches for "swingers," by contrast, fell.
In other words, 2016 brought us a long way in providing much-needed visibility for polyamorous relationships. Hopefully its stigma will only continue to decline in 2017.