Love and sex: polyamorous relationships are perceived more favourably than swinging and open relationships

Jes L. Matsick, Terri D. Conley, Ali Ziegler, Amy C. Moors, Jennifer D. Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


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).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-348
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology and Sexuality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 15 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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