A polyamorous relationship is one in which one or more of the participants are involved romantically or sexually with more than one individual at a time. Each person involved in the relationship consents to the situation and is aware of the non-monogamous nature.
'Poly' comes from the Greek word meaning 'many', and 'amory' comes from the Latin word meaning 'love'. The combination of Greek and Latin roots, which is against traditional language rules, emphasizes how polyamory relationships go against typical romantic and sexual norms.
The first symbol for the polyamory community was the poly parrot, created by Ray Dillinger in 1997, which was the familiar logo for the alt.polyamory Usenet group. He called the image the "Parrot Club Mascot" and said he created the image specifically for use on polyamory sites. The infinity heart as a symbol for polyamory arose in the mid-1990s and was first created by Brian Crabtree. As new versions appeared throughout the 2000s and 2010s, the popularity of the poly parrot faded out.
The roots for modern-day polyamory can be traced all the way back to the 1840s. From the 1840s to the 1870s, Oneida Community, a Christian commune in upstate New York, practiced what was referred to as 'complex marriage'. In this practice, everyone in the community was considered married to each other, and abandoning traditional marriage was seen as the way to avoid sin. Although the community had its shortcomings, Oneida was so far ahead of its time that it has continued to be a model for polyamorous innovators today.
1960s and 1970s
In the 1960s and 1970s, a second wave of polyamory occurred among hippies in what is known as the 'free love movement'. In this time, fringe groups around the country experimented with non-monogamy in what was termed 'group marriage'. The minority of communes that endorsed free-love or group marriage tend to be those that captured the public imagination, and some are those that evolved into the modern understanding of ethical non-monogamy and polyamory.
The Sandstone and Kerista intentional communities, both in California and founded in the very early 1970s, operated in a manner that would be identifiable to most modern polyamorists as similar to their own relationship philosophies. Kerista existed for 20 years, splitting up in 1991, and operated on a shared-parenting, shared-finances, chosen family model, with shifting consensual group romantic and sexual relationships between the adults. The Keristan vision included a belief that economic, family, and romantic interdependence in communities, rather than nuclear monogamous families, were the best way for the world to move forward, and that they had a duty to share this vision with the world.
At the same time as these intentional communities came to exist, support groups and publications positively portraying polyamorous relationships began to crop up. Some of these were short-lived, and others lasted long enough to have an impact on the form of modern polyamory. One, inspired by Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land, was Oberon Zell’s Church of All Worlds. A member of this group, Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart, coined the word polyamory in print for the first time in the late 1980s, rather than referring to these relationships as “group relationships” or “group marriages.” The language used around polyamorous relationships had not yet settled, but the concepts were becoming more understood and community-building had begun.
The 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis created a sort of “Great Repression,” where average sexual norms swung back in a more strongly monogamous direction out of fear. A shift into “any sexual activity will give you a sexually transmitted disease so you shouldn’t have sex at all, much less with multiple people,” as the national discourse slowed growth of a movement toward acceptance of open relationships.
During the 1990s, the Internet sparked a third wave of polyamory, after AIDS had driven it underground during the 1980s. A Usenet newsgroup called alt.polyamory helped build a community, and the Internet made the biggest and fastest changes to create modern polyamory as we know it today.
The original polyamorous flag was created by Jim Evans in 1995. He made it in Microsoft Paint using websafe colors. This flag displays stripes of blue to represent openness and honesty, red to represent love and passion, and black to show solidarity with those who must hide their polyamorous relationships from the outside world.
There have been many interpretations for what the pi symbol represents. Some people think the pi symbol represents polyamorous people having “infinite love", as pi has infinite decimal places. Others say the pi symbol references how “polyamory” also starts with “p”. It is also possible it was chosen in part because it was one of the few symbols available to Evans in Microsoft Paint. However, its gold color is widely accepted to represent the value that we place on the emotional attachment to others, be the relationship friendly or romantic in nature, as opposed to merely primarily physical relationships.
As time went on and it peaked in the summer of 2020, the flag was recognized by many in the community as undesirable. People wanted to move away from the garish colors of the original and use symbology that was easier to comprehend. Of all the alternatives proposed, the most common was made by Molly W.
The flag is comprised of four stripes, all of equal height. The colors of this flag include lime green for growth, kelly green for balance, sky blue representing freedom, and royal blue for trust. The infinity heart represents the concept of infinite love. The infinity heart in this flag touches every other color on the flag, unifying the concepts that the colors represent. The infinity heart is white, for two reasons. First, not many colors looked good against the other colors I selected, and I wanted something that was easy on the eyes. Second, in the Red/Green/Blue (RGB) color spectrum, white is the color you get when red, green, and blue are combined, and thus represents the combination of all the colors. Philosophically, that made sense to me when viewed through the lens of polyamory: it represents many uniting to create something new and different.Molly W., New Polyamory Pride Flag
The concept of polyamory as a queer identity is controversial on the basis of polyamory alone rather than other aspects of identity. Being polyamorous is not specific to LGBTQIA+ people; cisgender and heterosexual people can be polyamorous, and LGBTQIA+ people are not necessarily polyamorous. Although polyamory challenges social norms related to monogamy, a cisgender straight man in relationships with multiple women upholds patriarchal and cisheteronormative beliefs that it is "natural" for men to want multiple sexual partners. Polyamory thus is not generally viewed as a societally oppressed group identity or a marginalized identity comparable to being LGBTQIA+.
Polyamorous is often an identity term, but whether or not polyamory is a sexual orientation has been debated. Some polyamorous people regard it as a choice or lifestyle that they may not practice throughout their lifetime. Others regard polyamory as an innate desire that they have experienced throughout their lifetime and are unable to change, comparable to the mainstream understanding of sexual orientation, or identify their sexual orientation as polyamorous. Some have proposed defining polyamory as a "relationship orientation".
Perceptions and discrimination
Some polyamorous people have experienced discriminatory treatment on the basis of their polyamory. Since polyamorous relationships are not legally protected in most Western jurisdictions, they may be discriminated against in employment, housing, and child custody. In the United States, state laws regarding bigamy prevent marriage between more than two people, while zoning laws can restrict the number of unmarried adults who can share a home. The push for legal recognition of polyamory has sometimes been accused of co-opting the language of gay liberation. Despite this, some jurisdictions have begun allowing greater legal freedoms for those in polyamorous partnerships.
- Clarice Willow and her spouses Desiree Willow, Helena, Mar-Beth, Nestor, Olaf, Rashawn, and Tanner in Caprica
- Malika Williams, Dyonte Davis, and Tanya in Good Trouble
- Audrey Hope, Aki Menzies, and Max Wolfe in Gossip Girl
- Willow Smith
- Leanne Yau of Poly Philia
Here you can place useful resources relevant for the described topic.
- Hole, Morgan Lev Edward. The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019. ISBN 9781784506636.