In Sex and the City, none of the characters ever proclaimed being polyamorous, but we’re sure that if Carrie was writing her column today, polyamory would be a recurrent theme. Non-monogamous relationships are becoming a legitimate form of romantic relationships, spanning a new era of representation of romance on TV.
Arriving to the point where consensual non-monogamy is understood as a form of respectfully sharing intimacy with more than one person has been a rocky journey through a slippery, steep mountain. Without going into details about how patriarchy and monotheism have engendered singular views of romance — and of romance intrinsically connected to procreation — films have failed to portray polyamory fairly.
The dreamers (2003), for example, presents an arty story of consented non-monogamy and erotism marked with incest (two of the characters were siblings), chaos and the privilege to have place where to hide from the public eye. Later on, Love (2015), directed by the indulgent and perverse mind of Gaspar Noé, is the story of a tragic sex triangle that begins with a one-night threesome but ends with the invitee, Omi, living with Murphy, after she gets pregnant after secretly seeing each other.
The list of popular depictions of non-monogamy document the drama well — almost as per condemnation — but they rarely portray healthy polyamorous relations. One to save, though, is Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), which romantic comedy is a sophisticated exploration of the mysteries of love: boundless and undefined.
By boundless and undefined, we mean non-limited to one subject as per traditional definitions of love and romance. But here an important observation is to be made. Consensual non-monogamy often addresses conversations around open relationships and polyamorous people, which are two different kinds of relationships, necessary to understand when establishing boundaries within relationships, especially as Tinder and similar dating apps teem with such descriptions.
The relationship of Ilana and Lincoln in the sitcom Broad City, a TV show renowned for celebrating diversity and female friendship above all else, is a good case to talk about these two primary forms of non-monogamy. Ilana and Lincoln had established to keep their relationship open, to stay as “sex friends.” When Ilana celebrates that Lincoln has hooked up with someone else in season three, the internet went on praising the show for including a polyamorous relationship in 2016.
Being in an open relationship means that there’s a main relationship between two people who have given permission to have sex with other people. The main agreement is that these encounters are limited to indulging in the physical pleasures of sex, with no emotional attachment or desire for progression. Polyamory, on the other hand, is about ‘many loves’, and therefore is about falling in love and maintaining romantic relationships with more than one person with the consent of everyone involved.
So, how to know if you’re polycurious?
- Have you experienced falling in love with multiple people at the same time?
- Do you struggle with the idea of committing to only one person for a long time?
- Do you see yourself communicating with your partner about the attraction you feel towards other people? AKA, how jealous are you, really?
- Are you confident in setting boundaries and communicating fears?
- Do you long for different forms of love and intimacy?
If you answered ‘yes’ to most of the questions then you’re most likely to be curious, at least, about non-monogamous relationships. There are several sources of information available today, where not only definitions of polyamory are offered but advice on how to actually navigate and communicate in these relationships. For instance, the recently launched Polycurious podcast invites non-monogamous people to discuss their experiences, and the non-fiction book The Ethical Slut offers guidance on how to maintain healthy open communication, emotional honesty and safe sex practices.