Why Young People Are Opting Out Of Monogamy

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More and more Millennials are entering open relationships. Minna Salami discusses their resistance to the traditional one-on-one.

If you are 30 or over, a non-monogamous (open, polyamorous, polygamy, etc.) relationship might be a relationship type that you or your friends have considered but not tried. People in your immediate circle are likely to be in monogamous relationships.

However, if you are in your 20’s, or younger, chances are that you and/or your friends have non-monogamous relationships. More and more young people are polyamorous namely, and to many generation Y’ers of all racial backgrounds, non-monogamy is the way forward.

The reasons for the influx of young people identifying as non-monogamous are many, most common being the belief that humans are not naturally monogamous. Or that monogamy is a fairytale ideal. Another suggestion is that for women, monogamy can cause sexual dissatisfaction, since, the research says, “men are just made with stronger sex drives” so they will settle for the woman who’s always near. (Others claim women are the more sexual gender.) Another study, which looked at 5,000 “polyamourers,” found an incentive to being non-monogamous, namely that the poly community gets more of life’s emotions and experiences. There’s even a case for polyamory having Biblical approval (point no. 5 in this link).

The less researched truth

Without dismissing findings of serious academic research, there is one cause for the rise of non-monogamous relationships among heterosexual couples that we hardly discuss. [Drumroll…] Relationships between men and women are not working. We have not mastered the art of Erotic Love. And centuries of patriarchal ideas have made it difficult for couples to have relationships where, when it comes to a choice between two human urges, love and sex, the former is as exciting as the latter. As a result young people are confusedbewildered and most of all, lonely.

The absence of scientific study on gender inequality as a motivation for non-monogamy, coupled with the lack of intellectual dialogue on love, is telling. To raise such issues requires an earnest observation of male-female relationships that a so-called post-feminist society would rather sweep under the rug. That observation has to do with power and dominance: For centuries, monogamy has disadvantaged women.

Disadvantaged, not only in sexual, financial, and psychological ways but the very journey of self-realization has become a negative ideal for a woman in love to embark on.

Think about it: We still warn women that they might not find a partner if they are too assertive, independent, confident, successful, you name it. But in a world influenced (thank god) by feminism, where women are, indeed, increasingly seeking self-realization, they are also increasingly reluctant to play the patriarchal power game, which until now has been camouflaged as monogamy. A game, furthermore, which luckily men too are increasingly unsure about. Heck, even the 60+ generation, who traditionally have upheld the idea of lifelong partnership, are getting divorced more than ever before.

So it should come as no surprise that young people—youth being the age of creativity and rebellion—want love to assume other, imaginative shapes.

Is there a case for monogamy?

Here’s what I think: Just because we haven’t mastered how to turn monogamy into a universal passionate cosmic force for mutual growth doesn’t mean that it can’t be.

Passionate monogamous love is an unfinished revolution. Which is not to say that non-monogamy can’t be as amorous. I am all for fluid, dynamic modes of relating. However, if we don’t understand the real reasons behind the shift toward non-monogamy, the same oppressive factors (sexism, misogyny, separation, sin, shame, and guilt) that make monogamy unattractive to younger generations (if not blatantly) will also craft non-monogamous relationships.  

As the spiritual scholar and bestselling author, bell hooks, wrote about relationships in modern times, “We cannot know love if we remain unable to surrender our attachment to power, if any feeling of vulnerability strikes terror in our hearts.”

Minna Salami writes, speaks and advocates on a broad range of Africa, Diaspora, and feminist issues. She writes the award-winning blog, MsAfropolitan, and is a member of the Duke University Educator Network as well as the Guardian’s (UK) Africa Network. Follow her on Twitter @MsAfropolitan.

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