9 – Polyamory (part 1)

What’s Polyamory got to do with Rationalism anyway?

Be Advised:

1.) This episode contains curse words.

2.) Always, but especially when talking about sensitive, nuanced issues like human relationships, it’s important to note that we are only speaking for ourselves. Positions of other parties, including current and former partners, may be misrepresented in this episode.


More Than Two – An excellent online resource to ethical non-monogamy. It is also the title of a book by the creator of the website, Franklin Veaux, and Eve Rickert.

Dan Savage – Eneasz is a fan, Katrina isย not

Scott Alexander’s Survey Results

Black People Less Likely

Polyamory is Boring

(and remember – don’t go watching Game of Thrones all willy-nilly!)

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22 Responses to 9 – Polyamory (part 1)

  1. Vsevolod says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about polyamory, never have thought about it… Very interesting episode, thank you. And it would be very interesting to hear you touch a question of children in such relationships in the next episodes.

    On the sidenote, please make intro and outro music a bit quiter, because it’s now much louder than your voices and suddenly hurts my ears when I’m in headphones.

  2. Swimmy says:

    Hiiii, husband of Katrina here. Wanted to point out: Overcoming Bias et al. jumped on the poly bandwagon after I did. First result for “polyamory” I can find on Less Wrong or Overcoming Bias is a comment on a Nov 2009 post, we started dating 2008. There’s a comment on a 2008 post, but it was made in 2012.

    I was sort of ok with the idea even when I was a conservative Christian. (“Sort of” not in the sense that I would have done it, but that I felt like I could if I weren’t bound by other considerations.) My jealousometer has always been a bit broken. Not gone completely, just broken.

    You can update a tiny amount in favor of convergent ideas among a population subset, and a little away from founder effects.

    • Katrina Stanton says:

      Hey darling, thank you for the correction and for showing how that can help us update our beliefs. You are fantastic!

  3. Mark Plus says:

    Polyamory really means that a minority of men builds harems, while the rest of the men face sexual eviction. When Leo DiCaprio has dozens of women all to himself on his yacht, a comparable number of other men have lonely nights ahead of them.

    • That is, again, the common “I think polyamory is just polygamy” argument. Which I’m surprised we’re still having? It’s just objectively false. Yes, polygamy is awful. No, that’s not what polyamory is. Does DiCaprio police these women so they don’t have any male friends? In practice, a number of DiCaprio-level members of both sexes mingle in their poly-community.

      And how many women can DiCaprio reasonably satisfy anyway? In practice, men reach poly-saturation at equal or lower rates than women (ie – women tend to have more relationships than men), which has the effect of making relationships slightly easier for men to acquire.

      And often people in poly spaces are more willing to take a risk on someone, because it’s no longer a matter of having to make the BEST POSSIBLE choice and only getting one shot at it. You’re more likely to date around with someone you aren’t quite sure about (and possibly discover that they are actually super-cool once you get past their pokey exterior!) when you don’t have to give up other less-risky prospects in the mean time.

      So, no. What you describe is polygamy. I thought we addressed that. Did you not listen to the episode?

      • Mark Plus says:

        I’m not persuaded that your experience from the inside gives you a good perspective on what is going on. How many incel men do you know? Silicon Valley is full of them, despite its proximity to a parallel culture of alleged sexual abundance among polyamorists:


        • Ah. Well, yes, my experience is very different (knowing only one such person), but I would be remiss not to point out that SV is in a uniquely bad situation, and is not representative. From the article you linked:

          “issues stemming from working longer hours, dealing primarily with other men or a tendency to treat intimate situations with women like math equations
          ‘I go into Google and it seems like it’s at least 80 per cent men.
          ‘You walk around Palo Alto, it seems like it’s 80 per cent men, at least. ”

          Mike Judge is being hyperbolic, but the gender ratio in Silicon Valley *is* very skewed, according to every source I could find (here’s one http://visualizing.nyc/bay-area-zip-codes-singles-map/ ).

          And exacerbating the problem is that it looks like everyone there is very dedicated to (and passionate about) their jobs, and doesn’t allocate much time/energy for relationships. https://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-being-a-single-girl-in-Silicon-Valley Although I feel reluctant to focus on this, because it feels like victim-blaming.

          The abundance of polyamory in the SV area may very well be a society response to these pressures, which implies that they do reduce incidence of involuntary celibacy. I don’t know if you have access to data, but of the poly communities in the area, in how many do men outnumber women? In a community with 7 men and 5 women, that is 2 more men with relationships than there would be in a mono culture. Or, if you can somehow get your hands on these sorts of numbers, what is the average number of relationships the median man is in, vs the number of relationships the median woman is in? If the median man has 1.8 relationships, while the median woman has 2.1, then poly is again helping to alleviate this problem.

          Without actual data, I can’t directly refute your claims. However I will continue to give looks of disapproval to anyone who tries to conflate polyamory with polygamy, because they are vastly different things. And I don’t see them presenting any such data either.

          • Jason Kleinberg says:

            First let’s not commoditize women, please. We’re talking about connections between people, and no one is entitled to a relationship with anyone else.

            That out of the way, let’s assume that women and men in polyamory have the same number partners. This hasn’t been my experience, but given at least the widespread anecdotal evidence that women typically find partners easier than men in polyamory, this should illustrate the point better.

            Even if Leonardo DeCaprio had the time to invest in 10 relationships, that would still leave every one of those women with a lot of extra time that they would be able to expend on other relationships. Also, given that his time would be so divided, their time investment with Leo would be minimal.

            As an added benefit, if you did happen to date one of the women that Leo is, you’d have him as a metamour, and he is pretty dreamy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Katrina Stanton says:

            Thanks for responding to Mark, Eneasz. Also, Jason K. is right, cool metamours can be a major perk!

          • Thanks Jason! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Mark Plus says:

        You also seem to show a bias based on your privilege of having sexual experience. The world of “relationships” looks radically different to adult men who have been sexually evicted.

        • I do admit that is the case. However, in addition to disputing that compulsory monogamy is the answer, I would argue that it is unethical and we would have to have VERY compelling reasons to force that on a society. (Although, again, polygamy is even *more* unethical, to the point of being evil)

      • Wunderwaffle says:

        Wait, why is polygamy awful? What exactly do you mean using
        the word polygamy?

        Quotes from wikipedia:
        >Polygamy involves marriage with more than one spouse.
        >Like “monogamy”, the term “polygamy” is often used in a
        >de facto sense, applied regardless of whether the relationship
        >is recognized by the state. In sociobiology and zoology, researchers
        >use polygamy in a broad sense to mean any form of multiple mating.

        From these quotes, it seems that polyamore is either very close
        to polygamy or it is a kind of polygamy.

        • Polygamy, in the sense I’ve always seen it used, means one man with multiple wives, who are not allowed to have other relationships. Although Google tells me the correct term for that is “polygyny”, so perhaps I should switch to using that…

  4. Tom says:

    You should consider making longer episodes more often as i had the feeling several times that not everything what had to be said was said by everybody. There is enough space in the internet and your listeners attention span ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Btw: great podcast – love it, like love in i want to spend so much time with it together ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Pingback: “Romance” does not mean what I think it means? – Death Is Bad

  6. Re: Minorities in polyamory, in recent years PoC have become much more visible in polyamory. Black & Poly is an international group bringing together black people who practice polyamory https://www.facebook.com/groups/blackpolyamory/

    And the new show Compersion on YouTube depicts a black couple exploring poly

  7. For what I’ve heard, concerning some minorities and polyamory:
    If someone of color is polyamorist, some racists will certainly tell them that they are in (the contry they are in), and not in Africa, and that they should respect the standard of the country they live in. Those racists will directly assume that the man is in ยซpolygynyยป, and dominate multiple women. Or the racsists will assume that it confirm the colonial image of wild sex-addicted women of color.
    I don’t know how much it can affect one’s choice, but it certainly is a good reason to avoid being polyamorist in a racist country.

  8. IAJAWL says:

    People do get labeled as creepy due to things like a failure to eye contact. The aspergers community has a lot of problems with failure to bodylanguage translating to being seen as creepy.

    I think for ‘normal’ people it might be uncommon to be labelled creepy just due to some innocuous not actually harmful behaviour but it definitely does happen to some people.

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