I collected 498 responses to my polyamory survey. Of these, 19 (3.8%) were deleted for being monogamous, leaving me with 479 respondents. The survey was promoted primarily on my blog, Thing of Things, and Slate Star Codex. For this reason, it is primarily representative of the rationalist community. 81% of respondents identified as rationalists.
Due to a miscommunication with Scott Alexander, the polyamory survey as posted on Slate Star Codex failed to clarify that single people who would be nonmonogamous if they were dating anyone should take the survey. This may lead to underrepresentation of single respondents.
Mid-survey, I added some clarifications, which included defining “assigned gender at birth” and informing people who don’t know what a rationalist is
At least one person failed to follow instructions and included platonic primary partners; I do not expect the number of people who both have platonic primary partners and are bad at following directions to be high enough to distort the data. While I attempted to create categories that would encompass many different ways of doing polyamory, some forms may not be accommodated; for example, one participant complained that he slept with dozens of new people every year but, as he does not have many relationships, was recorded in the survey as having no partners. I do not expect people this unusual to distort the results much.
Several people refused to take the survey because they felt uncomfortable classifying their gender, sexual orientation, or romantic orientation within the boxes given. This survey may underrepresent queer people with unusual genders or orientations. Some participants felt that “transgender” is a term which only includes binary-gendered people; thus, nonbinary people may either have been underrepresented or incorrectly included as cisgender.
The definition of “sex” was confusing to several respondents. In particular, some respondents included cybersex as sex, while some did not. Depending on whether you consider cybersex to be sex, my survey may either undercount or overcount how much sex people are having.
Do Cis Straight Poly People Exist?
Before we can determine whether polyamory works well for cisgender heterosexual people, it is first necessary to determine whether cis straight poly people exist at all.
The answer appears to be “yes”. The gender, sexual orientation, and romantic orientation breakdown of respondents is as follows:
54.4% cisgender male
24.9% cisgender female
7.5% transgender person assigned female at birth
13.2% transgender person assigned male at birth
(There was a high overlap between “heteroromantic” and “heterosexual”, “biromantic” and “bisexual”, etc.)
However, I live in Berkeley, so I am aware that cisgender straight poly people often do things that many monogamous people would not consider to be very heterosexual or cisgender. For this reason, I included two additional questions to test whether someone is paradigmatically cisgender and heterosexual.
I asked heterosexual people whether they had had sex with a person of the same gender, or with any transgender person. (After some consideration, I chose to include all transgender people, on the grounds that cis people seem to consider sex with any of us to be kinda gay.) I clarified that “sex” includes any activity two or more people are doing, at the same time, which is primarily intended to cause sexual arousal or orgasm in one or more participants, and that it still counts if a person of your preferred gender was also involved, you didn’t touch their genitals, one or both of you didn’t get naked, it was BDSM, it was exclusively over the Internet, etc. 40.5% of heterosexual respondents have had sex with a person of the same gender, or with any transgender person.
I asked cisgender people whether they have taken any steps conventionally considered to be part of a gender transition process, such as taking cross-sex hormones; asking people to refer to them with different pronouns or a name not associated with their assigned gender; binding, tucking, or wearing clothing or makeup conventionally associated with the other primary gender on a regular basis; or deliberately altering their presentation to cause people to read them as the gender they weren’t assigned at birth. 13.6% of cisgender respondents have taken a step conventionally considered to be part of a gender transition process.
It is now possible to calculate what percentage of poly people are paradigmatically straight and cisgender. 21.5% of poly people in my sample were paradigmatically cis and straight. Rationalists were more likely to be paradigmatically cis and straight than nonrationalists: 36% of rationalists were paradigmatically cis and straight. 33% of cisgender men were paradigmatically cis and straight, while only 8% of cisgender women were paradigmatically cis and straight. This reflects the common polyamorous wisdom that cisgender, heterosexual poly women are very rare.
*I used a narrow definition of aromantic, in which a person is uninterested in having any relationships described as “girlfriend,” “boyfriend,” or “partner”, rather than a broader definition in which one might have partners that one is not romantically attracted to.
Are Poly People Cucks?
Many people accuse polyamorous people, particularly men, of being cucks: that is, they are sexually aroused by the idea of their partners having sex with other people. Unaccountably, no one has ever collected data on this claim.
At first blush, this generalization seems accurate: 78.7% of respondents reported that they found the prospect of a partner having sex with someone else arousing, even if only a little bit or only in particular situations. However, only 15.2% of respondents found it arousing in a submissive way, as implied by the word “cuck” (e.g. you are aroused by your partner having sex with other people because you find it humiliating). 29.4% found it arousing in a dominant way (e.g. the idea that you might “force” your partner to have sex with someone else). The majority of respondents, 76.8%, found it arousing in a non-kinky fashion (e.g. because it is hot when your partner has orgasms).
Further, this arousal is not a significant driver of people’s interest in polyamory: only 4.8% of respondents reported that this was a major reason for them to be poly.
I will now look at cisgender male respondents specifically, as this is a subject of particular interest. 79.3% of cisgender men found the prospect of a partner having sex with someone else arousing; 15.7% were aroused in a submissive way, 35.7% in a dominant way, and 73.4% in a non-kinky way. 7.2% said that this was a major reason for them to be polyamorous. Cisgender men appear to have approximately the same pattern as everyone else, although they are perhaps slightly more likely to be interested in a dominant fashion and less likely to be interested in a nonkinky fashion; cis men may also be more likely to have this as a primary reason for them to be poly.
Therefore, I have concluded that, while poly men are typically aroused by their partners having sex with other people, poly men are not in fact cucks, nor is this a major reason for them to be poly. I am unclear on whether it is a good idea to raise awareness of these results, however. If you must humiliate someone for their partner having sex with other people, you should at least humiliate the people who get off on it.
Tune in next post for answers to a variety of other exciting questions such as:
- Are poly people satisfied in their relationships?
- How many people are poly people dating?
- Are poly cis men lonelier than poly trans people or poly cis women?
- How much sex are poly people having really?
- Are poly people more attracted to their primaries or their secondaries?
- And more!