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Sex, Love, and Fidelity: A Study of Contemporary Romantic Relationships By Kassia R. ...

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Sex, Love, and Fidelity:


I began teaching a large Sociology of Sexuality undergraduate course in 2002 at the University of California, Irvine. During the lecture on romantic relationships, I introduced multiple-partner relations and the topic of nonmonogamy. Students were visibly uncomfortable—more so than at any other point in the course (even during the pornography lecture). I asked them what was so important about monogamy and why nonmonogamy was so difficult to talk about. Students offered their insights on loving only one person, wanting to feel special, handling problems with infidelity, and differentiating between sex and love. Hooking up with someone was a forgivable offense, but falling in love with another was inexcusable. A pattern emerged as I continued to teach the course to hundreds of students each term. Class after class echoed resistance to multiple-partner relationships, even if they were consensual, and I wondered why such apparently sexually liberated students were so unsettled by nonmonogamy.

I therefore set out to investigate nonmonogamous relationships as part of my doctoral research. I planned to use surveys and semistructured interviews with nonmonogamists (such as swingers and polyamorists) to assess their general relationship patterns and personal narratives.