In my first blog on this topic, I explained why monogamous people did not have to worry about polyamorous people trying to steal their partners. Readers responded with multiple examples of when polyamorous people did indeed try to steal their partners, so I realized I needed to revise my original statement.
More accurately (though less prone to sound bite), people who are seeking long term, stable, collaborative, and supportive polyamorous relationships generally want to partner with others who are already polyamorous. The people who participated in my research repeatedly mentioned how it did not work to try to date monogamous people, and developing serious relationships with monogamous folks was out of the question for my respondents. Polyamorous community wisdom views trying to have a polyamorous relationship with a monogamous person as courting disaster.
Even so, readers' comments on my first blog made it clear that there are some predatory people out there who use polyamory as a screen to disguise bad behavior or a tool to manipulate others. These folks do not follow the pattern in my research data, and their actions are not endorsed by the mainstream polyamorous communities in the United States. Instead, they do the types of things that damage any kind of honest and compassionate relationship -- polyamorous, monogamous, romance or friendship.
Hitting On Monogamous People
Although respondents in my research avoid trying to establish relationships with monogamous people, comments on Psychology Today and Facebook made it clear that is not the case for all people who identify as polyamorous. In fact, numerous people in monogamous relationships mentioned how a polyamorous friend or acquaintance had repeatedly attempted to initiate a sexual encounter with them or their partner.
When someone approaches a polyamorous relationship pretending to be OK with polyamory and actually wanting to steal one of the poly partners away for a monogamous relationship, in poly parlance that person is called a "cowboy" or a "cowgirl" because they are trying to rope someone in and drag them away from the rest of the herd. This similar phenomena -- relationship rustling -- is at play when a polyamorous person attempts to recruit a monogamous person away from their partner into a poly relationship.
Readers, both monogamous and those who were exploring or identified as polyamorous, mentioned how creepy some people could be at polyamorous social gatherings. These behaviors ranged from being overbearing in conversation to failing to read body language or inability to get a hint that their flirting was not fun for the receiver. While these social missteps are also standard fare in bars and other social spaces, it can be especially irritating in a polyamorous setting where people are trying to explore new relationship options in what they hope will be a safe setting, only to encounter predatory or manipulative group members ready to pounce on newcomers.
Some of the younger readers mentioned that this predatory vibe was especially strong among older polyamorists who seemed to be drawn to younger partners. I heard a similar critique when studying kink/BDSM in the United States -- people under 40 are often turned off by the over 50 crowd who court the younger folks with fervor. In each instance, the younger people have banded together to create their own groups of age peers for socializing, groups like the Whippersnappers or Poly Under 40.
So what do you think, readers? Are polyamorous people generally predatory, or do they respect others' relationships?