definitions of polyamory

Ravenscroft

Banned
Gotta start somewhere. Leaving aside the OED (for reasons I'll address some other day), here's a few for further discussion.

Wordnik.com --
Any of various practices involving romantic or sexual relationships with multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved.

alt.polyamory --
This love may be sexual, emotional, spiritual, or any combination thereof, according to the desires and agreements of the individuals involved…. "Polyamorous" is also used as a descriptive term by people who are open to more than one relationship even if they are not currently involved in more than one. (Heck, some are involved in less than one.)

PolyMatchmaker.com (a.k.a. PMM) --
The non-possessive, honest, responsible ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Based on the conscious choice of how many partners one wishes to be involved with

Wikipedia (English) --
the practice of or desire for intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners. ...with recurring themes or values, such as love, intimacy, honesty, integrity, equality, communication, and commitment.

Zell --
The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.

This term was meant to be inclusive, and in that context, we have never intended to particularly exclude "swinging" per se, if practitioners thereof wished to adopt the term and include themselves. As far as we have understood, swinging specifically does not involve "cheating," and it certainly does involve having "multiple lovers"! Moreover, we understand from speaking with a few swinging activists that many swingers are closely bonded with their various lovers, as best friends and regular partners.

The two essential ingredients of the concept of "polyamory" are "more than one" and "loving." That is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other's lives multi-dimensionally, and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands, pick-ups, prostitution, "cheating," serial monogamy, or the [incorrect] definition of swinging as "mate-swapping" parties.

Polyamory.com :eek: --
Polyamory is NOT swinging

There is a major distinction to be made between what is called "Swinging" and Polyamory. In swinging, the intent is to engage in non-monogamous sexual behavior without the development of love, affection or personal intimacy between oneself and the secondary partners. Swingers generally seek to engage in recreational sex without emotional intimacy. With polyamory, there is no such restriction, and the intent IS to allow such emotional intimacy to exist, develop, and grow between the people involved.

Polyamory is a relationship style that involves an openness to be being involved with more than one person at the same time. Polyamory is about responsible non-monogamy. Polyamory is not about cheating, or dishonesty. Polyamory pre-supposes that all people involved consent to this arrangement, and are honest about what is going on.
If anyone's got The Usual Stuff (Veaux, TES, etc.) handy, please add!!
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Polyamory = "the state of being, or the ability and/or inclination to be, in a romantically-connected group of more than two adults, with the full knowledge and consent of all the adults in the group."

That's my definition.
 

MeeraReed

Member
Polyamory = "the state of being, or the ability and/or inclination to be, in a romantically-connected group of more than two adults, with the full knowledge and consent of all the adults in the group."

That's my definition.

Hi Kevin,

The word "group" here makes it sound like polyamory is always group-based, which doesn't fit the way many do poly.

I'm not in a romantically-connected group. I have a partner, he has other partners (whom I know about and have met occasionally), and THEY have other partners (whom I have not met at all), and those partners have other partners (who knows who they are, it's none of my business!)...it's not a discrete "group" at all. Network of individuals, maybe, but even so, that's a stretch of because I don't remotely know everyone in my "network" so I wouldn't even call it that.

It gets pretty exhausting when I mention that I am polyamorous, and people assume that means I am in some sort of group marriage or something. :)

The thing about poly is that everyone has to find their own definition of it. :)
 

Al99

Active member
A few more definitions from around the Net:

Urban Dictionary:

The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.

This is the definition used by California polyamorist Morning Glory Zell, who coined the term in the early 1980's.
Polyamory differs from adultery because all the partners know about each others' lovers, so there is not secrecy or betrayal.

OxfordDictionaries.Com

The practice or condition of participating simultaneously in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship with the knowledge and consent of all partners.

(Dictionary.Com contains the exact same wording in their definition).

Cunning Minx's Polyamory Weekly Website:

Having multiple long-term, loving relationships with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved

Dr. Elisabeth "Eli" Sheff
(Widely respected polyamory researcher, author of "The Polyamorists Next Door" and "Stories From the Polycule".)

Polyamory is the practice of maintaining consensual, openly conducted, multiple-partner relationships in which both men and women have negotiated access to additional partners outside of the traditional committed couple.

Veaux's More Than Two Website:

The fact of having simultaneous close romantic relationships with two or more other individuals, viewed as an alternative to monogamy, esp. in regard to matters of sexual fidelity; the custom or practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned.
—Oxford English Dictionary, 2006
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
@ MeeraReed ... How about "set" instead of "group?" Polyamory = "the state of being, or the ability and/or inclination to be, in a romantically-connected set of more than two persons, with the full knowledge and consent of all the persons in the set."
 

MeeraReed

Member
@ MeeraReed ... How about "set" instead of "group?" Polyamory = "the state of being, or the ability and/or inclination to be, in a romantically-connected set of more than two persons, with the full knowledge and consent of all the persons in the set."

Thanks Kevin :)

I will have to ponder if "set" is intrinsically different than "group."

I don't dispute that your definition is perfectly fine and sensible, but now I'm hung up on what "romantically connected" means! I suppose I'm romantically connected to my metamour, in that we both have a romantic relationship with the same person...but I would never phrase it that way...our lives are so totally separate.

And I can't quite believe that I'm romantically connected to my metamour's metamours...I don't even know their names...I assume they are fully consenting to be poly, but I have no idea, as it's none of my business because I have no relationship with them.

But don't worry, Kevin, I don't think you need to revise your own definition of poly based on my objections at all :) I have objections to some of the other "official" definitions too.
 

vinsanity0

Active member
That's the funny thing about words. They all have more than one definition.

Group and set can mean the same thing. Group does not imply intimate knowledge of others in a group.

We are connected to our metamors' metamors whether we know them or not.

But why are we trying to define them? The definition should be for ourselves.

I understand why Kevin uses the word "group". Most of these definitions do not include people who only have one partner even if their partners have more.
 

Ravenscroft

Banned
But why are we trying to define them? The definition should be for ourselves.
Because without some degree of internal consistency, we actively continue to perpetuate the problem where people do WTFE they want & blame it all on "polyamory."
We are connected to our metamors' metamors whether we know them or not.
So, "with the consent of all partners" means that I can't get (even potentially) involved with someone new unless I first have the consent of all my partners' partners...? After all, if I do otherwise, it'd NOT be polyamory, right?

By "consent," do we mean "informed consent"? or do we mean assent? Under law, there's differential definitions.
assent connotes a greater degree of enthusiasm, and consent often comes with reluctance.
Consent may only be given by individuals who have reached the legal age of consent (in the U.S. this is typically 18 years old). Assent is the agreement of someone not able to give legal consent to participate in the activity.
"Informed consent" is the voluntary agreement of an individual, or his or her authorized representative, who has the legal capacity to give consent, and who exercises free power of choice, without undue inducement or any other form of constraint or coercion to participate in research. The individual must have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the nature of the proposed research, the anticipated risks and potential benefits, and the requirements of the research to be able to make an informed decision.

"Assent" is a term used to express willingness to participate in research by persons who are by definition too young to give informed consent but who are old enough to understand the proposed research in general, its expected risks and possible benefits, and the activities expected of them as subjects. Assent by itself is not sufficient, however. If assent is given, informed consent must still be obtained from the subject's parents or guardian.
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
I was actually already thinking about changing "connected" to "linked." So, polyamory = "the state of being, or the ability and/or inclination to be, in a romantically-linked set of more than two persons, with the full knowledge and consent of all the persons in the set." This way you might be able to visualize an indefinite chain or chains of people, rather than a connected group. Or as well as a connected group, I'm looking for words that fit both kinds of poly.

To further clarify, when I say "a set of people" in poly, I partially mean a limited number of people; that is, in my definition, I don't try to refer to everyone that is linked to the composite chain/s of people. A simple set of three people suffices for my definition. There may be more than just three people in the composite chain/s, but the definition isn't meant to be that comprehensive; that is, it doesn't mean to refer to all meta-metamours, meta-meta-metamours, and so on. It's meant to speak of consent only as confined to the persons who know each other well.

I find it hard to deal with the question of age of consent. I think that kids can be romantically linked to each other, such as boyfriend-girlfriend, or maybe boyfriend-girlfriend-boyfriend or what have you. This works if they're all kids, but it breaks down if you start mixing kids with adults. On one hand I want my definition to point this out, on the other hand I want to avoid an overly-cumbersome definition. So I sloppily retain the word "consent" and let the reader draw their own conclusions. Heck, Wiktionary uses "consent" so why can't I.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Wiktionary (English) --
"Any of various practices involving romantic or sexual relationships with multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved."
 

vinsanity0

Active member
Because without some degree of internal consistency, we actively continue to perpetuate the problem where people do WTFE they want & blame it all on "polyamory."

So, "with the consent of all partners" means that I can't get (even potentially) involved with someone new unless I first have the consent of all my partners' partners...? After all, if I do otherwise, it'd NOT be polyamory, right?

By "consent," do we mean "informed consent"? or do we mean assent? Under law, there's differential definitions.

Are you trying to define polyamory or "The One Twue Way"? People are going to do whatever they want, regardless of definitions. It's no different than cheaters saying they are monogamous.

"With the consent of all partners" does not dictate that a partner has to know and consent to specific people down the chain. Consent can be as simple as a blanket consent to partners having other partners. The important thing here is that everybody knows that their are multiple partners. The rest is up to the individuals involved.

If we are writing a legal definition, then every term in the definition will need to be defined.
 

RichardInTN

Member
Hi Kevin,

The word "group" here makes it sound like polyamory is always group-based, which doesn't fit the way many do poly.

I'm not in a romantically-connected group. I have a partner, he has other partners (whom I know about and have met occasionally), and THEY have other partners (whom I have not met at all), and those partners have other partners (who knows who they are, it's none of my business!)...it's not a discrete "group" at all. Network of individuals, maybe, but even so, that's a stretch of because I don't remotely know everyone in my "network" so I wouldn't even call it that.

It gets pretty exhausting when I mention that I am polyamorous, and people assume that means I am in some sort of group marriage or something. :)

The thing about poly is that everyone has to find their own definition of it. :)

"Two" is a group, technically speaking, so it "three" or "four" or "five", or... basically any number of people or items over "one"... and doesn't necessarily mean "connected as a unified cohesive singular construct".

Like, one could say "a group of islands in the Caribbean" and draw a circle around 20-some-odd islands of varying nations... they are only "connected" by the fact that they share proximity to one another. That's it.

So technically speaking, poly-anything is, by definition, "group based"... whether the group is tightly knit or barely held together by the most infinitesimally small thread.
 

MeeraReed

Member
"Two" is a group, technically speaking, so it "three" or "four" or "five", or... basically any number of people or items over "one"... and doesn't necessarily mean "connected as a unified cohesive singular construct".

Like, one could say "a group of islands in the Caribbean" and draw a circle around 20-some-odd islands of varying nations... they are only "connected" by the fact that they share proximity to one another. That's it.

So technically speaking, poly-anything is, by definition, "group based"... whether the group is tightly knit or barely held together by the most infinitesimally small thread.

No, just having more than one of something does not make it a group. Dictionary definition of group: "two or more figures forming a complete unit in a composition; a number of individuals assembled together or having some unifying relationship; an assemblage of objects regarded as a unit..."

Sure, the islands of the Caribbean form a group because they are all islands in the same body of water. But what if I made, say, a list of all the islands that I personally have traveled to? It wouldn't mean that those islands have a relationship with each other or form a cohesive unit outside of being Islands that Meera Has Visited. If I made several separate trips to several different islands, I would never say that I visited a "group" of islands (unless it was one trip to island-hop across several nearby islands, maybe). Possibly this is where Kevin's suggestion of a "set" applies...there is a set of islands that I have visited, but it's not a cohesive group.

If I am dating 3 people, that does NOT mean that I am dating a group of people. Sure, you could identify those 3 people as "the group of humans who are dating Meera," but that would be a very artificial construct. They would not think of themselves as a group, I would not think of them as a group, and the 4 of us would not form a group unless we decided to all live together or something.

I don't agree that being metamours automatically means you are connected in some meaningful way. Do you feel that you are automatically connected to all of your friends' friends? Okay, on Facebook maybe, but otherwise?

Funny anecdote: last night, my partner ran into someone at a party that he thought was his metamour (one of his other girlfriend's partners). He had met the guy once. So he struck up a conversation, only to discover about 5 minutes into it that his guy was NOT his metamour, just a dude who looked similar. :)

Let's take friendship (non-romantic, non-sexual friendships) as an example. I have 10 people I would categorize as my closest friends. 4 of them and I form a cohesive group--we met in the same place, get together as a group, communicate through group emails, even have a joke name for our "club" based on how we met. We have a lot of fun with our group dynamic.

Of my other 6 closest friends, 2 are also close friends with each other, and we tend to get together in a group of the 3 of us. The remaining 4 are all people I see individually, who don't know each other (maybe they met at a party once).

I don't have a "group" of 10 friends. Although I could list them all as a set of, say, People on my Christmas Card List, none of them would think of themselves as being in a 10-person group of People Who Are Friends With Meera.

I don't know why polyamory would work differently than friendship in terms of "group" identities.

And no, polyamory is not technically always group-based.
 

Ravenscroft

Banned
Are you trying to define polyamory or "The One Twue Way"?
You've got something stuck in your teeth...? :D
People are going to do whatever they want, regardless of definitions.
And then they're going to show up here & someone will say, "hey, that's just groovy: it's all polyamory, man!!" which kinda says that the term "polyamory" is meaningless.

I happen to disagree, even if that puts me in a minority, & draws resentment from those who dislike consistency &/or clarity.
"With the consent of all partners" does not dictate that a partner has to know and consent to specific people down the chain.
Okay, I'll ask: how exactly do you KNOW this? Do you have a secret rulebook you're hiding from us?
The important thing here is that everybody knows that their are multiple partners. The rest is up to the individuals involved.
There we are, back to the with the knowledge and consent of all involved part. Who exactly is "involved"? Sure, if I have one regular relational partner & want to maybe pursue another, I ought to at least bring that up with the former. But is HER other partner somehow NOT "involved" in this? (She may "let me" move toward a new person, but hide her upset, & therefore I am indeed affecting her OSO.)
If we are writing a legal definition, then every term in the definition will need to be defined.
Yeah, that's kinda my point.:rolleyes: Though I'd settle momentarily for having maybe 20% of the terms clearly defined.
 

vinsanity0

Active member
You've got something stuck in your teeth...? :D

That's a carryover from the kink world, where it is generally accepted that there is no one true way to do bdsm. Like poly, it all revolves around informed consent.

And then they're going to show up here & someone will say, "hey, that's just groovy: it's all polyamory, man!!" which kinda says that the term "polyamory" is meaningless.

I happen to disagree, even if that puts me in a minority, & draws resentment from those who dislike consistency &/or clarity.

And what is the criteria we use? "Loving relationships", "acceptance of multiple partners", and "informed consent of all involved". Can you really add anything to that? Or is it just nitpicking for the sake of picking nits?

Okay, I'll ask: how exactly do you KNOW this? Do you have a secret rulebook you're hiding from us?

I'm "clarifying". Do you disagree? Have something to add/subtract?

There we are, back to the with the knowledge and consent of all involved part. Who exactly is "involved"? Sure, if I have one regular relational partner & want to maybe pursue another, I ought to at least bring that up with the former. But is HER other partner somehow NOT "involved" in this? (She may "let me" move toward a new person, but hide her upset, & therefore I am indeed affecting her OSO.)

But now you are getting out of the realm of defining polyamory and into the realm of interpersonal relationships within a polyamorous model.

In your example, at minimum, she has the responsibility for the relationship with her other partner. "Informed consent" implies that the other partner knows she has other partners and her relationship with those other partners could somehow affect their relationship. So...if her other partner suddenly has a problem with you dating someone else because your shared partner lied to you about being okay with it, does that suddenly make it "not poly"?

Informed consent: (origins: medical field) Consent given with full knowledge of the risks involved, probable consequences, and the alternatives.

Yeah, that's kinda my point.:rolleyes: Though I'd settle momentarily for having maybe 20% of the terms clearly defined.

So you don't want a definition. You want a complete dictionary. :rolleyes:
 

RichardInTN

Member
No, just having more than one of something does not make it a group. Dictionary definition of group: "two or more figures forming a complete unit in a composition; a number of individuals assembled together or having some unifying relationship; an assemblage of objects regarded as a unit..."

Sure, the islands of the Caribbean form a group because they are all islands in the same body of water. But what if I made, say, a list of all the islands that I personally have traveled to? It wouldn't mean that those islands have a relationship with each other or form a cohesive unit outside of being Islands that Meera Has Visited. If I made several separate trips to several different islands, I would never say that I visited a "group" of islands (unless it was one trip to island-hop across several nearby islands, maybe). Possibly this is where Kevin's suggestion of a "set" applies...there is a set of islands that I have visited, but it's not a cohesive group.

If I am dating 3 people, that does NOT mean that I am dating a group of people. Sure, you could identify those 3 people as "the group of humans who are dating Meera," but that would be a very artificial construct. They would not think of themselves as a group, I would not think of them as a group, and the 4 of us would not form a group unless we decided to all live together or something.

I don't agree that being metamours automatically means you are connected in some meaningful way. Do you feel that you are automatically connected to all of your friends' friends? Okay, on Facebook maybe, but otherwise?

Funny anecdote: last night, my partner ran into someone at a party that he thought was his metamour (one of his other girlfriend's partners). He had met the guy once. So he struck up a conversation, only to discover about 5 minutes into it that his guy was NOT his metamour, just a dude who looked similar. :)

Let's take friendship (non-romantic, non-sexual friendships) as an example. I have 10 people I would categorize as my closest friends. 4 of them and I form a cohesive group--we met in the same place, get together as a group, communicate through group emails, even have a joke name for our "club" based on how we met. We have a lot of fun with our group dynamic.

Of my other 6 closest friends, 2 are also close friends with each other, and we tend to get together in a group of the 3 of us. The remaining 4 are all people I see individually, who don't know each other (maybe they met at a party once).

I don't have a "group" of 10 friends. Although I could list them all as a set of, say, People on my Christmas Card List, none of them would think of themselves as being in a 10-person group of People Who Are Friends With Meera.

I don't know why polyamory would work differently than friendship in terms of "group" identities.

And no, polyamory is not technically always group-based.

From your own definition, you prove my point. "a number of individuals" ... "having some unifying relationship". "Some" is very undefined. it can be grand in scope or miniscule in scope or any combination of anything in between.

In the case of "polyamory" (which literally means "many loves"), that "unifying relationship" is emotional ties that are linked... even if indirectly (like {"P" stands for "person"} P1 loves P2, and P2 loves P3, and P3 loves P4, but P1 & P4 don't even know of or about each other... all 4 are still a group because they are unified via a chain of people that love each other).
 

MeeraReed

Member
From your own definition, you prove my point. "a number of individuals" ... "having some unifying relationship". "Some" is very undefined. it can be grand in scope or miniscule in scope or any combination of anything in between.

In the case of "polyamory" (which literally means "many loves"), that "unifying relationship" is emotional ties that are linked... even if indirectly (like {"P" stands for "person"} P1 loves P2, and P2 loves P3, and P3 loves P4, but P1 & P4 don't even know of or about each other... all 4 are still a group because they are unified via a chain of people that love each other).

No, my own words don't at all prove your point...Richard, can you explain why it is so important to you to define polyamory YOUR way? I have explained very clearly why group-based definitions of poly don't fit with the way that I practice poly, and I am starting to feel annoyed by your need to persist with this. Why is this important to you?

I don't believe that a chain of people = a cohesive group. Do you think of your friends' friends' friends' friends as all being bound together in a group of people? Yes, they are connected by friendship, but they aren't a group.

Please be aware that definitions of polyamory can be very important to newbies trying to figure out their place in the world of non-monogamy. While many people practice group-based poly, there are plenty of other ways to conceive of poly relationship structures.
 

RichardInTN

Member
No, my own words don't at all prove your point...Richard, can you explain why it is so important to you to define polyamory YOUR way? I have explained very clearly why group-based definitions of poly don't fit with the way that I practice poly, and I am starting to feel annoyed by your need to persist with this. Why is this important to you?

I don't believe that a chain of people = a cohesive group. Do you think of your friends' friends' friends' friends as all being bound together in a group of people? Yes, they are connected by friendship, but they aren't a group.

Please be aware that definitions of polyamory can be very important to newbies trying to figure out their place in the world of non-monogamy. While many people practice group-based poly, there are plenty of other ways to conceive of poly relationship structures.

Bolded:
I didn't say "your words" I said "your definition"... I'm guessing that you copied that definition from some dictionary source... so it would be their words copied by you.

It's important because I live in a fact based world.


Non-bolded:
You've explained why you don't believe that they apply to you, yes. I fully agree with you there. I accept that YOU don't believe that they apply to YOU. However out in the real world where facts matter they do apply to you, as shown.

There's enough false information and crap passed off as "the truth about Poly" that those that believe in Poly shouldn't perpetuate the passing of it too.

I don't believe a "chain of people" = "Cohesive group" either... but they represent a group unified by a common thread (which falls in line with that definition you provided). You seem to caught up on the word "cohesive"... when that word isn't actually in the definition of "group"

As "Poly" means "many", there's only one basic principle to poly... it will be in a group... because a "group" is "anything more than 1" with "some unifying characteristic" (from YOUR definition). Anything and everything else about it... I agree... that's up to each group to define for themselves.

ETA: Hell... technically speaking even Monogamy is a "group activity"... because there's two people involved... and two is a group. It's a SMALL group, but it's still a group.
 
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Ravenscroft

Banned
can you explain why it is so important to you to define polyamory YOUR way?
This reaction has for MANY years made me curious: an attempt to clarify WTF people are talking about is angrily shouted down. (Next thing, we might see accusations of "elitism." :rolleyes:) Intentions of cool objectivity be damned, it's twisted around to turn the argument into a rant about what a Big Meanie the questioner is for even getting near the topic. This is to encourage others to turn off their brains & join in a dogpile.

It's pretty much identical to the panic set off when someone asks a Monogamist to explain his stance.

Therefore, I need to apologize for not taking the panic seriously, because I simply cannot take it seriously.
 

Ravenscroft

Banned
However, some background.

My household began working on a clear definition of this relational form back in like 1982. We really didn't give a damn about other people: rather, we had every intent that our family would grow & morph, eventually occupying multiple dwellings, & maybe even spread across the continent.

Therefore, we had to be able to present ourselves to others who thoughtthey might want to become part of this. Each of us had other intimate partners, most of whom were happy being part of our wider social network & no real interest in linking households or moving in. The ones who were interested needed to be fully informed, efficiently, despite Romantic giddiness.

To do THAT, we realized we would NEED everyone to "be on the same page," to use consistent terminology, to be aware of issues that might crop up (& have access to people who'd already dealt with them), & to always remain nimble & flexible -- that parts pretty much opposed to creating big thick rulebooks.

The definition of our household, with basic understandings of what we were & what we wanted to be, fit onto a single typed sheet. Less, actually, as there were gaps between the clauses & a 2" space at the bottom.

We called our relational form responsible nonmonogamy, in part because the latter term was so blunt & inarguable, & the former made clear that there was no sneaking around & no tolerance for such.

And here we are, 35 years later, & nobody's seen fit to get behind ONE clear, solid, verifiable definition of polyamory. People show up here & claim some of the most outrageous crap is "poly" & someone else quacks about how "that's true because everybody does poly different," & when noobs latch onto THAT & go make their own idiotic mistakes, nobody steps up & says "maybe this nonsense ought to finally CEASE."

And THAT is what I'd like to see.
 
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