Gwen Kansen asks, “Why is polyamory so popular now?”, but I could reframe the question as, “Why have numerous once-minority pursuits, beliefs, and interests spread?”, and the answer is the same, “The Internet.” That’s a true but not completely helpful answer, and it’s more specific to say that anyone with niche interests, unusual beliefs, or non-mainstream pursuits had a lot of trouble and friction finding one another before the ubiquitous Internet, and so niche beliefs stayed very niche. We know that plenty of women had group-sex fantasies, even before the Internet, from books like My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday. What people didn’t have back then were ways of finding one another and spreading ideas about niche interests. Niche interests aren’t purely a sex thing: you can view modern versions of political correctness or “woke” politics as a growth in a niche field, and, while I don’t want to activate people’s political identities with this post, it’s hard to imagine the White House of January 2017 – 2021 without the Internet. The Internet facilitates feedback groups in which persons with niche interests find one another and reinforce their beliefs about their niche, and thus drive more extreme versions of that niche.
Humans really like f**king, a point I’m not going to belabor and, if you don’t believe it, why are you reading this? The ones who really really like to f**k a lot, often want novel experiences, but those novel experiences often come with costs, including search costs, danger, reputation costs, and others I’m not imagining right now. Online, anyone who wants to can write about their sex adventures in a way that’s effectively anonymous, barring the interest of the NSA or someone powerful and snoopy. Anyone who wants to can explore the group-sex scene in their city. Anyone who wants to can download Feeld (today), or, back in the day, use other sites to explore non-monogamy domains. Put those things together, and it’s possible for large numbers of people to coordinate in a mostly anonymous fashion. A woman’s family doesn’t have to know that she’s hoping to get drilled by four dicks at a party. A man’s friends don’t have to know some other guy unloaded in his girlfriend, while he was deep in another guy’s girlfriend. It’s possible to take baby steps in these directions. Once a couple or girl get enmeshed in the network, their friends often learn about it. Probably the most powerful impetus that encourages new people trying f**k parties is friends who are already going. You can f**k and still be friends, but many people go to f**k parties and don’t f**k friends.
At the same time as search costs are going down, people are much more able to speak to one another on a peer-to-peer basis through social media: twitter, tumblr (back in the day), reddit… they’ve all hosted, or still host, material about how to execute these matters, how to think about them, what non-monogamy is like, etc. I’m part of this process, because a couple thousand guys have bought or downloaded the book I wrote about non-monogamy. Many more read Red Quest. Most guys won’t deploy the material, but some will, and already I know guys who have tried sex clubs, told girls about them, and had three- and foursomes they likely wouldn’t have had without the book’s influence.
I’m not a hot chick, either, and hot chicks change views in these matters faster than any other group… looking at one example, there’s a hot chick who on reddit calls herself “lady_in_the_streets” (look her up, if you wish), who is really hot and also writes about her non-monogamous inclinations + sex. I’d include one of her pics in this post but don’t want to be flagged by search engines as NSFW. Other hot weird chicks speak up online and validate their lifestyles by posting sexy pics and nudes. There’s one called Aella, to use another person I’m aware of, and that link goes to her website, but if you’d like to, you can find her nudes and sex videos. Such girls help reduce the stereotype that only uggos and freaks do polyamory or non-monogamy (there are still many uggo weirdos involved, I want to be clear). Every hot chick posting her nudes online and talking about non-monogamy gets thousands of dudes thinking about the possibilites. I could list others but will leave it to you to find them.
While I’m not a hot chick, I have offered much commentary on non-monogamy, and many explanations of how it works. The first woman who properly introduced me to these things had to laboriously explain a lot of them to me, and the rest of the culture hadn’t yet produced and absorbed many ideas around non-monogamy. Today, non-monogamy is common enough that many people have done it or have heard of the ideas before, and are only awaiting a sufficiently high-status person to get things going.
In the 1950s, the U.S. divorce rate began to climb, and it didn’t subside properly until the 2000s, when fewer people married and more people married later, rather than early. Divorce rates are high for many reasons, one being that people like sexual novelty. What happens to people who desire sexual novelty but who also want real relationships?
Esther Perel likes to say that “monogamy” used to mean “one sex partner for life,” whereas today we’ve redefined monogamy to mean “one sex partner at a time.” So by the definition of like 100 or 200 years ago, pretty much everyone today might be “polyamorous.” If you’re going to have sex with multiple people over the life span, why not multiple people in the same night? It’s a rush, let me tell you.
Before relatively recently, I couldn’t tell “you” in any bulk sense. Now I can (I’m doing it right now). Readers are still stumbling on the things I wrote years ago about non-monogamy, through search engines. I can talk to tens if not hundreds of thousands of people, which wasn’t feasible twenty years ago (I’d have had to talk to them one on one or in small groups… not feasible). That’s part of the cultural fragmentation process, which you can see everywhere. The last really big, universal TV shows were Friends and Seinfeld, both from the late ’90s. Maybe The Office, but I think it had lower numbers. Both Friends and Seinfeld had an unusual combination of critical and commercial success. Something like the Marvel movies might be similar today in terms of viewers/ticket sales, but almost no one smart thinks that they’re interesting; the Marvel movies follow standard, boring templates of the sort you can read about in screenwriting manuals, so I don’t think they’re in the same league. Today, we have cultural strands and fragments. The audiovisual monoculture of the 1920s (radio, newspapers) through early 2000s is being swept away. What’s coming out of that has only been glimpsed. Affairs are as old as time. This is different. The new social-sexual structure being built has some elements of the old (as does all of Internet culture), but it’s fundamentally because it’s enabled by a new communication medium.
To summarize, people who love to f**k and want diverse experiences in f**king can find one another, which wasn’t really true pre-Internet; they can now offer tips, tricks, and ideas to each other without having to go through an editor or other gatekeeper; they can find each other through parties and events in a pseudonymous way; and they can build their own separate culture. Who was the media in 1990? ABC and NBC news, local TV news stations, one or two hometown newspapers, a few radio stations, some magazines. Who is the media in 2021? You. Me. Google. Everyone. To my knowledge, no one else has covered non-monogamy and men the way I have. I didn’t need to do this, but for whatever reason I seem compelled to. My reporting on it is superior to any other venue I’m aware of. Sure, I might not have any foreign bureaus, and I might not have a TV station… but I can do the work no one else is doing.
It’s not clear to me that much of the “mainstream” will continue to exist, apart from “using the Internet” and “owning smartphones” and such. It’s fragments, all the way down.