While monogamy is the predominant relationship type in the U.S., consensual non-monogamy (CNM), a relational agreement to engage in sex or romance with multiple people, is on the rise. Studies have reported that 4-5% off the U.S. population is currently in CNM relationships and that 20% of young adults have been in CNM relationships at some point in their lifetime. Compared to monogamous relationships, CNM is often stigmatized and considered the same as or better than nonconsensual nonmonogamy (NCNM, monogamous relationships in which either one or both partners have been unfaithful). Studies comparing the perceptions of CNM, monogamy, and NCNM usually do so among predominantly white participants. Missing from these studies is an assessment of how perceptions of CNM change when intersected with race and gender.
The purpose of this study is to assess perceived relationship qualities of black verses white couples in monogamous, CNM, and NCNM relationships and how these perceived relationship qualities differ by respondents’ race*gender.
This study utilized a person perception paradigm to examine the perceptions of black and white couples in either monogamous, CNM, or NCNM relationships. Participants were recruited to participate in this online survey via Qualtrics, which recruited participants in various ways (e.g. website intercept recruitment, member referrals, targeted email lists, gaming sites, customer loyalty web portals, permission-based networks, social media). Based on profile information provided by participants, those meeting the inclusion criteria, between the ages of 18 and 40 living in the United States and who racially self-identified as black or white, received email invitations. Participants who opted-in and completed the twenty-minute survey received $10. The final sample included 105 (25.2%) black women, 105 (25.2%) white women, 101 (24.3%) black men, and 105 (25.2%) white men. Using SPSS 25 four repeated measures of analysis of variance were run.
This study yields four major findings: 1) Overall, participants perceived monogamous relationships as having more desirable relationship qualities compared to NCNM and CNM. Yet, participants perceived CNM as having more desirable relationship qualities compared to NCNM. 2) There were no significant differences in perceived relationship qualities among the monogamous, NCNM, and CNM vignettes based on the names of the couples presented in the vignettes (black sounding names (Keisha and Jermaine) vs white sounding names (Sarah and Jack). 3) There were several differences in perceived relations qualities among the monogamous, NCNM, and CNM vignette based on the race*gender of the respondent. 4) There were several perceived differences in relationship qualities among the monogamous, NCNM and CNM vignette based on the race*gender of the respondent and the names of the couples presented in the vignettes.
Conclusions and Implications:
In comparison to monogamous relationships, CNM relationships are highly stigmatized and even more so when one considers the intersection of race*gender. Social workers should be mindful and inclusive of CNM, as those who are unaware of their own bias may further marginalize clients. With regards to CNM, social workers should strive to educate and advocate.