Research on consensual non-monogamy (CNM) has largely focused on CNM behavior, while less attention has been given to attitudes toward and willingness to engage in CNM. Additionally, the study of CNM among African Americans is underexplored. Given that African Americans participate in CNM at the same rates as Whites, a culturally specific understanding of African Americans’ attitudes toward and willingness to engage in CNM is need.
To fill this gap, the aim of this research is to examine the correlates of attitudes toward and willingness to engage in CNM among African Americans who have never engaged in CNM.
Through an online survey study, we examined the correlates of attitudes toward and willingness to engage in CNM among African Americans who have never engaged in CNM, as attitudes and willingness provide insight into future behavior and stigmatization of CNM. We also assessed open-ended responses of reasons given for considering or not considering CNM engagement. A total of 904 African Americans between the ages of 18–40 participated in this study.
All quantitative analysis was conducted using SPSS 25. Regression analyses were conducted to determine correlates of attitudes toward and willingness to engage in CNM. Bivariate analysis, t-tests and Pearson correlations were conducted to determine which demographic variables warranted inclusion in our analysis. Thematic analysis was used to analyze open-ended responses. Emerging themes were data driven and identified a posteriori based on the words or phrases of participants’ responses.
In regression analysis, predictors of attitudes toward CNM were gender and sexual orientation, with men and persons identifying as lesbian/gay/bisexual/other being less likely to have negative attitudes toward CNM compared to women and persons identifying as heterosexuals. Age, gender, and sexual orientation emerged as significant predictors of willingness to engage in CNM with men, and persons identifying as lesbian/gay/bisexual/other, and those of younger age being more willing to engage in CNM compared to women, persons identifying as heterosexual, and older individuals.
Qualitative analyses revealed three themes among those who have considered engaging in CNM: (1) always been curious or had fantasies about trying a threesome, swinging, or open relationship, (2) thinks it would be fun, provides excitement, and can improve the relationship, and (3) would consider it under the right circumstances. Most participants reported never considering CNM engagement for the following reasons: (1) CNM is inconsistent with religious beliefs, morals, or values, (2) is just not for me, (3) it’s the same as cheating, (4) committed to partner, (5) the belief that CNM increases risk of HIV/STIs, and (6) that CNM causes drama.
Conclusions and Implications: This study demonstrates that overall, myths and misperceptions about CNM prevail. Education about CNM is warranted to decrease stigma and marginalization experienced by those practicing CNM. By destigmatizing CNM, there is an opportunity to validate CNM as a healthy relationship alternative to monogamy and to differentiate CNM from infidelity by emphasizing the positive health outcomes associated with CNM in comparisons to the negative health outcomes associated with infidelity.