Social deviant and non-monogamy cheerleader Dan Savage is popping champagne and throwing glitter around the office after the release of a new study that shows he's been right all along.
The study, published last week in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, was two-fold. First, researchers recruited participants online, both from Craigslist and various online non-monogamous communtities and websites. They were divided into groups: monogamous and consensually non-monogamous (CNM), including those in open relationships or who practice polyamory or swinging. CNM participants were only included if they indicated that they had a primary partner. Those participants, which comprised 1,507 monogamous individuals and 617 CNM individuals, completed an anonymous survey that included questions about sexual satisfaction and sexual frequency. Only those whose primary partner was of the opposite sex were included, and half of CNM participants identified themselves as poly, a quarter as swingers, and a quarter as being in open relationships.
From the survey, researchers found that polyamorous people reported significantly higher rates of sexual satisfaction overall in comparison to monogamous people. More poly people (84 percent) also reported having an orgasm in their last encounter than monogamous people did (72 percent). However, the study found no differences in sexual frequency between poly people and monogamous people. Self-identified swingers, who also reported greater satisfaction with their overall sex lives compared to the monogamous group, reported having more sex than monogamous people.
When it came to people who ID as being in open relationships, however, the results were more closely aligned: Those in open relationships and those in monogamous relationships reported equal levels of sexual satisfaction and had sex with the same frequency, although those in open relationships reported orgasming in their last sexual encounter at higher rates (83 percent compared 72 percent).
Then, in an attempt to replicate their findings, the researchers did it again. This time, they didn't specifically target CNM people in their recruiting and they didn't exclude gays and lesbians, but the results were the same: CNM participants reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction and more frequent sex than monogamous people.
When it came to relationship satisfaction, however, the results varied. They found that while polyamorous people had higher rates of sexual satisfaction than monogamous people, people in open relationships reported significantly lower relationship satisfaction than monogamous people. Swingers didn't differ from monogamous people in terms of relationship satisfaction, although, again, they reported more satisfaction with their sex lives.
So, why might non-monogamous people report more sexual satisfaction, if not necessarily greater relationship satisfaction, than monogamous people? "Consensually non-monogamous people may gravitate to sexual variety, and non-monogamy provides a certain amount of that," says Terri Conley, the study's lead author and a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan. "People who are consensually non-monogamous may also think that having a good sex life is particularly important."