Since the 1960s, the breaking of stigmas surrounding sexuality can be only called “revolutionary.” Prior to the 60s, LGBTQ sexuality and romance were almost completely shunned; so too with inter-racial relationships or marriages and causal relationships, to only name a few. We can see that the stigma surrounding these forms of sexuality and romance has been lifted by the fact that throughout the modern world, such forms of sexuality and romance are virtually commonplace; they have been accepted and embraced by culture at large. At this point, these forms of sexuality are only stigmatized by the fringes, who are themselves rightly stigmatized by the majority.
The stigma surrounding non-monogamy, however, while it certainly has lifted to an extent, it has not been as lifted as the above-mentioned forms of romance and sexuality. While non-monogamy is certainly more acceptable now than it was at any time hitherto recent years, it has yet become so acceptable that the culture at large embraces it. Indeed, it is quite commonplace for individuals who are interested in non-monogamy or those who practice it, to hide these facts from their monogamous counterparts. At bottom, this is because the stigma is still common enough for non-monogmous people to feel less than comfortable being super open about it.
We want to get to a place where those who are non-monogmous are comfortable being open about their sexuality and romantic preferences. We want to get to a place where the culture at large accepts and embraces non-monogamy with open arms, to the point where it becomes so commonplace that it is only stigmatized amongst the fringes. The question is, how can we do that?
Almost all stigma, intolerance, and discrimination towards groups of people or ways of acting that, in reality, are benign, derives from ignorance. First and foremost, it is almost a certainty that in the vast majority of K-12 schooling curriculums they do not teach students about the existence –let alone the normalcy– of non-monogamy. This accompanies a poor general education on sexual wellness and romantic relationships. For the former, education consists almost entirely of encouraging the use of condoms or abstinence from sex and of instilling in students the fear of sexually transmitted diseases. For the latter, by contrast, unless the school has a psychology class –which is rare, especially in public schools– then education about relationships in schooling is virtually non-existent. For most of us, we are simply left to fend for ourselves on these matters, to make our own mistakes, and to learn from the mistakes of others. Perhaps this isn’t the best way to go about things. Indeed, it is well-known that many young people are getting their sexual and romantic education from pornography. This can’t be a good thing, as it sets up unrealistic expectations that can seldom be met in a relationship. Instead, there should be an encouragement for the education system to include a more dynamic form of education on the topics of sexuality and relationships. This curriculum should include non-monogamy.
Of course, even beyond K-12 education, it is the obligation of individuals to try to learn as much as they can on their own. There are plenty of books on non-monogamy that can illuminate what each form of non-monogamy actually is. A good place to start on that is The Ethical Slut by Janet Hardy. Also, reading the blog on My Open Love is another way to educate yourself on the topic of non-monogamy. It has countless articles which cover almost everything you need to know about the topic
Dispelling ignorance about non-monogamy is truly the first step to dispelling the stigma against it.
Being Open About It
Part of how the sexual revolutions which took place in the 1960s had gained so much traction and power was due to how open people became with their sexuality. To some degree, those who are in non-monogamous relationships should be open about it. The more individuals in non-monogamous relationships are open with their sexuality and romance, the more it will become normal. Those who are not accepting of it, you really should distance yourself from. Anyone who doesn’t accept you for who you are is not your actual friend. Losing them is not actually a loss. Don’t you think the LGBTQ and inter-racial couples of the 1960s and 1970s –and sadly in some cases, even today– lost friends for being open with their sexuality? They absolutely did. It was the price they, unfortunately, had to pay to break the stigma against them and to be set free romantically and sexually. It is a price, however, that is worth it to normalize non-monogamy.
If you are monogamous and do not fully understand non-monogamy and you haven’t taken your time to educate yourself on the topic, the very least you can do is try to be empathetic to those who you know in non-monogmous relationships. They might be weird to you, but try to understand that what they are doing is making them very happy and that suppressing such desires will necessarily make them very sad. This need not be an extravagant effort. Try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment: what if someone told you that you and your partner are so weird for not having extra partners that you felt pressured into having multiple partners? It would feel bad, of course. That is what many non-monogmous people feel: they feel pressured into accepting monogamy when they have non-monogamous desires. Being compassionate towards such feelings and expressions of love is a step in the right direction in terms of lifting the stigma surrounding non-monogamy
Education, open expression of non-monogamy, and empathy towards non-monogamous individuals and couple is the route to ending the stigma surrounding non-monogmay. Ultimately, this will take a collective effort of many individuals. It is clear that, given the history of sexual revolutions, that such efforts are not impossible. Such efforts might be scary at first, but at bottom, overcoming the fear of these efforts will make the world a happier place, by having more people on the planet who do not have to suppress their deepest desires any longer.