Sexuality is a domain in which stereotypes and expectations are particularly pronounced for women and men (Alexander & Fisher, 2003). In the current study, we examined people’s perceptions of whether women or men are more “biologically wired” for and likely to suggest engaging in swinging, open, and polyamorous relationships (known as consensual non-monogamy or CNM). Central to our analysis are comparisons by relationship style (single, engaged in monogamy, engaged in CNM).
Using online recruitment strategies (N = 1,020; 65% women; M = 34 years), we assessed gendered perceptions of CNM relationships among participants who were currently single (n = 203), in a monogamous relationship (n = 242), and in a CNM relationship (n = 575). Participants were asked to rate the extent to which they believed women or men (mid-point 50/50 option) were naturally inclined to engage in a CNM relationship. Next, participants answered similar questions about swinging, open, or polyamorous relationships.
Results show that men were perceived as biologically wired for and proactive in suggesting a CNM relationship by people who had never engaged in CNM. However, people currently engaged in CNM perceived both women and men as equally likely to be predisposed to engage in or suggest CNM. This pattern of results was found across perceptions of swinging, open, and polyamorous relationships. Across all analyses, relationship style was the main factor that affected gendered perceptions of CNM; participant gender and age were not significantly related.
This research extends previous findings on gender differences in expectations of sexual behavior (Conley, Moors, Matsick, Ziegler, & Valentine, 2011) in the new context of multi-partnered sexual and romantic relationships. People who had never engaged in CNM rated men in stereotypic ways compared to people currently in CNM relationships. The results suggest a mismatch between expectations and actual CNM behaviors among women and men.
Knebel, Carsyn; Siguenza, Gabi; Dunn, Meghan; Moors, Amy; Kruk, Mary; and Matsick, Jes, "Gender Prescriptions and Stereotypes Surrounding Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships" (2019). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 319.