Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-2021

Faculty Advisor(s)

Amy Moors


With respect to consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships (e.g., open relationships, polyamory), a consistent gender difference emerges: heterosexual men report greater desire and engagement in CNM than heterosexual women (Haupert et al., 2017; Moors et al., 2015). This gender difference raises the question: Why do women and men differ in their CNM behaviors? In the present study, we suggest that this may be due to women’s stronger adherence to the traditional sexual script, which is rooted in gendered dating norms, punishes women who engage in non-committed sexual behaviors, and glorifies monogamy (Fritz & Kitzinger, 2001). We examined how heterosexual men’s and women’s adherence to the traditional sexual script affects their previous engagement in CNM using data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults (n = 3,438). Participants completed three measures relevant to this study: 1) endorsement of the sexual script (attitudes towards sex and love; (S. S. Hendrick & Hendrick, 2002), 2) level of permissiveness towards casual sex; (C. Hendrick, Hendrick, & Reich, 2006), and 3) previous engagement in CNM.Binary logistic regressions revealed that gender moderated the relationship between endorsement of traditional sexual scripts as well as attitudes toward casual sex for previous engagement in CNM. That is, heterosexual women were more likely than heterosexual men to endorsement the sexual script and hold less positive attitudes toward casual sex which, in turn predicted a lower likelihood of previously engaging in CNM, B = -0.31, p = .03 and B = -.49, p = .01. While one in five American adults have engaged in CNM at some point in their lives, these relationships continued to be stigmatized and understudied (Haupert et al., 2017). To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine why gender differences related to CNM exist, thus expanding the current research on CNM relationships in order to demystify relationships that challenge the monogamous ideal. It appears that traditional norms and disinterest play an important role in predicting women’s and men’s behavior related to CNM.


Presented at the virtual Spring 2021 Student Scholar Symposium at Chapman University.