Mary Wakefield Mary Wakefield

Why are so many young women buying into polyamory?

The saddest thing I saw this week was a dating advert written by a woman – let’s call her Jane – looking for a man to start a family with.

There was nothing sad about Jane per se: she’s attractive and accomplished in the usual alarming millennial way. Not only does she have a well-paid job in a tech firm, but she climbs, plays the cello, writes plays and is a near-professional baker. Because young people these days don’t drink until they pass out, they have time for hobbies.

Jane is also polyamorous, she mentioned in the ad, just in passing. She is in a committed romantic relationship with three other people and they live in a shared house – and this, I’ve discovered, is par for the course now in parts of London and across the US. Some 5 per cent of Americans say they’re ‘polyamorous’, and given that almost everyone over 50 is monogamous, this means an awful lot of poly youth.

‘Congratulations! It’s one of these!’

We leering Gen X-ers might think sex when we hear polyamory, but for Jane and friends, it doesn’t seem to be about orgies so much as politics: it’s a rejection of convention and ‘the false binary of marriage’. One’s needs are better met by more than one person, they say, though I’m not sure it’s ever occurred to me that my marriage should meet my needs at all. Anyway, polyamory is all very serious and self-aware. ‘Ethical non-monogamy’ you might hear it called by a grandchild, in which case you can surprise them by knowing that a collection of men and women in a polyamorous relationship is called a ‘polycule’.

So here’s Jane, nestled in her polycule, enjoying an earnest and ethical life. Here’s Jane in a committed relationship with three people, but still at a total loss for someone to have a child with.

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