Rewriting the Rules? Non-monogamies and other adventures in non-normative relationships

There will be a seminar on Wednesday 31st October from 3.30pm until 4.30pm in Cottesbrooke, C204 for staff and research students (although interested masters and undergraduate students are welcome too).  The speaker is Meg Barker from The Open University and she will be talking about her research on non-monogamous relationships. Below is an abstract for her talk and a biography. I hope to see as many of you there as possible.  Refreshments will be available.

Dr Helen Clegg
Senior Lecturer, Division of Psychology
Rewriting the Rules? Non-monogamies and other adventures in non-normative relationships

Meg Barker

Societal shifts, particularly the increased recognition of same-sex relationships and moves towards gender equality, have greatly altered the ways in which people understand and experience their intimate relationships. Whilst best-selling self-help books continue to preach models of monogamy, and generally ‘opposite-sex’ relationships, many people are exploring alternative ways of relating. Distinctions between sexual and emotional closeness and questions over where lines of exclusivity should be drawn have become of key significance, with debates played out daily in the mass media and the relationship-therapy room. Openly non-monogamous forms of relationship have been hailed, by some, as potentially radical or otherwise preferable ways of relating. However, others have argued that such relationships are apolitical, reproducing and reinforcing various axes of oppression rather than challenging them.

My research focuses on how non-monogamous people present and manage their relationships. An initial survey of members of a large on-line polyamorous community revealed a multiplicity of meanings and stories. Particularly there were tensions over whether polyamory was positioned within or separate to monogamy and whether it was supported by discourses of ‘naturalness’ or ‘choice’. Comparisons of polyamory to swinging and gay non-monogamy reveal hierarchies of love and sex being constructed and drawn upon to justify and support different relationship forms. Examination of polyamorous literature and on-line discussions demonstrates that the ‘mononormative’ language of relationship identities, forms and emotions both constrains, and is resisted by, non-monogamous people. This paper also presents newer avenues employing visual methodologies to get at the lived experience of different relationships, and innovative ways in which normative relational and sexual scripts are challenged and resisted. The paper draws on the wider body of quantitative and qualitative psychological research on openly non-monogamous relationships collected together for the edited book Understanding Non-monogamies (Routledge, 2010).


Dr. Meg Barker is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and a sex and relationship therapist in the North of England. In collaboration with Darren Langdridge Meg is co-editor of the journal Psychology & Sexuality and has published edited books on sadomasochism and on non-monogamies. Meg co-organises the Critical Sexology seminar series and the BiReCon event, which was the world's first international academic conference on bisexuality in 2010. She is a conference organiser and website author for the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapy and was part of a working party developing British Psychological Society guidelines for counselling with sexual and gender minority clients. Meg's most recent book is a single-authored self-help style book on relationships, drawing on her research and therapy experience on relationships, Rewriting the Rules.

Posted on October 12, 2012, in Events, School of Social Sciences and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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