Mar 22, 2024 - News

Move over, polygamy; "Ethical nonmonogamy" is rising in Salt Lake City

Illustration of three single red roses, each with a red ribbon tied in a bow.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Utah may be famous for its history of polygamy — but now another kind of "plural" love is gaining acceptance.

The big picture: Dating websites report a sharp rise in Salt Lake users who are seeking open relationships.

By the numbers: The dating app Feeld saw the number of Salt Lake profiles with the terms "ethically nonmonogamous" or "polyamorous" double in the past three years, according to data the company shared with Axios.

  • In the past two years, 36% of OKCupid users here said they would consider an open relationship, the company told Axios. That exceeds the national rate of 33%.

Zoom out: Media coverage, a buzzy new memoir and shows like "Couple to Throuple" are bringing polyamory into mainstream conversations, Axios' Carly Mallenbaum and Mimi Montgomery report.

  • About one-third of polled American singles say they've had a consensually nonmonogamous relationship, according to Match's 2024 Singles in America study — and a slightly higher proportion described their ideal relationship as something other than complete monogamy in a 2023 YouGov survey.

Catch up quick: Interest in nonmonogamy was already growing when pandemic lockdowns gave people time to consider their sexual identities and what they wanted out of relationships, says Ana Kirova, Feeld CEO.

Reality check: Polyamory and polygamy are not the same thing.

  • Polygamy is a fixed family structure in which more than two people are married.
  • In Utah, it's overwhelmingly linked to Mormon sects that still practice plural marriage, which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has disavowed.

Polyamory is more of an umbrella term for sex or relationships in which there's consent with multiple partners.

Between the lines: Utah's history of polygamy could affect how the culture reacts to polyamory — both positively and negatively.

Flashback: After the LDS church began excommunicating members who entered plural marriages in the early 1900s, the practice was increasingly seen as immoral and embarrassing in mainstream Mormonism.

The other side: Despite that, polygamy has remained prevalent enough in Utah that the state has learned to live with it. In 2020, the legislature decriminalized it.

What we're watching: Outside of Utah, polyamory is gaining more legal protections.

  • Some Massachusetts cities have recognized polyamorous domestic partnerships, and municipalities elsewhere are considering nondiscrimination protections.

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