Something unsettling is happening in heterosexual dating.
It would seem that women are experiencing a unique curveball on the dating scene, in which men who do not want to commit to a relationship are explaining away their dishonesty as “polyamory”. In the past six months alone, four men I’ve dated have used this as a way of masking their attempts to shirk commitment, and tried to pressure me into agreeing to an arrangement I had no interest in.
Speaking to other single women dating men, it would seem I’m definitely not alone.
There is a clear difference between a polyamorous person saying they’re polyamorous on the first date, and a guy who just doesn’t want to settle down using it as a shield to hide behind.
People who identify as polyamorous sometimes argue it is a sexual orientation akin to being gay or straight, while others see it as a lifestyle choice. Either way, polyamorous relationships are typically characterised by an intense sense of commitment – both to one’s primary partner and any additional relationships. It is about constant communication and respect, which allows for the fact that there is such a thing as ethical, consensual non-monogamy.
There has definitely been a shift in the way that straight people consider monogamy. As apps such as Feeld, designed for non-monogamous people, flourish, so do the ever-increasing gender identities and relationship requests that can be listed on the likes of OkCupid.
Google searches for polyamory are on the rise, and a 2016 YouGov poll found that 31 per cent of women and 38 per cent of men believed their ideal relationship to be consensually non-monogamous, so it's easy to see why someone interested in seeing multiple women with zero commitment might see this as the perfect way to convince their partners to want the same. What casual-seekers have also failed to realise though, is that polyamory in fact requires more commitment than monogamy.
Polyamory rejects the notion that loving, committed relationship must by design feature just two people, but it’s very different to an “open relationship”, which involves committing to just one person while allowing for sexual experiences with other people. And it certainly has almost nothing in common with dating – and sleeping with – multiple people at the same time without ever really committing to anyone.
As someone who wants a monogamous relationship, I decided to chat to someone who identifies as poly. He explained: “I see cis-gendered, heterosexual men looking for an excuse for the same old cheating douchebaggery that they have always indulged in. This isn’t another term for taking on a mistress or seeing someone behind your partner’s back. This requires more commitment than monogamous relationships do – and it can’t be entered by force.”
A pseudo-poly bro who tries to convince you that your thoughts, values and feelings are un-progressive, and that you just need to be a bit more “open minded” is about as far from the values of polyamory as it’s possible to get.
If men have no interest in a serious relationship, and are looking to casually date multiple people, that is absolutely fair and their choice, but that is what they should explain honestly. This is not polyamory.
For decades women have been mocked and dismissed if they suggest they want a serious relationship, while men who do so are considered “a catch”. In an age where #MeToo is dominating the headlines and women’s voices are being amplified every day, how can it be that when it comes to dating we’re still at such a disadvantage? Aside from the stigma of being single (look no further than “spinster” versus “bachelor”), it is still unusual for women to instigate dates, and when they do it can be perceived as “desperate”, rather than assertive.
There is a sign this is beginning to change. Dating app Bumble launched in December 2014, and aims to empower women to make the first move when it comes to dating. Founder Whitney Wolfe says: “While women have been trained to play hard to get, to be demure, we’re telling men to be aggressive and go after her. When it comes to love and romance, especially hiding behind a profile screen, men become aggressive. The nice thing is, if a woman is making the first move, that dynamic evens out.”
And it seems people agree with her – the app has more than a million users in the UK alone and is continuing to grow. As more and more single women are asserting their power in the dating pool, men are needing to get increasingly inventive with how to shame women into accepting their terms. Making us feel embarrassed and old-fashioned for wanting some level of humanity and commitment seems to be the new normal, and the increasing awareness of polyamory is being entirely co-opted for these purposes.
Pseudo-poly bros need to stop exploiting an ideology that thrives on love and commitment, and single women must stand by their values and not allow themselves to be manipulated into a one-sided “relationship”.
By nipping this trend in the bud as soon as possible, we not only stop disparaging an already stigmatised community, but we prevent another scheme of manipulating women entering the mainstream.
Jasmine Andersson is a reporter at PinkNews
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies