Non/monogamies: the new face of relationship diversity

Plenary Debate at the 14th Congress of the European Federation of Sexology


Meg-John Barker

Daniel Cardoso

Moderator: Patrícia Pascoal



10/05/2018       16:30-17:30       Grande Real

Debate 1

Non/monogamies: the new face of relationship diversity

Chair: P. Pascoal (Lisbon, PORTUGAL)


16:30-16:45      Non/monogamies in context: (in)definitions, power structures and discrimination

                        D. Cardoso (Lisbon, PORTUGAL)

16:45-17:00      Moving towards relationship diversity and mindful non/monogamies

                        M.-J. Barker (London, UNITED KINGDOM)

17:00-17:05      Rebuttal 1

                        D. Cardoso (Lisbon, PORTUGAL)

17:05-17:10      Rebuttal 2

                        M.-J. Barker (London, UNITED KINGDOM)

17:10-17:30      Open Discussion

Audio Recording




Non/monogamies in context: (in)definitions, power structures and discrimination (Prezi available here)

As with all identitary processes, CNMs (consensual non-monogamies) are in a constant state of definitional flux - even more so considering this portmanteau term seems to be more academic than communitary. But this focus on the Other - on the named and the marked - is often employed to mask or naturalize the unmarked concept underlying this term, which is monogamy. Thus, to consider non/monogamies as such, this presentation takes a look at the tension between these two elements, considering what the negation (“non”) means and implies about the term denied (“monogamies”), and how monogamies are, first and foremost, a technopolitical apparatus that is both biopolitical (Foucault) and necropolitical (Mbembe). Looking at how “monogamy” has evolved allows us to understand how it operates normatively within the field of gender and sexualities, and in the field of capital material relations. This, in turn, will facilitate the understanding of emergent reorganizations of monogamy (e.g.: “monogamish”), the lacunae in research and sexologica clinical practice when it comes to non/monogamies, and the several layers of discrimination non/monogamous people suffer.


Moving towards relationship diversity and mindful non/monogamies (Prezi available here)

Societal shifts, particularly the increased recognition of same-sex relationships and moves towards greater gender equality have greatly altered the ways in which people understand and experience their intimate relationships. While best-selling self-help books continue to preach models of monogamous, often heterosexual, coupledom, 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. For this reason, I have argued that we need to expand out the concept of ‘gender and sexual diversity’ to also include relationship diversity (GSRD). In this paper I explore the proliferation of relationship forms which might be included under relationship diversity, and the ways in which we might usefully shift from a focus on what kind of relationship style people are engaged in (e.g. monogamous vs. non-monogamous), to how they are engaging in their relationships of any kind (e.g. mindfully, intentionally).