Polyphobia: The Effects of Fear and Discrimination

If you are polyamorous or interested in exploring nonmonogamous relationships, you have probably experienced some degree of polyphobia.

It is always challenging to live your life in ways that go against strong social norms, traditions, and customs, and that is especially true when it comes to sex and love.

People have very emotional and often irrational responses to the ways other people enjoy sex and love! Polyphobia has always existed. It could be argued that polyphobia is the reason monogamy existed/exists as the desirable relationship and sex model in the first place.

Read: Why Monogamy is Better than Polyamory (and Vice Versa)

What Is Polyphobia?

Polyphobia is the fear and hatred of the practice of polyamory and people who are polyamorous. Like homophobia and other kinds of discrimination, polyphobia ranges from mild disdain to extreme hatred. It impacts polyamorous people and their families and friends in many different ways, at home and in the community.

Read: How to Deal with Polyamory Haters

12 Ways Polyphobia Impacts Poly People

1. Loss of Friends and Social Connections

Polyphobia manifests itself at the most basic level when someone comes into conflict with friends, acquaintances, and loved ones over their non-monogamous lifestyle.

A friend may disapprove of a polyamorous person dating a married woman because of their beliefs about fidelity and monogamy, and no amount of explaining issues of consent can change their polyphobia.

They may believe deeply that polyamory is wrong and that it is adultery regardless of the fact that everyone involved knows and accepts and prefers the situation the way it is.

Friends may show their polyphobia by constantly moralizing and trying to change the polyamorous nature or actions of others. Social circles may be unwilling to accept a polyamorous person even if the nature of the circle has nothing to do with sex or relationships, such as a book club or cooking/dinner club.

Read: 6 Alternatives to Monogamy that Don’t Involve Cheating 

2. Family Disapproval

It can be extremely hard for families to accept the fact that a sibling or child or parent is polyamorous. This kind of polyphobia can mean exile, shunning, and even severing of relationships. One can be excluded from family holidays, weddings and funerals, and other public gatherings.

Sometimes our family accepts us but won’t allow our partners to join in family events. This is polyphobia, too, when we are “allowed” to be part of the family but only if we subscribe to their terms. Our partners are rejected.

Read: Family Gatherings and Polyamory: How to Proceed

3. Dating Problems

Dating while polyamorous exposes us continually to polyamory. Most poly people use non-monogamous dating sites or seek dates inside poly circles, but of course we are sometimes approached for dating from someone at work, a bar, a class, or anywhere.

Navigating these encounters honestly can mean experiencing polyphobia. Many people won’t date polyamorous people. We might find ourselves entangled with polyamory cowboys or polyamory cowgirls. We might be harassed, gossiped about, or have our reputations smeared because of polyphobia.

Read: Polyamory Cowboys: How to Avoid Their Lasso

4. Religious Polyphobia

Some religious traditions are accepting of polyamory, but often that kind of polyamory is limited to specific arrangements, such as multiple wives for a man. There are progressive faith communities that are inclusive to all kinds of sexuality and relationships, but polyphobia is the norm in the majority of religions.

Most people would have to choose between their faith and polyamory because of religious polyphobia. Even if you and your lovers were allowed to attend services and ceremonies at a church, mosque, or temple, it would be understood that you were living in sin. This is changing slowly, but religious polyphobia is still firmly entrenched.

Read: How to Normalize Polyamory and Non-Monogamy

5. Polyphobia and Job Loss

Polyphobia often results in job discrimination. Even when employers are progressive and welcoming to non-monogamous people, benefits are designed for monogamous families.

Read: Why People Choose Monogamy

6. Discrimination in Medical Treatment

If you have sought medical services for STI or STI prevention, abortion, or pregnancy care, you have probably been grilled about the number of sexual partners you have. This is polyphobia.

Some polyamorous people are denied proper care. Insurance plans benefit monogamous families by design, and don’t extend to polyamorous relationships.

7. Polyphobia and House Discrimination

Polyphobia manifests everywhere, including trying to rent an apartment or buy a house with a lover or lovers that you are not officially married to.

Read: Different Polyamory Living Arrangements

8. Child Custody Issues

One of the most painful ways that polyphobia impacts lives is when poly people are seen as less trustworthy or responsible as parents, or have their rights to see or parent their children revoked.

9. Denial of Adoption

Polyphobia prevents many people from adopting children. Single people and gay couples have a tough time adopting children, and it is even worse for folks in polyamorous relationships.

read: How to be Polyamorous in a Monogamous World

10. Denial of Marriage

Polyamorous marriages are not recognized in most places because of polyphobia. This often means being rejected by our faith institutions (religious polyphobia), denied rights by our legal institutions, and having our relationships invalidated socially, culturally, and in our communities.

Read: Polyamorous Marriage: 8 Common Questions

11. Polyamory is Illegal in Some Places

Polyphobia is so strong that our private relationships and sex lives are literally against the law in many countries and many states. The way we practice sex and love can land us in prison or punished with public whippings in some parts of the world!

In the west, most polyphobia laws aren’t enforced as long as you lay low. But there are no legal benefits or rights for our families and partners.

Read: Why People Hate Polyamory (and How to Deal with Them)

12. Polyphobia and the Polyamory Closet

Because polyphobia can ruin our lives and negatively affect everything from medical care to work to parenting, many people who are polyamorous choose to live discreetly or outright closeted.

Many of us deny some of our partners in order to maintain a good relationship with our families, or keep our jobs. The polyamory closet is real, and it serves to protect us or our lovers from the polyphobia that is rampant in every part of society.

Read: Is it The Right Time to Come Out of the Poly Closet?

How do you see polyphobia manifest in your day-to-day life? Please share!

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