Discovering what it means to be polyamorous

Peter had the golden idea.

He came to us and said he had heard of a group of four students at Cal Poly in a polyamorous relationship– one guy is dating three girls and two of those girls are also dating each other. He knew they kept a contract and were pretty open about their relationship.

Woah. How could we not do a story on this?

All of us grew up in a household and in a society that promotes monoamory. Infidelity is frowned upon. Adultery is a sin. Staying committed and faithful is a value that I would argue most people have.

Yet, millennials– especially college students– live in a modern dating culture that accepts casual hookups, encourages emotional games and teaches us that whoever can prove that they care less in a relationship has the upper hand.

We got to thinking. Could the two be related? Could this polyamorous relationship foreshadow the future of college dating culture?

After searching through the archives, we found that Mustang News had done one story about open relationships in the past but nothing about polyamory. So, we took on the challenge and set out to find some answers.

We first interviewed a political science professor, Ren Den Otter, who has done substantial research about monogamy and he enlightened us that there really has not been much research about polyamorous relationships, possibly because it’s not widely accepted or known.

“Multi-person relationships are not only not legally recognized in the United States,” Den Otter said. “All states have laws that, to more or lesser extend, criminalize aspects of multi-person relationships.”

We interviewed Professor Teresa Downing next who echoed that social science community knows very little about polyamory.

Neither professor could expertly speak to the relationship between polyamory and college dating culture. But, Downing had done extensive research about the “hookup culture” and brought up concerns about the safety behind the groups sexual endeavors– something we had not yet thought about.

We also interviewed a college student who was once in an open relationship and no longer is. But, the story got really interesting once we sat down with the “polycule”– a term that the polyamorous group uses to identify themselves.

“Meeting the ‘polycule’ and learning about their relationship was a really cool experience because the idea of polyamory was so foreign to me before and I had no idea what to expect,” Madison Agatha Mancebo said.

Watching the group interact was fascinating to all of us. We set up our interview so the man in the group would sit in between his two girlfriends. Both of his ladies lovingly gazed at him, rubbed his leg and talked openly about their relationship. We could not sense any jealousy or animosity between the women. They are friends.

Cecilia takes video of the group’s natural interactions.

“Watching their dynamic was enlightening. I was impressed that they could pull off such a complex relationship,” Peter Gonzalez said.

The polycule walked us through how their relationship came to be, and the rules and logistics that guide their relationship, as expressed in a not-so-strict contract they all share. Consent and communication– that’s how they make it work.

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This contract was created with the polycule was forming. It is no longer strictly followed but some rules and values are still carried out in their relationship today.

“I was so surprised by how comfortable they were with each other. It was very refreshing to see such mature young people doing what they want,” Cecilia Seiter said.

After the interview concluded, we all looked at each other in awe. It was nothing like what we expected.

Through this story, we learned a hell of a lot about relationships, love and dating. It inspired us to look for similarly interesting stories that have not been done before. And, it reminded us of why we got started with journalism in the first place.