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Defining polyamory: a thematic analysis of lay people's definitions

Cardoso, D1; Maiochi, F 1Pascoal, PM1

1: Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Portugal

Objective(s): Polyamorous relationships have been attracting attention from scholars and media, and many definitions for polyamory have been created by activists and researchers, but how this definitions reach the general population has not been understood. We seek to analyze lay definitions of polyamory in a Portuguese general population sample.

Material and Method(s): Data on the definitions of polyamory was gathered from a web form survey publicized on social media, including the question “What does polyamory mean?”. Thematic analysis was conducted on the collected data, with themes informed by patterns found in people’s written descriptions.

Results: Over 600 responses where gathered. The participants ranged from 18 to 66 years of age (M= 32.84; SD = 10.54), and were mostly heterosexual (69.7%). The most common type of relationship the respondents were in was a monogamous relationship (58.8%), followed by no relationship (18%), and non-monogamous relationship (12.7%). Preliminary analysis shows the prevalence of definitions of polyamory that contain specific behavior such as having multiple relationships, to define polyamory, over definitions that include feelings, intent or desire to have these relationships.

Conclusion(s): These preliminary findings suggest that the current sample regards polyamory as something that is “done” by people and not something that people “are”. Results regarding the emergence of other aspects of the definitions and themes present will be presented, as will comparisons between the themes in the monogamous relationship group with those that are in non-monogamous relationships, and comparisons between heterosexual and homosexual subsets too, which might illuminate differences in how the definitions of polyamory are constructed in these groups. This information may help sexual health professionals to better understand the way lay people perceived different relationship orientations and experiences and shape their practice considering these perspectives.


Work supported by industry: no.

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