Monogamy Is No Longer a Given. So, Why Do We Act Like It Is?

We know one in five adult Americans have engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point in their lives. And while Statistics Canada doesn’t offer solid data on how many poly people reside North of the 49th parallel, anyone who’s been on OkCupid in the past decade knows a considerable number of profiles belong to people who do not practice monogamy. So why, in an era where non-exclusive relationships are on the rise, is it so scandalous when we read mainstream media accounts of celebrities dating around?

Let’s take the recent example of The Bachelorette’s Tyler Cameron. After the titular Bachelorette Hannah Brown rejected Tyler in favor of now disgraced country singer Jed on the finale, Hannah attempted to course correct. On the show’s After The Final Rose special, Ms. Brown admitted she’d made a mistake, asking Tyler if he wanted to get a drink and hang out.

Tyler graciously agreed and the pair of twenty-somethings enjoyed a date soon thereafter, with Tyler seen leaving Brown’s LA apartment at 10 the following morning.  These pretty young things likely had a fun time, but there was no evidence of anything more. That’s why it was so troubling when some Bachelorette fans accused superstar Gigi Hadid of stealing Tyler away from Hannah, when they were simply spotted out on a date together. This begs the question, why would anyone assume a successful first date equates with exclusivity in 2019?

Now, before you dismiss my concern with celebrity culture as frivolous or fatuous, let me explain: celebrity gossip has always been around. It was actually a major facet of life in Ancient Rome! Celebrity gossip holds a mirror up to society and reflects dominant values back at us. The way celebs are treated reflects the social mores of the day. While many people on social media came to Tyler and Gigi’s defense, the fact that anyone perceived Hannah as a victim was odd. Are people still so prudish as to assume a nice girl like Hannah would expect monogamy after a single overnight date? And even if she had, how would it have been Tyler’s fault if he hadn’t felt ready to commit to the lady who dumped him a few months before?

It’s the twenty-first century, and even nice people sometimes postpone – or completely forgo – monogamy.  And that’s just fine.

The reality is, monogamy isn’t for everyone, and in this day and age folks are finally able to be more open about what works for them when it comes to romance and relationships.  We even wrote a little something about it a while back for educational purposes.  The idea of a commitment, monogamous or otherwise, is something to be discussed in depth between the parties involved.  It should most certainly not be expected simply due to a single date, no matter if it ended in a kiss on the cheek or an adult sleepover.  And most of all, it should not be demanded by complete strangers who have no skin in that particular game.  All that amounts to is judgement and censure for something that is actually many people’s way of life these days.  And we can all do with less judgement and censure in the world.

So, let us learn from the saga of Hannah and Tyler. Let their legend be The Iliad for twenty-first century dating. Hadid is not a siren who seduced Tyler. Rather, these are three adults who are all enjoying themselves in the complex world of dating and relationships. It’s non-monogamy, not a reason to panic!

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as Elle Canada, Flare, Bitch Media, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-host of You Do You: A Dating Podcast. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about politics and live-tweets The Bachelor