The first time I typed the word “polyamory” into Microsoft Word, it was instantly decorated with that red squiggly line that is meant as an alert to say, “You made a typo!” or “That isn’t a word!” Sure, the term itself is relatively new, despite the fact that the phenomenon of non-monogamy (including polyamory, open relationships, group relationships, and other forms) is not new by any means.
More recently, when I typed “nonmonogamy curriculum” into a google search, the first hit was this article: “Three is the new two as couples explore the boundaries of non-monogamy the people” from The Australian. I will point out the fact that, after a series of searches for curricula or lesson plans dealing with non-monogamy or polyamory, ZERO actual curricula or lesson plans appeared in the search results. But let’s just acknowledge that issue and put it aside for now. We’ll get back to that.
The article mentioned above, from 2010, refers to polyamory as “the next sexual revolution,” detailing the rise of non-monogamy into the visible public sphere and diffusing some common misconceptions. From the perspective of sexuality education, these two points – the increase in visibility and the multitude of misconceptions – make it pretty obvious that there needs to be more education about the existence of non-monogamy in many cultures today. In the shadow of the monogamy-centric culture, non-monogamous individuals in America have reported that they experienced struggles related to prejudice from the mainstream. Another major reported challenge is the pressure to conform due to the undeniable presence of monogamy as an ultimate cultural ideal – a pressure to succumb to a standard that can feel fake or imprisoning for them.
The ZERO google hits for lesson plans and curricula is an indicator that there is still work to be done in promoting support and understanding of the non-monogamous community. Even aside from lesson plans and curricula, the non-monogamous community has expressed the sentiment that there is a general lack of resources on this topic. In a 2004 study, non-monogamous individuals themselves recommend the books The Ethical Slut, Love Without Limits, and one children’s book Else-Marie and Her Seven Little Daddies. Opening Up, another book commended by the Widener Human Sexuality program, is a comprehensive book backed by survey research directly from the non-monogamous community.
Although searching google specifically for lesson plans and curricula about non-monogamy and/or polyamory retrieved no actual lesson plans, surprisingly, searching the internet for a brainstorm of other search terms that are tangent to non-monogamy resulted in the discovery of one lesson activity…
This lesson activity takes the integrative model approach to instruction by introducing an interview of Emma Goldman which touches upon her non-conformist views toward love and marriage and by asking follow-up questions leading to the dissection of her ideas. Themes in this activity include the institution of marriage, the defining of love, and the relationship between commitment and freedom, and includes the following prompts:
“What aspects of the institution of marriage would be problematic for an anarchist?”
“What were Goldman’s feelings about monogamy (loving one person exclusively)?”
“Did she think that women could have a home and family and still be free?”
“Do you agree or disagree with Goldman’s assertion that: “No one can control the affections, therefore there should be no jealousies.”
“Discuss your thoughts on these or other contemporary issues of love and marriage: domestic partnerships, palimony suits, divorce rates, child custody, non-marital sex.”
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One lesson may be greater than zero, but as far as the representation of educational support for the understanding of the diversity of relationships in the world, there is still room to grow.