Back in 2004, a collection of voices warned of the consequences of normalizing homosexuality. They were often mocked and dismissed for predicting how so-called “gay marriage” would usher in all kinds of other perversions. Last month, after three national news publications ran stories praising polyamory, these critics now seem like prophets, though their predictions should’ve seemed obvious to all. The slope really was slippery, after all.
In The New York Times version, “[A] Polyamorous Mom Had ‘a Big Sexual Adventure’ and Found Herself.” The New York Magazine sported a cover photo of four cute, snuggling cats beneath the headline, “Polyamory: A Practical Guide for the Curious Couple.” The USA Today gave readers a crash course in the supposedly “misunderstood” polyamorous subculture known as “swingers.”
For the blessedly uninitiated, polyamory is the practice of having more than one sexual partner. In other words, it is what was called (until yesterday) “promiscuity.” However, as with each prior stop on the slippery slope of undefining marriage and the family, this one also abounds with creative euphemisms like “open relationships,” “non-monogamy,” “throuples,” “swingers,” and (worst of all) “polycules.”
The New York Times article listed a bevy of new TV shows, movies, and books promoting polyamory as fun and even beneficial—a journey of “self-discovery” that could liven up your “marriage” (whatever that word still means in this context). Fawning over the middle-aged mom who published her polyamory exploits in a memoir, The Times explained that by opening her marriage, she “cast off internalized sexism and her tendency to put others’ needs before her own.” That last part is certainly true. It’s hard to think of anything more selfish than the implied “you’re not enough” at the heart of polyamory.
The most important thing to know about how we got here is this: Dissolving commitment as essential to sexual relationships is the natural outcome of dissolving complementarity between male and female. If sexual differences are made unimportant to our love lives, so is the number of lovers.
Also, last month’s therapeutic paint job on lechery repeated the deeply and devastatingly false promise that meaning will be found in all the wrong places. As Princeton’s Robert George pointed out, talk of “self-discovery” and “liberation” in polyamory is a lie designed to appeal to people’s inherent need, not for sex, but for God:
[T]here are people who seek fulfillment—even a kind of salvation—in sex. They want, even expect, more than it can give. Sadly, by perverting it they deny themselves the great good that it actually can deliver, namely, true marital communion.
Despite the salacious memoirs and the mainstream media’s public relations blitz, polyamory is a soul-crushing disaster for those involved. Ironically for a word that means “many loves,” there’s little lasting love involved when people throw aside commitment to one person to chase their every sexual whim.
This is a verifiable fact, not mere opinion. As social scientist Arthur Brooks put it in The Atlantic, “In 2004, a survey of 16,000 American adults found that for men and women alike, ‘The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is calculated to be 1.’”
In an article for The Institute for Family Studies, Ashley McGuire rightly called the media’s push for polyamory “cultural and emotional malpractice”:
[W]e have more social science than ever making clear that a stable and committed marriage is best for women, children, and men in terms of their emotional, physical, mental, and financial well-being. …[R]esearch has found that long-term stability and happiness are tied to having less, not more, sexual partners, with the least likely cohort to divorce being women whose only sexual partner in life is the man they married.
Even worse, she continued, are “the negative effects of these relationships on child well-being. As one sociologist put it, ‘Kids are not like a pizza you can slice up six different ways.’” Nor, I would add, is the one-flesh bond of marriage that is designed to produce and shelter children.
At the heart of human society is what G.K. Chesterton called a “triangle of truisms” consisting of father, mother, and child. We might point to another: marriage, sex, and babies. Our Creator designed them to go together. Tearing them apart has foreseeable results—both for individuals and for society. One of those results is that ever more selfish and loveless forms of sex become normalized as forms of self-expression and love.
The media’s polyamory push was entirely predictable. We saw it coming from miles away. But predictable is not the same as inevitable, and with social science as clear as it is around the family, there’s no excuse for a lie this big to go unchallenged.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Shane Morris. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.
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The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can't find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.
John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.