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The 10 Most Cringeworthy Excerpts From The New York Times Article On ‘Polycules’

The New York Times Magazine published a long profile on what it’s like for a group of 20 people in Massachusetts engaged in ‘ethical nonmonogamy.’ It’s just as insane as it sounds.


This week, The New York Times Magazine released a long profile on “Lessons From a 20-Person Polycule: How they set boundaries, navigate jealousy, wingman their spouses and foster community.

“Polycules” are still obscure enough that the Times feels the need for an explainer in the first paragraph, so it’s an open question whether such a high-profile outlet giving these people attention is a good idea. But if you’re curious, here’s the explanation:

The word “polycule” is a synthesis of polyamory — engaging in multiple romantic relationships — and molecule. …it seems to have started catching on around 15 years ago to suggest an intricate structure formed of people with overlapping deep attachments: romantic, sexual, sensual, platonic.

Of course, now that the Times is injecting this further into the discourse, it’s perhaps worth discussing how self-evidently insane the world of “polycules” is. So let’s take a whirlwind tour of some of the highlights of this profile.

1. Being in a polycule is all about “ethical nonmonogamy,” which, aside from being a contradiction in terms, isn’t a concept anyone agrees on:

It’s freedom. I am so grateful to be a part of it. I have this abundance of love to give. I feel so in my power. We all approach ENM, ethical nonmonogamy, differently. Everyone is so deeply in love with each other, whether or not it’s romantic love.

2. As you may have suspected, these people were warped by college gender studies departments:

I was enthralled in college with gender-studies theory. I started to articulate that I was queer. I identify anywhere from femme to nonbinary, depending on the day. My pronouns are she/they. Gender studies is where I realized that nonmonogamy was an option.

3. If you think managing a healthy monogamous relationship can be difficult, self-described “relationship anarchists” sit down for six to 10 hours of “poly-processing”:

My husband and I are very, very different, which is our strength. He’s a frat bro who loves sports, and I’m a radical alien witch academic nerd. …We learned a strategy from the Multiamory podcast called ‘agile scrum,’ which was adapted from business-meeting models. We utilized that format. We did that for a year and a half, at least once a month, sometimes six to 10 hours of hard poly-processing.

4. If you’re upset your wife is sleeping with someone else, well, that’s your problem and you need therapy and medication to get over it. (Also, Ben Shapiro, call your office.)

We have this motto: Feelings are not facts. That gets us through the hard times.

At the start, I was going through some depression, and when we had sex I had so much stress. There were issues in the bedroom with her, and that happened many times, which caused more stress. She started seeing this dude who was an absolute stud, having sex with him and having a great-ass time, and I felt totally lame and inadequate.

That was really hard for me, for obvious reasons. I felt like, I’m a hundred percent replaceable. It took a lot of conversations. She was like, There’s nothing wrong with you, this is going to pass, therapy will help. Lots of tears were shed. But medication helped me, talk therapy helped me, changing the way we do things helped. That’s where feelings are not facts really mattered.

5. Again, all of the rules, which are being made up as they go, and scheduling sound EXHAUSTING. It really puts a new spin on Oscar Wilde’s quip, “The trouble with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings.”

In the polycule, it ranges from people who really don’t have rules to we’re only going to date people together or we’re going to participate in the group only as friendships, or as sensual friendships, or we’re only going to be sexually intimate at gatherings, and outside of that we’re not going to date anyone individually. We keep track in group chats…

I spend 60 percent of my time in my house with my nesting partner and about 25 percent of my time with another partner, and although I technically have one home right now, I’m in the process of building homes with multiple partners. There are check-ins, but the check-ins aren’t for permission. It’s, I’m doing these things, I’m going to be gone for these two weeks, what do you need from me?

6. Their kids are not all right.

I have one partner now with three kids. He is transmasc, and he’s radical about the way he raises them. They’re radically home-schooled. They’re 17 and nonbinary, 6 and 5. They know everything in age-appropriate ways. They’ve seen their mommy undergo the transmasc experience, seen their mom become who they really are.

7. At the core, polycules are an infantile and desperate attempt at living in a fantasyland where participants never have to accept responsibility and meaningful obligations to others:

Last night I was at a party that was full of poly people, and at the end of the night we wound up in this big cuddle pile. There were eight of us fit together like puzzle pieces, snuggling. It felt so cozy, so much oxytocin flowing. We were all envisioning living together, not having to worry about individual mortgages, just having some big house. Can’t we just do that? Why can’t we do that? An adult sleepover camp, that’s the vibe. It is my mission to make that happen for me and whoever wants to join me.

8. Speaking of mortgages, the nuclear family needs to be undone… because housing is expensive?

The structure of the nuclear family, the nuclear marriage, needs to shift. It’s really hard to afford a house. Some of us are thinking of moving into a place with four or five bedrooms where eight or nine of us could live together. We could share the burden of bills. It’s just more realistic.

9. Some of the women in polycules have deep-seated sexual trauma, which might explain some things.

Some of us are survivors of sexual assault and have reclaimed what it means to be a sexual woman, to be radically and unapologetically ourselves.

10. Yes, these people are pushing for political, cultural, and legal acceptance of this insanity… and in some liberal bastions are succeeding:

There are so many things we’re pushing against, but we still have to live within. My husband and I married for the legal benefits, for taxes and things like that. Our society’s laws benefit married people. But I’ve talked to my girlfriend about us being married as well, and while that can’t be legal right now, we would like to have that for ourselves, maybe a small ceremony, rings on the other hand, something that signifies our bond and our life commitment. In Somerville, which is the city right next to mine, the city legally recognizes multiple domestic partners. I think our society is moving toward that, but it’s a slow process.

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