Against Polyamory

Polyamory appears to be one of those activities—like CrossFit or going vegan—that one cannot really participate in without talking about it ad nauseam. The first half of January 2024 alone witnessed a surfeit of intimate disclosures. The New York Times ran a much-discussed review of a memoir in which a newly-polyamorous mom describes her sexual adventures in graphic detail. Peacock announced a new reality television series featuring romantic couples in search of new additions. New York magazine devoted a cover feature to an in-depth guide to polyamorous relationships, complete with a glossary of instantly dated terms, a Q&A for the curious, and a variety of confessionals. It’s all presented with the gee-whiz earnestness of a Scholastic brochure introducing kids to Earth Day.

It’s clear that polyamory is having a moment, albeit one that—as with many phenomena these days—exists more in the media than in the world at large. Think of it as the interpersonal version of a show like Succession, which became the subject of endless think pieces, despite having a peak viewership six times smaller than that of a regular-season NFL game. By this analogy, a Brooklyn polycule is “Connor’s Wedding” and normal marriages are a Chiefs–Steelers game.