Types of relationships
Polyfidelity is a form of polygamy where all members are considered equal partners and agree to be sexually active only with other members of the group. The term originated in the Kerista Village commune in San Francisco which practiced polyfidelity from 1971–1991. The community expected that, within bounds of gender and sexual orientation, all members of the community to be sexually active with all other members, and for exclusive relationships not to be formed. However, this aspect of polyfidelity is not always expected today.
Polyfaithful relationships are closed in the sense of closed and open marriages, in that partners agree not to be sexual outside the current members of the group. New members may generally be added to the group only by unanimous consensus of the existing members, or the group may not accept new members.
Previous to the Kerista Village experience, people would have likely called this arrangement "complex marriage" or simply a "group marriage". Indeed, one might think of polyfidelity as being very much like monogamy except that it may include more than two people (and may or may not be open to adding new members). The broader term polyamory was coined later, in the early 1990s.
One commonly cited advantage of this form of polyamory is the ability to fluid bond among more than two people while maintaining relative safety regarding STDs, so long as any new members are sufficiently tested before fluid bonding with the group, and keep their commitments. This would have health advantages similar to monogamy, although risks rise somewhat with each person added. (Many polyamorists achieve similar goals through forming condom commitment or latex barrier circles whose members are fluid bonded (bareback sex) only with each other and agree to use appropriate safer sex practices with anybody else, without the other restrictions of polyfidelity).
Others seek emotional safety from the relatively closed nature of the polyfaithful commitment.
Some polyamorists desire more flexibility than polyfidelity provides. For example, open relationships do not restrict sexual and emotional bonding in these ways. Some polyamorists also report that it is difficult to find partners who are mutually compatible enough to form committed group marriages like polyfidelity.
In the book Lesbian Polyfidelity author Celeste West uses "polyfidelity" in much the same way that others use polyamory. This may represent independent coinage of the same term within a different community, and this usage is not common among polyamorists in general. West uses the term to emphasize the concept (common in polyamory) that one can be faithful to one's commitments without those commitments including sexual exclusivity.
Related topics in the Connexions Subject Index
Alternative Lifestyles –
Alternative Sexual Lifestyles –
Free Love –
Group Marriage –
Lifestyle Alternatives –
Open Marriage –
Open Relationships –
Alternative Lifestyles – Alternative Sexual Lifestyles – Free Love – Group Marriage – Lifestyle Alternatives – Marriage/Sexually-Open – Monogamy – Non-monogamy – Open Marriage – Open Relationships – Polyamory – Polyfidelity – Polygamy – Swingers
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