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(De)Politicizing Polyamory: Social Media Comments on Media Representations of Consensual Non-Monogamies

11 May 2021

Publication Date
11 May 2021

Original Abstract

Our research sits at the intersection of communication studies, sociology, cyberculture, and political philosophy and theory. In 2014, a 10+-min segment on polyamory aired on Portuguese open-access national television, during the prime-time newscast, and was viewed by several million people, according to official reports. The news piece was also advertised and shared online, especially via Facebook, by the network’s official page. Moreover, the piece was aired within the context of a segment that celebrated the 40-year anniversary of the 1974 liberal revolution that overthrew the right-wing dictatorial regime that ruled Portugal for more than half of the twentieth century. This context served to frame polyamory (alongside other topics) as explicitly political by presenting them as freedoms seized by that liberal revolution. This study used a mixed-method approach to the analysis of online comments on Facebook made with respect to the referred news piece, by deploying both content analysis and critical discourse analysis to try to understand how the political nature of polyamory is negotiated (affirmed or disavowed), and what ideal of the “political” is mobilized in that negotiation, in connection with other elements of intimate citizenship and modes of systemic discrimination. Through this analysis, we will deepen our understanding of how lay people construe the “political” and the (non-)politicalness of polyamory. It also helps advance contemporary understandings of how polyamory is represented in mainstream media, understood by audiences, and how media—and debates on online social networks—can both amplify and help fight against harmful stereotypes of minorities. Through this research, we contribute to political theory by opening up new ways of conceptualizing the realm of the political as an open-ended definition that must encompass changes in modes of sociality, including a politics of relating as a sub-field, likewise to the study of social movements, and their strategies, around consensual non-monogamies. Overall, results show that the recognition of the validity of polyamory is not the same as the realization that relationship orientation is a political issue in itself and that a privatized mode of understanding politics seems prevalent as well as the default framework used in the comments we analyzed. In addition to that, and as other research has already noted, incivility and hate speech was prevalent in online comments and discussions, further dampening the political potential of dissident modes of existence, especially given that incivility is also deployed by those speaking in favor of Othered identities and experiences.

Cardoso, D., Rosa, A. & Torres da Silva, M. (2021). (De)Politicizing Polyamory: Social Media Comments on Media Representations of Consensual Non-Monogamies. Archives of Sexual Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01887-5

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consensual non-monogamy, polyamory, public sphere, social networks


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