Open-ness, honesty, and safety: Some actual data!

I‘ve long held the opinion (based on personal experience as well as some educated guesses) that people who were poly/open/ethically non-monogamous have stronger and more consistent safer sex boundaries and practices than folks who were cheating (or as this article frames it, “unfaithful.”) After all, when “no one’s looking,” it’s very hard to uphold any sort of boundaries that require long-term thought over short term pleasure (even for one’s own sexual safety.) However, up till recently, that’s largely been conjecture.  This article below reports results of one of the first ever studies on the topic. I’ve only got the abstract (and thanks for that go to N.T. from the Poly Researchers list), but the results reported are unambiguous.

“Unfaithful Individuals are Less Likely to Practice Safer Sex Than Openly Nonmonogamous Individuals”

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Volume 9, Issue 6, pages 1559–1565, June 2012


Introduction. Given the prevalence and harm of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there is a need to examine safer sex strategies in the context of romantic relationships and extradyadic sexual encounters. Sexual infidelity is associated with a variety of detrimental psychosocial outcomes; however, little research has addressed the sexual health ramifications of sexually unfaithful partners and members of other high-risk nonmonogamous lifestyles.

Aims. To determine whether sexually unfaithful individuals or “negotiated nonmonogamous” individuals are more likely to engage in sexual health risk reduction behaviors during extradyadic encounters and with their primary partner.

Method. Data were collected via an anonymous Internet-based study. Several hundred sexually unfaithful individuals and individuals with a negotiated nonmonogamy agreement completed a sexual health questionnaire.

Main Outcomes Measures. Self-reported measures of risk reduction behaviors within the primary relationship and risk reduction behaviors during the extradyadic encounter were assessed.

Results. Sexually unfaithful participants demonstrated significantly lower rates of protective sexual health behaviors both within their primary partnerships and during their extradyadic sexual encounters. Sexually unfaithful participants were also less likely to engage in frequent STI testing, and less likely to discuss safer sex concerns with new partners.

Conclusions. These data add to the literature on the negative effects of sexual unfaithfulness. Understanding rates of nonengagement in safer sex strategies will be helpful to those who lead efforts to increase condom use and other preventive STI measures. Conley TD, Moors AC, Ziegler A, and Karathanasis C. Unfaithful individuals are less likely to practice safer sex than openly nonmonogamous individuals. J Sex Med 2012;9:1559–1565.

This, of course, is one of the many reasons why I feel that openness and honesty are cornerstones of polyamory and other forms of ethical non-monogamy.  Honesty is not only the best policy from an emotional standpoint… it’s also a great “harm reduction” tool for everyone concerned.

If you’re looking for some help with your own safer sex testing, there’s a widget down along the right side of my blog here that will help you find a testing facility.  You can also find a few more resources for testing and other safer sex matters in my Resources list. And here’s a bonus link I posted recently in my Facebook, called Health Care Without Shame, by Dr. Charles Moser, which may also help you locate caregivers that can be appropriately responsive to your needs.

If you’re looking for help creating Agreements to support safer sex (or safer emotional relating), then you might want to check out my in-progress Agreements Workbook entries. And last but not least, of course, you’re always welcome to contact me for a personal session (by phone, Skype, or in person), if you’d like to bounce ideas off of me, or get more personalized feedback and assistance.

May you always love safely, boldly, and well!

~♥ Dawn



©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

5 thoughts on “Open-ness, honesty, and safety: Some actual data!

  1. Pingback: Resources: More Relationship & “Safer” Agreements Info — Uncharted Love

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