In a few weeks, I'm going to be running a 45 minute session for a small group of people on polyamory. Things to note before I get into the main body of this post:

1. I may possibly end up identifying as poly, but I have never been in a relationship and as an ace/aro person it is not something that I dwell on often. But as it stands now, I am not poly (as far as my personal experience indicates).

2. The group of people are generally quite socially progressive, and will probably be open-minded on the topic

So for a youth group seminar, I was asked to run a 45 minute session, and I thought it would be interesting to base it on polyamory. Originally I was thinking of using polyamory as a concept with which to introduce the idea of steelmanning, but this group is (for the most part) entirely unfamiliar with rationality or rationalist thinking methods, and the person coordinating the seminar thought that it would be better to leave out rationalist stuff for now, since it's not a topic of immediate interest to the group, and they will be choosing between my session and a few others.

I have a pile of reading to do before I plan this session (thanks to the Bayesian Conspiracy podcast's polyamory episode(s) link lists), but I thought it would be good to check in here and see if anyone had anything to suggest or share that would help with discussing a topic like this.

I haven't yet decided how I will format the session. It could be anything from me talking for a while to an interactive discussion.

I know I've left this quite general and open (which was intentional, since I'm looking for anything and everything people may have as input).


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I may possibly end up identifying as poly, but I have never been in a relationship

I may possibly end up identifying as Santa Claus, but I have never been to the North Pole, and I actually don't like Christmas.

Sorry for bluntness, but I understand how people can live in a poly relationship, or how people can desire to live in a poly relationship even if at the given moment they are not... but what is the point of "identifying as poly" if you do neither? Do you get a sticker for being a good ally?

the person coordinating the seminar thought that it would be better to leave out rationalist stuff

I agree. The connection between rationality and polyamory is mostly accidental. Most polyamorous people out there don't give a fuck about rationality. And while quite many people in the rationalist community go "yeah, having more relationships is obviously better -- other people just never thought about it because they are not as smart as we are -- what could possibly go wrong?", there has already been some drama, and it is too soon to tell whether this experiment will turn out to be a net benefit.

Maybe history will put polyamory in the same bin as "followers of Ayn Rand believed it was rational to smoke". Maybe not. But so far I think it is better to think about "rationality" and "polyamory" as separate topics.

I have a pile of reading to do before I plan this session

Perhaps it would be better to read (subset of) the pile first, and ask later. This way it feels too much like "please, do my homework for me".


Uhm, I guess it would be nice to also answer some of your questions. Not being poly myself, I can only suggest generally:

Read the pile. Optionally, write a summary and ask here for feedback on that. Make a 25-minute presentation based on that summary, and leave 20 minutes for debate. (That way, if you accidentally keep talking for 30 or 35 minutes, there will still be some time left for the debate.)

1. In an attempt to explain myself better: I have never been in a relationship. The benefits of healthy polyamory posed to me previously make sense to me logically. But because I do not actively think about relationships, nor have I been in one, I do not know whether I will be more comfortable with a mono relationship or with poly relationships. Which is why I say I may end up identifying. It makes sense to me, but I am yet to know what my personal experience will present to me.

2. I didn't exactly mean to directly align rationality to polyamory and make them appear in any way adjacent. I just thought, because of the stigmas against polyamory, it would make for an interesting subject as a demonstration of steelmanning.

3. I didn't mean this post in a way of "do my homework for me". It was more a call for open input to supplement the reading in the form of anything anyone things is important for me to consider from their point of view, or lived experiences.

4. Thanks for the suggestion, if I do pick polyamory as my topic, I will take you up on the suggestion and write a summary here for feedback.

I have mostly seen "youth group" used in the context of "Christian youth group" and while your circumstances may be very different, I would advise exercising some caution around whether this will be seen as corrupting the youth. There is a difference between "believes things near the current frontier of progressiveness" and "is genuinely open-minded about things beyond the current frontier of progressiveness." This difference can and will bite you if you mistake one for the other.

I think they're more on the frontier of progressiveness. It's a jewish youth group, and the seminar is for all of the young adults involved in running the movement (we mainly run camps and activities for kids).

I thought it could be interesting to subtly challenge the whole being on the frontier thing and make them aware that it makes more sense to become open minded about things beyond the frontier.

There's no risk of corrupting the youth since we're not involving the kids we run stuff for in this seminar.


Context: I am a strong poly advocate and have given talks and written articles about polyamory.

Poly is about having the kind of relationship that suits the participants of those relationships.

Relationships are arbitrary constructs by definition. There's a lot of default societal patterns that it's possible to follow if one were to choose monogamous romance. With polyamory it's a bit harder to make default choices and people end up having to talk and make up their own minds about what they want and what they have to offer.

If Alice only wants to ever get icecream and bob believes in not touching each other, there's a happy place in the middle where they can form a relationship.

Some arbitrary opinions could describe this relationship as a friendship but it really depends on the subjective opinions of the participants. And potentially what they do/want/more arbitrary measures. Because these constructs are arbitrary, it's hard to concretely advise on what poly is or is not.

Generally it might include:

  • sexual freedom and also non-sexual relationships, and also kink based relationships.
  • emotional freedom to form attachments to multiple people.
  • the intention to not place expectations on one another (relationship escalator style)
  • intentions for high communication about all things.
  • the opportunity to arrange unusual habitation agreements. (I. E. Not living with one's wife)
  • inclusivity around gender fluid and sexuality fluidity.
  • nerds and lots of nerddom
  • compersion
  • life and relationships on hard-mode. With more to do and more to be done and never enough time.

Hope this helps.