Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department or Program



Wienke, Chris M.


Despite a shift in our late-modern period to erode more traditional forms of relationships and a growth in polyamory’s popularity, non-monogamy remains highly stigmatized. Polyamory is a relationship style wherein participants have multiple romantic and/or sexual partners with whom they focus on building commitments, sharing intimacy, and establishing honesty (Sheff 2006). While scholarship on polyamory and the stigma of non-monogamies generally is growing, little is known about how polyamorists manage their stigmatized identities. Using Goffman’s (1963) theory of stigma management, I inductively analyze discussion board posts on a polyamorous community’s website and find that polyamorists manage their stigma differently in private life and public life, but typically do so in a way that defies the stigma of non-monogamy. I argue that the source of polyamorists’ resistance to their stigmatization stems from the Polyamorous Ethos, an in-group perspective in the polyamorous community that advocates for polyamory’s superiority over monogamy and power to effect social change.