about my work

Socioeconomic Privilege and Polyamory: What I've Seen in 12 Years

Hi team! I recently got an interview request for a magazine I think you’ll enjoy reading soon. And, as with all interviews I know some of my words will be lost in editing and interpretation so I thought I would share the questions I was sent and my responses here for your review.

As always let me know what you think. Would you have answered the questions differently? What would you add to these responses?


THE QUESTIONS

  • In your experience working with consensually nonmonogamous people, do they tend to be of higher SES (more educated, wealthier, more liberal, probably whiter), or is it a myth that people in these alternatives relationships are all like that?

  • If your clients have been of higher SES, why do you think that is? What's the connection between nonmonogamy and SES?

  • One theory is that higher SES people may have more time/ resources to pursue non-monogamy. Has that been substantiated with any data/ research that you're aware of? How much more time and resources do you need to be non-monogamous versus monogamous?

  • Conversely, why might someone with lower SES be more inclined towards monogamy or traditional relationships?

  • It's also possible that there's a relationship between privilege, power and advocating for your sexual/ relationship needs. Have you found this to be the case? Do people with more privilege feel more comfortable discussing and exploring sexual interests that might fall outside the mainstream? 

  • Why/ why not does the connection between SES and nonmonogamy matter?

MY RESPONSE

In 12 years supporting consensually non-monogamous (CNM) populations I have seen clients spanning the spectrum of income, class, and privilege. I've seen CEOs, politicians, celebrities, judges, lawyers, sex workers, and entrepreneurs making six and seven figure incomes and I've worked with baristas, students, social workers, performers, writers, and many others living on minimum wage and/or government benefits.

It is a total myth that CNM folks are white from a higher SES. I think that myth is informed by the stereotypes we hold about what non-monogamy looks like.  For starters CNM exists in all cultures around the world, but is called different things and plays out in different ways based on cultural norms.

Even in the US, loving relationships and family networks of all kinds exist but our main cultural narrative often ignores the experience of POC as a whole, and of course that extends into our understanding of CNM. 

Folks outside CNM relationship structures also often imagine stereotypical polyamory or open relationships are one big orgy, or happen annually at Burning Man, or look like scenes from Eyes Wide Shut.  While all of those options exist they are far from the norm in CNM and are certainly not the only way folks make consensually non-monogamous relationships work.

All of that said, the ways people enact their non-monogamous arrangements and the supports and spaces they can access vary widely based on SES.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Many of my higher SES clients frequent sex parties and/or clubs that require private membership for entry.  The membership costs $150-$550 per night for a couple for certain events. $550 is monthly rent for some of my clients with less economic access.

  • Other higher SES clients I support frequent international events, spas, cruises, festivals and resorts catering to specific kinds of sex play, kink, and/or swinging.  These events are FAR outside the range of possibility for other clients of mine who cannot take time off work, let alone afford that kind of travel.  

  • Even our local Sex Positive Portland meetup group is difficult to access for clients who are single parents working multiple jobs.  

  • So on the other end of the SES spectrum I have quite a few clients who cohabitate with current and former partners because it's not wise to separate their family's finances or childcare network.  Many of these folks fit into a larger polyamorous web of families supporting one another- some of whom are romantically and/or sexually-linked, and some who are not but are still highly committed to lifelong partnership.

As far as privilege and advocacy, yes there is probably some privilege and entitlement at play with my higher SES clients, however, I often see them far more consumed by fears of being outed as CNM than other clients.  For many, their social, career and political status can be threatened if people in their community discover their relationship status.

I have clients who are on the board of major corporations, who have run for elected office, and who are well-established conservative church leaders who all have healthy CNM relationships but fear their family's well-being would be threatened if they are found out.  

Of course, that fear spans the SES spectrum because nearly all of my clients over the years have spoken out about fears others would find out. And it is more complicated for folks facing multiple layers of oppression. Meaning, if you are already concerned about job security because you are lower SES and POC, being outed as CNM often only adds another layer of worry.  

The one deviation from what I've seen is, I do find that often out members of the LGBTQ community manage this fear with a little more easily as they have already survived one coming out process (and often learned a lot from the experience). 

So, in summary, it is a myth that CNM is a rich white people thing, but (just like nearly everywhere else) more SES privilege affords more access to options and flexibility. I hope that helps!


Madison sex therapy | Gina Senarighi

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

She coaches online clients all over the world and leads retreats in the U.S.

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Therapist Referrals & Great Relationship Coaches

I’ve been fortunate to meet so many incredible providers over the years I wanted to share some of their information here for anyone who wants support for their mental health, and personal or professional growth.

Of course, I am taking new clients, but I am also not the right provider for every client in every situation. If you want or need help I recommend auditioning a few different folks to see who’s style, training, and expertise feels like the best fit for you.

If you want to work with me, contact me here for a free consultation to see if my work is a fit for you. And here are some other incredible folks I recommend talking with.


Changes to My Coaching Practice

Hello!

I'm writing this note to update all of you readers about some changes in my practice this spring. 

As many of you know, I am expecting a baby this summer and plan to take time away from seeing clients July-August of this year.  However, due to an unexpected personal change, my in-person practice is moving out of state even sooner (my family is all healthy- don’t worry, it’s an exciting change). 

I am still seeing clients in my NE Portland office until May 1, 2019.  If you'd like to meet in person (even for a one session check-in), please reply to this email so I can be sure to get you on the schedule. 


After May 1, I am still open to supporting you in a variety of ways. I will list them below. Even if you never sign up for a program or meet with me please know I am available to offer resources and referrals anytime. You can reach me using this email (gina@ginasenarighi.com), you can find me on facebook here or here, on instagram, or on either of my websites (nonmonogamous.com or ginasena.com). 

I am grateful to all of you for being a part of my professional journey in Portland.  It’s been such a blessing to get so much community support for the work I do, and so have so many incredible local people share their intimate lives with me.

You are all in my heart no matter where I live or practice, Gina

ONGOING COACHING/COUNSELING OPTIONS

ONLINE COACHING & COUNSELING

First, I will continue to see clients (as I have been) online using Zoom video conferencing services until July and again in the fall. 

IN PORTLAND, OREGON

If you'd like to get support from a Portland-area provider there are several I highly respect listed here. I'm also open to hopping on the phone for a quick chat to help you connect with a provider if you have specific questions about finding someone who can meet your unique needs. 

COACHING FOCUS AREAS

SOLO RELATIONSHIP COACHING

I will continue supporting folks as individual clients who are interested in changing relationship patterns. These hour-long sessions have been instrumental for lots of folks who are just starting dating after a break up, who need help asking for what they need in partnerships and/or who are thinking about ending a relationship.

PREMARITAL COUNSELING
I am still offering premarital/pre-commitment counseling online if you or anyone you know might be interested in focused support around a shared life commitment. These sessions have been helpful for folks who want an integrity-fueled plan for the future without a specific religious dogma attached.

SHOULD WE BREAK UP?

I'm also still offering discernment counseling online for folks considering breaking up who want to process that in a compassionate way. Some people call this “conscious uncoupling.” Whatever you call it, think of this an a kind or friendly alternative tho the way most people view breakups. Feel free to refer folks you know who might be interested here.

NON-MONOGAMY, POLYAMORY & OPEN RELATIONSHIPS

I still support tons of people considering consensual non-monogamy and/or practicing it for a long time. I’ve helped thousands of clients decide if, when, and how consensual non-monogamy is a fit for them. Read more here.

SEXUALITY COUNSELING FOR PASSION, INTIMACY & DESIRE

I’ll be finishing up my Sex Counseling credential later this year. This has meant helping people overcome common sexual dysfunctions in relationships and in long-term relationships overcoming desire fatigue.  Info on that can be found here.

WORKSHOPS & EVENTS

FREE MONTHLY MASTERCLASS

I've been hosting a monthly free relationship tune-up call every month for the last year.  You can find information about them here.  Please sign up right away if you're interested, they tend to fill quickly.

RETREATS

POLYAMORY 101 RETREAT

I'll still host my Polyamory 101 Annual Retreat in Portland (and soon I'll have an online version).  You can sign up to be invited here.

LESBIAN COUPLES RETREAT

I also have a Lesbian Couples Retreat in the works for later this year. Sign up here to be invited.

ONLINE CLASSES

BOUNDARIES

I teach a course in Healthy Boundaries for relationships a few times each year.  If you're into it, check it out here.

JEALOUSY

I offer an online course on Jealousy Management a couple of times a year.  You can sign up to get notified when registration opens here.

TRUST TUNE-UP

Finally, this year I am offering my Trust Tune-Up e-course in a few weeks. You can sign up to be invited here.

FREE RELATIONSHIP RESOURCES ONLINE

FREE CONVERSATION STARTERS

I send a weekly set of conversation starters for couples via email and if you are not already receiving it you may want them, you can sign up to get those here.  I also send this list weekly-ish updates with free worksheets, reflection guides, and relationship resource recommendations.

PODCAST

My podcast Swoon launched last week. We'll share information on sex and intimacy and action steps for relationships there once per week. It's available on any of your favorite podcast platforms (I'd love it if you left a review).

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

There are lists of my favorite books on relationships shared online here and right here.  I HIGHLY recommend them as supports even when you're in a good phase (some may be familiar to you already).

FREE TOOLS AND RESOURCES ONLINE

I offer a free relationship resource toolbox you are welcome to use anytime (save this link) filled with worksheets, guides, videos, and reading materials. I also have one tailored for non-monogamous and sex-positive relationships. If you haven’t already signed up for access you can do so here and here.

BLOG ARTICLES

Finally, I have two related blogs you can check in on anytime full of advice, resources, and ideas about relationships, communication, and intimacy.

Read them at nonmonogamous.com/blog or ginasena.com/blog today!