Does Income or Education Correlate to Sex-Positivity or Non-Monogamy?

Igor and I have now watched two episodes of Swingtown. IMBD:

As America celebrates its 200th birthday, two generations of friends and neighbors in a Chicago suburb explore new freedoms and seek connections with each other in the midst of the socio/sexual revolution.

Apparently it’s super old, and it’s about swingers. The show begins a a couple, Susan and Bruce Miller, move into a nicer neighborhood as Bruce is making more money. They meet a new couple in their new neighborhood with new ways of partying. The couple they had been friends with in their old neighborhood are not open to this.

One thing that I noticed was that it seemed like non-monogamy was more prevalent in the wealthier neighborhood than in the less affluent neighborhood. The swinging couple drives a BMW convertible. The square couple, a station wagon.

This got me wondering whether there is any connection between income and education and sex-positivity or non-monogamy. I couldn’t find out. I searched Google, then and for polls on “monogamy” and got absolutely nothing from either.

However, I did find the Pew Research Center Values Study. It appears that if your income and education are lower, you’re more likely to hold old-fashioned values about family and marriage. 

This chart shows that as income increases, the likelihood that you hold old-fashioned values about family and marriage decreases.

family values 2

This chart shows that as education increases, the likelihood that you hold old-fashioned values about family and marriage decreases.


So that’s interesting. It’s pretty well established that in the US, the higher your income and education, the less likely you are to be very religious. And I believe that a high level of religiousness often precludes a lot of non-monogamy and much of sex-positivity, as it involves the idea that all consensual sex is “right,” whatever that means to you. But I’d love hard data on that.

Camille Paglia just reviewed some books on BDSM, which isn’t necessarily non-monogamy, but is sex-positive. She describes one author’s treatment of class in the BDSM community. Paglia discusses how Staci Newmahr, an assistant professor of sociology at Buffalo State College, describes the BDSM participants she studied:

In describing her subjects’ style of “blunt speaking” and boasting, as well as their disconcerting invasion of personal space in conversation, however, Newmahr does not mention social class, about which she says little in her book. I would hazard a guess that she was uncovering the difference between lower-middle-class and upper-middle-class manners—the latter characterizing the world she customarily inhabits as an academic.

I’m not sure what the correlation is between income, education, sex-positivity and non-monogamy is, but I’d really love to. This isn’t to say that if rich, well-educated people do it it must be “good” or “best” for everyone. Hardly. But I do think that sometimes, like with gay marriage, what rich, well-educated people do first predicts how the rest of the population will eventually go.

I hypothesize that, like with gay marriage, sex-positivity and non-monogamy are more accepted in richer, better educated parts of the population, and that they will become much more mainstream as time goes on. But I could be wrong. It’ll be interesting to see.


  1. York Luethje

    I dunno. Shouldn’t we look at data of what people actually do in addition to what they profess to believe? I suspect that those charts are influenced by social signalling and from what I’ve seen of the BDSM scene in the US it was all over the place in terms of social strata. No idea about swinging.

  2. York Luethje

    Well, for instance this: “The majority of black children nationwide – 54 percent – are being raised by single mothers.”

    Blacks generally poll conservative and skew to the left on the income-distribution curve.

    Not singling out any specific group, this was just the first thing some lazy googling turned up.

    Actual data on cheating is hard to come by, naturally. I recall a study done in the late 90s where British researchers surveyed the DNA of a fairly large sample of children living in council estates (projects). It turned out that around 10% were bastards. Can’t find the study, unfortunately.

    The again, I would never accuse the limeys of having strict morals.

    • I’ve had some other people equate single motherhood with non-monogamy and sex-positivity. I do not see any link. And by non-monogamy I don’t really mean cheating. That’s stated monogamy and expressed non. I mean stated and expressed non-monogamy. I think a post about what non-monogamy is and isn’t would be great.

      • York Luethje

        Yeah, I don’t see that either. It may have been a thing in the 70s, there was a lot of ‘fight the imperialistic patriarchy by boycotting the family unit’ but today?

        Good idea for a post.

  3. there is only the vaguest of connections between any of these factors. Non-Monogamy is in fact an expression that is mostly born of Thinking Individually and Critically, which often accompanies higher education (in reputable academic institutions, not these so called fundamentalist universities springing up all over the bible belt). By non monogamy I do not mean those people who cheat on monogamous relationships, but those people who do not adhere to the arcane ideology of one love for life that was born of much simpler times with much fewer choices in society. The breakdown of the Marriage Complex can be attributed to many factors and most of the single mothers in the country are products of this effect. Some of the single mothers in the country were choices made by the female to have a child with out the burden of having another adult attached to their choices or decisions. This is the Non Monogamous culture and has nothing to do with income, a little to do with education, and mostly to do with the awakening of society to the inherent flaws of the fundamentalist monogamy culture.

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