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(De)Politicizing polyamory: Social media comments on media representations of consensual non-monogamies

Cardoso, Daniel and Rosa, Ana and Silva, Marisa Torres da (2020) (De)Politicizing polyamory: Social media comments on media representations of consensual non-monogamies. Archives of Sexual Behavior: an interdisciplinary research journal. ISSN 0004-0002 (In Press)

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Our research sits at the intersection of communication studies, sociology, cyberculture and political philosophy and theory. In 2014, a 10+ minute segment on polyamory aired on Portuguese open-access national television, during the prime-time newscast, and was viewed by several million people, according to official reports. The news piece was also advertised and shared online, especially via Facebook, by the network's official Page. Moreover, the piece was aired within the context of a segment that celebrated the 40-year anniversary of the 1974 liberal revolution that overthrew the right-wing dictatorial regime that ruled Portugal for more than half of the 20th century. This context served to frame polyamory (alongside other topics) as explicitly political by presenting them as freedoms seized by that liberal revolution. This study uses a mixed-methods approach to the analysis of online comments on Facebook made with respect to the referred news piece, by deploying both content analysis and critical discourse analysis to try to understand how the political nature of polyamory is negotiated (affirmed or disavowed), and what ideal of the "political" is mobilized in that negotiation, in connection with other elements of intimate citizenship and modes of systemic discrimination. Through this analysis, we will deepen our understanding of how lay people construe the "political", and the (non-)politicalness of polyamory. It also helps advance contemporary understandings of how polyamory is represented in mainstream media, understood by audiences, and how media – and debates on online social networks – can both amplify and help fight against harmful stereotypes of minorities. Through this research, we contribute to political theory by opening up new ways of conceptualizing the realm of the political as an open-ended definition that must encompass changes in modes of sociality, including a politics of relating as a sub-field; likewise to the study of social movements, and their strategies, around consensual non-monogamies. Overall, results show that the recognition of the validity of polyamory is not the same as the realization that relationship orientation is a political issue in itself, and that a privatized mode of understanding politics seems prevalent as well as the default framework used in the comments we analysed. In addition to that, and as other research has already noted, incivility and hate speech is prevalent in online comments and discussions, further dampening the political potential of dissident modes of existence, especially given that incivility is also deployed by those speaking in favour of Othered identities and experiences.

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