If there’s a polyamory gene, we haven’t discovered it yet. But according to a press release issued by a new polyamory dating site, a person’s career choice might indicate a certain proclivity to trying out open relationships.
Of the 100,000 users seeking polyamorous companionship on OpenMinded—the next niche dating site from the same MIT grad who brought us SeekingArrangement, MissTravel and WhatsYourPrice—4,300 list their occupation as engineer. As the site's PR manager, Brook Urick, told Fusion, that makes engineers the site’s biggest population, with about a 100-user lead on entrepreneurs, the second-biggest user population.
Urick clarified that her data included people who listed only “engineer” in the occupation field—not “software engineer,” “electrical engineer,” or other job titles that just included the term engineer. That decision was made because not a lot of people on OpenMinded specify the type of engineering work they do. “A lot of people aren’t very specific on the site because I think they want to maintain their privacy,” Urick said.
Before you start side-eyeing the engineers around your office, note that it would be inappropriate to make sweeping assumptions about career choice being intrinsically tied to dating preferences based on OpenMinded’s small user pool. But the numbers do bring some interesting questions to mind, and could signify real patterns in the larger poly community.
Since the official research on polyamory is pretty limited, most of what we know about it comes from sources within the community—such as Dedeker Winston, a poly dating coach with Multiamory. “The recurring question: is non-monogamy a lifestyle choice, or is it genetically predisposed, like one's sexuality?” Winston wrote to Fusion in an email. “Unfortunately, there have not been any conclusive research studies that have discovered the non-monogamy gene—if such a thing exists—or that have been able to highlight the common personality traits among non-monogamous people.”
But that being said, she has noticed certain patterns and higher concentrations of certain personality types within the poly community. “There is a surprising amount of overlap between the geeky, tech-savvy, comic-book-reading, video-game-and-Dungeons-&-Dragons playing community with the non-monagamy community,” Winston said.
She chalks that up to a personal theory, which is that these “nerdy” people are into hobbies and careers that are “a little left of center,” and are used to experiencing a certain amount of social stigma—so they're comfortable with whatever social stigma may come with polyamorous relationships.
Urick’s own theory is similar—the work of an engineer or entrepreneur requires creative thinking and innovation, and if you’re already thinking out-of-the-box in your workplace, that’s eventually going to bleed over into your personal life.
Over the past few years, a number of stories have documented the apparent polyamorous dating habits that exist in Silicon Valley—a part of the country that’s rich with engineers and entrepreneurs. In the CNN mini-documentary Sex, Drugs & Silicon Valley, insider Miju Han describes polyamory as “hacking love.” Han is polyamorous and works as a product manager in the Bay Area. Seeking to explain what definitely feels like a high concentration of poly daters in the Valley, Han tells CNN, "people in Silicon Valley are always looking for way to change norms that might be better for people."
So maybe it's the other way around—the personality type that leads someone to choose engineering or entrepreneurship as a career path coincides with the personality type that's likely to seek polyamory.
There's a theory in sociology called social strain theory that divides the human population into five basic subgroups. One of those subgroups is "innovators"—or put simply, people who want culturally-valued things (like power, wealth, love, et cetera), but don't want to abide by culturally-accepted norms to get them. Silicon Valley is pretty much built on the shoulders of people who fit into that category.
And it might not be too far of a stretch, if there's to be an argument for job choice being linked to dating preference, to say that people who choose polyamory are innovators as well. Both in work and in their love lives. They want love and companionship—both highly regarded markers of social currency in our culture—but they're taking a route that is still considered a bit outside of the norm to get them.
So then, is polyamory most popular among those who choose engineering as their occupation? Maybe! Mostly it's pretty hard to tell. But one thing we do know is that it's definitely popular among OpenMinded users. So if you're looking for an engineers to get involved with, you know where to find them.
Hannah Smothers is a reporter for Fusion's Sex & Life section, a Texpat, and a former homecoming princess.