Sex & Dating | April 29, 2021 2:00 pm

Willow Smith Reminds the World Polyamory Isn’t Just About Sex

There's more to rejecting monogamy than desiring multiple sexual partners. In fact, that doesn't have to be part of it at all.

Willow Smith attends Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2 presented by Amazon Prime Video at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California
Willow Smith, noted polyamorous icon
Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2 Presented by Amazon Prime Video

In a recent appearance on Jada Pinkett Smith’s buzzy talk show Red Table Talk, the star’s daughter, 20-year-old Willow Smith, opened up about being polyamorous and managed to bust some common stereotypes and misconceptions in the process.

“With polyamory, I feel like the main foundation is the freedom to be able to create a relationship style that works for you and not just stepping into monogamy because that’s what everyone around you says is the right thing to do,” Smith said on the most recent episode, appearing alongside her mother and maternal grandmother, who host the show. The star added that she decided to adopt a polyamorous approach to relationships after research into polyamory led her to the hardly shocking discovery that “the main reason why divorces happen is infidelity.”

Polyamory is a form of consensual non-monogamy in which people are open to having multiple romantic (and often sexual) partners, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. For Smith, the decision to pursue polyamory seems to be rooted in a desire to maintain a level of personal freedom and independence in her relationships, as well as to offer the same to her romantic partners. And while a common misconception surrounding open relationships and consensual non-monogamy holds that people who pursue polyamorous situations do so primarily out of a desire to have more sex, Smith noted that her own introduction to polyamory was actually “nonsexual,” adding that sex remains a relatively small part of her polyamorous lifestyle.

“In my friend group, I’m the only polyamorous person, and I have the least sex out of all my friends,” said Smith.

Indeed, while sex with multiple partners is often a hallmark of allosexual polyamory, it’s hardly the only reason people adopt a polyamorous lifestyle, or even always a primary one. Polyamory isn’t just for the very horny. For many, like Smith, polyamory is less about sex than it is about divesting oneself of societal norms that govern monogamy and pursuing relationships that leave more room for partners to define love and commitment on their own terms.

Meanwhile, Smith’s framing of polyamory as an identity with which one chooses to align themself — as opposed to a situation that only occurs under certain circumstances — also speaks to a shift in the way we talk about identity as non-traditional relationship styles attract more practitioners and awareness. While those outside of or unfamiliar with consensual non-monogamy may assume that polyamory only occurs within the context of an open relationship, many actually view polyamory as a lifestyle and identity that is distinct from their current relationship status. Even if you’re not currently in a relationship, you can still be polyamorous; it just means that your approach to sex and dating is structured around polyamory. As sex columnist Zachary Zane wrote in an issue of his BOYSLUT newsletter last year explaining why he still identified as polyamorous even while single, “It’s because I view polyamory as a lifestyle/mindset, and I want people to know when I go on a date with them, that if things do get serious, and we come to really like each other, I will not want to be monogamous. I will want to be in some form of an ethically non-monogamous relationship.”

Essentially, you don’t have to be in a polyamorous relationship to be polyamorous, nor do you have to be particularly horny — though of course it’s fine if you are.