I’ve had a tab open on my computer with this graph displayed for, oh, a week or so now. It’s from Google Trends, and I was having some fun, and just couldn’t bring myself to close the tab.

What can I gain from this graphic?

It is, at first, hard to read. The highest spike, the yellow one for the search term “open marriage,” is hitting a line labeled “100” at it’s highest point. It appears that 100, though, is simply the value assigned to help us understand the popularity of search terms in the rest of the graph by comparison. i.e.: The blue line’s highest point is at 95, meaning that, at it’s peak, the search term “polyamory” was only 95% as popular as the search term “open marriage” ever was, and “open relationship” only 77% so.

The bar graph on the side, though, marked “average,” suggests that, over this 10-year period, “polyamory” did actually get searched more often than “open relationship” and then “open marriage,” respectively. Interesting.

“Ethical slut,” though supposedly a popularized term by a book published in 1997 and re-published in 2009, has a surprisingly low register, even in 2009. The term “nonmonogamy,” I should tell you, didn’t even earn a blip on this graph.

This makes me remember a conversation I had with a friend once (a very monogamous friend in intent, I should say, and not so much in practice, though never, to my knowledge, unethical). The friend said something along the lines of, “you know, I never hear anyone mention any of these terms….polyamory…ethical slut…but you. I think you’re just in a tiny circle of people who think this way, and you think it’s a lot bigger than it actually is in the real world.”

Harsh. Possibly true, I guess – thought it’s just as possible that he is a part of his own circle that is shut off to these kinds of ideas, or that we both suffer of a combination of both of these problems. If, however, the banner of this blog, my linking my posts to Facebook, and my day-to-day conversations help introduce these terms and, by the transitive property of information, their meanings and the concepts therein, then so be it. I’m always happy to be a bearer of information to the curious, or the instigator of curiosity.

Go ahead, Google search some stuff you see. I want to see the peak on Google Trends.

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1 Comment

  1. Very intriguing post Shannon!

    I imagine your friend’s limited perspective is a reflection of his comfort zone — go to Europe or Asia and he would likely hear the terms more often than he does in historically Puritan Conservative America. Perhaps our parent’s generation, maybe our’s, are the last or next to last generation (in America) that keep EVERYTHING (including maybe the terms you’ve mentioned) in the closets and rarely talk about them in the home unless forced to. I know this, my parents & particularly my paternal grandparents kept MANY family taboos and problems behind closed doors because public image was HUGE! It meant everything to them to be successful out in public; a sort of Oz curtain if you will.

    I explored the term BDSM on Google Trends and no surprise, it is a much more popularly used term in Europe, almost non-existent in the U.S. according to Google Searches since 2004. Yet, this is changing according to cultural journalists like Lisa Ling of her show “Our America with Lisa Ling” on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Ling dedicated one full hour on the growing communities in America, fueled somewhat by the recent success of 50 Shades of Grey and its sequel. But I think significant cultural change happens over 2-3 or more generations relative to a geographical location & people.


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