Polyamory as Religious Sexual Counter-Culture: An Analysis through Gayle Rubin’s “Charmed Circle”

Keywords: religion, spirituality, consensual non-monogamy (CNM), sexuality, Paganism, Tantra


This paper interprets links between polyamory and alternative spiritual practices (Paganism, NeoTantra, et cetera) through Gayle Rubin’s theory of the Charmed Circle and its Outer Limits. Its author pushes beyond existing researcher interpretations about the reasons for shared membership across polyamory and alternative religions and argues that combining consensual nonmonogamy with alternative religions, as well as non-conforming gender identities (genderqueer and non-binary) and sexual orientations (pansexual, omnisexual, queer, and kinky), is an act of reterritorializing on the sexual values system map. The author proposes this interpretation as a means for understanding why a well-educated, politically liberal population participates in cultural appropriation. Because monogamy is associated with Christianity and the West, Tantra, or the idea of Tantra, offers an alternative. Paganism is also discussed as an alternative to Christianity. By associating with non-Western, non-Christian spiritual traditions, polyamorists re-territorialize. They reclaim the outer limits as their new charmed circle.

Author Biography

Michelle Mueller, Santa Clara University

Academic Year Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies


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How to Cite
Mueller, M. (2021). Polyamory as Religious Sexual Counter-Culture: An Analysis through Gayle Rubin’s “Charmed Circle”. Proceedings of the International Conference on Gender and Sexuality, 2(1), 15-21. https://doi.org/10.17501/26028611.2020.2102