I have no doubt, actually, that these factors do indeed play a role in the success or failure of people's poly endeavors. I can't help but be reminded, though, of a friend's research into what actually motivates people to have high-risk, unprotected sex. It was assumed for the first 20 years or so of safer-sex education that people weren't using condoms because A) they didn't know how HIV spreads or B) they didn't have access to condoms. It turned out, of course, that some 99 to 100 percent of the people having high-risk unprotected sex know how to avoid contracting HIV and have access to supplies. They have their own reasons (denial, peer pressure, desire, and so on) for choosing not to use condoms, and there is no chance of affecting their behavior without taking these very real concerns into account. This may seem a far-fetched and unfair comparison, I know, but I like to keep in mind that we shouldn't assume what makes people tick is what ought to make them tick. People is weird.
This column originally ran Jan. 11, 2006. Alt.sex will return with new installments March 28.