Surprise! Lots of Gay Marriages Are ’Open’

by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jan 29, 2010

Some may put this into the category of "studies that confirm the painfully obvious," but researchers at San Francisco State University (where else?) are releasing findings that many gay couples are not monogamous.

The New York Times is reporting that the study, to be released in February, noted, "Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships."

Rather than flouting traditional marriage, the gay way may, in fact, be its savior. Per the article: "Some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage - one that might point the way for the survival of the institution."

Actually, the "and lesbians" in the sentence above is apparently not accurate (something many may say is intuitively obvious). According to the Times, the 556 couples studies for three years were all male-male. Of them, about half had sex outside their relationships--with knowledge and approval of the other partner.

"With straight people, it's called affairs or cheating," Colleen Hoff, the study's principal investigator, told the paper, "but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations."

In a conclusion that may surprise some (but not others), the researchers found that these open couples were, in fact, just as happy in their relationships as those who were totally monogamous. A study in 1985 found that open gay relationships last longer.

In a Times blog post, reporter Scott James playfully details some of the "rules of the road" for gay open relationships. "To be clear," he writes, "it's not polygamy, but playmates."

He cites the study as pointing to those rules like, the "200-Mile," "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" rule: If a cat is far away, a mouse can play. The "One-a-Day" rule allows for a time-out. Perhaps the most discussed among gay couples is the "Not More Than Once With the Same Guy" rule. Another sticky subject is the "Not In Our Home Rule."

Of course, some will insist that such a study undermines the argument for gay marriage. There used to be a phrase in Yiddish, "Don't discuss in front of the non-Jews." This kind of community groupthink would maintain that the study reinforces the stereotype of two gay men as horn dogs, seeking out sex, sex and more sex wherever they can find it.

Commentor on James' blog item reiterated this belief. "Try not to portray us as these sex-crazed stereotypes," one wrote.

Another said his post "trivializes and belittles the 50% of gay relationships which which are monogamous and devoted partnerships. Thanks for giving the bigots more ammunition and the Sunday-go-to-church gossips something to gasp at."

Another made the interesting point that studying couples in San Francisco and projecting them as typical is no more accurate than straight couples in the capital of the counter-culture. A study in Indianapolis, say, may yield very different results.

But at least one heterosexual observer would disagree. "The traditional American marriage is in crisis, and we need insight," Joe Quirk, author of "It's Not You, It's Biology." "If innovation in marriage is going to occur, it will be spearheaded by homosexual marriages."

There is also a question of how monogamous those "traditional" heterosexual couples really are. In 1972, a bestseller entitled "Open Marriage" spurred media discussion that such marriages were on the rise.

Many experts, however, disagree. But, since Alfred Kinsey's pioneering research in the 1950s, there haven't been thorough-enough studies to verify the incidence of open relationships among heterosexuals, according to many observers.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


  • , 2010-01-29 13:56:51

    Some interesting statistics to consider: half of all marriages end in divorce, and the average length of a marriage is between 6 and years. Doesn’t this imply that "ONE ring to rule them all" doesn’t work?! Monogamy works great for some people, and non-monogamy works great for others. I’ve found in my work as a marriage and family therapist in New York that sexual and emotional fascism works for no one. Dr. Michael DeMarco

  • , 2010-01-29 13:59:39

    Oops- make that between 6 and 8 years! MD

  • , 2010-01-29 14:26:38

    Maybe gay men are just more honest.

  • PolishBear, 2010-01-29 14:31:51

    This is not so much a "Gay" thing as it is a "Male vs. Female" thing. As noted in this article, the couples in this study were all male couples ... and MEN, left to their own devices, are not as predisposed toward monogamy as women are. The sexual dynamics among male-male couples, male-female couples, and female-female couples are all going to be different, since the two sexes are simply not "wired" the same way! That having been said, this research comes as no surprise to me. As someone who has been to numerous HIV/AIDS conferences and Gay Men’s Health Summits over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion through anecdotal evidence that AT LEAST 50% of Gay male couples have agreed to "open" relationships. The rules tend to vary a lot from couple to couple, though.

  • , 2010-01-29 16:48:39

    Being monogamous with my partner means that I have an inhibition. Inhibitions don’t make you morally superior. Common courtesy and consideration toward your neighbor, and thinking about someone other than yourself, DOES. Look, I hear you loud people every night. These walls are paper-thin, and those headphones you got me last Christmas? They don’t work. Thank you for an insulting gift, you annoying, capital-"J" Jerk. Quiet down. As a 411, sex is not love. It is a filthy thing you do, and sometimes a child pops out with placenta wrapped around it. When that happens, it changes your brain chemistry, and you don’t want to fool around anymore. It is a fact of science, you stupid fools. Infants change how you behave.

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