Monogamy All the Rage for Gay, Straight Couples

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 6, 2011

More and more gay couples -- and straight ones, also -- are embracing monogamy, a new study involving nearly 7,000 people indicates, USA Today reported on Sept. 5. Among other causes, researchers point to greater acceptance of same-sex families.

The study examined older research material gathered in 1975 and in 2000, and then correlated the sets of data against one another. The results showed a trend toward monogamy among all three types of couples -- gay, straight, and lesbian -- on which the study focused.

"Overall, the results indicate that on the equality variables, there have been many statistically significant behavioral shifts among the different sexual orientations across 25 years," the study's abstract reported.

"In addition, all couple types reported substantially greater rates of monogamy in the year 2000 than in 1975. The present study has important clinical implications for therapists working with couples because it provides new baseline evidence regarding how couples now interact with one another (especially about monogamy) and how this has shifted over time.

"In addition, it elucidates the differences that still exist between different couple types, which could serve to inform couple therapists as they strive to become more culturally competent working with same-sex couples."

"There's dramatically less extra-relational sexual behavior in the year 2000 than in the year 1975 for all couple types," said one researcher, Alliant International University's Robert-Jay Green, who noted that the two studies asked participants the same set of questions, even though the second study was conducted 25 years after the first one.

"The percentage of heterosexual men who reported having sex with someone other than their wife dropped to 10% in 2000 from 28% in 1975; among married women, it declined to 14% from 23%," USA Today reported.

"Among gay men, the percentage who cheated on a partner they lived with dropped to 59% from 83%; for lesbians it declined to 8% from 28%. Half the gays and lesbians in the study were in civil unions, half were living together in committed relationships, the researchers say."

The study delivers a hammer blow to the myth that gay couples universally have open relationships. But it also raises the question of to what extent the rapidly growing acceptance of gay and lesbian families in society at-large has colored newly emergent attitudes toward monogamy.

"Some might expect monogamy is not something that typifies same-sex couples, but clearly the trend is in the opposite direction," one scholar, the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign's Glenn Roisman, told USA Today.

Roisman's own research, conducted in 2008 and 2009, exploded those stereotypes, finding that gay and straight relationships were of "the same quality," Roisman said, noting that the myth of promiscuous gays seeking sexual adventures outside the home were "not always aligned with the reality" of actual same-sex families.

"As public opinion has shifted about gay people and the LGBT community overall, I think same-sex couples are more comfortable living openly in their communities and building families," said the Family Equality Council's Emily Hecht-McGowan.

The study was published in the Journal Family Process.

A posting about gay male monogamy at the Gay Couples Institute website notes that research on the subject indicates that younger gay couples are more likely to be monogamous. Among those who were not monogamous, there was an indication of aggressive over-compensation that relied upon " 'allegiance' to masculine values of adventure and autonomy, and this extended to sexual life," the posting noted. "Non-monogamy was often an assertion of sexual self-determination."

The posting went on to suggest that as social and political hostility toward gays decreases, monogamous conduct could be expected to increase among same-sex couples.

"Monogamous values are more present in younger couples, but could it be that as gay men come out at younger ages, and as homosexuality is more accepted by the larger population, the interest in 'sexual self-determination' will decrease?" the posting queried.

A comment left at the site by a reader gave an answer as to why stereotypes of gay men as sexually promiscuous persist. The reader noted that although clubs and social networking sites are full of gay men seeking sexual companionship, the fact that monogamous couples avoid those scenes means they are less visible.

"Monogamy works for us and we wouldn't change it," the reader posted. "We used to think that we were the only monogamous gay couples and everyone else was having three ways and in open relationships. What we've since discovered is that monogamous gay couples are in fact around and in large numbers. They just are not easy to find.

"Monogamous gay couples, in our experience, are not on gay website or go to clubs... because that's the scene and places where single gay men and open gay couples are looking for sex. When you're part of a monogamous relationship, you're not after that, you just want to make friends."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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