Monogamy for heterosexual couples means at a minimum sexual fidelity. The most extensive survey of sex in America found that “a vast majority [of heterosexual married couples] are faithful while the marriage is intact.”1 The survey further found that 94 percent of married people and 75 percent of cohabiting people had only one partner in the prior year.2 In contrast, long-term sexual fidelity is rare among GLB couples, particularly among gay males. Even during the coupling period, many gay men do not expect monogamy. A lesbian critic of gay males notes that:
“After a period of optimism about the long range potential of gay men’s one-on-one relationships, gay magazines are starting to acknowledge the more relaxed standards operating here, with recent articles celebrating the bigger bang of sex with strangers or proposing ‘monogamy without fidelity’-the latest Orwellian formulation to excuse having your cake and eating it too.”3
Gay men’s sexual practices appear to be consistent with the concept of “monogamy without fidelity.” A study of gay men attending circuit parties showed that 46 percent were coupled, that is, they claimed to have a “primary partner.” Twenty-seven percent of the men with primary partners “had multiple sex partners (oral or anal) during their most recent circuit party weekend . . . .”4 For gay men, sex outside the primary relationship is ubiquitous even during the first year. Gay men reportedly have sex with someone other than their partner in 66 percent of relationships within the first year, rising to approximately 90 percent if the relationship endures over five years.5,6 And the average gay or lesbian relationship is short lived. In one study, only 15 percent of gay men and 17.3 percent of lesbians had relationships that lasted more than three years.7 Thus, the studies reflect very little long-term monogamy in GLB relationships.
ReferencesRobert T. Michael, et al., p. 89. Ibid., p. 101. Camille Paglia, “I’ll take religion over gay culture,” Salon.com online magazine, June 1998, www.frontpagemag.com/archives/guest_column/ paglia/gayculture.htm. Gordon Mansergh, Grant Colfax, et al., p. 955. Joseph Harry, Gay Couples, p. 116, New York: Praeger Books, 1984. McWhirter and Mattison, The Male Couple:How Relationships Develop, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1984. Marcel T. Saghir, M.D. and Eli Robins, M.D., Male and Female Homosexuality: A Comprehensive Investigation, p. 57 Table 4.13, p. 225 Table 12.10, Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Company, 1973.