Last summer I wrote in a post titled, Marriage Minus Monagamy, that,
One of the unspoken assumptions in the debate over gay marriage is that monogamy is equally valued by both gay and straight couples. While far too many heterosexuals opt for a form of serial monogamy—marriage, divorce, remarriage—it is still generally understood that sexual fidelity is too be expected within the bounds of marriage. The same assumption, however, is not necessarily true within homosexual relations.
Many same-sex marriage advocates will naturally find such a claim shocking, if not scurrilous. The “It’s about love” crowd have often been strong on empathy while weak on their understanding of how homosexual relationships tend to differ from those of heterosexuals. (It also seems to have escaped their notice that marriage may not be the only term that homosexual activists want to redefine.) But this isn’t a controversial idea—at least it wasn’t until the recently.
Some people took umbrage at the claim, while others were curious why they media hasn’t mentioned it before. The New York Times finally addresses both groups in a recent article:
As the trial phase of the constitutional battle to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage concludes in federal court, gay nuptials are portrayed by opponents as an effort to rewrite the traditional rules of matrimony. Quietly, outside of the news media and courtroom spotlight, many gay couples are doing just that, according to groundbreaking new research.
A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.
New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.
That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”
The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.
None of this is news in the gay community, but few will speak publicly about it. Of the dozen people in open relationships contacted for this column, no one would agree to use his or her full name, citing privacy concerns. They also worried that discussing the subject could undermine the legal fight for same-sex marriage.
That last sentence is particularly revealing. I believe there are two reasons why same-sex marriage advocates are hesitant to be honest about their views on monogamy.
The first is because it completely undercuts their argument that same-sex marriage should not be compared to polygamy. The fact is that they are attempting to gain legitimacy for a particular type of polyamoury while excluding other, more open, forms of multi-partner arrangements.
The second reason is that they recognize that the general public considers sexual fidelity a key component of marital relationships. Consider the case of Chris and James:
A couple since 2002, they opened their relationship a year ago after concluding that they were not fully meeting each other’s needs. But they have rules: complete disclosure, honesty about all encounters, advance approval of partners, and no sex with strangers — they must both know the other men first. “We check in with each other on this an awful lot,” said James, 37.
Many (if not most) people find such “open marriages” as repugnant as adultery and would be destroyed if their spouse were to suggest adding sexual partners to the relationship. The public is also aware that If monogamy is not considered a necessary component of same-sex marriage, then it will only be a matter of time before the leavening effect of language reduces the cultural significance of monogamy in all marriages. Refusing to allow a husband to take a lover will be viewed as backward and old-fashioned as refusing to allow a wife to work outside the home.
Are heterosexual advocates of same-sex marriage ready to redefine marriage in a way that leaves out monogamy?
(Via: Craig Carter)