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Study: 50 Percent of Gay Couples Openly Not Monogamous

With regard to the Joy Behar conversation earlier this week, the NYT reports:


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.

Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret [nyt]

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  1. ....only in the Bay Area. Your headline makes it seem like a national survey or something, as does the NY Times. The Bay Area uh represents the Bay Area.

    Posted by: maxx40 | Jan 29, 2010 8:44:02 AM

  2. "Couples", not "married gays and lesbians", but couples. Also, the study pool was taken from San Fran.

    Posted by: Brian | Jan 29, 2010 8:44:31 AM

  3. Um I would NEVER be in an open relationship. I'm way too jealous. I always curse out "couples" looking on A4A. I think it's disgusting. If you wanna fuck everyone and their mother then do it but dont have a "Boyfriend" on top of that. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    Posted by: J. Bocca | Jan 29, 2010 8:46:07 AM

  4. This is SF, which is more liberal than most other places. AND it only followed 556 couples, couples who volunteered to be in the study. How many gay couples did they leave out? also they shouldve compared sf gay couples with sf straight couples. How many of sf straight couples are open? I think if you made the comparisons the difference would hardly be stark.

    Posted by: Loganwu | Jan 29, 2010 8:59:31 AM

  5. Well, I was in an 11 year relationship that was open for a period- the results were kind of a disaster BECAUSE it did not come from any kind of honest place. I'm sure it does and can work for people depending on the circumstances. I do agree with the study that the institution does need to change in order to survive. Think it really depends on both people IN it really wanting to be open rather than one partner going along as a means to keep some sort of relationship happening. I know couples that are inseperable and those that take seperate vacations- both seem happy.

    Posted by: chris | Jan 29, 2010 9:07:33 AM

  6. a few things...
    1. I'm fearful of this study being used against us
    2. It's not new that people (Gy or St8)have relations o/s of couple- it's just that gays seem willing to acknowledge. Not to be cliche, but european couples...
    3. I'm a little surprised at the judgmental tone above- it's just sex. Am I missing something? Don't be too quick to co-sign a straight/religious narrative that doesn't necessarily relate to you.
    PS: sorry for the long post; I hate long posts!

    Posted by: stephen | Jan 29, 2010 9:07:52 AM

  7. Poorly executed survey.

    Posted by: Clay | Jan 29, 2010 9:08:32 AM

  8. Of the 278 non-monogamous couples in that study, I bet you'd find 278 different sets of rules.

    Only play together.
    As long as we're in the same room.
    As long as we're in the same building.
    As long as we're in the same state.
    Only on vacations.
    Only when my boyfriend's out of town.
    Just don't bring anyone home.
    As long as you don't know his name.
    Anything goes but kissing (the Pretty Woman rule)

    Etc, etc, etc.

    Posted by: crispy | Jan 29, 2010 9:11:44 AM

  9. If you guys think that such relationships are limited to SF, you're kidding yourselves. My husband and I have been together for 20 years, we're legally married in Canada, plan to be together for the rest of our lives AND we have an open relationship. And we live in Ohio, not SF. In fact, we do very happily have our cake and eat it too.

    I am the first to admit that it's something that not every couple can handle. It requires absolute honesty and trust. Jealousy to me is a sign distrust. And a distrustful relationship is a weak one, whether it monogamous or not.

    But just because it's not for you, where do you get off judging? We don't "fuck everyone but our mother," but we do occasionally hook up with a third guy or another couple. It's fun when we do it, AND it definitely also has kept the sex that we have together hot and fun. You guys sound like a bunch of gay haters. I think your judgment is narrow minded and sad.

    Posted by: Guy from OH | Jan 29, 2010 9:15:32 AM

  10. I think if more couples took the physical aspect of their relationship more seriously, there wouldn’t be such a need for constant outside stimulation. Most couples I know really stop trying after about the first 2 years and become roommates/sisters and ultimately back biting bitches to live with.

    Posted by: ggreen | Jan 29, 2010 9:19:41 AM

  11. Guy: Sorry you're not enough man for your partner. Best of luck to you and your roommate.

    Posted by: Brian | Jan 29, 2010 9:21:17 AM

  12. These results are very regional and hugely circumspect. I doubt that couples surveyed in Minneapolis would have the same results. Only 556 couples in a market that has a reputation for sexual liberty and is argueably "gay mecca" does not represent the country as a whole by any stretch of the imagination.

    As in all studies, data can be skewed to match desired results. I'd like to see the questions' wording.

    And, yes, this type of info going out could really damage the fight for marriage. It could be argued that same sex marriage actually dissuades "open" situations, however.

    Posted by: johnny | Jan 29, 2010 9:29:17 AM

  13. My partner and I have been together 4 yrs. We sat down and talked about this in a very honest way. We love each other. We are committed to each other. But we also realize that things happen. So we came up with what works for US. There is no reason to end a relationship because a hook-up occasionally. As as long as we are both safe,it's doesn't become a regular thing with someone and there is no emotional involvement, we are both cool. I think to look at it,for us anyway,any other way is narrow minded. I am actually surprised as well its worked.

    Posted by: cb | Jan 29, 2010 9:32:52 AM

  14. ..I look at it this ..for me 49,50 in July - with more yrs behind me then in partner of 10yrs and I have a semi-open relationship...BUT - IF we were younger,and were raising kids...I'd want to be Married & Monogomous...I think the younger generation coming up, which NOW HAS the opportunity / and Dreams that "someday" they too can meet someone fall in love and marry...will lead to more Monogomous relationships for gays/lesbians......growing up in the 60's & 70's,80' wasn't even Imagined the WE could someday marry.....I think THAT makes ALL the Difference too.

    Posted by: Disgusted American | Jan 29, 2010 9:33:47 AM

  15. This is something I have been preaching to my str8 friends forever! It's natural to look, its natural to lust, and sex is different then love! It's been refined to be one and the same but it is different, and yes you can have both but you can separate the two without meaning anything.
    Religion more then anything has been the front burner for monogamy, religion....which keeps people in check, in control and was developed imo, just for that purpose..if more marriages and relationships were open there would be fewer divorces in this country.
    It is not a black and white issue there are gray areas,humans are mammals and not monogamous ones.
    If you want to be in an exclusive relationship in marriage or civil union and it works for you then great! What I am saying is you both need to figure this out first and if someone strays be more forgiving and reasonable and not black an white about it! It really is human nature.
    My partner and I are open, not at our age it really matters any more, (53) and it has been the best relationship that I have been in!
    I have been in a traditional marriage, (and probably would still be in it if she was open to sharing) and a total of 3 gay relationships including the one I am in now..The first two were exclusive, with the premise, if you cheat you are gone! (not my idea) Of course when I ended it with the first one then he thought maybe we should try the "open" concept but by then I had lost any emotion for him in that way. The second was a long distance off and on again romance..The current partner and I have been together 13 yrs, I told him in the start that if he wanted to have sex w/someone he was attracted to, to go for it, just keep emotion out of it. People who are in relationships have different needs usually more then the other can fulfill and I did not want him to deny himself.
    I know the traditionalists are going to dismiss and deny this letter but i am just trying to get others to view relationships a little differently. It's not just the San Fran area, its all over. And just because someone has an open relationship doesn't make it bad or works for a lot of people and all of this should be sorted out BEFORE you decide to be in a relationship!
    Like it or not men are different! I am still friends with my exes, still do things with them, we just don't connect on that level.
    My current partner and I love one another, love our dogs, our home, just like everyone else but we separate sex and love, we see the gray areas and for us it works.
    Maybe most people are romantics and that is why studies like this are looked at in disdain?
    Anyway my point being, the first 3 letters seem to represent that black an white world that religion and the government would like everyone to live in, and sometimes you have to figure out what works best for yourself.

    Posted by: mnrocko | Jan 29, 2010 9:35:01 AM

  16. @ Brian. Bitter much? Who can can judge another person's relationship? Live and let live.

    Posted by: jamesNYC | Jan 29, 2010 9:39:13 AM

  17. what a stupid idea. what a set back for hay people all over the world. they take a study in gayest S.F and use this as a guide to the health of gay relationships ? IDIOTS ! this is like gas on an open fire. It will make happy gay people ( or even not so happy ones ) think that being in a open relationship is the answer..not ! typical that we would shoot outselves in the foot with a crazy idea like this. it makes the world think we are trash and sluts , exactly what we have fough against for years ! BE ASHAMED OF THIS STUDY FOOLISH

    Posted by: charle | Jan 29, 2010 9:39:41 AM

  18.'s nice to see that being judgmental holier than thou ahole isn't just limited to those who are straight.

    All that matters is what works for the people involved.

    Face the truth girls, men think about relationships differently than women. Gay men think about relationships differently than straight men. And there are many gay men who are perfectly fine with open size does not fit all.

    Why should anyone have to conform to some mythical ideal of what a relationship is supposed to be? It's no one's business other than those involved in that particular relationship. Be it, two, three, or more people.

    You judgemental bitches have fallen into the trap of thinking that only the "straight" ideal of what a relationship should actually true. SUCKERS!

    Posted by: Taylor | Jan 29, 2010 9:42:16 AM

  19. Brian, again with the judgment. Why do you care enough to throw personal insults around at someone that you don't know? Maybe a little jealous? Don't worry. Soon this talk of non-monogamy will be forgotten and you and your partner can get back to your FAR SUPERIOR life full of rigid thinking.

    Posted by: Guy from OH | Jan 29, 2010 9:42:17 AM

  20. I don't think there's anyone wrong with stating you wouldn't want to be in an open relationship, but branding open relationships as disgusting and Brian saying it means one is not man enough for the other...that comes off as pathetically threatened.

    The comment about jealousy = distrust doesn't work for me either. I think jealousy has more to do with your own self-esteem, so that you're jealous because you think you're not good enough or jealous because you think you're way better and don't get why you're not enough. Anyway, I'm a proudly jealous person who still thinks (1) monogamy is demonstrably less an issue overall for gay men than it is for straight couples (who are not as monogamous as they pretend!); (2) monogamy or open relationships are up to the people in them.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Jan 29, 2010 9:42:22 AM

  21. Since same-sex marriage is banned in the US (DOMA) comparing gay relationships to straight ones in America is like comparing apples to oranges.

    Posted by: Observer1000 | Jan 29, 2010 9:42:27 AM

  22. JAMESNYC sums it all up! My choices( and having lived through an open relationship that was DISHONEST not sure that would be something I would look for again) are simply mine, that is it. Think we have to stop thinking every gay relationship needs to be a poster child for some white bread fabrication of how the rest of society thinks we should behave. ALL relationships, gay, straight, bi whatever are different- and no one knows how they work/don't work unless in them!Live and let live- AMEN!

    Posted by: chris | Jan 29, 2010 9:48:12 AM

  23. How could you take a vow of marriage and then break it? What does that say about you as a person? That your word is not worth much. Getting married isn't, or oughtn't to be, a fun way to force bureaucrats to be nice to us, or get a tax advantage or a 'piece of paper.' If you don't want to live up to your vows, hey, don't get married. But if you do, either admit it was all a big game to you, or lie, or get a divorce. You don't want to be married to each other if you can't take the part about 'forsaking all others' seriously so why pretend?

    Posted by: Paul | Jan 29, 2010 9:51:40 AM

  24. Yeah, and many gay men in SF like to do drugs when having sex as well as cruise the sex clubs. Is this what you wanted for yourself when you were growing up?

    Posted by: Jubal H | Jan 29, 2010 9:53:41 AM

  25. "If you don't want to live up to your vows, hey, don't get married."

    Which vows are those Paul?

    "Forsaking all others"? Sure, if it works for you by all means...take that vow. But, there is no standard wedding vow. Or haven't you heard...people can write their own now. It's a whole new world out there.

    Posted by: Taylor | Jan 29, 2010 9:59:34 AM

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