Gay Marriage Doesn’t Change Straight Marriage…Except When It Does

If you’ve been to the movies lately, you’ve probably noticed posters for the new films No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits, both celebrating sex minus the romance. While “straight people screwing without falling in love” is not necessarily a new topic at the movies, these films have it as the main plot and make no attempt to hide it, announcing it in the titles. Obviously, this has led to the usual media-handwringing about “kids these days” and all their brave new relationship models. Collier Myerson of Alternet, however, thinks there is something distinctly queer about these movies, despite their exclusively heterosexual couplings:

“The re-imagining of the ‘relationship’ played out in heterosexist films such as No Strings Attached owes itself to those that are less represented as heroes of love on the silver screen…Growing up witnessing the movement of LGBT people from the fringes into the center, witnessing the expansion of sexuality as we know it, is what allows the friends-with-benefits genre to exist… An article in the New York Times in January 2010 reported on a study that ‘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.’ Because ‘gay’ as a sexual designation was unacknowledged for so long, LGBT people have fought hard to subvert the trappings of hetero-normative relationships, and have instead begun to restructure ‘the relationship’ away from the antiquated idea of monogamy and into newer, more malleable terms. And those terms, though unnoticed in the [romantic comedy] genre, do inform it.”

So to some degree, the queer critics of marriage equality had it backward. Certainly, queers are facing more and more pressure to conform to the marriage-and-kids formula as it becomes more accessible for us. Yet at the same time, the opposite is occurring: straights are becoming more and more aware of the alternative models common among gay men (and not unheard-of among lesbians) and realizing, “Hey, maybe this non-monogamy stuff isn’t such a bad idea.” The fact that many of these models developed simply due to being shut out of the traditional ones makes it that much more interesting that straight people are now embracing them over the norms.

One of the biggest people pushing the gospel of nonmonogamy is Dan Savage, the rare gay man with a gay model of sex and love who also has a captive straight audience. Recently he coined a new term, “monogamish,” to describe relationships like his with his husband Terry. Unlike truly “open” relationships, “monogamish” couples are not actively looking for sex outside the main relationship, but it’s okay if it happens. Savage compares it to having a door open just a crack as opposed to wide-open.

via laloleblog.blogspot.com

I’ve always been a little skeptical of open relationships and polyamory. Not in terms of other people doing it; I’m completely “whatever floats your boat as long as it’s consensual and sanitary” when it comes to other people’s sex lives. Just not for me. As an introvert, I have difficulty being intimate with one person, let alone multiple people, and polyamory just sounds too crowded for my liking. (Ergo, I have a feeling I wouldn’t enjoy threesomes, making me living proof that not all bisexuals do.) Even with open relationships, I tend to be a fairly jealous person. While I might enjoy messing around with others, I’m not sure if I could handle my partner doing it — and as someone who doesn’t like being a hypocrite, I figure it’s just better that we both keep our hands to ourselves outside of the relationship.

But re-reading a lot of mainstream relationship advice makes me think that Dan Savage is on to something with this “monogamish” business. (Sidenote: The general awfulness of mainstream relationship advice is why I am such a huge Savage Love fan despite — to put it mildly — not always seeing eye-to-eye with Savage.) The idea that true love should be tossed out at the first sign of wandering eyes just makes it seem so…disposable. Take, for example, the advice book I randomly flipped through in the school bookstore a few days ago, called UChic: The College Girl’s Guide to Everything. (Yes, despite being 75% done with college, I still need these books. I’m still a wide-eyed freshman deep down.) In its section on long-distance relationships, the book lists “You have your eye on someone else” as a reason to break up with one’s long-distance boyfriend. Get over for a moment the heterosexism of a book written for “all college girls” assuming the reader likes boys, and just listen to the advice itself:

“This is exactly why long-distance relationships tend not to be satisfying in college. College is the time to explore yourself and your options. You shouldn’t feel guilty when you find yourself staring at the cute boy in sociology class with the shaggy hair and Johnny Depp-esque eyes. Being in college gives you an all-access pass to plenty of educated, attractive, and ambitious potential lovers. These lovers can teach you a lot about the world, other people, and even yourself. If you feel even a little inkling that you might want to see other people, it’s probably time to wave buh-bye to your cross-country boyfriend and try to connect with someone a little more accessible. As I mentioned earlier, I decided I needed to call it quits with my high school long-distance lover when I started to find myself attracted to a guy in my new group of friends.”

That may have worked for the author; she describes her attraction to her high school boyfriend as because he was what she thought was “cool” at the time: “passionate, dark, addicted to punk music and cigarettes,” and not much else. So maybe it was inevitable that it would end sooner or later. But what if your “main” person really is the love of your life? Is it worth treating that relationship as something so disposable — that it should be tossed aside at the first sign of compelling physical attraction toward someone else? Why does finding other people hot necessarily mean you love your main partner any less — especially if your partner is long-distance and, thus, you aren’t getting regular physical stimulation from them?

In The Advocate’s recent article on straight couples taking lessons in non-monogamy from gays, sexual dysfunction seems to be a common reason for choosing an open relationship:

“When birth control pills were making Megan’s sex drive almost nonexistent, she told her boyfriend, Colin, what many gay men in a similar position might say to theirs: ‘If you want to have sex, feel free to sleep with someone else; just don’t tell me about it.’ Last year, after six years together and a year and a half of marriage, Colin’s chronic back pain was making sex less than fun. So he returned the favor: ‘Sleep around all you want,’ he said. ‘Just don’t do anything stupid, and don’t tell me about it.'”

One could argue that a big part of “true love” means putting your partner’s needs above your own, and part of that is acknowledging when you’re not physically satisfying them enough and they perhaps could get those needs better met elsewhere. In that sense, non-monogamy in these situations is not only logical, it is also romantic. It also separates sexual from romantic attachment — that just because your sexual needs aren’t being met does not mean your emotional needs aren’t. This is a notion completely absent from the model given in UChic, where wanting to roll around with the random classroom hottie somehow means your love for your long-distance lover has waned.

The Advocate article focuses a lot on the ostracization that both gay and straight non-monogamous couples face when they openly acknowledge it. No matter how sensible the idea may be — Savage and his supporters argue that going “monogamish” can strengthen relationships by not putting unrealistic demands on them as well as making other things, like honesty, more important — monogamy is still a very entrenched cultural norm. It’s entrenched enough that its advocates can ignore how entrenched it is. And it’s often been taboo particularly for gays to have that conversation, because it “proves” the bigots right by showing that acceptance of homosexuality has changed the “institution of marriage.” One thing you have to admit about Dan Savage, though, is that he doesn’t play by the rules and isn’t afraid to have those “taboo” conversations. And why should he be afraid? It’s clearly a conversation that gay and straight couples alike want to have.


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Rose

Rose is a 25-year-old Detroit native currently living in Austin, TX, where she is working on her Ph.D. in musicology. Besides Autostraddle, she works as a streaming reviewer for Anime News Network.

Rose has written 1 article for us.

83 Comments

    • I’m not going to dispute the idea that Dan Savage has said some really awful things about bisexuals, trans* people and other groups, nor will I defend these comments. I think it’s really important that people know those about him and stop treating him like a spokesperson for the entire LGBTQ community.

      However, I feel like the idea that he “only cares about cis gay men” is wildly inaccurate given his larger body of work. I also feel a little bit sad for you that you would outright dismiss a good message just because it comes from a not-so-good person, and I don’t know that such a black-and-white way of approaching this is really what is going to cause Savage or others who think like him to see the light.

  1. Dan Savage is a butt, okay.

    BUT just about everything in this post is a “yes” for me. Honesty and non-controlling attitudes make up a form of fidelity that trumps monogamy for me. I think if a monogamy/monogamish approach felt natural for my relationship, I’d do that. Then again, if we want to date/have sex with other people let’s own that and work with it.

  2. As a member of a very loving, happy three-person poly relationship, I am super-on board with what you’re saying here. There’s an interesting book recently out on the subject of humans and polyamory, Sex At Dawn: http://www.sexatdawn.com/

    The only other thing I’d add here is that while I understand some people don’t want to hear about their partners sleeping with other people, it’s important to have exceptions to that rule for the sake of safety.

  3. <– Has neither the time nor energy to ever deal with more than one person sexually or romantically, but all for other people going for it.

    I find it difficult enough to sustain even one relationship and my sanity concurrently–much respect for those who can handle more.

    However, I sort of wish that the face of "monogamish" was someone other than Dan Savage. I think he can be hilarious but is often an asshole, and that asshole-ishness is most unfortunate when he says something reasonable and his past dickery bites his credibility as a rational adult in the face.

    • I was just about to write a comment saying everything you said here! I don’t have the energy, patience, or interest to make a poly relatinship (of any kind) work, but I’m 100% in favor of other people exploring options that might work for them. There is so much angst, anxiety, and loneliness surrounding the issue of romantic relationships in our culture, I think having more options available for navigating those troubled waters can only make things easier for people.

  4. i think there also is something to be said generally about like a shit ton of people who “are straight” uh, not actually being straight. not that i always really want them batting for my team or want to get involved with them or anything, but i think it’s probably really healthy for things like this to allow people to feel a little more comfortable with things like “so i’m a straight dude who wants my wife to stick a dildo in my butt” or “so once in a while i have these sexy feelings for other ladies” without totally devolving into panic about it meaning the end of their marriage and their lives.

    that said my last realtionship which was very much open was a complete and utter disaster of unbelievably epic proportions — but! i totally think that things like that could work great in the right circumstances! ironically enough, it wasn’t the ‘open’ factor that ruined the relationship — at the end, yes, i left for another person i’d been sleeping with, but shit had been on the rocks for over a year and would have ended anyhow.

  5. It also separates sexual from romantic attachment — that just because your sexual needs aren’t being met does not mean your emotional needs aren’t.

    I find this fascinating because I encountered this idea in the asexual community a few years ago—obviously, as a panromantic ace, my romantic needs and sexual needs might as well be on different continents. I’ve always found it to be a useful way of looking at the world, and it looks like it is definitely useful for couples, gay or straight, to get all of their needs met.

  6. “I’ve always been a little skeptical of open relationships and polyamory. Not in terms of other people doing it; I’m completely “whatever floats your boat as long as it’s consensual and sanitary” when it comes to other people’s sex lives. Just not for me. As an introvert, I have difficulty being intimate with one person, let alone multiple people, and polyamory just sounds too crowded for my liking. (Ergo, I have a feeling I wouldn’t enjoy threesomes, making me living proof that not all bisexuals do.) Even with open relationships, I tend to be a fairly jealous person. While I might enjoy messing around with others, I’m not sure if I could handle my partner doing it — and as someone who doesn’t like being a hypocrite, I figure it’s just better that we both keep our hands to ourselves outside of the relationship.”

    Amen.

  7. I disagree with parts of this.

    “An article in the New York Times in January 2010 reported on a study that ‘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.’ Because ‘gay’ as a sexual designation was unacknowledged for so long, LGBT people have fought hard to subvert the trappings of hetero-normative relationships, and have instead begun to restructure ‘the relationship’ away from the antiquated idea of monogamy and into newer, more malleable terms. And those terms, though unnoticed in the [romantic comedy] genre, do inform it.”

    Let’s look at 556 female couples and see how many have sex outside their relationships with knowledge and consent? I strongly disagree the study cited has anything to do with gay people defining their own relationships and everything to do with the dynamic of having two men in a relationship, rather than a man and a woman or two women. Collier Myerson of Alternet is making a false assumption by ignoring the fact that other factors could not cause the men in the study to seek other sex partners. It’s frankly a little offensive to me to say, “Well, gee, gay people don’t know how to have monogamous relationships since they’ve been denied marriage!” My observation is the exact opposite of what Collier (he or she?) said: Gay people do fall into and embrace traditional relationship structures and have not at all deliberately tried to subvert heteronormative relationships. The author is making quite leap. Not only does correlation does not imply causation, I’m not sure there’s even a correlation.

    “The idea that true love should be tossed out at the first sign of wandering eyes just makes it seem so…disposable.” Is it disposable, or is it serious, special and sacred? I mean, I disagree with the premise again — I think it’s entirely normal to have a wandering eye. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you become completely asexual. Most everyone finds others humans attractive. But if you cheat or if you’re constantly wanting nothing more than to cheat, haven’t you undermined the very idea of what your relationship is? Not just a facet or an offshoot, but the foundation of what a romantic relationship is as a whole? It’s not disposable, there’s one pretty simple rule of monogamy: don’t fuck other people. Hardly disposable.

    I don’t care if other people practice polyamory. I think it’s fucking weird, but it’s not my business. What I do find irksome is that there is a stereotype and an idea out there is the world that as a homosexual, I should somehow be more willing, prone to or accepting of polyamory. Um, no. Fuck no.

    • “But if you cheat or if you’re constantly wanting nothing more than to cheat, haven’t you undermined the very idea of what your relationship is? Not just a facet or an offshoot, but the foundation of what a romantic relationship is as a whole?”

      But that’s the point – whether you’re monogamous or not, why would that be the “foundation” of your relationship? There are other things – like love, respect and honesty – which should be more important than that. And sometimes those things mean you’re monogamous, sometimes they mean the exact opposite (as with the example of Megan and Colin from the Advocate article).

      And anyways, if you’re in an open relationship, it’s not “cheating” to have sex with other people. Savage wouldn’t encourage the girl with the long-distance boyfriend to cheat; he would say she should talk with her boyfriend about opening things up, and THEN act on her attraction to Mr. Johnny Depp Eyes.

      I also don’t think I said that gays are worse at monogamy or that gays have some innate predilection for nonmonogamy. It’s more that SOME gay people’s response to being shut out of the marriage-and-kids model for years was to come up with completely new relationship models, including nonmonogamy. While not every queer couple is into being nonmonogamous, the queer community IS generally more accepting of it than the straight community, which is why there are more gay couples doing it that way. (And isn’t it just as troubling to say that your gender makes you more/less likely to be monogamous, as it is to say your sexual orientation does?)

      • I’m gonna sign on with everything you’ve just said.

        My preference for poly doesn’t mean I’m bad at monogamy, because I’m perfectly capable of doing it when I feel like it works (not that I even feel like I should have to qualify that to anyone). In all my years of monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, I have never once “cheated” so I don’t know where @magiclovemuffin is going with that.

        Also, take the statement “I don’t care if other people practice polyamory. I think it’s fucking weird, but it’s not my business.” and plug in another practice, like, say “lesbianism” and see how offended you feel at those words.

      • @Rose I guess the problem for me love, respect and honesty include not fucking other people. I was talking about monogamy. To me, it’s pretty simple: don’t fuck other people. I am not talking about what constitutes a good relationship, because obviously, you know, treating each other nice and stuff is important. I just mean in terms of the idea of a relationship being “disposable” because fucking other people can wreck it and so monogamy must be stupid. (Again, I absolutely reject your notion that finding other people attractive is somehow not acceptable in monogamous relationships. So if you literally only want to talk about “wandering eyes” and not fucking, well then I flat out reject the premise of your argument before I even reject your argument and there’s nothing else to talk about.)

        “While not every queer couple is into being nonmonogamous, the queer community IS generally more accepting of it than the straight community, which is why there are more gay couples doing it that way.”
        I do have a problem with a) claims like this without an objective factual basis, i.e. stats and b) the assumption that gay male relationships and lesbian relationships function the same way. You can disagree all you want, but I strongly suspect the incidence of open or polyamorous relationships to be far higher in relationships consisting of just men.

        “(And isn’t it just as troubling to say that your gender makes you more/less likely to be monogamous, as it is to say your sexual orientation does?)”
        Not really. We can sit here and pretend male and female sexuality are the same, or we can be honest. How many marriages do you know where the men want more sex and the wives are fine? How many men do you know that go out looking for random girls to fuck vs. the number of women looking for random guys to fuck? How many gay couples do I know who openly fuck other people, but how many lesbians do I know who do that? I could invest the time to source it, but it’s a fact that gay men have more sexual partners than straight men, straight women or gay women. Sex is far more available to gay men. Men want to have sex more often and with more people than women do. Women being in a relationship changes the availability of sex. If you want to play the P.C. card and say it’s unfair of me to slander men in such a way, that’s cool, but I’m just being realistic. Gay male relationships =/= lesbian relationships. You can’t extrapolate the behaviors of gay men and say it says something about how lesbians function in relationships.

        • You must be an expert wizard with an invisibility cast with your stats because I don’t see anything to back this up… Maybe I should get new glasses? I dunno, maybe statisticians are just fucking weird but whatever, not my business.

          • I did back it up, so yes, let it speak for itself! See the link I posted above. I’m not 100% sure this book specifically talks about polyamory at all (let alone w/r/t gay male relationships) — I don’t remember the source and I would have to actually exert effort to find it. But this absolutely backs up men have more sexual partners and more sex than women, which to be honest, I am shocked people really have trouble believing.

        • “Gay male relationships =/= lesbian relationships. You can’t extrapolate the behaviors of gay men and say it says something about how lesbians function in relationships.”

          Because I’m not the sort of person who thinks I am infallible, I actually went back through the article to see if you were right that I was “twisting” the evidence about gay men to apply to lesbians. But actually, I never once said or even implied that open relationships/polyamory are equally common among both groups. The only places where I discussed numbers at all were first the quote with the stats about gay men, and then when I said open relationships are “common among gay men (and not unheard-of among lesbians),” with the parenthetical text as a link to a previous AS story on lesbian non-monogamy. Sorry, but I think it’s clear when people are saying it’s “common” in one group and “not unheard-of” in the other that they are not saying the amounts are the same.

    • Hey buddy! Guess what! I have another question for you, and I hope this time you answer :D

      “Let’s look at 556 female couples and see how many have sex outside their relationships with knowledge and consent? I strongly disagree the study cited has anything to do with gay people defining their own relationships and everything to do with the dynamic of having two men in a relationship, rather than a man and a woman or two women.”

      You write a lot, and I’m tired, so I’d like you to clarify this itsy-bitsy part. Do you mean to say that men are more predisposed to being unfaithful, thus, in a relationship with two men, the chances of adultery are increased? Or is it that men cannot be satisfied with one sexual partner so a male-male relationship will never be enough? I’m so confused.

      • No. I never said anything about adultery or cheating. Men are more predisposed to wanting sex and it’s far more likely two dudes with the same sex drive can agree sex outside their relationship OK than a man and woman can on it. See what I said to Rose. Before you flip your shit on me, which I am almost certain you will, I am not saying women can’t have strong healthy sex drives. But male and female sexuality is different. If you want to argue with me on that point, you’re all on your own. Also, I am not your buddy.

        • OOOH SARCASM!! SHE DOESN’T GET IT!!

          Thanks though, that did answer my question, and I’m not going to refute that men have a higher sex drive. By the way – if you’re going to be shat upon, I wouldn’t be as tongue-in-cheeked about it. You’re just super sensitive lately, arentcha?? Serz, I’m flattered that you take so much time to follow all my little comments on here. You must be my biggest fan!! <3

          • Huh? You’re flattered I “take so much time to follow all [your] little comments on here.” What are you even talking about? You commented to me with a question about my post and I wrote back. Um, that is still how this works, right?

            You’re the one who brought up some question you apparently asked me that I never saw. You made this weirdly personally from the onset, by immediately calling me “buddy” and referencing some question you asked me that I never saw, and you are continuing to make it weirdly personal right now.

            I don’t know what your deal is, but this weird, dude. You’re, like, legit bothered by the presence of someone who holds different opinions than you. Uh… sorry, I guess?

          • Ha! Reel it in and act like you weren’t being serious about me answering your question, like you weren’t sarcastically making fun of me for *gasp* replying to a comment you left me, etc. Save face. Nice job.

          • p.s. The Comment Policy does not decree that you downvote everything I say. I mean, honestly, it doesn’t say: “Magiclovemuffin, ye who hates Paper0Flowers so passionately, vote all she says with an X so she may understand your anger and dedication to all that she says.”

            Seriously. I’m flattered, but you’re doing it wrong.

          • But…I wasn’t being serious… And…and…I’m not reeling anything in. Are you really that concerned with my feelings? That’s touching, but seriously, not seriously, I wasn’t saying anything with any feeling.

        • “Men are more predisposed to wanting sex and it’s far more likely two dudes with the same sex drive can agree sex outside their relationship OK than a man and woman can on it”

          Can you back up those claims, please?

        • Oops! That sucks, I was hoping to reach deep into your rainbow-soul and draw out some affection for me because I feel like you’ve been neglecting it lately. #sadface See, I put SO SO SO much effort into trying to figure out half the stuff you write here, so it makes me sad that you can’t do the same for me. I thought we were supposed to be on the same page, dawg? Weren’t we going to try to be besty-best best friend here??

          • DAMMIT I WISH I CAN LIKE THIS STUPID PHONE!!!!!

            Can we just get along and hug our legs in friendship?

          • LOL. You’re really offended by people who have different opinions than you, aren’t you? That’s the only explanation I can get for you hunting me down and actually remembering if I responded to questions you asked of me. (WTF?) I do appreciate the passive-aggressive sarcasm though. So: Hugs, kisses and donut-bumps! <3333 Muah!!

          • I have come to accept that most if not all internet sarcasm is passive-agression when it comes to comments and dialouge (if you want to call it that).

            It is annoying at times but offers a better read to lurkers like myself.

          • Where is the offense? Please point it out since you seem to have a pair of spectacles that see magical wonders in my words. I’m actually have a GAY OLD TIME now, Muffy! Isn’t that grand? :D

  8. “Why does finding other people hot necessarily mean you love your main partner any less […] ?”

    THIS THIS THIS SO FUCKING THIS.
    This was what kept me up day and night for half of 2008 and even after my boyfriend said “that’s cool” I still had conniptions.
    I was stuck on the idea that nonmonogamy meant disloyalty and was doing him a big dishonour.
    But really? Life got SO MUCH EASIER once we opened up the relationship.

    It took a while for things to get moving mostly because both of us are awkward dorks. Hell I’ve only just had a sharp increase in sexual activity and half of that is from San Francisco. *he* is still waiting for his chance (not his fault he has better gaydar than I do…)

    But it improved our relationship by TONS, knowing that it’s not absolute fidelity that counts. What’s the point in being exclusive if half the time you want to escape?
    In freedom I find unity. We give each other the freedom to be whoever we want and be with whoever we want in any capacity; and it’s BECAUSE there is this freedom that we love each other more than anything.
    Nearly 5 years and going strong.

    <3

    • I really commend you for finding a way to be truly happy. I’m currently going through my own turmoil, but I know that neither of us is ready to let go of the jealousy. And you know what? I can deal with that, as long as it means we’re both happy together while being faithful. I don’t seek anyone else, it’s just always that lingering “what if”…

      Anyways. Kudos! I truly admire your relationship =)

  9. “How Dan Savage and other queers introduced straight people to non-monogamy”

    Really? I don’t mean to sound rude but I don’t understand how a trend towards open relationships can be attributed to Mr. Savage and queers as group. There doesn’t seem to be any logical basis for a causational link. Just because one group of people does X activity and then another group does X too doesn’t mean one caused the other. Also, I don’t think anyone can say that the gays created the concept of non-monogamy because they were shut out of traditional roles. Non-monogamy dates back thousands of years, as does homosexuality…where is the causational link? How does gay marriage change “straight marriage”? Isn’t it just as likely, if not more, that changes in society as a whole have made it more of a mainstream concept, i.e cultural shifts? It just seems like there are so many other factors at play that attributing this trend to queers seems a bit over-simplified. (Again, I’m not trying to nitpick, I just don’t understand)

    • Well, that particular sentence is just the article summary, which is usually a massively-oversimplified and often tongue-in-cheek version of the article’s thesis.

      Obviously, no one single person “invented” non-monogamy (which predates the human race itself), and it’s not exclusively the property of queers. The idea of it being more of a “gay” thing is that non-monogamy has long been more accepted in gay culture than in mainstream straight culture. One of the problems with having your sexuality be “the norm” is that it comes with centuries upon centuries of cultural baggage. Even progressive straight couples often have difficulty breaking away from the more traditional, sexist expectations that OTHER people have of their relationship (just ask, for example, any straight married lady who chose to keep her maiden name). But because gay couples were completely outside the norm, they didn’t have those centuries of rules and regulations to contend with, and were often allowed to write their own. And even those who wanted the traditional models were often shut OUT of them. As such, gay culture has always had a lot more room for alternative relationship models.

      As gays have become more mainstream thanks to gaining equal rights, gay culture has become more mainstream with it. And one example of that is the higher level of openness to other relationship models. Dan Savage stands out because he’s a gay person who is pretty mainstream, with a lot of straight people listening to him, who is constantly talking about non-monogamy. For better or (quite often) for worse, he is often the go-to guy when the media wants a gay man’s perspective on a particular topic. (As you’ll notice if you flip through the links here, Dan Savage’s posts about non-monogamy have been covered by everyone from CNN to the New York Times.) As such, he’s able to reach a wider audience than, say, your average queer blog doing a post on poly relationships, especially when you consider the typical audience for relationship advice is not always the most progressive (given how regressive a lot of mainstream relationship advice columnists are).

      Does that help explain what I’m getting at? And no, I don’t think he’s solely responsible for this either. But I do think that he and other queer people with a straight audience have played a part.

  10. As much as I like this whole topic, I’m still scared of what this will do to the fight for same-sex marriages and equality. Now the Right actually has something to say about why gays getting rights can affect their own traditional values. “Well, if Adam and Steve can be federally recognized, that means that our children are going to grow up learning that monogamy is boring and wrong! Everyone will be unfaithful and commit [hot steamy] fornication outside of the Lord’s mandated marriage!!” ‘Cuz, yeah, fuck. I can see that happening…

  11. I’ve never been in a long term relationship (one month with a psycho chick doesn’t leave me a lot of experience) but I have always found the idea of strict monogamy to be off-putting to me. If I was with someone, I think I’d be ok with them wanting a little more, as long as we keep things safe. Likewise, I’d expect the same in return. As the article stated, sexual fulfillment and emotional fulfillment are not always the same thing

  12. Are gay and bi people more polyamorous than straight people? Maybe. But if so, I’m definitely not one of them. What gets me is when people automatically assume that polyamory is some kind of superior, highly evolved state of relationship. Sure, monogamy can be rather…ahem…unadventurous at times, but there are many pitfalls associated with polyamory as well. Things like jealousy and emotional infidelity can occur, and it’s not always easy to separate love from lust. As for myself, when I go for a beautiful, romantic Sunday walk in the park with my significant other, I don’t want the topic of conversation to be “Did you have a fine fuck last night, dear? Where did you go for dinner?” Maybe that’s not very open-minded to some, but it’s just the way I roll.

    • I like this comment. As I pointed out in the article, I’m still very weird about this whole topic as it applies to my own life. “Monogamish” relationships seem very logical in theory, but I’m not sure if I could actually deal with the jealousy issues in practice.

      In general, if I were in a relationship that was monogamish, I think it would have to be a temporary state – like if we were in a LDR or something.

    • i am the same way so much. i have no cares what people do in their own private business but yeah the people who claim poly is above monogamy or something gives me feelings. but thats pretty much how i feel about anyone who cant empathize.

  13. “As an introvert, I have difficulty being intimate with one person, let alone multiple people, and polyamory just sounds too crowded for my liking.”
    –This, I like who you worded that. I even prefer hanging out one-on-one to in groups… And it takes me ages to get really comfortable with a person. However, I find the idea of strict monogamy unappealing. Mongamish sounds good to me.

  14. I have always thought that if my significant other and I weren’t satisfying each others’ sexual and romantic needs, then we shouldn’t be together at all, rather than keep going but seek ‘outside help’. I’d rather be alone than in a relationship that isn’t ‘enough’.

    Plus if birth control pills and bad backs make sex impossible, then I am not sure these couples are really exploring all their options. Not up for nookie? Instead ask your partner to strip for you, make a sexy video and put it on a secret blog only you can access, masturbate over your feet, do the washing up whilst wearing a butt plug, or you could hide hot love notes around the house promising awesome oral sex when your mojo returns… There are SO many ways to participate in keeping your partner sexually satisfied! You don’t even have to touch them! Read a porn novel to them! Gift wrap new sexy lingerie in cellophane with an advisory warning: ‘not to be opened until my neck brace is removed’! Treat them to a voucher at your favourite sex toy emporium! Just let them know that their sexual satisfaction remains important to you, even if you aren’t able to ‘help’ very actively. I imagine only the very incapacitated would not have the emotional and physical energy to engage even a little bit… Otherwise if you love someone and want them to be happy, you could make a tiny effort.

    Conversely, if you love someone but they cannot engage sexually or emotionally then don’t put pressure on them. Sort yourself out. You do you. Literally.

  15. I just wish as a society we could be accepting of whatever people want to do, as long as it’s consensual and between adults. Polyamory isn’t for everybody. Monogamy isn’t for everybody. Swinging isn’t for everybody. Mongamish isn’t for everybody. Just one way of doing something can never be right for everybody. Sadly, it seems as though cheating on your significant other is more accepted than being in an honest poly or swinging relationship by society.

  16. Veeery interesting. I like the bit about romantic and sexual feelings being separated. Until quite recently I never really realized that they were usually combined. For some reason it didn’t occur to me and consequently I have usually seen them as separate though not mutually exclusive. I think the general idea went something like this since I was young: sex is for the body for health and for happiness; romanticism is a shared emotional experience. Now, these are very simplified definitions which are fluid for me and do combine and re-separate and whatnot. But I thought I’d add it in on the notion of separating romanticism and sex.

  17. I would just like to say that I understand everyone’s point of view, except for the part where we’re talking about the sex without strings movies. If I’m not mistaken, there is no actual polyamory in those movies, the guy and girl are actually monogamous throughout despite talking a whole lot about how they’re Totally Not In Love, and at the end they fall in the love anyway and have the happy ending and stuff and actually it’s all just another clever angle on the “heteronormative couple does heteronormative things” plot.

    however I would totally, totally be down with Mila Kunis being the guest star in my monogamish relationship.

  18. This is an old pre-socratic concept and applied to today’s human relationships makes complete sense, it is about time ingrained “cultural norms” are questioned. We are humans, with both emotional and physical needs, why demand an unfair bar of “perfection” (ex. complete faithfulness) when we as humans are constantly prone to fail, even in the little things? We are fluid beings, constantly changing and occasionally or often making mistakes, this should be factored in when in a relationship. One should always be (healthily) aware of one’s own faults and capacity to stumble.

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