Open Thread, Open Relationships: 47% of Gay Men Do It, Do You?

Read this article from the San Francisco Chronicle: Many Gay Couples Negotiate Open Relationships (catchy title). Well for Christ’s sake, something like FIFTY PERCENT of gay men (in the Bay Area, at least) have open relationships.

See, “A new study released this week by the Center for Research on Gender & Sexuality at San Francisco State University put statistics around what gay men already know: Many Bay Area boyfriends negotiate open relationships that allow for sex with outsiders.”

We’re just curious, what is that like for queer women?

What are your thoughts on open relationships? Have you ever been in one or are you currently?

Do you want to be our erotic third?

Do you have “rules” or what would your “rules” be?

According to stereotypes and ‘society,’ women have more feelings than men, so are men just better equipped to effectively navigate an open relationship without getting hurt? Are queer women capable of compartmentalizing their emotions, etc.? Is it all a social construction we could break down ourselves?

Who wants to make a cuddle sandwich?

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3178 articles for us.


  1. My friend and I were just discussing this (and I live in the Bay Area). We both know people who are in open relationships, but they are all either gay men or hetero pairings in which one or both partners are bi. And, of course, there are varying degrees of “openness.” While I can definitely get the appeal of bringing a third party into your relationship, in some ways I think it could really suck to be the third party.

    Weirdly, I feel like I would be comfortable with it in two different scenarios:

    1) A fling. A hot lez couple invites me home, NSA.

    2) I’m part of a very secure partnership with someone and we decide we want to threesome w/someone regularly.

    But some think “open relationship” means that you are in a partnership with someone and you both do whatever you want extracurricularly. I admit I am not very comfortable with that, though I’m not convinced that my discomfort is a result of gender moreso than personality. A lot of my gay guy friends feel similarly: threesomes, yay! but fooling around on your own is cheating. It would have been interesting if they’d made that distinction when surveying gay men.

    • I think the NSA element is key — I can’t find much harm in a casual sexual fling with no feelings involved with someone you’ll never see again, but anything with extended contact or emotional conversations of love & romance makes shit get sketchy real fast

      • The whole NSA thing always ends up attacking the inherent guilt that was somehow imprinted on me. It sucks, but it’s something I’ve had to accept & deal with…

  2. I’ve never been in an open relationship, but I’d love to try it. The only rule I would have would be that my partner be fluid bonded to me only unless they have test results for the other person.

    Also, if anyone is looking for an erotic third or cuddle sandwich, I’m your boi ;)

    • i just realized i abbreviated someone in my post as QB. sorry!
      DISCLAIMER: The QB mentioned above is not the QB in my story.

      • Funny that you got the abbreviation right. But sadly everyone, it’s true. I am a different boi than the boy mentioned in this story. Just as queer, though :)

        • I realized i used the QB…and I was like…BALLS AWKWARD.

          Perhaps, in a parallel universe, it was you, so my parallel subconscious was like “OH SNAP”

          or something….

  3. I’ve been in one open relationship. It was interesting. I had started seeing a queer boy (QB) who was also casually seeing a friend of mine(FoM). Before I had met QB, i had been rather consistently involved with a Gorgeous Lithuanian Girl (GLG). We all sorta talked to our partner(s) and decided on a polyamorous relationship.

    QB and I became “primary partners” and began living together while still maintaining individual partners. However, everyone knew we were not exclusive to the circle, and could see anyone we wanted.

    Eventually, the secondary partners fell by the wayside, by becoming more serious with other people. QB and i were ok with continuing the open thing, until he decided he was truly head over heels and we became polyfidelitous – when we see/ are involved with other people we are both involved with the same person. we were then involved with the woman who played Rocky in Rocky Horror (Rocky).

    However, Rocky’s interests bounced between the two of us, and she never was truly able to want/commit to both of us at the same time.

    So now QB and I are in a fantabulous monogamous relationship, and it’s spectacularly queer. People mistake us for gay boi/ys all the time. It’s hella cute.

    Conclusion: To each their own.
    Polyamory: I like it but i don’e need it.
    Love: the most important thing
    Identity: Queer. and so is my male partner.


  4. No no no. Polyamory is just so not for me. I am an ancient traditionalist when it comes to relationships. I only want to be with one person at a time. I respect that others might have a different opinion and to each their own. The mere mention of more than one partner makes me squirm. There is just so much out there you can catch from irresponsible promiscuity(not saying that polyamory is promiscuity) and I am a severe germophobe. I like would want to dose my partner in anti bacterial hand gel and then touch them with rubber gloves. Obvs I am not really into three ways or anything like that either. Though I might be more open to it if there were hand soap and moist toilettes involved.

  5. My girlfriend and currently have an open relationship and we have different conditions for different situations.

    We both know that we are in love only with eachother, and sex with other people would be purely for fun. We separate love and sex completely. So, in the case of threesomes, we’re very much all for it, as long as both of us approve of the person, which usually IS the case.

    As for sleeping with other people seperately, we have a policy (we actually use the term “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” where it’s like, for example, she knows that it may or may not be happening, but as long as she doesn’t see it, or know that it’s happening, or that it happened, it’s fine. It’s like we’re completely allowed to do whatever we want when we’re not together. Our rules are as follows:

    1) No ex-relationships. Previous hookups are fine, but no one that we have had feelings for in the past. We have individually developed lists (of only about 2 people each) that we don’t want the other to sleep with. And we stick to it.
    2) We have to try our best to not let the other person know about it, just to avoid sadness.
    3) Whatever we do with another person must be completely meaningless, emotionally. It’s just sex, it’s just for fun.
    4) Put girlfriend first. If we CAN possibly do it together, and make it a threesome, that should happen. But, for example, if we were both at a club and there was a girl there that I wanted to sleep with, I wouldn’t cancel plans with my girlfriend, or blow her off in favor of the other girl. Having sex without the other should be a last resort.

    Trust is the most important issue, and the ability to understand that sex and love are seperate. Foolin around with someone, in our opinion, is fine, but should you start to develop feelings for that person and continue to fool around with them, then it becomes cheating.

    • Your rules sound pretty awesome and respectful. Just curious, if you were in the Dawn Denbo/Lover Cindy situation with Shane (i.e. the two of you had a three way with someone, and then afterwards just one of you hooked up with that same person)… would that be cool?

  6. I’m currently in an open relationship. I’ve tried monogamy, but it just doesn’t work for me somehow.

    The first thing we need to do is get rid of this idea that monogomy is the norm and polyamoury is the other. I understand that, just as polyamoury is a natural state for me, monogamy is a natural state for many others, but it’s ridiculous and frustrating to have it assumed that a relationship will be closed unless otherwise specified. Coming out as polyamorous has been real similar to coming out as gay, so I’m sure I don’t need to fill in the details of what that is like.

    Secondly, it’s important to note that open relationships are still relationships. I make it very clear with people I’m involved with – especially in a primary relationship – that I do expect the same level of commitment and effort as I would from a monogomous relationship. Being involved in another relationship does not detract anything – love, expectations, affection, you name it – from the existing one.

    All in all, I think it’s important to have a look at a relationship as it’s beginnning and ask yourself what you want from it. Don’t assume any sort of model will work. Every relationship is very different and can only really thrive when the relationship acts in accordance with the people, not the other way around.

  7. oh, I think we should also be talking about polyamorous triads and whatnot. For example, my sister is in a relationship with three other people, who are all in a relationship with each other, too. I’ve been there before as well and it’s definitely worth talking about!

  8. At this exact moment…(where I happen to be tipsy & at only the beginning of a family reunion weekend), I feel that I’m *way too much* of a stereotypical lesbian (i.e. U-Hauling, treating dog as child, etc.) to be able to share my love & adoration with more than one woman (who, consequently, and I mean “Every Single Time” [think Angelina in Playing By Heart when you read that part], is always “The One*).

    …and now I retreat to my parents’ basement to listen to Tegan & Sara and drink more Blue Moon….

      • It’s the only beer that I’ll drink anymore… other than Shocktop, which essentially tastes (almost) the same…

        • ooh i like shocktop too. i had just been in the states for 3 months and discovered that yes, the us does have some bloody great beer

          • Awww, where are you from? Those are about the only two that I actually like that are U.S. beers. There is a brewery out in Cali called Pyramid that has some good stuff, but I can’t get them to ship it all the way over here in Florida…

          • im scottish but seeking a visa to get back in the states asap. my missus is there. that and the cheap and plentiful booze are quite enough reasons. i like sam adams cherry beer too. i need to try the agave nectar beer yesterday

          • I’ll have to try the cherry beer! I’m actually haf Scottish. There’s a town/(city?) called Keith that’s named after my father’s family. Wher’es your missus located?

          • hmm i couldnt rely under your last post. she’s in bloomington normal in central il.

            i have not heard of keith, im just out of edinburgh at the moment

          • Google says that Keith is a small town in the northeast of Scotland…and that it’s about 4hours from edinburgh. I’d love to visit Scotland sometime. It’s acutally the next country I plan to visit.

            I’ve got relatives in bloomington too. All I remember about it is that it gets super cold there. Way too cold for my Southern bones ;-)

    • thumbs up to this beer related tangent. Blue Moon is delicious. I tried two types of cherry beer in Belgium and one I like and one not so much – it’s really sweet. I also recommend Delirium – it’s Belgian, strong, and the glasses and bottles have pink elephants all over them. What more could you ask for?

      • I’ll have to check out Delirium, if I can find it in my city. Shoudln’t be *thaaat* hard to do. Beer with pink elephants suddenly reminds me of my college years, if you added in a few other [redacted] substances!

    • A blue moon fueled retreat was how i survived a family Fourth of July picnic.

      Glad i’m not the only one with a blue moon coping strategy.

  9. All I’m going to say is I’m a twin and being a twin I’ve had to share everything my entire life and share a lot even beyond living at home: I don’t want to share anything else thank you. I do not share well with others. Although, I do respect others who have different feelings.

  10. i wouldn’t say no to a threesome (i’d actually be like, “fuckyeah!who’sbed/floorwillweberollingon?”) but i couldn’t be in an open relationship. i mean, i’d cut someone if they wanted to share my slice of pizza, much less my woman.

  11. My girlfriend and I have been dating for two and half years and we’re very much in love. After the first year and half or so, we started worrying because neither of us had dated before and we were clearly being typical lesbians and dating the first girl we liked forever and ever. So we thought about breaking up and I think we actually tried that for a while but we were college roommates (still are) and still in love so we were still basically together, we just didn’t call it that.

    After lots of tears on my part and deliberation in general, we decided to have an open relationship. It doesn’t have rules per say, other than that we have to be completely honest with each other (after reading this, we briefly discussed the “DADT” policy, but decided no on that one). We pretty much handle and talk through situations as they come up. It works for us right now.

    An open relationship isn’t something I’d like to do long term, but I think it works in a lot of situations. For my girlfriend and I, we just wanted to love each other without feeling like we were limiting each other or taking away from the social and sexual exploring that can be healthy at our age (or any age).

  12. I would caution those of you who aren’t open to the “open relationship” but are all for a threesome…it can be sexy..but it can be disastrous as well..Seeing someone you love being intimate with someone else..maybe enjoying it all a bit too much..has ended many a relationship..

    • That’s why you’ve gotta make the rule about no threesomes involving anyone that you’d ever think you could remotely love. I’m probs not talking from experience here though… *shrug*

      • Riese, as I might have stated previously, I would get so jealous… I can’t imagine finding it hot for someone else to be with The One that I love… but I grew up with all those sappy 80’s/90’s movies and Willow/Tara and still deep down in my cold, jaded, jagged little heart, I believe that there’s one true love for me.

        But maybe that’s neither here nor there for this discussion…

  13. i never could, each to their own but i couldn’t be with anyone else other than my gf and couldn’t deal with her being sexually active with anyone else. no 3somes either.

    on the whole i find it quite funny and makes me proud when i see people are interested in my lady but an open relationship is something we have discussed and its not what we want

  14. I know plenty of women and trans people that are in open relationships but the definition does vary a lot. I’ve been in open and monogamous relationships where it was successful and disastrous. I think it really depends on individual situations. It you have a be a good communicator.

    I’m not a particularly jealous person so flings are fine with me but when you’ve seen someone outside a relationship consistently it can be threatening. Threesomes are usually great as long as the third doesn’t bring in their own drama. (Out of town threesomes are the best!)

    You also need to be able to talk about levels of risk and safe sex outside a relationship. That’s super important.

  15. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot – I have a large number of polyamorous friends, a couple of my good friends are in triads, etc. I think I’d actually like to give it a shot if the situation arose, but I know my partner would NOT be down for it. Oh wells.

  16. What are your thoughts on open relationships? Have you ever been in one or are you currently?

    I have been in a couple open relationships, and have learned that both people REALLY, HONESTLY have to be okay with it, or it wont work… and unless communication is there, someone inevitably gets hurt :P

    Do you want to be our erotic third?

    Always ;)

    Do you have “rules” or what would your “rules” be?

    My only one rule I have is be honest with your other half! Being in an open relationship, to me anyways, means being open with your partner and not hiding anything… I don’t care if you have another girlfriend, just don’t lie to me about her – better yet, bring her home so we can all get in on the fun.

    According to stereotypes and ‘society,’ women have more feelings than men, so are men just better equipped to effectively navigate an open relationship without getting hurt? Are queer women capable of compartmentalizing their emotions, etc.? Is it all a social construction we could break down ourselves?

    I have yet to meet a male in touch with his emotions to the same extent as a woman. Not to say they don’t exist, but I have yet to meet one (they’re like the Phoenix?). I think the ability to compartmentalize feelings depends on the individual though, b/c I have been in open relationships with both men and women, and found the men to have more difficulty with it. My theory on the reason for that? Men are less capable of communicating their emotions then women, therefore leaving thoughts and feelings unexpressed… leading to hurt feelings and angry thoughts.

    Who wants to make a cuddle sandwich?


  17. As long as both parties are mature and honest about their feelings/upfront about everything, I don’t see why an open relationship couldn’t work. On the other hand, it is a situation that can get very ugly VERY quickly.

  18. how do open relationships work if you have kids?

    and pretty much i just want her not to hide things from me. like, please tell me you’re fucking the carpenter, i won’t get mad!

    i usually go for girls w/ better judgement than me, i dunno. i’ve never had an issue re: my lax/lame “rules” for open relationships.

    this sounds so lame, but communication is all you need.

    i’m lame.

  19. dang NO. I have a hard enough time memorizing the rules with one girl at a time.

  20. i can’t say i’ve ever been in a “real” monogamous relationship, but as tough as polyamorous relationships can be, i’m so happy.
    it’s not as if i never get jealous, but i’m an immensely loving person and being in loving relationships with more than one person and watching those people love each other brings me ridiculous amounts of joy.
    communication is more difficult than i’d have imagined. also, i had never realized the full extent of health risks that come with sexual activity, and i’ve learned a shitload about safer sex.
    i definitely haven’t seen a whole lot of poly (as opposed to “open” by inclusion of emotional involvement/dating people separately, etc.) relationships that involved only female-identified persons, though.

  21. One. I like the thought of them. I like the idea of being free to love whoever you love and not having to hide it and being like ‘fuck, what if she finds out I’m crushing on insertnamehere?’. But no, not in one, and never have been.

    Two. Only if it involves Riese.

    Three. I think my main rule would be that everyone involved would actually have to be open. No lying or secrets, because that would make it cheating.

    Four. I think, inherently, men are more rational than emotional, so it makes sense that they would be able to seperate themselves from their emotions enough to have an open relationship more so than women. But I think it’s entirely possible for us to do it. Most of us would just have to try harder, probably.

    Five. See two.

  22. Not five minutes from the time I sat down in front of my computer, I was discussing open relationships with a friend who is currently in one. Autostraddle, you read my mind!

    I’ve seen it work for several of my friends, but I personally can’t imagine it. Previous to my current girlfriend, I could never see myself in anything long term enough to even think about negotiating an open relationship. Now I’m all long-term and monogamous, and everyone else pales in comparison to her, dorky as that sounds. We both occasionally check out other people and laugh about it, but at the end of the day, neither of us want anyone else.

  23. I am the “third” to two of my friends in a relationship. We usually get together when we’ve been drinking. The only rules are that all three must be involved and if not, then the two in the relationship must have express permission from the other before excluding one for the night. It just started one night when they got me pretty liqored up and posed the idea. I’m all for it because they are both SUPER attractive in my book and we’re all mature adults about it. This has been going on for about a year now and it has worked out pretty much awesomely. On the two occasions that I have had a girlfriend in this year, we’ve stopped for the duration of my relationships but each time after one ends, it just keeps happening. The best part is that we’re friends so I can stay the night and have breakfast in the morning and nothing is awkward.

    On the other hand, if I was in a relationship, I don’t think i’d be up for it. I have a fatal flaw. Jealousy. It would drive me nuts if someone was doing anything to my girlfriend. Just can’t do it.

  24. Oh on a side note. I would DIE to be anyone at autostraddle’s erotic third. Just sayin’

  25. i think open relationships are great as long as your relationship is strong enough to handle it.

    i’m in one, mostly because we’re in college/want to experiment and fully figure out our sexualities.

    the rules are just be honest and safe and respectful and that we always put each other first. and no close mutual friends. that could be awkward ;)

  26. I only know of two (hetero) couples who are in open relationships and in both cases that’s only because the girl wanted to break up/take a break and the guy didn’t want to lose the girl completely so they agreed to have an open relationship rather than have nothing at all. Which I think just equals both guys getting hurt in the end anyway. I couldn’t be in an open relationship or polyamorous situation. When I dig someone/am with someone, it’s all about them and I hope for them, it’s all about me. I can’t share and I certainly can’t/won’t separate sex from emotions. I feel inadequate enough as it is without any external pressure!

  27. I wouldn’t want to have an open relationship. I only need and want one person and one person alone.

    Threesomes on the other hand, I might eventually try if I were feeling really adventurous and truly trusted the person I was in a relationship with. I’ll admit, though, that I’d be pretty afraid to bring a third person into a committed relationship.

  28. See, every time i think of open/poly relationships i have visions of that True Life episode with the three gay boys who dated each other and all kinda looked alike. Did you see how that one gay boy pouted throughout the filming?! I don’t ever want to potentially pout like that over/in a relationship.

    However, I suppose I’d be singing a different tune if I’d harnessed the power of the clam and girls were just throwing themselves at me. viva la clam!

    • i remember that episode. that boy was so sad the whole time, and i also remember the lighting was really shitty.

  29. I never before realized I can be polyamorous. I’m currently in an open relationship/fling type relationship, but I’m waiting for the right girl, when I find her, I will be completely monogomous. I talk all this out beforehand with whoever I’ll be with (including seeing how D&D free they are) before anything happens, but I get the feeling a recent hookup got the wrong idea…. Ah well, if she ever unblocks me (currently she’s out of the country) we can talk it over.

    For me, it depends on the person whether I’ll share or not, but threesomes? If I ain’t in a closed relationship, fuck yeah.

  30. I have so many feelings on this topic.
    My first time having sex with a girl was a threesome. And I had an open “relationship” with a girl when we both thought we were straight. In a way polygamy comes naturally to me, but my brain says no because it can be triple the pain if your heart gets broken by two or more people all at ones. So in conclusion: I am a one-woman girl.

  31. i’m an unwilling expert on this topic.

    my first relationship with a girl was actually a relationship with a bisexual couple. it was really really fun and then it was LIFE-RUINING AND THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME. i guess my relationship wasn’t really open (i wasn’t interested in anyone else), but theirs was, and it was my inexperience combined with their miscommunication about rules and comfort levels and all of that that led to a whole snowballing batch of terrible issues. they’re married now. i’m sure that’s healthy!

    since then i’ve met couples who’ve been able to communicate more openly and find things that work for them, and while i’m impressed by their resolve, i know it’s not for me. as far as i can tell, honesty and open communication are the most important things.

    what i’ve seen a lot of lately is girls in relationships with boys who tell their boyfriends that they NEED to be allowed to hook up with girls or they’ll lose their minds. i feel like this is sort of an insult to bisexuality. when i’m with a person i’m with that person, but it does mean i get to make out with those chicks sometimes, so.

    to this date, there is no pickup line that will send me headed for the exit more quickly than “my girlfriend thinks you’re hot.”

  32. open relationship? definitely not in a serious relationship.

    but then again, i’m really not made for open relationships. i sort of had one last year, where both of us stated we should be seeing other people as well, but i never wanted to bother looking for anyone else because i was happy dating just her. and while she went on dates with other people, whenever any of them would make a move, she’d feel guilty and weird and physically flee the situation and call me. so i don’t think she was comfortable in an open relationship either. so yeah, it ended up just being monogamous no matter what words came out of our mouths stating that it wasn’t.

    anyway, the people who i’ve known who’ve been in polyamorous situations are those whose lovers didn’t want to lose the person they’re dating while being able to see what else is out there, which is selfish in my opinion. as much as we try to be idealistic about polyamory, etc. polyamory doesn’t work if one person is actually in love with another. it only works if both parties are equally wanting to play the field. when you’re in love, it stinks seeing the other person with anyone else. (and the funny thing is that these incidents i’m referring to involve some people in the “experimental brooklyn radical whatever omg gimme a break we’re more open minded than thou hipster” scene. these were people spouting free love and stuff – until they actually fell in love and it was another ball game!)

    so uh, yeah, the point of all of this is, let’s not bullshit ourselves. peace out.

    • > polyamory doesn’t work if one person is actually in love with another.

      Uh. I’ll just read that as “it doesn’t work for you.”

      > it only works if both parties are equally wanting to play the field.

      A tangent: I’ve been in (straight, open) situations where my partner was dating other people and I wasn’t at all or mostly wasn’t, and it worked fine for me, as long as nobody was weird about it. It actually got gnarly when I had someone try to pressure *me* into dating other people so he could feel better about his own extracurricular dating. I loved him a lot, but he was a high-maintenance dude who used sex for a lot of different reasons than I did, and I preferred alone time to cruising strangers, so I didn’t get as much play as he did. I was fine with it, but wanting me to date people to make *him* feel better instead of because I wanted to was stupid and insulting, and I said as much. The idea that it has to be totally equal has never sat well with me.

      So I’d gently suggest “It only works if both parties are comfortable with their own and their partner’s attitudes around dating other people,” instead. And yeah, definitely think about the possibility that emotion could come into play.

      I feel weird about being all “HEY HERE IS YET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT STRAIGHT PEOPLE” on this thread but dang, seeing a relationship style that works for a lotta friends and that I’ve wandered in and out of with about as much overall success as monogamy called “bullshitting ourselves” is … yeowch.

  33. After reading all fo these comments, I feel I must admit that there are certain Auto-straddlers that I’d love to make a cuddle sandiwch with…

  34. I am in an imploding all-female poly triad right now. It is exactly as not fun as you think it would be.

    But for the year it was, it was amazing. And the problems only started when the communication stopped, which has been true of any relationship (monogamous or otherwise) I’ve ever been in.

  35. I’m not really one for open relationships, except under one condition:

    Kink. I’ve had friends in relationships where one had some sort of major kink that was a turn-off for the other. I listen to Dan Savage like obsessively and I think everyone should listen to him, except for the part where he’s an asshole about certain things but I digress. Savage is a huge proponent of open relationships in order to get sexual needs satisfied. I think that if you can tolerate your partner’s kink long enough to satisfy it for them, then yes DO IT. But if you can’t handle it, let them get it filled elsewhere. I’ve got a couple of things that I really NEED in a sexual relationship, and if my partner can’t meet that, then I need it elsewhere or we need to break up. The end. Right now my partner satisfies me completely, but if we ever were to break up it could become an issue in another partner.

    Otherwise, I’m just too jealous! I want my girl to be MY GIRL (or boi or stud or whoever I’m dating heh.)

    Of course, that’s just me. To each their own!

  36. I don’t really see the point in open relationships. As if dating your ex’s ex and your ex dating your ex and everyone you know having dated each other isn’t complicated enough.

    Why is there all this competition around sex anyway? The study focuses on gay men because it was an HIV study. Are we feeling left out of the HIV epidemic or something?

    • um, we just wanted to talk about open relationships? not competing – just talking. also, you can be in open relationships and still practice safe sex. hopefully everyone with a brain and a vadge already knows that.

      • I’m just…uhmm…puzzled? surprised? or something along those lines, that the article linked to above, where the idea for the topic came from, is an article about the rise of HIV infections among gay male couples. But no mention is made of it at all in the blog or the comments before mine.

        It wasn’t like they were doing a study on how sexy gay men are and forgot to study the lesbians.

        The reason why HIV infection rates are on the rise among gay male couples is that they’re more likely to have open relationships. The lesbian community has never had the same infection rates, despite being just as insular as the gay male community, precisely because we have different sexual behaviors.

        • How about because giving and receiving unprotected anal sex is one of the most high-risk behaviours for HIV infection, while the vast majority of sexual interaction between women is in much lower risk categories? It’s a lot more complex than “gay men are more promiscuous”. Most lesbians I know are promiscuous or in open relationships (or, obviously, both).

          • I feel I should clarify that I meant giving and receiving unprotected sex when there is a penis involved. Carry on.

    • Being bi, I don’t have the exact same experience as you. What I do know for sure is that an extremely small percentage of those who declare themselves “monogamous” actually practise it.
      STDs always scared me to death and I’ve never had untested/protected sex but open relationships – with safety nets – are a good answer to mere cheating. I personally believe that every single partner of mine is very likely to be attracted to someone else and I’d rather have them tested and have protected sex with other people instead of learning about it afterwards.
      In summary, the “open relationship” factor prevents unpredictable threats to your health and allows you to make informed choices, which is what I’m all about.
      I’d rather have

      • Sorry; I hit “reply” before finishing the post, so:

        I’d rather have a polyamorous relationship than an STD.

      • I’ve only had one sexual partner my whole life. I was only speaking of what I’ve observed, and few lesbians would argue with. I recognize that I’m not typical in regards to my sex life. Indeed, I’m a complete freak of nature. But that’s besides the point.

        According to the statistics, more open relationships correlates with high rates of STDs. That’s what the study found, and suggests that more HIV prevention needs to be targeted at couples with open relationships. Which is exactly why folks should be talking about HIV prevention, always, along with talking about multiple partners.

        When we talk about HIV infection rates, we can’t afford to get defensive about our sexual habits. We can’t afford to be in denial about who it affects more and why. HIV may not be the killer it was, but the drugs that keep folks alive aren’t all they’re cracked up to be either.

        • Well of course, what I said only applies if all of the people involved protect themselves. And I don’t have a problem with monogamy either, I just think that cheating is a reality I can’t really do anything against.

  37. Wow, yeah, let’s discuss!

    Right now, hells no because my partner and I are very happy monogamously rocking the old school stereotypes.

    When I was single, my thoughts were yes threesome, no strings, but no threesomes every occurred. C’est la vie.

    The no strings, no mess thing came from once being the third wheel for a bi girl who herself was involved with a guy, but I wasn’t. He knew, but we couldn’t ever SAY anything about it and it really, really sucked.

  38. I waffle on this, but in the end, I think seeing more than one person is probably the ideal for me. I get bored easily, even with someone I love, and I need that physical/emotional challenge.

    For example, my ex-girlfriend and I are very different people and she wants a less committed level of intimacy than I do. For me, the logical solution isn’t to break up, but to instead add to the pot and get what I need elsewhere. I don’t think it would be smart for us to throw out the soup because it doesn’t have enough flavor, let’s just add to the soup. (She has only been my ex-girlfriend for 8 days. Someone please go tell her I am awesome and that she really does want me back, please.)

  39. I would like to say as someone who considers her self very grounded and happy in a monogamous relationship that I don’t like seeing that some of you ladies feeling the need to write “God, I’m so lame” when admitting you are monogamous. There is nothing lame or old fashioned about you or your relationship. And although some may say monogamy isn’t easy, for me it actually simplifies and takes away so much stress and drama.

    For me, so much of sex is emotional stimulation. I can’t imagine ever needing more than what I have in my own relationship. And if there are ever issues or I get bored, I would work on them with my partner, just like any other relationship issue. I think there is something really beautiful and poetic about that and there is no need to apologize for it.

    • This. Just… this. Robin wins for perfect comment, perfect feelings. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      I’m so blissfully happy and the relationship I have is so beautiful, I could never even dream of desiring to open us up to another person/people and all the emotional trappings and problems that could/do come with that.

  40. My first relationship was open. I never ‘used’ the open part, I was just fine with having just my girlfriend. She made out with a couple people while we dated.

    I was surprised that after hearing about those times I wasn’t really upset. We had the agreement and that was that. Later on though and looking back, I always wondered why I wasn’t enough for her, that she needed permission to be able to touch other people. I don’t know if I would do that again though…

  41. So here is my True Life Story re: the above. Back when I still identified as bisexual I had a loooong-term boyfriend whom I lived with, and among other mounting dissatisfactions which I mainly tried to ignore, I was increasingly miserable at not sleeping with girls. So, like a complete sleazeball, I went and placed a (very honest) personals ad and found a wonderful girl and slept with her, on the theory that maybe it would help me just calm down and stop being so desperate for girly contact. (For the record I Do Not Feel Good About This And Do Not Endorse This Behavior but it’s what happened and I accept all blame.) I told my boyfriend what I’d done, it was tense, but we decided I could keep sleeping with girls and also he could start sleeping with other girls, which he did.

    To this day I don’t know if it was just because I am not, in fact, attracted enough to men to have had much invested in his sexual fidelity, but I really didn’t have any problems with jealousy. I think having been together so long helped with that too — I think it’d be a lot harder to have a successful open relationship without a huge strong foundation of trust between the two primary partners.

    So this worked okay for a couple months. The problem was that eventually I realized I was just way too gay to successfully have a boyfriend and I broke up with him for the wonderful girl, whom I’m still with. Happy ending despite the sordid start. I guess the moral for me is I could probably be okay in another open relationship — but I don’t feel like I am essentially nonmonogamous or that I’ll go out seeking other partners anytime soon.

    • Wow, I feel like I’m in kind of a similar boat, but with the overlap between partners lasting a few months longer and without realizing that I’m too gay for men, but that the wonderful girl is better able to meet my needs, but without wanting to end things with strongly trusted foundation guy. I’m basically becoming very seriously committed to her, while he is stepping down, but it isn’t feeling great at the moment.

  42. I don’t know if this post makes me want to have an open relationship with a cuddle sandwich, or an open sandwich with a cuddle relationship.

    I am confused, and hungry.

  43. I haven’t been in one yet, but I think open relationships are awesome, as long as interactions between the primary couple are respectful and considerate.
    From what I’ve heard and observed, open relationships require more communication to be successful.
    This book talks about the history of the sociological dynamics of sex (particularly polyamory) and it’s awesome:

  44. I have so many feelings about this, but here are just a few.
    1. I am currently in a love/dislike relationship with being single.
    2. I will absolutely be a sexy third party which may or may not end in cuddles.

    3. I’ve been in two long-term monogamous relationships, which each ended when the other person wanted to be with someone else, but chose not to be honest with me about it.
    I’ve also been a third party to a married couple in an open relationship. They have one set rule: only have sex with single women. I’m not sure why this rule, but it benefits me, so.

    4. I think that it’s hard to predict what rules will work for my next relationship, because each dynamic between two people is so unique.

    5. My next relationship may or may not involve one or two (or seven?) Autostraddlers, which will definitely involve cuddles.

  45. I don’t know…maybe this open relationship business would’ve worked out in my early twenties when I was willing to experiment with anyone who’d be willing to (or if I was single). Polyamory, no thank you. I’m too selfish. I think it works for certain people and for others it’d be a complete disaster. I’d place myself in the disaster category. It’s difficult enough to deal with one person, I can’t see myself dealing with two or more.

  46. Nope…Don’t do open relationships and can’t get down with polyamory.

    I mean, if I am not looking for something serious, then dating someone who is non-monogamous (or in an open relationship) MIGHT work in the short-term, but I personally don’t see a long-term future with such an arrangement and would rather try my luck with monogamy.

  47. Read, the Ethical slut, and Opening up.
    GOOD books!

    I feel that I could be monogamous, it’s just I don’t want to limit myself. I would want my partner to have all the freedom in the world, and just because we have this commitment, doesn’t mean I would want them not to experience everything that they can.

    hmmm I think someday monogamy would be a nice thing someday, but so far, just can’t get down. Hehe

    I believe that, honesty is the best thing and everything is so well said in theory, but it’s just practise that is hard.. It’s a hard thing to do, but well worth it.

  48. My gf and I are currently in an “alternative relationship”, as we call it. We’re probably most closely defined as “swingers.” We enjoy threesomes and we’ve had a couple over before, but we’re not fully open. I don’t ever want to imagine her having another connection with someone else, and neither does she. Not that it has to be that way in an open relationship, but why rock the boat in that way when what we have works and we love it. Before we bring anyone in, the other must be completely comfortable. If someone is iffy about it, then that’s as good as a no.

    The biggest problem we face is that we’re not attracted to the same type of woman. So there have been times where one of us has said, “It would be hot to watch you two together, but I’m not attracted to her enough to participate” and that works out too.

    We do have a case by case rule about being out of town. If one of us is out of town and a particularly hot piece falls in our lap, we have to call the other up and get permission to hook up. And if a hook up can possibly happen while the other is out of town, the phone call for permission is necessary and it absolutely can not be in our bed. I’m really anal about certain things, so there’s actually a very specific list typed out.

  49. Being in a 10+ year monogamous relationship, I fantasize about extracurricular sexual activities regularly. The fulfillment of those fantasies would necessarily result in the forfeit of my relationship, which somehow heightens the urgency. I’ve recently learned to take the sexual feelings whipped up by the fantasy urges and fold them back into my real-life relationship. I was so proud of myself to have learned this trick finally!

    Is everyone here who is negotiating nonmonogamy in their 20s?

    • hmm I have been always in nonmonogamous relationships, or at least always felt like I should be. I’m 19, almost twenty though. Not really almost, but it’s the year I turn twenty.

      • Right, so, as life progresses, demands on one’s available energy resources increase: work, career, taking care of property, maybe, kids and so on. Energy that was available for multiple relationships in an earlier stage of life may be less available later.

        So I’m still interested in hearing nonmonogamy stories from the 30 and 40somethings, if they exist here.

        That patch of polyamory/open relationship/nonmonogamy grass over there looks really green!

        I’d also like to live in the socialist paradise of my dreams.

        • I have been reading the Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy which might interest you. Both the writers have children and they focus heavily on making polyamory/open relationships work for a family.

  50. i’ve been in both open and monogamous relationships. i’ve found that every time i’ve been in a monogamous relationship, i have cheated, but that when i’m in an open relationship, i rarely take advantage of the “open” aspect of it. weird huh? maybe i’m just an asshole and/or want what i can’t have.

    i also think that, for me at least, it’s better to be nominally open, even without acting on it, than to claim a false monogamy out of a sense of obligation. i pretty much have only been in “open” relationships for the last few years because I would rather have that disclaimer on the relationship in case someone hot comes around and i can’t help myself, instead of hurting someone by cheating.

  51. I have considered it, although not so much for me as for my long-distance girlfriend. We are very serious & in love with each other; however, she is actually straight. Like, she’s not even really bi; she likes boys, & me. No other girls.

    So sometimes I worry that maybe she misses boys a little too much? & I want to give her passes to make out with/do other things with boys if the opportunity arises? I don’t even know if she would ever feel comfortable doing that, but seriously I worry about this. I want our relationship to last a really long time, maybe forever, but sometimes I feel bad that doing so would maybe mean she couldn’t ever sleep with a boy again. :S So this might be something that has to come up at some point in the future.

    • I just have to say I really admire you for dating a woman who is straight. I couldn’t do it. If her homebase orientation isn’t gay, bi, or pan- I’d never feel comfortable.

  52. Okay, I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it yet, but read some of the methodology of that study before you go around reporting it’s “results”. 50% of gay men are NOT in open relationships. This is shitty reporting at its finest.

  53. Cuddle sandwich = AWESOME

    I’ve only just come out to myself as polyamorous, but the silly thing is I’ve had such inclinations for ages. I’m just not very lucky at attracting people. But to me the label seems kinda funny because I don’t really work with relationships as “boyfriend, girlfriend, mistress, lover, best friend, etc”. I define them by *people*, and with each person I have different levels of comfort, trust, boundaries, and so on.

    Doing burlesque and being in that scene has made me more comfortable with people’s bodies, and there’s quite a bit that I do (or am OK with people doing) with relative strangers or acquaintances that most others probably wouldn’t even consider doing with someone other than a close romantic partner. And I have intimate close friendships that don’t really have a physical/sexual aspect (asides from affection and the odd inappropriate comment) but are very VERY full of love, commitment, honesty, and devotion that rivals their own romantic relationships.

    I remember being in such a muddle over it a couple of years ago because while I was in love with my boyfriend, adored him to bits, thought he was one of the best people ever, I felt too young to settle down and say “ok, that’s it, I’ve found The One”. He’s my first EVERYTHING, from first kiss to first sexual experience to first relationship. I was also trying to deal with over 10 years of realising I was queer but not having even a single queer experience – and I didn’t want to cut myself off suddenly just because I found the right one at first go. I was caught between what I really wanted – to maintain a relationship with my boyfriend while also exploring other facets of my sexuality – and thinking that I was being unfair to him, that it wasn’t what a Good Girlfriend did, etc etc.

    Stupid thing? He was ok with the idea from the VERY START. No qualms. It was *me* being all weird and wonky and thinking “BUT WHAT WILL THE PEOPLE SAY!?!?!” Fuck the people. It’s *our* relationship, not *theirs*. We make the rules.

    Life became a hell of a lot easier from then on.

    (And then I got my first taste at being poly with a short online affair with a girl I still adore to bits. Long story there. Hopefully things pick up when she comes back to Brisbane and we can establish that I’m not really that scary in real life. *wibble*)

    So I’m polyamorous only technically (and right now in theory :P) – because it’s up to us to define what relationships are, and I don’t necessarily have clear lines between what makes a “best friend” and what makes a “lover” and what makes a “partner”, and I don’t care to. People are people and there’s many ways to love.

    • Also I’m feeling a bit weird/odd reading some of the other responses here. Many of you are saying that you couldn’t be emotionally committed to more than one person at a time, and that any non-primary relationships would have to be sexual only.

      I thought I was like that too for a while, but I’ve come to realise and accept that no, I get very emotionally attached to people I care about, and more than one. I didn’t want to burden them with my stress and shadow, but for me it’s almost impossible *not* to want to build an emotional connection. It’s the base, the foundation. Even with my acquaintances and friends there’s still some sort of emotional comfort, even if just a little, just enough to be comfortable with holding a conversation.

      the hard part now is actually convincing others that yes, not only can I do multiple emotional commitments (tiring as they can be), it’s my *default state*, it’s what I actually *want*. I may not be perfect at it, but I know I’ve done it before multiple times, and to me I feel empty without it, or if I feel like I have to hold myself back from building an emotional connection.

      Sadly it took my dream girl telling this to me about herself (not necessarily in a polyamorous sense, just in general) and me not really respecting her and thinking she was just freaking out before I realised that’s actually true for me too and she was holding up a mirror. Huge mistake there on my part. Now she’s likely having some major misconceptions about me, which I haven’t helped by not being clear, and at the very least I owe her an apology.

      (wei, this few weeks are going to be huge on the relationship-discovery aspect. Been writing quite a bit about it lately. And I have about a couple of weeks to go before I get the chance to actually possibly resolve some of the miscommunications. WISH ME LUCK.)

  54. I was in an open relationship with my first partner, however it was without my knowledge. I was mostly hurt about the not knowing and that I could have been having wild glorious sex with the few women who had propositioned me and I turned down in respect to my girlfriend.

    I planned on living an open lifestyle after that but my next few girlfriends just didn’t understand that it had nothing to do with my love for them and was all about my over the top sex drive.

    I am currently madly in love with my lady and I would never pursue other flings if she wasn’t 100% clear about what my reasons were and she was ok it. We’re travelling separately for the next month and I would like to be able to sleep with other girls. I am missing her hugely and on top of that I’m really sexually frustrated.

    My only rule for her sleeping with other people would be that she is completely honest and answers all my questions. I think knowing what is going on without you can help combat the jealousy. Its very unnerving not knowing because your imagination is a lot scarier than the truth.

    Whether or not women are capable of more emotioN than men shouldnt have anything to do with successful open relationships, being sensitive about your partners’ feelings, being able to communicate clearly what you want, being listen and understand what they want are all a huge part of making this sort of relationship work for everyone.

    • I really like this comment. My sex drive is over the top as well, and it has led to infidelity in relationships where monogamy was forced upon me and my partners didn’t understand why said forcing was not a good idea. To that end, I plan to live an open lifestyle if I can.

  55. The healthiest relationships I’ve been in have been open ones. My best case scenario is a primary romantic/life partner, with the ability to, with a few well chosen rules and lots of communication, sleep with others as well. I LOVE open relationships.

    However, I know that not everyone can handle that, so, I’ve resigned to the fact that I’ll likely wind up monogamous, lest I wind up alone forever.

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