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?

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," 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. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2842 articles for us.

104 Comments

  1. 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.)

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

  5. 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: http://www.sexatdawn.com/

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

      • 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.)

  16. 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.

  17. 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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