FEATURE

Sex talk
Speaking of Fidelity


Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

Forsaking all others? The topic of same-sex marriage has sure hit the fan, and one argument often made by its proponents is, "It will encourage monogamy."

Well, will it? And, more importantly, should it?

As Drs. Barash and Lipton point out in their book The Myth of Monogamy, the latest scientific research shows sexual fidelity in the animal kingdom is far from the universal rule, even among some species formerly thought to be models of single-partner bliss. Now, nobody is suggesting we should behave like fuck-crazed beasts of the field. But what if monogamy is not just difficult for us guys, but unnatural?

Just what is monogamy good for? Well, it ensures a line of succession: a dad knows which kids are his, and who'll inherit the family manor. And there's little doubt that a stable home life is good for rearing kids. On the other hand, monogamy is a recent feature of many societies, and often related to the notion of wife-as-property, complete with a double standard for men and women. So what does all this have to do with a couple of gay guys, especially those who don't want to raise kids?

Much of it has to do with emotion, of course — the "forsaking all others" ideal. "If I'm in love," says one romantic guy, "I want my partner to be so into me that he's just not interested in having other men." Certainly, many male couples have successfully made a go of long-term monogamy, and more power to them. But for others, it can be a strain.

"Listen," says a gay man who's been with his partner for decades, "from the beginning, we both wanted the freedom to be with other guys. And I think that not feeling restricted, being able to have sexual variety, has been a big part of keeping us together and emotionally faithful to one another. Sure, we have feelings for other men, but we know we're always number one in each other's hearts."

Surely, some of all this has to do with being male. As one female-to-male transsexual says, "When I was a woman, I used to think that gay men were selfish sluts. But once I started injecting testosterone, I began to understand. Big time."

There may well be something to the idea that internalized homophobia causes some queer men to disrespect themselves and others. Few would argue it's healthy to be a heartless, compulsive Casanova who lies and cheats to his lover. But why impose a one-model-fits-all ideal on every male/male relationship, especially a model founded in the imperatives of het childrearing? "The whole idea of romantic love leading to monogamous marriage is a fairly recent invention," says a homo historian. "In some cultures, it's still a matter of 'first comes marriage, then comes love.' And there are places around the world where a man having at least a couple of wives is not just OK, but positively desirable."

That guy in the long-term open relationship adds, "It's really about commitment and honesty. I try to be clear about things, not only with my lover but with the other men I see, whether I'm with them for an hour or they're my buds for years." He laughs. "God, don't I sound like a saint?"

Some would accuse him of trying to have his cake and eat it, too. Others would praise him for trying to re-envision the whole notion of "baked goods." Perhaps it all boils down to us queer men respecting one other and the choices we make, just as we demand that straights respect us. Monogamous couples aren't necessarily old-fashioned, dishonest, and uptight. And open relationships aren't necessarily dysfunctional, dishonest, and immature.

Different folks. Different strokes. So stroke away.

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion



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