Sex talk
Speaking of Open Relationships

Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

"My one and only" might be a guiding principle of traditional straight marriage, but over in the queer community, things can get a lot more complex. Some of the most enduring of male/male couplings are open relationships, in which sexual exclusivity isn't the hard-on-and-fast rule.

"It's fine with me if my partner goes out and sees another guy, or even finds a steady fuck buddy, just as long as I know his primary commitment's to me," says one man who's been with his lover nearly a decade. "I want him to be happy. It's not that I'm being noble and self-sacrificing. Honestly, it takes some of the pressure off me."

Multipartner arrangements may have more to do with having a dick than with being queer. "Face it," says one observer of queer mating rituals. "The male of the species is, evolutionarily speaking, designed to be a slut. And I think that many married het guys, freed of the duties of child-rearing and the expectations of society, would be perfectly happy to be in open relationships. Hell, plenty of them already cheat on their wives."

It's the absence of "cheating" that distinguishes truly open relationships: Partners are expected to be honest about where they dip their dicks. More or less.

There are plenty of variations on the open relationship, from the marginally honest "Oh, I'm sure he knows I'm running around," to households where Tom agreeably goes out for the evening so Harry can get Dick. Some men are more comfortable with an agreed-upon "don't ask, don't tell" arrangement, while others insist that every straying be negotiated in advance. There are twosomes that only go beyond coupledom when they invite someone over for a three-way.

While some couples decide to be open from the first, there are plenty that evolve into nonmonogamy as the men become more comfortable – or sexually bored – with one another. And for men who love each other but whose erotic predilections are mismatched, polyamory can be the ticket to fulfilling sexual adventures; not everybody likes to be spanked.

One man who just started exploring polyamory with his honey says, "We have a rule that we only see other guys once, no repeat tricking. So for now, I prefer to play with men who are in open relationships themselves. That way, there's less drama and fewer expectations all around."

Indeed, it's the precarious position of "the other man" that leads many single guys to turn down the overtures of men in all relationships, no matter how open they may be. And some fellows are just one-man men. "When I'm involved with somebody, he's all the world to me," says one of them, "and I expect the same from him."

Yes, nonmonogamy can be perilous: The intensity of good extracurricular sex can put a strain on what happens back home. There's also the danger, of course, of bringing home an STD or two; caution is never out of place. Still, as the fellow in the decade-long open relationship says, "I love my partner, but I don't want to own him. Maybe I'm being overconfident, but I feel that if my boyfriend leaves me, it's because he's unhappy with me, not because he's happier with someone else."

To those of us struggling to simply find a date we'll want to talk to in the morning, the debate over open relationships can seem like a luxury, but it deals with the basics of emotional life. Is nonmonogamy brave and generous, or greedy and unfeeling? Either way, for each couple that's successfully doing the my-one-and-only thing, there's at least one other operating under the assumption that boys will be (and do) boys. So be honest – and careful – out there.

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

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