What are gay men’s practices concerning monogamy and non-monogamy?

Monogamy is the practice of marrying or state of being married to one person at a time, whereas nonmonogamy is a sexual relationship that allows sexual expression or affection with other partners. Monogamy is positioned as the dominant in our society, but what are gay men’s practices concerning monogamy and non-monogamy?

These two relationships are represented as a dichotomy or opposed to each other and fail to capture the diverse ways in which gay men imagine and practice fidelity.

One-third of the Australian gay men in a recent study by Bavinton, et al. 2016 identified their relationship as monogamous. Moreover, gay couples handle conflict more positively than heterosexual couples because they value equality and have fewer differences in power. They also believe that an ideal balance is one where both partners are equal. But due to the norms operating within gay sociality in which sexual opportunity is celebrated, some men may also fear that their monogamous ambitions are temporary rather than permanent. Therefore, nonmonogamy may be viewed as an expected trajectory for gay men’s relationships


Monogamy is not always negotiated in the context of new relationships. Instead, men assumed their relationships would begin monogamously without discussing it. However, gay men move from monogamy towards non-monogamy and cause threatening feelings to the partners who understand themselves as suited to monogamy, or those who might never have questioned it.

Although, many men believe that monogamy may not be a permanent fixture of their relationships. Therefore, monogamy is sometimes viewed as unsustainable. Changing towards non-monogamy is therefore seen by some as expected, even inevitable.

Gay couples must negotiate monogamy and non-monogamy over time, as well as discuss their relationship dynamics with each other. Even though these relationships are based on an egalitarian ethic, in which power is equal and partners maintain personal autonomy in pursuing their sexual desires and needs, couples usually find it difficult to talk about sexual dissatisfaction.

Negotiations of non-monogamy may oblige those who prefer monogamy to extend sexual freedom to their partner under the auspice of liberal tolerance where the consequences of not ‘cooperating’ may otherwise make them appear conservative or narrow. The men who acquiesce to non-monogamy do so for fear of losing their partner; thus, making the relationship inherently unequal and not grounded on egalitarianism.

In conclusion, gay men live their relationships flexibly and lack an ideological attachment to monogamy or non-monogamy. Their desires and needs are changeable and take a practical approach to their relationships.

Source: Negotiating gay men’s relationships: How are monogamy and non-monogamy experienced and practiced over time?
Steven P. Philpot 2018
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