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
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
Different folks. Different strokes. So stroke away.
Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines
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