230 responses

  1. DAB
    February 12, 2010

    I did re-read your long posts, and my dishonesty escapes me. I’m still going with nasty and obnoxious.

  2. Priya Lynn
    February 12, 2010

    Of course your dishonesty “escapes” you. You’re suffering from confirmation bias and you wouldn’t admit the truth if I slapped you in the face with it. Just to prove it, here’s a couple of examples:

    “What strikes me most about this whole conversation is how passionately invested some people are in proving that monogamy is the norm in gay couples.”.

    Once again, no one attempted to prove any such thing, they merely rejected claims to have proven the opposite. You dishonestly characterized this whole thread.

    You dishonestly claimed we had all “swept under the rug” the study Ted mentioned when I specifically addressed the fact that it did not say what he claimed it did.

    You dishonestly claimed people here were trying to dictate to you how you should live your life.

    You dishonestly used the logical fallacy “As a researcher for more than 10 years in the field of HIV prevention” as though that meant what you were saying had to be true.

    I could go on, but no doubt you’ll now dishonestly deny the reality of what I’ve just posted.

  3. Timothy Kincaid
    February 12, 2010


    Cheating and non-monogamy, in this context, are two different things.

    Non-monogamy is an agreement by both parties that the relationship will allow sex with outside individuals. Most often these agreements have rules (e.g. no regulars, no anal, always safe, no emotional attachment, etc.)

    Cheating is breaking the agreement, whether it be for monogamy or the rules of the open relationship.

    Most heterosexual marriages are based on a monogamous agreement (or, more likely, a monogamous assumption or ideal). The question which is, as yet, unanswered is whether gay marriages (male or female) value monogamy or a monogamous ideal and how that compares with heterosexual marriages.

  4. Timothy Kincaid
    February 12, 2010


    The bickering stops now. I’ll delete comments that are nothing but personal sniping until this gets back on track

  5. Timothy Kincaid
    February 12, 2010


    Thank you for providing the Prestage study. Unfortunately, I don’t think it adds anything to the discussion.

    This, too, was a convenience study that never set out to measure the extent to which monogamy is valued in gay marriages, or even in gay relationships.

    The study didn’t even discuss relationships, per se, choosing instead to measure behavior in people who had a “current regular partner”. A quarter of these sexual partners had been “currently regular” for less than six months and about 28% hadn’t even had “the talk”.

    The sample was comprised of urban gay men of whom over 70% were completely ghettoized (had only or mostly gay friends).

    And I think you misunderstood the discussions about those who “made agreements for sex both inside and outside the relationship”. They made agreements about the rules of sex inside and out, not to have sex inside and out. Agreements about sex outside the relationship can include the agreement not to have it.

    I do not doubt that there are many gay relationships – defined loosely – that allow sex outside the couple. And I think it likely that there are some gay marriages that do likewise.

    But until we have any decent research, we simply cannot extrapolate from HIV research of convenience samples of short-term gay sex buddies in urban gay male bar-culture and think it says anything at all about two lesbians getting married in Iowa.

    Each of us have experiences which color our perceptions. And most of us have a social circle that mirrors our own values. It may be difficult for us to distinguish “all my friends” from “gay people in general” but if we are to have meaningful dialogue it’s a task we should all seek to master. Both studies and experience add value to understanding life, but we can’t confuse them for each other.

  6. Amicus
    February 12, 2010

    @Ben in Oakland

    If it is any consolation, I read your post, remember it, and find it interesting because you are one who has actually lived all of these forms.

    Separately, I have to clarify something I wrote above. I meant to suggest that it was possible to generalize, so that one doesn’t have to talk about their particular relationship. The way it is written, it could be read the other way around (gasp!).

  7. Ben in Oakland
    February 12, 2010

    Thanks, Amicus. at least someone was interested.


  8. Priya Lynn
    February 12, 2010

    I appreciate your posts as well Ben.

  9. RHysom
    February 12, 2010

    Thanks-As a gay man who has had three five+ year monogamous relationships, one of which lasted 10 years, in the past 25 years, I appreciate your insight and accurate analysis.

    In all my years I have yet to know a committed gay or lesbian couple who are comfortable with his/her partner sleeping around.

    And I don’t live in Kansas!

  10. chiMaxx
    February 12, 2010

    Priya Lynn writes:

    “Chimax said “we don’t really have to worry about Priya’s unknowable quantity of closeted gay men, whether they number in the hundreds or the gazillions, because the overlap between married gay couples and closeted gay men is vanishingly small.”.

    That’s just your opinion, You don’t know that.”


    No, it’s not my opinion. Marriage implies public recognition of the relationship–legal, social or religious. Please explain how someone could be in a publicly recognized same-sex marriage (whether legally recognized as a marriage or domestic partnership/civil union or recognized only by one’s community) and still be so closeted that you would be invisible to researchers.

  11. Priya Lynn
    February 12, 2010

    Chimax, some couples may choose to marry but keep their orientation quiet. Public in this case means recognized by the government, it does not mean such a couple has gone out and had a church wedding with 100′s of guests. I do know some gay married couples who continue to be secretive about their orientation.

  12. DAB
    February 12, 2010


    I’ve already addressed your critique of Prestage et al. offline and I’m not going to bother reposting it here. Frankly I’m getting tired of this discussion. I do have just one question: what makes you think that a sample in which a majority are “ghettoized” is not representative of gay men generally?

  13. DAB
    February 12, 2010

    And I mean “ghettoized” as you define it.

  14. Jason D
    February 12, 2010

    Ben, your posts are always helpful. Do not stop.

  15. Amicus
    February 12, 2010

    following Brian QTD:

    1. …I don’t have an answer. But we better find one.

    Well, have you considered that there is no answer?

    One of the reasons one doesn’t diddle with norms carelessly is because they are sometimes very difficult to reshape, once “lost”. There is no rule that says a group can organically come up with a set of norms. We are wretched things, and the truth is that one group will often fight for supremacy – even with war – in order that a dominant ethic be established. Have you noticed that fundamentalists the world over choose sexual ethics almost invariably as a lifting off point? There is a reason for that. Secondly, have you noticed that nearly 30% of the population in America are self-described Evangelical, with another 40% or so in mainline Christian groups, none of whom formally believe that an “answer” even needs to be sought?

    2. But some people insist it is one way or the other, so someone will have to do the work to show that certain segments of our community are being left out.

    Left out? Half the time these groups just want to be left alone, yet now -now- they are loudly complaining about being left out. The psychology of that just doesn’t add up. There is more going on (and some of it may well be troublemaking).

    3. …We can point to testimony about how marriage will curb “promiscuity” and foster “responsibility” to demonstrate that. A lot of people don’t like this tone, …

    Okay, give us a page of nonmonogamous couples – however defined, I guess (?) – who are willing to go on television and tell their stories and answer our critics persuasively, while we seek access to marriage. If they don’t want to be married, then, apologies-in-advance, but the show must go on, right?

    4. The point about raising the divorce rate and cheating rate for heterosexuals is that it is unfair to compare gays to Pollyannish images of the family .. We need to defend ourselves based on how people actually live not based on a fictional, mythical view of the two-parent home versus gays.

    One can easily be partial to this viewpoint (myself included), which will have traction on the Left, but you are begging the question by saying they are “unfair comparisons”. What’s more, how can people take up a defense of choices that aren’t fully explained and that they don’t fully understand? In court, we are being held up to the standard of the “ideal”, the ideal not only for individuals, but for rearing kids and for society, not to the nongay couple that swings (or whatever). You might complain about that, but that’s the fight as it has been brought to us and that, in some ways, has shaped the reply. Do you really think we can choose to fight on our own terms or that any serious gap isn’t going to be seized upon, whether it should be or not? Indeed, for some it might not be a ‘mythical view’, but a vision for how things can be and are likely to change. And its not too much to ask, politically. People decide what “truths” they want to traffic in for political purposes all the time, including our opponents, frankly. Both sides did so during the AIDS crisis, for instance.

    5. ..thank you for clarifying that you believe that our rights are not tied to whether most of us are monogamous or not.

    Do you understand that a super-majority is seized of the notion that marriage implies fidelity and you’ll be flying a kite for a long, long time if you ask everyone to please disregard that (for any purpose, really). Put more succinctly, which states in the union do you believe would vote for marriage, today or in seven years, for gays or nongays, if they thought it meant “institutionalizing” “cheating” (and don’t simply assert that it is not “cheating”, because it will be portrayed as “cheating”).

  16. Priya Lynn
    February 12, 2010

    DAB, what makes you think a sample in which the majority are “ghettoized” is representative of gay men generally?

  17. Brian QTD
    February 12, 2010

    “One of the reasons one doesn’t diddle with norms carelessly is because they are sometimes very difficult to reshape…”

    Those of us interested in truth should be interested in an answer. We are tired of good ideas being derailed by junk science (creationism, climate change denialism, anti-gay research, etc).

    “Left out? Half the time these groups just want to be left alone…”

    I don’t know who these mythical groups are you are talking about. I do know that the discourse presents the community as one way and denigrates nonmonogamous people. I know that there are nonmonogamous people in the LGBT community. Hence, the discourse attacks nonmonogamous people. Not only that, but the discourse authorizes leitmotifs like: “irresponsible,” not doing “hard work,” “immaturity” etc. If nonmonogamous people start responding to this increasing pathologization (however many there are), it is not troublemaking. In case you haven’t noticed, people don’t like for their relationships to be called “sewers” and “immature”.

    “In court, we are being held up to the standard of the “ideal”, the ideal not only for individuals, but for rearing kids and for society, not to the nongay couple that swings (or whatever).”

    Why don’t we start with the truth? What makes a family? Why are families actually successful? Families do not fail because people don’t have the right kind of sex, just as families are not successful because the partners have certain genitals. Family success (and children’s success) depends on pretty prosaic things like material and economic support. Not any starry-eyed notions about “the one” and “masculine and feminine”.

    “Do you understand that a super-majority is seized of the notion that marriage implies fidelity and you’ll be flying a kite for a long, long time if you ask everyone to please disregard that (for any purpose, really)”

    And many people also believe that gays are not monogamous–even some allies (see Joy Behar). So I suppose we should always capitulate to public perception. Why not just go for civil unions or domestic partnerships, since we are kowtowing to public opinion so much?

    You know, I have the same advice for LGBTs that I have for the Democrats: Sometimes, just sometimes, you’re going to have to win an argument on its merits instead of trying to find some shoddy, rickshaw compromise with right-wing ideology. Jus sayin’.

  18. Priya Lynn
    February 12, 2010

    Brian said “Family success (and children’s success) depends on pretty prosaic things like material and economic support. Not any starry-eyed notions about “the one” and “masculine and feminine”.”.

    I think you’re way out to lunch there. Most families have adequate meterial and economic support and yet there is a 50% divorce rate anyways. The success of a family is much more due to how compatible people are – its much more about “the one” than about how much stuff you have.

  19. Amicus
    February 12, 2010

    Hence, the discourse attacks nonmonogamous people.

    Personally, I think this is a perceived and/or contrived slight, not a real one, at least in relation to our political goals, recently sought.

    Having followed the ads and the testimony in at least three marriage campaigns with a modicum of attention (ME, CA, and NJ), I can say that no where did I hear anyone on our side overtly attack nonmonogamous couples. I followed the Prop8 trial exceptionally closely, and I found no animus by our side toward nonmonogamous couples. [Did I get it wrong?]

    If anything, the distinctions are between the married and the unmarried. Which seems natural, because the argument is that marriage has benefits and is related to couples, not singles.

    Of course, in the popular discourse, emotions run high. But even then, I’m not aware of a group of ‘monogamy seekers’ making a point out of attacking couples. In fact, the questions have come the other way, no? There was one post, somewhere, suggesting that, if you have just accidentally shot your partner in unusual circumstances, you might consider not giving testimony at the State House on marriage equality. Otherwise, …

  20. Brian QTD
    February 12, 2010

    “prosaic things like material and economic support”
    Priya Lynn responded: “I think you’re way out to lunch there…”

    Actually I meant to say material and emotional support (none of which necessarily have to do with whom you have sex–that was my point). Obviously, if money were the issue, we wouldn’t have so many screwed up rich kids (tongue in cheek!). Although, of course, finances are pretty high on the reasons for conflict within couples.

  21. Ephilei
    February 12, 2010

    Excellent research! Thanks

  22. Karen Booth
    February 13, 2010

    Timothy, I’m often critical of your work, but this was really good. Thank you.

  23. Amicus
    February 14, 2010

    From McWhirter and Mattison, who studies gay couples in San Diego in the late 1970s and published a very interesting summary, called, “The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop”, upfront in the introduction, page xi:

    “We clearly recognize the risks of having our findings etched in stone as the way male couples should and must be, setting new standards, as it were, against which others measure themselves. Once again, the limitation of a nonrandom, geographically limited, moderately sized sample must be recognized. Also, we anticipate the development of a still young gay culture to influence male couples in the future. We did not intend or want a new typology for male couples to emerge from these hypotheses. The dangers of creating new myths about male relationships through studies such as this are clearly to be avoided.”

    Doesn’t get more responsible than that.

  24. Doctor Whom
    February 14, 2010

    This isn’t the first time that people have tried to extrapolate from a subset of San Francisco gay men to the LGBT community elsewhere; I’ve commented such attempts at extrapolation before.

  25. Amicus
    February 15, 2010
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