My brother is gay, and the other day he showed me these crazy apps on his iPhone that gay men use to meet each other. He had so many of them: Scruff, Grindr, Daddyhunt, Manhunt, and Recon (he wouldn’t let me look at that one). Lots of cute guys on there. What was interesting to me is how many of those guys said they were in relationships. A lot of them said they were in “open relationships.” I’d be really hurt if my boyfriend was fooling around on me. Is that sort of thing really okay with gays?
Oh boy, I had no idea when I started this column a few weeks ago that you straight folks would be so curious about the intimate aspects of gay life. I thought I was going to get lots of questions about our favorite TV shows, or our favorite colors, or why so many of us drink cosmopolitans. I’m already nervous about the questions I hope you folks don’t ask. Thank goodness I can blame Dan, my editor, when I ignore those.
Gay men, like straight people (or at least straight women) do value monogamy. There are, however, different types of monogamy. The vast majority of us embrace the idea of emotional monogamy. In other words, we don’t want someone we’re in a loving relationship with to also be in love with someone else. Among many gay men, however, sexual monogamy is a different story. If you’ve read some of my earlier columns, you’ll know I attribute this to a man’s natural urge to procreate — to spread the seed, if you will. In the cave man days, man’s instinct to procreate led him to have sex with as many women as possible (God, apparently busy with other priorities, hadn’t yet gotten around to establishing fundamentalist Christian churches to protect the institution of marriage). When the cave man spotted a baby bump on one of those women, he settled down with her for a while, killing dragons and lizards and bringing them home to keep her fed for the nine months until she delivered. Then he hung around for a few years more until the kid was able to wander out and kill his own food. As we “evolved,” the length of time a man had to hang around increased. In the old days, mom expected dad to stick around until junior was 7 or so, and could swing a club. These days, mom expects dad to stick around until junior finishes grad school. In the absence of a pre-nup agreement tilted in her favor, any dalliance by dad with another woman poses a risk to junior getting that MBA. (Check with Newt Gingrich’s ex-wives for confirmation of that).
That’s a long way of saying that straight people have a natural incentive (not to mention a legal one) to not fool around, one that doesn’t exist for gay men. Yes, there are gay men who want what they think Mom and Dad have, and they embrace absolute monogamy. They’re the ones on Scruff at 3 a.m. with profiles saying they’re just looking for friends to have coffee with. But I’m guessing that these days a majority of us embrace the idea of open sexual relationships, with conditions — don’t screw around with best friends, don’t do the same guy twice, don’t combine a hop in the sack with dinner and a movie.
Our community also has a subset of polyamorists (and no, they generally aren’t Mormons and aren’t likely to be voting for Mitt Romney). These relationships take many forms. Probably most common is when two guys in a long-term relationship bring in a younger guy to heat things up (we gay guys have our own version of “Lesbian bed death”). Those tend not to last long. The S&M community has more structured versions, generally involving a “Sir” and a couple of “boys” whose job is to keep Sir happy. If you want to know more about that, sneak that iPhone away from your brother and check out Recon.
Questions you can’t bring yourself to ask your gay friends and neighbors? Send them to Henry@WEHOville.com.