Do Most Gay Couples Have Open Sexual Relationships?

Dear Hank:

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?



Ask A Gay Graphic

Dear Michele:

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.

Yours gaily,


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4 years ago

You can do whatever you want in your relationship but don’t call it something it’s not. If you are out having sex with every STD ridden dude you come across then you aren’t in real love. You are comfortable with your partner but are too selfish to completely commit. It’s called being nasty.

5 years ago

rljohio: The previous two comments were not judgemental; they were corrective. Hank’s experience is all couples he knows are open. Hank is also single and I suspect his couple friends will soon be. The vast majority of guys who are committed to long-term rel’s (I’m talking over 10 or 15 years) left the open thing behind with our skinny jeans. It rarely works for more thn a few years; and if you’re intent on building a life with someone, you’re not going to have time or energy for multiple sexual partners. We’re too busy buidling a chimney.


5 years ago

Okay. I don’t blame the open relationship but I have a question to open relationship couples. Is it normal ‘hiding’ his relationship to have sex wity guys? I met a guy saying “I ‘had’ bf before and he was acting like single guy saying that he wants to have a bf on the future but I found it out that he had a bf and they were in an open relationship. I never judge open relationship couple but lie to guys to have sex wity them…I think it’s not good thing to do. What do you think?

5 years ago

It’s irresponsible to generalize gay menot this way. My relationship is monogamoua and we’re in our 20’s. However, I would have to admit an open relationship wouldn’t bother me as much as it would bother my partner. But frankly I think it’s best to avoid that drama. I had an open relationship once and the men I saw on the side were intent on sabotaging my relationship or convincing me to leave for them. It messed with my head too much because I’m an intimate and passionate lover, not a mechanical one. Lot of gay men are totally mechanical about… Read more »

6 years ago

Geez…the prior two comments are so judgmental. If you want to be monogamous fine!! Be happy!! If other people in LTRs want to be open to other sexual partners and both partners are in agreement, fine too!! Let them be happy!! It is annoying enough to have to deal with the sanctimonious attitude of straight couple with kids and “lots of responsibilities” to now get it also from our own. I am happily gay-married, but I am not going to try to impose my personal views of love, sex and relationships on others and tell them that they “damage our… Read more »

Tim Richards
Tim Richards
7 years ago

You’re single and you live alone with your dog. That means you are going to be out and about running into other mostly single gays, or gays in relationships who think its fine to run around. That will not give you a nearly accurate picture of the majority of us in gay relationships who are devoted to our families and jobs, and who you will rarely if ever see in your circles because we are just too busy with our responsibilities. I have been in a monogamous relationship for 35 years, and all the other gay couples I know are… Read more »

Jay Wayne
7 years ago

“I’m guessing that these days a majority of us embrace the idea of open sexual relationships…” I’m guessing you’re a bit off-base there. In my circle of friends, among male couples that have been together for at least a few years, I can think of none that are in open relationships. My partner and I are not, and it’s not because we ‘want what my parents had’, but rather because it would (at least in my mind) diminish our partnership. (Frankly, our relationship is much better than either of our parents’ marriages were, IMHO.) Even for those who discount that… Read more »

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