A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.Here are my problems with it:
New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.
- They studied men exclusively.
- If those were urban men, in the über-gayborhoods of San Francisco, they are not representative of people elsewhere.
- If I think of my gay friends, I have a hard time coming up with any who fit this model--most of them being together years longer than my wife and I have.
Of course the NY Times article also points out other examples:
Open relationships are not exclusively a gay domain, of course. Deb and Marius are heterosexual, live in the East Bay and have an open marriage. She belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and maintained her virginity until her wedding day at 34. But a few years later, when the relationship sputtered, both she and her husband, who does not belong to the church, began liaisons with others.But what do you want to bet that our enemies will ignore that example.
“Our relationship got better,” she said. “I slept better at night. My blood pressure went down.”
Look, people can do what they want in the privacy of their own relationships. That's fine. but don't DARE extrapolate this study to all of us, any more than Jeri Ryan's relationship represents all straight marriages. UpdateSome people may try to justify this for their particular choices, but I believe in fact that most people (including gay men) are monogamous. Maybe "open" works for some fraction of couples, but to assume this means everyone is non-monogamous would be wrong. In an article in the Advocate, as self-styled "sexologist" lauds open relationships including his own, but it is clear from the comments and even his own description that these do not account for the "majority" of relationships. And while these may be relationships, they aren't marriage.
I'll be crystal clear and honest. I believe marriage is about fidelity and monogamy. I don't believe in "open" relationships. I think they debase something that I have worked very hard to earn and continue to fight for. And I'm angry as hell if this study, released at this precise time, and directed at a group which is in no way representative of all GLBT people, is used to throw mud on the most precious experience of my life: marrying my beloved wife.
Update Turns out my concerns were valid. The Box Turtle Bulletin takes on the misleading Times reporting, with information about the study.
NO KIDDING. Someone in a relationship for 3 months gets equated to "marriage"? TOTALLY BOGUS.To be eligible participants had to have been at least 18 years old, have been in a their current relationship for at least 3 months, have knowledge of their own and their partner’s HIV status, be fluent in English, and be residents of the San Francisco Bay Area.As the research was not applied separately by relationship structure or length, this study says nothing about gay marriage or even domestic partnerships. And any use of the results which makes (or even implies) a comparison to straight relationships is bogus and irresponsible.
Again, this study was focused on a subset of MEN who participate in the bar scene. That is, places where people are looking for relationships--and not one noted for a high fraction of married folks.Field research staff reached potential participants either by handing out study postcards or placing flyers and postcards in gay-identified social venues such as bars, clubs, and cafes, as well as in community health and HIV and AIDS service organizations and by placing advertisements in gay-oriented publications, Web sites, and listserves.Recruitment in bars and clubs and on listserves skews the sample towards those who are actively seeking sexual connections. While some gay people go to bars solely for social interaction, monogamous couples that do not regularly go to bars or look at Craigslist were far less likely to hear of this study.
Recruitment materials contained text describing the study as “one which examines important relationship dynamics associated with HIV.” Recruitment strategies were designed to produce a diverse sample in terms of race or ethnicity as well as serostatus.
Additionally, this study was more likely to attract those who were interested in how relationship dynamics impact HIV transmission. I think it is a reasonable assumption that, on average, couples committed to monogamy might not have the same interest level as those who have open relationships.
And then there's this:
For two of the studies, 41% of the participants were HIV positive (Study 3 had 32%). While this may be advantageous to a study which seeks to look at sexual agreements, it is not representative of the population of San Francisco, and has almost no reflection of the gay male population at large. Only about 12% of gay men in the United States are infected with HIV.Put another way: Populations with a higher fraction of HIV-positive members are more likely to have sex with multiple partners. Given that HIV is sexually transmitted, this is not a surprise.
The BTB concludes:
But in my opinion, Scott James’ statement that “New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area” may be among the most irresponsible reporting I’ve ever seen. The study says nothing whatsoever about lesbians and it tells us little about “just how common open relationships are” among anyone. It’s pure sensationalism and shoddy journalism.
But the real culprits are those who saw this study and decided that it says something about, for example, gay couples marrying in Iowa or New Hampshire. This was either lazy response or a deliberate attempt to fraudulently demonize gay couples for political gain.
In short, those reporting on this study got it wrong.
The study and another have reared up again and Box Turtle Bulletin again nails the fatal flaw: these aren't a well-designed, open studies at all.
.... based on the pattern of the stories and my communication with the authors, I have a new conclusion: When the news repeatedly and consistently reports conclusions that cannot possibly be determined from your data, it’s not because you’re trying to correct them. Hoff has, in all occasions I’ve seen, made broad generalizations about the nature of gay relationships – not just those in her study – that lead me to wonder if her research is little more than an attempt to provide talking points to support her presumptions......Biased, in otherwords, based on an artificially and inappropriately limited sample.
Hoff, Lowen and Spears want to believe that gay men are non-monogamous. It fits their preconceptions. But they didn’t study that.
Hoff did not conduct a study of gay men to see who is monogamous; she studied how HIV-positive men negotiate communication and agreements. And Lowen and Spears did not conduct a study of gay men to see who is monogamous; they sampled non-monogamous couples to see if they liked it.