What You Should Know About ‘Monogamish’ Relationships

The Gospel Coalition 7 Mar 2013
One of the unspoken assumptions in the debate over same-sex marriage is that monogamy is equally valued by both homosexual and heterosexual couples. While far too many heterosexuals opt for a form of serial monogamy—marriage, divorce, remarriage—it is still generally understood that sexual fidelity is to be expected within the bounds of marriage. The same assumption, however, is not necessarily true within homosexual relations.

Monogamish — A term coined by sex columnist Dan Savage to describe relationships in which a couple is emotionally intimate only with each other yet engages in sexual infidelities or group sexual activity. Monogamish couples can be sexually polyamorous but remain emotionally “monogamous.” (Another term used for this phenomena is “San Francisco relationships.”) Although the term can be used to describe both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, monogamish coupling is generally considered acceptable, even normative, within homosexual communities.

A study by the Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training, “Alternatives to Monogamy Among Gay Male Couples in a Community Survey: Implications for Mental Health and Sexual Risk”, will be published in this February’s issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior. The study surveyed over 800 gay and bisexual men in the New York City area. A preview of the report notes:

Dr. Parsons pointed out that “the diversity in types of non-monogamous relationships was interesting, and something that hasn’t been explored very much in research studies. Typically gay men have been categorized as monogamous or not, and our data show that it is not so black and white.” CHEST’s survey indicated that about 60% were single. Of those partnered, about 58% were in monogamous relationships. Of those that were non-monogamous, 53% were in open relationships, and 47% were in “monogamish” relationships (i.e., couples that have sex with others as a couple such as “threeways” or group sex).

What seems apparent from the CHEST study is that same-sex romantic relationships can be healthy and happy, and that gay men can be “committed” to their long-term partners while still being sexual with other people. Dr. Parsons adds, “Our findings suggest that certain types of non-monogamous relationships – especially ‘monogamish’ ones – are actually beneficial to gay men, contrary to assumptions that monogamous relationships are always somehow inherently better.”

In an article for the Huffington Post, gay-rights activist Zach Stafford reports on the study and adds:

Prince Charming may not be charming forever, and we may find ourselves waking up one day wanting to invite Aladdin or Prince Eric or Prince Phillip to join us in our bed, if only a few times a month. And if our relationship is not monogamous but more “monogamish,” we can still be happy. Indeed, we may find that monogamy isn’t what we wanted all along.

A significant percentage of persons in same-sex sexual partnerships, including those who advocate for the legal recognition of same-sex “marriage”, do not view monogamy or sexual exclusivity as part of the meaning of marriage. Despite their use of the term “monogamy,” many are referring to “monogamish” relationships. This misleading shift in language leads many Americans to misunderstand what it is they are really supporting when they advocate for same-sex marriage. Marriage is not being redefined in a way that simply includes same-sex couples, but redefined in a way that excludes sexual fidelity as an essential component of the marital relationship.

Written by