Most younger gay men seek monogamy, study suggests
by Michael Nugent
Much higher numbers of younger gay men are seeking monogamy than previous generations, according to a new study.
Eighty-six percent of gay men in a study, ages 18-40, reported being in a monogamous relationship and 90 percent of single gay men in the same age group are seeking monogamy, according to the nationwide study "Choices: Perspectives of Younger Gay Men on Monogamy, Non-monogamy and Marriage."
"This is a sea change compared to older generations of gay men (where 30-50 percent of relationships are monogamous)," report study authors Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears.
Lowen, 63, an executive leadership coach, and Spears, 65, the founder and principal of InSight Healthcare, are independent researchers. They became interested in exploring this topic though their own relationship.
"The catalyst for both studies was our experience as a long-term gay couple. We had been together in a non-monogamous relationship for 36 years and were curious about the experience of others," said Lowen.
After writing a study of long-term non-monogamous couples called "Beyond Monogamy," which included almost exclusively gay men over 50, they turned their focus to the experiences of gay men under 40 with monogamy and non-monogamy. A call was distributed through Facebook that drew responses nationally from a wide array of gay men in both urban and rural environments.
The study is both quantitative (576 respondents) and qualitative (222 respondents), according to Lowen.
Lowen and Spears were fascinated by the results.
"The big shift toward monogamy surprised us – we weren't expecting to find that. This was true of both couples and singles. We were also moved by the consciousness and deliberateness of many of the monogamous couples in choosing to live monogamously," said Lowen.
Lowen and Spears attribute this to multiple factors. As younger gay men utilize the right to marry and live under increasing societal acceptance, adopting to mainstream norms has become more possible than before.
"Younger gay men are coming out sooner and have less experience of 'closeted sex' or to develop the sexual patterns of previous generations where a great deal of emphasis was put on sex," wrote Lowen and Spears. "One way to think about this is that younger gay men come to terms with their sexual orientation much earlier and get to experience their age appropriate adolescence as gay men."
Attempts to seek comments from study participants were unsuccessful.
Other findings of the extensive study included the dynamics of both types of relationships and perceptions of marriage.
Monogamous respondents reported higher satisfaction with sex with their partners compared with non-monogamous, at 83 percent to 71 percent, respectively. Monogamous respondents also reported having sex with their partners more often, with 73 percent reporting at least once per week, compared with just 51 percent for non-monogamous respondents.
The top benefit of monogamy gay men reported was that it encourages trust, connection, and closeness. The top benefit of non-monogamy reported was the variety of partners.
Openness to non-monogamy decreases for younger age groups. While 44 percent of gay men ages 26-40 would consider exploring non-monogamy, only 29 percent ages 18-25 would.
Marriage is seen as the natural progression for gay men in long-term relationships by about two-thirds of all respondents.
Lowen also shared how little research has been done on this topic.
"To our knowledge, there are a few anecdotal articles and lots of opinions about gay monogamy, but no studies. Consequently, one of the findings was that monogamous couples felt 'invisible,'" said Lowen.
"We think there is something very validating in this study for monogamous couples. It describes relationships where monogamy was entered very consciously and is focused on as a goal that requires work and attention," said Lowen. "Hearing from these couples may be inspiring and informative to others and certainly validating of the existence of healthy monogamous relationships in the gay community."
For more information or to download the study, go to http://www.thecouplesstudy.com.