Monday, December 12, 2005

Is monogamy your seatbelt through life?

[Update 5-Apr-2006: unfortunately the links below to jjd's postings about monogamy are not currently working. But both comments which jjd left to this posting are still available. ]

In a comment to my posting on Monogamy and infidelity, jjd asked for my opinion on the ideas he posted in The Empire on Monogamy and Tuesday's (random!) Observations. His “Monogamy: It's your seatbelt through life!” motto is very clever. I half disagree, and half agree with him.

My disagreement relates to my belief that society imposes the monogamy concept on us from an early age. As I said before, this worked well for heterosexual society when life expectancy was low, but in the modern world I think it’s unrealistic. Somehow we need to evolve into a society where relationships are more flexible, and where children can be brought up with corresponding expectations of adult life.

My agreement relates to the fact that none of us were brought up in a world where more flexible relationships are expected. So loads of us expect to have monogamous relationships because that's what we've been taught. It's entirely analogous to the difficult experiences a lot of us have coming out as gay, because one has to admit that what one thought about something very important isn't true. jjd's comments that monogamy “prevents jealousy, insecurity and hurt feelings of your loved one” ring very true to me because that's what boyfriend number 1 has been experiencing since I told him that I'd been on holiday with boyfriend number 2. But these hurt feelings only exist because of what he was brought up to believe a relationship should be.

jjd also says that he’s talked to adulterous people in the past who've said to him “jjd, you've never heard of SAFE SEX?”. No surprises of course that I’m one of these people (see the comments to my posting Statement on the accuracy of the postings in this blog). My view is that in the real world the statement “the only SAFE SEX is abstinence” isn’t very useful because everything we do has risks associated with it.

For example, I found a table titled “Risk of Death from Various Recreational Drugs Compared to Other Activities” at I believe that gay safe sex practices reduce the risk of contracting HIV to the very low level, if not lower, which according to the table is the same likelihood as death from falling out of bed. Simply being alive involves accepting so many risks at this kind of level, it’s just not possible to worry about them at such low risk levels if you want to lead a normal life.

jjd also mentions the term polyamorous. Whatever it means it must apply to me because I’m in love with loads of guys. I’m not afraid to use the word love in this context because the phrase emotional attachment seems a bit weak. Obviously I’m in love with all the guys I call boyfriends in this blog, but I’m also still in love with some ex-boyfriends from before I got to know boyfriend number 1, as well as some straight male university friends of mine. I love some guys more than others of course, but I can immediately think of eight guys where I would feel comfortable using the term love.

I reckon the fact that there are no women on the list is one of the things which defines my sexuality. After I left university, it was the reaslisation that I kept falling in love with my male friends that eventually prompted me to come out as gay.

Are there any other guys out there who, like me, reckon they’re in love with loads of guys at the same time?


mogul_run said...

You write well (sorry if this sounds patronising). It's quite interesting how logical you are - I'm not surprised you work in finance!

jjd said...

hey GB, thanks for taking the time to read my post and make a comment.

You forward it seems, an interesting premise and one I've often wondered about. Namely, you state:

So loads of us expect to have monogamous relationships because that's what we've been taught.But these hurt feelings only exist because of what he was brought up to believe a relationship should be.

It's interesting in part because I don't know if its true. I've often thought a neat book idea would involve a child born on a space station isolated from society's expectations and mores. What would that human be like? Certainly some human imposed concepts like altruism and sharing would probably be lacking. But what would happen if that child grew up, fell in love, and then walked in on their lover having sex with someone else. Would they feel jealousy? Would they resent the intruding person? According to you, no.. I'm not so sure I can agree. I think those primal emotions and people's reactions to them are probably one of the basis for organized religion.

Your point about low level risks is a good one. Certainly being alive everyday exposes us to some risks. I guess my only counter-point there is I feel a duty to keep those I love free of as many of these daily risks as possible and not actively contribute to risks which may result in bodily harm or death to them. That being said, I'm a hypocrite too. I speed daily with my boyfriend in the car, he tells me to slow down, and I don't. So.. point taken.

I think your post deserves another post by me, which I will probably do, but not now, I'll email you if I find the time.

Great discussion (i think!)

Gay banker said...

Well jjd, in a comment to a recent posting of mine, you said it was the risk of passing on something nasty to your bf that kept you grounded. But you seem to have accepted my argument about low risks, and admitted that you drive too fast with your bf in the car anyway! Logially then, you've no reason to be grounded any more ... ?

Reluctant Nomad said...

At this rate, you'll convince jjd to follow his roving eye. :-)

As regards whether I am in love with more than one man, I can safely say that that isn't true right now. I have been in love with more than one at a time but it takes a lot for me to fall in love as opposed to lust/infatuation which can happen quite regularly. Without trying to sound egotistical, people seem to fall for me (and fall heavily) quite often and the love isn't reciprocated. I suppose I could or should feel flattered by it but it does lead to problems of a different nature.

Z said...

Guys, keep up the discussion--I think it's fascinating to hear these different viewpoints.

The space station idea is a great concept, and it has been done--over 2000 years ago! One of my favorite philosophical ideas is Plato's allegory of the cave and this concept of human nature in the face of isolation from society's mores is one that has endured the test of time. I for one would think that the child on the spaceship would think nothing different. There are societies on this earth where it is common for a man to have 5 wives, or for a woman to have multiple lovers. Is it only because of our own societal mores that we judge these other societies and consider them strange or "bad"?

I think the real question at the heart of this particular matter is: if you love someone and have sex with someone else, does this mean you love that first person any less?

Gay banker said...

The answer to z's question probably depends on who you are. But for me the answer is a resounding NO, it doesn't mean I love the first person any less. But no doubt everyone could have guessed what my answer would be!

Reluctant Nomad said...

The answer would be a resounding NO for me too but I know that the other party being cheated upon will often not think the same. And, if I'm the one being cheated upon, I'd probably feel betrayed and wonder if my partner loves me less..hypocritical, I know, and it probably says a lot about my insecurities and/or the way I have been conditioned to think.

Rio said...

i love lots of guys at the same time all the time and maybe even some girls, i agree that i would be jealous if i found someone was cheating on me even if i had already cheated on them, this is my current state in fact its stupid and very hypocritical but i stay in the realtionship because it gives me leniancy to be with other people, i dont see monogamy as natural any more either. i watched a documentary on it once and they even found that penguins, which were formerly known for having life partners as well as ducks in fact cheat on their partners quite often, both sexes. that chart is great, i love that it is more likely to die deep sea fishing then doing ecstacy. you never fail to entertain and provoke thought thanks GB

jjd said...

well GB, there still is logic in remaining monogamous, which relates to my inability to do intentional psychological harm to my boyfriend. I see that he has obvious trust issues, and there's no way I will permanently fuck him in the head by cheating on him because I know, absolutely, it's his biggest fear. He's seen it happen with his mom in her failed relationships, and I firmly believe its why he has such jealousy and insecurity issues. I've told him before, and I believe this, that first, hopefully: I'd break up with him if I thought I was going to cheat; and secondly, if I did cheat, I'd tell him instantly and we'd break up. Hopefully if this situation ever arises, it will be the former scenario and not the latter. Truly, I know there are people out there who are in stable monogamous gay relationships and (I'm repeating myself) I don't want to shatter that dream for him. Selfishness then, plays also a part in my remaining faithful: I don't want the mental burden of letting him down. A bit egotistical of me too perhaps.

Z... I was unaware of Plato's work, but appreciate you sharing that, I'll certainly be looking it up.

And GB, yes, I'm going to craft a response to your post still. I'll drop you a line when I do if you're interested in continuing the dialogue.

Oh, and Z's question: Do you love the first person any less? If a component of love is respect, and you were in my situation, yes, I'd say love them less if you cheated on them. You obviously disrespected them and cared not for their feelings. At one point, you were able to restrain yourself, and now you can't. If it wasn't a falling out of love/infatuation with the person, what is it?

Ok. seriously. babble off.

rhino75 said...

All I know is that in every "open" relationship I've ever come across, if you delve a little deeper, there's always one partner who's less keen but who's doing it to keep the other one happy. And that's why I don't buy this "I love loads of people" line - you know, we ALL love loads of people, and we all see people every day that we thing "cor, wouldn't mind a bit of that" etc. It's not about either of those things though, is it? It's about loving someone enough to say, OK, I know that what we have is worth more to me than being blown by someone I didn't know 10 minutes ago who's "hot"!. It's about commitment, it's about staying power, It's about compromise and it's about LOVE. Sex is easy to find. Real love isn't. If you want to shag around (safely) all the time, by all means do, there's nothing wrong with that, but please, don't try and make out that it's the meaning of life, 'cos we know it's a pretty empty existence. What makes it exciting, or what HAS made it exciting, is having the cosy domestic arrangement on the side, so you can feel that you're rebelling - Classic. OMG, I'm even more conservative than my parents and am off to join the Amish, but I guess I really do mean all that.

mnealio said...

Hmmm this blog intrigues me, I've just spent the last 3-4 hours reading it, I know I have nothing better to do! (lol) the reason it intrigues me is because I sorta know where GB is coming from, I have been in a relationship for nearly 11 years now, I have not cheated but had cybersex, (maybes cybersex is cheating)I do sometimes feel that I would like to meet a hot guy but havn't done it before and basically I'm too scared! I love my partner very very much, but why do i do it? I really don't know! I'd be devastated if my partner done it to me! like the saying goes, an errect penis has no conscious. (think i spelt that right)

Willing Warrior said...

I have just stumbled on to this blog, and I must say that the most interesting part for me are the responses to this post. I must say it gives me hope. It gives me hope to know that there are people that do have a sense of responsibility to someone that they "love". As I see it, if one feels that they cannot be faithful then they should not be in a relationship. Period. Otherwise, if one chooses to take part in an agreement with another person, then they become responsible for how they treat the other person. If you feel that monogamy is outdated, don't be in a relationship. I don't understand why that is so complicated.

Having grown up in "gay ghettos", I must say that this methodology is one of the most destructive norms for the human heart.

Gay banker said...

Well WillingWarrior, I don't know why you insist on defining relationships so narrowly. There are both monagamous relationships and open relationships. Period!

Sandouri Dean Bey said...

great post. i've come to believe that love is not a singular event. i think we have the capacity to love and be in love with more than just one person at a time. i don't know that straight people are as liberated. it's one of the best parts of being gay. but even gay men, as you point out, are conditioned to seek out monogamy, if not sexually, then certainly emotionally. in other words, many might have sex outside of their primary relationship, but few would be comfortable with the emotional intimacy and feelings that accompany being in love with more than one person.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm joining this debate very late, but I am interested by the last comment. As a straight woman, I would say yes, it is possible to love more than one person at once, but it will invariably bring you heartache if your husband's views are of the "monogamy or nothing" stance. I certainly did not seek to fall in love with someone else, and the emotion came before the sex (although not much, admittedly!) I still love the other guy, but we no longer communicate because I did not want to lose the companionship I had with my husband. Would I still see him if I could? Hell yes and I miss his company as well as the sex but I know my husband's views - after all, they are the same as mine once were...
And even if he did accept the situation, would it work? I tend to agree with the comment made about polyamorous relationships - there's often someone who is only "playing along" to make their partner happy and that compromise is crap, too.

Gay banker said...

All comments welcome anonymous (whoever you are), even late ones! It's interesting to have a female view too, most of the people who comment on my blog are gay guys!

GB xx