Research On Non-Monogamy


Prevalence of Non-Monogamy

Initial Research:

  • Most research shows that approximately two-thirds of long-term male couples who have been together for five years or more are honestly non-monogamous (Shernoff,LCSW, 2007).
  • The prevalence of non-monogamy in gay male relationships became widely known as the result of the ground-breaking book, The Male Couple, David McWhirter,M.D. and Andre Mattison,PhD., 1984. Based on interviews of 156 long-term couples, they found that after 5 years, all of the couples had incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity.
  • Since the AIDS pandemic, four studies have found that gay men have not become more monogamous out of fear of HIV (Crawford, Rodden, Kippax & Van de Ven, 2001; Davidovich,, 2001; Halkitis, Zade, Shrem & Marmor, 2004; LaSala, 2005).
  • Four studies document that only one third of male couples are sexually exclusive (Advocate Sex Poll, 2002; Bryant & Demian, 1994; LaSala,2004; Wagner, Remien& Carballo-Dieguez,2000).
  • One study contradicts these. 70% of men in male couples reported being monogamous and would view any outside sex as betrayal of commitment (Campbell,2000).
  • Multiple studies have found no significant differences in relationship quality or satisfaction between samples of sexually exclusive and non-exclusive male couples (Blasband & Peplau,1985; LaSala,2004,2005; Wagner,,2000).
  • Two studies found that both monogamous and self-described ‘open’ male couples demonstrated higher levels of relationship quality and lower levels of psychological distress compared with couples who had not negotiated non-monogamy but reported covert outside sexual activity (Wagner,,2000; LaSala, 2004).
  • Tangentially, a study on heterosexual relationships found that 24% of married men and 22% of married women had sex outside their marriages even though their spouse believed the relationship was sexually exclusive (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983). (Of course, these numbers may have decreased as a result of the recent emphasis on family values).

– Excerpted from “Negotiated Nonmonogamy and Male Couples”, Michael Shernoff, LCSW, 2007

More Recently:

  • In 2010 researchers at SF State University revealed a study where they followed 556 male couples for 3 years.  45% were monogamous, 47% had open agreements, and 8% were discrepant (partners reported different understandings).  Colleen Hoff, SFSU Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality, July, 2010, AIDS Care.
  • CHEST (Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, director of Hunter College’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training) reports a study of 161 gay male couples where 53% were monogamous, 13% were open, 15% were ‘monogamish’, and 19% were discrepant.  Journal of Family Psychology, October, 2012.
  • A second CHEST study surveyed over 316 gay and bisexual men in relationships and found 57% were monogamous, 22% were open, 20% were ‘monogamish’. Alternatives to monogamy among gay male couples in a community survey: implications for mental health and sexual risk. Parsons JT, Starks TJ, DuBois S, Grov C, Golub SA, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Feb, 2013.
  • A study of 1006 gay men in U.K. found that 41% had previously experienced, or are currently in, an open relationship, FS magazine and GMFA, Feb, 2016

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© copyright 2016 Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears