Explicitly undermining Marriage

This is the bulk of an article, from the Toronto “Star” of 5 March 2011  by Brent Ledger. It is certainly a new take on some Gay Couples’ views of Marriage.

“Jealousy rears its head in gay marriages, too.”
I was perplexed recently to read about some guy in the gay community complaining to a love columnist about his honey-pie’s extramarital loves. Not perplexed because the guy was shocked or hurt or angry, just surprised that he thought to raise it. Infidelity isn’t a concept that has much traction in gay life.
For a generation or more it’s been an article of faith that gay men don’t worry too much about their partners straying. Gay lib came of age in the shadow of the ’60s sexual revolution, and for a long time the very idea of monogamy was viewed as an anachronism, an unhealthy leftover from patriarchy’s command-and-control ethos, its stalker-like possessiveness. People weren’t possessions, went the thinking, so why should anyone feel jealous or insecure?
As the straight novelist Martin Amis put it more than 25 years ago, ‘The consoling idea of the quietly monogamous gay couple is an indolent and sentimental myth…[sic] The relationship may remain “focal,” may well be lifelong, yet the sex soon reverts to the “distributive.”‘
Yet that too is a consoling myth, and sooner or later most couples have stumbled on a messier psychological reality. Jealousy isn’t an emotion that’s easily extinguished, and sexual straying can fray an already fragile relationship. Yet even today most gay couples at least pay lip service to the idea of open relationships. Declarations of monogamy can seem a little unhip.
You might think that in this, the golden age of gay marriage, more orthodox notions might well have taken hold. But marriage has had only a limited effect on the day-to-day workings of gay relationships.
Like many another-oppressed people, gays have adopted the oppressor’s[sic] institutions and made them our own. Many couples, even the officially married variety, often have some sort of sexual ‘arrangement.’
If they’re smart, they lay down some clear rules, like only at the baths, not with friends and no second dates. If they’re not, they may rely on an unspoken agreement, like the tricky notion that what happens on the business trip stays on the business trip.
It doesn’t always work, of course. But the centrifugal force of desire sometimes leaves little choice but to try. As a friend who’s been struggling to balance three competing relationships said recently, ‘I’ve never been good at monogamy.’
All generalizations are false, of course. Lots of gays at least aim for monogamy. Some succeed. Some are as devoted to the white-picket-fence ideal as any straights. But that’s the nice thing about gay culture, it offers options. Oppression has made us inventive, creative, and less inclined to toe the relationship line. Because gay relationships were for so long invisible, unrecognized or outright forbidden, we’ve had to come up with other ways of living. We’ve had to decide for ourselves what is and isn’t important in a relationship.
All relationships are alike under the skin. They demand care, comforting and a firm grasp of the boundaries.
But there are many ways to nurture a relationship, and if gays have anything to teach the wider world it’s that there’s more than one place to draw the line.
Personally, I’ve tried it both ways, with and without the monogamy, [p.L4, c.2] and I’ve got to say that neither had much to do with the eventual success (or failure) of the relationship. Sex gets a lot of attention in our culture but there are always other dimensions between two people and they’re often the hardest to figure out.
Brent Ledger


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