Almost half of gay men have previously experienced - or are currently in- an open relationship, a new study into sexual behavior in relationships has found.
As one of the most heated topics among the gay community, FS magazine
surveyed over 1,000 gay men about their attitudes towards couples who have an open relationships verses a monogamous one - and despite the apparent prevalence of open relationships, over half (53%) of respondents said they would rather be single than navigate the issues of a non-monogamous relationship.
Almost a third of respondents (29%) believed relationships would end up open “because gay men can’t be anonymous”, with 31% of gay men already in open relationships saying that relationships end up open because gay men can’t be monogamous.
Almost half (47%) felt they could have a monogamous relationship but choose not to.
Meanwhile, almost three quarters of men surveyed (73%) in an open relationship believe it’s possible to cheat, with 75% of gay men in open relationships having rules in place.
Despite this, just over one fifth (21%) of respondents currently in an open relationship, and 15% of those in an open marriage or civil partnership, admitted to breaking the rules on occasion.
CEO of the gay men’s health charity GMFA Matthew Hodson said most gay people would have grown up encountering attitudes telling them they were not ‘normal’ and outside of convention.
“It’s not a surprise that many gay and bisexual people seek sexual satisfaction and relationship set ups that are outside of the norm,” he said.
In addition to exploring the impact to traditional relationship patterns, the survey also raised questions around sexual health, and found an open relationship could increase the risk of transmitting HIV or other STIs.
Over two thirds of the participants who are currently in an open relationship, said they don’t use condoms with their partner – although 64% say they always use condoms with casual partners.
Over half (55%) have picked up an STI during their open relationship, with almost three quarters (70%) believing they got that STI from a casual partner.
“If you’re used to having unprotected sex with your main partner it may be difficult to regain the condom habit when you have sex with others,” said Hodson.
“This isn’t to suggest that such risks can’t be managed – clearly some couples do this very well, but it’s a challenge which requires excellent communication, honesty and trust to meet.”
Editor of FS, Ian Howley, said breaking down the stigma and stereotyping of open relationships could lead to more positive discussion among couples who may be monogamous, but had considered have sex with someone who was not their partner.
“If we can break down the stigma and stereotyping of open relationships, then gay men who are in monogamous relationships and may be thinking about having sex with someone who is not their partner, might be more open to having an honest talk with their partner about their needs and desires.
“If you are so anti-open relationships but your partner is not feeling the same way, do you think he’s going to discuss something like this with you? Think about it,” he said.
“Communicating with your partner on a regular basis about your relationship will help you maintain happy and healthy relationship”
“Open relationships with agreed boundaries can encourage honest discussion of any risks that have been taken,” Hodson adds.
“If you’ve made fidelity the foundation of your love it can lead to partners not being entirely honest about what’s going on outside of the marital bed – and that’s when the risks start getting serious.”
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