Gay Men’s (Non)Monogamy Ideals and Lived Experience

Brad van Eeden-Moorefield, Kevin Malloy, Kristen Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The current qualitative study uses a queer-feminist lens to examine variations in ideals and lived experience related to (non)monogamy among a convenience sample of 43 gay men in the U.S., primarily from the southeast. Data were collected in 2003 using in-person and online interviews and focus groups. The specific research questions were: (1) how is (non)monogamy characterized as an ideal?; and (2) what are the lived experiences of gay men doing (non)monogamy in their relationships? Results demonstrated (non)monogamy practices were differentiated by levels of emotional closeness, sex/physical contact, and how (non)monogamy was negotiated, each of which were on an independent continuum. Among this sample, points on the emotional closeness continuum ranged from ambiguity about whether emotional closeness could exist with another outside of the current relationship to being able to exist among multiple people simultaneously. The sex/physical contact continuum ranged from sex only with the current partner to sex with multiple partners. Finally, variations of how (non)monogamy was negotiated between partners ranged from ambiguous to explicit communication of rules and boundaries that also were fluid and open to consistent renegotiation by the partners. Most participants (72.1 %) held an ideal similar to traditional notions of monogamy, whereas other participants’ ideals were more flexible in terms of openness to (non)monogamy practices. However, the lived experiences of (non)monogamy were more varied and comprised of nine variations with the three most common being ambiguously open (22 %), semi-open unspecified (17 %), and monogamy unspecified (15 %).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-55
Number of pages13
JournalSex Roles
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Feminist theory
  • Gay men
  • Monogamy
  • Queer theory
  • Relationships


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