Study reveals complexity of gay men’s relationships

Sydney, Australia (11 November 2015)– Results of a national survey of gay men’s relationships suggest that their partnerships are highly varied and far more complex than just whether they are monogamous or not.

Released today by the Kirby Institute at UNSW, the study examined how gay and bisexual men think about and conduct both romantic and sexual relationships.

“In contrast to earlier research that lacked detailed questions about types of partnerships, our study found that only a minority of gay and bisexual men's regular partners can be appropriately categorised as someone with whom they are actually in a relationship,” said Associate Professor Garrett Prestage, chief investigator of the study.

Of the 4215 men who participated in the study, almost 70 percent reported having a regular partner, but this included 26 percent with two or more regular partners. Despite the majority having at least one regular partner, only half of them described themselves as being ‘in a relationship’ with any of those partners. A quarter indicated that they had a monogamous arrangement.

Whether the men were monogamous or not did not appear to be determined by how long they had been together. Also, those who considered themselves to be in a relationship tended to have been together longer, with nearly a quarter of men in relationships having been together more than ten years.

Age may be a factor in determining partnership style: Younger men were somewhat less likely to consider themselves in a relationship with their primary regular partner although they were more likely to have just one regular partner and to consider themselves monogamous. They also had more short-term partnerships.

“The diversity of partnerships observed through this study indicates the complexity of gay and bisexual men’s sexual behaviour,” said Professor Prestage. “What this means from a public health perspective is that service-providers need to be aware that many men are meeting their intimacy and sexual needs from a range of different types of partners. Clinicians and health promotion professionals engaging with gay and bisexual men about their ‘relationships’ need to be aware of the different meanings that terms such as ‘partner’, ‘regular partner’, ‘boyfriend’, ‘ fuck buddy’, ‘casual partner’, and ‘in a relationship’ carry.”

The Monopoly Study was a collaboration between the Kirby Institute and the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society.  Funding was provided by National Health and Medical Research Council.

Read the full report here.

Date published: 
Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Laurie Legere
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