Divorce rates are falling. The Office for National Statistics tells us that divorce rates are at a 29 year low. According to their site: ‘In 2008, the divorce rate in England and Wales fell to 11.5 divorcing people per 1,000 married population compared with the 2007 figure of 11.8, a fall of 2.5 per cent. The divorce rate is at its lowest level since 1979 when it was 11.2.’
This week Mark Simpson flagged up a story that had appeared in the New York Times in which new research produced by San Francisco State University is revealed. the research examined how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study followed 556 male couples for three years and about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.
Simpson doesn’t pull his punches, writing that: ‘Given the very real fear of being ostracised and shamed for talking in front of the goyim about how gay relationships actually are, instead of the Disney-esque way that gay marriage zealots would like to portray them, it seems a reasonable assumption that the 50% figure is an underreporting. Probably most gay male relationships in the Bay Area are open. As I’ve said before, in public, in front of the goyim, in my experience probably most gay male relationships are open.’
Monogamy and the notion of slutdom is not just a hetero/homo issue but the attempt by gay men and women to emulate their straight counterparts and their all-to-often mirage of monogamy, marriage and children does raise questions about some form of crushing of the queer identity. Simpson notes that open relationships are ‘definitely not an attribute of the vast majority of hetero relationships. Many may have their ‘infidelities’, but very, very few have open relationships. For most the concept is a contradiction in terms. Especially if married.’
I suspect this is in large part because of the institution of marriage. With the introduction and increasing acceptance of Civil Partnerships, quer slutdom is increasingly cast, along with its symptoms – cruising grounds, cottages, saunas and sex clubs as an anachronistic and a shameful one at that. The message I’ve heard numerous times is ” we don’t need to do that anymore”. Yet, this research seems to suggest (at least in the Bay Area) that as gay men and women form relationships, they construct them in such a way that in many cases, perhaps the majority of cases, they are open. It will be interesting to see if that continues and how law responds to these relationships. Slutdom, so celebrated in queer commerce, culture and porn seems keen to stay – at least for now.