Although I’m thrilled that Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, I’m not happy that he trotted out his monogamous gay staff members as a justification for his changed opinion. “Members of my own staff…are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships” and “are raising kids together,” Obama said as if this were a new phenomenon that hadn’t been going on for decades in the United States. Even though my opinion is biased since I’m straight-phobic (according to this test), I felt like what he really wanted to say was: “Now that gay people have finally stopped spending all their time fellating customers at truck stops in exchange for peanut-butter Wicked Whoopie pies, they should be granted equal rights.” Praising same-sex couples for following the heterosexual model of lifetime monogamy allows him to seem progressive by advocating for sexual minorities, while also enabling him to reinforce the deeply held belief that all worthwhile sexual relationships should culminate in monogamous marriage.
Since I’ve never been particularly impressed by the institution of heterosexual marriage, I’ve found it unfortunate that gay marriage is being used as a proxy for gay rights. A monogamous lifestyle should not be a requirement for civil rights. If that were the rule, then nobody would have any, since in practice, in nearly half of “monogamous” relationships, one or both partners has cheated, according to Dr. Terri Conley. And you can’t throw a rock without hitting a “straight” monogamous married man who frequents transsexual hookers.
Lost in this whole gay marriage debate is the idea of whether marriage as an institution is valuable and whether monogamy makes us happy. The gay marriage debate glorifies marriage, presenting the betrothed as blissful creatures who live moral lives of tranquility. But this is an inaccurate picture. Not only is cheating rampant among the married, but also 15% of married people are stuck in sexless marriages. Sure some people are happily married, and that’s great for them. But what is rarely discussed is that most married people have shitty sex lives. Defenders of marriage routinely trot out statistics that married people have more sex than single people. What they don’t mention is that most of this sex is boring and mechanical. A disappointing sex life seems to be an accepted trade off for the security of marriage, but does it have to be?
I recently went to a lecture by Dr. Conley where she discussed her research on “the potentially negative ramifications of monogamous relationships.” She found that people in “negotiated non-monogamous” relationships are more likely to practice safe sex with their outside partners than cheaters in “ostensibly monogamous relationships.” She also said some research points to lower levels of jealousy and higher levels of trust among the non-monogamous than among the monogamous. Scholars have criticized her as being an advocate for non-monogamous relationships simply because she has dared to scrutinize the monogamy myth. In fact, her research is unbiased and withstands peer-review. More scholars should be doing this type of research. That’s why tenure exists: so that the most unpopular subjects can be studied without fear that doing so will cause you to lose your job.
Any beliefs that are worth holding are beliefs that can withstand scrutiny. We should use this public gay marriage discussion to question the myths of marriage and monogamy. If I were president I’d make a point of giving special rights not only to all the gays, lesbians, and transgenders out there, but also to all the swingers, sex addicts, prostitutes and run-of-the-mill promiscuous people. Monogamists have held a monopoly on civil rights for too long. Let’s give all the sexual minorities the rights that they deserve.