Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Love =/= Sex

I find the concept of non-monogamy intriguing.

Being who I am — a gay male — I’m fairly immersed in the local gay scene and gay culture. It’s been a slow discovery and understanding to learn that a lot of the openly gay guys I know in long-term relationships or marriages have sex on the side.  And, like, it’s not even something to hide or feel ashamed about.

One married friend came back from an LGBT conference and talked about the hook-up scene he was involved with at the hotel. Another friend who’s relationship is as solid as marriage has talked about the “dates” he goes on with men that are not his partner. And another friend has mentioned that he won’t have unprotected sex with his boyfriend because he doesn’t “trust” him.  (He loves him, but doesn’t trust him.)  These are just some of the recent examples.

It’s not cheating, but as far as I know, they’re not in open relationships or poly relationships, either.  It is what it is, apparently.

Perhaps what’s thrown me off about this is that I didn’t come to understand my sexuality until my late twenties, so until then I was immersed in “straight culture” and heteronormative values. So, to me, you fuck the one you’re with and no one else.

But the more my friends and the people around me open up to me and tell me what they get up to when their partners aren’t around (or perhaps while their partner is around or even with their partner), the more I find that monogamy isn’t widely practiced in gay culture.

I wonder, though, if this non-monogamy happens just as often in “straight culture”, but it’s talked about less openly.  I do, after all, know of at least one woman in a poly relationship. In our patriarchal culture, women are to be seen as chaste and devoted, whereas men are not. So perhaps this is why it’s not spoken of among straight couples but is widely and freely discussed among gay couples?

I’ve had to do a lot of thinking on this. It might seem strange given that I’m an erotica writer, however, most of my fiction has been of the monogamous or the “single people hooking up” variety. I believe there’s a separation of sex and love. (This is probably something all of my colleagues on this blog have long understood.)

Sex does not always have to mean intimacy and love — it can just be a carnal act of pleasure.  And love doesn’t always have to be expressed through sex.

My partner and I don’t have the most active sex life and at first I worried that meant we didn’t have the strongest love. However, over time, I’ve come to understand that he sees our other forms of intimacy — holding hands while watching TV, always eating dinner together, and our shared hobbies — to be a vital act of love.  Sex is the icing on the cake, but the cake is still satisfying and substantial even if there’s not much icing.  I’ve begun to also see the act of sex as being separate from love — they are often together, but they can exist separately, too.

Will I be a swinger?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  What I will be, though, is more understanding of how swingers and those in open and poly relationships approach the topics of love and sex.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is The President And The Rentboy (co-written with Sandra Claire). He is also the publisher and co-founder of Deep Desires Press, a publisher of erotica and high-heat-level erotic romance. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.


  1. "Sex does not always have to mean intimacy and love — it can just be a carnal act of pleasure. And love doesn’t always have to be expressed through sex."

    A concise rendering of sexuality as I see it. Although I'm straight, Momma X and I lived on Castro Street in SF, between 19th and 20th right in the thick of the action in the 70's, probably the best-know Mecca for gay culture. We were the only straight apartment in the building.

    I can assure that those guys had lots of sex. What straights call 'swinging' is simply a night out for most of the guys I knew.

  2. This is an aspect of gay culture I haven't really encountered before. The gay erotica I've read (as opposed to gay romance, written mostly by women) does seem to celebrate the anonymous hookup, but not side-by-side with (and outside of) committed relationships. I'd like to know more.

  3. I've heard about a lot of tricking on the side among men who live together (and often share a mortgage & stock portfolio, & shop for garden plants together every spring). I don't really know how much of this is openly discussed by men in relationships, and how much is just cheating. I would love to do a survey -- but I don't know if I would get honest answers.

  4. The gay committed couples I've known are of the generation that lost so many members to AIDS, so they acquired a natural aversion to the "swinging" culture. Maybe it's a generational thing.