Advertisement

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 303–312 | Cite as

Alternatives to Monogamy Among Gay Male Couples in a Community Survey: Implications for Mental Health and Sexual Risk

  • Jeffrey T. ParsonsEmail author
  • Tyrel J. Starks
  • Steve DuBois
  • Christian Grov
  • Sarit A. Golub
Original Paper

Abstract

Researchers have documented the psychological and physical health benefits of being in a relationship among heterosexuals, although there has been limited research to examine such benefits among gay and bisexual men. Gay and bisexual men demonstrate considerable variety in the nature of their relationships, particularly in terms of the degree to which they are monogamous. In order to better understand the psychological and behavioral impact of same-sex relationships on the health of gay and bisexual men, demographic characteristics, psychological factors, sexual behavior, and substance use data were examined in a sample of 819 gay and bisexual men who self-identified as single (n = 503) or were classified as being in monogamous (n = 182), open (n = 71) or monogamish (n = 63) relationships. Monogamish relationships were those in which both men have agreed that any sexual activity with casual partners must happen when both members of the couple are present and involved (e.g., “threeways” or group sex). Findings indicated that being in a same-sex relationship had health benefits compared to being single among gay and bisexual men. Men in monogamous relationships reported the least amount of substance use compared to all other groups, and less substance use during sex than single men or men in open relationships. Men in monogamish relationships demonstrated psychological and sexual health benefits relative to single men and men in open relationships. Gay and bisexual men in monogamish relationships more closely resembled those in monogamous relationships, in terms of psychological and sexual health benefits, rather than men in open relationships, suggesting that varying forms of non-monogamy should be explored for their relevance to health behaviors.

Keywords

Sexual orientation Bisexuality Mental health Substance use Sexual risk Monogamish 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The Sex and Love Study v7.0 was supported by the Hunter College Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), under the direction of Dr. Parsons. The authors acknowledge the contributions of other members of the CHEST Sex and Love v7.0 Project Team (Michael Adams, Anthony Bamonte, David S. Bimbi, Chris Hietikko, Catherine Holder, Kevin Robin, Anthony Surace, Julia Tomassilli, and Brooke Wells) and the Drag Initiative to Vanquish AIDS (DIVAs).

References

  1. Benotsch, E. G., Kalichman, S. C., & Cage, M. (2002). Men who have met sex partners via the Internet: Prevalence, predictors, and implications for HIV prevention. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 177–183.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benotsch, E. G., Martin, A. M., Espil, F. M., Nettles, C. D., Seal, D. W., & Pinkerton, S. D. (2011). Internet use, recreational travel, and HIV risk behaviors in men who have sex with men. Journal of Community Health, 36, 398–405.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bybee, J. A. (2009). Are gay men in worse mental health than heterosexual men? The role of age, shame and guilt, and coming-out. Journal of Adult Development, 16, 144–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carey, M. P., Braaten, L. S., Jaworski, B. C., Durant, L. E., & Forsyth, A. D. (1999). HIV and AIDS relative to other health, social, and relationship concerns among low-income women: A brief report. Journal of Women’s Health and Gender Based Medicine, 8, 657–661.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. CDC. (2008). Trends in HIV/AIDS diagnoses among men who have sex with men—33 States, 2001–2006. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 57, 681–686.Google Scholar
  6. CDC. (2009). HIV/AIDS and young men who have sex with men. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors/pdf/hiv_factsheet_ymsm.pdf.
  7. Chen, J. L., Kodagoda, D., Lawrence, A. M., & Kerndt, P. R. (2002). Rapid public health interventions in response to an outbreak of syphilis in Los Angeles. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 29, 285–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ciesla, J. A., & Roberts, J. E. (2001). Meta-analysis of the relationship between HIV infection and risk for depressive disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 725.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cochran, S. D. (2009). Burden of psychiatric morbidity among lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals in the California Quality of Life Survey. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118, 647–658.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coyne, J. C., Rohrbaugh, M. J., Shoham, V., Sonnega, J. W., Nicklas, J. M., & Cranford, J. A. (2001). Prognostic importance of marital quality for survival of congestive heart failure. American Journal of Cardiology, 88, 526–529.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crepaz, N., Marks, G., Mansergh, G., Murphy, S., Miller, L., & Appleby, P. (2000). Age-related risk for HIV infection in men who have sex with men: Examination of behavioral, relationship, and serostatus variables. AIDS Education and Prevention, 12, 405–415.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Dermen, K. H., & Cooper, M. L. (2000). Inhibition conflict and alcohol expectancy as moderators of alcohol’s relationship to condom use. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 8, 198–206.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Diener, E., Gohm, C. L., Suh, E., & Oishi, S. (2000). Similarity of the relations between marital status and subjective well-being across cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31, 419–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Duncan, T. E., Duncan, S. C., & Strycker, L. A. (2006). An introduction to latent variable growth curve modeling: Concepts, issues, and applications (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  16. Fendrich, M., & Vaughn, C. M. (1994). Diminished lifetime substance use over time: An inquiry into differential underreporting. Public Opinion Quarterly, 58, 96–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Friedman, H. S., Tucker, J. S., Schwartz, J. E., Tomlinson-Keasey, C., Martin, L. R., Wingard, D. L., et al. (1995). Psychosocial and behavioral predictors of longevity: The aging and death of the” termites”. American Psychologist, 50, 69–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Greenwood, G., White, E., Page-Shafer, K., Bein, E., Osmond, D., Paul, J., et al. (2001). Correlates of heavy substance use among young gay and bisexual men: The San Francisco Young Men’s Health Study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 61, 105–112.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grov, C., Parsons, J. T., & Bimbi, D. S. (2010). The association between penis size and sexual health among men who have sex with men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 788–797.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Halkitis, P. N., & Parsons, J. T. (2002). Recreational drug use and HIV-risk sexual behavior among men frequenting gay social venues. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 14, 19–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Halpin, S. (2004). Changes in psychosocial well-being during stages of gay identity development. Journal of Homosexuality, 47, 109–126.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W., & Jones, B. (2008). Is there something unique about marriage? The relative impact of marital status, relationship quality, and network social support on ambulatory blood pressure and mental health. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 239–244.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Horwitz, A. V., White, H. R., & Howell-White, S. (1996). Becoming married and mental health: A longitudinal study of a cohort of young adults. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 895–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hyoun, K., & McKenry, P. (2002). The relationship between marriage and psychological well-being. Journal of Family Issues, 23, 885–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson, N. J., Backlund, E., Sorlie, P. D., & Loveless, C. A. (2000). Marital status and mortality: The National Longitudinal Mortality Study. Annals of Epidemiology, 10, 224–238.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kalichman, S. C., Benotsch, E., Rompa, D., Gore-Felton, C., Austin, J., Luke, W., et al. (2001). Unwanted sexual experiences and sexual risks in gay and bisexual men: Associations among revictimization, substance use and psychiatric symptoms. Journal of Sex Research, 28, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kalichman, S. C., & Simbayi, L. (2004). Traditional beliefs about the cause of AIDS and AIDS-related stigma in South Africa. AIDS Care, 16, 572–580.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kertzner, R. M. (2009). Social and psychological well-being in lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals: The effects of race, gender, age, and sexual identity. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79, 500–510.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Koblin, B. A., Chesney, M. A., Husnick, M. J., Bozeman, S., Celum, C. A., Buchbinder, S., et al. (2003). High-risk behaviors among men who have sex with men in 6 US cities: Baseline data from the EXPLORE study. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 926–932.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kurdek, L. A. (1988). Relationship quality of gay and lesbian cohabiting couples. Journal of Homosexuality, 15, 93–118.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lamb, K. A., Lee, G. R., & DeMaris, A. (2003). Union formation and depression: Selection and relationship effects. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 953–962.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. LaSala, M. C. (2004). Extradyadic sex and gay male couples: Comparing monogamous and nonmonogamous relationships. Families in Society, 85, 405–412.Google Scholar
  33. LaSala, M. C. (2005). Monogamy of the heart: Extradyadic sex and gay male couples. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 17, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Levant, R. F., Majors, R. G., & Kelley, M. (1998). Masculinity ideology among young African American and European American women and men in different regions of the United States. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health, 4, 227–236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lim, S. H., Ostrow, D., Stall, R., Chmiel, J., Herrick, A., Shoptaw, S., et al. (2010). Changes in stimulant drug use over time in the MACS: Evidence for resilience against stimulant drug use among men who have sex with men. AIDS and Behavior, doi: 10.1007/s10461-010-9866-x.
  36. Manzoli, L., Villari, P., Pirone, G. M., & Boccia, A. (2007). Marital status and mortality in the elderly: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Social Science and Medicine, 64, 77–94.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mastekaasa, A. (1992). Marriage and psychological well-being: Some evidence on selection into marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 901–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Miller, K. W., Wilder, L. B., Stillman, F. A., & Becker, D. M. (1997). The feasibility of a street-intercept survey method in an African-American community. American Journal of Public Health, 87, 655–658.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mills, T. C., Paul, J., Stall, R., Pollack, L., Canchola, J., Chang, Y. J., et al. (2004). Distress and depression in men who have sex with men: The Urban Men’s Health Study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161, 278.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Neff, J. A., Prihoda, T. J., & Hoppe, S. K. (1991). Machismo, self-esteem, education and high maximum drinking among Anglo, Black and Mexican-American male drinkers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 52, 458–463.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Pantalone, D. W., Bimbi, D., Holder, C. A., Golub, S. A., & Parsons, J. T. (2010). Consistency and change in club drug use by sexual minority men in New York City, 2002 to 2007. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 1835–1892.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Parsons, J. T., & Bimbi, D. S. (2007). Intentional unprotected anal intercourse among sex who have sex with men: Barebacking—from behavior to identity. AIDS and Behavior, 11, 277–287.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Parsons, J. T., & Grov, C. (in press). Gay male identities, desires, and behaviors. In C. J. Patterson & A. R. D’Augelli (Eds.), Handbook of psychology and sexual orientation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Peplau, L. A. (1981). What homosexuals want in relationships. Psychology Today, 15, 28–38.Google Scholar
  45. Pleck, J. H., Sonenstein, F. L., & Ku, L. C. (1994). Attitudes towards male roles among adolescent males: A discriminant validity analysis. Sex Roles, 30, 481–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ritter, K. Y., & Terndrup, A. I. (2002). Handbook of affirmative psychotherapy with lesbians and gay men. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  48. Robles, T. F., & Keicolt-Glaser, J. K. (2003). The physiology of marriage: Pathways to health. Physiology & Behavior, 79, 409–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ross, C. E., Mirowsky, J., & Goldsteen, K. (1990). The impact of the family on health: The decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 1059–1078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shoenborn, C. A. (2004). Marital status and health: United States, 1999–2002. Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics (Vol. 351): CDC.Google Scholar
  51. Stacy, J. (2011). Unhitched: Love marriage, and the family values from West Hollywood to western China. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sullivan, P. S., Salazar, L., Buchbinder, S., & Sanchez, T. H. (2009). Estimating the proportion of HIV transmissions from main sex partners among men who have sex with men in five US cities. AIDS, 23, 1153–1162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van de Ven, P., Prestage, G., Crawford, J., Grulich, A. E., & Kippax, S. (2000). Sexual risk behaviour increases and is associated with HIV optimism among HIV-negative and HIV-positive gay men in Sydney over the 4 year period to February 2000. AIDS, 14, 2951–2953.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wells, B. E., Golub, S. A., & Parsons, J. T. (2011). An integrated theoretical approach to substance use and risky sexual behavior among men who have sex with men. AIDS and Behavior, 15, 509–520.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Williams, K., & Umberson, D. (2004). Marital status, marital transitions, and health: A gendered life course perspective. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 45, 77–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wilson, C. M., & Oswald, A. J. (2002). How does marriage affect physical and psychological health? A survey of the longitudinal evidence. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Economics, University of Warwick.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey T. Parsons
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Tyrel J. Starks
    • 3
  • Steve DuBois
    • 5
  • Christian Grov
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
  • Sarit A. Golub
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHunter College of the City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social and Personality PsychologyThe Graduate Center of CUNYNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training (CHEST)New YorkUSA
  4. 4.CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter CollegeNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois-ChicagoChicagoUSA
  6. 6.Department of Health and Nutrition SciencesBrooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY)BrooklynUSA

Personalised recommendations