Loving and free part 1
With same sex and gay marriage now law, and the first weddings due to take place early year, Rosie Wilby wonders whether monogamy is all itâ€™s cracked up to be
It struck me as a bittersweet irony that just as many of my friends were recently celebrating the passage of the same-sex marriage bill through the House of Lords, I was in the midst of writing a new comedy show called Is Monogamy Dead? debunking the romantic fairytale of â€œthe oneâ€.
Of course, Iâ€™d supported all of the equal marriage campaigns yet couldnâ€™t help feeling that we were buying into something of a broken institution. Who cares about being left â€œon the shelfâ€ when the shelf is stocked with tempting goodies? Heterosexual couples hadnâ€™t exactly succeeded at this commitment lark. Divorce rates are up at about one every three minutes, while â€œcheatingâ€ dating sites soar in popularity.
Many opponents of same sex marriage or couplings warned that the next step might be multiple marriages. Would that be such a terrible thing? Why are humans so uncomfortable with the fact that we canâ€™t really satisfy our every need with one other?
Traditionally, gay men have always been less monogamous than lesbians yet many stay emotionally faithful, albeit within a negotiated open relationship. In a recent interview on my radio show, my friend and fellow performer Nick Field could only think of one long-term couple he knew who didnâ€™t have such as arrangement. While the male gay scene admittedly does teeter dangerously towards a super-saturated hyper-sexuality that feeds potential addiction, part of me finds this honesty refreshing. Most of us enjoy sex, not always with our partner.
In fact, a recent book by Daniel Bergner revealed that women crave sexual novelty just as much as men and perhaps get even more of a chemical high from it. After my show in Edinburgh, I had conversations with many heterosexual and bisexual women who had surprisingly one-sided agreements with husbands who allowed them to sleep with other partners but didnâ€™t want to do so themselves. These women seemed particularly glowing, revelling in having both freedom and security. Which begs the question: why are lesbians, broadly speaking, so monogamous? A US study of nearly 7000 people found that in the year 2000, sexual activity outside a relationship was down to 8% among gay women and 59% among gay men with heterosexuals around 14% (intriguingly after much higher stats across the board in the swinging 70s).