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The Nature of Men

By: Robert Joki

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November 4, 2008

I recently went out to dinner with some good friends of mine.  They are a gay couple...both guys are in their mid to late forties, and they have been together for over twenty years.  For those of you who don't know...that's like a hundred years in GST (gay standard time.)  I asked them how they do it.  They responded by saying "Friday nights." I asked what they meant by that...and they explained that they sleep together six nights a week, but on Friday night they go to bed wherever and with whoever they choose. Sometimes they have threesomes or foursomes. Sometimes they "play" together.  Sometimes they "play" separately. They credit the longevity of their relationship to this Friday night freedom.

That wasn't the answer I was hoping to hear. I hate to use the word "disappointed" because I certainly don't think less of them for doing what they do.  If it works...good for them.  But, personally, I've always been geared toward monogamy.  I can't even casually date more than one person at a time, because I'm kinda old fashioned...and that just gets too confusing. I've never cheated, because I'm just not that kind of guy. When I make a commitment, I stick to it. But I gotta tell you, finding someone who feels the same way is extremely difficult.  I have not had very much luck when it comes to long term relationships.  Of all the guys I've dated for a significant amount of time...only one did not cheat on me. Sure they all talk a great game at the beginning, but they never, ever follow through.  And I can tell you exactly what would happen if I tried to have a threesome.  The second I saw the other dude touch my boyfriend I'd beat the hell out of him.

All I want...all I've ever wanted, is what my grandparents have.  They have been married for 53 years, and they have the strongest bond I've ever seen between two people. She knows he's stubborn.  And he knows she worries too much.  He clears the table. She does the dishes.  He dries them and puts them away. They bicker all the time, but they never fight. They drive each other crazy. She's high strung.  He's laid back.  They compliment each other. They never spend a night away from each other. When their eyes meet you can almost see the spark...even after all these years. Their relationship works.  It's not a fairy tale. It's practical. It's real.

But can that translate to a relationship between two men? Is it possible to for two guys to be happy in a monogamous, long term relationship...or are men hardwired to seek out multiple partners? My gut tells me that there have to be more guys out there who feel the same way I do...but why are they so hard to find? Are the majority of men inherently dawgs? Am I the last unicorn?

What do you think?  Leave me a comment and let me know.



By buff ( anonymous )

You ARE the last unicorn. Unfortunately, it is the same way on both sides of the fence. If you do find a guy who talks a good talk, he generally has no job or a hairlip. I guess that explains why I spend so much time with my unicorn. You are the only man left who opens doors for a lady (or for another man for that matter). What happened to chivalry? You better believe that if I find another unicorn, I will send him your way (unless I call dibs that is!). Love you friend, good blog!

By crse ( anonymous )

Sweetie, I know you are not alone in the world and I know you will find someone. You are not going to settle for less. Just trust your gut and believe your heart. Call me an instinctual fool, but I think you'll find that fellow sooner instead of later.

By jemerson ( anonymous )

Oh, Pish posh. I may not be a unicorn but I am certainly monogamous, and you can certainly imagine that my response to "Fridays" would be of a similar nature to yours if not worse :)

The problem is most guys will spend hours bitching that they can't find something long term but their actions at the gay bar that weekend will not reflect that desire. It probably takes a while to weed through those types until you get the real deal.

That said, I can understand how difficult the search you undertake is but you are a great guy and you deserve the hottest, most monogamous unicorn out there. So keep your eyes on the price and remember- when it comes to unicorns never leave home without your "magic cards"

By spoulton ( Sarah Poulton )

If you look at today's divorce rate, as opposed to that of our grandparents' generation, I think you'll find that it's not just your situation that's unsettling. I think it's a problem for all across the board. Kudos to another great blog and I hope you find your unicorn.

By lucy ( anonymous )

"And I can tell you exactly what would happen if I tried to have a threesome. The second I saw the other dude touch my boyfriend I'd beat the hell out of him." Me too. Except for the dude part. Okay, but seriously my unicorn friend, you haven't been on the market THAT long, and as you've told me, it's a very small and somewhat polluted pond. I think you can have what your grandparents have, and I think it'll start sooner than you think.BTW, I married the only man who never cheated on me, so there are plenty of tail-chasing dawgs in heterotown too.

By Dennick ( Robert Joki )

I think Sarah brings up an interesting point. And I have noticed it across the board. Two of my siblings (both younger than I am) have already been married and divorced. Do you think that we as a society are shifting away from the idea of monogamy? And if so, what is causing the shift? And why?

By Dennick ( Robert Joki )

Lucy and crse...I didn't mean for this to be a "boo hoo I'm single" blog. LOL Sorry if it came across that way. And I assure you I am in no hurry to jump into anything with anybody anytime soon...so my time "on the market" doesn't have anything to do with it. I've been openly dating men for over a decade now...and this has always been a big issue. Of course, I am much closer to it now that I am back in the dating pool. I wrote this because I wanted to start a dialogue.

By lucy ( anonymous )

Sorry buddy, I stepped into mom mode there for a minute. LOL. It's hard for me to say because I've been married for 12 years, but if I take the pulse of the culture, I think you're onto something. I think that sex/intimacy are being regarded as more separate than connected right now. We are supposed to understand that our partner's sexual needs have nothing to do with their emotional connection to us. I don't buy it, but it's a trend that I see.

By MGShorrab ( anonymous )

Monogamy is not a natural impulse of a human being. Given the characteristics we are born with, it does not exist in the same way as an instinct; sex, love, and the need for affection do. Monogamy and sex, love, and the need for affection may intertwine, but they aren't the same.

That being said, it does not make monogamy wrong. Monogamy may not be natural, but neither are mortgages, car payments, body building, woodworking, playing chess, voting, religious worship, or any other learned activity that we as human beings have the mind and will to develop. Monogamy is an accomplishment. In today's society, monogamy is a prize of those that value their willpower and the effects of building a relationship built on trust over the course of a lifetime.

That is really the benchmark of a good relationship, authentic trust, and not necessarily monogamy (although in my mind they are indivisible). To be able to look at your partner in the eyes and to hold them, and know that you are the only one for them, truthfully, creates a better feeling for me than endless "friday nights" of strange.

Society isn't shifting away from monogamy. Society is shifting toward being controlled by its' baser impulses. Society is shifting toward lower iq's and lower standards. Society is shifting toward the easy and the push button. Society is shifting toward a world where grandma and grandpa fucking hate each other and live in lonely one bedroom apartments where their single parent sons and daughters bring their kids to stay while they go to work at crappy dead-end jobs.

All that being said, I don't feel hopeless. I believe that you're not made a good person by what you do. I believe that you're made a good person by what you resist and do not do. Sometimes the greatest accomplishment is simply sustaining a previous one.

Rob, figure out what you want in life and never, ever, settle. You will be happy.

By lucy ( anonymous )

I think that "authentic trust" feels better for everyone that "endless friday nights of strange." You're right, but many people never get to "authentic trust" because it requires a great deal of work. Many people don't know that the payoff of real, true intimacy feels far better than sexual play; they don't know what they haven't experienced.

By ytownredux ( anonymous )

I don't even feel like a unicorn, more like a cheshire cat, because besides finding another who is "into" monogamy like myself, I still can tend to feel parts of me invisible in the GLBT world as a chubbier person who's not too fond of the bar scene as well. I agree with above though that there is a perfect someone out there for us, just sometimes we have decided that is not what we are here to have this time around and will not see it. We can purposely create our environment if we set our mind to it however, and give ourselves a push in the right direction. Hang in there brother...S

By Cbarzak ( anonymous )

I agree with Murad on this issue to a good extent. I don't think human beings are wired for monogamy. We're told to strive for it, but our biology and chemistry really does not agree with this. And depending on the culture you live in will determine how easy or hard it is for you to have a monogamous relationship or, conversely, a more fluid one. Some people find monogamy limiting because it doesn't reflect our natural instincts, and also assumes capitalistic ideals wherein people become "property" of one another, hence your desire to beat up the hypothetical Friday night guy who touches your boyfriend. Why? Because he's "mine" or "yours", or your property. Our relationships reflect the societies we are born into, or are made and shaped by those societal ideals. Ours is capitalistic, hence the property-ness that surrounds our relationships.

I myself strive for monogamous relationships, but mainly only because our society makes it difficult for us to construct relationships any other way, and my life is hard enough as it is, so I'd rather not fight that particular battle. I won't look down upon those who are fighting it, though. I'm not sure if the "Friday nights" idea would be one I'd value, though, as an alternative. It sounds basically monogamous except for one night a week anything goes, and that just seems so not classy. Even in a multiple partner relationship system, I would hope people would seek out authentic and genuinely loving relationships that are arranged around everyone in the relationship being long term, and equal. The "Friday nights" solution is no more than an alcoholic bender, a Frat Night in the relationship's calendar. In the end, it's just kind of stupid.

By bobservo ( Bob Mackey )

growing divorce rates have nothing to do with the current state of monogamy; because it's now more socially permissible to have a divorce, more people are having them. cum hoc ergo propter hoc--look it up.

By niko_new_new ( anonymous )

you need to not be alone with your feelings for too long or else shit like this starts to seep through the cracks. that "my grandparents drive eachother insane, but they're in love" bs. you can keep it. give me a new face every week and as long as i have a closet full of prada and 6 digits in the bank, ill be fine.

By Dennick ( Robert Joki )

I don't really buy the whole "marriage is the last legal form of slavery" propaganda that I've been hearing so much about lately. I'm talking about a mutual commitment. And I don't think that polyamorous people are necessarily more free. I've known many poly groups and individuals over the years and I gotta say that it always seems like one person in the three or four or five way relationship holds the reigns. I would equate that person with a plantation owner sooner than I would my grandfather.

By Cbarzak ( anonymous )

I never mentioned slavery. I mentioned capitalism. They are both systems of ownership, but slavery is one to do with being forced, and capitalism is a system in which one is mutually owned and owning of the other--it's free will in other words. Stick with the right economic metaphor. And as for your comprehension of polyamorous relationships you've witnessed, I'm sure you could probably assess them as beneficial to one person in whatever configuration they've arranged, but nonetheless, everyone there has the free will to be in that arrangement or not, so the slavery metaphor you place on it is incorrect as well. On the other hand, I've witnessed some polyamorous relationships that I could describe with the same words you used to describe your grandparents. Of course, these examples are all Canadians. Perhaps there's something in that. ;) In any case, my point in my last comment and in this one, since you misinterpreted, I think, is that you can't try to evaluate relationships categorically. It's about people, not categories. Of course gay men can have a monogamous long term relationship. They have to want it, though, and they have to want it more than whatever hardwiring against it they may have, if there is any--it's a question that can't be answered right now. We don't have the ability to measure such a question, or to even know what to measure. But of course they can. There are many examples of successful long term, monogamous gay male relationships in the world. Those are your answers. And that answer is: they choose it. Just as anyone chooses their relationships. It's a matter of deciding and then doing everything you can to make it true. But you can't evaluate these things by asking questions of categories, because the answers are based in individuals. If you're looking for a long term monogamous relationship, you need to find a guy who wants the same as you, and wants you and you want him. Those are the terms, plain and simple.

By Dennick ( Robert Joki )

Cbarzak. Buddy. I don't remember writing anything about you mentioning slavery...or quoting you at all, for that matter. Let me check to make sure. (pause) Nope, I didn't. And I know the difference between slavery and capitalism...but thanks for the review. As for my incorrect metaphors, what exactly makes a metaphor incorrect? I wrote "I would equate that person with a plantation owner sooner then I would my grandfather." And I would. I think the key word here is "sooner." Why do I get the feeling that something I wrote struck a nerve with you...and you decided to go all English professor on me? I completely understood what you wrote in your first comment, and I agree with most of it. And I am sure there ARE plenty of long term monogamous gay male relationships in the world. I am also pretty sure there are lots of duck billed platypuses in the world too. Because people tell me there are. But I've never seen one. So that leaves a question in my mind. Hence, this blog.

By bobservo ( Bob Mackey )

dennick's post in summation: "heh. no."

By crse ( anonymous )

While I also agree with much of Murad's comment, to say we are not “hardwired” for monogamy because our “biology and chemistry” prevent it from happening, is simply not accurate. Granted, people commonly make this erroneous assumption based on outdated studies designed to test our significantly limited theories about hunter/gatherer societies . Recent research indicates, however, that the neural systems most affecting humans in terms of “hardwired” responses to mating behaviors are more varied than what pop science would have us believe. Surprisingly, findings show that systems related to the biochemical triggers for “romantic” and “attachment” love are stronger than those related to “lust”. Not convinced? Behold the prairie vole (ok yes, I did want to write that phrase ever since I first heard about this study). Male prairie voles, known for their ability to foster stable and monogamous relationships, differ from other voles in that they possess the vasopressin receptor gene. Would it surprise anyone to know that this gene is found in humans? Men that have variations in this gene have more marital difficulty (according to a recent study). A review of this research suggests that the non-varied, stability related gene is an evolved version of the variation. More simply put, men that are monogamous are more evolved! I don't mean to suggest that your “Friday night friends” are unevolved cretins. That would be oversimplifying and insulting. Still, let's have a little shout out for Murad and Dennick and all the other monos in the house!

By lucy ( anonymous )

Behold the prairie vole! Yes, behold him! All unintended insults aside, this is, without exception, the most intelligent and dare I say evolved discussion I've read on a blog in, well, in forever, really.

By crse ( anonymous )

I was surprised that Cbarzak equated your discomfort with watching your partner be intimate with another person to possessive capitalistic behavior. I imagined it being a reaction to seeing the person with whom you've worked hard to develop intimacy and trust offering a bond you hold sacred to someone else. Not so much a “mine” thing but an “our” thing. I also disagree that your slavery metaphor is inaccurate. The Oxford English dictionary does use the "humans as property" definition of slave first, but immediately follows with “a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something “. The latter definition can most certainly describe certain relationships marital and otherwise. Cbarzak suggests that “everyone there has the free will to be in that arrangement or not”. With all due respect, this assertion is a gross generalization commonly made by those who don't completely understand (or admit) how power dynamics impact a relationship. When a person does not feel empowered, he or she is not exercising the same free will as those who do have the power in that same relationship. One partner can look at another and tell him/her that s/he is free to leave. Does that make the statement true? What does “free” mean anyway? If the relationship is subtly but inherently more damaging to one person's sense of humanity does this not negate some of the “free will”? Of course, rationally, one can look at my statements and call them generalizations as well, with the lesson here being that you cannot fully understand relationships unless you are in them yourself. Even then, one partner's perspective may be completely different than the other's. Having said all that, Cbarzak, I do think you are a fantastic person. I just don't agree with you about these issues. At all.

By Cbarzak ( anonymous )

My response to the reaction to watching a partner be intimate with another person is couched in the hypothetical situation that Rob posed in this blog--that of the Friday nights couple. I don't understand why anyone would contemplate having "Friday nights" if their reaction would be one of discomfort about them. So perhaps there is some confusion and misinterpretation.

The reason why I responded, Rob, to your use of the slavery term is because it seemed in response to my previous post about the capitalistic impulse in marriage, and it seemed you were conflating ownership and slavery. Hence the going all English professor on you. Because you were responding to someone who made you feel that they were saying marriage is the last form of legalized slavery, and--scrolling up the responses--it seemed mine might have been the only one that could have been somehow interpreted that way. And I did not want it to be interpreted as such, because it wasn't what I meant. So I was restating.

Crse, I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on how we see relationships. You say, "When a person does not feel empowered, he or she is not exercising the same free will as those who do have the power in that same relationship." Predicated on this statement is the idea that one person needs the other to empower them to even exercise their free will in a relationship. I say an individual must empower themselves and exercise their free will in a relationship; otherwise they will give themselves over to anyone in that same way, in any relationship. In effect, they will be asking someone else to control them. It's a kind of passive aggression. Someone needing someone else to give them the go-ahead in a relationship in some way. I think people need to give that power to themselves, and find a relationship with someone who respects equality in the relationship. It's equality that is where the "freedom" in a relationship comes from, I think.

By Cbarzak ( anonymous )

Also, when asked a serious question like the one you pose in this blog, my responses may be somewhat clinical, but it's only because I will give a serious question a serious, considered response. That's all. Sometimes, for me, that means going all English professor. ;-)

By Cbarzak ( anonymous )

Another also, I think there's a great conversation about the kind of power dynamics in relationships we're talking about, a discussion between two characters on freedom and property-ness in relationships, in an 80s film, Out of Africa. Let's hear it for Meryl Streep and Robert Redford! :p

By willinnyny ( anonymous )

My spouse, Jim and I have been in a commited relationship for 23 years. We were legally married in Vancouver, BC in August, 2005. The first 5-10 years were hard for me because there is a 9 year difference in age between us (I am younger). As we grow older together, we appreciate each other more and more! Jim was by my side during my parents' illnesses and deaths and accompanied me many times to the emergency room to seek medical attention for my own health problems. We have shared both good times and bad. What keeps us together? The answer is simple: we share the same values. We both were raised in good Roman Catholic, working class families. We both are fiercely interested in social justice issues. We both are neither materialistic or careerist. We met at the beginning years of the AIDS epidemic at Gay Men's Health Crisis here in NYC. Do we have our differences? Of course we do! Temperamently, Jim and I are very different. For lack of a better word, we truly feel "blessed" that we have found one another. I want this post to be plain and straightforward. When I was in my twenties, I was frustrated just like Rob currently is. I never thought, however, that all men are "dawgs" because I learned from an early age that there is good and bad in both sexes. I mentioned to Rob in a personal e-mail that I recognized Jim and me in his description of his grandparents. We are happy and proud of our long-term relationship.

By MGShorrab ( anonymous )

Thought this was a good sign of the times:


they're trying to buy a full page ad in the superbowl program.

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