Hanna Rosin posted a piece at Slate‘s Double X last week about gay male couples and monogamy–or rather their lack of it. Rosin said that some gay couples’ resistance to monogamy might be a model that hetero couples could learn from. “This kind of openness may infect the straight world,” she wrote, “and heterosexual couples may actually start to tackle the age-old problem of boring monogamous sex.” She based her points on Liza Mundy’s recent Atlantic cover story on why gay couples are in many ways happier than straight couples, as well as on recent data showing gay male couples are not the most monogamous people on the planet. A rebuttal by Nathaniel Frank took the data from both sources to task: “None of these sources show that ‘most gay couples aren’t monogamous,'” he wrote.
As a lesbian, though, I was left wondering where the gay women’s voices and data were in this discussion about evolving relationship norms. Lesbians have their own coupling customs–some influenced by a quite traditional idea of family, and some that make married monogamy seem pretty great.
“U-Hauling”–packing up and moving in together after knowing each other for just three months–is perhaps the greatest tradition (and punchline) in lesbian culture. This “urge to merge” had a basis in practicality in the ’50s and early ’60s, when gay couples had to remain in the shadows. Back then, if you had the good fortune to make a family, you held onto it. It was a marriage. In the lesbian world, serial monogamy was safe, and also fulfilling. Women can have kids, too, so sometimes lesbians had those.