chapter  6
15 Pages

Relationship Innovation in Male Couples


Several theorists have been struck by the new freedoms available for samesex relationships in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and how lesbians and gay men are perhaps ‘condemned to freedom’ in the sense of innovating relationships without many of the signposts familiar to heterosexual kinship, but are at the same time now able to avail themselves of new opportunities for constructing relationships without much of the ‘baggage’ of patriarchy and traditional gender expectations. As Bech (1997) contends, male couples construct their relationships without many of the guidelines or regulations, like monogamy, that impose upon heterosexual relationships. Foucault (1994: 159-60) was among the first to raise ‘the question of gay culture . . . a culture that invents ways of relating, types of existence, types of values, types of exchanges between individuals which are really new and are neither the same as, nor superimposed on, existing cultural forms’. At a time when gay and lesbian movements were still struggling to claim social space for themselves, Foucault was turning his attention from the problem of sexual repression to the question of what kinds of cultural forms could emerge on these new sites. Weeks, Heathy, and Donovan (2001, p. 5) typify contemporary lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) relationships as sites of ‘positive and creative responses to social and cultural change, which are genuine “experiments in living”’.