Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Relationship Preferences among Gay and Lesbian Online Daters: Individual and Contextual Influences

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Relationship Preferences among Gay and Lesbian Online Daters: Individual and Contextual Influences

Article excerpt

The past decades have witnessed a continued rise in the visibility and legal rights of same-sex unions (Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007; Rosenfeld & Kim, 2005). Although gay men and lesbian women establish various types of relationships "from courtship to cohabitation to marriage-like unions with high commitment" (Kurdek, 2005, p. 254), the topic remains largely empirically unexplored. Little is known about the relationship preferences that members of these sexual minority groups have in the initial stages of mate selection. Several studies have examined attractiveness standards and aspects that gay men and lesbians find desirable in a romantic partner (e.g., Gobrogge et al., 2007; Ha, van den Berg, Engels, & Lichtwarck-Aschoff, 2012; Lippa, 2007). The knowledge about what gay men and lesbians seek and value in a relationship, however, is underdeveloped.

In the current study we focused on two aspects of relationship preferences, namely (a) long-term dating intentions (i.e., interest in starting a long-lasting relationship) and (b) belief in monogamy (i.e., sociosexuality). Interest in long-term partnerships is generally found to correlate with strong norms favoring sexual exclusivity (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991). This study jointly labels long-term dating intentions and strong beliefs in monogamy as high (or demanding) partnering standards. There is evidence, however, that willingness to engage in uncommitted sexual relations does not necessarily exclude long-term partnering intentions (Gangestad & Simpson, 1990). This suggests that the two constructs might tap into different facets of mating preferences. Exploring an intentional as well as an attitudinal component of mating strategies will provide more depth into the understanding of gay men and lesbians' relationship preferences.

Any examination of the partnering standards of the two sexual minority groups needs to take into account the particularities of their dating markets (Schwartz & Graf, 2009). Gay men and lesbians tend to reside in heterogeneous neighborhoods located in large urban centers (Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007; Rosenfeld & Kim, 2005). They also have increased geographical mobility, which reduces the immediate influence of family and friends (Schwartz & Graf, 2009). Apart from residing in different social settings (Kurdek, 2004), the limited size of their dating market means that they are also more prone to resort to nontraditional means for finding a partner. An increasingly popular way for gay men and lesbians to find available partners is via Internet dating (Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007; Rosenfeld & Thomas, 2012). Here they have greater chances of initiating romantic encounters by "minimizing their efforts and exposure to overt social scrutiny" (Lever, Grov, Royce, & Gillespie, 2008, p. 284). The Internet therefore increases the level of access, affordability, and privacy in searching for romantic and sexual encounters as well as providing a wider variety of prospective partners (Tikkanen & Ross, 2003). Despite the growing popularity of digital mating markets among individuals with same-sex preferences, no studies have yet examined gay men and lesbians' relationship intentions and values when searching for a partner online. Moreover, the partnering intentions and beliefs of gay men and lesbians have rarely been studied across different contextual settings. Because of the diverse levels of acceptance and legal recognition of same-sex relationships across different countries and subregions, we anticipated particular ties between contextual settings and gay men and lesbians' dating intentions and values.

The aim of this study was to examine how both individual and contextual determinants are related to the long-term dating intentions and monogamy beliefs of gay and lesbian online daters. At the individual level, we analyzed the links between life-course factors such as previous union experience and presence of children and gay men and lesbians' relationship preferences. …

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