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‘How to be a Happy Homosexual?!’ Non-monogamy and Governmentality in Relationship Manuals for Gay Men in the 1980s and 1990s

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This article explores discourses on non-monogamy in relationship manuals published in the 1980s and 1990s for gay men from a perspective of governmentality. A distinctive feature of relationship manuals for gay men is the presentation of (non-) monogamy as a matter of choice and negotiation. However, within this paradigm, most manuals problematise recreational, casual, or non-relational sex or relationships with multiple partners through a set of discourses around the concepts intimacy, maturity, addiction and compulsion. The normative ideal of a successful gay male partnership is fleshed out in the provision of narrative schemata based on stage model theories which naturalise white middle class relationship experiences and concerns. Governmental rationality thereby enfolds itself in an interplay of several strategies including psychologisation, individualisation, normalisation, problematisation, and responsibilisation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Manchester Metropolitan University

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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