For many years mainstream social psychology research tended to concentrate on face-to-face romantic love relationships among heterosexual in contemporary western cultures. The term “understudied relationships coined from Wood & Duck’s 1995 book of the same name, and concerns relationships that fall outside that relatively narrow focus of research. Understudied relationships contain same-sex relationships, computer mediated communication (CMC), also arranged marriages etc.
Kurdek & Schmitt
A common misconception is that gay relationships are short lived and unsatisfactory. It is often argued that gay people are unable to commit to a relationship in the same way that straight people can. Peplau (1991) found that about 50% of gay men and 65% of lesbian women are in a steady relationship at any one time, and Kurdek & Schmitt (1986) measured love of partners and liking of partners in married couples, heterosexual cohabiting couples, and gay and lesbian couples. The level of love in all four couples was high, and did not differ significantly between them. The level of liking was also similar in all four groups, but it was somewhat lower for heterosexual cohabiting couples than for the other three.
Another misconception is that aside from a gender preference, homosexual individuals have different sex drives than heterosexual individuals. Fletcher (2002) found that both straight and gay men have higher sex drives than gay and straight women. They also found that regardless of sexual orientation, women are more relationship focused than men. Fletcher concluded that many patterns of sexual attitudes and behaviour are more closely linked to gender than to sexual orientation. He argues that if we wish to understand gays and lesbians, the best place to start would be to look at heterosexual men and women; additionally Blumstein and Schwartz (1983) found that in straight, gay and lesbian relationships, 70% of partners are satisfied with the sexual activity that they have with their partner.
Liberal Humanism ... Blumstein & Schwartz
However, the Liberal Humanism view that all relationships, whether gay or straight are the equal, and the way that the relationships are conducted are basically the same may be an oversimplification, and ignores the possible differences.
Regarding the differences between gay and straight relationships, homosexual couples are more likely to have additional sexual partners outside the relationship. Blumstein & Schwartz (1983) investigated the number of additional sexual partners in couples together for more than 10 years. They found that 22% of wives, 30% of husbands, 43% of lesbians, and 94% of gay men reported having sex with at least one person other than their partner.
Supporting this, Blumstein & Schwartz (1983) also found that there was much more importance attached to equality of status and power in homosexual relationships. A lack of power equality was found to be a factor in the ending of homosexual relationships, but not of heterosexual ones.
An important difference between homosexual and heterosexual relationships has to do with society. As Kitzinger and Coyle (1995) stated “Lesbian and gay couples are struggling to build and maintain relationships in the context of a society that often denies their existence, condemns their sexuality, penalises their partnership, and derides their love for each other.” There are numerous difficulties in researching homosexual relationships. Due to prejudice and discrimination, it is almost impossible to obtain a representative sample. Unlike, heterosexuality, homosexual individuals may hide their sexuality, and be unwilling to share personal information with researchers. This would bias the sample considerably, as it would not include those homosexual individuals who are not “out”.
On the other hand, homosexual individuals who volunteer to take part in research into their relationships may be doing so with the intention of removing prejudice and encouraging society to accept their lifestyle. Such individuals may possibly overemphasized the positives and underreport the negatives of their relationships so as not to add to the existing prejudice.
Criticizing, much of the research into homosexual relationships took place over a decade ago. Society’s attitudes towards gay relationships may have changed considerably in that time, meaning that we have to take care when using this research to support an argument. For example, none of the research above takes into account the recent changes in the legality of same sex relationships. Civil partnerships introduced in 2004 allow same sex couples to have some of the legal rights of married couples. It will be interesting to see the consequences of this change in the years to come. For example, will the divorce rate of straight and gay individuals be similar or different?
However, a further strength of the research into homosexual relationships is that it has practical applications. For example, the HIV/AIDS crisis has made it essential that more is known about homosexual relationships so that the spread of the virus can be halted. It is interesting that the rate of the spread is now much lower in the gay community than in the straight community, perhaps due to some of the findings of this research. This suggests that we can help to improve the quality of people’s lives and society as a whole. However there are ethical issues, the reason for this is because research into homosexual relationships can be socially sensitive, e.g. In the 1980’s research was carried out into the spread of AIDS, and the media wrongly claimed that it was only through ******* that the AIDS virus could spread, which lead to prejudice and discrimination. However, this was not the case, and years later it was discovered that AIDS could be carried by both homosexual and heterosexual couples, this suggest that research into homosexual individuals does not always protected them from harm.
Moving on, research suggests that the rules that govern the formation of real world relationships also apply to online friendships. Known as computer mediated communication (CMC).
A major factor in the formation of real world relationships is proximity. The closer we are in physical distance to someone, the more likely we are to form a relationship with them (Festinger et al 1950). The same holds true on the Internet, where proximity is determined by frequency of meeting rather than physical distance. In relation to ****** online relationships, the role that physical attributes play in attraction, and enhances other factors such as proximity and disclosure which promotes and ****** connection which stems from emotional intimacy rather than lustful attraction. It allows people the freedom to deviate from constraining gender roles. However, this can turn destructive when people act on or overindulge in a speeded up ******ized pseudo intimacy.
There are two major drawbacks to Internet relationships. Individuals may pretend to be something that they are not. This can create mistrust and confusion. Likewise, there is little opportunity to pick up on the unconscious communication of paralanguage. Therefore it can be difficult to tell if someone is telling the truth.
Cooper ... "Watch Queen"
A second issue is that people can begin to rely on or become addicted to Internet relationships, at the detriment of their real life relationships. Cooper (2000) 10 million Americans a month access ‘adult’ websites. It is estimated that 15% of them are addicted to cybersex and have significant problems with their sexual behaviour. Those who are addicted to cybersex or cyber affairs are at greater risk of divorce and low self-esteem.
Methodologically, most of the research has used restricted samples leading to reduced generalizability; data collected from the Internet (data is not collected face to face) leading to issues with validity. Often it also relies on case studies. In relation to this, the research into homosexual relationships lays the weakness of identifying the target population, for example Humphreys (1970) pretended to be a “watch queen” in a “tearoom”, a public toilet where homosexual men meet for sex. (a watch queen is someone who is allowed to watch the sexual act in exchange for looking out for danger e.g. the police) he then made a note of all the license plates and gained access to the owners address, and he found that most of the “homosexual” men were actually living heterosexual life styles. This suggests that it is difficult to label people as being hetero/homo sexual as they may shift their preference.
To conclude with I feel that research into understudied relationships is culturally specific, in particular this type of research focuses on one subculture within western culture, it is important to point out that there may be differences between gay and lesbian relationships across different cultures, very little is known about gay and lesbian relationships in non –western cultures, this may well be because of its unacceptability socially, this however does not mean that the subcultures do not exist, this therefore suggests that further research needs to be carried out to et a true picture of gay and lesbian relationships across all cultures.
BBC NEWS - David Cameron backs church role (7/12/1
He said he did not want gay people to be "excluded from a great institution", but would not force any groups to hold ceremonies in their places of worship.
Ministers will reveal their response to a consultation next week. MPs will be given a free vote on the issue.
The Church of England said it would study the proposals but was firmly against same-sex marriage.