Romantic and sexual exclusivity: A survey co-directed by two UQAM professors reveals Canadian values regarding love and intimacy
February 8, 2023 – Is romantic exclusivity still popular in 2023? Do Canadians still wish to cultivate an exclusive sexual relationship with a partner? More than 4000 people across Canada responded to a survey that was part of the Mapping Contemporary Love and Intimacy Ideals in Canada (MACLIC) project, based at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), and shared their views on the ideal relationship.
Romance is still in vogue among Canadian adults in an intimate relationship: “Our results show that Canadians in an intimate relationship expressed a stronger endorsement for romantic exclusivity than for sexual exclusivity as a relationship ideal,” says Chiara Piazzesi, sociology professor at UQAM and principal investigator of MACLIC. “Romantic exclusivity refers to an arrangement in which one is in a love relationship with one partner at a time, while sexual exclusivity describes an agreement or an arrangement in which partners limit their sexual contact to a single person.”
Key findings for participants in a relationship
- 81% of Canadian adults in a relationship declared that romantic exclusivity is ideal, but only 70% said that sexual exclusivity was ideal.
- Among Canadian adults in a monogamous/exclusive relationship, 90% considered romantic exclusivity as ideal, and 79% considered sexual exclusivity as ideal.
- Among Canadian adults in a non-monogamous/non-exclusive relationship, 16% considered romantic exclusivity as ideal, and 6% considered sexual exclusivity as ideal.
Among heterosexual adults in an intimate relationship, 91% considered romantic exclusivity as ideal, and 83% considered sexual exclusivity as ideal.
- Heterosexual women were more likely than heterosexual men to consider romantic exclusivity as ideal (95% versus 85%) and sexual exclusivity as ideal (87% versus 76%).
Among gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or queer adults in an intimate relationship, 55% considered romantic exclusivity as ideal, while 36% considered sexual exclusivity as ideal.
- Lesbian, bisexual, pansexual or queer (LBQ+) women were proportionally more likely than gay, bisexual, pansexual or queer (GBQ+) men to consider romantic exclusivity as ideal (65% versus 41%) and sexual exclusivity as ideal (43% versus 30%).
Among non-binary adults who were in a relationship, 36% considered romantic exclusivity as ideal, while 24% considered sexual exclusivity as ideal.
“While support for romantic exclusivity is relatively stable across age groups, support for sexual exclusivity gradually increases with age. Among respondents aged 65 and over, 87% considered sexual exclusivity to be ideal, compared to 66% of young people between 18 and 24,” notes Professor Piazzesi.
Key findings for single participants
Of the 3900 Canadian adults who shared their relationship status, nearly one in three (29%) described themselves as single. Among single participants, three out of ten were dating one or more people.
- Among single participants who were not dating anyone, 89% considered romantic exclusivity as ideal, while 79% considered sexual exclusivity as ideal.
- Among single participants who were dating one or more people, two-thirds considered romantic exclusivity as ideal, while only 51% considered sexual exclusivity as ideal.
- Single participants not dating anyone were more likely to consider cohabiting with their partner as the ideal arrangement compared to single participants who were dating one or more people (57% versus 46%).
Single heterosexual participants were more likely to endorse sexual exclusivity as ideal compared to single LBGTQ+ participants, regardless of gender. However, single women in general were more likely to endorse romantic and sexual exclusivity as ideal.
More than 4000 Canadian adults aged 18 and older responded to the MACLIC survey between February and June 2022. Of these, approximately 58% were women, 36% men, and 5.4% non-binary.
Statistics on the respondents’ sexual orientation, relationship status, and age group can be provided upon request.
The MACLIC project and its team
MACLIC is a 5-year research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and based at the Université du Québec à Montréal. The main objective is to document and describe current individual attitudes towards different conceptions of intimate relationships, as well as intimate arrangements among the Canadian population. MACLIC will provide data on aspects of our everyday life, such as ideas and practices in love and sexuality, that are of crucial importance for our personal and collective wellbeing.
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Professor Chiara Piazzesi is available for interviews.
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