Sex & Dating

Ask a (S)expert: "Is Having a Backup Boyfriend Cheating?"

Welcome to our new series led by Gigi Fong, Hypebae’s in-house sex and dating editor.

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Welcome to your new safe space and Hypebae’s first-ever sex and dating column, Ask a (S)expertThis new weekly series is led by Haitian-Chinese and LA-based sexpert Gigi Fong, our in-house sex and dating editor.

Gigi is a former sex worker, boudoir artist and podcaster now hosting safe spaces for the Hypebae community. She specializes in all things sex-positive from unconventional dating to pleasure for lovers of all identities. To have your questions answered, visit our dropbox below and anonymously send your intimate inquiries ♡


“Is having a backup boyfriend f-cked up?…”

Hey bae! This is a juicy one so let’s dive right in. For the baes not familiar, you’re in for a world of tea.

What’s a backup partner?

A backup partner is the person you keep on the back burner — while in a relationship.

For the modern woman, dating smart is important. After all, between the patriarchy and internalized bullsh-t, there’s a lot to navigate. But most importantly, the modern woman never puts all of her eggs in one basket. Because of this, the “backup boyfriend” may seem like a genius solution to making sure your needs are always met, whether your current lover measures up or not.

Pam: The Backup Boyfriend Queen

The greatest example of a backup partner is the subtle love triangle on The Office between coworkers Jim and Pam, and Pam’s boyfriend Roy. Roy and Pam were in a long-term relationship and although Jim was just her work husband at the time, she clearly flirted with the idea of a future with Jim. By Season 4, Jim and Pam were a thing, and to support your case… it clearly worked out for her.

So, is it truly f-cked up?

From an evolutionary perspective, having a backup partner makes complete sense. During evolutionary times, mating, or obtaining a partner, meant having a community to pool and share resources with, and a partner to create the next generation with. With evolution in mind, keeping someone on the back burner means you will always be safe and provided for.

However, in all reality, this can spark feelings of betrayal within your partner — and backup — as they may feel second tier, like they’ll never measure up. With one foot in the door and another in your next potential relationship, can you truly be committed to your current lover?

If you find yourself with a backup partner it’s important to ask: What does this “backup” provide that my current does not or cannot? Are there any qualities missing? Or is it solely a matter of making sure I’m never alone? Would I ever tell my lover I’m keeping a backup?

The existence of a backup implies that your current relationship isn’t checking off the necessary boxes or is simply your “right now” relationship, versus long-term. Whatever the circumstance, there’s a level of dishonesty in your dynamic and you can potentially make someone else feel less than enough which is never ideal in a relationship — or for someone’s self-esteem.

For more sex and dating, tune into Episode 3 of our sex podcast, Servin’ Sex with Jake Dupree.

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