Are humans biologically monogamous, and if not, do the societal proscriptions against multiple relationships do a violence to our nature?
Are we biologically monogamous? I think this is a wrong question. Some of us are, some of us are not. Many birds are monogamous, but they still ‘cheat’. Supposedly about 40% of birds are not raised by their biological father. If a female bird is unlucky, because all the good quality males are already taken, she has to settle for a low quality male. She needs a male to help her to feed the babies. But (!) she will try to get pregnant (she’ll cheat) by a high quality male: to obtain high quality babies! If she was lucky to get a high quality male in the beginning, she would never have the need to ‘sleep around’. It’s probably very similar with humans. So, once again, are we biologically monogamous? Yes, the ‘lucky’ ones!
Interesting question, Occam. I posted some of my views on marriage in this long thread ... not that marriage is precisely the same as monogamy but they are related.
As for whether humans are biologically monogamous, this is clearly a scientific question. I recall hearing discussions of this issue, and if memory serves, humans are relatively monogamous. That is, there is a continuum of animal species, from the very monogamous (storks, albatross, etc.) to the very polygamous (seals, etc.) We’re somewhere towards the storks but not all the way.
And this sort of reasoning from other evidence (again, I can’t recall precisely what it was) tracks pretty well what we know from human culture.
There are two problems with infidelity. The first problem is psycholgical and the second is biological. The psychological problem is that each has presumably already promised not to do such a thing to the other. So it is a sort of lie. (Of course, if they are in an open relationship, this isn’t a problem; we’re assuming that they’re not). So this sort of lie destroys trust between the two, causes hurt, pain, anguish, anger, jealousy, etc., and for that reason alone is wrong.
The second, biological, problem has been discussed by many people including Dawkins: males have a biological reason to be more jealous than females. The reason is that a female always knows that her child is her own, so she knows she is doing work to raise her genes to adulthood. She can’t be easily fooled in this matter. But the male can’t be so sure that he is working to raise his own genes, unless he has confidence that his mate has not been unfaithful. And as we all know from our biology, the aim of evolution is replicating one’s own genes.
Of course, all this has to do with the general case. Individuals can and will behave as they wish, and I don’t see any ethical problem with people having whatever sexual practices they want, so long as they are honest, consenting adults; that is, so long as they aren’t lying, forcing or using trickery.
I find it almost painfully ironic that I am currently fighting for the right to have a legally recognized, monogamous relationship, and here you already can have one, but don’t want it.
Still, it’s not for me to judge. After all, you and I are alike in a way. We both want people to stop making decisions about our love-lives.
Nonetheless, some restrictions are needed. Anything that causes real damage to someone else should remain illegal. Rape, or stiffing somebody for child support, is something I cannot endorse.
Polygamy, though? It does raise some questions before I decide what stance to take. 1) Is this a co-equal kind of polygamy/polyamory/polyandry, or some sort of Mormon thing where the girls think they’re inferior to you, and have to make babies to make you seem more glorious? 2) Is there an element of commitment, and if so what is it? 3) Can the girls leave if they don’t like it, or is this like sexual slavery? 4) Who do you want to recognize this relationship?
Fill in the blanks for me, because polygamy can mean alot of things.
When I wrote this I purposely didn’t narrow the definition of polygamy. I felt it was up to the person resonding to discuss it in whatever way and with whatever restictions s/he wanted to impose on his/her post.
And I certainly wasn’t suggesting that I was for or against either monogamy or polygamy.
You did seem to suggest that you believe in ethical and fair contractual obligations. And, you believe such contracts should be between the participants without outside interference. These seem reasonable to me.
Hi, i’m new to this forum and this is my first post.
I have always thought that polygamy should not be illegal. However, I do believe that it should be entered into with all partners consenting. Most people are against it because they see sex, or marraige, to more than one partner as a betrayal of trust and love. It is my, and my partner’s, opnion that if everyone agrees it to be with as many partners as they like, that it is not a betrayal or a lie to do so. Certainly, cheating in secret is wrong because it causes pain to the cheated partner and is blatant deception, but why would it be wrong for couples to agree to be a threesome or foursome instead? No one is hurt by it.
Well,the question, as often is the case with such practices, is how free is the choice? Banning polygamy, female curcumcision, and other such hotly-contested cultural practices is tricky. One cannot simply say somehting should be banned that offends the majority. On the other hand, I’m not much of a libertarian so I think people’s choices aren’t always free. Indoctrination of children to accept abusive behavior or second-class citizenship doesn’t mean thatthe resultikng adults necessarily have freely consented to those things. Polygamy can be a means of oppressing women, so while I agree with you that it should be permitted if freely entered into, I don’t think we can simply wash our hands of the possibility that people have entered into it under subtle, as well as egregiously obvious, duress. It’s one of the reasons children aren’t allowed to “consent” to sex, because we don’t believe they can resist adult pressure sufficiently for their choices to be truly free. Now, grown women aren’t the same as children, but certainly even adults are susceptible to coercion. So I’m not sure the pros and cons of such laws are simple to negotiate.
Although polygamy is generic, historically it usually meant a male having multiple wives. However, it seems that for both biological and social reasons polyandry would be more sensible.
A problem with the various non-monogamous arrangements is that the theory is often different from the actuality. In the 1960s and 70s open marriage was a big thing. Many husbands liked the idea of having sex with other women without suffering possible consequences to their marriage, and they pressured their wives into it. Unfortunately for the men, just because they were available didn’t mean they could easily find compliant women. On the other hand, the women had no problem finding other men who were willing to engage in such pleasures. A fair number of such marriages broke up, and in mqany others the men were the ones to terminate the open marriage arrangement. A case of be careful what you ask for, you might get it.
If I remember right, some humans are monogamous while others are not- biologically. Why I don’t know. There was no stats and they didn’t play any demographics either with this statement. Frankly, wherever I read it, it was not very convincing. IMHO, I think it’s a matter of choice whether one is monogamous or not.
I think it’s always a bit tricky, and scientifically suspect, to assert what humans are “biologically,” since our biology leads us to reason and culture, and reason and cultureallow us to, in some respects, ignore or transcend our biology. Anthropologists love to speculate on the history of human mating behavior. As a former primatologist, I remember a lot of studies of other primates focused on getting at what “early” humans might have acted like. In mammals in general, monogomy is more common in species in which a large amount of postnatal parental investment is necessary and in which both parents can make meaningful contributions. Polygamy seems to be more common in species in which a single male can monopolize mating opportunities with multiple females (e.g. elephant seals). But there are exceptions in most species, alternative strategies for individuals in various positions within a social group, etc. I wouldn’t expect much variation among humans biologically in terms of what our “natural” mating system is (though I guess the jury is still out on the biology of sexual preference, so I suppose I can’t assert this withcertainty). Humans seem to be generally intended for monogomy based on the fact that both parents contributing to rearing the young through a looooonnngggggg learning and maturation period generally improves the reproductive success of both parties. But sociobiologists can make cogent (if not always well-supported by data) arguments for cheating by both parties (e.g. for men cheap insurance by spreading inexpensive genetic material around, for women allowing perhaps some uncertainty as to paternity since the best genetic father and best rearing partner might not always be the same male). Anyway, I think we’re still driven by fairly primitive (evolutionarily) exigencies, but we have a great deal of latitude in how we actually choose to behave. I can acknowledge the impulses generated by you, unfamiliar women and still choose not to act on them because I know what’s good for me! I can see the possibility for a cultural situation in which sexual jealouosy truly did not exist and monogamy didn’t make sense, but Occam and I both pointed out earlier some reasons why we’re not convinced that situation can actually exist here and now, and why perhaps allowing it might be mistaken under the current social/cultural circumstance.
Different gene pools had different adaptations to different conditions. In Northern Europe, it was dramatically easier for everyone to live in one manor hall with one central fire that kept everyone warm by several men carrying in logs, one at a time, and butting them against each other to each burn down like cigars… rather than each of them busting ass all day with an axe trying to cut a log into chunks small enuf to heat a hovel.
There are places where a monogamous village was put out of business cause they cut down all the trees, and then were replaced by a Viking Long house which was so much more efficient it could be heated with driftwood.
But now, you cant put that many people in a house without filling it with pheremones. You know what that means.
Monogamy was easier in sunny southern Italy. But Tacitus, for one, reports on the rebuttal of a Celt to the charge of wantonness:“Well, we Celts consort with the best of men in public, while you Roman wives do so in secret with the most vile.”
The other thing to remember about hominid evolution was the need to maximize genetic diversity in small isolated rural gene pools. The original Aryans didnt even have a word for “marriage”. Women would use a different sperm donor for every conception.
I had an affair with someone after being married to my husband for 21 years. You could say it was the catalyst to end something that was not happy for both of us. I am currently going through the divorce process and after a year I a still seeing the person who I had the affair with.
The person who I am with has been someone who I am experiencing everything I could imagine having in a relationship. We are so connected in our family life, our traditions, our music, our language. He is 41 and has never been married and has no children. I have a 18 year old son who is going away to college.
Here is the kicker. 2 months before he met me he just got out of a 8 year live in relationship with another women. Now after a year of seeing each other which has been some of the most memorable times ever, he has been talking a lot about poly and tribes and such which is something he has never done either. I have gone to a couple of “poly” meetings, but I finally admitted to him that I am monogamous and could never imagine myself being poly. He says he will honor that, although he keeps on bringing up his thoughts on the subject.
I have been doing my own researching online about poly and it seems that more and more people are pro-poly. I guess seeing that I was unfaithful to my husband adds another check mark that monogamy is hard to keep.
I still want to be monogamous and believe that I could have a loving relationship with just one person, but am I dreaming? I will support my friend in his curiosity, however, I believe this will be the deal breaker in our relationship if he wants to go further.
Is there any hope for people who believe in monogamy?
Looking forward to some insight on anyone who believes in monogamy.
Is there any hope for people who believe in monogamy?
Sure. I think you have to know what it is you want and calculate how to best achieve it. As terrible (and unromantic – is that a word?) as it might sound, I can see the “advantage” ( ) of being monogamous. I can also think of hundred of reasons how monogamy could work against me. But that’s all relative. Unless you believe in god, Plato’s ideal of perfection, or some divine commandments, you’re free to make your own rules – as long as the majority of society permits them, of course. If you’re at a stage of your life when monogamy feels like the right thing, then it probably is. I don’t wish to sound like Dr. Phil, but perhaps you need to speak with your friend, and ask him what his plans and dreams are.
As I see it you are, and have been monogamous. Although you were still married to your husband of 21 years, the relationship had essentially ended prior to your present relationship.
If you read one of my prior posts you’ll see my observations about poly or open marriage. The males usually pushed for it, and when their wives finally agreed, the men had much less success at developing additional sexual connections (not relationships) than their wives did. This often ended in divorce and in two cases reversion to monogamy (at the male’s suggestion).
You and he have to recognize the difference between a relationship, which involves far more than sex, and a connection for sexual pleasure. While one can have and enjoy multiple sexual connections, it’s very difficult to maintain significant, loving, meaningful relationships with multiple partners.
I suggest you tell him to go out and enjoy his desires. In the meantime, you’ll look for someone who can accept a monogamous relationship. And, after he’s through and decides he could accept monogamy, if you happen to be available, you could try to rekindle your relationship.
It’s my belief, if he’s 41, never been married and still wants to experiment, it sounds as if he wasn’t as successful as he would like to have been during his prior adult life, and he now needs a female partner to be accepted into swingers (poly) groups. Make sure that isn’t the reason he is pushing you.