Monogamy and Us…again


Two articles on monogamy came out this week, both once again proclaiming monogamy has outlived its origins and is not suitable to our wiring.

In Salon’s Take that, monogamy! We’re actually hard-wired for polygamy, which helps explain why so many cheat, biologist David P. Barash explains that humans are hard wired for poly relationships:

Even though monogamy is mandated throughout the Western world, infidelity is universal.

Anthropologically speaking, Barash contends cultures around the world fulfill their social commitments in monogamy but not their biological commitments, which is more inclined toward polyandry.

In short, when adultery happens—and it happens quite often—what’s going on is that people are behaving as polygynists (if men) or polyandrists (if women), in a culturally defined context of ostensible monogamy. Adultery, infidelity, or “cheating” are only meaningful given a relationship that is otherwise supposed to be monogamous. A polygynously married man—in any of the numerous cultures that permit such an arrangement—wasn’t an adulterer when he had sex with more than one of his wives. (As candidate Barack Obama explained in a somewhat different context, “That was the point.”) By the same token, a polyandrously married Tre-ba woman from Tibet isn’t an adulteress when she has sex with her multiple husbands. Another way of looking at this: when people of either gender act on their polygamous inclinations while living in a monogamous tradition, they are being unfaithful to their sociocultural commitment, but not to their biology.

Meanwhile, in today’s Globe, Science writer Ivan Semeniuk reports on science’s latest findings that monogamy may have its roots (more likely one of them anyhow) in avoiding STD’s in To have, to hold, to avoid STDs in Science tackles evolution of monogamy.

In a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers propose that the impact of sexually transmitted diseases may have started pushing humans toward monogamy during the agricultural revolution, when social groups began to grow in size to hundreds of individuals. The culturally imposed reinforcement could have taken hold even though the individuals involved would not have been aware of any longer-term survival benefit to their group over many generations.

Monogamy as an early safe sex device? Seems so unsexy.


Constructed from smoke and mirrors, us,
ideas floating around bodies, 
expectations wherein others’ unfulfilled 
desires, prejudices, hurts and dreams 
hurled at us in continual bombardment 
so we in the end do not know how or why 
we possess our minds with determined drive 
to become “successful” defined by they
who came before us in a long line of delusion. 
Why did I “choose” to become a lawyer? 
Because I argued my way through youth, 
and my mother capped it all in a sigh, 
“You should be a lawyer. 
You always have to have the last word.” 
Simple cause and effect?
A match of my talent with a career? No.
Parental desire, a definition of success,
a dream of security and hope for respect.
All myths. The mold makes more models. 
An inundating lore trails every profession: 
lawyers are sharks, 
doctors have god complexes, 
plumbers are slovenly, 
and no one rises more than the level. 

Human propensity to stereotype, shortcut, 
satisfies a deep need and biological destiny
human patternicity or apophenia. 
But the appalling truth, each arcs complexity 
requires attention, examination, exploration 
work, in other words, to evaluate
the fount each encountered being springs. 
Only few venture willingly to invest time. 
Thus, the disconnection prevalent 
in polarized politics and social media, 
hatred on roads, in parking lots and 
on grocery store lines. 

Sneers of indifference pollute.
The pool of difference is tepid.
Come in. The water’s fine.