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.

“How Open Marriages Really Work”

im-with-them “I feel that the biggest benefit to having a relationship that allows for others is that you never have to worry about being everything for someone,” said Skye. “We get to love each other and be with each other, and we get to love other people who are special and important to us in other ways.

Salon’s article “How Open Marriages Really Work” is refreshingly candid about choice and the nature of relationships–that monogamy is not for everyone. Though polyamory is tossed about quite a bit, I think that label imposes a false sheen over the article that aims to shatter the accepted notion that people who do not do monogamy fall into another label, namely polyamory.

Always one to shun labels, I felt a little compartmentalized by that term, even while the article indulged many scenarios where open marriages were either fallen into after initial monogamy or chosen at the outset. In all cases, the catchwords are honesty, openness and love. However, brave is the overall impression I get.

Yes, it takes honesty and ability to articulate jealousies, desires and needs. Some couples felt jealous of the outsiders but later located the source as something missing in the primary relationship that caused the jealousy. If they spent quality time together, either or both were okay to go off on a date with others. But speaking up and facing fears–of loss, jealousy–takes guts.

I was pleased about the mention of some open marriages that are not acknowledged but known by both parties as well as all shades in between complete openness and shadowy closeted. Having enjoyed monogamy for many years before my relationship opened up, I appreciated the nod to necessity as well as choice. Some couples cannot complete one another intimately and so rely on others to do so. And if both agree to any given arrangement, it works, for however long it works. I suspect child rearing years are different from before and after those times. Once again, fluidity.

Monogamy is tough. It is what most of us believe we want, but in truth, most of us do not, not always. I love the options open to the mature who can agree on their relationships from phase to phase, time to time. We are not static beings and neither are our relationships. But more importantly, it is rare to find someone who can be all things at all times for another. Not even the Stepford Wives worked out so well.

Now, if people could just stop being threatened by others doing it differently than they do…what a wonderful world.

credit: polysingleish.files/

Define Love

Curious about the love-relationship labels beginning with the prefix “poly”? Here is an amusing and informative Youtube video to answer some of the basic definitional distinctions between polyamory, polygamy, polyangyny, and other polys.  Enjoy.

The Name (Labeling) Game on a Throwback Thursday


A facebook friend posted an article irresistibly intriguing about a wealthy, powerful Florida man, now deceased, who married two women and lived parallel lives, raising two families–the Cone and Carlson families–the children of which attended the same private school. Neither wife appeared to know of the other. The article about this apparent anomaly is brief and ends with the statement that the school’s baseball field is now named in the man’s (?) honor called the Carlson-Cone baseball field. That was the best part of the entire article for me, the irony. Was this town giving the dead guy a high five? Yeah man, you pulled it off. Let’s celebrate by honoring you with a dedicated space in the name of your bigamy. I love it.

This article has had me thinking for a couple of days into this labeling miasma I have created in my brain. So, this man would be considered a polygamist according to a relationship orientation and a bigamist according to a legal perspective. But what about his love for these two women, assuming that is the reason for his marrying and obtaining two wives (though he could be just a control freak and needed another woman and kids to own or a glutton for punishment or has way too much money and needed more tax write offs)? Is he polyamorous too? I am told it is human nature to label and not to fight it, so here I go.

Poking around the Internet, looking to tack the polyamory label to this Tampa polygamist, I found myself on Under the term polyamory, I found an explosion of labels to make my head spin and produce an urgent need to nap. We humans do love to catalog and diagram and chart and define–architects and archeologists all. I was amazed.

So as far as human relationships, there are the following:

Human sexuality and sexology
Sexual relationship
Asexuality Bisexuality Casual relationship Casual sex Celibacy Committed relationship Free love Heterosexuality Homosexuality Involuntary celibacy One-night stand Polyamory Promiscuity Female promiscuity Romance (love) Sex life Sexual abstinence Sexual partner Single person
Sexual dynamics
Hermaphrodite Hypergamy Physical attractiveness Sexual attraction Sexual ethics

As to the taxonomy of gender identity, the encyclopedia offers this:

Gender and sexual identities
Gender identities
Male Female Androgyne Bigender Boi Cisgender Cross-dresser Genderqueer Girlfag and guydyke Intersex Pangender Transgender Trans man Trans woman Transexual Womyn
Third sex /
Third gender
Akava’ine Androgynos Bakla Bissu Burnesha Eunuch Fa’afafine Fakaleiti Femminiello Galli Hermaphrodite Hijra Kathoey Khanith Köçek Mahu Maknyah Mukhannathun Muxe Sworn virgin Takatāpui Third gender Transgender in China Transgender people in Singapore Transgender in film and television Transsexuality in Iran Travesti Tumtum Two-Spirit Winkte

Finally, sexual orientation is categorized thusly:

Sexual orientation
Gender binary
Asexual Bisexual Heterosexual Homosexual
Ambiphilia, Androphilia, Gynephilia Pansexuality Polysexuality Third gender Two-Spirit
Attraction to transgender people Banjee Bi-curious Ex-gay Ex-ex-gay Gay Heteroflexible Lesbian Kinsey scale Non-heterosexual Object sexuality Queer Questioning Pansexual Polyamorous Polysexual Romantic orientation Same gender loving

But wait, there’s more:

Bisexuality topics
Sexual identities
Bisexual Monosexual Pansexual Polysexual
Bisexual American history
Innate bisexuality Journal of Bisexuality Kinsey scale Klein grid Human male sexuality
Biphobia Bisexual chic Bisexual erasure Lesbian until graduation
Bisexual community
American Institute of Bisexuality Bialogue BiCon (UK) BiFest BiNet USA Bisexual Resource Center Bisexual pride flag Bisexual Pride Day International Conference on Bisexuality New York Area Bisexual Network Bay Area Bisexual Network Transcending Boundaries Conference Media portrayals of bisexuality
Self-identified bisexual persons List of bisexuality-related organizations List of media portrayals of bisexuality
LGBT portal Sexuality portal
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) topics

Academic fields Discourse
LGBT topics in education Gender studies Lavender linguistics Lesbian feminism LGBT literature LGBT/Queer studies Queer theory Transfeminism

Community Culture
Anthems Bars Bisexual community Coming out Community center Drag king Drag queen Gay friendly Icons Lesbian utopia Literature Music Neighborhoods Organizations Periodicals Pride Pride parade Religious groups Rodeos Same-sex relationships Slang
List of slang
Slogans Sports Symbols Tourism
Category:LGBT culture

Gender identities Sexual identities
Gender identities
Male Female Androgyne Bigender Boi Cisgender Genderqueer Girlfag and guydyke Intersex Pangender Transgender Womyn
Third sex / Third gender
Akava’ine Eunuch Fa’afafine Fakaleiti Femminiello Hijra Kathoey Khanith Mahu Mukhannathun Muxe Bissu Two-Spirit Hermaphrodite
Sexual orientation identities
Sexual orientations
Asexual Bisexual Heterosexual Homosexual
Ex-gay Ex-ex-gay Pansexual Polyamorous Banjee Gay Lesbian Queer Same gender loving Non-heterosexual Object sexuality Questioning bi-curious heteroflexible
Gender roles Human female sexuality Human male sexuality Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures

LGBT history
History of lesbianism LGBT history timeline Social movements History of Christianity and homosexuality History of same-sex unions Pederasty Category:LGBT history
LGBT pride flag
Pre-modern era
Adelphopoiesis Homosexuality in ancient Greece Homosexuality in ancient Rome Homosexuality in ancient Egypt Homosexuality in ancient Peru Homosexuality in medieval Europe
16th to 19th century
Mollies Urnings
20th century
Gay Liberation Homosexuals in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust Inversion Sea queens Stonewall riots Festival of Light action White Night riots Queer theory
21st century
Same-sex marriage

Rights Legal issues
LGBT rights by country or territory
Africa Americas Asia Europe Oceania List of LGBT rights articles by region
LGBT rights topics
Adoption Civil unions and partnerships Hate crime laws Legal aspects of transsexualism Military service Parenting Same-sex marriage (Status Timeline) Socialism Sodomy laws United Nations/Yogyakarta Principles
LGBT rights movements
Gay Liberation LGBT rights groups LGBT rights activists

Sexual orientations – Medicine, science and sexology
Biology Birth order Demographics Environment Heterosexual–homosexual continuum Homosexuality and psychology Kinsey scale Klein Grid Mental roots Neuroscience Prenatal hormones Sexual orientation change efforts Sexual orientation identity Timeline of sexual orientation and medicine

Social attitudes Prejudice Violence
Social attitudes
Anti-LGBT slogans Heteronormativity Gay panic LGBT rights opposition LGBT stereotypes Religion and homosexuality Transgenderism and religion
Prejudice and discrimination
AIDS stigma Biphobia Genderism Heterosexism Homophobia Internalized homophobia Lesbophobia Non-binary discrimination Riddle scale SPLC-designated list of anti-gay U.S. hate groups Transphobia
Violence against LGBT people
Corrective rape Gay bashing History of violence in the UK History of violence in the US Significant acts of violence against LGBT people Trans bashing Unlawfully killed transgender people LGBT suicides

There appears to be an identity or an issue related to the loins and mind of every individual at any given moment in time. There are even ex ex gays. I don’t know. I couldn’t look them all up. Am I wrong to be frustrated with labels, to speak out against them? Are my compadres in the labeling game who tell me to relax, it’s human, the ones who know better? Clearly it is human to label. It is a compulsion, an obsession. We are taxonomists. We are analyzers of the world around us and to analyze is to break something down into its constituent parts in order to examine them. The term appears to be connotatively positive, somewhat synonymous to discovery and learning. However, to examine the parts of something is to destroy that something, dismantle it, break it down into parts from a whole constitution.

Perhaps that is my objection, the labeling of parts, and then carelessly taking a single part of a whole to represent a whole, reckless synecdoche. It hurts.

From a taxonomist’s point of view, Mr. Carlson-Cone cannot be classified as polyamorous. Polyamory, according to the encyclopedia, is based on consensual, ethical and transparent multi-loving:
Polyamory, often abbreviated as poly, is often described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.” The word is sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to sexual or romantic relationships that are not sexually exclusive, though there is disagreement on how broadly it applies; an emphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic.
Did he love both women?

I guess we will never know. But I thank him for this delightful delving into the inspirational art form of the label. Now let’s pause here to play the name game on this “Throwback Thursday.”