Are we naturally monogamous or has it been forced upon us?

Could polyamory possibly be the natural norm for humans?

Raksha Bharadia | Posted on 16 Oct 2015
Are We Naturally Monogamous Or Has It Been Forced Upon Us? | Bonobology

The Oxford English Dictionary defines monogamy as "The condition, rule or custom of being married to only one person at a time. If we break up the term, mono = only and gamy = marry.

However, marriage and monogamy are not necessarily the same. Monogamy is being romantically and sexually involved with only one person at a time, whether or not you are married to him/ her. The officially married person has rights to sign an agreement on a life saving operation in a hospital, plus draw out the spouse's money from a bank on his demise. Marriage is a social and legal institution where a couple pledges to live with each other till death us do part. For the sake of this book, we will use the meaning of monogamy as being married to one person at a time.

Theorists have claimed that married, monogamous couples are the natural unit of human society. That sexual monogamy is an essential and "natural" model of social and reproductive organization. That social monogamy facilitates a fulfilling and stable life. Monogamy is further equated with morality, it is stated and endorsed by state, religion and society that if we cannot manage to force our desires into one single relationship we are somehow morally deficient, bringing in question our moral and ethical standing in all other roles as well (work and career, son or daughter, father or mother, mentor or friend, etc). That monogamy is the ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ way of a developed and cultured society. The tension between monogamy and promiscuity has now transformed into a dilemma of character. Then why are we using the terms ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ to justify being in prison? Natural can be defined in many ways, but according to etymology, it essentially means as having some relationship with nature. Normal is a statistical term, generally referring to a characteristic or behavior that is possessed or demonstrated by a large percentage of a population.

Dr PN Prabhakaran, a psychologist and marriage counsellor, mentioned that though in the statistics published on divorce rates in early February 2012 showed a fall, still he continued to get more cases of extra-marital affairs than ever before.

Anjali Chhabria, practicing psychiatrist says, Infidelity is rising, and marriage seems to be its most fertile ground. Though she observed, that it is still a male thing, where in her research work 31 % men said they extramarital affairs while only 6 % women admitted to it. In fact, 35 % of men said they had an extramarital affair with their ex-girlfriends, closely followed by neighbours (29 %) and colleagues (24 %).

An interview with a person who wishes to remain anonymous says: Out of 25, there must be only 2 or 3 married people who are truly faithful. And most of these infidels are in total denial. You attend their tenth wedding anniversary and you are moved to tears about the perfect bonding, affection and respect they seem to have for each other. And the next week you get the news that the man is caught red handed, cheating on his wife.

Which brings us back to the question, What really is normal? Or rather, Is it normal to be natural? Perhaps the confusion arises because we take normal as a synonym of natural, which it is not.

And if it is natural to cheat, then why beat ourselves over what nature made us?

Monogamy may be the norm in most of our contemporary modern societies today, but it is a relatively new convention. History and biology show that strict monogamy, which has social advantages, is not a "one size" fits all. The truth of our natures is that many of us desire sex with more than one person whether we may be able to have it or not. As much as we may value fidelity, we are biologically designed for new sex to arouse more potent sexual feelings than old. Familiarity may not breed contempt but it does lower a couple's copulation rates.  Whether a person succeeds at being sexually monogamous depends as much on biology as environment. Is a state imposed by society and not a genetic disposition. Monogamy is invented for order and investment – but not necessarily because it's 'natural.'"

 

Raksha Bharadia

Raksha Bharadia is a writer and editor. She has authored three books published by Rupa & Co. She has put together 13 titles in the Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul series for Westland. She has also worked as a scriptwriter with Star Plus. She has been a columnist for Femina, Ahmedabad Mirror, and DNA, Ahmedabad. Raksha has taught creative writing for a Master’s Program at CEPT, Ahmedabad. Bonobology.com is Raksha’s first significant foray in the digital space.

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Shruti Mathur: Marriage is a social and legal institution forced upon us. Look at the animals, they love, have a family, procreate. They don't a legal bonding to define thir relationship

Raj: Monogamy(and concept of Marriage) was relevant so long as childbirth was almost a certain consequence of Sex. Somebody had to identified and made responsible for it's upbringing. As soon as contraceptives were created and parenthood could be determined by DNA, Monogamy(and concept of Marriage) lost relevance.

Team Bonobology: Staying committed to one partner for a lifetime isn’t easy. Couples in long-term, committed relationships have to learn many difficult relationship skills, including frustration tolerance, self-control, patience, empathy, and, perhaps the most impor­tant thing of all, they have to make a choice to stay every day. Marriage isn’t a one time promise to someone else. It’s an every day agreement with yourself that you will stick it out even when it sucks. And with the extra challenges of the internet, cybersex and pornography, it’s even harder to stay faithful with the myriad of choices available for variety and potential partners. And, this is the first time in history that we can cheat on our partner lying in bed next to them; on our laptop and handheld devices.

Sucheta Chaturvedi: With every day that goes by and with every test that I am given, it becomes clear that polygamy is more reasonable than monogamy.

Team Bonobology: Some societies impose monogamy on women, but allow men to have more than one wife, to take mistresses or concubines, and/or engage in adulterous affairs. This is usually associated with male dominant, kinship-based cultures where the inheritance of property and social status makes elites very concerned about protecting the "purity" of their bloodline. In the late 19th century, despite upholding an ideology of monogamy, so many men in Europe and America visited prostitutes that there was an epidemic of venereal disease among "respectable" middle-class wives.

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