Divorce, Another Word for Polygamy

I cannot imagine cheating on my wife. I can, however, imagine having sex with other people. That’s because, as my wife says: I’m married but I’m not dead yet. As pious as wedded men and women say they are, there is likely not a single pair whose minds have not wandered at least once into the bed of a third party. Despite the wailing and moaning from the more traditionalist men and women of the world who testify to the divine providence of monogamy and marriage, reality paints a much more vivid, colorful picture than the drab puritanical world they prefer.

Authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá wrote Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality and it’s a treatise to a concept I’ve always believed in but, not being a scientist, never had the backup data to prove: monogamy is not entirely natural to our species, polyamory and polygamy are. Thanks to the break down of patriarchal domination of women and the continual acceptance of divorce, marriage seems to be collapsing as a social construct to the point that divorce is almost synonymous with marriage:

But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married, and divorce rates keep climbing as adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages.

Sounds horrible, right? Perhaps coming from the traditionalist viewpoint it sounds like marital Armageddon. The thing is that one has to look at the issue in a purely intellectual manner – from a tabula rasa point of view. Sometimes seeing reality requires one to take off the normative goggles and taking a scientific point of view.

Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is.

Society has toxified everyone’s mind into thinking that monogamy and marriage are the absolute and anything differently is taboo and should be taboo. Obviously this brainwashing it falling apart and it may have serious consequences for society but, again, the panic is reserved for those who cannot imagine society otherwise – and people with vision unconstrained by fraudulent walls erected over centuries can be more optimistic:

Human beings everywhere and in every era have confronted the same familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways. The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.

As I said in the beginning, I cannot imagine cheating on my wife. Our marriage vows included promises of fidelity and I plan on never breaking those vows. Unlike those in society who have chosen divorce, I recognized marriage as permanent even beyond the formal, legal breaking of those vows. People who marry in both legal contract and spirit forget that a marriage under the Lord is an unbreakable bond – something no divorce contract can break. While we may live in a society that practices monogamy through marriage, it is also a society wherein every man and woman who has mated with more than one person is polyamorous. Each 16 year old who has had sex and then married another woman at 25 is polyamorous; each 45 year old who has divorced and moved on to another sex partner or perhaps even another marriage partner is polyamorous. We are all polyamorous by nature, in mind and, very often, in body. We simply don’t recognize that.

Ryan and Jethá try to get it through our heads:

They explore why long-term fidelity can be so difficult for so many; why sexual passion tends to fade even as love deepens; why many middle-aged men risk everything for transient affairs with younger women; why homosexuality persists in the face of standard evolutionary logic; and what the human body reveals about the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality.

Some people, like The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle can’t begin to imagine the reasons behind the book’s assertions. The book’s author, Ryan, describes the shrill exasperations some people exclaim:

But then you get someone who feels so personally threatened by the very idea that they don’t give a damn about “your so-called evidence” (they assume you’re making it all up anyway). Normally, they won’t even let you explain what the book’s about, so certain are they that it’s nothing but poppycock.

Sadly there are those, like McArdle, who, despite their intelligence, are so offended by the idea their view of the world is so perverse as to be completely topsy-turvy, their minds close up like a Tea Party rally to rational people. There’s little to learn from this book for me but I could always use the information to back up the assertions we want to make. I say “we” because I’m right there with them:

In the tradition of the best historical and scientific writing, Sex at Dawn unapologetically upends unwarranted assumptions and unfounded conclusions while offering a revolutionary understanding of why we live and love as we do.

My wife and I, despite our vows, have a very open relationship – in mind, though not in body. This may make me sound like a hypocrite because I’m not practicing what I preach – we are practicing monogamy — but that’s where the beauty lies: you can understand that monogamy isn’t the natural state of mankind’s sexuality but still remain monogamous. It is all about choice and understanding instead of the opposite, which McArdle would be more comfortable with: polyamory considered a taboo and not a choice without the stigma that comes with sexual openness and promiscuity.

If someone comes into our lives whom we both adore and there is a mutual sexual attraction, there may come a time when my wife and I would need to have a conversation about it and where it may lead, if anywhere. This is what the film Summer Lovers is about: a couple finds happiness after finding out they both are in love with a third person, a woman the man has an affair with; they end up, after encountering the expected struggles, together as a threesome instead of merely summer lovers.

The likelihood of any of this happening is so foreign it is very highly improbable, mostly because it would be a difficult step towards the non-traditional lifestyle we have decided to step into despite our intellectual understanding of monogamy as a manufactured societal norm. The fact we are still open to this discussion, however, is partly due to our intellectual understanding of sex, love and relationships in a society where threesomes are not only rare but still taboo; it’s also partly because we can recognize and accept the natural urges we, and everyone else, feel. We would call it polyamory and think it natural; the rest of the world practices the same thing but with jealousy and incivility as part of the equation in the form of cheating, divorce and re-marriage. Where’s the fun in that?

Upending the world could never be more fun.


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