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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » monogamy

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Author Topic: monogamy
hunnybunny888
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are we by nature monogamous?
why do some people have no problem commiting and staying with one person and others are afraid of it, or just don't like it?
Why do some people feel the need to cheat where it would never cross other peoples minds?
Is monogamy something natural to us or is it something we have created?

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ASargent42
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(Just a note: I believe in evolution, which is where my ideas on the matter stem. So when I refer to the past, I mean early homo sapiens and other early human ancestors)

Humans are among the few animals that have sex for pleasure. You look at other species, and some animals stay mates for life, and others stay mates for just the mating season.

Males generally have intercourse with many females because it increases the chances of offspring by him. Females, obviously, can only get pregant once per gestation period, so once a female is pregnant, she generally has no need to have intercourse any longer. Her need has been fulfilled. Because of this fact, i believe that perhaps females are naturally monogamous, whilst males are polygamous. (In terms of mating and reproducing)

Of course, as humans, we have free will. We don't do things by instinct as much as we used too. We've evolved to the point where we can make our own decisions by the way we feel about things. I also think that with the development of contraception, females feel more free to have multiple partners. Getting pregnant is no longer something to worry about.

Because of the free will concept, people can decide whether they want to be with one person or be with multiple people. Ideals and morals instilled in us since we were children, along with the kind of environment and role models we grew up with, all have an impact on how we will act.

So i guess, to answer your questions in turn:

I think females are instinctively monogamous, while males are polygamous.

Due to free will and how we were raised, some people have a hard time staying with just one person. It's an individual thing.

Same with the next question. It's a matter of free will. Pair that with the fact that sex is a pleasurable thing, and there ya go. Some people are just able to limit themselves.

The last is sort of like the first. We started out somewhat monogamous, but now monogamy has a whole new meaning. Whereas it used to be mainly for reproduction, it evolved to a companionship thing.

[ 07-10-2007, 08:29 PM: Message edited by: asargent42 ]

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Amanda
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orca
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I think most of this just depends on how you were raised, the environment you grew up in, what your parents' relationship was like, whatever family values you received, etc.

Is monogamy natural? I really don't know. Some people say it is, some people say it isn't. I think maybe it just depends on how you grew up.

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Frogmite
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Humans have very few natural instincts (eat, find warmth, make babies), so no, I don't think that monogamy is human nature. If humans were reduced to our basic instincts, I don't think that we would care who we had sex with.

I believe that monogomy is purely a social standard.

Also, asargent42, I have to disagree with you about males being instinctively polygamous and females monogamous--just because just because a female can only get pregnant once a gestation period doesn't mean that she won't have sex with a different male over the next period. Or even several males in the same period; pregnancy often takes more than one try.

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LivingTree
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I think it's a bit polarizing to see all polyamory as a "lack of self control" or to see all monogamy as an unnatural state enforced by socialization.

The innate vs. socialized factor is always hard to tease out, since everyone gets socialized.

But, it seems reasonable that some people are innately more inclined to monogamy, and it has nothing to do with being forced by socialization, and some people are innately more inclined to polyamory, and it doesn't mean they lack self control.

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ASargent42
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Siggy-

I was thinking back to when we were the most basic of creatures. Cavemen, if you will. As opposed to having sex for pleasure, without the worry of becoming pregnant, It was more for just reproduction back then. Thats more or less what I meant.

It's hard, because I know what I want to say, it's just trying to find the right words and the right order of words to thouroghly explain [Smile]

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Amanda
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hunnybunny888
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see, I think that even though we do have sex for just pleasure, the reasons that we choose to sleep with a certain person are very instictive/survival based. Someone who is physically attractive is more seemingly healthy and more fertile, as well just being more aesthetically pleasing(for example, nice eyes have nothing to do with fertility) can actually have to do with survival, because if you have an aesthetically pleasing face, people are more likely to want you sexually, and thus you are more likely to reproduce.

Now, we find people physically unnatractive very attractive for mental reasons. For example, intelligence, humor, caring, etc. As humans, alot of animals are stronger than us, but because we used our mental capabilities to create tools that would be, in turn, stronger than the animals, we have dominated, and thus mental traits have become just as, if not more desirable than physical traits for mating purposes. Thus, when I think of love, I think of it like lust, except for character traits and actions, as opposed to bodies and sexual actions.

Thus, if we wouldn't really be physically monogamous if we didn't have emotional attatchment, why is it so much easier (or perhaps just less noticible if we slip up?) to be mentally monogamous?

Saying males are polygamous and woman mongomous is a very interesting concept, especially because in christianity and judaism, in biblical times men were allowed to have many wives but the wives were only allowed to have one husband. This was later outlawed but on the same thoughtline maybe?

even if they have the child and choose to have another on another cycle, they are still left with each child to raise and such, so perhaps it used to be much more of a woman thing to be more selective of mates, and once she found a good one, perhaps she decided to stick with this one, since its already working out well

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Heather
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What happens to that theory when you recognize that all people are not heterosexual? Or look at people's sexual relationship after reproductive ages? Or at people who don't WANT to reproduce at all: I mean, even just speaking for myself, I can assure you that when I pick male -- and especially female -- partners, it's got boo to do with reproduction or survival of my species (in fact, if you could tell by looking that partners were NOT fertile, I'd be all over that!).

Usually, theories like that fall apart pretty quickly, alas, when we really consider everyone broadly.

It also isn't easier for everyone to be "mentally" monogamous. In fact, the vast majority of people, when monogamously partnered, will still find others attractive, have others in sexual fantasy life, etc.

And per men and women, we have no baiss to show "natural" monogamy in men or women: but historically, and still, men are given SO much more permission not to be monogamous, that we really can't even compare since most women throughout time haven't had anything BUT monogamy as an option. Until the cultural imperatives are so longer an issue, we still can't even talk about nature in this regard.

[ 07-11-2007, 03:26 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather
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I feel like it should also be mentioned that the diversity of human realtionships is as vast as the diversity of indivudals.

So, plenty of sexual relationships people may have will in many ways, be like plenty of friendships people have: in other words, what a partner is to someone, what model and framework that falls into can have ANY number of manifestations, not just the simple binary of monogamy/nonmonogamy.

For example, sexual relationships that are more fleeting -- and many people have those at that least one point in their lives -- really don't even involve monogamy or non-monogamy.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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hunnybunny888
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I think that homosexualism in itself can be for survival purposes. Perhaps it was just by fluke that some people preffered relations of the same sex. In a race for survival it would appear that homosexual couples are not helping our survival and evolution, because they are not having babies. However, i think it's important to remember that we do NOT have unlimited resources. We cannot have unlimited amount of children and have them all survive, or the mothers survive. There are already overpopulation in some countries and they are not allowed to have more than 1 or 2 children by law. There are kids in orphanages and whatnot. In a society where we place heavy importance on the role of family in the shaping and nurturing of children, wouldn't homosexual couples be a great welcome? They contribute to society through jobs and what not and they can raise children that heterosexual couples have had but are not able to raise. It would appear that they are a needed aspect in our society. Obviously socially and politically it is not very accepted as such, yet it's really alot of fearing the unknown and fearing what is different. In many cultures in the past it was greatly accepted and appreciated.
of course some heterosexual couples choose to have their own children through surrogate mothers and the such but that is just a personal desicion as a heterosexual couple may choose to have no children at all.
It would still be choosing your mates based on characteristics you want to see in your children. Because they may be raising them with you, and even just for company, you will want someone with traits you admire, and traits you admire are things you would want your children to inherit.

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hunnybunny888
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I suppose many times physical urges to stray from your partner begin with mental urges, then again they may not. Even with friendships and FWB you're still looking for character and/or physical traits that you admire, you just may not be as picky with your friends as with someone you choose to devote yourself to.
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Heather
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Again, you keep conflating sexuality with reproduction or children, though.

And frankly, we know full stop that throughout the whole of human history, MOST sex has NOT been for purposes of reproduction, even when we're expressly talking about opposite-sex partnerships. So, in exploring the why per why some people choose to be <i>sexually</i>monogamous and others do not, it's iffy at best to talk reproduction, especially given how often people choose to have sex for other reasons, including how often now, particularly, that we have birth control available, people elect to have sex when clearly AVOIDING pregnany and parenting.

(And to boot, it's just a good bias to put away, because if you leave out people who do not reproduce or begin families with children, or those who choose to avoid such, that's a pretty huge gap, and any conclusions you came to coming from a standpoint of reproduction would have to be limited to those for whom that is a very real part of their sexuality and sexual partnership.)

I also don't know where the idea is coming from that people are more selective with sexual partners than they are with friends?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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summergoddess
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Monogamy remains the social norm, but it's now defined more modernly to include everyone including the GLBT community. It is really actually an individual choice. Some want to be monogamous whereas others don't want to. We only can choose what's best for OURSELVES. If we feel complete being monogamous, so be it. If we don't, that's okay too.

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ASargent42
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I've just come across an article that views this subject from a psychological standpoint:

Ten Politcally Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

Humans are naturally polygamous
The history of western civilization aside, humans are naturally polygamous. Polyandry (a marriage of one woman to many men) is very rare, but polygyny (the marriage of one man to many women) is widely practiced in human societies, even though Judeo-Christian traditions hold that monogamy is the only natural form of marriage. We know that humans have been polygynous throughout most of history because men are taller than women.

Among primate and nonprimate species, the degree of polygyny highly correlates with the degree to which males of a species are larger than females. The more polygynous the species, the greater the size disparity between the sexes. Typically, human males are 10 percent taller and 20 percent heavier than females. This suggests that, throughout history, humans have been mildly polygynous.

Relative to monogamy, polygyny creates greater fitness variance (the distance between the "winners" and the "losers" in the reproductive game) among males than among females because it allows a few males to monopolize all the females in the group. The greater fitness variance among males creates greater pressure for men to compete with each other for mates. Only big and tall males can win mating opportunities. Among pair-bonding species like humans, in which males and females stay together to raise their children, females also prefer to mate with big and tall males because they can provide better physical protection against predators and other males.

In societies where rich men are much richer than poor men, women (and their children) are better off sharing the few wealthy men; one-half, one-quarter, or even one-tenth of a wealthy man is still better than an entire poor man. As George Bernard Shaw puts it, "The maternal instinct leads a woman to prefer a tenth share in a first-rate man to the exclusive possession of a third-rate one." Despite the fact that humans are naturally polygynous, most industrial societies are monogamous because men tend to be more or less equal in their resources compared with their ancestors in medieval times. (Inequality tends to increase as society advances in complexity from hunter-gatherer to advanced agrarian societies. Industrialization tends to decrease the level of inequality.)

Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy
When there is resource inequality among men—the case in every human society—most women benefit from polygyny: women can share a wealthy man. Under monogamy, they are stuck with marrying a poorer man.

The only exceptions are extremely desirable women. Under monogamy, they can monopolize the wealthiest men; under polygyny, they must share the men with other, less desirable women. However, the situation is exactly opposite for men. Monogamy guarantees that every man can find a wife. True, less desirable men can marry only less desirable women, but that's much better than not marrying anyone at all.

Men in monogamous societies imagine they would be better off under polygyny. What they don't realize is that, for most men who are not extremely desirable, polygyny means no wife at all, or, if they are lucky, a wife who is much less desirable than one they could get under monogamy.

This is from Psychology Today's website.

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Amanda
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Heather
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Y'all, the sexism, gendernormativity and heterocentricity in most of this thread is seriously driving me BATTY. To the degree that personally, I don't even want to respond anymore, because I think if I open my mouth -- via my keyboard -- all that is going to come out is a great, big "AAAAAAHHHHHHHGGGGGGGGH!"

So, here's what I'm going to ask, especially since given we're a diverse people, and this is an inclusive area, as well as because when trying to make borad, sweeping conclusions about the whole of humanity, inclusiveness is key:

Henceforth, I'd like anyone discussing this -- and bringing any additional info to the table -- to try to ONLY discuss if from a viewpoint that all sexual relationships are not merely between men and women (by sex or gender), are NOT solely or primaruly romantic or based in long-term commitment or marriage, and are also NOT centered around or about reproduction.

Not only do I think doing that will result in some pretty simplistic myths and stereotypes being very easily left at the door, I also think it'll result in a more productive discussion which doesn't leave a whole lot of us standing outside the gated community able to let loose little but an "ugh." Okay?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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hunnybunny888
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I don't think the problem is that we are being heterocentric but that we are assuming that physical relationships, are the part of the relationship that defines the monogamy.

Although sex has progressed to souly pleasurable or emotional experiences, it is a bit naive to deny that sex and sexual partners are based on reproduction and reproduction values. For example, many people enjoy massages. They help to relieve muscle tension and to relax, etc. but really, they have not much survival value. However, to say because of this that the purpose of our sense of touch is not to help us sense danger, would be a bit ludacris.

However, we do have sex and get massages souly for pleasure. And we watch movies and we read books and we listen to music. We are the only species that does things simply for pleasure purposes. This does not mean that the original survival value of a sense or action, is any less vital in affecting our desicions. For example, you may use a condom and the pill, but can still be madly attracted to wide hips.

I think what we are missing in our debate is that, as humans,we search for the emotional, spiritual and mental, just as much, if not more, than we do the physical pleasures. Thus, you may seek out that partner that is physically ideal, but still use a condom because you know that mentally and emotionally you would not want to have a child. At the same time, you can be with someone you are in a committed relationship with, and have sex to feel emotionally closer, or just to give pleasure from someone that you care so deeply about. This is just the case with homosexual relationships. Your emotional and physical pleasures are completely fulfilled, and mentally you know that there are other ways to have children, and further that the exsistence of the human race does not depend on you having a child, and thus both homosexual and heterosexual relationships fulfil are needs. Also, when we think of survival and instinct, we think very much of our animal/ physical instincts. ie. that we need to eat and drink etc. However, we have just as many emotional needs as well. If we are depressed or unsatisfied with our lives, it can be just as damaging as being physically unhealthy.

So i think when we speak of monogamy it is very important to consider that human nature, although has similarities to the nature of other animals, also has alot more emotional and mental needs as well.

It really makes the question much more complicated. Perhaps even defining monogamy would be a start. For example, if someone has an emotional affair, are they considered unmonogamous? What if someone thinks about another person alot sexually but stops themself from acting on it. Is this acceptable in a monogamous relationship?
I think we have alot of physical needs and a lot of emotional needs that pressure us from both directions (physical- may be attracted to many partners, but is worried about infection or pregnancy. Emotional- may be hard to focus only on ONE person, but at the same time feels stronger for this person than does for others that are affectionate about, etc. etc.)

I suppose it is moslty personal desire which will allow us to give in one way or the other

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