Women and the Monogamy Myth

For many people, committing to monogamy, is like ordering salad in a restaurant. They choose it because they think it’s good for them, but they can never entirely stop noticing the nice juicy steaks or heaping scoops of ice cream being served at the tables nearby.

Fascinating article by Open Relationships Expert Gaylen Moore on non-monogamous relationships – especially from the female perspective.  I find it amazing how so many things we do – our habits and traditions – often run counter to true human nature.  Moore writes in long passages but in summary it just might not be our nature to be faithful in marriage.  And specifically for women, we’ve been forced to do so while men have “had their fun.”

Girls, you know what I’m talking about, right?

Moore writes, “If we believe the traditional stereotypes, monogamy comes somewhat naturally for women, but not so naturally for men.   Women are typically seen as seeking commitment, whereas men are seen as trying avoid commitment as long as possible – accepting “the old ball and chain” only when forced to do so by the women in their lives.

Moore contend from a scientific and logical perspective that life-long monogamy may not be the most practical or natural form of relationships given the rates of divorce and infidelity.  He asks, “How and why did so many human cultures come to see monogamy as the ideal form of mating relationship? And is it, in fact, the most practical, the most natural, and the most spiritually rewarding path in life? Given that interpersonal relationships have so many dimensions, levels, and complexities, why did we historically come to focus on sex as the make-or-break criteria for defining the nature of a relationship? And given the unquestionably powerful urge to explore our erotic options, why did life-long monogamy become the ideal, guiding principle of marriage?

As an exercise in creative imagination, we are asked to consider the following scenario:  Given the nature of sexual reproduction, women always know which children are theirs, so as long as a family’s name and wealth are passed through the female line (matrilineal descent) there is no problem. But if men want to pass the family name and inheritance through the male line (patrilineal decent) then things get messy. This much can be said on the basis of sheer logic:   If men want to be sure that they are passing their name and wealth to their biological offspring, they need to know that their mates are monogamous. Even prior to the rise of civilization and the concept of inheritable wealth,  one can detect obvious biological pressures to keep female sexual behavior committed to a single male, but once civilization takes hold and great sums of wealth are on the line, the biological pressures are supplemented by very powerful social and political pressures.

What this ultimately means is that, for the purposes of biology and patrilineal decent, men don’t have to be monogamous, but women do.

The only way to make a system of patrilineal decent work is to keep close track of biological fatherhood, and the only practical way to do this  was for men take control of women’s sexuality. Thanks to the notion of patrilineal decent, women became property, and women’s virginity became a prize of great value,  both economically and socio-politically.  To make all of this work, some very powerful motivational forces were needed – something more practical than just physical strength and endless jealous aggression. Here the concept of divinity and religion became very useful.

The bottom line is that monogamy may have its roots in the control of female sexuality so that men could keep track of their lineage, thus historically linking monogamy with women’s oppression throughout human history.

It can thus be argued that the use of monogamy as a defining feature of success in long-term relationships is little more than a major historical power play for which untold millions of people have paid with unnecessary emotional pain and in many cases literal bloodshed. None of this means that monogamy, as such, in necessarily bad, but is should give us pause for thought. Before putting all of their emotional eggs into the monogamy basket, people (especially women) might do well to seriously consider the possible historical roots of their own desire for monogamy. As children we are instilled with social values that, as adults, we must sometimes reconsider in light of our own mature interests, and the ever-changing times in which we live.

Read the complete piece here.

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With political activists as parents, Stephanie learned gender politics at an early age and embraced stiletto feminism in high school. As a marketing professional, she’s written for a variety of publications. She founded www.scandalouswomen.com to be a voice for the sex-positive alpha female.