Follow Dan

Facebook    Twitter    Instagram    YouTube
Savage Lovecast
Dan Savage's Hump
It Gets Better Project

Savage Love Podcast

Got a question for Dan Savage?
Call the Savage Love Podcast at 206-201-2720
or email Dan at

Savage Love Archives

More in the Archives »

More from Dan Savage

More in the Archives »

Books by Dan Savage

Want a Second Opinion?

Contact Dan Savage

Savage on YouTube


Sex at Dawn

July 8, 2010

My husband of eight years confessed to wanting to watch me with another man. I found a guy, and he agreed to a full STD screening—at my husband's suggestion and our expense—so that we wouldn't have to use condoms. I was worried about how my husband would react to the reality, but he loved every minute—he loved it a little too much. My husband had sex with me after our "guest" left. I still had our guest's semen inside me. Is my husband gay? Is that what cuckolding is all about? He didn't touch the other guy, but what the fuck?

Spouse Expressing Concern Over Newly Disclosed Sexuality

"Far from being an indication of homosexuality, your husband's turn-on goes back to the roots of male heterosexual experience," says Christopher Ryan, coauthor of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.

Before Ryan walks us through what's so straight about your husband dipping his dick in another man's spunk, SECONDS, let me get this off my chest: Sex at Dawn is the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948. Want to understand why men married to supermodels cheat? Why so many marriages are sexless? Why paternity tests often reveal that the "father" isn't? Read Sex at Dawn.

Back to Ryan:

"Think about it," says Ryan. "Why would women have evolved the capacity for slow-building multiple orgasms while males evolved the orgasmic response of minutemen accompanied by a sudden disappearance of all interest in sex?"

Because—as Ryan and his coauthor Cacilda Jethá lay out in Sex at Dawn—for countless generations, our male and female ancestors, like our closest primate relatives (fuck-mad bonobos), engaged in multipartner sex. Females mated with multiple males, while males—so easily stimulated visually to this day—watched and waited their turn.

"Almost all of us get off on watching other people having sex," says Ryan. "Even if our minds deny it, our bodies respond in many ways, ranging from increased genital blood flow (in both sexes) to stronger male ejaculations."

By inviting another male into your bedroom, SECONDS, your husband—consciously or subconsciously—was inducing what's known as "sperm competition." Watching you have sex with another male made him more excited to have sex with you, not with the other male, and treated him to a more intense orgasm in you, not in the other male.

"So your husband's experience was very heterosexual," says Ryan.

I am a 24-year-old female. I've been in a relationship with a man for six years, on and off. I think I could spend my life with him. But I have a hard time being faithful. I have cheated on him with other men and with women. He and I are not together currently, but we maintain a long-distance sexual relationship. We say that we are going to be together someday, but he has no trust in me. I would love to be content, but I can't seem to go very long before I get distracted. Please give me some insight!

Don't Wanna Be A Heartbreaker

"Toward the end of Sex at Dawn," says Ryan, "there's a brief section called 'Everybody Out of the Closet.' We argue that it's not just gay people who have to go through the sort of brutally honest self-exploration involved in coming out. We all need to go through this process—and the sooner the better."

Here's what you need to come out about, DWBAH: You'll never be content in a monogamous relationship.

"It's time to stop bullshitting yourself," says Ryan. "You're very young, so, with all due respect, a certain amount of bullshit is to be expected. But you sound ready to move beyond this. Before getting into a committed relationship, you owe it to yourself and to the other person to be honest about who you are, and for now at least, you're clearly not sexually monogamous.

"And if you'll pardon just a few words of old-guy wisdom while Dan shares his amazing platform," Ryan continues, "many people your age misunderstand the odds of finding love in life. Few young people really appreciate that by being open about who you really are, you end up wasting much less time on relationships that are doomed from the start. In the long run, it's much more efficient to fess up about who you are and what you're really into from the get-go."

Who are you, DWBAH? You're a slut. (I mean that in the sex-positive sense! I'm a slut, too!). And what are you really into? Variety. And don't feel bad: You didn't fail monogamy, DWBAH, monogamy failed you—as it has failed so many others (Clinton, Edwards, Spitzer, Vitter, Ensign, et al.), and will continue to, because monogamy is unrealistic and—this is not a word I toss around lightly—unnatural.

"Maybe half of the people you're interested in will walk away when you fess up," says Ryan. "Let them walk! Those who don't walk away are a much better investment of your time and energy—both of which are more limited than you can possibly realize at age 24."

I've been with my partner for 10 years. I have lost all interest in sex, while my partner still has a healthy libido. We've agreed on a weekly "sex night." I dread it. We could call it quits, but we have a child and we love each other. I don't want to break up our family, so I put up with "sex night." It sounds depressing, I know, but the alternative seems worse.

Wishes She Was Horny

"Lots of wonderful marriages aren't particularly sexual or exclusive," says Ryan, hinting at another alternative. "Sexual novelty was an important part of our evolution as a species. But, as you and your partner demonstrate, we don't all respond the same way to the absence of novelty.

"You don't say if your loss of libido pertains only to sex with your partner or to anyone at all," Ryan continues, "but it's a good idea to eliminate possible medical and psychological causes before concluding that it's a purely sexual issue. Assuming it's just about libido, I'd encourage you to find a middle ground that preserves your family and the love you share but incorporates a more comfortable sexual arrangement that doesn't leave your partner frustrated and you dreading 'sex night.'"

In other words, WSWH, ask yourself what's more important: staying married or staying monogamous?

"If you can find a way to take the pressure off both of you, you might find a deeper intimacy with each other and a return of your libido," says Ryan.

I usually end with a plug for my podcast. Not this week: Anyone who's ever struggled with monogamy—and any honest person who ever attempted it admits to struggling—needs to read Sex at Dawn. For more about the book, and how order it, go to


Comments (252) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Are you admitting to marital infidelity?
Posted by Jack7 on July 6, 2010 at 6:18 PM · Report this
first comment? I feel so lucky!
Anyway, Sex at Dawn looks really interesting, but it just seems so hard to introduce non-monogamy to partners who see it as absolutely critical, as a sign of love.
Posted by puremesopo on July 6, 2010 at 6:51 PM · Report this
Helen E. Fisher has some interesting books on the evolution of human sexuality as well, I suggest her book The Sex Contract. I'll have to read Sex At Dawn now, sounds fascinating!
Posted by student of sexuality on July 6, 2010 at 6:54 PM · Report this
Zergling Supermodel 4
By letting the "traditional" people walk away when you disclose from the start that you don't believe in monogamy, you lose the chance to educate them little by little along the course of the relationship though... From my experience, many people who would have walked away have proven very open-minded once a strong relationship had been established.
Posted by Zergling Supermodel on July 6, 2010 at 7:00 PM · Report this

A) He's not married (apparently there's this legal issue)

B) Of course not. If his boyfriend knows, it's not infidelity. Esp. if said boyfriend is participating.
Posted by Been here before? on July 6, 2010 at 7:02 PM · Report this
tupa 6
I just ordered my copy, hope it helps me to find balance between my rational mind where monogamy is highly negotiable and my heart that breaks a little bit every time I tell my SO that I'm OK with honest non-monogamy.
Posted by tupa on July 6, 2010 at 7:02 PM · Report this
Dan, you rock. I love your words of wisdom and you are spot on about monogamy being unnatural. Thank you for being a lighthouse of sanity in this insane, fucked up world....the positive impact your writing has had on me and my development--not just sexually, but as a whole, thinking, questioning person cannot be overstated. Thank you for doing what you're doing and please keep up the good work! PS--your fourth of july sounded awesome and quite yummy. Peace!
Posted by Mal_1 on July 6, 2010 at 7:11 PM · Report this
Life is hard, puremesopo. But it's not doing anyone any favors to keep a big part of yourself a secret from your partner. I say this as the once cheated-on wife. Four months after he told me, our sex life is hotter than it ever was before. It's good to be reminded that other people want your partner (and it has been fun to be reminded that other people want me, too!)
Posted by EricaP on July 6, 2010 at 7:14 PM · Report this
Word of warning to WSWH: If you magically regain your libido with other partners, don't be surprised if your spouse takes it badly.

Your spouse will be seeking extra-relationship sex to take the pressure off you, but he(she?) still finds you desirable. You, on the other hand, will have tacitly admitted that your sex drive is just fine, it's just that you find your spouse repulsive.

Tread with caution.
Posted by avast2006 on July 6, 2010 at 7:36 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 10
Going into a relationship with no expectation of monogamy, only emotional fidelity and commitment is a liberating thing. The other freeing place of mind is this- if your partner finds someone else he's happier with than you, if you love him, then that's the person he should be with, not you. I'm 18 years into a relationship on these terms, with 3 failed attempts an exclusive monogamy before this one. Never been happier.
Posted by OutInBumF on July 6, 2010 at 8:03 PM · Report this
Love the podcast. Can't get the Iphone app, because my phone is a Droid. And I am very happy about that. App coming soon for that platform? Thanks for all that you do, Dan.
Posted by brandX on July 6, 2010 at 8:13 PM · Report this
I was in a non-monogamous relationship for 5 1/2 years. I was open with my partner about it, both before we began dating and every step during. He told me he was fine with it, and would beg me to tell him stories of the other men I'd been with, down to such detail I'd find myself making it up half the time.

Then we broke up and it all came out. He called me whore, slut, every name in the book, and let it be known that he'd been lying for YEARS about how okay he was with our arrangement. He'd never been fine and his building rage had been the unsuspected catalyst for our breakup, and once it was over the floodgates opened. So while it's always a good thing to be open about your non-monogamous preferences in life, be warned that not everyone else is always as honest as you wish they'd be.
Posted by Martha_Dumptruck on July 6, 2010 at 8:34 PM · Report this
Evo-psych, Dan? Really? And not only that, someone with no academic background in either anthropology or paleontology (the two relevant fields for someone making claims about early humans), who shows all signs of starting with a model of contemporary human sexuality and then projecting that onto a model of early humans custom-tailored to "prove" the model used to generate it? Now, it's certainly possible to consider evolutionary pressures in developing human psychology and sexuality. But doing so would require sorting out how much genetic tendencies influence behavior (evidence-based work) rather than just insisting that whatever behaviors a given evo-psych "researcher" wants to be "inherent" must be.
Posted by MGroesbeck on July 6, 2010 at 8:46 PM · Report this
#4: The flip side of your take on "educating" people is that sometimes you end up dragging them unwilling through an experience that they loathe every nanosecond of. "Educate them little by little along the course of the relationship" is fancy wording for transgressing the boundaries that they try to set, again and again and again, until either they see things your way or they feel utterly pushed up against the wall and end up hating you with a venom not found in nature.

If they express some interest of their own accord, even if they are a little repulsed and frightened, but they want to give it a try without any, ahem, encouragement from you...those are the ones you can try to educate. If they just plain want to walk, let them walk. Don't try to stop them, don't try to broaden their horizons, don't try to entice them with what they will be missing out on with oh-so-wonderful-and-desirable you, and don't make them wrong for wanting monogamy.
Posted by avast2006 on July 6, 2010 at 9:13 PM · Report this
fieldday 15
"and any honest person who ever attempted it admits to struggling"

Sorry Dan, but this is one of those long running themes where I disagree with you. Monogamy may not be for everyone, but like most sexual variations, it is for some people. So give us monogamists a break, ok. My husband and I have been monogamist for almost 10 years. We tried "dating other people" way back in the beginning of our relationship, and I've been in "open" relationships in the past, and well, it just didn't work for me. So to all you other happy monogamists out there, don't worry, you're not alone... Even if Dan doesn't believe in us :)
Posted by fieldday on July 6, 2010 at 9:20 PM · Report this
Actually, I don't give a shit what (supposedly) cavemen and women did. "Let's just say that we all accept your argument. Now what?" No, I'm not content to wait, I want the sequel NOW! Dan, can you please share your thoughts on the last chapter in Chris' book and any other insights into applied non-monogamy?
Posted by Miss Taken on July 6, 2010 at 9:21 PM · Report this
@15: I could not agree more. I am far MORE comfortable with monogamy than I am with polyamory. It's not just because I get jealous (though that's part of it); I also honestly have very little desire to have sexual relationships with multiple people at the same time.

Human beings are a weird species. We seem to use three mating systems, sometimes all in the same person: polyamory, polygyny, and monogamy. (Ethologically "monogamy" means social serial monogamy, not "until death do us part" monogamy. No animal on Earth practices the latter, including us.)
Posted by pnrjulius on July 6, 2010 at 9:30 PM · Report this
@17: Also, monogamy is positively correlated with IQ. So HA.…
Posted by pnrjulius on July 6, 2010 at 9:32 PM · Report this
Another happy monogamous person here. I think it's as natural as any other sexuality, no angst or struggle about it at all; Dan just has a hard time wrapping his head around it. That's okay, it's really, really difficult to realize that other people really, really don't feel the same way that you do.
Posted by SpookyCats on July 6, 2010 at 11:06 PM · Report this
Wow, I'm even a rarer species---the gay monogamist. But the monogamy is likely due to absurdly high standards.

As for the correlation between IQ, monogamy, and atheism, I seem to be having a great day!
Posted by buzzbuzzard on July 6, 2010 at 11:09 PM · Report this
Monogamy is just as realistic and natural as nonmonogamy. Different strokes for different folks. Honestly, you are no better than the Bible-thumpers passing judgment on other people and their lifestyles. u_u
Posted by Bellinghamster on July 6, 2010 at 11:26 PM · Report this
Arsfrisco 22
@13 mmm hmmm what you said thank you.

Of course I love any theory that can support my subjective experience - but frankly this thing smells like make-believe science and I'm surprised, Dan, you're jumping on its promo train so fast and loud.
Posted by Arsfrisco on July 7, 2010 at 12:41 AM · Report this
Totally agree with 15, 17, 20.

And calling monogamists "unnatural"? Ouch. The idea of two guys banging or two ladies scissoring might seem unnatural to some, but to those who enjoy that, it comes perfectly naturally -- and more power to them. Really, most people don't like being labeled freaks of nature. Maybe come up with a less harsh choice of words?
Posted by Amanda on July 7, 2010 at 1:12 AM · Report this
Ug, I hate Evo-psyche.
Posted by argyle on July 7, 2010 at 1:34 AM · Report this
I'm an atheist and lover of science, but so much of evolutionary psychology is pop, psycho-babble crap. When will people learn the difference between explanation and evidence? Recall that Freudian psychology also offered what people found to be satisfactory explanations -- at one point in time.

I'll read this book at some point, I'm sure: but just look at this week's column: no evidence is offered in support of the explanations -- zero, nada, zilch.

There are still heated debates about the evolution of human physiology -- and virtually NOTHING is known about the social behavior of our prehistoric ancestors. Evolutionary psychology so often fails to ascend from the abysmal level of rank speculation.
Posted by Joe Havermann on July 7, 2010 at 2:14 AM · Report this
Evo-psych? I don't know, Dan, I think the strongest argument against monogamy as a state of nature is that humans live for like 100 fucking years these days, and we have ridiculously short attention spans.

But then, I'm one of those people who has never ever cheated. So I don't really have a dog in this fight.
Posted by planned barrenhood on July 7, 2010 at 2:17 AM · Report this
Jesus christ, would you idiots saying polyamory is more "natural" than monogamy STFU? You're embarrassing the rest of us sane poly people. If it occurs in nature, it's "natural". And all of monogamy and polyamory and serial monogamy and asexuality DO occur in nature.

As for the book, eh, smells like evo psych to me. Maybe it isn't, but I think I'll wait for a real review to decide. I will say that comparing guesses about what prehistoric peoples' sexuality was like with Kinsey's careful surveys of real people is a travesty.
Posted by Trix on July 7, 2010 at 2:51 AM · Report this
@17, it's not true that no animal on Earth practices " 'until death do us part' monogamy." Prairie voles mate for life, and lots of birds too. Here's an interesting article about monogamy and evolution in animals:…
Anyway, what animals (or cave people) do or did is pretty much beside the point with respect to what modern people should or shouldn't do...
Posted by stab on July 7, 2010 at 3:37 AM · Report this
#13 is spot on. Evolutionary psychology is a veeeeeery difficult area to write well in (even someone like Steven Pinker has his fill of critics): there's an awful lot of horseshit going around, and this sadly smells a bit of it.
Posted by AnonyTom on July 7, 2010 at 3:43 AM · Report this
If polyamory was significantly superior to "monogamy" (in quotes because it could well just be the external projection) in achieving cultural growth and progress, we would see it as the majority strategy in society through simple mathematics. But its not.

I predict monogamous cultures will outgrow polygamous ones 99 times out of a 100, then beat up on the one polygamous one.

Fieldday - do you have an email?
Posted by bukboy on July 7, 2010 at 4:04 AM · Report this
MGroesbeck - whats your email?
Posted by bukboy on July 7, 2010 at 4:08 AM · Report this
I usually really look forward to reading your blog and, of course, downloading and listening to your podcast. This week I really couldn't stand the near 30 mins. of promotion of Ryan's book. I love your news bits in the beginning of the podcasts in particular, but the book thing was a bit much. I'm not against the opinions or facts stated. I just don't care to hear what Ryan's book has to say about why someone's husband would like to watch her have sex with a stranger, then have his way with her right afterward.
Posted by TLV on July 7, 2010 at 4:52 AM · Report this
There is SO much talk in this column and the podcast about how great polyamory and open relationships are, so if I may for a moment. A case for monogamy that's pretty simple: Dating is a gigantic pain in the ass. Opening up your relationship doesn't mean that you're automatically going to have one night stands lining up at your door. You have to go back to that awful singles scene and do all the same manuevering you did before you met your committed partner. For every piece of ass you land you're going to have to play all the games you put behind you. It sucks that the sex died out in your current relationship, if that's the case, but there's plenty that you can do in your existing monogamous relationship to remedy a broken sex life.
Posted by The Wet Blanket on July 7, 2010 at 6:04 AM · Report this
@4: If someone failed to disclose to me that they were poly, they would be dumped faster than you could say "polyamory", and I would be pissed as hell. It's deceptive, and deliberately so--the implication is that once I'm in love with you, poly will seem more appealing. Not all monogamous people want to be educated. Do you want to be educated into monogamy? Thought not. Some of us would like full disclosure so we can decide what we do and don't want to do.

I always hate the advice given for this--that your choice is "be true to yourself! Be poly!" or "Force yourself to be monogamous, and be miserable." Sometimes, life is a tradeoff. the question isn't "being true to yourself"; is it "is this person worth forgoing having sex with other people?" Naturally monogamous people may find it easier to say yes to that question, but it doesn't mean the answer is always no for those who are not.
Posted by Your Ad Here on July 7, 2010 at 6:13 AM · Report this
Just an observation here.... The tone of many "open relationship" proponents tends to trend towards elitist or somehow socially more advanced than those stuffy old fashioned monogomy types. The monogomy folks fall into two categories: traditionalists (those who are monogomous just because it's how they percieve "right" to be) and the reasonable (those for whom considered an open relationship, but for whatever reason determined it wasn't for them).
Posted by ripit on July 7, 2010 at 6:15 AM · Report this
@4: If someone failed to disclose to me that they were poly, they would be dumped faster than you could say "polyamory", and I would be pissed as hell. It's deceptive, and deliberately so--the implication is that once I'm in love with you, poly will seem more appealing. Not all monogamous people want to be educated. Do you want to be educated into monogamy? Thought not. Some of us would like full disclosure so we can decide what we do and don't want to do.

I always hate the advice given for this--that your choice is "be true to yourself! Be poly!" or "Force yourself to be monogamous, and be miserable." Sometimes, life is a tradeoff. the question isn't "being true to yourself"; is it "is this person worth forgoing having sex with other people?" Naturally monogamous people may find it easier to say yes to that question, but it doesn't mean the answer is always no for those who are not.
Posted by Your Ad Here on July 7, 2010 at 6:16 AM · Report this
Mike in MO 37
sheesh all this back & forth about monogamy v non-monogamy! Am I the only one that noticed the hot creampie scene in SECONDS's letter? If it weren't for the insane risk involved I would LOVE to be last in a looong line! Just saying.
Posted by Mike in MO on July 7, 2010 at 6:41 AM · Report this
You know, Mr. Savage is getting really boring with his canards about monogamy being "unnatural". (And WTF is unnatural? Unnatural is plastic. *That* is unnatural, in that it does not occur without a lot of man-forced chemical reactions. But monogamy? Seems to occur without a lab having to crack and reform molecular bonds using fire, pressure, etc. Monogamy looks natural to me....)

I get the same annoyed feeling reading Savage on this topic that I do from bible-whacking fundamentalists preaching about gay sex: I get it. *You* really have an agenda here, and you will cite every bit of evidence that supports your bias, while utterly ignoring any contrary data. And you will never, ever pause to reflect that you are being an annoying, tendentious, know-it-all ass, rather than a thoughtful student of the human condition. (At least on this issue.)

I am surprised when a person who is so interesting on other issues becomes a harping, blinkered absolutist on something rather trivial like other people's homosexuality or monogamy.

Yeah, maybe not every is gay or monogamous. But some are, and they would prefer it if you didn't work out your issues calling gay or monogamous people unnatural. In sum, do your thing, and quit calling other people weird because they don't want to have gay sex or multiple partners.
Posted by Rolling my eyes on July 7, 2010 at 6:45 AM · Report this
sread1701 39
hmmmm...not a single library in SE Michigan has a copy of "Sex At Dawn". I feel let down.
Posted by sread1701 on July 7, 2010 at 7:32 AM · Report this
Evo-psych, Dan? Really?

It's not a science, it's not even educated guessing. It's retrofitting our ancestor's presumed behavior to validate whatever one's pet cause is, if one is charitable. If one is not charitable, it's used to make one's kinks the "correct" ones to have, just like this guy's love for voyeuristic non-monogamy, which suddenly is touted as evolutionary hard-wired.

What a crock of shit.

Posted by evo-psych is not science on July 7, 2010 at 7:44 AM · Report this
John Horstman 41
@30: 1. You're assuming that societies operate under whatever principles achieve the best rate of cultural growth and progress, which they demonstrably do not (necessarily; they might). 2. Non-monogamy IS the majority strategy in our society; I don't know what the latest figure is, but the sexuality surveys I remember from the past few years put the incidence of "cheating" at 65%-75%. The fact that non-monogamy isn't a dominant social VALUE doesn't mean it isn't a dominant social PRACTICE. It is.

As for the necessity of "evidence", there is substantial evidence that throughout most of human history H. sapiens has not practiced sexual exclusivity (see the Tiwi or the Nayar for some examples of pre-industrial social organizations that actually necessitate sexual non-exclusivity). Bear in mind that "marriage" between a man and woman that establishes a family unit in no way requires nor dictates sexual exclusivity - a woman's children are part of that family irrespective of the identity of the father. Male-side heredity became much more important with the establishment of patriarchal forms of social organization (in fact, patriarchy is nearly impossible without it, as women control reproduction and therefore social institutions by default) and explicit property law (and particularly male-line inheritance).

Finally, evolutionary psychology is not de facto more-suspect than any other scientific discipline. Genetic factors can have a strong influence on certain behaviorisms, even in an animal as socially-complex as a human. Dawkins, in his latest book, cites a study on fox breeding in the USSR as one example (it also illustrates selection for linked genes). I'd have to read this guy's book to see whether he's backing his assertions up with evidence, but I really don't understand this "it's evolutionary psychology and therefore must be bullshit" attitude that several of the posts have illustrated.
Posted by John Horstman on July 7, 2010 at 7:51 AM · Report this
The response to the second letter was patronizing as fuck. I agree the woman is likely naturally non-monogamous (though I hesitate to say that without knowing more about who she's cheating with, and what the circumstances around it were), but 24 is way too old to be given a lecture about how OMG YOUNG you are. 24's well past the average age of marriage throughout human history; just because western culture is suffering through a spate of delayed and extended adolescence right now DOES NOT MEAN CHILDHOOD LASTS TO AGE 30, GOD.

Seriously, at what age can you make up your own mind about love and relationships? 26? 30? Or do you have to be 50 to be counted as a serious adult?

... sorry for the somewhat irrelevant response. I'm just tired of fucking boomers like that author staving off old age by pretending anyone more than 20 years younger than they are is still way too young to count as an adult.
Posted by septembergrrl on July 7, 2010 at 8:27 AM · Report this
I'm an unnatural homosexual monogamist. But I totally get why those for whom monogamy doesn't work take every opportunity to point out that it's not for everybody since marriage monogamy is the default.

It's sort of like how omnivores get overly sensitive when a vegetarian friend makes a simple statement about what works for them. Some vegetarians or vegans can be very "militant", but that doesn't mean that everytime somebody praises a vegetarian lifestyle they're slamming the omnivore.
Posted by Rey on July 7, 2010 at 8:35 AM · Report this
polyamory, monogamy, gay, straight, normal, weird, white, black

Why all these labels?

See people, not a label.
Posted by altheapdx on July 7, 2010 at 8:35 AM · Report this
Beware of comparisons between human sexuality and bonobo sexuality! Remember, chimps and bonobos are more closely related to each other than either one is to humans, and their sexual behavior is COMPLETELY different. Just about opposite in every way, in fact. Gorillas, the next most closely related species to us and chimps/bonobos, have completely different sexual behavior from us and chimps/bonobos. Orangutans, the next most closely related... you get the idea.

Don't get me wrong - you can learn a lot about sexual behavior by observing animals of all sorts. But you can't necessarily take what you observe and say, "Because this is true for Species X, this must be true for humans as well." It might be true, or it might not.

Having said that, I'm really looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, it's not in my local library's catalog yet, so I can't put a hold on it.

I'd also highly recommend to anyone interested in the evolution of human sexual behavior two books by Jared Diamond: The Third Chimpanzee and Why Is Sex Fun?
Posted by I really should get an account on July 7, 2010 at 8:46 AM · Report this
Following today's episode of Whale Wars, The Best Bonobo Gang Bangs. Next on Animal Planet.
Posted by Reg on July 7, 2010 at 8:48 AM · Report this
SECONDS, you're stupid. Have you read any Dan Savage at all, ever? Stop "worrying" about your husband's orientation and enjoy the hotness.

Hell, this is the first time I might call "fake" on a letter. It's a dumb question and all it did was give Ryan a platform to spew theory.
Posted by Gloria on July 7, 2010 at 9:17 AM · Report this
SeaTownLockDown 48
I stand and applaud. 99% accurate. I had to take 1% off for not using the word "hypocrite" somewhere in your post.
(and that's coming from someone that doesn't in monogamy)
Posted by SeaTownLockDown on July 7, 2010 at 9:21 AM · Report this
@47 I found it odd that it was only after all the work spent giving her a creampie that she worried about the whole thing. Up til then she didn't have any concerns? Not that I think the husband is gay, it's just with her line of reasoning you'd think she'd call foul earlier.
Posted by HW on July 7, 2010 at 9:38 AM · Report this
kitschnsync 50
Sex in our dim prehistoric times wasn't pair bonded, so it's only natural that we return to polyamory? Spiffy.

What else didn't exist in those times? Democracy, agriculture, nonviolent solutions to conflict... I suppose these things are just silly affectations too. Let's sharpen some sticks and get to raping and pillaging the nearest tribe!

The fact is that sometimes things change for damn good reasons. I'm not an opponent of polyamory- quite the opposite- but people should argue for it based upon its virtues in the modern world.

It's silly to justify these things with the explanantion that our ancient grandmamas liked fucking the Cro-Magnon studs the next cave over. It may be anthropologically intriguing, but it doesn't apply to our lives.

What's that word too describe someone who is a little too eager to believe? Oh yeah: credulous. Thanks, Dan.
Posted by kitschnsync on July 7, 2010 at 9:38 AM · Report this
Jaymz 51
I suspect the husband in the first letter had oral sex with his wife - he lapped up the semen of the departed guest, hence her concern about the husband being gay. I doubt that changes Ryan's conclusions, however.
Posted by Jaymz on July 7, 2010 at 9:42 AM · Report this
Kevin_BGFH 52
Years ago when I was in my late 20s, I met and started to date another guy who was a little younger but a lot more experienced. At the time, I had always been in monogamous relationships, and I argued in defense on monogamy as a more stable relationship primarily because there was less jealousy.

My then-boyfriend advocated for non-monogamy. He argued that love (and sex) should not be put in a cage, etc. I reluctantly agreed to him sleeping with other people (that was hard) and us doing three-ways. I found that for us, at least, the non-monogamy was easier. There were some things he liked that I simply couldn't satisfy him. If he couldn't find that satisfaction elsewhere, we inevitably would have broken up a lot earlier than we did. (We lasted three years and owned a house and a dog before we eventually broke up.) But the other thing is that I do have a voyeur streak. My boyfriend was younger, cuter, and more sexually aggressive, which meant that I got to three-way with people I'd probably never have a chance with otherwise. And even though the focus was probably disproportionately less on me than the others, that was okay because I was still having fun.

If the three-ways and my ex's other two-ways were more of an occasional thing, that would have been fine. But my ex was pretty sexually compulsive. All of our friends said so. It got to the point where he was constantly looking for sex, even when it affected our time together. Things came to a head for me, emotionally, when we had to leave my cousin's wedding early because he was getting a migraine only for him to hop on the Internet as soon as we got home, 30 minutes later, trolling for sex. ("But honey, the migraine went away.")

But even after we broke up, I recognized that the issue was about his sexual compulsivity and how that affected our relationship rather than non-monogamy in general. I really have come to believe that in the right circumstances with the right people who communicate well and are more or less on the same page, non-monogamy can take a lot of pressure off of a relationship.

In my opinion, monogamy isn't so much unnatural as it is unusual -- that is, perfectly normal but nevertheless less common in nature, and less common in humans, too, for that matter. Just as my (homo)sexuality is natural but unusual.
Posted by Kevin_BGFH on July 7, 2010 at 9:49 AM · Report this
@42: Your I'm-a-big-grrl-now-god-dammit angst is duly noted. I was your age once, and I remember feeling all grown up. Twenty years later and I know how much more growing I had to do. Hell, ten years later and I was already dealing with housemates your age whose overblown sense of maturity made them too stupid to put down newspaper on the white carpet when painting a craft project. (It's okay, I won't spill. I'm an adult, I'm perfectly capable of being careful. Ooops, oh shit.) There's a reason why car insurance premiums go down at 26.

It's not about staving off old age, either. It's about recognizing your own foibles, which twenty-somethings are notoriously loath to do. I fully expect to be discovering new and interesting ways in which I'm an idiot 50 years from now, at age 95. I'm not even close to finished growing up. Neither are you. Get over it.
Posted by avast2006 on July 7, 2010 at 9:57 AM · Report this
@41 - There is a substantial difference between trying to discover the complex biological mechanisms underlying human social behavior and speculating about forces in our past that may or may not have shaped human behavior in the present. You vastly exaggerate the amount that is known about our prehistoric ancestors. Even extremely basic questions get hotly debated, and their answers are often subject to surprising revisions: when did our ancestors first start to walk upright? Did our Neandertal cousins possess a human language faculty. All of these questions are the subject of serious debate -- and in the case of the Neandertal's scientists have decoded their genome!

Your history of human sexuality -- rampant polyamory until the imposition of patriarchy and male-line inheritance -- does not strike me as credible. There were, in fact, several attempts to establish polyamorous communes dating back to the... 1700s! But they invariably failed, often because people too often paired up (See 'Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America') . It's not clear why they would, if polygamy were so much more "natural" than monogamy -- whatever that means.

Finally, the rates you provide for infidelity are way higher than the ones I've seen in "The Journal of Sex Research." But who knows? In the end, it just doesn't have much bearing on the argument. A person could be married for fifty years, cheat on his wife once, and he would therefore be categorized as one of the '60%-75%' of males who have been unfaithful. To suggest that this would prove the unnaturalness of monogamy is absurd.

Most people are monogamous most of the time. I have no personal problem with polygamy; why Dan Savage has a problem with monogamy, I can't really say.
Posted by Joe Havermann on July 7, 2010 at 10:17 AM · Report this
Dan, you should have pointed out something very important to SECONDS:

When she says "...I found a guy, and he agreed to a full STD screening—at my husband's suggestion and our expense—so that we wouldn't have to use condoms" you should have corrected her misconception.

Since there is a lag time between seroconversion and a positive HIV test result (anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months depending on the test), this 3rd partner could have been HIV positive but tested negative. Also urine tests for clamidia and gonorrhea can give a false negative if the pathogens in the urine are too diluted. This is why condoms are always a good idea...even if your tests show you are "clean". Of course, everyone is free to make their own decisions, and there is no "safe" sex, only a continuum of "safer" sex, but I felt like this issue needed to be cleared up.

And thanks for the book recommendation! I'll order it today.
Posted by hedonist87 on July 7, 2010 at 10:20 AM · Report this
It's been said before, but I think this is a "you should know better" situation that needs this drilled in. (Un)natural is a loaded, amorphous at best (but I'd opt for degenerated-to-meaningless) word. Unless Dan Savage hit his head recently he knows that. Since unnatural "is not a word [Dan Savage tosses] around lightly", I think he agrees at least on the loaded part. That he goes on to use it, implies he has the same contempt and hate for monogamists as homophobes do to him.

Contempt over monogamy? Even if he is right about monogamy being unrealistic and the implication that poly* is better (neither of which I believe to be categorically true), what is the point in contempt?

Please, Dan Savage, learn to respond better to those-you-find-distasteful than those-who-find-you-distasteful do. And going on to call anyone who has had a different experience with monogamy (and its level of ease) a liar is the depths of unprofessionalism and closed-mindedness.
Posted by disappointedindan on July 7, 2010 at 10:32 AM · Report this
Rob L 57
I bought the book on Amazon before I finished your column.
Posted by Rob L on July 7, 2010 at 10:39 AM · Report this
Dan, you should also have pointed out to your readers that SEX AT DAWN, like most evolutionary psychology (you'll notice neither of the authors is a paleontologist or reproductive biologist) is a pile of pseudoscientific horse-shit. Fine, their theories "explain" why people cheat. But why then, in the face of such irresistible urges to cheat, do many people stay faithful?

You ought to know, as someone who has devoted his working life to talking to people about kinks, fetishes, dysfunctions, functions, and the very confused that people are not hard-wired for ANYTHING. Some paleolithic societies are, in fact, monogamous, some agricultural societies are polygynous or polyandrous, and some cases, like that of the Maasai, defy conventional description—just as some societies are democratic and some are authoritarian, some are patriarchal and some are egalitarian, some are matrilineal and some are patrilineal, some allow multiple heredity and some do not.

And for the record, we actually share more genes with chimpanzees than bonobos.
Posted by real scientist on July 7, 2010 at 10:47 AM · Report this
@15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 27 etc. You jump on Dan for saying " any honest person who ever attempted it admits to struggling." We can agree that he gets an incomplete view: happy people don't write him, so he sees mostly people struggling.

Would you be willing to go along with a softer version of his statement: "people in monogamous relationships often admit to struggling." Or, "one person in a monogamous couple often finds it harder than the other person"?

The fact that the half-dozen of you are all happy and non-struggling doesn't mean that your partners have never, ever been tempted to stray.

I'm with 34. Many people want to be monogamous with a particular person, so as not to lose that person, but they may face a struggle in sticking to their decision. (And if the relationship sex goes through a dry-spell, that struggle may become overwhelming.)
Posted by EricaP on July 7, 2010 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Yes, there's always more maturity, experience, and knowledge to be had.

No, people don't always make the same dumb mistakes you and your close acquaintances do. No, it doesn't mean you have more wisdom and experience in everything. No, it certainly doesn't mean you're smarter than everyone younger. The implication that is rampant (and I suspect accurate) is that older people feel because they didn't know something at that age the other person must not be able to know it either. And that age alone is reason that younger people should listen to you. I suspect by now you've experienced enough for that to ring false.

The point is not that by age # you have all the things you'll ever need to make decisions. The point is that by age # you should be expected to be able to make your own decisions and craft your own experiences. (That number should probably differ by person, but I think that's generally too hard to do.)

Maybe you'd find it more productive if you have advice/help instead of parenting. Try reason(s) instead of telling people "Oh, the things I've seen!".
Posted by disappointedindan on July 7, 2010 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Let's not forget the physical evidence for the mechanics of the penis, to wit--the cowl of the cock's head, which has evolved to act as a "scraper." Controlled studies have shown--in humans as well--that the last cock in, through vigorous action, can remove up to 70% of the jizz deposited immediately before. I think "Bonk" covers this ground, as well as an NYT article two years ago--family newspaper! But I digress: the researchers concluded that the competitive sperm advantage is aided by the shape of the gland's head, and being the last in, and that this trait has been selected for in mammalian descent lines. Not an evo-psych argument, mind you, but a pysiological one.
Posted by Cakeman on July 7, 2010 at 11:02 AM · Report this
long-time reader 62
@55: It also might have been worth pointing out that there's also a possibility of pregnancy. But maybe she had written that she has had a tubal ligation and Dan just edited that part out.
Posted by long-time reader on July 7, 2010 at 11:04 AM · Report this
fannerz 63
I do not have any problem with people being non monogamous, or the idea of poly relationships. But I just feel the need to say, that when I am in a relationship with someone I feel strongly about, I do not find it hard not to cheat.
Posted by fannerz on July 7, 2010 at 12:01 PM · Report this
I'd like to suggest a different book- The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond. It deals with a number of topics, among which are Diamond's ideas about human sexuality. Its also a bit of evo-psyche if you will, but Diamond is a well-respected evolutionary biologist and member of the National Academy of Sciences. And his view is a bit more nuanced than Dan's (much as I love most of what Dan says- I think his views on the "naturalness" of monogamy are over-simplified). Basically, Diamond's hypothesis is that humans are "somewhat" non-monogamous. That is, while men and women have evolutionary incentives to not be monogamous, we also have incentives to want our partners to be. So we have this uncomfortable conflict. When you think about it, a lot of the sex/gender related issues the come up across societies could be explained by this conflict...
Posted by SG on July 7, 2010 at 12:08 PM · Report this
@28, you're correct in that there are many animal species that "mate for life" what biologists have found is that even though the same pair may stick together and cohabitate, they may not both be the genetic parents of both their offspring. In other words, they're paired for life, but that doesn't mean they aren't screwing off on the side.

--- BREAK ---

I think the argument about which relationship arrangement is better or more natural (seriously?) is stupid. Dan's advice has had one central theme: be honest with your partners. This case is no different. If you can't or won't or don't want to be in a monogamous relationship, then you owe it to your partners to inform them up front. If you can't or won't or don't want to be in a polyamorous relationship, then the same applies. If other people disapprove, then fuck 'em - and not in the good way.

It's as simple as that.
Posted by seggy on July 7, 2010 at 12:13 PM · Report this
Roadflare 66
Thanks to everyone for sticking up for people who prefer monogamy! I personally don't enjoy having sex with multiple people. I've tried, did not enjoy it. I have found it hard sometimes to listen/read Dan (even though I still do religiously) because he gets so down on monogamy, causing me to feel insecure about my own monogamous relationship even though it's just me projecting my own insecurities. I support whatever makes someone happy, and I would personally not be happy in an open relationship. I realize that pretty much all sex advice columnists come down hard on polyamory, but that doesn't give Dan the right to act condescending to monogamy (even though he himself is pretty much monogamous). It's good to know that people can be happy with monogamy because being only 25, I was beginning to think it hopeless.
Posted by Roadflare on July 7, 2010 at 12:53 PM · Report this
I hate to break it to you, Dan, but speculative evolutionary theory is about as valid as the biblical inspired nonsense that you rail against. Just because his conclusions happen to validate your opinions doesn't make them any more than science fiction.
Posted by knitpicker on July 7, 2010 at 1:11 PM · Report this
I hate to break it to you, Dan, but speculative evolutionary theory is about as valid as the biblical inspired nonsense that you rail against. Just because his conclusions happen to validate your opinions doesn't make them any more than science fiction.
Posted by knitpicker on July 7, 2010 at 1:12 PM · Report this
I hate to break it to you, Dan, but speculative evolutionary theory is about as valid as the biblical inspired nonsense that you rail against. Just because his conclusions happen to validate your opinions doesn't make them any more than science fiction.
Posted by knitpicker on July 7, 2010 at 1:13 PM · Report this
@54 You're creating a false dichotomy between "monogamy" and "polyamory." The fact that people tend to pair up (as opposed to having many partners, or practicing free love all over the place) doesn't mean they are inherently or naturally "monogamous." Because they're likely to cheat or at least think about cheating at some point.

& that goes for a lot of you commenters (like 30) who are attempting to defend monogamy. The fact that it's long been a cultural ideal doesn't mean that it's actually a common practice, or that there's any culture -- whether it's Victorian England or 50's America -- that can actually claim to have *practiced* monogamy. It's my understanding that cheating, affairs and illegitimate children have been common in every single human society that's ever existed. This forms a good basis for arguing that monogamy isn't actually the more "natural" or successful basis for society. Although many couples are or have been monogamous, no society has EVER successfully practiced it.

Dan's wording that monogamy isn't "natural" is a little strong, but he's admitted more than once that his writing tips the scales a bit in favor of open relationships because monogamy has so many other advocates. Nearly every mainstream sex writer and advice columnist will tell you that monogamy is normal while open relationships "don't work" and are a sign of failure. So I don't see the big problem with Dan's slightly overemphasizing the ways monogamy "doesn't work."

@62 she might have a tubal ligation, or she might use the pill, IUD, diaphragm, or basically *any* birth control method other than condoms! I assumed that was the case.
Posted by Gudrun Brangwen on July 7, 2010 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Roadflare, I'm over twice your age and still don't think it's hopeless. I have no desire to be non-monogamous and never have.
Posted by been there and back again on July 7, 2010 at 1:17 PM · Report this
Yeah, I gotta say, I don't know about men, but for me as a woman monogamy is totally natural. I'm not saying it is natural for all women, of course, but it seems just as ridiculous to say that its unnatural for all people.
Posted by vitaminwater on July 7, 2010 at 1:30 PM · Report this
Or, to put the following another way: Most people have a natural tendency to want close romantic relationships with one other person, and we tend to notice that attempts to get rid of pair-bond relationships (like the communes #54 mentioned) don't work. But when attempts at lifelong monogamy don't work, we tend to conceptualize it as a personal failing. "You lack willpower" or "you don't love her enough" or whatever (even when those things aren't true). So it's useful to point out that lifelong sexual fidelity isn't comfortable or easy for most people.
Posted by Gudrun Brangwen on July 7, 2010 at 1:42 PM · Report this
hartiepie 74
The monogamy issue is definitley a blind spot for Dan. He always comes off sounding like a fundamentalist preacher of some kind. "There's only one way --- and if you aren't doing it my way, you're lying to yourself!"

I don't know why he feels the need to so publicly defend his own predelictions as something everyone else needs to do. Insecurity, I suppose. Kind of sad for someone as old as he is and working in the field of sex, too.
Posted by hartiepie on July 7, 2010 at 1:52 PM · Report this
@70: Jealousy is also pretty common. Does that apparently mean poly-relationships are unnatural?

Pointing to failures in past societies that emphatically demonized other relationship types -- thus driving up the likelihood that people unsuited for monogamy would force themselves into it -- and neglecting that divorce hasn't been broadly socially acceptable for more than a few decades is unfair. Let's look to the future when all types of relationships are fully embraced and supported and see what is truly "common."

Moreover, defining "success" as never straying, never changing your mind about a person, never looking to changing circumstance around your life, never divorcing (thus "failure"), or never even having particular THOUGHTS (??) is incredibly narrow thinking. So if a poly couple fails to regularly interact with their secondary partners or find suitable ones, and *gasp* temporarily become, in essence, monogamous, is this the failure of poly? Of course not.

Moreover, just because a person isn't perfect at something does not null a genuine desire to continue trying it. I do genuinely prefer to be monogamous. Because it can be difficult at times doesn't mean that I'm deluding myself or that I'm forcing myself into a social ideal.

I refuse to even touch this stupid "natural/unnatural" debate, because (1) it's nigh impossible to define, since what constitutes as "natural" can vary for all kinds of people and frankly, (2) it might be natural for anyone to do any number of things, but it has no bearing on my decisions.
Posted by Gloria on July 7, 2010 at 2:00 PM · Report this
So, I guess I'm not participating in the mono v poly battle taking place on here, I just want to respond to what DWBAH wrote in saying...

It's strange that what you are concerned about in your relationship is that he doesn't trust you. You've made it pretty clear that you can't be upfront and honest, and thus have to go behind his back and cheat (cheating implies the other person was either non-consenting about you sleeping with someone else, or you had to be dishonest about it and upfront later, or both). That's not being an ethical slut, that's being a liar. Is it possible that while you love him, you can't give him what he wants and don't want to lose him so you keep pretending like you can? This limbo is not healthy. I've been there and I can relate to how confusing and difficult this position is.

My 2 cents - let him go to find someone who CAN be in the type of relationship your partner seems to want. I think it's fantastic that you are poly, more power to you, and, girl, don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't do what makes you happy. But seriously, be fair. Be honest. And let the guy off the hook, already. And if you're concerned about having someone to "spend your life with," chances are you'll find someone who wants to be in the type of relationship where you won't feel guilty for doing what you want, you won't be trying to change each other, and you won't have to lie in order to keep one another happy - that's not a relationship founded on genuine respect for one another, that's manipulation. You're 24! Be patient, and until then, have fun (be safe)!

<3 - your ethical slut companion
Posted by thisdoesnotrefelctmypersonality on July 7, 2010 at 2:00 PM · Report this
avast_2006, your hilarious and insightful comments win the internet. Especially the one aimed at little miss "OMG people in their 20s are like totally all growed up!" - I was thinking the same exact things but you beat me to it. :D
Posted by perversecowgirl on July 7, 2010 at 2:04 PM · Report this
@63, 66, 71, 72, 74 – we get it, we do. For you, monogamy is easy, and you're not tempted to cheat. But how can you know for sure what your partner feels? Or what you or your partner will feel in ten years? I know that now you're in love and happily partnered off. But suppose ten years down the line, your partner cheats on you and you find out. Do you get all huffy and leave him for infidelity? Or do you look back on your years of reading Savage Love, and realize that your partner is human, fallible, and probably still loves you? And then what do you do with that knowledge?
Posted by EricaP on July 7, 2010 at 2:30 PM · Report this
Can someone explain why we're all assuming DWBAH is "naturally poly" (if there even is such a thing!)? Maybe she's not ready for a commitment yet. Maybe she has self-esteem issues that she's trying to solve by fucking lots of people. Maybe her boyfriend simply isn't the right guy for her and she can't admit it yet.

When I was younger, I did the monogamy thing because I was afraid the boy I was seeing was my last chance at romance ever (yes, I believed this every single time) and figured I'd better nail him down - in other words, I was monogamous because I didn't want him to see anyone else, not because I didn't want to see anyone else. Frankly my boyfriends usually weren't compatible enough with me to hold my full attention. Perhaps DBWAH is in the same situation. Or perhaps not; there's no way of knowing.

btw, now I'm monogamously attached to a boy because I don't want anyone else; he gives me everything I want in a relationship (including variety, up to a point; he's a fairly passable crossdresser, so I can fuck a boy or a girl or anything in-between). Being with him is an entirely different experience from the badly-fitting relationships of my youth: I admire the attractiveness of other men, yes, but I don't sit there feeling devastated that I can't date or fuck them.

So, Dan...arguably people don't "struggle" to stay monogamous if they're being monogamous to the right person and for the right reasons. Or, maybe some people need more variety than others and I'm a person who's fine with what I've got. But I promise you, not everyone goes through some giant personal crisis because they've agreed to fuck just one person.
Posted by perversecowgirl on July 7, 2010 at 2:30 PM · Report this
The lady, dude, sex advice columnist, whatever, doth protest TOO MUCH. For fuck sake (pun intended), Dan, enough of the monogamy bashing! Your specious biological justifications(excuses)are gettin' old. There's plenty in the human condition that seems unnatural, when compared to primitive animalistic tendencies. Next time you look for a text to support your own ever-so-apparent indecisiveness, try reading the chapter on evolution. Just sayin'.
Posted by PA on July 7, 2010 at 2:51 PM · Report this
@78 - That's not really the point, at least not the point I was making. I even said that I don't know about men, so by extension I don't know about my partner. I'm not claiming monogamy is easy for him, I'm saying its easy for ME. And its strange to say that its unnatural and that anyone who finds it easy and preferable must be lying.

Your post and the posts you are responding to are not mutually exclusive, at all.
Posted by vitaminwater on July 7, 2010 at 3:00 PM · Report this
@81, but if it's not easy for your partner, and you're in a relationship with him, then how easy is your monogamous relationship going to be? That's what hit me in the face this year.
Posted by EricaP on July 7, 2010 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Roadflare 83
Firstly, thank been there and back again. I appreciate the support.

@78, I never said it was easy for me. I'm a highly sexual person and do fantasize about the random stranger. I like to go to strip clubs, espcially with my boyfriend. I realize he may imagine fucking the stripper when she wags her vagina in his face. To me monogamy is about actions, it would be silly to assume my partner never thinks about other women. I think it's hard for everyone. I prefer monogamy because it is important for me to feel safe and comfortable. You don't know my boyfriend at all, so let me be clear that he is surprisingly honest, more so than me. I did not say anything against polyaromy, like I said if it makes you happy, go for it. It's just not for me.
Posted by Roadflare on July 7, 2010 at 3:15 PM · Report this
I'm actually a little surprised at all the controversy surrounding this week's Savage Love; there seems to be a great deal of wounded defensiveness perhaps betraying some niggling little personal doubts in one's love life. Sexuality is by nature fluid; sexuality is a force that, by nature, violates boundaries and breaks barriers--part of the Dionysian experience of the universe. Thus people, especially those in positions of authority, have always sought to chain sexuality so that its normal excesses do not violate common social roles, thus reinforcing a commitment to the common and middle. As a straight man in a happily monogamous relationship, I still find it a beautiful thing to see Hermes-like boundary-breaking nature of sexuality at work, violating all the confidence and middling respectability of the common man. Sex is one of the few acts that does break down one's walls, at least temporarily, returning one to experience the powerful and unindividuated pulse of life.

Regardless, this reminds me rather well of some ancient ritual practice of Sacred Prostitution. If you'll allow me a somewhat abridged reference in Herodotus 1.199. Long story short, all the women of Babylon, supposedly, were to present themselves at the temple of some Babylonian analog to Aphrodite (regardless of marital status) and have sex with a stranger in exchange for money as a duty to the goddess.

I would hazard a guess that perhaps the first whorehouses in the world were, in reality, religious sites.
Posted by Central Scrutinizer on July 7, 2010 at 3:22 PM · Report this
Granted, it's straight to be turned on after watching another man download his DNA into your mate. It's also pretty fucked up to make it happen and that's probably a big part of why Spouse's warning bells are going off. In all likelihood, what we have here is a dude whose psychological adaptations are not functioning to specification. Yes, it makes good evolutionary sense to to be highly motivated to plunge another man's seed out of your mate before it takes root. That's why men are turned on by the idea and by the sight of it, why the subsequent sex is more vigorous, the seminal fluid more copious, etc. (see Baker and Bellis for a competent discussion of sperm competition).

Sexual selection also may have endowed men with a cognitive adaptation to take advantage of situations in wherein a fertile female is seen to be granting broad sexual access outside of a pair bond (e.g., intoxication, wartime non-consensual sex with victorious pillagers, etc.). While morally repugnant from almost any societal or familial perspective, endowment with such motivational apparatus may well have been profitable enough in the currency of descendants to have fixed the trait in many or most men in our species.

But Spouse's mate has invited another male to inseminate his mate because one or both of these adaptations and some bad memes have led him to the unwise conclusion that this is the path he should take with his arousal pattern. It is highly unlikely that such a thing could have evolved by natural selection since in greatly increases the probability he will become nobody's ancestor. Worse yet, he will raise the cuckoo's chick as his own, incurring all the costs of paternal investment while receiving nothing but opportunity costs as his evolutionary reward.

And Spouse is rightly concerned. Is he too subordinate to imagine himself sole mate of Spouse? Is Spouse not hot enough for Cuckold Dude? Is Cuckold Dude endowed with a self-destructive mutation he might pass on to her son? Will Cuckold Dude eventually abandon Spouse because, after all is said and done, his is no longer capable of trusting her? What happens if the interlopers-by-invitation successfully impregnate Spouse and she ends up without the support of either Cuckold Dude or the interloper?

So, Dan, homosexuality is the wrong tree to be barking up, but I see little comfort for her in the (my) field of evolutionary psychology.
Posted by Meme Darwinizer on July 7, 2010 at 3:33 PM · Report this
I totally agree with #6... my head gets why it's acceptable and even a positive thing, but my heart would hurt SO bad.
Posted by meghanomics on July 7, 2010 at 3:37 PM · Report this
My 2 cents' worth for DWBAH:

"We say that we are going to be together someday, but he has no trust in me. I would love to be content, but I can't seem to go very long before I get distracted. Please give me some insight!"

You have all the insight you need right there. You just need the balls to follow it through to its logical conclusion.

He has no trust in me means that your past actions have hurt him, and he doesn't trust that you aren't going to hurt him again. He wants a monogamous relationship, probably always will, and you are already two strikes down with him. I would love to be content clearly implies that the next try at a relationhip will have to be monogamous too, and you don't trust yourself to be able to live within that any more than he trusts you to. If you persuade him to get back together with you under those terms -- one more shot at monogamy, despite your track record and against his better judgment -- and then you "get distracted" yet again, he is going to hate you and hate you and hate you and hate you.

Let him go. You two are not right for each other. Let him go find someone that he can be monogamous with. Maybe he can keep you around to cheat on her with every so often, since monogamy is, after all, unnatural.
Posted by avast2006 on July 7, 2010 at 3:45 PM · Report this
Question: I've always kind of assumed that the majority (not all of course) of MEN preferred non-monogamy, and the majority WOMEN preferred monogamy. Help me out guys, are there a lot of MEN out there who enjoy being monogamous? I really picture it as something that you put up with (hence the fact that so many of you cheat). It makes the prospect of getting into a long term relationship seem bleak, unless I can accept this. Especially when I hear Dan (who is brilliant) say that monogamy is just unrealistic. (And yes, I realize I'm dragging some of my own issues/baggage into this...)
Posted by savagelover on July 7, 2010 at 3:49 PM · Report this
I haven't seen this brought up in the comments yet, but does anyone else find it mildly offensive, ironic, and disappointing that Dan Savage religiously rails against people's sexual preferences by calling it "unnatural"?

Methinks the hero has become the villain.
Posted by potatolicious on July 7, 2010 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Ugh, Dan is on an evolution kick again.

Please, pretty please, STOP. It's so stupid.

Look, like it or not, whatever evolution may incline or disincline anyone to do is utterly irrelevant. Evolution is not able to keep up with social change, particularly the rate of change we have experienced (and continue to experience) in the West since, say, 1800.

If you want to be part of a 21st century Western society--with its technology, mobility, legalistic ways, etc.--you have to be a 21st century person, no matter how far behind evolution is. You can't resolve your differences with a physical confrontation, you have to go to court or counseling or some other mediated venue. Don't like it? Tough. Don't feel it suits you? Well, there's always prison.

Similarly, you will have to have 21st century relationships. You will have to negotiate and contract. If you violate that contract, you should expect to be punished. Don't like the contract? Don't sign on--you have that right. But don't resort to simpering defenses like monogamy is unnatural. So is air conditioning. So is the Internet. So are paved roads and modern medicine and 401(k)s. So is 90% of what passes for modern life. If you want in, check your evolutionary excuses at the door.

Posted by s.n.c. on July 7, 2010 at 4:15 PM · Report this
Ok this is my main issue with Dan his monogamy is unnatural meme. Why can't it be like sexual orientation, where we say that some are gay and some are straight and neither is unnatural. Why can't it be that some are monogamous and some are not. Why call it unnatural. I know many many people who are concent being monogamous.
Posted by Mike 12 on July 7, 2010 at 4:17 PM · Report this
About SECONDS: I find it hard to believe that Dan didn't chime in on this, and that I had to read through 54 other comments before someone else rang the alarm bell.
Let me add that during the (up to) 6 month window between sero-conversion and testing positive, the virus load will be very high and more likely to infect someone else.
Add to this the established fact that the 3rd is willing to have sex without condoms and the risk that he could be HIV+ goes up dramatically.
Outside of a monogamous relationship, condoms. Always.
Posted by vab251 on July 7, 2010 at 4:21 PM · Report this
savagelover (#88), the phrase "non monogamy" implies that both parties are free to play with other people, and most guys I know are possessive enough that they would never go for that - even if it means having to swear off other people, too, just to make things even. So I'm going to say that most men definitely don't prefer non monogamy.

Whether they find monogamy more difficult than women do (which I guess is what you were actually asking), I don't know.
Posted by perversecowgirl on July 7, 2010 at 4:31 PM · Report this
Did everyone (including Dan) miss the ridiculous and homophobic bullshit in the first letter? My husband is into cuckolding- does that make him a homo is even more ridiculous then the old standard- my husband likes pegging so he must be gay. Personally, I don't care one way or the other about the monogamy/non-monogamy debate going on but its disappointing that no one else noticed Dan overlooking the homophobe undertone of the first letter
Posted by wtfdan on July 7, 2010 at 4:40 PM · Report this
Because I'm female, I'm supposed to have slow-building orgasms. So why the hell would I get with multiple males if I want an orgasm? Each dude has different techniques, different hands, tongues, dicks, etc. Why not stick with one guy for a while so he can learn and get it right? Doesn't mean I have to stay with him for the rest of my life.

Like others said, I want people to fuck and love whoever they want and however many people they want. I do enjoy talking about evolution, but I'm tired of evolution being used to justify my personality, sex drive, intelligence, etc. I'd blame my parents, the media, and my brain's interpretations before cavemen.

Posted by hai on July 7, 2010 at 4:51 PM · Report this
The notion of monogamy appeared in mankind concurrently with the notion of private property (a consequence of the development of agriculture, which led people away from their tribal, hunting-gathering existence) as a way to ensure that said private property remained in the family. Here's how it worked: you got married, you had children with your spouse, you died, these children were assuredly yours because you were only allowed to have sex with your spouse, so they inherited your property, etc., etc.

Why was this system worked out? Because there were no DNA tests at the time. Then this notion was transformed into "God's word", so it would be easier to get people to obey, and the rest is, literally, history.

(But please note that only apparent monogamy was necessary to make the system work, since there were no DNA tests at the time. The idea was to be discrete, not to torture yourself into an arrangement you couldn't live with. Unfortunately, with religions becoming so strong over the course of the centuries, they also became more capable of forcing their dogma on the population while clerics were and are going around doing whatever they want to whoever they want, with relative impunity until now.)

The notion of monogamy has nothing to do with our biology. Indeed, many others, including famed anthropologist Desmond Morris (at least in a TV documentary he was narrating - maybe it wasn't exactly his opinion), have argued that our biology was quite the opposite. So this book isn't "evo-psych". It's not even a new concept.

And although happy monogamists DO exist (I actually know two of them), they are only one of many minorities on the sexual spectrum, as many here pointed out. Why should all the others feel guilty about being true to themselves?

Posted by Ricardo on July 7, 2010 at 4:59 PM · Report this
My personal feeling is that there are a certain percentage of people who cheat, and of that percentage, a great number most likely would NOT be happy if their partner had sex outside of the relationship. Of those people who cheat, it's about a lack of impulse control, selfishness, and/or power over their partner. Some people who cheat are insecure and need constant reassurance from strangers that they are sexually attractive. Others cheat to "get back at" their spouse/partner for some perceived misdeed...My point is that people cheat for so many different reasons, some of which are emotionally driven not for the need for variety, but oftentimes the need for power. And a lot of people are just selfish assholes, straight up.

And to Mrs. Erica P - I'm sorry but it's ridiculous that you keep defending your husband's bad behavior. Seriously, grow a set! If he was having thoughts about other women and couldn't keep it in his pants, he should have communicated with you first about the possibility of opening up the relationship or maybe even adding some variety to your sex life. But it sounds like he just cheated on you and then told you afterwards. For most people, the cheating is not as bad as the deception. I would much rather have my partner talk to me first so that we could explore our options, rather than run off to fuck the intern at work followed by an "oops!" afterwards. Good for you that you can forgive him, but don't get on this board preaching to everyone about poly shit when you're not even poly - your husband is a liar and a cheat to boot! When can you get YOUR rocks off? Can you run around having sex with whomever you want? Methinks the hubby wouldn't like that.

Which brings me back to my original point - a lot of sexual non-monogamy is not a two-way street. That's why people cheat - they want variety but want to deny their partner the same freedom. It's all about power and control. It's not about our ancestors or bonobos or being forced into some "unnatural" state of being. Cheating is a choice and people make that choice for a lot of reasons beyond biological urges.

Posted by Real_Wisdom on July 7, 2010 at 5:03 PM · Report this
hartiepie 98
@78 The issue for me isn't that monogamy is hard --- it is. It that Dan says it's unnatural with seeming indifference to the fact that this is precisely the same argument that social "conservatives" and religious folk use against GLBTs. It exists therefore it is natural! We do lots of things that are not natural (read, bury our dead, drive cars)

But that is actually immaterial if one believes that variety is the spice of life, and Dan has no problem with that usually.

Dan's hypocracy is what I am addressing. You're free to struggle having whatever kind of sexual relationship you want (none are easy in my mind). But calling it unnatural?
Posted by hartiepie on July 7, 2010 at 5:13 PM · Report this
I lot of people are responding strongly to the phrase "monogomy is unnatural". What if it were rephrased it to say "Having sexual urges only for our primary partner 100% of the time is very unusual, and probably impossible"? That's a bit easier to stomach, and I think that's what Dan's saying. I am in a stable monogamous relationship and love it (I'm a guy by the way). I prefer the stability and comfort it provides to dating multiple people. But do I have sexual urges towards people that aren't my partner? You bet. Whether it's towards a co-worker or a movie star, I think we all have sexual urges about people who aren't our partners. Most of the time,we ignore these urges because we dont' want to hurt our loved ones and we don't want to destroy our lives. We're evolved, rational human beings, so we can control our urges. If we're horny at work we don't just start masturbating, because we don't want to loose our job (or if we do start masturbating, we do it in the bathroom).

But that doesn't mean the urges aren't there. And if we lived in a magical world where cheating didn't hurt our loved ones and destroy lives, I think a lot of us would act on those urges. Wait a minute, we don't need a magical world - we can just use non-monogamy! To me non-monogamy isn't about fucking everything we can get our hands on. It's about acknowledging that we all have sexual urges, and that during the normal course of life we're going to run into people we're attracted to that aren't our SO, and sometimes we're going to want to fuck these people, so let's acknowledge this reality up front and deal with it, instead of saying, "Love means only fucking me, and only wanting to fuck me for all of time!" Having sex with other people is only a relationship ender if you decide it should be. Non-monogamy is about deciding it isn't.
Posted by MonogamistLeaning on July 7, 2010 at 5:21 PM · Report this
Chris in Vancouver WA 100
I'm at the far, far end of the bell curve: I was with another guy for 13 years, monogamous, and never had any big desire to have sex with other guys. Yeah, the relationship sex was reeeeeealllly, reeeeeeeallly good.
Posted by Chris in Vancouver WA on July 7, 2010 at 5:57 PM · Report this
We all have all kinds of urges, but that doesn't mean we have to or even should act on them. Acting in a civilized manner is also difficult and unnatural, but it is something to aspire to.

Road rage is experienced by many and can be as intense, if not more so, and more frequently experienced than any sexual attraction. Just because I may become incensed over the actions of another driver doesn't mean that I'm going to kill them despite the short term gratification that it would bring me, but that gratification is not worth the long term consequences.

Posted by a skeptic and a cynic on July 7, 2010 at 5:59 PM · Report this
Chris in Vancouver WA 102
@ 89 - In a way, in a way...
Posted by Chris in Vancouver WA on July 7, 2010 at 5:59 PM · Report this
El Bruce 103
It seems to me that some people are oriented towards monogamy much like any other sexual orientation. However, a lot fewer are than think they are. I think Dan's aiming at the people in the gap, those who aren't monogamous but who let society convince them that they were supposed to be. But I do know some people for whom polyamory seems completely foreign to their psychological makeup without necessarily condemning it.

However, I do find it to be a lovely notion that gangbangs have an evolutionary basis.
Posted by El Bruce on July 7, 2010 at 6:14 PM · Report this
@97 I'm flattered that you care so much about my sex life and marriage :-)
Yeah, he should have spoken to me first. Whoops, he's human. Doesn't mean I stop loving him. But he confessed before I had figured anything out —what kind of amazing person does that? And since you're curious, yes, since we opened up the marriage, he does encourage me to go out and fuck other people. I've gotten more than he has, actually, just because it's easier for women. Though as 95 said, it's actually hard to find men who are any good at figuring out what I want. Does anyone have any tips on how to figure out whether men are good in bed before you fuck them?
Posted by EricaP on July 7, 2010 at 6:17 PM · Report this
Canuck 105
@104 Rock on, Erica P! I was all set to defend you against the dweeb @97, but you already did it.
Re: your last question: Hmmm, I'd say dance with them, so you can see their hips in action, and try to figure out if they're *giving* in other ways.....dang, sistah, good for you!
Posted by Canuck on July 7, 2010 at 7:11 PM · Report this
Lechugo 106
"and any honest person who ever attempted it admits to struggling"


I mean, infidelity is mostly natural, but i won't talk about the few exceptions.

It's hard to say it in english, it's not my natural language, hope it's at least undestandable. The apology of naturality is bullshit, that's what I say.
Posted by Lechugo on July 7, 2010 at 7:17 PM · Report this
@78 says:
"Or do you look back on your years of reading Savage Love, and realize that your partner is human, fallible, and probably still loves you? And then what do you do with that knowledge?"

Huh? If I realized that my partner is human, fallible, and probably still loves me, it would be because of what the previous 4 decades of the relationship was like (in 10 years it will be that long) and definitely not because of reading Savage Love.

Posted by been there and back again on July 7, 2010 at 7:19 PM · Report this
@107 - LOL! Yeah, I phrased that badly. I just meant that SL helped me to see that it wasn't necessarily the end of the world. That many men have trouble with holding up their end of monogamy, and I don't have to bolt. Actually, wasn't it Ann Landers who said to evaluate if you were better off with him or without him? Good advice.
Posted by EricaP on July 7, 2010 at 7:30 PM · Report this
Lot's of monogamous cry babies today. Apparently saying that the common form of monogamy that many people accept today is a choice, and not something that just naturally occurs and stays, pisses them off and gets them acting like you've personally hurt them and have been disparaging them.

Oh noes, there are reasons why people stray, even if many choose to stay true and there are reasons to be monogamous as well, what will you do now? Yes, that's it attack the messenger and cry out moar trying to drown out the reasons why some might cheat or even prefer non-monogamy. Just because they called it "unnatural" like all the modern benefits we like, and all the choices we willingly make and enjoy that aren't just "naturally" there.

Congratulations to those who I'm not talking about though, those monogamous people who are secure enough to not be so overly defensive. You are probably better suited for monogamy with such fine temperaments and mature views.
Posted by Ceomyr on July 7, 2010 at 7:40 PM · Report this
It really is fortunate for authors such as those who wrote this book that America continues to do such a piss-poor job of educating children in the sciences.

I don't care about poly v. mono. It's the pseudo science that pisses me off.
Posted by Sailoreic on July 7, 2010 at 10:06 PM · Report this
shilonikelle 111
I am a one-man girl. That is "natural" to me.
Posted by shilonikelle on July 7, 2010 at 10:08 PM · Report this
If you have urges and don't act on them you are being manogamous
Posted by Mike 12 on July 7, 2010 at 11:06 PM · Report this
Aly 113
I've never liked to share. I don't plan on changing that any time soon :)
Posted by Aly on July 7, 2010 at 11:32 PM · Report this
This is the first time I've ever been extremely disappointed in one of Dan's columns. It's hard to watch him stump for something that smacks of Evo-Psyc, an area that is taking a beautiful theory and ruining by not applying it properly (e.g., using circular reasoning, and by failing to provide evidence for explicit assumptions made). [Note: There are definitely other examples, even in Psyc, of research branching into new areas and making dumb mistakes because of unfamiliarity with it. Though at the same time, evolution isn't a new idea, and the basic tenets - and logical follow-throughs - aren't that difficult to grasp]

Some evolutionary psyc work is actually thoughtful and well-done, but a lot of work that I've read - especially the work on human relationships (and sexual relationships, in particular) - I've found to be more frustrating than enlightening.

The area has so much potential, but so much of it has been so badly wasted.

@41: I 100% believe that anything that has a genetic basis/is heritable bows down to evolution, whether it's physiology, personality, attitudes, sexual behaviour, etc. It's the poorly-done and poorly-argued research that wrenches me up inside... and the Russian researcher you're thinking about is Belyaev. That breeding program makes the academic in me giddier than my own area does, haha.
Posted by ShouldBeStudying on July 8, 2010 at 12:55 AM · Report this
XiaoGui17 115
@13 I wouldn't write these two off so quickly. While they don't have archaeology degrees, they both have strong backgrounds in both psychology AND anthropology. You don't need to dig up fossils to be qualified to talk about evolution.
Posted by XiaoGui17 on July 8, 2010 at 1:12 AM · Report this
While I appreciate the fact that some folks can't handle monogamy, I find promiscuity a shallow experience at best. It's great as empty experiences go, but for people wired the way I am, it's not enough. I find sluts repellent. This may well be at odds with the book Dan is plugging with such vigour, but I have never had to struggle with monogamy.

@dwbah - don't waste yours or his time. You're a slut. A normal man ( for my purposes heterosexual monogamous being normal) wants fidelity.

@WSWH - you will lose this man, or leave him yourself. Once the sex goes, it all goes.
Posted by ralf_was_my_girl on July 8, 2010 at 2:00 AM · Report this
Bullsheez The cuckold is Gay! He likes watching that other dudes tight buns bang his wife. he wants to find a way to be in the presence of another dudes junk and goo. she should ask why it turns him on .
Posted by obamah8r on July 8, 2010 at 3:04 AM · Report this
I think what those feeling slighted by Dan's comments about monogamy are missing is the fact that even in our society, which shoves monogamy down our throats, a *majority* of people cheat on their partners at least once.

Given that statistic, it's pretty hard to defend monogamy as the "default" for human sexuality.

Now imagine if monogamy wasn't such a highly-prized, frequently-reinforced cultural value... I suspect the rates of "true monogamy" would decline rapidly.
Posted by Ianto on July 8, 2010 at 3:56 AM · Report this
Get real people, this is the 21st century, not the pre-AIDS world. I hate to rain on your parade, but there is no such thing as safe, non-monogamous sex, just safer non-monogamous sex. Even using condoms doesn't absolutely prevent the transmission of STDs. But then this is the last thing people think about, if they even consider it, when they decide to have non-monogamous sex. I really don't care if monogamy is natural or not, I'm interested in the potential health consequences of not being monogamous. It is one thing to put your own health and life on the line, it something entirely different to put the health and life of a loved one on the line. If you can refute this reality, please do so. I have children who will eventually become sexually active and their health concerns me greatly.
Posted by beentheredonethatgotthetshirt on July 8, 2010 at 5:02 AM · Report this
I need to clarify my previous comments. As far as I'm concerned (from a health perspective), being monogamous (or sexual fidelity if you prefer) is not necessarily restricted to two individuals as long as they limit themselves to sex within the group. Although I imagine sexual fidelity (just like consensus) becomes harder as you add more people.
Posted by beentheredonethatgotthetshirt on July 8, 2010 at 5:27 AM · Report this
Aurora Erratic 121
I am interested to read the book, but I take umbrage at the statement, "Monogamy is unnatural." This from a gay man! Monogamy is no more unnatural than homosexuality. Like homosexuality, not everyone is going to feel it. Can the judgement.
Posted by Aurora Erratic on July 8, 2010 at 5:46 AM · Report this
I wish Dan would stop saying stupid shit like "monogamy is unrealistic" (it is for some; for many it's not) and "unnatural" (so is driving a car, flying a plane, and taking penicillin)

I also hate it when he finds some "expert" - in this case Chris Ryan - and rams his tongue so far up the guy's ass it practically comes out of his mouth.
Posted by wayne on July 8, 2010 at 5:52 AM · Report this
I'm in an open relationship, and I object to the idea that monogamy is "unnatural."

It is impossible or very difficult for most people. Like homosexuality, though, there is a minority for whom it is perfectly natural. It's preferable for these people. In our zeal to defend the majority who find monogamy difficult, we should not stigmatize the minority who find it easy.

Dan Savage is being fairly bigoted.
Posted by DianeLGD on July 8, 2010 at 6:36 AM · Report this
@119 The problem with that is that a lot of people who are in a so-called monogamous relationship are actually being cheated on by their spouse... and their spouse is not necessarily thinking about protecting them when they're cheating. Indeed, there are an awful lot of women being infected with HIV nowadays BY THEIR SPOUSE. I suspect the opposite also happens to some extent.

As a gay man, I try to stay away from married men as I don't like hypocrites (personally, in my entire life - I'm 44 and I,ve been around - I have only met one bisexual male whose girlfriend knew that he sleeps with men - but sorry to all those honest bi's out there, I'm not talking about you). But since in my experience bisexual married men never tell you beforehand that they're married, so as not to ruin their chances of getting laid, I must've had sex with at least a couple of hundred married men (yes, I'm a slut), often anonymous sex in parks, bathhouses, etc. And here's what the majority of these men had in common: they either didn't have condoms on them (because that would be evidence if their wife ever found one) or they didn't "like" to use condoms; either way, it didn't matter much to most of them "because they're not really like that so they're not concerned by aids" (that's the moment when one does realize that his sex partner is a married man... and that there's still a lot of ignorance about aids in the straight world).

So although monogamy sounds like the best way to preserve your sexual health, it really depends on your spouse obeying the same rule. And that's where the ideal of monogamy becomes potentially dangerous. Since it's such a big part of societal mores, many people who aren't monogamous by nature feel compelled to lie in order to have a "normal" life and relationships (or else they'll be shunned). And since they want to see themselves as normal, they often (in my experience) try to minimize the frequency or the danger of their outside sexual contacts so they won't feel like total shits.

Needless to say, that's not a very good way to preserve sexual health. I'd rather use condoms, they work no matter your number of partners.
Posted by Ricardo on July 8, 2010 at 8:15 AM · Report this
Seattle from Singapore 125
Everyone who's going off on Dan for his statements needs to take a chill pill. If you listen to the podcasts and you read him regularly you'd realize that while he's currently a bit excited to have found something that he feels validates his views, in general he's always clear that he has no problem with monogomy, and thinks it's great for the people it works for. His concern is usually the way that it's put up on a pedastal as the only way and how anything short of it is viewed as failure.

The guy's a little excited, and he may well decide to walk back the "unnatural" comment, but cut him some slack.

And for all the monogomists so injured by Dan's comments, get over it. The rest of the world worships you, I think you can handle one homo who's got a different opinion.
Posted by Seattle from Singapore on July 8, 2010 at 8:26 AM · Report this
Dan, amazing as usual. And this Ryan guy sounds just as fantastic.

I sincerely wish one out of all three of the long term relationships I've had had allowed not only me, but US to explore sexually. I've been trying to get my boyfriend to have sex with another woman and watch, that would be my ultimate fantasy. And he says absolutely not, and is even more against bringing another male into our sex life.
Monogamy is so restricting. I hope I can find a GGG partner one day.
Posted by Somerset Darling on July 8, 2010 at 8:37 AM · Report this
I feel like the 24 year old hasn't really been given a full set of advice here...

Perhaps she is so deeply non-monogamous that she has to accept and move forward with her life, knowing she will never be satisfied by one partner. Or, perhaps she's just young and was with the wrong guy for 6 years.

I cheated on a long term boyfriend left and right in my early twenties and really started to believe that I must be non-monogamous. I loved him and we had good sex - so I figured my need to have sex with others meant I'd never be sastified by one person. Fast forward to my relationship with my husband.

Been together 7 years, no cheating and no true desire to cheat. Sure, I fantasize - who doesn't? - and I run close to the rail with flirting here and there. But the love and sexual attraction I feel for him are SO much deeper than what I felt for my ex, that I really feel like a different person in this relationship.

We have explosively good sex and do a lot of fantasizing together and are exploring new kinks all the time - we may even open up our relationship one day, but if so it'll be us, as a couple doing it to enrich our sex life. Not me, just wanting to run around and bang strangers. Know what I mean? For me there is a huge difference in how I felt in my previous relationship and I how I feel in this one. I think the 24 year old in question needs to give her h.s. boyfriend the boot, for good, and move forward with meeting someone who better matches her. Maybe it'll turn out she is non-monogamous and if so, the advice given here is pretty sound, but I wouldn't jump to that conclusion right off the bat.
Posted by Legiswriter on July 8, 2010 at 9:14 AM · Report this

I'm sorry, but when the hell did monogamy become a bad thing? Did I miss the memo somewhere, that said that monogamous people need to be "educated"?

I'd much rather a girl be upfront about not being able to be faithful to me, and let me decide whether I'd be okay being cheated on, than have her lie and form some emotional bond, before she drops that particular bombshell on me.


I won't deign to speak for all men, or even many, but I prefer monogamy. I wouldn't be comfortable or happy in an open relationship. When I'm with a woman, I'm with her lock, stock, and barrel, and wouldn't want to inflict the pain of infidelity on her. Similarly, I'd be crushed if my girlfriend wanted to sleep with other men while being with me. Perhaps it's low self-esteem, or at least an understanding that someone else out there is more attractive than me. Perhaps it's a natural paranoia. Perhaps it stems from my mother having cheated on and divorced my father. I'm not sure.


I think the problem is when someone who accepts that most forms of sexual expression (homosexuality, most kinks) are outside of our control, and hence "natural", this one form (the one lots of us prefer) is somehow unnatural. Unnatural is not a neutral word, it doesn't just hold the meaning of "not how things would be in the natural world" (even though many species of animal are monogamous), it holds connotations which make it sound like a denunciation.

If that wasn't Dan's meaning, I do hope he clarifies.


[Needs Citations]

As you're really asserting that a majority of people cheat on their monogamous partners, I'd really like to see data.


Yes, many married people stray from monogamy. But, many married people don't.

I think that it should be about honesty. I've had girlfriends who were upfront about their desire to have lots of different sexual experiences, and I've been upfront about my desire for monogamy. We set up ground rules: we're monogamous while we're together, but if/when she got bored (or I got bored) we could either open up the relationship, or break up with no hard feelings.

That said, I think the standards for relationship rules should work the same way the standards for BDSM rules exist (in my book): whoever has more restrictive rules and desires controls. If a polyamorous person decides to be in a relationship with a monogamous person, she's accepting that she's being faithful to him. Of course, the monogamous person should be upfront, as should the polyamorous person, and they should try to hash things out first, but at the end of the day, if your partner is only happy if you're not sleeping around, and you can be happy sleeping with only one person, you do that.

If you can't, don't get together.


Okay, can we discuss the limits of being GGG?

I like to think of myself as GGG, and there are some fantasies I simply wouldn't enjoy. Bringing another man (or woman) into any of my relationships would simply have me huddled on the floor (or, alternately, livid). Maybe it's low self-esteem, or concern about my girlfriend wanting the other guy more, whatever. For whatever reason, that particular line of fantasy makes me lose wood faster than anything else.

But, so what? Unless you're saying that if your boyfriend came to you and said "I want to pretend I'm a baby in a diaper, and you're my mommy raping me while she changes me", you'd immediately throw on the apron, and baby talk to him, you're being hypocritical. If GGG literally means "doing anything your partner likes", then you'd better have absolutely no limits. If it still allows for some "kinks that freak me out", then what you want isn't someone GGG, you want someone with similar kinks.

Posted by Seldon2639 on July 8, 2010 at 9:43 AM · Report this
My husband gave me the ol' "free pass" about 4 years ago and I've never used it.
Posted by sunny_bravo on July 8, 2010 at 10:18 AM · Report this
If monogamy was "unnatural" it probably would have phased out somewhere along the millennia. Yes, humans used to fuck like rabbits. But then we started cooking our food and wearing pants when it got cold, and we started thinking instead of being instinctual beasts. Not that thinking is what makes us monogamous, as there's plenty of other species that practice it and practice it well. Saying monogamy is somehow "unnatural" when it is plainly obvious to anyone who took biology in 7th grade and passed with better than a C- that humans are not alone in sticking to one mate is either terribly misinformed, pushing an agenda, or just an idiot.

Just because you can't keep it in your pants doesn't mean the people who can and do are freaks. I don't care if you want to fuck everyone on the planet or just maintain a relationship with 12 other people at once, just don't pretend that the desire to just fuck one person and maintain that one relationship is out of the ordinary. It makes you look like a jackass.
Posted by Yawgmoth on July 8, 2010 at 10:20 AM · Report this
It's certainly apropos that the letter you received is regarding the cuckolding fetish, the "hot new fetish" of the new millennium. I absolutely agree with Ryan, that there are many "normal" reasons to explain the appeal of this fetish. In my own book Insatiable Wives, I explore these issues, including the neurochemical and masochistic motivations behind it. I do in fact see that bisexual and homosexual urges are substantial in these husbands. By the way - I'm reading Sex at Dawn currently, and agree that it is a wonderful book!
cheers - David Ley
Posted by David Ley on July 8, 2010 at 10:41 AM · Report this
@124 Not really an issue since I acknowledge the distinction between apparent and actual monogamy.
Posted by beentheredonethatgotthetshirt on July 8, 2010 at 11:23 AM · Report this
@ 70, 84 Human pair bonding (usu. with some type of quai-marriage ceremony) is as culturally universal as the incest taboo. That is not to say that those cultural universals don't vary: for me, cousin-on-cousin action seems gross; not so for farmers living back in the 19th century. If monogamy (once again, imperfect serial monogamy, subject to some cultural variation) were in fact unnatural, it is not clear why pair bonding would exist at all as a prominent, universal feature in human sexuality; words like "cheating" only have meaning in the context of monogamy (describing its breach).

That's the problem: the implication is that monogamy is most often observed in the breach. That's simply not the case. I haven't created a false dichotomy here. A person is behaving monogamously when he or she makes a commitment (explicit or not, conscious or not) to have only one partner, and follows through.

Suppose a person makes a conscious decision to be a nonsmoker. He then, under unusual circumstances, smokes one cigarette over the course of his life. Many in this forum, following the same logic, would classify him as a "smoker."

Monogamy, even serial monogamy, is extremely unusual among the animal kingdom. So what? The same applies to opposable thumbs, or a language faculty. Human beings are a unique species; our children are born 'prematurely' (compared to virtually all other primates) and take a very long time to develop -- under those circumstances, it's not hard to see the evolutionary benefits of pair bonding.

And as for this nonsense attributing monogamy to the advent of private property: show me the evidence. It's scant to non-existent; even the scholars who posit that relationship fail to produce convincing evidence. For good reason.
Posted by Joe Havermann on July 8, 2010 at 11:25 AM · Report this
I've been poly and I've been mono without great struggles on either end. It is the skills taught by being polyamorous that I find valuable enough to wish them on everyone. Yes, those skills, too, you pervs. But mostly the communication skills. Everyone should go into their relationships knowing what they want, what they don't, where their boundaries are, and what their goals are, and be able to communicate this clearly. Being able to tell the difference between your own mental baggage and someone else's is also useful. But because mono is seen as 'natural' no one stops to think about all these things beforehand. Which is where the heartache happens.

So, in my ideal universe, poly would be the norm, young adults would be expected to be poly, to learn what they want and how to get it. Then later they can renegotiate for a mono relationship, if that's what they want. Mono can always be a subset of the poly-verse, but not the other way around.

Happily mono
Posted by lizvocal on July 8, 2010 at 11:42 AM · Report this
Please #85? Who are you to call me "fucked up" just because I like to watch my wife getting a little action with another dude. I even like the idea of his seed entering her in full force, and the extra thrill of the possibility of him impregnating her. Of course, I am aware of the unfortunate fact that in this day and age, use of a condom in this situation is absolutely essential. I therefore leave at least something in the realm of fantasy. Keep in mind also that this fetish (if we must call it that) is not entirely for the male's gratification. There are some women like to engage with two male partners in the same session.
Posted by Anthony62 on July 8, 2010 at 12:18 PM · Report this
It's funny to hear various comments characterizing this discussion as some kind of personal attack on Dan Savage. Granted, I haven't read every single comment, but I don't think that characterization actually describes the vast majority of what has, up to this point, been a fairly interesting and fruitful discussion. Most of us are on here, after all, because we enjoy "Savage Love" -- I don't understand how that obligates us to agree with all of his conclusions.

And one more note: need to take a trip down to the university library, but some preliminary investigation suggests that these wild statistics about runaway infidelity are totally bogus (i.e., the result of "research" conducted by -- er, "Cosmopolitan," etc.)
Posted by Joe Havermann on July 8, 2010 at 12:39 PM · Report this
Poly, mono, whatever TF you want. All of it is natural and natural for some people at different times in their lives. What you do in your twenties doesn't mean you'll still be doing it in your forties nor does it mean you won't. The only thing you can count on in human beings is that we change, and that we insist however we live is the "natural" way to be.

Does this book mention that Chimps, Gorillas, Orangutans, etc... all have bones in their penises (baculum) which human males do not. Does it also mention the fact that within Bonobo troops sexual activities occur within familial relationships as well as outside of them? Humans tend to frown on those types of relationships but it appears "natural" for the Bonobo at any rate.

Bottom line, the book sounds interesting, but less than stellar in the research department. Monogamy is not easy, nor are any of the poly relationships. Relationships aren't easy and require work no matter how you work out the issues of fidelity and infidelity and what each of those terms mean for you.

As for the statistics on how many people cheat on their partners, it may be 40% to 60% of the respondents, but that means the others do not. I guess what that really means is when using an average of 50%, 50% cheat and 50% don't. Sort of sounds like the political break down of the country, too.
Posted by mimilefay on July 8, 2010 at 12:46 PM · Report this
I didn't read everything, but one quick comment that needs to be understood: Evolution has no morality.

In another context it's why capitalism and social darwinism, two social constructs that are modeled on evolution, can have disastrous effects.
Posted by Guest McGee on July 8, 2010 at 12:48 PM · Report this
I've come to the end of the tether with Dan. His columns have become way more repetitive and WAY more preachy. Stop trying to sell us some BS pseudo-science to justify your own hedonism. Have you ever entertained the notion that all you liberals are wrong? Certainly the vast majority of the world think so.
Posted by Gnome on July 8, 2010 at 1:18 PM · Report this
Erica P.: "it's actually hard to find men who are any good at figuring out what I want."

You actually lie there hoping they'll just "figure it out"? Dude, TELL THEM WHAT YOU LIKE. You're fucking them, not playing Battleship: it shouldn't be some grueling guessing game/process of elimination.

"Does anyone have any tips on how to figure out whether men are good in bed before you fuck them?"

DISCUSS THE THINGS YOU LIKE TO DO and see how many of them overlap with his favourite things. Seriously: it's not a guessing game. Sex gets way, way better when you openly talk about your needs, likes, and dislikes beforehand. And during. And after.

There's no universal standard of "good in bed" because everyone likes different things. A good listener who's open minded, bright, in decent cardiovascular shape and has some manual dexterity is probably a better bet than a narrow minded clumsy dumbass who gets winded brushing his teeth, though. Good luck!
Posted by perversecowgirl on July 8, 2010 at 1:27 PM · Report this
nice work dan! best post in some time. the world needs to know that well-negotiated alternatives to monogamy can not only save relationships but dare i say, souls :) divorce rate would most certainly go way down too.

shedding the conventional controls that have pretty much institutionalized monogamy will go a long way in healing wounds. and there would no longer be any reason to have soap operas and reality TV which both thrive on the conflict created around cheating and lying. and that would be a fine day indeed!

we are a happy couple with a wonderful child and it all works because we discussed the fact that monogamy didn't resonate with either of us. so we negotiated terms for play that we could both agree on and live happily within those boundaries.
Posted by dusty88 on July 8, 2010 at 2:30 PM · Report this
nice work dan! best post in some time. the world needs to know that well-negotiated alternatives to monogamy can not only save relationships but dare i say, souls :) divorce rate would most certainly go way down too.

shedding the conventional controls that have pretty much institutionalized monogamy will go a long way in healing wounds. and there would no longer be any reason to have soap operas and reality TV which both thrive on the conflict created around cheating and lying. and that would be a fine day indeed!

we are a happy couple with a wonderful child and it all works because we discussed the fact that monogamy didn't resonate with either of us. so we negotiated terms for play that we could both agree on and live happily within those boundaries.
Posted by dusty88 on July 8, 2010 at 2:42 PM · Report this
IMHO, monogamy may be "natural" intellectually, but with regards to chemically, which controls emotion and desire, it would seem to be unnatural.
What is natural for humans is Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Territorialism. I wonder if what makes the majority of us monogamists is the role our monogomist S/O plays in satisfying the above 3 traits. Are we monogomist, because what is ours is ours including our S/O?

What if you were told that you could pick anyone in the world to have a romance with, to have sex with, to fulfill whatever mating you would like ... and that noone would ever care that it happened (or perhaps ever find out .. if that is a better scenario for you), and that you would not be in danger healthwise, and that your relationship with S/O would not be impaired? And that your S/O other would not be offered the same opportunity. Would you be interested? Would you still be interested if your S/O had the same offer, but could only accept if you also accepted? Hmmmm, is it monogamy by choice, or by jealousy, possessiveness, and territorialism.

What about that movie star ... ladies how about Brad Pitt, Gents ... a Playboy Model? Are you still a Monogamist? If the thought excites you (a natural chemical process)... is monogamy natural? If the thought in passing excites you but you would never do that because your are in a committed monogamist relationship with your S/O, well ... you have intellectually classified that endeavour as beyond the scope of what you will act upon ... a decision that is in direct conflict with the natural chemical process of you body.

More thoughts on the subject. I saw a television program ... something about sexuality or other with a host that had a voice like that Hansen guy on Primetime or 20/20 or Dateline etc. Maybe it was John Quinones(sp?). Anyway, some very interesting things were highlighted from studies done by scientists:

1. Women are highly aroused only during their two-week ovulation period, and are repulsed by the scent of men during the other period of time. Hypothesis: Women only give a shit about their monogamous S/O 50% of the time. Naturally occuring chemical reactions.
2. Women are aroused by the scent of the typical "hunk" or what society percieves as an attractive male, but repulsed by the scent of an overweight male. Theory: Woman now only give a shit about their monogamous S/O 25% of the time. Remember, this is naturally occuring chemical reactions.

2. Women are repulsed by the scent (pheromones) of their father and brother. Significance: Primary family incest is unnatural, chemically speaking. They didn't test cousins, so don't know whether extended family sex with say a 1st or 2nd cousin is chemically unnatural.

3. In a study 10 women were lined up across from 10 men, all people in blue lycra body suits (think bobsled or ski competitors) so that only the face was showing, to try to get rid of attractiveness (no makeup allowed). Each person from each side had a number from 1-10 on their forehead, but they could not see their own number. 10 was desirable, 1 was not desirable. Each person was tasked to try to pair up with a partner that was considered desirable. In the end, the 10 male ended up with the 10 female, down the line, with only two pairs mixed up. Theory: Humans tend to desire what they consider their equal or greater in value, safety or beauty. And they become monogamous to own what they have out of fear of it being replaced with some less desirable or valuable. How monogamous are you if something of greater value to you is waived in front of you for your possession? Is cheating nothing more than testing to see if we can acquire something of greater value beforing discarding that which we find less value in now. What drives that value and causes that possessivenss? For the man ... his desire for beauty, for the women ... safety & genes. All chemically driven and natural.

4. Another study had the women look at pictures of male models. Of the two models, one was obviously more attractive by society standards. Every single time, the women chose the attractive male as the more desirable, attributing such characteristics as friendly, attractive, confident etc. When the pictures of the same guys were shown to the same women later, but the less attractive male made a 6-figure salary and an impressive job title, whle the attractive male was a retail asst. manager making less than $30k, the less attractive male was always selected as sexier. Theory: Women naturally are non-monogamist, chemically driven to marry a man making lots of money but doesn't give a shit about him for 14 days, then goes out to a bar in a come fuck me dress with stilletos to bang the Chippendale dancer in the back alley after the show. Oh wait, I was just thinking that, I wouldn't really do that ... I might lose my house, and me and my kids would then be on the street!!! Boy I'm happy with the husband I'm with ... that's right, I'm a monogamist!!! See Point #5 to understand what I mean.

5. In a study of single vs. married women monitored in a bar type laboratory with sensors that measured skin surface area shown and amount of body movement considered to be sexually provocatie in nature, married woman by far revealed more skin, wore scantier clothing, danced more suggestively, and flirted more with men than their single counterparts. In fact, the single women were by far more conservatively dressed. Theory: Monogamy is unnatural and given a setting where monogamists feel they can act natural without repercussion, will prove that monogamy is unnatural ... at least chemically if not intellectually. Feel the RUSH!!!

And if that doesn't convince you, we all know that women are turned on by emotion, feelings etc. and men are turned on by images. If monogamy is so damn natural, why the hell am I assualted every 7 seconds with the thoughts of sex (studies prove it), check out women's breasts and ass all the time, and fantasize about banging the secretary over my desk. All chemical ... all the time ... all NATURAL!!!

What if women had "sweet nothings" whispered in their ear from out of thin air every time an attractive male walked by them, enough to arouse their loins, to lubricate the tunnel, to perk up the nipples, to start the fantasy (equal to what men experience by seeing revealing cleavage, lips colored to look like genitalia, thongs revealing through opaque skirts, high heals to tone and slim the legs and hike the ass ... on a continual basis)? Would they be able to withstand the chemical assault on their body? Would they still be monogamists? Theory: Yes, but only every other two weeks!!!!

In answer to Seconds:
Did the whole scene turn you off or on? If it turned you off, you need to end the relationship. Your husband has let his vice out of the closet and it won't go back in. If it turned you on, you have a chance to have ALOT of men to fuck!!! Is it the beginning of Cuckhold ... sure sounds like it, but ask him, I'm sure he would love to share with you. BTW, don't be surprise if he also would like to get your stud's cock hard for you, and clean your cum off your cock too ... and still think he is not bisexual. Why, because he likes sucking cock and men's sperm, not being in love with men. Do yourself a favor ... ask him to show you his favorite websites he's been hiding from you ... then you will really start to know you husband.

For DWB .... face it girl, you have yet to find the guy that matches your kink!!! You love your ex because you have nothing to replace him with ... so the sex is adequate, but not good enough to keep you from wandering. Let him know that you would still like to fuck him from time to time until you meet the guy that hits the right spots. In the meantime, you sound like a swinger, or at least a girl that would love to try a few threesomes, Gang-Bangs, and orgies. Get thee to the nearest swing party, or plan on attending the NASCA national event in Miami. You will have a great time, safe/sane men are always looking for a young, beautiful, willing partner ... so odds are you will find a cool guy that has his head screwed on just like you.

And for WSWH ... You are the worst Monogamist of them all. You failed your husband, and failed your marriage, failed your children, and failed yourself. Your husband has fulfilled your needs: a home, children, food and clothing. All men want is sleep, meals, and great sex!!! You should be ashamed of yourself. You should be ecstatic about fucking your husband every night for the wonderful efforts he has put forth to give you what you wanted ... the house, the kids etc. As a matter of fact, start learning how to deep throat, and surprise your man ... then boast about it to your girlfriends that although he has a big cock you were able to swallow the whole thing and make him cum. That my dear ... Would make him feel like a King in his Home and the Neighborhood!!!! So stop being ungrateful, before he dumps your sorry ass and finds a Real Woman who knows how to take care of business!!! If not, count yourself with the 50% of wives that complained about their cheating husband, while they ended up getting fat and not putting out!!!!
Posted by Neohioguy23 on July 8, 2010 at 3:21 PM · Report this
@ 132 You mean not an issue for you, personally (which is great), but surely an issue for all those who believed in their spouse's faithfulness and got a little something they didn't expect. That's the problem I was trying to highlight: since we expect faithfulness (and people promise faithfulness even when they can't deliver it), the basic trust needed for a relationship dictates that you won't doubt your spouse until you have serious reasons to do so. In many instances, it's too late by then.

Lowering your expectations concerning monogamy can save lives. I'm not criticizing it, I'm just pointing out that since it's not the norm in fact - most people cheat on their spouse at least once - you can't really take it as a guarantee of sexual health.
Posted by Ricardo on July 8, 2010 at 3:28 PM · Report this
I read _Sex at Dawn_. I don't like the occasionally breathless style, but they marshal quite a bit of evidence. They engage people who disagree, and they do a reasonable job of making their case. Would it get published in a peer-reviewed journal? Doubt it, too controversial (Diamond's tepid support notwithstanding), don't underestimate the influence of conventional morality in social science. FWIW, I have a PhD in social science from a top 3 department in my field.

To those arguing that this or that mating pattern is "natural:" just because something feels natural doesn't make it so. People are pretty plastic, we *learn* what to like. You're confusing "the way it was for animals we descended from between 100,000 years ago until about 10,000 years ago" with "what I was taught to like." The former has a reasonable claim to being "natural," the latter has none.
Posted by wylbur on July 8, 2010 at 4:30 PM · Report this
I'm now at midlife, I've never cheated because I've always been pretty happy whenever any woman would have sex with me. If I can get a woman to undress with me, I'll do what I can to keep getting it. When gf's have cheated on me, I didn't ever really see the big deal. The question always seems to me: ok, but are you going to keep doing it with me? If the cheat is a symptom of dissatisfaction I can't fix, well, we're done. But If you still want me, I'm fine.
Posted by wylbur on July 8, 2010 at 4:37 PM · Report this

Yes, you're happy because you're two people *neither of whom wanted to be monogamous*. The problem with the "hurr, monogamy isn't natural, derp, derp" is that it creates an easy situation where a person who doesn't want to be monogamous will try to force a person who is into it.

If non-monogamy works for you and your wife, kudos. But, it doesn't make it any more the "right" answer than any happy married couple existing makes monogamy the 'right' answer. Keep your moralizing to yourself.


I can answer you easily that I would not take up the offer to cheat on my girlfriend, even if it wouldn't adversely impact our relationship, and I would be horrified if she was willing to. So, yeah, I guess I really am monogamous.

1. Needs citations, and you fail to take into account things like birth control hormones. Even if true, you assume that decisions made and 'caring' are entirely resident in hormonal reactions. I don't buy it.
2 (a and b). Ehh... You're getting into evolutionary psychology here. Technically, they're turned on by the scent of the existence of antibodies complementary to their own, which is why siblings don't feel attraction to each other (usually); their antibodies are too similar.
3. I'm not sure your point here. Yes, monogamy is based on a sort of mutually-assured-destruction model. I don't want to be replaced with a better model, nor have myself "stuck" with an inferior one. My girlfriend doesn't want to be replaced or be stuck, so we say to each other "you don't get to find someone better". Paranoid, but no less reasonable than anything else.
4. Evolutionary psych is such a retarded field most of the time. All you know (factually) is that women are more attracted to attractive men, and men who have shown themselves to be good providers. Duh. What you haven't shown is that there's any kind of manipulation. This whole "they want a provider who's a good father/breadwinner, but to get impregnated by 'studs'" hypothesis is pure speculation, even evolutionary psychologists call it bullshit
5. Uh... Huh. Or it's that married women are more comfortable flaunting what they have because they aren't actually looking to go home with any of those guys, or she's just looking for some male attention and likes being able to let loose. What it doesn't show is any indication of a desire to commit infidelity (if every woman who flirted with me wanted to fuck me, I'd have a lot more sex than I do), nor that they aren't monogamous through-and-through

Ahhhh... And now I know you're full of shit. The "men think about sex every seven seconds" is a myth, completely and totally. It's fallacious, fictitious, and crap. It's not "proved" by anything. Also, speaking as someone who is just as male as you, I don't check out women all the time, or fantasize about other women all the time, so... Yeah, anecdotes suck as evidence.

Incidentally, women respond as strongly to physical and visual stimuli, and if your idea of "emotional connection" is ephemeral 'sweet nothings', you know little of relationships to begin with.

Your 'answers' to the various writers this week are vapid, vacuous, and simplistic. I'll not waste my time.


I really want to see hard data on the whole "most people cheat at least once" stuff. And, really, the solution to "people are unfaithful bastards/bitches" is "well, let's just accept it", rather than "demand of your S/O fidelity, and kick his/her ass out if they don't give it to you"?
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 8, 2010 at 4:38 PM · Report this
@130 and others arguing for the persistence of monogamy: it helps that the laws and customs of our society support monogamy, and rather repressively. The *constant* violations of monogamy are always explained away as exceptions. Nope: fidelity is the exception, and in animals, too. It's there, but it's rare.

I'm mono not because I only want one woman. I'm mono because all my partners have wanted me to be mono. The potential excitement of other partners has been less than the current excitement of the one I have minus the risk of losing her if I try for others.

Expected_value(others) < Present_value(gf) - Risk_losing(gf|others)
Posted by wylbur on July 8, 2010 at 4:44 PM · Report this
Oh, those sex-crazed bonobos!

Thanks again for another great column, Dan and Ryan.
Posted by auntie grizelda on July 8, 2010 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Have you read "Sperm Wars" by Robin Baker? There's some great popular non-fiction explaining in there, too.
Posted by arioux on July 8, 2010 at 5:00 PM · Report this
Delishuss 151
Dan, Facebook just posted an ad for Sex at Dawn on my profile. What have you done?
Posted by Delishuss on July 8, 2010 at 5:02 PM · Report this
"1. Women are highly aroused only during their two-week ovulation period, and are repulsed by the scent of men during the other period of time. Hypothesis: Women only give a shit about their monogamous S/O 50% of the time. Naturally occuring chemical reactions."

Where on earth did you pull this pile of bull from?
Only hot two week out of the (usual) four?
And repulsed by the scent of men the rest of the time?
Definitely post a reference for this one.
Posted by been there and back again on July 8, 2010 at 5:39 PM · Report this
Amaranthus 153
@143, You're not a woman, are you? Didn't think so.

Dan, OWIE. I'm NICE to you! Quit hitting me with that YOU'RE ALL POLY, NOW ADMIT IT stick you've got.

I cheated once. I did it because I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, and the other guy actually showed interest, affection, and non-threatening emotion towards me. After I finally got rid of my ex for good, I also stopped talking to the other guy.

And I never have, and never will cheat again. Just sayin.
Posted by Amaranthus on July 8, 2010 at 8:21 PM · Report this
My 2 cents' worth for SECONDS:

Let me get this straight: It didn't faze you when when your husband said he wanted to watch another man do you. You went out and all business-like found somebody. You took it in stride when your husband made arrangements to let this man put his sperm in you, no condom required. You actually went through with fucking someone other than your husband in a matter of fact way, and you even let the guy drop his load in you without apparent alarm. And the thing that you finally choose to freak out over is that your husband didn't wait for you to go shower off before jumping in on the action?

Damn, lady, you have one odd sense of what's weird and what isn't.

Setting aside all the evo-psych stuff, I have to ask: what would you be thinking if the situation had been a straight-up MFM threesome? Would it occur to you to insist on a break in the action to clean up between innings, let alone on pain of suspecting your husband of being gay?
Posted by avast2006 on July 9, 2010 at 2:10 AM · Report this
Danrilor 155
I am all in favor of heteros such as myself "coming out of the closet" and being honest about what sexually stimulates us. I feel that if this became a culturally relevent thing to do we would have more of the sex that we enjoy, find stronger attachment with our partners, be more satified with life and stop wasting so much energy on harassing gay people. It probably won't happen, though, because humans are gregarious animals and are very sensitive to the judgement of others as a survival tool. That is why so many gays, even in this day and age, cower in the closet and hetero types will remain in theirs.
Posted by Danrilor on July 9, 2010 at 6:13 AM · Report this
I need more evidence before I completely agree with Ryan that the standard narrative of evolution is a cultural creation of civilization and not biology. But let's say Ryan is correct. We all used to sleep with everything and because of civilization we've lost our natural state. We don't share food as we might have in the past & so women trade sex for food and only the alpha males have the most food to make the trade. We'd have to seriously change or abandon civilization for things to return to the previous natural state and that isn't going to happen. So whether the standard narrative of randy guys & choosy gals is biology or culture doesn't matter, it's the current software that the whole system operates on now. We're stuck with it. Reading Ryan may explain the 7 Year Itch and why marriage becomes a straight-jacket for most folks, but it won't get rid of marriage and relationships and relationship problems.
Posted by The Alchemist on July 9, 2010 at 7:43 AM · Report this

People have a right to willingly assume risk; we all do it every time we walk out the door. Thank you for telling us your opinion, but please don't assume that everyone has the same level of risk-aversion as you.
Posted by offfwhite on July 9, 2010 at 7:47 AM · Report this
Why can't we all accept that sexuality varies widely and that hurting other people is what's wrong? That, and using minors and anyone else who can't give full informed consent sexually, should be it as far as no-no's.

I admit that in our completely f-ed-up-about-sex culture, it can be very hard sometimes even to know what your natural sexuality is, and where your boundaries are, and to communicate them to others.

Don't become the evil you are fighting, Dan. Monogamy works for a lot of people, and the irony of someone saying it's "unnatural" and therefore wrong or shameful is really, really, weird. My heart breaks for people like tupa (6). I realize that s/he doesn't have to fight legalized discrimination as well, and that's a huge thing. But if the principle is that people are free to be themselves, then mean it and live it.
Posted by Belleweather on July 9, 2010 at 8:21 AM · Report this
I'd like to remain objective and not get into the debate of what is natural and normal and what is not. I'm not defending our current society & its cultural "norms" nor am I criticizing it. I'm just saying that it is the current standard. It's what we have to work with & deal with. Some people thrive in civilization. Others are discontent. The jails, asylums, and homeless shelters are filled with people who simply cannot adapt. Like Ryan's book, Desmond Morris's book The Human Zoo also talks about what we both gained & lost by becoming domesticated and civilized. We can cry over those losses but they are indeed now lost.

Camille Paglia, for one, doubts the promiscuity model. She says STDs would have wiped us out if we had been that promiscuous. She even talks about "Nature" as being out to kill us. But she may not have thought it through deeply. Bonobos & rabbits are promiscuous and don't seem to be diseased. Perhaps it was humans restricted by culture from promiscuity that led them to have sex with animals that brought bring STDs into the population to begin with. Once the STDs were here, they only made promiscuity more dangerous, not less desired.

Even after looking at fossils and DNA, speculating what came before civilization is still difficult. And we also have to assume that the Cro-magnon/homo sapiens sapiens mankind that we are now would have done things differently from previous species and even from the Neanderthal species that co-existed with us for 100,000 years.

For one example, though we're not entirely certain, we believe cave painting was most a Cro-magnon affair and that Neanderthals didn't produce art. And we still have no idea why we created the art and what purpose it had if any. All we have are theories.

Even the 155 people who commented before me have described a wide variety of sexual experiences and desires. We can always try to talk about a mainstream or norm or hegemony or standard operating procedure that the majority followed but I'm not sure that monogamy or promiscuity are one size fits all systems. Even in the 10,000 years of civilization, we've seen a lot of change or a wide range of norms. Homosexuality and pederasty were more culturally accepted in ancient Greece and Rome than they are today. Fat was more culturally accepted as sexual or not at different times in our past.

That said, just because there are exceptions to the rules, doesn't mean there aren't rules. Once again, those rules may cause you to thrive or chafe, they may be natural or arbitrary, but they do hold sway. Wimpy guys aren't attractive. Rich, muscular guys are. If women were once "take all comers" (and again I'm going to jump on that bandwagon without some doubt) most of them aren't today no matter what caused the change.
Posted by The Alchemist on July 9, 2010 at 8:56 AM · Report this
Freudian slips, gotta love 'em. That was supposed to read "I'm not going to jump on that bandwagon with out some doubt" but who knows now? In any case, I hope Dan won't just go around telling everyone who comes to him with marital issues that marriage is just unnatural and they should just give up on it and get divorced. He might be right that marriage is indeed unnatural, an arbitary social construct and convention, and we might all be happier living in one constant orgy, but my guess is it's too easy a solution and will cause a lot of folks emotional pain to just tell them they're having troubles because the whole thing is wrong to begin with.
Posted by The Alchemist on July 9, 2010 at 9:04 AM · Report this
This article has opened up a whole array of discussions in my already troubled marriage. My husband picked it up, I think, as a way to put some "spark" back into our lives because we used to read it together before we had kids.

His solution, after reading it, is that we should be more experimental in our sex life. Unfortunately, what I have been asking for is to be treated like a person and not a sex object, so that sort of solution seems very simplistic and "aspirin." I have even given him permission to go find another girl to objectify and screw like an object--I'm sure their are plenty out there--but he won't do it. Even with permission, he feels like it would be cheating.

There is a lot more underlying all of this. We'll see how it plays out. Maybe I'll go buy the book.
Posted by Livin-on-the-edge on July 9, 2010 at 9:27 AM · Report this
@160 Dan is not saying that marriage is unnatural. He never even said that monogamy is unnatural. What he says is that in order to have healthy relationships, we need to be honest with ourselves and our partners and not try to be something that we are not. It is a whole balance of genetic encoding and societal norms, but the key is communication.
Posted by Livin-on-the-edge on July 9, 2010 at 9:33 AM · Report this
hartiepie 163
@162 You are soooo wrong. Dan has said on numerous occasions that monogamy isn't natural. Go check out Slog for examples.
Posted by hartiepie on July 9, 2010 at 10:08 AM · Report this
@157 You are quite right about a person's right to choose what level of risk they are willing to accept. What they don't have is the right to transfer that risk to another person without that person's informed consent.
Posted by a skeptic and a cynic on July 9, 2010 at 10:19 AM · Report this
@ 160 & 162: Whether monogamy is natural/normal or not doesn't interest me. Also, love/sex is a game & a war, you can't always be honest and win. But, as for being honest with yourself, yes I agree. Denial works against pleasure. However, we're so filled with socialization from age one, and culture trumps biology in so many cases, that it's difficult to know just who the true you outside of all that is. You have emotion to go on, what you like & don't like, but even that can be programmed and therefore problematic.

In any case, just as there are both straight-laced girls and sluts today, I have to assume that this was the case with hominid females 2 million years ago too. Some put out more readily than others even if the default position back then might have been a free-for-all. Range and variety are the norm which makes any norm hard to pin down.

Today, the norm (whether natural or not) is not a free-for-all (I only wish! A lot less work for me) but one that follows the standard narrative of evolution where girls don't feel it until you show signs of dominance or fitness. Today, sex is about power relations, money, looks, muscles, authority, and social status.

And if Ryan is correct, it would take a revolution if not a complete return to the Stone Age to return us to the free-for-all that may or may not have existed in the past. In other words, forget about it.
Posted by The Alchemist on July 9, 2010 at 10:38 AM · Report this
@140 (perversecowgirl) Thanks for the advice. I know how to communicate my needs in a long-term relationship with lots of opportunity to play and experiment. What I'm trying to figure out is how to enjoy quick & dirty sex with strangers. I liked Canuck's advice @105 to evaluate how they use their body when they dance. And you're right that evaluating how they listen to me is another good technique. I think phone calls before meeting would help differentiate between likelies and unlikelies, better than email does...And at the "pre-fucking" meeting-in-public, maybe I should make sure to include dancing on the agenda. On the other hand, guys who are good at dancing probably have an easy time picking up chicks, and so aren't in the pool of people I meet on AdultFriendFinder or Craigslist. Food for thought.
Posted by EricaP on July 9, 2010 at 10:47 AM · Report this
Might makes right, it also makes babies. As a guy, I may think that when I put my penis into a vagina, it's a place of recreation, but today, women think of the penis entering their vagina as a potential husband and father. Even if they are sluts who love sex, their vagina is a place of procreation. Weak sperm gets a Do Not Enter sign. Nice guys sleep alone.
Posted by The Alchemist on July 9, 2010 at 10:49 AM · Report this
@161 (livin-on-the-edge). I'm newly enamored of a book called Passionate Marriage, which points out traps marriages fall into, where each partner demands that the other one change first. On the one hand, if he's really not treating you like a person, why are you still with him? On the other hand, if you basically like each other, but you're withholding enthusiastic sex until he "treats you like a person," you might want to consider if you chose such an ambiguous / hard-to-measure goal because you don't want to be accountable for his efforts to please you.
Posted by EricaP on July 9, 2010 at 11:24 AM · Report this
The Alchemist,

Don't try to feed me that "Girls don't like nice guys" crap. Most men who call themselves "nice guys" are in fact, passive-aggressive ********* who think that being superficially nice entitles them to a woman.

I say this as a woman who has married the kindest and most moral man on the planet. (People think I'm exaggerating about that until they meet him.) He's never called himself "nice" though. A guy calling himself "nice" is a red flag to any girl with an ounce of self-preservation.

I'm a geek-girl. I've been around a lot of geek-guys who can't get girls. Some of them suffered from "nice guy" syndrome. Underneath the "nice guy" shell, they were all misogynistic assholes. Some were genuinely good people who weren't attractive. I felt bad for them. The ones who got girls were:
1. Willing to date girls who were equally ugly. Women, just like men, don't like to date "down".
2. Wealthy. Not good for them durring college, when they were poor, but after they got into their software-developing jobs, very good.
3. (and this is most important) INTERESTING. They had things to say about topics that interested women. They were fun to be around.

Most "nice" guys weren't interesting. They thought that being "nice" meant that they *deserved* vagina, dammit!

Women, like men, are governed by their biology. That doesn't mean that a *genuinely* nice man has no chance.
Posted by DianeLGD on July 9, 2010 at 12:01 PM · Report this

Of course, I didn't state otherwise. By "willingly" I meant "consensually," with the implicit understanding that the consent is valid (i.e. not coerced through lies, omissions, threats, or the inability to fully consent by virtue of one's age or intellectual ability). I thought that was a given, but apparently not.
Posted by offfwhite on July 9, 2010 at 12:02 PM · Report this

THANK YOU!!!!! This is something that so many "nice" guys never figure out.... pussy isn't something to be earned for good behavior, it's something many women happily share with people they like.

Also, "nice" is a word I use when I don't have anything substantial to say. It's a space-filler; a way to say nothing. I would so much rather be called a bitch than nice.... at least a bitch is something.

If you're always being described as "nice," perhaps you should cultivate something about yourself.
Posted by offfwhite on July 9, 2010 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Dan, I listened to your podcast this week and am kinda disturbed by your enthusiasm for this guys book. Sure it might have some good ideas , but you can't go around claiming this guy "proved" anything. I haven't read the book but I'd be shocked if he found any actual evidence for the theory. By saying he proved it makes me dismiss all your claims about the subject because I cant trust you
Posted by canadarocksyoursocks on July 9, 2010 at 12:27 PM · Report this

Spin it however you like, but "monogamy is unnatural" doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room.

@165, 167

Have you ever stopped to consider whether the fact that women don't want to ride your baloney pony comes from your obvious disdain for their entire gender? I mean, come on, if there were a checklist for every misogynist opinion out there, you've just been ticking them off. The madonna/whore dichotomy (women are either good and pure, or sluts), the belief that their entire motivations are shallow and materialistic, I can go on.

Here's the thing, if you're being "nice" so you can get some sex, you're not actually a nice guy. You don't sound like a good fellow in the least, you sound like a manipulative douchebag who happens to fail at it.


I agree completely, though I've been trying to stage a revolt to take back the word "nice". If only because I'm not sure what other word to use to describe a decent kind of guy.

But, that's a semantic quibble. The problem I see is that guys don't recognize the unstated truths of what their female friends are saying. When a woman says:

"You're so great, I wish I could find a guy like you", you have to remember that there's a little clause she's omitting. She means to say "I wish I could find a guy like you... Who I actually want to sleep with".

I'm not sure guys should necessarily specifically try to date less attractive girls, but I think we do need to understand that if a girl isn't attracted to you, and is attracted to the "jerk", it isn't about "dominance" or "confidence" or "girls like bad boys", it's about "she doesn't want to see you naked". It took one of my female friends showing an interest in me, and me not wanting to be intimate with her, to realize that there are just some times when the essential spark isn't there. It's not about nice or not.

I do believe that any guy who would pretend to be supportive or friendly in order to try to maneuver into a girl's pants doesn't deserve to be called nice.
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 9, 2010 at 12:32 PM · Report this
Wow, you just described my life! :-)

p.s. are you a Big Bang Theory fan by any chance?
Posted by been there and back again on July 9, 2010 at 12:47 PM · Report this
Thanks 171 and 173;

This is a topic near and dear to my heart because in high school, I was pursued by a "nice" guy. This guy would follow me around, parrot back everything I said, and constantly try to please me. Then when I wouldn't date him (How about getting your OWN ideas, and having a personality!?) behind my back, he called me names and ranted to everyone who would listen that he wasn't getting me because he was "nice." Everyone treated me like garbage for what I "did" to him.

And I've seen that scenario played over and over again with a million guys and a million girls.

One that particularly amused me was a "nice" guy complaining that a girl wasn't interested in him, even though he was oh-so-nice. I spoke to the girl. The "nice" guy was only nice to her. He ignored her friends and tried to get rid of them when they were together. But the guy ranted at length about how she wasn't interested in him because he was "too nice." At first his guy friends started to hate the girl, until I quietly went around and told them what the "nice guy" was actually doing. Then it was all we could do to keep in our laughter every time he started ranting.

I married a genuinely nice guy. *Real* nice guys are out there. You sound like you became one, Seldon2639.
Posted by DianeLGD on July 9, 2010 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Why yes. Yes I am.
Posted by DianeLGD on July 9, 2010 at 12:53 PM · Report this
@ 85.
Your comments are entirely wrong.
There was a study out somewhat recently about how baboons or some primate possibly chimpanzees. The theory was that the dominate males, the leaders of the trope, would have the most offspring because they get to mate with the most females and that the nicer baboons that aren't as macho and take the time to develop friendships with the females aren't as likely to get their DNA passed on. That turns out to be entirely false. The trope leaders that were friends with the females and eventually lost their alpha status still got to mate with the females. It was after the young and spry alpha males, but DNA research showed that the "nice guys" had a better chance of passing on their DNA.

Also, you seem like the sort that would agree that men are hard wired to kill off their step-child so that woman can mate and produce their offspring. It happens with chimps all the time. So, men are hard-wired to rape right? Not true. By studying primitive cultures, the researchers realized that a) a step-father is not going to rip the baby from his new mate's arms and kill because that decreases the likelihood of her ever mating with him and b) that people tend to avoid rapists and a rapist would very quickly lose social standing. In addition, women are much less likely to let the baby of a rapist survive oh and more about the step-father thing, at the time when humans were doing primitive agriculture, you needed all the farm hands possible. So, the step-father doesn't see children not of his seed competing for resources, he sees all ready grown farm hands.
As for this guy, it doesn't really have to be strictly evo-based. He just gets turned on by getting cuckolded. Maybe it's evo-based, or it's just the idea of transgressing the boundaries set by society... There's a lot of things here.
So the improved sex could be because he's gotten a kink satisfied, or competition.
And 85 you also seem to be concerned that the union won't produce children. Maybe they don't want children, or they can't have children, or they think there's too many children that don't have homes so they're going to adopt and really fuck with natural selection.

Posted by kissingkatie on July 9, 2010 at 1:07 PM · Report this
Here's a question, 173,

How is it okay to expect a girl to be unshallow and willing to date you even though you aren't as attractive, when you aren't willing to be unshallow and date a girl who is as unattractive as you?

I mean it's more than okay if you are prepared to be single for a good long while, and not resent the female gender for being so "shallow." But it ain't exactly fair.
Posted by DianeLGD on July 9, 2010 at 1:15 PM · Report this
@173: I never said I was a misogynist. Nor did I say I was nice. Nor did I say I wasn't getting any. In fact, I wasn't really talking about myself at all. I was talking about the standard narrative of evolution and what most pick-up artists and seducers say/know works with getting women. I did interject that to be adult and responsible (which is attractive to women) takes a lot of work. The kind of work that wouldn't be as necessary to do to have sex if Ryan's pre-civilized promiscuity were the case. Also, to assume that getting a woman doesn't involve some degree of strategy must mean you are a natural who doesn't use tactics or just bumbles into what he has without knowing what he did right.

When I wrote "Nice guys sleep alone" I wasn't lamenting my own situation but describing how most women feel about being with nice guys. I never said nice guys who weren't so nice deserved vagina. Quite the opposite in fact. But perhaps "nice" should simply be replaced with weak and un-assertive, unable to lead, unable to steer a woman where you want her to go. What you call "genuinely" nice is someone who can meet your needs but that involves knowing how to deal with who you are. And my guess is that nice or not, if he couldn't meet those needs, you'd loss your attraction to him.

All of this is still about alpha & beta males. Even your geek buddies with software bucks finally got action they didn't have previously. Money is alpha. Meanwhile, I've met lots of interesting people with a lot to say who can carry conversations who get nowhere with women. Your buddies were lucky or were doing something else you didn't catch.

As for the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. First, I make no judgments about these things. Second, I agree it's not such a cut & dried split, it's simply a general tendency. I'm sure you can find the faithful housewife who fantasizes or eventually has actual affairs and I'm sure you can find the slut who decides to say no.

@ 177: Do you know where I can see this study because it does run counter to the standard narrative of evolution. In any case, the alpha males in human society, especially chiefs, sultans, kings, and so forth had multiple wives and harems. So I have to assume we're more like sea lions than chimps or baboons. Also, you are talking about alpha males losing their leadership roles through age still retaining relations with mates they associated with over time. Not only does this go against what Ryan is saying (it's more pro-monogamy) but it doesn't necessarily invalidate the basic theory that alpha males mate and beta males do not. I'm not saying that being nice (it's difficult to define what that word means now) is a non-working strategy. Just because some women stay with abusive men doesn't mean that all would. Obviously, you have to make a woman feel that you like her and that she is special to you and worth investing time and resources in. Even so, alpha characteristics, those that show fit genetics, are universally and almost automatically attractive to women. The real geeks & fake nice guys have a harder time of it.
Posted by The Alchemist on July 9, 2010 at 2:25 PM · Report this
I like toast.
Posted by ctmcmull on July 9, 2010 at 3:11 PM · Report this
I've heard about the type of thing your hubby is into
it's even exciting in a way
but eventually I couldn't help but compare to William Macy's scene, well, the FINAL scene he (and his "wife") were in and see that as an inescapable consequence of this type of thing
it's bound to happen - finally one day hubby finds himself bound and gagged in a chair while the highschool football team he coaches ends up pissing on him and barebacking his wife
et voila' another crazed gunman kills wife, shooting spree at school killing 10 kids and then finally himself

one day it's bound to happen

watch Boogie Nights again and pay attention to how much William Macy's character plays along with this whole charade - until *snap*!
Posted by OJohn on July 9, 2010 at 3:13 PM · Report this

Really, it isn't. Oops, you're on to me. I mean, it's okay in the sense of "I'm not hurting anyone", but it's terribly unfair. I'm expecting that my other qualities would overcome whatever aesthetic disadvantage I have, but I generally don't apply the same standard to prospective dates. I want the attractive, brilliant, insightful, caring, sweet, witty, girl, when I'm only maybe half of those things. Some part of me is hoping that my intellectual equal (who's more attractive then I am) would actually settle for me. It's a pipe dream.

That said, though, I don't resent women for being shallow. God knows we all are. That also doesn't mean that I wouldn't date a girl who isn't a blonde bombshell (I'm actually more into the mousy, nerdy, cute type, which could be the very "lowered expectations" you were talking about), it just means that in the same way any woman wants to have as attractive, intelligent, ect. a man she can reasonably find, I'm looking for the most attractive, intelligent, ect. girl I can find. I also know I'm likely to have to settle for less than my ideal (as will 99% of people), and that all of my exceptionally attractive, intelligent, ect. female friends are unlikely to want to date me.

I guess it's an odd set of ideas to believe concurrently, but there you go.
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 9, 2010 at 5:14 PM · Report this

Did I say you were talking about you? I was arguing with the general principle. It's untrue, and it's a disservice to men to perpetuate it.

It does not fit with reality, and that was my point. Being truly nice doesn't loose you points, and any man claiming and using that as evidence, in my experience, isn't all that nice.
Posted by DianeLGD on July 9, 2010 at 5:41 PM · Report this
@183: I mixed up what you & Seldon wrote and got the impression it was aimed at me. In your case, I re-read you and see I got it wrong.

Well, the standard narrative of evolution, this general principle of the strongest gents taking the sexual prize that you think is untrue, doesn't fit with reality, and you feel is a disservice to men, still explains a lot of sexual behavior in the civilized world. I'm not ready to toss it out the window just yet. I might be persuaded with enough evidence to agree with Chris Ryan that it's cultural and not biological and that evolutionary patterns were different before 10,000 BC but as I've maintained throughout all of my posts, I believe it's the general pattern (though not something that fits all people in all cases).

Most women do not want to be mistreated. They want to be made to feel special. In that case "being truly nice" should gain you points. But someone who places being nice before an ability to lead or survive is going to come off weak and thus unattractive. I see what you are saying. A guy who says being nice gets you no where is likely saying that to justify why he's mean. But I guess I'm not talking about nice and mean so much as being a wuss or being in command. Men in command are protective. The alpha male's muscles are attractive because they protect the female from being bothered or raped and that protection is certainly nice even if it means the alpha male has to beat someone up and scare them off.

@177: I was thinking about this study you raised. It's one thing for an alpha leader who has had sexual relations with females to lose that status but still have access to the females because they have formed "nice" pair-bond relationships with them over time and another for those same females to have sex with beta males. At some point, the females have made the decision that the alpha males have fit genes and even if the alpha male's powers flag over time, the females probably see them as good partners. This is different from saying that females mate with "nice" males who are beta.

@all (or Dan): If Ryan is correct, it's a double punch for heterosexual males.

Think of it this way: once upon a time, women were sluts & easy to bed. Then civilization came by & women became choosy and hard to bed. But they remember their old ways & can't help but want to stray. The result: women who are both hard to bed and yet won't stay faithful once you've done all the hard work and gone through all the hoops to get them there. Unless they repress themselves with religion and morality and guilt. And become either miserable or non-orgasmic in the process.

As you can see, if Ryan is right, then it's lousy for any man but the alpha and even he can't be sure that an even more alpha male than him hasn't gotten in and fathered his kids. It certainly sucks for the beta who if he can get any sex at all is bound to lose it over time.

Ideal male sexuality can be seen in the male gay community. Again, there is no set one size fits all standard as some gays are very promiscuous and others fall in love and have long-term longtime companions (and would be married if they were allowed to). That said, typical gay sex is all the men are horny, they meet, they have sex, they part, and move on to the next. This is male sexuality. This is ideally how men want things to be with women. They meet. They fuck. No talk, no hoops, no money, no status, no nothing. Just Me Tarzan, You Jane, let's do it in the road. I suspect this is why Dan (who I can't speak for obviously) feels monogamy is unnatural. He probably doesn't have a monogamous boner in his body. And, if we set aside religion, ethics, guilt, society, and the rest and just asked men how would they want things to be set up between men and women if they could get exactly what they wanted, I would think that the vote would go, we want women to be as horny and promiscuous and easily available to us as we are to them.

I don't have the evidence to agree with or dispute Ryan's claims but personally I doubt men ever had such a utopia. And if they did, I can't imagine they'd give it up for some crops when they were perfectly good reindeer around to spear. But that's what Ryan is saying happened.

Posted by The Alchemist on July 9, 2010 at 6:30 PM · Report this
@170 What I was trying to say is this. I have every right to engage in whatever risky behavior I choose except to the extent that the consequences of that behavior has an adverse impact on individuals who did not consent to or may not be even aware of my choice. If I pick up an STD by cheating on my wife I do not have the right to give that STD to my wife. Since I can't guaranty that I won't pick up an STD, I don't have the right to cheat on my wife. The basic concept is anything is game as long as no innocent party is harmed.
Posted by a skeptic and a cynic on July 9, 2010 at 8:04 PM · Report this
@tupa, comment 6...

Don't give yourself heartbreak. There's nothing wrong with not wanting your partners to sleep around on you. It works for some people, not for others.
Posted by JustKat on July 9, 2010 at 8:28 PM · Report this
There are a lot of things to admire about Dan Savage., but I find it really difficult to respect the position that monogamy is unnatural, and Dan's advice to people that they shouldn't feel any compunction about failing to experience commitment and monogamy.

Having lost my partner first to infidelity and then to AIDS, and having somehow managed to stay HIV negative myself during that time, it is impossible for me to discount the value of a monogamous relationship, both for the emotional benefits and the physical considerations.

For me, anyone who doesn't value and observe monogamy isn't datable, let alone partner material.
Posted by Survivor on July 9, 2010 at 8:48 PM · Report this
@187: Given your history, I can completely understand your position. Monogamy is the safest sex we can hope for short of giving up on sex altogether. However, there are those who not only don't value and observe monogamy, but who are violently opposed to it. As you said, that person would not work for you as a potential partner. Also, there's no reason for you to respect Mr. Savage's position since it is different from your own. My own position is that people should find out what works for them, as you have, and then pursue it without making it a philosophy that they impose on others. That goes for people who are pro & con when it comes to monogamous partners. In terms of the ethical considerations of a poly lifestyle, I recommend reading The Ethical Slut. That said, I remember a quote from Cybill Shepherd of all people who once remarked that "Everyone lies when it comes to sex." I'm not sure that everyone lies and it's a pain to be so cynical and mistrusting, the old slogan from the French Resistance reminds us, "Where there are two, one betrays." In other words, watch your back.

Personally, I would never ask Mr. Savage for advice. If he doesn't find your question odd or assume you are making it all up, he uses it as an excuse to yell at you. I like rudeness at times since it is a refreshing breath of fresh air in contrast to the PC police state that insists everyone follow polite etiquette at all times. But I'm not a masochist. There are times when I wish Mr. Savage would lay off with his occasional anger and disrespect for the people who contact him. I tend to take a quick glance at his column and if I think he's "on the rag" that issue, I turn the page.
Posted by The Alchemist on July 9, 2010 at 11:06 PM · Report this
Ryan speaks:……
Posted by The Alchemist on July 10, 2010 at 2:27 AM · Report this
For some reason those links got cropped. Sorry.

In the YouTube clip, Ryan talks about nomadic hunter-gatherers sharing utensils and food, creating a culture of sharing, that only staying in one place and creating personal property put an end to. Instead of social darwinism, we once had communism.

So far I've expressed doubts or said that even if this was the case, we no longer have it. That said, things from our evolutionary past tend to stick. Try eating more that 2000 calories a day and you'll see what I mean. If we were once into polyandry and stopped it and took on monogamy, we could get "fat & heart disease" from it.

I've been thinking about the Inuit/Eskimo. They have a culture where males often have more than one wife but also they have a culture of sharing their wives with visitors (Arabs may at one time have had a similar culture). Children aren't raised by the group as a whole but by a nuclear family subset and yet sex is shared by the group as a whole. This is a mix of pair bonding and orgy that could explain our characteristics when compared with chimps and bonobos. It also suggests that both marriage and extra-marital sex were norms, neither one being "unnatural". Even so, hunter-gatherer bands still had leaders and hierarchy. And so we still don't know how alpha males dealt with paternity before private property. If the shape of the penis head was developed to scrape previous sperm out and the vacuum action of the penis inside the vagina was also meant to draw previous sperm out, then it was still an issue in evolutionary terms. The gene "cared" about passing itself on through sex even if the hominid was there for the orgasm. And that interest leads to exclusivity and monogamy and the suppression of a promiscuous female sexuality.

Posted by The Alchemist on July 10, 2010 at 9:47 AM · Report this
How is monogamy "unnatural"? There are plenty of other animals that keep one mate at a time, or for their entire lives. Not all humans would be comfortable with polygamy/polyamory and it would be unnatural to say so.

What IS unnatural is to say you're stuck one way or another because your supernatural father figure said so.
Posted by Hatter of Honolulu on July 10, 2010 at 11:39 AM · Report this
Oh goody: Dan had gone a couple of columns without telling monogamous people that we're weird and unnatural and wrong. I was beginning to worry he wasn't feeling well.
Posted by CW in LA on July 10, 2010 at 11:47 PM · Report this
@ SECONDS - I'm kinda jealous of you!
Posted by small town housewife on July 11, 2010 at 2:39 AM · Report this
xjuan 194
I've been reading Savage Love for years and usually find it insightful. This time, however, Dan has found a really powerful idea thanks to Christopher Ryan and his book, which I already ordered. I'll keep on reading to keep on learning. THanks, Dan.
Posted by xjuan on July 11, 2010 at 3:01 AM · Report this
Oh Dan. Why are you giving this asshole, peddling his particularly nauseous brand of anti-monogamous, evolutionary-psychological BULLSHIT a platform? I would have expected a far more enlightened response to these questions, rather than a display of the fucking BLIND INFATUATION you seem to have developed towards this guy. Evopsych is 100% bullshit, plain and simple. Like all bullshit it may stumble upon a truth sometimes, but really, it hurts to hear someone I respect as a sexually conscientious voice tell me my sexual/life preference is "unnatural". Piece of shit, walk away. Piece of shit, walk away.
Posted by Why Dan? on July 11, 2010 at 5:01 AM · Report this
Lots of excellent comments here. It's especially gratifying to hear the thoughts of people who have actually read our book (or at least the excerpts we have up on our web site), like @145. For the doubters, we hope you'll get a copy at some point, because we do attempt to make an argument, as opposed to just asserting a pet theory. Believe it or not, there is evidence for what we argue, but you'll have to read the book to understand the nature of the evidence.

Posted by sexatdawn on July 11, 2010 at 5:48 AM · Report this
I love how Dan thinks that the ideas the author has come up with are in any way new or enlightening. This kind of crap has been used to justify gender stereotyping since the origins of Freudian psychoanalysis. From what I've read of the extracts, there's very little evidence that doesn't read along the lines of 'it's a staple in pornography? It must be biologically determined!' Given that Christopher Ryan is an English graduate, I'm surprised he didn't go the opposite route and state that everything is culturally determined - either extreme is unhelpful.
Anyway, as a female incapable of multiple orgasms but very capable of five-minute orgasms, I feel a bit neglected...
Posted by DSH on July 11, 2010 at 7:07 AM · Report this
It's disappointing to me that you have less tolerance for monogamy than fundies do for homos, Dan.
Posted by writ on July 11, 2010 at 7:23 AM · Report this
Here goes Dan, again, trying to excuse cheating on his marriage, by putting down Monogamy... it's pathetic Dan. I know, is not cheating as long as your husband knows...That's crap.

Dan want's to have a husband and a family, but non of the responsibility and yes, the sacrifice of not screwing other people that come with it.

Dan only seems to place value on emotional monogamy, but none on sexual monogamy.

When you approach your husband with the open marriage thing ... Sorry, I don't care how you framed it, the only thing you are telling him is " I am sick and tired of sleeping with your ass and if you want me to stay with you I need to fuck other people." But someone like you probably think that's ok.

And the choice you left this man with: is whether he lets you sleep around of lose the man he loves. what a manipulative asshole you are, Dan.

And I know, the veto thing. This is more like a line item veto. because your partner has no choice of monogamy or not. but only which man you sleep with. " here are five guys I want to fuck honey, you can veto 2 of them"

In the real world open marriege is usually if not the end of the relationship is the beggining of the end.

And I know your relationship has been working like this forever. for god sakes, you have a stay at home husband. It is easy when you have all the power in it. you are Dan Savage: fame, money, and power. The other day you called him and asshole because he wouldn't let you talk about your indiscretion on the air. I bet he had to beg for just that!

An your craze anti-monogamy thing.... I think the lady those protest to much... and I think is because you know, not deep down, but very on the surface, that your no boundaries behavior toward you husband and family is wrong. you are like anti-gay politicians with a man on the side.

Or maybe instead of you lame excuses for cheating on you husband, you should be like polygamist with the whole god told them too.

I think you need to go back to the video store, Dan.
Posted by artsenyc on July 11, 2010 at 10:32 AM · Report this
Stop telling us monogamous types that we're "unnatural." You're sex-positive as long as the sex is freaky, involves multiple partners, or weird kinks. But for regular old vanilla types who just like having sex with our monogamous partners, we're "unnatural." It really is insulting and I'm tired of your implications that monogamous people are sexually deficient or repressed or unfair to their partners not to menion unnatural while the swingers and piss-drinkers and furries are sexually healthy. That may be so but it doesn't mean vanilla monogamists are unnatural.
Posted by rdayk on July 11, 2010 at 12:04 PM · Report this
@143 But I'd know and would have to live with myself. Some people are perfectly fine being a lying CPOS, but others have varying degrees of difficulty with it. I'm not here to judge them, I just have great disdain for them. I despise hypocrites (defined as people who say or imply one thing and act in a diametrically opposed manner) whether its religion, politics, sex, or whatever.
Posted by a skeptic and a cynic on July 11, 2010 at 12:44 PM · Report this
Hey Mr. Ryan, thanks for coming by to take a look. I'm intrigued by this thesis and its possibilities but I'm still perplexed by one thing: if females weren't trading sex for food and we had a multi-male/multi-female sharing system when it came to sex, how did we evolve? I mean if natural selection and survival of the fittest and the standard narrative of evolution aren't really a part of the human story, then what other factors made all of those physical changes in us over 4-5 million years?
Posted by The Alchemist on July 11, 2010 at 5:24 PM · Report this
Haha Dan, how much did you get to promote Ryan's book?
Posted by mmhmmm on July 11, 2010 at 6:16 PM · Report this

While I haven't read your book in particular, I have read enough evolutionary psychology to be really distrustful of such hypotheses, especially when someone touts them as either (a) truly and completely explaining some facet of human behavior, or (b) as proving something to be natural, unnatural, inevitable, artificial, whatever.

The problem, at its core, with any retrospective analysis is that (as pure posteriori reasoning) it doesn't do as well actually backing up its claims with evidence. Take Freud himself, who posited a huge number of theories based on "I know the final result, so the cause must recede logically from that", which only works if your chain of logic works at each step.

But, evolutionary psychologists tend toward making a lot of assumptions and leaps of faith in order to make it work. Humans are "naturally" polygamous (though it strains the mind how a society of humans would decide and pass on a meme which was wholly counter to our nature), since men would do best spreading their seed far and wide, and that women are programmed to orgasm from long-term stimulation.

The only way to arrive at that is to ignore any confounding variables, and any alternative hypotheses (about nine of which come to mind immediately). I understand you make a decent argument for your hypothesis, but it's no more inherently valid than any other conception of human society, nor does it account for the individual nature of sexuality. I've known plenty of guys (myself included) who would freak the fuck out seeing our girlfriend/wife having sex with another man. We know throughout history that men have objected strongly to such behavior. Are we really claiming that all of that history (including in the animal kingdom) is somehow simply a cultural artifact?

Similarly, if it truly were "everyone has sex with everyone", then all sexual selection would not exist, and it would simply be a sort of survival of the fittest of our sperm.

Oh, and just to insert some fact here, we can track the fidelity of females in a species of primate or monkey through the size of the testes, and the size/shape of the penis head. The more pronounced a "shovel" shape to the head of the penis, the more partners the females have (the head literally scoops rival males' semen out); similarly testes size correlates directly with infidelity. Chimpanzee females are much more promiscuous than ape females, and their testes size is significantly large relative to body mass. We're somewhere in the middle. There are significant differences in the male genitalia between humans and the (oft-cited) Bonobo chimps, how do you account for that if our sexuality is meant to be roughly comparable?
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 12, 2010 at 1:21 AM · Report this
TO #145: I agree that human beings are "plastic": but I think you significantly overestimate the degree of our plasticity. If our sexualities were shaped by cultural inputs re: norms of conduct, there wouldn't have been any homosexuality during the 1950s, heterosexual bonding would follow the romantic comedy script, etc. Human sexuality is diverse. There are some people who are incapable of monogamy; there are some people who are incapable of polyamory. No doubt human sexuality is molded by extremely complex interactions between personal experience and physiology.

By "natural," I think what people mean is "biologically determined." But human sexuality is more complicated than that, for sure. There is strong evidence of a powerful role for genetics in homosexuality; but there is also strong evidence for a moderate environmental influence. On the whole: People are horny; people are attracted to more than just their partners; people get jealous; people feel a need not to violate their partners' trust (thus eliciting jealousy) -- they feel "bad" about cheating on their partners. The roots of this type of behavior are too complicated to classify as "biologically"- or "environmentally"-induced. So what? It's our "feelings" (whatever the causes) that determine human social interaction. I don't think one cause (biological or environmental) should have some kind of exalted status over another.
Posted by Joe Havermann on July 12, 2010 at 3:18 AM · Report this
@ 204. Thanks for bringing up the issue of penis and testicle physiology into this discussion. What you say is absolutely correct. In the case of gorillas, where an alpha male controls a harem of gorilla women, there is virtually no sperm competition, hence, the insanely small balls of gorillas. For humans, our balls are right on the line. Small enough to classify as monogamous, big enough to suggest cheating plays a minor but important role in driving human evolution.
Posted by Joe Havermann on July 12, 2010 at 3:27 AM · Report this
Man I always thought I had a normal sex drive until I start reading this column. Sorry Dan, I'm content in a monogamous relationship. Do I periodically eye the 26-year-old in the package room and think "yummy"? Yes, for 3 seconds or so, then it leaves my mind for the day. That's the extent of it. The thought of actually unclothing before someone I don't know as well as my partner and dealing with his new feeling and smell and eeewww, yuck. If I were given a free pass - anyone I wanted - no one will ever know - no STDs, no problems, the dream zipless (*&^, I'd still take my guy. And before you ask, the answer is "20 years."
Posted by GG1000 on July 12, 2010 at 6:35 AM · Report this

Plus, there are many other evolutionary psychologists who present a hypothesis for cheating which would be counterindicated to the hypothesis of SAD.

Basically, they argue that it is in a woman's best interest to be monogamously attached to a "good provider" male, while cheating with a more masculine, raffishly handsome, male. This allows them both the best genetic code for their offspring (best being defined as "most likely to eventually pass on their DNA), and the best ability to rear the children.

If the SAD hypothesis were true (women and men are meant to sleep with everyone, and we shouldn't be jealous or protective, monogamy is unnatural), then the other hypothesis would be impossible. Since both hypotheses describe a set of possible behaviors as explanations for human sexual proclivities, and cannot both be true, and since neither provides any concrete evidence aside from speculation and a decent logical chain of circumstances, neither can be held to be more true.

So, which is true? Oh, we don't know? Who cares, then?

There are other evolutionary psychologists who point out that monogamy and polygamy are better for different groups within the species. Monogamy is best for the majority of men (each male is likely to at least get *a* wife, which gives them someone with whom to reproduce) and for the most desirable women (who can monopolize the breeding potential of the most desirable men). Polygamy is better for the most desirable men (harems galore), bad for most men (many if not most of whom will be left out of breeding), good for the bulk of women (who can share the most desirable men) and bad for the most desirable women (who have to share).

The problem is that any of these explanations for human behavior and what is "natural" could be true, since all make some logical sense. But, since all of them are mutually exclusive, there's no way to say reasonably which one *is* true.
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 12, 2010 at 8:45 AM · Report this
Referring to 200 & 207 (among others)

Are there any men writing responses like this? I'm curious.

I know that some men are in monogamous relationships but are there any men who are saying "Stop saying monogamy is unnatural! It is the way I am and sleeping with anyone else but my wife doesn't sound appealing to me" ?

I see responses like that and wonder whether it is only women feeling so completely defensive of and devoted to monogamy.
Posted by Men v. Women on July 12, 2010 at 9:52 AM · Report this

Right. Again, I completely agree and nothing that I said indicates otherwise. But let's not lose focus.... this was all in response to SECONDS's letter. In that scenario, all people seem to have mindfully agreed to take a calculated risk. I was responding to vab251's assertion that the risk they all took was uninformed and/or unacceptable. They likely already knew everything that vab251 said (or at least the correspondingly accurate information... the 6 month window was for tests that were on the market more than 5 years ago. Today's tests have a 6 week window.) The point being that we all sometimes do things we know are risky. As long as it is, in fact, freely and mindfully chosen, that is our prerogative, and people who blather on about risks that we've already considered just come across as self-righteous and tedious.
Posted by offfwhite on July 12, 2010 at 9:56 AM · Report this
I want to scream at all of you! Dan isn't saying that YOU have to be non-monogamous, just that it shouldn't be the accepted default position. And short of that, that our culture should except non-monogamy as a valid option. Neither position, monogamy or non-monogamy, should be the default. The default position should be Null.

You should have the "want are you into" conversation early in your relationship and revisit it often.
Posted by Rocket on July 12, 2010 at 10:27 AM · Report this
hartiepie 212
@211 If that were indeed what Dan said then there wouldn't be such a kerfuffle.

You really need to read more of his posts about monogamy. He most certainly does NOT come down on the side of a "null" position.
Posted by hartiepie on July 12, 2010 at 10:38 AM · Report this

I'm male (testicles, penis, the whole package), and I've never wanted to sleep with anyone aside from the woman I'm with at any given time. Do I believe in soul-mates? No. So, I'm comfortable with (at the end of a relationship) saying 'now I go find someone else'. But, I never have eyes for someone else.

I don't want my girlfriend to cheat on me, and I wouldn't want to cheat on my girlfriend. Even if she offered me a "no harm, no foul" way to sleep with another girl, I wouldn't be interested.
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 12, 2010 at 12:02 PM · Report this
Watch their hands. If they're good with their hands in bed, they are good with their hands everywhere else.
Posted by gnot on July 12, 2010 at 1:11 PM · Report this
@212 - Dan gets lots of letters from people in monogamous relationships, where one person is not happy. He gets few from people in monogamous relationships who are both happy. Dan's experience is that it is very rare when a monogamous relationship lasts "until death do us part" with both sides still loving the monogamy. So that's what he's trying to publicize - because the "Happily Ever After" part of our culture is constantly promoting the idea that most people can find a partner with whom they will be monogamously happy, forever.

@213 So - do you tell your prospective partners that you will only want to sleep with them for a while, and then you'll move on? Or do you give them hope of "Happily Ever After," until your eye strays again?

@214, good advice, gnot. I love watching men's hands...
Posted by EricaP on July 12, 2010 at 2:32 PM · Report this
@215 - That may be Dan's experience from the letters he gets, but that hardly means that most people can't find a partner with whom they will be monogamously happy, forever. The happily monogamous folk are not going to be the ones writing Dan for advice.
Most may be happy, or most may not be - but either way I wouldn't base it on the letters Dan receives.

Posted by been there and back again on July 12, 2010 at 2:50 PM · Report this
To add to the debate between Diane and Alchemist about the nice guy syndrome....

I agree that a lot of "nice" guys are just mysoginist a-holes who are only nice to get women, but I disagree that most self-called nice guys are this way.

There are two kinds of nice guys, the truly nice guys and the fake "Nice" guys.

The fake "Nice" guys want to be just like the douchey fratboy pickup artists, but their chosen style is to act nice. When their strategy doesn't work, they get mad at the girls for not conforming to their plan, but they delude themselves into thinking its because their too nice. They get frustrated when girls are not doing what they think the girl should be doing. These guys don't want to change, they want the girls to change and start liking what their doing.

The truly nice guys are just that, nice. They fail because the routinely get friend-zoned and/or feel too awkward to be more assertive. They have no ill will towards the girls that turn them down or women in general, but feel frustrated that they're not the right "type" for certain girls or enough girls. They see fault in themselves whereas the fake "Nice" guys see the fault in the girls.

Truly nice guys that don't get girls just want to be more assertive, but are uncomfortable in doing so. The fake "Nice" guys just want girls to start being more responsive to what they're currently doing.

"Girls don't like nice guys" is semi true. Its not so much that they dislike the nice part about the guy, but they are not attracted to the low confidence and self-esteem that many nice guys have after years of failing with girls.
Posted by pb1230 on July 12, 2010 at 3:59 PM · Report this
Dan isn't saying that YOU have to be non-monogamous, just that it shouldn't be the accepted default position.

No, his actual words are that monogamy is "unrealistic" and "unnatural". And that's just in this particular column...there have been many others where he tries to say that everyone has a hard time staying faithful to just one person. I can't recall whether he's ever said everyone should be poly, but repeated assertions that monogamous people all feel miserable and constricted by their relationship model (and are apparently going against their very nature by fucking only one person) pretty much amount to the same thing.

A person who felt like monogamy shouldn't be the "accepted default position" would probably not say "monogamy is hard/unrealistic/unnatural", they'd say "Monogamy shouldn't be the accepted default position".

Can you see the difference?
Posted by perversecowgirl on July 12, 2010 at 4:20 PM · Report this
Oh, and Erica P: with quick-n-dirty sex it's even more important to tell each other what you want because a) the point of the sex is pleasure, not emotions/bonding/etc (so if you're not getting off, what's the point?). and b) you might not see the person again so there's no time for a learning curve.

I know it'd be super-hot to have a one-night stand with someone where it's amazing and full of fireworks and neither of you has to say a word - but that sort of thing is very, very rare (and has nothing to do with chemistry, magic, or skill - just a happy coincidence that his preferences, experiences, etc. happen to match up with yours). If you want consistently enjoyable stranger-sex, you've got to be all "touch me like this and when I really start getting into it you can increase the intensity" or whatever.

Giving instructions in bed not as clinical as some people would have you believe. Done right, it's really just another kind of dirty talk. And if you're having amazing orgasms, your partner will enjoy the experience more, too, because he'll feel like a hero.
Posted by perversecowgirl on July 12, 2010 at 4:29 PM · Report this

Given that all of my break-ups have either been initiated by the girl, demanded by geography, or based on both of us saying "yeah, this isn't really working", I'm pretty confident that there's no illusion I'm shattering.

I guess it's just me, but I'd rather be broken up with than cheated on.


I was with you until the friend-zone bullshit. If what you mean by "friend zone" is that some girls like the legitimately nice guys as friends, but don't want to ride them like a prize stallion, I agree. If what you mean is that there are girls out there who would have slept with these guys, but decide not to because of the friendship, I don't believe it.

Not only have I seen plenty of friendships-turned-relationships, but I highly doubt that had I asked out prior to getting to know any of my female friends who've rejected me after getting to know each other, their response would have been different. The major difference between a good friendship, and a relationship, is mutual sexual attraction.

Also, I don't know about any other guys, but neither me nor any of my friends are unassertive or lack confidence in ourselves. We accept our shortcomings, certainly, but that's a far cry from not being confident. The difference is that we don't play the numbers game; we focus our attention on one (maybe, maybe, two) possible girlfriends at a time, and see how things play out to their conclusion. We wait to get indication of the girl's feeling, rather than jumping right to asking her out(in fact, I've had more success waiting, rather than being "assertive").

This whole "nice guys lack confidence/assertiveness" thing bugs me because it plays into the inaccurate narrative about why women chose certain guys. It's simply about physical attraction. If Brad Pitt were as reserved and shy and awkward as the most World of Warcraft-playing, basement-dwelling, reclusive gamer-nerd nice guy, he'd still have girls fawning over him.

That's not a complaint, by the way, just a reality we should admit. The difference between a nice guy who gets the girl, and a nice guy who doesn't, is whether the girl finds the nice guy in question to be sexually appealing.
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 12, 2010 at 5:31 PM · Report this


Okay, I see the confusion. I never plan for a relationship to end. I've been in one relationship thus far which has had the understanding (from both sides) that it's temporary and cannot (due to geographical concerns) last for very long (three months).

And that was fine, we both knew what was going on going into it. With regards to every other relationship, I don't intend or plan on breaking up; it's not like "I'm with her until someone better comes along". I always plan for my relationships to last as long as they reasonably can, and accept that all but one of them is going to eventually end up in a break up of some kind.

My point was that I would never go looking (or even entertain interest in) another relationship while I'm in the one I've got. We can discuss the rationale behind that, if you'd like, but it really does come down (for me) to that when I'm with a woman, I'm with her lock, stock, and barrel until one or both of us decide it isn't working.

The reason I've never broken up with anyone, incidentally, is that I really do spend a lot of ramp-up time to make sure I want to spend a significant amount of time with someone before asking her out. Plus, it helps when you're friends, first.
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 12, 2010 at 8:34 PM · Report this

I don't completely disagree with what you are saying.

However, I don't mean to offend you but you may have actually proved my point. You say you've had more luck being patient and waiting around than being assertive, but maybe as a nice guy you just aren't effectively/naturally assertive, so you need to take the more passive approach. Also, being nice and being assertive aren't mutually exclusive, but many nice guys can't pull off assertive.

Focusing in on one girl at a time and trying to be friends first doesn't automatically make you a nice guy. A lot of "fake nice guys" try to do the same thing.

You can be a nice guy that wants to date around and have some casual flings/hookups, and you can be a complete jerk that only wants serious full one relationships. Those personality traits don't dictate the kind of relationship you want.

And I wouldn't say its all about physical attraction, but there is a turn on factor that physical appearance certainly contributes. A large turn for women is being made special/wanted/desired which the nice guys I talk about struggle to do for women. This is why assertive jerks are more likely to get women than passive nice guys. This says nothing about maintaining a stable relationship, just getting your foot in the door to start a relationship.

Sure a guy like Brad Pitt might have women fawning over him no matter his personality, but take an average looking assertive guy and an average looking passive nice guy and the assertive guy wins 9 times out of 10 (at least right out of the gate).

Posted by pb1230 on July 12, 2010 at 10:02 PM · Report this

Well, we will run into a big problem of defining what exactly makes a "nice guy" a "nice guy". You're viewing it from the passive vs. active track, I'm viewing it from the "what's my motivation" track.

But, there's something vaguely inconsistent in that a nice guy (god, this phrase gets annoying with repetition) having success with the less ostentatious, overbearing, and assertive kind of courtship which is part and parcel of how most people view nice guys, is proof that nice guys are somehow at a disadvantage in being assertive.

We're looking at the same correlation, and coming up with two different causal links. You believe that the lack of assertiveness and "effective/natural assertiveness" informs the lack of success in being assertive. I would argue the opposite, the lack of success informs where we've put our effort.

Imagine, for a moment, that you can pick any sport to play. If you try Hockey and suck at it, there's a good chance you're going to give up on it, especially when you see other people who have some natural advantage at it kicking ass and taking names. So, you go play football instead. It's the same concept.

The so-called nice-guys (myself included) have learned that we're at a disadvantage when it comes to assertive, direct, courtship. Some guys are more attractive at first blush. Those guys who have the sheer attractiveness to get women without any extra effort do so (the extreme of this is being "jerks"). Those who realize they're not attractive enough to succeed on purely shallow merits (we're all shallow, every last human being is), figure out that we have to add something else to the mix. The bitter and resentful among us decide women are idiots who can (and should) be manipulated. The more reasonable among us decide that we can display those qualities which actually do make us more attractive (usually non-physical qualities, but they also do vary wildly).

Note: when I say someone "can't" succeed by being assertive, and thus becomes a "nice guy", I mean they believe they can't. It's a matter of what the guy believes of himself

So, in a lot of ways, being assertive (or at least being able to succeed being assertive) is counterindicated with being a "nice guy" (I'm using the term here more in the pejorative sense, since there's a 'being a decent human being' which is divorced from how one tries to get women). Those who don't need to put any effort into it, don't (they're the 'assertive' ones, who're attractive enough to get dates either way).

And, it does dictate the relationships you want (or, at least, have some hope of getting). Guys who are able to have casual flings/hookups easily, generally tend to do that. Guys who don't think they can achieve that, focus on wooing one girl, since they think that they're "good enough" as a whole package for a woman to overlook their less-attractive physical features.

So, you can be a "nice guy" who wants to sleep around, but you're not going to have as much success as the "jerk"... Since the jerk is more appealing as a hook-up anyway.

We're obviously working off of very different observed and experienced phenomena. I've never run into a "nice guy" who has trouble showing a woman that she's special/wanted/desired. And, there's something fairly condescending in the way you phrased that, I just thought you should know. I'm choosing to assume you meant no offense, but it comes off as fairly rude.

The problem I have with your argument, fundamentally, is that you want to hold as constant physical attractiveness/desirability, and argue purely "does 'assertiveness' confer greater benefits in getting dates than 'passiveness'?" Even if I grant you that "nice guys" are passive, and "jerks" are assertive, and that the major difference between the two is that distinction, I think you're still hacking away too much of the situation to get a good feel for it.

If I'm right, and assertiveness is learned by being more physically attractive, and thus simply being able to 'succeed' at spec; while "passiveness" (or, I would argue, the slow-sell), is learned by being unable to succeed based purely on physical looks, then to "take an average looking guy of both types" is like saying:

"look at a black person and a white person applying for a job, now assume both of them are of "average color", will race play a factor?" If the underlying thing you want to hold constant informs the variable you want to test, holding it constant makes your test infeasible.

And, not for nothing, but even if you could, I'd wager the "passive nice guy" would win most of the time in those cases anyway. We're gonna have to agree to disagree, but in my experience women actually are more interested in the nice guys, save for the diminished sexual attraction based purely on physical looks (once again, every human being is shallow, so that's not a pejorative). So, give a nice guy an added bonus of being physically attractive (or, at least, as attractive as his competition), and he'll clean up.

You do note that you're talking about "right out the gate", and I appreciate that. It is a number's game, and anytime one group takes fifteen-times as many shots (to be conservative), they're going to get more hits.

The last thing is that it's an argument about loci of control. You want the control to be on the guy (I acted like X, the outcome was Y), as opposed to being on something he has relatively little control over (I look like X, the outcome was Y), but I've seen too many less-attractive "assertive" guys go down in flames (even with greater frequency than their similarly-attractive "nice guy" peers) to think that it isn't just a false flag.

P.S I'm not sure how rambling this was, so if anything doesn't make sense, let me know, and I'll try to correct it.
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 13, 2010 at 9:29 AM · Report this
evo-psych tends to be crap... no one (yet) has figured out how to look at a modern skelton and tell how often they had sex (unless they were into something REALLY kinky that 'left marks'), let alone how many different people they had sex with.

There have been arguements put forward that the ratio of men to women of reproductive age has a profound impact on monogamy vs. polygamy/ polyandry that are at least testable, unlike any evo-psych hypotheses. Go cross-culturally through current and recent historic times and you can find enough proof that any bonding arrangement can work if the environmental and social factors support it.

Sorry, Dan, but you are not 'cutting edge'. When a 50-something Kansan feels like you are beating a dead horse, it is time to up your game or get out of the business.
Posted by ...JustPassingBy on July 13, 2010 at 11:07 AM · Report this
@215 -- Your point is moot. Why would a couple in a completely happy, emotionally and sexually fulfilling, monogamous relationship seek advice from a sex columnist?
Posted by Joe Havermann on July 13, 2010 at 12:13 PM · Report this
None of us know how many people in "Happily Ever After" marriages stay happy until "death do us part." But the evidence from advice columns and divorces and looking around you at the pain and suffering is that lots of people are unhappy in their marriages.

Those of you who are happy in your mutually fulfilling monogamous relationships, just enjoy your happiness. Dan isn't talking about you when he says most people have trouble with monogamy at some point. Sure, he could put in more caveats (but this isn't academia) and sure, he shouldn't claim that "you, hey you, (yes, you) you're having trouble with monogamy!" (Though I missed the column where he wrote that.)

He does often tell unhappy letter-writers that they ought to consider opening up their marriages. The rest of society says, "no, don't consider it." But he thinks they should consider it. And it's his damn column. So lay off.
Posted by EricaP on July 13, 2010 at 2:21 PM · Report this

If he had phrased his point less polemically, no one would object to it.

If he had said "for those who have difficulty in monogamous relationships, monogamy is unnatural", or stuck to his "d'fferent strokes for d'fferent folks" shtick, no one would mind. He didn't even say that most people at some point have trouble with monogamy. He said categorically "monogamy is unnatural".

I mean, come on. Imagine if I wrote here that homosexuality is unnatural, and counter to the reproductive instincts of humans? You'd want to set my house on fire. But, the same "sex is everything" argument that Sex At Dawn makes for its justification of "monogamy is unnatural" also argues that homosexuality is unnatural.

Think about the outrage of someone saying homosexuality is unnatural, and you understand how those of us out here who are monogamous feel.
Posted by Seldon2639 on July 13, 2010 at 2:29 PM · Report this
"Anyone who's ever struggled with monogamy—and any honest person who ever attempted it admits to struggling..." Come on Dan - speak for yourself. As a gay man who had a 20 year monogamous relationship I can honestly say the sex got better over the years because we were open to experimentation and exploring (but within the context of each other). Sex had zero to do with our break-up. Playing around sexually with others just never worked for me, it's not the way I'm wired. Fortunately my new partner is very much the same. Sooo, again I say, speak for yourself! 62, in shape and goin' strong as a 1 on 1.
Posted by kinkdaddy on July 13, 2010 at 3:27 PM · Report this
It's also possible that the very happy monogamous people don't really hear as much about the troubles of others because people struggling with monogamy are less likely to confide in the obviously happy monogamous person. I know when I have problems of any kind, I want to confide in someone who has a chance of understanding, which rules out the perfect and the annoyingly upbeat. Not only are they a shining contrast to my life's failures, but they just won't understand (although being perfect they will actually be concerned, probably sincerely, but will have absolutely no useful thoughts or information for me because they are inexperienced in actual real life as us normal people live it, and their attempts at comforting me will only make it worse). So that might be part of the rancor. If you are happily monogamous, maybe you just don't hear truth from the people around you, because they know you don't get it.
Posted by gnot on July 14, 2010 at 1:28 AM · Report this
I agree! There is also the argument that, due to our large brain and long childhood, humans need a particularly large amount of paternal care (someone to help feed the crew when mom is nursing). Across species, and gender for that matter, organisms are most likely to give care when the babies are closely related. So human children need extra care and males are most likely to give it if they think they are the father. But, in the end, who the fuck really knows? As a biologist, I get real sick of the 'just-so' stories that people make out of evolution. Traits occur for all sorts of reasons, sometimes because they are selected for, sometimes because they aren't selected against, and sometimes because they are tied to something that IS selected for or against. In the end, people should just fuck who they want to fuck and stop trying to make pseudo-evolutionary theories to back up their own preferences
Posted by boggle on July 14, 2010 at 4:47 AM · Report this
The question seems to be this: If you had no cultural constraints, fear of STDs and pregnancy did not exist, and you were free to act on your desires with essentially no penalties or limits, what would you do? What do you think people in general would do? I'm pretty sure I'd fuck anyone for the pre-historic equivalent of a chocolate bar, and I am the absolute opposite of promiscuous (much to my own disappointment I just don't have it in me to be a slut). If I didn't have to worry about anything other than what I wanted at the moment, why the hell not? Sure, pair-bonding, like strong friendships, can happen under those conditions. They don't require sexual exclusivity by any means, there's no reason why they should. Why would you bother? The concept of complete sexual faithfulness wouldn't exist, although it might happen on occasion, it seems to me it would be rare. Why would it matter? If you're having sex from onset of puberty with whoever whenever, I don't think you'd get all emotionally wrapped up in it the way people do now. It just wouldn't be important.
Posted by gnot on July 14, 2010 at 10:04 AM · Report this
OK THEN DAN, IM GONNA BE UP FRONT TO WOMEN I MEET, AND SAY "EVERYTIME MY DICK LOOKS AT ANOTHER WOMEN, Im SORRY IM GONNA TRY AND FUCK HER", you know why, i'm no better then a monkey, fuck youtube and cell phones. And yes every guy wants to see or know his Gf is getting fucked by any other guy, oh yea that's so much more natural. You lost major points on this one Dan. Man you must be making your Mormon readers SUPER HAPPY-"see honey having 4 wives is a good thing".

Ps-i'm a straight single male,26.
Posted by Marcus on July 14, 2010 at 12:15 PM · Report this
@232, So when you're 40, with two young kids and your wife says she's all "touched-out" from the children and could you please stop asking for sex more than once a week or once a month -- are you going to keep it in your pants then? What if you fuck up one night and get a blow-job from a girl you met at a bar? What if your wife then sees a text from the girl and figures it out? Does that have to mean the marriage is over? Dan's trying to give people tools to keep marriages together, he's not telling people to fuck around with strangers on AFF (that's my job).
Posted by EricaP on July 14, 2010 at 12:33 PM · Report this
@233, What if I fuck up? You mean be natural? No EricaP remember I'm un-natural, I Like eww Monogamy. WTF are you reading, "he's trying to keep marriages together", look, get off the gay guys dick and see, he fucked up with this post, I have been a semi-fan for sometime, but calling me un-natural for me not wanting my GF to give a random guy a Bj at a Bar is insane, are you following so far. People fuck up, yes, but monnomy is built around trust/being safe/ and rasing kids.
I put age into the comment, because you know getting a BJ at a bar at 50 from a 19 year old girl is kinda hard from what I see, I don't know how a 40 or 50 year old women(non-monogamist) would fair in the dating world but she sure would be NATURAL. Let me ask, when your Natural(non-monogamist, do you still have desires/tempted)or is everything perfect?

Do I want to have sex with Jessica Alba, yes, should I?, meh i won't die if I don't. Look I don't call Manwhores or Sluts un-natural, I really don't fucking care, But to bring Science and some shitty book into this post is stupid. To me Marriage and Monogamy is easier then say fucking 30 women and raising 8 different kids, (come one fight a point on that one). One more question Dan, how does someone go about being natural, does the shitty book suggest counseling, the same counseling that could help a marriage or LTR?. If so how can I be a better HUMAN?

If Dan would just say, look i kinda fucked up when i made that statement, everything would be cool, BUT WE ALL KNOW DAN, HIM AND HIS CRAZY FACTS!
Posted by Marcus on July 14, 2010 at 3:00 PM · Report this
hey dan i've read a couple of your columns and you are a rare gem, it is not often that the media encourages a healthy attitude towards sexuality. It's such an important part of who we are as human beings and most of the time that aspect of our psyche is painted as being dirty and wrong. Thanks for being both entertaining and honest as well as supportive of all kinds of sexuality. we need more people like you in the world.

Posted by No Emoticon on July 14, 2010 at 8:17 PM · Report this
LTR take a lot of work on a daily basis (duh, you think). If you compress the time spent together in even long term affairs, just how much are we talking about relative to the duration of your average marriage? As I understand them, people in affairs seldom have to deal with the daily problems and frustrations of a LTR, they are in the affair to escape them. They can focus on the sex. Of course I can see how the affair would seem to be superior to the LTR.
Posted by beentheredonethatgotthetshirt on July 18, 2010 at 7:46 AM · Report this
"Girls don't like nice guys" is semi true. Its not so much that they dislike the nice part about the guy, but they are not attracted to the low confidence and self-esteem that many nice guys have after years of failing with girls.

@217: That's what I was saying or trying to say.
Posted by The Alchemist on July 18, 2010 at 3:39 PM · Report this
@ Seldon: All I've been saying is that the standard narrative of evolution is the one which operates in current sexual culture. Women are attracted to fit genetics. This covers a wide range of factors. Brad Pitt can be painfully shy & extroverted but his looks alone will guarantee him sex because he looks so good that that is considered fit genetics. Without the looks, other factors are considered fit genetics. Money is one. Assertiveness (and dominating selfishness actually) are another. An ability to stand up for yourself & what you want against women making it hard to land them.

As for Ryan, this entire discussion led me to locate my copy of The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light by William Irwin Thompson where he writes the following:

"The shift from estrus to a receptivity for intercourse at all times...serves to attract males back to the females, but on the other hand this disturbs the traditional system of male-bonding and increases the likelihood of intrasexual competition" (72).

In other words, when females had mating seasons or periods when they were in heat, that's when males were interested, otherwise not. They'd hang out with other males until the heat period returned. Females lost the heat period so that men would be interested in them all year round but this led to year round competition between males.

Thompson quotes Wilson: "Polygyny is a general trait in hunter-gatherer bands and also may have been the rule in early hominid societies."

Fine, but according to Thompson, the shift wasn't caused by the development of agriculture and civilization but by the loss of a heat period in women which would have happened at least 70,000 years ago if not before.

All civilization adds to the mix is the notion of women as property and monogamy as prized for the male line to continue. Even for those women who praise fidelity and monogamy, civilized sexual culture is repressive, and there was a time when women were literally placed into chastity belts. Today those belts are still around as morality and guilt.

Since monogamy is endorsed by religious texts and since people do see a logic in it, you will find very strong defenders of it. Because of the fear that society will collapse if certain behaviors aren't repressed, sexual "deviance" is repressed often by law. But all of this is cultural and can change. Biology is harder to erase but culture can do a very good job of it and most people follow suit. It's difficult for people to awaken from cultural hypnosis and see their entire society critically from the outside.

Posted by The Alchemist on July 18, 2010 at 4:14 PM · Report this
@ Seldon: All I've been saying is that the standard narrative of evolution is the one which operates in current sexual culture. Women are attracted to fit genetics. This covers a wide range of factors. Brad Pitt can be painfully shy & extroverted but his looks alone will guarantee him sex because he looks so good that that is considered fit genetics. Without the looks, other factors are considered fit genetics. Money is one. Assertiveness (and dominating selfishness actually) are another. An ability to stand up for yourself & what you want against women making it hard to land them.

As for Ryan, this entire discussion led me to locate my copy of The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light by William Irwin Thompson where he writes the following:

"The shift from estrus to a receptivity for intercourse at all times...serves to attract males back to the females, but on the other hand this disturbs the traditional system of male-bonding and increases the likelihood of intrasexual competition" (72).

In other words, when females had mating seasons or periods when they were in heat, that's when males were interested, otherwise not. They'd hang out with other males until the heat period returned. Females lost the heat period so that men would be interested in them all year round but this led to year round competition between males.

Thompson quotes Wilson: "Polygyny is a general trait in hunter-gatherer bands and also may have been the rule in early hominid societies."

Fine, but according to Thompson, the shift wasn't caused by the development of agriculture and civilization but by the loss of a heat period in women which would have happened at least 70,000 years ago if not before.

All civilization adds to the mix is the notion of women as property and monogamy as prized for the male line to continue. Even for those women who praise fidelity and monogamy, civilized sexual culture is repressive, and there was a time when women were literally placed into chastity belts. Today those belts are still around as morality and guilt.

Since monogamy is endorsed by religious texts and since people do see a logic in it, you will find very strong defenders of it. Because of the fear that society will collapse if certain behaviors aren't repressed, sexual "deviance" is repressed often by law. But all of this is cultural and can change. Biology is harder to erase but culture can do a very good job of it and most people follow suit. It's difficult for people to awaken from cultural hypnosis and see their entire society critically from the outside.

Posted by The Alchemist on July 18, 2010 at 4:15 PM · Report this
Sorry double post!
Posted by The Alchemist on July 18, 2010 at 4:16 PM · Report this
I just ordered Sex at Dawn online. It arrives in 2 days, and I look forward to reading it and letting you know my favorite parts. (Which I expect to be a lot of it.)
Posted by d.bandy on July 19, 2010 at 12:08 PM · Report this
All you people arguing for monogamy and bashing Dan are a bunch of morons. HE IS NOT PASSING JUDGEMENT ON YOU, YOU DUMB FUCKS. I AM. He's said it on sooooooo many occasions that you being monogamous is just peachy keen by him. It's just that he wants to make sure people who struggle with it don't feel helpless. For fuck's sake, stop misinterpreting everything.
Posted by Jamez on July 20, 2010 at 1:28 AM · Report this
I second 150's recommendation of Robin Baker's Sperm Wars -- there's a Wikipedia entry for it, if you want a summary of its strengths and weakenesses.

Some parts I liked about Sperm Wars were (roughly, as I can't lay hand on my copy right now)

- Baker's observation (which I paraphrase wildly) that the secret unspoken meaning of hetero pornography is that straight men like watching women having sex because in the back of their minds is the thought that Whoopee, maybe I'll be next!! Cf The number of MMF threesomes in porn movies, especially European porn.

- Baker's report of the sexual habits of young women, based mainly I think on studies of English women: How many women have had sex with more than one man in 24 hours? Most of them. In 12 hours? Not nearly so many. In 30 minutes? Even fewer, but still more than you might expect. Who'd have thought English women would be so horny?

I don't believe Dan is being prescriptive about polyamory or whatever you want to call it, or about monogamy. Isn't his point (as usual) that we shouldn't be surprised or judgmental about what people may get up to, as long as it's done honestly, with openness and informed consent?

By the way, I notice a few comments mentioning that 'survival of the fittest' meme, which in North America is usually read with a frontier-sy "nature red in tooth and claw" slant. In other parts of the world it's mostly taken to mean that those best fitted to reproduce will survive. Fecundity rules.
Posted by SkepticalSteve on July 29, 2010 at 6:35 AM · Report this
I think Dan and the monogamy proponents are taking about two different kinds of "unnatural". I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but if our goal as living things is to reproduce, monogamy is not the best way to do this. Thus biologically, monogamy is "unnatural". Clearly, this ignores other factors as in keeping the offspring alive, etc and does not mean that monogamy is not socially, culturally, personally, or sexually "natural" for some people. To say that this (possible) biological naturalness translates to other kinds of naturalness is a leap i am not willing to make, yet the fact remains that other people find monogamy "unnatural" in all ways. Live and let live, people.

What I don't intend to let live is the notion of embattled monogamy. Yes, Dan is out to get you. No, I do not agree with you. But as a 21 year old female, my experience is that the culture (as in Time Magazine, The New York Times, Fox News on Taylor Momsen as presented by Dan in his August 5th column, the book "Unhooked", everyone's reaction to Miley Cyrus) has nothing better to do of late than to yell at me and women and girls my age and younger to be less promiscuous and sexual, basically to toe the monogamy party line.
Posted by L. Bloom on August 5, 2010 at 9:23 PM · Report this
#15 does a strange thing, she proves that she Knows Dan’s comment is true and then argues the opposite. If she tried “dating other people” back in the beginning of her present relationship and discovered it didn’t work then, it stands to reason that she is one of the people who ‘struggled’ with the concept. In the end her ‘struggle’ led to choosing monogamy; other people might make a different choice. I didn’t read the article as saying monogamy was ‘good’ or ‘bad’, just difficult for some people to adhere to, and it posited a reason.
Thirty years ago I’d not even heard of the word ‘polyamory’. “Free Love” seemed a flaky and amorphous term, to me. I tried being honest, but I wasn’t as honest with myself as I ultimately needed to be, and fell into a sort of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ limbo which wasn’t fair to anyone involved and has led to corrosiveness and fallout, which I am still contending with to this day. This concept is a thunderbolt for me, wish I’d been aware of it much sooner in my life; I look forward to reading the book.
Posted by dalilad on August 22, 2010 at 11:16 AM · Report this
(still) Grrrl 246
"Sexuality is by nature fluid; sexuality is a force that, by nature, violates boundaries and breaks barriers" -- awesome comment #84.

Dan would be happy to know I'm about 40 pages into 'Sex at Dawn' and loving it!

I do see the POV of the people arguing against psychological evolution. Way back years ago in, oh 1986, psych evo was known as sociobiology and some nasty misogynists at Stanford used it to explain away all manner of inhuman behavior, especially rape, which they said was 'adaptive'. (A good percentage of rape survivors are children, elderly women and men -- how is the rapist engaging in 'adaptive' behavior???)

At any rate, I'm really liking the book and it's damn interesting.
Posted by (still) Grrrl on August 29, 2010 at 11:28 AM · Report this
OK I have realized many years past that I am a freak, a sport, a non-typical mess.

So tell me where the hell do I fit in? I only like sex in relationships, I like sex more, the longer the relationship goes on, I am a large, masculine guy. What is wrong that I can't enjoy or even approach sex on the side. I get plenty of offers.

My ex wife, oddly enough, and this is a long story has had 100's of partners. My daughter was a virgin when she maried, even though she and her spouse had lived together for months. Makes me think there is more to the storey.
Posted by justvisiten on August 29, 2010 at 4:17 PM · Report this
It's odd how defensive everyone seems to get when monogamy is questioned or challenged. If you're going to pooh pooh this book's theories that's fine but you're still left with some big problems that need explaining. Why the high rates of divorce and adultery? Why all the sexless long term relationships? Why all the people sneaking off to view internet porn in the basement? If you're going to slam the author's findings it doesn't let you off the hook from explaining the source of these "flaws" in the monogamous lifestyle.
Posted by converted on January 11, 2011 at 12:11 AM · Report this
I'm never struggled with monogamy Dan Savage. I've struggled with not struggling with monogamy, but sure as hell haven't struggled with it.
Posted by Monogamous on January 14, 2011 at 12:15 PM · Report this
I remember when I thought I could never be faithful to one man. Then I found one with whom I was actually sexually compatible. I'd had over 100 guys by then and really thought I was the shit and knew everything about sex. Boy was I wrong. I was all rah rah rah in the poly camp too. Going to McDonalds Burger King and Wendy's doesn't substitute for stepping it up a notch and going to a one of a kind steak house where it's done right. Not saying that's everyone's problem, but considering the overwhelming majority of hetero men (especially under the age of 30 I'd put the percent in the high 90s) are absolutely fucking awful in bed, well, I don't think we can just throw our hands up "poly poly oxen free!" just yet on this young 24 year old.

And yes I do firmly totally and strongly believe high divorce rates and sexless marriages are mostly due to people in denial about their sexual compatibility and having no fucking idea what good sex is before they get married.
Posted by wendykh on March 5, 2011 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Dan: Re the father concerned about his young (20 or so) son's wish to have a vasectomy. I suggest that the son simply bank his sperm before the procedure. Thus, If he eventually marries (or whatever) and wants to father a child, he can make a withdrawal (sic) and voila! I had a vasectomy at 40, after deciding with my wife, No more kids, and have never regretted it.
Hank B. (80 and still going strong!)
Posted by Hank B. on March 19, 2011 at 11:49 AM · Report this
i am so happy today for what Dr abubakar of he is a great spell caster. i have and my family have be living together in peace and love we were married for 10 years with two beautiful kids everything went smoothly until a husband started staying out late and would beat me up with any excuse he gets, he wold always get drunk and i was bent on finding out what the problem was and i discovered that he was seeing a young woman outside who he was planning to move in together and was preparing a divorce i became devastated as i love my husband so much and i looked for help i contacted many spell casters but nothing happened until i met with Dr abubakar, who told so many things and said i should worry about nothing that all will be well and told he will cast a spell that will bring my husband back to me and he was true to his words i want you all to help me thank and i promised him that i will always tell people of his good works he is a powerful spell caster contact for what ever problems you have and he will help you out of it okay here's his email address contact him he is a powerful spell caster and i pray he help you out too once again his mail is your daughter Blessing Emily from USA
Posted by blessingemily12 on August 10, 2014 at 6:29 PM · Report this

Add a comment