Blogs Jan 19, 2011 at 8:55 am


Gee, I wonder which partner thought they were exclusive, and which thought they were still playing the field...hmmm, hmmm...
I thought this was an example of people being bad at communication.
Oh yes, by all means, when couples think about forming a lifelong partnership they should totally use the relationship habits of the average 19-year old as a model. Makes sense to me.
There was "no agreement" because, for straight folks, monogamy is the default.
They just said "couples".Not married couples.
Well, golly. Young people are fickle about their relationships and may not be ready to settle down? That's really the kind of bedrock that you can build an argument against monogamy upon.

Thanks for the newsflash, Dan.
Not married couples, not even "committed" couples -- just a bunch of immature young people in some kind of relationship.

Yeah, that proves that monogamy can't work.
Yup, it happens. It's high time for us to de-stigmatize non-monogamous arrangements and call monogamy what it is: a choice, not a rule. I hope we get to the point where having the discussion and making a firm agreement one way or another is the norm. I don't think we're there yet; I think most people still make a default assumption of exclusivity.
Which is to say that I agree with @2. It's a communication issue if people aren't having an honest discussion about it and reaching some kind of agreement that both partners recognize.
Cranky Dan is cranky this morning.
gosh Dan,
we don't know if you are being ignorant or being a prick.

we don't know who you're mocking when you say "monogamy is natural and normal and humans are a naturally monogamous species and we evolved in sexually exclusive pairs over hundreds of thousands of years..."

perhaps one of your endless straw men ?

monogamy isn't natural or easy,
it IS however much better for family and societal stability.
and the best way to keep STDs down.
however it requires a lot of external support, fostering and pressure to make it work.

things like societal norms that expect monogamy and frown on cheating.

laws to protect economically disadvantaged spouses from adulterous cheating partners.

laws against prostitution.

family benefit programs that grant preferential treatment to married folks and their kids.

which is why justification for cheating under any circumstances is bullshit.
repeatafter the troll, Dan- Cheaters are Pieces of Shit.
ALL Cheaters.
Well the article did say that the study included married and non-married couples, and noted that the higher "commitment rating" they gave their relationship, the more likely they were to have an explicit monogamy agreement in place.

It would be interesting to read a study of couples who have been together >15 or 20 years and see how they answer the same questions...
Man, at this point its like the only person you are trying to convince is yourself.
Who cares what's natural or not? Do what works best for you and communicate with your partner(s).

Every argument I've heard against monogamy could be made against potty training, too. It's not how we're wired, it's not natural to us, it goes against our instincts for instant gratification, so it must be bad! How about the argument that the small sacrifice of not being allowed to bang everything you want is a symbol of commitment and devotion? Oh no! That wouldn't further the agenda to be able to bang everybody all the time and blame all negative consequences on the "controlling" and "manipulative" partner who doesn't want to share.
This study is flawed in the narrow sampling used. The article is also poorly written, but does indicate in the first paragraph that the couples had discussed monogamy.

Interestingly enough, commenters seem to be making moral judgements on the non monogamous young adults, while the article and study seem to have been approached from a monogamy as the best way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. From that same perspective, monogamy is also the best way to know whose kids are whose, and wasn't that also the basis for marriage in the first place?
I , too, think the concept of monogamy is largely culturally driven -- but a study on 18-25 year olds? Ima tellin' you, I never saw cheating husbands come out in droves until my mid 30's.
@21 -- yes -- inheritance and property rights have historically driven the concept of marriage. And since it wasn't until recently that the father could be determined easily, most of the restrictions were placed around the woman so that the man would know whose the child was.
I think monogamy is a communication issue, a decision, a choice, to be made between the individuals involved in the relationship. Sometimes it is a decision that requires revisiting. I'm certain that I'm not fit to judge any relationship, but my own, though.

I think I understand why you post these, and some of the reason why I "hear" frustration in your tone, but you're preaching to the choir here, Dan. Many, if not most of us, who read Slog realize that life is colorful and we don't require everyone else to be a carbon copy of ourselves.

I just hope that you realize that many, if not most, of the individuals who believe that monogamy is required have that belief rooted in their emotions, not in their heads, and any evidence that does not confirm their bias is likely disregarded. Monogamy likely falls under the category of "unreasonable beliefs" that humans hold tenaciously to, not unlike religious beliefs, that are rooted in familial/cultural/ritual tradition and people are often reluctant to surrender them if it involves damaging all the feel good memories of their childhood and risk damaging their relationships. I, also, think it is likely that those who wish to use non-monogamy as grounds for rejection, will continue to reject even in the event of irrefutable evidence. It has been my experience that closed minds remain locked, until the owner decides to open it. So, try not to bruise your head too much.
@23 Or have an open relationship?
@ 11, 18 : Non-monogamy does not preclude cheating, unless you have a different definition than I do. (to practice fraud or deceit: She cheats without regrets.) I stress " FRAUD OR DECEIT" How is it cheating if it is a non-monogamous arrangement agreed to by both people? Are they both "pieces of shit" in your eyes? Chew on that trolly troll, and spit it back...
@25, don't forget that marriage is still coded as an (undiscussed by many) exclusive/monogamous arrangement. i certainly never discussed monogamy with my ex -- what was there to discuss? it was "understood" to be part and parcel of the entire package. *Maybe* people are discussing that more explicitly these days... but I somehow doubt it. Cultural memes are extremely powerful and monogamy is one of the biggest unstated ones we have in the U.S.

(The irony of course is that at the end, he thought I'd cheated -- which I hadn't --so he cheated "to get even" and then couldn't wrap his mind around it when I told him I didn't care about that, but it was over for many *other* reasons.)
@1: Based on my experience, definitely the men who thought the couple was monogamous, while the women were sleeping around. (Turns out that women raised with a sense of sexual agency like to fuck around as much as men, and it's easier for them to actually do it, as men following social norms are more likely to hook up with someone fairly random than are women following social norms.)

@19: Non-monogamy is not the same thing (necessarily, though it could be) as "bang everything you want". You're making the common mistake of applying a binary view of extremes to something that's better represented as a continuum, or a scatter-plot of discrete states (many distinct ways to be non-monogamous). And monogamy may be a good "symbol of commitment and devotion" that works well for some people. That doesn't make it the only possible one, nor a good idea for everyone, nor a good cultural norm. The objection isn't to monogamy-as-practice, it to monogamy-as-normative-cultural-institution. Go read the SL Letter of the Day from yesterday to see a form of non-monogamy to which Dan objects (as, presumably, do many of the commenters). This is not an "I want to justify my desire to fuck anything that moves without any consequences" position, it's a nuanced, well-thought-out challenge to the normative model of sexual relationships in our society.
If a fraction of a fraction of a young population says it, it must be true.
I thought "unnatural" meant "doesn't occur in nature". Are you saying monogamy doesn't occur in nature or at least in human species? No human is born more inclined to monogamy than polygamy? How do you prove that?
Was this post designed to troll your readership?

Can you please cite your sources where you have evidence that we 'evolved' as a monogamous species?

Any historical anthropologist can pretty much tell you that monogamy was not widely practiced in ANY society before the rise of of the big 3 'modern religions'. Infact, in several international cultures Monogamy still isn't widely practiced.

Or perhaps this post was entirely sarcasm because it's pretty obvious to anyone that actually studies history that we did not evolve as a monogamous species.

Well played Mr. Savage, well played.
@ 31 - Yes: to ensure that private property owned by the man would be passed down to the wife and children when the man died.

Marriage as an institution (i.e. official monogamy, albeit not necessarily actual monogamy) appeared at the same time as agriculture, which had created the concept of private property.

Organized religions also appeared concurrently to promote those concepts, which had become necessary because of the notion of private property. A lot of the old testament concerns who owns what (and whom).
@3 and others like it...

Dan is talking about evolved behavior. If we evolved to be and naturally are monogamous, we would be young, immature and monogamous without difficulty.

In this case, the behavior of a 19 year old is more informative than my behavior at 36. I'm good at monogamy because I've got 17 extra years of figuring out who I am and what I want and how to get it using logic, reason and rational thought.

If you want to understand our primitive, instinctual behavior, the 19 year old is whom you want to examine. A 19 year old's lizard brain has a lot more sway than my lizard brain does.

Whether or not we should be monogamous is a completely different question. In fact, if you think we should be monogamous, it's even more important to recognize that it isn't an evolved behavior. If you don't understand exactly why that is true, you obviously don't read Dan's column at all.
@2 - I think intentionally in more cases than no. Ask those same partners who said nonexclusive what they think their partners would say to that question and i bet they know the right answer...
@ 36 - Indeed. If you never talked about it, you can always claim that you didn't know that's what the other one wanted, when in fact you knew. How convenient.
Following on 37 - But that means, of course, that the other partner just assumed monogamy was a given in the relationship.

Bad communication skills all around.
I would argue that there are all sorts of "natural" relationship pairings including the female killing the male when she's properly fertilized, but it's irrelevant to the topic at hand. Two or more people don't form a bond based on what they've seen in nature, they form a bond based on their own needs and the needs of the other person and if they cannot agree on those terms they should deal with them not by proclaiming one choice the "natural" or "right" way and the other "unnatural" and "wrong" but by deciding if they can come to a mutually agreeable solution or going out and finding someone (or several someones) who are a better fit for their ideal of a happy lifestyle. I am so tired of people who rightfully argue that the "it's not natural" argument is bogus when it comes to the rights of homosexual couples so can we please stop trotting it out when discussing monogamy?
I just recently wrote a blog post on the subject of monogamy being ridiculous.…
I'm confused. I definitely read this as: 40% said that monogamy was discussed, and the remaining 60% just 'knew' that's what was happening, without the discussion. Which kinda makes the point for monogamy being natural.

but i'm going to get back up on my soapbox and say, again, who the fuck cares if it's natural? What kind of bullshit argument is "natural"?
@ 42 - You got it wrong. There was a difference of perception on the subject "in 40 percent of couples" is what it says. We must presume that there was no disagreement on the subject in the other 60% of couples.
Its like being gay or straight some are one some are the other there is no natural.
Surveys of young college students are not indicative of what is typical/normal/natural. I'm usually with you Dan but this is not a representative sample by any means. It's a sampling of young people who are not at the settling down stage of life yet nor who have the relationship experience and communication skills to actually TALK about the status of their relationships.
Really, doesn't all this discussion illustrate that free will is wonderful?
As someone in a non-monogamous relationship I would like to chime in to agree with the person who said non-monogamous does not mean anything goes. In fact we probably have a more puritanical definition of cheating than some who are in monogamous relationships. Some people use the "anything you wouldn't do if the spouse was standing there is cheating" standard. Ours is kind of the opposite "anything sexually charged you would do with me there, is cheating if I'm not there." We're not monogamous, but we're far from an open marriage. There's a big difference.
@33: Yes, it was obviously sarcasm.

@1, 29: Setting aside stereotypes, I'd love to know if there is any actual evidence on which partner is more likely to assume monogamy.

@25: There's a big difference between saying monogamy is one possible choice, and what Dan's saying, which is that it's usually a *bad* choice. I'm not sure he's preaching to the choir about that.
Never mind the fact that this study was done not as a study of monogamy but as a study of risky sexual behaviors and STD prevention amongst heterosexual couples and that the group used to study was selected because they met at risk criteria. This is not a representative sample of the general population. I'm not arguing for or against monogamy, I'm just saying that this study should not be in anyway used for that argument.
"And yet every news organization and blog that’s picked it up has treated the study as if it must apply universally. Some of this may be misrepresentation on the part of the researchers, who are quoted in a couple of the articles, but anyone who actually read the paper would know that this research was limited to a very specific, at-risk population. It doesn’t say jack shit about how the majority of couples behave."…

But, hey, don't that get in the way of what your pushing here, Dan. Since you're only about what is empirical and natural. Riiiiiight.

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