Columns Jul 15, 2010 at 4:00 am

Employee Manual


i have observed throughout the discussion of monogamy vs. non, natural vs. unnatural, that it seems to all boil down to a biological & physical discussion. It is implied, on both sides, that we are no more or no less than our primate genetic relatives, our distant human ancestors, or our DNA. The one aspect that i find to be lacking is consciousness.
It is presumed that sexual interaction is driven solely by physical instinct. There is no mention of love, of conscious choices, of willing sacfrice. Are these factors not some of what differentiates humans from the majority of the animal world? Yes, a monogamous relationship means being attracted to other humans & not acting on that attraction. It is a conscious choice to NOT be dictated by our biology. It means honoring love over transitory physical pleasure. It means rising above the physical instinct & honoring the sacred bond.

But, i know for damn sure that not all humans are created in that way. For some, honoring the physical instinct IS sacred. It is the ideal. But, i think a big problem is that most people have been taught that monogamy is the only way & therefore seek to be who they really are by living a lie. And people get hurt. If non-monogamous relationships were more accepted & lauded in our culture, there would be less incentive to lie.
As everyone has said, both are NATURAL expressions of human sexuality.
We could segregate bars into mono & non, gay & straight, bi ( well, they get to go everywhere ), trans, black, white, native american, vegan & omnivore....We could seperate & define everyone according to the color of their skin, their sexual preference, gender identity, political affiliations, eating preferences, & whether or not they want to fuck you, or the whole world.
Oh, we already do that. Now we just have to agree on who's natural & who's not.
"We are a naturally non-monogamous species as much as we're a naturally heterosexual species."

This is a really good point.
Please, Dan, no more of this Sex at Dawn stuff. As if you didn't offend readers enough last week. If you must resort to the "natural" versus "unnatural" argument, why not go the direct route and use simple everyday statistics? What are the ratios of monogamy to nonmonogamy and homosexuality to heterosexuality recorded from the present day to as far back in history as possible? Those ratios should give a pretty good idea of what's more "natural" - and they're just as much bullshit. I'm still baffled at the fact that a conscientious person with a modicum of intelligence cannot see that this is the EXACT same argument used for decades (centuries?) to persecute homosexuals. "Natural" is just a synonym for "right" and we all know it. I see there is an attempt at adjusting the language used last week in this week's post - reading over last week, that "monogamy is unnatural" with emphasis, Dan, with emphasis, is still proudly on display, despite your claims otherwise. Please, please, drop this ridiculous topic. It's getting embarrassing.

Anecdotes, even cute ones, can't speak to the multitudes of humankind, was kind of my point. I mean, christ, especially when you're citing Dan, you have to accept the massive statistical limitations of his sampling.

But, my point wasn't "who would be better at dealing with a specific person with a problem", it was "who can speak better to the anthropology and history of X". I'd rather have Dan advising someone about their relationship than some random anthropologist, but if I'm asking "what makes us how we are?" I'm not going to cite Ann Landers either.

If you want advice, go to the guy with real-world experience. If you want information about the actual historical, anthropological, and (yes) evolutionary basis for behavior, go talk to the scientists. My problem with Sex at Dawn is logical chains like this:

"We know that cuckholding is a popular fetish in modern society. Thus, it must have been historically popular going all the way back into prehistory. This must prove that we're supposed to have big ol' orgies". It's a possible explanation, but not necessarily a good one. Dan himself admits that cuckholding only works in the modern context due to birth control.

The idea that we're meant to be polyamorous goes against every principle of biology I know. The individual male wants his own offspring, and for them to survive. Polyamory in the "cuckholding" sense historically would require self-sacrifice by a lot of men of the "let the best sperm win, and we'll all raise them together". That also ignores that in the animal kingdom (and in our genetic cousins), there's plenty of infanticide of other males' offspring. We're naturally jealous of our own reproductive health, which is counter to the idea that men would be willing to share the same women and raise the children together.

See how easy it is to counter their explanation? Given there's nothing resembling real fact behind SAD, what makes their explanation of history more compelling than mine?

The problem with relying on speculation from amateurs and armchair psychologists is that they don't feel the need to do their due diligence in finding real factual basis for their claims.


A. The problem is that those who have looked at the qualifications of the authors of the book, and their evidence, and found it lacking are really annoyed to have to repeat the same litany of "this is bullshit" over and over again. It's an argument that gets nowhere. People who dogmatically believe Sex at Dawn aren't going to be swayed by arguments against evolutionary psychology. People who think it's crap aren't going to start buying into it because other people say "OMG, it was so insightful".

It's like having an argument with a bible-thumper.

B. I'm pretty sure if I said that homosexuality was "unnatural", I'd get plenty of hate even from confident, self-assured, homosexuals. Dan didn't just say that non-monogamy was okay (or even good), he said that monogamy was unnatural. That sounds very much like a proscription to me. Don't put sugar on that bullshit and call it candy, mate.

C. It's a decent point, but given the number of people who are able to be wealthy, attractive, and even celebrities who don't cheat on their significant others, I'm pretty sure that some healthy portion of us could manage monogamy even with temptation.

Besides, part of resisting temptation is not being in a situation where one can be easily tempted. If I knew I was a high risk for stupid choices vis-a-vis cheating (but didn't want to cheat), I'd avoid situations which make it likely. Having friends who can, and would, kick my ass soundly helps.


Okay, I'm one of the most ardent defenders of monogamy you'll find around these parts, but can we please not draw the battle line at "polyamorous people are only that way because they're not satisfied with their partner"? Yes, it makes sense, if all of my sexual needs are being met by one person, I likely don't need others. But, if I desire other people, and my wife is supportive of it, can we at least accept that there's nothing less inherently "wrong" with polyamory than any other sexual expression.

Your argument is like saying that if I met someone who satisfied me enough with missionary position, I should never want oral sex, much less kinky sex with the whips and wax and rope. I would never want to have my girlfriend sleep with someone else while we're together, nor would I want to sleep with someone else, but if other people feel differently, don't demean it.


Yeah, I usually try to do these in numerical order, but my answer to #99 is the same as my answer to yours. Be happy with your life, but don't diminish the happiness or needs of others.
everyone including dan (and excluding one commenter) seems to have missed that the BILLING address was also the company- implying that the CEO used the company credit card to make that purchase. that is where the issue is. it could have been a vegetarian cookbook or a toy that was clearly for her child- the sexual or gag gift nature is irrelevant. she used the company card to buy something for herself.
Even if the evopsych in Sex at Dawn is valid...who cares? Does Dan really think if I were monogamous and my partner cheated, I could read Sex at Dawn and go "Oh! That makes sense! I feel totally fine about this now."

If my partner cheated, I wouldn't care whether he did it from some ingrained instinct or just because he's a douche. The main thing wouldn't be getting to the bottom of why he did it so much as figuring out where to go from there. Obviously, if I want monogamy and he doesn't, we're at odds. We have to figure out a compromise or else break up.

The book might be an interesting read, but I resent the implication that it will legitamize things people do that hurt their partners.
It's like anything: you can do something that compromises a relationship (straying, and not being upfront about it) and then find a way somehow to justify it because an author wrote about the subject and -somehow- this is supposed to let yourself off of the hook from accountability or guilt. Some are more suited for monogamy than others. Having said that, you're bound to have problems if one of the two within the couple isn't putting in their fair share. If you're not in agreement about being monogamous or non-monogamous enough, then trouble is bound to happen. That, and a lot of pain. Being honest goes a long way...or does it still?
Just wondering why you keep using the very clunky word "nonmonogamy" instead of polyamory? Polyamory is really the term to be using... and there's a growing movement. See for starters.
@109, because not all nonmonogamy involves polyamory. Polyamory is usually when you have longterm attachments to the other people. Screwing escorts and strangers isn't normally considered polyamory. Dan's talking about many different ways of not being monogamous.
Unrelated to this particular column, but the guest host on 195 totally sounds like Betty Buckley.
Hahaha that is hilarious.

For fun, if i knew nothing bad would come from it, i'd drop subtle hints about vibrating panties!
My husband and I loved monogamy. We had 17 years together and an amazing sex life. He died, inconsiderate bugger.

But - and this is the important bit - we only enjoyed monogamy because we both wanted it. Us being just us - totally united - meant a lot to both us. We'd both had well over 100 partners of various sexes before we met but when you meet that soulmate. Sigh... That's what romance is like.

I may be an old lady but I have great memories. However I don't have a sex life, which gets me down. He was a hard act to follow.

N.B. Love the column. Blissikins.
Monogamy is great if you can pull it off. Like anything really worth doing in life it is difficult as hell. Workplace sexual power dynamics... well... that is something to write another book about.
I haven't read Sex at Dawn, but I'd bet a load on your face Dan that Sperm Wars 'proves' it better.
I love the sperm aresting sperm that attack and detain sperm from other men in the tunel of love!
I mean love in a less than romantic sense of course.
So Dan, what about the bet?
Please Dan: I know you're not a scientist, but I do believe that you're capable of telling pseudoscience/junk science from real science. These authors didn't prove anything, in fact they parroted a lot of old ideas from other people that are based purely on EvoDevo hand-waving and conjecture. It's nice that some modern (unsubstantiated!) ideas fit your existing hypotheses and there is nothing wrong with suggested reading - but don't pretend that this stuff is anything more than it is...

Just as it seems presently convenient for most coming-out gays to harp on a supposed genetic component (thus eliminating most family friction because "they can't help it, it's innate") will and has already been shown to be fallacious (additionally leaving those from whom it is purely preference out in the cold) and untenable, the jury will be out on primitive sexual practices for a long time.
Regarding Sex at Dawn... it would have been helpful to point out the difference between what "is" and what "ought" to be. Whether we "are" naturally non-monogamous has no bearing on whether we SHOULD be monogamous.

I have a background in biology/evolution, and my classes taught me that you have to be careful about reading into evolutionary psychology. Personally, I think the idea of there being a SINGLE "natural" state for human sexuality is just silly. Mating systems in animals, and humans - as shown by the diversity in different cultures - are extremely flexible, and can depend on many factors, e.g. sex ratio in the population, environmental factors...

So my bottom lines are
1) Even if Sex at Dawn seems to put forward a plausible theory, we need to think carefully about what it means for how we ought to conduct ourselves sexually. I noticed on the podcast, the author was very careful about not saying too much here.
2) Perhaps Sex at Dawn - at least, of what I've heard about from the podcast (haven't read the book) - and Dan shouldn't be framing things in terms of what is "natural" and "unnatural." These supposed norms are flexible and often not genetically determined.

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