So What You're Saying Is That No One Should Be Monogamous?

Comments

1
Dan, are you on commission?
2
I think he just doesn't have a filter. He probably stayed up all night reading and decided it was The Best Book Ever and can't shut up about it. Give it a day or two.

Meanwhile, I'm probably going to buy and read it, just because.
3
Wow wtf was this post about? This book proves something? Look, a pop-sci book never proves anything. Evolutionary psychology as a whole sure has some interesting things to say and I know about many of those things but a pop-sci book written about the subject is not the end of the debate.

You could argue that humans never had laws about murder and rape in the world our genes evolved in but that does not mean we should support murder and rape. If monogamy is the better thing to do for everyone (it's probably not but it always is possible) then saying that it is not the original state of humans is not a good arguing point.

The fact that humans can overcome our natural state of being (jealous, murderous, controlling, and violent) in our social interactions is one of the most beautiful things about being a human. Your argument falls in the logically fallacy "appeal to tradition" and its the same bullshit that the fundies use to argue against you Dan.
4
I have to assume that you got a flood of letters accusing you of attempting to destroy monogamous relationships? Personally I don't get it; monogamy works great for me and my wife but we don't go around insisting that it's what works great for everyone. We have a few friends in an open marriage which works great for them. I think it's great that you're attempting to redefine happy relationships as the type of relationship that works for the individuals instead of "THIS is what a happy relationship is and EVERYONE must conform to this ideal."
5
See, this post makes more sense than your last column. I think you were a little lazy in writing your opinion there and you're being understandably jumped on for it. There's a difference between saying that we shouldn't assume monogamy is easy for everyone, and saying that its unnatural and everyone who tries it struggles with it, which is what you said in your column. That's why you got a flood of people saying "actually, I don't struggle with it". You made it sound like those people don't exist and they're asserting that they do exist, not that everyone else should be like them.
6
@3 I don't think that's what he's getting at. For millenia (or at least many hundreds of years) we've been told that monogamy is the natural human state but that begs the question that if it is the natural human state then why do people have a hard time being monogamous? The answer is that it isn't the natural human state. It's not an endorsement of polyamory or condemnation of monogamy but it is something that's good to keep in mind when trying to decide what sort of relationship is good for you.
7
(Oh yeah, and when I said this post makes sense, I was ignoring the part where you said this book "proves" anything.)
8
Monogomy is natural. It's just normally it has a rolling 3-5 year reset, and is optimized for raising kids until they can walk on their own and not need breast feeding.

At least for the first few million years of our genetic existence.

Some variables include resources available to the mother, education of the mother, and typical parental abandonment when partners needs aren't met. As well as visually "available" partners - part of the problem now for long term relationships is we "see" more partner choices than actually exist, and we can travel more easily.

None of this will matter when our Chibi hamster overlords return, mind you.
9
i would not make any commitments whatsoever to someone who would place their biology over their desire to make me feel loved. i'm not saying the book is incorrect or anything -- it just really, really cracks my little heart like glass that progressive people are increasingly electing and recognizing and accepting this. when i was a little girl i wanted to get married.

10
Dan: "FINALLY. Someone wrote a book with scientific analysis proving what I've been vainly trying to thump into the thick skulls of a nonsensical majority!"

<3
11
Dan, quick opinion: harder for men or for women?
12
"What the authors of Sex At Dawn believe—what they prove—is that we are a naturally non-monogamous species, despite what we've been told for millennia by preachers and for centuries by scientists,"

Perhaps preachers for the last two millennia have argued for monogamy, but there have been plenty of scientists and other social leaders who have argued that monogamy is not natural for humans. Ryan and Jetha certainly are not the first.

The key really has less to do with your own tendencies and more to do with synching you and your partner's tendencies in the best way it works for each of you.
13
@11: Yes.
14
Dan says::
"What the authors of Sex At Dawn believe—what they prove—is that we are a naturally non-monogamous species.."

Um, no. The book does not prove this at all.
And since many, if not most, of us would fail miserably at non-monogamy, then one could also ague the same way that we are a naturally monogamous species.
The actual truth lies somewhere in between - some folks are monogamous and some aren't. I wouldn't apply either label as natural for our species.
15
@ 13 - Smartass. But that's what you put on your 1040 for occupation, right?
16
@15 I think he puts down "sex worker".
17
Why is it "mono-gamy" and "poly-amory?"

If we're sticking with Greek, the language of both prefixes, and also not talking about marriage, per se, shouldn't it be "monoeros" and "polyeros?" Or is "eros" singular? I don't know what the plural would be.

Just wondering...
18
@3

You are absolutely right. What the authors "prove"?? Are you kidding me??

Dan doesn't know much about science. He read a pop-science book that agreed with his own opinion/lifestyle choices and suddenly it's LAW. And anyway, it's so clear from his other postings on the subject that he has issues with his own personal inability to be monogamous so he's decided to beat into the masses that polygamy is the normal, natural state.

Well, sorry, Dan, it sure as fuck isn't normal or natural for many of us out here, and no, it's not because culture/religion has brainwashed us. I simply ain't built to stray, like you are, and trying to convince me otherwise is like trying to convince me I'm into chicks (which I'm not).
19
@14 Human are designed to be non-monogamous but not happy doing so. Human nature would dictate that men use violence and coercion to mate with as many women as possible while also violently preventing other males from doing so. Higher human aspirations such as peace and well being are not considered.

Yes we could go back to the days when monogamy was only enforced by violence but I would rather stick with what we have today. Today someone can choose if they want monogamy or not. To make the claim that non-monogamy is the natural state and that anyone who doesn't want to go along with it is just swayed by years of religious and patriarchal doctrine is wrong. I am not saying Dan holds that opinion but the author of this books gets awfully close to that conclusion. I suppose I will have to read the book to be sure but this sounds like it is going to be the most biased book on evolutionary psychology I have read.
20
@18 FWIW most of the poly people I know also do get turned on by their partner being with someone else at least just a little bit. Also most poly people I know have fucked up, messy, and jealous love lives. Most of the monogamous people I know have fucked up, messy, and jealous love lives.

A lot of poly people are normal and reasonable with their claims that their lifestyle is only for some people. There is another group of poly people who claims that their lifestyle is an ascended level of humanity and that anyone who can't understand it are immature emotionally.
21
I know a bit about the actual evolutionary psych science about monogamy and non-monogamy. Neither one is typically "hard-wired" to anyone's thinking all the time. Often it's situationally dependent.

For anyone who IS interested in the actual research-based findings about sexual strategies (i.e., monogamy and non-monogamy), psychologist David Buss is a great person to start with:
http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/…
22
The word in Greek from which poly is derived variously declined according to either πολλός, -ή, -όν or πολύς, --, πολύ both of which mean "much, many." The word itself can be declined in both the singular and the plural; we typically translate the singular into English as "much," and the plural as "many." For example (though without the necessary smooth breathing mark as I can't seem to find the correct symbol, and noting the acute accent on the upsilon ought to be grave in this circumstance) the term "πολύς έρος" means "much love." Using the more common Ionic forms "πολλοί έροι" means "many loves." I apologize for the imperfect use of diacritical marks as I confess my knowledge of "Word" is limited.
23
Claiming that monogamy is "unnatural" is just as dubious as claiming that its "natural". It seems clear to me that we humans can be conditioned to do monogamy very well or very poorly. Also, historically, beneath almost every pronouncement of the natural order lies a political agenda (often but not always conservative), and I wonder if the same is true of this book.

@21 is correct - this is a scientific question. I'm curious if Sex At Dawn treats it as such.
24
I listened with interest to Dan's interview with Ryan on the podcast. At one point they listed all of the politicians who strayed who would have been better off if we hadn't had this monogamy-for-everyone mindset: Spitzer, Edwards, Clinton, etc. I was with you until you mentioned Gov. Mark Sanford. I think this is the guy who represents the worst case scenario for people who fear letting their partner have sex with other people. This guy decided that the woman he was having the affair with was his soul mate. Clinton was just getting a blow job, but Sanford fell in love with Ms. Argentina. How can we be sure that sex won't lead to emotional involvement?
25
We've never heard anyone claim monogamy was 'natural'.
Or easy.
We have heard the claim that it will lead to more happiness for the individuals that practice it (and the society they live in)

Humans are not naturally honest.
Or altruistic.
Don't always eat all their veggies.
But they can choose those superior behaviors.

Ditto monogamy.
26
Another great read on this subject is "The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright. Goes into both this (above) and why our species has developed into (at least culturally) basically monogamy, with straying on the side.
Having said that, Dan's only point is this- continue to deny the evolutionary pressures within us that aren't optimized for monogamy, or have a little bit of reality involved when choosing a life mate. Duh. To deny things like genetics is to do so at one's own peril. Knowledge about how we tick is never a bad thing.
27
@1 I'm pretty sure if Dan were "on commission," that cute big-mouthed boy from a few days ago would already be at his house folding laundry...
28
the problem with the whole damned thing is that nobody will act on the advice to be honest and open with their partners about their need to have multiple sex partners. Just about zero women will take that w/an open heart and try and be understanding to that fact. You mention it, and you're screwed instantly. Some women will lose trust in you immediately just for knowing you are having those thoughts in the first place.

sure, its great. lets be honest. When you figure out how to get your partner to respect your needs then let me know. Until then, bringing this up is just like cutting the legs off of your relationship.
29
you'll just make your girlfriend cry. don't do it.
30
I can't even figure out how to convince just one person to have sex with me.
31
Please stop flogging this stupid book.

I'm sure it's very interesting - probably a fun read and great to sit around and talk about with friends over drinks - but evo psyche shouldn't be pointed to as PROOF of ANYTHING.

Seriously, Dan, there are evo psyche texts out there attempting to prove every pet theory under the sun - including pet theories that are anti-gay, racist and sexist.
We know almost NOTHING about how our primitive ancestors actually lived, and even if we did, the idea that certain things are "hardwired" into our brains is bullshit.

I happen to think monogamy is great for some people, but not for everyone - but I'm certainly not going to bolster my argument with bullshit pseudo science.
32
Prove? Oy. Forget this book and pick up one on the basics of science.
33
@28 - "Just about zero women will take that w/an open heart and try and be understanding to that fact. You mention it, and you're screwed instantly. Some women will lose trust in you immediately just for knowing you are having those thoughts in the first place."

This, right here. This is why it seems a little pointless to me when Dan suggests to some frustrated letter writer that they need to tell their asexual spouse to grant them some on-the-side action. Given some of the women I've known who would kick their husbands/boyfriends out of the house for even daring to suggest they aren't anything and everything said husbands/boyfriends might ever need, I think that suggestion is generally a waste of time.

(Yes, I'm sure there are women who can't bring up the idea to their insanely jealous boyfriends/husbands as well. Never met any that went on record about it, though.)
34
@28 and 33. This, right here. You guys are all scared that she might leave. Yeah, she might. But you want more sex. That's your choice. If you need more sex, then tell her, and let the chips fall where they may. Don't be too wimpy to ask her, but still feel entitled to more sex so get it secretly on the side.
35
@30 FTW
36
Wait, Dan. You read "The Myth of Monogamy", right? So what's new with this book? That one is by two scientists and collects lots of research that shows that sexual monogamy is extremely rare in the mammal world; in particular they make a very compelling case that humans were not naturally monogamous. So what now, even more evidence has surfaced? Big surprise...

One mistake some commenters make: "natural" and "unnatural" seems like a loaded word for them ("natural"=good). Actually, we are talking about facts. "Natural" only means this: it develped and existed like this in nature, and changed only very recently. Concerning non-monogamy in humans, this is pretty much an established fact, from what I read. But "natural" doesn't necessarily mean good!!

I think that the most dangerous myth about monogamy is that it is supposed to be easy. That's the one this book is trying to dispell.
37
The asexual spouse is a completely different question. You can't have sexual fidelity to someone who isn't actually having sex with you. Celibacy is not monogamy.

14's point is a good one: I might struggle a bit now and then with monogamy -- nowhere near enough of a struggle to fail at it -- but I know for a fact that I am a miserable failure at non-monogamy, having been dragged through it by the girlfriend two prior to my wife. (Yes, plenty of the people wanting multiple partners are women, and plenty of the people wanting only one partner are men.) For me, between those two choices monogamy is the easier one BY FAR.
38
Hi. Chris Ryan, co-author of Sex at Dawn here. Thought I'd join the party, if that's ok. I can clarify a few points that have been raised, starting with the most important: Dan is not getting a cut! No way, no how.

Now, with that out of the way . . .

— Our approach takes what we consider to be the strongest aspects of Evolutionary Psychology (some of the methodology) to dispute what the weakest (the fairy-tale telling). Hard core followers of EP will hate the book because we question their central narrative: men have always traded meat and protection for female sexual access and fidelity, and this is the origin of the nuclear family. So our book certainly can't be considered a standard EP text.

— Those who've questioned whether we "prove" anything, are right. At most, we hope we make a compelling case, but it's true that in these sorts of matters, scientists never consider anything "proven."

— We are definitely not the first to argue that humans didn't evolve in a monogamous social context, but most of those who have made similar points before argued that our ancestors were polygynous (one alpha male with several females—like gorillas). Very few have argued that our ancestors probably followed a multi-male/multi-female mating system. (But certainly others have, whom we cite in our book.)

— The Moral Animal is a great book, very informative and beautifully written. In fact, it's the book that first got me interested in this material back when it first came out. We dispute some of what Wright presents there, but we highly recommend his book.

— Finally, as Dan points out here, we're not recommending any particular response to the information we present in our book, other than a deepened sense of self-knowledge, more sincere conversations with potential mates, and (perhaps) better-informed decisions about the best path forward. I seriously doubt many people marry intending to cheat on their husband/wife or that many men decided to become priests already planning to abuse kids. But when we put ourselves in situations that deny and distort these essential aspects of our being, we get into trouble pretty quickly. Our ambition for Sex at Dawn is to help at least some people avoid all this unnecessary suffering.

Thanks for your interest, and thanks to Dan for plugging our book (for free!).

CPR
39
(Sorry if this is a double-posting. I got lost in the registration process.)

Hi. Chris Ryan, co-author of Sex at Dawn here. Thought I'd join the party, if that's ok. I can clarify a few points that have been raised, starting with the most important: Dan is not getting a cut! No way, no how.

Now, with that out of the way . . .

— Our approach takes what we consider to be the strongest aspects of Evolutionary Psychology (some of the methodology) to dispute the weakest (the fairy-tale telling). Hard core followers of EP will hate the book because we question their central narrative: men have always traded meat and protection for female sexual access and fidelity, and this is the origin of the nuclear family. So our book certainly can't be considered a standard EP text.

— Those who've questioned whether we "prove" anything, are right. At most, we hope we make a compelling case, but it's true that in these sorts of matters, scientists never consider anything "proven."

— We are definitely not the first to argue that humans didn't evolve in a monogamous social context, but most of those who have made similar points before argued that our ancestors were polygynous (one alpha male with several females—like gorillas). Very few have argued that our ancestors probably followed a multi-male/multi-female mating system. (But certainly others have, whom we cite in our book.)

— The Moral Animal is a great book, very informative and beautifully written. In fact, it's the book that first got me interested in this material back when it first came out. We dispute some of what Wright presents there, but we highly recommend his book.

— Finally, as Dan points out here, we're not recommending any particular response to the information we present in our book, other than a deepened sense of self-knowledge, more sincere conversations with potential mates, and (perhaps) better-informed decisions about the best path forward. I seriously doubt many people marry intending to cheat on their husband/wife or that many men decided to become priests already planning to abuse kids. But when we put ourselves in situations that deny and distort these essential aspects of our being, we get into trouble pretty quickly. Our ambition for Sex at Dawn is to help at least some people avoid all this unnecessary suffering.

Thanks for your interest, and thanks to Dan for plugging our book (for free!).

CPR
40
Heterosexuality is natural. We evolved to desire to mate with the opposite sex, so that we could pass on our genes. Homosexuality is extremely rare in the animal world. What the fuck does that prove?
There are monogamous and non-monogamous people. If you're non-monogamous and in a relationship with a monogamous person, you're in for trouble. Ditto if you're straight and in a relationship with a gay person.
41
@sexatdawn: EP is still such a fairy tale machine I'm really scared to take anything that looks like EP. I don't take Dan's endorsement very seriously since it sounds like the book just proposes reasons for things that Dan already believes (the "just-so stories" quality of EP that I find dubious).

Hopefully discussion of this book will leak over to the skeptical and science blogs that I read. It might now that Dan has it on his blog. I guess I just feel like I really need to be paranoid as a non-expert with this stuff, since I personally can't tell the BS from the well-argued.
42
Also, Dan,

"monogamy is unrealistic and—this is not a word I toss around lightly—unnatural"
"my point in drawing your attention to it — isn't that monogamy is unnatural"

Which is it?
43
@lowalan: Your skepticism is well-founded, and you're wise to be cautious about blindly accepting findings you don't have the background to evaluate—especially in EP, which is riddled with politics disguised as science.

If you take a look at our web site (sexatdawn.com), you'll see a few reviews (I'll add more as they come in), including one from Seed magazine, which has pretty serious scientific creds. The guy who wrote the review has done graduate work in primatology at Duke and is now working on his Ph.D. in the History of Science. Also, you'll see several blurbs from pretty serious folks (M.D.s and researchers). None of this means our arguments are necessarily correct, but it should give you some sense that at least some people who would recognize bullshit didn't find it, and are willing to say so on the record.

CPR
44
@36
While "natural" doesn't necessarily mean good, the term is in fact often employed to promote or eradicate certain behaviors, just as it is in sex at dawn. In many people's minds, "good" is only a short leap away from "natural".

Regardless, the idea that monogamy is "natural" or "unnatural" is complete and utter bullshit. Billions of people have stuck with one partner, billions of others have slept around. Which group you fall into isn't dictated by your genes or some neural reflex.

If there's anything "natural" about human behavior, it's our ability to adapt and change with the situation.
45
I love the quote from the serial cheater. She reads some pop science and suddenly realizes that her behavior is okay; she is not in fact a double dealing skank that regularly betrays her husband. She's just wired that way!
47
@36 -- Whoever said monogamy is easy?? I was told by my fundamentalist preachers it was hard. One of the very few thinngs they were right about.

No relationship style is easy for a person not inclined to it. And mismatches are always trouble.
48
@38 Chris makes a critical point here: "scientists never consider anything 'proven.'" There is no such thing as scientific proof (mathematicians aside). BUT scientists do support (or negate) hypotheses. And it looks like Chris and Cacilda are making a great stab at reinterpreting all sorts of established observations and formulating a better theory of human sexuality.
49
@35 makes a good point.
50
I'm curious; are the authors of the book in monogamous relationships?
51
@46 - If you haven't yet done so, go read the excerpts on the website.

@50 - I doubt it, considering the views I saw on monogamous marriage relationships.
52
@14: "many, if not most, of us would fail miserably at non-monogamy." Wha? Many or most people would fail at the task of being attracted to people other than their spouses, and having sexual encounters with them when the opportunity presented itself?? That sounds a little bit like "failing miserably" to eat ice cream in front of the TV -- i.e. it's an inherently tempting proposition and that's why so many have a hard time resisting it. I know some people just don't like casual sex, but jeez, that's not "most" people.

@17, 18, everyone else: Can people PLEASE stop assuming that the alternative to monogamy is "polyamory"? Polyamory means "many loves," not many sex partners. When you use the word that way it makes me think that you think that everyone who doesn't practice monogamy has multiple boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses at once, like on that show about Hugh Hefner. Whereas the alternatives to monogamy include... anything but monogamy. Including one-night stands, long-term fuck-buddies, or girlfriends/boyfriends on the side. No one is suggested that humans' natural state is to accumulate as many life partners as possible like a Mormon patriarch (although I suppose it works for some).

@50: meaning that their argument would be less valid if they themselves chose monogamy? Or is it a sincere question? I would imagine that if they do have some sort of open arrangement in their relationship, they don't go around telling everyone in the world about it, since their is still a stigma against such things in most parts of mainstream society.
53
"there," not "their" in the last paragraph. Oops.
54
Well, at least those that support monogamy now understand what it feels like when Dan gets all self-righteous and condescending towards fat people, dogs/dog owners and smokers.

I do enjoy reading Dan, but I often have to remind myself that on some subject matters he writes from his opinion. O-P-I-N-I-O-N.

Once I've reminded myself of that, I tend to enjoy the read a whole lot better.

On the subject of monogamy, my partner and I have been in a monogamous relationship for the past 9 years. I guess that could change, but frankly, I doubt it. And we're both males. But, to that end, I'm all for multiple partners if that's what both parties want.
55
My experience is two-fold.

One, most people are SERIAL monogamists. That IS found pretty commonly in nature. I don't know of a single person who married their first crush/love. (Not saying they don't exist, just that they're extremely rare.) So having several partners throughout one's lifetime, but not all at the same time, is I think quite a different model of monogamy that Ryan and his coauthor are assuming.

Secondly, I think most people might prefer to be poly. They'd like their partners, however, to be monogamous. Then monogamy becomes a quid-pro-quo... I keep it in my pants if you keep it in yours. It's a check-balance, give-some-take-some approach to relationships, which I think is how most people operate. So this whole "we SHOULD be this" based on biology or evolution or I-saw-this-in-the-latest-bullshit-evo-psy-book completely ignores the emotional and practical reality of most relationships.

Yeah, most people might want to be poly. Most people probably want to be the richest person in the world, have all the cars on the road get out of the way for them, never have to work, and be worshipped for the special snowflake they are. Cause if there is one thing about humans that is "natural"... it's selfishness.
56
Okay I was ready to be dubious about this book, since I share most commenters' suspicion about evolutionary psychology -- a lot of the evo-psych explanations that I've seen are sexist just-so stories that rely on circular reasoning. But I just went to the Sex @ Dawn website and read some of the excerpts from the book, and reading them gave me a lot more confidence in the authors' methodology. They seem a lot more concerned to debunk and question evo-psych myths than to create new ones. And they seem ready to acknowledge that a lot of the behaviors we see around us are the result of socialization, not evolutionary forces, as in this quote: "We argue that women’s seemingly consistent preference for men with access to wealth is not a result of innate evolutionary programming, as the standard model asserts, but simply a behavioral adaptation to a world in which men control a disproportionate share of the world’s resources." I'd suggest taking a look at the excerpts if any of y'all are curious, & have some free time.

I think it's odd that so many commenters are dismissing this book because it's "pop science." I've read some damn impressive pop science books by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Pinker, Steven Jay Gould, & others. If a book is by a practicing scientist, and she/he isn't trying to fool the lay reader into falling for a pet theory, it can be quite intellectually rigorous. For most of us, wading through lots of jargon-laden academic journal articles isn't really an option, so reading pop science books is our best chance to get some scientific knowledge.
57
Why can't I buy this book in the UK???????????????
58
Hey @56 Gudrun. You're the ideal reader. Thanks for taking the time to see where we're really coming from (and explain it to those who don't have the time or gumption).

@57. You can order it from Amazon.co.uk, and it'll eventually get to you. We'll be featured in next Saturday's Times of London, so maybe that'll generate some interest from a UK publisher.
59
"The point is that people—particularly those who value monogamy—need to understand why being monogamous is so much harder than they've been lead to believe it will be."

As Jimmy Dugan said, "OF COURSE it's hard! Hard is what makes it great! If it were easy, everyone would do it!"

People who are monogamous are, for the most part, better people than those who are not. Period.
60
Brangwen @52: " Wha? Many or most people would fail at the task of being attracted to people other than their spouses, and having sexual encounters with them when the opportunity presented itself??"

There are two sides to any non-monogamous encounter: the person going off to sleep with someone else, and the person staying home. If both of these are not happy with the arrangement, then the non-monogamous situation in question is a failure.

It is pretty easy to fail at being the person staying home: worrying that maybe your lover is losing interest in you; worrying that you are inadequate in some fashion; that you personally think of your lover first and foremost when you think sex, and you can't understand why they don't reciprocate; worrying about STDs; worrying about what if she comes home pregnant and you are responsible for the baby/he impregnates someone and is responsible for the baby; ad nauseam, literally.

To amplify on that third one: when you think sex, you think of your partner first and foremost, and anyone else is the merest afterthought. That would make you an affirmative monogamist, as opposed to all the others, which make you a failed polygamist.
61
Well, in this case, the politics of it matter. Equality as an idealized state, matters.

the thing is, even in the circles where I've seen the 'poly's', the truth seems to be, that the financially successful guys get busy, sometimes keeping two or three woman around for their pleasure. And these guys are fine with their others getting with another guy.

So in a sense, the 'new' polyamory easily becomes the 'old' polygamy.

On the other hand, the 'dominant monkey' is pretty hardwired too. Top monkey gets his pick of the females. Bottom monkeys get resentful, and take it out ON EACH OTHER (never top monkey) and so, we see this pattern repeat with enraged males on the lower end of the socioecomic ladder, who often don't have a woman to 'moderate' them.

So just because it's hardwired, and understandable, doesn't mean that this style of living fits in with our current value system. Because there is also a lot in biology that is absolutlely ruthless. Certainly, the developmentally disabled, or those that can't naturally survive, in nature are often simply cast out, not taken care of. Nature can be very ruthless.

62
I confess, I'm a science chauvinist. So sue me. Evolutionary Psychology differs a lot from the hard sciences in that the theories it produces aren't testable (there also tends to be a rather myopic focus on western culture). It bears a much closer resemblance to literary criticism. Propose a model and then find data to support it. Intriguing, thought provoking, fascinating and highly enjoyable - but it's still science fiction
63
I don't need to read every book on ID to know it's not science. Evo-psych has more than earned it's reputation as being much closer to Sci-fi than Science. Also, Dan, you're not helping by making claims that even the authors do not.

To the authors, I appreciate you stopping by and I will check out your website.
64
For me, this is such a straw man, cause I was never taught that monogamy was natural. Rather, it was always presented as something that humans could choose, for (correctly or not) their long-term well being, like eating healthfully or wearing pants (both unnatural). Or exercising, or holding back on violent impulses. Being human involves doing lots of unnatural stuff. That's a good thing.
65
First, Dan, while I get that what you meant to say was that monogamy isn't easy for most people, you did actually say that "anyone who's made a monogamous commitment is struggling with monogamy," and that simply isn't true.

Second, I think a lot of people here on both sides of the debate seem to be under the mistaken impression that monogamy means everlasting, continuous monogamy. Some people have pointed out that serial monogamy is a common occurrence, and I would like to add to that that if a couple is monogamous for a while and then decides not to be monogamous, that doesn't mean that they never were monogamous or that monogamy was always a struggle for them. My husband and I are still in the honeymoon phase of our marriage, and at the moment neither of us has eyes for anyone else. Monogamy is totally easy at this point because we are infatuated with each other. Down the road it might become harder, we might decide to have an open relationship, one of us might cheat, etc, but none of that would nullify our current monogamy or the fact that it is currently easy. None of that would mean that choosing monogamy at this point in our lives was wrong, or that we simply aren't capable of monogamy. And if then, after years of non-monogamy, perhaps after age and children had changed what we wanted/expected from sex and relationships, we chose to be monogamous again, that wouldn't mean that choosing non-monogamy was wrong or that monogamy would never work for us after experiencing non-monogamy.

I think what frustrates me is that everyone seems to be painting it as "some people are monogamous types, some aren't," whereas I think it is more complicated than that. A person can be very willingly, happily monogamous at some times, and not at others. I don't think either is so much about a person's fundamental nature as about the particulars of who they are at any given time/place/relationship. We need to get rid of this "us and them" mentality and just embrace people knowing who they are and what they want and pursuing what makes them happy, but also being capable of change and growth.
66
Well, at the very least it's something to smack the idiots who come out with alpha-male evo-psych crap round the head with. Not that replacing it with "hurr, women like gangbangs! PROVED BY EVOLUTION!" is much of an improvement, but... well, I guess I need to stop hanging out with idiots, basically.
67
@65 for the win.
68
Why must the question always be phrased as "humans are innately predisposed to monogamy" vs "humans are innately nonmonogamous"? What ever happened to "humans are innately selfish, shortsighted douchebags"?

The innate human urge, from my experience, has been to monopolize multiple partners. (Men tend to care more about physical monopolization, women tend to care more about emotional monopolization, but the desire is inherently asymmetrical.) Note how popular harems are across multiple cultures and indeed across species.
69
@ 68 - Humans are not naturally selfish, short-sighted douchebags. In fact, it was in our prehistoric ancestors best interest to live communally and share everything - food, shelter, sex, etc - as sharing food lowered the risk of starvation for everyone in the group while sharing sex and space established bonds among members of the group. Our ancestors understood that living in a tight group of people who looked out for you was the ideal as hunter-gatherers.

This changed with agriculture as farming required land... and people to protect the land.. and women to create the people to protect the land. The concept of "ownership" forced our ancestors to change their behavior radically. Now that things were "owned", they suddenly wasn't "enough" as it take more people to work more land, and more land to support the more people it takes to work more land. Everything became a commodity, including women and sex.

It was the constant demand for MORE that turned our once generous, sexually open ancestors into selfish, shortsighted douchebags you see today.
70
Dan, it's time for you to write a movie script. Something that illustrates...
71
My main beef with this admittedly interesting sounding book (I've only read the exerpts on the authors' website) is being asked to see 10,000 years of human evolution as a tiny amount of time. Yes, in the history of the world it is a miniscule amount of time, but if we consider how much influence one generation of humans has on the next then the amount of development and adaptation of our our species over thousands of years is very significant. Of course human behaviour will change over its history - the stone-age was the human race's infancy. And look where all that healthy sexual sharing (probably) got us - civilisations wiped out by STDs.

The natural/unnatural argument is filled with holes when it comes to sexulaity. This book basically seems to bring science's view of sexuality back round to 'for pro-creation only'. Where does homosexuality fit in here? Just another symptom of straying from our 'natural' baby-making state? Is it time to throw away the condoms? They're not natural and are most likey detrimental to psychological well-being as they stop us making babies. Do rapists now have a new excuse to use in court - "I couldn't help myself, I'm genetically predispositioned to want to have sex with any ripe looking woman I see."?

Human sexuality and the history of eros is so much more fascinating than monogamy=bad polyamory=good. There is no such thing as 'normal' and every relationship is different. We now live on an over-populated planet- our reasons for having sex have adapted and changed into many wonderful and disturbing shapes as we no longer desperately need to spread our genes. The memory of this need may well still be hard-wired in us and this book's findings certainly seem to help diagnose this. Having monogamy hammered home by government interference as the preferred ideal way to conduct a sexual relationship is patronising and damaging, so 'Sex at Dawn's message does go some way to offset peoples guilt caused by failing to live up to societies unrealistic expectations.

72
I'm 30 pages into the book and loooving it!

It's interesting because this philosophizing on human behavior ran under a different name in the 1980s. They called it 'sociobiology' back then and a couple of leering geeks from Stanford University used 'sociobiology' to explain (excuse) a lot of the most inhuman behavior, namely rape. The 'sociobiologists' claimed rape was adaptive despite the fact a sizeable percentage of rape survivors are: children, elderly women and men (none of these can pass on the rapist's DNA).

These same leering freaks said child abuse (on the part of stepfathers or 2nd husbands) was adaptive because they were destroying the genetic descendants of a competitor and this would facilitate their mate/wife to produce their offspring, pass on their DNA.

I think 'Sex at Dawn' offers two big theories that most psych evos before them haven't. Firstly, that the advent of agricultural societies brought about the demand for paternity, women's sexual fidelity and warfare. That's HUGE!

The second theory that 'Sex at Dawn' offers -- and this is the one that's got EVERYBODY'S panties in a twist -- is that not just men tend toward polyandry (infidelity) but women too. That there are definite evolutionary advantages in the female who keeps a nice reliable mate, has his kids, but in her free time tries to catch the eye of other maybe more sought-after hunter/gatherer males. This flies in the face of the traditional Man-as-Philandering-Stud theory that's been propped up for ages. It also violates what Mistress Matisse calls the One Penis Policy. Gee, too bad.

Don't think there's any validity to women having evolved to be just as promiscuous as men??? How many married or attached women swoon over pictures of Brad Pitt or George Clooney? Think all those groupies were just being flirty when they threw their underwear at the Beatles??? They were perceived socially as lower-rung females (beta females maybe?) trying to catch the attention of what were perceived as alpha males. And John Edwards' mistress was successful. She caught the attentions of a (socially perceived) alpha male and was able to produce offspring with him. Mission accomplished indeed.
73
@ 3
This is FAR from a pop-sci book. and regarding 19, you REALLY need to read the book. Your entire argument is uneducated and irrelevant.

Okay, I think the people posting the most offended and retaliatory words here should understand this: This book is not trying to change your mind about weather or not YOU should be monogamous. The book and it's authors are NOT condemning monogamy as wrong. They are NOT stating unequivocally that humans WERE not and therefore CANNOT be successfully monogamous. This book simply is NOT trying to subvert, or destroy your way of life, so you can all just relax a little.

For you Polyamorists: I really don't think the point of this book is to justify a lifestyle choice. It is to further explore and discover both truths and falsehoods within what we've all been taught to believe about ourselves.

For anyone who's used the term Polygamy in any of their posts, that really doesn't enter into it. It is addressed in the book as an innately non-human behavior, but you'll have to actually read the book to understand that.

Sex At Dawn is a truly brave and brilliant book, daring to challenge the most ingrained preconceptions that we have about ourselves and our socio-sexual behaviors throughout our history and prehistory, exposing an astounding amount of ignorance and misinformation that we have all been raised with as "Truth," while approaching the subject of sexuality and human interaction from a uniquely enlightened and unburdened anthropological perspective. If knowledge is power, than this book is an enormous powerhouse, full of tools we can benefit immeasurably from in attempting to understanding ourselves and each other.

That being said, this book did not change my mind, or even raise new questions about how I feel about relationship dynamics, or monogamy. It merely provided extremely compelling evidence that there might actually be reasons that monogamy is difficult for some people. And through the very eloquent presentation of meticulously collected and impeccably well documented data, shed further, much needed light on what has always seemed to me to be a dubiously clouded, remarkably suspect and largely under-discussed school of thought.

74
I just started reading this book, and it is significantly better than I hoped. It gains much of its compelling power precisely because it DOESN'T focus solely on western cultures. It tries very hard to include the full spectrum of current observed human sexual behavior as a datapoint.

The best thing I can say about what I've read so far is that the book is unflinching. I get the strong sense that the authors would've been happy to come to any conclusion the evidence suggested. The book has a bit of a preachy tone, but that's mostly because they express (in a scientific way) a sense of upset and betrayal over how so much evidence has been 'monogamy washed' when it's been interpreted. Some of the examples given in the book are incredibly egregious examples of clearly serious scientists having blinkers on that are opaque to all known forms of radiation, not just visible light.

As for the people here who proclaim that monogamy is just 'better' or that we're 'rising above our nature' when choosing it, why do you feel that way? What's better about it? Who's kool-aid have you drunk, and which unicorn did you listen to?

The woman who was cheating and suddenly saw her behavior as not pathologically bad may now choose to go to her spouse and state what she really needs. Being told that you're evil or wrong your entire life for wanting something tends to make you really reluctant to bring it up with a partner and tends to cause people to do things shamefully in secret. I don't think that her revelation makes her cheating less of a betrayal, but I do hope that it gives her the courage to begin living a more honest life.

And for the people who claim that monogamy is only 'designed' to last as long enough to raise a child, you're just coughing up the same fallacies that have been fed to us for so long in a more palatable form.

One really striking example from the book is that there are a large number of hunter-gatherer tribal cultures in which its thought that paternity is a shared responsibility. That all the men a woman has had sex with are responsible for raising the children the woman has.

And this isn't just a quaint 'myth' they share, it has real consequences in their everyday behaviors and their value systems, it's as serious a belief as any of our hard-core religious beliefs and assumptions.

The model you assume must be correct is not the only model. There is no need for a pair-bond to ensure that offspring are cared for. Your assumption that its required is a pernicious form of circular reasoning.
75
See a very negative review from someone who actually has academic training in this field:

http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uplo…
76
Took me a while, but I read through most of these, looking for even one post that attempted to present or reference a cogent counter-argument to the S@D line of reasoning. The S@D present their evidence with verifiable references. Yes, it isn't 'scientific', since anything of this sort is speculative, and we're not dealing with dropping balls off of the tower of Pisa here (which Galileo never actually did, by the way).

So, is there counter-evidence to the assertion that penises are evolved to produce a vacuum in order to get a head start on competing sperm? There seems to be emerging confirmation that female reproductive biochemistry is indeed autonomously selective with respect to sperm choices. Sperm counts and testicle sizes are in fact falling.

Those are among the specific points of evidence in the book. Dismissing them as 'pop-sci' is convenient, but not compelling. Newton's "Principia Mathematica" was dismissed as 'pop-sci' by some in its day. Where is the fact-based counter-evidence from the fairy-tale theorists of evolutionary psychology? Anyone?
77
Congratulations on such a clear approach to this subject! I like the expression “hard wired”: That explains it all! Somewhere within the structure of our cells and the way they interconnect with our brains—that of humans, I mean—there is a tendency to continue feeling naturally attracted to persons other than our “formal” significant other. Maybe what we whould review carefully, is the tendency of our social system to identify love with sex or vice versa. Maybe if we learned to separate sex, love, reproduction, fun, social gatherings, we would be able to enjoy all of those things with a higher degree of quality. However, when we mention the practical behavior that should be socially accepted, most people react negatively.

It's good to know about the “hard wiring” that would allow us all, humans, to make of our lives less demanding experiences and more enjoyable events.