Friday, August 19, 2011

Looking At Nonmonogamy From a Monogamist View

Although the focus of this blog is marriage equality, I make it clear that this blog supports the rights of adults to share their bodies, sex, and love as they want to with consenting adults outside of marriage without prosecution or persecution. Some people will exercise their rights by having open relationships. That is why I checked out this article out of New Zealand called “The Allure of Open Relationships” by Hugh Wilson.

In a nutshell, an open relationship means having one significant other, but still being able to sleep with other women.

Eh, more precisely, an open relationship means having at least one significant other, but being free to engage in some sort of sexual affection with other people yet to be determined. He or she is open to new partners, rather than in a closed relationship with one or more people.

The downside is that, if you demand that freedom, your significant other has the right to demand it too.

That’s not necessarily a downside. But just because one person in a relationship pursues or accepts sexual advances with additional people doesn’t mean anyone else in the relationship will want to do the same. Two people can certainly come to the agreement that they will continue to have sex with each other as they both seek sex elsewhere, but they can also agree that one of them will while the other one chooses not to. Plus, someone can ask that someone else only have sex with him or her, while he or she may pursue others; the other person can always decline such an agreement.

If you don't think open relationships are normal or natural, consider this. According to research, 95% of couples value monogamy, but a study by Washington State University found that, among their subjects, 27% of men and 18% of women had been unfaithful during their last relationship. Other studies show a much narrower gap between male and female infidelity.

That is the percentage of people who admit cheating. It doesn’t include the people who won’t admit it and all of the other nonmonogamy that isn’t cheating (one night threesomes, ongoing threesomes, swinging, swapping, polifidelity, etc.)

Not only might it be honest, some experts also believe it's more natural. For a start, humans are mammals, and the vast majority of mammals are not monogamous. In western civilisation, monogamy is the relationship norm. But that doesn't make it natural. Throughout history most humans have been polygamous. Most of that time, it means men have married multiple women.

I don’t think it is worthwhile to argue what’s natural for humans in this respect. I think it is clear from our collective human experience that some people are inherently incapable of being monogamous, to the point of being willing to suffer enormous penalties for not being monogamous. Lifelong monogamy is rare, but I wouldn’t doubt that it is the happiest relationship possibility for some other people. If we were going to base our laws and social conventions on what is natural, then we’d all be naturists (nudists) and none of us would be writing or reading blogs or using any electronics. I support naturism, but wouldn't want it to be mandatory or demanded because it is "natural." Studies indicate that we are naturally attracted to the look and smell of our close relatives, which is one reason why Genetic Sexual Attraction is so powerful.

Ultimately, however, monogamy serves some well. Polyfidelity serves some well. Open relationships serve some well.

From all that, an obvious question is why aren't more of us opting for open relationships? But then, perhaps more of us are. According to Tristan Taormino, the author of Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, "there are far more open relationships than you might think."

But monogamy is still the norm, aimed for, if not always achieved, by the vast majority of us.

Lifelong monogamy is far from the norm. Monogamy in any given time frame is common, and apparently the majority status, but some forms of nonmonogamy are also common enough to be norms.

Over 2,000 years of cultural indoctrination may help to explain that. We've been told for centuries by powerful figures that monogamy is the only acceptable kind of relationship. It's no surprise that the message has stuck. Still, there must be a reason monogamy, rather than polygamy, is preached from the pulpits, and indeed it does have its advantages.

Having the masses in nonconsanguineous heterosexual monogamy was convenient for authorities for many reasons, including reducing challenges to established power. Royalty retained power, in part, through polygamous and consanguineous marriages, and royalty does not like rivals or challengers.

Only by committing to one sexual partner (or more accurately, getting one partner to commit to them) can men be reasonably certain the offspring they are providing for are really their own.

So men who were concerned would insist on monogamy or polygyny. However, we now have contraception and genetic testing.

For many of us, an open relationship may be the fantasy that should stay in the box. It's certainly an alluring prospect, and monogamy may not be our natural state, but how many of us could really handle the alternative?

“Open” and “monogamy” are not the only options. However, I do agree that someone who has a need for monogamy should not compromise.
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