Friday, July 30, 2010

The Natural State...or Not?

At the intersection of philosophy, anthropology, religion, economics, and - of course - sex, lies the age-old question: is monogamy the natural state of existence for us humans?

There are a lot of interesting aspects to this question, and how you answer it rather depends on the angle from which you approach it. From a religious perspective, we note a staggering 20% of the ten commandments (two out of ten) deal with the issue: "Thou shalt not commit adultery," and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." Evolutionary biologists draw their conclusions based on the size and alignment of the male and female sexual anatomy. Anthropologists note that women have an economic and security interest in finding a healthy, virile mate who is not only good in bed, but also willing to invest the time required to rear children who take a long time to reach maturity (if, in fact, they ever do). They also point to the difference between the share-everything mentality of the hunter-gatherer human society and the it's-mine-stay-away mentality of the settled agricultural community. Hugh Hefner, for his part, observes that ... well ... we all know what Hef observes, and observes far more frequently than most of the rest of us.

There's an interesting recent article on this topic by Christopher Ryan titled Monogamy Unnatural for Our Sexy Species. You may want to read this for its entertaining and thought-provoking look at a contentious topic. Much of what Mr Ryan writes echoes the observations made by Desmond Morris many years ago in his classic book The Naked Ape, which you may also want to read if you're interested in theories of why we act the way we do.

If nothing else, you can learn from Mr Ryan's article the wonderful euphemism female copulatory vocalization for scream of sexual ecstasy. He doesn't mention other vocalizations we tend to use in discussions of sexual matters, such as the expression I love you. When used by men, this expression frequently means I want to have sex with you ... as opposed to the related expression Will you marry me?, which often means I want to have sex with you and I don't want anyone else to.

But that's a linguistic diversion from the central issue of whether or not we are a naturally monogamous species. You can make scientific, religious, and social science arguments on both sides of the question. All I know for sure is that monogamy is clearly the natural state for men who know that their wives will give them a Lorena Bobbitt trim if they stray.

And that trumps all the anthropological, sociological, and religious reasons for fidelity you might be able to name.

Have a good day. If you're married, have it with just one mate ... it's safer and cheaper in the long run.

More thoughts tomorrow, when Cartoon Saturday helps you recover from the rigors of the week.

Bilbo

4 comments:

Mike said...

I saw that article yesterday. I think our genectic code is to varied to lump everyone into one category about anything.

Wv: verse - eehhhhh tings could be verse.

Random Magus said...

I think like many things monogamy is a difficult choice that you have to work on - because what you have is too precious to be squandered. It is the battle of id and the superego always especially for men

John said...

A friend of mine (after his third divorce): I'm not getting married again. I'll just tell my next girlfriend that if she'll live with me and have sex for a couple of years, I'll buy her a house. At least it will save the attorney fees!

KathyA said...

My dad told me that just because I would marry didn't mean that I wouldn't find other men attractive. The key, however, according to him was choosing to make a commitment and accepting the responsibilities of that choice. Almost 40 years later, we're still together, because we both chose to be. A crap hoot? Perhaps. I realize, though, that there is no such thing as simple causality and that all people/couples are different.