Machinations in Monogamy

Last night I listened to Dan Savage interview Christopher Ryan, author of "Sex at Dawn - The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality", which is definitely on my reading list - should arrive any day.

Ryan and his wife, Cacilda Jethá, challenge everything you believe about sex, marriage, love and family - mainly challenging the assumption of monogamy as something that comes easy if you love your partner enough. Dan Savage has maintained for many years that monogamy is not easy or natural in any relationship no matter how much you love someone - and has gotten a lot of flak about his beliefs. "Sex at Dawn" seems to validate much of Savage's assertions, with research to back it up. A quote from the authors:

"American insistence on mixing love and sex and expecting passion to last forever is leading to great suffering that we think is tragic and unnecessary."

I will say that the concept of a non-monogamous relationship fascinates me. At different times in my life I have been at both ends of the infidelity issue. Neither time was a positive experience. When I was the adulterer the sex was great but the aftermath sucked. I would bet my ex-partner would say the same.  But what if it turned out that way because everything I was told and have spent my life thinking was true...was basically flawed reasoning? What if one could have a relationship in which, with excellent communication and crystal clear boundaries, an arrangement is arrived at and agreed upon that does not include the constraints of monogamy? Because divorce rates are the highest ever, so something is not working here folks.

This dropped me right into research mode...I was searching for the keywords divorce, statistics, infidelity. I popped up one site that clearly had it's own agenda - getting you to pay them for help with your divorce. Who knows if the statistics there had any validity. What did catch my eye was this statement, copied in its entirety (parentheses mine):

"It is a difficult task to collect controlled and honest adultery statistics(no shit). However, it has been detected (I'd like to know who started selling an adultery detector and why it isn't in use in every home?) that 30 to 40 percent of adultery victims are men while 60 to 70 percent are women (clearly we are slacking, ladies). Adultery is on the rise due to modern technology* (see below) and willing sex partners (so has the number of willing sex partners risen lately? 60's redux, perhaps?) and one can easily guess that the statistics would not decelerate soon."

*"Adultery is on the rise due to modern technology..."  Uhhhh...what? How exactly does that work? Indulge my hypotheses:

  • Maybe the author meant that you could have clandestine conversations much more easily with the advent of mobile phones?
  • Maybe porn DVDs inspire people to go out and live out what they see on their plasma screens? Good luck with that.
  • Maybe webcams are just too tempting not to get naked and use for e-sex?
  • Maybe "sext-ing" has become in integral stage of dating and romance? (Hold on, my guy just sent me a really hot one that I have to respond to....)
  • Maybe the author just meant that the vibrating phones in the pockets of so many are inadvertently causing spontaneous office affairs because those sweet vibrations get one so worked up as cause them to cast aside all sense of reason, grab the nearest  partner and just go for it in whatever storeroom is available. Ideally their willing accomplice  just received a call and had their phone on vibrate as well... So maybe calling your spouse at work to check up on them is a bad idea...? (This one is my personal favorite hypothesis.)

Anyway...I digress with intended humor. This is a touchy subject for the majority of people. Yet, I am seriously interested in how we developed this idea of monogamy as the be-all end-all in a relationship, and am open to challenges to that assumption. I'll let you know what I find out after I read the book.

Consider this - an opinion put forth on a discussion board I was participating in:

"Some part of me is fairly traditional in that I like the idea of having a primary relationship where I know its emotional safe and where I can expect and give honest and caring communication.

This relationship would be centered around creating a warm, nurturing, aesthetically pleasing place called a home. For me it represents a center of activity where a lot of people can come and go and are invited into my partner's and my life on different levels.

Sexually I do not understand the need to put all of the burden for meeting our needs entirely on the primary partner. I would like to believe there are others who would be interested in sharing the journey of life together without needing to restrict the diverse and changing sensual/sexual rhythms of their partners."

So what do you think?

Ruby Ryder

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