A rational observer will notice that human beings are not naturally a pair-bonding species. In our culture, about 50% of married women and about 70% of married men will have extra-marital sex at some time during their marriage. Some sociologists and other researchers theorize the percentages would be much higher, if not for the religious connotation of "sin," the religion-based laws about adultery, and the stigma associated with peoples' natural sexual preferences. Monogamy over an extended period of time appears to be an unrealistic expectation, one that causes huge amounts of human suffering, pain, and of course, legal fees. For many married people, monogamy is a form of sexual slavery.

The institution of marriage is inherently flawed by the idealistic fantasy of monogamy until "death do us part." Why not improve marriage to become a secular contract of partnership that does not require monogamy? Instead, monogamy could be an option that couples could add to their contract at any time they want, especially during times when they want to have children.

An important part of a non-monogamous marriage contract would be each partner's responsibility to keep the other informed of his/her sexual contacts, with an emphasis on safe sex. An important part of freedom from monogamy is a reduction over time of the notion that marriage implies "ownership" of the spouse. One beneficial end result might be a significant reduction in domestic violence.

Tags: marriage, monogamy, secular

Views: 661

Replies to This Discussion

"As a biologist, I must break monogamy down into 2 items: fathering, sperm donor."

I like those classifications. lol
I don't see how a perfectly atheist society would lead to communities instead of families. Our society puts a lot of emphasis on nuclear family, especially the pressure to live away from family as an adult. Other than roommates, living with friends or other relatives is also uncommon. I don't think this was really caused by religion b/c for centuries people lived in communities or with extended family and there was plenty of religion. I don't think our independent/nuclear family setup is caused by atheists either, but I don't see atheists doing anything different.
I'm looking at monogamy on an evolutionary scale, a couple of hundred of years doesn't even figure in our genetic evolution, the definition of who we are HARDWIRED to be. Your definition of 'community' is mostly 'extended family'

Could it be possible that this perceived "pressure to leave" is due to being 'sick & tired' of the same influence from the same only 2-6 people for all our youths? Could it be also driven by social/media messages that one must always aim for MORE than what the parents had, a sort of social brainwashing to reduce parental influence in order to get us in quicker into the rat race? If our 'community educators' numbered in the dozens, then maybe the 'teen frustration' would be lessened... Maybe kids would grow up with more diversified ideologies, as they'd come from different sources...

In contrast consider pre-agricultural human society, where men were completely absent from the picture, all women, no matter family lineage, raised the children, the male progenitors had little to do with it. Fathering was a 'bring the food home and keep the tribe safe' role, and was independent of progeny per se, until the time when the boy became a man, at +/- 12 y/o.

"Historically speaking weaker women have long been under men's "thumb". But that in no way impeded "satellite males" from 'popping in for a visit' while the dominant male was away hunting. All religion did was 'officialise' women's property status for the benefit of males who weren't powerful enough to accomplish it with blunt force."

 

Nice point.  These discussions are fascinating. 

I, myself, am not the marrying kind, but I can be serially monogamous, and I think the idea that couples should mate for life is silly.

I'd have to disagree with the statement that religion-advocating-monogamy is inherently bad.

Monogamy in and of itself makes good sense in a lot of ways, particularly in our past. It ensures the paternity of the children. It was often more important for a husband to stick close and take care of the wife and child in cultures where the women have limited options to provide for themselves. In the days before antibiotics, monogamy helped greatly in preventing STDs.

Polyamory also has its upsides ... when practiced wisely. And this is where I believe most religions fail. Polyamory in religion almost always favors the male and demonizes the female.

2,000 years ago, monogamy was quite simply the wiser, more practical choice for most.
I am in a non-monogamous relationship and I will still say that I don't think one relationship style is superior or more mentally healthy than the other.

Some people cite that a huge percentage of cultures had non-monogamous relationship styles, but what were most of these styles? Many of these cultures had polygyny (one man with many wives) or in some cases polyandry (woman with many husbands). In most cases it was either one type or the other, and not people getting into open or group relationships of their own choice. In societies with either polyandry or polygyny, the excess males or females of the group have to be eliminated. In polygamous FLDS cults, a large amount of adolescent males are banished. In polyandrous societies, there was often female infanticide.

There are people who really do prefer to be committed to only one person. If they found someone they really want to be with, maybe they don't feel like complicating things if they don't need to. I don't think that everyone who wants monogamy is emotionally insecure or brainwashed by religion.

I see the statistics about how "practically every" monogamous relationship has cheating, and the claims that "open relationships never last". So apparently neither relationship style works. As far as open relationships never lasting, I see an assumption that if a relationship doesn't end at one partner's death, that means that the relationship style is invalid. Lots of relationships of all different arrangements end before one of the partners dies, but that doesn't mean that the relationship was entirely pointless or that it wasn't a good relationship while it lasted. Being with one person for life is sometimes unrealistic b/c people go through so many changes in their lifetime. I also think fewer polyamorous couples have the expectation that they will definitely be together for life, even though many hope to be.

What I will say about monogamy is that often our society acts as if there is no other way to have a relationship--and therefore people don't always make informed choices about their relationships. If people are aware of other options, they have a better chance of being in a relationship that suits them.
Evolutionarily speaking, I don't think we got to "prefer" monogamy. Before STDs and religion and excluding male territoriality, there is simply no necessity to restrict intercourse to one person.

I think that is another impact of religion and nuclear family styles, we have come to assume intercourse is something precious and exclusive and to be valued above all else. Whereas from a biological perspective, it's primary reproductive purpose simply happens to be accompanied by pleasure, Woopie :) Very few humans have ever accomplished true monogamy (versus serial monogamy as practised by a vast majority)

Frankly, there is not a single activity, food, behaviour on this planet which I would answer "I would prefer only one of these all my life please" How can one KNOW a preference for 'one', if we did truly KNOW this preference for one, there would not be such high cheating and divorce rates. Our preference for ONE is but a temporary fling, and down the road, this ONE, will be a different ONE, then a different ONE, and so on. :)

The very concept of creating 'rarity' in the supply/demand for intercourse, via any limitation on exclusivity (even those preferring polyandry are limiting themselves to a certain degree) is the concept of 'relationship' and I think that's the nature of where we go wrong. I really don't think humans are 'wired' to be monogamous, because the best progenitors may not be the best father figures, so limiting on human to accomplish both tasks is inefficient...
I've known people who were in poly relationships, tried out swinging for years, and in the end realized it was not what they wanted. Do you think they were incorrect or in denial for wanting this? I don't see this as religious brainwashing, especially since they were not religious.

I realize this is not "true" monogamy, which is having only one partner in one's entire life, although I have also known non-Judeo-Christians who had true monogamy (so far) and were happy with it.

I don't think foods, activities, etc are the same as a relationship. In monogamy a person has sex with only one person, but they still can have other friendships and other people in their lives. (At least in theory; some jealous partners limit friendships.) Sex is not so precious that a person can't have a meaningful connection with someone without it.

As for treating sex as something precious, I tried out the whole idea that sex is meaningless, but I realized that for me, even though I am not in a monogamous relationship, treating sex like it's no big deal, and hooking up with random people all the time, makes it less interesting. (Maybe some people like meaningless sex. That's their prerogative.)
2000 years ago STDs were quite uncommon, so there was no social or biological pressures to restrict intercourse to one partner, in order to secure 'safe sex'.

Now of course in today's world, STDs are a MAJOR issue and I would think, given the less than pleasant, and costly option or regular condom use, certainly favours monogamous relations (if honest, which seems rare). If I could be guaranteed my mate would be fateful, that would be such a plus on the STD side.

Maybe STDs did have an influence on the advent of the institution of modern marriage. As the human population exploded, promiscuity (through mere increased human contact) increased the occurrence of STDs, and monogamy can certainly reduce this.

I haven't read any early epidemiological studies on the early origins of STDs (+2000 years ago), maybe someone can post on this?
I'd be curious to know the timeline of when STDs became common. Apparently during the "sexual revolution" everyone was having unprotected sex because they thought the pill took care of pregnancy and there wasn't anything else to worry about (hah!). I'm wondering if all that free love and '70s swinging made STDs skyrocket into their current rate.
Syphilis and gonorrhea were very common by the end middle ages, when people «got around» more and cities became much larger. Basically early equivalents of globalisation and rural exodus. But there were spot appearances of these diseases in earlier days. This gleaned from Wikipedia.

But it still doesn't tell us much about STDs in earlier civilisations, in big cities such as in Egypt or South America where there was not necessarily much movement but large numbers of humans lived in close context.

Much to be learned yet :)
I'm going to attempt a little history here. This is just what I've gleaned from recent readings and not comprehensive or rigorous.

Monogamy has been officially mandated in the West since Roman times. The Romans brought in mandatory universal monogamy for political purposes to reduce competition between men and enhance social cooperation. Roman men could have only one official wife so there was official equality between men for procreation and sex, but at the same time, wealthy Roman men could bring in as many foreign slave girls as they could afford. So official monogamy was combined with effective polygyny.

Marriage through most Western history was arranged for political purposes and to protect property. (The protection of church property was the reason that celibacy was introduced into the priesthood in the 11th century. Theologians at this time emphasized the holiness of celibacy and sinfulness of sex in order to support moves designed to protect the wealth of the church.) Monogamy has always been enforced for women much more than for men so that men could ensure the paternity of their children. Romantic love was quite separate from marriage. Any reading of the Decameron, or Canturbury Tales will show you that sex outside the bounds of marriage has always been common.

In the 21st century the traditional reasons for marriage, political alliance, protection of property (particularly land), and assurance of paternity, no longer apply. Men and women can more or less equally earn money and own property and the distribution of that property less of an issue. Paternity can be established by genetic testing if that is an issue.

Monogamy was introduced to reduce competition between men in a patriarchal society. In a society where there is nominal equality between the sexes it is no longer required. Monogamy is still enforced in terms of official marriage but practices are much more varied. The Christian religion is now the main force for perpetuating monogamous marriage although the bible does not provide much of a mandate for it.

There has never before been an opportunity for men and women to develop relationship models based on what actually works! Economic and political circumstances have always dictated what has been acceptable. The proliferation of ethical non-monogamous lifestyles will depend on how successful conservative forces are in protecting a system that has never worked, and which encourages dishonesty and unethical behaviour by unnecessarily restricting sexual freedom.

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