So today it’s time to talk about a tricky subject: monogamy.
We’ve talked about monogamy before and why it’s not our natural state, but it’s worth addressing again. Life – when stripped away of any philosophical or intellectual meaning or value – is solely about making sure that we survive long enough to spread our genes. Ideally, we hang in there long enough to ensure that our offspring live long enough to spread their genes even further, but once we’ve raised children to puberty our job as a living organism is technically done. Most of our biological drives are oriented towards that one goal. Males want to ensure the survival of their genes at the expense of their competitors; if it’s possible for them to con another male into raising their offspring, so much the better. Females also want to spread their genes; because the investment (and subsequent risk) is much higher, they will want someone who will help provide and support their child and those traits don’t always match up with the genetic traits that will her theoretical children survive. As a result, sometimes the father of the child isn’t necessarily the one raising it.
Our very bodies evolved with the idea of multiple sexual partners in mind. Scientists theorize that part of the point of a woman’s orgasm is the vocalizations it causes, which attract other men. Our entire reproductive system is designed with sperm-competition in mind. The penis’ flared head acts like a squeegie inside the vaginal canal, scraping out seminal fluid from a competitor. Men who believe that there is a chance that their partner has had sex with another man will actually produce a greater volume of ejaculate in order to flush out a competitor’s sperm. Hell, there have been studies that suggest that humans have goddamn hunter/killer sperm cells – ones that can’t actually penetrate the ovum but instead serve to block other people’s sperm like tiny Terminator linebackers.
Once again: this is strictly a strictly value-neutral observation. The fact that monogamy is not our natural state does not mean that monogamy is inherently bad or a poor choice, nor am I saying that it is one way or the other. What I am saying is that it’s goddamned difficult. Being monogamous means that you’re not having sex with other people, not that you don’t want to.
And for some people, monogamy is a poor choice, the sexual equivalent to trying to shove a bear into a tutu and trying to make it dance. It might work for a little while, but it’s all going to end in blood and tears.
So let’s say you’re one of those people who understands that they’re just not cut out for monogamy. Or perhaps you’re someone who has been happily monogamous for years but now you’re feeling the need for variety. Can you be non-monogamous without being an asshole who cheats on his or her significant other?
Yup. As long as you follow the rules.