Defining Monogamy

Cheating and Infidelity in Animals and Humans

In my last post, I asked “why are humans so strict about monogamy, and yet so flexible when it comes to animals” which if you haven’t read, please take a moment to do so here.  Perfect, now let’s get right into the heart of the matter, defining monogamy: cheating, and infidelity in animals and humans.  Cheating and infidelity are the primary culprits or indicators for the failing of monogamy, and could lead us into learning more about our human definition of the word, why it came to be, and where this will take our species moving forward.

We have all asked our selves, why do we cheat at some point or another in our lives.  In fact, I asked pointedly, Why Do Men Cheat? Our Evolution Ignored, back in 2013.  And it comes up time and time again.  We as a species, cheat.  And when we cheat, we question our monogamy.  But what if, we questioned our monogamy prior to cheating?  What if we understood our species, and need for procreation and survivability of our genetic core or at a level beyond how we were raised?  Could that information lead us to loosen our definition of monogamy to something more in line with the one we use in the animal kingdom?

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Writing this, I still feel that gut reaction, that I was raised with monogamy and cheating is basically evil.  We loath the cheaters, and strive for the monogamous ideal.  But in nature, that is not the best practice for species survival.  In fact, if monogamy was as strict as it is in humans, the genetic variability would be reduced and many species would have perished.  Think of this in a pack of lions for example.  If the alpha was the only one to successfully mate with the lioness’s then only his genes would be passed down to the next pack.  Within one generation there would be 50% less genetic variability available to pass on.  That’s huge.  So, instead, the alpha tries diligently to impregnate all the females, but thankfully he’s got to sleep sometime.  And the polygamously dominated society gets an influx of genetic material from outlying lions and the few betas in the pride, pouncing quite literally on an unsuspecting lioness.  Therefore, providing one example where monogamy would just not work from a survival standpoint no matter how attractive having a harem may be.

Now perhaps you’re thinking that this example is not fair because no one believes lions are monogamous.  So let’s look at a monogamous animal grouping, the black vultures.  Here, the species practices social monogamy for the entire mating and raising of young, and actually attack any bird involved in infidelity.  But again, the key here is social monogamy, whereby the animals are only pair bonded for the duration of rearing offspring which is about 8 months.  Compare that to 18 years in humans and we have a huge problem, which almost everyone has faced in their lifetime.  How is one expected to be with only one human being for an entire 18 years, if we agreed to hold ourselves to a universal definition of monogamy?

I for one, was raised to believe this was possible.  But once I got into the real world, the likelihood of that actually happening quickly deteriorated.  Even with my first long term partner, with whom I lost my virginity, and spent nearly 9 years with, I still strayed.  I fully embraced monogamy, yet, I could not live up to the ideal standard.  And to come full circle, at that point in time, I never questioned if I was a monogamous human or not.  I wanted to be, I was raised to be, and I tried really, really hard, so I must have been monogamous right?  The evidence of course was contrary, just as it is with our animal counterparts. 

As I mentioned, straying from time to time, is part of animal behaviour and still allows the pair to be labeled socially monogamous.  Humans who stray from time to time are labelled cheaters, philanderers, and if then embrace this as part of who they are, a whole new spectrum arises called non-monogamy. So again, what if we questioned our monogamy prior to infidelity?  What would the look like?  And has there been a point in our human evolution where monogamy was not the standard definition of human bonding?  Further, how important is monogamy to the survival of the human race?

These are the questions I will continue to ask over the coming weeks.  So please stay tuned, like, share, and as always, feel free to ask your own questions via Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section of this blog.

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Defining Monogamy:

Humans versus Animals

My take on Elmer Fudd: Defining Monogamy

One of my favorite blog posts is Something About Ducks, and the first time I thought about defining monogamy.  It was short and sweet, but meaningful because I was able to have a frank discussion about monogamy with a family member, and then get to geek out a little with some science.  So, may I present to you a comparative post discussing the definition of monogamy in humans and the animal kingdom, and how that interpretation impacts us.  Don’t worry, I won’t geek out too hard, and if you stick around until the end, you will find the link for the sexy, behind the scenes pictures I keep reserved for fans only. 

Let us start at the beginning, with the definition of monogamy thanks to our lovely friends at Wikipedia: Monogamy is a form of relationship in which an individual has only one partner during their lifetime, or only one partner at a time (serial monogamy).  And for a little fun, let’s compare to the definition of monogamy in the animal kingdom: Monogamous pairing refers to the natural history of mating systems in which species pair bond to raise offspring. 

Did you catch that?  It turns out that the very definition of monogamy is different depending on your species.  We humans, adhere to a very strict definition of monogamy, while our counterparts in the animal kingdom are a little more fluid about it.  In fact, many species are by definition monogamously pair bonded even if during the mating season one of them strays, so long as they return to continue raising their offspring.

So why are humans so strict about monogamy, and yet so flexible when it comes to animals.  Why are we OK with accepting animals doing what they do, behaving in a way that has obviously allowed them to survive, and even flourish, and yet, so critical of humans exhibiting the same behaviours?  Why are we so adamant to separate ourselves from animalistic instinct to sleep with more than one person?  Obviously we could blame many things here, religion, politicians, the battle of the sexes, and let’s not forget sexually transmitted diseases and genetic protection.  But talking about genes, can I share one more thing that I learned in my rabbit hole quest for knowledge?  That scientists are currently working to discover the neuro-molecular genes that may lead to monogamy in animals. 

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Can you imagine if they find an actual mechanism that predicts or determines if a person will be able to maintain monogamy or not?  This may not just be something that people do because they were raised that way, or want to for their children, or even just by sheer force of will alone.  It might actually be deeper rooted than that, it may turn out that we have genetic indicators to determine if we are supposed to be non-monogamous or a monogamous species.  Watching researchers trace monogamy in invertebrates and seeing where we branch off, or takes turns, and then following those shifts absolutely fascinates me.  It’s one thing to trace our human origins of non-monogamy in such amazing book as Sex at Dawn, but to delve even further, into our animal counterparts and discover genetic material and our actual make-up? 

Honestly, the impacts of this make me super excited.  Mixing science, and knowledge, and a subject matter that has been my identity for what feels like a decade is just beyond… well… I think I am going to go formulate a few more posts to follow this up.  The first thing that comes to mind is the comparison between the young raising cycles of humans and animals.  And of course how this duel definition could impact our views of cheating, or infidelity.  The possibilities are endless with science at our side.  So please, if you have any suggestions you would like me to research or discuss feel free to share via Twitter or in the comments section of this blog as I would love to hear from you!

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A Label by Any Other Name is Still… A Way of Creating a Box! Online Dating Sites, I’m Looking at You!

Breaking Away From Labels

Yesterday, I saw that OK Cupid has announced that they have a new way of labeling your sexual orientation, may I present the newest term: Sapiosexual.  Now while some people may applaud this as a progressive move, I am getting so frustrated by all these terms and labels.  Dating is not black and white, and people are not boxes that can be neatly categorized.  I have written quite a few posts on misuse of labels, and my frustration at people just jumping to conclusions when they hear a term they don’t quite understand .  And I maintain that by creating more labels we are moving further away from honest communication.  We are simply slapping a term the excludes more people from our internet wish list.

The evolution of our species has relied quite heavily on our brains ability to quickly categorize anything that will cause us harm thus creating the fight or flight response.  This survival mechanism is part of our reptilian brain and is most likely why I still run up the stairs when the lights go out.  The dark hides predators and my instinct to get to the light as fast as possible kicks in.  But the online dating community is whole different ball game, far removed from the necessity to survive and quickly categorize our life.  In fact, in might be the furthest thing away, being that it is completely anonymous and therefore you can make the experience relatively safe, especially for all of those without a profile picture and the overused “ask me” in your personality description.

With that potential debate on hold for a moment, let us get back to the vast increase of labels.  Do labels actually help you quantify your search when looking for new people online?  Can you describe how having the word Sapiosexual for example beneficial?  Could you not just read the prospective mate/partner/cutie pie’s profile and deduce if they match you intellectually?  You know, by reading, and writing and those basic skills that you claim are incredibly important?  Maybe I am wrong and this label will bring together hundreds of people that really need that little button to specifically filter out all those who find looks more important than brains and leave you with a much simpler to navigate pool.  But doesn’t that take some of the fun of meeting new people out of the equation?  Isn’t that taking what tiny remnants of human interaction we find on these sites away

Now I will admit that I used to use a tonne of labels to describe myself in my early 20’s.  The words straight, atheist, conservative, female, monogamous were quite important to whole who I was question, and who I wanted to be.  Now that I am in my nearly mid 30’s I realize that other than female, and perhaps atheist, none of these labels quite fit anymore with the encompassing power that they used to.  Instead I have found much more joy in the fluidity of my life and the rejection of the labels that defined me.  It has brought more happiness and satisfaction into my life.  Ironically with the breaking free of those definitions my confidence has actually increased.  I don’t need labels to be who I am.  And I can look around at the people in my life who are in or recently been through a large life transition and am amazed that they don’t quite fit into the categories I would have used to describe them anymore either.  They are just them, for all the good and the bad, and we exist very happily together. 

Because of the first hand happiness I have found by breaking free of the labels that confined me, I want to be an ambassador for other to break free as well.  It works, it’s amazing and my sex life has never been better as a result.  Isn’t that what it’s really all about anyways?  But in all seriousness, if I do not expect my friends to fit into a certain box, our lives become richer and more authentic.  And when I do not label myself, I am free to have fluid thoughts and opinions, and most important, an open mind for new education and people that I may have previously dismissed.  So to the dating sites thinking they are being progressive and modern by increasing their labels I say No!  Break free.  Let people write a description, or a brief what they are looking for, and allow more fluid interaction and less exclusionary labels.  Stop helping us put ourselves in more boxes!

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Prehistoric Relationship Roots – One Hypothesis

I recently finished reading the “Land of the Painted Caves” by Jean M. Auel.  It is the final book in the Earth Children’s Series which I have been reading since I was a young teenager, so one of my few exceptions in which I will foray into the land of fiction novels.  The series depicts the life of a young woman named Ayla, set in prehistoric times at the split of the Neanderthal and Homo sapiens line.  The book was set during early hunter gathering society and although sadly it did not live up to the standards of the previous books, it did touch upon an incredibly interesting topic which falls hand in hand with my constant relationship questioning.  The research is overwhelming in supporting the fact that if early humans were monogamous then we would not have survived.  Survival was hard and to this day there are still strong risks and a high mortality in trying to procreate our species.  Any of my regular readers know about my fondness for “Sex at Dawn” in exploring some of the myths around males baser instincts. 
I have written about how there is strong evidence that a males desire is in procreation and spreading his seed, whereas a females desires lie in finding the highest quality food sources to sustain life, Reproductive Goals Blog.  But where do we separate that line from where we evolved to where we are at now, that place of struggle between our base instincts and our societal norms.  In the aforementioned novel, Jean M. Auel takes the readers to the point in history where the change begins to take place between the poly lifestyle and leads into a more monogamous way of thinking.  The male flatheads (Neanderthals) openly had sex with any females who were around in an instinctual needs only basis.  The Zelandonii (Homo sapiens) believe that babies are created by the mixing of spirits and thus sex is their gift of pleasure given from the Mother for all to enjoy. 
She depicts a land where there are Mother Festivals in which any person may mate with another so long as both consent.  Sex was about sharing pleasures and not about procreation in the eyes of the first Homo sapiens.  The author proceeds to challenge the first peoples way of thinking about sex by introducing a vision to Ayla that a baby is created by more than spirits but by the actual physical act of sex.  This introduces the most feared and tabooed feelings of jealousy.  With jealousy there can be little cooperation which was an intrinsic part in ensuring that our species survived.  This book is of course fiction; however it presents a plausible scenario in which humans created monogamous bonds as an evolutionary tool to ensure that jealousy was eradicated or at the very least minimized.  When the complexities of life were introduced to a species that were just focusing on survival, we did what we had to do, we adapted.  The creation of social norms to ensure that that deadliest sin, based around jealousy was once again made taboo was a response to learning more about ourselves in our increase cognitive thoughts. 
As our brains grew bigger, so did the need for social constraints to ensure co-operation and thus ultimate survival.  I don`t know about you, but sometimes knowing a plausible cause and effect of new knowledge really makes me want to battle harder against it.  I think it is natural to grow up and move forward, thus when a society grows out of a constraint created to by us, it almost feels empowering to try and rise above such things.  Breaking free from our prehistorically created social norms, towards something a lot more fulfilling and naturally simple seems like an obvious choice.  Sex is about fun and pleasure.  We have so many tools at our disposal to prevent pregnancies prior to a solid foundation and family being built to raise children, in my opinion, properly where children can always come first.  So now that we have the technology for safe, and lower risk sex, should we not be properly enjoying that aspect of life?  Can we as a society break free of the taboo’s and shame towards having sex with multiple partners and just enjoy ourselves?  Breaking free of our prehistoric roots, in search of more pleasure and happiness in hopes that we can learn to evolve beyond the challenge of jealousy.

A Females Desires

I recently read A billion Wicked Thoughts by Ogi Ogas & Sai Gaddam, and I would recommend it as a must read for anyone wanting to learn more about their sexual desires and those of their partners.  In my mind this is a smooth follow up book to Sex at Dawn, which I have previously recommended.  The hard wired sexual taste cues of men versus women who are much more fluid and almost have a subconscious physical and emotional connection to sexual desires.  I wrote about a man’s nature and this book goes one step further by actually proving what men and women really want in sex based on extensive internet research.  It is can be difficult for men and women to tell the truth completely, as often we don’t truly know what turns us on.  The anonymity of queuing our porn searches validated their statements and groundbreaking truth regarding what visual and emotional cues really do it, so to speak, for us. 
One of the later chapters in the book deals with women and why they seem to love and yearn for Vampires or as they call the erotical illusions.   And the reason I bring this up is that I personally shy away from erotic literature, although this seems to be the number one erotic cue in woman.  I read many romance novels as a teenager, but honestly I felt that once I experienced the real physical act of sex, that I no longer needed or desired reading about it.  But I can understand how the literature can deepen the desires and fantasies for a women.  Men are programmed at an early age as to what fuels them sexually.  The fluidity of women on the other hand knows no bounds.  This is evolutionary speaking how we co-exist so well.  But a problem can arise and this I know first hand, the desire to please our men to keep them.  There is a fine line between being fluid and in pleasing your man for your man’s sake and not your own.
Female turn-on’s range from simple missionary to BDSM and everything in between, around, and up and down.  Our bodies and our desires can be limitless.  The studies historically said that women reach their sexual peaks at 40.  Truly I believe that women reach their sexual peaks as soon as they open up and accept all they are capable of what they desire for themselves.  I know that many men find it hard to please a woman, and I will ask them if their women know how to please themselves?  It is necessary to walk the risky line of pleasing your man, and pleasing yourself.  I have stumbled and landed on the wrong side of this line numerous times and will probably stumble a few more times.  I do know for certain though that awareness about what is going on around me and for me is the first step to understanding and enlightenment.