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?
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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