Until recently, I thought the scientific consensus was in – human beings are hard-wired to be promiscuous and have multiple sexual partners. Monogamy is unnatural – counter to our specie’s instincts.
The evidence: almost all animal species, including the ones we are evolved from, engage in regular polyamorous relations. Very few/almost no animal species are monogamous. Further, when you look back at human civilizations throughout history, monogamy is a relatively recent phenomenon; most human societies were also non-monogamous.
The theory: monogamy has evolved as a social construct imposed on us. Monogamy has been introduced as a form because (i) modern religion promotes monogamy because it views marriage as a transference of property of a daughter to a husband and multiple people cannot ‘own’ that daughter; and (ii) modern economies, post the agricultural revolution, benefited from tightly defined families to ease ownership and transfer of property. Pretty romantic huh?
The conclusion: We are, at our base, non-monogamous, but we force ourselves uncomfortably into monogamy for the sake of society and religion. To me, this makes a lot of sense – monogamy doesn’t feel natural but I certainly see its benefits.
Well… hold the presses! New evidence is in that science may have oversimplified things. The view that we are inherently non-monogamous but forced into monogamy may be too broad a generalization. New research from Oxford found an almost 50/50 split between individuals who natural instinct was toward monogamy and those with a natural instinct toward non-monogamy. More precisely, 57% of men and 47% of women have innate feelings of promiscuity (non-monogamy) and 43% of men and 53% of men are instinctively drawn to monogamy.
I’m fascinated by this… As I said, I have always been inclined to believe that monogamy felt unnatural, but perhaps beneficial. But I have also known a lot of people who I believe are very naturally inclined toward monogamy. So maybe we are neither naturally monogamous or non-monogamous.