Getting It Together
Monogamy Is a Millstone: the relentless urge to have sex
with someone other than your partner grows stronger as
the emotional strength of the relationship develops.
When every cell in your body craves sex with someone else,
monogamy begins to feel like sexual incarceration.
This growing sexual desire does not indicate the relationship
has failed. In fact, choosing to stay with your partner,
despite wanting sex with others, suggests that the attachment is strong.
You simply want sex with someone else to fulfill your
sexual desires while keeping your emotional relationship intact.
Couples ought to have the social freedom to discuss the various
forms of open sexual relationships. But because these more honest
forms of sexuality are culturally condemned, we must either choose
to live with the agony of longing for sex with someone else, or cheat.
Asking for an open relationship is more likely to result
in break-up,or at least increased surveillance, so cheating
becomes a more viable option for most.
Is Promiscuity Natural?
The average human has sex about 1,000 times per birth.
We share that number of sexual encounters with chimps
and bonobos. Other primates are vastly different.
Gorillas and all other primates typically
have sex only 12 times per birth.
The frequency of sexual engagement is one reason humans,
chimps, and bonobos have larger external testicles,
ready for frequent and spontaneous ejaculation.
Born to Fuck Around
Human sexuality evolved to function first and foremost as a bonding function, with reproduction being secondary. This would mean that humans are indeed very similar to chimps and bonobos, using sex for social purposes.
Promiscuity Is in Our Genes
Adulterers the world over no doubt mused discreetly upon the publication of The Moral Animal, in which the US evolutionary psychologist Robert Wright claimed that promiscuity is in our genes:
Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women’s interests?
These are among the questions that have made The Moral Animal one of the most provocative science books in recent years.
Wright unveils the genetic strategies behind everything from our sexual preferences to our office politics–as well as their implications for our moral codes and public policies.
Infidelity, so this argument goes, is part of natural selection, with men trying to impregnate as many women as possible and spread their genes far and wide, and women picking a fine mental or physical specimen to breed with, while keeping a lesser man at her side for security.
We’ve long thought of ourselves as monogamous, and indeed, of monogamy as a distinguishing characteristic of mankind, but Desmond Morris’s suggestion in his bestseller The Naked Ape that human beings are a pair-bonding species looks increasingly weak.
What’s more, other species thought to be monogamous have been found to be rather less faithful than we had imagined:
Female swallows, for whom size is evidently important, have been observed having secret trysts with male swallows in possession of longer tails than their mates.
Geese, when going about the mate-selection business, sample the downy delights of up to six partners, in liaisons lasting from a few days to a few weeks.
Around 60 per cent of birds, mostly males, use what is known as a “partner-hold” strategy – still clinging to an old partner while trying out a new one.
Oystercatchers are not always faithful to their long-term partners, indulging occasionally in what observers have called EPCs (extra-pair copulations).
For the males, an EPC offers extra reproductive success and the chance of a superior mate for future reproduction; for females, it might bring extra food from courtship feeding, help caring for her own chicks, and potential genetic improvements in her progeny.
Chimpanzee females are highly promiscuous. Gibbons are practically monogamous, and gorillas polygamous, one male dominating a harem of females.
This spectrum of sexual behaviour is related to the weight of the testicles (relative to the male’s body) in each species: chimps have large testes to ensure their sperm can compete by volume with rival males, while gorillas, who don’t have to endure the competition, aren’t so well endowed.
The human species falls somewhere between these extremes, suggesting that women are naturally more sexually adventurous than society has been willing to allow.