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There’s a new book out that changes everything. Just listen:
Since Darwin’s day, we’ve been told that sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species. Mainstream science–as well as religious and cultural institutions–has maintained that men and women evolved in families in which a man’s possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman’s fertility and fidelity. But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married, and divorce rates keep climbing as adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages.
How can reality be reconciled with the accepted narrative? It can’t be, according to renegade thinkers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. While debunking almost everything we “know” about sex, they offer a bold alternative explanation in this provocative and brilliant book.
Ryan and Jethá’s central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is. […] The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.
Polyamory: the last refuge of a socialist. In an era when radical egalitarianism has been intellectually discredited as a political program, good old sex is there to fuel the emotional fantasies of the frustrated leveler. We’re hardwired to share everything! Exclusivity is a social construct at the most fundamental level — that of our own bodies! Take that, Aristotle! Over to you, Megan:
Lifetime monogamy may not be the evolved human template. But I’m pretty sure that carefree polyamory isn’t either. And at some level, who cares? Rape seems to be pretty “natural”, but I’d still like to build social institutions that fight this “natural instinct”. The book might have been thought-provoking, but so far, in trying to prove too much, they end up proving nothing at all. And the “I bet you didn’t know about . . . bonobos!!!!” tone is incredibly off-putting.
Look: since the time of the prophets and the philosophers we have known (no need for scare quotes) that we humans are naturally apt to fantasize simultaneously about natural and unnatural things. There’s something exciting about purposefully imagining a conflation of what’s natural with what isn’t. What else, to provide a chaste example, is the human longing for flight? It seems to me safe to say that our nature is eminently compatible with a monogamous sexual order, but that our nature doesn’t dictate any sexual order, monogamous, bigamous, polygamous, or anything else. Our nature as human animals is to want to eat our cake and have it too when it comes to order of any kind. We want the benefits of compliance when we want them, and we want the benefits of noncompliance when we want those, too. This isn’t the first time that the fantasy of sexual socialism has led progressive crusaders to run up the banner reading Eros Lo Volt!, and it won’t be the last. But it’s time we stopped taking them seriously.