The issue of whether humans are inherently monogamous beings is not a new or dynamic conversation so when I saw the heated banter between people, it’s hard not to roll your eyes. Any semi or quasi educated person has attempted to rationalise the idea of man (by this we mean man kind- I’m going to keep gender bias out of this…for now) being naturally incapable of staying committed to one person.
I read up on the original post by MzLee and NollyOdBanks and nothing surprised me about their observations. I should first be clear that I completely agree in the belief that monogamy isn’t inherent in our nature – we as humans have an animalistic instinct which is at odds with the societal pressures that we find ourselves living under.
However, just because we are unable to truly embrace such a characteristic… does that mean we should not pursue it? Think about a virtue such as generosity. Nowhere in the animal kingdom is there such a thing – its the food chain, there is no mercy. However, knowing the human condition of greed and destruction, can we afford not to exercise generosity to our fellow person?
Lee and Nolly speak from the point of view that normalising the idea of monogamy is wrong and close-minded. I argue that monogamy is not imposed but socially accepted to maximise good – by this, the good of humanity. When I talk about socially accepted however, I’m being admittedly naive about those who are judged for living a certain way of life. I find this abhorrent. This conversation is also not about infidelity or morality. What I choose to focus on is the maximum good or bad that can be caused from an act. The question is not whether polygamy is right or wrong but whether it is good for humanity or not.
We cannot base the conversation of polygamy by backgrounding it with talk about cheating. We are working with the assumption that cheating is irrelevant as it exists both in monogamy and polygamy and it’s an individual’s personal decision.
Within monogamy – by this I refer to the legal definition of only taking one partner – multiple partners have existed long into the history books. A man marries whether for love (at a point) or status or wealth and it was considered normal – not taboo to have a mistress (or the male version of that if thats where preferences lay) . This was not seen as cheating and was socially accepted. As long as the man did not bring scandal to the family name and was able to take care of both wife and mistress, no eyebrows would be raised.
The most important point I raise here is the issue of responsibility.
I have no issue with polygamy. It exists today and it’s not a new concept or a taboo one for that matter, at least it shouldn’t be. I consider the greatest civilisations in human history to be the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, in no particular order. They were a wealth of enlightenment and knowledge, rational thinking and a wonderful combination of religion, spirituality and scientific enterprise. These great nations practiced polygamy and divorce. It should be noted however that although polygamy was legal, it was generally practiced by the wealthy. Why, because practicing polygamy is damn expensive.
When a lion flourishes with his pride of lionesses, his leadership and ability as a mate is assessed on being able to protect his family. He has to ensure that they inhabit areas which are optimal for hunting and safe from other predators.
Using South Africa as case study, can we honestly say that we can uphold the responsibilities that come with being polygamous? Such freedoms, even more responsibilities. If wives were adequately and equally taken care of, their standard of living secured, I would have no problem with everyone running out today and grabbing multiple partners. However we face huge economic and social inequalities. Babies are left in dumpsters. Men are being dragged to maintenance court or khumbule’khay-ed . I don’t see how promoting a polygamous lifestyle is practical in a social climate where we must force men and women to take care of their respective partners and offspring. The statistics of gender based violence are ridiculous if we consider ourselves a truly rational and enlightened human race.
- Almost 500 babies being dumped a month
- 31% of partners report being abused in their marriage or relationship
- As a country we have to blacklist deadbeat dads, or rather paternal genetic contributors
I know polyamourous people exist – I’ve had a few friends involved in such relationships. However we cannot rationally begin to pretend that polyamorous people are not the norm, much like homosexuality. They are deviations from the statistical sexual or emotional (if such exists) orientations. Don’t get me wrong, I am not putting my fellow LGBTIAQ (and all other letters) people on blast, that would make me a traitor or worse. Statistically, though we have to accept that it is a minor percentage of people who engage in deviations to the norm.
As humans we always want what we can’t have – it’s the 80:20 rule. We have the 80% but that 20% that exists in someone else is just so goddamn enticing, we pursue it and neglect the 80% waiting at home with dinner and wine at the ready. We like things, as a species. However we cannot discount our jealousy and need to completely own and dominate something or someone. Man wants to own while still enjoying others.
Rationally, the idea of people being more and more open to polyamorous or polygamous behaviour doesn’t make sense. How can we enjoy the many people out there but still want to possess those that we believe we own? It’s like how I shake my head at my guy friends who spread their seeds but are adamant that they wish to marry a virgin. If people began to engage in polygamous activity, mathematically it just wouldn’t work and emotionally we would be incapable of handling it. For those who have truly achieved a harmonic polyamorous or polygamous lifestyle, I am impressed. It is not an easy path to take.
Let us not confuse monogamy with the social constructs of marriage that I believe are socially imposed. With marriage I talk of the religious as opposed to legal definition. There has been many cases in history where monogamy is seen as the better choice – however what has changed is the way in which we view the dissolution of a relationship. In pagan rites, lovers would marry for a year and day, and renew their vows to each other annually. This allowed for an easy parting if so required. However when we start putting morals to a topic, naturally monogamy in modern, scientific and enlightened reasoning can be seen as a negative lifestyle to live. Bible-bashers, slut shaming all play a part in making monogamy look like a necessary evil – which it isn’t.
My final thought on the topic is this. If we accept truly that we are an enlightened and rational species – why have we continued to allow monogamy to be the social norm? I believe it has something to do with our inability to accept social and financial consequences of any polyamorous or polygamous activity that we could possibly engage in. Those who do manage to look after their own, and who function well within such relationships have my respect. But for the mass, for the average man and woman on the street, I don’t think the maximum good would come from promoting polygamy and polyamory.
So while it’s not sexy and cool to encourage monogamy, logically speaking, I have no choice until humanity starts deserving freedom.