Love

Is monogamy man-made?

Women have a primal urge to be promiscuous just like men, so where does that leave fidelity?

We’ve grown up believing that all love stories should play out like something from a Nicholas Sparks' novel: man meets woman, man falls in love, man and woman live happily ever after. But what if humans aren’t actually supposed to be with just one person for the rest of their lives?! What if we're are naturally programmed to be promiscuous? This is the controversial claim Christopher Ryan, psychologist and the co-author of Sex at Dawn, is making. He says that evolution has programmed men and women to play the field, and despite ladies’ rep for being more faithful, there’s no evolutionary reason why women are more loyal.

According to Ryan, the evidence lies in our primate cousins: we’re related to chimpanzees and bonobos, and neither of our monkey pals have a single mate for life. With both males and females having lots of nookie with just about anyone:

“Ovulating female chimps have intercourse dozens of times per day, with most or all of the willing males, and bonobos famously enjoy frequent group sex that leaves everyone relaxed and conflict-free,” says Ryan. Hmmm we’re hoping that Ryan isn’t suggesting we start giving it up for every guy that glances in our direction?!

Bonobos have a rep for sleeping around (floozies!), using sex as means of bonding with lots of others. Along with humans, they are one of the few animals that have sex face-to-face and external testicles, which apparently means they are designed to be promiscuous:

“External testicles are like having an extra fridge in the garage for beer. If you’re the kind of guy that has a beer fridge, you expect a party to happen at any moment,” says Ryan.

Like us, female bonobos are ready to do the horizontal mambo most of the time too, because they can get down and dirty for 90 percent of their menstrual cycle, and don’t need to wait until they are “on heat”.

So if it’s against our nature, why do we buy into the monogamy thing? Ryan says it’s a state imposed on us by society because being “exclusive” became the ideal way to raise a family. Think about it, it’s only when you’re in a relationship with one person that you can share assets and it can also be easier to split parenting responsibilities. So most peeps just accept that this is the way it should be.

Plus you only have to look at the world, to know there can be stigma against people who aren’t in conventional, monogamous LTRs. You only have to look at pop culture to see that anything against the norm, think Big Love, is seen as just plain weird.

But we do have to point out there’s a difference between cheating and lying to your partner, and mutually agreeing to be in an open relationship. Sorry Tiger Woods, you can’t blame evolution for being a scumbag!

If we’re not genetically pre-dispositioned towards fidelity, it also explains why it’s so hard to keep the spark alive in long term relationships; maybe you’re not supposed to stay hot and heavy for the same guy forever. Or as Ryan puts it: “Just because you have chosen to be a vegetarian, doesn’t mean that bacon stops smelling good.”

But don’t worry, even if you’re not programmed to be faithful, you don’t need to dump your dude and start playing the field. If you want to be a one-man woman, you can, but you should accept that monogamy is hard, so you need be ready for the fight.