Advocates of Monogamy often claim it is the only natural way of life for humans while referring to Polygamy as unnatural. For centuries the defenders of Monogamy have done so based not only on the Bible, but also referring to Monogamy occurring everywhere in the animal kingdom and claiming it was also prevalent among humans. In the light of scientific findings in recent years, however, one would be justified to ask: is it actually not Polygamy, but Monogamy that is unnatural?
Monogamy is Christian?
The strongest advocates of Monogamy are undoubtedly religiously motivated Christians. They build on their understanding of the Bible and Christian doctrine. However, it must not be forgotten that there always have been trends in Christianity that see Polygamy as a possible form of marriage.
What do priests know about marriage and sex?
Personally, I´m always puzzled especially by the Catholic Christians. How can a priestly caste, which regards a life without marriage and sex as the ideal way to live, dare to make regulations for all the other people who want to lead a non-priestly life that includes marriage and sex? And why the people who don´t want to live like a priest would go to a celibate priest for advice for their marriage and sex life is simply flabbergasting.
When people seek advice for a matter of practical life, as marriage and sex undoubtedly are, they usually ask someone who has practical experience, and not a mere theorist. So who could be more unsuitable to give advice in matters of marriage and sexual life, than a group of people who at least in theory are celibate and see this as the ideal way to live? What could they know about sex and marriage? Exactly! Nothing!
The Bible is the last and only stronghold of Monogamy
Of course, Christians and all religious-minded people would argue that priests have divine authority and that these regulations are based on the Bible. Fine, they may of course believe that. I think it is nonsense to abide by rules of a two thousand year old book which consists largely of forged documents. 1 But of course if you are a Christian, than, according to the fundamental principles of human rights, you have a right to your choice to follow these ideas.
But why these christian ideas should apply to all people who are non-religious or at least not Christian, can not be justified in a modern society that is not based on Christian religion but on human rights.
Sexual monogamy? Practised by the Malagasy giant jumping rat and hardly anyone else
The religious by now have actually only their religion left as justification for Monogamy. All the long cherished and widespread militant allegations that Monogamy was found everywhere in the animal kingdom and is predominant in humans, have been refuted by the scientific discoveries of recent years.
Sexual Monogamy is actually the very great exception. Genetic studies have demonstrated that sexual Monogamy can hardly be found in the animal kingdom. Professor David Barash was one of the first to collect the evidence about sexual non-monogamy in animals and people in his book published in 2001: The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People. As Barash put it, to find Monogamy you need to look in the nooks and crannies of the animal kingdom, such as the Malagasy giant jumping rat.
Anthropologists say that only one in six human societies makes monogamy the rule. And even in societies that are officially monogamous, real sexual monogamy hardly occurs. When it does it mostly is only because of social pressure, as was recently shown by Conley et.al.
Based on these findings of science, if one followed the methods of reasoning applied by some advocates of Monogamy, one might ask whether sexual Monogamy, after all, is unnatural.
Of “natural” Monogamy only social Monogamy remains
Recently two studies about Monogamy in mammals and primates caused quite a stir in the media. According to some media coverage one might assume that the idea of Monogamy was yet again “saved” as it is supposedly practiced by many animal species.
However, if you had the good fortune to read one of the more detailed media reports, you quickly realized that the two studies came to different conclusions, and that actually they did not find sexual Monogamy, but social Monogamy. Social Monogamy means that a couple stays together for a long time and brings up children together. But here is the catch: the male does not know if these children are his and the female does not know if the male has children with other females. That is because the studies found that both partners have sex with other partners whenever the opportunity presents itself.
That is all that remains of Monogamy. An interesting change of meaning.
The Earth is the center of the universe, is it not?
It reminds me of how we humans once thought that the earth was the center of the universe and man was the crown and sole purpose of creation. Geocentrism and anthropocentrism. Then we gradually learned that the earth is not the center of the universe.
But until a few years ago one could still read articles in which it was maintained that there could be no planet outside the solar system. Then, as this presumption was no longer tenable, it was still claimed that earth was the only habitable planet. This geocentric and anthropocentric “misconception” is gradually dismantled by the progress of scientific knowledge.
Maybe in a similar way the scientific evidence about Monogamy and Polygamy that was presented in a cursory manner above will finally make it into the minds of the majority and even the advocates of Monogamy.
Unnatural, because we say so?
In one of the most important and spectacular conflicts over Polygamy in recent years, Polygamy has also been referred to as unnatural. Cleverly this was done without reference to religion. In the lawsuit about Mormons practicing Polygamy in Canada, John Witte Jr., a professor of jurisprudence in Atlanta, argued that for thousands of years Polygamy was considered as unnatural. He also claimed, as is commonly the case, that Polygamy is bad for women and children, while they are protected by Monogamy.
A clever argument, because it does not simply assert that Polygamy is unnatural, which can not be proven, but that people have viewed it as unnatural and therefore it is unnatural. But even this argument does not hold up, because what we humans have regarded as natural and unnatural during the course of tens of thousands of years and in different cultures is almost infinitely different and subject to constant change.
As mentioned above, only one among six human cultures makes Monogamy the rule. Read for example this article about Tibetans. They hold Monogamy is wrong and think Polygamy is better because it allows for stronger family ties and better care for women and children.
It is not justifiable to say Polygamy is bad without any scientific base for that claim. This can not possibly be a basis to reject Polygamy as a way of life or even worse to ban it from society.
Unnatural? What nonsense!
Although I titled this article deliberately provocative, you will not find me seriously saying or writing that Monogamy is unnatural. The word “unnatural” has the sole purpose to discriminate against people and their lifestyles. This is usually done by claiming that a particular practice is “natural” and therefore any other is “against nature”, “unnatural”.
Firstly, this type of argument is discriminatory and exclusionary. This is contraditory to the peaceful coexistence of people and contradicts the principles of human rights.
Secondly, with such a diverse and constantly changing “thing” as nature it is difficult to say what is natural. This would mean you´d have to freeze a certain stage of development and declare it as the only correct natural state for all times.
Take another example from human behavior. In the time of the Knights it was completely normal during dinner to not go to the bathroom, as they did not have any bathrooms, but to follow the call of nature right at the table. That is why they had all that straw lying all over the floor, as you might have seen in a historically more accurate Hollywood movie. It was only later that it was seen as an act of courtesy to not do it at the table but to rise and perform this fully natural act in a corner of the room. Now what is natural?
As shown above, it seems that our ways of life, especially in the area of sexuality and family life, are very much formed by the situation we live in and the resulting social circumstances. To speak of “natural” and “unnatural” therefore makes little sense.
It makes more sense and is more in accordance with the principles of human rights – and in my opinion also with Christian concepts of compassion – to let people live the way they want to live. The only condition is that they do it voluntarily and cause no harm. We don´t need more rules, and certainly no coercion. Let everyone determine for themselves how they want to live sexuality and family. Give us freedom.
For more about this see my Theses on Polygamy and Monogamy or one of the articles listed below.
Notice: This article is translated and some contents might have been added or left out to better meet the needs of an international audience from an original article on one of my german websites Viktor-Leberecht.de or Polygamie-ist-gut-fuer-sie.de (engl:Polygamy is good for you). How i do my translations. Last updated: August 18, 2013 at 16:21 pm © Viktor Leberecht All rights reserved. Please feel free to share my content on Social-Sharing-Services. What do you think? Leave a comment here. For your convenience you may either use the integrated comment system of wordpress in the first comment field, or if you prefer you may post with your Google+ account in the second comment field. You may also send me a question through the contact form or the FAQ.