Mr. and Mrs…and another Mr?


Fancy a shag?  The authors of “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality” sure do.  Their argument of non-monogamy has caused a few waves recently, and with good reason.  They argue that non-monogamy is not the subversive, new age relationship style of the 21st century, but the most natural and historic relationship dynamic there is. 

Their argument for non-monogamy, or having multiple sexual partners at once, is multi-faceted.  First, they hypothesize that the concealed ovulation in women is an advantage to all parties, since the male sexual partners do not know who, out of many, is the father of any given child.  This is an advantage because the men then take equal responsibility for the offspring of the tribe, sharing fatherhood responsibilities for many children, all or none of whom could be their own.

Secondly, the dynamics of multiple sex partners within the tribe would, in the authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha’s point of view, create a more peaceful society.  The men would not have reason to fight over one particular woman, and infidelity would no longer be an issue worth debating. 

Anecdotal evidence from current society is also brought in to support the issue.  Adoptions and artificial insemination are evidence to the idea that people are more than willing to care for children that do not share their exact genetic copies. Practiced promiscuity is also highlighted in current culture, with examples such as Mardi Gras, spring break, and the Brazilian carnival.

They support their theory further in the book with biological characteristics of human genital shapes, disadvantages of reduced sperm competition, and the increased infertility rates of modern times. 

The idea of whether we are meant to be monogamous or not is also addressed at length, and you can guess where their opinion lies. This book is an entertaining read, recommended for anyone interested in human sexuality, or who has ever questioned the notion of what is “natural” among relationships today.

References and further reading:

2 Responses to “Mr. and Mrs…and another Mr?”

  1. Harriet Dashnow says:

    Interesting ideas, Tane. Is there evidence of non-monogamy being advantageous? The (supposed) prevalence of monogamy in our current society might suggest that monogamists won the evolutionary arms race. Or are we just socially monogamous and pretending to be sexually monogamous as a species?

  2. π says:

    I don’t believe that monogamy is natural (or even unnatural) in humans. There is not really much that could be called natural in our social behaviours anymore. Virtually everything that we experience, think, believe and do is shaped by fluid (and geographically/temporally distinct) cultural norms, not our biology or environment per se. I would argue that once we ‘mastered’ the environment through the advent of agriculture and medicines, there was little value in retaining ‘natural’ social behaviours.