Are Humans Built For Monogamy?

Illustration for article titled Are Humans Built For Monogamy?

Are single women who take birth control when they fall in love CHEATING MEN WITH THEIR DECEPTIVE PHEROMONES??? That's the rather radical spin on what seemed to me to be a relatively rational chat between a psychology blogger and the editor of a big cover story about the chemistry of love in TIME, sent to me late last night with a rather enraged rant by a certain bisexual polyamorous friend of the blog. Now: my inclination is to think women who take birth control before they're even in a relationship are cheating themselves, because while condoms do indeed suck why would you want to fuck without the pheromonal connection? Only to, once again, risk the possibility of falling in love with someone who's probably, once again, not right for you? The answer, my bipoly friend explained to me, is simple: there's a flaw in my logic. I was operating under the assumption that humans were built for monogamy. And that's not true! "All the science" says so. My IM reeducation after the jump.


She didn't really provide much scientific evidence, but I think we both learned to respect our differences. Also, all the girls and the one gay I IM-ed pretty much said they were built for monogamy, though I didn't ask Tracie, and she'd probably disagree. Meanwhile, the only straight dude I asked, my ex-boyfriend, said he was not. Too bad I never sensed that from the pheromones he emitted!

MOE: Ok, so this interview you sent me is really interesting
MOE: But i was trying to determine who, the interviewer or the TIME guy, you took issue with
MOE: the interviewer irked me more

POLLYPOCKET: yeah they were both sort of swirling in a pool of awfulness
POLLYPOCKET: what i didn't like as I told Anna is the idea that they're still trying to talk about how marriage is some kind of baseline
POLLYPOCKET: as if the only real kind of "romance" we should worry about is marriage
POLLYPOCKET: even though all scientific evidence shows that we weren't built to marry or be monogamous
POLLYPOCKET: also the thing about women tricking men with birth control was heinous

MOE: well that was the interviewer

POLLYPOCKET: but I was really pissed about the time mag package in general
POLLYPOCKET: where they say "romance is this chemical illusion" but then use that as an excuse to basically say well so you just have to fight biology and stay married kids

MOE: Well, I see it as part of the whole "evolutionary biology is the new socialization" trend.

POLLYPOCKET: it is very much part of htat

MOE: But that's not what he said.
MOE: He said the chemistry of early romance was an unsustainable chemical state


POLLYPOCKET: but then he goes on to basically talk about how "dangerous" it is to try to find that state again
POLLYPOCKET: because it disrupts family, etc

MOE: Well, see
MOE: I think that's true
MOE: But I'm specifically thinking of men.


POLLYPOCKET: I think it's true if you build your whole society around the idea of monogamous marriage being the best way to raise kids
POLLYPOCKET: which it obviously isn't
POLLYPOCKET: nuclear family suxx

MOE: Hahaha what's your proposal?

POLLYPOCKET: well we've only had this obsession with the nuke family in the US for about a century
POLLYPOCKET: I think extended families, kinship networks, more laxity in terms of being "faithful" — having an understanding that people can fuck around and have those happy chemicals without it having to undermine their family life
POLLYPOCKET: I mean, why not have a nice kinship network for your family/kids, but also have the chance to have little romances on the side?
POLLYPOCKET: that's truer to biology
POLLYPOCKET: and more fun
POLLYPOCKET: (c.f. Woman on the Edge of Time)
POLLYPOCKET: not that "being true to biology" is always a good thing . . .


MOE: See, I think the problems you're attributing to the "nuclear family" have more to do with poor urban planning.


MOE: Not that we have discussed those problems
MOE: I also kind of hate falling in love though.
MOE: "Early romance" is not my bag.


POLLYPOCKET: Yeah it feels like taking a lot of speed
POLLYPOCKET: I hate it too

MOE: Hahahaha I take speed every day.

POLLYPOCKET: I mean, it's like the crawly awful part of the speed

MOE: to me it's like heroin.
MOE: Not that I would know

POLLYPOCKET: yeah I think heroin is actually supposed to be nice while it lasts
POLLYPOCKET: what I mean, is that you feel all crazed and tooth grindy and paranoid during that early love stuff
POLLYPOCKET: which makes sense it's the same chemicals that give you the meth high
POLLYPOCKET: anyway all I was saying was that I think it's weird that we have all this scientific evidence that humans are not really built for monogamous marriage
POLLYPOCKET: and it's weird that we keep insisting that's the way to go


MOE: So yeah, I don't know how much is socialization and how much is evolution and how much is just my particular set of genes, but I am very good at the middle stage of a relationship. And I really really want to find someone who agrees. But I had a happy childhood living in a city around lots of other kids etc. etc. so that's my narrative. But I definitely think I personally am built for monogamous marriage.

POLLYPOCKET: I think some people clearly are

MOE: However

POLLYPOCKET: But you might be an outlier

MOE: Hahaha I am on everything else
MOE: why not this

POLLYPOCKET: yeah, I think it's probably a spectrum (just like sexuality)


POLLYPOCKET: some are totally mono, some are "sometimes mono," some are polyamorous freaks like me (I have 3 partners, I know gross)


MOE: Now, if only those same pheromones that attract you to a person with a different immune system
MOE: Could attract you to someone with the same views on monogamy.


MOE: So you have three partners
MOE: This is like Springer!
MOE: I kid

POLLYPOCKET: I do think that if our culture wasn't so obsessed with monogamy, it might be easier for a mono person and a poly person to be together without stigma
POLLYPOCKET: I know I am total springer material


MOE: OK so your partners

POLLYPOCKET: you don't know the half of it

MOE: are they poly?
MOE: Are they into each other?

POLLYPOCKET: they are NOT into each other that would be livejournal scary

MOE: hahaa
MOE: are they into others?

POLLYPOCKET: drama times four hundred
POLLYPOCKET: yeah they are poly too
POLLYPOCKET: well two of them are geeks, so they are poly when they can find others who crave Linux


MOE: hahaha
MOE: well you live in San Francisco right?

POLLYPOCKET: yup — home of sexual deviance
POLLYPOCKET: and Linux lvoers

MOE: SF is its own socialization

POLLYPOCKET: that's certainly true
POLLYPOCKET: though there is a giant poly network in Boston too for some reason
POLLYPOCKET: they all buy giant houses together


MOE: Hahaha bc they're too cold to have the energy to go out and fuck around in Boston.

MOE: well i am a big believer in pheromones

POLLYPOCKET: there are people I can't do because of how they smell (and I don't mean they smell bad or anything)


MOE: andwhat i do not understand is why some dudes just indiscriminately try to fuck girls that way

POLLYPOCKET: yeah I know several guys like that

MOE: it takes a very specific chemical mix to me

POLLYPOCKET: it's sort of like OCD — "try this one" "try this one"

MOE: ok, here's a question, poly gay lady!

POLLYPOCKET: hahah poly bi lady please
POLLYPOCKET: I want to sound as 70s as possible


MOE: with lesbians, are you ALSO attracted to pheromones of ppl with opposite immune systems?

POLLYPOCKET: I might be a bad person to ask about this because I prefer boys

MOE: oooh

POLLYPOCKET: And the girls I like are usually tomboys

MOE: ahhhhh

POLLYPOCKET: I loooooove tomboys holy shit
POLLYPOCKET: and I like girly guys who remind me of tomboys


MOE: me too i like tomboy girls like samantha ronson

At this point the conversation becomes ridiculous and somewhat unpublishable. But it ended well!





@ancientsociety: I was married and in an open marriage for seven years (the open part is not why I'm not married anymore), and we'd get that too- the idea that we are somehow more enlightened or something. Or else we were completely crazy and selfish and oversexed. *shrug* Honestly, we were just really idealistic and young and trying to figure ourselves/each other/life out. I don't think we were any more evolved,crazy,or selfish than average, whatever it is.

As far as an orientation? I think I'm progammed to be more polyamorous than the norm, but I'm in a monogomous relationship now, and that's working out for me. To be honest, now that I'm in a monogamous relationship, I have way more sex than I ever did when I was in an open relationship. Open relationships for me always seemed to mean less hedonism, but exponentially more "state of the relationship" talks, negotiations, etc. Which was really meaningful at the time- but, quite frankly, exhausting!