Objecting to "Polyamory Chic"
"There’s a strange whiff in the media air, a sort of polyamory chic in which liberally minded journalists, an aggregate mass of antireligious pundits and even scientists themselves have begun encouraging readers and viewers to use evolutionary theory to revisit and revise their sexual attitudes and, more importantly, their behaviors in ways that fit their animal libidos more happily."
So begins Jesse Bering, a research psychologist writing for the Mind & Brain section of Scientific American's website. He continues:
Much of this discussion is being fueled by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá’s scintillating new book Sex at Dawn, which explores how our modern, God-ridden, puritanical society conflicts with our species’ evolutionary design, a tension making us pathologically ashamed of sex. There are of course many important caveats, but the basic logic is that, because human beings are not naturally monogamous but rather have been explicitly designed by natural selection to seek out ‘extra-pair copulatory partners’ — having sex with someone other than your partner or spouse for the replicating sake of one’s mindless genes — then suppressing these deep mammalian instincts is futile and, worse, is an inevitable death knell for an otherwise honest and healthy relationship.
Intellectually, I can get on board with this.... But the amoralistic beauty of Darwinian thinking is that it does not — or at least, should not and cannot — prescribe any social behavior, sexual or otherwise, as being the “right” thing to do....
...However, there’s an even bigger hurdle to taking polyamory chic beyond the tabloids, talk shows, and message boards and into standard bedroom practice. And that is simply the fact that we’ve evolved to empathize with other people’s suffering, including the suffering of the people we’d betray by putting our affable genitals to their evolved promiscuous use.
Heartbreak is every bit as much a psychological adaptation as is the compulsion to have sex with those other than our partners, and it throws a monster of a monkey wrench into the evolutionists’ otherwise practical polyamory....
Monogamy may not be natural, but neither is indifference to our partners’ sex lives or tolerance for polyamory. In fact, for many people, especially those naively taking guidance from evolutionary theorists without thinking deeply enough about these issues, polyamory can lead to devastating effects....
He goes on to ruminate about why, as a gay man with no reproductive stake in his male partner's sexual behavior, he himself has been prone to wildly irrational fits of jealousy when cheated on. Where's the evolutionary sense in that?
What he needs to hear is that, for some of us, life is not this false-dichotomy choice between suffering in monogamy and suffering with broken hearts and jealous rages. For quite a few people, a modern, consciously managed, ethical, communicative version of multi-partnering — what we mean by the word polyamory! — offers a third way that is neither what animals do nor what our grandparents believed they had to do. Can't he get this?
...And that’s this once-heartbroken gay evolutionary psychologist’s musings for the day.
Read the whole article (Aug. 25, 2010).
Begs for comments, no? Go have at it.
Labels: critics of poly