The Monogamy Gap, by Eric Anderson
I don't have the book, but judging by the author's public statements, gaak. [Update: but see the comments for opinions that I misjudged it.]
First, from the publisher's promo:
Whether straight or gay, most men start their relationships desiring monogamy.... Yet despite this deeply held cultural ideal, cheating remains rampant. In this accessible book, Eric Anderson investigates why 78% of men he interviewed have cheated despite their desire not to.
Combining 120 interviews with research from the fields of sociology, biology, and psychology, Anderson identifies cheating as a product of wanting emotional passion for one's partner, along with a steadily growing desire for emotionally-detached recreational sex with others. Anderson coins the term "the monogamy gap" to describe this phenomenon.
Anderson suggests that monogamy is an irrational ideal because it fails to fulfill a lifetime of sexual desires. Cheating therefore becomes the rational response to an irrational situation.
In a Huffington Post interview Anderson says,
Honesty is good sometimes, and horrible other times. There are good reasons to lie; it is an essential skill for keeping community and relationship peace. The reason men lie about cheating is mostly because they know that if they ask for permission to have recreational sex: 1) they will be denied 2) after they are denied, they will be subject to scrutiny and increased relationship policing; 3) they will be stigmatized as immoral, and most likely broken up with.
Gender-rigid poly-ignorant oldthink, say I. Reviews of the book make it look like the best alternative to cheating that Anderson can think of is an open marriage with "emotionally distant" outside partners who should be used and tossed like kleenexes. Love with them would be dangerous, he says. Later in his Huff Post interview he says, approvingly:
...Rather than marrying 20 times or more in one's life via serial monogamy, we can keep one emotional lover and just have casual, meaningless -- and hot -- sex with strangers.
He seems clueless about the people who do live in encompassing circles of love, or at least family-like companionship, trust, and affection, among three or four intimates or a larger poly network.
An early (and skeptical) review at Forbes again paints him as oblivious to non-monogamy that's not mired in old-culture ways of thought. Or maybe it's the dumb Forbes reviewer. Or Anderson's sorry research subjects. Or all three:
What's So Wrong With Monogamy?
By Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff
...Increasingly, people are asking the question: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a lifetime of fulfilling fidelity?
...Last summer, the New York Times magazine devoted nearly 6,000 words to sex-advice columnist Dan Savage’s belief that monogamy is harder than we admit and may not work for many couples. And this year the news of Newt Gingrich’s alleged request for an open marriage with his second wife Marianne brought the concept of sexual openness back to the forefront, so much so that the Times style section questioned whether open marriage is showing signs of a second life.
Meanwhile, researchers are increasingly investigating the institution of love, and many may be unsettled by their conclusions. In his new book The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, sociologist Eric Anderson argues that “monogamy fails both men and women” and believes we need to have more honest conversations about love and sex....
...“The real question is,” Anderson poses, “Is our desire for monogamy serving our culture as best as it can?” He says no, and suggests we remove the stigma from open relationships in order to save partnerships. Then, he believes men and women would be more comfortable asking for what they “need,” they’d be more likely to use protection with others, and relationships would be less likely to end over a “slip up.”
...Many men in Anderson’s study expressed a desire to openly have sex with others, but they refused to consider allowing their partners the same freedom, saying they would be too jealous....
Sex with others is also certain to create emotional attachments that undermine the primary relationship — and the dignity of others. Logically, it would increase the likelihood of infatuation, and thus increase the chance of leaving the primary relationship. Anderson says the (cheating) men he interviewed said, “I wanted her and then I had her and now I’m over her” — that it’s just a “matter of business.” While exceedingly unromantic, these sentiments don’t even consider the “her” that’s been “had.” The potential for hurt feelings and unkindness seems astronomic....
Read the whole article (Feb. 13, 2012). And please leave a comment?
Here Anderson speaks in the Washington Post, presenting some interesting material:
Five myths about cheating
By Eric Anderson
...1. Cheating and affairs are more common among the rich, and less common in conservative cultures.
...Studies find that the more money and celebrity men have, the more likely they are to cheat... [but] according to Boston College economist Donald Cox, poorer women are more likely to cheat than wealthy women.
Nor do more socially conservative times erase infidelity. America today may seem more sexually relaxed than the button-down years immediately following World War II, yet pioneering research by Alfred Kinsey found that married men cheated at rates of around 50 percent. In 1953, Kinsey showed that 26 percent of married women had also been unfaithful. Estimates today find married men cheating at rates anywhere between 25 percent to 72 percent. Given that many people are loathe to admit that they cheat, research on cheating may underestimate its prevalence. But it appears that cheating is as common as fidelity.
2. If you really love your partner, you’ll remain faithful.
Perhaps one of the most tragic misconceptions about cheating is that people stray because they have fallen out of love with their partners.... Rather, they cheat simply because they desire sex with someone else, even if they want to preserve their relationship.
3. We generally agree on what counts as cheating.
....Unsure of what form of cybersex might upset a partner, the strategy of almost all of the men I interviewed, gay or straight, was don’t ask, don’t tell.
4. Your partner won’t stray as long as you keep your sex life exciting....
5. Most married people don’t cheat.
...For most couples, the expectation of exclusive sexual activity is unsustainable. We may need to investigate other relationship models: open arrangements, or what sex columnist Dan Savage calls “monogamish” relationships in which couples have flings, affairs or threesomes. These ways of loving, along with polyamorous relationships and even singlehood, should be as equally culturally valued as monogamy. Only when men and women are able to make sexual choices free of stigma will people be honest with their partners about their desires.
Well finally, one mention of the polyamory alternative. It's nice that he says we should be culturally valued, but coming in this context it loses some punch.
Read the whole article (Feb. 13, 2012) and leave a comment.
Discussions of the book are appearing many other places.
I'm not saying he's wrong, just short-sighted. Recognizing that for many people monogamy doesn't work (although for many others it does!) ought to be a first step toward good alternatives, not just poor ones.
We've got a long way to go in telling the world about them.