Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

March 11, 2016

Dan Savage's devastating reply to Helen Fisher

That New York Times story a couple days ago? The Secrets to an Open Marriage According to Mo’Nique? Which quoted the once-respected anthropologist Helen Fisher saying she just somehow knows these things "never end up working long-term"?

Dan Savage just published a takedown:

Dan Savage in 2013
...The Oscar-winning actress [Mo'Nique] and her husband [Sidney Hicks] are double rarity: not just a straight couple who aren't in the closet about their open marriage, but a famous straight couple in an openly open marriage.

...[Writer Tammy] La Gorce gets a few quotes from someone who comes across as pretty sane about open marriages — Douglas LaBier, a psychologist and the director of the Center for Progressive Development — but La Gorce pretty much hands the rest of the piece over to someone who has clearly lost her mind: Helen Fisher, author, "biological anthropologist at the Kinsey Institute" (RIP Kinsey Institute), and shill for a dating website, where Fisher has been doing important research on the best strategy for getting a second date (take 'em out for sushi) and what it means when a person uses a lot of emojis (they're horny as fuck).

...Where to start?

With Fisher's insulting claim to know better than Mo’Nique and Hicks how Mo’Nique and Hicks really feel about their marriage? (They only think they're happy, those deluded human animals!) With Fisher's yanked-from-her-ass assertions about evolutionary pressures that supposedly endowed all modern humans with genes that allow for just one type of romantic "bond" (only pairs, always sexually exclusive!) and just one successful "mating process" (only pairs, again, and it's all about the kids!)? With Fisher's assertion — offered without any data to back it up — that open marriages "never end up working long-term"?

Let's start with that.

"Just because there is a lack of good data on the longevity of open relationships does not mean that 'they never work out,'" said Dr. Debby Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University. "Saying 'they never work out' goes beyond any data she has; I would ask her to prove it. Where are her data? I know of none to support that."

Dr. Herbenick has data that contradicts Fisher's "they never work out" and "all people in non-monogamous couples are secretly miserable" bullshit.

"Similar proportions of men in monogamous and open relationships say they are happy in their relationship and sexually satisfied," said Dr. Herbenick, citing ACTUAL FUCKING DATA from the IU School of Public Health's 2014 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. "For women, more women in monogamous relationships say that they are happy in their relationship and sexually satisfied. But that doesn't mean none are happy or satisfied, as plenty are."

...On a personal note/anecdote: my husband and I recently celebrated our 21st anniversary and our marriage has been open for 17 of those years. Hey, maybe Terry and I need Helen Fisher to swing by the house and explain to us how we're really secretly miserable, just like Mo'Nique and Hicks....

Moving on...

Fisher's bizarre theory of brain adjacency: the chunks of our brainz involved in romantic love are located near the chunks of brainz that "orchestrate" thirst and hunger and that's why there's no such thing as a successful open marriage. CASE CLOSED!

That sounded like complete bullshit — and not just to me.

"It is a rather odd claim to say that the reason a phenotypic trait will operate the way it does is because a particular brain region responsible for it is adjacent to other brain regions which do something else," said Dr. Qazi Rahman, King's College London. "That kind of model of brain-behaviour relationships would generate all sorts of very odd predictions which most neuroscientists or neuropsychologists would find strange. But then all behaviour and mental activity is 'in the brain' and so I'm not clear making these sorts of claims does any useful explanatory work for behavioural scientists."

"There is an entire network of the brain involved in romantic love," said Dr. James Pfaus.... [Fisher] doesn’t get it. She has never gotten it. Her view of the brain is a neurochemical phrenology."

..."I spoke with Helen at a conference once," a researcher who did not wish to be identified told me in an email. "Helen said there is a single gene that will determine whether a man cheats or not. We carefully explained why this couldn't be so.”

Fisher, like so many other hacks in the love-and-relationship racket, wants sex and love and marriage to work in a certain way — they insist it only works this one way — and this monogamist bias informs and distorts Fisher's work.

"I enjoy Helen's stuff, but think she's blind to her cultural bias on this one," said Dr. David Ley. "I'd be interested in whether she truly thinks monogamy 'works' long-term, given divorce and infidelity rates. I think the most damaging piece of Fisher's approach is her generalization of her beliefs to all humans. The valuable thing about modern relationships is the ability to individually negotiate a relationship, based upon each partners' needs, strengths and deficits."...

Those are highlights; see the whole article (March 11, 2016).


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Blogger John U said...

The first thing someone needs to tell "Fisher is that ethically open people don't always come as married couples. Certainly not legally married. And I can point to plenty of people who have been open, i e polys or swingers for decades. Finally how many polys who are, on the average as happy as monos, does it take for proof of concept? For powered flight it only took one instance to prove it was possible in the midst of hundreds of failures. I think it is on Fisher to prove that we are significantly less happy than monos or singles, for that matter.

March 11, 2016 8:30 PM  
Blogger Dan Rudd said...

A bit rich coming from DS, he's been positively nasty towards poly families in the past. But when fucking around is attacked he comes rushing to the defense. I despise Dan Savage.

March 12, 2016 7:13 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Actually, Dan Savage has come around to respecting poly families in recent years. He even apologized for snarks he once said.

March 12, 2016 9:22 AM  
Blogger andy gladish said...

I wonder if Dan has read Fisher's books- if so he'd be able to comment on her well constructed theory that we quite recently came from tribal societies that didn't sanctify monogamy as we do, and contained serial pair bonding and multiple affairs as normal behavior.
Assuming that she's a Monogamy Purist because she did some work for Match, and that she's off her rocker because someone claims that she said something easily disproven is pretty thin.

September 09, 2020 11:51 PM  

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