Rants: Monogamy

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December 7, 2010


Note: Adult language

December is, by far, the most popular time for proposals.  Men wanting to cash in on the holiday happiness think that there is no way she will say no during the holidays.  What they don't realize is that women have stuffed themselves silly at all the Christmas parties and now they think you're the best they'll do.  Kidding....she loves you.  But can you stay faithful to her?

25% of married males cheat.  Congratulations on your engagement.

Is the desire for new meat simply to keep life interesting?  To find a more beautiful, younger, healthier woman to brag about? Or is a fundamental part of human nature?  The quest of monogamy has so far proved unsuccessful (50% divorce rate) so maybe this idea of ‘mate-for-life’ is a whole lotta biological bunk.

Host: Torah Kachur

Photo credits:  Wikimedia Users: Nicolas Chaveau, Samuel Blanc, Luke Ford, Zyance, Kabir Bakie, Akkrabim, Ragesoss;,



Vincent VanRiesen on April 13, 2010
I am SO posting this on all my girlfriends' facebook walls
Jordan Tran on April 20, 2010
WOW!! Torah you definitely know how to put an evolutionary spin on everything... Even Tiger Woods! Well done!
Guy on May 11, 2010
As a monogomas 60 year old male married to the same woman for 40 years I highly recommend the book "The Ses Starved Marriage" to women who wonder why men are forced to look elsewhere for love (emotionally satisfying love that, from a man's perspective, includes the physical) after a woman goes through menopause and thereafter could care less about the needs of her mate.
biologist on May 11, 2010
this is sociobiological b.s. it may be we're not biologically programmed to be monogamous, just like we're not biologically programmed to drive cars, go to college, and work jobs, either. we humans differ from other primates in countless ways, including the ability for rational thought. if you don't believe in monogamy, then don't get married ... it's THAT simple. but please, don't tell me or my husband we should be acting like gorillas. i would hate for him to throw feces on me when we have our next argument ... or worse, kill our son because he suspects the son is not his.
So True on May 11, 2010
Very true, THis happens everyday and everywhere, to mostly everyone, some take is easy, and some dont....Some have the guts to face it, and some are in denial!!!
biologist2 on May 12, 2010
Thankfully, I don't throw feces at my wife either. But just because we are biologically not 'programmed' to be monogamous doesn't mean that we aren't monogamous based on our social structures. Maybe we can override our biological programming to be faithful and committed. Just because we may think to cheat, doesn't mean we aren't faithful.
Ecologist on May 12, 2010
@ biologist: I don't think the video is encouraging humans to behave like gorillas at all. It is simply stating that our ancestors were not monogamous so to equate monogamy with what's natural for humans is biologically inaccurate. I don't think the video ever commits the naturalistic fallacy (i.e., equating what is "natural" with what is "good"). I personally think that expecting all humans to be capable of monogamy is like expecting all humans to resist high-calorie foods that have lots of fats and sugars. It requires a lot of effort and self-control, and we probably shouldn't be surprised that many fail. We shouldn't automatically demonize those who fail either.
Peter Piper on May 12, 2010
I'd definitely go on a date with her.
Josh F. on May 12, 2010
I agree. Just acknowledging that something isn't biologically natural doesn't necessarily mean it's impossible, and even facing this fact could make it easier for us to attempt for couples who feel they want to commit to each other. And just trying to conform to a standard that doesn't come naturally could be responsible for the... hello??? 50% divorce rate, and MUCH higher infidelity rate that isn't reported.
Vincent VanRiesen on May 12, 2010
@Biologistconsidering your white knuckle grasp of the concepts being discussed in this video, I'm not convinced you're even remotely close to being a biologist.
someone on May 12, 2010
oh my god that was the most embarrassing explanation of science and evolution i've seen in a long time.

thanks for trying... i guess...
someone again on May 12, 2010
ok quick responses.

"It is simply stating that our ancestors were not monogamous so to equate monogamy with what's natural for humans is biologically inaccurate."

sorry, wrong! extant organisms are not our ancestors. our ancestors lived millions of years ago, remember? given the rate of social evolution (and maybe you also noticed our brains are slightly different) it would be strange to make any conclusions about what we are "evolutionarily programmed" to do based on very distant relatives.

"considering your white knuckle grasp of the concepts being discussed in this video, I'm not convinced you're even remotely close to being a biologist."

um actually biologist doesn't show any lack of understanding of biological concepts. she just ends up with a different conclusion than you. get used to it.

in the video, she says monogamy makes evolutionary sense because it increases the survival of your offspring? wrong again! why would any animal be monogamous if this were the case? you also need to consider other factors like parental care, etc. that contribute to the survival of offspring. and given that humans take almost 1.5 decades to reach adulthood, I guarantee you that parental care is an important factor in our reproductive strategies.

there's lots more but i won't waste my time
The Altruist on May 13, 2010
First off you need to do some fact checking, or at least be more specific in your comments. The "mormon" pologomist sect was actually excommunicated. The main LDS church actually is very much rooted in monogamy. (Temple marriage for eternity, hello?) Futhermore the idea that simply spreading your genes ensures survival is simplistic at best. Only if your offspring survive to reproduce themselves, do you in turn survive. If you're offspring die however then you're screwed. That's where monogamy comes in. If you focus your energy in a single mate, and a single set of offspring, you increase their chances of surviving, and therefore you surviving, to the next generation. You should read Born to Be Good by Dacher Keltner. Also you did not mention the percentage of women that cheat on their men. And you implied that men have less emotional needs than women. Is it so hard to conceive that men might cheat for emotional rather than physical reasons? Motivation beyond one's pure libido, which in itself can be affected by a host of emotional factors, must be considered. This article is sexist.
Torah Kachur May 13, 2010
@ someone - certainly there are different degrees of parental care and reproductive strategies. k and r selection strategies are always a trade off of quality and quantity of offspring.

In the video, we state that it is the survival of the offspring - not the quantity of them that is key. Therefore, it is not inaccurate to say that the goal of any mate pairing is to produce offspring that reaches a reproductive age - whether they choose to have thousands of kids and abandon them at birth or have one that they spoil rotten just hoping they have kids too. Those are the extremes - polygamy is one strategy that combines these two - have a dozen or so kids from multiple partners to hopefully get one that becomes as smart and successful as yourself.

As far as discussing our ancestral reproductive strategies - this isn't merely talking about primates and gorilla sex. There is certainly historical record of ancient civilizations where monogamy wasn't the norm. Marriage, and the concept of lifelong monogamy is a relatively new invention.

@ Altruist - you are correct. The mainstream LDS church has certainly voiced very strong opinions against polygamous practices of the early church. However, those like Warren Jeffs and Winston Blackmore feel that they represent the true Mormon teachings. Of course, mormon polygamist cults, or however you want to label them, are a huge minority in an otherwise popular religion.

Yes, women cheat. Statistics on frequency of infidelity range practically from 0-100% depending on the source, so I don't feel comfortable quoting a figure here. Women do physically betray mates less than men... I am assuming here that we are only talking about physical betrayal - emotional betrayal is an entirely new discussion (and a big huge grey area about what constitutes emotional betrayal)

For those of you who are still skeptical that I have any idea what I'm talking about - there has been lots of research done. One particular article that you may find informative is found here:

Vincent VanRiesen on May 13, 2010
@douchebags-who-think-monogamy-is-anything-but-a-modern-cultural-impediment: The further you explore back in human history, the more evidence you'll discover among the "alpha" population that sexual monogamy was anything but the norm. Don't confuse the history of official unions vs sexual polyamory. The pressure to be sexually monogamous has largely been forged from the constraints inflicted by the dominant religions. There is a great deal of sociological evidence demonstrating the benefits of monogamy for the homogenized society preconceived by the church...our modern human condition was not carved out by instinct as much as forcefully and violently mandated by clergy. In the past few decades, it appears as though the western world may be at a cusp where the religious grip on social-sexual tenets is yielding to skeptical thought en mass. Personally, I would expect to see a broad diversity of sexual convention bloom in the wake of relaxed spirituality as fundamentalism fails to adapt and provide guidance humans need to survive as a species in the dawning age of resource depletion, climate change, birth control, equal rights, and overpopulation.
Mikey S on May 14, 2010
If men cheat more than women who do they cheat with ? Is one woman sleeping wit everyone ? And why does nobody ever look at opportunity or social status in these studies. My experience is that Given the opportunity women are as promiscuous as men they just don't want anyone to know. In many societies the social structure gives them less opportunity.

Most women when asked for a count of sexual partners will not include one night stands or affairs with their boss. As a good friend said when I asked her how many sex partners she would confess to a new boyfriend " it varies but I always like to keep it under ten"
Jennifer on May 15, 2010
And I'm sure men tend to estimate high when asked the numbers question from friends.

"If you focus your energy in a single mate, and a single set of offspring, you increase their chances of surviving, and therefore you surviving, to the next generation."

Sounds like a nuclear family.

You, your partner, and your offspring could also increase their chance of survival by being part of a group.
secureandhappyinmonogamy on July 07, 2010
This is a joke, right? If so, I think some people are taking it seriously, which is scary. If this isn't a joke, you really need to think about what you're trying to do in the name of science on a website that supposedly has an educational aim. This little rant is not about science. Piecing together a few factoids with a little bit of pseudo-rational discourse that then lead to over-arching conclusions is not science. Since when can a phrase like "monogamy has been unsuccessful" be backed up by "50% divorce rate" and be called good science? This is gross oversimplification. Perhaps this was your point, as part of the joke?

According to this little video and trying to follow the logic, polygamy is looking like that best option, biologically. Let me know how being part of some guy's harem turns out. I'm sticking to an "unnatural" nuclear family with monogamous head-of-households. We're pretty happy that way and it certainly feels good.
Angela Aguero on July 15, 2010
It isn't that simple. Humans are also biologically inclined to be violent - yet as intelligent and emotional beings, we strive to reach a higher level of development. Sexual behavior that ignores this fact typically leads to all kinds of serious complications - disease, emotional damage, and the break up of family units are some of the major complications that come to mind. Look what happened to Tiger Woods: He had a beautiful wife and children along with a wonderful reputation, then lost it all.
What it all comes down to is selfishness. If you are selfish, you will cheat on the person you say you love. If you are not selfish, you will be monogamous, which will benefit you, your family, and society.
Torah Kachur July 16, 2010
Of course monogamy is likely better in the long run - the more parental input from monogamous (compared to polygamous) relationships ensure that the few offspring we have are more successful. I'm not saying monogamy isn't biologically or emotionally possible - it's just that our biology drives us to temptation and it is a continual battle to not follow that.

Hopefully, it's a biological struggle most of us win!
Joe O on June 15, 2011
I think the whole premise is flawed and ridiculous. While it may be true that humans are not naturally monogamous, we are also not naturally liars. Monogamy is a choice one makes, usually along with a commitment to an honest relationship with another. Infidelity is also a choice, made in complete disregard of said commitment.
Joe O on June 15, 2011
An after-thought, what of human actions that go against natural / biological programming, for example abandoning offspring, drug and alcohol use, suicide, etc.
JZ on August 16, 2011
Statistically, women cheat more than men.
It's easy to look up.
Just another man-bashing feminist construction.
JZ on August 16, 2011
I had stated that statistically women actually cheat more than men.
Most studies will show the rates running at
men cheating approx 10% more often than women.
I stand by my statement.
The following is a good article by
Cassandra George Sturges that explains the discrepancy in the numbers. She explains that even though women actually do cheat more, many women define cheating differently (even though it's exactly the same thing. A sexual encounter(s) outside their committed relationship.



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