Monogamy vs. Polyamory– an Asexual Perspective
Remember my post about how monogamy isn’t natural, tackling where to go from there? The always stimulating David Jay, founder of the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, pressed me further on it, and had some interesting insights. This is a G-Chat between he and I a week ago.
David: Ok, here’s what I don’t get– if you’re talking about marmots, whatever, they can have “natural mating habits” because their ability to form social relationships is pretty basic, by human standards. There aren’t many powerful factors other than mating to define how their relationships work
David: But humans are different, our relationships are highly complex–in the complexity theory sense of the word– they have crazy emergent properties which means that they are, by their very nature, unpredictable from their component parts. So if you take a component part (sexual drive) and put it in the mix you don’t get a predictable outcome (monogamy or polyamory).
RW: Also, from psychology we understand human relationships and sex to be built on things much more complex than biology.
David: Take eating. We have an instinct to eat, right? Pretty primal. But the actions that we take to eat and therefore, our entire concept of eating, is that instinctual or cultural? Going to a restaurant, ordering a burrito, those are the things I do when I’m hungry.
RW: So, you think it’s problematic that we go toward ev psych theories about sex and try to prove everything about human relationships with them?
David: Right, it’s like saying “our ancestors liked food that they could carry around for their migrant lifestyle, and that’s why we like burritos, they’re easy to carry.”
David: It’s all about how sexual instincts interact with the millions of other factors. I mean, do people really think that modern intimate relationships are primarily about human sex drive?
RW: Yeah I know what you are saying. But it seems to an extent, yes–many people assume a relationship ends when the sex dwindles.
RW: But from your view, sex is mostly about relationships/culture rather than instinct?
David: Yes. Well, instinct heavily mediated by relationships, culture and other human needs. It’s not some raw expression of human instinct, sex is as socially constructed as the iphone at this point…
David: I’ve found that the evo bio stuff tends to be a little loose on the actual paleontology, like the book “Why We Love” which argues that human mating patterns are based on the needs of savanna life–how women needed men to look after them, and that shaped their sexuality. The usual argument.
RW: “Sex Before Dawn” argues it’s from the needs of hunter gatherers.
David: Hunters and gathers who lived in tribes of 75-150 which were essentially communes… that’s our whole evolutionary advantage, we’re not polyamorous or monogamous, we’re tribal.
RW : So what do you think should be the take away for modern people?
David: I mean, in my worldview, we’re primarily wired for communities, not partners. Partners matter but they matter in the context of all of the other relationships in your life. So you have to look at the big picture if you want to be happy and figure out how your sexual and romantic needs fit into it.