THROUGHOUT the history of mankind, most societies have practised a range of relationships, with monogamy and polygyny being the most common. Historically, polygyny has been one of the most prevalent forms of marriage worldwide, with evidence that the marriage of a single male to multiple females has been accepted in all human cultures from time immemorial.
In the Middle Ages, the polygynous trend began to decline. The Christian church gained more influence in Western European societies and encouraged monogamy, but this did not reduce the extent of polygynous mating outside of marriage. (Polygyny refers to the custom of a man having more than one wife, whereas polygamy refers to the practice of either a man or a woman having multiple partners.)
There are many reasons that account for the acceptance of monogamy as the norm in Western societies. Some reasons include religious affiliations, relative ease of determining paternity, what is accepted as right and proper behaviour, upholding the principle of faithfulness, and a form of protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
But is this the natural order of things? Dr Karen Carpenter, clinical sexologist and host of
Love & Sex on
Nationwide 90FM, said that monogamy, like other forms of social organisation, is learned behaviour and doesn’t come naturally.
She explained that biologists have proven that even animals which were previously thought to be monogamous — such as wolves and penguins — are not.
As such, the clinical sexologist explained that it becomes difficult for many to adhere to monogamy because we have no socialisation for what to do when we become attracted to a second or third person.
So why do modern societies insist on it? Dr Carpenter said the reason Western society opted for monogamy was to ensure paternity, as men wanted to know that the children were theirs.
On the flip side, some people will admit that monogamy is unnatural, but the feeling of being with one person is ‘nice’. In such a situation, Dr Carpenter explained that monogamy can be learned and offers more sexual security; however, it is not a guarantee that the relationship will last.
Additionally, people tend to think that men are more likely to be polygamous, but Dr Carpenter said that women defy the constructs of monogamy just like men.
“Many women in our society have sex with men who are not monogamous. Women also have multiple partners,” she said.
Many relationships which start out being monogamous may end because a partner desires to be polygamous. In this instance, Dr Carpenter said it’s best to either go your separate ways or have a polygamous relationship in which each partner gets what they want.
Below readers tell
All Woman their views regarding whether or not monogamy is natural.
It’s not natural, but it can be achieved. I think if you have that level of affection for someone, you should be able to have enough respect for them to exercise self-control.
Yes, it is unnatural, because the Bible says Solomon was the wisest man and Solomon had many wives. God was good to him, so why wouldn’t he be good to me?
Monogamy is socially constructed and not everyone adheres to social values. But I think if you enter a relationship you should say from the start what you’re about and what you want. You have relationships that are open and they work, so be honest at the start.
Though we are not designed that way, by God’s grace I think we are able to manage and be committed to one partner. So for me it’s twofold — not natural, but achievable.
You have two kingdoms — animals and plants. As humans we fall into the animal kingdom and we’re classified as mammals. Collectively, animals are not monogamous, so no, it is not natural. However, if you really want to get technical, it’s better to be monogamous — saves heartache, daddy issues, wondering if you have an infection or deadly disease. There are fewer problems with relationships in monogamy..
When people are monogamous, it’s a desire that they have to be that way. You must have a purpose in your mind that you want to stick with one person.