So why is monogamy the standard practice in society today? Is monogamy the 'natural' way of life for humans? Certainly, in the animal kingdom, only a small percentage of animals practice monogamy, and it is because of practicality rather than fidelity that they do so.
But what about us humans? It is a cultural and societal norm that we are attuned towards a marriage involving 2 parties and thus we may think it is the 'natural order' of things. But if so, why is there a prevalence of adultery? If commitment to a life partner is 'in the natural order of things', there will hardly be the not-so secret temptation of extra-maritial sexual relationships.
It is of course common knowledge between the sexes it is man who have more inclination to commit adultery. This is due to the inherent nature of the sex, where sperm production is cheap and his primal instinct is to spread his seed (and genetic material) to as many as possible. In contrast, women are the ones who have a finite fertility period. Furthermore, they are the ones who will bear the child should they be impregnated, along with the responsibility of nurturing them. Naturally, they are more inclined to be picky or choosy about who they develop sexual relationships with.
*Sidetrack: For people who have always pondered the age-old paradox of 'how is it possible that more men than women are having illicit sex? Shouldn't the numbers be the same?' should always consider the Village Bicycle Theorem.
Similarly it is also common knowledge that attractive individuals get more interest sexually. However, while attractive females will choose only the 'cream of the crop', attractive males will take advantage of their superiority to spread their seed around as much as possible. Thus, an attractive male will not only 'get the girl' but he will get all the girls.
So where does that leave the mediocre males? Thats right. They get nothing. Winner takes all. That is why the Emperor gets all the Concubines and the peasants toil in the fields with scant reward. Perhaps this is also why monogamy was introduced.
Our contemporary society is hardly like those of days past. These days, we champion democracy, equality. While actual equality is an impossibility, laws and norms strive toward such a structure. To be fair to all the men and women, the law of marriage decrees that each person is only entitled to one partner. Monogamous marriage is a contract between two individuals, an institution incorporated in response to the modern social climate. Which is all well and good for the previously mediocre men and women, since they are now handed a better chance in an even playing field. Rather than the Alpha Male getting all the babes, theoretically he is only entitled to one. Therefore everyone has an 'equal' chance to each stake their claim on a partner.
Of course, the genetic quality of our species will be compromised, but this is partially negated because a monogamous relationship structure is a very ideal environment in to nurture a child. Nature (genetic) and Nurture are equally important in a child's development. One partner, the breadwinner, brings in the dough. The other partner, the nurturer, takes care of the children, giving them the love that is so essential in the developing years of a child. The ideal family.
However, the emphasis towards materialism has perhaps cast serious doubt on this once great medium to raise a child. These days, it is not enough for one parent to be working. Usually, both parties are out working, leaving the child to the attention of a third party, usually a nanny or child care centre. Thus the very basis for this family structure is undermined. Rather than task specialisation, each contributing to an aspect of family life, there is an oversupply of providence and a consequent undersupply of nurture. The highly artificial nature of monogamy then becomes farcical. And this is not even considering the even uglier aspects of a divorce.
[Of course, this is an extreme pessimistic view. There are many successful marriages out there which do not fall within this bleak scenario]
*To be continued
*For purposes of this essay, issues of companionship are not considered. Drop a comment if you wish to hear my views on companionship issues.
*For purposes of this essay, Monagamy refers to a legally recognised marriage between two individuals of the opposite sex.
Postnote: Many thanks to HUICHIEH who shared an article by J.Morse, who takes a 'libertarian' perspective and argues that marriage is a natural and necessary social institution. I have read the article only after completion of this essay. Many points raised here already rebutts her myopic generalisations especially pertaining towards the 'spontataneous natural tendency of marriage' and the inability to differentiate between a legalised union between 2 parties and a union between 2 parties by pure informalised consent, ie non-married coupling. In addition her language reeks of putting forward points in favour of an idealistic hypothetical perfect marriage as opposed to a realistic marriage. I may attempt a counter-rebuttal to other points she raises in a future post (if I have the time).