Long Beach, CA – According to a lecturer at the TED2013 conference, monogamy is not a natural state for men or women.
TED2013 — The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered. — is winding down from a near week-long conference which began on February 25, 2013 and ends today in Long Beach, California.
TED stands for: Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED’s is a nonprofit with a mission to spread ideas by bringing together “the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives, in 18 minutes or less.” The inspirational or controversial topics are performed by scientists, artists, and activists alike.
During Thursday’s Session 9: Indelicate Conversation, psychologist Christopher Ryan divulged his perception of the prehistoric roots of human sexuality. While exploring the vastness of human sexuality Ryan announced people are built to be promiscuous, and not monogamous. Monogamy is the practice of having a single sexual and or marital partner; ideally betrothed to a lone mate for a lifetime.
Ryan noted the standard narrative of human sexuality as one where men have bargained for women’s sexual functions by being providers and hunters. In turn women have complied for benefit and protection. However the problem with this narrative, according to Ryan, is the origin of human civilization doesn’t support this model. Before the advent of agriculture, we lived in hunter-gatherer societies that were fiercely egalitarian, where everything was shared.
Instead Ryan made a genetic comparison of humans being similar to chimps, who are notoriously promiscuous. They mate for the purposes of bonding and reproduction, not pairing up to adhere to social convention of sexual exclusivity.
(Christopher Ryan: Why is Sex Such a Big Deal?)
In an effort to conform to certain societal expectations, many people fall into the trap of serial monogamy. Serial monogamy is described as a societal mating practice in which individuals engage in sequential monogamous pairings; breaking up and moving along quickly into another relationship.
Ryan defined the state of monogamy as something imposed by puritanical society and not a genetic disposition. Due to basic primal urges, both men and women can be equally capable and driven to promiscuity.
To sum up, “Just because you have chosen to be a vegetarian, doesn’t mean that bacon stops smelling good.” Just because we live in societies that generally organize around monogamous principles does not mean monogamy is the natural state of human sexuality.
Ryan is the co-author (along with his wife Cacilda Jethá) of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships. The book argues the same evolutionary egalitarian hunter-gatherer principle where sex was a communal resource and not a monogamous one.
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