A lot of people have accused me of “attacking monogamy.” I’m not exactly sure what to make of that. I don’t know why anyone would take offense to me attacking a concept, but I suppose what people are really saying is they feel that I am attacking them personally.
I can assure any of you who feel personally attacked, I have never had any of you – as individuals or couples – specifically in mind while writing about my journey into polyamory. In fact, I’m not thinking about you at all. I’m writing about MY experience (and perhaps unconsciously generalizing a bit while doing it).
Rather than seeing myself as “attacking monogamy,” I see monogamy as attacking me. I see myself as a former slave to the institution/system/CULTure of monogamy/marriage – one who didn’t even know she had another choice, until recently. I couldn’t envision myself in another paradigm, another reality, another culture, in another time and place.
To me, after reading Sex at Dawn, monogamy represents so much more than two people being restricted to having sex with only each other. It is part and parcel to the enslavement of the human race.
Monogamy is a product of slavery, and also perpetuates it
Yes, I know you think I’m being dramatic. I am… but for good reason. The book posits that once upon a time (for thousands of years prior to agriculture) we lived in a Garden-of-Eden-like paradise, where naked, happy, healthy people roamed the earth like a playground, plucking nuts and berries from trees and popping them into their mouths as they went. They had lots and lots of sex, whenever they felt like it, with almost all the members of their tribe, and sometimes with neighboring tribes, to ease tensions, strengthen community bonds and make peace with neighbors (an ancient form of diplomacy, if you will).
They were taller, stronger, healthier, lived longer, worked less (17 hours a week on average) and had lots of free time for playing, napping, exploring, sampling the fruits, plants and medicines of the earth, music-making, love-making, spiritual awakening, etc.
Instead of roaming the earth for food that grew, or “fattened,” itself, and presented itself on a green platter, they plopped themselves down on a piece of land and decided to dig deep down, under the green, into the brown soil – to till it, to plant it, to water it, to weed it, to fight and toil with it until it produced what they craved – bread, the fullness of bread. (And now I am borrowing insight from the book The Vegetarian Myth as well).
And for this bread, they raped the earth. As they extracted the richness of the planet’s 10 inches of top soil, they went forth and multiplied, and multiplied and multiplied. The false sense of food security gave them the confidence to keep multiplying, beyond the carrying capacity of their former hunting range, and over time, beyond the carrying capacity of the earth.
When they had depleted the nutrients of one plot of land, they moved on to the next, and the next – all the while having babies at unsustainable rates. When the world started getting crowded, people began marking off property lines – “you and your offspring stay on your land, I’ll stay on mine,” the men said to each other. “You eat your fatted calf, I’ll eat mine… if you have more than you can eat, sacrifice it as a burnt offering to the high god.”
With a predictable surplus of resources to be found in the same location everyday, there was no longer a need to cooperate and share with one’s neighbors to ensure food security. Instead, there was a need to build grain houses and fences, to keep your neighbors out and your property in.
To make one feel like his life spent collecting property was not a waste, he usually wanted to pass his collection on to offspring from his own loin, so they could continue “living” his “life” for him. For this, he must ensure “his” woman’s sexual fidelity. For this, wives had to commit to sexual monogamy with their husbands, although husbands could have sex with as many women as they could afford. Thus women became property and their sex organs a commodity.
Over time, I’m sure, this didn’t seem fair and women demanded that men suffer the same sexual deprivation. Thus, men were also bound – at least in the public eye – to sexual monogamy.
The misery of agriculture and monogamy
In addition to the deprivation of sexual freedom – and the thus, the deprivation of sexual enjoyment and fulfillment – because of agriculture, humans have had to suffer through thousands of years of hard, back-breaking work.
With the accumulation of “capital” that farming enabled, came the accumulation of wealth and power. Instead of working together to make sure all members of the tribe were fed and taken care of, tribes were destroyed. People became rugged individuals, out for themselves and the fruit of their own loins only. They competed instead of cooperating. They hired watchmen, soldiers, then entire armies to defend their land. When their land was no longer productive, they stole more land.
When there was no more land to steal, they dug deeper into the earth and extracted oil. They used the oil (synthetic fertilizers) to “enrich” the nutrient-deficient topsoil and to power the machines that sowed and reaped from the evermore reluctant earth. The “green revolution” they called it.
Freeing up a little man power, and giving a new false sense of food security, the people of the earth multiplied again, especially in the 1950s, keeping the pyramid scheme going a little longer. From then on, it wasn’t so much land that people were interested in stealing from one another – it was oil.
The oil kept the bread coming and human (especially Western) bellies filled. As long as our bellies were full we decided it was a good idea to keep having babies. And then that generation of babies grew up… and developed cancer, heart disease, diabetes and every other disease you can imagine. Not only are they starved of nutrients (even if loaded with calories), they are over-worked and over-stressed. The common man is not benefiting from machines doing the farm work – the accumulators of capital are. And when the oil runs out? I don’t know. Mass starvation? (Oh well, it’s way more humane than abortion… sarcasm).
A potential alternative
Now population growth is finally slowing (a little), thank intelligence. People are interested in more sustainable forms of agriculture, permaculture, the Paleo diet, rewilding, primitive lifestyles, living in tribal or village-like communities. We have our silicon and petroleum-based computers and internet waves to help wake us back up, to prompt us to ask questions – like “why is life so fucking hard?” and “has it always been this way?” and “does it always have to be this way?” – to enable us to share information and form “cyber villages.” Who knows, hopefully someday, we can turn those cyber villages back into real villages, with real, live people who work and play together and with the earth, instead of against it.
And you know what makes healthy, happy, functioning villages? Sex. “Oh God, not sex again… why does everything have to be about sex with you, Sara? What about ensuring everyone has real food, clean water, shelter? Isn’t that more important?” Sure. Those are all important. You know how to best ensure everyone has those things? Easing tensions and strengthening social bonds to enable people to cooperate, work together and share. You know how to do that? Sex. Rampant sex. Almost all members of the tribe having sex with each other. According to Sex at Dawn, that’s how our primitive ancestors did it, and how bonobos and some modern hunter-gatherer tribes still do it today.
Take it or leave it, but I’m willing to test their theory. If you’re truly happy with monogamy, stick to it. But I for one am miserable in it. Uh, uh, uh – wait – I didn’t say “I’m miserable with Brad,” for all of you who want to pin the blame on him or me for not fulfilling our “marital” duties. I said I’m miserable in monogamy.
I love Brad more than any other man on the earth at this current moment. What I don’t love is putting all of my eggs in one basket. I don’t love being dependent on him and him alone to fulfill all of my emotional, financial, sexual, romantic, intellectual, recreational and spiritual needs. “Hello-o? Haven’t you ever heard of friends?”
Yes. I have friends. But because of our culture’s obsessive fear that if we’re looking to friends to meet too many of the above-mentioned needs we might – oops – slip up and have sex with them, or even just be sexually attracted to them (as if these were bad things), we keep our “friends” at very safe distances, so as to not threaten the exalted sexually monogamous relationship.
We don’t play and work with our friends day in and day out. We work, work, work, work and work some more, in isolation, and then we schedule a once-a-month girl’s night out, where we get wasted and complain about our boyfriends or husbands. Awesome. Sign me up.
Well… I think I’ve said all I needed to say today. If you want monogamy, keep it. I’m not pushing polyamory on you, you and your CULTure are pushing monogamy on me. I’m just here to let you know there’s an alternative.