Draft 2 The Monogamy Myth
This research topic submitted by Kendra Klein and Moira Lynch
(email@example.com) on 2/26/98.
Across the world, human mating takes a variety of different forms
such as: polyandry, polygyny and monogamy. In our society, monogamy
prevails. In fact, it is the only legal form of marriage. Our
societys traditional romantic view of commitment has been depicted
as love between one man and one woman. Within our own culture,
however, various alternate forms of relationships have arisen.
Due to the dominance of different marital relationships in other
cultures than our own and the existence of non-monogamous relationship
trends within our own culture, we hypothesize that monogamy is
a socialized institution as opposed to a biological trait.
We began our research through library resources, such as books
on monogamy of human and non-human species, information from the
Internet and readings from class texts. We sifted through the
material and compared authors and researchers ideas to formulate
the above hypothesis. This hypothesis is based on information
we gathered concerning the existence of non-monogamous societies
and alternative trends within our own traditionally monogamous
Within our society alternative relationships have manifested,
posing a shift from the traditional to the companionate forms
of commitment;. These alternatives comprise what is defined as
transmarital sexuality: the transforming of the traditional notion
of marriage. Some relations within this transforming, however,
are non-committal. The relationships vary from such partnerships
as group and open marriage to swinging (swinging includes the
swapping of sexual partners, thus there is no sexual commitment).
Those who participate in the other forms of commitment believe
that the freedom these types of relations exude strengthens individual
growth. The possession of each partner included in closed marriages
is viewed as an unrealistic expectation and exploitive. These
relationships are trends within our society, a result of the sexual
liberation within the 60s. The individuals choice to become
involved in a non-monogamous relationship is socially imposed
as it is a social trend. Other cultures, however, accept a variance
in the traditional union of marriage, as the dominant form of
Every marital institution is made viable by humans capacity for
loyalty and commitment, but there are a number of other factors
affecting the stability of marriage: economics, sex ratio, religion,
and tradition. In relation to these influences, the marriage unit
is very flexible. For example, Christianitys insistence on monogamy
was subverted by other religious groups, like the celibate Shakers
and polygynous Mormons. Similarly, during the early 1900s in
Israel, kibbutzes were formed in opposition to the dominant practice
of monogamy. They created egalitarian, open marriages in order
to counter the perceived power imbalance within traditional monogamous
relationships. In other societies, non-monogamous marriages are
not a means of subversion, but are the norm. Among the Irigwe
of West Africa, a woman husband may take a woman wife in marriage
in order to gain individualized property rights - a purely economic
reason. (Leibowitz, 140) In India, the Junsar Bawar practice fraternal
polyandry, in which only the eldest brother of a family is allowed
to marry. His wife then becomes the wife of each of his brothers.
Cross-culturally, there are widely distinctive definitions of
what constitutes a marriage unit.
We also researched occurrences of monogamous relationships within
other animal species. Interestingly, we found biological evidence
supporting the existence of monogamy within a number of species,
in particular, tamarins, a rare monkey species found in northern
Colombia. A study conducted by researchers at the University of
Wisconsin proved that male and female tamarins enjoy long-term
bonds as mates and parents. When monogamous couples were separated
from one another, the mates made long calls to their absent spouses
and showed aggression toward their new partners. Researchers also
found that male tamarins produce more of the hormone prolactin
before, during and after birth of an infant. In addition, males
prolactin levels were found to rise as they acquired more caregiving
experience. These findings led researchers to believe that the
tamarins value mate fidelity, monogamy and parental care.
Our research thus far appears to adequately support our hypothesis.
The variance in commitment cross-culturally and the tendency within
our own society to rebel against the monogamous norm, have begun
the basis for our study. We would like to narrow our research
from a global perspective to a focus on relationship patterns
within our own country.
We propose to further our research by examining the rates of divorce
within our country in relation to its legality, the ease with
which it can be obtained and the religious stances on the issue.
We hope to see a positive correlation between the relaxation of
these social controls and the divorce rate. This would support
our hypothesis that monogamy is socially imposed. We plan to conduct
a survey among our peers discussing knowledge of divorce rates,
individuals experience with divorce and awareness of non-monogamous
traditions within other societies. We also plan to ask about individuals
opinions on the nature of human loyalty. We are curious about
humans tendency and desire to commit to one or more persons regardless
of social constructions. Through the survey and further research
we hope to determine whether loyalty is inherent to the human
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