In his jaunty paper Alternative Family Lifestyles Revisited, or Whatever Happened To Swingers, Group Marriages And Communes?, family relationships professor Roger Rubin reports that only 43 of 238 societies across the world are monogamous. Many Toda women in southern India marry several brothers. Abisi women in Nigeria can marry three men on the same day. In rural Turkey, a man can marry more than one wife and each one takes on a different role. Even in the west, non-monogamy is actually the norm. Which is quite a surprise, given the psychosexual stranglehold the seventh commandment (you remember, the one about not committing adultery) has on Judaeo-Christian cultures. But it is the norm that dare not speak its name. In the US, 60% of men and 50% of women reported having extra-marital affairs. It takes the form, as Meg Barker, relationship counsellor, sex therapist and senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University, puts it “of secret, hidden infidelities rather than something that is openly known about by all involved”.
“The sex issue: Is monogamy dead?,“Stuart Jeffries
I’m still on my ‘being driven batty by media’ kick this week… The current debate over heterosexual bigotry— it is not a debate over marriage at all– is yet another case in point. The thing about bigotry is that it tends to color everything it sees. Just a few decades ago, when mixed racial marriages were outlawed (another case of legalizing bigotry) the assumption was that this “mixing” was an aberration in a history of purity.
Genetics, of course, now tells us decisively that the races don’ t even exist; people have mixed it up with people of different skin tones and hair and eye colors since the beginning of time. Now I keep hearing reporters repeat an analogous lie about heterosexual monogamous marriage, which has supposedly been around for at least 2,000 years. Only it hasn’t, or, rather, it’s been around as one form of marriage– one idea– among many.
There have always been all sorts of marriages, monogamous and not, heterosexual and not, legally recognized and not. The ideal of monogamous heterosexual marriage is a kind of bourgeois fantasy, a moral prescription and not a sociological description. It’s not one that even most Christians would have recognized a few centuries ago. This debate is not about marriage, it’s about ridding ourselves of another layer of destructive self-delusion.