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…A Dwindling Monogamy?

 By Robert V. Sesay (May 13th 2005)  

"... It is a proven statistic that only five percent of all animals in the universe practice monogamy. The remaining ninety five percent are either polygamist or live as a philandering monogamist..."


A teenage friend of mine was kicked out of her church summer camp last year when she showed up donning a T-shirt with an inscription: “Monogamy is dead… let’s get use to it.” Her parents lawyered up and consequently the camp’s facilitators readmitted her. Though the fellowship settled the squabble quietly, but also it reprimanded the family verbally for allowing their teen to don on a T-shirt which wording they considered morally repulsive and condescending to the spirit of the camp.

The issue begged a new question: can monogamy survive this century? With the recent surge of American conservatives to power, the superficial answer would be a generous yes, except that pragmatism always differs with theory. Fox Cable News’ Bill O’rally, a conservative icon for the religious right recent sexual humiliation with a female producer only epitomized that sustaining monogamy might only be a matter of public policy, but privately, one can only imagine what lies behind the iron curtain of those raging conservative hormones – the sole defenders  of monogamy.

The quest for multiple sexual conquests which for centuries has been a sole ego enclave of the male spices raging testosterone now seemed to have a major competition - the female gender. It’s becoming clear, that increasingly, higher percentage (45%) of this gender matching their male counterpart (50%) at infidelity. It’s important to remember that this is something women have long stalked and craved for equivalent only to American women anticipation to feminine vote prior to Alice Paul’s crusade at the dawn of the last century. 

The surge in the female gender desire to explore their libido outside of the accepted monogamy reams leaves us no further choice but to question, was monogamy coerced on civilization by the religious rights? Or how did human history which has traditionally align itself with the truth aloof the question of our sexual freedom for so many centuries? These were the questions I posed to Dr. Steven Canzone, a theology historian at a local Bible college in lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Canzone even took it to another level, arguing “that the origin of monogamy was not Biblical as assumed by many. No matter how much it is sanctioned legally or socially, or how righteous it is portrayed religiously, it was never originated from the Scriptures, and has never been set as the only standard for marriage by God. Monogamy originated from the Roman pagan. It was later copied by the church to the west and now it is becoming a universal value.”

“Let’s consider the word romantic.” Dr. Canzone continued:  “To be very romantic is to be very Roman. To be very Roman is to be very anti-patriarchy and very anti-God. Nevertheless, we so often declared it as holiness at every pulpit.”

Steven, married for twenty-seven years to his college sweet heart went on: “Monogamy never gained worldwide attention until the last few centuries. Not too long ago, a worldwide ethnographic survey of 849 human societies show 708 whose customs are polygamous, 4 polyandrous and 137 monogamous. Even monogamists many only do so as a matter of public persona. For instance, the Roman were known to be very monogamous, but kept mistresses and abused their maids and slaves and were also known to be very sadistic in love making.”

Would it be fair to say it’s that same trend that is continuing today? I asked Dr. Canzone again. Cocking his head repeatedly, he added: “There is not doubt it does. For the United States, it’s fair to say that the more affluent, self-sufficient, self-centered, secular and individualistic the people are the more romantically inclined and monogamous the society is. But to define monogamy as righteousness is hollow, a placebo, a false consolation and a false truth for the self-seekers and the uninformed.”

Will monogamy survive this century? “Yes,” answered Steven. “It might be more mediocre as it is now, but a century or two from now, monogamy will still be around. If it is not for anything else, but the mere symbolic value it attaches to our feeling for those we are in love with.”

But Northwestern University scholar Laura Kippnis, author of an article in Critical Inquiry about fidelity and monogamy in public life considered the swell of infidelity attributable to lots of unhappiness. She called it a social revolt and desertion to monogamy.  “Most people who chose infidelity are not getting what they want at home. Having an affair is like wildcats strikes. It’s an action, a civil action, a small attempt intended to alter their business as usual approach to their perceived happiness.  People are been told these day to work at their marriage the way they work at their job. And most people are not choosing marriage.” Laura said and went on further: “All the norms the people supposed to subscribe to make marriage work do not always work. It doesn’t bring happiness. These people are like workers who are alienated from their job.

“What is more interesting about politician and adultery is everyone has a moral impunity about it. My concern is why there is no one talking about why are people risking these perceived happiness in monogamous relation to have an affair?”

So then why is this revolt (be it clandestine or otherwise) swelling so intensely?  Laura again: “The reason is normal life or the couple form just doesn’t deliver what it supposed to. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t make people happy. “

But Robert Burney, a commentator on relation and intimacies countered that assertion: “I personally, don’t see how it would be possible for someone who was raised on this planet to have a healthy physically intimate, emotionally honest relationship with more than one person at a time.”

The irony however, is that human history which is raided with the desire of the majority to align itself with the truth in this case the majority is assumed to have cowered with the minority for centuries. It is a proven statistic that only five percent of all animals in the universe practice monogamy. The remaining ninety five percent are either polygamist or live as a philandering monogamist.  Unfortunately, monogamy continued to get the better picture, despite the reality.

While there are no qualms that the downward trajectory of monogamy is primarily being soothed by a sex induced entertainment industry in western culture, however, the bigger slice of this disintegrating monogamous relation lies with the indifference we subscribe to marriage and sex as a whole. The result is a doubled edge hypocrisy perpetuated by years of secrecies. A typical example was the former Colorado Governor Roy Romer’s 1998 public confession about his sixteen years affairs with an aide with full acknowledgement of his wife and family.

Roy who has been in a solid marriage with his wife for 45 years then argued that often time 50% of marriages ends up in divorce and those who remain married, there are signs of different feelings and different relations and all family handle it differently. He admitted that often societal norm don’t fully accommodate what we do. In fact, Roy doesn’t consider his extra marital affair as adultery. He considered himself to be in a fidelity relation for the mere fact that he told his wife and family.

While his view is up for a debate, the truth remains, there are millions of Roy Romers out there, swaggering under the banner of monogamy.

Another example of this hypocrisy has to do with the porn industry.

Today it’s estimated that pornography generates about twelve billion dollars a year. That’s more than thrice the rest of Hollywood combined.

Now, conservatives would happily tell you that said amount is not accruable or if it does, in the least, it would only be siphoned from anti-Christ - the likes that only belong to burn in Hell. Contrary to such assertion, it’s estimated that about half of that amount comes from anonymous buyers many of them either married or in monogamous relations.


No matter what the future breeds for monogamy, the trajectory is bound for a nose dive so long we human attach cowardice to our libido.  



Robert V. Sesay is a former Liberian journalist who now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is expected to make his writing debut this fall with a thriller fiction called Stolen Justice.

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