The Myth of Monogamy

The Myth of Monogamy


The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People David Barish and Judith Eve Lipton came out in 2001.  Margaret Mead said that monogamy is the hardest of human marital arrangements. It is also one of the rarest.  It is unusual and difficult despite society telling us it is the normal standard.

Polygamy is the practice of men having more than one woman or wife.  Polyandry, on the other hand, is the practice of women having more than one man or husband.  Poly simply means many, so many go by the label polygamous.  For the sake of biology the authors use the terms EPC, which stands for Extra-Pair Copulation for cheating and IPC or Intra-pair Copulation to refer to married couples or mates.

Animals in Love

Many males throughout the animal kingdom seek out various females to mate with.  Males have many sperm to spread whereas the female has so few eggs.  On a biological level this makes sense.  The propagation of the species may depend on the males having many offspring with many mates.  A female, once impregnated, has to gestate and give birth, which takes time.  The males don’t wish to wait to mate with that particular female again later.Zebras may mate with up to four females in one day.  However, after their mate gives birth they can stay faithful.


Unattractive males guard their mates more closely. What is considered attractive? Symmetry is considered attractive.  Low or uneven symmetry is considered unattractive across the species.  The more attractive a animal or person is, the more likely they will have affairs or EPCs.

But what animals have devoted fathers?  Foxes, coyotes, beavers, gibbons and marmosets.  What ones lack devoted fathers? Woodchucks, porcupines, squirrels, deer, wildebeests, cougars and bears.

 Lion Father

Rape does occur in the animal kingdom. It was observed that several male geese attacked a female goose in the wild.  It was violent and did not appear consensual.  But there is the question of free will in the animal kingdom.  Interestingly, some females, chickens and snakes in particular, can create coitus interuptus.  They can shake out unwanted sperm.

Males aren’t the only ones who copulate frequently. Females in the animal kingdom can be initiate or be willing to mate frequently as well.  Lions may copulate as frequently as every 15 minutes day and night during the female’s four day long cycle.

Divorce is closely related to adultery in humans and animals.  Yes, animals have their own sort of divorce.  There are many reasons for animals to divorce.  It may be incompatibility; however it is usually because of an EPC.  An animal may have an “affair” to see if there is a better mate for them out there. If they determine the EPC to be a better mate, then they will leave their current mate.

CaughtOften times the male of the species will not care for any offspring created by the female’s “affair” or EPC.  Female birds may lay eggs in other bird’s nests if they were not properly mated. This is called “egg dumping.”

 Moles may seek multiple mates and even be polygamous, but they end up monogamous because their female Ulo won’t let them bring their girlfriends home!  Female birds can be quite competitive and even kill off their mate’s EPCs if they feel threatened.

It is true that long term mates and monogamous unions do raise better offspring.  Better matches create better monogamous rates through. No matter what the case fathers tend to do less fathering than mothers do mothering.  Unclear paternity offers better protection for the offspring because if a mate knows he isn’t the father, he is unlikely to take care of the offspring all together.


Out of 185 societies 39 of them encouraged extra marital liaisons.  Many cultures have arranged things so that marriage and sexual exclusion are not necessarily the same thing.  Most encourage men to take on multiple wives since that produces the most children. It is rare to find a society where women can take on multiple husbands.  Group marriages, however, are even rarer than Polyandry.

Out of 116 societies survived 63 allow husbands to be unfaithful.  13 allowed the wife to be unfaithful and 13 allowed both the husband and wife to be unfaithful.  27 have a single standard where only one or the other may have an affair, but not both.

Did you know that masturbation is a way for men to get rid of the old sperm that won’t be able to impregnate a woman? And that Low PH levels may actually harm sperm? Women often tend to wear shorter skirts and look sexier during the time they are ovulating?

 To Hell

The evidence is overwhelming that many people are not only capable of “making love to” but also loving more than one person at the same time?  But we are socially prohibited from doing so.  The promotion of monogamy causes jealousy and a great deal of drama where there need not be any.

The myth is that some animals and most humans are hard wired to take a mate for life, which just isn’t true. In the end the authors say if you want to be monogamous, go ahead. It is a wonderful ideal to aspire to. It just isn’t natural or easy for us humans any more than it is for animals.


About carilynn27

Reading and writing and writing about reading are my passion. I've been keeping a journal since I was 14. I also write fiction and poetry. I published my first collection of short stories, "Radiant Darkness" in 2000. I followed that up with my first collection of poetry in 2001 called "Journey without a Map." In 2008, I published "Persephone's Echo" another collection of poetry. Since then I've also published Emotional Espionage, The Way The Story Ended, My Perfect Drug and Out There. I have my BA in English from The Ohio State University at Mansfield and my MA in English Lit from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I also have my Post BA Certificate in Women's Studies. I am the mother of two beautiful children. :-)
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