So, the Playboy ethic was right?

Psychologist Christopher Ryan is out to defeat an archetypal figure in the mythology of monogamy. No, not prince charming; he’s after the widespread belief in a prehistoric hunter who would slay an antelope on the plains and heroically haul it back to his nuclear family.

You might wonder what this has to do with monogamy. Well, Ryan argues that in actuality the meat would have been shared with the entire tribe, because pre-agricultural societies shared everything — including sex. This is a key point he and co-author/wife Cacilda Jethá make in “Sex at Dawn,” which was released last year in hardcover and this month in paperback. Our hunting and gathering ancestors were nonmonogamous, they argue — the implication being that, biologically speaking, sexual exclusivity is unnatural.




  1. Animby says:

    #58 – Bobbo – Divinity? I hadn’t considered that. Good call. And a chuckle. Divinity derives from divine and diviners often work with a forked stick. Wonder if they also work with a forked tongue? A forked tongue in the bedroom could be a very interesting experience. Maybe that’s why they are still monogamous after three whole years!

    # 57 So what said,”Do the hieroglyphics show a drippy wang or something?” That’s not be a stickler. It’s a fair question. I am a member of the Amer.Assoc of Anthropology and have studied a bit of medical anthropology. But I haven’t really studied this question; so my answer is speculation. Some STDs cause physical effects on the body that can be detected in skeletons. Chiefly among these are syphilis which can cause observable effects in the primary AND their offspring. I can’t point to a specific hieroglyph but you might be surprised. I had the pleasure of working in Cairo and spent a lot of time exploring in the museum and the monuments. I remember seeing one panel that depicted the use of tampons as birth control, another that depicted a pharaoh that suffered from impotence and several that showed physicians concocting treatments for what are assumed to be STDs. The pictures are not graphic, it’s the accompany text that explains the images. I don’t read hieroglyphs so these were explained to me. The incidence, however, has to be derived from physical remains. Physicians in ancient Greece and Rome, however kept pretty specific records. The Romans treated everything from cold sores to “indecent disease” usually only seen in prostitutes. But they seem to have missed the fact that the problems were transmitted by sexual activity.

    Sorry I can’t be more specific but my anthropology work has been in birthing customs not venereal diseases.

  2. foobar says:

    Zero can be used as a number and as a value. Unless you’re playing roulette of course, so all bets are off. Or 35-1 straight up.

    Women always know the odds, men just guess.

  3. JimD says:

    Monogamy was invented to establish PROPERTY RIGHTS !!! When civilization arose, the rights of ownership to property had to be established and protected, so “Legitimacy” and “Ill-Legitimacy” were defined, along with rights of succession. Marriage was all about PROPERTY – REAL ESTATE, AND HUMAN CAPITAL – WIVES AND CHILDREN AND SLAVES !!! We have yet to emerge from that “Ownership” Paradigm …

  4. pedro says:

    #63 So you think of yourself as your daddy’s slave. That explains a lot.

    Now, who’s you daddy?

  5. Skeptic says:

    Sorry guys, couldn’t hang around. I wish I could have now that I see the replies. It would have been fun. Aw heck, I’ll go through them quickly…

    Re: “S: when stopped at a stoplight, your speed does not have a value of zero?”
    If speed is zero, it has no value otherwise I would still be moving. So you answered your own question… I would be stopped, and my speedometer needle would be pointing at the placeholder 0.

    Re: “#52 Skeptic : Have you considered a career in Congress?
    The first thing I would do is issue $0 US bonds with a billion percent interest, that could be purchased for a small tax deductible premium of $1000 or $10,000 each.

  6. bobbo, words have a meaning and a context says:

    The most interesting questions about HUMAN monogamy have not even been approached.

    It always rankles me when it is said that males are as monogamous as their options. How tawdry. I love my wife, why would I cheat on her, with whom, under what self delusion and lies?

    Monogamous to the truth of things, yes. Rippling circles cover the pond. And the wifey still gets jealous. Why do I “look?” “I promised to be faithful, not cut off my balls and give them to you.”

    Ha, ha. Amusing what we argue about when we recognize there is no disagreement.

  7. Animby says:

    66 Bobbo = So … the missus is reading your posts?

  8. bobbo, words have a meaning and a context says:

    Animby–nah==if she did, I certainly wouldn’t reference my balls in any status other than in her crushing grip. We joke around that way. At least I do when she’s not around. Actually, we’re divorced, or I’m still looking. There is an essential truth to everything I post, all wrapped in my private allusion.

    What is love?

  9. What? says:

    Zero is the value of Skeptic’s contribution. He is a placeholder, to be skipped.

  10. What? says:

    Love is the property that is realized when two quantities constructively add.

    Hate is the property that is realized when two quantities diminish one, or both, parties.

    Indifference is the property that is realized when two quantities do not interact.

  11. Skeptic says:

    What? No need to get sulky…. no sense of humor? It’s an age old argument.

  12. GregAllen says:

    I’m a natural monogamist.

    Seriously.

    Sure, I’m attracted to other women than my wife but I always figure they could be a trade-down once I got to know the whole package. So why bother?

  13. GregAllen says:

    >> # 66 bobbo,
    >> And the wifey still gets jealous. Why do I “look?” “I promised to be faithful, not cut off my balls and give them to you.”

    My wife is cool that way. She doesn’t care if I admire other women at the beach or similar.

    I suspect she has her limits but I try not to push those.

    We had a friend who was Brazilian model who we’d have over or go out dancing with. She was a real room-stopper! But even having her around didn’t go over my wife’s limits.

  14. GregAllen says:

    >> Our hunting and gathering ancestors were nonmonogamous, they argue — the implication being that, biologically speaking, sexual exclusivity is unnatural.

    But we are not hunters and gatherers anymore which could have changed our sexuality — even in relatively short order.

    I’m currently reading “Epi-Genetics” by Richard Francis and it makes a good argument for discounting evolutionary psychology.

    I’ve always been leery of evolutionary psychology anyway. It seems too easy to explain what you want it to.

  15. frankly frank says:

    frankly speaking, I’m very surprised that no one seems to know that pair bonding and sexual exclusivity are not the same thing. I read some where that birds that share the same nest for life raise a lot of half sisters and brothers. Married for life but still fooling around. So what is moNAGomy? Being committed to one life partner or having only one sexual partner?

  16. bobbo, most investment is just a scam, a dirty secret scam says:

    Greg–everything is a matter of degree: how hard you look, how much she accepts it, how applicable evolutionary psychology is, how much of behavior is learned.

    Sprinkle with human variability and you find few hard and fast rules.

    Makes hooman beings the joy and frustration we are. Touchstones/guidelines/predilections–not hard and fast rules. And then we change over time as well. Always an evolving story.

  17. Sarahdawn says:

    In today’s world of two click, no credit card needed porn, and sex toy sales in the billions, it is easy to see how sexual the human race is. Humans are not engineered to be monogamous and evolutionary speaking we have not always behaved this way according to Christopher Ryan. From the contradictory nature of hormones to the prevalence of infidelity, evidence abounds to the multi partner physical nature of the human. It is not surprising that infidelity rates are so high, the created social construct contradicts nature. The question of social norms or morality did not direct our forefathers lives, they led a cooperative purpose driven life, including sharing parenting responsibilities within the community, but sharing partners as well, the purpose to thrive without ownership of people or property. Today, our battle is against what is happening naturally inside our bodies, a fight we have not won with monogamy. It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.
    As Ryan suggests, the social construct of monogamy came with the evolution of society. Land ownership including heir identification became important, and thus the beginning of monogamy, well at least for women. Since this early time of civilized existence, women were expected to always be proper, chaste, and covered up. All the while prostitution and general male promiscuity goes almost rewarded! Today more skin is shown than ever, yet there is no comparable male version of the word ‘slut’. Double standard fidelity has always been.
    What if ‘happily ever after’ had a different definition? Is it possible to love one person and copulate with others as well? I believe so, however attempting to explain my lifestyle choice to friends is difficult. Most of the responses consist of “Oh I couldn’t do that” or “I would be too jealous”. These responses coming from women I go dancing with that are extremely sexual with me after a few drinks. Its okay for them, but not for their significant other. What they do not understand is their jealousy is what stands between them and sexual freedom. Not just sexual freedom, but the possibility of a lifetime relationship.
    Imagine if you never wondered where your spouse was, if you never got self-conscious when a thinner woman caught his attention. Imagine your spouse not being threatened when you noticed that guy with the ‘guns’. Imagine having the highest confidence in yourself that sharing seemed only natural. Keep in mind that not only are you sharing your partner, but he/she is sharing you too. Opening new experiences and feelings with every encounter, and if your bond is psychologically strong to begin with, you may create a relationship that will grow beyond the average comfortable feeling. Our pre-social construct ancestors followed their instincts; I could only wish to live in such harmony. Why fight what comes naturally if the outcome was greater satisfaction in your relationship, and yourself?
    I never thought this level of sexual confidence was possible; the idea of social norms and morality stifled my natural instincts. Now I am not saying that un-natural is bad and natural is good, but that not fighting instincts is very freeing. Of course risks including jealousy, aggression, and physical risks do exist. With calculated decisions, not just lusting everywhere, a plan to satisfy natural human needs by crafting your ideal relationship can work. Letting society choose how you live your life reeks of conformity, and can be transcended. I imagine your reaction is of the average monogamy supporter, ‘he is mine and nobody else’s’, but the way I see it, I get to have my cake and eat it too. Any kind of cake I want.