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article imageDan Savage: Monogamy destroys more families than it saves

By David Silverberg     Jul 4, 2011 in Lifestyle
In an interview in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, advice columnist Dan Savage discusses how monogamy is crippling some marriages, saying infidelity could actually save struggling relationships.
"The mistake that straight people made was imposing the monogamous expectation on men. Men were never expected to be monogamous."
So explains Savage, 46, in a long feature article about his views on monogamy. Savage points out in the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” societal pressures extended to men the limits women had always endured. “And it’s been a disaster for marriage,” he remarks.
Savage is married to his male partner but they both enjoy affairs. Savage told the Times he and his partner have ventured outside the marriage to pursue sex around nine times.
The Times writer refers to Anthony Weiner's recent sexting debacle, which landed the congressman in the unenviable spotlight of an apology and speedy resignation. Would Weinergate have become such a hot headline if our culture relaxed our views on infidelity (or pre-adulterous texting)?
Also, what about the Schwarzenegger family scandal? What would have happened if Arnold and his wife had been open about his desires? Would there have been a secret family plaguing the marriage and dominating the tabloids?
Desiring to sleep with someone other than your partner is a kink, Savage argues, no different than people interested in bondage or roleplay or group sex. But cheating shouldn't be done in the shadows; communicating to your partner about any extramarital intentions is integral to fostering a strong relationship, even if the idea seems wacky at first.
But if a couple wants to be exclusive, then they have to be extremely good, giving and game, to put it in Savage's terms. "If you are expected to be monogamous and have one person be all things sexually for you, then you have to be whores for each other," says the author of Savage Love column. “You have to be up for anything.”
The Times says the radically honest approach could place a relationship in a precarious postion. "We all have many sensitive spots, but one of the most universal is the fear of not being everything to your partner — the fear, in other words, that she might find somebody worthier. It is the fear of being alone."
So when a husband proposes having an affair, say, the wife may reluctantly agree, knowing if she disagrees he might leave her. Resentment fosters anger which can spiral into disrespect, something that destroys many marriages, young and old.
Savage's philosophies have been echoed in a recent book about extramarital adventures. Sex at Dawn looks at the evolutionary history behind our sexual urges, and it takes a firm anti-monogamy stance. The writers explain on their website, "As a species, we’ve evolved to be sexually responsive to novelty. From a genetic point of view, the lure of new partners (known to scientists as the Coolidge effect) combined with less responsiveness to the familiar (the Westermarck effect) motivated our ancestors to risk leaving their small hunter/gatherer societies to join other groups, thus avoiding incest and bringing crucial genetic vigor to future generations."
It's in our genes to fool around on our partners? Perhaps so, and it's a decision other cultures, primarily in third-world countries, have been taken for granted for centuries. "In many societies that can legitimately be said to practice marriage, neither male nor female fidelity is expected as part of the deal. The notion that the exchange of female fidelity for male provisioning extends to our origins as a species appears to be little more than a projection of contemporary morality into the distant past," writes Sex at Dawn.
A study revealed more people are cheating today than two decades ago. Researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington found 19 percent of women and 23 percent of men reported cheating, while in the 1990s a study reported 10 percent to 15 percent of women reported being unfaithful.
More about Monogamy, Marriage, Love, Relationship, Dan savage
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