Is it possible to blog about the complexities and issues surrounding monogamy without readers making the incorrect assumption that I’m against it? Probably not. Defending Bernie Madoff would be easier…but what the hell. I believe that Western Culture has not been truthful about monogamy. With few exceptions, realistic discussions around monogamy are non-existent, or at best, very rare. It’s a touchy subject that pushes a lot of personal and cultural buttons…and with good reason. As someone who once lost my ATM card twice in one day, I don’t expect to offer a solution to what I see as a complex cultural dilemma. My goal here is to spark dialogue with the hopes that the romantic, ideal view of monogamy can be improved upon. We have successfully dealt with other forms of slavery…why not monogamy? Or maybe, our often hypocritical attitudes toward monogamy should be treated like the proverbial sausage factory…best we don’t delve too deep.
Without getting specific, monogamy and my family history is like Kari Ann Peniche and the human race…they don’t mix well. Serial cheating was a way of life in my family. Infidelity was worn proudly as a badge of dishonor and certain members of my family made Tiger Woods look like a Eunuch. I instinctively knew it was wrong, but I love my family and refuse to judge them harshly. Sure they were monogamy-challenged, but I felt loved…admittedly some of the ex-wives were not as understanding. In fact, growing up in that environment led me on an internal culture clash that I’m still trying to rectify to this day. I remember the first time I heard Dr. Laura, a conservative talk radio with a Fascist-like penchant for moral boundaries. Given my upbringing, Dr. Laura offered a fresh perspective. Most of my friends at that time couldn’t believe I listened to Dr. Laura, never mind found her views interesting. One of my cousins, in a radio version of book-burning, actually told me I was not allowed to listen to her. But being a reverse-rebel, I did listen, and it took years of therapy culminating in the too-obvious-for-me-to-see insight that there was a huge gulf between the ideal, Dr. Laura-loving me and the actual me. A similar dynamic has occurred in my relationship to monogamy. Towing the culture’s orthodox line seems untenable. It’s not that I’m against monogamy, it’s just that with the divorce rate hovering over 50%, and who knows how many couples are living in abject misery because they’re afraid to leave the security and comfort of their relationships, it seems to me reexamining monogamy might be a worthwhile pursuit. The statistics are bleak and temptation is everywhere. I have to think of my Grandmother when I pass an American Apparel billboard on the street to keep from getting a public boner. By pressing a certain sequence of buttons on my computer I can access content on the Internet that would make Caligula uncomfortable. And thanks to exercise, improved diets and unhealthy consumerism, women are more beautiful than ever. Sexual cheating is rampant…and they don’t call it cheating because it’s honest. Even some top level religious leaders, whose job it would seem is to at least publicly control their baser instincts, get caught with their private parts in the nookie jar. Dishonesty has, and probably always has been, entrenched in our sexual escapades. It’s a fucking disaster. If society is going to evolve to a healthier place, monogamy needs a makeover…and badly.
First we need to define our terms. Much information about monogamy is anecdotal. Some feel that lifelong sexual monogamy is unnatural and unrealistic. Others feel that sexual monogamy facilitates intimate and lasting relationships. Confused? Not surprisingly, I am. There are presently four kinds of monogamy; social, sexual, genetic and marital. For clarity, I’m only talking about sexual monogamy…but even that needs to be defined. People can be monogamous outside the institution of marriage. Homosexuals can be monogamous. Some parasitic worms are monogamous. Easy access to divorce has given rise to serial monogamy. Apparently, one can have as many consecutive monogamous relationships as possible and technically call themselves monogamous…a monogamy loophole, if you will. But, what about plain old, old-school monogamy, where one has to have sex with the same person for most of their life? Isn’t that the monogamy that our culture promotes through religion, sappy poetry, New Agedness and romantic comedies? Dennis Prager, one of the more reasonable conservative loud-mouths, argues that chronic sexual infidelity a.k.a screwing anything that moves is not desirable because one can never feel satisfied…you’ll always want more. I believe the Rolling Stones had a hit song about this dynamic. Though not as sexy as Mick Jagger, maybe Prager is right, and for that reason alone, thinking rationally about monogamy could be a good idea. If so, is old school monogamy essentially dead? My guess is that people talk the old-school monogamy talk, but probably don’t walk the old school monogamy walk…or at least have unresolved issues walking the walk. Now I’m not completely out of touch. I know about the 14 year old blow-job parties (which sadly became popular after I graduated), and I’ve seen many movies that deal with infidelity, but when I’m out in the real world, I still mostly see the old school monogamy ethos rearing its ideal head. I get it. But (pardon the pun) here’s the rub: Sex feels good. With few exceptions, even bad sex feels good. Sex with someone new is exciting…can we at least agree on that? If you can’t agree with that, please stop reading and immediately seek therapy.
Much of what we know about monogamy and infidelity comes from what are called convenient samples such as volunteer college students and magazine readers. After witnessing a few Spring Breaks and seeing the kind of magazines people are reading these days, forgive me if I’m a tad skeptical about the results of these “studies”. Nonetheless, here are some “facts” that are probably short of the truth: 12 to 26% of women have extramarital sex, while 15 to 43% of men have extramarital sex. The majority of married people remain monogamous during their marriage, and generally women are more sexually monogamous than men. What does this tell you? Even if you take these studies at face value, there’s a tremendous amount of extracurricular sucking and fucking going on. Is that okay?
There are, of course, many alternatives to monogamy…but none have become accepted by the mainstream. There are swingers, prostitutes, polygamists, open relationships and the pragmatic wink and nod system of infidelity, which I understand is very big in Europe. I often envy these sexual hipsters, who have managed to merge sexual variation with honesty. (I believe this is what everyone secretly wants, but few have the balls/labia to live the wet dream.) That said, let’s not forget the seemingly successful monogamists; couples like Ron and Nancy Reagan and Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly. I believe on faith that extraordinary monogamous relationships can exist. But, unfortunately, if they exist, they’re very rare, and we shouldn’t create cultural norms around infinitesimal minorities because it creates unreal expectations, couple self-esteem issues and Harlequin romance. But there must be a compromise. Does it have to be a choice between Hefner and Dr. Phil? I believe there is still hope for the sexual monogamist…but hope can only exist with honest dialogue.
Men are pigs. Women are too…just not nearly as many. I can hear some women seething…can you hear seething? In any event, of course, there are women that are as horny, or hornier, than men. They scare me…especially after the third or fourth date. But, again, in a general sense, men are hornier. We are visually stimulated, yearn for multiple partners and are capable, and often prefer, sex without intimacy. Men are programmed to want to spread the seed. I’ve been told it’s in our evolutionary code. And it seems this need exists regardless of the culture’s preference for monogamy. So, either the beast must somehow be tamed, or I’m investing my cash in Hedonism Resorts. And therein lies, or more appropriately lays, our conundrum; the culture says monogamy is good, while some brave, honest men and women say monogamy is not good, or at least very frustrating and boring.
So, here are some unsolicited tips for couples, who, like me, want to be in a monogamous, long term relationships.
1. Blind yourself. (Please consult your physician.)
2. Learn how to sexual role-play without giggling.
3. If sex is getting boring as the years go by, consider having less sex. If sex is getting better as the years go by, stop lying.
4. Improve your imagination skills so you can visualize having sex with someone else, while you have sex with your monogamous lover. (Depending on your lover’s relative security, you may not want to tell them that you’re imagining having sex with Angelina Jolie or George Clooney.) No matter what the thought police people say, imagining you’re with someone else is not cheating.
5. If you ever feel like cheating, consider how it would hurt your partner’s feelings. If that doesn’t work, remember John Bobbitt and rent Fatal Attraction.
6. Try to not to let yourself go. Monogamy is hard enough without your partner turning into Katherine Turner or Elvis.
7. Don’t take steroids.
8. Consider signing a contract that stipulates if you get caught cheating your partner will get all your money. Apparently it’s been working well for Michael Douglas.
9. Practice self-control and pray for a pill called Monongamex.
10. Always masturbate. You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
11. Try to delude yourself into thinking you’re somehow better than people who screw around.
12. If you find yourself bored and not attracted to your monogamous lover anymore, openly and sensitively communicate that fact. (Remember to wear protective gear.)
13. If sex is bad, seek sexual therapy. If sexual therapy doesn’t work, buy lots of ice and bubble wrap.
14. Try and get progressively kinkier with your monogamous lover, but time it so you don’t get too disgustingly kinky before you get too old to have sex. In other words, try to end your monogamous sex life before you turn your lover into a toilet.
15. Have tons of experimental sex before you get into your monogamous relationship. So, if you end up in a sexually dead monogamous relationship, at least you’ll have good memories.
16. Make sure you include intimacy in your monogamous sex life, but always be open sex toys, rubber gloves and heavy industrial machinery.
Well, there it is. I never promised any answers. My only hope is that monogamous couples and the culture will be honest about the challenges they face. Or, alternatively, we can continue down the path of lies and deceit, which might be the only realistic way to proceed at this point.