A brief history of monogamy. lifted from the comment on this google answer.
I reposted it here because of its pertinence.
Subject: Re: Life-long Monogamy
From: tehuti-ga on 26 Nov 2003 04:32 PST
At the risk of inciting a flood of "hatemail" comments :) I am daring
to say that the answer to your question is "none".
If we look at the matter from a "selfish gene" viewpoint, which is
about as unemotional as you can get, it is, from one point of view, in
a male's interest to have as many sexual encounters as possible to
reproduce his genes to the maximum. However, it is in a female's
interest to have a stable partnership, or other stable arrangement, so
that she is provided for while unable to do so for herself due to
pregnancy and the need to look after the children until they become
self-sufficient. However, in order to ensure the survival of his
genes, it is also in a male's interest to provide for at least some of
his offspring and ensure they receive the care they need. On the other
hand, it is not in the male's interest to expend time and energy to
ensure the survival of someone else's genes, and the only way he can
be (reasonably) sure of that is within an institution that does not
permit his sexual partner to have other liaisons.
This gives us a typical picture of Western society in earlier times: a
"sort-of" monogamous arrangement where blind eyes were turned to
sexual adventuring by married men, but heaven forbid a married woman
to be caught in adultery! Women, having little or no control over
their reproduction, were involved in childbearing and rearing for a
much longer period than now, and more likely to die in childbirth.
Also, the average human lifespan was generally shorter than today due
to disease. The typical monogamous relationship would therefore have
lasted a comparatively short time and not gone on very long, if at
all, past the duration of the reproductive abilities of the woman.
Moving nearer to today, the lifespan started to increase, due to
improvements in hygiene and medicine. Once a woman has brought her
children up to self-sufficiency and is no longer capable of
reproduction, she no longer has a genetic interest in staying with her
partner. However, the social structure enforced a division of labour,
so that women performed unpaid work in the home while men did paid
work outside the home. Thus, even when no longer genetically dependent
on their partners, women continued to be economically dependent, and
this was recognised and affirmed by the society, so that divorce,
where permitted was tied to heavy financial penalties on the male in
order to ensure a continued financing of the woman he left, since she
was deemed incapable of fending for herself.
Today, the remanants of this social structure still remain. On the
other hand, women in Western societies have a free choice on how much
to reproduce, if at all. Also, they have a free choice to develop
their own paid careers and thus become and remain economically
independent of males, except perhaps in a very short period just after
childbirth, although even then arrangements such as maternity benefits
and social security measures mean they do not have to be in a
partnership to survive (which also removes the genetic pressure on the
male to provide for his offspring). Add to this the fact of the
increased lifespan, which means that a typical couple entering into
marriage could expect to live for another 60+ years afterwards. Most
of this would be after childrearing has finished, although for much of
that excess time the male would still be able to reproduce his genes
by mating with other woman.
To all this, add also the non-emotional fact that people in today's
Western societies are more individualistic than ever before, and more
desirous of personal, including emotional, satisfaction and therefore
less willing to remain in a situation which has ceased to provide it
simply because this is what is demanded by tradition mores. Even if
they do stay in a partnership because of convenience, women are
increasingly catching up with men in looking for other avenues of
satisfaction. The concept of monogamy is daily being demolished in
practice, even while still being held up as an ideal by some sectors
Here are some estimates made by authors of books first published in the late 1980s:
"The various researchers arrive at a general consensus…suggesting that
above one-quarter to about one-half of married women have at least one
lover after they are married in any given marriage. Married men
probably still stray more often than married women—perhaps from 50
percent to 65 percent by the age of forty."
Annette Lawson, author of "Adultery," first published in 1989 by Basic Books.
"Most experts do consider the 'educated guess' that at the present
time some 50 to 65 percent of husbands and 45 to 55 percent of wives
become extramaritally involved by the age of 40 to be a relatively
sound and reasonable one."
Maggie Scarf, author of "Intimate Partners," first published in 1987
by Random House
"Conservative estimates are that 60 percent of men and 40 percent of
women will have an extramarital affair... If even half of the women
having affairs (or 20 percent) are married to men not included in the
60 percent having affairs, then at least one partner will have an
affair in approximately 80 percent of all marriages."
Peggy Vaughan, author of "The Monogamy Myth," first published in 1989
by Newmarket Press
All these quoted by Peggy Vaugan in "Statistics about Affairs"
- ► 2008 (49)
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