The Anthropologist's Lens on Homo Sapien Sexuality
I received my BA in Anthropology from NYU and the nerd in me want's to discuss polyamory from the scientist's side of things. Please indulge me and share your thoughts! *Note: I don't have my books or sources in front of me, but here are some takeaways from my studies...
Homo Sapien sexuality is a complete mystery and anomaly in the animal kingdom. We behave like no other creature, fit no relationship model and are just plain weird. Every other primate species follows a distinct relationship model, and many different primate models exist, but each species follows just one. So what are we???
One thing is certain...we are NOT monogamous in the scientific sense. True monogamy exists in animals like birds, meaning partners really do mate-for-life: when one partner dies, the other will not find another mate, and often dies with their partner.
If we pool from all the human populations, we can find examples of almost EVERY type of relationship model, defined by ethnographic culture, not evolutionary hardwiring.
-There is of course the western idea of "monogamy," which is more accurately describe as "monogamous for periods of time."
-Another common example seen throughout history is cultures with one-male-multiple-females models.
-Rare but I'm pretty sure I remember the reverse exists, a one-female-multiple-male culture.
-There's a tribe in which the men live in one space, women and children in another, only coming together as a community and to mate with whomever they choose.
-There are cultures where multiple families live in one household and many different types of polyamory are expressed.
-Pretty much if there's a way to do relationships...humans have tried it.
The one thing these different relationship models have in common is that they are based solely on culture. If you raised a baby from one culture in any other it will adopt the relationship model it was taught. I find it interesting that participants on this board often describe themselves as "hard wired" for poly or mono. It would be interesting to do a cross cultural study to find out the distribution and ratio of such "hard wired" preferences. Here in the western world polyamory is indeed in the minority, but if you could analyze relationship preference across the whole human population and somehow remove the bias for culture, what would it show?
Another interesting way of looking at sexuality is the comparison between our closest living relatives, chimpanzees...and our next closest living relative, the bonobo. The bonobos are famous for being highly sexual, they'll do it any way possible with whomever possible, all the time. Chimps are very different.
-Put food in the middle of a group of Chimps, tensions rise, and they'll fight for it until one of the dominant ones secures the food. (And they'll do the same when there's a female in heat)
-Put food in the middle of a group of Bonobos, tensions rise, and they'll have sex with each other until no one really cares about the food and it's eaten peaceably. Dolphins, Bonobos and Humans are the only animals on record who have sex for pleasure and social intimacy, not just reproduction.
Unfortunately we evolved from Chimps, not Bonobos, and most of our cultures share the Chimp's tendency for competition...scientists like to speculate that our would would be very different if our genes were indeed wired to make love not war.
Some thoughts...what are yours??