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THE TRUTH ABOUT SEXUAL MONOGAMY
James W. Prescott, Ph.D.
Institute of Humanistic Science San Diego, CA
Published in The Truth Seeker, November/December 1989, pp. 44-46.
This basic sexual inequality between men and women where women have been considered the "property" of the male has, in fact, been a curse on humanity.
The formal proposal by Dr. Deborah Anapol for THE POLYFIDELITOUS FAMILY which rejects sexual monogamy in human sexual relationships and accepts multiple sexual relationships within a family of committed, nurturing and loving relationships will, undoubtedly, be a source of dismay and shock to many. The orthodox/fundamentalist monotheists will be the first to shout immorality and decadence -- only because we are now acknowledging and affirming woman's sexual rights that have always been denied by the patriarchal male who has claimed his polygynous nature as his natural and exclusive right. Thus, historically, man has always claimed the right of sexual access to many females but never could the female have sexual access to many males -- without being stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Why should it be "moral" for a man to have sexual access to many females (many wives) but "immoral" for a woman to have sexual access to many males (many husbands)?
This basic sexual inequality between men and women where women have been considered the "property" of the male has, in fact, been a curse on humanity. It is one of the single most important factors that has contributed to sexual exploitation and violence against women and children. Why is it that sexual exploitation and violence against women and children is highest in those cultures (primitive and modern) that are characterized by punishment of pre-marital and extra-marital relationships? And conversely, why is it that those cultures that permit pre-marital and extra-marital sex are peaceful and non-violent cultures?
Specifically, in my study of primitive cultures, I found the following statistically significant social-behavioral characteristics of cultures that punished pre-marital and/or extra-marital sex: 1) slavery is present; 2) low female income; 3) personal crime is high; 4) kin group is patrilineal; 5) wives are "purchased"; 6) sex disability is present; 7) intensity of sex anxiety is high; 8) castration anxiety is high; 9) bellicosity is extreme; 10) military glory is strongly emphasized; 11) killing, torturing and mutilation of enemy captured in warfare is high; 12) a high god is involved in human morality; and 13) supernaturals of the culture are aggressive and violent.
The greater the sexual restrictions on the female the greater is the violence of that culture. Why?
The opposite patterns of behavior were found to characterize those cultures that accepted pre-marital and extra-marital sexuality. For any objective observer of contemporary cultures, it is apparent that the above patterns found for primitive cultures also characterize modern cultures. The greater the sexual restrictions on the female the greater is the violence of that culture. Why? And what are its implications for a major reconstruction of the male-female sexual relationship; the family and children; and society?
Before answering these questions it is important to note that some of the above relationships in the human primate have also been observed, in part, in certain non-human primate species. For example, in those non-human primate troops where the female freely mates with most or all of the males in the troop it has been found that the males are typically protective of the female and her offspring. The opposite pattern is typically found in the harem organized troops (one male having exclusive sexual access and dominance over the females in the troop). When the Alpha male is displaced by a new male in the harem organized troop the new Alpha male will typically kill the nursing offspring sired by the previous Alpha male. Sociobiologists interpret these events as evidence for the new male acting to promote his "genetic" fitness over the prior Alpha male. I strongly oppose this interpretation. A more plausible interpretation is the exercise of dominance and power over the female which is accomplished by the male mounting the female. This is not possible with a nursing female, thus, the nursing infant is killed so that the female can recycle, become sexually receptive and be mounted by the new Alpha male.
Dr. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, an anthropologist, University of California, Davis, who has studied these issues extensively in non-human primates has made the following observations:"To date, savanna baboons provide the best-documented example of males drawn into the protection of particular infants through their past (and in a few cases anticipated future) relationships with the infant's mother. By mating with several different males, females forge a network of alliance with males. Even though only one male can be the biological father of the infant, several males nevertheless often assist a female by "babysitting" or protecting her infant, allowing the infant to forage close by, or moving to pick up the infant should it be threatened by strange immigrant males. In species living in particularly harsh or dangerous environments, or where the costs of motherhood are particularly high, as among barbary macaques or tamarins, females mating with more than one male elicit far more than protection. Being carried about by males -- typically males with whom the female had past consort relations -- is essential for infant survival (emphases added).
By drawing several different males into the web of "possible paternity," females may increase the likelihood of male protection and even care. In addition, consortship with a male may decrease the likelihood that he would attack infants subsequently born to a female. Information on infanticide by adult males in some fifteen different species of primates belonging to such diverse genera as Presbytis, Colobus, Alouatta, Cercopithecus, Pan, Gorilla, and Papio make it clear that such attacks are most likely to occur when males enter a breeding system from outside -- that is, when males find themselves in the company of mothers with infants that could not possibly be their own."
There appear to be several different reasons why it would behoove a female primate to spread the possibility of paternity among several different candidates, any of whom might one day be in the position to affect the survival of an infant either by protecting or caring for it, or at least by not harming it. Instead of the old Darwinian assumption that the object of the female sexual signaling and solicitations is to mate with the single "best" male, a new possibility is introduced: among these primates, the female's goal is to mate with a range of males, regardless of which inseminates her."
Other troops where the female freely copulates with most, if
p. 45, November/December 1989, The Truth Seeker
Strikingly, no male violence against these multiplemale mating females has ever been reported.
not all, males include chimps, baboons, mangabeys and macaques where in extreme cases (e.g. barbary macaques) "females may change partners every ten minutes or so and sometimes mate with as many as three different males in six minutes." Strikingly, no male violence against these multiplemale mating females has ever been reported. The opposite is classically the case for the human male primate who is typically violent against the multiplemale mating female. Do we have something to learn from these rather unique ancestors of ours which exhibit these rather reliable patterns of behavior? The answer is a definite YES!
This writer could not be in more agreement with the above observations of Dr. Hrdy for I have found precisely the same relationships in human primitive cultures which I have summarized above. Further, it is the variable of carrying the infant on the body of the mother/caretaker in primitive cultures that is so strongly predictive (80%) of peaceful and non-violent cultures which includes lack of abuse of infants and children.
When the infant physical affectional variable was combined with permitted pre-marital sexuality my prediction of peaceful or violent cultures rose to 100% of the 49 cultures where this information was available. Further, these cultures were matrilineal where 78% of the nine cultures that also had information on extramarital sexuality also permitted extramarital sexuality.
Why is it that there is such an extraordinary correspondence among multiplemale mating females in non-human and human primates where these accepted multiple sexual relationships are associated with care/nurturance of the young and non-violence against the female?
The answer is to be found in sexual pleasure that is mutually shared . . .
The answer is to be found in sexual pleasure that is mutually shared and the known relationships of brain function where activation of the pleasure circuits of the brain inhibit the activity of the violent circuits of the brain. As Dr. Hrdy points out:"Female orgasm is also not unique to humans. This peculiar psychophysiological response, or else something very like it, occurs in other primates; and many of those species where it is best documented are definitely not monogamous." . . . and "First, the common assumption that our ancestors were monogamous, living in obligate pair bonds cemented by the unique sexual attributes found among women is very likely wrong. The degree of sexual dimorphism in our species argues for the existence of mildly polygynous ancestors."
Human sexuality and sexual pleasure are at the core of the evolution of human spirituality which is a consequence of the evolution of human consciouness and love.
With respect to the evolution of the female orgasm and its functional significance certain male anthropologists/biologists, e.g. Dr. Donald Symons and Dr. Stephen J. Gould have dismissed the female orgasm as "non-adaptive". They could not be in graver error. Which brings us to the heart and conclusion of this essay.
Human sexuality and sexual pleasure are at the core of the evolution of human spirituality which is a consequence of the evolution of human consciousness and love. In my theoretical treatment of this phenomena I have proposed a four stage process of orgasmic state and/or love that corresponds with different levels of brain integration or consciousness. These are summarized in Table 1 which relates these four neuropsychological states of pleasure (Reflexive/Dissociative; Associative; Integrative; Transcendental) with different stages of brain function/integration; philosophical/moral status of the culture; and the spiritual state/level of the individual.
Non-integrated pleasure (Stage 1) is not true pleasure but apparent pleasure . . .
Unfortunately space limitations do not permit a further discussion of Table 1, however, its study will illustrate the complexity and extraordinary significance of our sexuality where "integrated" sexual pleasure is essential for peaceful, harmonious relationships and the development of our spiritual consciousness of love. Non-integrated pleasure (Stage 1) is not true pleasure but apparent pleasure (tension reduction) and is the stage that sexual exploitation and violence occur.
"Certainly I would not argue that promiscuity is currently adaptive for women anywhere in the world."
Before concluding, a word of caution is in order. As Dr. Hrdy has stated: "Certainly I would not argue that promiscuity is currently adaptive for women anywhere in the world". I have mixed reaction to this statement. First, the use of the term "promiscuity" is always applied to the female (non-human and human) and never to the male. It is time to eliminate this term which is inherently pejorative and sexually discriminatory from our scientific and literary language. Her basic message, unfortunately, is correct. Women will still be punished and even killed by violent males for the exercise of their sexual rights and natural destiny.
The ultimate human spiritual-sexual state, however, can only be realized when the human female (whose brain is uniquely designed for the spiritual-sexual state) is completely free to express her sexual love according to her own terms which means multiple sexual relationships without fear of male reproach, control or violence. For this to occur the developing brain of the infant/child must be encoded and programmed with pleasure (affectional bonding) for the neural circuits to develop to make possible the spiritual-sexual state later in life. Unfortunately, just the opposite is happening in most human cultures of today where infant/day care centers, e.g., provide little or no affectional bonding with anyone.
If the human male was wise (which he is not) he would realize the significance of affectional bonding throughout life . . .
If the human male was wise (which he is not) he would realize
p. 46, November/December 1989, The Truth Seeker
"Sexually awakened women, affirmed and recognized as such, would mean the complete collapse of the authoritarian ideology."
the significance of affectional bonding throughout life and that he would be an extraordinary beneficiary of this new affectional-sexual-spiritual path.
It is the path of The TAO or Tantric Buddhism with at least one important exception. The TAO and Tantric Buddhism emphasizes the male as the primary path for sexual-spiritual development where the female sexual energy is, in fact, being used and exploited for the benefit of the male sexual-spiritual state. Contemporary scientific findings from a variety of disciplines (only partly alluded to here) refute this male chauvinistic view of human sexual-spiritual development.
Although, THE TAO and TANTRIC BUDDHISM represent the most enlightened of the patriarchal cultures, particularly, with respect to human sexuality they are significantly limited because of their subordination of women to men and their conceptual errors concerning the truth of female spiritual-sexual energy. The extraordinary insights of Wilhelm Reich is partially corrective to these errors, e.g. "Sexually awakened women, affirmed and recognized as such, would mean the complete collapse of the authoritarian ideology" (see "The Mass Psychology of Fascism" and "The Function of The Orgasm").
"The feminine is the most formidable of the forces of matter."
The correct view is that human sexual-spiritual development must follow the path of the feminine and that is why Teilhard de Chardin stated: "Woman is, for man, the symbol and personification of all the fulfillments we look for from the universe... The feminine is the most formidable of the forces of matter." (The Evolution of Chastity.)
de Chardin, Teilhard. (1933) The Evolution of Chastity. In: Toward The Future (R. Hague, Ed/Trans.) Harcourt, Brace-Jovanovich. New York 1975.
Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer. The Primate Origins of Human Sexuality. In: The Evolution Of Sex (Robert Bellig and George Stevens, Eds). pp. 101-136. Nobel Conference XXIII. Harper and Row Publishers, San Francisco 1988.
Prescott, James W. Body Pleasure and The Origins of Violence. The Futurist, April 1975. Reprinted: The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, November 1975.
Prescott, James W. Affectional Bonding for the Prevention of Violent Behaviors: Neurobiological, Psychological and Religious / Spiritual Determinants. pp. 109-142. In: Violent Behavior Vol. I: Assessment and Intervention. (L.J. Hertzberg, et al., Eds) PMA Publishing Corp, New York 1973.
Reich, Wilhelm. The Mass Psychology of Fascism. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1973.
Reich, Wilhelm. The Function of the Orgasm. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1942.
This essay was first published in the November/December 1989 edition of the Truth Seeker. It may be copied and distributed in computer networks, provided credit is given to its author, James W. Prescott, Ph.D., Director, Institute of Humanistic Science, San Diego, CA. HTML by Erik Möller. Please tell me about any errors you find. If you want to write a translation, please contact me. I am also interested in more material on the same subject.