Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hypocrisy and Human Nature

With all the recent outings of politicians engaged in extramarital sex, my favorite liberal news site, Alternet, has been doing a flurry of articles relating to this subject. In a recent article, Relax: Adultery Is Not That Big Of a Deal by Samara O'Shea, she explores the idea:

I'm not justifying infidelity. But it certainly isn't going to shake the nation's moral foundation or destroy the institution of marriage.

My response follows below:

Monogamy is not natural for human beings, male or female. Yet, considering the strict sanctions against adultery that have existed for centuries, people still do it.

We must ask ourselves, what was the original point in mandating monogamous marriage in the first place?


No, guess again. In ancient times, when hunter-gatherers settled into agricultural societies, the ideas of private property and inheritance were established. To reliably name heirs, a man had to know which children were actually his. To do this, the sexuality of women had to be tightly controlled. Thus, formal monogamous marriage was established, with polygyny for the rich(and where the women were still monogamous, even the men weren't). This is also why women have been traditionally punished more harshly than men for adultery and why virginity was required for brides.

It had nothing to do with love, as marriage was mainly a practical arrangement until around the beginning of the 18th century.

Religion put its stamp of approval on this, which gave it the force of law in societies where religion was the law. The pronouncement of "God said it" was to ensure compliance to what went against basic human nature.

Yet people have committed adultery all through the centuries, as it's almost impossible to completely thwart human nature.

We see adultery more in the news now, as the original valid reasons for monogamy no longer exist:

Marriage is no longer primarily about reproduction, DNA tests prove paternity, non-marital children enjoy the same rights as marital children, women are no longer legally dependent on men for their survival, etc.

However, cultural sensibilities have not caught up to current practical realities, especially considering that few people know the real reasons why monogamy was mandated in the first place.

It's time our society stopped insisting that every marriage be a monogamous one in "one size fits all" style. Only then will the hypocrisy end, as human nature will surely not change.


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Anonymous said...

couldn't have summarized it better myself - my sentiments exactly. great post