My upcoming book Catch and Release: How I Used Science to Hack My Love Life delves into the science of love. Researching and writing on this topic was alarmingly insightful, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. My book is on its way to being published, and I find myself missing the research as I fight my way through learning software to record the audiobook. Fortunately, despite the current efforts of a certain administration, science continues to make new discoveries so I can keep learning and imparting the wisdom of academics who dare venture into the realm of love.
In a past life, I taught physical anthropology to freshman and sophomores, and one of the many interesting topics we discussed was human variation. To put it simply, humans vary in their physical attributes. This variation occurs because of the vastly different environments humans have adapted to over the millennia. However, aside from basic characteristics like blood type or whether you can roll your tongue, most human traits fall on a continuum.
When it comes to behavior, there is also variation. This gets more complicated because behavior is shaped by both genetic predisposition which is based on human adaptation for millions of years and your own surroundings. Culture, family values, and random circumstance interplay intrinsically with the behaviors engrained in our DNA. This is starkly obvious when you visit another country, but even within social groups, not everyone acts the same. Some people are shy, others have impulse control. The Meyers-Briggs clearly delineates multiple different personality types.
No one questions we’re different when it comes to preferences for activities or television shows. However, when sex is part of the equation, people get all up in arms. It’s taken decades of fighting for LGBTQA individuals to convince enough people their behavior is normal and they should be treated the same as everyone else. Slut shaming is rampant, and men everywhere are labeled as afraid to commit when they don’t want a long-term relationship. Why do we care so much?
I’ve mentioned elsewhere and at length in my book that relationships were about economics for thousands of years. Now they’re not necessarily and even when they are, they don’t all have to look the same. One size fits all is slowly being rejected more openly. This brings me to the science for today. There is a term called sociosexuality which gauges how open someone is to sexual encounters outside of emotionally committed relationships. This study found individuals who enjoy having sex outside of an emotional relationship are not completely fulfilled in monogamous relationships, even though they often remain committed. However, they can have more meaningful committed relationships outside of monogamy.
What this suggests is ethical non-monogamy provides a framework for people with more sociosexuality to express their sexuality the way they want. By allowing for permitted outside sexual encounters, these individuals can have both committed relationships and occasional fun on the side. It’s a win for everyone involved! However, a caveat mentioned is there is still significant stigma regarding such arrangements. Like I said, variation in sexual practices is not placed in the same framework as other kinds of variation. However, the researcher concludes in the linked article that interest in this topic is growing in Academia. This is important. The more ethical non-monogamy is researched and discussed openly, the more normal it becomes.
In conclusion, I want to encourage those of us within the sex positive community to ensure we are checking ourselves and not placing stigmas on those who are practicing their ethical non-monogamy a little differently. This is unchartered ground. There are no fairy tales to guide the way. Mistakes will be made. The only way to move forward is to keep having open discussions and providing community for anyone who practices their non-monogamy in a way that is ethical to all members involved.
Thanks for reading 🙂 Thoughts and comments welcome!