The argument for sexual exclusivity: An evolutionary biologist explains why monogamy really matters
So, it turns out it’s difficult to find a researcher willing to defend monogamy.
We’ve already had experts weigh in on the many challenges associated with sexual exclusivity, so this week it felt like time for an optimistic and passionate endorsement of the maligned practice. That would be easy to find if I was interested in ideological or religious reasoning, but I wanted an empirical approach—I wanted facts! The problem is that experts from relevant fields, like sociology and anthropology, are often more inclined to highlight the diversity of romantic arrangements around the globe.
Eventually, I found a willing defender: Justin Garcia, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University. It’s no accident that he’s a scientific advisor to Match.com, which needs all the romantic optimism it can get. There’s just one small technicality: His evidence supports social monogamy, which is not always, or even often, accompanied by sexual monogamy (more on that later). This might seem like a rhetorical sleight of hand, but his views raise the intriguing possibility that our continued idealization of sexual exclusivity—despite many unattractive cultural blemishes—is actually the best argument for the practice.
Garcia spoke to Salon by phone about sexual jealousy across cultures, the evolutionary purpose of romance and why we’re capable of cheating on people we love. Read ArticleBy Tracy Clark-Flory