Why monogamy is ridiculous

The idea that one instance of infidelity should ruin a relationship is a new—and misguided—notion.

Question: Does society need to rethink its view on love and monogamy?

Dan Savage:  Yeah, absolutely we need to rethink love and commitment.  You know 60 years ago was when we decided that men had to be monogamous too.  Men were not monogamous.  For all of recorded human history men had concubines and whores, and 60 years ago straight relationships began to become more egalitarian and it was less of a property transaction—a marriage had been a property transaction for most of recorded human history—and it became a union of two equals. And at that moment instead of deciding to allow women to have the same sort of freedom and leeway that men did we decided to let men have the same limitations, impose the same limitations what women had and we put monogamous sexual commitment at the heart of all relationships, all long-term commitments, all marriages and we have watched. 

We should now be able to recognize the consequences of that, which are a lot of short-term relationships, a lot of divorce. Because monogamy is ridiculous and people aren’t any good at it.  We’re not wired for it.  We didn’t evolve to be.  It’s unnatural and it places a tremendous strain on our marriages and our long-term commitments to expect them to be effortlessly monogamous. Because what we said is "If you’re in love you shouldn’t... you won’t want to have sex with anybody else and what we need to tell people is that if you’re in love you can make a monogamous commitment and you will refrain from having sex with other people, but you will still desperately want to fuck the shit out of other people." But people understand love means I don’t want to fuck other people because of these misconceptions pumped into people’s heads about romance, love and what it means. And so they meet somebody else that they’re attracted to and they’re attracted to this other person.  They go "Well, I must not be in love with my partner anymore otherwise I wouldn’t be attracted to this person." Or they feel threatened when their partners are attracted to other people because it makes them feel insecure and we just need to get passed that and we talk about monogamy the way we talk about virginity, that you’re monogamous until you fuck somebody else and they’re you’re not.  You’ve ruined it.  You popped your monogamy hymen and destroyed your monogamous relationship. 

We need to talk about monogamy the way we talk about sobriety, which you can be monogamous and fall off the wagon and then sober back up.  You can monogamous back up and get back on the wagon. And the truth of the matter is that if you’re with somebody for 40, 50 years and they only cheated on you a few times they were good at being monogamous, not bad at being monogamous.  They were good at it.  So I do think there needs to be some leeway. And a lot of really good loving relationships are destroyed because somebody wants a little variety or isn’t getting a need met and feels they have to step out and it explodes the relationship.  I'm conservative.  I think that we should do what we can to preserve marriages and long-term relationships, and one way to do that is to encourage people to have more realistic attitudes about sexual exclusivity. 

Recorded on October 18, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller

Dan Savage: the idea that one instance of infidelity should ruin a relationship is a new—and misguided—notion.

3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

Videos
  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Keep reading Show less

Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.

Photo by Willeke Duijvekam
Surprising Science
  • The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
  • The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
  • While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
Keep reading Show less

UPS has been discreetly using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo

TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.


PAUL RATJE / Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.
Keep reading Show less