General ramblings

On Monogamy and Sex

A substantial minority of women, as well as men, are not, in practice, monogamous but are likely to claim to be. Occasional ‘lapses’ are explained as one-off events of little significance…Many heterosexuals say, for example, that it is better to ‘stray’ with someone you don’t care about than with someone you do care about and that they could cope if their partner had a one-night stand that ‘means nothing’ but not if it was a meaningful relationship. We find this perplexing. Do women really want to have relationships with men who treat other women like this? Would they not rather have relationships with people who cared who they were intimate with? Are new ‘meaningful’ relationships really so threatening; do they necessarily invalidate an existing relationship? Is it time we questioned anew the contradictory, and often disturbing, ideas that support monogamy.


Why is ‘sex’ considered the special glue which keeps people together (or not); what’s the potential of having sex with friends, and for destabilising the primacy of the ‘the couple’ in our everyday lives? How can we challenge ‘compulsory sexuality’ – where all romantic/intimate relations are expected to be sexual between adults? How can we find freedom and fulfillment within a range of personal relationships, which complement rather than ‘complete’ us?



22 thoughts on “On Monogamy and Sex

  1. A question i have been throwing to my hubby a lot many times and we do agree that homo sepians are not meant to be monogamous… though it is not always true but true for most, nonetheless!! This is a debatable point and many might not agree too!!

    Sakhi, I personally subscribe to your view and to the view of the person who wrote the original article. I find the entire institution of monogamy to be quite shaky…I don’t think it’s possible to live this way, at least in most cases. Of course, there are people who will argue otherwise and will fight for their undying love. – Ruhi

  2. And forgot to add, that doesnt mean that i would take my hubby’s straying or mine less seriously or in my stride!! I wont approve his/mine one night stands or emotional bonding either ( i think i am becoming a bit possessive!!) 😉

    Of course 🙂 I know what you mean- you are open to the fact that people might not totally be monogamous. At the same time , you expect two people in a relationship to be as true as possible. And I think that’s quite reasonable. Trust should be the basis of all relationships. Ruhi

  3. @Sakhi
    No, you are not being possessive. Thats the way everyone should think (or I think so 😀 )

    You are not a married woman, are you? 😀 (I know the answer btw)

    No, I’m not married. 🙂 – Ruhi

  4. @ Ruhi

    It is a good thing I click on source links to read articles before commenting. The source in this case is something I tend to avoid reading, unusually enough. Don’t particularly like anything rabid, especially of the kind that claims to be a face of contemporary this and that but does not really represent views that disagree with their primary theses.

    Shefaly, I picked these quotes because I tend to agree with them. I think they are beautiful in that they are not pretentious and question the very foundation of many relationships. I don’t expect you to agree with these quotes/primary theses. And I’m not sure what you mean by “face of contemporary this and that”. It’s quite okay if you don’t agree. – Ruhi

  5. I don’t think Monogamy is how we were meant to be either. I don’t know actually. But then again, relationships cannot be based on sex alone. There’s got to be a trust factor. And when there’s a trust factor, you can’t go around having sex with everybody. I don’t know, really. I guess it’s okay when you’re not in a relationship. But when you are in one, I guess it depends on the person with whom you’re in a relationship.

  6. I think everything is fine, so long as everybody involved agrees. If you want to be monogamous, great! But then really stick to it.
    If you don’t want to be monogamous, great! But your partner(s) have to know about it and have to have the possibility to opt out or in.
    So long as the terms are clear.
    I guess, the crap really starts, when it’s done secretly and people start betraying their significant other(s). And with the current prevalent (Christian) morality [at least, where I live], usually people who are not monogamous feel the need to hide that.

  7. One thing I do know and that is about myself. I am totally monogamous. In fact I feel completely uneasy with the idea of anything else. For me sex and love is all too entwined anyway and I am glad I found a partner who is the same. In fact he is intensely monogamous. We both feel we cannot live without each other and have made a pact to die together. A bit extreme huh considering we aren’t teenagers anymore.

  8. Monogamy is an interesting issue albeit, touchy. For example, I find the argument that “the day wifey doesn’t cook, I go to the restaurant” argument valid – after all, it is just a physiological need! Not always a physiological need is also something I understand.

    Meanwhile, you get a “life partner” with marriage – someone with whom you can share your life or has a right over your life. With your life being shared why would anyone antagonize (if that is the case) for 2 hours of “may be” pleasure?

    Especially if I define sex as a physiological need, variety is not the most important factor.

    I also agree with kalafudra – why hide something if it is correct? We agree to have flirted with someone or we appreciate good things openly – but when it comes to sex why do the polygamous hide it? I feel, based on the fact that we hide it, puts polygamy in the same league as any other anti-social activity.

    Personally. I would find it intensely uncomfortable to look at a woman in her eyes & lie – that’s how I’ve been brought up and I believe what I do is correct for myself – this takes out me hiding committment for straying or hiding my straying to the person I am committed to. There is a possibility of me not having to lie to both parties – I would hate to be in such a situation & would probably not want to have any connections with either women in question ever after.

  9. If someone does not intend to be monogamous, he should not marry. That is something which is done so that people remain monogamous. Sadly, we don’t follow the rules of the game. 😦
    That’s why so much chaos. 😛

  10. Nikhil- Please elucidate! I quite missed your point. 🙂

    Ish- So many times, people trust each other to not do the right thing. Who says that trust can only be taken positively? For example- I say that I trust my husband to sleep with other women! 😉 Then what?

    Kalafudra- I think way too much important is given to being monogamous. How do we define it? Who sets these boundaries? How do we know these boundaries have been crossed when I come across people who give their drunken state as an excuse for acting silly? It’s all hypocrisy. It all boils down to how true you are to yourself and to what degree you are deceiving yourself. Maybe I’m being too idealistic about the whole deal.

    Nita- As long as you know what works for you and your husband knows what works for him, all’s good. What annoys me is society dictating what’s wrong and what’s right. When we are all different, then why do we subject each of us to the same standards?

    Raman- People might antagonize themselves because that is what gives them pleasure! The thrill of doing something not generally acceptable, of being different, of questioning common beliefs and being able to break such rules. It’s weird that we define sex as a physiological need, yet continue to want to have variety. Isn’t that what the marriage counselors say? “Go get some variety! Try something new! Explore your options!” It’s like a tasty dish, huh?
    It’s weird how people get away with lying. What’s worse is people get away having told the truth- now is it really worse? That’s what I’m questioning here. I would really like to meet a woman who’s okay with her man having a purely sexual relationship, as long as the illicit relationship didn’t involve any emotions. I think there’s always some emotion hidden somewhere- emotion of love, hatred, indifference?

    Amit- Marriage is done because people want to remain monogamous? haha. I think that’s the old definition that I’d read in my Sociology class. Welcome to the new world where people marry after signing pre nuptial agreements, where people marry just to have grand weddings, to increase their social status, and sometimes, just to get a green card. 🙂

  11. @ Ruhi:

    The reference to being a ‘face of contemporary this and that’ is about the source – the source claims to be ‘contemporary UK feminism’ – of the quote, not about you or your post.

    Any opinionator that cites ‘a substantial minority of women, as well as men’ ‘many heterosexuals’ and ‘We find this perplexing’ and asks questions like ‘do women really ..’ should at least be intellectually honest to cite data in support of these sweeping descriptions or be honest enough to say ‘these are my guesses’ to be taken seriously.

    I hope this explains that the remark was about the source not about you or your post.

    My real view on the issues of monogamy, marriage and relationships in general is that they are purely between the two people in question and what they agree upon – whether by way of foundation, arrangement, tolerance, or encouragement. Everyone can analyse all they wish but nobody outside a relationship really knows much about what goes inside it.

    The irony is that reliable data is hard to collect when a relationship is successful and happy because happy couples do not discuss their ‘recipes’ with outsiders; reliable data on what happened and what went wrong is harder to collect when a relationship breaks down because then it is about raw emotions e.g. abandonment, cheating, distancing etc and it is harder to recall anything particularly neutral or positive about the other person etc.

    Which just suggests that generalising across different relationships is in general predicated on imperfect ‘data’ and less than reliable analyses. Any hypotheses based on such foundations are likely to be at best questionable.

    Although your original quotes are about relationships, many of the subsequent comments appear to use ‘marriage’ as a tautology for relationships.

    Marriage is a contractual and legal arrangement between two consenting adults. What they consent to – including prenuptials – is a matter for the two of them within the laws of the land; these laws are based on social customs as well as economics (I wrote a whole term paper on a game theoretical explanation of polyandry during my Master’s so I can have a whole debate defending it as well as opposing it; oh and I got an A and since we submit anonymously, a sigh from the Professor saying I knew it was you!).

    Relationships without a marriage have no such legal restrictions or limitations. The contract there is implicit and mostly, moral.

    Nobody restricts any adult in either situation to stick to any given model of sexual expression.

    But in one case, i.e. marriage, the costs are clear because any straying is tantamount to contractual violation. In the other, a relationship, the straying has an emotional cost (or not, depending on the ‘stage’ of relationship) but not much else.

    The behaviours of individuals are determined therefore by – once again – by individual assessment of these costs and not necessarily by social dictat.

    As they say, love is blind but marriage is a great eye-opener. Preferably eyes are open before people enter the marriage not after!

    PS: I particularly find this description amusing – that ‘sex’ is the glue that keeps people together. People who believe that probably have not seen many happy relationships (whose foundations invariably lie in common values and life goals; with a plethora of single, married, divorced and several times married friends, I can only say one thing – sex SHOULD by rights kept some of them going but didn’t), of probably have not enjoyed great platonic friendships (i.e. they subscribe to the Harry not the Early Sally school of thought) or both.

  12. Errata:

    ‘SHOULD by rights have kept some…’ instead of ‘SHOULD by rights kept some’

    ‘or probably have not enjoyed..’ rather than ‘of probably’.


  13. I agree. It is a misnomer that doing something that is prohibited would give you the kicks – much like a bunch of kids who were once boasting to me how they did the marijuana and vodka chillies. There’s nothing macho about doing what is socially unacceptable – that has to be drilled in the minds of children at an young age. Also, media tends to portray such people as heroes (not always, but yes, every now & then) and kids forget that what they see is not necessarily what the should be.

    Marriage counselors mean doing different things within the confines of the marriage when they say variety (I hope they do) and not have multiple partners.

    Sex can never be without emotions, cause at the least, lust would be there. No woman (and most men because a few are really shameless) would like to know that her partner slept with someone only because she’s hot and wouldn’t want to be with her ever again – they’d want to be the hottest in their partners’ lives.

    And even if such a situation arises, what do we gain? Ok, everyone is cool about sleeping with someone else for the sake of sex. But what do they get? Any sense of achievement? Any sense of freedom or release? At best, they might get STD…

  14. Shefaly- Thanks for your long note. I had no doubt that you were questioning the original article and not my post/me.

    ’ should at least be intellectually honest to cite data in support of these sweeping descriptions or be honest enough to say ‘these are my guesses’ to be taken seriously.

    Well I read this article as a guess work anyway. I was not looking for any citations or hard numbers based on research. I felt that the general relaxed tone was quite evident. Also, this was further established due to such lack of original citations.

    The irony is that reliable data is hard to collect when a relationship is successful and happy because happy couples do not discuss their ‘recipes’ with outsiders;

    I’m not sure if I agree with you here. Although I haven’t done any recent research on this, I have read many articles that discuss the recipes of a happy marriage! I don’t know if these articles would pass your definition of being “reliable” or not, but I don’t really look for academic research-like quality in everything I read. If this were the case, then I would hardly be reading anyone’s blogs at WordPress or subscribing to anyone’s views here! 🙂

    Although your original quotes are about relationships, many of the subsequent comments appear to use ‘marriage’ as a tautology for relationships

    Yes, I noticed that too. Nobody really explored what I pointed out in the original post- open relationships and the importance of sex as a “glue”. But the comment section is always open for discussion and I don’t like to limit it to the topic of the post (as long as it is not something totally irrelevant).

    PS: I particularly find this description amusing – that ’sex’ is the glue that keeps people together

    Agree with you here Shefaly. And that is what I wanted to highlight when I pasted that quote from the article- That sex might be a necessary ingredient for some, but not ALL non-platonic relationships! People are different and how can the same prescription work for all? So it pisses me off completely when people say that “Our sex life was not great and that’s why we broke off!”. Well…if they had nothing else going on in their relationship apart from sex, then I really don’t feel sorry for them. For me, a relationship should be multi-dimensional and should be based on many firm foundations and not just one.

  15. Raman- The fact that they are defying the society “norms” is macho in itself. Besides, the norms keep changing- who gets to decide what’s good or bad? All we do is become more accepting and open minded.

    Reema- Thanks. Yes, I think so too.

  16. @ Ruhi:

    “So it pisses me off completely when people say that “Our sex life was not great and that’s why we broke off!”. Well…if they had nothing else going on in their relationship apart from sex, then I really don’t feel sorry for them.”

    I agree. I would add it amuses me rather that people who are really predicating the success of a relationship on sex will get into one at all! Their chances of getting more sex and more kinds of sexual experiences probably multiply if they do not get married and commit to one person. They probably get into a marriage with some other expectations, often unarticulated for various reasons such as security, fear of being left on the shelf, wanting to have more money, wanting not to work but have a good life (this kind is the most common but I digress) and in the end, blame the sex as a get-out-of-jail-free card. I agree that a multidimensional relationship works better but above all, fundamental values must match. Alas, that is the toughest test for any human.

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