OPINION: "Monogamy is unnatural! Our species is too obsessed with sex! We are not designed to have sex with the same person over and over again for an entire lifetime!"
Sounds plausible ... or ludicrous?
These opinions are all from psychologist Christopher Ryan, the author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, whose New York Times bestselling book shook things up when it was released in 2010.
By Ryan's unconventional reckoning, social constraints have made sure that modern folks aren't doing what they're biologically designed to do: be non-monogamous.
Instead, we're pushing for closed marriages (hence the apparent reason for increased divorce rates), pooh-pooh affairs and sniff at those who opt for the unconventional route of carrying out an "open relationship" in public for all the world to see.
Evidence of this is the current media debate surrounding this topic.
In case you missed it, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's ex-wife Marianne Gingrich declared that, when she was married, her ex-bloke said he wanted an open marriage, and she wouldn't have a bar of it.
She told America's ABC News Nightline program that her husband at the time was having an affair with a woman by the name of Callista Bisek (now his third wife), and therefore asked her (his wife of 18 years) if she would agree to an open marriage so he could continue seeing both while still being married, and without having to sneak around.
Of course you can't be running for the president of the United States without having at least some skeletons revealed from your closet.
But whether it's true or not (Gingrich has denied the allegations and has attacked anyone who has attempted to dredge them up during presidential debates or television appearances), blokes the world over are secretly applauding him.
"It's genius," one man told me. "Get approval from your wife to have sex with any other women you want. What guy would say no to that?"
That might be well and true. But, when I put the question back to him, asking how he'd feel if his girlfriend did the same, he wasn't so certain it was a good idea.
"I guess I wouldn't want my girlfriend sleeping with other people. So, yeah, as much as I'm a guy and would love to be able to sleep with other women with permission, there's no way I would allow my girl to do the same thing. You just can't have your cake and eat it too, no matter how tempting it might sound."
Tempting indeed. But, like he says, love without strings - most of the time - just simply does not work. Agree to it and you enter treacherous terrain: jealousy, lies and complications abound.
But not everyone agrees.
Can "negotiated infidelity" save a marriage?
Holly Hill, the Australian author of Sugarbabe, took the relationship world by storm last year when she boldly went on CNN and said that she believed having extramarital affairs could be the key to saving a failing marriage. Seriously.
"Negotiated infidelity," she termed it, telling CNN that "the woman that negotiates infidelity with her partner is far more powerful than a woman who is sitting home wondering why he's late from the office Christmas party".
She continued: "It's better to walk the dog on a leash than let it escape through an unseen hole in the back fence."
She calls all this a "logical" way of making sure men don't cheat. In other words, she's making the assumption that all men cheat.
Which, if you ask me, is utterly ludicrous.
Yes, men might be hard-wired to bonk anything with two legs and a miniskirt. But when they meet a woman whom they love, respect, admire and adore, the monogamy gene kicks in.
Many of the men I've polled in happy relationships would never, ever consider cheating. Are they a rare breed? Not really. Do they have stronger willpower than the others? Perhaps. Better morals? Indeed.
Of course if two people, as Hill asserts, make an agreement to have an open relationship, then the rules better be written in stone and followed to the letter.
I shared a debate once on an ABC panel, and there were a number of couples in the room for whom "negotiated infidelity" really did work. Seriously. They were happy as Larry. Or Jan. Or whoever the third wheel in the relationship was.
What astounded me about the couples in the room who had open relationships (and there were many - kudos to the ABC for finding them and getting them to talk) was that each couple seemed to have different rules.
Some needed to approve of the "other person" and only wanted their partner to sleep with that one other person.
Other couples said they didn't allow their partner to sleep with another person more than once; they had to keep switching it up so as not to get emotionally attached.
It was a lot to take in and it's difficult not to be a tad judgmental in those situations. But everyone does what suits them and what works for them is different to what works for everyone else.
The trouble is when your partner wants one thing, and you want another.
Should women agree to an open relationship if their partner asks for one?
Marianne Gingrich claims she refused to agree to an open relationship and therefore she lost her husband.
I spoke to Harriet*, who said she found herself in a similar predicament.
After she and her boyfriend attended a talk by Christopher Ryan, she realised her partner also wanted an open relationship. He told her of his request, and things have been unravelling in her mind since then.
While he says he wouldn't be jealous if she were to sleep with other men (really!?), she says she feels quite the opposite.
"Hypothetically, even if we never discussed our affairs with each other, every time he would say he's going to the shops I would secretly wonder if he was going to see another woman and be paranoid about whether he would have more fun with her.
"It sounds like I'm insecure - but aren't all women to some degree?
"People talk about open relationships and some say they always fail and some say there are good success stories. But no one ever talks about why the bad ones failed and why others worked.
"I've also noticed online there are a lot of articles agreeing with Ryan but there are hardly any sites advocating monogamy - unless they're religious.
"Why is this? I thought most people were fans of monogamy or maybe we've just been brainwashed and, when push comes to shove, we don't have many reasons to prove it's the best way."
Does she have a point?
Can open relationships really work? Does every male secretly yearn for his own harem? And if we are hard-wired to find a mate, why is monogamy so unnatural to our species? What the heck is going on? Can we really have sex with one person for the rest of our lives, or do you agree with Ryan?
* Harriet is not her real name.
-Sydney Morning Herald
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