The Benefits of Human Monogamy

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Missed It Then, Love It Now (flickr/Andrew R Whalley)

Two recent studies have focused on primates and other mammals as a way to understand monogamy. These scientific studies conclude that monogamy is extremely beneficial for males in a number of these species. 

We look to animals not addressed in the research: Humans. What are the benefits of monogamy in human relationships? Who gets the better deal when these relationships are heterosexual: Men or women?

To answer this, we turn to Lamar Tyler and Emily Rems.

Lamar Tyler is a married father of four young kids and co-author of the website Emily Rems is managing editor for Bust Magazine, and has been in a monogamous long term relationship with her live-in boyfriend for 9 years. They join us to discuss their perspectives of monogamy.


Emily Rems and Lamar Tyler

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman, Ally Harrison, Carla Javier and Kristen Meinzer

Comments [11]

jgarbuz from Queens

The natural state of most mammals is where one alpha stud dominates and "services" a small harem until a younger, stronger challenger drives him off and takes over. The females take care of and have the company of his offspring. Monogamy and marriage were instituted by man-made laws, but nature in the end trumps man-made taboos. Of course both males and females will cheat to get better sex with someone else, unless they have "moral scruples." Or fear of consequences if they get caught.

Aug. 07 2013 11:37 AM
Michelle from Princeton

Did your guest really say that other "higher primates" are monogamous? Which ones? Not chimpanzees, nor bonobos, the two we humans are most often compared to. So the "science" of the argument seems to fall apart and we are left with another opinion piece in the guise of evolutionary anthropology.

Aug. 01 2013 11:11 PM
Michelle from Boston

I would have liked to have heard an opposing viewpoint in this discussion. Surely there are some downsides to monogamy, and to extoll its benefits without discussing the downsides makes for a pretty boring discussion. I had read an article a while ago that suggested that monogamy was not natural among most animals, that nearly all animals other than humans are non-monogamous, and even birds, once thought to have been monogamous, were not. It would have been more interesting to hear a counterpoint.

Aug. 01 2013 10:57 PM
Erin Sweeney from Delaware

Was very disappointed by this segment. I actually sought it out online because I missed it earlier today but heard you promoting it while in the car. I was much more interested in the research that led to the discussion. Why wasn't that discussed at all? What you chose to discuss was not at all useful to me. I am not sure who Lamar Tyler and Emily Rems are hanging out with but among everyone I know, monogamy is pretty commonly accepted as the only socially acceptable behavior to engage in. I'm not saying everyone I know is monogamous but only that they certainly aren't telling anyone if they aren't. I've lived all over the country and I'm in my 40's now so I don't know where the notion that swinging or being promiscuous is socially acceptable in the U.S. is coming from. I suppose there must be a segment of the population that I don't hang around much who are engaging in that kind of behavior openly but society certainly doesn't seem to condone it. I'm not judging that behavior as bad, I'm just saying that to me the big "hot topic" here isn't what do people think is better or which gender benefits the most? The hot topics for me are 1st: What is actually going on in terms of monogamy (and that's really hard to know) and 2nd: How can we determine what is best for society and then encourage that healthy behavior (whatever it turns out to be)? I would hazard a guess that all long term relationships have had some "bumps in the monogamy road" but that these are secrets that would not be easily found out and probably are best kept quiet. The bottom line is that we are all fallible and we need to remember that when we set standards of proper "moral" behavior for our society and also when we judge others based on our possibly unrealistic moral ideals.

Aug. 01 2013 10:03 PM

Then how does one explain the popularity and pleasure in "Swinging?"

Aug. 01 2013 05:29 PM
Whitey McWhiterson from oklahoma city , ok

I'll first say I tuned in a bit late to the broadcast, okay I only heard the closing comments, and the only valid thing I could possibly add to the relevant discussion is it reminds me of a "Dead Prez" lyric. "my way may not be your way, BUT it's ok". If going to the club makes you happy, by all means do, and if your significant other makes you happy, that do that. I actually wanted to comment on that closing statement made by the lady on the show who used the term "da club". I mean no disrespect when I say that I thought it was racist.

Aug. 01 2013 03:10 PM
Nate from Philadelphia, PA

Here's some BS I'm tired of hearing, and it goes something like this: 'When women choose to be non-monogamous, it's only because they are forced into it by circumstance.' This idea denigrates women by portraying them as little girls without agency who aren't able to make choices on their own behalf. That's nonsense. Women can make their own choices. Choices about their reproductive rights, their careers, and their relationships (monogamous or not.) I only caught part of this radio show, and the part that I caught was bullshit. It claims to be based on science, but in fact just mindlessly perpetuates inaccurate cultural stereotypes. One commentator claimed that women who choose non-monogamy "really" want to be monogamous, and are just forced into non-monogamy by some quirk of demographics or culture... Responsible non-monogamy is a real thing, people, and often works better than your "monogamy and cheating and breaking up" model. Also, non-monogamy is not a threat to "the institution of family." You know what is? Nearly inevitable cheating and divorce. Moreover, the concept of "family" is evolving in our culture. And it's not "THE fundamental building block" of our civilization. Also, why does this program only examine middle class, urban dwelling heterosexuals? Fools...

Aug. 01 2013 01:14 PM
Petr Jandacek from LOS ALAMOS NM USA

O'Reilley was right?

Aug. 01 2013 10:08 AM
Angel from Miami FL

I find that women prefer men who are NOT monogamous. They find me more interesting when I behave slightly like a player than like someone who's looking for a committed relationship.

When I am not in a relationship my brain is spent mostly on "getting some". It's a misuse of brain.

Aug. 01 2013 09:57 AM

Time and time again I've seen widowed elderly women experience a totally "new and invigorated life" when their husbands die. They are so happy with their newly found "freedom" that they rarely try to find a new husband. On the other hand, I know only one elderly man who was content with "single life" after his wife died; the rest all remarried and surprisingly, many in less than 1 year after their life-long mate died.

Aug. 01 2013 08:55 AM
Ed from Larchmont

It's interesting, the Catholic Church defines marriage as the life-long and exclusive commitment of one man to one woman and one woman to one man in a covenantal relationship. This is so valuable that it is a sacrament for two baptized people.

And society would say that's old-fashioned, or restrictive, not modern, etc. But then the social scientists study the situation and ... on every metric, including how well children develop, this situation shows up as the best. (A recent study even argued that religious married couples have the most satisfying sexual lives.)

Aug. 01 2013 08:22 AM

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