Sunday, April 3, 2011


Why are we monogamous? Some evolutionary psychologists believe that humans are, by our very nature, promiscuous animals. According to such claims, the size of our testes and the length of our penises, are believed to be adaptive in sperm competition (the phenomenon that arises whenever the sperm of different males compete to fertilise the female's eggs). Our penises, for example, are the largest of the great apes, both in absolute terms and relative to body size (the poor gorilla, at 3cm, has the smallest).

The topic of monogamy came up during brunch yesterday with friends (at the appropriately named "Cheeky Monkey" Cafe). We were discussing extra-marital affairs (biologists would call these 'extra-pair copulations' or EPCs for short) and whether or not it is acceptable (and under what circumstances it would be so).

One of our female friends was the victim of a cheating husband. According to her husband, it had only happened once and he was so wrought with guilt that he confessed everything to his wife. After some marriage counselling, all now seems to be well. In the case of our friend, the husband actually engaged in an EPC with another man. Our friend is certainly not alone.

I once met an elderly gay man who told me about his 'closeted' past as a married man with a wife and two kids. I guess he was half out the closet for most of his marriage. His wife knew about his indiscretions (with other men) and the kids only found out when he eventually left his family for one of his lovers.

Of course, both of my examples involve men being unfaithful to their wives with other men but even without the homosexual element, it DOES seems to be common for males to be the ones seeking the EPCs. That's not to say that women are more inclined to mate monogamously but let's keep the focus on men because I wonder if this is the reason why gay men are often so promiscuous even when they are in a stable relationship. I was telling my friends at brunch about this gay couple I knew who were married and in an open relationship. Why go through the trouble of marriage if one is to engage in sanctioned EPCs? Before getting to the answer, our conversation had already moved onto another topic (whether it is OK for friends to kiss each other on the lips).


Victor said...

'Darling, I'm so so sorry. I've been having an EPC.'

Mmmmm, doesn't quite have the ring of 'affair' does it?


Andrew said...

Was a conclusion reached about the kiss on the lips question?

Ann O'Dyne said...

first let's get secks out of the way: I truly believe it is omnisex.
There are people I would turn gay for in a flash, and if George Clooney went after KDLang or Ellen, I wonder how long they would resist.
(Elton could probably resist Angelina Homewrecker, but you know what I mean)
Monogamy is an un-natural construct based in christian inheritance of property and getting the brats supported by the father.
I do wish the vicar would mention in the church before the 'I do's that adultery is so totally going to be an issue that must be sorted before children appear. It is foolish to chuck a spaz just because a partner has strayed, and condemn the kids to awful christmases of having to visit Her family, His family, the New Partner's Family etc etc..

I think we can be in love with more than one person, without diminishing the regard for the Primary relationship.

Adaptive Radiation said...

Victor: I was trying to be scientific about the whole thing but EPC might be better received than 'affair'.

Andrew: No, we couldn't resolve it. One of my friends and I think it is weird. Her partner thinks it is ok (both his mum and nanna kisses him on the lips). Nathan's mum and grandmother do the same to me too. I guess it is tolerable as long as there is no tongue involved.

Ann: Call me old fashioned but I reckon it's possible. And although rare in nature (many more species are socially monogamous than they are genetically monogamous, which means they hang out in pairs but have a few EPCs on the side), it does exist (e.g. seahorses).

FletcherBeaver said...

I totally agree with Ann...