“Mashable Watercooler” posted a video today called “Are You Built For Monogamy?”.
The whole thing is crap.
Dr. Roshini Raj (the presenter) is a board certified gastroenterologist. Which does make her an subject matter expert in her field… which is neither evolutionary biology or sociology.
This is evident when the question the video is structured around is a misuse of evolutionary science; after all, we’re not built for living in cities, driving cars, or even having glasses. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that we’re “built” for having a lot more germs and parasites.
Here’s your tapeworm, have a nice day.
There’s also a sociological blind spot that leads them straight to one big false dichotomy. Here it is (emphasis mine):
“Brain scan imaging shows that cheating of any kind can activate reward centers in the brain. But that this effect can be more pronounced in certain people. In fact there does seem to be a spectrum of behavior when it comes to monogamy, with some people being more naturally inclined to be faithful to one partner…and some people more prone to have casual encounters.“
The only options Mashable finds worth mentioning – despite the casual aside of a “spectrum” – are casual flings and straight-up monogamy.
You know, American society’s current “default” options.
It’s like they couldn’t even consider that someone could have more than one strongly bonded, faithful partner, where everything’s done ethically. That’s not “cheating” – that’s having more than one relationship.
There’s a big difference between those two. First, in terms of health alone: STI rates are lower among people who are practicing ethical non-monogamy than “cheaters”. In fact, comparisons between similar populations of ethically non-monogamous people and monogamous people showed no statistically significant change in the rate of STI infections.
That doesn’t mean everyone does polyamory the same way. Among the polyamorous people I know (and please know the difference between polyamorous and polygamous), there are “players”. And everyone they’re involved with knows this. There’s also groups of varying sizes and arrangements that act more like large extended families – and are very faithful to each other and provide huge amounts of support in childcare, healthcare, and emotional needs.
But maybe using Google was too hard. I dunno.
But it’s easy to find out there’s alternatives besides “monogamy” and “cheating”.
They could have just looked in the freaking dictionary:
polyamory: The fact of having simultaneous close romantic relationships with two or more other individuals, viewed as an alternative to monogamy, esp. in regard to matters of sexual fidelity; the custom or practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned.
In real life, people’s relationships with each other work all sorts of different ways. Some people are “born poly”. Some people are interested in polyamory, and find out it doesn’t work well for them. Far more run into cheating asshats who claim to be polyamorous – the “ethical” part is not optional. Some people are swingers. Others are asexual but romantic. Some people slide back and forth on the monogamish spectrum. Some people marry their high-school sweetheart and never have another romantic relationship in their life.
I’ve seen too many people too abused and suffer too much in all kinds of relationships to think that there’s a uniform “best” model of relationships.
As long as your relationship(s) are helping you be your happiest and healthiest self, as long as they’re allowing you to be the best possible version of yourself that you can be, who cares what you call it, or what you’re supposedly “designed” for?
So, a misapplication of science, a lack of fundamental research on the topic the presentation is on, and a huge dichotomy/sociological blind spot.
Mashable calls this series “Love University”.
As someone who taught a research methods class, I give them a D-.
And that’s only because I’m grading on a curve.
If you are curious about what actual ethical non-monogamy (or polyamory, or whatever label you like), I’d start with Buzzfeed’s video “Ask a Polyamorous Person” below. If podcasts are more your thing, PolyWeekly is a good place to start. And for a huge resource, More Than Two cannot be ignored.