We explain what monogamy is and what forms it takes. Why it is criticized, and differences with polygamy. Monogamy in animals.
What is monogamy?
Monogamy is a type of marriage, the most usual in the legislation of most countries, which contemplates the union of two individuals through an exclusive, unique and singular sexual and loving bond.
This concept can also be applied to animals that maintain a bond of this type with their partner, at least during the breeding and breeding season.
The term comes from the Greek monkey (“one”) and gámos (“marriage”). Monogamy however is not synonymous with marriage . There may be other types of matrimonial arrangement, such as polygamy (polygyny or polyandria).
Although the monogamous model is the traditional and customary in the West, alternative forms of erotic or love organization have emerged in the 21st century, such as polyamory. However, none enjoys formal recognition of any kind, or great social acceptance yet.
Broadly speaking, one can speak of two forms of monogamy:
- Strict monogamy . That which stipulates that a single person must have an erotic and romantic nexus throughout life, except in the case that said person dies (and sometimes even so).
- Serial monogamy . The most common in the West, establishes that the erotic and romantic nexus must occur in a unique and exclusive way between two individuals determined at the same time, although for a time determined by mutual agreement. Once one of the parties decides to break the union, they will be free to build a new one with another person.
Monogamy in humans
There is much debate about the character of our monogamy species. It can be considered part of a set of cultural and historical impositions , the result of the religious domination of Western society during the long medieval period , which would have left its mark.
It is even associated with the logic of private property , capitalism and the western status quo of the 21st century. This trial is mostly based on the oppression of women , since in many societies monogamy is reinforced and monitored over women, but it is flexible around men.
There are also those who affirm that the polygamous logic of multiple sexual partners is the most faithful to our biology and the fundamental principle of spreading the genetic seed as much as possible.
On the contrary, others claim that there is even a genetic basis for monogamy , because throughout the history of the species, this sexual behavior appears linked to the expression of a set of 24 genes related to brain development. Therefore, the most intelligent species in nature cultivate this type of bond.
However, it should be noted that it is not biology but culture that determines our behaviors . That is to say that both monogamy and its variants have in the history of humanity various motives and contexts of appearance linked to religion, tradition and historical conditions.
Paradoxically, according to anthropological studies , 16% of human societies embrace monogamy , but only 5% disapprove of extramarital sex.
Monogamy in animals
Monogamy is uncommon in animal species , and can be seen in just 3% of known mammals , according to some scholars. Some of them are killer whales, some rodents; but also some species of birds such as penguins, crows, parrots and eagles.
In any case, for a species to be declared monogamous, it must meet the following five conditions :
- Male and female should cohabit and selectively select long-term or during the breeding and breeding periods .
- The individuals unfamiliar must be repelled from the nest, burrow or familiar territory, even if they belong to the same species.
- The parents devote extensive attention to breeding .
- Reproduction is regulated at the social level by the individuals of the species.
- Incest is avoided among adult individuals.
Monogamy and polygamy
If monogamy implies the exclusive sexual and romantic bond between the individuals of a couple, polygamy instead proposes a multiple but regulated link. In other words, it is about the possibility of getting married to several people at the same time or successively.
When it comes to a man married to several women, it is known as polygyny . Polyandria is much less frequent : a woman married to several men . Polygamy is accepted by cultures such as Islamic or Jewish, in its more traditional variants.
Critics of monogamy
As we said before, there is much dissent about the convenience of monogamy for human beings . Broadly, it is criticized:
- Machismo . Given the sexist cultural patterns of most human societies, monogamy is fulfilled and monitored in the case of women, but it becomes more flexible in the case of men, allowing the latter greater amounts of sexual and romantic freedom.
- Link to private property . Monogamy appeared in our species at the same time as agriculture and the idea of private property, which makes women part of the heritage of men, of the objects they own, since they lose the freedom to choose with which male they want to reproduce , being generally delivered by their parents according to material motivations.
- Link with religion . It is no secret to anyone that many religions foster an exclusive monogamous bond, punishing instead extramarital affairs. This was particularly intense during the European Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church ruled with an iron hand. Hence, moral considerations about monogamy are linked to conservative values .
- Divorce rates . Monogamous marriages have been shortening their usual period of life in most modern societies, allowing the interruption of the relationship and the beginning of a new one, exceeding 70% of marriage cases in some countries. Thus, serial monogamy is embraced, which does not exclude extramarital sex (infidelity) and which, on a general level, makes monogamous citizens “repressed polygamists,” as Sigmund Freud said.