Even though my spell checker still doesn’t recognize it as a word, polyamory has become real enough to be researched. A new article in New Scientist magazine entitled Love unlimited: The polyamorists discusses polyamory in general, interviews a San Francisco poly family, and discusses some of the research.
I’m not sure what’s up with the “polyamorists,” but other than that it’s overall a pretty good article. It’s definitely interesting to see science beginning to show some interest in the cultural phenomenon. There has been little to no research on the topic. In a desperate search for anything, New Scientist culled a case study research paper from the little known and probably highly ignored Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality.
“What evidence there is shows that poly couples stay together as long as monogamous ones – and, apparently, for good reasons. In a study in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (vol 8), Cook analysed the relationships of seven couples who had been married for more than 10 years, and who had had additional partners for at least seven of those years. She found that most of the couples reported “love” or “connection” as important reasons for staying together. This contrasts with monogamous couples, Cook notes, who often list external factors such as religion or family as major reasons for remaining committed.”
The Evolutionary Angle
The New Scientist article also touches on the evolutionary biological aspects of monogamy and polyamory‚Äîsubjects that I’ve ruminated on myself. Evolutionary biologist David Barash sums it up quite well: “A good look at human biology does not support polyamory any more than it supports monogamy.”
As psychologist Dossie Easton, co-author of The Ethical Slut, points out “In middle-class urban cultures, people aren’t marrying for survival any more.” Easton sees polyamory as an “cultural outgrowth of serial monogamy,” and monogamy and polygamy as survival strategies.
However it’s a mistake to think that we were always struggling for survival as hunter/gatherers. As Jared Diamond states, “Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors.” (“The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” Discover 1987).
Personally, I think monogamy, polygamy, cheating, acceptance of mistresses, and polyamory are all cultural offshoots. Throughout our history we have developed several cultural systems to help us emotionally deal with the turmoil of our biological inclination for serial monogamy. We can’t rely on biological rationals to prove which is more right than the other‚Äîwe just have to figure out which works best for us and our partners.
Article initially stumbled across on Mind Hacks.