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SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND SEXUAL MONOGAMY

Social Monogamy and Sexual Monogamy The phrase sexually open socially monogamous relationship might seem like an oxymoron. Sexual openness implies that partners are not sexually exclusive. Monogamy implies that partners are sexually exclusive. However, the oxymoron is based on an assumption that all monogamous pairs are sexually exclusive. Biologists have discovered this assumption is wrong. A Revolution in Biology Biologists used to think that monogamous pairs of animals were sexually exclusive. Sexual exclusivity ensured that both partners in the pair would invest their resources into raising their own genetic offspring. With the invention of DNA fingerprinting technology, biologists gained a tool to confirm that monogamous pairs of animals were indeed raising their own genetic offspring. Numerous studies genetically tested the offspring of monogamous pairs of animals. The results of these tests took biologists by surprise. Relatively large numbers of offspring being raised by monogamous pairs of animals were genetically related to only one partner in the pair (e.g., gren, Zhou, & Zhong, 1989; Barash, 1981; Barash & Lipton, 2001; Birkhead & Mller, 1995; Birkhead & Mller, 1996; Foltz, 1981; Frederick, 1987; Gursky, 2000; Hasselquist & Sherman, 2001; Hubrecht, 1985; Lu, 2007; Mason, 1966; McKinney, Derrickson & Mineau, 1983; Owens & Hartley, 1998; Palombit, 1994; Reichard, 1995; Reichard, 2002; Richardson, 1987; Solomon, Keane, Knoch & Hogan, 2004; Welsh & Sedinger, 1990; Westneat & Stewart, 2003). Biologists commonly found that 20 percent or more of offspring were related to only one partner in the pair. Subsequent field studies confirmed that monogamously paired partners frequently sneaked away for sexual liaisons with extra-pair partners. These discoveries led biologists to draw a distinction between social monogamy and sexual monogamy (Barash & Lipton, 2001; Morell, 1998; Reichard, 2002). Social monogamy

SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND SEXUAL MONOGAMY

referred to the social relationship between a bonded pair of animals, which might include cooperation in constructing shelter, gathering food, defending offspring, and protecting each others social status. Sexual monogamy referred to two animals that had sex exclusively with each other. Social monogamy did not imply sexual monogamy. In fact, among animals that practiced social monogamy, the majority were not sexually monogamous. The simple term monogamy is no longer adequate to describe or understand the social and sexual relationships of bonded pairs of animals (Reichard, 2002: p. 4). According to one science writer: Researchers studying the evolution of monogamy once had a straightforward task: Find those members of the animal kingdom that form lasting pairbonds and then figure out why fidelity is in each mate's interest. But in recent years that task has grown complex. Genetic studies of organisms from birds to gibbons to rodents have revealed that some of the offspring raised by those seemingly attached parents are in fact fathered by different males. Even among those paragons of pair loyalty, the bluebirds, it turns out that the female slips away for brief liaisons with other males. Yet the two parents continue to work together to raise the young. The first thing you have to understand is that social monogamy, where you've got a pairbond, is not the same as genetic monogamy, says Stephen Emlen, an evolutionary behavioral ecologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Indeed, genetic, or sexual, monogamy appears to be the exception rather than the rule among pairs in the animal kingdom. (Morell, 1998, p. 1982) The terms social monogamy and sexual monogamy not only provide greater precision in biological discussions, they reflect the new ways in which biologists understand pair-living animals.

SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND SEXUAL MONOGAMY

The simple term monogamy is likewise inadequate to describe the social and sexual relationships of people who cohabit as couples. Cohabiting couples can choose to live in socially monogamous relationships and remain sexually monogamous; or, cohabiting couples can choose to live in socially monogamous relationships and develop sexually open relationships with extrapair partners. The distinction between social monogamy and sexual monogamy applies to people as well as other animals. For an excellent review of the biological revolution in understanding jealousy, see Barash and Liptons (2001) book The Myth of Monogamy. Social Monogamy in People A socially monogamous relationship, as it applies to people, is defined as two persons who cohabit with each other and who have most of the following characteristics: share psychological bonds with each other (e.g., attachment, commitment, love), cooperate with each other in acquiring food, clothes, household goods, utilities, and other vital resources, cooperate with each other in housework and household maintenance, provide each other support when sick, injured or in need, have sex with each other, cooperate with each other in raising children.

Cohabitation is the only required characteristic of social monogamy. Biologists only use the term social monogamy to refer to pairs of animals that live together as cooperating partners. The other characteristics may differ across socially monogamous relationships. Different socially monogamous relationships may possess different sets of the characteristics listed. In addition,

SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND SEXUAL MONOGAMY

some socially monogamous relationships may possess a greater amount of a given characteristic than other socially monogamous relationships. Couples in socially monogamous relationships may choose to have sexually open relationships. A sexually open socially monogamous relationship is defined as a socially monogamous relationship in which the two cohabiting partners are free to develop sexual relationships with other people as long as everyone involved is aware of the arrangement and agrees to participate. Awareness and agreement are required characteristics of a sexually open socially monogamous relationship. Awareness means each person knows their partners are free to develop sexual relationships with others. Agreement means each person wants to be involved in an arrangement where all partners are free to develop sexual relationships with others. When a socially monogamous partner develops a sexual relationship with another person, the sexual relationship is referred as an extra-pair relationship. The other person is referred to as an extra-pair partner. Although extra-pair relationships always involve sexual ties by definition, extra-pair relationships can involve more than just sexual ties. Extra-pair relationships can involve various levels of psychological familiarity and bonding. Some extra-pair relationships involve no familiarity or bonding (e.g., one-night stands, sex with strangers at a club). Some extra-pair relationships involve low levels of familiarity and bonding (e.g., booty calls, sex with casual acquaintances). Some extra-pair relationships involve moderate levels of familiarity and bonding (e.g., friends with benefits but no romantic love). Some extra-pair relationships involve high levels of familiarity and bonding (e.g., close relationships with romantic love, attachment, and commitment).

SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND SEXUAL MONOGAMY

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SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND SEXUAL MONOGAMY

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SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND SEXUAL MONOGAMY

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SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND SEXUAL MONOGAMY