Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sex, more sex: Men and cheating (audio)

Larry Mantle, Eric Anderson, AirTalk, April 16, 2012 (scpr.org); Wisdom Quarterly
Dallas, Texas, is one of the Top 10 most promiscuous cities in America (CBS News).

The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating
Professor Eric Anderson is an American sociologist at the University of Winchester, author of The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love and the Reality of Cheating (Oxford University Press).

Is monogamy (sex with just one person) for everyone? Is it particularly difficult or even impossible for men to be monogamous?

The widespread notion that monogamy is the ultimate proof of true love does not square with the reality that cheating is rampant. Yet, whether gay or straight, the vast majority of relationships start with the belief that monogamy is the desired ideal.

In his new book The Monogamy Gap, sociologist Eric Anderson combined 120 interviews with social science and biology experts and came up with a theory about why men cheat despite their best efforts to be faithful.

Monogamy is irrational, Anderson contends. It denies the reality of a lifetime of sexual urges; cheating is the only way to satisfy sexual desire while staying in a loving relationship with a single partner.

This distance between the monogamous ideal on the one hand and the biological compulsion for sex on the other is called “the monogamy gap.”

Monogamy gap is a term Anderson created to explain why cheating is the rational response to an irrational circumstance.

"If you ask couples what's more important in their lives -- the emotional relationship or the sexual relationship -- they're, of course, more likely to say the emotional relationship," he reports.

Women will keep quiet and put up with a lot for a stable relationship that "normalizes" them in the eyes of the society, but even cheating? If that silence is backed by resentment, it may be better to talk (thewayofattraction.com).

"We put all of our policing efforts into the sexual aspect of it, and that is not what is most important in a relationship."

Anderson explains that the desire to stay faithful to one partner is culturally conditioned, part of it coming with the Industrial Revolution.

"It used to be on a farm, the more kids you had, the more hands you had to do the farm. But in industry, one wage can only feed so many people, so the more kids you have under one salary labor -- well, it's not beneficial to have multiple kids out of that," he says.

The book's central question is whether monogamy is serving society well. Anderson contends that the number of emotionally healthy families breaking up due to sexual violations gives evidence to monogamy's drawbacks.
"I'm suggesting that we need to do is decrease the stigma about open sexual relationships so that couples can make better choices -- because right now, men are saying to me, it's better to cheat and hope that it go unnoticed than ask for an open sexual relationship because there's such a stigma," he reports.
  • So should we all throw in the towel on monogamy?
  • Or is there something about that kind of commitment that we should preserve and honor?
  • Is it even possible without encouraging cheating?

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