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Monogamy Revisited

Thundery wintry showers


Some may have wondered what on Earth I was blithering on about in the monogamy thread and some other related ones.

I don't have a problem with the demand for [i]sexual[/i] monogamy (except when it's thrust upon people who consent to having "open" relationships). My opinion on polygamous/polymorous relationships has changed a fair bit since posting in the "Monogamy" thread, as there is strong evidence that they are eminently workable in cultures that don't frown upon them. However, at the same time, I think especially in the current cultural climate it's fair to call violating an agreement on sexual monogamy "cheating".

Where I have a problem is with the demand for [i]emotional[/i] monogamy- expressed in simple terms, "I don't want you loving anyone but me". Emotional monogamy isn't actually as simple as that, because it normally excludes love for family members (because "family is different") and often excludes female-on-female friendships ("best girlfriends" etc). The effect of "emotional monogamy" is to forbid heterosexual men from bonding emotionally with anyone other than family, prohibiting opposite-sex friendships and also prohibiting male-on-male friendships that aren't restricted to purely social bonding. The main basis behind this is the stereotype "heterosexual men don't show emotion unless there's a sexual motive" as well as a legacy of the fear of homosexuality that prevailed in the early 20th century. (It's ironic, as it's usually women and homosexuals who get a raw deal with these traditional values of patriarchal origin- but heterosexual men get a raw deal too if they choose to deviate from the archetypal, macho, emotionally-stunted male gender role).

I have particularly serious concerns over the concept of "emotional cheating", defined as feeling closer to an opposite-sex friend than to one's partner, or confiding in an opposite-sex friend about problems that are occurring within one's partnership. (Maybe it's primarily a US thing?) Yes, sometimes people do use emotional manipulation to break apart partnerships, but by no means is this confined to opposite-sex friends (family members are just as capable) and what happens when a partnership becomes unstable or abusive? By those definitions of "emotional cheating" any platonic opposite-sex friend becomes a sitting duck waiting to be scapegoated for the problems within the partnership.

I may have been unlucky with friendships over the years, but there's surely other men out there who would love to be able to express emotion freely with others, in the way that women can, but are frightened to because of the risk of getting in serious trouble for "emotionally cheating" on someone or, worse still, having their affection misinterpreted as attempted molestation. In my opinion we should all be allowed to love and care for one another. By all means people should continue to have partnerships and deal with genuine third-party attempts to undermine them, but society would be a lot better off if people (especially men) felt able to care generally for others rather than just members of their families.


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