Monogamy is a possessive ideology. It presumes to predict the future and often fails. Monogamy becomes a prison for affections and often kills the love that it hoped to protect. In many cases, monogamy is a maladaptation imposed by culturally redundant hypnotic manipulations. When we are actually living in a world where many people live outside of monogamy (honestly or not,) then let’s meet that fact truthfully and adapt to the world the way it is. Polyamory and other forms of ethical non-monogamy exemplify our attempts to adapt to the world as it is.
“If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it.”
Repeatedly in her song Single Ladies, Beyoncé states this message, but how many people suffer who take this message to heart? They ignore examples of this belief failing. Undoubtedly, artists of all kinds also know of these failures and the pain that these failures cause. It’s not fair to single out Beyoncé because similar messaging is ubiquitous in art. It would be truer for Beyoncé to sing…
“If you liked it, then you should have flipped a coin on it.”
(The ‘it’ being the prediction about any relationship enduring which is what a wedding ring, represents.)
However, my lyric won’t inspire sentiments or a false sense of security. Why would anyone believe the sentiments pumped in Beyoncé’s song when the facts expose them as dubious? Any trope bound to a custom has at least two social forces supporting it: it’s familiar AND repeated to the masses. This hypnotic manipulation is a device, a method also used by advertisers to influence people. Many poorly adapted beliefs impact the next generation through such repetition. In matters of sexual affection, it is not that people lack the ability to judge when the facts appear plainly. The trouble is that the judge has been tampered with; a bribe is promised in imagination for judging in favor of the questionable beliefs that we’ve culturally absorbed. Never mind the failures, they can be explained away. We learn that if we find ‘the right person,’ then voila, success!
Why do we hobble our chances for better ways of living and loving? I suggest that beliefs based on our past obscure our alternatives. We absorb these beliefs via emphasis and hypnotic manipulation through repetition in our culture. Life is dynamic and requires change, but the beliefs that we inherit socially often remain entrenched. One Santa Cruz woman thought that she was secure in her marriage and then was blindsided when her spouse demanded a divorce after more than 20 years. She was the main breadwinner and did not know that he had stolen her retirement money. Luckily for her, his lawyer made him put the money back. It was only the law that saved the fruits of her honest labor. Wait, aren’t marriage and monogamy the means to security? No.
Adolescent sexual beliefs can continue indefinitely in ‘modified’ forms. That’s why injecting a young mind with bullshit hypnotic manipulation is wrong.
If we need a nonsexual example of mistaken, maladapted beliefs spread by the power of repetitive messaging, then we need look no further than the mistaken ‘threat’ to the U.S. posed by Iraq and WMDs in the lead up to the disastrous Iraq war.
Am I being fair comparing marriage to the Iraq war? In criticizing traditional relationship models, such as monogamy and marriage, it might be said that I’m being unfair by using only bad examples. In answer I say that it is just such an imbalance of positive messaging that I’m working against. I’m battling the redundant messaging of the arts, our culture, and religion that spread these beliefs. I doubt that I threaten the culture of monogamy and marriage by pointing out the obvious flaws. Those many people who support marriage or monogamy may dismiss my criticism as either wicked or silly regardless of whether or not their sexual conduct upholds their stated ideals. So it is with all progressive advances. Bringing out the reasons to doubt any traditional belief is an uphill battle, like a salmon fighting against the current, for the sake of a new generation.
Flawed or false beliefs create useless limits. We can’t go beyond those limits and leave the beliefs intact.
If we blame past failures on the people involved, then we tend to pass over the beliefs involved in the failure without question. The imagination habitually dangles the prize (the predominantly happily ever after of marriage) in front of the mind and, like someone in a dream, our emotions respond to that vision, not the facts around us, not what life is actually offering us. Social forces spread by every media like in Beyoncé’s song suggest we should ignore the freedom of alternative choices. We forsake our access to alternatives and the freedom to choose; it’s as if we discard the gold and grasp for the dollar store tinsel. Such social forces bind us in ideas. If our friends are also under the hypnotic manipulation, the spell of culture, they become mouthpieces for such forces. It seems our beliefs about love are as arbitrary as our beliefs about religion; such beliefs have far more to do with where we come from than we readily admit.
If we deny the mistakes that we’ve made, then we delay our adaptation to the circumstances that we face. Consider the huge cost and misery of both divorce and climate change. In both cases, social forces impede adaptation. We’re like smokers who refuse to reconcile reality with the damage caused by our habit, regardless of the consequences to our bodies or the bodies of those people around us. I suggest that the strength of sexual impulses are stronger than the social impetus to conform to ideological monogamy, which creates a Machiavellian deceit, that is the ubiquitous cheating going on out of sight.
I don’t believe that we lose any capacity to sexually love because we share such love with any number of people. Those loves will be different, just as our non-sexual affections are different for friends and family. We share affections with different people in different ways and those ways are ever-changing, a fact that is not recognised in the hypnotic manipulation that imposes monogamy. I won’t fault lovers who find that they have stronger impulses toward each other than any other. They feel driven exclusively to each other by strong mutual affections, but that is quite different from monogamy as an ideal built upon hypnotic manipulation that appeals to the authority of custom. Any relationship is an event and, like all events, a relationship changes. Let’s embrace adapting ourselves to truthfulness and freedom in sexual relationships. Such adaptation extends beyond the bounds of monogamy.
By Todd Vickers