“Only about 3 percent of the 4,000 mammal species are monogamous (and Homo sapiens isn’t one of them)”

August 18, 2010 at 11:58 AM | Posted in Love, Dating & Relationships | 12 Comments


I have been pondering the institution of marriage since I saw the Disney movie “Earth.” The movie follows a family of humpback whales, a polar bear father on the quest for food and a herd of elephants making a long migration, among others. The movie was beautiful but there was one nagging pervading behavior among all the male animals, they impregnated and jetted. Except the male penguin, who protected the egg while the female went to find food and vice-versa, the penguin relationship seemed to be coequal as far as the movie depicted but the other animal relationships weren’t. That got me thinking, if humans are so similar to animals and they can’t even get fidelity right, how are we supposed to? Is infidelity inherent? Is the monogamy of marriage a myth?

An insightful excerpt from Dr. Louann Brizendine’s, book “The Female Brain” characterizes some lizards are predisposed life-long bachelors and the same can be attributed to some human males.

One of the most colorful examples of animal tactics is provided by the side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana). Conveniently, the males come with three different colored throats that match their mating-styles. Males with orange throats use the alpha-male harem strategy. They guard a group of females and mate with all of them. The males with yellow throats are called “sneakers” because they slip into the harem of the orange throat and mate with his females whenever they can get away with it. The males with brilliant blue throats – my personal favorites — use the one-and-only-strategy. They mate with one female and guard her 24-7. From a biological perspective, the approaches of the orange-throated harem leader, the yellow-throated sneaker and the blue-throated one-female type are all successful mating strategies for lizards and for human males too.

Very interesting and I personally believe this to be true. Ladies, some wild boys just can’t be tamed, so let it go.

I asked my parents, who have been married for 20 years, for their views on this and they both agreed, “monogamy and building a family is hard. Very, very, very hard, but God gave you free will and if it’s important to you and you want to, then you will.” These words were profound because it spoke of the human will versus the human weakness. They said the people who give in are only giving in to their natural inclinations but if you can get past that, the rewards and fulfillment a family and a bond you share with a lifelong partner transcends that. Humans, the black vulture and angler fish seem to be the only living organisms that are held accountable for monogamy.

Excerpt taken from an entry on Wonderquest.com entitled Philandering Life Mates. (The post lists the animals that are monogamous here)

Q: Which animals mate for life? (Jen, New York, New York)

A. Of course, it depends on what you mean by “mate for life.” These creatures do mate for life in the social sense of living together in pairs but they rarely stay strictly faithful…Black vultures, though, discourage infidelity. All nearby vultures attack any vulture caught philandering. Only about 3 percent of the 4,000 mammal species are monogamous (and Homo sapiens isn’t one of them). Beavers, otters, bats, wolves, some foxes, a few hoofed animals, and some primates live together in social pairs but dally sexually much as birds do.

Wolves, for example, are generally monogamous but also breed polygamously if the male is unrelated to the female and prey is plentiful. Moreover, they sometimes have more than one mate in a lifetime, says Dan Stahler, biologist at the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Program run by the National Park Service. This happens “if one mate dies, gets kicked out of the pack, or is physically unable to breed due to injury, illness, etc.”

One species is absolutely monogamous. In the black darkness of the deep sea, the tiny male anglerfish (perhaps one tenth the female’s size) detects and follows the scent trail of a female of his own species. Once found, he bites his chosen one and hangs on. His skin fuses to hers, their bodies grow together (he gets his food through a common blood supply and becomes essentially a sperm producing organ). They mate for life — a short life for the male.

So to be clear, in the only species that mate for life and is absolutely monogamous, the male is a parasite upon the female, sucking the life from her and in turn providing sperm, they grow together. Then he dies.

*blink blink* Moving on…

Marriage is the embodiment of monogamy, allegedly the last stop for philandering right? There are a handful of mammals that take monogamy seriously but humans aren’t one of them, as described in a new study that finds “Men who are completely economically dependent on their female partners are five times more likely to cheat than men in relationships with women who earned similar amounts, according to the the study’s author, Christin Munsch, a sociology Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University.” The article goes on to point that women who depended on their male partners for money were half as likely to cheat as women who made the same amount as their male partner. Oh and this: “A man who makes significantly more money than his girlfriend or wife is also more likely to cheat.” Munsch says, “It’s not exactly rational. If you’re economically dependent on someone, you probably shouldn’t cheat on them.” So the money should be the reason to be faithful. Got it.

Here’s the short equation:
Woman makes more money=husband cheats, {woman makes less money=she’s less likely to cheat=husband cheats}, woman and man make the same amount=woman less likely to cheat but it’s a possibility.

There are no guarantees your husband or wife won’t bring another variable into your marriage. My mathematical conclusion is marriage’s overarching purpose is to provide a stable environment for rearing offspring…what’s love got to do with it? Isn’t that what it all boils down to? A partnership for having kids with no judgments. Out of wedlock babies with healthy loving relationship having parents be damned. In the “old times” marriage was more practical, more functional. Divorce rates were scant compared to now. Folks married their high-school sweethearts, they had semi-arranged marriages, they courted and then settled down. It was not this eternal match.com, speed-dating, hey I have a friend of a friend who is just as desper—ummm just as interested in meeting you, instant gratification, hedonistic dating culture we have now. People weren’t marrying with the Hollywood fairytale romanticized version of matrimony in mind. Marriage was for building a solid familial foundation for children and you get a life-long partner who has no choice but to put up with your crap in the deal. I can understand that. I don’t know what the makings for a happy,healthy life-long cheating-free marriage is, my best guess is you do it because it’s important to you and you want to ,it is not to be taken lightly (this is a free pass to scoff at all individuals who verbally harass and guilt trips anyone into marriage by denigrating a life-long commitment it into a flippant decision…oh as well as those sickos who put a deadline on it for themselves, I am actively pointing and laughing at you) but I’m too busy eating raw cookie dough to notice anyways.

Sidebar: The female praying mantis is known to feed off of the male praying mantis’s head during copulation, this is sexual cannibalism. Hmmmmmm….

Related: What part of “not interested” do you not understand?
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Related: 5 reasons why my father RUINED my dating life!
Related: You have a child sir? This date is over!
Related: So “Hooking up” is the new “Dating”? Not for I, said the one named Dash
Related: Single Black Female. Please sit all the way down. Forever. Thanks

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12 Comments »

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  1. This made me think a lot. I am 25 and engaged to someone I have dated for 7 years and there I have no guarantee he hasn’t, isn’t, and won’t cheat. He has no guarantee that I haven’t, am not, and will not cheat either. I think that marriage is more than love. It has to do with trust. Marriage is like a science project partner IMO. You pick someone you know you will work well with and trust that they know what their doing, don’t leave you to do all the work, and won’t leave you cause someone who is cuter needs a partner now and ask them. Fidelity is a choice. You have to be in the right state or mind, and really want it (the relationship). I was in college 4 years out of my 7 year relationship, and I am not gonna act like I didn’t think people were cute, but I loved the BF and I know that cheating on him would hurt him and our future. I made the choice to stay faithful… I just wish fidelity was the norm now, people would be happier and a lot safer, especially from STD’s and Diseases…

    Amazing post Dash…

    • @ Sioban @ Nandoism Thanks peeps! free will is the crux of this topic and the free will to be or not to be faithful. If you make the decision to enter a life-long commitment, fidelity should be included in that deal but oftentimes it is not.

      @Tee Just dead at your whole entire response. But if one doesn’t desire to get married, they shouldn’t be forced just because their family or society wants it. That’s their call. There are tax benefits to getting married but that’s also a decision made by the couple. The wedding ceremony is superficial to the longevity and health of a marriage so it really means nothing.

  2. Great piece and so well researched. I don’t believe in the typical idea of marriage but I do believe in free will. Outstanding job.

  3. hmm..yea

    And if you get a ” life long partner” witout getting the certificate/ceremony, cheating still hurts feelings…..

    i think marriage isn’t an institution alone, i think it’s apart of the religious institution. I have no clue why non-religious people have ceremonies..(it has nothing to do with you… mind your business)

    and yeah marriage is absolutely providing a stable enviroment for children/family….and following GOD…nothing more

    so… who cares wether you get married or not..?.. do it because your family wants to see it happen… do it because alot people do not respect a relationship that didnt come along with the ceremony.

    dont do it because it’s expensive, and really sad to see a couple that had a beautiful wedding , not work out….

    either way… i want my ring…

    • Im doing it so that my wedding is in Jet magazine and to put my children in debutante balls (uppity negro here!!). Seriously what separates humans from “animals” is free will and the ability for advanced thought (as far as we know). Everyday in a relationship/marriage a person has to make a decision. You will see men/women you find attractive and some of these people will approach you. But as humans we need to make the decision that we feel is right for us and that decision will affect your relationship for the good or bad. I will not accept that it is an uncontrollable urge that a grown man could not stop himself. Whatever vow I make before God, my family and friends I will honor and I expect him to also. So to sum it up he needs to put a ring on it (big one!!) and keep it in his pants when not with me.

  4. wonderful post that really gets you thinking….

  5. I really hate that humans are compared to animals when it comes to monogamy (no shots at your piece, because it’s great). While animals may be used evaluate drugs before being placed in humans and may even be used to explain the “evolution of humans”, comparing humans to animals is not the “end all, be all” when trying to come up with an explanation for human actions. There’s no way in hell I’d except my man telling me he can not be faithful because the fish in the sea aren’t. Monogamy is a choice; why it fails is due to the individual, period.

    The real issue with marriage and fidelity is the way it is viewed. Your marriage is only as strong and faithful as you allow it to be. The way marriage is viewed is probably the biggest predictor of how it will turn out. I believe marriage is a holy union (however, I do not believe marriage should be restricted to only those who believe in a higher power), but it isn’t merely a social construct/institution. Furthermore, marriage is WORK-the sh.t is hard, it’s not perfect and it takes dedication from both parties involved. I believe the vows you take before God are real and are to be upheld. There is nothing easy about that. Marriage isn’t supposed to be something you rush into and it’s not something you leave when times get hard. Like anything else in life, with marriage, your thoughts and approach to it will determine the outcome; if you think of it as a “come-up”, a way to get better health insurance, or something to do b/c all your friends are doing it, don’t be surprised if the resulting outcome isn’t favorable. That’s not to say that those who approach marriage with the thoughts of it being a holy union will live “happily ever after” either.

    The other thing, I must say is that the generalizations, statistics, etc needs to be G-checked. People can’t continue saying “Well the odds are…” or “Well look how most people’s marriages end up nowadays”. Society can not continue to allow the numbers and odds dictate and justify the outcome of things in their lives. Society says I as a 25 year old black woman, should be uneducated, saddled with 2-3 children by 2-3 different men and on welfare. If I didn’t allow that to dictate my life why should I allow society to tell me monogamy is a thing of the past and my marriage has a 50% chance of failing?

    • Yes, definitely, the “free-will” part is the central idea of marriage and how it clashes with the “inherent” part, is what interests me about this topic. This is what makes marriage that much more serious to me. The idea that maybe monogamy isn’t inherent yet an institution which is built on it, is not revered as serious as it should be. Stats pretty much cancel themselves out when it comes to matters of free-will bc all these so-called “studies” all summate, everyone cheats….unless you don’t. Uh okay thanks for that nugget of wisdom Harvard. You kinda suck now.

  6. Ummm, I just need some clarification–is that sarcastic ass line at the end of your comment directed to me? #sideeye LMAO…No, I’m laughing, but I really wanna know. LOL (I hate you.)

    • LOL NO! It was directed at Harvard “Uh okay thanks for that nugget of wisdom Harvard. You kinda suck now.”

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