Monogamy, explained

Monogamy, explained

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Hey!
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We have something special for you today.
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We’ve been hard at work on a new series with Netflix called “Explained.”
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If you like our YouTube, you’re gonna love this.
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The reason we’re making this show is because of you.
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You, our subscribers.
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So they let us share the entire first episode right here.
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There’s two more episodes on Netflix at netflix.com/explained.
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You can go right now, they are there for you to watch.
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Every Wednesday there is going to be a new story.
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Add it to your list and enjoy.
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[SINGING] ‘Cause I’m in love…
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From virtually the moment we’re born, there’s a story that’s preached across cultures
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and continents.
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It’s a familiar fairy tale…
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She was even more beautiful than he had thought.
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That finding one, true, love is the key to a fulfilled and happy life.
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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.
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And the thing is, I love you.
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I love you.
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I love you.
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Ditto.
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As an adult, we’re forced to reconcile the messaging on monogamy with one simple
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fact…
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Humans are terrible at it.
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It’s kept Jerry Springer on the air for 25 years.
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Ohhhhh!
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I’ve been… …sleeping with Eddie.
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He cheated on me with her?
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I have your name tattoed on me!
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How many girls you take from me, Aaron?
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In 2016, 2.2 million U.S. couples got married.
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But over 800,000 called it quits.
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Our quest for – and failure at – monogamy has caused so much pain and heartbreak.
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If it’s so hard for humans to be monogamous, why do most of us, all around the world, make
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it one of the most central goals of our lives?
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I start asking myself, “Is he right for me?”
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If you ask couples why they chose monogamy, you’ll hear one answer again and again.
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They fell in love.
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We met in a candy store.
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1946.
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We went to college together.
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We were both in a relationship then…
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We didn’t cheat.
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You look so guilty every time we talk about this.
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I’m bad at talking about this.
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It’s arranged marriage, whatever they selected for me, it was good.
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And I am very happy with that.
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We had a study date one night, and that study break turned into anatomy, I guess.
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I’ve never felt this way about anybody before.
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I feel God has blessed us.
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We found true love.
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Of course we did.
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We’re still here, 70 years, what do you expect.
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25 years I would’ve gotten out on good behavior.
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I would like to think that soul mates are
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real, but…
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She’s my soul mate.
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Well, you’re mine too.
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But monogamy and love aren’t the same thing.
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We are so psychotically welded to this idea
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that monogamy means love, and love means monogamy,
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and in the absence of monogamy, there is not love.
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Love is a feeling.
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Monogamy is a rule.
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You’ll only have sex with this one person, and most people live in a culture where they’re
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expected – at some point – to make that rule a legal contract called marriage.
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In many countries, breaking that rule is a crime.
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In the U.S., adultery is illegal in at least 20 states, and although they’re rarely enforced,
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punishments can range from a $10 fine to three years in prison.
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If you are in a monogamous relationship for 50 years and you fell down once, you cheated
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once – the whole relationship was a lie and a failure.
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Most human beings have ambivalent impulses that it’s nice to have someone you can rely
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on, but there’s also the temptation of novelty.
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Why would humans all around the world invent a rule that’s so difficult to follow, and
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treat breaking it as such an enormous betrayal?
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Should a male have on his clothing so much as a strand of hair from a female not his
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wife, a serious crisis may result.
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For more than a century, there’s been a culturally accepted explanation.
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Sound check.
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One, one, one, one, one, one, one.
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The standard narrative is the story that everybody knows: that men want to be free sexually and
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spread their seed around the world, and women want to be very exclusive and particular and
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choose a provider, because they’re vulnerable and the children need someone to take care
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of them, and all that.
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Women trade sexual fidelity to men in exchange for goods and services essentially.
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In this narrative, there’s another reason why men wouldn’t want women to sleep around.
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If a baby comes out of a woman’s body, there is no question but that she is genetically
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related to that baby.
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The male has to take the woman’s word for it.
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Biologists have known for a very long time that men are far more inclined to seek multiple
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sexual partners.
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And the reason for that is is really quite clear.
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Now in the first place, remember that the male sperm cells are being produced all the
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time.
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While only one egg cell is produced each month.
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There’s a very good – and I don’t mean ethically good – but very understandable evolutionary
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payoff for males as being randy bastards.
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But there’s one big issue with that explanation – of promiscuous, possessive men and demure
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women.
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At lots of points in time, and places in the world, people didn’t follow it.
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Anatomically modern human beings have existed for at least 300,000 years.
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And for more than 90% of that time, we lived as hunter-gatherers.
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Anthropologists refer to them as fiercely egalitarian.
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There’s no reason to think that our ancestors shared everything except sexual partners.
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Of course we can’t go back and interview our foraging ancestors, but we have the accounts
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of explorers and Europeans who first developed and saw these societies before they’d been
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much touched by outsiders, and their surprise and shock at the difference in sexual mores.
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There’s a wonderful story that a Jesuit who lived with the Naskapi Indians for some time
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and he would ask, “If you let your wives have this much freedom, how do you know that the
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child she bears will belong to you?”
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And he recorded the answer of the Indian:
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“Thou has no sense.”
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The guy said, “You Frenchmen love only the children of your body, but we love all the
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children of the tribe.”
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If a child is crying, the adult nearest to that child picks it up.
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Nobody says, “Hey, hey your kid’s crying.”
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No, it’s – there’s a commonality to parenthood among hunter-gatherers.
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One of those groups are the Bari of Venezuela, where every man who sleeps with a woman while
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she’s pregnant is considered a father of the child, and helps provide for it.
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Now in our society, that would probably not work very well, I’m not recommending it.
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But in that society, a child who had several fathers named, because she’d slept with several
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fathers, actually had a much better chance of surviving to adulthood because those men
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contributed.
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Did you ever think of going with somebody else after you married me?
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What are you, crazy?
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We don’t like to say that we’re open, we like to say we’re slightly ajar.
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Exactly.
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That’s not good, in my way.
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In our language also they say Pati parmeshwar.
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That means husband is like God.
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This is our culture.
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We actually kind of met through the non-monogamy community.
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I define this relationship as, this is my cohabitating partner and we call each other
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otters.
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We are our primary partners and our other partners are secondary partners.
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I find it really fascinating.
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I think about a lot like if I could ever do that, and I don’t know if I could.
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I had a threesome with, like, two friends of mine that I initiated.
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I decided that it would be cool to experiment with multiple people with, like, somebody
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that I really loved and cared about.
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The queer community has been berated with the idea that our relationships are lesser,
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and that they’re not actually up to par and that standard of – you know, the heteronormative
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standard, and all that’s bull.
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“We shouldn’t be surprised that some cultures practice non-monogamy.
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Because in the animal world, true sexual monogamy is virtually unheard of.”
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The most romantic creature might be the diplozoon paradoxum.
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A parasitic tapeworm that literally fuses together with its partner for life.
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But humans aren’t tapeworms.
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We’re apes.
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And our closest relatives in the animal world are chimps and bonobos.
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We’re more closely related to chimps and bonobos than the Indian elephant is to the African
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elephant.
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The close comparison exists in bone and muscle structure, and in the capability of responding
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to stimuli and solving problems.
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Clearly chimps and bonobos are anything but monogamous.
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Bonobos have sex at the drop of a hat.
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[SINGING] I know – I know – that I just met you…
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They have sex to say hello, they have sex to say goodbye, they have sex when they’re
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stressed out.
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For both the male and female bonobos, that free love philosophy makes evolutionary sense.
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The males get to spread their seed, and the females get to take in the seed of multiple
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males – which then compete against each other to fertilize her egg.
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It’s survival of the fittest – for sperm.
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There are aspects of bonobo anatomy that seem adapted to promiscuity.
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And intriguingly, you can also find a lot of them in humans.
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Suggesting we may have evolved to be non-monogamous, too.
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There’s body dimorphism…
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In species that are more promiscuous, the males tend to be 15 to 25 percent larger than
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the females.
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And in theory, if there are males battling to impregnate women, testicles would be bigger
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and stronger.
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You’ll see that human testicles are intermediate between very large testicles in bonobos and
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chimpanzees, and very small testicles in gorillas for example.
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There’s the human penis – tied for the biggest among all primates – which has a
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unique shape.
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We have this much thicker penis with the flared head.
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This shape creates a vacuum in the female’s reproductive tract that tends to pull any
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sperm that’s already there, it pulls it down away from the ovum.
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Thereby giving an advantage to the sperm of the man who’s having sex at the moment.
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There’s also female copulatory vocalization – a phenomenon so well- known and accepted,
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it’s a standard feature of movie sex scenes.
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Oh!
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Oh!
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Ahh!
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Oh.
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What we see is that female copulatory vocalization is common among primates that engage in sperm
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competition.
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Then there’s the fact that humans and bonobos have sex to bond, and not just to have children
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– which might explain the way we face each other during intercourse.
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You see humans and bonobos are the only two that face each other while they’re having
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sex.
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And why we have a lot more of it than most mammals.
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So clearly when people say so-and-so had sex like an animal, they’re getting it backwards.
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And there’s now a lot of evidence that monogamy is a more recent invention than most of us
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would expect.
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Around 12,000 years ago – when most humans stopped being hunter- gatherers, and figured
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out how to farm.
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You get a very overpowering concern with property rights.
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As the Greeks put it, you don’t want a foreign seed introduced into your soil.
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For thousands of years, marriage was the main way that you increased your family labor force,
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you made peace treaties, business alliances.
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The more I’ve studied the more I became convinced that marriage was invented not to do with
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the individual relationship with the man and the woman, but to get in-laws.
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You know, and it’s amusing because today we see in-laws as a big threat to the solidarity
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of the man and the woman.
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But that’s what marriage was about.
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You look back at Anthony and Cleopatra, that was not a love story at all.
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That was two people from the most powerful empires in the world trying to figure out
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how they could get together and rule both of those empires.
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The idea of marrying someone for love?
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Coontz says western societies only started doing that a few hundred years ago.
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As we made a transition to the idea that marriage should be on the basis of love, it scared
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people.
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Defenders of traditional marriage said, “Oh my gosh, how will we get a woman to marry
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at all if she says, ‘Ew I don’t love him.’
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How will we stop people from getting divorced?”
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So a new idea took hold: men and women needed to find love and marry, because they were
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two parts of a whole.
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Men were aggressive and protective.
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Women were nurturing and demure.
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They were opposites who completed each other.
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The field of evolutionary biology also developed around this time; pioneered by male scientists,
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who used their theories on sexual selection to explain Victorian gender roles.
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As Charles Darwin wrote in “The Descent of Man”:
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“Woman seems to differ from man in mental disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness
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and less selfishness…Man delights in competition, and this leads to ambition…”
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“Thus man has ultimately become superior to woman.”
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And it’s possible his ideas became so popular and survived so long, because it made sense
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to us in the societies we were living in.
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But if monogamy is all a made-up construct, a way to enforce gender roles and social order,
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how do we explain that visceral, deep-rooted feeling we get when our loved ones stray?
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Tell me something: are you the jealous type?
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I feel like we don’t really deal too much with jealousy.
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I don’t know why that is.
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I think it’s just ’cause we’re sluts, to be honest.
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I don’t get, like, jealous like that, you know.
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It’s important I think to understand why you’re feeling jealous, because jealousy is not just
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a – it’s not a feeling, it’s usually rooted in some other sort of thing.
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It’s not a descending guillotine.
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It’s like, jealousy is an event.
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What’s the best way to deal with that event?
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Who were you really with?
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That, that little blonde secretary from the office?
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I don’t think you’ll ever find any society where there was no sexual jealousy.
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But we also have these other kinds of impulses of generosity and of a sense that maybe there
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are other parts of the person that are more important than the sexual person.
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And these coexist and they battle, and I think they will always battle.
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I coined the term monogamish to describe my own relationship with my husband.
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We’re together 24 years, not monogamous for 20 of those 24 years.
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And I’ve had people look at me and say, “I could never do what you guys do because I
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value commitment too highly.
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All three of my marriages were monogamous.”
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And what that says is this person was committed to monogamy, not to any of the people that
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they married, they were committed to monogamy.
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Non-monogamy is getting more mainstream attention.
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Define polyamorous.
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Without monogamy.
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Polyamory…
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Polyamory…
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Polyamorous…
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It’s called…
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Poly–
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–amory Polyamorous people.
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Throuple.
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Not monogamous, ok.
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You couldn’t be.
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A 2016 study found one in five Americans had been in a non- monogamous relationship at
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some point.
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And in another survey, a third of Americans said their ideal relationship would be non-monogamous.
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Monogamy as we know it has been through many incarnations.
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It’s been forced, it’s been useful, it’s been beautiful, it’s been subverted.
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As human society evolves, so will human sexuality.
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As we enter what I think of as uncharted territory, for the first time in human history we are
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trying to develop relationships that are not based on coercion: coercion of women by their
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economic and legal dependence, coercion of women by their bodies, coercion of men by
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the social and economic structures.
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We’re trying I think to find maybe a new balance.
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Monogamy isn’t natural.
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It means we have to recognize that because it’s not natural, it’s something that we’re
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going to have to work for if we want it.
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One of the things that I think makes human beings particularly interesting and maybe
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even unique in the animal world, is that we’re capable of doing things that are unnatural.
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Monogamy is like vegetarianism.
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You can choose to be a vegetarian.
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And that can be healthy, it can be ethical, it can be a wonderful decision, but because
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you’ve chosen to be vegetarian, doesn’t mean that bacon stops smelling good.
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If we’re lucky, it’s no longer about what kinds of relationships we should have in the
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modern world; it’s about designing the kinds of relationships we want to have.
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Humans may not have evolved to be sexually monogamous – but we have evolved to be adaptable.
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So, netflix.com/explained to watch the new show.

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