Romeo and Juliet are no longer cool. Turn on your television, and you will notice that in movies, celebrity lifestyles, and media in general, the new cool is relationships with more than two. Leftists have taken note. From Plato to 1960s hippie counterculture, many leftists have felt disdain for monogamy, but that stance was never mainstream amongst the comrades.
However, times are changing, and now there is a plethora of books celebrating non-monogamous lifestyles.
The most recent one is Justin Clardy’s Why It’s OK to Not Be Monogamous. As the author explains, the goal of the book is to pick “out polyamorous relationships as an exemplary form of non-monogamy that is, at the very least, ethically permissible, if not preferable.” Clardy seems particularly fond of consensual polyamory, in which sexual partners willingly enter a relationship where no exclusivity is required.
From a liberal perspective, it is hard to argue against consensual acts. Consequently, a liberal would want to keep the State out of the bedroom, and if someone wants to be involved in a ménage à trois (or any other non-monogamous permutation), so be it. Liberalism itself may be open to many objections, but for the time being, let us assume that nobody should interfere with consensual non-monogamy.
However, Clardy goes beyond the moral sphere. He argues for State recognition of non-monogamous marriage:
“polyamorous relationships need support and protection that the state is uniquely able to provide and is best placed to carry out… One such way that the state may meet its responsibility to provide a social basis for polyamorous relationships is to reform civil marriage to reflect the requirements of minimal marriage… Minimal marriage proposes a set of legal rights that would function as the social basis of support for polyamorous relationships.”
Clardy’s arguments are astonishingly naïve. He claims that “the arguments contained in this book also rely on insights from legal theory, political science, political theory, queer studies, women and gender studies, sociology, feminist theory, political theory, and history.” He basically tries to tick every box required by woke supervision, and loudly proclaims his adherence to feminism.
But this is faux feminism. Any consideration of the historical and anthropological data reveals that non-monogamous marriage is detrimental to women. Clardy foolishly claims that “surveying research on non-monogamies reveals a disproportionate focus on polygamy often as an exemplar for thinking about non-monogamies, showing their conflation to be common.” He fails to understand that polyamory inevitably results in polygyny.
I will briefly explain why. Biologists have long been aware of the so-called “Bateman’s principle” (there is a lot of postmodernist stuff in Clardy’s book, but little engagement with biology). According to this principle, males’ mating strategy relies on multiple pairings, whereas females’ strategy relies on being more selective. This is because males can produce large numbers of sperm cells with little effort, whereas females, once fecundated, cannot add to their reproductive success.
Monogamy does not come naturally to the human species. It is no surprise that only 15 percent of surveyed societies are monogamous (but currently that 15 percent amount to about 90 percent of the world’s population). Our natural status leans towards polygyny (one man having exclusive access to multiple women), and monogamy only arises through the enforcement of cultural norms.
So, given human mating choices, loosening the grip of monogamy leaves us to our own devices, and this leads to polygyny. It is no wonder that men are three times more likely to consider open relationships than women. Are we to believe that men will not try to force polyamorous relationships on unwilling women? With this differential, one begins to wonder if polyamory is as consensual as Clardy seems to think.
Likewise, women have parental certainty, whereas men don’t. This makes men far more jealous. Ultimately, they are much more open to having multiple mates, but also more reluctant to share mates. It is not hard to predict that, once monogamy is discarded, the rosy world of polyamory described by folks such as Clardy does not ensue. Ottoman-like harems are more likely.
The polygynous world is very mean. Only high-status men benefit. For every woman they add to the harem, one man is left celibate. And given female mating choices, celibate men are more likely to be in the lower echelons of the status hierarchy. Clardy claims to care a lot about equality, but this basic inequality leaves him indifferent.
In their attempt to achieve reproductive success, celibate men engage in riskier behaviors, therefore increasing crime rates in polygynous societies. Women also have a harder time in a polygynous system. Men exercise greater control over them so as to maintain the harem, so polygyny is detrimental to women’s empowerment.
Monogamy is not easy. Critics are right to point out that there is much hypocrisy when it comes to monogamous commitment. But we ought to follow the advice of economist Thomas Sowell when dealing with leftist proposals, and ask: compared to what?, and at what cost? Monogamy can only be plausibly compared to polygyny. And the cost is very high, including the erosion of many egalitarian values that leftists hold dear.
The Middle Ages seldom get recognition for human achievement, but we must acknowledge that the Church’s insistence on establishing monogamy during Mediaeval times, has been a key moment in the history of civilizational success.
Clardy can dream all he wants about an idyllic non-monogamous world, but reality will always come to bite. Monogamy is the way forward, and whether you like it or not, it is still the best of all possible worlds. If people want to participate in non-monogamous experiments, let them be. But do not expect a modern democratic State to give support by legalizing non-monogamous marriage.