Monogamy, explained

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

100 thoughts on “Monogamy, explained”

  1. Here's Episode 1 of our new show on Netflix, called "Explained." Episodes 2 & 3 are at right now, and we're releasing new episodes every Wednesday.

    Thanks for watching and supporting us over the years, we love making videos for all of you!

  2. Why just talking about how monogamy is not natural and imposed by society and that there is the possibility of polyamory trigger in people angry reactions?

  3. Monogamous is not rules..its in our blood….its genetic..ppl have mid life criss..cause of it .guy don't believe in science… We more know science …we more educated and less married.. everything not about science..we really don't know why our body made for…why we human have feeling…why is this world….the question is why is this world… science will never find out… science make us easy life. Its true..but they don't understand dark thing..human life…why we have human life or why we have consciousness…iso married is a system we have to follow and love… because u don't know what exactly after death…may be god want us to have a family or kid.. u more used of ur feeling in wrong way..u more doing wrong thing…its about sin.u will understand ehen u are 70s…thats..what u do in ur life..u will find it aftrr death….I telling you guy god or science always a struggling part…be careful……human are so confused..and they can break ur relationship ..after make u educated…about careful .stick to ur u know how feel it's when ur mom or dad still care for u .I believe ur wife will do too…

  4. But what y'all fail to realise is, one, humans are overpopulating and two, we are not animals. And three, STDs is a thing.

  5. they make monogamy sounds like something that's forced to women, while i'm a woman feeling respected by monogamy

  6. It's important to understand that here, Vox is not making prescriptive arguments about monogamy. In other words, the goal of this video is not to tell is wether or not monogamy is good or bad in and of itself, they are just describing the nature of it's existence and what it does and does not accomplish for humans. People tend to believe that monogamy is the only accepted form of romantic relationships, and this video seeks to disprove this, that is all. There is no actual "agenda pushing" going on here. If Vox said "The sky is blue" that does not mean it is good or bad that the sky is blue, or that the sky shouldn't be any other color. They are just telling us the state of the sky's color.

  7. Important to remember: We are each allowed to make our own choices about our relationships. You are free to choose monogomy or polyamory. And both are fine.

  8. Sorry sjws but a lot of this is so overly simplified that it's basically a lie… Im mean really? Their trying to say monogamy for love started around the 1700s? That is total freaking bullshit.

  9. Anytime there's a high influx of population, society pushes monogamy but when society is thinning, it's the opposite.

  10. How about monogamy maybe coming about because its quite common to get killed over taking someones girl, even today, not uncommon. In fact wars were started by this. Ever hear of "the face that launched a thousand ships?" So if 50% of your population is male and 50% female it becomes reasonable to enforce a law that should a man steal your woman/women the state will intervene. Otherwise you had chaos and blood in the streets. Remember the police force wasn't even close to what it is today.

    Basically, if you want to hold a society together, you'd best support monogamy.

    Also I like how their examples of cultures of "nonmonogamy" are ones that practice incest as a way of life. What? Did you think that tribe of 20 people has immigrants.

  11. Don't show me homosexual relationships. Unsubscribed

    Anyway threesome is ok if there are 2 women involved

  12. My take from it: monogamy is used to tie down a woman and French people ruin the perfect indigenous communities. Also, make love, not war (literally).

  13. Monongomy is natural too lmao we can make the conscious choice to do so. Its not that hard. There's so many benefits to being in a monogomous relationship. This video is very biased and is not a credible source of information.

  14. Non-monogamy can also take away a lot of stress from either partner as to whether the other partner is lying about being monogamous or not. I know people who’ve given up on monogamy simply because they’re tired of being lied to, not because they necessarily prefer it.

  15. why on earth do we need those pizzicato strings on the background??? this world is becoming one big Attention Deficit Disorder.

  16. A lot of things are natural to some people. Doesn’t mean it’s always right in a modern society. There has to be a line.

  17. I would simply like to point out how their examples of societies with widespread polygamy are undeveloped colonies in the middle of the rainforest.

  18. Feeling get hurts because people secretly like to get their feelings hurt. Just a bunch of douchebags that believe in monogamy.

  19. Rick: Listen Morty, I hate to break it to you, but what people calls “love” is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage.

  20. I love my boyfriend but the main reason never cheat is who can be bothered having 2 men?? So much work

  21. Has anyone seen season 3 of Netflix's series Easy? there are two episodes called swipe left and swipe right that deal with a couple in a newly open relationship. I'd like to know from couples in open relationships if these episodes are true to form. Watching from the outside in it seemed as if they were about as honest a picture I've seen painted in this form of media concerning Open Relationships.

  22. People got some pretty polarized conclusions from this video. Since the video finished off by saying that humans are adaptable, I personally derived the conclusion that monogamy and polygamy are both valid choices for one to make. Humans don't have to conform to one or the other. But a lot of folk seemed to have heard "polygamy good, monogamy bad".

  23. In the animal world , they rape each other . So can we rape just to prove that monogamy is wrong ? This appeal to nature bullshit argument should really stop , it doesn't work .

  24. We threw off the yoke of our hunter-gatherer biology and created civilization. Monogamy is a piece of cake in comparison

  25. This video is a case study in how to construct a "documentary" to push the audience towards a specific viewpoint, while at the same time creating a facade of fairness. I'm gonna recommend it to my former high school English teacher, so that she can use it as the textbook example of deception in every one of the most common ways.

  26. Jealousy is always a sign of insecurity, either about you or your partner, and it is n o t healthy, change my mind

  27. Monogamy makes much more sense in the modern world. The world is so big, it makes sense to group together as families and raise a family with one person.

  28. It's so hard for me to comprehend being non-monogamous,
    even sex itself for me is something really uncomfortable and scary sounding

    I just want to be in love with someone and have that someone be in love with me
    And when we realize we're in love with each other it's like "I know I've missed everything up until now, but I want to be with you for the rest of it"
    And I want us to just love everything we experience together and love being able to feel all these feelings in our hearts while being next to each other
    I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to fight, I want to make up
    All the while knowing we love each other more than anything and nothing can change that
    So I can't really comprehend these people's relationships.
    But if they're happy and they know they love each other, then that's good.

  29. If you think about it, it makes sense for humans to have adapted to monogamy. Since there's at least a billion people in the world or more today we don't need multiple partners to ensure our offsprings survival.

  30. Yeah that's cool but it's drm content. I don't wanna pay for what I can get for free with advertisements.

  31. I find the narrative problematic. It’s making some bold assumptions on the part of the author. Not everyone believes they are descended from apes. Once that it is set aside the arguments collapse.

  32. I DON'T CARE if animals have sex with multiple partners.. they are animals but we are human and GOD instructed us that we have to be married to a(one) MAN if you are woman and a (one) WOMAN if you are a man. God said it's so and that's how it has to be.

  33. Interesting video, but I disagree with the last sentence, we were always adaptable , we did not evolve to be adaptable.

  34. You do know there are a lot of polygamous society in the world. I think the prevalence of monogamy is due to the expansion of the western countries who forced Christianity all over the world which brought monogamy with it.

  35. From an evolutionary point of view, the biggest benefit of monogamy is to reduce the spread of disease (especially in larger tribes with open borders).

  36. So i got from this something I confirmed for a long time… You dont marry someone because of love, but rather because of interest.

  37. The in-law thought is interesting. I wonder also if monogamy came about in humans because children are expensive to take care of? If it takes two to make children, it should take two to raise them and help them survive. That's the evolutionary goal.

  38. What I don't understand is how a woman is able to share her man with other women… I am talking about a legal polygamous marriage not cheating (legal here referring to the middle east and other countries where it is legal) When all parties have accepted the marriage and are living with it. For example, in countries like the middle east, Europe, and even in the USA. Usually in the middle east it's more common in poor countries. These women usually have no source of income, they are not independent, and have no choice but to be in that marriage for the sake of their children. However, in Europe and America, the women here have more freedom in terms of seeking education, work, etc. They are usually not poor or come from poor families. Yet, they are completely happy and okay with it. I don't understand that. I don't think it is love because if you love your husband you would not want to share him. What are your thoughts?

  39. Men have to be competitive to reproduce….. it was interpreted in a different way that leaded to sexism (men are generally stronger than women, it’s easier to grow muscle for men, etc) A theory of mine is that people get jealous because it’s harder to compete in reproduction when your not the only one impregnating the woman.

  40. if we could be more communal about parenthood without getting rid of monogamy, it would be better for the children and caretakers- less stress on parents.

  41. Yes, monogany is a construct along with patriarchy that has enabled our society to survive. Any questions

  42. "monogamy community", er.. you mean CULT..
    or can such a group be a cult, since it's part of CULTure..
    isn't the difference just in the numbers, anyway?

  43. It's very nice it's called "Explained" when all they do is build up an argument against Monogamy. How can you call it scientific? Where's the other side? What about those people who chose to stay and marry their partner out of love and they both seee marriage as not a "rule" (oh my lord) but a celebration of their relationship. And what if they actually enjoy it? Why can't being with one person be satisfying? I mean if they both feel that their relationship is only complete if they are with more than one person fair enough, but we should not discredit those who actually want to stay with one partner.

  44. Great video, never thought about it like that, would never be able to put this into words, now I can just share this video

  45. How did they make an entire video without so much as to mentioning one of the main pushers of religion and marital coercion, religion?

  46. I'm highly against polygamy. I think in a relationship we need loyalty and I can't fathom any form of loyalty in a polygamous relationship. In this society I believe in the end of the day, you have to stay committed to one person.

  47. I recommend Brett and Heather Weinstein for anyone who’s interested in an educated expert opinion on evolutionary monogamy.

  48. So you're saying my wife wont get mad if I call her by another name and confuse her interests with my side chick. That sounds like a recipe for disaster

  49. There is no such thing as unnatural behaviour.
    Humans are part of nature, therefore their behaviour is also.
    Monogamy is as natural as polygamy.

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