Why So Opposed to Monogamy?

In recent years, I’ve noticed arguments from a growing number of non-monogamy advocates. Some of them (e.g. the “Sex at Dawn” authors) make the mistake that because our species is not biologically programmed to be monogamous, this means something is wrong with monogamy. Although he is not the worst of this group, the sex-advice columnist Dan Savage is often inexplicably hostile towards monogamy. He claims that he’s not opposed to monogamy, and merely advocates in favor of non-monogamy as a perfectly legitimate choice and potential relationship-saver, but this week’s column is a typical example of his actual anti-monogamy attitude.

First, he accuses a husband who prefers to take his wife along if he were to visit a dominatrix to be spanked: “he’s either an ingrate or a bossy, passive-aggressive, domineering douchesub”. Why? Because a man who has been married for 19 years and loves his wife would prefer not to engage in sexual adventures on his own without her, even if she gives him permission to do so? Savage goes even further, though, in responding to a young man who wants to be tied up by his reluctant boyfriend, and seeks suggestions that might make this more fun and less stressful for the boyfriend. The immediate reaction is: “Outsource ’em.” Go outside the relationship to satisfy your desires! What happened to the suggestions about making things more comfortable for the boyfriend? Just ditch him and go elsewhere is Dan’s first thought.

If that won’t work, at least he recommends staying in what is otherwise a good relationship. Still, Savage never permits any compromise in satisfying sexual desires: in conclusion, he says the letter-writer should issue an ultimatum: “you’re ultimately going to explore your kinks with him—your preferred option—or you’re going to need his permission to explore your kinks without him. But you’re not going to not explore your kinks.” God forbid that all the many good qualities of a relationship could be enough, on their own, to satisfy a person! Yet if one sexual desire among many goes unmet, it’s a dealbreaker for Savage, and a license to abandon monogamous commitment. Given the advice he dishes out, one wonders why Savage bothers to pretend that he tolerates monogamy at all. He clearly doesn’t understand its appeal or the meaning of such a commitment.

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