Why only monogamy?

The only legally recognized form of marriage in Canada is monogamy. This may not seem strange to most people, but have you every wondered why our society has not only wholly adopted this custom, but outlawed other forms of marriage? I certainly have.

My personal feeling is that if we are truly free, and our state is not based on religious dogmas, then we should be allowed to associate with other free people, however we mutually decide, so long as we don’t violate anyone else’s rights and freedoms. If you also hold this idea to be true, you must be willing to accept an array of marriages that sit outside of monogamy, including polygamy and polyandry.

Though I have personal reservations about both polygamy and polyandry, as they create inequalities within a family unit and among people, there is a non-monogamous marriage structure that I feel is equally valid to monogamy and in fact has a few interesting advantages. I’m referring to group marriage. In group marriage, everyone is married to everyone else, and the economics and child-rearing are the equal or collaborative responsibility of all married parties. If we allow pluralistic sexuality, than we can see how such marriages can be formed among bisexual people with as little as three individuals.

But let’s examine monogamy as it exists in Canada and the rest of the world.

At best, the average Canadian engages in what’s called serial monogamy. This is when a person has multiple partners over their lifetime, but is monogamous during the course of each relationship. We can see this is true when we consider that the average number of sexual partners over a lifetime for Canadians is 10.6. But even once Canadians have committed to marriage, the idea that we are not monogamous is convincing. Sixteen per cent of Canadian families are lead by unwed couples, but of those that are married, there is a divorce rate of 38 per cent in the first 30 years of marriage and 80 per cent of divorced persons remarry. Two of the leading causes of divorce are financial problems and infidelity, wherein one in nine Canadians admit to having extra-marital affairs, though we can assume that the number of affairs is probably higher, as some people would not admit it.

Outside of Canada, 80-85 per cent of societies allow non-monogamous marriage. And despite propaganda, there is little evidence that monogamy had anything more than a minority presence in humanity throughout history. In fact, according to University of Alberta Historian Sarah Carter, even in North America monogamy was not a dominant worldview until late in the 19th century, and even then it arose as a means of social control, not organically as is often believed.

So why maintain these unnatural customs?

Many point to our religious traditions, which is odd, as of the most influential group of world religions — the Abrahamic religions — the Qu’ran tolerates plural marriages if it serves the interests of all parties involved, and many of the great Jewish Kings in the Torah and Old Testament were openly polygamous. In Christianity, monogamy was not a central tenant until after the religion had become infused with Roman cultural influences. Rome’s version of monogamy, at the time, was a form of social monogamy that didn’t necessarily require sexual monogamy.

So why have western societies enforced monogamy?

There are many theories, the best of which point to economic advantages, but what economic advantages you choose to work towards should be up to you. If we return to group marriage, I can fathom many social and economic advantages of group marriage that override monogamy.

Consider that personal debt in Canada is at an all-time high, that many families need both parents working to stay afloat and that, in 2003, 54 per cent of our children six months to five years of age received some care from people other than their legal parent.

In my view it seems possible to solve these chronic social problems for some if we allowed larger family units to be legal. It would let adults have sex with a variety of partners without creating infidelity. There would be more adults per family to divide between the workforce and child-rearing and a net savings in cost of consumer goods needed per family, as people would be sharing appliances, big-screen TVs, and iTunes libraries, with a greater number of people per unit purchased . . .

Hmmm, Maybe it is all about economics after all.

When Corey King dies, he wants to know he did the best he could for his fellow humans.