That didn’t explain monogamy

I watched another trash show that cloaks itself as “science” yesterday. This one, a new Netflix show called Explained: Monogamy, set out to explain how we are not meant to be monogamous and that culture instituted monogamy to suppress people’s sexual desires. 

The show goes further. They take this fact and draw the conclusion that because sex with lots of people is natural because it feels good, we should therefore do it.

The documentary is right – it is unnatural to suppress our sexual appetites. And yes, that’s exactly why marriage and monogamy came about. That’s the point of marriage and monogamy.  And that’s not a bad thing. 

Monogamy gives us meaning. It’s good for culture. This isn’t because of arbitrary rules. It’s healthy when men at the bottom have a chance of receiving intimacy. Women don’t have this problem. Dudes at the top will have sex and share intimacy with many women.

Men at the bottom aren’t afforded that luxury. Men at the bottom do things like shoot up schools and commit crimes when they have no value and don’t receive intimacy.

We don’t just have sex because it feels good. If we did we would be much more eager to fuck the new sex robots and we would be content masturbating. There wouldn’t be angry kids shooting up schools because they have an outlet of their hand and a video. But that’s not what we want. We want intimacy.

Monogamy is a recent invention. That was cited as a reason it shouldn’t exist. You know what else is a recent invention?

Democracy. Modern infrastructure. Transportation.

Society civilized when it became monogamous. No longer were people physically fighting each other to maintain a dominance hierarchy and access to the harem.

With monogamy, the average man had a chance to be with women they didn’t previously have access to. This allowed him to focus on actually being productive instead of fighting for access to pussy.

The documentary says monogamy started for property rights and alliances between families. That’s not true at all. We’ve seen kings and queens marry but kings maintain their harems. Marriage and monogamy did not start to help the one percent. It started to help the 90% that did not have access to women and resources.

90%? Yes. It was, and still is that large of gap between the attractive and unattractive. This is evident in the modern dating world. There’s published data from all the dating apps, but it’s also observable in bars – men find more women attractive than women find men attractive. We don’t date people we don’t find attractive.

Without monogamy, women wouldn’t date 90% of men. It’s because of this phenomenon there aren’t a lot of attractive men. “There’s someone for everyone.” No, there’s not. Not in a society where we go for what’s attractive.

It’s not a bad thing to have freedom and choices. It is a bad thing when there are consequences to those freedoms and choices that women aren’t told about. I want women to have freedom. I want them to be aware of the consequences to those freedoms.

When women chase what’s attractive and don’t enter a monogamous relationship when they are at their peak attractive level, they remove the option to be with a very attractive man (because they too have options). When women settle, they get unhappy because they’ve had “more attractive”. When women are unhappy in a relationship, they leave. Cue divorce rates, split families.

“If marriage wasn’t a thing we wouldn’t have divorce rates.” Sure, but it’s not just men who are unhappy following divorce (which are predominantly initiated by women). Women have been getting less happy for decades (by every measurable measure). This is despite all the freedoms women have been given.

Monogamy should be in place to restrict the options of attractive men – more so than restricting women.

Marriage for love is an even more recent idea. It’s only a few hundred years ago. There were critics. The documentary says there shouldn’t have been – that love is noble. There should have been critics.

Love is largely defined today as the feelings of attraction, which is aimed at those top 10% of men. That leaves scraps for the bottom of men, and started this long journey toward nonmonogamy. Love is to blame for today’s rampant divorce.

Darwin says man surpassed women in cognitive ability because of sex. The documentary says this is sexist. It is. There are differences between men and women and they exist because of sex. Men need to develop our socioeconomic status, intelligence, and social skill in order to receive intimacy. Women don’t. It is sexist. It’s not misogynist.

Are people jealous? Yes. It’s a natural emotion that surfaces when we want something we can’t have but feel entitled to. How about when a woman is monogamous with you (manifests entitlement) and cheats on you? Cue jealousy.

Commitment to monogamy and not the person is a good thing, contrary to the movie. Before love people were committed to monogamy for monogamy’s sake. You could call in and out of love, but you honored he relationship. This goes counter to the modern “do what feels good” mantra.

Relationships based on love don’t hurt the 10% that are attractive. Even relationships with multiple people can work well for these people at the top. These are the people that were interviewed for the film – people with active sex lives, including those with multiple partners.

But this doesn’t apply for the bottom 90% of men – none of whom were interviewed in the making of this documentary. It would have been an entirely different movie, with a different meaning, if it were lonely unattractive outcasts that were interviewed for the film.

Pleasure is natural. We evolved to feel it, and to want to give into it.

Honor is a virtue.

Virtue doesn’t become less attractive, addictive, and with diminishing returns. Pleasure does.

Enter relationships built in something that will last forever.

Badass Buddha

I wrote the following essay for a homework assignment for a class called “Buddhism and Modern Psychology” on Coursera. It’s taught by Robert Wright, evolutionary psychologist an author of The Moral Animal, which is a great book and I recommend if you’re interested in learning more of evo psych.


 

Badass Buddha

According to the Buddha, suffering is part of the human existence. The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism spell out that suffering is not only found everywhere around us – it is a part of us. The first truth, dukkha, tells us that suffering is a lack of satisfaction and that pleasures are fleeting and are therefore not a path to lasting satisfaction. The second truth is that because pleasure is fleeting, we cling to these pleasures as our source of satisfaction. We chase their return. I agree with the Buddha that suffering is part of the human existence, and I will give two examples to show this.

The first example comes from principles in evolutionary psychology. We did not evolve to not suffer. Not suffering was never a goal in evolution. Instead, we evolved to survive and replicate. The traits we developed are in some way related to our evolved need to accomplish these two goals. According to Professor Wright in the lectures, feelings of pleasure are among the traits that developed to incentivize people (and our animal ancestors) to survive and replicate. For example, we describe food (survival) as “tasting good” and sex (replication) as “awesome.”  

Natural selection doesn’t care if you are happy. If we must suffer in order to accomplish natural selection’s goal of surviving and replicating, then that is still the priority of natural selection. According to evolutionary psychology, it is this natural selection that drives our psychology. When natural selection is what drives psychology, then our default behavior will be whatever most increases our likelihood to survive and reproduce. This is what Professor Wright meant when he said that Buddhism is a “rebellion against natural selection” – Buddhism seeks to end suffering, and that can only be accomplished by not giving in to urges that we are designed to feel.

My second example is a more recent, more practical application of our evolved psychology steering us to suffering. Social media preys on our psychology and leads us to feedback loops of chasing pleasure – these feedback loops which the I argue on behalf of the Buddha that lead us to suffer.

Social media exploits a lot of the behaviors that we developed as ape ancestors way back in the day. To increase our likelihood to survive, we evolved to be tribal – to stick to those close to us and to feel a sense of connection. By increasing the size of his tribe, a man had less enemies and more people to fight off enemies, therefore decreasing the likelihood he would die in attack. We evolved to experience pleasure when we make connection with someone and to seek friendship to encourage us to grow our tribe so we would not die in an attack. Social media exploits this reward for growing our tribe.

Social media exploits the reward for growing a tribe by rewarding an individual with “likes” or retweets if the user posts content that other users find appealing. We get our pleasure feeling when others click “like” or “retweet.” The downside is that, as Wright explained, when pleasure is routine and then removed, dopamine (pleasure sensors) goes negative and we actually feel less happy than our neutral state because we fail to reach expectation.

When a user fails to reach expectation our pleasure expectations, social media users generate more content in hopes they will get those pleasure triggers. It is this clinging the Buddha warned against but on an immediate, constant scale. Social media users, and there are a lot of them, are constantly creating and seeking this fleeting pleasure. Ex-Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya warns against this (link), I warn against this, and the Buddha would warn against this. It is unhealthy to constantly worry about these pleasures inspired by the action (click) from others.

In conclusion, suffering is part of human existence. The very things we are designed to do are sources of our desires that lead us to unhappiness. The need to survive and have children shaped our psychology to seek pleasures, and these pleasures are short-term. We become addicted to the pleasures, like a drug user (which probably also has evolutionary roots).

The Buddha says to acknowledge that these pleasures are fleeting, and that we can end our suffering by removing the search for these fleeting pleasures. This is easier said than done, especially in our modern world where social media creates not only a recurring source of pleasure from “likes” and “retweets”, but also serves as a more common means of finding sexual partners. To be free from the suffering found in seeking pleasure, we must rebel against our default psychology and remove the need for the pleasure that gives reason for us to suffer.