If I were Dax Shepard I might be a bit worried right now. His wife, Kristen Bell, of Frozen fame, recently said in an interview, “I’m quite positive we are not meant to be monogamous.”
She went on to say that her point was that monogamous relationships are hard because they require “a lot of attention, vulnerability, and openness,” and therefore such relationships aren’t natural and aren’t for everyone. Bell isn’t the first Hollywood celebrity to express this view. Scarlett Johansson has talked about how she thinks monogamy is unnatural several times, Emma Thompson has referred to monogamy as “an odd state,” and a few other actors and actresses have concurred. They think life should be easy, and because monogamy is difficult it must also be unnatural. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Monogamy is one of the most natural things in the world.
There seems to exist some confusion among these celebrities, and others who agree with them, over the meaning of the word “natural” as it applies to humans. It is true that monogamy is rare in nature in the sense that it does not often occur in the animal kingdom. Only somewhere between three and five percent of animal species are known to enter lifelong monogamous relationships. Yet this does not mean promiscuity or polyamory should be the natural state of affairs for humans, as anti-monogamists seem to think. Killing regularly occurs in nature, but we don’t consider murder natural for man. In fact, there are a host of behaviors practiced in the animal kingdom that would be frowned upon in human society. Such behaviors are considered primitive, not natural, because as humans we cannot be held to the same standard as other animals. The nature of a baboon is not the nature of a man, because unlike the baboon, man can reason and consider his actions. We have a higher nature than other animals. Man’s nature is to be different from the beasts of the earth, to be better than them, to bring forth order from chaos. We live most in accordance with our nature, we act most naturally, when we do what our fellow animals cannot: rise above our primal impulses.
The most natural behavior in the world for humans, then, is to create order and structure in our lives to help in our quest to defeat our own inner animalism. While anarchists might disagree with this statement, most people would agree that order is preferable to chaos. We live in a universe of order, where rules and laws dictate everything from the orbiting of the planets to the flight pattern of insects. Order is the state of everything being as it should, of keeping chaos at bay, and in human society it serves to keep our unhealthy animal urges in check.
Men and women like and want sex. So do dogs. What separates us from dogs is our ability to create a healthy outlet (monogamy) for that sexual desire. From our primitive cravings comes an institution that funnels passions into a positive outcome: the bonding of partners through an expression of love. Out of the chaos of our primitive nature comes natural order. What is unnatural is attempting to tear down institutions that achieve such results.
Order and structure make our lives easier and better. Monogamy is no exception. Studies have shown that married couples live longer, have lower levels of stress, are less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, are less likely to develop depression or any other mental illnesses, and are more likely to survive cancer than their unmarried peers. It may require work, it may be difficult, and it may even be trying at times, but contra Hollywood celebrities, monogamy is anything but unnatural.
Image: By MingleMediaTVNetwork (Kristen Bell) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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