Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eric Anderson’s "The Monogamy Gap"

Eric Anderson is an American sociologist at the University of Winchester known for his research on sport, masculinities, sexualities and homophobia. He shows an increasingly positive relationship between gay male athletes and sports, as well as a growing movement of young heterosexual men’s masculinity becoming softer and more inclusive. Anderson also researches matters related to men’s monogamy, men's improving recognition of bisexuality, and the increased acceptance of young heterosexual men kissing.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, and reported the following:
A key reason why most men falsely maintain that monogamy (as in sexual restriction to the person you are partnered with) will provide them with a lifetime of sexual fulfilment, is because it is currently shrouded in robust myths about being healthy, proper, moral, and natural. If it were not for the strength of the myths surrounding monogamy, young men and women might enter into relationships with a greater understanding of the diminishing quality and quantity that long-term partnered sex provides.

However, even among men who espouse their desire to be monogamous, cracks normally emerge. Page 99 of my book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love and the Reality of Cheating examines men’s conflicted ideas about being in an open sexual relationship, as opposed to being in a closed/monogamous one.

Among the 120 straight and gay men that I interviewed for the research, Jonathan is a nineteen year-old heterosexual male athlete. When discussing what he thinks about monogamy he tells me:
Yeah, of course, who wouldn’t want to be told that they could have sex with whomever they wanted and their girlfriend wouldn’t care. That would be awesome. But if you’re going to be fair about it, then she’s going to have the right to do it, too. And that’s a lot harder to deal with than you doing it.
Jonathan’s statement highlights one of the primary modes of motivation behind men in maintaining monogamy. Whereas those who are in the beginning of their relationships desire monogamy for purely ideological purposes; in time, those in long-term relationships grow sexually habituated to their partners, strongly desiring sex with others. But page 99 shows that men cheat because cheating serves as a way to have their extra-dyadic sex while simultaneously preventing their partners from doing the same. Cheating, as opposed to being in an open relationship, permits them to have their cake and eat it, too.
Learn more about The Monogamy Gap at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue