Scarlett Johansson has touched upon an interesting note in a recent press meet. She feels monogamy isn’t an intrinsic part of human nature. It takes a lot of effort to honor it by controlling the urge to “look beyond”. [I relished the retort by Tim Lott and recommend a mass reading ceremony of it] It hardly occurs to the working/middle class folks that monogamy vs polygamy could be a subject to ponder upon. As Mr. Lott says, lack of choice kills a lot of flavors from hogging the brain and vanilla rules by default. An enjoyable read fires a few searches followed by a routine documentation before the dust subsides – to record what mustn’t be forgotten about this exercise.
Statistics first, as numbers are most vulnerable to oblivion. More than 90% species of birds are monogamous whereas less than 3% of mammal species are. Within mammals, in primates (we, apes) 15% are known to be monogamous. Among human beings those who tend to practise monogamy (through a social cum legal marriage) do so due to many reasons which are being actively researched over. The most prominent motive seems to be adopting an efficient and a shared approach to raising an offspring together by the two parents. Gibbons and wolves are touted as very loyal family packs.
Birds’ form of monogamy is often ‘social’ and not necessarily ‘sexual’. A male and a female form a ‘pair bond’ as a strategy to nest, lay/incubate eggs and protect/rear broods. In many cases, the mates stick to this bond seasonally with a strong sense of reproductive purpose and then move on to the next. Sexual fidelity is not a strict ground in this short-lived ‘family’. However some birds display a rare long-term or even lifelong strong pairing that, in many cases, remains socially as well as sexually monogamous. Eagles, swans and geese are a few examples of this curious cases. Ornithologists feel that it’s hardly romantic though. The primary cause once again is linked to successful spawning. They find the time and the sweat involved in flirting, choosing a match and courtship not worth investing often. Divorces happen in case of death of a spouse or impotency. [Swans don’t sing once before their death!] But they make long spousal relationships between a male and a female partner, they learn together from their mistakes in order to improve and churns out clutches of cygnets throughout their mating life. Adhering to fixed mates improve their parenting capability and reduces their stress. However occasional philandering is not unheard of. Ducks, on the other hand, are little more liberal and adulterous and at best serially monogamous (forming pair bonds for a breeding season), though they belong to the same waterfowl group with geese and swans.
Do these biologists, and in general scientists have no time to appreciate love? In the name of knowing the truth, they often makes things indigestible. Heart is not in the heart, rather an assembly of the brain and chemicals – that was harsh. Now admitting that monogamy isn’t much of a natural disposition, rather a ‘marriage of convenience’, is turning things even murkier. Anyway, we have to live with a brain, swallow the temptations of finding better options and work hard to maintain faithfulness… till we can.