email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot My ShameNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
Sociobiology, which seeks to understand the social behavior of animals (including humans) in terms of its biological or genetic basis, began in the 1960s, and became widespread after E.O Wilson published Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975. Since its inception, it has been the subject of a great deal of controversy. Eminent biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin were particularly harsh in their criticisms. They argued that while biology of course has some influence on social behavior, the genetic determinism that they claimed was propounded by sociobiologists, is false. There is, they said, no simple, straightforward and one to one relationship between genes and complex social behavior, especially in humans. Rather, one’s biology leaves open a wide variety of possible behaviors all of which are compatible with genetic makeup. Partly in response to this controversy, sociobiologists, now often referred to as evolutionary psychologists, have, they claim, suggested a richer and more complex relationship between behavior, genes and environment.
The husband and wife team of Barash and Lipton fall squarely within this sociobiology/evolutionary psychology tradition (although, interestingly, they are on the left of the political spectrum in contrast to most within this field who tend to have more conservative social views). In an earlier book, The Myth of Monogamy, they used this explanatory framework to explore monogamy, arguing that ``monogamy is extremely rare in the animal world, and that it simply isn`t `natural` for animals or human beings`` (13). Evidence in support of this claim comes first from the fact that, e.g., “out of about 4,000 mammal species, only a handful have ever been called monogamous”(27). The reason for this, they claim, is that being promiscuous, even when ‘mated’, has biological advantages and hence would be a selected for trait. This is perhaps obvious in males since having sex with lots of females increases his chances for more children and hence for passing along his genes. Though the case is more complex and indirect for female infidelity, in many animal species a combination of presents, like food, and protection of their offspring serves to make females as well as males engage in extra pair coupling. This is confirmed by DNA evidence, which shows that offspring are often not the product of the coupled male’s sperm.
Barash and Lipton are quick to point out that natural is not synonymous with good (23), nor is what is natural inevitable. Indeed, many things that are not natural -- like playing a flute -- can be well worth pursuing though they will take much time and effort (24). In a series of short chapters, they discuss ways in which monogamy can make sense for an animal, human or otherwise. For example, In Chapter 4 (57-69), they discuss how monogamy can aid in bi-parental care. Such care is especially necessary in species where infants are exceedingly helpless, such as in many bird species and, of course, in humans. Another example is reciprocity, discussed in Chapter 5 (71-85). As mentioned above, one of the threats to monogamy is that there often seems to be a biological advantage to cheating because doing so, for males at least, can produce more offspring. In game theory, this has been called the defect, or non-cooperation strategy. While pursuing such strategies in the short term may make sense, pursuing them with others over longer periods of time produces sub-optimal results. As the old saying goes, once bitten, twice shy, so defectors or cheaters simply aren’t trusted enough to allow into cooperative ventures. But these ventures often have tremendous benefits not available for individuals on their own. As a result, individuals will behave monogamously as the price to be paid for the benefits of cooperation.
In Chapter 9 (109-128), Barash and Lipton discuss some fascinating (though speculative) material on ways in which our brains may be hard-wired toward monogamy. They discuss this issue under four different headings: attachment theory, neuroplasticity, mirror neurons, and hormones. Very briefly, attachment theory states that our relationships are built upon our first relationship with our mothers when we were helpless. Neuroplasticity is the theory that our brains can develop new pathways on the basis of our experiences and that our brains can even grow new cells. Mirror neurons are motor neurons that fire when we witness similar behaviors in others, and are thought to be important in our ability to empathize. Finally, the hormones in question -- oxytocin and vasopressin -- are thought to have a part to play in making us behave socially. Barash and Lipton summarize their thoughts on these processes/materials and their relation to monogamy in the passage below.
Human beings have a profound need for attachment, beginning in infancy and continuing through adulthood. The benefits of attachment [apply] ... to childhood ... and adults as well. Attachment itself (at any age) is encouraged by standard psychological processes, such as reward and punishment, and facilitated as well by mirror neurons, which, by promoting empathy, make for benevolent, prosocial, interpersonal connections. All the while, these connections are being literally structured by the brain`s capacity for neural plasticity, in which nerve cells grow and brain regions develop in response to the continued interaction that defines attachment. And waiting in the wings, ready to provide an encouraging chemical environment, are those love-potion hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, along with their gene-based receptors (128).
Strange Bedfellows is a clearly written, insightful small book filled with lots of wonderful examples of animal behavior. While it may not be wholly convincing regarding the extent to which human mating behavior is influenced (let alone determined) by our biology, as opposed to our environment (not to mention free will), it is well worth the read.
Robert Scott Stewart, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Cape Breton University, Sydney, NS, Canada