After the legalisation and acceptance of LGBT behaviour, will CNM – Consensual Non-Monogamous – relationships be the next barrier to human happiness to be vanquished?
If societal pressure forced humankind to become monogamous, will this process of acceptance of CNM relationships result in its destigmatisation and adoption of an alternative life style?
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Once upon a time in a far-off never-never land, humans were free. This was in a land of yore, prior to mankind settling down and becoming “civilised.” Much like monkeys, gorillas and our other simian cousins, humans’ sexual mores were then much more relaxed. Sexual intimacy with various members of the opposite sex was condoned.
As any zoologist will confirm, gorillas might engage in coitus several times a day but mostly with different gorillas. Apparently it is part of the bonding of the troop. With no time for such “unnecessary acts” such as foreplay, sex is more akin to the flippant description of Aussie foreplay, “Brace yourself, Sheila.”
When the apelike mammals or proto-humans were still peripatetic, their social mores were probably similar to, if not the same as, their ape ancestors. Humankind was free of norms and standards of behaviour. Only their primal survival instinct was of any consequence. Sharing resources was vital to their survival as a group. Facing grave dangers united was their solution.
So when and why did humans evolve to become monogamous?
The watershed moment arose when humankind settled down and became agriculturists. For the first time, mankind commenced acquiring things such as land. What happened next was the male to acquire a spouse. Like any of man’s other possessions, a wife was classified as a “good or chattel” to be used or abused as the male felt inclined.
By the time that laws and religions were created circa 5000 BC, these actions were now part of the accepted norms of society. In his profound tome, Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari provides evidence for how certain deeply ingrained values are created on this basis. The immutable caste system in India or even racist attitudes in America are but two exemplars of this process.
In India, the upper castes, Brahmins – priestly people – and the Kshatriyas, or Rajanyas, who were rulers, administrators and warriors, were derived from the lighter skinned Mongol people. By making the darker skinned locals their servants, the whole system of castes gradually evolved over centuries.
Norms are merely the manifestation of something that is usual, typical, or standard. This will culminate in laws, rules and regulations being enacted to force compliance with the prevailing norms.
Almost all norms are artificial constructs with no basis in biology or science. Take anal sex as an example. What biological rule prevents one from the use of the anus in sex. Its use in the sex act only became verboten as the norm for 95% of society is vaginal sex. Ergo, it is not permitted for the 5% of society that feels so inclined, to indulge in their secret desire. Yet throughout history whispers of homosexual behaviour are heard from Alexander the Great to Mark Anthony.
What exactly is CNM?
CNM is an umbrella category which includes polyamory, open relationships, swinging, and other consensual alternatives to traditional monogamy.
The key word in that succinct definition is consensual.
Is mankind inherently a monogamous creature?
This is highly unlikely. Despite being married and being deeply in love with one’s existing partner, most people are attracted to members of the opposite sex. It is estimated that 20% to 30% of the population indulge in their fantasies and engage in an illicit relationship with another person.
It is not only the physical attraction to another person which is root cause of affairs of the heart but what is becoming widely recognised is that one’s level of sexual fantasies and desire to enact certain of them, is a major source of frustration in a marriage. What happens when one’s desires are not actualised? In the extreme, it is marital infidelity or even divorce. Yet no two people are as sexually adventurous as the other, which results in conflict or, at the very least, frustration.
The societal construct of a marriage is that one’s partner is able to satisfy all one’s needs, emotionally, intellectually but most importantly sexually. This is an outdated myth. Largely the supply of the first two needs has been outsourced by the liberation of the workplace and the sports field. Still outstanding, waiting to be ticked off, is the bedroom. Outsourcing that function will clearly currently result in stigmatisation and vilification.
Firstly, a CNM relationship is any relationship in which all parties involved openly agree to have more than one, concurrent sexual and or romantic partner.
Furthermore, CNM relationships is a relationship structure based on various values such as honesty, transparency and acceptance of sexual attraction to others.
CNM relationships are managed and partners often negotiate agreements and the terms of engagement.
How does one handle jealousy?
A positive emotional reaction to a loved one’s other relationship, is a common part of CNM and an alternative to jealousy. People who are polyamorous are deeply committed, to more than one person at the same time. Openness and honesty are key to making consensual non-monogamy (CNM) work
Other practical difficulties
All relationships are difficult to navigate including monogamous relationships. CNM relationship are even more difficult in that a participant has to divide their time between two partners. Given the dearth of time in modern society, this places an additional time burden of the couples because when one is in love with somebody, one wants to be with them all or most of the time. This is especially true during the initial stages of the relationship.
CNM relationships should not be confused with the free love relationships as espoused by the hippies of the 1960s. In their communes, one was obliged to have sex with a person irrespective of whether one felt attracted to them or not. In this respect, the sexual act was not always consensual but rather a “societal norm” albeit within the commune.
Will CNM relationships ever become the norm? Yes. As society recognises that the principle of one “size” does not fit all, so many relationships will become receptive to experimentation in this regard.
It also recognises that one’s marriage partner cannot provide all of one’s needs even in the romance or sexual department. Rather than frustrating the other partner, let them wander within the limits set by both parties.
In fact, ultimately it will force both parties in the formal marriage to be more attentive to the needs of their partner as there is “competition.” Much like a government departments, the service from one’s partner becomes shoddy and substandard. So to, the same disinterest in customer service takes hold after several years of marriage.
So do challenges.