just do it – a lot

All is/ought distinctions and naturalistic fallacies aside, whilst monogamy does occur in some non-human species, apparently humans have a evolutionary and biological predisposition of sorts to polygamy.

But is this really newsworthy?  Even the most prudish of “just lay there and think of the queen” conservatives would admit off the record to the fact that being married to one person doesn’t remove all attraction to all other potential mating partners.  Yet again, science is giving us technical and detailed accounts of what we already knew.  We like sex.  We like sex a lot.  We like a lot of sex.  Which is good news for the pornography and prostitution industries, though perhaps not for monogamy.

If both the above science and near-universal human experience is correct, then monogamy necessarily always involves a kind of saying ‘no’ to a desire that is as natural and normative as it gets.  There are two interesting points of relevance here for the current global discussion of same-sex marriage.

1) Legal same-sex marriage and legal multi-marriage are logically related.  It is hardly ‘scaremongering’ to point out that polygamy is the next step in the current progression, if not one of the next steps.  There is no shortage of online pro-polygamy groups which have been arguing for its legality for years (and plenty of challenging of other ‘no-marriage-for-you’ lines un-challenged in the currently proposed legislation).  Methinks that those pushing for the law change don’t want to talk for too long on this point, so they play the ‘scaremongering’ (or religious ‘fear’) card as quickly as possible.

2) Saying no to sexual desires may not be so inhumane after all.  If indeed the natural tendency toward polygamy is there in the vast majority of humans, then the widespread monogamous habit of routinely dousing of the flames of desire for multiple sex-partners is infinitely more backwards and sexually repressive in scope and number than expecting a relatively small percentage of the population to do the same with (homosexual) desires which are arguably just as natural, though incredibly less common.

But of course I do not think that sexual self-control is repressive or backwards.  Neither do I think that sexual expression (or marriage for that matter) is some kind of thing that makes you human – and therefore is a ‘right’.  All this goes directly against messages both implicit and explicit in movies, media and advertising whose suggestion is hardly a gentle one: namely that to err is virgin, and to get it on is divine.

And the church doesn’t help much either.  Marriage is on such a pedestal that single people feel like unfortunate, illegitimate, inconvenient accessories accompanying we normal married folk.  We need to affirm those who are both single and celibate as being just as human as any other.

want vs. like

Somewhat related to epistemology (but I’m not going there now) is the question of how emotion & desire can relate truth or moral guidance.

It is often assumed by we post-Romantics that ‘doing what you want’ is about the most sinful or dangerous thing imaginable.  ‘Doing what is right’ is better, we say; …and if what is ‘right’ happens to be what you want, then all the better.  And if what is ‘wrong’ is what you want, then well… either do it quietly or privately or not at all – if you can.

I believe, however, that desires are not all bad.  I actually wonder if what we call ‘bad desires’ are just ‘good desires’ that have been distorted, broken, suppressed or otherwise damaged.

But in addition to this, I think we can distinguish between deep, lasting and true desires (‘wants’) and shallow, fleeting and deceptive desires (‘likes’).  For example, at a spur of the moment, now, in my face kind of level, I ‘like’ a lot of things which I don’t actually ‘want’ at another, long run, after the fact, in my gut kind of level.  Examples can easily be multiplied.

I wonder if we often shortchange ourselves by loading up our lives with ‘likes’ instead of carving out time, money, energy, opportunities or space for the ‘wants’.  We look back at our afternoon, day, week, month, year or life and we lament that we didn’t get what we deeply ‘wanted’ (i.e. lasting, healthy relationships), even if we may well have quite often got what we ‘liked’ (i.e. this or that must-have gadget).

Sorting out the wants from the likes may well not be an exact science – who would ever thing it would be? – but I think we intuitively ‘know’ how to do the sorting.  Here’s to us doing it better.