Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemurs And Giant Jumping Rats

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 12 2012 @ 4:42pm

The company we keep if we deny our natural urges:

In The Myth of Monogamy, evolutionary psychologists David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton say we're not the only pair-bonding species that likes to sleep around. Even among the animals that have long been known as faithful types—nesting birds, etc. —not too many stay exclusive. Most dally. "There are a few species that are monogamous," says Barash. "The fat-tailed dwarf lemur. The Malagasy giant jumping rat. You've got to look in the nooks and crannies to find them, though."

That's true even in human societies:

According to anthropologists, only 1 in 6 societies enforces monogamy as a rule. There's evidence of one-man-one-woman institutions as far back as Hammurabi's Code; it seems the practice was further codified in ancient Greece and Rome. But even then, the human commitment to fidelity had its limits: Formal concubines were frowned upon, but slaves of either sex were fair game for extramarital affairs. The historian Walter Scheidel describes this Greco-Roman practice as polygnous monogamy—a kind of halfsy moral stance on promiscuity. Today's Judeo-Christian culture has not shed this propensity to cheat. (If there weren't any hanky-panky, we wouldn't need the seventh commandment.)