Are humans monogamous? Like is it natural? I want to be with my fiancée forever, but the thought of having sex with the same person for the rest of my life terrifies me. We’ve discussed it some and I think she feels the same as me but neither of us want an open relationship. Do you have any advice for us?
-Terrified Of Monogamy
Are humans monogamous? Is it natural? Yes and no! Although society tends to think of monogamy as sexual exclusivity, mono means one, gamy means spouse. One spouse. One person to pair-bond with, to build a life together, to know each other’s habits and absurd quirks, to have each other’s backs and be there through thick and thin. Whether or not you decide you want your definition of monogamy to include sexual exclusivity is completely up to you and your future wife. Some people find it easier to fully embrace the commitment of sexual exclusivity while others pretend to embrace it, then secretly explore when other opportunities arise. Infidelity is perhaps the last major taboo in society, yet it is widely practiced.
What IS completely natural for humans is pair-bonding. Our brains wired to actively seek someone to pair bond with. In fact, in most polyamorous relationships, there are typically two people who have a stronger pair bond with each other than with the others in their circle.
Being in a serious committed relationship, or even having a ring on your finger, does not magically turn off all arousal and attraction you might occasionally feel for others. Sometimes, just sharing those exciting bursts of attraction to another can create enough tension to remind your partner that you are your own person who sexualizes others. It also reminds your partner to sexualize you too, which is quite necessary after many years of domestication—especially when you have children. On the other hand, however, both of you must be completely secure with yourselves and your relationship, to be able to have such open dialogue. Regardless of how you decide to create tension between you, communication is of utmost importance. You said you “think she feels the same as me” but you must KNOW she does, TOM.
Recently I had the honor of being on a panel with one of the world’s top sex therapists, Dr. Tammy Nelson. I would recommend you pick up her book, The New Monogamy, as it might help you come up with ideas on how to navigate modern life with the age-old institution of marriage. One thing she mentioned that stood out to me, was advising couples to check in with each other every so often to see where they stand. It’s a brilliant and imperative point. Who we are and how we feel changes over time, so to expect our partners and our relationships to remain the same year after year stunts individual growth and leads to very boring complacency. Of course, it’s easier to be stimulated and catalyzed by someone new than it is to constantly reinvent ourselves and work at seeing our partners in new ways. But that’s why monogamy is a practice that takes daily effort to master. Best of luck to you and your soon to be wife, TOM.
Do women want to be dominated in bed or do they want sexual equality?
Believe or not, “women” are a very diverse group of humans with myriad needs, desires, and interests. Do you want the same things in bed as all of your friends? I sure hope not, lest you socialize with a group of very boring unimaginative friends.
Dom and sub are roles two people agree to act out together. Some men like to be dominated, some like to dominate. Some women like to be dominated, some like to dominate. These roles can be played out occasionally or frequently, and they can reverse. The question of equality doesn’t refer to the existence of said roles, but rather to the satisfaction and respect each person is entitled to, regardless of the sexual role chosen. There’s a huge difference between wanting to enjoy being dominated in bed versus taking away someone’s right to expect enjoyment, simply because they like being dominated. Sexual satisfaction demands equality and respect, regardless of roles or preference.
My kids are 10 and 12. My husband and I are in disagreement about having “the talk”. I think we should at least explain where babies come from. He thinks we should let them figure it out on their own because that’s what he did and he turned out just fine.
-The Hushed Wife
Dear Hushed Wife,
Not to freak you out or anything, but chances are that both of your kids already know where babies come from. Clearly you have the internet in your home because you reached out to me. Remember when we were kids and we would look up words like dick and vagina in the dictionary and giggle? Well, nowadays there’s google and pornhub. Do you know the statistics on how many kids have seen porn, either intentionally or by accident? Do you know how much misinformation about sex they’re going to hear from peers at school? Do you really want them getting their sex ed from their friends, the internet, and porn?
You’re long overdue for “the talk” but it’s important that you don’t think of it as a one-time discussion on the birds and the bees. This needs to be a life-long continuous conversation well into adulthood, anytime they have a question or seek guidance from you.
I recently did a live audience discussion recording for Alexandra Jamieson’s Her Rules Radio show called Sex 101 for Parents. Joining me was a middle school health and sexuality educator. We covered everything from how to talk to your kids about porn, to addressing questions posed throughout childhood and teen years—without freaking out. Here are some take aways on the subjects you’ll need to cover moving forward, that expand well beyond “sex ed” but which are imperative conversation topics for healthy sexuality development: masturbation, agency, pleasure, respect, consent, handling shame and rejection, body acceptance, self-esteem, empathy, healthy relationships, sexting/snapchatting, porn sex vs. real-life sex, balance, infatuation, and love. While you and your husband may disagree on how to go about this, sticking your head in the sand and avoiding it is irresponsible and negligent. Kids are naturally curious; it’s only human to seek out answers to that which they do not know. And as their parent, it’s your duty to be one of their most trusted and relied upon sources for accurate information. Let me ask you this: what would feel more awkward—talking to your kids about sex now, or trying to navigate the potential consequences of molestation, teen pregnancy, STIs, rape, assault, and legal woes later?
Mal Harrison is a clinical sexologist, educator, and the Director of the Center for Erotic Intelligence. Have a question or comment for M? AskM@centerforeroticintelligence.org