Nature vs Nurture: Are humans innately monogamous or promiscuous.

Monogamous, promiscuous
Monogamous or promiscuous

Are Humans Innately Monogamous or Promiscuous

The interaction of biological, psychological, and environmental factors influences behaviors. Observable characteristics of an organism's behaviors and physical traits are products of the interaction between the environment and one's genetic makeup which makes up an individual's phenotype. We inherit twenty-three chromosomes from our mothers and twenty-three from our fathers'. Each chromosome contains a multitude of genes endowing a person with physical traits, for example, eye color and hair color.  The debate of nature versus nurture is centered around the debate that the psychologist has with the extent to which biological predispositions and environmental factors have on the physical and behavioral traits of any specific organism.  Are humans innately monogamous or promiscuous? 


Biologic reproduction

The media is full of stories of men who have impregnated multiple women in a relatively short period of time, and did you know that sperm production usually continues until death. Whereas, women on average are impregnated by one male at a time, however, there is an exception to the rule. 

For example, in cases of superfecundation, a rare but real diagnosis, an ovulating woman that has sex with multiple partners during ovulation could be impregnated by two men, two different sperm fertilizing two different eggs. 

However, full-term pregnancy is generally for nine months. 


Menopause generally occurs during the early forties to late fifties in women. During menopause, the ovaries stop functioning rendering women infertile due to aging. Research indicates that men are more likely to engage in adulterous affairs than women.
Biologic Reproduction
Biologic Reproduction

Social-cultural factors: 

There is evidence that suggests throughout the history of humanity, civilizations have implemented laws that encouraged monogamous relationships between men and women even as far back as Mesopotamia. 

Laws were implemented into the code of Hammurabi that aimed at reducing the probability of men becoming a cuckold, and increasing the probability of the legitimacy of children. 

In antiquity divorce often times had a negative stigma. However, both men and women were allowed to divorce if circumstances allowed. 

In Mesopotamia

In Mesopotamia, ordinarily, divorce was initiated by the male, but women could also initiate divorce. For instance, in cases of abuse or neglect women, could divorce such a husband. 

Men frequently divorce if the wife was thought to be infertile. More times than not, he just got a  concubine, for if he divorced his wife, he would have to return her dowry. 

It should not come as a surprise that wealth and power have a profound influence on mate selection and marriage arrangements, but some things never seem to change. 

If a woman was caught in an adulterous affair she and her lover were thrown into a river tied together, yet the cuckold husband had the option of sparing the wife, but he also had to spare the wife's lover; furthermore, at times the cheating couple were speared. 

All a husband had to do was to accuse his wife of having an affair and she was thrown into the river; if she lived she was acquitted, and it was said," the Gods has shown her favor!!
According to Wikipedia,"polygamy legal in 58 out of nearly 200 sovereign states, the vast majority of them being Muslim-majority countries situated in Africa and Asia. In most of these states, polygamy is allowed and legally sanctioned. Polyandry is illegal in virtually every state in the world. The rest of the sovereign states do not recognize polygamous marriages."

It is my belief that laws, code of ethics, and social norms are a reflection of the dominant social values of the American citizens; as evident in 1862 President Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act making plural marriages illegal; the law was followed by two amendments, which are the Edmund's Act and the Edmund-Tucker Act, however, the laws would not be enforced until 1887. Therefore, it is my belief that most Americans would say," I value committed relationships, marriage, and family." 

So why do so many commit infidelity when many of us would say that the act is immoral? 
Committed relationships can reduce conflict

Committed Relationship:

Being in a committed relationship (monogamy) reduces
  • conflict, 
  • jealousy, 
  • competition for mates, 
  • the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, 
  • poverty(dual income), 

Children reared in a two-parent household are more likely to benefit from the attention of both parents, and statistics indicate that there is a correlation between committed relationships and life expectancy. It appears that people who are in a healthy long term committed relationships living together on average outlive individuals without similar behaviors traits.    

Negative Consequences Of Infidelity: 

Through the process of acculturation rewards and consequences are the tools by which individuals are motivated towards conformity within a social and economic environment. The assimilation of social values and social norms is adventurous because rewards are associated with conformity and negative consequences are associated with nonconformity. 

Infidelity has a negative stigma and there are so many negative consequences associated with stepping out on your significant other, for example, the following:
  • divorce
  • child support
  • alimony, 
  • financial woes, 
  • abuse, 
  • neglect, 
  • the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, 
  • and homicide.

If you ever hear these words,
" If I can't have you, want nobody have you!

Run for your life! people have been known to commit crimes of passion. Why do people cheat when there are so many negative consequences of infidelity? Are humans innately monogamous or promiscuous?   

What is infidelity? 

Infidelity is when a person steps outside of a committed relationship 

Most of us would agree that infidelity occurs when a person steps outside of a committed relationship and engage in coitus(sex) with someone other than their spouse, or significant other. 

But what about flirting, the occasional phone conversation with someone other than your spouse that is of a personal nature full of sexual innuendos and overtones, the more than occasional lunch date with a coworker, helping the same coworker with a bill or gas money whom also happened to be married? 

In my lifetime I have witnessed men who have paid for hairdos, nail restorations, and the car payments of married women, but claim to have not had sexual relations(coitus) with such women; have you ever heard the phrase,
" you gotta use what you got to get what you want!"

I hear tell that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world; I am just saying if it walks like a duck quacks like a duck then it must be a duck. Does infidelity encompass frequent visits to internet porn sites and phone or internet sex chat lines? 

It appears that infidelity has both a biologic component and a psychological component. Biological, psychological, and social culture variables influence human behaviors, but which one dominates? That is the question.

Promiscuous Bonds for life:

According to Marlene Zuk in an interview with live science, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California
"Only 3 to 5 percent of the 5,000 species of mammals bond for life, including otters, beavers and wolves. When only primate species are considered, the rate is slightly higher 6 percent of the 300 primate species in the world, including gibbons, are considered monogamists... Here are a few other noteworthy monogamists:
  • Bald eagles mate for life. They display their commitment with flying acrobatic stunts.
  • The male prairie vole (a small rodent) will only mate with the female to which he loses his virginity. After that, female voles beware. Males will attack any female that's not his first.
  • Black vultures don't tolerate promiscuity. They will attack any vultures caught philandering.
  • If male red-backed salamanders suspect their partner is cheating, they'll physically and sexually harass the females.
  • Although the African antelopes known as "Kirk's dik-diks" have permanent pair bonds, the males don't help with parenting.
  • Emperor penguins have a reputation for sticking by their partner, but in reality, they practice annual monogamy. After every winter, they go in search of new mates." 
According to divorce statistics,

"Surveys show that 22% of married men have committed an adulterous act at least once in their life.
  • 14 percent of married women have had affairs at least once during their married lives
  • It is in the younger generation where these values are considerably higher and the numbers of both sexes are closer together
  • The percentage of men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker is 36%
  • The percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity on business trips is 36%
  • The percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity (emotional or physical) with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law is 17%
  • 30% of the married women knew of their spouse’s infidelity, while for married men the number is higher and it stands at 46%
  • 90% of American believes it is morally wrong to commit an adulterous act only 61% would like to see it punished as any other crime
  • In The United States, 17% of all the divorces that occur are due to adultery on the part of either or both the parties
  • While a large number of divorces are caused by extramarital affairs most of them do not end in remarriage between the parties involved in the affair
  • 36% of the people admit to having an affair with a co-worker, with whom they usually spend more time than their spouses
  • 36 % percent of people admit to having had an affair on a business trip
  • Statistics say that nearly 85% of the women are right when they think their partner is cheating on them while for men it is around 50%
  • 2% to 3% of all children are due to infidelity and shockingly most of these children are unknowingly raised by men who are not their biological fathers
  • 70 percent of married women and 54 percent of married men did not know of their spouses’ extramarital activity
  • Men are more likely than women to have a sexual affair, regardless of whether or not they are in a married or unmarried relationship


Note: Due to the secretive nature of infidelity, it is impossible to find the exact figures about cheating and extra-marital affairs. In many cases, infidelity never gets discovered."

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: 

According to the American Sexual Health Association statistics on sexually transmitted diseases," one in two sexually active people will contract an STI(sexually transmitted infection) by the age of 25."

Author on Inveigle Magazine

Author: Gregory M. Green is the author of various topics in the Social Sciences section of Inveigle MagazineHe writes on informative topics that bring awareness to the world. We are so pleased to have him as a part of Inveigle Magazine's Team. Follow us @Inveiglemagazi1 View more articles by Gregory M. Green

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