The evolution of the mind and the body is fascinating. Science shows it has progressed at a snail pace at times and other times huge leaps propelled people’s thinking, physical adaptation and the way they related to each other as a result of moving from a nomadic culture to farming.
During the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, primitive humans were able to separate sexual intercourse and other acts into recreation and procreation. Timothy Taylor’s Prehistory of Sex is an excellent source for understanding sexual dynamics. In addition, monogamy was not the usual pattern for various female species, according to D. Barash and J. Lipton’s work The Myth of Monogamy.
Monogamy was not part of the vocabulary or thoughts of men and women then. Marriage and associated ceremonies had yet to be created that might resemble what we are familiar with today. There were partnerships but the woman was viewed as having a greater role in the partnership, and depending on the tribe was free to choose with whom she mated regardless of her primary partner. When tribes began developing farming, the introduction of patriarchy emerged, along with the idea of possession such as land, animals, family and servants. Attitudes changed about what belonged to whom.
Jealousy, which was apparently not widespread as some scholars have suggested, became more so when property, patriarchy, servants, slaves and animals were formally incorporated within to the structures of society. Patriarchy and property came hand in hand and were viewed as an investment. Investments seemed to have become siblings of envy and jealousy. It’s about possession and return on investment. Whereas nomadic tribes shared for the sake of survival, farmers tended to share for a price of what they produced.
Sex and relationships became more compartmentalized depending on the tribe with rules, guidelines and commandments to keep people in line. It was about control and power. Moreover, in primitive tribes, sex was a vehicle for more than just producing children and was experienced as part of natural behavior and at times within tribal rites and ceremonies. It was also considered simply as fun and a joyful occasion: heterosexuality, homosexuality and bi-sexuality were natural.
We know that cultural conditioning affects behavior. A number of studies such as The Manipulated Mind by Denise Winn show that people are subject to conditioning, which takes many forms. Monogamy is one form of conditioning, mostly through religious belief. We are raised to see things in a certain way and think it’s natural or unnatural or perverse to whatever the norm is at the time. Our informal and formal education feeds into our conditioning, as noted in Brain Washing by Kathleen Taylor.
We also know that male and female relations are affected not only by religion but also by culture and local social structures that affect how we think, relate to each other and act. Non-monogamy, it seems, was at one time the norm, more for the female than the male according to Taylor’s studies.
Today, monogamous relationships are changing as more people remain single or are in alternative-style relationships. We are in a time of culture, personal value and ethical reassessment. Traditional partnerships? What will that mean in the future? Partnerships and the entire concept of monogamy and marriage will continue to dramatically change throughout the 21st century. We are living in a period of a rebirth of consciousness and thinking as a result of the downstream effects of technology.
I think we will increasingly find that more “females” will become breadwinners and “men” will more often be in roles previously defined as a woman’s while also working out of the home environment and within technological defined settings. The overlapping of roles will be great enough as to completely blur what was once defined as traditional, whereas communication will become more layered. Men will turn more monogamous and women less so. Alternative lifestyles will create new paradigms for relationships.
L.J. Frank is an adventurer, philosopher, historian, author, publisher and artist (commission only). His primary career is a nonprofit executive for libraries, university instructor and advisor. He’s also worked and studied in Asia, Middle East and Central America, and has a lifelong interest in anthropology, which spams prehistoric, ancient and medieval cultures, and architecture. His degrees include a BA in history and comparative religion, and an MA in history and foreign policy.
You can learn more about Frank and his works at the Narrative Paths Journal, his blog for “experimenting with ideas.”