Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Normative Pathologization of Non-Monogamy

As most people who've lived a ploy lifestyle and have gotten traditional psychotherapeutic help will attest to, non-monogamy is not looked well on in the medical profession. There's a normative assumption that non-monogamy is a pathology that's connected to intimacy and relational issues (Samuels, 2010). Yet the larger issue is the research that therapists use to back their assumptions about sexual exclusivity. Most classic research is based on mono-normative concepts such as monogamy and traditional fidelity. If the underlying basis of the research is founded on the normative 'naturalness' of monogamy, then there's really no other conclusion than to pathologize non-monogamy.
So, how accurate is the norm that monogamy is natural for humans? There's plenty of contention towards that idea, firstly because only about 16% of cultures have been monogamous through history (Walsh, 2006), secondly because there are cultures in modern times that openly practice non-monogamy, and there's evolutionary evidence correlating human behavior to bonobo behavior, a non-monogamous species (Ryan & Jetha, 2010).
The end result is we have norms that are based on concepts about human nature that are, if not invalid, certinently up for stronger scrutiny. These norms then inform scientific studies that use mono-normativity as the basis for their conclusions.
I see a rather large inequity and discrimination issue here.
Ryan, A. & Jetha, C. (2010). Sex at dawn: The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Samuels, A. (2010). Promiscuities: Politics, imagination, spirituality and hypocrisy. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 212-221). New York, NY: Routledge.
Walsh, A. (2006). Polygyny. In E. J. Haeberle, V. L. Bullough & B. Bullough (Eds.) Human sexuality: An encyclopedia (pp. 468-469). New York, NY: Garland Publishing, Inc.

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