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  • Hey!

  • We have something special for you today.

  • We've been hard at work on a new series with Netflix called "Explained."

  • If you like our YouTube, you're gonna love this.

  • The reason we're making this show is because of you.

  • You, our subscribers.

  • So they let us share the entire first episode right here.

  • There's two more episodes on Netflix at netflix.com/explained.

  • You can go right now, they are there for you to watch.

  • Every Wednesday there is going to be a new story.

  • Add it to your list and enjoy.

  • [SINGING] 'Cause I'm in love...

  • From virtually the moment we're born, there's a story that's preached across cultures

  • and continents.

  • It's a familiar fairy tale...

  • She was even more beautiful than he had thought.

  • That finding one, true, love is the key to a fulfilled and happy life.

  • I've been doing a lot of thinking.

  • And the thing is, I love you.

  • I love you.

  • I love you.

  • Ditto.

  • As an adult, we're forced to reconcile the messaging on monogamy with one simple

  • fact...

  • Humans are terrible at it.

  • It's kept Jerry Springer on the air for 25 years.

  • Ohhhhh!

  • I've been... ...sleeping with Eddie.

  • He cheated on me with her?

  • I have your name tattoed on me!

  • How many girls you take from me, Aaron?

  • In 2016, 2.2 million U.S. couples got married.

  • But over 800,000 called it quits.

  • Our quest forand failure atmonogamy has caused so much pain and heartbreak.

  • If it's so hard for humans to be monogamous, why do most of us, all around the world, make

  • it one of the most central goals of our lives?

  • I start asking myself, "Is he right for me?"

  • If you ask couples why they chose monogamy, you'll hear one answer again and again.

  • They fell in love.

  • We met in a candy store.

  • 1946.

  • We went to college together.

  • We were both in a relationship then...

  • We didn't cheat.

  • You look so guilty every time we talk about this.

  • I'm bad at talking about this.

  • It's arranged marriage, whatever they selected for me, it was good.

  • And I am very happy with that.

  • We had a study date one night, and that study break turned into anatomy, I guess.

  • I've never felt this way about anybody before.

  • I feel God has blessed us.

  • We found true love.

  • Of course we did.

  • We're still here, 70 years, what do you expect.

  • 25 years I would've gotten out on good behavior.

  • I would like to think that soul mates are

  • real, but...

  • She's my soul mate.

  • Well, you're mine too.

  • But monogamy and love aren't the same thing.

  • We are so psychotically welded to this idea

  • that monogamy means love, and love means monogamy,

  • and in the absence of monogamy, there is not love.

  • Love is a feeling.

  • Monogamy is a rule.

  • You'll only have sex with this one person, and most people live in a culture where they're

  • expectedat some pointto make that rule a legal contract called marriage.

  • In many countries, breaking that rule is a crime.

  • In the U.S., adultery is illegal in at least 20 states, and although they're rarely enforced,

  • punishments can range from a $10 fine to three years in prison.

  • If you are in a monogamous relationship for 50 years and you fell down once, you cheated

  • oncethe whole relationship was a lie and a failure.

  • Most human beings have ambivalent impulses that it's nice to have someone you can rely

  • on, but there's also the temptation of novelty.

  • Why would humans all around the world invent a rule that's so difficult to follow, and

  • treat breaking it as such an enormous betrayal?

  • Should a male have on his clothing so much as a strand of hair from a female not his

  • wife, a serious crisis may result.

  • For more than a century, there's been a culturally accepted explanation.

  • Sound check.

  • One, one, one, one, one, one, one.

  • The standard narrative is the story that everybody knows: that men want to be free sexually and

  • spread their seed around the world, and women want to be very exclusive and particular and

  • choose a provider, because they're vulnerable and the children need someone to take care

  • of them, and all that.

  • Women trade sexual fidelity to men in exchange for goods and services essentially.

  • In this narrative, there's another reason why men wouldn't want women to sleep around.

  • If a baby comes out of a woman's body, there is no question but that she is genetically

  • related to that baby.

  • The male has to take the woman's word for it.

  • Biologists have known for a very long time that men are far more inclined to seek multiple

  • sexual partners.

  • And the reason for that is is really quite clear.

  • Now in the first place, remember that the male sperm cells are being produced all the

  • time.

  • While only one egg cell is produced each month.

  • There's a very goodand I don't mean ethically goodbut very understandable evolutionary

  • payoff for males as being randy bastards.

  • But there's one big issue with that explanationof promiscuous, possessive men and demure

  • women.

  • At lots of points in time, and places in the world, people didn't follow it.

  • Anatomically modern human beings have existed for at least 300,000 years.

  • And for more than 90% of that time, we lived as hunter-gatherers.

  • Anthropologists refer to them as fiercely egalitarian.

  • There's no reason to think that our ancestors shared everything except sexual partners.

  • Of course we can't go back and interview our foraging ancestors, but we have the accounts

  • of explorers and Europeans who first developed and saw these societies before they'd been

  • much touched by outsiders, and their surprise and shock at the difference in sexual mores.

  • There's a wonderful story that a Jesuit who lived with the Naskapi Indians for some time

  • and he would ask, "If you let your wives have this much freedom, how do you know that the

  • child she bears will belong to you?"

  • And he recorded the answer of the Indian:

  • "Thou has no sense."

  • The guy said, "You Frenchmen love only the children of your body, but we love all the

  • children of the tribe."

  • If a child is crying, the adult nearest to that child picks it up.

  • Nobody says, "Hey, hey your kid's crying."

  • No, it's – there's a commonality to parenthood among hunter-gatherers.

  • One of those groups are the Bari of Venezuela, where every man who sleeps with a woman while

  • she's pregnant is considered a father of the child, and helps provide for it.

  • Now in our society, that would probably not work very well, I'm not recommending it.

  • But in that society, a child who had several fathers named, because she'd slept with several

  • fathers, actually had a much better chance of surviving to adulthood because those men

  • contributed.

  • Did you ever think of going with somebody else after you married me?

  • What are you, crazy?

  • We don't like to say that we're open, we like to say we're slightly ajar.

  • Exactly.

  • That's not good, in my way.

  • In our language also they say Pati parmeshwar.

  • That means husband is like God.

  • This is our culture.

  • We actually kind of met through the non-monogamy community.

  • I define this relationship as, this is my cohabitating partner and we call each other

  • otters.

  • We are our primary partners and our other partners are secondary partners.

  • I find it really fascinating.

  • I think about a lot like if I could ever do that, and I don't know if I could.

  • I had a threesome with, like, two friends of mine that I initiated.

  • I decided that it would be cool to experiment with multiple people with, like, somebody

  • that I really loved and cared about.

  • The queer community has been berated with the idea that our relationships are lesser,

  • and that they're not actually up to par and that standard ofyou know, the heteronormative

  • standard, and all that's bull.

  • "We shouldn't be surprised that some cultures practice non-monogamy.

  • Because in the animal world, true sexual monogamy is virtually unheard of."

  • The most romantic creature might be the diplozoon paradoxum.

  • A parasitic tapeworm that literally fuses together with its partner for life.

  • But humans aren't tapeworms.

  • We're apes.

  • And our closest relatives in the animal world are chimps and bonobos.

  • We're more closely related to chimps and bonobos than the Indian elephant is to the African

  • elephant.

  • The close comparison exists in bone and muscle structure, and in the capability of responding

  • to stimuli and solving problems.

  • Clearly chimps and bonobos are anything but monogamous.

  • Bonobos have sex at the drop of a hat.

  • [SINGING] I know – I knowthat I just met you...

  • They have sex to say hello, they have sex to say goodbye, they have sex when they're

  • stressed out.

  • For both the male and female bonobos, that free love philosophy makes evolutionary sense.

  • The males get to spread their seed, and the females get to take in the seed of multiple

  • maleswhich then compete against each other to fertilize her egg.

  • It's survival of the fittestfor sperm.

  • There are aspects of bonobo anatomy that seem adapted to promiscuity.

  • And intriguingly, you can also find a lot of them in humans.

  • Suggesting we may have evolved to be non-monogamous, too.

  • There's body dimorphism...

  • In species that are more promiscuous, the males tend to be 15 to 25 percent larger than

  • the females.

  • And in theory, if there are males battling to impregnate women, testicles would be bigger

  • and stronger.

  • You'll see that human testicles are intermediate between very large testicles in bonobos and

  • chimpanzees, and very small testicles in gorillas for example.

  • There's the human penistied for the biggest among all primateswhich has a

  • unique shape.

  • We have this much thicker penis with the flared head.

  • This shape creates a vacuum in the female's reproductive tract that tends to pull any

  • sperm that's already there, it pulls it down away from the ovum.

  • Thereby giving an advantage to the sperm of the man who's having sex at the moment.

  • There's also female copulatory vocalization – a phenomenon so well- known and accepted,

  • it's a standard feature of movie sex scenes.

  • Oh!

  • Oh!

  • Ahh!

  • Oh.

  • What we see is that female copulatory vocalization is common among primates that engage in sperm

  • competition.

  • Then there's the fact that humans and bonobos have sex to bond, and not just to have children

  • which might explain the way we face each other during intercourse.

  • You see humans and bonobos are the only two that face each other while they're having

  • sex.

  • And why we have a lot more of it than most mammals.

  • So clearly when people say so-and-so had sex like an animal, they're getting it backwards.

  • And there's now a lot of evidence that monogamy is a more recent invention than most of us

  • would expect.

  • Around 12,000 years agowhen most humans stopped being hunter- gatherers, and figured

  • out how to farm.

  • You get a very overpowering concern with property rights.

  • As the Greeks put it, you don't want a foreign seed introduced into your soil.

  • For thousands of years, marriage was the main way that you increased your family labor force,

  • you made peace treaties, business alliances.

  • The more I've studied the more I became convinced that marriage was invented not to do with

  • the individual relationship with the man and the woman, but to get in-laws.

  • You know, and it's amusing because today we see in-laws as a big threat to the solidarity

  • of the man and the woman.

  • But that's what marriage was about.

  • You look back at Anthony and Cleopatra, that was not a love story at all.

  • That was two people from the most powerful empires in the world trying to figure out

  • how they could get together and rule both of those empires.

  • The idea of marrying someone for love?

  • Coontz says western societies only started doing that a few hundred years ago.

  • As we made a transition to the idea that marriage should be on the basis of love, it scared

  • people.

  • Defenders of traditional marriage said, "Oh my gosh, how will we get a woman to marry

  • at all if she says, 'Ew I don't love him.'

  • How will we stop people from getting divorced?"

  • So a new idea took hold: men and women needed to find love and marry, because they were

  • two parts of a whole.

  • Men were aggressive and protective.

  • Women were nurturing and demure.

  • They were opposites who completed each other.

  • The field of evolutionary biology also developed around this time; pioneered by male scientists,

  • who used their theories on sexual selection to explain Victorian gender roles.

  • As Charles Darwin wrote inThe Descent of Man”:

  • Woman seems to differ from man in mental disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness

  • and less selfishness...Man delights in competition, and this leads to ambition..."

  • "Thus man has ultimately become superior to woman.”

  • And it's possible his ideas became so popular and survived so long, because it made sense

  • to us in the societies we were living in.

  • But if monogamy is all a made-up construct, a way to enforce gender roles and social order,

  • how do we explain that visceral, deep-rooted feeling we get when our loved ones stray?

  • Tell me something: are you the jealous type?

  • I feel like we don't really deal too much with jealousy.

  • I don't know why that is.

  • I think it's just 'cause we're sluts, to be honest.

  • I don't get, like, jealous like that, you know.

  • It's important I think to understand why you're feeling jealous, because jealousy is not just

  • a – it's not a feeling, it's usually rooted in some other sort of thing.

  • It's not a descending guillotine.

  • It's like, jealousy is an event.

  • What's the best way to deal with that event?

  • Who were you really with?