‘Evolutionary speaking’

by Emilia Passaro

Image source: Jarek Puczel at berlinartparasites

Image source: Jarek Puczel at berlinartparasites

As with all of my passionate opinions, I discovered this one through a conversation in a pub. I was talking to a work mate about his (in my opinion) failing relationship: “You don’t get it” he said, “Men are just not meant to settle down. It’s against our nature to be monogamous. It’s an evolutionary fact!”

Now, I do not profess to be an expert in any field, in fact, I know very little about anything but, my degree is rooted in biology and my dissertation was centred on evolution.

Consequently, while he was explaining this to me I almost believed him. For a second it made sense. As with many other animals the male of the species needs to be visually and physically impressive enough to attract the attention of the females.

Their aim is to impregnate as many as possible in order to pass their genetic code onto as many offspring as possible. Conversely, the females aim to seek out one male who will protect and provide for her and their offspring. I agreed. But then, a second passed.

Darwin's Tree of Life; a metaphor used to describe the relationships between organisms, both living and extinct. Image source: www.fossilmuseum.net

Darwin’s Tree of Life; a metaphor used to describe the relationships between organisms, both living and extinct. Image source: http://www.fossilmuseum.net

After that I realised how embarrassing this idea is. I have to believe that we as a species have evolved past that. Yes, it may have been relevant in the past when we were evolving our culture and society but surely not anymore.

There are many things we have done in our evolutionary path to the present day that we have discarded simply because they are no longer appropriate. The gender roles that defined these sexual choices are slowly resetting themselves. We have plainly moved on. Humans are no better than any other organism on this beautiful planet but we certainly have evolved differently.

Don’t get me wrong, I accept evolution wholeheartedly, it has bestowed upon us such amazing gifts not least our big, beautiful brains. With this astounding, complex organ I believe that we are able to overcome our base instincts if we so choose.

If we decide we want to be in a monogamous relationship then surely we can be, humans have definitely performed greater feats. We walked on the moon, we conquered Everest, we even squeezed the juice from an orange to create the drink of the Gods.

In all of these scenarios we used our brains to overcome the voices in our heads which tell us to stop, which say “hold on, maybe we’ve gone too far this time”. We still did it though, through sheer want of will.

So I refuse to demean and patronise my male counterparts (even if some choose to do so themselves) by perpetuating the idea that they are unable to or find it almost impossible to maintain a monogamous relationship.

Although, if someone decides that they much prefer the polyamorous lifestyle and wish to practice with other like minded people; go for it! You do you. But please, don’t use this “evolutionarily speaking” defence to run around on your partner and then blame it on ‘innate qualities’ because you are not being a ‘bloke’, you’re being a bad person.

In my eyes this entire argument is an obvious patriarchal gas lighting tactic to persuade ourselves that it is OK for approximately half of the population to do as they wish even if it directly and negatively impacts the other half.

That may seem like an outrageous and militant statement and so I will qualify it with the idea that many of us are oblivious and blissful in our ignorance. I have had discussions on this topic many times, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that I have often been debating with other women who have themselves been cheated on or strung along for months. I hate the idea that there are people who feel blameless for cheating on their partners because ‘they just couldn’t help it’. What an awful cop-out.

In short, what I am trying to say is that we are capable of making our own decisions in all aspects of our lives, including our love and sex lives, and we need to step up to that ability.

There is no other creature on this planet who has created science, art, literature, peanut butter, music etc. We are conscious of ourselves and others, we feel empathy and sympathy, we act altruistically for the benefit of others. We should never seek to blame our biology for things that we can choose and should change.

Nevertheless, these thoughts are solely my own. This is my opinion, as you can see there are no citations or references. I have absolutely no empirical evidence from published members of the scientific community to back me up. Hopefully, this will spark an interesting conversation. I am always interested to hear from people who disagree with me and even more interested in those who agree. Let’s discuss…

Image source: Tran Nguyen at berlinartparasites

Image source: Tran Nguyen at berlinartparasites

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