The concept of monogamy – a committed, lifelong relationship between two people – has been considered standard practice for centuries, but it's not the only way to love and connect. Non-monogamy, or engaging in romantic or sexual relationships with multiple people, has played a significant role in human history around the world. Let's embark on a journey through time and explore how non-monogamous relationships have shaped society, challenged traditional norms, and contributed to a more diverse understanding of love.
Non Monogamy In History Table of Contents
1. Prehistoric Tribes: Early Egalitarianism
The concept of non-monogamy can be traced back to our human ancestors. Early human societies were often egalitarian, in which resources and work were shared among community members. It's believed that many tribes practiced communal sex and child-rearing, ensuring that all children in the group were cared for collectively. The Murdock Ethnographic Atlas, which documents over 1,200 human societies, discovered that roughly 85% of these tribes practiced some form of non-monogamy.
2. Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs: Divine Love and Power
The ancient Egyptians practiced non-monogamy as an expression of their religious beliefs and political power. Pharaohs were considered gods on Earth and were expected to father children with multiple concubines in addition to their wives. Extramarital affairs amongst the elite were also common, but everyday Egyptian citizens were expected to remain monogamous.
3. Roman Empire: Lovers and Hedonism
The Romans embraced a libertine approach to sexuality, including non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships. The elites prided themselves on their elaborate orgies, as well as the famous poet Ovid's erotic instructions about how to manage multiple lovers. However, throughout the Roman Empire, a double standard prevailed: men had more freedom to be non-monogamous, while women were expected to be loyal to their husbands.
4. Native American Tribes: Matrilineal Societies and Two-Spirits
Numerous Native American tribes incorporated non-monogamous practices into their social structure. Matrilineal societies, in which children inherit property and power through their mother's lineage, were more lenient towards non-monogamous relationships. Some tribes respected "two-spirit" individuals or people who possess both male and female traits, who were often known to engage in non-monogamous relationships.
5. Islamic Empires: Concubines and Marriage Contracts
Polygamy, or the practice of having multiple spouses, is found in Islamic history and scripture. Men were allowed to marry up to four wives, as long as they could provide for each equally. In addition, it was not uncommon for men to take concubines or slaves as intimate partners, outside of their marriages. It's worth noting that Islamic polygamy was intended as a form of social welfare, providing support for widows and orphans in a time when women had limited opportunities.
Non Monogamy In History Example
In 18th-century China, the imperial court was home to the infamous "harem" – a collection of thousands of concubines that the emperor could choose from at any given time. This practice of maintaining multiple consorts was not limited to the ruling classes; men of high social standing were expected to have several wives and concubines, with the first (or primary) wife holding power over the others. This structure allowed families with multiple wives to pool resources and support one another, providing a practical, if imperfect, form of non-monogamous living.
Understanding non-monogamy throughout history offers a fascinating look at the many ways humans have explored love and relationships. As we continue to challenge traditional norms and embrace diverse relationship styles, it's essential to remember that non-monogamy is not a new or radical concept – it's as old as humanity itself.
If you found this exploration into non-monogamy's historical roots intriguing, share this post with others to help educate and raise awareness. And be sure to check out more engaging content and guides from The Monogamy Experiment – we're here to help you navigate the complexities of love in all its forms!