If our prehistoric forebears’ freely and casually sexually promiscuous ways were influenced by theirhunter-gatherer existence, then our modern sexual behavior is influenced by our agricultural roots. As covered in my previous piece, the advent of agriculture could very well be the reason that we modern Americans are, by and large, sexually jealous creatures.
I posit that sexual jealousy is entirely normal. One could even argue that it is healthy and inherently natural, considering how long agriculture has been a part of our lives. It is entirely possible that jealousy is a survival tactic. With this in consideration, casual sex won’t really work all that easily into our modern post-agricultural lives. Only those who have broken free of society’s possessive status quo would be able to move past jealousy and on to sexual and emotional generosity. In fact, I’d like to relate to you an experience I had regarding sexual jealousy.
Years ago, as a young buck intrigued with the sexual decadence of swingers, I got involved with shady Yahoo swingers groups. I corresponded with quite a number of swingers couples. Nothing ever came of it, but I got an invaluable insight into men and women who are seemingly unselfish and generous with sexual access to their partners.The truth of the matter is that a lot of these couples are not so indiscriminate when choosing their extramarital partner. On several accounts, the couple expressed the concern that the third party (the newcomer to the couple’s sexual relationship) might be mean-spirited. That is, the wife didn’t want to be having sex with a man who looked down on her husband in any way. One woman said that she wouldn’t stand for her husband being treated as a cuckold. Many of the couples I spoke to wanted to be friends with the third party, to live an open existence where the husband and wife maintained emotional fidelity, but gained greater heights of sexual satisfaction by engaging a third party for sexual needs. The main criteria for the third party? That he be good natured and non-judgmental. Mostly, they seemed to be concerned about each others emotional well-being, to make sure that neither partner felt unloved or taken advantage of.Granted, my sample size is not indicative of the swingers population at large, and I was not conducting myself in a scientific manner. With that said, I don’t find it to be too far from the idea that emotions and psychology play a large part in someone’s decision to engage in a sexually open relationship. Post-agricultural humans are not wired to share. Generosity is a virtue, but it is not natural. And when something is not inherently natural, it takes a lot of energy to make it work.
Clearly, this arrangement of sexual openness is a difficult one, considering our agriculturally developed possessiveness. Take for example a couple seen on a Taboo: Strange Love on National Geographic. This couple had an arrangement (they call it negotiated infidelity) where both of them were free to have as many other sexual partners as they wished, provided they bring the partner home to have sex. This way, there is no sneaking around and everything is above board. So there it is again: the theme of honesty. Like the couples I spoke to, there was the issue of trust. In all likelihood, sleepingaroundbehind someone’s back is more hurtful and disrespectful than the sexual act itself. It is more about the betrayal of trust.
The couple expressed concerns of their partner meeting someone else and falling in love. Something like that would be grounds to abandon the current relationship: to leave them for someone better. Each and every time one of them has sex with someone else, it is, no matter how trivial they make it seem, a threat to the relationship. But why?
It’s because sex comes with an emotional component. Try as we might, we cannot deny that there is something emotional about sex. When people have sex, they open up to each other in an immensely intimate way that can transcend any spoken or even non-sexually physical actions. Even when having ‘casual sex’, there are feelings to worry about: who really enjoys getting kicked out of bed the moment someone finishes climaxing? Certainly, someone’s feelings would be hurt, if even just a little tiny bit, when there is no sexual reciprocity. And where there is reciprocity, there is a certain level of mutual respect, which leads to other emotions. Whether it’s love, like, mutual physical attraction, or simple affection, unless you are having callous one-sided sex – the type that is a simple mechanical exercise involving Tab A going into Slot B as one might experience with a sex worker – emotions are bound to arise from such an interaction.
And where there are emotions involved, things get messy. As much as men are quoted as being more concerned with sexual fidelity and women with emotional fidelity, I believe that both sexes are ultimately greatly concerned with emotional fidelity. I can’t imagine a loving relationship in which a man would magically disregard the fact that his wife is in love with another man just because she isn’t having sex with him. Evolution may dictate or explain the male’s inherent concern with paternal certainty; but it doesn’t explain why, even when assured of his wife’s sexual fidelity, a man gives a hoot about her daydreaming about going on a romantic trip to Italy with her boss. Psychology does though.
It all comes back to jealousy and possessiveness. I posit that because we are now wired for ownership (again, thanks to agriculture), in any given sexual encounter – repeated over a sufficient length of time with the same partner – that there will be an inherent drive to own. That is to say that given enough sexual liaisons between two people, at least one of them will wish, on some level, that they could have the other person all to themselves. And as we all know, honor dies where interest lies. So long as there is a desire to share in someone’s limited resources – whether material, emotional, or sexual – there will be competition.
If we could actually all get along with each other, if we could all ditch the culture of ownership and possession, casual sex could very well work out. The hippie-esque notion of free love for all, of sexual generosity and good will to all, is a wonderful vision. But until we can break free from the chains forged by the American cultural pillars of consumption, competition, and ownership, casual sex is more likely to hurt someone than it is to result in widespread bliss. Because we are naturally possessive, sharing just isn’t going to cut it. And that, folks, is why casual sexual relationships do not work out in the long run.