I Can't Help It, I'm Genetically Unfaithful

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Will this soon be the new riposte when a partner is found cheating?

In the growing universe of gene research, scientists have isolated DRD4, a dopamine receptor gene, which is connected to novelty seeking behaviors, such as promiscuity. In being able to identify these genes, which are tied to the genetic and by extension chemical composition of our brains and bodies, it can be determined if you are someone that enjoys thrill seeking behavior, with sexual novelty being one component.

In the recently released book Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, the evolutionary biology of our human infidelity is further investigated. After reading the 312 pages of text, explaining the biological and cross cultural examples of our inability to be monogamous, its pretty hard to fully buy into the standard narrative of "from death us do part." The span of topics is tremendous with the first part of the book delving into new interpretations of Darwin and ideas of female sex exchanged for MPI (Male Paternal Investment).

In classic Darwinian ideology, it is believed women are passive receptors of sex, with the males trying to ensure they are in fact the fathers of their offspring. But this in itself brings up questions, why would you need to ensure paternity if the females of the species weren't interested in sex? In our age of genetic testing, it appears a good percentage of offspring have biological fathers that are not the fathers that care for them. Sex at Dawn uses many cross cultural examples of societies in which it is encouraged for the women to have sex with as many men in the group, not only as a tool of social cohesion a la our bonobo relatives, but also as a means of garnering parental investment from all of the men, not just her individual partner who could die in the hunt. The authors even connect the idea of 1970s "key parties" or swingers parties, that originated on military bases. These were men that were off to war, and shared sex was almost a insurance policy that their wives and children would be cared for by the survivors.

But this is only one part of the book, from conversations about female sexual receptivity (we can always have sex, not just when we are ovulating as in other species), sperm wars, the significance of female orgasm, female copulatory vocalizations (why are women so loud in bed---there is a scientific reason) and a complete investigation of why the human penis has evolved the way it has...there is no lack of scientific and cultural examples of why monogamy is just so difficult for many. And to further emphasize our human difficulties with monogamy, I was recently interviewed about a website called Ashley Madison, which has over 7 million married or committed members looking for sex on the side, with a tag line "Life is Short, Have an Affair." To be able to more intelligently speak about the site, rather than relying on the journalists who have posed and gone on dates with the Ashley Madison clients, I filled out the basic entry form. Requiring a login name, my first stab was "thinkingaboutit," but with over 7 million people having signed up before me, pretty much every possible permutation of this handle had been scooped up.

So between our genetics and the socio-pop-cultural information on the ground, what do think about the future of monogamy?

While Gawker has labeled it the "slutty" gene, learn more about DRD4: http://www.livescience.com/culture/gene-linked-to-promiscuity-infidelity-101201.html
To learn more about Sex at Dawn: www.sexatdawn.com
To learn more about Ashley Madison: www.ashleymadison.com