I’m so unsophisticated that I thought monogamy was a bit like pregnancy. You are or you aren’t. Well, at least I thought so until I read this piece in the Boston Globe. Writer Zachary Zane apparently likes to have sex with lots of different people, both male and female, and has discovered a monogamy “spectrum.”
During my exploratory college years, I was often confused about my sexuality. I knew I had loved women, but found myself, drunkenly, in the arms of various men. I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. Was I in denial of being gay? Was I simply an open-minded straight guy? Or was I just a drunk and horny hot mess?
These questions kept me up at night. Finally, my senior year of college, I entertained the idea that I might be bisexual, but I didn’t embrace the label until a year after graduating. That’s when I learned that I didn’t have to like men and women equally to be bisexual. I learned that sexuality was a spectrum, and my point on the spectrum wasn’t fixed. My attractions to various genders could evolve. In fact, it’s completely normal, and even somewhat expected that my attractions to all genders change over my lifetime.
You know what’s coming next:
In my queer theory class in college, I also learned that gender, too, is on a spectrum. Some of us don’t view ourselves as strictly male or female. We can be both, neither, or somewhere in between, aka bigender, agender or genderqueer.
This led me to ask the question: Since sexuality and gender aren’t living in a binary anymore, does monogamy have to be?
Leave it to a sexual revolutionary to turn promiscuity into an identity and endow it with great moral meaning. Leave it millennial worshippers to confuse young Americans’ greater support for promiscuity with moral progress. But it’s all a mess. For those in the middle of the “monogamy spectrum,” he actually writes this:
Nevertheless, I couldn’t tell you exactly what a ‘‘3’’ on this scale entails. Does that mean you’re monogamous with some people but not with others? Does it mean you sleep with multiple people but do not date them seriously? Or is it what Dan Savage coined as ‘‘monogamish,’’ where you sleep with others periodically when you or your significant other might be out of town?
Each person might have a different idea of what their non-monogamous relationship will look like. In anything but a completely monogamous relationship, partners will have to discuss and decide together how their non-monogamous relationship is going to function.
Frankly, I think millennials are up for the challenge.
Up for the challenge? Hardly anyone is up for the challenge of relationships where both parties have decided that varying degrees of infidelity are part of their “identity” and that challenging them on their sexual promiscuity is like challenging someone on their gender. It sounds like a recipe for rage and pain.
It’s all so complicated. How does one describe themselves when they meet someone new? “I’m a straight white cis male who’s a ‘4’ on the monogamy spectrum, which means that while I maintain any primary relationship, I like to enjoy access to three and no more than four side pieces on a periodic (but not consistent) basis.” Yep, that’s exactly how cultures thrive.
The fundamental lie of the sexual revolution is that you are your sexual desires, and that asking you to deny yourself is the same thing as asking a person to forsake their core identity. Thus the incredulity if a Christian speaks of abstinence outside of a lifelong marriage between a man and a woman. No sex? Next you’ll be telling me, “no air!” Deny self? But there is nothing but the self!
The infinitely better bargain of Christianity is that we Christians locate our identities in Christ, not in ourselves — and certainly not in desires that (fully indulged) are shattering families from coast to coast. We are evil, prone to sin. Christ is righteous, prone to redeem. No amount of moral redefinition can help us escape the consequences of our folly.
It turns out that when you make marriages less binding than refrigerator warranties and place even sexual fidelity up for negotiation, then people will often hop from relationship to relationship, leaving a trail of tears (and fatherless children) behind. There is no monogamy “spectrum.” You’re either faithful or you’re not, and faithlessness hurts. Watch for millennial attitudes to change the more pain they feel. Many older Americans value monogamy for a reason — bitter experience has taught them that the alternative is worse.