The Evolution of Monogamy, According to Science

by Daniel Barna

If you believe in monogamy, you have your ancestors to thank. According to a new study from the University of Waterloo, the practice of having a single sexual partner dates all the way back to the prehistoric age.

But it wasn’t necessarily the comfort of a familiar face or appealing marriage tax incentives that helped spawn the culture of monogamy. According to research, it may have been sexually transmitted diseases that played the biggest role.

The study suggests that promiscuity was punished in large societies because it increased the possibility of contracting certain diseases that caused infertility.

"Our social norms were shaped by our natural environment," said study co-author Chris Bauch. "This research shows how events in natural systems, such as the spread of contagious disease, can strongly influence the development of social norms and in particular our group-oriented judgments."

Along with Richard McElreath of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Bauch devised a series of intricate computer simulations to determine how prehistoric societies of all sizes would fare in the face of an STD epidemic. The pattern that emerged favored larger groups that forced monogamy on each other by punishing those who slept around. Those groups outlived their polygynous counterparts, which led the researchers to conclude that a fear of STDs is what pushed Western civilization toward monogamy.

They also admitted that there could be more than one determining factor. “There are many possible explanations and probably more than one is correct,” Bauch added.

We still think it was those tax incentives.

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Do you believe in monogamy? Let us know in the comments below.

Explore: monogamy, Sex, std, Science, study

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