Salon has begun an ongoing interview series about monogamy and alternatives to it. The series kicked off with an interview with historian Stephanie Coontz about cultural definitions of love and the ideal of sexual fidelity.
And now, there’s an interview with Judith Stacey, a sociologist who has literally traveled the globe studying relationship arrangements of every flavor. She’s found a range of configurations, from near-monogamy in California to polygamy in South Africa and matriarchal non-monogamy in southwest China.
Stacey believes that sexual exclusivity should be viewed as a preference, not a universal ideal. Like Dan Savage, she stresses truthfulness in relationships.
The idea is to make the vows that you really want to keep, and to know that over the life course you might have to renegotiate them. The idea of cheating is when you break the promise and there’s only one promise you’re supposed to make — so we’re going to get a lot of promise breakers. But if you allow people to promise what they really mean to promise and are able to do, you’ll have fewer cheaters because you would have different definitions of what cheating means. Cheating would mean breaking the terms of whatever agreement is made.