I remember reading, in an anthropology class (I had enough of these to minor in anthro…never pursued it, though) that most cultures who have polygamy or polyandry (the latter is one woman married to many men; the former is one man married to many women, which is more popular globally) have adopted these practices over time as a necessity to preserve the culture and provide for its members. Men who were considered wealthy were needed to marry multiple women in the society to care for and protect them as well as to have children to further the culture. As men died in wars and left widows, died on hunting excursions, died from whatever diseases were particularly virulent, in order for the culture to survive, the women had to be cared for and babies had to be made.
This wasn’t the case in all cultures with such practices. I read The Good Earth and saw the movie Raise the Red Lantern. But that’s not what this post is about.
I watched the Mo’Nique show one night, and she was talking to some guests about topics pertaining to sex and relationships, many of which will be discussed ad nauseum in future posts. The one that really caught my eye was discussed by a married couple who were identified as relationship experts. I have no idea if either person has a degree, is a licensed relationship or sex therapist, or if they are experts like most people are experts today: they wrote a book that people liked, like Steve Harvey (whose book we will NOT discuss…thank you!). I do know that they have each written a book (Tame Your Woman (His) & Change Your Man (Hers)) and were on Mo’Nique’s show. Anyway, what caught my attention was the fact that they, and Mo’Nique herself, are in open marriages.
I’m sure at some point in the past, I’ve heard Mo’Nique talk about this (researching, I found out it’s been covered in magazines). I remember when it first hit the airwaves that Will & Jada were in an open marriage. I never paid attention to any of this other than to be amused and amazed because I wasn’t in a relationship and had no strong feelings about the topic other than the immediate moral issue I have with such things as a Christian. Grown folks can do whatever in their own house. Once I tell you what I believe to be the truth, what I know God would want, I have done my part. I don’t force feed folks. I can separate things I don’t like that you do from you (I can like you and not approve of what you do…and I let you know it…lovingly, of course.) Now, of course, I am in a relationship and no discussion of relationships is purely academic. So, open relationships/marriages, a la The Mo’Nique Show, articles on the web, and my opinion…
Open relationships: A relationship where both partners have agreed that monogamy, sexual fidelity or exclusivity are not expected. via About.com Open relationships can also be configured to be relationships in which emotional fidelity is not expected, but this is a rarer form. Two “open marriage lifestyles” are polyamory and swinging, the former emotional & sexual and the latter purely sexual. via Answers.com
What confused me the most about the whole thing, aside from the obvious, is the couple on Mo”Nique’s show, Carl & Kenya Stevens (you can watch the episode here…but be warned…porn star Mr. Marcus is a guest, an OB/GYN, and these people talking about tantric sex…strictly grown & sexy…no little ones!). They were talking about sex and the role of sex in relationships, and it seemed contradictory to their open marriage stance.
They described sex as a healing act. It heals anger in the relationship, releases frustration so people can communicate calmly about issues. I agree that this is a function of sex in a marriage. Furthermore, I’ve heard people say marriages can’t survive without sex because sex cultivates intimacy and heals wounds of neglect, anger, and frustration, that it is a release. If sex is healing energy, part of intimacy and communication that helps us cleave together, why are you trying to take that outside of our union?
They also talked about it being the ultimate trust. Will Smith has talked about this as well. They don’t hide their desires and attractions from each other in an open marriage. But to me, this isn’t about trust. Mr. Perfect can, and does, tell me about women he thinks are attractive. Sharing is wonderful in a relationship. But having desires & expressing them to your significant other and acting out those desires are two different things. The issue is not so much trust as commitment & self-control, a virtue touted highly in the Bible (more on my friend Jesus later).
Mrs. Stevens and Mo’Nique seemed to imply that their respective husbands were all the men they needed, which led me to think of the role of women in these relationships. Why does it seem the women are not usually interested in going outside of the relationship, particularly in the African-American examples? Are they just agreeing to please/keep their men? Do they really want to be a part of these arrangements?
All of this leads me back to my opening. Societies sometimes make what we see as sexual decisions based on survival of the culture & protection of the members. This sudden jump in occurrence among African-American celebrities (if the few mentioned and known can constitute a jump) leads me to suspect that at least some of these are a method of survival adopted by our society. Traditional marriage doesn’t seem to be viable and isn’t looking sustainable, especially in the Black community between a Black man & Black woman. This seems to be an alternative some people are taking in an effort to “save” their particular Black family.
But requiring monogamy, to me, is not the problem. Not getting to know people before sexual intercourse and babies is a problem. Not knowing how to communicate is a problem. Not knowing how to stay is a problem. Not understanding your role in your relationship is a problem (to be addressed later in a future post.) Not understanding the real purpose of marriage in the first place is a problem. Monogamy, sexual fidelity, commitment to one person is not the problem.
The fact of the matter is you will bring these additional people into the primary relationship whether you want to or not. Remember that commercial where the two peoople are in bed, then they add on all the additional people each has slept with? The Bible says when you sleep with someone you become one flesh. If a man joined himself to a harlot, he became a harlot. You are who you sleep with.
This is way too long, so I’ll break it here and give the Jesus view in my next post. Feel free to comment on what I’ve said thus far! 😀