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The Hypocrisy of Monogamy: How the Ashley Madison Hack Exposes the Painful Truth About Modern Relationships.


The Hypocrisy of Monogamy: How the Ashley Madison Hack Exposes the Painful Truth About Modern Relationships.

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The Hypocrisy of Monogamy: How the Ashley Madison hack exposes the painful truth about Modern Relationships.

By now, most of us know about the Ashley Madison Data Hack and the infamous members list (32 million strong) making its way around the dark web and BitTorrent. Already, the media circus has gone manic with the recent exposure of members ranging from high-ranking UK government officials to Josh Duggar, that champion of family values who recently fell from popularity for molesting his own little sisters, and can now look forward to falling even farther from his moral soapbox after evidence was posted showing Duggar was a paid member of Ashley Madison as recently as May 2015.

twitter user weighs in on ashley madison hack I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg and while the irony can certainly be a delicious topic of gossip, my hope is that instead of becoming a witch hunt for the fidelity-challenged, we can finally admit to the absurdity of modern American monogamy.

While I certainly feel sympathy for the members who have had their privacy violated and anyone in their lives who may be hurt by this information, I can’t help but be glad that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to use this to finally have an honest conversation about monogamy in this country.

The Painful Truth

In an Open Letter to anyone thinking about checking the list for their spouse’s name, Dan Savage makes the point that most of the people on this site actually never met or had an affair with anyone. It was the fantasy that drew them, and if the hackers claims that 90-95% of Ashley Madison users were men are indeed true, then the situation likely never went any farther than online interaction.

That’s not to say that these Ashley Madison members would not have acted on the fantasy if they had the opportunity, but my entire point is this: Why do we keep having this conversation about intention over action? And why does it matter? The painful truth is that it doesn’t. It’s a middle tier argument used to distract ourselves from our own insecurities - insecurities that force us to rush to slap a label on every sexual or romantic encounter we have. But all that does is make us judge our commitment to our partners based on other people’s perception of that label.

Still with me? In other words, if people start to think that marriage isn’t a big deal anymore and that it doesn’t imply a fierce, un-ending, til-death-do-we-part commitment, then how can we validate our own relationships to ourselves unless we start having honest conversations about what monogamy really means to each of us and what we can realistically expect from our partners?

What is Modern Monogamy?

With over 2.6 million views, a recent TED Talk given by Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, is easily one of the most honest and intelligent conversations about infidelity that has taken place in modern times. Ms. Perel makes the simple but powerful point that monogamy used to mean “one person for life” and now it means “one person at a time.”

The term for being physically and emotionally faithful to one person at a time, but with the understanding that there were partners before and will likely be partners after, is generally referred to as “serial” monogamy, and is the most commonly practiced form of monogamy in the western world.

There’s also been an emergence of ethical non-monogamy (Open Marriage, Swinging, and Polyamory are the most common), where partners engage in sexual and romantic activities outside of their marriage/relationship with everyone’s knowledge and consent. (Published in 2010, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality  argues that modern research indicates that humans have evolved for multiple sexual relationships at the same time, and that it is not only okay to have multiple romantic and sexual partners, but that it’s actually quite natural.)

These are the actual types of relationships that people are LIVING today. So why, if we’re all LIVING this reality, are we holding ourselves and our partners to a fantasy? Why do we set up expectations that can’t be met?

Why we're setup to fail.

There’s a difference between the way that most people experience modern “monogamy” and monogamy as movies still try to portray it. The movie/media industry and society hold on to the fairytale idea of a happily-ever-after ideal relationship structure with this vice like death grip, insinuating that any relationship that falls short of this miracle is a failure. And why? Not because “they’re ignorant” like some rude polyamorous douche** quipped up in a reddit thread earlier today, but because classic monogamy as we know it is…well, AS WE KNOW IT. It’s all we’ve ever known.

The monogamous structure has been prevalent in most (though not all) modern societies for hundreds, if not thousands of years. But the last 70 years have been a snowball of social change; breaking through one social constraint after another. Sex before marriage only became a viable socially acceptable option in the 60s, and was still generally frowned upon. Women’s Rights dominated the 70’s, living with another partner only became the “normal way of doing things” in the 80’s, which evolved to cohabitating AND having children without being married in the 90’s. Marijuana was all the rage of the 2000’s, with celebrities tripping over each other to get “caught” smoking joints on hotel balconies for the publicity boost and trend cred. And now, smack in the middle of the 2010’s, we’re finally embracing marriage equality and transgender identity at a national level.

Understand that I’m not unaware that millions upon MILLIONS of people were doing all of these things before the decades I’ve listed them, and not just here, but all over the world. What I’m pointing out is that it’s crazy to think how long societal acceptance and media take to catch up to the reality of our everyday lives.

remember that time you confused a life lesson with a soulmate?A lot of people under the age of 30 see the hook-up culture of serial monogamy and ethical non-monogamy they function in as just, well, their dating reality. They’ve become all too familiar with divorce, and through experience, have likely noticed that relationships work best with less pressure and more clearly communicated expectations.

“I’m only interested in hanging out with you and maybe hooking up, but I’m still going to hook up with other people, and you should too,” is a first-date statement that would have seemed pretty out of the box 30 years ago, but is now just a common boundary that most sexually mature people communicate (implicitly if not explicitly). In fact, it’s becoming more and more common for people to choose one of 2 paths; serial monogamy or ethical non-monogamy, while creating their own unique relationships structures, without consideration for labels or the opinions of others.

So maybe it’s time for the media and the baby boomers to catch up, because I would like the 2020’s to be (among other things) the age of the Modern Relationship, which will hopefully translate into fewer labels, less judgement, and more social freedoms for us all.



** The author is polyamorous. Though generally not a douche.


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About the Author


PolyRick has contributed 8 sexy blogs.

Rick Broider is a popular Open Life Coach specializing in personal growth and healthy sexuality. Rick has many years of experience working with ethically non-monogamous lifestyles (polyamorous, swinger, etc.), and unconventional relationship structures as well as with individuals and couples representing many sexualities. He also has a long history supporting anyone who is in or exploring Open/Kinky/BDSM relationships and is an incredible resource for couples looking to strengthen their primary bond while opening their relationship to new possibilities.

In addition to his success as an O.P.E.N. Relationship Workshop Leader and Educator, you can find Rick presenting at events from Maryland (D.O. Fusion) to Jamaica (KS Week 2016 / 2017). Rick is the former host of the Tampa Bay Area Munch, a monthly event that has provided resources and support for those who are kink-curious in the Tampa Area for over 15 years.

Rick is dedicated to perpetuating healthy and positive messages about sexuality, and offers advice to his clients and the public about issues such as monogamy, open relationships, long term relationship health, and self-compassion. He writes about these and many other sexual/relationship topics on several online blog sites.

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