Monday, February 22, 2010

a wolf in sheep's clothing

It came to me in a flash as I listened to an old episode of the Savage Lovecast, Dan Savage's weekly podcast on all things sexual.

A young woman had e-mailed Dan, in the midst of the John Edwards/John Ensign/Mark Sanford debacles, to say that she was enjoying the podcast less because of Dan's apparent lack of support for monogamy.

If you've ever read Dan's column, you know he's got a talent for mockery. And when he spoke on the phone to the aforementioned and beleaguered young woman, he couldn't help but tease her by citing the Hebrew Scriptures and their many examples of men with '700 wives' as proof that monogamy is 'un-Biblical'.

"But if you want to fly in the face of God and have a monogamous heterosexual relationship," he told her, "I certainly support your choice."

It was when the young woman suggested Dan should extend his support to monogamists by offering them a 'pat on the back' for their efforts that it finally clicked for me, however.

Monogamy is not a virtue.

Treating it as one is a huge mistake, not only on an individual level, but on a cultural one as well.

Monogamy becomes a weapon, used to control sexuality. Think about the last time you heard a woman described as a "slut".

Monogamy becomes a political tool. Think Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, John Ensign.

Monogamy becomes a standard for heroics. Think Tiger Woods, before and after.

None of it is good for us. It keeps us from taking an honest look at ourselves, our nature, our needs. It keeps us from developing true sexual compatibility with our partners.

Making monogamy into a virtue keeps us from examining our own sexual health.

But when we see monogamy as a choice we find out if it's the right one for us. And whether it is or it isn't, we appreciate the importance of discussing it with our partners. Because now we want to know where our partners stand and whether we really are a good fit.

Tiger Woods should not be monogamous. I hope that becomes as clear to him as it is to me.

And I hope that he and his family learn to respect his sexuality, no matter what the world comes to believe.

Let him return to being a hero for his prowess on the course, and leave his sexual prowess where it belongs and where we prefer ours: with him and his partners, behind closed doors.

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