Friday, January 13, 2012

"So Happy Together?" Monogamy and Jealousy

Good evening LOVEanese, and happy Friday! Before I get into the content of the post, I just want to remind you about the March against unjust laws governing women's rights, rape, and domestic violence. We're meeting tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 14) in front of the Ministry of the Interior near Sanayeh Gardens (Here's a map) at 12:00 PM. We'll be marching to the Parliament in Downtown Beirut. Come out, bring a sign, a jacket, a friend (or two), and an umbrella (just in case), and stand up with our women for our women!

On another note, in case you weren't following on the LOVEanon Facebook Page, I've been posting a lot lately. The Fb Page is a great resource to share interesting articles, links, photos, etc., especially ones that I don't want to dedicate an entire blog post to. I really appreciate your activity on it, and if you haven't "liked" it yet, what are you waiting for??

So, what's up with the title? The title is in reference to two things. The first is a song by The Turtles. The second refers to an article I posted on Facebook a few days ago. It's about monogamy. I feel like I've been seeing/hearing a lot about this lately, so I wanted to talk about it and also bring up another topic: jealousy.

There's a lot that's been written on maintaining the romance in a relationship (for instance, this article I recently posted). I've written a post about it, and a point I have vehemently reiterated in this blog is that relationships take work (e.g., here and here). Recently, I saw this really great article about how relationships take work and marriage in particular is a work in progress. A great point the author makes is this:

"Very few of us carry accurate beliefs about what love and marriage are really about. Instead, we consciously or unconsciously live our lives according to the models propagated by the media. We grow up watching Disney movies and popular television where we see a basic equation for love portrayed: meet - play a game of chase - fall in love - get married. Inherent in this formula is the assumption that by the final stage - getting married - every conflict, quirk, annoyance, and issue has been resolved. We may watch a relationship unfold over several years on a television series, but by the time the couple finally gets married, the conflicts are resolved and the show usually ends, And herein lies the false message: your relationship should be "perfect" at the time of the wedding. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like all courageous endeavors, marriage can and must evolve over time."

"Ya Allah, what do you mean the hard part's just starting!?"

So, what does this have to do with monogamy? This particularly sobering article recently posted by the Guardian is really interesting and thought-provoking, but this older article in many ways to me stands as a stark contrast to another article I posted that was a bit incensing but also interesting. I definitely recommend you read it. The author of the post interviewed sociologist Eric Anderson (University of Winchester) about his new book The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating.

What was somewhat aggravating about it was not necessarily the points he was trying to make, but rather the way he was saying it. He was challenging the established idea of combining sexual and emotional relationships. It wasn't an attack on monogamy per se, but he was advocating for an alternative to the typical monogamist relationship. Tayyib, that's fine. But what I was not OK with was the inherent sexism that seemed to surface during the interview. The author even mentioned it, but it was then blamed on culture for reinforcing gender norms and stereotypes as opposed to individual actors making independent and critically-thought out decisions (e.g., according to the males in his sample, it's OK for men to cheat but not women, and it's society's fault alone that this double-standard exists).

Monogamy as a whole is (largely) a social construction (though there may be a biological or ecological link, particularly since some think monogamy is one of the leading factors of humanity's boost in the process of evolution), and Western constructions of monogamy often differ from other non-Western mating traditions (for instance, just check out American anthropologist Laura Bohannan's account of Shakespeare in the Bush with tribes-people from West Africa). Moreover, much has been written on monogamy from a scientific and social scientific perspective. For instance, Fisher (1994) wrote an extensive book looking into the (evolutionary) past to explain monogamy, divorce, and adultery, yet mainly concludes that serial monogamy mixed with adultery (but not additional marriage) seems to be the norm, at least in the Western world (mind you, at least 0.5% of the world population can attribute their ancestry to Genghis Khan alone). Others such as Reichard and Boesch (Eds.) (2003) and Wickler and Seibt (1983) provide great overviews of monogamy rooted in biology and in society, respectively, which, of course, makes sense because being single is hard. If the added value vs. cost of pairing up were lower, we wouldn't have evolved, both biologically as well as socio-culturally, to favor it so strongly. In other words, the grass is always greener, but when it comes to the benefits of being in a loving relationship, the science speaks loud and clear (especially if you're male).

In the Arab world, monogamy is a relatively new tradition. Before you start making assumptions about Islam and polygamy in Islam, polygamy was something that has existed here in this region since the beginning of Mesopotamian civilization. Only after the birth and proliferation of Islam was it something that became connected to Islam. Many would argue that it has been wrongfully focused on (e.g., as my friend put it, Islamic law regarding wives exists to act as a limit, not a license). In many ways, it's something historically cultural. Barakat (1993: 107) echoes this when he said:

"Traditionally, marriage has been a communal or societal affair more than an individual has been perceived as a mechanism for reproduction, human survival, the reinforcement of family ties and interests, the preservation of private property through inheritance, socialization, and the achievement of other goals that transcend the happiness of the individual to guarantee communal interests. This principle is seen in most patterns related to marriage, including arranged marriage, endogamy, [and] polygamy..."

He continued, "Another traditional Arab marriage pattern is polygamy...though polygamy is not encouraged, it has been justified or rationalized by conservative Muslims. In reality, however, polygamy is now rare" (Barakat, 1993: 112).

It's time for a photo, and I really wanted to add a funny photo about polygamy. But I couldn't find one that wasn't offensive to women. So, here's a photo of some cute puppies instead.

Polygamy is not also something just between one man and multiple wives (that's called polygyny) There's also polyandry where one woman takes multiple husbands. In this sense, this is socially prescribed. But can we as a society move beyond the established and collective norm that one must be in a committed relationship with one person at a time? Especially in a place where adultery and cheating have been accepted as normative (i.e., here)? This article in Psychology Today seems to think otherwise, and blames it mainly on differences between individual men and women's levels of sexuality, particularly when women are more sexual. Perhaps I'm naive, but I just don't think that our biology has to have a choke-hold on our lives. Biological determinism does not have to rule our lives, especially as I would argue much of our lives is socially constructed.

I recently watched a movie that challenges this "one person at a time" norm. It was called Seeing Other People (plot synopsis here). It was... interesting for a lack of better words. Basically, it's about two people who really love each other and have been together for a long time. They are happy and are planning their wedding, but then one of them decides that they aren't sexually experienced enough, and wants to have more sexual experiences before they get married. The whole movie details the ups-and-downs of "seeing other people" while they are still together and still planning their wedding--more or less describing a scenario where there is a relationship with a strong emotional connection, but extra-relational sex. Bear in mind that this is a movie, not real life... true. But it's interesting to see how this "fantasy" concocted by Hollywood turned out. That is, it almost destroyed the great relationship they already had. As I've mentioned before, Hollywood and the capitalistic system in general have a lot of reasons to keep monogamy the norm. And while this movie's overall theme was reinforcing it, it made me think about it.

If you've been following this blog awhile, you might be able to tell where this is going (let me give you a hint, it's the other word in the title I haven't talked about yet). How many of you, whether you're men or women, would be able to fathom seeing the person you love, the person you're in a relationship with, be with another person?

You're never too young to be pissed off about them kissing someone else

Jealousy. It's a remarkable emotion actually. Some writers/bloggers think jealousy in a relationship is a good thing (like this one), others say it's bad (like this one), but most remain value-neutral about it or consider that there's various types/levels of romantic jealousy, some healthy and some not (e.g., this one, this one, this one, and this one). However, evolutionary psychologist David M. Buss (Wiki here) at the University of Texas-Austin has a lot of interesting things to say about this. Buss (2000) goes so far to say that jealousy is necessary for love and sex, and thus, relationships. This was also a pioneering work that employed a cross-cultural survey if men and women in the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Zimbabwe, and found that the majority of women in the study were troubled more about a partner's emotional infidelity, while the men were most upset about sexual transgressions of their partners. This article explains it better:

"Female sexual infidelity jeopardized the opportunity for a man to continue his gene pool and also placed him in the unfortunate situation of raising a rival's children. Women do not share this problem, since they know that they are the biological mothers of their children. One of the African cultures that Buss studies uses the phrase, "Mama's baby, Papa's maybe." But our ancestral mothers had other problems. Their challenge was to continue to attract their partner so that he would stay and help to raise and protect the children. As painful as a sexual transgression might be, what women have always wanted to know is, "Do you love her?" If a man forms a strong emotional attachment to another woman, he is at risk for abandoning the relationship and his children. A meaningless one-night stand does not make him want to leave his family."

Buss (2000) even writes, "Jealousy is not a sign of immaturity, but rather a supremely important passion that helped our ancestors, and most likely continues to help us today, to cope with a host of real reproductive threats. It drives us to keep partners from straying with tactics such as escalating vigilance or showering a partner with affection. And it communicates commitment to a partner who may be wavering, serving an important purpose in the maintenance of love."

Buss isn't the only one to tackle relationship jealousy, many others have as well including: Greenberg and Pyszczynksi (1985); Andersen, Eloy, Guerrero, and Spitzberg (1995); Guerrero, Andersen, Jorgensen, Spitzberg, and Eloy (1995); Afifi and Reichert (1996); Guerrero (1998); Knobloch, Solomon, and Cruz (2001); Fleischmann, Spitzberg, Andersen, and Roesch (2005); Guerrero, Torst, and Yoshimura (2005); Barelds and Barelds-Dijkstra (2007); and Demirtas-Madran (2011). Some of the most interesting findings include that the more expressive someone is about their jealousy and the more individuals in a relationship exhibit reactionary jealousy (as opposed to possessive or anxious jealousy), relationship quality tends to increase. Barelds and Barelds-Dijkstra (2007: 177) define reactionary, possessive, and anxious jealousy as the following:

"Reactive jealousy is the degree to which individuals experience negative emotions, such as anger and upset, when their mate is or has been emotionally or sexually unfaithful. For instance, individuals may become angry or feel hurt when their mate is flirting or kissing with someone else."

"Possessive jealousy refers to the considerable effort jealous individuals can go to [in order] to prevent contact of their partner with individuals of the opposite sex. For example, possessively jealous individuals may find it not acceptable that their mate has opposite- sex friends and/or forbid their mate to socialize with others."

"Anxious jealousy refers to a process in which the individual ruminates about and cognitively generates images of a mate’s infidelity, and experiences feelings of anxiety, suspicion, worry, and distrust."

Now, the discussion: what does this mean? Basically, what many of these studies are demonstrating is that a little bit of jealousy is good, but this "goodness" also relies on how it is being communicated and what kind of jealousy is being exhibited. If someone is feeling jealous, but is not communicating it either through physical actions, words, etc. or in a way that is meaningful to their partner, then it will most likely hurt the relationship. In other words, if you're jealous, don't hold it in. Of course, don't be controlling, manipulative, or suffocating either. But everyone likes to be desired. As Robert Frost once said, "Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired." By showing your partner that you're jealous (in some crazy, weird way) reaffirms your feelings for them, and this is something I'm not just making up. The research shows it, and much of it is based in our evolution. In the end too, I can never stress open and honest communication enough. It is a fact of life that even if you're madly in love, you still will be attracted to other people, and you might even flirt with them. But this doesn't mean you're going to cheat, for instance. And of course, this should never be taken out-of-hand to the point where it becomes a real problem for a couple or your partner. But if a little jealousy is exhibited in a healthy way, it can actually lead to better outcomes for the relationship. Once again, just remember that this is conditional (I highly recommend you read Barelds and Barelds-Dijkstra (2007) study).

Tying it all back together, I'm not sure if we really have the ability to manage both emotional closeness/intimacy and physical intimacy with multiple people, at least without eventually hurting someone in the process. One argument might be that monogamy should remain the norm, but if someone wants to deviate from the norm (e.g., Mormon polygamists in the U.S.), they should have the freedom to do so.

I say do what's best for you and your partner, but we always have to remember that what's best for you may not always be best for your partner, which is where compromise and sacrifice come into play. If you're in a committed relationship, it's understandably expected that (usually) you're not supposed to sleep with someone else. In my opinion, I think anything else will only just cause problems. So, while monogamy might be new (evolutionarily speaking), it's really based on culture. If it is culturally acceptable and normative to practice it, then it's hard to deviate from that (once again) without hurting someone emotionally. If it is normative to have multiple wives or husbands (e.g., in certain tribes), that should be allowed too.

In the end, we have to consider other people's feelings, and right now, being with one person and tending to their emotional and physical needs is what the society's exerting hegemonic dominance has collectively agreed on as being the norm. This has been incorporated into many individual's subjective realities. Without taking any particular stance or advocating for conformity, I will close by restating the importance of resisting selfishness, especially if you are in a loving and committed relationship (unless a partner also feels the same way, and you both exercise a similar lifestyle, then it's a different story). Moreover, I simply do not think that the majority of people could handle emotional commitment and physical intimacy with different people. But once again, it's a personal thing--just don't forget that our actions affect much more than just ourselves.

What do you think? Monogamy and love? Monogamy, love optional, behind-the-back infidelity? No monogamy, just love and whatever else? I value your opinions. What works for you? What do you like? What works here in Lebanon? You tell me.

Spread the love,

P.S. Just thought I'd update this post with some interesting scientific research that received a lot of publicity recently. According to Science Now at the Los Angeles Times (citing research publications), one biological/ecological explanation/theory for monogamy include solitary living and infanticide, which are linked to origin of monogamy in mammals. In another article from the New York Times, some scientists are beginning to conclude that monogamy may account for humanity's boost in evolution. Interesting!

P.P.S. Another great article I recommend: an interview with respected marriage historian Stephanie Coontz titled "Why do we still believe in monogamy?"


Afifi, Walid A., and Tom Reichert. 1996. "Understanding the Role of Uncertainty in Jealousy Experience and Expression." Communication Reports, 9(2): 93-103.

Andersen, Peter A., Sylvie V. Eloy, Laura K. Guerrero, and Brian H. Spitzberg. 1995. "Romantic Jealousy and Relational Satisfaction: A Look at the Impact of Jealousy Experience and Expression". Communication Reports, 8(2): 77-85.

Barakat, Halim. 1993. The Arab World: Society, Culture, and State. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Barelds, Dick P. H., and P. Barelds-Dijkstra. 2007. "Relations Between Different Types of Jealousy and Self and Partner Perceptions of Relationship Quality." Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 14(3): 176-188.

Buss, David M. 2000. The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love and Sex. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Demirtas-Madran, H. Andac. 2011. “Understanding coping with romantic jealousy: Major theoretical approaches.” Retrieved from:

Fisher, Helen. 1994. Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray. New York, NY: Ballantine.

Fleischmann, Amy A., Brian H. Spitzberg, Peter A. Andersen, and Scott C. Roesch. 2005. “Tickling the monster: Jealousy induction in relationships.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22(1): 49–73.

Greenberg, Jeff, and Tom Pyszczynski. 1985. "Proneness to Romantic Jealousy and Responses to Jealousy in Others." Journal of Personality, 53(3): 468-479.

Guerrero, Laura K. 1998. "Attachment-Style Differences in the Experience and Expression of Romantic Jealousy." Personal Relationships, 5(3): 273-291.

Guerrero, Laura K., Melanie R. Trost, and Stephen M. Yoshimura. 2005. "Romantic Jealousy: Emotions and Communicative Responses." Personal Relationships, 12(2): 233-252.

Guerrero, Laura K., Peter A. Andersen, Peter F. Jorgensen, Brian H. Spitzberg, and Sylvie V. Eloy. 1995. "Coping With the Green-Eyed Monster: Conceptualizing and Measuring Communicative Responses to Romantic Jealousy." Western Journal of Communication, 59(4): 270-304.

Knobloch, Leanne K., Denise Haunani Solomon, and Michael G. Cruz. 2001. "The Role of Relationship Development and Attachment in the Experience of Romantic Jealousy." Personal Relationships, 8(2): 205-224.

Reichard, Ulrich H., and Christophe Boesch (Eds.). 2003. Monogamy: Mating Strategies and Partnerships in Birds, Humans, and Other Mammals. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wickler, Wolfgang, and Uta Seibt. 1983. "Monogamy: An Ambiguous Concept." Pp. 33-50 in Mate Choice, edited by Patrick Bateson. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stand Up For Lebanese Women: March Against Unjust Laws Governing Rape

Happy new year LOVEanese! It's an exciting time for me for many reasons, but one of these is that I'm FINALLY starting to analyze my results (we all know how busy we get with the holidays... I'm on Lebanese time).  

Although I'm starting this post on a light note, the content of it is not light or funny at all. I posted this on the LOVEanon Facebook account this week, check it out

 "I'm trying to help out Nasawiya and [KAFA and] spread this around. I'll blog this week and also talk about it. Singles, boyfriends, girlfriends, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, cousins... it's so important that we all stand up together for this issue because it affects all of us. Come out, spread the word, support it, and protest the rampant and unjust public, de jure discrimination against our women!" (It was in reference to this post calling on bloggers to spread the word).  

First of all, Nasawiya is a Lebanese feminist collective. Don't let the title make you judgmental, however (i.e., throw out any negative stereotypes of feminism you might have). After all, men can be feminists too, and feminism even benefits men! (there's a great article Fawwaz Traboulsi wrote on this same topic, especially geared towards the Arab world). Check out Nasawiya's "About Us" for a real definition of feminism and what they do, and see their values. They provide voice to Lebanese women, offer resources, connect groups and networks, and stand up to sexism and patriarchy. KAFA is a similar NGO, "work[ing] towards eradicating all forms of gender-based violence and exploitation of women and children." You can read about their mission here.
Second of all.. what exactly is this that I'm advocating for? An event? A movement? Simple: it's both:

Lebanese law currently gives few rights to women, especially if those laws apply to rape (in general) and marital rape. Check out this section from From a Freedom House report (taken from Matt Nash at the NOW Lebanon Blog): "Lebanese laws that criminalize rape tend to be lenient toward men and do not apply to marital relationships. Marital rape is not considered a crime in Lebanon. Women's groups are actively advocating for changes to laws that provide weak sentences for perpetrators of sex crimes, such as Article 522, which declares that the state will not prosecute a rapist and will nullify his conviction if the rapist marries his victim. The sentence for rape, according to Article 503, is forced labor for at least five years or for at least seven years if the victim is under 15 years of age. Article 518 sentences a man who seduces a virgin into intercourse with the intent of marriage and then recants to six months in jail and/or a fine. Little research has been done on the prevalence of rape or marital rape in Lebanese society."

What Nasawiya is doing is spearheading a campaign and a march that challenges this head-on, calling for the Lebanese Parliament to:

1. "Pass the draft law for Protection from Domestic Violence as it has been written and with no delay."

2. "Intensify punitive measures against rapists and those who attempt rape, amending the respective law."

3. "Treat verbal harassment as physical harassment, especially in the workplace, making it a crime subject to judicial penalties."

4. "Deal with complaints related to sexual violence with rigor and consistency. We call on the Interior Ministry and the Municipalities to also apply those measures. The three bodies should work to make our streets and neighborhoods safe, especially during the night-time, by ensuring proper street-lighting, and permitting us to carry tools of self-defense (like taser guns and pepper spray)."

You can check out their Facebook event here with information in both Arabic and English (which is where these points are found). Come out to the march on January 14th. It begins at 12:00 PM, and will go from the Interior Ministry near Sanayeh Gardens, and move toward the Parliament at Najmeh Square in Downtown Beirut.

That is not the only thing I am asking, however. What I am asking is to not merely just come out and support them, but to look at the bigger picture. As I mentioned in the Facebook post, we all have mothers, sisters (figuratively and by blood), grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunts, female cousins, female friends, female colleagues, and some of us have girlfriends, wives, and daughters. We are all affected by this, by these laws. These are the women, the friends, the family we have relationships with, that we date, that we marry... that we love.

Tell me that if someone ever attacked them, violated them, raped them, beat them,
you would look ANY of these women in the eye, and tell them it would be ok because it's not a big deal. Their rights, Their feelings, their lives are not important. This IS what the Lebanese law currently states! 

NONE of us should stand for these sexist, misogynistic, immoral, wrong, degrading laws STAND UP FOR IT! ESPECIALLY if you're a man, because we are part of both the problem and the solution. By saying nothing, you are saying that you agree. By not speaking out, you're saying that you are comfortable with the status quo. But if that's how you feel, DO NOT hide behind fake machismo, guns, politicians, unjust laws, or empty rhetoric! As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said in a speech: "A time comes when silence is betrayal."

"Gender equality will come when men become part of the solution!"

Join our Lebanese sisters; fight for equality and justice, speak out; spread the love,

-Ogie (a proud feminist!)

P.S. I thought this was a great addition: