Attitudes Toward Monogamy: Findings From Our Latest Survey

Our most recent Good in Bed Survey examined attitudes toward monogamy. I was really excited to create this survey and even more excited to analyze the data on a topic so relevant and interesting.

You may recall, in the summer of 2011, an article in the New York Times that got a lot of publicity (good and bad) on the virtues of infidelity. In this article, written by Mark Oppenheimer, Dan Savage discussed the downsides of treating monogamy as the main indicator of success in marriage. Savage noted that qualities such as honesty or humor should be replaced as an indicator of success to avoid the unrealistic expectations that using monogamy as the marker provides. If you want to check out more of Savage's take on monogamy, there are videos, blog entries, and podcasts, just to name a few.

Despite all of this hype around monogamy, I couldn't seem to find very many recent scientific studies that examined attitudes toward monogamy, especially among adult populations. There are a few studies that examined values around monogamy in adolescent populations, and a lot of studies that examined monogamy in non-human mammals! But I was really surprised at the lack of scientific evidence out there about what people actually think and feel about monogamy. So, our team decided that we would conduct a survey on the topic to get a sense of attitudes toward monogamy.

We surveyed 2,321 people (1,394 men and 921 women) with ages ranging from 18 to 73. The majority of the participants were married (56.3%), with 19.1% seriously dating one person, 6.9% single, 6.2% casually dating one or more people, 4.7% engaged, and a minority identified as divorced (1.7%), seriously dating one or more people (1.6%), separated (1.3%), or widowed (.3%).

Men had significantly more negative attitudes toward monogamy than women, and interestingly, people who identified as "married" expressed significantly more negative views toward monogamy than people who identified as "seriously dating one person". Not surprisingly, individuals who identified as "seriously dating more than one person" had the most negative views toward monogamy than any other relationship status group. 

Monogamy Blog Post.pngWhere did monogamy views come from?
The majority of the views on monogamy came from parents (68.4%) or religion/spirituality (57.8%), but views also came from friends (36.0%), education (33.4%), media (19.3%), and school (12.8%) - all displayed in the pie chart on the left.

Is monogamy assumed?
More than half of the participants assumed monogamy with their partner (56.1%), where only 12.4% always explicitly negotiate monogamy with a partner.

What are the barriers to monogamy?
The most commonly cited barrier to monogamy was curiosity, cited by 39.6% of the sample, though this was closely followed by a lack of sexual novelty (39.0%), and boredom (38.4%).

Has monogamy changed over time?
We were also really interested in whether the participants believed that monogamy has changed over time. So we asked a question about how monogamy has changed in the past decade, with response options ranging from (1) "People have generally become much more monogamous" to (3) "People have generally become neither more or less monogamous" to (5) "People have generally become much less monogamous". Only 22.6% of participants believed that people's monogamy hasn't changed over the past decade, where 38.9% believed people have generally become a little less monogamous, and 28.5% believed people had become a lot less monogamous.

I expected that the opinions about this change in monogamy over time would be different for different age groups, especially since we had such a diverse age range in our sample. However, there were no significant differences between participants of different ages in their opinion about whether the practice of monogamy has changed over time.

There are a lot of interesting findings from this survey that I didn't include here, and that I will be writing about for the next few Sex Trends blog entries. If you have a question about monogamy or negotiating monogamy in your relationship, feel free to post it to our forum so that our panel of experts can weigh in on the topic!

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