As 2012 edges ever closer, our resident shaman Daniel Pinchbeck suggests we save the world by making love not war
We find absolutely no evidence from anthropology, psychology or biology that humans are naturally a monogamous species. The evidence that we do find suggests just the opposite – that the original bond in our earliest and most primitive states was communal sexuality, where males and females, females and females, males and males mated with each other freely, for comfort, for fun, to alleviate stress, to avert conflict, to pass the time. Evidence from evolutionary biology confirms that human beings are, in their sexuality, most closely related to the bonobos, African primates that famously resolve territorial disputes and other issues through sexual communion, rather than aggression.
We need to rethink love – eroticism, intimacy and sexuality – and redesign the legal and social constructs we place around it, in order to transform our hyper-militarised, ecologically suicidal civilisation into a humane and sustainable planetary community. Beyond basic vital needs for survival such as food, water and shelter, sexual communion is the most profound form of satisfaction that the human being seeks, and he or she will sacrifice a great deal to attain it. Over the last decades, we have seen a pathetic parade of powerful politicians and public figures pilloried and reduced to laughing stocks, their careers destroyed through media exposure of their infidelities.
Our culture perpetuates a hypocritical and destructive morality. Human beings are not a monogamous species. Therefore, when humans are put in straitjackets of monogamy, our nature rebels from it. The society we have constructed reflects our deep dissatisfaction, frustration and anger at being forced to submit to lies that run against our nature. While there are considerable differences between men and women in their romantic and erotic preferences, neither gender is – by our evolutionary history and our biology – designed to mate permanently with one partner. It turns out the original function of the loud cries of the human female during copulation was to call other males in the area to come and mate with her in succession, encouraging healthy sperm competition to take place within her uterus. Our primordial condition was collective sexual communion. Rather than a man seeking to maximise his genetic advantage by protecting his own offspring, the tribe as a collective was secured by the mystery of individual paternity.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s was a movement toward human liberation that reached a certain threshold and then stagnated. This revolution remains incomplete and unfinished. What we need to complete it is a definition of new forms of relatedness, a deeper realisation and also responsibility for love and its consequences, particularly with regard to children. This requires an anthropological investigation of the huge variety of mating patterns and familial relationships developed by various indigenous cultures across the world that include sharing of partners, assigning property to female lines of descent and so on. There is no reason that a post-postmodern civilisation couldn’t make use of all of these models, on a voluntary basis, so long as the health of children and their rights are protected.
Young people waste a vast amount of their creative force and psychic energy in the frenzied pursuit of hooking up. If sexuality could be consciously liberated so that people experienced a joyful abundance of erotic experience rather than a scarcity of it, this energy could be repurposed for the necessary work of planetary transformation, social volunteerism and ecological stewardship. New forms of commitment and long-lasting bonds can be developed, while some continue to prefer the monogamous partnership.
On a physical level, life is likely to be more challenging for many of us in the next years, as resources become stretched and institutional structures buckle and collapse. Unless we realise true satisfaction through deep relationships, our journey on this earth over the next decades may become unbearable. Handled in a responsible fashion, a liberated eroticism is one area where we can find a profound satisfaction that does not do further injury to the environment or deplete more resources.
Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, and the just-published Notes from the Edge Times. He edits realitysandwich.com and is featured in the documentary, 2012: Time for Change