In Defense of Monogamy, or What to do about Our Polyamorous Genes

So many have weighed in on the Tiger Woods peccadilloes, why shouldn’t we weigh in from a genetics perspective.

Whether golf’s great Tiger Woods’ dalliance with multiple women — some in the sex business, some as mistresses, — is a story of sexual addiction, uncontrollable sexual release, or sexual conquests, science and history will tell. But if it is, as some pundits have said, because he has a sense of entitlement, because he can, because today’s millionaire athletes are rock stars, then today’s men who do not behave like that should stand up and cheer – because they have evolved.

Scientific researchers are studying whether current sexual behavior is imprinted in our genes, not only in our culture. A new study from genetics science helps us understand modern and ancient human’s genes and DNA. I am interested because I am someone who used genealogical and DNA connections to search for ancestors, and accidentally stumbled onto polygamous soldiers in medieval West Africa, polyamorous sexually manipulative nobles in Mary, Queen of Scots’ royal Stuart’s Scottish court and England’s Henry VIII’s Tudor court, and among predatory slaveowners in Colonial America.

The males settled in one or two places and had sex with multiple females when they traveled and migrated. In 2005, the Queen of England granted me our medieval ancestors’ coat of arms, based on my African American family’s ancestry, as documented in DNA and genealogical records of a wealthy Scottish noble merchant who escaped to America in 1715 when the king slated is cousin for beheading. A small number of powerful men had children with many different women. (That’s how I, an African American woman, was granted a Scottish coat of arms, based on our noble ancestors’ multiple relationships.)

So here’s a different spin, a genetic view of the Tiger Woods sexual soap opera. In September 2008, the human population geneticist, Dr. Michael Hammer, did revolutionary genetics sexual research. This is the geneticist who, in 1999, used DNA to trace my father’s ancestry and compare my family’s DNA to that of men from Ghana’s Akan ethnic group in Akuapem villages in West Africa. He concluded in his 2008 research study and report, “Sex-Biased Evolutionary Forces Shape Genomic Patterns of Human Diversity,” published in PLOS Genetics, that, “the mating system of humans is considered to be moderately polygynous.”

This geneticist and his team tested genes in indigenous people across the world to see “the effects of polygyny.” They measured our genetic mutations — the changes and variety on the X chromosome. That’s the female sex chromosome, which determines femaleness. In Africa, they tested the Biaka in Central Africa, the San in Namibia, and the Mandinka in Senegal; in Europe, the Basque in France; and in Asia, the Han in China and Melanesian in New Guinea.
Scientific American on the research. Other scientific bloggers.

This geneticist was looking at diversity in our sex genes, and he found that our male ancestors’ sexual practices, specifically, polygyny, where men had sex and produced children with multiple female partners simultaneously or successively, skewed the genes on humans’ X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes and men have an X and a Y chromosome. Because of our ancestors’ polygynous and polyamorous sexual behavior, where a small group of powerful men, mostly traveling military warriors and merchants, had children with numerous women of diverse ethnicities, backgrounds and nationalities, more diversity was passed along to us along our ancestors’ X chromosomes than their Y chromosomes. Both men and women inherit diverse genes from their mothers and pass along these diverse sex genes on the X chromosome to their children.

The research showed that there is more diversity on the female sex chromosome than on any of our other chromosomes, known as autosomes, which determine eye and skin color, hair texture and such traits in our body. He set forth a theory of philopatric genes, or “male-female philopatry” (that’s what I call it), shows that a small number of migrating males had sex and bore children with vast and varied females. That was the behavior of the conquering knights and colonial nobles on my ancestral tree.

Interestingly, our human female ancestors practiced philopatry. They had children and planted roots and family in one place, at or near their place of origin. They did not travel to places and have sex and children with a vast variety of men. (They didn’t then, maybe they’re doing that now.) Our male ancestors bore children with different women, because they had polygynous, polyamorous genes. They formed polyamorous relationships (multiple simultaneous or successive sexual or romantic relationships). So our male ancestors had polyamorous genes, and had sex with different women, but do men today, even rich, powerful famous men, have to behave the same way? Genetics show that monogamy, a family of one-man-one-woman is a recent social construct. It did not exist in medieval and ancient times. As modern people, we are more evolved. Well, we’re more evolved in some traits and less evolved in others.

The text messages that have been revealed between Tiger Woods and his mistresses so far show that underneath all the hot sex, Tiger gave the women the impression that they could be the next Mrs. Tiger Woods, so there is something to be said for evolved monogamous impressions. Besides, other studies say when a man or woman is promiscuous, at conception, any other partner’s body fluids, which are trapped in the man’s urethra for a long time, even weeks, become part of each child’s DNA environment. And part of the woman’s DNA environment. That’s covered in the science called epigenetics, the study of the environment in which our DNA survives.

These studies educate us about what’s at the root of autoimmune ailments and other diseases, because the male urethra is like a bee that carries fluid, infectious and non-infectious from female flower to female flower. Some bodies reject organ and tissue transplant; others reject alien DNA. In the text messages, Tiger was guarded, and questioned his mistresses about their boyfriends and sex partners. Obviously, he didn’t want other men’s body fluids in his DNA environment. That’s enough of an argument for us to evolve and try practicing monogamy.

Monogamy is for health, peace, fun and longevity.

The author is completing a book about using DNA, genealogy, and folk stories to trace the sexual, social and personal activities of her African, European and American ancestors.

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