Reader Hector_St_Clare writes,
Re: Humans are a pair-bonding species with polygynous tendencies.
To be more accurate, humans are a pair bonding species with *mild* polygynous tendencies.
To be even more accurate, humans are a pair bonding species with mild tendencies towards male polygyny and covert female promiscuity.
Hector is mostly correct. It’s a myth that humans evolved for lifelong, monogamous relationships, but it’s also a myth that we are sex machines rigged to copulate orgiastically with whomever presents for a ravaging, a la Sex at Dawn.
Humans appear, from the gathered evidence, to be a cross between chimps and bonobos in sociosexual behavior and attitude. There is strategic female promiscuity, but there is also female preference for monogamy. There is male desire for sexual variety, but there is also male jealousy and mate guarding. The glans ridge on male penises indicates that men evolved to scoop out competitor sperm from presumably slutty women, but the flush of oxytocin released in the female brain after sex indicates that women evolved to strongly attach to lovers for longer than a night.
There are many more examples of the inherent contradictory nature of human sexuality like the above. Further complicating the picture is the growing evidence that these sexual predispositions vary by continental race; jealousy, promiscuity, mate guarding, cuckoldry, polygyny, and even female preference all vary in kind and degree depending where you are in the world. There are certainly human sexuality universals, but these universals are modified by unique environmental pressures.
The bottom line is that people who claim lifelong monogamy is the natural state of humanity absent cultural interference are wrong, and people who claim free love is the natural state of humanity absent cultural constraints are also wrong. The truth, as always, is a lot uglier than either side would have you believe.