Why is it monogamy the 'appropriate' form of relationships in Western societies?

Essay by daniellen0407College, UndergraduateC, June 2007

download word file, 10 pages 4.7


Name: Ellen Kwan Oi Ling

Student ID: 19341482

Topic chosen: 2

Why is it that Western societies focus so much on monogamy as the 'appropriate' form that relationships should take? Why is there so much cultural anxiety about multiple relationships/non-monogamy and infidelity? Discuss with reference to sociological debates about both opposite-sex and same-sex intimate relationships.

Recently, a television programme called 'Cheaters' has been broadcast on Channel Seven every Sunday night. It is a reality show that allows you to view actual true stories documenting the pain of a spouse or lover caused by infidelity. By confronting infidelity and the breach of trust, it helps to expose potential or present problems in a relationship and it comforts the person who is being cheated by empowering them. Audience watching this programme will most likely show their sympathy to the injured parties. This reality television programme illustrates public's perception on infidelity is negative and even unacceptable to some of the people.

Infidelity brings non-monogamous relationships. People tend to feel pathetic to the primary partners who tolerate the infidelity acts of their partners. Those who defend their rights to have open partnerships or form "multipartner relationships" (Pallotta-Chiarolli, 1995) are constructed as foolish or immature. However, what makes the public perceive non-monogamy and infidelity as such an immoral behaviour? Why monogamy is regarded as the social norm of relationships? In this essay, it will look into the reasons why monogamy is quite often portrayed as the ideal type of relationship in Western society and examine various social forces that help to reinforce the idea. Besides, this essay will contribute itself to the reasons why non-monogamous relationships have negative stigma attached to it. These will be discussed based on both heterosexual relationships and same-sex relationships as heterosexual couples are believed to be more...